Sheriff Slams EFF As 'Not Credible,' Insists ComputerCOP Isn't Malware & Would Have Stopped Columbine

from the say-what? dept

Okay, so we thought the response from San Diego’s District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was pretty bad to the revelations about ComputerCOP. After all, she was responding to the news that she had purchased and distributed dangerous spyware masquerading as software to “protect the children” — and the best she could come up with was that her “security” people still thought it would protect kids? But apparently Damanis has nothing on Sheriff Mike Blakely of Limestone County, Alabama.

Blakely, in a bit of unfortunate timing, just announced that his department had purchased 5,000 copies of the spyware earlier this week, so perhaps it’s understandable that this “perfect election and fundraising tool” might actually turn into something of a liability. But Blakely’s not going down without a fight. When presented with the news that he’s proudly handing out tools that are making the children he’s supposed to be protecting less safe, Blakely went with an ad hom the messenger approach, attacking EFF’s credibility, and calling them “liberals.”

Blakely referred to the EFF criticism politics as an “Ultra-liberal organization that is not in any way credible on this. They’re more interested in protecting predators and pedophiles than in protecting our children.”

Anyone even remotely familiar with EFF recognizes that basically every word in that statement is ridiculous, but what are you going to do? The idea that EFF isn’t credible on security issues is laugh out loud funny (and, indeed, despite attending a conference and being in a room full of people, I literally laughed out loud upon reading it). However, Blakely insists his IT people are sure the software’s fine:

“We have had the key logger checked out with our IT people. They have run it on our computer system.” He said. “There is no malware.”

Reread that a few times. “We had the key logger checked out… there is no malware.” Dude. A keylogger is malware. That’s what it does. From the description here, it sounds like his “IT people” ran some anti-malware software on the computer they installed ComputerCOP on, and because it didn’t flag it, they insist it’s not malware. But a keylogger is malware by definition. And the fact that this malware happens to pass unencrypted text, including passwords and credit card numbers, over the internet makes it really, really bad.

But don’t tell that to Sheriff Blakely. He insists that ComputerCOP might have stopped Columbine. I’m not joking.

On the phone Wednesday he added “There are some parents out in Columbine Colorado, if they had this kind of software, things would have turned out differently.”

That comment is so off it defies a coherent response.

Meanwhile, I’m sure that Sheriff Blakely’s “IT People” are trustworthy, given that his website looks like it was designed in 1997 and hasn’t been touched since. It even has a visitor counter and a “this site best viewed in Internet Explorer” badge. I’m not joking. And a scroll. The only thing it’s missing is an under construction gif and the blink tag:

And, uh, note that text there:

You are not permitted to copy, broadcast, download, store (in any medium), transmit, show or play in public, adapt or change in any way, the content of these web pages for any other purpose whatsoever without the prior written permission of the site webmaster.

And there’s a copyright notice below it. Of course, anyone who views the website has copied, downloaded, stored and transmitted the webpage in some manner — so, I’m not quite sure what to do other than to say, that most of those demands are completely bogus and not based on any actual law. As for the copyright — well, while technically only federal government works are exempt from copyright, and state and local governments can get a copyright in some fashion, it’s generally not considered the appropriate role of government officials to be copyrighting official government works. Furthermore, in such cases, there would likely be a very strong presumption of fair use for a whole host of reasons.

Oh, but it gets worse. Not only are you not supposed to copy any of the text on Sheriff Blakely’s website, the terms of service on his website say he might put you in jail if you do:

The unauthorized use, copy, or reproduction of any content of this site inclusive, may be punishable by both fine and imprisonment.

Under what legal theory is that happening? As a sheriff, aren’t you supposed to, you know, actually know what the law is? Maybe work on that before slamming the good folks at EFF while distributing dangerous spyware that makes kids less safe. And find someone who’s built a website in the last decade.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: computercop, eff

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Sheriff Slams EFF As 'Not Credible,' Insists ComputerCOP Isn't Malware & Would Have Stopped Columbine”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Designerfx (profile) says:

"Things would be different with columbine"

“On the phone Wednesday he added “There are some parents out in Columbine Colorado, if they had this kind of software, things would have turned out differently.”

