One of the new impending threats to computer and network enthusiasts in Europe and the United States is the The Council of Europe's Draft Cybercrime Treaty, authored by the 41-nation body in consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice. The treaty makes it illegal to write or possess hacking software.

The problem with this is what precisely constitutes "Hacking software" many of the tools used by security professionals, network administrators and systems administrators to detect vulnerabilities in systems are also used by hackers for the exact same reason.

Now, there have been statements made that exceptions will be "granted" to network professionals. The crux of this being "how will they determine what constitutes 'a professional'?". This could lead to a major deficit in the security of home networks, which will leave them vulnerable to use by the truly nefarious "hackers", which this treaty will most likely have minimal impact on to begin with. It is a matter of strong opinion, however, it is commonly felt that this treaty will have little effect on the criminal element of net-society and cause the most harm to legitimate computer/network enthusiasts who are just using such tools and information to make sure their networks are secure.

Open source advocates are also concerned about this treaty. Many "code contributing" users often use websites which publish bugs and possible exploits to decide what their next contribution will be. However under the wording of the treaty such websites could come under attack because it could make the widespread publication of exploits illegal (as they can also be used by hackers to gain acess and wreak havoc). This could undermine one of the main advantages of the open source development model (rapid patch deployment when it comes to such bugs) by leaving them out of sight of the community. Also it allows commercial software with such vulnerabilities to exist for dangerously long periods of time without such problems being known by the user community.

It remains to be seen however, exactly how this treaty will be used to affect "the people", this treaty leaves much open to interpretation. It is also unclear, at this time, if the US will enter into this treaty, but at present the European Union seems to be a proponent (which saddens me as I have many friends who fall under that juisdiction).

Factual information curtesy of MSNBC and slashdot, all opinions and speculation expressed however are those of this writeup's author.

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