Entries Tagged "copyright"

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How the MPAA Might Enforce Copyright on the Internet

Interesting speculation from Nicholas Weaver:

All that is necessary is that the MPAA or their contractor automatically spiders for torrents. When it finds torrents, it connects to each torrent with manipulated clients. The client would first transfer enough content to verify copyright, and then attempt to map the participants in the Torrent.

Now the MPAA has a “map” of the participants, a graph of all clients of a particular stream. Simply send this as an automated message to the ISP saying “This current graph is bad, block it”. All the ISP has to do is put in a set of short lived (10 minute) router ACLs which block all pairs that cross its network, killing all traffic for that torrent on the ISP’s network. By continuing to spider the Torrent, the MPAA can find new users as they are added and dropped, updating the map to the ISP in near-real-time.

Note that this requires no wiretapping, and nicely minimizes false positives.

Debate on idea here.

Posted on February 11, 2008 at 1:24 PMView Comments

My Open Wireless Network

Whenever I talk or write about my own security setup, the one thing that surprises people — and attracts the most criticism — is the fact that I run an open wireless network at home. There’s no password. There’s no encryption. Anyone with wireless capability who can see my network can use it to access the internet.

To me, it’s basic politeness. Providing internet access to guests is kind of like providing heat and electricity, or a hot cup of tea. But to some observers, it’s both wrong and dangerous.

I’m told that uninvited strangers may sit in their cars in front of my house, and use my network to send spam, eavesdrop on my passwords, and upload and download everything from pirated movies to child pornography. As a result, I risk all sorts of bad things happening to me, from seeing my IP address blacklisted to having the police crash through my door.

While this is technically true, I don’t think it’s much of a risk. I can count five open wireless networks in coffee shops within a mile of my house, and any potential spammer is far more likely to sit in a warm room with a cup of coffee and a scone than in a cold car outside my house. And yes, if someone did commit a crime using my network the police might visit, but what better defense is there than the fact that I have an open wireless network? If I enabled wireless security on my network and someone hacked it, I would have a far harder time proving my innocence.

This is not to say that the new wireless security protocol, WPA, isn’t very good. It is. But there are going to be security flaws in it; there always are.

I spoke to several lawyers about this, and in their lawyerly way they outlined several other risks with leaving your network open.

While none thought you could be successfully prosecuted just because someone else used your network to commit a crime, any investigation could be time-consuming and expensive. You might have your computer equipment seized, and if you have any contraband of your own on your machine, it could be a delicate situation. Also, prosecutors aren’t always the most technically savvy bunch, and you might end up being charged despite your innocence. The lawyers I spoke with say most defense attorneys will advise you to reach a plea agreement rather than risk going to trial on child-pornography charges.

In a less far-fetched scenario, the Recording Industry Association of America is known to sue copyright infringers based on nothing more than an IP address. The accuser’s chance of winning is higher than in a criminal case, because in civil litigation the burden of proof is lower. And again, lawyers argue that even if you win it’s not worth the risk or expense, and that you should settle and pay a few thousand dollars.

I remain unconvinced of this threat, though. The RIAA has conducted about 26,000 lawsuits, and there are more than 15 million music downloaders. Mark Mulligan of Jupiter Research said it best: “If you’re a file sharer, you know that the likelihood of you being caught is very similar to that of being hit by an asteroid.”

I’m also unmoved by those who say I’m putting my own data at risk, because hackers might park in front of my house, log on to my open network and eavesdrop on my internet traffic or break into my computers. This is true, but my computers are much more at risk when I use them on wireless networks in airports, coffee shops and other public places. If I configure my computer to be secure regardless of the network it’s on, then it simply doesn’t matter. And if my computer isn’t secure on a public network, securing my own network isn’t going to reduce my risk very much.

Yes, computer security is hard. But if your computers leave your house, you have to solve it anyway. And any solution will apply to your desktop machines as well.

Finally, critics say someone might steal bandwidth from me. Despite isolated court rulings that this is illegal, my feeling is that they’re welcome to it. I really don’t mind if neighbors use my wireless network when they need it, and I’ve heard several stories of people who have been rescued from connectivity emergencies by open wireless networks in the neighborhood.

