ALM Properties, Inc.
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IP Theft Report Offers Over-the-Top Solutions
Its a fairly well-accepted fact that theft of intellectual property in the U.S. is a big problem. So it isnt very surprising that a report [PDF] released last week by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Propertya U.S. advisory groupestimates annual losses resulting from such theft total more than $300 billion a year.
What is surprising, though, are some of the solutions proposed in the report.
Deep down in the 89-page document, the authors suggest companies be given the right to fight fire with tech-driven fire. They propose such draconian measures as infecting alleged violators computers with malware, or protecting files with so-called ransomware, which would lock down an alleged intruders computer.
The ransomware proposal describes a scenario in which only authorized users can open files containing valuable information. If an unauthorized person accesses the information . . . the unauthorized users computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account, the report says. Such measures do not violate existing laws on the use of the Internet, yet they serve to blunt attacks and stabilize a cyber incident to provide both time and evidence for law enforcement to become involved.
The authors continue, noting that sometimes there is no time to involve law enforcement when the theft of intellectual property occurs at network speed. To deal with such situations, it would be useful if the government took steps to reconcile changes in the law with a changing technical environment.
Thats where the malware proposal comes in:
While not currently permitted under U.S. law, there are increasing calls for creating a more permissive environment for active network defense that allows companies not only to stabilize a situation but to take further steps, including actively retrieving stolen information, altering it within the intruders networks, or even destroying the information within an unauthorized network, the report says. Additional measures go further, including photographing the hacker using his own systems camera, implanting malware in the hackers network, or even physically disabling or destroying the hackers own computer or network.
Corynne McSherry, Intellectual Property Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the reports recommendations absurd and reminiscent of the SOPA and PIPA battle that led to a one-day shutdown of many major websites in early 2012. Once again, the public is being called upon to accept collateral damage in the name of IP enforcement, she said. They are saying IP enforcement is paramount and crucial to our national security, and all other things have to fall from that.
The commission is headed by Dennis C. Blair, former director of National Intelligence, and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah. Its other members include experts in security, technology, and intellectual property law.