opinions, everybody's got one...
Friday, May 31, 2002
complain about spam, get sued
In a case called the first of it's kind, an Australian company that allegedly sent out unsolicited commercial email was put on an anti-spam organization's blacklist as a result of a complaint against them about spam. They are suing the individual who made the complaint.
Being placed upon a blacklist allows internet services providers who subscribe to the blacklist information to block messages sent out from a listed company's location. The Australian company,
T3 is seeking loss and damages for replacing blocked or compromised IP numbers, labor costs of technicians to establish an alternative e-mail system, the purchase of a new server computer, and loss of income it claims to have incurred over a 20-day waiting period for a new Internet connection to be installed.Lawsuits have previously been brought by alleged spammers against companies that provide blacklisting services, but until now, not against a complaining individual.
the children's internet protection act
Public libraries were required to install filtering software on public computers having access to the internet by July 1st of this year, or risk losing federal funds. In many ways, the internet is fast becoming the world's library, and computers in a library can add a great deal to their holdings. But, the filtering software available these days isn't up to the task of distinquishing between speech that is obscene, and speech that is constitutionally protected. A federal court in Philadelphia overturned the law earlier today.
"There is no correction to the law that can be made here to save it," said Stefan Presser, the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director in Pennsylvania. "The technology cannot block simply obscene speech, or speech that is harmful to minors, without blocking an enormous amount of speech that is constitutionally protected."The 195 page long opinion in the case is at http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/02D0415P.HTM (via The Shifted Librarian)
old addresses, new owners...
You go to visit a favorite web site. It might even be one that you link to on your own web page. Instead of information on your hobby, or the quirky words and witticisms of your favorite online writer, you find pornography or a gambling site or a placeholder page that informs you that the site is under development. Even worse, your child goes to one of their favorite web sites from a bookmarks' list, or a desktop shortcut, and in place of the wholesome goodness that previously existed at the address, hard-core pornography appears on the screen.
When people allow their web site's domain name registration to expire, a number of companies have jumped in to register the name, and may have the opportunity to take advantage of some of the traffic that had been going to the site previously under that name. Affected sites have included web pages such as the ones run by the "Cape Cod History Society and the International Lutheran Woman's Missionary League." Schools, churches, civic associations, and personal web pages are often not sites that have had their names trademarked, and the former owners might have difficulties under the present arbitration system getting their site's name back. Search engines and directories often don't have a chance to notice the changes in the content of the pages resulting from new ownership.
An article which describes this practice, also covers some proposals that the organization that regulates the domain name system is considering, in response to a high volume of complaints. That body is the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN regulates the system and oversee a number of companies are the "sellers" of domain names - each of which has their own business practices. While those companies, or registrars, are accredited by ICANN and have to follow certain guidelines, there is a lot of room for differences in the ways that they operate.
The best practice is for the holder of a domain name to not let their registration lapse in the first place. But, for any number of reasons, owners of a number of web sites have failed to renew their registrations. Some may not want to continue with that particular name. Many people registered their web sites under more than one name, thinking that there was a need to protect a name by registering it with different spellings, or with different suffixes - i.e., mysite.com, mysite.net, mysite.org.
Others may not have updated the contact information that they used when they originally registered, and did not receive notices informing them that the name was going to expire. There may have been problems with the method the registrar used to contact the person who registered to inform them of the expiration. Administrative mistakes on the registrar's part could result in a premature end to the registration period. The possibility of fraudulent transfers of ownership of a domain name, though hopefully very limited in practice, also exists.
