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DDoS vigilante militia could tackle net porn, says pundit

You look like a fish with your mouth like that

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Brainstorm of the week Considering events earlier in the week, this possibly is not an absolutely ideal time for us to find some blockhead commending the efficacy of DDoS attacks as a mechanism for eradicating anything. We have however been able to draw on our legendary supply of patience, fairness, balance and integrity prior to arriving at a considered judgment.

Yup, this not so much half-baked as barely-kneaded notion is totally blockheaded, and whoever published it without pausing and thinking, er, wait a minute, wants DDoSing (there you see - it's catching). Step forward Guardian Online, which in yesterday's edition published Dave Birch's patent cure for Internet child porn.

"Internet users already cooperate in a distributed, coordinated way to tackle other big problems. The canonical example is the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (Seti)... Suppose they were, instead, searching for sick servers? Instead of merely reporting the problem, they could launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack." Dave then proceeds to remove ignorance as an excuse by explaining what a DDOS attack is, and goes on to rough up how an automated SETI-style system could be used to scour the Internet for sick sites then unleash DDOS attacks on them.

We cannot begin to list all of the reasons why the construction of a zombified vigilante moral militia is a superlatively duff and dangerous idea, even lined up in support of tackling something universally abhorrent. But should we mention here that it wouldn't even work? It wouldn't get all the right sites in the first place, and the lawsuits from all of the wrong ones it hit would instantly bury whoever was daft enough to admit to putting the idea into practice.

Fortunately, this intrinsic unworkability is so obvious that it's highly unlikely that anyone will ever do it. We will not therefore be presented with a precedent that could be used as an excuse by vigilante groups or states to attack anything else they deem unacceptable or dangerous. States tinkering with notions of 'Internet warfare' are quite dangerous enough, thank you.

But hell, Dave, why don't you just complete the circle and vastly increase the beneficial effect to humankind by using all of those compromised computers that are already mounting DDoS attacks? If you just infected them all with your own special DDoS then you'd be harnessing their insecurity for the forces of good. Write to Bill Gates and tell him how getting Windows users to make their machines less secure would actually help eradicate child porn on the Internet...

Actually, as the sharp-eyed readers who're already applying for jobs as Guardian Online sub-editors have noted, the column ends abruptly with "Second" - so for all we know the virus idea was in there already. We're unable to say though, because more attentive subs on yesterday's paper edition saw this word and cut it out. A little higher up the column next time people, but you're going in the right direction. ®

(Thanks to Jonathan Munn for drawing this one to our attention. Jonathan presents a detailed critique here.)

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