He’s absolutely right. People would be assuming that this actually does something, and the result would have zero effect on whether their kids were safe. So yeah, the difference would be perspective.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: "Things would be different with columbine"

i’ll just parasitize off of your post to remind kampers of this factoid: after columbine and the sheeple went apeshit (can sheep even do that?) at the behest of the propaganda masters stirring the pot to have us accept our handcuffs and barred rooms, there was ONE school district which did NOT follow lockstep and introduce metal detectors in their schools…
do you know which school system?

that’s right, THE VERY VICTIMS were smart enough to know that installing metal detectors and going full swat on the schools was NOT the right approach and only fed fuel to the fire… AFTER suffering that tragedy, they STILL had the balls to REFUSE to turn THEIR school into a prison, because they understood the ramifications of such extreme -and useless- actions…

good on you, columbinians, the only ones to show restraint and uncommon sense in the face of real horror…

Anonymous Coward says:

Sheriff Mike Blakely of Limestone County, Alabama

This isn’t surprising. The systemic, persistent mediocrity (if I can dignify it by using that overly optimistic term) of the Alabama education system is bound to turn out ignorant hillbillies like this on a regular basis.

Let me predict that at some point in the next month we’ll hear the same thing from Texas, the other southern bastion of ignorance and stupidity.

Anonymous Coward says:

All though this stumbling and bumbling about supporting this terrible software, I am yet to hear anything coming from it’s supporters about who reviews what lands on a 3ʳᵈ party server. The real question in my mind is who has access to this data coming in? It’s not encrypted so anyone can read it.

Given the mentality of a government that absolutely must spy on it’s own citizens and then turn around and claim everything is legal, I have to question if the sheriff, the San Diego District Attorney, or anyone else in law enforcement can also access that data?

Is the reason they are supporting it because otherwise they will look bad or is it this is a new method not to have to get a warrant to obtain info they shouldn’t have access to otherwise?

Either way makes them not only look terrible in the eyes of the public just before voting time but the other way makes it look like there is no respect for the law at all, even though both these supporters have a job on the public dime to do so.

Add to this ignorance of what spyware does and is and you have to back up and question are these the right people to hold the jobs they are presently in? No wonder we have so many people in jails from the general population.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I can answer your first paragraph — as it’s sent in the clear, it doesn’t really matter which server it lands on; every routing point it touches en-route also has full access to the data. So in answer to your question: the following people have access to the data:
The owners of the software and their employees
Anyone these people decide to share the data with
LEOs and other government employees, sometimes without a warrant
Anyone who breaks into the server
Anyone who gets a copy of the backups
Anyone who touches the data’s route, including people working at ISPs, people who have compromised the routers, etc.

Beyond that, this software is also an attack point for malware, so you can add “anyone who is infected by OTHER malware” to that list, even though this isn’t really an issue, as they can always install their own keylogger if this one’s not already in place.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: ultra-liberal?

I assume that he was using the political extremists codebook. If you’re a conservative extremist, anyone you don’t agree with is an “ultra-liberal”, and if you’re a liberal extremist, anyone you don’t agree with is an “ultra-conservative”.

When I see those terms used, I just mentally replace them with “asshole”, since that’s what’s really meant.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

lakely went with an ad hom the messenger approach, attacking EFF’s credibility, and calling them “liberals.”

Wait, I thought “liberals” were the interfering nanny types. Oh well, just another example showing “liberal” means “something I don’t like because reasons”.

“We have had the key logger checked out with our IT people. They have run it on our computer system.” He said. “There is no malware.”

Guess who else’s IT security types are teh suck.

Although I would argue that a keylogger in itself is not malware, but this package as designed and as it is intended to be deployed certainly is. If nothing else, it is very badly designed software that is unsafe at any speed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

EFF actually is ultra-liberal in the words real sense. Liberalism = freedom from interference particularly from governments and rigid societal structures, if you go back to Locke. One of the most liberal things you can get is the constitution since it supplies basic freedoms from legislation…

“Real conservatives” are against change in values and economy. If a change is needed it has to happen slowly or to preserve the existing.

Reactionaries are for change towards how things were in the “good old days”, both in terms of values and in terms of legislation.

