June 15, 2004

Bruce Sterling on Cybersecurity [9:15 pm]

Net needs law enforcement, author says [via a blog doesn't need a clever name]

“Bagel and Mydoom are the future of virus-writing because they have a business model,” he said. “Those are organized crime activities. … These are crooks.” [...]

[...] “This is the birth of a genuine, no-kidding, for-profit … multinational criminal underworld,” he said. “I don’t see any way it can’t happen. We’re going to end up getting pushed around by bands of international electronic thieves in a very similar way to the way we’ve been pushed around by gangs of international Mafia and international Mujahideen terrorists.”

[...] With cyberthreats likely to rise, the U.S. government needs to focus on enforcement of existing laws, including antifraud laws, Sterling said. He praised New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who prosecuted Buffalo spammer Howard Carmack earlier this year, as well as other white collar criminals. Although virus writers and many spammers break existing laws, most prosecutors seem reluctant to take on computer cases, Sterling said

“In my opinion, we need a thousand guys like (Spitzer),” Sterling said.”We’ve got a ridiculous amount of computer laws.”

Is it possible that our Attorney General has misdirected our federal law enforcement resources in the face of a clear and present threat? Naaaaahhhhh, nobody would make the same mistake twice, would they?

See, for example, Gartner: Phishing on the rise in U.S.

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Steve Jobs on Hollywood [9:02 pm]

Scott Rosenberg’s weblog entry on the Airport Express includes this gem from Steven Jobs

About the gulf between Hollywood and Silicon Valley: “Technology people don’t understand the process these creative companies go through to build the things they produce. And the creative people don’t appreciate how creative technology is.”

“The biggest threat to Hollywood is not the Internet but the DVD burners.”

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Videogame Producers Sue 321 Studios [8:41 pm]

Video game makers sue over copying program

Atari, Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal Games filed suit against the software company in New York federal court, asking a judge to block distribution of 321 Studios’ Games X Copy software.

“Federal law makes it clear that it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, or sell devices or programs that circumvent technological protection measures built into video games,” Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), said in a statement. “That’s exactly what 321 Studios’ Games X Copy does, and we fully expect the court to grant our request to ban this product.”

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Slashdot on Kahle v. Ashcroft [8:13 pm]

Lessig Legal Team Needs Your Copyright Stories

See also Lessig on Copyright Extension for “Orphan” Works

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Prepare to be Re-Educated [2:18 pm]

Hollywood steps up antipiracy campaign

Hollywood studios on Tuesday said they plan to “significantly” increase monitoring of online film trading, as part of a broader antipiracy campaign aimed at quashing Net movie piracy.

Following the lead of the big record labels’ trade association, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said it will also step up antipiracy education efforts, including working closely with colleges to create student “codes of conduct” and taking out newspaper and magazine advertisements.

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Win for DirectTVDefense [12:02 pm]

From Copyfight: DirecTV Drops “Guilt-by-Purchase” Strategy. From the EFF press release:

After discussions with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) Cyberlaw Clinic, satellite television giant DirecTV has agreed to modify its nationwide campaign against signal piracy in order to reduce threats and lawsuits against innocent users of smart card technology. Chief among these changes is a promise to no longer sue or threaten to sue people merely for possessing smart card devices.

Slashdot: DirecTV Extortion Program stopped by EFF

Update (8:35 PM): Court rules DirecTV can’t sue for gear possession

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that DirecTV can’t sue individuals, such as defendant Mike Treworgy, for owning equipment enabling them to intercept television programming. The court was supporting a ruling by the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, Ft. Myers Division that said DirecTV could not sue individuals for owning gear.

“A decision like this says that you must prove that someone did something wrong–just owning a product doesn’t mean you did something wrong,” said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronics Frontier Foundation. The civil liberties organization filed an amicus brief in support of Treworgy who is represented by his attorney Albert Zakarian.

EFF Deep Links: DirecTV Drops “Guilt-by-Purchase” Strategy and DirecTV Double Play

Later: Scope of DirectTV’s problems - DirecTV hacker sentenced to seven years

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European eTailing Competition [9:45 am]

See also ITunes Opens European Beachhead

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An Unnecessary Fight Avoided [9:41 am]

Women Vote for Paper Trail

The League of Women Voters rescinded its support of paperless voting machines on Monday after hundreds of angry members voiced concern that paper ballots were the only way to safeguard elections from fraud, hackers or computer malfunctions.

