[RC5] Criminal Charges Settled In Distributed-Computing Case

blitz blitz at macronet.net
Fri Jan 18 05:42:10 EST 2002

>By Steven Bonisteel, Newsbytes
>17 Jan 2002, 5:05 PM CST
>A computer technician at Georgia-run college who found himself facing
>criminal charges after installing software for a volunteer
>distributed-computing effort will face probation instead of prison.
>David McOwen, once a systems administrator at DeKalb Technical
>College, faces a year of probation and a $2,100 fine for connecting a
>number of DeKalb computers to Distributed.net so that the spare
>computing cycles could assist in a communal code-breaking challenge.
>But McOwen's supporters, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation
>(EFF), said today that an agreement reached with state prosecutors was
>far better than the worst-case scenario: years in prison and hundreds
>of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.
>"David never should have been prosecuted in the first place, but we're
>glad that the state decided to stop," said Lee Tien, a senior staff
>attorney at the EFF. "He very likely could have won if the case had
>gone to trial, but trials cost money and you never know what will
>Tien said McOwen, who was to face a criminal trial later this month,
>will also have to perform 80 hours of community service "unrelated to
>computers or technology." However McOwen will not end up with a felony
>or misdemeanor record under Georgia's First Offender Act.
>The criminal charges stunned many participants in
>distributed-computing efforts, who frequently are also denizens of
>university or college computing departments.
>In early January 2000, when the San Diego Supercomputer Center of the
>University of California was issuing press releases about its
>number-crunching prowess via Distributed.net in an RC5-64
>code-breaking challenge, DeKalb was suspending McOwen for
>participating in the same event.
>A suspension wasn't all McOwen faced. This spring, long after he had
>resigned from DeKalb in the wake of the suspension, McOwen learned
>that he was being investigated by the state attorney general's office
>as a result of his Distributed.net participation. This fall, he was
>officially charged one count of computer theft and seven counts of
>computer trespassing.
>Tien in a prepared statement said that the dispute centered on a on
>whether McOwen had fair notice that the distributed-computing software
>was prohibited at DeKalb.
>"From what I can tell, the state would have had a hard time proving
>beyond a reasonable doubt that David knew he wasn't authorized to
>install the software," Tien said. "I can't help but feel that this was
>a face-saving deal for the state."
>Originally, the state had calculated that McOwen had drained hundreds
>of thousands of dollars worth of DeKalb computing time since
>installing the software early in 1999, arriving at its figure by
>calculating that the software sapped 59 cents worth of bandwidth each
>A pro-McOwen site is at http://www.freemcowen.com

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