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3rd February 1997
Net Terrorism
What is Net Terrorism? It's my guess that if you ask ten different people that question, you'll get ten at least slightly different answers.

The bottom line however is that Net Terrorist is someone who uses the Internet to attack another individual, site or organisation so as to call inconvenience, costs or damage.

Last week it happened on a fairly large scale when one, presently nameless individual, chose to launch an email bombing attack on Clear's helpdesk address and also at least one other email account belonging to a high-profile site.

Although nobody's commenting "officially" at this time, best reports indicate that both attacks were the results of a disgruntled teenager who, thanks to our ridiculous young offenders laws, can't be touched by either the criminal or civil law courts.

At the risk of running off on a tangent - what kind of system puts the protection of the rights of offenders ahead of the rights of innocent individuals and companies? What is there to stop such an offender from simply going out and repeating his performance again, and when he does - who pays the not insignificant cost of putting things right afterwards?

When I contacted the Police fraud squad last week to get an opinion as to whether such an offense constituted a fraud - they were unsure, suggesting that such a thing would perhaps be more correctly defined as an abuse of the telephone system.

As a lay-person I would have thought that if someone incurs a debt in someone else's name without the permission or knowledge of that person then there could hardly be any doubt. Should I borrow a stranger's credit card and pretend to be that person so as to incur debt in his name I think the Police would most certainly not be "confused" as to the application of the law. Where's the difference? If I used a "borrowed" credit card to order goods over the phone would that be nothing more than "an abuse of the telephone system"?

Given that the vast majority of NZers obtain their Net access by paying for volume or time, any kind of mail-bombing, particularly that of the type recently engaged in by our Net Terrorist should, in any sane person's mind, be considered fraud. The way the most recent attacks were performed were probably the most analogous to the credit-card scenario I described. What was done in these cases was that the individual re-configured their email program so as to impersonate another person/organisation and then, while pretending to be that person, subscribed to thousands of automated mailing lists.

The questions that must be asked are:

  1. Did the individual lie about who they were?
  2. Did they use a document (email) to incur a debt in that person's name?
It becomes very hard to see why the Police could not apply existing laws to this case.
When is a fraud not a fraud?
Do the Police need help?
Now, while we have the Police seemingly ham-strung by excessively "touchy-feely" laws as applied to young people, and an apparent lack of confidence with respect to applying existing laws to cyber-cases, it seems that other government departments are not so reluctant to act.

Most particularly I refer to the recent case where an NZ company was forbidden to export their encryption software to the USA.

Come on... let's get real! On the one hand it's quite okay for cyber-street-kids to commit fraud on NZ companies without fear of penalty, while on the other we see the law effectively denying an innovative and hard-working NZ company its right to earn valuable overseas funds for the country.

Might I suggest that this brilliant new coalition government decides not to continue this stupidity. How about employing someone who actually knows what's happening at street-level in this industry to consult with legislators and enforcement agencies.

And... don't anyone say "but they do have consultants" because I think only the naive truly believe that such people are chosen on their merits rather than their "connections" with power. Just look at the upper echelons of the computer and Internet industry's own "official groups". Many, although not all, of the people there simply don't have an adequate understanding of that which they aspire to control - but they're not prepared to admit that because it's the "position" that guarantees them a healthy consulting fee when they rent themselves out as "experts".

One only has to attend some of the very expensive Internet seminars which are held regularly by many organisations around New Zealand to see just how easy it is to call yourself an "expert".

It's almost entertaining to watch the blind leading the blind at these events. Many of the presentations are little more than thinly disguised sales pitches for the presenter's own company and as such they are frequently biased and full of half-facts.

Most impressive of all are those who tout themselves as "Internet Marketing Experts". Anyone who calls themselves an "expert" in this field doesn't even know enough to realise how little we all know and just how much we all have left to learn.

Experts? Don't make me laugh!
psst.. wanna see a stolen picture?
Watch that copyright!
As Aardvark reported last week, IDG got a pretty stingy smack on the legs from DVP in the form of an injunction and threats of suits for trespass, theft and a range of other things. Why.. well they lifted some graphics from the DVP site and republished them on their own.

Now in this week's online version of NBR I see that one of those graphics has been included in a story about the situation by Richard Inder. It is interesting to note however that NBR's legal eagles are obviously much more familiar with copyright law than IDG's. The graphic used by NBR contains only "cover-shots" of a number of Wilson and Horton's print-media publications and is therefore almost certainly covered by the "fair dealing" clause in the copyright act. About W&H could complain about is the unauthorised use of a logo which may be trademarked. It will be interesting to see if DVP or Wilson and Horton get their nose out of joint over this one - I doubt it.

I Can't Believe It's True!
Last week TVNZ held the ICBIT spotlight, well you all loved their performance so much, we've invited them back for a encore performance.

TVNZ has just launched their new "Sports Section" as an extension to their existing web site. Of course.. Aardvark and a few friends just had to drop in for a visit and what did we find?

Well, if you've got Java - try clicking on the "Invest to win - go to Monaco" Countrywide ad banner in the top right-hand frame - you won't get anywhere near Monaco! If you don't have Java, then why not follow the charming instructions you see instead :-)

The TVNZ Sports Section

And let me repeat last week's footnote:
What did I say about the value of 3rd party site reviews?
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