When rights to use of a domain name expire through a failure to renew, what's wrong with another person or company using the name? Isn't that why there are expiration dates - to allow others a chance to use an unwanted address? There are legitimate reasons to want to take over many web addresses. It is a possibility that some of the companies rushing in to reregister expired names are doing so to try to make a quick profit. And this profit would be made not by the traffic to the new pages under the old name, but rather by having the previous owner pay to have ownership transfered back to them:
Mary Hewitt, a spokesperson for the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation governing the Internet, said there were no statistics on the numbers of hijacked websites but that the group had received many complaints.So, can ICANN do something to avoid this type of problem, and help to make it more likely that when a domain name expires, it's because the previous owner didn't want to use the name anymore, rather than because of a failure to renew a wanted name? Last week, we included links to a couple of articles by Harvard Student Ben Edelman who wrote about the reregistration of domain names. His studies and articles are hopefully fueling a proposal to change this system to make it less likely that unintentional transfers of ownership happen:
ICANN is studying a proposal to give website owners a 30-day grace period before expired domain names are opened up to new buyers, Hewitt said.Of course, the grace period isn't helpful unless the site's owner is provided notice of the expiration. That could mean that the person who originally registered the site needs to make certain that contact information remains up-to-date. The registrar of the site could also take the step of redirecting attempts to visit a site with an expired name to make them arrive at a page that warns that the registration has expired during that "grace period." The notice would also allow visitors to the site to contact the owner of the site, or to remove bookmarks and shortcuts from their computers. It would also enable search engines and directories to update their indexes.
Purchasing an expired name to use in a different manner than a previous owner, or to resell, can be a legitimate business practice. The transfer of those domain names should allow visitors, and the previous owners, a reasonable period of time to become aware of the expiration and the possibility of a change in the content of the site. ICANN can do this by requiring a grace period and online notification by the registrar of the domain name expiration at the address in question.
If you are interested in helping to shape the policies of ICANN, and would like to see them address this problem (or any others), they do accept comments from the public. The ICANN Evolution and Reform Comments page gives more details on how to comment, and allows you to see comments made by others.
Thursday, May 30, 2002
social dynamics of the bar
The Delaware Bar is renowned for professional courtesy, and proud of it. What is interesting to me are the tiny subcultures of the bar that develop within the different areas of practice, and how they will be affected by the construction of the New Castle County Courthouse and the rising population. Of particular contrast is the calm and orderly atmosphere of Chancery as compared to the rough and tumble emotionally charged Family Court litigants. I will be watching the new interaction of these populations as they move from their separate buildings into the crucible of the new courthouse.
My theory as to why Delaware has thus far been able to maintain a high degree of congeniality as amongst the bar, is tied to Delaware's small size and small number of attorneys. In a profession where you deal with the same small group of attorneys every day, and where the ability to deal and rely upon one another's word is important, congeniality and professionalism are traits that foster a successful career and more efficient dispute resolution for our clients. As compared with the social dynamics of a large city where the citizenry and even the members of the bar are so numerous as to be anonymous to one another, there is less incentive to mind one's manners.
As the size of Delaware and the Delaware Bar rises, I regret to predict that shades of that anonymity will enshroud us and gradually degrade that congeniality and professionalism. I regret it because the high standards that we strive in this small group are what makes practicing law in Delaware such a precious delight (if one can refer to hard work in that manner). I am not sure what impact the change in the physical structure of the new courthouse will have upon the interrelationship between the members of the bar and the litigants, but I will be watching.
Some of the courts are scheduled to begin moving into the new building in August of 2002.
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Our favorite environmental group, Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, Inc. recently made the news as four bald eagles which were rehabilitated at their facility in Newark, Delaware, were released on Monday. The group is largely a volunteer organization, and their oil-spill response teams have travelled around the world helping to rescue wildlife affected by environmental crises. Around this time, every year, they have a need for volunteers to help out with a large number of baby birds that are brought to their facility. If you're interested, they are more than happy for the help. There's no experience quite like feeding birds in one of the outdoor flight cages while they are rehabilitating.
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Tricks of the Trade
by Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke
Question: I am a Paralegal with a Family Law Attorney. Our client discovered a voice activated recorder connected to a spare telephone jack in one of the children?s bedrooms. It appears her husband has been taping phone calls for an unknown period of time. Could you provide me with some basic information regarding wiretapping?
