Monday, May 31, 2004

Law & Order

Sometimes you hate the news, sometimes you love the news. Sometimes the news is very, very depressing, and sometimes the news is very, very joyful.

The news out of Taiwan was recently very, very good. Taiwanese police have arrested Wang An-Ping, age 30, and engineer who admitted writing Peep, an ever-so-lovely virus that allows hackers to rip the data out of systems it has compromised. In magnificent engineer-speak, he admitted to writing the code, but had absolutely no knowledge of its use in attacking a number of Taiwanese government systems. Of course. And the message boards are abuzz with those who agree with his position. I guess they have never heard of the law of unintended consequences. I guess in their universe, if they leave a bunch of razor blades on the table, then tell their two year old not to touch them, and go off to watch the game, it is not their fault if the little one cuts its hands to shreds.

In Canada, the RCMP have busted a 16-year old for charges related to the creation and distribution of the Randex worm, which can read files, steal data or launch a zillion or so spam messages from your computer. Nice.

The US Department of Justice last fall arrested a juvenile in connection with the distribution of a worm known as Spybot.worm.lz, Randex.E and RPCSdbot. Of course, they didn’t release the little darling’s name because he/she is underage and we mustn’t do anything to harm the precious child’s future. Humbug. Publish the name, put the kid’s picture on the Internet. Give me the home address so I can sue the luzer’s parents.

Microsoft, which is often treated harshly in this column, put up a $5 million reward for identifying the morons who write and distribute viruses (sorry if I offended any morons with the comparison). The reward led to the arrest, in Germany of an 18-year-old believed to be responsible for four variants of the Sasser virus. Nice to see Microsoft do something right. I hope they double the reward.

The first virus aimed at 64-bit systems has been identified. Oh goodie!

Mr. Howard Carmack, also known to many as the Buffalo spammer is going to jail for 3-1/2 to 7 years for 14 counts of identity theft in connection with the sending of 825 million spam e-mail messages. The 36-year old was also on the losing end of a $16.5 million judgment obtained by Earthlink. Way to go Earthlink! I just hope Howard’s cellmate weights 350 pounds, doesn’t bathe, and hates spammers as much as I do. Howard’s life could get very interesting.

OK, so there is lots of good news.

But here is the bad news: it really doesn’t make a difference.

My daily e-mail still yields 10-15 virus/worm filled attachments each day.

My inbox is still flooded with offers for porn and pharmaceuticals.

About 10% of the legitimate e-mail I send get caught in spam traps and is never delivered.

So what are we going to do?

I don’t think the users can do anything beyond staying alert and working hard to avoid becoming victims. Yet, I spent the better part of a weekend helping by brother-in-law, who lives in another state, scrub an active virus from his system. I spend another weekend day wiping and reinstalling the operating system and applications after their teenage daughter’s system began distributing porn.

This has gone on too long. Action needs to be taken and it needs to be taken now. I don’t see any real leadership on this issue coming from the computer industry. It seems to be in the “lets take the 14 competing proposals to a standards body that will mull it over for eternity, and then send it off to the United Nations for final approval” mode.

And then there are the bozos who think that if they come up with an e-mail tax, all the problems will go away. Just an itty-bitty little tax that won’t hurt the average consumer. Guess what, itty-bitty little taxes grow into big burdensome taxes, no tax ever went away, and all taxes hurt consumers. Excuse me while I step out back and scream!

Let us not forget the people who want to legislate spam out of existence. Their picture is in the dictionary under the listing for idiots. Like some spammer in the Ukraine cares what the Oregon legislature is going to come up with.

I’m beginning to think it is time to turn the vigilantes loose. Let them set up black holes, block domains or even countries. Let’s close our borders to any e-mail sent to more than 10 addresses. Ban any ISP that lets users send more than 10 e-mails an hour.

Sure it will hurt. Sure it will be inconvenient. I have a small business that it will really negatively impact. But I’d rather put up with near draconian processes than to have to wonder if my e-mails are ever getting delivered.

Let’s have an Internet 10 Most Wanted list of the 10 individuals who are believed to be doing the most harm to the Internet. I understand that the identity, or at least the net name, of the largest spammers is no great secret. I bet AOL and Earthlink and Tripod know who the bad guys are. Then let’s wage all out war on them. that is what they are doing to us.

I also think that legitimate companies need to play a role in this. I see a lot of spam for legitimate name, brand merchandise. This really bothers me, because it suggested that mainstream companies are turning a blind eye to spam if it sells product. Bad, bad move, if you ask me.

Bottom line: I’m 55 years old and I’d like this fixed before my 75th birthday.

No comments: