If you tried to access Wikipedia yesterday, or many other websites, you may have come across a “dark” website that was participating in the widespread internet blackout - a protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that is being put to vote in Congress.
The bill is designed to stop piracy by giving Congress the ability to deny access to previously out-of-reach, foreign websites. The Justice Department would have the decisive power to keep pirate sites from receiving U.S. visitors and funding. This would be done by blocking access to the website to users or by requiring search engines, like Google, to disable the links to the site.
Many companies, websites, and Internet users are protesting this bill due to the possibility that the bill’s language leaves open for “censorship without due process.” Another issue that internet companies have raised is that a provision like this one could undermine cyber-security efforts by requiring, in some cases, “Domain Name System blocking” (WSJ, 2012). The DNS is a global database that translates domain names (like dev.3vr.com) to internet addresses.
Blocking the DNS redirects traffic away from certain websites by blocking the conversion system, but this a type of redirection is frequently employed by internet hackers to deceive users. Moreover, efforts are already being made online to circumvent SOPA, such as in the case of DNS blocking, a user can simply download pirated content using an IP addresses instead of a DNS name (Forbes, 2012).
Usually, when it comes to cyber-security, the focus is on how to keep cyber-thieves from accessing and stealing the customer’s sensitive information. However, a major problem for content creators and online retailers is how to protect digital merchandise, like music, movies and photos, from being stolen and distributed online. Cyber-criminal activities and the theft of intellectual property are issues that need addressing in ways that are preventative without interfering with the entire structure of the internet.