By Leigh Beadon
Five Years Ago
This week in 2015, the world was reeling from the Paris attacks that killed 130 people. Unfortunately, many were also treating it as an opportunity: haters of encryption quickly started somehow blaming Edward Snowden, and defenders of the surveillance state began using the attacks to justify mass surveillance and push to expand it (which France had already done twice in the past year. Senators were moving to legislate backdoors to encryption and extend NSA programs, and Manhattan’s DA got in on the act with a white paper seeking an encryption ban… and then it turned out that the Paris attackers had coordinated via unencrypted text messages. The whole thing was a failure of the intelligence community that had long been fighting for surveillance despite little evidence that it works. But this didn’t stop anyone from treating encryption as a bogeyman, and by the end of the week France had rushed through an internet censorship law and Hillary Clinton had vocally joined the anti-encryption brigade.
Ten Years Ago
This week in 2010, in keeping with its strategy of pretending the government can save it, the entertainment industry was ramping up its astroturf campaigns and generally lying about stuff in order to supportthe COICA online censorship bill that was back up for another vote later in the week. As was expected, the lame duck Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to move forward with COICA, and Ron Wyden was one of the few senators speaking out vocally against the bill and saying he planned to block it. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown were seeking more information on the legality of certain provisions in ACTA (the latest text of which still had plenty of issues) only to be stonewalled by the USPTO, while many defenders continued to insist that ACTA didn’t need Senate approval anyway because it was somehow not a treaty.
Fifteen Years Ago
This week in 2005, things just kept getting worse for Sony in the wake of the rootkit fiasco. First, it turned out that the copy protection rootkit included copyright-infringing code. Then, security researchers discovered that the web-based uninstaller Sony was offering opened up a new and serious security hole on users’ machines that would let any other website easily hijack them. The rootkit was looking like it might be the most widespread malware of the month and finally, after dragging its feet for over a week, the company announced that it would pull all CDs with the rootkit from stores, and offer swaps to people who bought them, but it really felt like too little, too late. By the end of the week, Sony started offering unprotected MP3 downloads in exchange for the CDs in a final attempt to make good, which seemed like a fittingly ironic end for a misadventure that began with music DRM.