Dutch Propose Powers For Police To Break Into Computers, Install Spyware And Destroy Data -- Anywhere In The World

from the mutually-assured-destruction dept

Techdirt readers with long memories may recall a fantasy proposal from Orrin Hatch that would have seen technological means deployed to destroy the computers of those who downloaded unauthorized copies of files. Of course, the idea was so ridiculous it went nowhere. Now, nine years later, a similar idea has turned up, but with a rather better chance of being implemented, since it comes from a national government:

On 15 October, the Dutch ministry of Justice and Security proposed powers for the police to break into computers, install spyware, search computers and destroy data. These powers would extend to computers located outside the Netherlands.
The plan of allowing the police to break into domestic computers and install spyware is bad enough, as the German experience shows. There, it turned out that the malware employed had such serious flaws that anyone could take control of a machine infected with it. But the idea of giving Dutch investigators permission to break into computers anywhere in the world is even worse. The article from the digital rights group Bits of Freedom, quoted above, explains why:
If the Dutch government gets the power to break into foreign computers, this gives other governments the basis to break into Dutch computers which infringe the laws of their country. The end result could be less security for all computer users, instead of more. This is even more true with regard to the power to destroy data on foreign computers; it is likely that other governments would be very interested in using such a power against Dutch interests.
Even totally law-abiding users might be caught up in this digital war:
Furthermore, providing the government the power to break into computers provides a perverse incentive to keep information security weak. Millions of computers could remain badly secured because the government does not have an incentive to publish vulnerabilities quickly because it needs to exploit these vulnerabilities for enforcement purposes.
It's not really down to governments to publish details of flaws, but it's possible they might be less inclined to encourage the public to patch them, if they want to use the vulnerabilities themselves. This would doubtless lead to criminals taking advantage of widespread holes in security, with personal data being stolen, and financial systems compromised.

All-in-all, the Dutch proposal has to be one of the most foolish ever presented by a government in this area, and shows the folly of trying to come up with quick fixes for the currently-fashionable issue of "cybercrime", instead of really thinking through the consequences. Let's hope calmer heads prevail, and the proposal is withdrawn.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 9:43am

    And I just commented about BREIN and its moron Tim Kuik. Yeah, seems he has relatives in the government.

    I hope they realized it's a strategy that works two-way, right?

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 10:34am

    This may just be the biggest brain fart idea I have read about on the Internet, and that is a big claim.

    It is such a breach of privacy and data protection that I cannot see the EU courts ever approving (at least I hope they have the sense).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    Sweet they're gonna give hackers the biggest bot net that has ever been seen.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 10:38am

    I say they don't go far enough! Deleted files can always be redownloaded. Make a virus that just sets fire to the offending PC. I mean they already have the right to cease it if they catch you infringing, so there's no problem, right?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    They have been studying the USA, where they think their laws apply everywhere in the world.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 10:54am

    Fighting cybercrime, with cyberterroism. How innovative.

     

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    Machin Shin (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    Why is it any time "on a computer" is put in front of something all of the sudden those in governments seem to loose their heads?

    Can you imagine a government even considering a law that would allow their police to break into peoples homes and destroy things? Even worse, telling their police they can go to another country and do the same?

    Yet for some reason "on a computer" it is magically ok.

     

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      Robert (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:05am

      Re:

      If some police forces and politicians had their way, they WOULD just break into people's homes and destroy things, purely on suspicion.

      Look at Egypt, they break in to homes, grab people, torture them in hopes of acquiring information. Most will be useless information, but some will provide what they are after. That's the justification according to an Egyptian friend who came over in his teens.

      If the US could pull that off on US soil, they would.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 4:36pm

        Re: Re:

        If? I'm pretty sure there have already been a few instances of police (with riot gear, without warrants) busting into peoples' houses and shooting the occasional pet dog, then going, "Oh, there isn't any marijuana here?" and leaving.

         

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    trish, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    only solution I see

    Invade Holland

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:05am

      Re: only solution I see

      I strongly AGREE. The Dutch are alot more terrifying than al qaeda.

       

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        RonKaminsky (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:39am

        Re: Re: only solution I see

        > The Dutch are alot more terrifying than al qaeda.

        Yeah, they actually won their war on drugs, by understanding it isn't a war!

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2012 @ 4:14pm

        Re: Re: only solution I see

        They should be. The difference is that the Dutch actually exist.

         

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      dutchgirl, Oct 22nd, 2012 @ 7:53am

      Re: only solution I see

      yes, please, and don't wait too long. Also, keep in mind that I live in the middle of the Netherlands, can you please make sure my house won't crumble down. As Holland is the size of a stamp, you can't miss it, but I hope you will :)

       

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    Psyga Sanichigo (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:19am

    ARE THEY FUCKING MENTAL?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Act of war?

    Wait... Didn't I read somewhere that the USA would consider foreigners invading computers in the USA an act of war?

     

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    Kagzaz, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    This is stupid all its going to do is make government hackers bigger targets and easier to break into

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:26am

    Perhaps they can start with AC#4's computer...

    Since we all know the claims of the bots for DMCA are dead on and always accurate they should just go ahead and set those up for the determining factor of infringement.

    What could go wrong? /s

     

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    c3l3st0 (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:33am

    I am glad the dutch are members in the EU. The EU won´t allow that. The EU is not the US...EU has some brains holding important positions...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:49am

      Re:

      Is the sark mark missing?

