Unsecured Wireless — A Threat? Or an Excuse?

Growth of Wireless Internet Opens New Path for Thieves

Federal and state law enforcement officials say sophisticated criminals have begun to use the unsecured Wi-Fi networks of unsuspecting consumers and businesses to help cover their tracks in cyberspace.

In the wired world, it was often difficult for lawbreakers to make themselves untraceable on the Internet. In the wireless world, with scores of open Wi-Fi networks in some neighborhoods, it could hardly be easier.

Law enforcement officials warn that such connections are being commandeered for child pornography, fraud, death threats and identity and credit card theft.

[…] [Ex-Secret Service agent Jan H.] Gilhooly said the possibility of crashing into an innocent person’s home forced his team to spend additional time conducting in-person surveillance before making arrests. He said the suspects tracked in his investigation would regularly advise one another on the best ways to gain access to unsecured Wi-Fi systems.

[…] Cybercrime has been known to flourish even without Wi-Fi’s cloak of anonymity; no such link has been found, for example, in recent data thefts from ChoicePoint, Lexis/Nexis and other database companies.

But unsecured wireless networks are nonetheless being looked at by the authorities as a potential tool for furtive activities of many sorts, including terrorism. Two federal law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity that while they were not aware of specific cases, they believed that sophisticated terrorists might also be starting to exploit unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

Slashdot: Growth of Wi-Fi Opens New Path for Thieves

The Power of the Documentary Filmmaker

Suicide Watch

The board of directors of the Golden Gate Bridge recently voted to explore installing a barrier that would jeopardize the bridge’s least welcome claim to fame: its status as the world’s most popular place to commit suicide. That decision was the result of a distinctively San Francisco process in which psychiatrists, lesbian activists and – perhaps most surprisingly – documentary filmmakers had a direct effect on the making of public policy.

[…] JAN. 11 The documentarian Eric Steel – who was given permission to set up cameras on federal land for a year to make a film about the “grandeur” of the bridge – e-mails bridge officials, revealing that the cameras have captured more than a dozen people jumping. His movie will now be “about the human spirit in crisis,” he writes.

Stop (Infringing), Wizard!

Stop, Wizard! (Illegal Art link)

Beginning in early 2004, Brad Neely’s performance “Wizard People, Dear Reader” – a screening of a muted video of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” with a new, satirical soundtrack by Mr. Neely (“Then Dumbledore leans in. ‘Your dad and I, we go way back. …I loved him so much. He proofread my novel’ “) – was presented at theaters, film festivals and taverns. As the popularity of this as yet unnamed art form grew, supportive theaters began trying to license prints of the film for him to talk over. And that, apparently, is when intellectual playfulness and intellectual property rights collided.

Mr. Neely, a 28-year-old comics artist based in Austin, Tex., was scheduled to perform “Wizard People” at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston and the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan earlier this month – until Warner Brothers called the theaters to object. “To my knowledge,” explains Barbra Brogliatti, a spokeswoman for the studio, “he has not approached us to ask permission.” Mr. Neely said he received a call from the Boston theater, which told him “they weren’t able to show the print outside of how it was originally intended”; an hour later, he said, he learned that the Anthology had also canceled the event. Representatives of the two theaters were reluctant to comment about “Wizard People.” A Coolidge Corner programmer e-mailed, “We canceled it at the request of Warner Brothers, and that’s all I can say.”

A New Generation of Music Consolidation?

Music Industry Financier Buys ‘American Idol’

Robert F. X. Sillerman, the music industry baron who recently bought Elvis Presley Enterprises, added another big prize to his vault of media holdings yesterday, acquiring the British company that owns “American Idol” and its many lucrative franchises around the world.

[…] In a telephone interview, Mr. Sillerman did not reveal specific plans for the “American Idol” franchise but said his aim at CKX was to assemble an arsenal of entertainment content with an eye to emerging distribution technologies like on-demand television and hand-held devices.

“I can imagine years from now something being distributed through cellphones, BlackBerries, computers, whatever,” he said. The notion that video entertainment should “only go through a TV set is as archaic as the thought that music can only be distributed on a CD.”

AFP Alleges (c) Infringement By Google

France vs. Google

his week, the Agence France Presse sued Google for allegedly infringing on its copyrights by using the new outlet’s photos and headlines without its permission. Among thousands of other news sources, Agence France Presse’s stories and photos populate Google News, an aggregated hub or “cheat sheet” for popular news of the day.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court of Columbia, will be closely watched and could embolden other publishers to strike at Google for its increasing power in the news aggregation business. Could this be the beginning of the Aggregator’s unraveling?

Reuters article: Agence France Presse Sues Google Over News Site (CNN’s copy); Slashdot: French News Agency Sues Google News

S/W Patents in EU

Euro Software Patents Pending

Software patents continue to be one of the most hotly contested legislative initiatives in Europe. On Feb. 28, the European Commission declined the European Parliament’s request to restart the legislative process from scratch.

A week later, the EC sent the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions Directive, or CIID, to the European Parliament for a second read, a stage heavily weighted toward passage. The directive would allow software to be patented provided that it makes a “technical contribution … to the ‘state of the art’ in the technical field concerned.”

If the CIID passes, all EU member states will be required to pass supportive national legislation. […]

[…] The CIID is widely described as bringing software patents to Europe, though this is only partially correct.

Jeremy Philpott, a marketing executive and former senior examiner for the U.K. Patent Office, noted that although the EU Patent Convention of 1973 specifically prohibits patenting software, in practice many such patents are granted.

“The intended purpose of the directive is to clarify the law while maintaining the status quo,” Philpott said. “Anything unpatentable now, such as business methods, should remain so when the directive comes in, whereas software which has a technical contribution and is patentable now would still be patentable.”

Philpott is correct that the United Kingdom already patents software. But, says Florian Müller, the Munich, Germany, manager of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, the same is not true in other European countries.

Cringely on Killing VoIP


Here’s how they plan to cripple the Vonages and Skype’s, according to friends of mine who have spent 20+ years in engineering positions at telephone companies, cable companies and internet service providers. As the phone and cable companies begin offering their own VoIP services in real volume, they plan to “tag” their own VoIP packets so that at least within their own networks, their VoIP service will have COS (Class of Service) assignments with their routers, switches, etc. They also plan on implementing distinct Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) for the tagged packets.

Tagged packets get both less restrictive rules for passage and a private highway lane to drive on.

The net effect is that any packet that isn’t tagged will only get “best effort” service, which means whatever is left.

[…] The beauty of this approach is that they’re NOT explicitly doing anything to the 3rd party service applications. They’re just identifying and tagging their own services, which is within their rights.

[…] This is the beginning of a web services war where the advantage lies almost entirely with the broadband service provider. It starts with VoIP but I am sure will move on to movies and music, too. The incumbent suddenly has a real, unassailable advantage. If Vonage (or CinemaNow or even Bit Torrent) wants to play along, that’s fine, but they’ll see most of their profits going to Comcast.

What’s sad about this for me is that I fear it will lead to an end (or certainly a slowing-down) of innovation in VoIP and similar services.

Slashdot: How ISPs May Quietly Kill VoIP