Category Archives: Editorial

Editorial or opinion articles

Opinion

A Look At 2013 and Moving on to 2014

By Drew Wilson

Freezenet has celebrated our first new years. As we turn the page to 2014, we offer some thoughts on what the year was and what the new year might bring.

We have bid farewell to 2013, the year freezenet.ca came into existence. As we move forward into the new year, it is worth reflecting on the accomplishments of this site. Although these accomplishments may be humble and not flashy like your standard big name website, they are certainly accomplishments we are proud of.

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Opinion: Why Malware as an Anti-Piracy Method is Doomed to Fail

By Drew Wilson

Late last month, a report by the IP Commission caused a stir amongst advocates. Among the recommendations was the call to hack into an alleged copyright infringer’s computer and either delete infringing material, lock down the computer altogether, or physically destroy the computer entirely. Drew Wilson offers his thoughts on the subject of malware as an anti-piracy measure as mentioned in this report.

BoingBoing covered this story and pointed to 2 paragraphs in the 84 page PDF file. These paragraphs are found on page 81 in the PDF file. They are:

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.

The second paragraph (immediately following on the same page) reads:

When theft of valuable information, including intellectual property, occurs at network speed, sometimes merely containing a situation until law enforcement can become involved is not an entirely satisfactory course of action. 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.

As is typically the case, reports like this are often written by people who have no idea how technology works. When I read these two paragraphs, it was immediately clear that the author was under the false assumption that computer files operate like physical property. As anyone with a hint of knowledge about how computers work know, if a file is downloaded, it’s simply copied from one computer to another rather than physically moved.

Additionally, when DRM is encoded into a file, release groups typically disable it before having it distributed amongst topsites which often make their way down the file-sharing food-chain. So, proposing the idea of using measures to disable access to certain files on a person’s computer has been defeated long ago. In fact, some software developers even went so far as to encode trojan horses into pieces of software should the copy protection be removed (Re: Gladiator vs. Air incident). This tactic failed in the end anyway. The only people who would be affected by such measures are people who purchase software legitimately. If their system was disabled by a false alarm, then it would only encourage software piracy, not deter it because the pirated version would be seen as more secure than the legal version by potential customers.

Even if it became the norm to implant rootkit technology or ransomware, there would be more of a deterrence to use Windows operating systems. People would be encouraged to use Linux distributions instead because rootkit technology is typically aimed at operating systems like Windows and Mac computers. In fact, as a user of legally purchased software, I’ve come across numerous instances where I am suddenly locked out of my own software because the key system was buggy. This was both in Mac environments and Windows environments on completely different networks. The common link between these cases was that it was Adobe software. If Adobe failed to create a properly functioning key system, what chances do other smaller vendors have in the first place?

The best possible result that such a policy and/or law would have is encourage users to have two separate computers – one for pirated software and one for legitimate software. That is the best case scenario this policy could hope to achieve.

There would be numerous pitfalls to such a policy as well. One of the biggest I can foresee is that vendors who are foolish enough to even attempt it are opening themselves to legal liability. If a computer system is locked down because of a false alarm on a business network, I would say that the company in question has every reason to sue for loss of productivity. If a whole network is disabled in an office building of a few hundred employees for a whole day because of a bug in whatever the DRM system has, it’s not out of the question that a seven figure lawsuit would result.

At the end of the day, this document was clearly drafted by someone who has, at best, a very distorted and inaccurate idea of how computers work. The author came up with this weird fantasy where computer programs operate like the Doctor from Star Trek Voyager. Reality ultimately disagree’s with the author of this report.

This article was published yesterday on ZeroPaid.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

Opinion

Opinion: Combining Several Bad Ideas Won’t Stop Piracy

By Drew Wilson

Last week, a report suggested that the government agency HADOPI was gearing up to combine website blocking, three strikes laws, search engine demotion and the cutting off of forms of revenue as a means to try and put the squeeze on piracy. Drew Wilson offers his opinion on the matter.

One thing I’ve been noticing lately is the fact that a number of implementations and variations of a three strikes law have been going sideways. The US six strike policy through the Copyright Alert System become a security disaster for users, the French variation shows that after implementation of the three strikes law only saw the continued slide of music sales, and the New Zealand variation has become little more than a money losing prospect. I think that when the music industry pushed the three strikes law, they hoped that one variation or another would prove to be some sort of magic bullet to fix all the industry woes. Now that every single one of these variations are starting to go sideways, the industry is becoming desperate and are wanting to prop this policy up with something – anything – just to try and prove that this policy is worth pursuing in other countries.

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Opinion

Opinion: John Manley’s 5 Points for CETA Don’t Add Up

By Drew Wilson

John Manley, chief executive of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, recently wrote an opinion piece in which he offers five points on why everyone should be supportive of CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Drew Wilson responds with his own rebuttal to the piece.

While I was getting swamped by the flurry of news stories yesterday, I kept in the back of my mind one thing: every time there’s a new development on CETA, there’s always a fresh volley of propaganda from its mega corporate supporters. True to form, this is what happened. CETA has been delayed yet again. I guess those little nitty gritty details, those last minute details, those last minute kinks to iron out or whatever other comments supporters said suggesting that it would take nothing to sort out turned out to be a slightly bigger deal. Then again, this is the kind of delay that just doesn’t surprise me one bit. After all, I’ve been following the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) closely and these are the kinds of “little” details that have delayed that agreement for a year or so now. With the same kind of thing happening with CETA, I’m really not surprised that a delay was going to happen.

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Opinion

Editorial: Why We Are a Long Way From Using Anonymous P2P Networks

By Drew Wilson

Every few years, the idea of using anonymous networks pops up in discussion from time to time. Often, this is the result of some event such as the RIAA suing users en-masse or ISPs throttling certain protocols. The latest prediction comes from a a posting on Slashdot in which the author says that the rise of anonymous networks is inevitable. Drew Wilson examines some possible barriers as to why it might not be so inevitable.

Let me first start off by saying that I’ve been actively around file-sharing discussions since at least 2005. I’ve passively watched these debates for longer, but if you want a hardcore date that I started participating in the debates, it’s about 2005. During that time, I’ve seen discussions surrounding anonymous networks crop up from time to time. I’ve seen people trying to propose file-sharing service “Ants” which actually suffered from some security vulnerabilities, Darknet networks, iP2P software, Freenet, Retroshare, the rise of Private BitTorrent websites and, of course, the increasing use of VPNs. Save for some adoption of Retroshare and an increasing interest in VPN, non of the above really took off compared to vanilla BitTorrent adoption and cyber lockers.

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Opinion

Editorial: The Borderline Comical Position of a TPP Supporter

By Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson comments on an article written by a trade adviser who expressed disappointment over the fact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was not at the top of US president Barack Obama’s agenda.

Picture this: you support something and you want to promote it to the best of your abilities. Here are the problems: You don’t know anything about it. Even if you did know anything about it, you can’t necessarily say any details about it. All you have to rely on is a few buzz words that may or may not have anything to do with what you are trying to support and you have precisely zero evidence to back you up. If you’re like me, you’d probably have second thoughts and would want to wait for more details to come out. This is more or less the position TPP supporters find themselves in. It would be something to laugh off and cast away if the consequences embedded within the TPP should countries around the world adopt it into law weren’t so dire.

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