Mapping the real world to the Internet (Was Re: [Techtalk] 216 ssh login attempts, what to do?)

Devdas Bhagat devdas at
Thu Oct 14 03:03:59 EST 2004

On 13/10/04 14:08 -0700, Carla Schroder wrote:
> On Wednesday 13 October 2004 11:33 am, Devdas Bhagat wrote:
> > On 13/10/04 07:40 -0700, Raquel Rice wrote:
> > <snip>
> > > I agree with you on that!  We lock the doors of our homes and expect
> > > that is enough to keep people out, even though in reality it's not. 
> > > Yet, most people don't try.  Most of those who do are prosecuted. 
> > > Why isn't my computer considered the same?
> > 
> > A doorlock is a clear visible symbol that access is prohibited.
> > Computers do not give such visible signs. Imagine a country of the
> > blind, where the only way to find an open door is to actually try to
> > open it. In such a case, putting up a fence around the house is a good
> > way to keep unwanted people for knocking on your door (think firewall).
> Perhaps it is different in your hometown. In the US, the accepted social 
> contract is you don't mess with other people's stuff. It doesn't matter if 

Oh, its the same here. /me points to the big "Imagine" starting the

> there is a lock on it, or a sign that says "This belongs to Carla, don't 
> touch." It's not yours, so you have no right to it. If you take it, you're a 
> thief. If you damage it, you're a vandal. If you find a wallet in the street, 
> you're supposed to return it to the owner. Of course not everyone returns the 
> wallet, and there are always thieves and trespassers. But they are the 
> exceptions. Not like the Internet, where thievery and abuse are the rule.

No. The Internet is quite like the real world. If you wander into bad
parts of town, bad things happen to you.

> Returning to the armored bunker metaphor- you can put locks on your doors.
> Big deal, break a window. You can put bars on the windows. No problem,
> kick the door in. Or take your nice battery-powered reciprocating saw
> and cut a hole in the wall, or cut through the door lock. Or, wait till
> the owner is home, and sweet-talk or force your way in. What keeps us
> reasonably secure in our homes and possessions, without having to live
> in fortresses, is the unwritten agreement that doing such things is
> wrong, and if you do them, you are unambiguously in the wrong.

I do believe I made that point in the part you snipped.

> All the excuses that the l33t hax0rs makes- oh, they're just looking around, 
> they're not hurting anything, they're actually doing you a favor by finding 
> your security holes, etc blah blah are just excuses. It's not that big a 
> conceptual leap from "you don't trespass in my home" to "you don't trespass 
> in my computer."

What about looking in through an open window? What if your house is
directly on a street, and you have open windows with the curtains open
and the viewer is the person in the opposite house?

Analogies are dangerous. Arguing by analogy even more so. But most 
security terms are analogies from the real world ;).

> > 
> > The other big feature on the Internet is anonymity. In real life, I can
> > see who you are if you knock on my door.
> Yah, that's a big part of it.
> > The third point is that the Internet is truly global. The implications
> > of this are /not/ understood by most people. Your laws do not apply to
> > me, and mine do not apply to yours. Now consider a person breaking into
> > US based computers to relay spam to a user in the UK advertising sites 
> > hosted in China with the DNS in Brazil and the registrar in Europe through 
> > a compromised system based in Korea.
> > You need all these countries to cooperate to catch your favorite local
> > spammer.
> Law enforcement is equally useless against burglars and vandals. It's a low 
> priority, you're lucky if you even get a visit from a cop to take the report. 
> The risk of getting caught and punished is a small deterrent.

Hmm, seems like the cops here are slightly better in that regard.
> Being pissed off and outraged are appropriate feelings for the state of the 
> Internet. Truly the ability of humans to pervert and pollute is unparalleled. 

Oh yes.
Devdas Bhagat

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