03.17.09

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The BBC and Self Censorship (Regarding Windows)

Posted in Deception, Windows at 5:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hush hush

Summary: The BBC not only broke the law but also paid cybercriminals and re-raised the issue of self censorship (Windows never blamed)

RATHER than admit that it had done something erroneous, the BBC insisted on defending what it tactlessly embarked on, despite the fact that was a violation of the law. The BBC acts as though it didn’t know the law or as if it’s above the law. Now it turns out, based on The Register, that the BBC not only infiltrated people’s PC but it also fed/paid crackers (malicious, obviously, as the word implies) in this process, which helps not at all. Here is the latest episode in this one peculiar saga.

BBC Click used the botnet of 22,000 machine to send spam to webmail addresses it established and launch a denial of service attack against a test website by security firm PrevX which advised on the investigation. It then changed the wallpaper on compromised machines with a message of its own, advising affected users to clean up.

The BBC reckons its actions were legal, but specialist technology lawyers contacted by El Reg disagreed. Struan Robertson, editor of out-law.com and legal director at solicitors Pinsent Masons, said that the BBC’s actions were likely to have breached the unlawful access provision of the Computer Misuse Act, the UK’s anti-hacking law. He added that there was no public interest defense against CMA offences.

Isn’t it awfully hypocritical that when Gary McKinnon whimsically changes the wallpapers on some inscure Windows PC, then he faces extradiction and very long jail time, but when the BBC does it, then it’s ‘just’ education? This is probably the same old (and familiar) situation where if a small group commits acts of aggression then it’s labeled something like “terrorism”, but when a big developed nation does the very same thing, then it’s a war for “democracy” and “peace”. It’s scale that is inversely proportional to the severity of known crimes.

There are two issues here that we highlighted before. First — worth debating is the illegality of practice; the second is the fact that the BBC — much to its partner’s delight (Microsoft) — hardly bothers to mention that this is a Windows problem. Well, we already know how Microsoft 'manages' journalists and censors those who say that Windows is not secure (new example).

The BBC pretty much continues to deny its mistakes about Windows. One of its few (or only) FOSS-oriented columnists did attribute the problems to Windows in yesterday’s article, albeit not under a particularly informative headline (“Holes in the machine”).

Conficker spreads through a security vulnerability in the Windows Server Service that allows a carefully written program to persuade the attacked computer to run malicious code instead of the Microsoft-written software.

Once installed it turns off Windows Automatic Update and stops you using the Windows Security Centre. It disables a range of internal services that could be used by anti-malware programs, blocks access to a number of anti-virus websites and even resets and deletes system restore points so you can’t go back to an uninfected installation of your operating system.

Why is Windows not being blamed as often as it deserves to? What’s often found in the mainstream media suffers from a great level of self censorship. Well, self censorship is the situation in which a person abstains from saying certain things that might get him/her in trouble (and thus put the job at risk). It’s a subject that was covered before. And speaking of which, with the burden of words and liability, there are also atrocious moves in Italy to gag bloggers, to an extent.

An Italian MEP, Catiuscia Marini, has warned that net neutrality is proving to be a problem in the Telecoms Package trialogue discussions. She mentions the issue in a letter sent in response to concerned emails from thousands of Italian citizens about the threat to net neutrality in the Telecoms Package.

“As promised,” says Tacone, “at the end of th[is] article you’ll find a little snippet on the next Italian net-censorship act. It’s perhaps a little bit superficial, but there’s really not much to be explained it’s just the yet-another arrogant-ignorant-populist attempt to shut down free speech and preserve existing content monopolists.”

This is another lever of imposed discipline where writers are terrorised further. It’s intended to combat dissidence. There is plenty for politicians to worry about when a centralised, controlled press is going away and smaller publishers are returning after suppression of them almost a century ago.

In light of some recent developments, Mike Masnick explains why disappearance of old media is a good thing and we also find that the ‘client press’ of Microsoft, namely the Seattle P-I (there are more), will shut its doors later this week.

Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will roll off the presses for the last time Tuesday.

This is also covered here, it was more or less expected and this is bad news to Microsoft, which will be less capable of controlling the press. When you control the press, you control what people think. You control consensus and therefore control what people are allowed to say and get away with. No more; not as much anyway.

Boycott Novell newspaper
Never self censorship in Boycott Novell

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3 Comments

  1. Goblin said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Gravatar

    Hi Roy!

    I ran an article examining the breach of both Sec(1) and Sec(3) of the Computer Misuse Act 1990. I also covered a memorandum where it was asked in the house for clarity on the botnet issue some time ago.

    Forgetting all that though, the BBC failed (IMO) because even with the best will in the world and security advice, Windows users will still fall victim to new exploits as they are discovered, so the whole exercise was a waste of time. (IMO)

    I think the only message that can be derived from what I consider “sensationalist TV” is that you are better off with Linux, it will keep the malware at bay, but more importantly keep the BBC off your desktop!

    I wonder what would have happened if one of your readers had behaved like the BBC in the spirit of “public interest”?

    Great site as always.

    Regards.

  2. NotZed said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Gravatar

    The only issue I see is the hypocrisy – the laws aren’t terribly good or worth defending in themselves.

    Oh, the lack of pointing at MS specifically is a terrible lost opportunity. How many balding weasel middle managers have gone with MS for the express reason of having ‘one throat to choke’ — and no matter how many opportunities they get to squeeze their grip, never do.

    It’s a scandal that any public money, or shareholder money, continues to be spent on demonstrably defective products that repeatedly directly damage their users. Imagine if it was any other part of the public infrastructure – e.g. buses whose doors failed to open one in ten times (or even one in 100, or 1 000), or randomly shut on people – enough to cause inconvenience but no lasting physical damage. The press would be down on that like a tonne of bricks. Yet this is the level of crap that everyone puts up with like it’s just an expected behaviour.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Gravatar

    It’s a scandal that any public money, or shareholder money, continues to be spent on demonstrably defective products that repeatedly directly damage their users.

    Remember that it’s public money that also funded the BBC’s cracking gig, which draped the pockets or some real crackers.

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