Of those young hackers
Posted on August 30th, 2016

Editorial Courtesy The Island


Hackers are like snakes. When one realises one has been attacked it is often too late; damage is irreversible in most cases. They haven’t even spared institutions which boast of having best cyber security in the world. The Pentagon, too, is fighting quite a battle to keep hackers at bay. How vulnerable others are goes without saying.

Friday’s cyber attack on President Maithripala Sirisena’s official website came as no surprise. Not even eternal vigilance pays in most cases vis-à-vis hackers who like terrorists have to be lucky only once. When the news of the hacking of the President’s website went viral, various conspiracy theories were concocted. Some of those theorists even claimed there was a foreign hand in it. But, a schoolboy of Kadugannawa was taken into custody, on suspicion, two days later.

Hacking is a menace and everything possible must be done to prevent it and bring the culprits to justice. It is heartening that the government has acted so fast to trace the suspect.

Among notorious hackers the world over are many young people, who are nimble-minded risk takers blind to the consequences of their actions. A 15-year-old boy hacked the NASA computers. Many teenagers have become expert code crackers. Stringent punishment for cyber crimes does not seem to have constituted an effective deterrent if the alarming increase in those offences, both here and abroad, is any indication.

No sooner had the CID been called in to investigate Friday’s hacking incident than it closed in on the suspect. Its efficiency is to be highly appreciated. It has silenced its critics who accuse it of lethargy. The question, however, is why the government did not detail the CID to investigate the two mega bond scams and the coal racket which ‘shocked the conscience of the Supreme Court’. Strangely, the CID sleuths lack this kind of high octane performance when they investigate offences committed by ruling party loyalists.

The schoolboy cum suspected young hacker in hot water has obviously raised the hackles of the powers that be. On no grounds can what he is alleged to have done be justified though he looks still wet behind the ears for a hacker. Is it that having seen notorious lawbreakers responsible for far worse offences than hacking handled with kid gloves and even taken off the hook in most cases all these years, the teenager thought he would be safe even if he got caught? He may have thought so because the incumbent janadipathi mama had come to power promising compassionate governance and even forgiven a terrorist who conspired to assassinate him!

On the other hand, this is a country where the Executive Presidents have pardoned convicted criminals such as a rapist thrown behind bars for harming a schoolgirl, murderers and drug dealers. They have also abused their powers to shield many more anti-social elements who deserve to be behind bars. Some leaders of the present government, it may be recalled, went so far as to give VVIP treatment to the terrorists at the very airport the latter had attacked, destroying several lives and causing a loss of billions of rupees to the state coffers. It will be interesting to see how the case of the schoolgoer suspected of hacking the President’s website will be handled.

Meanwhile, let Friday’s hacking incident and the predicament of the schoolboy concerned serve as a warning to all irresponsible netizens in this country, especially teenagers, who seem to think the sky is the limit. The onus is on parents, teachers and other responsible adults to impress on youngsters the gravity of committing cyber related offences which the latter tend to take very lightly.

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