Similarly, I appreciate an open network when I am otherwise without bandwidth. If someone were using my network to the point that it affected my own traffic or if some neighbor kid was dinking around, I might want to do something about it; but as long as we’re all polite, why should this concern me? Pay it forward, I say.

Certainly this does concern ISPs. Running an open wireless network will often violate your terms of service. But despite the occasional cease-and-desist letter and providers getting pissy at people who exceed some secret bandwidth limit, this isn’t a big risk either. The worst that will happen to you is that you’ll have to find a new ISP.

A company called Fon has an interesting approach to this problem. Fon wireless access points have two wireless networks: a secure one for you, and an open one for everyone else. You can configure your open network in either “Bill” or “Linus” mode: In the former, people pay you to use your network, and you have to pay to use any other Fon wireless network. In Linus mode, anyone can use your network, and you can use any other Fon wireless network for free. It’s a really clever idea.

Security is always a trade-off. I know people who rarely lock their front door, who drive in the rain (and, while using a cell phone) and who talk to strangers. In my opinion, securing my wireless network isn’t worth it. And I appreciate everyone else who keeps an open wireless network, including all the coffee shops, bars and libraries I have visited in the past, the Dayton International Airport where I started writing this and the Four Points Sheraton where I finished. You all make the world a better place.

This essay originally appeared on Wired.com, and has since generated a lot of controversy. There’s a Slashdot thread. And here are three opposing essays and three supporting essays. Presumably there will be a lot of back and forth in the comments section here as well.

EDITED TO ADD (1/15): There has been lots more commentary.

EDITED TO ADD (1/16): Even more commentary. And still more.

EDITED TO ADD (1/17): Two more.

EDITED TO ADD (1/18): Another. In the beginning, comments agreeing with me and disagreeing with me were about tied. By now, those that disagree with me are firmly in the lead.

Posted on January 15, 2008 at 3:33 AMView Comments

Law Review Article on the Problems with Copyright

Excellent article by John Tehranian: “Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap“:

By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer — a veritable grand larcenist — or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.

The point of the article is how, simply by acting normally, all of us are technically lawbreakers many times over every day. When laws are this far outside the social norms, it’s time to change them.

Posted on November 26, 2007 at 6:54 AMView Comments

Leaked MediaDefender E-mails

This story is poised to become a bigger deal:

Peer-to-peer (P2P) poisoning company MediaDefender suffered an embarrassing leak this weekend, when almost 700MB of internal company e-mail was distributed on the Internet via BitTorrent. The e-mails reveal many aspects of MediaDefender’s elaborate P2P disruption strategies, illuminate previously undisclosed details about the MiiVi scandal, and bring to light details regarding MediaDefender’s collaboration with the New York Attorney General’s office on a secret law enforcement project. We have been reviewing the data for days and will have multiple reports on the topic.

More info here.

And now, phone calls were leaked. Here’s a teaser — Ben Grodsky of Media Defender talking to the New York State General Attorney’s office:

Ben Grodsky: “Yeah it seems…I mean, from our telephone call yesterday it seems that uhm… we all pretty much came to the conclusion that probably was ehm… caught in the email transmission because the attacker, I guess what you call, the Swedish IP, the attacker uhm… knew the login and the IP address and port uhm… but they weren’t able to get in because we had changed the password on our end, you know, following our normal security protocols uhm… when we are making secure transactions like these on the first login we’ll change the password so, obviously, well not obviously but, it seems that, most likely scenario is that, at some point that email was ehm… intercepted.

You know just because it is,.. probably it was going through the public Internet and there wasn’t any sort of encryption key used to ehm… protect the data in that email.”

Ben Grodsky: “…if you guys are comfortable just communicating with us by phone, anything that is really really sensitive we can just communicate in this fashion…”

Ben Grodsky: “OK [confused, taking notes]. So, you are gonna disable password authentication and enable public key?”

Ben Grodsky: “…that part has… has not been compromised in any way. I mean, the communications between our offices in Santa Monica and our data centers have not been compromised in any way and all those communications to NY, to your offices, are secured. The only part that was compromised was…was the email communications about these things.”

