Archive for October, 2007

Identity theft bill introduced to allow victims to seek repayment

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Here’s an interesting bill recently introduced into Congress that would allow citizens who have been victimized by identity theft to seek repayment for the money and time spent repairing their credit history.

Credit card number theft is almost an insignificant issue. I’ve had unknown charges occur on my credit card, and in one of those cases, the card company contacted me. The other one only required a simple phone call. I’m not sure how they got the numbers. One of those cards had only been used once at Best Buy, but it happens. Either way, it didn’t cost me a dime.

This is about identity theft though – stealing enough information to obtain credit cards of your own in someone else’s name, then racking up thousands of dollars of debt. EMV doesn’t solve any fraud issues because most identity theft is either

A) caused by somebody giving out information too willingly to someone who really doesn’t need it, or
B) caused by somebody who should have been trustworthy not taking care of the data that they retain.

EMV won’t help either of those situations. For people who aren’t aware, EMV is a smart card system for credit cards. As far as I know, EMV also won’t really solve card number theft, since internet purchases have to be made the old-fashioned way unless you just happen to be willing to buy a reader for your computer.

The only thing that will really solve identity theft is making credit card companies and credit agencies fully responsible for every penny of losses due to identity theft. This law is exactly backwards and should not be passed. The reality is, we wouldn’t have identity theft problems if those companies were held liable for losses. You would apply for a credit card, and they would make phone calls to your last known telephone number, give you some code number, and ask you to call a 1-800 number and enter that code in order to complete the request. The fact that they don’t do even the most basic checks to verify the validity of a CC request is proof positive that they are content to let merchants and individuals bear the brunt of their own incompetence.

I’ve never had my identity stolen, but if it happened to me, the first thing I’d do is hire a lawyer to sue every reporting agency that the CC company contacted for credit history information. If the reporting agency were responsible, they would have contacted me and asked for authorization before releasing that information. As far as I’m concerned, a credit reporting agency should not have the right to retain data on me nor to release that data to anyone without my explicit permission. That means checking signatures against known signatures on file, contacting me at known prior addresses/phone numbers, etc. Then, I would follow that by suing the credit card company for similarly failing to properly research the request. When it was all over, my credit history would still be screwed, but at least I’d have gotten enough money out of the dirty scumbags that I wouldn’t have to care.

If a person uses a stolen Social Security number to get a job, I would like to see all FICA contributions made by the employee and employer to remain credited to the identity theft victim, even after the fraud is discovered.

That the victim will someday receive larger Social Security checks would be some consolation. Yes, this measure would have a negative impact on the illegal immigrant population, because few other groups have any reason to use stolen Social Security numbers when applying for a job.

Windows Server 2008 review

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Here is a good (long) article reviewing Windows Server 2008 (RC0). Now maybe I’m just biased because I love Linux, but without SSH and SFTP, does it seem as if Microsoft is trying to build a wall between itself and Linux? Actually, not just Linux, but the rest of the computing world. Every other OS, including router operating systems like Cisco IOS, comes with ssh. Solaris has it. OS X has it. Cisco IOS has it (even their wireless access points have ssh). BSD of course has it. So does Linux. Microsoft is the only OS vendor that doesn’t have an ssh server by default.

And this is the fundamental problem with using Microsoft technology. You can argue about this or that, but the main reason I don’t spend much time using it is because it limits my skills. If you learn Microsoft technology, then your are basically limited to Microsoft technology; because they so often refuse to use standards, and insist on going their own way. If you learn Unix technologies, your skill is transferable to almost every other OS except Windows.

It’s a brilliant business move by Microsoft, and the reason that IT people who work in Microsoft shops are so defensive of their technology. If their company changes to anything else, they will have very limited applicable skills.

I personally work with Linux, but if everyone wanted to change to Solaris or OSX, I could care less. After a day of getting adjusted, I’d be back up to full speed.

Comcast may face class-action lawsuit – part 2

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

1. Court issued writs and warrants do not requestion permission! You are compelled to comply. There is nothing optional about them.

2. Property rights are not, and never have been, absolute rights. I can not fill my backyard swimming pool full of radioactive sludge no matter how much I want to.

3. Comcast is a government blessed monopoly in many cases. Therefore, their behavior is even more limited since they must “act in the public interest.”

4. Comcast likes to enjoy the legal protections of being a “common carrier” (i.e a dumb pipe). This behavior shows that they are not a dumb pipe at all. Once a provider starts manipulating the traffic flowing across their network, they lose common carrier status, and are now responsible for ALL the traffic on their network.

5. They are forging packets. This is a computer crime:

“Knowingly cause[] the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally cause[] damage without authorization, to a protected computer”, where “damage is “any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information.” and “loss to 1 or more persons during any 1-year period (and, for purposes of an investigation, prosecution, or other proceeding brought by the United States only, loss resulting from a related course of conduct affecting 1 or more other protected computers) aggregating at least $5,000 in value.”

While you may not be able to say that any one computer was “damaged” in excess of $5,000, the entire network was affected, and that is certainly more than $5,000.

6. They are deciptively advertising their serves as “unlimited” when it clearly is “limited.”

7. While not related here, you should know, that just because a legal “agreement” says something, doesn’t make it legal. Case in point: The indemnity clause at ski resorts that say “If our ski lift collapses, you can’t sue.” Bullshit. You can, as there is a clear public interest in not having deathtrap ski lifts.

Really? Where does it end? Modifying emails because they disapprove of the content? What if your cell phone company monitored your phone conversations, and bleeped out words they didn’t like?

This is obnoxious on so many levels it’s not even funny. I can only hope they get the pants sued off them for this.

