Disruptive Users: Whose Net Is It Anyway?

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One of the recurring themes here at the News Break is the nature of the Internet as a commons. We’re not fans of companies that break standards the Internet community depends on for interoperability, and we’re easily irritated with vendors that get too far ahead of themselves implementing half-baked draft “standards” to make a quick sale while more responsible companies wait to move into the market.

Networks in general are a commons. We’re all aware of the problems surrounding bandwidth hogs on smaller nets with limited Internet access, or with the security problems that are created or exacerbated when users decide to set up their own services on an enterprise network.

When the the University of Texas at Dallas decided to disallow the use of 802.11b/g access points in one of its residential buildings, it was doing so from a similar commons-minded outlook. The university provides wireless access points (WAPs) to its own network in the building, but personal access points were interfering with those WAPs, and users seeking to use the university WLAN.

The university even went so far as to mention that it will seek a trade-in allowance for 802.11b/g gear at its own technology store, so users can convert their problematic 802.11b/g access points and cards to 802.11a gear, which won’t interfere with the university WLAN and will allow users who prefer to “go it alone” on the network access an alternative that doesn’t stomp all over the commons the university has sought to create.

It’s unfortunate to note the response has been less than stellar: Tortured (and misleading) interpretations of FCC rules have been invoked by a handful of users disinterested in the common good in order to fend off the university’s attempt to provide a service to its users. It’s evidently more important to these people to inconvenience the majority than to face the inconvenience of either participating in the university network or run cable in their own apartments.

A lot of our concern over the maintenance of the network/Internet commons is about providing quality service to end users. Our irritation with companies that damage that commons with short-term thinking springs from a concern that everyone participating in the Internet be able to use and benefit from it for as long and as well as possible.

Rogue, standards-ignoring companies make that harder, and so do selfish users.


» VeriSign has rolled out faster .com and .net authoritative name server updates. Changes to the company’s root servers mean domain registrars will see newly registered domains appearing within five minutes of registration instead of the traditional twelve to eighteen hours. Sounds good, but Paul Vixie, founder of the Internet Software Consortium, warned that the rapid updates might also aid scam artists and phishers out to register throwaway domains as quickly as possible before moving on to their next target. All the same, Vixie acknowledges that “rapid DNS updates will do much more good than harm.”

» How’s the US doing in rolling out broadband? A few weeks back we noted that the tipping point in broadband as a proportion of Internet-connected households had been reached, with 51% of connected homes using some sort of broadband connection. But that’s only part of the picture: According to the FCC’s latest report, only about 6.9 percent of American homes have a broadband connection, which puts us behind several countries in per capita terms: “South Korea is the global leader with 21.3 subscribers per 100 people, followed by Hong Kong (14.9), Canada (11.2), Taiwan (9.4) and Iceland (8.4).”

The report was released under protest from several commission members, who note that the definition of “broadband” is a little dated: “In Japan,” said one, “for as little as $10, consumers get broadband service at 8,000 Kbps … why, then, is the FCC still collecting data about 200Kbps and calling it broadband?”

» McAfee says its intrusion protection system (IPS), IntruShield, has achieved Common Criteria Certification EAL 3. According to internetnews.com: “Common Criteria Certification is typically a critically important certification for defense and other highly sensitive areas of governmental IT operations. Many are mandated to only buy certified products.”

Norton’s Manhunt Intrusion Detection System (IDS) has also achieved EAL 3 certification.

» It looks like there’s a chance for some compromise on the controversial Sender ID for E-Mail standards spat between Microsoft and the Open Source community: The IETF’s MTA Authorization Records in DNS (MARID) working group is considering dumping Microsoft’s patented tech from the specification.

The Week in CrossNodes

» Tuneups and Tweaks for the Better Spam-Trap

Building an Anti-Virus/Anti-Spam Gateway Part 3: When you build a strong anti-spam solution, you have to count on a few false positives. Here’s how to tune your Linux anti-spam gateway to let the good guys through without opening the doors to spammers.

» Feed Your Virus Worries to a Clam

Building an Anti-Virus/Anti-Spam Gateway (Part 2): With ClamAV, your Linux-based secure mail gateway can feed on viruses before they get to your users. Here’s how to do it quickly and easily, and without looking like a bozo to the rest of the ‘net.

» SpamAssassin and Amavisd: Go Ninja On Your UBE Woes

Building an Anti-Virus/Anti-Spam Gateway (Part 1): With SpamAssassin, Amavisd-new, and ClamAV, you’ve got all you need to build a Linux-based SMTP gateway that stops spam and viruses cold.

Network News Break is
CrossNodes’ weekly summary of networking news and opinion. Please send your comments and suggestions to the editor.

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