Friday, March 28, 2003

Technology: Firewalls and Laws

Freedom to Tinker is reporting that several states are considering bans on personal firewalls in an effort to stop file sharing.

Apparently, the firewalls are blocking the MPAA from searching your system to see if you have illegal downloads on your computer.

If you don’t know what a firewall is (which I assume most legislators do not) that would sound like a pretty good reason to ban them. So, for the sake of those who do not know, I will explain:

Think of a Firewall as a wall between your computer and the internet. The internet is a wild, untamed land, where viruses, hackers, and Trojan horses run amok. If you have a cable, or DSL line (like I do) you are connected to the internet whenever the computer is on. Obviously, this leaves your computer to be a static target for those unsavory elements. To protect yourself from these elements, you obtain a Firewall. The idea is that you can reach the internet, but the internet cannot reach you. It prevents malicious attacks upon your system.

This legislation reaches deeper though. Through language that states “any attempt to conseal” would mean that email encryption software would also be banned.

Worse yet, NAT technology would even be affected. On my keychain, I have a little “token.” This token generates a seemingly random number every 30 seconds. It allows me to VPN (Virtual Private network) to my office from home, allowing me a secure pipeline to my office. Secure being the key word, as my office deals with checks and EFT transfers from residents of the state of Ohio. Under this legislation, I could not use this technology, and would not provide me the ability to work from home.

Fortunately, the residents of Ohio and Pennsylvania (the two states I have subscribers in) have not had this legislation introduced in. This is something I will be watching out for, and will lobby against if and when the time arrives.

The RIAA and MPAA have a right to protect their trademarks, but the cost of this legislation is far to great.

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