Answer: Del. Code Ann. Title 11, sec. 2402(c)(4) (1999): Delaware's wiretapping and surveillance law specifically allows an individual to "intercept" (defined as acquiring the contents of a communication through a mechanical device) any wire, oral or electronic communication to which the individual is a party, or a communication in which any one of the parties has given prior consent, so long as the communication is not intercepted with a criminal or tortious intent.
However, another Delaware privacy law makes it illegal to intercept "without the consent of all parties thereto a message by telephone, telegraph, letter or other means of communicating privately, including private conversation. Del. Code Ann. Title 11, § 1335(a)(4). The wiretapping law is much more recent, and at least one federal court has held that, even under the privacy law, an individual can record his own conversations. United States v. Vespe, 389 F. Supp. 1359 (1975).
Under the wiretapping law, communications intercepted illegally, or the disclosure of the contents of illegally recorded communications, can result in prosecution for a felony and a fine of up to $10,000. Del. Code Ann. tit 11, § 2402 (b) (1999). Civil liability also can be imposed in the amount of actual damages or a fine of $100 a day for each day of violation or $1,000, whichever is more, along with punitive damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Del. Code Ann. Title 11, § 2409 (1999).
Installing a camera or other recording device "in any private place, without consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there" is a misdemeanor, and under a 1999 amendment, the use of hidden cameras to record individuals dressing or undressing in a private place is a felony. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1335(2), (6) (1999)
Wiretapping is the preferred method of obtaining intelligence (for quality reasons), it involves tying in to a wire or other conductor that is used for communications. This wire can be a telephone line, a PBX cable, a local area network, a CCTV video system, an alarm system, or any other communications medium. The goal in a wiretapping is to secure high quality information, and to minimize the possibility of the eavesdropping being.
Wiretaps are broken into four primary categories (Hardwired, Soft, Record, and Transmit).
A Hardwired Wiretap, is when physical access is gained to a section of wire that the signal (ie: telephone line) travels on. A second set of wires is attached (normally through the use of an isolation or slave device), the signal is then bridged back to a secure location. This type of wiretap when discovered is fairly easy to trace back to the listening post. This type of wiretap is very popular with the police, but is usually outside the scope of most eavesdroppers. If the eavesdropper is using a "slave" or similar isolation device on a telephone the tap will be virtually impossible for anybody except a high trained or properly equipped "bug sweep" professional to find.
A Soft Wiretap, is a modification to the software used to run the phone system. This can be done at the telephone company, or in the case of a business, the PBX. A soft wiretap is a preferred method to tap a phone, easy to catch on a PBX, but tougher to find in the phone company's system. It is sometimes called a REMOBS (REMote OBServation), DATU, ESS, or translation tap. This type of tap is very popular with large law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, larger corporations, and with hackers who find it quite simple to gain access via maintenance software. This type of tap is actually very simple to find, but does require completely un-restricted access to the inner workings on the phone companies computers (which is very tough to obtain).
A Record Wiretap, is nothing more than a tape recorder wired into the phone line, very easy to find on a TSCM inspection. Similar to a hardwired wiretap, but the tapes must be changed on a regular basis. This is very, very popular with amateur spies, but they are very dangerous to use, and many eavesdroppers have been caught red-handed when they showed up to service their illicit recorder.
A Transmit Wiretap, is an RF transmitter (or "Bug") connected to a wire (often containing a microphone itself). This type of tap is very popular, however; the RF energy it produces radically increases the chance that it will be detected by a competent "Bug Sweeping" specialist. Bugs are extremely difficult to detect (if properly installed), require a very high level of technical expertise, and a great deal of equipment to locate. It is virtually impossible to detect most wiretaps with any spyshop toys, bug detectors, and other such gizmo's. Instead the TSCM specialist has to use highly sophisticated laboratory grade instruments, and perform hundreds of highly sensitive measurements.
Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator,
Michael specializes in Insurance Defense and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:
Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
Or you may e-mail him at DEIrish firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, May 27, 2002
law school applications rise
Mississippi is reporting a drastic increase in the number of students applying to law school. They estimate approximate twenty-three percent more applicants. That's a small number compared to the eighty-five percent increase reported by the University of Maryland School of Law, which received almost 5,000 applications to fill 225 spots for this year's fall classes. The Miami Herald reports of a twenty-two percent increase nationwide. They place the number of applications by late March to have been 80,795. The amount of people who registered to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) was 133,800. A couple of the articles speculate that the reason why there are so many people applying for law school has less to do with any increases in jury awards, and more to do with the weakness of the economy. I was hooked on the idea after helping a friend in law school proof read a couple of his papers. To those of you who are lawyers, or are thinking of applying, what brought you to that decision?
Arizona is planning on having a DNA database in place by 2004 to store genetic information for all people convicted of a felony. Genetic testing and evidence had been used in Arizona in the past mostly for violent felonies such as murder, robberies and rape. It's use will be extended to all felonies in the future. The idea is that people who commit serious offenses and only leave DNA evidence behind might be caught if they commit less serious offenses, and there is a matchup of the DNA.
Virginia has been following this practice since 1999, and last year they identified 300 suspects in cases because the DNA evidence collected matched DNA information in their database. This sounds like a practice that may spread to many other states within the next few years.
an fbi agent's memo
The memorandum written by agent Coleen Rowley offers some interesting insights into how the FBI handled the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, and possibly some suggestions on how the FBI may go from being an investigative agency to a more pro-active one.
viruses, worms, and other dangers to the internet
An article entitled How to Own the Internet in your Spare Time discusses some of the viruses that have been appearing recently on the internet, and how they could have been worse. The information being shared on that page is potentially hazardous to the health of the net, and comes as a warning that something along the lines of a "cyber center for disease control" is needed to protect the net. If you've ever received an email from a friend warning you about a hoax virus, you'll understand the need for some type of reliable centralized clearing house of information that most people are aware of and can check for information about viruses. (via the daypop top 40)
memorial day in delaware
We'd like to give our thanks to all of those who have served to protect our freedoms.
One Delawarean is being recognized for his service by being admitted to the Ranger Hall of Fame, as its 165th member, joining such people as Revolutionary War hero Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, Confederate Col. John S. Mosby of Mosby's Rangers and Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill of World War II's Merrill's Marauders. Congratulations, Charles R. Laws Jr., and thank you.
For the past 68 years, Memorial Day has been recognized by a parade in Newark. This year may have been its last. I hope that tradition doesn't end.
Planning for alternative transportation often needs to start on a local level. The City of Newark is re-examining their Bicycle Plan for the City, and have a workshop scheduled for June 18th, to allow public participation. If you can't attend the workshop, but have an interest in the outcome of the hearing, they also have an interactive survey to solicit opinions on biking in Newark. While I think the survey is fairly well put together, and applaud the City for holding a public workshop, I wonder if they would receive somewhat different responses if they had held the hearing while the University of Delaware was still in session. Many of the bicyclists in town are students.
new political maps for delaware
Regardless of your political party preferences, you're going to need a new map to figure out which district is which in Delaware. Here's the map, as published by the Wilmington News Journal.
A Boston Globe article about the Patriot Act describes the increased ability of the government to electronically eavesdrop upon people under the Act:
Surveillance tools range from subpoenas for basic subscriber information and caller ID-type tools to searches of e-mail content and real-time wiretapping.The writers of the article also include a reference to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) page on the USA Patriot Act. One of the documents linked to on the CDT page worth taking a peek at is the Department of Justice's manual on Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations. Note that the date on the manual is January 2001. While the Patriot Act has probably changed some of the particulars, the document is the most extensive compendium I've seen of information from the government on the subject of searches and seizures involving computers.