Monday, August 08, 2005

Guns Don't Kill People. The Internet Does.

Yesterday, the WaPo revealed to the world that terrorists use the internet to communicate. So, a large, geographically dispersed group of people use the internet to communicate. I'm not quite sure if this should qualify as front page news. I mean, is "Terrorists using pens and paper to record their evil plans" news? Hardly. Unfortunately, a great deal of people are confused by modern technology, and so it's a great way to make people afraid.

Perhaps the government is banking on such fear in order to pass an extension to the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that would require broadbrand providers and VoIP providers to build secret backdoors into their networks so the feds can tap them easily.

The problem with such a proprosal is that it will in all liklihood endanger the personal security of Americans more than it will do to help them. Firstly, the legislation can't be applied internationally and thus will only affect domestically based networks; thus, it will do little to nothing in terms of securing the internet from such "evil communications.". Secondly, if manufacturers of routers and VoIP equipment are all required to install a standard backdoor, then what happens when a group of script-kiddie hackers, identity thieves, organized crime, or even terrorists figure out how to access the backdoor? Microsoft doesn't intentionally put back doors into its products (at least we hope it's just sheer incompetence), but somehow hundreds of them have been exposed and exploited. However, this won't be a vendor specific flaw, and it will affect not simply individual computers but the network equipment that makes accessing the internet possible. The people the law is supposedly intended to catch will move to more obscure and harder to tap means of communication, while the government will have the ability to tap non-dangerous Americans with little to no effort.

Such a measure will do almost literally nothing to make us safer, but it will assuredly endanger our domestic infrastructure.


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