Ben Grodsky: “…All we can say for sure Media Defender’s mail server has not been hacked or compromised…”

[Answering to the question “What kind of IDS you guys are running?”]
Ben Grodsky: “Ehm…I don’t know. Let me look into that.”

EDITED TO ADD (9/20): Media Defender’s source code is now available on P2P networks. Actually, I’m feeling sorry for them.

Posted on September 18, 2007 at 12:03 PMView Comments

New Harry Potter Book Leaked on BitTorrent

It’s online: digital photographs of every page are available on BitTorrent.

I’ve been fielding press calls on this, mostly from reporters asking me what the publisher could have done differently. Honestly, I don’t think it was possible to keep the book under wraps. There are millions of copies of the book headed to all four corners of the globe. There are simply too many people who must be trusted in order for the security to hold. And all it takes is one untrustworthy person — one truck driver, one bookstore owner, one warehouse worker — to leak the book.

But conversely, I don’t think the publishers should care. Anyone fan-crazed enough to read digital photographs of the pages a few days before the real copy comes out is also someone who is going to buy a real copy. And anyone who will read the digital photographs instead of the real book would have borrowed a copy from a friend. My guess is that the publishers will lose zero sales, and that the pre-release will simply increase the press frenzy.

I’m kind of amazed the book hadn’t leaked sooner.

And, of course, it is inevitable that we’ll get ASCII copies of the book post-publication, for all of you who want to read it on your PDA.

EDITED TO ADD (7/18): I was interviewed for “Future Tense” on this story.

EDITED TO ADD (7/20): This article outlines some of the security measures the publisher took with the manuscript.

EDITED TO ADD (7/25): The camera has a unique serial number embedded in each of the digital photos which might be used to track the author. Just another example of how we leave electronic footprints everywhere we go.

EDITED TO ADD (8/15): Here is a much more comprehensive analysis of who the leaker is:

  • The photographer is Caucasian.
  • The photographer is probably not married (no wedding ring on left hand).
  • The photographer is likely male. In the first few photos, the ring finger appears to be longer than the index finger. This is called the 2D:4D ratio and a lower ratio is symptomatic a high level of testosterone, suggesting a male. However, there is no clear shot of the fingers layed out, so this is not conclusive.
  • Although cameras are usually designed for right-handed use, the photographer uses his left hand to pin down the book. This suggests that the photographer is right handed. (I’ve seen southpaws try to do this sort of thing, and they usually hold the camera in an odd way with their left hand.) However, this too is not conclusive.
  • The photographer’s hand looks young — possibly a teenager or young adult.

Much, much more in the link.

Posted on July 17, 2007 at 4:38 PMView Comments

Criminals Hijack Large Web Hosting Firm

Nasty attack.

IPOWER declined a phone interview for this story. But the company acknowledged in an e-mail that “over the past three months our servers were targeted. We take this situation very seriously and a diligent cleanup effort has been underway for many months already. We saw the StopBadware report on the day it came out and went to download the list to sweep it as quickly as possible. By looking at the list, it was evident that our cleanup efforts were already helping significantly. By the time we downloaded the list, there were already over a few thousand accounts less than what they claimed in their report.”

IPOWER said the site hacks “came from a compromised server hosted by another company that was listed on the Stopbadware.org Web site. This impacted a higher percentage of accounts on each of these legacy third-party control panel systems.”

The company claims to have more than 700,000 customers. If we assume for the moment the small segment of IPOWER servers Security Fix analyzed is fairly representative of a larger trend, IPOWER may well be home to nearly a quarter-million malicious Web sites.

And an interesting point:

An Internet service provider or Web host can take action within 48 hours if it receives a “takedown notice,” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law protects network owners from copyright infringement liability, provided they take steps to promptly remove the infringing content. Yet ISPs and Web hosts often leave sites undisturbed for months that cooperate in stealing financial data and consumer identities.

There is no “notice and takedown” law specifically requiring ISPs and Web hosts to police their networks for sites that may serve malicious software.

Posted on May 25, 2007 at 7:13 AMView Comments

On the Futility of Fighting Online Pirates

From Forbes:

Their argument is rooted, ironically, in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that U.S. lawmakers approved in 1998. The Alluc.org kids, as well as the operators of most sites that let users upload content, argue that they’re not violating copyright law if they’re not the ones putting it up and if they take it down at the copyright holder’s request. It’s the same argument Google is making in its YouTube case.

