Archive for the Privacy Category

Protect Yourself – A Black Network of Corporate Vigilantes Are Connecting to Your PC, and Stealing Data, To Incriminate You

Posted in Network Monitoring, Privacy, Red Alert, Security, System Monitoring, Utilities on December 14, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

There is a gap between today’s technology and legislation to protect your privacy. Technology has moved so quickly that the Internet is a largely ungoverned place, and most of us would prefer it to stay that way. However, this new frontier may expose computer users to an invasion of our privacy that could end up costing us a bundle or possibly even land us in jail. It is likely that today your computer will be queried by over a dozen computers who are downloading copyright data (and who knows what else) from yourLiberty computer without your knowledge or permission. But these are not hackers or criminals, at least they are not organizations that you would normally consider hackers. I was shocked when I saw who the corporations that owned the list of blocked IPs. It is a who’s who of the computer industry and it bothers me that they are taking establishing what I would call a “covert connection” to my PC and downloading data from me. I’m willing to bet that nearly every PC has a few files on them that technically belong to someone else and contractually speaking, are illegal for you to have. You might not be using these files or you might not even be aware these files exist on your PC but you are responsible for having them and if they get redistributed you could be on the hook for more dollars than you care to think about. I’m not comfortable interpreting this “movement” or “trend” as being related only to copyrighted music either. It could reach into video clips (Youtube, Google…) , software evaluations and shareware programs, pictures, articles… anything that has the potential to be copyrighted. When the going gets tough, cash is tight, and companies will look to whatever source of income they can find. But the real issue isn’t whatever scenario I can come up with or whether you think you could possibly be liable for something, the real problem is the invasion of privacy and the question if search and seizure laws apply. I consider the data on my PC as my personal property. I’ve taken measures to lock it down and secure it. It disturbs me that corporations can establish a “hidden connection” to my PC and steal my data. But the straw that “breaks the camels back” in this situation is that they can use that data to incriminate you in a court of law! It is unthinkable that our society considers this process legal and it has to change. An equivalent example in the physical world would be if a private organization (not even the police) could break into your home and look for information to prove that you are guilty of something against the law and use that information in a court of law to incriminate you. In the real world this isn’t just trespassing and a violation of your privacy but it is a criminal activity and in most cases it would be classified as a felony. Our privacy laws exist to protect you from a person or an organization, old glorywhich may have self serving motives, from becoming too powerful. As discussed, in cyberspace organizations are breaking into your private area (your computer) and gathering whatever data they can (without your permission or knowledge), with the intention of using that data to incriminate you in a court of law. Unfortunately it is perfectly legal for them to gather this data now because our laws have not caught up to the unique environments the Internet has created.

So we need to protect ourselves and luckily there are organizations working to keep track of these issues and building programs to enable users to stop the offending sites from connecting to your PC. I tried several programs and the best solution I found is Peer Guardian2. These programs work from a large list of IP addresses and the need to update and process those lists can be resource intensive. Most of the other programs I tried took an enormous amount of resources to run but Peer Guardian2 ran well and didn’t max my system out even when it was updating the lists (which is the most intensive cycle). There are some issues in compatibility with some of the popular firewalls (specifically Outpost and Macafee’s Black Ice). However, it runs well with the Sygate firewall which is my Best of Breed pick. If you have questions about compatibility you should check out their FAQ. Peer Guardian2 also has a lite version that takes even fewer resources to run. Regardless of the resources I’m recommending that everyone download, install, and run Peer Guardian2. If you need to use a different firewall, make the change. If you need to spend 70 bucks and add some RAM it’s worth it (you probably need it anyway). It would probably be pushing it to run Peer Guardian on a PC with only 512k of RAM on it and I’m guessing it would choke on a CPU with 256k. However, If you’ve got more than 512k you will be fine.

One minor issue: I am currently having trouble getting the primary P2P list to update but I hope to resolve the issue and I don’t want to my readers to wait. Protect yourself! We all owe the developers working on Peer Guardian2 a thanks for developing the software. They do accept donations so if you really value the work they are doing please support them.

You can download Peer Guardian2 from the link below. It is in BETA but it is working well.

http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/

If you are interested in reading about copyright infringement or if you have received a letter from a recording company you can check out this FAQ.

http://wiki.phoenixlabs.org/wiki/Infringement_FAQ