Piracy and intellectual property theft are clearly problems facing both the movie industry and U.S. businesses in general. As such, our government has been hard at work trying to figure out ways to stop all this “cyber crime” and the results have been an equal measure of terrifying and hilarious. SOPA and CISPA and all the other stupidly named acronym plans the U.S. government has trotted out have demonstrated that most of our elected officials don’t even understand how the Internet works – but that they’d gladly legislate it in ways that would all but destroy it so Hollywood could continue to enjoy record profits anyway.
For as awful as SOPA and CISPA were, they pale in comparison to the suggestions found in a recent report from the Commission on Theft of American Intellectual Property. That 84-page gem makes the suggestion that maybe it’s time to legalize the use of malware so that corporations (and movie companies) could remotely lock down the computers of anyone found to have pirated or illegal material on their PC. How would you unlock your machine if this happened? Oh, you’d just call the local authorities, confess your crime, and get a password.
Sounds pretty Orwellian, doesn’t it? It’s right there, though – in good ol’ black and white:
“Additionally, software can be written that will allow only authorized users to open files containing valuable information. If an unauthorized person accesses the information, a range of actions might then occur. For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized user’s computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account. Such measures do not violate existing laws on the use of the Internet, yet they serve to blunt attacks and stabilize a cyber incident to provide both time and evidence for law enforcement to become involved.”
We’re no Internet law authorities, but we’re pretty sure that does violate laws against knowingly installing malicious programs on someone else’s computers. We’re pretty sure there’s a law against that. If there isn't, there certainly should be.
That’s just the opening salvo in this potential war on your PC, though. It gets worse…
“While not currently permitted under U.S. law, there are increasing calls for creating a more permissive environment for active network defense that allows companies not only to stabilize a situation but to take further steps, including actively retrieving stolen information, altering it within the intruder’s networks, or even destroying the information within an unauthorized network. Additional measures go further, including photographing the hacker using his own system’s camera, implanting malware in the hacker’s network, or even physically disabling or destroying the hacker’s own computer or network.”
So, not only do they want to be able to install malware on your PC and then ransom your computer back to you, but they’d also love to have the legal ability to actually take over your system, snoop through your files, alter and destroy anything they don’t think you should have, destroy your computer and network, and maybe even take your picture while they’re doing it.
It should be noted that the main purpose of this legislation is presumably to prevent foreign hackers from breaking into computers during acts of corporate espionage. However, you can all but guarantee that the movie and music industries (huge backers of Draconian programs like SOPA and CISPA) will also be using these new tools to ferret out pirates should they ever pass into law.
The likelihood of any of these measures actually passing and becoming law are slim – at least we hope they’re slim – but it’s good to be aware of what’s going on around you. Piracy and intellectual property thefts are problems – how serious depends on who you ask and what you believe – but neither are serious enough that Americans should be required to give up freedom to protect corporations.
[via Boing Boing]