Security Advisor

ISPs Shining Their Internet Police Badges

Plus: Google facing fines for Apple Safari privacy issues, young hacker goes on attack spree.

Redmond columnist Brien Posey recently wrote a piece on the upcoming act of Internet service providers (ISPs) policing U.S. user traffic for the distribution of copyright material.

According to the new act, which was reached in agreement with (or threatened by) the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and  the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), ISPs who monitor illegal activity can issue warnings to users, and, if similar acts continue, can throttle down a user's bandwidth to a crawl.

In Posey's piece, he argues that there "are about a million different ways that doing so could backfire." (I think this number is a bit of an underestimation.)

How are ISPs supposed to differentiate between legal and illegal activity without violating your privacy? (Answer: they won't be able to.) While Posey focused on cloud-based storage in his argument, what about torrents, which is the No. 1 way in which copyright material is illegally spread?  How do you monitor all Internet activity to distinguish that a torrent being downloaded is either last week's episode of Mad Men or your own intellectual property you decide to share?

You can't. And with news that this system that the ISPs will enact in July will be automated, I have a hard time believing they will take the due diligence to decide what is and isn't legal for sharing.

Instead, look for ISPs to err on the side of caution and throw a wet blanket over a large area of peer-to-peer sharing. Pissing off the average user is less of a hassle (and less of a financial burden) than pissing off powerful Hollywood groups like the MPAA and RIAA.

What's your take on ISPs cracking down on distributing copyright material?  Is their proposed plan the only way to stem the illegal practice? Let me know your thoughts at cpaoli@1105media.com.

Google's Expensive Ticket
Google's not having the best week when it comes to getting away with things it shouldn't be doing. Earlier in the week it was fined for privacy violations concerning how it accesses Wi-Fi networks without permission for its Google Street. Now it may be facing a hefty fine for circumnavigating privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser to track user's Internet movements.

If found to be at fault by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a $16,000 fine per violation (which could be counted for each Safari user) per day could be issued. If my math is correct, that comes out to about a kajillion dollars Google may owe.

When the alleged breach first came out, Google said that its "accidental" tracking of cookies for Safari users was due to some bad code associated with its widely used (sarcasm) "+1" social media button that clutters up your favorite Web sites.

The company is now changing its story, saying this week that it tracked cookies only of those Google users that specifically requested it. Who would request that?

Extra Credit Only Awarded After 260 Web Site Hacks
A busy 15-year-old boy was arrested this week in Austria for allegedly hacking 259 Web sites in a span of 90 days.

Not taking anything away from the skill this kid must have, but my opinion is if your site can be easily attacked by someone doing the work between periods at school, it's time to rethink your cyber security strategy.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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