February 15, 2004

Net Abuse, Net Cops

This is a comment I left on Argus

Given an IP number, you can find out who it is assigned to, in this case Research Machines, PLC in Great Britain. There is an email in the RIPE record in the link for reporting abuse emanating from that IP address. Given good logs at Research Machines and a time stamp of the abusive posting, they would be able to identify, and deal with, a case of actual abuse.

Not everybody keeps good logs. I don't think the post referred to in the story is actually abusive. But you should know that Internet traffic is not anonymous. It is pseudonymous and people can be tracked if you have good administrators who leave no un-logged holes. Our networks are like a spider web and the administrator can always make a meal out of an annoying bug traveling his domain. We usually just don't feel like it for our own reasons.

Most people don't understand exactly how much net freedom depends on administrator feigned and actual incompetence. It is a mostly untold pro-liberty story. An administrator can log everything, lock down all computers, require positive authorization for all traffic in and out of his net. All this is there because there are actual businesses where this is a requirement and it's cheaper just to roll out one version and have it turned off by default. Letting our bosses know this exists is generally at the discretion of the administrator. Turning it on is generally at the discretion of the administrator. Initiating felony prosecutions is generally at the discretion of the administrator.

And usually we don't turn it on, we avert our eyes to the petty crimes we witness and we clean up your electron trail in a way that won't get us in trouble. Every administrator has his own personal code of morality on these things and I don't think it wise to share mine but I will say that there have been times when I broke into employee mailboxes and times that I refused (same company, actually my interpretation of the relevant legal codes was what carried the day over a VP's demand).

The difference between anonymous and pseudonymous internet access is the insertion of an administrator somewhere along the traffic chain who refuses to log, refuses to track, and refuses to give up his secrets. Long may this net regime reign.

Posted by TMLutas at February 15, 2004 04:28 PM