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UK Cops Want "Breathalyzers" For PCs

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the audacity-of-power dept.

Privacy 545

An anonymous reader writes "One of the UK's top cyber cops, detective superintendent Charlie McMurdie, says the top brass want to develop the equivalent of a breathalyzer for computers, a simple tool that could be plugged into a machine during a raid and retrieve evidence of illegal activity. McMurdie said the device was needed because of a record number of PCs were being seized by police and because the majority of cops don't have the skills to forensically analyse a computer."

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So they want GOV spyware? (3, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079751)

So they want GOV spyware? They will still need people to look at the data.

Re:So they want GOV spyware? (3, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079785)

Good job managing to misread the summary.

Right (5, Insightful)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079753)

That's pretty much like building a mind-reader to figure out if a person has ever committed a crime. Good luck with that.

Re:Right (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079819)

Well, it's easy enough to build up a database of SHA1 hashes for kiddie porn and such. But what they describe is simply ludicrous:

McMurdie said such a tool could run on suspects' machines, identify illegal activity - such as credit card fraud or selling stolen goods online - and retrieve relevant evidence.

Hey asshole, aren't search warrants supposed to explicitly specify what you're looking for? You seized the computer, it should've been for a specific reason, not to conduct a fishing expedition.

Re:Right (4, Interesting)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079913)

Well put.

But the governments of this world routinely ignore law (obtain warrant naming specific evidence desired) and instead do exactly what you described - go on a fishing expedition. "Well we came here to get marijuana, but instead we discovered porn on your PC, so you go to jail buddy."

They do this same ____ in the U.S. with random searches of cars. They are supposed to be looking for illegal immigrants, but instead they bring in the dogs and have them sniff for marijuana/cocaine. Then they arrest you.

This shouldn't be allowed.

Re:Right (4, Interesting)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080103)

Doesn't this kinda depend? Just because you found something else while looking for your actual thought doesn't mean you have to IGNORE it. If you came looking for credit card fraud and found, say, illegal hacking activity, should they just ignore it? If you go into a house looking for marijuana and you find people being tortured, do you have to go back to the station, get a warrant for looking into that, and then come back?

Now, if they pull you over for "presumably" running a stop sign and sniff your car, that's different. On the other hand, since illegal immigrants and drugs seem to go together, since drug trafficking and immigrant trafficking is a similar thing (smuggling), I don't actually see a problem is searching for both at the same time.

I'm not saying they should be allowed to just randomly show up and search your house without giving a reason, by the way.

It's a fine line between hampering catching criminals by giving "too many rights" and stepping over the bounds of innocent until proven guilty...

"Reasonable suspicion" (5, Informative)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080447)

"Reasonable suspicion" is the key phrase here.

If the cop stops you for running a red light and sees something suspicious then he can go further.

But stopping you for one thing does NOT give them the authority to check for everything they can think.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_suspicion [wikipedia.org]

Re:Right (-1, Troll)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080215)

Except we want cops to catch people with illegal drugs etc.. Why restrain the cops from doing what we all need them to do? Whether its illegal aliens or a bundle of dope I prefer that 100% be detected and punished.

Re:Right (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080371)

Speak for yourself.

Re:Right (5, Insightful)

JLennox (942693) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080411)

As an employer, I use to run background checks on people. One man in his early 50s had a "drug possession" charge from decades before. He got busted with a joint. As much as I agree with keeping a lot of drugs off the streets, it's hard to agree when the legal punishment for some drugs is far more damaging than the drug it self.

Re:Right (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080467)

Except we want cops to catch people with illegal drugs etc.. Why restrain the cops from doing what we all need them to do? Whether its illegal aliens or a bundle of dope I prefer that 100% be detected and punished.

They cannot even keep illegal drugs out of prison (don't take my word for it -- do the research yourself). How do you propose that we do this in a relatively free society? The way it has worked is that some amount of crime is tolerated in exchange for having a free society with things like legally recognized civil rights. With drugs and lately with terrorism the (dangerous) mentality has been that we need to stop $EVIL_THING no matter how high the cost is to the rest of society. This is tunnel vision at best, a step towards a totalitarian government at worst.

But I am curious. Once you see for yourself with your own research that they cannot even keep drugs out of prisons, I would like to know this: what environment even more restrictive than prison would you propose for the entire population in order to better meet your 100% detection/punishment rate? I'd also like to know whom you would entrust with the management of this environment.

Re:Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080353)

This Anonymous Judge (we aren't all technophobes, and some of us even have game consoles) doesn't hear many warrant applications that smell strongly of fish, and routinely refuses to grant those which do.

Re:Right (2, Funny)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079935)

Hey asshole, aren't search warrants supposed to explicitly specify what you're looking for? You seized the computer, it should've been for a specific reason, not to conduct a fishing expedition.

Duh! They're looking for Illegal Activity, which is the specific reason they seized the computer!

Re:Right (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080333)

The point is that rights like this exist to protect people who haven't done something wrong from police (the state) who can abuse their position to harass, unreasonably punish, and generally pervert their positions for personal and political gain.

We didn't find kiddie porn, but this Anarchist Cookbook is suspect. Also, you DO seem to be the source that gave the reporter evidence against candidate X. We said we were looking for kiddie porn, but we'll mention this in our report anyway. Etc.

Re:Right (3, Interesting)

thesqlizer (919307) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079961)

I don't recall where (or if) the US Supreme Court handed down a decision on the concept of "Are computer files more like what's in your brain or in a file cabinet."

IMHO, searching a computer is akin to searching someone during questioning.

Questioning someone who has been Mirandized: fine.
Going through their belongings with a search warrant to find something specific: fine.
Going through a computer willy-nilly on a fishing expedition: not fine.

Re:Right (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080403)

IMHO, searching a computer is akin to searching someone during questioning.

If you're hinting that personal computer files may be protected by the fifth amendment, I think you're dead wrong. Even personal diaries can be subpoenaed. Personal computer files are no more protected than the contents of a file cabinet. I'd be interested to hear your reasoning behind your opinion.

Going through a computer willy-nilly on a fishing expedition: not fine.

I agree. Much as a traditional warrant for a home has a limited scope, so should computer warrants. If you're looking for fraudulent banking activity, you shouldn't be able to search out other, illegal, materials. But, some equivalent to "plain sight" has to hold. If you have a folder on your desktop named "KiddiePorn", and the cops are looking for stolen CC data, well... tough luck.

I think the idea of an automated computer program, tasked only to find appropriate data spelled out in the warrant, would be a boon to law enforcement. Computer crimes don't just take place in large cities with well funded computer forensics labs, but also in Podunkville, USA. It is simply unrealistic to require every small-town police department to keep up with the latest in computer forensics. Possessing a simple "crime detector" would allow the police to forward the computer to a real forensics lab if evidence exists. It would also save falsely accused computer owners from having to wait months or years to get their computers back.

Re:Right (5, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080131)

Actually, that's not the problem they're trying to solve. I don't know about in the UK, but in the US, any kind of searching (including hash comparisons and automated tools like this) require a search warrant that covers the computer.

What they're really interested in is not conducting fishing expeditions, but trying to find some useful information -- even just narrowing down which machine they actually need to fully analyze -- within the machines covered by a search warrant. Generally the procedure is to box these things up, hand them over to computer forensic experts, and wait 6-12 months for them to perform a full analysis. Cutting down the amount of work they have to do by giving them only the one computer out of ten that is actually interesting, or being able to pull some small amount of useful information to use in the investigation immediately, is of great value.

This is at least a big concern in the US -- computer forensic investigations are slow and costly, and there's a huge backlog.

Not that I think they'll be able to make software that magically tells them if a computer was involved in illegal activity -- but the majority of computer criminals are dumb as bricks and could probably be caught by doing a full-disk grep for files containing more than a couple of strings that look like credit card numbers.

Re:Right (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080231)

Not that I think they'll be able to make software that magically tells them if a computer was involved in illegal activity -- but the majority of computer criminals are dumb as bricks and could probably be caught by doing a full-disk grep for files containing more than a couple of strings that look like credit card numbers.

No. Bricks are smarter. I'm pretty sure bricks have heard of encryption.

Re:Right (1)

Luke-Jr (574047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080335)

If you think warrants are needed in the US, you are dead wrong. Perhaps in theory, but if they come with no basis and insist on searching you, how are you going to stop them? Going to take it up in court after the fact, even though they threaten to simply perjure? Since they're law enforcement, their statements are more "credible" up against yours.

Re:Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080337)

Hey asshole, aren't search warrants supposed to explicitly specify what you're looking for? You seized the computer, it should've been for a specific reason, not to conduct a fishing expedition.

Not always. Sometimes you have a warrant for someone's arrest at their home, so you go to their home and arrest them. As part of the arrest, police are often allowed to go through their belongings looking for evidence.

Or, the police have a warrant to go through a house looking for evidence of a crime, but they are entitled to go though the entire house looking for the evidence.

Re:Right (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080457)

Well, it's easy enough to build up a database of SHA1 hashes for kiddie porn and such.

Keep in mind, anything that matches a crypto hash, at least in the U.S., means the media depicts an actual child who was found to be sexually assaulted/violated. It's not just someone who may or may not look underage; it's someone who was proven in some court to be underage.

Makes you wonder ... as SHA-1 collision attacks become more prevalent (it's a guarantee they will), how will law enforcement ensure accurate results? Will they compare SHA-1 hashes plus file sizes in bytes, to account for files that have been "padded"? Will they just inspect content (what does it say about somebody who wants that job)? Will they switch over to whatever NIST picks from their hash function competition? In which case, how do they recompute hashes? Do they wipe their database clean and start over, or compare against 2 sets of hash functions (the old SHA-1 and the new [insert whatever here])? Or, are they stashing full copies of the media where they could just re-compute the new hashes? And if they are, why in the world are they hanging on to it? Is that Constitutional? What about pervert insiders who leak it back out, thus creating more "child porn traffic"? What about power tripping cops who sneak copies of it and plant it on people's computers?

And a better question ... How long will it take the _actual_ child porn traffickers to figure out that flipping a single bit defeats a crypto hash? And what happens if that becomes an epidemic? Would a bit twiddling epidemic result in law enforcement's supposed right to maintain copies of known child porn? How does that affect the victims' rights to privacy? Or will law enforcement do something else entirely?

All questions, no answers.

Re:Right (3, Insightful)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079865)

That's pretty much like building a mind-reader to figure out if a person has ever committed a crime. Good luck with that.

Or like exploiting three people capable of seeing into the future [imdb.com] in order to generate police reports and make arrests.

As we learned, nothing can possibly go wrong!

Re:Right (1)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080157)

Those are easy. Just,

return true;

DWG (1)

XTrollX (1398725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079759)

Drinking while gaming.

Re:DWG (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080089)

DWG? No, I think more like DRM -- completely unfeasable and unworkable. It sounds like an idea from someone who knows absolutely nothing about computers.

They should never have called geeks "computer wizards", because non-geeks think computers are some kind of magic.

But... (4, Funny)

Jonah Bomber (535788) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079769)

Won't that only work with alcohol cooled systems?

Re:But... (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079849)

Oh my god. I honestly read this as: "alcohol coded systems. Then I was all like, nawwww...

=Smidge=

Re:But... (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079903)

Won't that only work with alcohol cooled systems?

Yeah, but unless the alcohol cooled computer is driving a car, I don't see how that's illegal.

But seriously, people, don't let your PC drive under the influence. Yeah, yeah, it says that it's "overclocked' and much more efficient than when it's just running on water, but then it'll kill a little old C64 crossing the street and wind up in "Pound Me In the USB Port" Prison.

