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EFF: Internet Security And Innovation Under Threat From SOPA

Posted by: , 15:02 AEDT, Mon November 14, 2011

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that clauses in SOPA could kill of software development, and make many current essential industry tools and services illegal, under the new "reckless" legislation

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) could have a drastic effect on software development, and Internet security, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned.

SOPA would allow the government to blacklist websites and services via the Domain Name System (DNS). One of the more controversial provisions in SOPA would also punish software publisher or service providers that provide ways to bypass the proposed DNS filtering system. The EFF lists several ways in which this SOPA clause could affect software innovation and services.

The problem is that, many of today's tools and technologies can be seen as doing just that, providing ways to by-pass filtered DNS services. VPNs, proxies and anonymizer software could all be used to bypass DNS filtering, although they are not designed to do it currently, but the US Attorney General could launch legal proceedings against these types of services and software if they don't, at great cost, add in blacklisting features to comply with SOPA.

The EFF also warns that many Internet security tools, such as firewalls or the widely used SSH tool, come with proxy and VPN functions, and under SOPA, any of these tools could be made illegal.

Then there's the general threat of destroying the harmony that exists within the Domain Name System, and the emergence of unauthorised DNS servers that could redirect users to malware - prominent Internet engineers have warned of this risk ever since the US government started considering DNS filtering as an anti-piracy solution. The existence of government controlled DNS with blacklisting built-in may force the serious web pirates to use alternative DNS servers, ones that are not maintained by reputable companies or follow any standards, but would allow users to bypass the SOPA filters. Regular users may also seek alternate DNS servers, because blacklisting and filtering will lead to errors and blocks perfectly legitimate websites. 

So not only would SOPA blacklisting be easily bypassed, it would then split the current single global Domain Name System into several. Those with malicious intent could, for example, set up false redirects on these "piracy friendly" DNS servers and redirect popular websites like Google or PayPal to malware/phishing alternatives.

In conclusion, the EFF urged the software community and Internet engineers to fight back against what the EFF calls Congress' "recklessly" actions. Separately, a petition has also been set up on the White House's own petitions website, urging the Obama administration to consider opposing SOPA.


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