Dystoparx — Part 9

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Acklas is out running. This may seem strange to you, but it’s a habit he’s been trying to form recently. He’s realized that being in mildly good physical condition could be useful if he were ever forced to leave his cave for an extended period.

Though, that doesn’t make him good at it.

He stops for breath a few short blocks from his house. He always runs out of breath after about this far. There’s an old woman who lives here, and she always seems to be out on her porch.

“Having a nice run again, eh?” She peers down at him.

Acklas shakes his head, “I’m not sure ‘nice’ is the word I would use to describe it.”

She chuckles. “So how come I never see you running past here with a pretty girl?”

She’s starting to sound like his mother, but he has a better quip here, “Do you really think I’d want a pretty girl laughing at me every time I run out of breath?”

That seems to have satisfied her. He doesn’t mind this old woman. He likes that someone nice lives on his street. It’s very strange of her to just talk to some random guy who runs past her house. Probably not safe. He likes it, though.

Soon he’s off again, but quickly decides to head for home. Enough beating up the body for one day. He stumbles in through his door and makes it to his room. New messages. From Nicnus. The encryption device is ready for outside beta testing, it seems. Acklas will get in contact with him about helping out with that later. Right now he needs to head into work.

Acklas mutters something under his breath about how lucky Nicnus is to work for a small company that lets him work from home. His office is much less… nice. Still, it’s a living, and it’s not boring.

Bill is on the phone, but he does not like what he’s hearing, “What do you mean, your consultants are telling you most of the data gathering is only theoretical? Either it’s possible or it’s not. Either way, we’re talking about lobbying for legislation. If the implementation is possible, we need to be allowed to implement it.”

Someone walks in and hands Bill a printed email. He scans it quickly and then swears into the phone. “I have to deal with something. We’ll talk later, OK?”

He hangs up and calls his FBI contact. Apparently the FBI man thinks that Bill has leaked the information about what they’re doing. Bill denies it.

“Look, you,” The FBI man says slowly, “You didn’t think we who are running the world’s most sophisticated wiretap system would fail to notice you communicating with a political lobby group.”

Bill is at a loss for words. “You’ve been spying on me?”

“No, Bill. We have been spying on the whole world.”

Bill’s face flushes in momentary anger, “To catch rapists, not to follow my personal dealings.”

The FBI man does not seem phased, “I’m going to quote from one of your recent emails. You said, ‘Privacy is dead. Law enforcement needs access to information in order to get the job done. If the government will let us cull the data available on the Internet, then we can stop all kinds of problems before they even start.'”

Now Bill knows they’ve been spying on him, “So?”

“So, that email was not to one of us. You’ve been talking about data harvesting with a major political group, and don’t even pretend you haven’t been because I have the emails and phone transcripts right here.”

“How did you get phone—” Bill’s bewilderment is cut short by the FBI man’s derisive laughter.

“Does it even matter? The point is, I have it. If the wrong people find out about our network, we could be shut down. What are you thinking?”

Bill’s bewilderment quickly turns defencive, “Well excuse me. I’m trying to work on making what we do more legal so that more people can benefit from it.”

“Do we even need that? We can just feed as much information as we want into any agency we want. They don’t have to care where it comes from. Why endanger the project?”

“Because,” Bill’s voice has a sense of finality to it, “this is bigger than us. This is about stopping criminals. We can’t just run it as a secret project forever because we can’t do anything forever. These guys are the best. They know their facts, and the politicians do not. They can make anything seem like a good idea, and no one is going to stand up against us. The populace want to be safe and they will beg us to read their emails if it means one less weirdo on the streets. Trust me; this will work out fine.”

17:01 <nicnus> You ready?

17:01 <acklas> Sure.

Acklas unplugs his Internet and hooks it up through the demo unit that Nicnus had shipped to his office. He waits a few moments as his computer tries to get back on the Internet. Soon it says it is on and he returns to the chat.

17:05 <acklas> So, this is encrypted now?

17:06 <nicnus> Well… No. You still have a normal connection to the Internet, no getting around that. The device will let us set up a very simple encrypted connection between just us. Then we could chat across that.

17:08 <acklas> … sounds complicated.

17:08 <nicnus> Not if we ship the devices with file sharing and IM clients and whatnot that automatically use this.

17:09 <acklas> I guess.

17:10 <nicnus> You’re sure it’s OK for you to be testing this at work?

17:11 <acklas> No one pays any attention to what I do here. Besides, it’s lunch.

An email arrives in Acklas’ inbox.

17:11 <acklas> Isn’t this a very insecure way to send me the key? You just email it?

17:12 <nicnus> Sure. For real security you’d want to set up the key in a secure manner.

17:12 <acklas> Ok, I guess this is fine for a test.

Acklas opens the file with a bit of software Nicnus had sent him earlier. The software starts talking to the device on the back of his system and soon reports success. Acklas looks at his networks and sees a connection that he assumes goes to Nicnus.

17:13 <acklas> Ok. Got it.

17:13 <nicnus> Now just connect to the chat server on my system.

Acklas does this and opens up a new chat using that server.

17:15 <acklas> HAI THAR

17:16 <nicnus> WE R SO ENCRYPTED


17:17 <nicnus> READ THIZ, H4CK3RS!

17:17 <acklas> Is mixing LOLspeak and 1337 really kosher?

I would record for the reader what comes next, but while it would show some of the geekiest text I could place in this account, it would also have almost no meaning to the reader. In short, their dialogue does not need to be encrypted: no one can understand it anyway. Of course, the existence of the technology they are testing is really the only thing that is a secret. Unfortunately, that is the only thing they are not trying to keep a secret.

Case to Criminalize Infringement Continues

The EFF has been closely watching a court case that is developing in Canada. If this case goes badly, it could set a precedent that would leak down into the United States. How? The lobby group responsible is a US-based group that has significant holdings north of the border as well. Rest assured that a victory there will mean they bring their power to bear down here as well.

The case hinges on the fact that the accused infringer, Doug Bradley, is in possession of unlocked versions of content that is only distributed on digitally locked medium (like DVDs). The argument is that by possessing these copies, Bradley is actively circumventing the digital locks, which is a criminal offence in many countries, including the United States. If convicted, this could be broadly applied to any infringement of content that is distributed in locked format.

Luckily, it seems that if any distribution of the content has been without DRM, then the infringement cannot fall under this concept. No matter where this case goes, it is for exactly these reasons that consumers need to actively fight against digital locks (or DRM or TPMs, whatever you call it) on their content.

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