Wednesday, November 25, 2009

MI5 comes out against cutting off internet pirates

source: The Times, October 23, 200

MI5 comes out against cutting off internet pirates

The police and intelligence services are calling on the Government to drop plans to disconnect persistent internet pirates because they fear that this would make it harder to track criminals online.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, has vowed to use the Government’s forthcoming Digital Economy Bill to introduce new measures to fight illegal file-sharing of music and films. He has also proposed that persistent pirates should have their internet connections suspended temporarily.

But The Times understands that both the security services and police are concerned about the plans, believing that threatening to cut off pirates will increase the likelihood that they will escape detection by turning to encryption.

Law enforcement groups, which include the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Metropolitan Police’s e-crime unit, believe that more encryption will increase the costs and workload for those attempting to monitor internet traffic. One official said: “It will make prosecution harder because it increases the workload significantly.”

A source involved in drafting the Bill said that the intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6, had also voiced concerns about disconnection. “The spooks hate it,” the source said. “They think it is only going to make monitoring more difficult.”

Enforcement groups are also unhappy that the Government’s change of plans has left them little time to draw up a response. Lord Mandelson’s intervention came two months after the Government’s Digital Britain report, published in June, failed to back disconnection. Instead, it proposed giving Ofcom, the media watchdog, powers to direct internet service providers to block pirate websites or “throttle” connection speeds.

It is understood that the Digital Economy Bill will specify a list of technical measures that can be deployed against illegal file-sharers, but it is not yet clear whether account suspension will be included.

The music industry, which claims that it loses £200 million a year to piracy, is desperate for the Government to adopt the suspension plans. It has mounted a lobbying effort and believes that Lord Mandelson will follow through on his proposals.


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