A prominent anti-piracy commission, whose members include former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, has released a new report making the case that copyright holders should start deploying software capable of locking down the computers of alleged pirates. The new report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property says that copyright holders should be allowed to take more assertive action against intellectual property thieves, including developing software that will “allow only authorized users to open files containing valuable information” and will potentially lock down any unauthorized computer that tries to access the file.
“If an unauthorized person accesses the information, a range of actions might then occur,” the report says. “For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized user’s computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account. Such measures do not violate existing laws on the use of the Internet, yet they serve to blunt attacks and stabilize a cyber incident to provide both time and evidence for law enforcement to become involved.”
As Lauren Weinstein points out, this sort of technique is often used by malware scammers who tell users that their computers contain “illicit” material and that they must go to a certain website to talk with “law enforcement officials” to get their computer unlocked. When they do go to the website, of course, their computers download malware.
“So now we have the IP Commission suggesting that firms be allowed to use basically this same technique — pop up on someone’s computer because you believe they’ve stolen something from you, terrify them with law enforcement threats, and lock them out of their (possibly crucial) data and applications as well,” writes Weinstein. “What the hell are these guys thinking? Outside of the enormous collateral damage this sort of ‘permitted malware’ regime could do to innocents — how would the average user be able to tell the difference between this class of malware and the fraudulent variety that is currently a scourge across the Net?”