Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Ungaria și Uniunea Europeană

This is an essay written by yours truly in Romanian about Hungary, to commemorate the debates in the European Parliament and international media of last week. It was actually originally written by me, but corrected by a native speaker who considered ”80% of the [original] text intelligible”. For Hungarian readers of this text, please see an interview with I made last year which is along these same lines. For non-Romanian and non-Hungarian speakers, essentially my concern is that the European Commission (in particular) avoids difficult issues about human rights for European citizens and focuses on administrative points because they are afraid of stepping on the toes of sovereignty of, in particular, founding member states (I’m thinking mostly about the non-critique of laws like LOPPSI, HADOPI, Sinde, etc).

Ungaria este o țară din Europa Centrală. Este membră a Uniunii Europene de peste 8 ani. În urmă cu mai puțin de un an, Parlamentul Ungariei a votat o nouă lege pentru mass-media care a redus libertățile jurnaliștilor. Anul trecut, Parlamentul European și-a exprimat nemulțumirea și îngrijorarea privind această nouă lege. Nici jurnaliștilor nu le place noua lege pentru că ea prezintă riscul cenzurii.

Îngrijorarea continuă și astăzi. Unora dintre parlamentarii europeni nu le place noua Constituție a Ungariei pentru că e foarte naționalistă. Guvernul Ungariei, care e susținut în Parlament de 67% dintre deputați (o ”majoritate absolută”), și-a propus întinerirea forțată a corpului de judecători. Lipsa de independență a Agenției Naționale pentru protecția datelor cu caracter personal a fost criticată.

La nivelul Comisiei Europene se critică noua lege prin care statul va avea mult control asupra Băncii Naționale a Ungariei.

Navracsics Tibor, vicepremierul Ungariei, a spus pentru Reuters că Guvernul Ungariei este dispus să schimbe legea privind protectia datelor personale, așa cum a modificat și legea media anul trecut.

Lipsa de independeță a agenției naționale nu este cea mai mare problemă, ci riscul cenzurii și păstrarea forțată a datelor. Cabluri de internet traversează Ungaria, mulți alți cetățeni europeni fiind dependenți de acestea. Cenzura din Ungaria poate afecta oameni din afara jurisdicției maghiare.

Sancțiunile propuse împotriva Ungariei sunt sancțiune financiare, iar critica privește doar aspectele administrative (ca și lipsa independenței Agenției).

Dacă nu s-ar limita la atât, Uniunea Europeană ar trebui să critice și alte legi din alte state membre care limitează libertatea informației și cea a comunicării, dar acest lucru ar încălca principiul suveranității naționale.

În Europa se construiește un ”internet of holes”, un ”internet al golurilor”.

lege referitoare la = lag som berör/rör
nici jurnaliștilor nu le place = journalister gillar inte heller (dubbel-negation och ett dativ(!))

Current news about my entering the parliament

Short version: There are transtition protocols that need to be signed before we can be MEPs. France and the UK may have almost signed by now. Belgium and Greece have still not signed. It is uncertain whether there may be additional delays until the French national elections in april 2012.

Current situation: Most member states appear to have signed. No clear info on Greece. Belgium is a mess. France is a wild-card but the UK appears to be sorting itself out!

Long version


”How does one become a parliamentarian when one is so young?” is a question I receive regularly. ”How does the European Parliament keep you from assuming your role as a publically elected official for so long?” is another.

They’re not keeping only me from assuming my role. There are a total of 18 Lisbon-seats, that is, seats added to the total size of the parliament (currently 736) by the Lisbon treaty, the new status of the Union (more or less), which entered into effect December 1 2009. In almost two years, many changes mandated by the treaty have not been implemented yet, among those the inauguration of the new MEPs. We come from a total of 12 European countries and represent political views from across the political spectrum in our various member states.

In spring 2010 I was contacted by L-MEP Josef Weidenholzer, an Austrian who is in the same precarious situation as myself. He suggested, and I agreed, that it was important that we collaborate to improve our situation and speed up the process of our ascension. Together with Maltese L-MEP Joseph Cuschieri (his webpage is in Maltese! one of the weirdest-looking but coolest languages of the union) we followed the first treatment of the implementation of Lisbon in the European Parliament in the Parliament constitutional committee.

