A 40.000 Euros tax to get your data back (or, computer forensics’ hidden cost)

In Italy, whenever you ask for an official copy of a trial-related document you must pay a specific tax established by a Presidential Decree (Testo Unico sulle Spese di Giustizia).

So – as happened today during a computer forensics phase of a criminal trial – a client had to withdraw the request of getting a 120Gb hard disk copy, because the final tax amount would have been about 40.000 Euros. The Testo Unico, in fact, set a rate of 258 Euros-per-CD.

Thus, if you do the math…

What’s ahead in security?

This is the title of a speech Withfield Diffie gave in Rome at University La Sapienza last Jan. 31 2008, where I have been invited to attend the round table the followed. Other participants were Corrado Giustozzi, Giovanni Manca (CNIPA – National Centre for Information Technology in the Public infrastructures), prof. Luigi Mancini and Luisa Franchina (ISCOM).

There are a few online account for the day but none of them tells about the “content” of the conference. Mr. Diffie’s talk was professional and fascinating – if you don’t belong to the IT security professional’s circle. And this is the point: how is it possible that in 2008 we – Italians – still are so far from moving (even a few) steps ahead from what we were talking in 1995?

“Fighting terrorism” was – as usual – the “leading concern” to advocate defense and civil rights suspension in Italy. And each time I ear some Italian civil servant singing that song I remember about Michael Crichton’s State of fear, whose lesson – creating a state of fear to let powers and lobbies pursue their goals – is largely missed. This is not to say that terrorism is a fake issue. But when security of the State become a political (i.e. partizan) weapon, all we get is neither effective anti-terrorism measures nor freedom protection.

As Benjamin Franklin said,

They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety

And this is what we are doing right now.

Italia.it RIP

Italia.it, the infamous attempt of creating a State-managed one-stop touristic information website is definitely passed away on Jan. 18, 2008. The (now former,since the government just fell down) minister of innovation, Luigi Nicolais, finally decided to shut down the project and the minster of cultural assets, Francesco Rutelli, asked Corte dei conti (a magistrate court acting as “public spending watchdog”) to look for the responsibility for the waste of public money (5.800.000,00 Euros right now, to be precise).

Mr. Rutelli asked Umberto Paolucci – former Microsoft top manager in Italy and Europe – and now head of the ENIT (Italian Governement Tourist Board) to handle the issue.

Will open source technologies be take in consideration for the new super-duper portal?

Italian copyright law. A momentary lack of reason?

Yesterday the Italian Parliamen passed another amendment that adds Law 633/1941 (Copyright Law) Sect 70 bis thus allowing the free publication on the Internet of protected works (music and images) for cultural purposes. The law will enter into force as soon as it will be published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale (the official law list). Here is the exact text (translation is unofficial):

 ?1-bis. Low resolution or downgraded images and/or music publication through the Internet is allowed, for teaching and/or scientific purposes and if this use doesn’t imply an economic gain. The Minister of cultural assets – with the advice of the Minister of the university and research, and with the opinion of the concerned Parliament committees – shall set the limit to the teaching and scientific uses ?.

It is obvious to remark that an MP3 or a jpeg file meet – technically speaking – the requirement of the law (both are based on the concept of lowering the quality of the original file). Thus – from now on – in Italy is legal to publish on line or share through Peer-to-Peer copyrighted images and music, just meeting the requirement of “teaching and/or scientifc purposes”.

Is this an astonishing cultural achievement of Italian legislators (showing they finally have understood the main use of the Internet) that decided to fight back against entertainment lobbies’ superpowers, or an incredible essay on incompetence?

I really would like to sponsor the first answer, but I fear that the Italian Parliament simply didn’t understand what was going on…

Apple’s “Misprint” get-a-mac ad actually misleading?

A few days ago Apple released a new “get-a-mac” ad titled “Misprint” where the characters argue about – a statement published by PC WORLD – Mac being the fastest notebook they tried to run Windows Vista. The PC guy call the publisher to complain about the statement claiming that it is not possible that a Mac would run Vista faster then a PC.

This ad seems misleading for a series of factors:

  1. From an hardware standpoint, a Mac IS a PC,
  2. The difference between a Mac and a PC is the operating system,
  3. PC WORLD statement is relative (Mac is the fastes among the notebook we tested); thus no generalization can be inferred ? (or suggested).

I don’t think Apple – or its advertising agency – should play this kind of tricks. A Mac is good enough to speak for himself.