       

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      hmm (profile), Oct 19th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

      Re:

      The Dutch goverment has admitted it's drafting legislation to drop out of the EU, because they see the Euro could bring their economy to ruin and bankruptcy like Greece, the UK, portugal, etc.

      Part of this process is to make the EU "the enemy"...draft laws, have the EU system swat them down and fan the dutch flames of hatred so leaving the EU becomes more palatable.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:53am

    "If the Dutch government gets the power to break into foreign computers, this gives other governments the basis to break into Dutch computers which infringe the laws of their country."

    GOOD JOKE

    Foreign people already have zero protection under USA law, those Amendments that they enjoy there? Yeah, if you're not a USA citizen you have no rights at all, their government could kill you without a problem.

    Kinda hypocritical don't you think...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 1:39pm

      Re:

      "Foreign people already have zero protection under USA law, those Amendments that they enjoy there? Yeah, if you're not a USA citizen you have no rights at all, their government could kill you without a problem."

      Americans already have zero protection under foreign law, those right that they enjoy there? Yeah, if you're not a foreign citizen you have no rights at all, their government could kill you without a problem.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 3:18pm

      Re:

      Foreign people already have zero protection under USA law


      Not true as a blanket statement. The Constitution limits governmental power largely without regard to the nationality of the people at whom the power is directed.

       

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    StrongStyleFiction, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 12:36pm

    Do other governments have a say in rather or not the Dutch can install spyware and delete data on their computers? Maybe that Cyberwar is coming after all.

     

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    John85851 (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

    Why is it that people accept this idea when it comes from a "civilized" country (including the Dutch government and the US), yet if this request came from Iran, Afghanistan, or any "radical" country, this idea would be shot down as a barbaric, government over-reach?

    But let's let the Dutch set the precedent so Iran can do the same thing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 12:53pm

    if anyone thinks it's only the Dutch, try looking not just nearer to home, but at every country. all governments are doing the same thing. all because none of them can bear the thought of the people being able to do things, to talk to each other, to exchange stuff without having to go through a million government hoops and departments first!

     

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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 1:44pm

    Competition

    All-in-all, the Dutch proposal has to be one of the most foolish ever presented by a government in this area
    Oh, I dunno... I rather liked the time the US government wanted to put a big backdoor in all networking equipment to allow the government to "check security"...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 3:06pm

    Why hasn't someone taken out that freaking worthless country by now?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    if approx. 200 countries can legally hack your computer....

    then who's held responsible for any content on the computer?

     

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      Anomalous Coward, Oct 19th, 2012 @ 6:42am

      Re: if approx. 200 countries can legally hack your computer....

      It's called "plausible deniability".
      Let the law be passed. ;-)

       

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    zato, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    This law, if passed, would be a declaration of war by Holland on the computing world.

     

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      gorehound (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 4:58pm

      Re:

      Just what I am thinking so make my day PUNK ! We will take your Government down and we will see it stays down.
      You do not want to declare War on the Internet foolish Politicians.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 4:50pm

    So, what the best solution to this problem? Switch to an open-source OS and run anything you needed your old OS for in a virtual machine?
    (Of course the answer should be "tell the idiots responsible for this impending mess how stupid their idea is", but they're almost certainly too dumb to ever admit they might be wrong.)

     

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    Bergman (profile), Oct 18th, 2012 @ 9:00pm

    If a government is reliant on a security hole to enforce the law, wouldn't patching that hole mean you are guilty of obstruction of justice?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2012 @ 11:43pm

    The problem with publishing security flaws...

    It's not really down to governments to publish details of flaws


    Not directly, no. But really, how much fantasy does anyone need to get from this harebrained scheme to the point where they try to block security researchers/security industry with some kind of gag orders and similar from publishing/closing holes they still want to use? Insanity in politics has this slight tendency to spread like wildfire once it's got a foot in the door concerning a specific topic.

     

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 19th, 2012 @ 2:37am

    Yesterday on the radio I heard this statement from some 'expert':
    "Well the criminals are already on your computer, can't hurt if you add the police in there as well."

    I wish more people realized that 1984 and A Brave New World were both fictional novels and not handbooks to the future.

     

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    Random Person, Oct 19th, 2012 @ 5:40am

    There outta be a law...

    against this kind of insanity. They're out of their fricken minds... -_- It's one thing to try to stop infringement, but it's a whole other animal to go and do something as extreme as this. They've not only only jumped the hypothetical shark, but they've jumped a whole boat load of them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    Strong Locks Fallacy

    This idiotic proposal is actually an example of the "strong locks fallacy" in action. The fallacy holds that only the government should have access to strong locks and everybody else should be forced to have weak locks, just in case law enforcement wants to break in. In this case, "strong locks" means strong computer security.

    In the physical world, the fallacy is (mostly) recognized. In cyberspace, not so much, especially by stupid pollies.

     

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    Anon, Oct 25th, 2012 @ 4:22pm

    How presumptuous!

    It is like flying a drone into another sovereign country and using it to blow up a car with a terrorist in it.

    What country would ever think they have the right to do that?

     

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    Robert (profile), Jan 20th, 2013 @ 12:10pm

    communistic

    This goes beyond a breach in computer security, this would lay the framework for countries to successfully implement massive and excessive power for governments. Too much power for governments rarely turns out well.

     

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