It turned out that a domestic dispute in France, receiver of two additional seats according to the Lisbon treaty, regarding how they would name their extra MEPs (me, Josef and Joseph always ”knew” that when inauguration time came up, we would be representatives – France did not have specified people to fill the seats) created dissent and controversy in, of course, France, but also in the EP and the Council of Ministers – how to write the transition protocols (documents describing how the change from one treaty to the next would take place) in such a way that the French domestic dispute wouldn’t have to be solved at a European level? It took the parliament 6 months to figure this out, upon which a document called protocol 36, specifying the transition rules, started being circulated for signing and ratification by member state parliaments in summer of 2010.

Protocol 36 was signed and ratified by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, and because it constituted a change to the Lisbon Treaty (they had altered the wording of subparagraph c) in article 23, if I’m not mistakenly reminded) it needed re-approval by member state parliaments.

News from France uncertain and confusing. Sometimes contradictory.

This re-ratification was meant to be finished by December 1 2010. For us, it meant gathering forces and getting in touch with member state parliaments to find out when the member state parliaments were planning to treat the issue. Me and L-MEP Jens Nilsson ascertained that Sweden would ratify in October, Josef Weidenholzer and Joseph Cuschieri quickly got notifications of when ratification was to occur in Austria and Malta respectively.

Joseph Cuschieri collaborated intensively with the European Parliament local office in Malta and compiled an estimated time-frame for ratification in all member states – at this point we had some form of reference document to be used for when ”lobbying” efforts were required in which member state to speed up the process as much as possible.

At some point Josef Weidenholzer too the initiative of setting up an e-mailing list!

L-MEP Kārlis Šadurskis from Lithuanian Latvian started writing to the Lithuanian Latvian embassies of all member states to ask when or how things were moving along. (revised Jun 15 2011)

France was at this time a point of constant concern – the news from France were uncertain. What needed to happen in France for protocol 36 to be approved? There were rumours of conflicts between the French socialists and the French conservatives. Inside the European Parliament it appeared that the French socialists, currently the largest national faction inside the European socialist group S&D, were unwilling to have the European Parliament take a strong role for the installation of the new MEPs – it also seemed the Conservatives of the European Parliament (EPP) were unwilling to cross the socialists in this matter. Kārlis Šadurskis figured out that there was a constitutional change under-going and that it would be completed earliest by May 12 2011. After the constitutional change was arranged, the protocols could be treated and signed by the French president and national assembly.

At this time, when there was a more definite time-frame for France (who were always the most uncertain element in this – and still are!) the focus could be shifted again to other member states that didn’t yet sign: in April there was a number of them (Poland, Romania, Greece, UK, France, Belgium, and a few other ones).

L-MEP Anthea McIntyre provided continuous reports from the ratification processes in the UK. The road of protocol 36 in the various member states looks different depending on the parliamentary system in use: in the UK it passes between the Government, House of Commons and House of Lords and possibly someone else, where each step of the way is another cliff-hanger. The last news I’ve had from the UK are no news, which is good news – according to Anthea McIntyre the House of Lords could have objected to the ratification about 1,5 weeks ago but there have been no news of them using this privilege.

When Poland and Romania ratified about 3 weeks ago (mid-May 2011) we started talking again about trying to meet up with President Buzek from the European Parliament (whose role can be described a bit as ”spokesperson” in the Parliament – chairing plenary and representing the Parliament institutionally, not politically). L-MEP Tomasz Makowski assigned himself the Task, by virtue of also being from Poland. President Buzek was contacted on behalf of the Polish L-MEP Arkadiusz Bratkowski. (revised Oct 23 2011).

So where does that leave us?

Belgium has six parliaments. One of them has completed ratification, one of them has announced that they are currently dealing with the issue, and the status of ratification in the remaining four is unknown.

