A British top policeman has proposed a punishment for teenage hackers: force them to wear Wi-Fi jammers to block them from accessing the internet.
Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA), suggested that Wi-Fi jammers around the wrists or ankles could be a better sentence for young offenders.
“We have got to stop using 19th century punishments to deal with 21st century crimes,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph.
“If you have got a 16-year-old who has hacked into your account and stolen your identity, this is a 21st century crime, so we ought to have a 21st century methodology to address it,” he added.
However, the original, out-of-the-box solution has some immediate points of concern, as underlined by people online.
First of all, phone jammers are illegal under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. But that can easily be circumvented.
More important is the basic fact that Wi-Fi is not the only way these teenagers can connect to the internet. Just plug an ethernet cable to your computer and you’re fine. Or use a 5G connection from your phone:
The other issue is that the jammers would likely cause anyone within range to break their connectivity, turning the punishment into a tool for the hacker:
Darren Martyn, an Irish convicted hacker turned security researcher, told The Guardian: This would cause huge disruption to anyone within jamming range of the tagged person.
Even Thomas admits there are some “practical and even human rights implications” with the proposal, he said it’s something that the Ministry of Justice should consider.
“This could be introduced as part of community sentencing, so that the 16-year-old does not have access to the internet or wifi for a period and then in conjunction they have to do some sort of traditional work in the community.
“Also they could be required to go on an ethics and value programme about how you behave online, which is an area that I think is absent at the moment.”
A spokesman for the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales confirmed to Mashable that Thomas’ quotes are accurate.
Policing needs new ideas and different thinking if it is to tackle 21st century offending effectively,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“Policing and the criminal justice system are dealing with crimes that didnt exist even a few years ago. These are changing faster than policing methods and techniques can realistically keep pace with.”
The service needs to work with the technology industry to help it solve problems with cyber crime and criminality that is carried out or enabled by new or evolving technology,” he continued. “The intention with this example is not to champion a particular technology or solution, but to start a debate that stimulates ideas and to have a discussion about what works.”