News: Cyber Patrol Sues Hackers

From Steven Green <>
Date Thu, 16 Mar 2000 08:00:39 -0500 ()

[: hacktivism :]

Software Co. Sues Hackers
Wednesday, 15 March, 7:55 p.m.
W A S H I N G T O N  (AP)

A COMPANY that makes popular software to block children from pornographic
Internet sites filed an unusual lawsuit late Wednesday against two
computer experts who developed a method for kids to deduce their parents'
password and access those Web sites. 

Microsystems Software Inc. of Framingham, Mass., which sells the widely
used Cyber Patrol, asked U.S. District Judge Edward F. Harrington for a
temporary restraining order requiring Eddy L. O. Jansson and Matthew Skala
to stop distributing their "cphack" program immediately. 

Skala, a Canadian graduate student in computer science, and Jansson,
believed to be living in Sweden, published over the weekend on the
Internet and in e-mail details about how to circumvent the filter
technology in Cyber Patrol, which sells for about $30 and is widely used
in many of the nation's elementary schools and libraries. 

They also offered a small "cphack" utility for "people oppressed by Cyber
Patrol" that, when run on a parent's computer, reveals the password that
blocks questionable Web sites - and also discloses the product's entire
list of more than 100,000 Internet sites deemed unsuitable for children. 

"I oppose the use of Internet filtering software on philosophical
grounds," Skala said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
"The issue here was to see what does Cyber Patrol actually block. Parents
have a right to know what they're getting and without our work they
wouldn't know." 

In its legal filings, Microsystems said it suffered "irreparable harm"
from the publication of the bypassing software, which it said sought to
destroy the market for its product by rendering it ineffective. 

"The practical effect is that ... children may bypass their parents
efforts to screen out inappropriate materials on the Internet," the
lawsuit said. 

Skala, a cryptography buff who attends the University of Victoria in
British Columbia, said he spent about six weeks analyzing Cyber Patrol
with Jansson's help via e-mail from Sweden. 

"One could well question how much force of law (the legal filings) have in
Sweden or in Canada," Skala said. 

In an unusual legal strategy, Microsystems alleged that Skala and Jansson
violated U.S. copyright law when they reverse-engineered Cyber Patrol to
analyze it, which the company said is expressly prohibited in its license

Skala, who learned about the legal filings in Massachusetts from the AP,
said he planned to speak with a lawyer but suggested that his work may be
protected under a "fair use" clause of copyright law. 

Microsystems also asked the judge to order the Swedish Internet company
where the bypass utility is published to turn over records identifying
everyone who visited the Web site or downloaded the program. 

The company's lawyer, Irwin Schwartz, said damage to its product is "at
least at a minimum" now because relatively few people were believed to
have downloaded the bypass software. 


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