[ISN] American tech alliance's security plan attacked

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jun 20 2002 - 03:00:40 PDT

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    By John Markoff
    New York Times
    Wed, June 19, 2002
    A leading European computer security and privacy advocate is 
    challenging an effort by the American computer industry to create a 
    standard to protect software and digital content, calling the plan a 
    smoke screen by established companies to protect their existing 
    In a paper to be presented today at a technical conference in 
    Toulouse, France, today, Ross Anderson, a University of Cambridge 
    computer scientist, attacks the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance, 
    an organization formed in October 1999 by Compaq Computer, 
    Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Microsoft. The companies say their 
    intent is to provide a cryptographic system that would insure privacy 
    and protect intellectual property.
    The technology that the alliance has developed uses an encryption 
    scheme intended to positively identify computer hardware and operating 
    system software and determine that their configuration has not been 
    altered. The companies say it will help detect virus invasions and 
    provide security for commercial transactions such as online purchases 
    and banking.
    But Anderson argues that the potential exists for the technology to be 
    used in a more sinister fashion: to create a new form of censorship 
    based on the ability to track and identify electronic information.
    He compares the technology to a proposal by Intel in January 1999 to 
    insert a distinct serial number into each of its Pentium processors, 
    an effort that drew widespread consumer opposition after privacy 
    advocates warned that the technology could be used for surveillance 
    purposes. The plan was quickly withdrawn.
    Anderson also warns that widespread adoption of the standard from the 
    alliance, known as TCPA, could put large U.S. computer companies in a 
    position to thwart competition by controlling who gets to use the 
    standard and on what computer platforms.
    ``The TCPA appears likely to change the ecology of information goods 
    and services markets so as to favor incumbents, penalize challengers 
    and slow down the pace of innovation and entrepreneurship,'' he wrote.
    A Microsoft spokesman said the company had not been able to review the 
    paper and would not comment.
    Anderson is a Cambridge computer scientist who is also chairman of the 
    Foundation for Information Policy Research, a British Internet policy 
    research group.
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