HazDat
23Mar/12

Sarkozy: Anyone who “consults Internet sites which promote terror” should go to jail

Sarkozy: Anyone who "consults Internet sites which promote terror" should go to jail | http://t.co/u34fQrH8

 

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5Feb/11

Scare Tactics: Dam Lies!

What is the world coming to when our leaders use scare tactics to get what they want? (Rhetorical question, of course.) But that's exactly what happened when backers of the so-called "Internet Kill Switch" evoked images of foreign hackers opening flood gates and drowning citizens.

We are very concerned about an electronic control system that could cause the floodgates to come open at the Hoover Dam and kill thousands of people in the process,” said Brandon Milhorn, staff director of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. ”That’s a significant concern.”

Not only is that not a significant concern, it turns out not even to be an insignificant concern. But the false information was no insignificant matter to the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the power-generating facility on the Arizona-Nevada border.

“I’d like to point out that this is not a factual example, because Hoover Dam and important facilities like it are not connected to the internet,” Peter Soeth, a spokesman for the bureau, said in an e-mail. “These types of facilities are protected by multiple layers of security, including physical separation from the internet, that are in place because of multiple security mandates and good business practices.”

Yesterday we posted a poll to get your opinion on this issue. Please take a moment to make your voice heard.

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4Feb/11

POLL: Do You Think An Internet “Kill Switch” Is An Effective Way To Protect National Security?

In the aftermath of Egypt and Tunisia's government-imposed Internet shut-downs, there has been a lot of talk this week about the U.S. Senate's Internet "Kill Switch" bill. No one argues that our networks are vulnerable to attack. Senators say they have committed to this power only to protect against "external cyber attacks". This raises several questions and deserves serious debate:

  • In a global network, is there really a distinction between internal and external threats?
  • Under what circumstances would the President use this power, and with what oversight?
  • Could the financial damage of isolating U.S. commerce from foreign customers outweigh the potential damage from attack?
  • Does the risk of an "Egyptian-style" shut-down really exist in Western Democracies, and if it does, is it a fair trade-off for national security?

That leads to today's poll question:

Do you think an Internet "Kill Switch" is an effective way to protect National Security?

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Of course, there are few perfect Yes/No answers in this world. Please feel free to share your comments below, and we encourage you to use the "Like" and "Share" buttons to elicit more opinions from others.

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2Feb/11

Senators Deny Similarities Between Egypt’s Internet Blocking & USA’s “Kill Switch” Bill

Some have suggested that our legislation would empower the president to deny U.S. citizens access to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
-Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)

In a statement issued this week, Senators' Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and  Tom Carper (D-Del.) said that their intent was to allow the president "to protect the U.S. from external cyber attacks," not to shut down the Internet.

Aside from the obvious civil liberties concerns, the problem I see is largely a mechanical one, and it demonstrates the Senators' lack of fundamental understanding when it comes to the world in which they legislate: By the time a cyber attack is apparent, it's no longer likely an "external" threat. The most effective attacks known today are distributed amongst a multitude of machines in various locations, making it impossible to protect citizens without shutting down the Internet -- if such a thing could even be accomplished in this country.

The U.S. network infrastructure is much more complex and diverse than that of Egypt. In part, that has to do with the shear differences in scale. But, perhaps surprisingly, it also has to do with the age of our network. Parts of our interconnected network go back five decades. Some interconnected networks predate the Internet itself. And these are interconnected with new infrastructure being added every day without the need for government knowledge or consent.

Most importantly, when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was conceived, it was specifically designed to survive and reroute against an outage. That means, depending on the final draft, the law would likely be either ineffective, dangerous, or both.

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27Jan/11

Mixed Messages: US Govt. Tells Companies to Collect User Data, But Not To Use It

Last month the US Federal Trade Commission testified before Congress in order to establish "Do Not Track" legislation, challenging companies to either self-regulate, or face potentially stiff laws prohibiting the tracking of Internet users. This week the US Department of Justice testified before congress to establish regulations requiring data retention for the purposes of investigation and prosecution.

