Security of offshore servers becoming even more illusory.

EU flag on keyboard

If this amendment passes, it will significantly reduce the perceived advantages of using servers outside the US. No only would the server still be subject to whatever legal process exists in the hosting country, but they would also be open to legal hacking by the USG.

Newly Proposed Amendment Will Allow FBI to Hack TOR and VPN Users | Hack Read

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Will a warrent be required to access your email.

Email Privacy Hearing Set To Go Before The House On Tuesday | WebProNews

The House Judiciary Committee is going to be discussing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. There is a chance that they will strengthen it.

This act was written decades ago, before there were any real cloud solutions. Email was downloaded by your email client, and immediately deleted from the server. They law assumed that any email left on a server more than 180 days had been abandoned, and so no warrant was required for law enforcement to obtain it.

These days, with services like gmail, we tend to keep our email on the servers for years, with no thought that it has been abandoned. Law enforcement is opposing reforms of this law because it would make their work more difficult. Doubtless it would, as does almost any civil liberty.

Earlier this month Zoe Lofgren introduced the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection act, amending ECPA. It would require a warrant to obtain cell phone location information. There is clearly some momentum for reform.

House panel votes to mandate massive user tracking

House panel approves broadened ISP snooping bill | Privacy Inc. - CNET News

Declan McCullagh of CNET is reporting on a bill to require ISPs to maintain massive records on their users. According to the article this bill requires commercial Internet providers to retain "customers' names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses".

They are calling it the "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" in a flagrent attempt to make it politically difficult to vote against it even though the bill has noting directly to do with Internet pornography or protecting children.

Were this bill to become law, it might cause real problems for the growth of public Wi-Fi where there is no user authentication. That would be a huge leap backwards for a very possitive trend of late.

Of course, criminals will continue to be trivially able to circumvent such tracking efforts making this primarily a mechanism for gathering information on innocent persons without any hint of suspicion or probably cause.

It is absolutely un-American to require every citizen to submit to continuous tracking and monitoring on the possibility that some tiny fraction of us will commit a crime. Law enforcement always lobbies hard for such provisions. Make sure your voice is heard that you value your privacy and your rights.

Contact your Representitive and Senators if this is something you feel strongly about.

Excellent EFF post on failures of Cryptography regulation

The EFF has an excellent article on eight reasons why government regulation of cryptography is a bad idea. The short answer is: the bad guys can easily get it and use it anyway, and it will make security for the rest of us much worse (not including the big brother surveillance  and constitutional issues).

Lawmakers To Introduce New Internet Privacy Bill : NPR

Lawmakers To Introduce New Internet Privacy Bill : NPR

Rick Boucher (D-VA) has released draft legislation to significantly increase required privacy notifications for Internet users.

Many websites are fighting the proposed bill, claiming it would hurt their business. I am unsympathetic to complaint that their business would suffer if people actually knew what they were doing with your information. Given that this would apply to all websites, if a policy is no worse than average it should not drive people to other sites.

I would very much like to see the market start to enable competition on the basis of privacy policies.

We shall see how this actually turns out once it has been through the sausage making process. My experience is that most bills about technology end up doing more damage through unintended consequences than they actually help.

Louisiana: use a map go to jail law

Apparently the legislators in Louisiana feel that crimes committed with an electronic map are much more serious than those committed with the aid of paper maps. Not just some of them, the vote in the Louisiana House approved it unanimously (89-0).

If a "virtual street-level map" is used in the commission of ordinary crimes, a mandatory additional year must be added to the sentence. In cases of terrorism, the penalty is 10 years.

This should prove a boon to the sellers of Thomas Bros. high resolution map books.

The unanimous nature of this decision makes it clear the degree to which our leaders lack any political spine. They are obviously concerned that voting against this will appear "soft on crime" despite the fact that this will have no real impact at all, and is trivial to circumvent. It is a waste of time and attention on what Bruce Schneier calls "Security Theater".

Mixed feelings about Whitehouse use of outside email accounts.

I have been following a number of stories like this,Congress Follows Email Trail -, about the Whitehouse use of RNC controlled email accounts to discuss the firings of federal prosecutors. The law appears quite clear. Official Whitehouse email is a document that must be retained. Discussions of firing federal prosecutors sounds official to me. Therefore the Whitehouse was wrong to use outside email addresses to keep the discussions secret. I am not comfortable with the law in the first place. Email and other electronic communication media like chat and IM are often used more like casual conversation than formal memos. Few would argue that the President's every word should be recorded at all times. It would make discussion and debate next to impossible. In the process of thinking through an issue one may consider many potentially unpopular ideas, if only for the purpose of argument. Free and unconstrained give and take generally leads to be best understanding and decisions. Free and unconstrained debate can not take place with the world looking over your shoulder and scrutinizing every word.

If we accept that email and chat are used like conversation to hash out ideas, then it is very damaging to the process to place heavy recording and monitoring requirements on it. At the same time, having no oversight substantially reduces accountability. It might even facilitate corruption.

This really shows in a microcosm the greater question of general communications privacy vs. law enforcement access. It is a hard balancing act because there is very little middle ground. Basically you are either monitored or not. Having monitoring of a random half of the messages is going to make everyone unhappy.

Third Time a Charm for Anti-Spyware?

I have seen a couple of articles recently on the third attempt by Congress to pass an anti-spyware bill (this time H.R.964 aka "The Spy Act").*link *link *link

In general I have mixed feelings about legislation like this. Legislation is a tricky thing, and the law of unintended consequences is always lurking near by. I wonder if more general legislation about hijacking systems without informed consent might not achieve the same goals. I am surprised that existing laws don't already cover this. It seems often to be the case that new laws are passed where diligent enforcement of existing laws would suffice (I guess my libertarian stripes are showing). I am not a lawyer, and so am not qualified to make this judgement.

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