I have four words for them... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079771)

This should be entertaining.

crutch (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079789)

This strikes me as a bad idea, not because it will not be extremely useful if they manage to implement it correctly but because there are always ways around any detection device. Once word gets out that the London police use this, they will end up having more crime, not less. There needs to be training for personnel involved in such raids--at least one per team (or however it works). This might be expensive, but it will yield better results in the long run--and you'd have someone with a conscience running the show rather than an arbitrary piece of hackable code.

This is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079811)

Surely RFC 3514 will make identifying the 'evil' computers very easy...

Good luck with that (4, Insightful)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079813)

Steganography, encryption, log erasing, etc. There is no 'out of the box' solution. Every computer is going to require a computer forensics team to go over it unless the OS manufacturer builds in those tools. And you can guarantee that NO manufacturer wants people to know that anyone can just open up your system via a backdoor at anytime.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080017)

Not to mention running programs from a flash drive so they never touch the hard drive at all.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080169)

There is only so much you can do via a program forensically. And again, it's a case by case by 'computer case' basis. An unexperienced person can't just plug in a flash drive with some programs on them, let them run and get an 'all clean' and expect that to be good or get a false positive from a crappy automated script and expect to haul someone in.

Can you imagine how many people could get hauled in for false positives due to some badly written automated script rather than an intelligent user checking the system? How do you check for child porn, how do you check for drug activity? etc etc. Even if you choose to do very basic things like scan email, which email client are they using; Gmail, Outlook, Evolution, Pine??? Or would you be hacking their SMTP server?

It is all very subjective and differs from system to system, from crime to crime and from user proficiency level to user proficiency level.

Re:Good luck with that (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080095)

Heh....and I bet it won't work under linux....NOTHING works under linux....


*Disclaimer: Most everything on my linux box works.

Re:Good luck with that (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080477)

Heh....and I bet it won't work under linux....NOTHING works under linux.... *Disclaimer: Most everything on my linux box works.

Ah but that's the beauty of it! If the program doesn't work, then it's obstruction of justice. Muahahaha!

Don't quit your day job, detective superintendent (5, Insightful)

konigstein (966024) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079817)

Because it's painfully clear your don't understand computer forensics either.

Re:Don't quit your day job, detective superintende (3, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080423)

Her day job is architect of the UK's Police Central E-crime Unit, so it might be a bit late for that.

Having said that, I get the distinct impression from RTFA that this is pie-in-the-sky "this is the sort of tool we'd like in an ideal world, not that it's even remotely practical" rather than something that's in active development:

said frontline police ideally need a digital forensic tool as easy to use as the breathalyser, to help them deal with growing numbers of computers being seized during raids on suspects' homes

Yep, and I bet they'd like a machine which they can just turn on, punch in details of an unsolved crime and bingo! it tells you the perpetrators name, address, telephone number, the car they drive, their plans for the next 48 hours and where sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction can be found. It's fairly obvious from the article that whatever qualification this woman has, none of them involve technology.

Outlaw encryption (3, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079821)

The next inevitable step for the UK gov't will be to outlaw using encryption on personal computers, because it's "too hard" to break.

This isn't a slippery slope for the UK anymore, it's a landslide, rushing down the mountain, annihilating everything in its way.

Sad.

Re:Outlaw encryption (5, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079875)

Too late - in Britain, it is a crime to refuse to turn-over your encryption key to the police when requested (no 5th amendment rights).

Re:Outlaw encryption (5, Interesting)

orzetto (545509) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079983)

What happens if you "forget" the key? Like this: "Your honour, I once experimented with encryption, but could not understand how it worked. The files must be leftovers of that installation. I never used them and they must be empty." How can they prove you are lying, short of breaking the encryption and finding the evidence?

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080065)

Then it's a crime, and they can put you in jail.

There's a reason people hate that law.

Re:Outlaw encryption (2, Informative)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080283)

That's when the "rubber-hose" encryption-breaking procedures start.

(England prevails.)