Currently, the UK process is undergoing but probably not entirely finished (to my knowledge). In France, the office of the president must still be signing the Lisbon Protocol 36 and this has yet to happen. The news from Greece are uncertain. In Belgium, all six national parliaments must sign (Brussels parliament, Flemmish parliament, Wallonian parliament, French-speaking Community parliament (apparently Wallonia minus the German-speakers plus the French speakers of Brussels), German-speaking Community (Wallonia minus the French-speakers), federal parlament), and currently we’ve found out only of the German-Speaking Community signing the protocols about 3 weeks ago, the Flemmish parliament starting preparations to sign the protocols about 2 weeks ago and from the remaining parliaments there are no words. Given the precarious political situation of Belgium at the moment, it’s slightly uncertain what will happen when the protocols pass all parliaments – will it still need to be dealt with at the executive (federal government) level and if so how?

One last word of caution: undoubtedly it is very positive that only four member states have still to sign, two of which (UK and France) seem to only have to undertake a pure formality, but I heard in the grapevine that France may possibly want to wait with inaugurating the Lisbon-MEPs until the time that they can fill their additional two seats in the national elections next year, 2012, in April. Whether it’s within the scope of what France can or cannot do to accomplish this I don’t know. Technically, the European Parliament could have made the bureaucratic decision to include the L-MEPs as observers (a special transition-status for MEPs) last year in September (2010) but decided against after opposition from what I understood to be French politicians.

Pommes de t’Eire

"You would not believe it, but we are very protected by various intellectual property rights - geographical indications, plant variety rights and patents can all be used to keep us from proliferating and you from growing or selling potatos."

Yesterday I briefly commented on the differences between conservatism in Sweden and on Ireland (some discussions that are no longer current in Sweden may be in Ireland and vice versa, was my argument). And when talking about Ireland, how can one not be reminded of the tragic potato monoculture incident that led up to the potato famine of 1845? Close to my heart and related to potatos and monocultures are plant breeders’ rights, a type of intellectual property right that is close to patent rights but applicable only to plants varieties (”varieties” like the ones illustrated below). The right entails a 20 or 25 year long protection ”term” within which you are the only plant breeder who are allowed to retail your particular type of plant variety. Just as patents, it protects the rights holder from having other people continue ”breeding” on their particular plant variety for commercial purposes.

The association to the on-going potato war of Belgium and ensuing intellectual property details are also not far from my mind. Dramatic headlines and democratic musings ensue as a field of potatoes outside Gent University Agricultural Department was liberated, or vandalized, by a group of activists disagreeing with the covert cultivation of GMO crops on open fields (no control over where the crops spread) in a privately-funded research project where the proceeds of the research was to fall in into the hands of the funder. The university calls the potato liberation ”a scientific catastrophe and a sign that democracy is not working well” (my translation). I am of the firm belief that the democratic deficit, and the tragedies to science, agriculture and society to be found herein, lie in the circumstance that the crops are destined to fall subject to an intellecual property right that can have an impact on people who’ve mistakenly become associated with aforementioned crop.

As much as I respect research, since the mid-1990s there have been worrying tendencies at the European Patent Office to include plants within what’s considered patentable matter. The plant variety rights are somewhat ”adapted” for agriculture in so far as you’re allowed to save seeds, basically (a patent right would require you to renew your license/buy new seeds for each year you want to continue industrial application of the crop). There is not really any good way of telling which type of right the private investor in the Gentsian potato field was planning to go for at the end of the research project.

But say the university and their sponsors opt for getting the ”weaker” right (which is the plant breeders’ right in this case).In the origins of plant variety rights I seem to recall potato farmers in the UK protested loudly their fears that the sudden emergence of an intellecual property right in the field would cause a big ownership concentration in the seed providers. Their fears turned out to be entirely justified – the market for providing original seeds is currently very centralized and intellectual property rights encourage further centralization of originators. Certainly there are reasons to criticize the university of Gent for this project, even if they label it research?

Plant breeders’ rights are typically pushed by large seed enterprises (Monsanto springs to mind, but they’re by no means the only actor on this market) in regions of the world where patent offices feel disinclined to include plants in the patentable subject matter, namely Latin America (who appear to be having quite a lot of unique potatos per country/region). Thus it is that most Latin American countries seem to have updated or strengthened their plant variety protection laws in the last five years. Particularly in Chile, these actions were criticized for benefiting primarily foreign investors. I would hate it for my university to be able to avoid responsibility for participating in the perpetuation of such market strategies by vague alusions to democracy and science.

