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Tuesday, June 17, 2003


Hatch Takes Aim at Illegal Downloading (TechNews.com)

Why is this man still a Senator? Doesn't he read the laws they pass up there, like the anti-hacking laws passed only a few years ago (which makes such measures as the one he suggests illegal)? Bottom line, the man is fascist lunatic. Please vote him out now people.


“I made my comments at yesterday’s hearing because I think that industry is
not doing enough to help us find effective ways to stop people from using
computers to steal copyrighted, personal or sensitive materials. I do not
favor extreme remedies – unless no moderate remedies can be found. I asked
the interested industries to help us find those moderate remedies.”

From Thomas Shaddack on why Hatch's scheme is technologically impossible:

First, the technology has to get inside the computer somehow. Standard
precautions against hostile code apply. However, we have to consider the
possibility that such code would run within the operating system itself,
sneaked there as part of DRM or in a "must-have" player or as an "update"
of oh-so-trusted Microsoft.

Even if the code would run there, the number of warnings has to be stored
somewhere. Catch this (there are tools for monitoring both file system and
registry access at e.g. sysinternals.com), you are indestructible, just
will be annoyed with warnings, which can be clicked away automatically
with a small program like e.g. PTFB.

Once the first warning appears, it is a clear evidence the machine is
compromised and that the trip to Google or the newsgroups or to a local
hacker, who is likely to know the remedy, is advised.

An easy way to get a sample of such hypothetical infector system, or at
least its key part, is to set up a honey pot that will be very likely to
attract the attention (shouldn't be difficult if the adversary wants to
hit 100,000s machines), with logging all its communication on its gateway.
Then, once the warning appears, go through the logs and find the cause.

Besides, if we rule out reflashing BIOS, which is usually preventable with
a jumper, it's rather difficult to physically damage a machine by purely
software means. The ancient ways like overclocking the monitor's synchro
and frying deflection coil transistors, or getting the disk heads to
resonance, can't be applied anymore, as the newer electronics either
doesn't allow access to its lowest-level functions (like head seeking of
HDDs), or safely shuts down when outside of the allowed parameters
(multisync monitors). Otherwise we'd already see cases of
hardware-damaging worms. This turns the risk of "destroyed machine" to the
nuisance of wiped disks, which is easy to mitigate with regular backups,
and the remedy is a routine reinstall.

> "If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd
> be interested in hearing about that," Hatch said. "If that's the only way,
> then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred
> thousand of those, I think people would realize" the seriousness of their
> actions, he said. "There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws,"
> Hatch said. [...]

After the first few hundreds victims (the news on the Net spread at the
speed of light in a fiber), the technology will get into hands of
"rogues", who will devise solutions and workarounds - from cloaking,
filtering packets from listed sources or with damaging content, to
(finally) provably secure P2P software. Which can be e.g. a properly
sandboxed Java applet that interacts with the other ones in the Outside
(or maybe even a program complete with its own mini-OS running on its own
virtual machine, completely isolated from the rest of the machine, a
lightweight version of VMware), and another program running with higher
level of privileges that watches for finished downloads and moves the
files outside of the applet's write access (optionally sanitizing it
during that), so even if the applet itself gets under hostile control, all
that can get corrupted are the unfinished downloads and the applet's
process itself. Attempts to corrupt the computer by a buffer-overflow
vulnerability in the downloaded files (the ID3 tag problems can serve as
an example) can be mitigated by a filter that checks every MP3 frame, ID3
tag, and other parts of the files for syntactical validity, clipping
eventual too long strings, sanitizing dangerous content, throwing away or
interpolating frames with overflows.

Orrin's scheme won't turn people away of P2P. Instead, demand for secure
P2P systems will be created and shortly later satiated.

Another day, another politician proved his technological inaptness...

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