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080357)

You're missing the point. It doesn't matter if you're lying. The point is that you're not turning over the keys, and not turning over the keys when requested is against the law.

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080007)

It's never too late for a revolution to get those rights...

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

Still an AC (1390693) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080009)

This is exactly why you use something like TrueCrypt which will allow you to have two encrypted volumes in the same file. You give them the key to the volume that has your tax returns or something else you'd likely encrypt but isn't illegal.

Re:Outlaw encryption (3, Insightful)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080329)

That scheme falls apart when the investigators know what TrueCrypt does.

"Give me your password. No, the one for the hidden volume."

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

Strep (956749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080351)

Or just use steganography to hide all your "illegal" documents within your vacation pictures?

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080397)

You give them the key to the ..
  In the U.S.A. you don't have to give your keys. The 4th amendment is a wonderful thing.

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

glacote02 (729278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080199)

Plausibly deniable encryption tools are common place these days. E.g. Truecrypt, dm-crypt, etc.

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080201)

Too late - in Britain, it is a crime to refuse to turn-over your encryption key to the police when requested (no 5th amendment rights).

Has anyone challenged that law at the European Court of Human Rights? The same court that found that using statements made to the DTI under duress (threat of prosecution for not talking) at their trials breached the rights of the Guinness defendents?

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

fluch (126140) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080315)

Can one get busted for a non-existing encryption key? I have part of my encryptionkey on paper and if I ever have suspcicion that I would be forced to reveal it I'll burn or lose it. Then there exist nowhere in the universe a copy of the key (not even in my mind) and I won't be able to give the key even if asked...

Re:Outlaw encryption (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080463)

Assuming you are in the UK, then yes, you would go to jail for doing that. Even forgetting the key is illegal, so deliberately destroying it would probably get you an increased sentence.

Whew! (1, Flamebait)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079825)

and here I thought they wanted to outlaw drinking and gaming! Might make my ET and WOW teams a bit more happy I suppose...

Well then? (1)

hobotron (891379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079829)


How the hell will I post to /. drunk?

Porn-Finder 5000 (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079833)

So basically they want a kiddie porn detector? Because that's the only think I can think that could be on someones computer that would allow a cop to 'bring them in' on the spot. Brings a whole new definition to 'man in the middle attack'.

Yeah, right... (4, Insightful)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079845)

Combine this with a remote access software, and you don't even need to enter a person's home to scan their PC for files anymore. Forget all this pesky due process for warrants and investigation, we can now scan tens of thousands of computers every day and just fish idly for perps. All done without even needing to look at your screen while the software does the dirty work for you.

Re:Yeah, right... (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080385)

But since all of our political leaders and the people who work for them are right, good and upstanding people, and since you, good citizen, have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, this shouldn't be a problem, right?

UK up in arms. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079853)

1) Hide a remotely detonatable explosive device in your computer
2) Write a script to automatically crawl 4chan's /b/
3) Be somewhere else when the party van arrives
4) KABOOM!
5) Nelson from the Simpsons would then usually say "ha-ha!" but he's locked up on child porn charges because he posted his own nudes on the internet.

Re:UK up in arms. (2, Funny)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079943)

3) Be somewhere else when the party van arrives

I love it! You owe me a keyboard!

Detective Superintendent Clouseau that is .... (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079857)

because noone other than him would be able to think that such a device would ever be possible. i want one, when they make it, in 5000 years in the future, in the alternate dimension that he lives in.

So GPO - Autorun = Disable (1)

Uchiha (811374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079867)

As much as I am all for bringing the hammer down on child porn bastards, I would be a lot more interested in knowing what kind of "illegal" activity they are looking for.

I'd rather not support the RIAA when they do a find for limewire.exe.

Re:So GPO - Autorun = Disable (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080253)

My only experience is with US law enforcement, and they don't give two shits about copyright violation (which is almost exclusively civil, and not criminal).

