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Security, privacy and DRM: My wishes for 2007

Scott Granneman sets out his stall

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Holiday time is a bit weird in my family. My brother Gus is the Equipment Manager for the New York Jets (yeah, I know ... tough game last weekend), so we can't celebrate Festivus ... uh, I mean Chrismakkuh until after the football season is over for his team. That means that a bad year for the Jets means Chrismakkuh in January, while a good year for New York's cooler football team spells gift-giving in Chez Granneman in February. That means that I officially have not celebrated the holidays yet, which also means that I can still let the fine readers of SecurityFocus know my holiday wishes for 2007. So here they are, in no particular order.

Although I'd love to start by wishing for the public drawing and quartering of the $#@%^&'s that are responsible for the biblical flood of spam that's been inundating our inboxes over the last several months, I can't really do that, due to my ethics in regard to capital punishment and the fact that it can't really happen. I'm trying to stick to realistic wishes here, and much as I'd love to see spammers receive draconian punishments for their scummy deeds, I'll have to give this one a pass.

Securing data has to become a bigger goal than ever. In the area of personal data, I'm hoping that more people will secure their laptops so we don't see any more of the ridiculous data losses that were suffered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ernst & Young, and way too many others. Microsoft's new BitLocker technology is a nice step in this direction, although there are plenty of other solutions available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users.

I've written several times about the unbelievably poor security found in the electronic voting machines used in American elections. It seems that more citizens are waking up to the dangers of the devices made by Diebold, ES&S, and others. This is a great sign, and I hope that it continues, to the point at which Congress mandates changes that will either radically improve the security of voting machines, or, better yet, provide for a better, safer method of voting.

So-called "intellectual property" is becoming a larger issue as our society moves inexorably from analog to digital storage, and it continues to spark frustration and abuse due to perhaps greed and short-sightedness of media companies, their lawyers, and their willing stooges in the technology industry. I'm hoping that more people have to struggle with Digital Restrictions Managment this year, in the music they "legally" download, in the next-gen DVD movies they try to play on their new HD-TVs, in the e-books they attempt to view.

Anyone who's read my columns knows that I'm no fan of DRM, so why do I wish this? Simple - the more consumers who have to wrestle with the hassles and problems of DRM, the more they will realize how much DRM sucks, the further they will complain, the less they will buy, and the faster that DRM in consumer products will die a much-deserved and little-mourned death.

And in this regard, I hope that the FSF's "Defective by Design" campaign continues chuggin' along, keeping the issue alive and acting as the agent provocateurs that we need.

The mess we're in with patents, especially software patents, is another big problem, and while it's going to take longer to fix that one, I'm hoping that we can make progress this year. Certainly many members of the software industry realize the scope of the hornet's nest, as can be seen in an excellent collection of slides from a conference titled "Software Patents: A Time for Change?" (and thanks to Jim Rapoza and his excellent article at eWeek for the link). The rejection of software patents by the European Commission in May was a great step, and has just made things safer and easier for software developers in Europe.

Unfortunately, American developers and companies still have a hell of a problem to deal with.<br/> <br/> There are lots of dedicated groups doing yeoman's work in the area of intellectual "property," groups that deserve your attention, support, and yes, money. These include the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, the ACLU, Public Knowledge, and the EFF. Look 'em up!

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