How SOPA will destroy the country in 6 months
I figured I’d take a break from my usual KitchenPC related postings and talk about something near and dear to the tech community.
This evening, a friend and I were having a mostly civil discussion about the effects of SOPA and exactly what it would mean for privacy, free speech and the future of the Internet. It became clear to me that, while this proposed bill is for sure scary, there is absolutely no technical implementation that I can see which would have any affect on software piracy or copyright infringement. The only thing that this would do is push further components of the Internet’s architecture underground.
I’ve decided it would be fun to outline my hypothetical six-month timeline for the universe post-SOPA. It’s for sure hyperbole, but it also provided me with some amusement to contemplate. I’m far from an expert on Internet architecture, and even I was able to come up with reasonable workarounds for this proposed “DNS-blocking”. Imagine what real hackers could do, given enough time and snacks from Circle K.
Month 1: SOPA is passed, and domains can be blocked without court order
Within days, copyright owners complain about thousands of sites that contain links to or posts about copyrighted materials. Every day, YouTube is threatened to remove content or name resolution for youtube.com will point into a black hole. Larger sites have the legal resources to deal with this, but this causes a huge amount of overhead and their earnings suffer. Apparently, users don’t like it when every third Wednesday, YouTube becomes blocked for three hours. Thousands of tech jobs are lost as the casualties pile up. Smaller sites don’t stand a chance and go under immediately.
Month 2: Pirate sites decide DNS servers are lame anyway.
Pirates are keenly aware that only name resolution (which is done through any DNS server you care to configure your network interface to use) is inconvenienced by this law. They figure they’re already running their own pirate sites, why not just run their own pirate DNS servers? The more technically savy quickly configure their computers to use these DNS servers instead of the legitimate, law-respecting ones run by ISPs and schools.
These DNS servers respond like anything else, but also resolve special names such as “http://PiratesRUs/”. Who needs top level domains anyway? These DNS servers would of course completely ignore any request to block certain legitimate domains accused of piracy.
Month 3: Lobby groups pressure congress to outlaw these rogue DNS servers
After becoming irate that people can apparently still get to these pirate sites, copyright owners demand a more aggressive solution. Non-compliance with SOPA laws while running your own DNS server is a crime, and the government spends massive resources trying to track down offenders. The problem is, most of these pirate DNS servers – like spammers – are operated off shore.
Month 4: The government starts blocking IPs known to operate rogue DNS servers
Each and every time a rogue DNS server is shut down, three new ones pop up. The government even attempts to port scan over four-billion IP addresses (232) looking for “unregistered” DNS servers. Hackers decide that IPv4 is lame anyway.
Month 5: People start using IPv6 networks for name resolution
Since every major OS now supports IPv6, these networks start to become increasingly popular especially for name resolution. The government attempts to use the same tactics to enforce the law, however trying to police 2128 possible IP addresses becomes impossible. Every time an IPv6 address is blocked, it just changes to something else. New schemes involving IPv6 addresses that change every 30 seconds also become available, but are too much of a hassle for people to use. Peer-to-peer name resolution is also considered, but has its own problems.
The hacker community once again steps back and says, “Wait a second. There are enough IP addresses every living organizing on the planet, including bacteria.”
A new architecture for name resolution is devised. Users can now send a request for their own personal IP address by using a known public-key and a numeric code generated randomly by their own computer. That numeric code is used as a shared key to exchange the newly generated IPv6 address, ensuring no one could have possibly intercepted the communication. That user will then use their personalized IPv6 address to reach pirate DNS servers operating in countries all over the world. These IPv6 addresses are unknown to anyone but the holder. Even if your personal IPv6 address did leak, you could just get a new one in a few minutes.
Software is released on the black market with open-source implementations of name resolution layers that pretty much do all of this and more transparently. Name resolution itself is also done with the originally generated encrypted shared key, as certainly criminal name resolution will be considered terrorism and wire-tapped.
Month 6: The tech economy is in ruins, everyone hates the RIAA and piracy is still thriving.
Since every legitimate place to download legal content is in ruins, more and more people turn to piracy as it’s the only way to watch the latest episode of Glee. The American people are now so angry at the record industry and movie distribution studios for ruining the Internet, that no one ever again bothers to buy a CD or BluRay disc. Record labels and motion picture distributors begin to file for bankruptcy. The government has wasted considerable amounts of time and money trying to stamp out piracy, and every step of the way has been thwarted by minds more creative than their own. A new wave of politicians run on the promise of change, and bring net neutrality and free speech back to the Internet. Yay!
Oh, of course by that time everyone just pirates everything, all the tech giants have collapsed, the stock market has tanked and SOPA advocates no longer have the money to purchase their own congressmen to do their bidding. Oh well.