Comcast may face class-action lawsuit

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Could Comcast be facing a class-action? One should hope so.

If I were using Comcast’s Internet service, I would be paying for the ability to communicate with other people to accomplish various legal tasks. And if there is anything to learn in the past few days immediately following the release of Gutsy Gibbon, with Ubuntu.com completely hosed as far as I can tell, there are legitimate, much-needed, legal ways to use peer-to-peer services. If this isn’t the fundamental reason for signing up with an Internet Service Provider, to be able to communicate with other computers, what is?

If they had told me up front that they would be resetting peer-to-peer connections, I might be mad, but at least I’d know it up front and could choose to sign up with a service that doesn’t do so. If these were technical problems that forced their actions as a resolution, then I might agree that taking necessary action to restore service is a good thing. If there really were no legitimate uses for peer-to-peer networks, as the RIAA and MPAA would have everyone believe, then I would still disagree, but at least I would understand.

As it is, though, none of those things are true. Comcast is still denying that they are deliberately causing connections to fail, in spite of the incontrovertible proof that has been offered, and that only after Comcast said nothing at all to their customers for… well… we don’t know how long. As it is, it’s not in response to connections being down, it was planned out and implemented while nothing was broken in response to some hypothetical situation that might arise. In fact, in having problems with Lotus Notes, Comcast has actually broken something else that was working before in order to fix a problem that didn’t exist to begin with!

In short, if I were on Comcast’s Internet service, I would be paying them to deliver network packets, that’s all. At best, Comcast has engaged in an egregious breach of contract by deliberately interfering with my ability to get packets from A to B. At worst, they are guilty of deliberately and secretly impersonating someone they’re not, and if I’m not mistaken, that’s a crime. They might be lucky if they can get out of this with just a class action lawsuit.

I’m not on Comcast’s Internet service, thank goodness, although I am on AT&T’s, and believe me, it’s not much better. All of this stupidity just makes me long even more for more competition in this space for something else to come along. I never that I’d see the day when, “We won’t interfere with your Internet connection!” would actually become a selling point, yet here we are.

It really makes me wonder. The RIAA and MPAA are a huge media creation conglomerate. As mentioned, they hate, HATE peer-to-peer software, even with all of its legitimate uses. As some of you may know, Comcast is more than just an Internet service provider, they also happen to be the largest media provider company, and they’re facing increased competition from telcos and satellite providers. Who wants to bet that Comcast has been either paid off or offered sweet deals on media content in trade for pushing the RIAA’s and MPAA’s agenda of controlling what applications can and can’t be used on the Internet?

Something to think about…

The RIAA – an outdated business model

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Verdict article here
Appeals article here

To the point – assuming either compensatory claim is made (either the $200,000 fine or a much reduced $200 fine) will any of the actual musicians who produced the music Jammie is alleged to have offered to be copied receive even a single penny from the settlement? Does the RIAA even have an accounting mechanism to determine who should get the money, presuming that Jammie is being convicted of a copyright violation of several explicit songs that can be named by both title and artist, including song writer and performer?

If the RIAA is truly acting as an agent for and in behalf of these musicians and seeking compensation directly for them in terms of violating the copyright of these genuine artists, I would probably agree with what they were doing. I do not condone Jammie, but at the same time I question the legal standing of the RIAA, who only represents the record labels… and even that indirectly. A class-action lawsuit (which this court case seems to fit the rough definition of one… the class being defined as the musicians whose music was distributed illegally by Jammie) in any other industry would be considering these settlement terms to be unconscionable and unconstitutional just from the standpoint that those “harmed” have not been fairly compensated at all. It would be like an ACLU lawsuit where the lawyers kept 100% of the settlement. All this said, there should be some mechanism in place where an ordinary musician can actually make some kind of financial compensation for electronic distribution of their music. From nearly everything I’ve read regarding the current state of the music industry, this mechanism simply is not in place at all, so there is little incentive for new and emerging musicians to really care about the RIAA cartel. By far the worst thing a new musician can do is sign a contract with an RIAA company, except for the hope that you can eventually hit the major leagues of the top musicians. But don’t expect the label to assist you in that journey.

American Idol, Pop Idol, and other similar music competition are a symptom of an industry falling apart: The system is so rigid and unable to be able to find new talent that they have to go through gimicks like a national talent search. For every Ruben Stoddard and Kelly Clarkston that has been found by the major labels, hundreds of otherwise good musicians were passed over and thrown overboard, many of whom could have earned a professional wage to perform music, even if it wasn’t necessarily living life as millionaires. It is this level of talent that the current RIAA system has completely failed.

Copyright infringement – the punishment should fit the crime

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

For the longest time, I’ve thought that there should be two punishment scales for copyright infringement. Let’s call the first “professional infringement.” This would involve infringement with a profit motive. An example of this would be the people who sell copies of DVDs on street corners. These people would face the fines currently imposed for copyright infringement.

The second type would be “household infringement.” This would involve infringement via a P2P network or other type that didn’t involve attempts to make a profit. This type of infringement would take the number of files infringed, multiply them by the market cost per file, and then multiply that number by 100 (to get a “punishment” number that is worse than simply buying the songs outright).

In the case of Jammie Thomas, she was found guilty of infringing 24 songs. Since she wasn’t attempting to make a profit, she would fall under household infringement and would be charged 24 * 0.99 (the cost of the songs on iTunes) * 100, or $2,376. This is more than the $150+ that she’s looking for, yet a lot less than the $222,000 that she was originally fined for. A $2,000+ verdict isn’t going to financially ruin most people, but it will also be enough of a significant amount for most people that it would serve as a deterrent against future incidents.