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Dangerous Minds

Week of February 6, 2002
The jury won't be out long on this one.

Opening Arguments: Prosecution

Ladies and gentlemen:

When Bill Gates declared a month long moratorium on new doodads for ActiveX and web scripting and apologised for putting the world through so much pain he should have closed his company down instead. In a better world this would already have happened.

The prosecution will show beyond the shadow of a doubt that Microsoft should be closed down.

Count One: Invasion of Privacy

Microsoft have talked at length of the need for security. In their web browser Internet Explorer they have attempted to give a sheen of security by introducing zones and by letting users turn off various insecure technologies. Users of Internet Explorer have been lured into believing that by following these new security precautions their privacy is safe and intact.

Members of the jury! Nothing could be further from the truth. The latest Microsoft scandal involving MSN Messenger proves this. As demonstrated on the BugTraq mailing list, the Internet Explorer web browser is programmed to reveal sensitive information about MSN Messenger users to all Microsoft websites. A simple Registry key lies at the heart of this crime.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\MessengerService\Policies\Suffixes

Internet Explorer is programmed to check the contents of this key against the domain names of the web sites the user visits, and if the site visited is in this list, to forward all information about the user, including real name and email address as well as the real names and email addresses of everyone found in the user's contact list, to the website in question.

Currently Microsoft have allowed three of their own domains to be entered into this list: microsoft.com, hotmail.com and hotmail.msn.com.

This theft - this invasion of privacy - has been taking place all along without user knowledge or consent.

Count Two: Stupidity

Members of the jury, we are all aware by now of just how stupid the criminals in Redmond Washington are. Time and again we have had to read about the catastrophes this corporation has wreaked upon our world - and to suffer at the hands of their buffoons.

Microsoft's implementation of the aforementioned invasion of privacy, already a crime anywhere in the world (in many places punishable by severe fine and prison sentences) is compounded by the trademark stupidity which we have come to know so well of the programmers from Microsoft.

For the aforementioned Registry key is namely open to any malicious intruder intent on doing a user harm. Tests have shown that any old suffix will do - even '.COM' or '.NET' or '.ORG'. This means, members of the jury, that anyone anywhere - not just Microsoft - can steal this private information. Members of the jury, this may not be allowed to continue.

Count Three: Intent to Spam

Members of the jury, because Microsoft have implemented software designed to steal sensitive information from user computers without the user's knowledge or consent, and not only regarding the users themselves, but also regarding the email addresses of their friends, Microsoft are guilty of intent to spam.

As we all know, spam is an insidious blight not only on the workings of the Internet, but on modern life today as we know it. We are all greatly discomforted by the spread of this malevolent phenomenon. And if Microsoft are guilty of stealing email addresses, it must be assumed they intend to use them as well - in other words, they intend to spam. Microsoft must be found guilty on this count as well.

Count Four: Recidivist Tactics

Microsoft have many times been found guilty of producing shoddy software. To find that these latest crimes are the result of their abysmal ActiveX technology should therefore come as no surprise. We of the prosecution would ask you the jury to support an injunction against the use, even by third party organisations, of Microsoft ActiveX technology.

Closing Arguments: Prosecution

Members of the jury - fellow netizens - the facts are well known and accepted. The prosecution need only reiterate them for you. The question of guilt has already been decided. It is your duty to render a verdict of 'guilty on all counts' and to recommend a sentence.

Friends, Microsoft is not a corporation that can be brought into line. Despite the ruling in the DOJ trial, Microsoft continues to abuse its monopoly and even increase it - all to the detriment of the consumer. Day after day we learn of new vulnerabilities in Microsoft software. Security experts have time and again laid the blame for billions of dollars of damage squarely at the feet of Bill Gates and his employees.

Even the most trusting heart can no longer believe these are mere isolated incidents. Friends, there are millions upon millions of lines of code in Microsoft software! Hundreds of millions! Perhaps billions!

Yet every time we get a look at this closely guarded code we see the same thing - criminal behaviour, dangerous minds. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Microsoft is an evil company. They will not reform. You know that to be true. By tomorrow we may have news of yet another crime Microsoft have committed! Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you may not allow that to happen. You have to stop this now.

You have to shut Microsoft down.

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