But there are more practical reasons that sites like Alluc.org get away with what they’re doing. One is that there are simply too many of them to keep track of. Media companies’ lawyers rarely have time to police so many obscure sites, and even when they do, users can always upload the infringing files again. So the flow of copyrighted streaming video continues.

Not every scheme to evade intellectual property laws is so subtle. The music-selling site AllofMP3.com uses a simpler business model: Base your company in Russia, steal music from American labels and sell it cheaply. AllofMP3 allows users to download full albums for as little as $1 each–10% of what they would cost on iTunes. From June to October 2006 alone, the Recording Industry Association of America says that 11 million songs were downloaded from the site. AllofMP3 claims those sales adhered strictly to Russian law, but that doesn’t satisfy the RIAA; the record labels have launched a lawsuit, asking for $150,000 for each stolen file, totaling $1.65 trillion.

Slashdot thread.

Posted on May 21, 2007 at 1:36 PMView Comments

Cyber-Attack

Last month Marine General James Cartwright told the House Armed Services Committee that the best cyber defense is a good offense.

As reported in Federal Computer Week, Cartwright said: “History teaches us that a purely defensive posture poses significant risks,” and that if “we apply the principle of warfare to the cyberdomain, as we do to sea, air and land, we realize the defense of the nation is better served by capabilities enabling us to take the fight to our adversaries, when necessary, to deter actions detrimental to our interests.”

The general isn’t alone. In 2003, the entertainment industry tried to get a law passed giving them the right to attack any computer suspected of distributing copyrighted material. And there probably isn’t a sys-admin in the world who doesn’t want to strike back at computers that are blindly and repeatedly attacking their networks.

Of course, the general is correct. But his reasoning illustrates perfectly why peacetime and wartime are different, and why generals don’t make good police chiefs.

A cyber-security policy that condones both active deterrence and retaliation — without any judicial determination of wrongdoing — is attractive, but it’s wrongheaded, not least because it ignores the line between war, where those involved are permitted to determine when counterattack is required, and crime, where only impartial third parties (judges and juries) can impose punishment.

In warfare, the notion of counterattack is extremely powerful. Going after the enemy — its positions, its supply lines, its factories, its infrastructure — is an age-old military tactic. But in peacetime, we call it revenge, and consider it dangerous. Anyone accused of a crime deserves a fair trial. The accused has the right to defend himself, to face his accuser, to an attorney, and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Both vigilante counterattacks, and pre-emptive attacks, fly in the face of these rights. They punish people before who haven’t been found guilty. It’s the same whether it’s an angry lynch mob stringing up a suspect, the MPAA disabling the computer of someone it believes made an illegal copy of a movie, or a corporate security officer launching a denial-of-service attack against someone he believes is targeting his company over the net.

In all of these cases, the attacker could be wrong. This has been true for lynch mobs, and on the internet it’s even harder to know who’s attacking you. Just because my computer looks like the source of an attack doesn’t mean that it is. And even if it is, it might be a zombie controlled by yet another computer; I might be a victim, too. The goal of a government’s legal system is justice; the goal of a vigilante is expediency.

I understand the frustrations of General Cartwright, just as I do the frustrations of the entertainment industry, and the world’s sys-admins. Justice in cyberspace can be difficult. It can be hard to figure out who is attacking you, and it can take a long time to make them stop. It can be even harder to prove anything in court. The international nature of many attacks exacerbates the problems; more and more cybercriminals are jurisdiction shopping: attacking from countries with ineffective computer crime laws, easily bribable police forces and no extradition treaties.

Revenge is appealingly straightforward, and treating the whole thing as a military problem is easier than working within the legal system.

But that doesn’t make it right. In 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen declared: “No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed any arbitrary order shall be punished.”

I’m glad General Cartwright thinks about offensive cyberwar; it’s how generals are supposed to think. I even agree with Richard Clarke’s threat of military-style reaction in the event of a cyber-attack by a foreign country or a terrorist organization. But short of an act of war, we’re far safer with a legal system that respects our rights.

This essay originally appeared in Wired.

Posted on April 5, 2007 at 7:35 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.