At the encryption hearing before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, at which the FBI and Apple both testified, Texas Representative Michael C. Burgess asked what he accurately understood as an off-topic question, and used the opportunity to voice an unbelievably strong opinion. Ransomware perpetrators, Burgess said, should be “shot at sunrise.” How very … Texas, Mr. Burgess.
His question was about ransomware, which he saw as the other end of the encryption debate. More and more, hackers are infiltrating peoples’ and/or companies’ computers or computer systems and encrypting all or some content. The computer user is met with a ransom note demanding, most commonly, a sum of money. If the money — often bitcoin — is offered up to the hacker, then the files are decrypted and access is returned to the user. If not, the data remains inaccessible.
But in a committee meeting to discuss companies’ roles in assisting the government, the question — let alone the severity of the unsolicited response — was completely out of line.
Representative Burgess described a scenario, for effect, in which a doctor must treat a patient in need and finds his or her files maliciously encrypted. It was after the witnesses responded to his irrelevant question – admitting that indeed ransomware is a problem and that the FBI is investigating it, etc. – Burgess announced his own personal prescription for those criminals: they should be killed — shot — at sunup.