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Cybernaut

Master criminal or scapegoat?

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That all changed about two weeks after he was fingered by the FBI. Word apparently came down from the top to arrest and prosecute Parson.

Parson will make his second court appearance in Seattle on Sept. 17 – a long, long way from his friends, his family and his high school. He isn’t sure why he has to go all the way to Seattle, or why prosecutors chose that jurisdiction.

Parson’s family was not even given a copy of the official complaint against him until they were given it by a reporter at NBC News. Parson alleges that the complaint contains several inaccuracies.

For example, the complaint said that the authorities confiscated seven computers from the household, which was impossible because they only had four in the house, and Parson only used one of the machines – which he describes as "a piece of crap."

As troublesome as copycats like Parson have become, and however necessary it may be to start making an example out of people who author malicious worms and viruses and release them onto the Web, throwing the book at an 18-year-old who didn’t even really know what he was doing seems a little callous.

After all, there have always been hackers, and worms and viruses have been around for 20 years. Going after the original authors of these programs could have an effect, but there’s a good chance they’ll never get caught. If they are apprehended, they’ll likely be replaced by someone else.

All of this belies the real problem, and that’s the fact that the software that people are putting their trust in has more security holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. Almost every week a new security flaw is discovered, usually after someone has found a way to exploit it.

Security software does help to turn back worms and viruses, but only when it’s frequently updated. Same goes for the software for your operating system, e-mail and Internet programs.

Common sense also goes a long way – opening an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know is asking for trouble. Would you open the door to your house from somebody who says they have naked pictures of Anna Kournikova?

Whatever happens to Parson, only time will tell. He did a stupid thing because it’s still too easy to do stupid things, and he is getting an education he won’t soon forget. Ironic, because all he wants to do now is to be left alone to finish his last year of high school.

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