"Data retention is fundamental to the department's work in investigating and prosecuting almost every type of crime," US deputy assistant attorney general Jason Weinstein told a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday. "In some ways, the problem of investigations being stymied by a lack of data retention is growing worse." Weinstein acknowledged that greater data retention requirements raise legitimate privacy concerns but "any privacy concerns about data retention should be balanced against the needs of law enforcement to keep the public safe."

Emphasizing the vast disparity between the testimony of  these two Federal organizations is the following statement from the FTC's own prepared statement to Congress expressing a principal of "reasonable security and limited retention for consumer data" among companies collecting sensitive data.

"A key to protecting privacy is to minimize the amount of data collected and held by ISPs and online companies in the first place," according to John Morris, general counsel at the non-profit Center for Democracy & Technology. "Mandatory data retention laws would require companies to maintain large databases of subscribers' personal information, which would be vulnerable to hackers, accidental disclosure, and government or other third party access."

The DOJ's request would require "an entire industry to retain billions of discrete electronic records due to the possibility that a tiny percentage of them might contain evidence related to a crime," says Kate Dean, executive director of the Internet Service Provider Association. "We think that it is important to weigh that potential value against the impact on the millions of innocent Internet users' privacy."

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11Jan/11

Winona Ryder Fears Accidentally Opting-Into Al Queda

Careful What You Click F

Actress Winona Ryder doesn't use the Internet. She just got her first smartphone, but finds it unpredictable. She had a laptop, but rarely used it.

She's fearful of technology. And that just might make her smarter than you.

As evidenced in her "Late Night" interview with Jimmy Fallon, these days, such concerns are the fodder for comedians. It's the current equivalent of being afraid to drive or swim. In the late 20th. Century, it might have been a fear of handing one's money over to an ATM machine. Or more recently, making a purchase online. But, well over 30,000 people died in car accidents in 2009. Another 24,000 were injured. In a similar period, more that 3000 people died from drowning. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Not if it keeps you safe.

Most of us either fear what we don't know, or fear what we do. There's also a whole complicated subset of irrational, or misguided fears that really fall into the first category. According to her own interview, Ryder falls into the former classification.

Ryder told Fallon, "We're a button away from joining Al Queda!"

How many times have you accidentally opted yourself into joining a mailing list because you forgot to un-approve your pre-approved consent? What about that time when you accidentally installed a bunch of "trial-ware" that came along with a program you legitimately wanted to use. Somewhere, before or after the end-user-license agreement you didn't read, it may have been an option. In the 90's one of my attorney-client's accidentally sold a good investment when he was dabbling with online day trading. I have met people who accidentally purchased cars on eBay. Meanwhile, I promise (though I don't recommend confirming it) that many forms of contraband are just a few clicks, or even a typo, away from where you sit this very moment. Last Summer I gave National Public Radio (NPR) a glimpse into just how easy it can be. Even if you bleed apple pie filling, you're still just a click away from looking like someone else.

I haven't tried it myself, but I'll bet joining Al Queda requires, at least, the completion of an annoying CAPTCHA in order to submit a membership application.  While I'm sure Ryder has no interest in joining, just the accusation, or even a rumor, that she ever supported a terrorist organization, or had some other frighting interest, could be just as detrimental. Remember Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Party's most famous witch? In some parts of the country that's harder to understand than extremism.

Ryder: "We're a button away from joining Al Queda."

Remember, Ryder works in the industry that was most famously asked, "Are you, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

Maybe -- even if unwittingly -- she's on to something. Maybe we'd have several thousand fewer vehicular deaths every year if more drivers understood the engineering that goes into the highway, or a car, it's tires, or even just its brakes and safety systems. Sure, it might scare a few people out of driving altogether. But it might make the rest think a little harder before they accelerated into a turn, or tried to beat a red light across a wet intersection. Maybe, if more people really understood the Internet better before hopping on the "Information Superhighway", law enforcement might have fewer accidents to investigate.

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