Below is a sign naming various forms of potatos and the characteristic looks of each sort (list of older varieties here, pre-1960s). The rumour goes that Asterix is slowly disappearing from the market after it was discovered to be weak against a particular type of pest or mould. I like Columbo and Ostara, eat Blue Congo because it looks cool (it’s dark blue!) and would like to try ”Matilda”. The most common sorts of potatos found in Swedish supermarkets are King Edward and Asterix.
On a side-note, it appears Spain is leading the development for climate-change-resistant potatoes.

World is flat II

”If the public wants public culture, the public must be prepared to invest in public culture,” said James Love,

Jamie Love, KEI

as we were walking down a small street in central Barcelona after having evening tapas. It was October 2009 and we had just had a brief conversation about flatrates and blank media taxes.

Our conversation was held at a time when I was just trying to evaluate the voluntary collective licenses proposed by EFF, and supported by among others the Canadian Association of Songwriters and James Love’s association Knowledge Ecology International. It goes as follows: an internet subscriber chooses of his or her own free will to pay a fee to rights holder associations so as to be allowed to download, upload, remix and mix all the music they find like to online without being subjected to the threat of a lawsuit.

Jamie Love was the first person who in very direct terms confronted me with shared culture and information being, yes, socially important and valuable, but also having an economic value. In the sense that culture needs an economic influx.


Incidentally, my viewpoint at the time was that collective licenses in general were an evil to be avoided, much in line with the then and current policies of Piratpartiet.

Who should be paid what, why and how?” being the catchy, and quite sensible, lead motif of Piratpartiet had led me to believe that there was reason whatsoever to distribute any money in any way which wasn’t entirely fair, and that all such efforts should therefore be abandoned. As I grow older (I love saying that, I’m 23 years old so technically I’m only barely half-way middle-age) I realize that the concept of ”fairness” is quite subjective – just because an action risks being unfair, does not mean that the lack of that action automatically becomes more so – and the question (or four questions) is wrongly stated: obviously the relevant questions for a society to ask itself are ”What do we want from whom, why and how?” Public sponsorship of culture needs to put the benefits to society first, not the receiver of the sponsorship.

Philippe Aigrain

The EFF proposal is meant to be a ”peaceful” solution to the conflicts around copyrighted music online. Philippe Aigrain from French NGO LQDN objects, rightfully and I agree with him, that a voluntary flatrate can never amend this situation. For how do you legally then handle all the people who didn’t subscribe? Presumably by precisely that type of legislation we want to avoid.

Philippe Aigrain advocates a different form of collective license, a politically governed flatrate on broadband connections, that is mandatory for all citizens inside the jurisidiction of those politicians and that would end to all legal complications around the up- and downloading as well as the remixing and mixing. Since all people inside the territory of this law, by virtue of being inside the jurisidiction, would pay the flatrate, there wouldn’t be a need for a law of enforcement at all – the idea of the flatrate is to remove the need for enforcement. The idea of Aigrain is, much like what Love said to me, that the public has an interest and a responsibility to invest in its own cultural heritage and future.

Eva Lichtenberger

In the Green Group in the European Parliament, Piratpartiet has long stood up against collective licenses as a solution to any kind of copyright plight. Austrian parliamentarian Eva Lichtenberger though, once told me she believes it is a politically feasible solution.

If the Piratpartiet modus operandi is that ”the revolution is just around the corner so if we only wait for another few years surely the entire system will collapse”, I’m guessing Eva Lichtenberger means that it might be possible to act sooner. And since we know for a fact that we have a problem with a dwindling public domain and that methods for distributing knowledge and culture (like the bittorrent protocol) are being pushed back because of copyright (actually not only copyright, but for a part) issues

Amelia and Volker

(in favour of filehosting pages nonetheless – they are incredibly inconvenient and this trend should be stopped now or preferably yesterday! away with ye, http!) and that these are problems now, waiting for the revolution seems to me a very bad option.

