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 Dutch Propose Powers For Police To Break Into Computers

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Posts : 7988
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: Dutch Propose Powers For Police To Break Into Computers   Mon 22 Oct 2012, 17:44

Dutch Propose Powers For Police To Break Into Computers, Install Spyware And Destroy Data -- Anywhere In The World

from the mutually-assured-destruction dept

Techdirt readers with long memories may recall a fantasy proposal
from Orrin Hatch that would have seen technological means deployed to
destroy the computers of those who downloaded unauthorized copies of
files. Of course, the idea was so ridiculous it went nowhere. Now,
nine years later, a similar idea has turned up, but with a rather better chance of being implemented, since it comes from a national government:

<blockquote>On 15 October, the Dutch ministry of Justice
and Security proposed powers for the police to break into computers,
install spyware, search computers and destroy data. These powers would
extend to computers located outside the Netherlands.

The plan of allowing the police to break into domestic computers and install spyware is bad enough, as the German experience shows. There, it turned out that the malware employed had such serious flaws that anyone could take control of a machine infected with it.

But the idea of giving Dutch investigators permission to break into
computers anywhere in the world is even worse. The article from the
digital rights group Bits of Freedom, quoted above, explains why:

<blockquote>If the Dutch government gets the power to break into
foreign computers, this gives other governments the basis to break into
Dutch computers which infringe the laws of their country. The end result
could be less security for all computer users, instead of more. This is
even more true with regard to the power to destroy data on foreign
computers; it is likely that other governments would be very interested
in using such a power against Dutch interests.</blockquote>

Even totally law-abiding users might be caught up in this digital war:

<blockquote>Furthermore, providing the government the power to break
into computers provides a perverse incentive to keep information
security weak. Millions of computers could remain badly secured because
the government does not have an incentive to publish vulnerabilities
quickly because it needs to exploit these vulnerabilities for
enforcement purposes.</blockquote>

It's not really down to governments to publish details of flaws, but
it's possible they might be less inclined to encourage the public to
patch them, if they want to use the vulnerabilities themselves. This
would doubtless lead to criminals taking advantage of widespread holes
in security, with personal data being stolen, and financial systems
All-in-all, the Dutch proposal has to be one of the most foolish ever
presented by a government in this area, and shows the folly of trying to
come up with quick fixes for the currently-fashionable issue of
"cybercrime", instead of really thinking through the consequences.
Let's hope calmer heads prevail, and the proposal is withdrawn.

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