Wednesday, December 1, 2010

UK Police seeks larger power for closing down domains used for illegal purposes.

Have you heard of the supreme code breaking machine (TRANSLTR) and about the complex code that it cannot break !!  

It is a misfortune that when victimised, everyone would want stern action by the Law Enforcing Authorities, but there are some Groups which fight for restricting the powers of Government, Police and Enforcement Agencies crying hoarse in the name of civil liberty, personal freedom, human rights and more….  At times, these badly curb and restrict the investigation and punishment.

Cybercrime would refer to any crime that involves a computer and a network, where the computers may or may not have played an instrumental part in the commission of a crime. Netcrime refers, more precisely, to criminal exploitation of the Internet.  These type of crimes are high-profile and would include :
v     Hacking – an illegal intrusion into a computer system and/or network.
v     Child Pornography – an abuse of child sexually worldwide.
v     Cyber Stalking  - repeated acts harassment or threatening behavior of the cyber criminal towards the victim by using internet services.
v     Denial of service Attack  -  an act by the criminal, who floods the bandwidth of the victim’s  network or fills his e-mail box with spam mail depriving him of the services he is entitled to access or provide
v     Virus Dissemination  -  Malicious software that attaches itself to other software. (virus, worms, Trojan Horse, Time bomb, Logic Bomb, Rabbit and Bacterium are the malicious wares – malwares so called)
v     Software Piracy  - Theft of software through the illegal copying of genuine programs or the counterfeiting and distribution of products
v     Credit Card Fraud - The unauthorized and illegal use of a credit card to purchase property.
v     Net Extortion - Copying the confidential data in order to extort said company for huge amount
v     Phishing - The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.

………………………  and more.  .    At a global level, there are instances of espionage, financial theft and cross border crimes.


Many countries have their top level domain.    In United Kingdom, Nominet UK is the .uk domain name registry.   This was found in 1996 after its predecessor the Naming Committee was unable to deal with the volumes of registrations.  This is a non-profit company limited by guarantee.   The customers wishing to register a domain name do not need to approach Nominet directly but register via a ‘registrar’.  Nominet has also previously announced plans to release 2,831 new short .uk domain names, giving companies the chance to bid for single character domains, such as 1.co.uk, and two letter domains, such as aa.co.uk.   These had earlier been held back for technical reasons.

Now some concerns have been raised over a request by the Police for the power to close down Internet domain which are used for illegal purposes.  The Police had asked Nominet to change the terms under which the site operate, so that they sites acting illegally can be closed.  The protestors are raising hue that this could mean closure of business even before the crime gets proven.  The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has tabled a plan under which Nominet could close down domain names when the police have reasonable grounds to believe they are involved in criminal activity.    It is stated that presently there are no  contractual ban on using .uk domain names for illegal purposes, making such closures impossible.

Nominet reportedly  is forming an “issue group” to consult and get people’s opinions before any final decision is made, on issues such as the formal nature of requests for suspension, whether an appeals process is necessary, and what information and support might be needed from the industry.  Despite the lack of a formal process, it stated that  some domains have already been suspended  for indulging in criminal activity.    These reportedly occurred arising out of request from the Police Central eCrime Unit, but it seemed there was no court or judicial involvement in the process.

Now concerns of lack of judicial oversight are raised; threats are also there  of massive damages if a legitimate site gets closed down wrongly.  

Sometimes, truth runs parallel to fiction.  I don’t read much of English novels but have read The Da Vinci Code of Dan Brown – an Americal author whose fictional thrillers are really exciting.  He has fancy for cryptography, keys, symbols, codes and languages.   Recently read Digital Fortress (published years back) which explores the theme of Government surveillance  of electronically stored information.  The story revolves round National Security Agency’s code breaking machine named TRANSLTR and how a person of Japanese origin  affected by nuke bombing develops a new and complex code fighting for the right of privacy of the individual.  He plants a partner who is none other than self and virtually holds the NSA hostage seeking them to go public of the translator and their actions in accessing private exchanges.  
There is a series of eliminations and the code breaking involves lots of algorithms, cryptography, and hidden clues.  

Amazingly there are parallels in life.    As technology develops, its abuse threatens to overtake the usage compromising the genuine interests of the common Users.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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