From the Booby Hatch
Kids today have no respect for their elders
Senator Orrin Hatch says he wants to destroy music swappers' computers, but what he really means is that kids today have no respect for their elders, says SecurityFocus columnist George Smith.
"Powerful Senator Endorses Destroying Computers of Illegal Music Downloaders!" trumpeted the Associated Press last week.
What a tremendous headline! Orrin Hatch wants to smash the PCs of pirates.
Such opportunities present only occasionally in a journalism career. Impossible to predict, who would have guessed an old but very important poop would be so willing to go apoplectic and voice a desire for revenge on the scofflaw young.
Naturally, assorted minders immediately made excuses for the guy.
The senator was speaking metaphorically, he didn't really mean it, or -- best of all -- "we all take [his] views very seriously."
Yeah, yeah. What Hatch really meant was that kids have no respect for their elders and the RIAA, plus they don't pay for things. I hate kids -- they need to be taught a lesson. Whatsa matter with kids, today?
In the short term, I say cast Orrin Hatch in a remake of "Bye Bye Birdie."
But that might not happen, so someone should brief the Utah senator or his staffers on ways that computers could be destroyed remotely. These would all be mostly fabrications, but what's the harm in pandering to such an illustrious fool? Arming Senator Hatch with a raft of silly stories that satisfy his impulse to be a scourge of digital freeloaders seems right. It would give him more rope, maybe just enough to really hang himself the next time he pops off.
First up would be to resurrect the old canard that viruses or software acting remotely can manipulate PC power supplies. If they can do that, maybe they can start a fire or melt something critical! While this has never been done there's no reason a senator could not be convinced that new techniques make it possible. If computer programmers can make peer-to-peer networks, surely they can brew up malicious software to short circuit the PC permanently.
There is no excuse for the violation of copyright, according to Senator Orrin, and if there's no way to convince kids to stop stealing music, then a hundred thousand computers must die.
The man's thinking like a computer vandal and to approach those numbers a new flavor of the CIH virus could be one tool.
CIH's payload included a routine to write a byte of data to the flash-writable BIOS. This made the machine unbootable until the BIOS chip was reprogrammed at the shop or replaced.
The CIH virus was real. But if it doesn't sound like a sure enough thing, the Senate's pirate punishment committee could be appraised of the more fantastic Blitzkrieg server.
The Blitzkrieg server, according to the trade magazine that originally hyped it, was "a new virus that automatically launches a lethal counter offensive against hackers... the digital equivalent of Star Wars technology" capable of knocking out the computer on the other end of the line by destroying its hardware and software.
That made it "a significant Internet breakthrough that could enhance electronic commerce" and protect data.
Although the Blitzkrieg server never lived up to its initial press, it's a story to warm the heart of those looking for ways to strike back at music-stealing children.
Another option is to escalate the attack to the physical well-being of the music pirate.
For this, Hatch could look into the technology of the Russian Virus 666. First mentioned in an article called "The Mind Has No Firewall" which appeared in the U.S. Army War College's scholarly magazine Parameters, virus 666 was said to be able to cause heart irregularities. It did this by altering every 25th frame of the visual display, putting the user into a trance that results in damage to the heart.
Since the senator claimed to be interested in more moderate solutions, the trance state could be shortened so that the user only was made nauseous.
And if even that seems too strong a measure, "Toaster" virus technology could be tried. The "Toaster" virus was supposed to cause a high velocity ejection of a diskette. While it would be a long shot, such a thing just might inflict a bruise on the pirate.
That would teach those kids -- with their awful clothes and rock 'n' roll -- some respect.
George Smith is Editor-at-Large for VMYTHS and founder of the Crypt Newsletter. He has written extensively on viruses, the genesis of techno-legends and the impact of both on society. His work has appeared in publications as diverse as the Wall Street Journal, the Village Voice and the National Academy of Science's Issues in Science & Technology, among others.