They're Finally Going to do Something about Spam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079883)

Thank God - Cops will finally be raiding our homes, plugging a techno-amazo gadget into our computers to grab copies of all of the illegal email that violates the CAN-SPAM act on our computers and using it to go after those damned spammers. It's about time!

Seriously though, what's up with their priorities? Spam, from phishing to C14Li5 to 419 scams costs society more money than all other computer crime put together. It's not like they have to look very hard to get any evidence.

they also want (5, Funny)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079897)

Charlie McMurdie, says the top brass want to develop the equivalent of a breathalyzer for computers

Top brass also wants a date with Scarlett Johansson. And a pony for each officer on the force.

I figure the odds are about the same for each.

Not too hard to guard against this breathalyzer (1)

bensafrickingenius (828123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079911)

Just do all your bad stuff on a virtual machine stored on a USB key.

Re:Not too hard to guard against this breathalyzer (2, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080109)

Usually, only the stupid ones get caught. Knowing to do what you have suggested, moves one out of the realm of stupid.

I can see (3, Interesting)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079921)

There is going to be a large amount of demand for "Computer Forensics Specialist" in the near future. Too bad the majority of them are going to go to devry thinking they're going to learn everything they need to.

Dumbest. Idea. Ever. (4, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079923)

What next, a breathalyser for paedophiles? Murderers? Terrorists? Why does not the UK police use that money to train their people or hire new specialists instead of trying to build a perpetuum mobile? Any criminal worth spending this project's money on is savvy enough to fully encrypt his hard disk. If they are so dumb not to encrypt compromising data, any cop with a few hours of training could find it. So what is this project really aiming at?

Re:Dumbest. Idea. Ever. (2, Insightful)

Strep (956749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080377)

Because it's cheaper to just makes laws like these. There's no need for any government to be intelligent when it can just be more forceful.

Probable Cause (2, Insightful)

MaverickMila (1208852) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079929)

Seems to me this would bring up all problems about probable cause. Just because there is a computer doesn't necessarily mean it's been used for anything illegal, and can't be investigated because of that. It's kind of like, if the cops have a warrant to search for marijuana, and they find a gun, they can't take the gun in as evidence and run it and find that it's the murder weapon in something unrelated. Their warrant is for the marijuana, and just because they find a gun doesn't mean it's anything sinister.

Re:Probable Cause (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080061)

Three things:
1) Plain sight rule. If there is something incriminating on the screen, then the evidence is admissible.
2) A warrant can include a search of the computer.
3) If the person is suspected of using the computer to commit a crime, such as luring a child or sending threatening emails as harassment, then the police have probable cause.

Re:Probable Cause (2, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080267)

Seems to me this would bring up all problems about probable cause. Just because there is a computer doesn't necessarily mean it's been used for anything illegal, and can't be investigated because of that. It's kind of like, if the cops have a warrant to search for marijuana, and they find a gun, they can't take the gun in as evidence and run it and find that it's the murder weapon in something unrelated. Their warrant is for the marijuana, and just because they find a gun doesn't mean it's anything sinister.

Had you read the first word in the headline ("UK"), and had you a single iota of knowledge about the UK, you'd know that handguns are illegal and other guns are meant to be kept in a locked cabinet when not in use.

In which case, finding a gun almost certainly is evidence of something sinister.

Re:Probable Cause (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080473)

In the US, in order for them to use such a device, they would need a search warrant covering the computer being searched.

Hummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26079937)

Scary... They get a warrant for your place, find nothing, point and click in your PC's direction and try and claim eventual discovery.... In other words, won't matter why they came in, you Internet Cache will be used as a noose. Niiiice.

Interpretation (3, Interesting)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26079985)

It costs too much money for the Police to pay quality IT Forensics folks. The police want a simple green, yellow, or red light that the police can follow, that is closed source and has it's AI written by policy makers to decide what is legal or questionable.

The Truth (4, Insightful)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080011)

The scary thing about this is that it doesn't matter if it works right, it just matters if it gets certified and approved for use as that what it claims it is. And that could just happen.

