NZCS takes Big Brother approach

Society proposes PC lockdown & web filtering as spam remedy

The New Zealand Computer Society is proposing what it calls “a comprehensive solution” to spam, centring on the compulsory equipping of all home computers with anti-virus, firewall, spyware detection and other screening software.

This will be a powerful weapon to prevent computers being taken over as zombies or having their address-books raided and used to distribute spam, says the NZCS submission to the government's draft spam report published in May.

“It should be required that all [computers with a full operating system] sold to consumers must have antivirus software pre-installed and pre-configured with live update which is activated and functioning at the time of sale and that outbound filtering be enabled," says the society’s submission. Most consumer PCs, it points out, are sold with an initially free version of an antivirus product — so this condition just legally enforces the status quo.

“It should be required that all computers sold to consumers must have software which detects and clearly advises the user of the downloading of any executable software. Firewalls should close all ports except those required for email and web access. Expert users can readily open other ports but laypersons must be made aware that they are creating greater risks for themselves and their families."

Such a degree of lockdown and advance configuration will probably be resisted by open source advocates, says NZCS, but some of the worst worms have been associated with Unix systems.

The society then broadens its perspective of complete protection to include filters against “adult” websites. “It should be required that any software sold to consumers which enables access to the internet must be configured to block access to sites which contain adult material and can be reset to permit access to such sites whilst always blocking sites containing offensive material.” This software too must have a live update facility “which is activated and functioning at the time of sale.

“The focus here is on safety for children," says the submission. “A high proportion of spam is associated with the promotion of adult, offensive or erotica sites.”

Since many such filter services are offered remotely by ISPs, any legal ambiguity about an ISP's power to block dangerous sites and emails should be removed, says NZCS.

The full submission can be read at the NZCS website.

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