Socialists are for change towards more equality in society.

Now, in a time of internationalism the words get twisted and turned to serve as a negative or positive thing, but in reality neither actually holds true if you go to the core ideological reasoning.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Pedophile and terrorist cards...

There’s something of a joke within the TOR crown that TOR is used by pedophiles and terrorists (“so which one are you?”).

Remember that the USENET alt.* heirarchy was named not after alternative but as an acronym for Anarchists, Lunatics, and Terrorists, the folks in most need of free speech, recognizing that if a place was free enough for them to talk, that the rest of us could do so.

Thanks to 9/11, and thanks to the 1990s pedo scare (really a media bonanza after the 70s Satanic Ritual Abuse panic), the joke has earned something of a too soon status, so you can’t endorse TOR or any other popular crypto the way alt.* was endorsed, but the idea is the same: If a tool is used by persecuted sexual fetishists and unpopular policitial ideological activists to discuss their trades, it’s probably safe enough to keep your companys ledgers safe from the prying eyes of rival companies… or from government agencies who would give your data to them.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Law abiding Sheriff

I am so glad that Sheriff Blakeley adheres to the the law when he bought the software (copyright you know) with taxpayers dollars yet is willing to put keyloggers on 5000 peoples er taxpayers computers. Does this not violate the CFAA, or some other law?

Sheriff Blakeley (I presume elected) has chosen to electively enforce laws. What other laws does he enforce, or elect not to?

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let's look at the source code...

It’s a comment on how ‘backward’ their IT skills are. If this was just another hillbilly militarised police force article, that would be one thing, but this article specifically is about the sheriff’s technical ineptitude and that of his ‘IT guys’. So yes, having a web page that looks nearly 20 years out of date doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence about his IT staff, nor on the sheriff’s technical ‘savvy’.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let's look at the source code...

“It comes across the wrong way, like “Hey, you’re ugly!” It might be ok in comments”

No, it says “these guys are trying to tell us how technology works, but their public face bears no relationship to modern technology”. Given that this is all the direct access most people would have with them outside of their direct jurisdiction, it’s not a good sign.

It would be like someone telling you how to use typography, or how you should be taking care of your front lawn. It wouldn’t be out or order to point out that their latest ad campaign was hideous or that their frontage looks like it was transported straight from the Amazon.

If that was the only argument, then fair enough. But, there’s plenty of other things to address at the same time – the website just gives us a quick view as to how serious about technology they really are.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let's look at the source code...

Actually, I think we should stop making fun of naive peoples’ websites. It comes across the wrong way, like “Hey, you’re ugly!” It might be ok in comments, but I feel a little uncomfortable reading that in the main article.

Considering part of the article was concerning the technical competence of his IT people, I think it was entirely appropriate and I stand by it.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let's look at the source code...

@ bent-
even though i am first in line to mercilessly mock my adversaries (and my allies, too, actually, hhh), i kind of agree with you here…
there is enough to not like about the situation that getting snarky about the web site design is kind of piling on…

on the other paw, i see the point of the situation, where THEY are claiming technological expertise, and then have crap web sites…

so, perhaps there is a moral reason to excoriate them for that, but i think to non-techies it could seem petty and/or besides the point (even if it isn’t)…
rhetorically: justified; tactically: perhaps offputting

just sayin’…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You all seem to have missed the best part

That’s the part that made ME laugh.

I bet this is done by most police departments who try this out, too. That’s got to be one treasure trove ComputerCOP’s sitting on. I wonder how many departments forget to remove the software after testing it?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

you don’t think the NSA is plucking ALL this crap out of the aether ? ? ?
besides, as you mention, MERELY the ‘private’ korporations who collect this shit, are -in some ways- MORE worrisome than gummint entities since they are not (THEORETICALLY) restrained in some of their usage and dissemination as (THEORETICALLY) gummint agencies would be…

Anonymous Coward says:

Sorry, but...

The bashing on the web site’s style, build, or organization detract from your point.

I do not see that a web site that “ looks like it was designed in 1997 and hasn’t been touched since” is a security issue, or a legal threats issue, or a Loudmouth Conservative Who Lashes Out issue. Really, I couldn’t give two shakes about whether the site uses CSS, or AJAX, or what. It could be written in COBOL for all I care.