Confirming the suspicions of Eva Lichtenberger, at least partly, is the Brazilian proposal for a flatrate on internet connections advocated by among others Volker Grassmuck. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture, and by extension former president Lula, supported the general idea of a low-cost flatrate on internet connections in Brazil, the revenues from which would go to remuneration of artistic efforts. Other people that supported the Brazilian proposal included Brazilian artists, including free culture artists. At the mature age of 23, I’ve realized that the flatrates appear to have some support with artists in, say, Canada and Brazil, whereas waiting for the revolution appears to be torturing, say, librarians. A public, collective license needs to solve two things: the situation for librarians and archivers with respect to contemporary and historical information; the enablement of continued advances in information spreading technologies. We have an interest and a responsibility to invest in our freedom and present, and with investment I mean here some form of monetary transaction – I did not make the economic system, I do not run it, but I acknowledge its general existence.

As it were, the new Brazilian president Dilma Roussef appointed a Minister of Culture not as keen on flatrates, meaning not that the new minister is waiting for the revolution, but that the new minister is more eager to follow the stricter enforcement model. Why? Well, presumably because the (political) flatrate solution as proposed in Brazil would have put a potentially huge amount of power of financiation of culture in the hands of the public, rather than in the hands of private interests.

For what we want, as a public, is most likely something along the lines of public culture. We want it from the artists and seeing as many (mind you not all) cultural activities require some form of money spending, we presumably want there to be money to be spend on such activities. And we want it because we value culture, we value the public domain, we value knowledge, information, music, films and collaboration, interaction, sociability, etc.

I suggested to Aigrain and Grassmuck at the conference that the collective license, or flatrate, on internet connections to end the onslaught of repressive legislation be modelled on the Swedish rules for library remuneration. This public fund is governed by the state (law) and replenished with public money through indirect taxes (money does not go from the reader to the fund, but from the tax payer to the state and then to the fund) when books (by Swedish authors) are loaned from the library. Money goes out from the fund in the form of direct remuneration to authors if their books have been read by a large audience (remuneration level based on number of loans) and stipends. The clever part about the fund, though, is that it restricts the amount of payout to an individual author after the total amount of pay that author receives in a year is approaching something that can be considered ”an average annual income”. Oh me.

The what in the case of the library fund was quite clear: we wanted books for our libraries. Why? So that people could read and learn. The who was not unclear: authors. The how was also quite defined: through something similar to a wage that would allow those authors to work full-time with their endeavours.

Returning to the political viability of collective licenses as assessed by Eva Lichtenberger – I’m not sure that the very sensible approach to public remunerations of artistic efforts a la Swedish library remuneration is part of what is ”politically feasible” but the idea of keeping the political solution political (as in, keeping such a flatrate politcally governed) certainly is. Both the Philippe Aigrain and Volker Grassmuck proposals included preliminary caps on remuneration levels to ensure maximum spread and benefit of the public funding. Public sponsorship of culture, needless to say, must put the benefits to the public first rather than the receiver of the sponsorship.

But if it were politically feasible, what would be the time scope for such a political action?

In Europe it is, as always, hinging on the European Commission and ultimately on the European Council. Activist groups and political groups (like, say, the Greens) in Europe are relatively fractured when it comes to the issue of flatrates – country of origin seems to play a large part in the activist or politician relation to flatrates and blank media taxes. One of my primary concerns with collective licenses in Europe is the installment of extended collective licenses such that libraries and archives can digitize and make publically available online their collections without risking lawsuits. One way of financing such a license could be a flatrate. Another, also primary, concern, is to get any kind of copyright issue out of the political debate – there are many aspects of information management that are very fundamentally wrong, most of them completely unrelated to copyright, but having that kind of copyright menace hanging over our heads is an obstacle to finding solutions for a general information accessibility.

I wrote about non-rights based distribution models before: 2010-11-12

And I’ve written about flatrates before as well: 2011-03-11

One might say it’s an ongoing endeavour to define potential public problems and adjacent potential public solutions.

Hasta […] siempre

Only one. Be quick.

