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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ooh-rah, U.S. Cyber Marshals!

On Thursday, I posed the question, "Some cyber privateers did their homework?" I referred to the story that a botnet responsible for half the spam we received last year had gone silent. I suggested three hypothesis:
  1. A white hat Cyber Privateer had done his homework;
  2. A government organization had properly papered up a get-out-of-jail-free card and had taken out the botnet; or
  3. Another criminal organization was holding the botnet hostage.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal answered the question, and it was sort of my door number two. Microsoft, working with federal authorities, swooped in and seized the command and control servers. Kudos to Microsoft's Digital Crime Unit. Yes, they could have gone further than merely cutting off the head of the command and control system—like maybe backtracking to the source and lobbing their own data bombs at the bad guys—but that would have placed them well outside current law. As it is, they had to do everything (hopefully) by the book.  

It's entirely possible that Microsoft had to violate (wink, wink) existing cybercrime law to identify the botherding servers. Since I don't have access to the legal filings used to paper up the court orders, this is just speculation. Nevertheless, I'm glad to see some positive motion. After all, the botnet itself is composed of an estimated 815,000 Microsoft computers that have been taken over by the criminals. Microsoft truly owed it to us all, not to mention their customers.

I am slightly more interested in pointing out that Microsoft was joined in the action by U.S. Marshals. I have speculated in my own fiction that indeed the U.S. Marshals would be the entity under which legalized cyber privateering would function (a few months ago I even reserved www.USCyberMarshals.com as the working title of a yet-unwritten sequel to my current novel). This makes sense, and I'm optimistic about this evolution.

Who's the next headline? How about EMC's RSA unit, which really got cyberwhacked? EMCs legal and tactical problems are much more complicated.

Stay tuned.

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?