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Friday, 17 June 2011

Tackling cyber piracy needs careful planning; Hackers mainly locals

Friday Reflections - By B.K. Sidhu

So much has been said and written about the blocking of sites and hacking the past few days.
But one phrase that keeps popping up is “freedom of information.'' The blocking of sites is seen as going against freedom of information even though it is part of the fight against piracy.

Over the past few days some businessmen in the country have received calls from their counterparts abroad asking if Malaysia was indeed coming on strong on censorship of the Internet.

Internet has become such a powerful tool for many people, be it for work, education, play and entertainment. Sending the wrong message can of course trigger a lot of thoughts of safety to stability especially when we as a country need foreign direct investments.

The question here is not about what the Domestic Ministry or Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission (MCMC) can or cannot do. It is about why they blocked the sites and why those particular sites.

When it is done without proper explanation, it only creates mayhem and doubts in people's minds. One must remember that a lot of people the world over download stuff for free and anyone who has a broadband connection can assume that free downloads is a given because he is paying for the connection.

Then the question of enforcement comes to play. If you want to fight piracy on the web then fight it on the streets too, why allow pirated DVDs to be sold but sites are blocked.

If there are roadblocks then there should be on both ends or else the question of who we are protecting - the copyright holders or someone else - will arise.

To recap - the telecoms industry regulator, MCMC, ordered ISPs to block 10 file sharing sites at the request of the Domestic Ministry in the name of fighting piracy. These sites are used for file sharing to download music, songs, games, homework, and to do business.

One ISP did as it was told by the regulator but little did they know that they would get so much flak for that action. To explain, it posted the MCMC letter. This letter was meant to be confidential to the ISPs but it landed on the net and was circulated widely.

It did not take much time for the cyber community to retaliate over the blocking of sites and to vent their frustrations they lambasted the Government via the net. To them it was a privacy intrusion and against the MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees which states that the Government will not censor the Internet.

So angry were they that a Facebook account - “1M Malaysians Don't Want Block File Sharing Websites'' - was created for people to air their grouses. “What they did was akin to using a mega bomb to kill one terrorist,'' someone said of the blocking of the 10 sites.

The sites were blocked because there was an element of pirated content and according to some experts, this is a lucrative business especially for certain parties as they host the free content but some do charge VPN services to “cloak'' the content.

Ironically, the IP addresses of those sites were from the same place and 40% of IP transit traffic out of Malaysia is said to land there and the blocking action could have hurt someone's rice bowl.

The whole blocking episode and all the grouses caught the eye of hackers who threatened to hack government sites in retaliation.

They did so on Wednesday night and 41 sites were compromised. This is not the first block or hack, and it would not be last in the Internet era. Internet has both good and bad sides. It is up to the policy makers to take heed of what the users want; don't brush them aside as social media has somewhat become an avenue for people to air their grouses.

Today they can block 10, 20 or even 30 sites, but there will be an equal number of proxy sites which will offer free downloads. So while an explanation is needed for the blocking of sites, there also is a need to take Internet users on an educational journey to explain what is legal and illegal, what is piracy and what is downloadable, what is cyber security and how to safeguard.

One cannot assume everyone knows all that.Also, not many are willing to pay for content because there is free content out there.

Without a well thought out plan on how to tackle piracy, any effort will be futile and users will be left frustrated.

Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu is glued to The World Is Flat.

90% of hackers attacking govt, private websites are locals

PUTRAJAYA: Ninety per cent of the hackers who attacked 200 government and private websites in the past four days were locals, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili on Friday.

He said the police and the relevant agencies were now in the process of identifying them. "We have come to know that most of the hackers were locals, not from, abroad," he told a press conference here.

He said this when asked to comment on the group calling itself 'Anonymous', which claimed to be based abroad and threatened the attack the government's official portal,

Maximus said that as the head of the ministry that promoted the safe use of the Internet and handled the infrastructure that dealt with cyber security, he appealed to Malaysians to use the Internet professionally for education and the development of the country.

"Because you cannot go very far when you want to do criminal activities within cyberspace itself," he added.

Asked whether the Cabinet had made any decision to form a special task force to solve this problem, he said he could not confirm that yet. - Bernama

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