Mod Parent Up! (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080107)

I think your comment is bang on. Someone only has to generate software that fulfills the contract, and gets approved for use. It doesn't actually have to work correctly ...

Confiscate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080023)

When the article says "the majority of cops don't have the skills to forensically analyse a computer"

I always just assumed that was the reason the cops always confiscate the entire computer and bring it it to the station when they're doing a raid, as opposed to checking it out in place.

Sematic web ... for kiddy porn (1)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080049)

Maybe all the criminals can just meta-tag all the data so the cops have an easier time. Finally the semantic web would come alive, all for helping kiddy porn criminals bust themselves.
Seriously though, law enforcement needs more tech in their ranks. Just the idea of a simple turn key plugin to pull all illegal data because of the cops lack of tech knowledge shows just how badly they misunderstand tech in the first place. If it was this easy to pull data form a mass of disorganized crap, which is probably encrypted, then scientists would already be doing it on complex data sets and no one would encrypt anything because it would be easy to decrypt. This is just the kind of junk politicians vote for, because they know even less.

Re:Sematic web ... for kiddy porn (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080469)

Maybe all the criminals can just meta-tag all the data so the cops have an easier time. Finally the semantic web would come alive, all for helping kiddy porn criminals bust themselves.

Just watch how non-criminal citizens who have a deep-seated hate for anything that robs them of their privacy start to meta-tag EVERY file they have with criminal-positive tags until the ENTIRE web gives massive, constant and useless false positive readings and the tool simply becomes worthless!

Why do cops always want an easy job? (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080081)

I really think this is the same mentality that eventually comes to see individual rights and due process as pesky "inefficiencies" that only interfere with "real police work". They seriously need to tell new police recruits that their job is not easy and is not supposed to be easy. If any of them don't like that they should also be told where the exits are.

I think this is another example of relatively well-meaning people who fail to comprehend how dangerous their intentions are because they don't think them through. Let's say there is a device that can be plugged into a PC (maybe the USB port?) and almost instantly tell you whether it has illegal content with no need for expert analysis. Yeah I know that I should also posit the existence of the tooth fairy but bear with me. Who makes this device? How trustworthy are they? Do competitors or other rivals oddly happen to have a higher percentage of "illegal" PCs? Is the device a black box or can the average person examine and scrutinize it? If the cops already don't have the staff or the expertise to perform forensic analysis on PCs, what's our guarantee that they will correctly use this device or that they can offer any sort of assurance that the way it is used won't violate anyone's civil rights? What's to prevent criminals from obtaining one (by whatever means) and making sure that their illegal data isn't where this thing is looking? If I can think of this in a few minutes, WTF are these people smoking that they consider this a serious proposal? Or do they simply not care about these concerns?

You know what you'll probably never see? The police "top brass" asking for a device to help make sure that their officers don't violate anyone's civil rights and that they follow all the laws concerning due process.

Perfect counter to that (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080087)

I'll just use a hot glue gun to seal up all of my usb ports and use ps/2 connectors for mouse and keyboard.

fuzz: HOLY SHIT! THIS GUY MUST BE SOME SORT OF UBER_HACKER!!!

me: Too fucking right. Now you piggies hurry on back to the donut shop or I'll make your cruiser drive you down to the gay district on autopilot with YMCA blaring from the radio. (holds hands up over head, makes "whoooooooooing" scary sound, wiggles fingers menacingly)

fuzz: BETTER TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY! HE COULD DO IT!!

me: Heh. Wankers.

The Headline (4, Insightful)

UMNbandgeek (952506) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080113)

When I read the headline, I thought they literally meant a breathalyzer, to keep drunk people off PCs. I could probably use one, it would cut down on the drunk IMs and facebook posts.

Re:The Headline (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080279)

Me too. But I thought 'Wow, that'd be great! Maybe there would be fewer stupid posts on Slashdot!"