The Peruvian Congress has declared free and unrestricted internet access a human right. Free as in gratuito, not as in libre, apparently, and in Spanish there can be no mistake as to whether that concerns beer or speech. The suggestion comes from the center-left party Apra, but is supported by the left government. The President of the Transport Commission Yaneth Cajahuanca says that gratuito should not be interpreted as a future disappearance of rental agreements (monthly fees paid by consumers to get internet access provided), but as the public not making downpayments on infrastructure.

This sounds to me as if the public will not have to invest in infrastructure, which to me appears not too much different from anywhere else. I have yet to determine whether the law also includes a method different from public investment to reach the objective of higher broadband access (currently at 3% of the population).

Further down the gratuito-road is a warning from largest Perúvian telecommunications operator Telefońica dated 2001: AT&T wanted to use Telefonica infrastructure for free (gratuitamente).

As for the unrestricted access part though, the way it’s presented it seems suitably unconditional(!!) and in Perú desperately needed. I wrote in December last year that Telefónica being the hero of the day has both GB download limits and simultaneous connections limits per household in Perú. Download caps were at the time set to between 20 and 60GB/month, and number of simultaneous TCP-connections to 200. I asked around a bit about this, but have as yet not found out whether or not 200 TCP-connections per moment could also be made to apply to UDP. It depends on how the amount of connections are monitored, apparently.

Peru has just came out of their 2011 elections (April 11). Apparently a left coalition has won (far left) the elections for the second time in a row (they now have leftists in power since 2006), and there will be a stand-off between left candidate Ollanta Humala and right candidate Keiko Fujimori on June 5th.

I am cautiously optimistic. Remember that Chile approved a net neutrality law last year that conditioned the unrestricted access on ”legal activities”.

Put’em on a pole

[Courtesy of sandb]: The post has been given a substantial plastic surgery. There is nothing as weird as Vlad III the Impaler going on.

Apart from having become more civilized, why don’t we hang pirates anymore? Well. It’s cruel, of course. There are many good reasons for why not to hang people, and at that, many good reasons for not having a death penalty at all.

In 2008 the issue of what to do with, or how to punish, pirates caught in the Red Sea was, according to WSJ, uncertain. Now, they shall die! Horribly! They shall now be put in American prisons. For a life time. By American hands! That is certainly [a very] certain [sentence].

South Korea applies very capital measures against pirates. Which may or may not be worse, of course.

put'em on a pole

India, gracefully, just arrests 61 of them. A Seychelle courts has sent some to jail. European countries, it appears, also sentence pirates to jail.

Pirates have previously been sent to neighbouring country Kenya for trials. Kenya is now over-crowded with piracy cases and El País notes that talks of international courts in the UN Security Council are at the same time accompanied by criticism of calling this a war on piracy. They are wrong. Wars are very trendy.

Not only can you impose on Somalis capital measures. You can also capitalise on Somalis.

With recent American measures against African conmen, I wonder quietly what will happen with the Nigerian 410 scammers recently caught in Californa. Although they seem to have ran their operations from the US.

My hearts are extended to the losses for Pirate Families.

Save yourself from Zombie Laws



As I reported two days ago, and is now noted also by Walter van Holst, a recent South Korean DDoS attack may in fact be a malicious attempt at sneaking through an oppressive law allowing the government to snoop commercial and private traffic alike. The European security agency ENISA published two reports on botnets not long ago, but appears to be supporting the idea of internet service providers notifying their customers of a potential infection instead.

Regardless of which security analyst you talk to, they will say that users are the true compromisors of security. The South Korean authorities appear to have taken this very literally, and while I didn’t check if the strategy pursued by the Austrialian authorities and promoted by ENISA is actually helping users and ISPs it is clear that public authorities feel that users are not inclined and will not be inclined to take responsibility for their own security. Because botnets suck up bandwidth, the ISP is already tried on private initiative in some places although it appears to be a while ago. To my understanding this experience was discontinued since it’s easy to forge being an ISP suggesting that you’re infected..

