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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Joke: Nescafe Account

The top marketing director of Nescafe manages to arrange a meeting with the Pope at the Vatican.

Nescafe official, 'Your Eminence, I have some business to discuss. We at Nescafe have an offer for you. Nescafe is prepared to donate $100 million to the church if you change the Lord's Prayer from 'Give us this day our daily bread' to 'Give us this day our daily coffee'."

The Pope looks outraged and thunders, "That is impossible. The Prayer is the word of the Lord, It must not be changed."

"Well," says the Nescafe man somewhat chastened, "We anticipated your reluctance. For this reason, and the importance of the Lord's prayer to all Catholics, we will increase our offer to $300 million. All we require is that you change the Lord's Prayer from 'Give us this day our daily bread' to 'Give us this day our daily coffee'."

Again, even more sternly, the Pope replies, "That, my son, is impossible. For the prayer is the word of the Lord and it must not be changed."

Finally, the Nescafe director says, "Your Holiness, we at Nescafe respect your adherence to your faith, we realise that tradition is essential to your beliefs, we fully understand the importance of the word of the Lord but we do have one final offer. Please discuss it with your cardinals. We will donate $500 million."

The next day the Pope convenes the College of Cardinals. "There is some Good news," he announces, "and some bad news .....

The good news is, he continues to a hushed assembly, ' that the Church will get $ 500 million."

"And what is the bad news, your Holiness?" asks a Cardinal.

"Sadly" says the Pope, "We would have to lose the Britannia Account

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News: Campaigners hit by decryption law

Hard drive, Eyewire
The police want to get at encrypted files
Animal rights activists are thought to be the first Britons to be asked to hand over to the police keys to data encrypted on their computers.

The request for the keys is being made under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Police analysing machines seized during raids on activists' homes carried out in May have asked for the keys.

The activists could face jail if they do not comply and snub a further formal request to hand over the keys.

Case law

In early November about 30 animal rights activists are understood to have received letters from the Crown Prosecution Service in Hampshire inviting them to provide passwords that will decrypt material held on seized computers.

The letter is the first stage of a process set out under RIPA which governs how the authorities handle requests to examine encrypted material.

Once a request has been issued the authorities can then issue what is known as a Section 49 notice demanding that a person turn the data into an "intelligible" form or, under Section 51 hand over keys.

Although much of RIPA came into force many years ago, the part governing the handing over of keys only passed in to law on 1 October 2007. This is why the CPS is only now asking for access to files on the seized machines.

Alongside a S49 notice, the authorities can also issue a Section 54 notice that prevents a person revealing that they are subject to this part of RIPA.

Policeman in hi-vis jacket, BBC
The PCs were seized in raids carried out in May 2007
The BBC news website talked to one animal rights activist who had their computer seized in May and has received a letter from the CPS.

The activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that even if others disagreed with animal rights activists the use of the law had grave implications for personal privacy.

"Even if they hate our guts my personal view is that this is a matter where there's great issues of public interest that should be being talked about," they said.

The CPS declined to comment on the issuing of the letters and a spokesman said it could not comment on ongoing cases.

If those receiving the letters do not comply with the request or a formal S49 notice they can be imprisoned for up to two years.

Legal row

The section of RIPA that deals with decryption requests was controversial when it was drawn up and debated. Peers, academics and cryptographers called the proposals "flawed" when invited to comment on them by the Home Office.

Commentators pointed out that sSection III, which is aimed at serious criminals, such as paedophiles and terrorists, is flawed because those involved would much rather serve a few years for refusing to hand over keys than provide them and potentially incriminate themselves.

Others were simply likely to say that they had forgotten the complicated passphrase they used when encrypting material. Under certain circumstances RIPA allows this to be a plausible defence.

It is very likely, said David Harris, a barrister and technology lawyer, that activists will devise systems that legally circumvented the law.

Mr Harris foresees a time when activist groups prepared encrypted files that people could download to let them plausibly deny they have a key to unlock such data if it is found on their PC.

"These may become prevalent as a result of this case," he said.

Mr Harris said many people know of products readily available on the web, such as Truecrypt, that hid data and supplied a key to some of it while leaving the rest undetectable to the police.

In the event that there was doubt that a suspect did not possess a key, he said, it was up to the prosecution to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that they could know the passphrase.

"They have quite a hurdle to overcome," he added

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News: Net gridlock by 2010 study warns

Man yawning (BBC)
A future net meltdown could bring the return of waiting for downloads
Consumer demand for bandwidth could see the internet running out of capacity as early as 2010, a new study warns.

US analyst firm Nemertes Research predicted a drastic slowdown as the network struggles to cope with the amount of data being carried on it.

Such gridlock would drastically affect how people use the web and could mean the next Google or YouTube simply doesn't get off the ground, it said.

The report said billions needed to be spent upgrading broadband networks.

It put the figure at around $137bn (£66bn) globally.

For users, the slowdown could see a return to the bad old days of dial-up, the report predicts.

Stifling innovation

"It may take more than one attempt to confirm an online purchase or it may take longer to download the latest video from YouTube," the report cited.

But it is the knock-on effect for new services that could be the real problem, report authors think.

"The next Amazon, Google or YouTube might not arise, not from a lack of user demand but because of insufficient infrastructure preventing applications and companies emerging," the report warned.

The demand for bandwidth-intensive applications shows no sign of abating.

Nearly 75% of US internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of online video and viewed more than 8.3bn video streams during May, according to research by measurement firm comScore.

The financial invested required to "bridge the gap" between demand and capacity would range from $42bn (£20bn) to $55bn (£27bn) in the US, Nemertes estimates.

The report is part-funded by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) which campaigns for universal broadband in the US.

"We must take the necessary steps to build out network capacity or potentially face internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on internet services," said Larry Irving, co-chairman of the IIA.

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