It isn’t the website style that is important, it’s what you do with the website.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sorry, but...

It speaks to the technical ability of his office, himself included, to discredit the statements made from their “position of authority.”

Meanwhile, I’m sure that Sheriff Blakely’s “IT People” are trustworthy

Thats how that section is prefaced. To me, as a citizen, that website shows a lack of current technical skills. Since we’re talking about security, anything but current is anything but secure.

It doesn’t distract, it makes the point.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Sorry, but...

The website was designed using software that was discontinued prior to 2003. Anyone who understands even the basics of computer security knows that the older software is the more exploits and flaws have been discovered in the interim. Sure, new software can (and does) have security issues, sometimes more than old software, but in general any older link in an update chain (like Microsoft Office) is going to be weaker than a new link.

So if you’re releasing a product that has security implications, like one with a freaking keylogger built-in, it had better be up-to-date with the latest security protocols. The fact that the company either hasn’t updated or is still using tools from before 2003 does not bode well for the actual software they’re creating.

Web design is easy compared to software development, and they put zero effort into it. Let me ask you something…if you were to bring your valuables into a bank, and they didn’t have an ATM, they told you they couldn’t accept debit cards because they didn’t have any readers, they were using typewriters behind the counter, and they locked the front door with a chain, would you keep your money there? Or would you argue that the bank’s lack of modernization doesn’t detract from their security, it’s what they do with it that’s important?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Sorry, but...

“I do not see that a web site that ” looks like it was designed in 1997 and hasn’t been touched since” is a security issue”

It indicates a strong probability that there are major security issues. If the page hasn’t changed since ’97, that means that their IT department is not terribly interested in maintaining their stuff. Unmaintained stuff is a major security problem.

Anonymous Coward says:


Look, these cops are obviously way out of their league here.

Now, there’s 2 things they can do. Either get angry that they were misled (which is an admission they are gullible), or keep insisting that you are right and the rest of the world is wrong (which is an admission they are thick).

But neither is going to remedy that they look stupid!

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:


I wouldn’t normally comment on an article like this, but I clicked on the link and sweet living Jesus, that’s the most agonisingly-antiquated website I have ever fucking seen! A-ha ha ha! It’s like the Plan 9 From Outer-Space of online government services. Even my country’s Employment Service has better web design than this. 😀

Anonymous Coward says:

EFF should sue.

EFF should sue the crap out of this guy. IANAL, but those statments seam libelous as can be. Makes me f’ing cringe. I donate to EFF- even have them as a major benefactor in my will. How many ignorant fools out there are in positions of power who would think me a pedo & terrorist supporter?! F pedo’s and terrorists, and F this guy. EFF is one of the most truly American entities of I know of- it embodies the spirit of independent freedom, genuine civil rights, and functional democracy, not to mention common sense and decency; the sort of thing this country used to be all about.

mrhuh (profile) says:

Let's just cut to the core; Gov. monitored cameras in all house's

“Good Morning Jim, did you hear about Bob?”. Jim looks up from his cup of coffee; “No, what happened”? “Well, seems that Bob and his wife covered the Gov. hall camera last night and with the kids and all “Think of the Children, Praise the Children”, it took 15 minutes for the SWAT team to get to the house and break in the door, seems they didn’t see Bobby Jr. having a snack, he was shot 52 times when he looked at them.” “Once they blew through the bedroom door, they had a hard time dragging the bleeding wife out by her hair, she was resisting of course, so they had to beat her into not resisting” “Of course” Jim commented. “Bob is in the hospital, they think he should be out of his coma in a few days so they can charge him and he should probably be able to talk in a few months, with the broken jaw and all. His other 2 kids were put into immediate foster homes, “Praise the Children, It’s all about the Children”. They seized the house and everything they owned” “Of course, Of course” Jim said. “Well, thats the 4th incident this week, at this rate we won’t be able to keep up with the next batch.” The boys take old flags and copies of the constitution and make toilet paper paper out of it, might as well do physically what ‘s being done metaphorically.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...