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Chapter 10
The Wrong Side of the Passwords

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only code that had been signed by a reputable source--but how users are to determine this (other than mindlessly Just Buying Microsoft) isn't clear. (My own current solution is to disable Active-X and to keep all really private information on a computer that does not go online.)


These schemes put a new spin on old crimes, and as technology advances faster than we can think about its effects, there will be more such uncomfortable stories. They are particularly scary if you're accustomed to thinking of the Net as a portion of the outside world you can control through your computer; it's a different matter if the Net can reach inside your bank account and help itself. Otherwise, most of the crimes you hear about in connection with the Net are not new. Fashion designs aren't stolen and copied because of the Internet; the process is simply speeded up.


As soon as you move away from the theft of information or its misuse, things become much more straightforward. Modems, computer files, and phone lines do not abuse or rape children, just as they do not blow up buildings. People do those things, and while the Internet may eventually be the primary source of all information to all people, at the moment it is far easier, more anonymous, cheaper, and faster for most people to find bomb-making information in the public or school library and pornography of any type in magazine or videocassette format. In fact, it would be more logical to look at the transparency and built-in tracing capabilities of most of the Net and conclude that it would be safer if we required everyone to get all their information that way instead of in those old, uncontrollable media like books, where anyone can make a copy and you can't find out where they sent it.


And there are such double standards about this, which have more to do with a general fear of change and new technology than with any kind of reasoning. When the Sunday Times reported that child pornography was being exchanged on IRC, it found several system administrators to say they were considering dumping the chat lines. Yet a few weeks later, when newspapers covered the trial of a British diplomat caught coming into Britain with a suitcase full of child pornography on videocassette, no one suggested banning VCRs or home video cameras.


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