*hic* (2, Funny)

snarfies (115214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080129)

well i *hic* thinkj tihs is a stipid idea, *hic* and sos ur mothar!1

Keep it up Britain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080161)

It seems like every day you come up with more reason for me to never visit your country.

potentially embarrassing and a privacy violation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26080173)

Criminals will find ways to hide the evidence, and innocent people will have the police rummaging through their files.

This is good news!! (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080175)

Yes, as the western world is quickly shedding the rights and freedoms our ancestors fought and died for, it is good to know that our leaders and would-be oppressors are idiots and smart people will be free from prosecution because a fairly well informed 14 year old will be able to hide evidence from the jack-booted inquisitors.

One small problem (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080229)

A breathalyzer tests for a specific substance, alcohol, and determines an amount of the substance.

What, exactly, will the "computer breathalyzer" going to test for? File names may not be truly indicative of the content. Will it copy any and all images and movies? If so, then it is not being selective. Is there even a partially reliable algorithm that will allow for the detection of porn, let alone kiddie porn? Will it scan all manner of file for key words?

I don't see how this could work without basically copying everything in the computer and having a human technician sort through everything manually.

It will test the evil bit (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080327)

Of course that requires that the use of the evil bit [ietf.org] be mandated by law.

Doesn't go far enough (5, Funny)

blophyus (1166871) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080237)

Forget a tool for computers. We need a tool like this for physical crime scenes. You know: something that would, like, scan crime scenes and find, like, relevant DNA evidence and shit. It could even have an option where it would print out an arrest warrant with the name of the murderer on it.

Illegal activity on the computer... (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080271)

How does it know what illegal activity on the computer is from you? If you're infected with some nasty worm that's been spreading all around the world would it consider that something illegal? What if someone just wanted to plant some evidence on you? It would be extremely easy and for most people would go completely unnoticed. Most people don't routinely go through their file system to check if anything is out of place, most people wouldn't even know what to look for.

NMP - Not My Problem (1)

windex82 (696915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080281)

McMurdie said the device was needed because of a record number of PCs were being seized by police and because the majority of cops don't have the skills to forensically analyse a computer."

And how is this the end users problem?

I want a breathalyzer for MY pc... (1)

sevenoverzero (740419) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080287)

But only so I don't email/IM/etc. drunk... gmail's "goggles" are complete garbage. ;)

Drunken Facebook comments (1)

jtesorie (1421305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080289)

Sometimes I wish I'd had a breathalyzer to stop me from booting up upon return from the pub.

Yes, and I want a Pony.... (2, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080293)

Seriously, wanting something does not make it appear or even possible to exist. Most people have learned that by age 5. My take is that today it is not even possible to determine what illegal contents is automatically, regardless of what amount of ressources you throw at it. I belive that the AI problem would need to be solved first, and that has been eluding humanity for several decades now, to the point that it is still unclear today whether it will be solved ever.

The solution is of course simple: Decide how important this really is, and then throw the appropriate amount of money at hiring experts. Chances are this turns out to be basically a non-issue. The hard stuff (children harmed in production) is identifiable for cops as well. The soft stuff (music, films, games) is not relevant to continued prosperity of the human race and only gets this much attention because some people turned it into a goldmine. It does not have to be at all. I would expect that broadband Internet and large HDDs make significantly more profit than Hollywood and the music industry combined. And the artists? I do not see any problem there either. Go to a donation-model and the ones that are creative and good will still live well. The others are not of any importance anyways.

PC Vs. Mac (0, Troll)

Zanix (684798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080355)

Once again another reason why owning a Mac is better. Right? I mean all those commercials tell me PCs and Macs are totally different!

I smell Money (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080389)

Big fat contracts with all kinds of overruns..money...money....money

Specilised Service (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26080453)

because the majority of cops don't have the skills to forensically analyse a computer.

Most don't have the skills to find and analysis DNA evidence either. Perhaps some sort of specialist service is in order similar to the Scientific Support Services rather than a gadget which I really doubt is going to be find anything but keyword list comparison finding a folder listed as 'kiddy porn'.

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