Yet more RIPA-based confusion, this time among the ISPs. A provision of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act comes into force in twenty days' time, requiring larger ISPs to have the ability to forward your data to the police -- or whoever has the appropriate warrant. Exactly what this means, how it's to be done and who foots the bill are all grey areas -- but nonetheless, any ISP serving more than 10,000 people must be able to do it within one working day of being asked, from the first of August. Now, there are plenty of sharp sticks here with which the cynical can prod the apparently incompetent Home Office, under whose auspices RIPA is being rolled out. What's to stop a criminal from using a smaller ISP? What if they use someone else's account? How are ISPs who don't obey the summons going to be taken to court, if it means publicising the details that the cops are so keen to keep secret? But for me, the best bit is that the ISPs will be required to deliver this data in real time to the person who holds the warrant. As it's unthinkable that every PC Plod in the land will have the appropriate equipment and software to receive such a stream, I imagine that all the warrant traffic will go through some central service, to which the ISPs will have to connect. Now, how attractive will that central service be to hackers? Every large ISP in the land will have to have the details of how to connect to it, and how to authorise their connections, and to get it all working within one working day: that means a lot of people to be trained and a lot of information to be spread, as you can't risk not being able to comply just because your pet anorak's on holiday. Do you know what the turnover is among ISP technical staff? How long will it be before the details of the warrant system are out there with the l33t? Now: imagine the fun if the details -- and data -- of every RIPA warrant connection were to be made public by some evil hacker d00d. Course, it won't happen. Not with our famously competent, efficient and IT savvy Home Office.
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