About 800 delegates who attended the nonpartisan league’s biennial convention in Washington voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that supports “voting systems and procedures that are secure, accurate, recountable and accessible.”

That relatively neutral stance was a sharp change from last year, when league leaders endorsed paperless terminals as reliable alternatives to antiquated punch-card and lever systems. About 30 percent of the electorate will use touch-screen voting machines in the November election, and hardly any of the machines provide paper records that could be used in case of a contested election.

Last year’s endorsement infuriated members from chapters around the country — particularly in Silicon Valley and other technology-savvy enclaves, where computer scientists say the systems jeopardize elections. Legitimate recounts are impossible without paper records of every vote cast, they say.

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OT: Krugman on Ashcroft [9:35 am]

After last week, I’m glad it’s been said as well as it is here: Travesty of Justice

No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

[...] First, there’s the absence of any major successful prosecutions. The one set of convictions that seemed fairly significant — that of the “Detroit 3″ — appears to be collapsing over accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. (The lead prosecutor has filed a whistle-blower suit against Mr. Ashcroft, accusing him of botching the case. The Justice Department, in turn, has opened investigations against the prosecutor. Payback? I report; you decide.)

Then there is the lack of any major captures. Somewhere, the anthrax terrorist is laughing. But the Justice Department, you’ll be happy to know, is trying to determine whether it can file bioterrorism charges against a Buffalo art professor whose work includes harmless bacteria in petri dishes.

Perhaps most telling is the way Mr. Ashcroft responds to criticism of his performance. His first move is always to withhold the evidence. Then he tries to change the subject by making a dramatic announcement of a terrorist threat.

The Bybee memo is here; Michael Froomkin’s analysis; see also this Paperwight’s Fair Shot entry. Slate on Gonzales: Lone Star Justice Also see Terror inquiry snares art exhibit

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Humans Hard-Wired To Form Ideologies? [9:11 am]

Apparently so, according to this article: I Sing the Body’s Pattern Recognition Machine

The brain is a five-star generalizer.

It simplifies and organizes, reducing a deluge of sensory information to a manageable sum. From that small sample, the brain produces an effigy of the world, whose features it monitors. Anything that doesn’t fit, or signals trouble, draws a response. As it learns, it compares new phenomena and experiences with old ones.

[...] The brain is a pattern-mad supposing machine. Given just a little stimuli, it divines the probable. When information abounds, it recognizes familiar patterns and acts with conviction. If there’s not much for the senses to report, the brain imagines the rest.

That does mean gambling, sometimes with ruinous consequences. But if we didn’t let imagination fill in the blanks, we’d be unable to survive all the novel predicaments and landscapes we encounter. Imagination is a wild card we use in many ways, sometimes just for fun, but one that probably evolved to help us anticipate trouble. Limited to our senses, we’d be confined to daytime and familiar environments. As much of a confection as our mental maps are, they allow us to speculate, rehearse and make plans.

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Ah, Innovation Through Patenting [9:05 am]

Company claims patent for download apps

British Technology Group, or BTG, said Monday that it is in discussions with several companies, reportedly including Microsoft, in the hope of getting them to pay royalties.

“We have various patents that cover various ways of downloading software updates over the Web, including virus fixes and product enhancements. These cover products that are in widespread use today,” a BTG representative said.

BTG is seeking both down payments and future royalties from “a number of companies” that it claims have already produced products that infringe its patents. But at the time of this writing, the company has not divulged details of the patents in question.

See also Congress to scrutinize patent tax breaks as well as yesterday’s Some Empirical Analysis of Software Patents

See also UK firm patents software downloads

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A Slice of College Tuition Isn’t Enough [8:50 am]

Swap blockers graduate to high schools

Filtering technology from Audible Magic has been installed at several high schools around the country, most recently at private Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, Calif., and a technical high school in Cape Cod, Mass., the company said. The song-blocking tools have largely been used by universities and Internet service providers.

[...] Although the use of Audible Magic’s tools at Bellarmine remains limited, a broader move into secondary schools could mark a jump toward the mainstream by peer-to-peer, or P2P, network filtering. It could also spark more controversy. High schools’ use of Web filtering technologies have led to prominent lawsuits.

Audible Magic’s software has already been the source of considerable debate, both over whether it can accurately stop copyrighted song trading on P2P networks such as Kazaa or eDonkey, and regarding privacy.

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