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You Are All Under Arrest 6 August 2001 Edition
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Telecom, obviously buoyed by their recent success in the prosecution of hacker Andrew Garrett, have gone off the deep end and tried to turn us all into criminals by making a new submission to the law and order select committee.

The submission suggests that the development, sale or possession of software which might be used to commit a crime be deemed illegal under the proposed Crimes Amendment Bill (CAB).

The cornerstone of this submission is the matter of "intent." If a slick prosecution lawyer can convince a judge or jury that you had intended to commit a crime with the remote access software you've been writing then you'd better cancel the papers and rent out the house for a few years because you'll be checking in to the Mt Eden Sheraton.

Personally I get nervous when I see laws being passed which rely on other people being able to accurately determine someone's intent to commit a crime.

For example -- if I were to have in my possession a copy of the latest and greatest virus or worm -- am I intending to use it to breach the security of a competing online news site for my commercial advantage? Am I just another unfortunate victim -- having been infected without my knowledge? Or am I, as a part-time software developer, the originator of this horrible malicious piece of code?

I'm sure a case could be built to support any of these scenarios. Under the proposed amendment to the CAB -- I could be found guilty of a crime even if I was an unfortunate victim of infection right?

And what about those people who legitimately use software such as Back Orifice as a useful remote-access tool? It would be very easy, given the publicity surrounding this software, to argue the case that anyone in possession of this software from "The Cult of the Dead Cow" is a hacker and has intent to commit a crime.

And, if we believe what we read, the vast majority of crime committed on the Internet involves the use of nothing more than a stolen credit card number and a copy of Internet Explorer -- does that mean that *ALL* users of IE should be arrested under this proposed new provision of the CAB??

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • CAB bollocks... - spiro
  • News Item of the weekend... - Brian
  • CAB... - Stephen
  • Design of laws... - Dominic
  • Will rewards be offered?... - Matt
  • Have Your Say

    Xtra Shafts Some Users
    I've had a number of complaints from Telecom XTRA users who are pretty miffed that, as a part of the new MSN/XTRA merger, the XTRA homepage service is going to be discontinued.

    It seems that a surprising number of XTRA users have taken advantage of XTRA's default webhosting service to put up webpages for themselves or their clubs.

    In an email sent out recently, XTRA says in true PR-speak that they now have a "modified range" of webhosting services and that as a result of this "enhanced service" they'll be dropping the existing personal homepage offering.

    Yes, only in Telecom's PR-world can withdrawing a very useful service be considered an improvement to their offering.

    It seems that if you want a personal homepage you're now being told to go and use a free MSN Communities site -- but don't forget your Microsoft Passport or you won't get in!

    Not only does anyone wanting to move their website from the soon-to-be-defunct Xtra personal homepage service need to get an MS Passport to use the MSN Communities free webhosting -- but so does anyone who might want to come and have a look!

    Suddenly, those people who have spent months (or even years) working hard to create a website with lots of links from all over the web and good search-engine rankings are going to have all their efforts undone. Even if XTRA does provide a redirection service -- this will likely screw up any search-engine rankings next time the site is spidered -- and goodness knows how many would-be visitors will simply turn away when faced with the onerous MS Passport sign-up screens.

    Of course there are other options -- the email from XTRA includes pages of detail on the numerous paid hosting services available from the company or from Yellow Pages. Gosh Theresa -- have Telecom's fortunes been so sadly hit by the botch-ups made in Australia that you have to penny-pinch to this extent?

    I hope XTRA will be significantly reducing its access rates as a reflection of the reduced value offered as of 30 September when the existing service is canned.

    I wonder how many pieces of silver Microsoft paid XTRA to force people into the MS Passport straightjacket like this?

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