Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Well once more it has been a while since I posted and as usual there were lots of things around the net that  that I could have commented on but didn't (mainly due to laziness). There are a few things of interest about at the moment but I'm not going to talk about them as this has to be a quick post and you can find them for yourselves.

The main thing I'm going to talk about today is the fact that I'm off to Japan in a little over a weeks time and I'll be there for 2 months. All being well I will use this time well and hopefully keep this blog up to date with interesting ramblings (or at least ramblings) and maybe some photos.

Either way if I'm more silent than usual that's the most probable reason

Monday, 10 May 2010

Twitter bomb hoax

You may have noticed I use twitter. Here is something interesting about twitter: posting something to it that could be considered menacing (say a poor joke about blowing up an airport) can now get you a £1,000 fine and a criminal conviction.

While this may seem reasonable in some light think about it for a second, a private post to a website jokingly wanting to blow up a building because of frustration has just cost a man his career. Paul Chambers tweeted:
"Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!"
 and (because he wanted to be an accountant for which you require a clean slate) has lost his job,  £1,000 and a lot of time. All because of one stupid message. Now if he'd said:
"I'm going to blow up Robin Hood airport"
and then phoned the police with this message he would have made a hoax bomb threat and be liable for conviction because shutting down an airport for a bomb threat is no laughing matter. Whining about being stuck in the UK for a little longer and wanting to take out your frustration is another, especially when the airport clearly could see that it was a joke, in fact so could the police and the CPS. Which is why he wasn't convicted for making a bomb threat, but for mis-use of telephonic communication which is based upon a law designed to stop cold callers and stalkers.

Anyway Jack of kent has a much better summary and more detailed (and correct) legal information, I highly recommend you read what he has to say because you never know when an innocent message like:
"I want to put thermite (rust, aluminium ground and mixed then set alight with magnesium) through the engine block of the car parked near where I live who's alarm goes off every 2 hours"
spoken in frustration and anger before being sent out into the world may get you convicted for making menacing noises.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Who seizes what?

There have been a couple of interesting internet developments recently: firstly facebook has continued it's slide from useful social website to (which is why I have deleted my account on it) and secondly there is a further excitement about cloud computing (new about 5 years ago so new for business today). Google Enterprise is getting ever bigger; next week Microsoft launch their latest iteration of Office (with shiny online connectivity) and Ubuntu have released their latest offering complete with Ubuntu one: a 2Gb online file server (basically Dropbox).

This made me realise something: what happens when the police want to seize your computer to check it for evidence and you don't have a hard drive? I've been using Dropbox and Google Docs for about the last 2~3 years to keep a lot of my most important work backed up, but what if I was using them to keep less savoury things stored outside of my home? While at some point obviously these files would be present on my local system there are ways of making sure they never really leave any trace and so the police storming my house at 3am in the morning to take away my hard drive and decrypt it won't really do anything: the data just isn't there any more, they have to chase it to some far flung server farm.

Now while the obvious case in an individuals situation would be that the police would write to the server company and ask them to release the data and no doubt they would get emailed a nice data stream of the contents of that area. What happens, though, when it's a company they're investigating? If an entire company's data was hosted on the cloud then that's a lot of information to work through. You may only want one persons but it's no longer a case of separating out a few physical hard drives: you will have to stream however many hundreds of Gbytes of data that they could have accessed. This, of course, all assumes that you can trust the hosts and the other people in the company: if you need to get the info before anything can happen to it you may need to be a bit faster. Otherwise the hard drives you want will might not exist. The information  won't be on one or two single drives either, it is likely part of a huge array somewhere in a warehouse that may not even be in the same country as the company, you or anyone else who may help. That data may also mixed in with all sorts of other information from companies you're not interested in.

My point is that if the government thought it had problems with the music industry and copyright fighting technology it hasn't seen anything. When people start leaving their important incriminating files on computers that don't even exist in any physical way run on servers in other countries that may be closely guarded by people not friendly to your cause. 

Anyway as I hope I have demonstrated there should be lots of fun technology debates coming soon to a governing body near you!