Jul 30, 2001

FBI Bugging Case Goes to Court
Surveillance and Privacy from Government
'The legal limits for these new investigative tools will get a test Monday when a federal court in New Jersey examines a mob case in which agents, without a wiretap order, recorded a suspect's computer keystrokes....

'Armed only with a search warrant, the FBI broke into Scarfo's business and put either a program on his computer or an electronic bug in his keyboard -- officials will not say which -- and recorded everything typed by the son of the jailed former boss of a Philadelphia mob.'

Emphasis mine.

'Scarfo's lawyer wants a Newark, N.J., federal court to suppress the evidence and make the FBI say how the bug worked. The lawyer says that because the FBI recorded everything Scarfo typed, they got private e-mails that were not part of the investigation.'

'U.S. Attorney Robert J. Cleary has told the court that the surveillance device is a "highly sensitive law enforcement search and seizure technique" and should not be made public.'

I'm going to have to call that baloney. With a bit of work, I could build such a device, and I'm a software person, not a hardware person. I'm pretty sure such devices are also for sale in the civilian market. There's no secret here... it records keystrokes, and the FBI can later examine them. There aren't too many elaborations even possible.

'The government argues it only needed a search warrant for Scarfo's computer because the captured keystrokes were not immediately being transmitted on the phone line or on the Internet, and should not be considered the products of a wiretap.'

This case is going to cut to the heart of what exactly a wiretap is. The only reasonable outcome of this case is for the judge to rule that this was indeed a wiretap. The reasoning for this is that by the exact same argument the government is offering, the FBI also has the equal right to get a search warrent, place a sound recording device in the living room, and claim it's not a wiretap because the sounds weren't immediately transmitted "on the phone line or on the Internet". Some of the sounds were... some of the keystrokes were too. The parallel fits pretty well, and this is clearly not legal.


Jul 27, 2001

Techs Must Report Child Pornography

For South Carolina" 'Tucked into a new law on education standards for day care workers is a requirement that private technicians tell police if they find child pornography when servicing computers.'

*blink* *blink* On the one hand, these people shouldn't be required to perform in a law enforcement capacity. On the other, giving computer folks a little law enforcement capability could be very interesting... *extremely evil chuckle*


Jul 27, 2001

The Great CNET Spam-off
Spam & E-mail
'CNET contributor Matt Lake opened 12 free e-mail accounts (and monitored some older ones) and dedicated each to one typical online activity. He even opened accounts at each e-mail provider and left them untouched just to examine the myth that just having an e-mail account can generate spam. Next, he joined up at sites that require you to register an e-mail address, posted messages on message boards around the Web, registered domain names, and visited chat rooms. In each case, over a few months, he checked to see which activities attracted the most unsolicited e-mail to an account, then tried to figure out how to remove the spam. Finally, he categorized those behaviors in terms of high, medium, and low risk, and the results were somewhat surprising.'

Some activities commonly thought to be spam bait aren't. Cool.


Jul 26, 2001

Taming the Wild, Wild Web


'"We don't have any control over the Internet," said Michels, president and chief executive of Maryland-based CSP Inc., which helps big clients protect priceless corporate data in the event of an earthquake, computer network outage or other disaster. "If something goes down, you don't even know who's accountable. The Internet is, like, 'Who ya gonna call?' "

'That's an example of how the Internet's leading virtue, its unruliness, is increasingly getting cursed by business executives and economists as its worst flaw. After years of fruitless efforts to make money selling goods and services over the Web, many entrepreneurs and other businesspeople are starting to blame the system's fundamental design for their failures.'

A surprisingly even-handed article on a decidedly non-even-handed issue. I mean really, the business's position here is "Fuck everybody else on the Internet, we need to make money." There's just no nicer way to summarize it. Obviously, I'm not terribly impressed.

If they're that gung-ho about these problems, let them build their own private networks... like they've been doing anyhow!... and let's make sure everybody can get to the Internet. The Internet simply isn't the answer to every problem. For instance, the business quoted above simply shouldn't be using the Internet, ever. They need their own secure network. Let them keep their grubby mitts off our Internet.


Jul 26, 2001

Still in DMCA Prison

From Slashdot:

Let's go over the Sklyarov situation. Sklyarov is still in jail. In fact, he's still in Las Vegas, where he is being held without even a bail hearing, much less bail. The excuse given for not having a bail hearing when he was arrested on July 16 was that he was being immediately transferred to San Jose and would get a hearing there. Anyway, a recap of the protests: San Jose, more San Jose, New York, Seattle, Chicago writeup and Chicago pictures, Moscow writeup and Moscow photo and news coverage: New York Times, Wired has Washington's viewpoint - Representative Coble says "there have been very few complaints from intellectual property holders". Well, duh. Linuxplanet has an opinion piece exploring the Digital Millennium Rape Act. Finally EFF has written a letter to U.S. Attorney Mueller, asking for the U.S. to drop the charges against Sklyarov. It seems pretty doubtful that he will, since he won't want to be seen as soft on crime during his Senate confirmation hearings.

The mentioned "Digital Millenium Rape Act" is interesting, though it may be over the top. To tell the truth, I'm not really sure. Seeing even five years into the future is harder then it ever has been before; the piece could actually be too toned down, compared to the truth.

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