Keep on bloggin’
As a local computer consultant, I am dismayed by the number of phone calls from family members, clients and total strangers (now clients) that I have received over the last couple of days concerning a perceived Internet security threat. No, the perceived threat is not the much ballyhooed Cornficker virus or some new international cyber attack, it is locally grown. Persons commenting anonymously on the Aspen Times web page feel that recent comments by mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks contain veiled threats to force The Aspen Times to remove the anonymity of the screen names.
In my 15 years at this profession, I have only had two other times when I have had clients seriously concerned about their anonymity; one was battling the Church of Scientology (the Church had previously seized one of my client’s computers), the other was a policeman battling international drug rings. In this case I believe that the concerns are more hype than reality.
First, though Ms. Marks has admitted that she approached The Aspen Times and “discussed what the procedure MIGHT BE, if I chose to pursue it, for obtaining legal authority, which they would clearly want and need to turn over any such data.” She further states that “There were no threats or implied threats” in her conversation with the Times, so hopefully she can be taken at her word.
Secondly, should Ms. Marks decide to demand the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of those posting comments, I am confident that The Aspen Times will not just roll over and give her their data logs without a court battle. If that occurs AND Ms. Marks prevails, the IP addresses will not be of much use to her unless she takes the follow-up step of suing the various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) (Comcast, Qwest, AOL, etc.) to find out the physical locations to which those IP addresses are mapped. If she pulls that off, then she could gain information providing the location (homes, apartment buildings or businesses) from which the comments originated. However, at the end of this long trail, there is still no information as to who was on the computer making the comments.
Of course there is also a third avenue, which is highly unlikely but not impossible, and that is the possibility of hacking The Aspen Times computer system to gain access to the IP addresses illegally. Then doing the same to the ISPs to find the physical locations of those IP addresses. I can’t see what good such ill-gotten information would bring, so this scenario is more computer fiction than reality, but not impossible.
So my advice to the critics, bloggers and commentators is GO FOR IT, but please follow The Aspen Times’ rules for good, clean online dialogue.
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