Social media philosophy blog
Monday June 26th 2017

Do we need a moratorium on Internet access development?

In many countries, insurance on cars and homes are mandatory. This is a swell idea, it is for your own good, protecting the economy of the individual in case there is an accident. However, one could argue that there are great similarities with computers and computer protection. Today, standard computer protection in the form of virus-, spyware- and phising- protection as well as a firewall is up to the individual user. The way that the World Wide Web has developed, this can be associated with a number of problems. First, as there are many unprotected or poorly protected computers out there, they easily become part of the very scary botnet networks. These can create huge damages and disrupt the affairs of both governments and businesses. Second, unprotected computers contribute to the further spreading of bad code. Third, the lack of mandatory regulation creates legal problems concerning responsibility. This last issue certainly seems like a ticking timebomb.

What is your responsibility if your unprotected computer has been misused? There are many possible scenarios. The most obvious is that a so-called “infostealer” troyan steals credit card figures and thereafter cleans out an account. The current credit card policy is that you should guard your credit card intensely and you may not be reimbursed if you have been neglectful. What shall we say about an unprotected computer?

A similar scenario concerns passwords. Some of these may lead to credit card access as well, such as PayPal or Internet store accounts. Others may enable access to subscription services such as World of Warcraft. Another serious threat would be that criminals are given access to e-mail addresses. This, in turn, opens up for a number of different crimes. Are national legal systems prepared for this?

A specific kind of vulnerability concerns hijacking of poorly protected wireless connections. What is your responsibility if your IP number has been used for criminal activity, such as cleaning out others bank accounts, uploading copyright protected material or distributing child pornography?

Given all these problems it would indeed be reasonable to suggest that sophisticated computer protection would be as mandatory as car insurance. Having said that, we are already much too late… The new generation of smartphones, tabs and reading devices enable easy and quick Internet connection and supply new vulnerabilities. Since they lack the power of an ordinary computer, it is difficult to design effective protection for them. This is very troubling since they often contain credit card data, e-mail passwords, etc. Furthermore, as they are designed to interact with a number of different personal and corporate computers, they can easily spread Troyans to systems that otherwise are well protected. Since computers tend to “trust” the smartphones of their owners, cybercrime seems to be in good shape.

Development of Internet access is so fast. The idea of moratorium has frequently been discussed, and sometimes used, in connection with the development of genetic mapping and genetic testing. It seems to be a good idea to use regulation to slow down development of Internet access until we have time to understand what is really happening and how various drawbacks of technology can be dealt with. A further reason for putting on the brakes is that we are currently approaching a major challenge concerning Internet access. The 30-year-old standard for Internet addressing, IPv4, is quickly running out of IP numbers, quite possibly already this year. The process of moving the global Internet resources into the new standard of IPv6 has been going far too slowly. Doesn’t it seem that we are too slow when we need to be fast and frantically speedy when we need to slow down?

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