At least one friend reacted to me in private saying that this proposal is an attack on democracy. It is, but it’s just one among many, and many of the others are already enacted. As I’ve said in many discussions about trade agreements I think that our democratic powers are already quite limited by the fact that decisions are taken way over our heads. South Korea has signed two trade agreements that make mandatory severe repercussions against filesharing only within the last year, so clearly the South Korean government has already outsourced privacy to private actors. The other argument is the loss of free speech online that many other people have brought up in relation to Apple, Facebook, Google and other commercial actors who’s activities with respect to users can’t really be monitored or controlled. Presumably there at least one technical argument against, but nobody I know seems to be able to think of any.

Just like speed cameras though, you would expect there to be lots of fines in South Korea about this, but the danger to users and to the government is not very likely to decrease at all. Internet users, like drivers, are not likely to keep track of everything and update all their software or car tires as often as they should.

The public procurement process is likely to lead to very few, or even just the one, security company getting the entire responsibility for helping the government determine what is dangerous and what is not. Public procurement sadly isn’t as transparent as it should be, and it’s very easy for public authorities to default on a specific vendor because it’s convenient. 98% of all computers in South Korea run Microsoft Windows. Government documents are only available for users running Windows. I’d feel uncomfortable with the same amount of power ending up with a single security company as are, presumably, all former customers of HBGary. So added security from this aspect is unlikely

Even if you, like ENISA suggests, would ”outsource” the responsibility of warning users to an ISP, I simply can’t believe that this is a good solution. I’ve written many angry posts about ISPs and I don’t trust them for squat. Telefónicas business strategies, or for that matter Comcast’s, Verizon’s or even Eircom’s strategies do not fill me with confidence that these people will either warn me or warn me in a way that doesn’t primarily serve their business interests – at the expense of both me and my security. Added security from this aspect is also unlikely.

A counter-proposal would be to introduce computer security as a mandatory subject in basic education. That’s probably the most useful way of spending public money. Everyone should know how to secure a home network, protect themselves against viruses and know the risk of viruses, or encrypt a harddrive. But when I talk to people who stopped studying even five years ago, very few of them remember any of the mathematics they studied so the system is obviously not flawless. Still, it’s the only measure I can think of that’s worth spending any public money on.

If we’re going to digitize our society I think we’re going to have to live with there being a risk crime in all parts of society. Some people break into your car, other people violate your network security. A much larger problem for society is the fact that our backbone infrastructure, our last mile infrastructure, our internet service provision and our online portals are likely to end up getting owned by the very same companies. Vertical monopolies. I noticed that this is already happening in hardware manufacturing which gives the one or two remaining hardware manufacturers a disproportionate amount of influence on what goes into our hardware – the specifications aren’t open, how are we supposed to know? Just because internet service providers are larger than life and people are not, doesn’t mean you should take the easy route and attempt to secure the networks from the parties that aren’t the biggest threat to secure, and primarily reliable, network infrastructure.

Game Players

Being an avid owner of no gaming consoles what so ever I noticed this morning that the prices of gaming consoles are expected to drop this summer. I doubt it will make me buy one, but what else is, regardless of the prices of gaming consoles the companies making them aren’t exactly encouraging any larger console purchasing binges either. IPKat obtained a fresh analysis of the LG/Sony case, straight from a Dutch court (very legal analysis). 300’000 PS3’s that were detained by Dutch customs officers have now been released and the core of the problem seems to be a vendetta-like conflict going on between Sony and LG relating not only to Blu-Ray technology but also to cellular phones. Apparently LG according to the rules of a business alliance of which both LG and Sony are members technically force LG to license their stuff to Sony. Equivalent obligations for Sony to license cellular phone technology patents to LG do not exist and therefore Sony has blocked LG-branded phone imports to the US. Granted, a game console does not compare with a mobile phone, but most people I know use both, for different purposes. This is childish. This should stop.

Speaking of games and children. I took notice of THQ calling second hand games piracy in September last year, which gaming companies, of course, are making sure to remedy through allowing player enabling registration only the one time. But who would have thought six and a half months ago that someone would suspect that insulting a computer game also would cut them off from being able to register to play the game? Well, it appears to have been a glitch in the EA systems but I wonder quietly how the industry must be treating its users if their first reaction is suspecting that they’re exposed to corporate oppression.

On that side-note, I’ve registered that an (¿in?)famous hacker calls the new PS3 firmware secure. Disimularly, YouTube is not at all secure, at least not for users. All people who have visited any homepage, youtube video, tweet or similar relating to GeoHot can now officially be registered by Sony. I don’t understand what they could possibly be suing him for to require that information. Also, there are many other things I don’t understand about this case. Hardware and software that was not to be handed over shall be definitely handed over. User data that cannot be extracted can be definitely extracted.

Korean Zombie PCs

Update: Prof. Keechang Kim has now provided two blogposts in English on the matter: On Zombie MPs and suggestion in parl and the strangeness of the DDoS attacks:

It was the 3rd of March 2011. South Korea was under attack. A ddos attack, but not your average ddos attack, in fact, it was no ddos attack at all. It was an attack targetting social networks, banks, businesses and private citizens infecting them with a worm wiping the harddisks of infected computers and then self-destruct.

It was the 7th of July 2009.
South of Korea was under attack. A ddos attack, but not your average ddos attack, in fact, it was no ddos attack at all. It was an attack targetting social networks, banks, businesses and private citizens infecting them with a worm wiping the harddisks of infected computers and then self-destruct.

The observant reader will have seen by now that these numbers boil down to 3.3 and 7.7, an observation also made by Korean openweb activist Keechang Kim.

Why would a worm herder kill off her worms? And why is there no political nor economic message attached to the attack? A surprise attack, like Hannibal and the elephants emerging from the mists of the Alps. Well. It’s a second surprise attack and you would expect war elephants to work only once. In the case of anything involving computers this is not so. Virii, for instance, have made governments and computer users insecure since the dawn of time. I don’t know what to make of the fear against Stuxnet, for instance. Technically the only thing it does is make a reactor unable to produce refined fissionable material for possible nuclear weapons. By attacking, as far as I understand, SCADA systems that are anyway not secured very well. Instead of securing SCADA systems, the fear makes governments want regulation. We think. Why?

A reader with good memory will have remembered by now that the French internet authority HADOPI last year suggested a universal piece of (open source) software installed on all French computers to help users determine whether they are in fact downloading copyrighted material or not. I guess you’d have to be pretty informed to know that there was a similar proposal in South Korea pursued happily by an ambitious government in 2009, called the Zombie PC Prevention Act. See, I am very concerned about the EU-South Korea FTA effects on European internet policies, and many Korean activists (most notably IPLeft) are similarly concerned about the US-South Korea FTA effects on Korean internet policies. But this is not a free trade agreement. It’s an own-initiative report.

Popular support is rising for a helpful Zombie PC Act giving a government-controlled authority the mandate to access and scrutinize commercial, official and private datasystems. The authortity will help the government determine if the system is infected by any potential virus. Lacking appropriate anti-virus software shall, according to the bill, lead to repercussions.

Religious revelations

Sometimes I truly feel I live a grand life.

Reading up on my El Reg-feed, which I have carefully neglected for a month, I see that the infamous hacker collective Anonymous has hacked Westboro Baptists. Apparently some of them now suspect this was the result of a Baptist honeypot action by the communion, the purpose of which was to track down IP addresses guilty of using the equally infamous LOIC tool. Ironically, the Portuguese government is also using honeypots for the same nefarious reasons, except, in Portugal it is a targetted action against the users of file-sharing technologies. At least, presumably, IP address of users that aren’t anonymising their villainous intent.

Of course, as the mischievous knave Jester claims the credits for this felonious anti-Baptist action. In the light of my recent writings on Jesus resisting Legion, thereby ending up with John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit, I cannot help but wonder if this is a carefully orchestrated joke. Of course, given that the Swedish Christian Democrats worship God, I want to believe.

I do, however, maintain that Piratpartiet in its recent swing towards Evangelism needs a Baptist counterpart. If you have someone talking you need someone leading the life of a doer. And yes, I believe the IT industry use of the term ”evangelist” is a slightly unsuitable description of an corporate-sponsered marketeer, and yes, I believe that importing it to politics makes it an unsuitable description of a political advocate.