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40Hex Issue 10 Volume 3 Number 1 File 009 40-hex Survey: Should Writing a Virus Be Outlawed? by DecimatoR Recently, while conversing with Garbageheap, I was inspired with the idea for this article. So, with the help of a lot of people in the UseNet alt.security and comp.virus newsgroups, I have determined what seems to be the answer to my question. My thanks to all who responded - couldn't have done it without ya! I posted this message in alt.security and comp.virus: "Greetings.... Some of you may read the infamous 40-Hex Virus magazine, published by us. If so, we'd like your opinions for a survery we're doing. The results of this survey will be published in 40-hex #10. Here are the survey questions. Please answer them, and respond via email to me. You may respond with simple Yes or No answers, or you may be as wordy as you want. Please note - ANY response given might be published in 40-hex magazine. Now, the questions: 1) Should it be Federally illegal to write a computer virus? 2) Should it be Federally illegal to distribute computer viruses, to KNOWING individuals (ie on "virus" boards)? (This does NOT mean infecting another person with a virus - it means giving them a copy of a virus, and making sure they KNOW it is a virus) 3) If executable virus code is illegal, then should the SOURCE code to the viruses be illegal to copy, sell, or other wise distribute? Please mail me with YOUR opinions to the above, and feel free to explain your views, or present other opinions you may have. We are attempting to get a general idea as to the thoughts of people, therefore we are posting this to COMP.VIRUS, and ALT.SECURITY, and any other appropriate newsgroups. Please note - we are NOT interested in the legallity of SPREADING virus code by infection - that IS already illegal. We are also not interested in the ethic issues of viruses. We want your opinions as to what should be OUTLAWED, and what should be LEGAL. Of course, any other opinions you may wish to add are welcome. Thanks for your time and consideration.. --DecimatoR Phalcon/Skism 40-Hex Magazine Columnist" Amazingly, almost all of the responses stated that NO, it _SHOULD_NOT_ be illegal to write, or distribute (to knowing persons) a computer virus. Many respondees regarded that as censorship, and wanted nothing of the sort. However, there were a few replies which, while not condoning the outlawing of virus creation, also certainly did not condone the authoring or distributing of viruses. There was one man, from England, though, who firmly stated that there should be international laws banning the creation of, distribution of, and sharing of virus source code. The fact that only one person responded in this manner surprised me. I expected more. Here are a few quotes from the responses I got. There are no names or addresses attatched in most cases. I posted my original survey question through an anonymous mailer, since I wasn't too sure of the response I'd get, and in turn, the responses were also anonymous. ******************************************************************************* 1) Should it be Federally illegal to write a computer virus? ******************************************************************************* From David: "Not at all. The government is already quite behind the times when it comes to legislating technical issues. I don't believe they are qualified to enact competent legislation. We're talking about a government who thought Steve Jackson Games should be raided for compiling a cyberpunk roleplaying supplement... Leaving aside the question of their technical knowledge, it smacks of censorship. The inception of a computer program is roughly analogous to the writing of a book. Put this way, your question could be phrased like: "Should it be Federally illegal to write a [pornographic, anarchistic, insert-favorite-word-here] book?" We know that the writing of a book is protected by the US constitution as a form of expression. The writing of a computer program is a similar form of expression, and should thus be inviolate..." -------------------------- From: an11445@anon.penet.fi: NO! however, if people do not exhibit ethical behaviour regarding viruses, they are forcing such a law to be made. if someone wants the right to write what they want on their own computer, they would be well advised to not release to any other person this program unless they are -absolutely certain- that person will : a. not use the program for any damaging purpose b. not use the program to play tricks on people c. not allow the program to leave his/her hands without ensuring the above conditions are met. -------------------------- From: an10445@anon.penet.fi (Cutthroat): No. A virus is simply a section of code that travels with another section of code. Viruses are not inherently malicious. -------------------------- From: an2284@anon.penet.fi > 1) Should it be Federally illegal to write a computer virus? No. It's just code. The minute you start outlawing one kind of program, you've introduced censorship. -------------------------- From: an11290@anon.penet.fi: (Roger) > 1) Should it be Federally illegal to write a computer virus? Hard one. The problem is that I'd like it to be legal: people should be free to experiment with this kind of stuff providing they keep it safe in their own environment. However when parallels are sought with current law, we are forced to another conclusion: selling a gun is potentially harmless untill the gun is used. It's partly the responsibility of the SELLER to keep guns from spreading to unqualified people. Now the question rises: can a computer Virus be compared to a GUN. I think it can: both are harmless until employed in a dangerous fashion. In short computer viruses provide a threat to our society. Current law prohibits possession of objects that pose a threat to society. (Partly because this makes it easier to prosecute people that most likely want to employ these objects in a bad way). -------------------------- From: Josh@lehigh Absolutely not. It's a crummy, unethical, lousy, rotten, thing to do, but making it illegal to write *any* type of a computer program is reminiscent of George Orwell's "1984" and Big Brother. There is also too much speculation as to what a clear-cut, 100% absolute definition of a computer virus is. If it's just something that remains in memory and does something the user is not fully aware of, you're eliminating a significant number of useful programs such as disk caches and even virus scanners--how many people are fully aware of the mechanical workings of a virus scanner or a disk cache? Other definitions can be twisted in similar manners, making just about everything a "virus" in some aspect. -------------------------- From Oliver in the UK: I believe that it should not only be Federally illegal, but Internationally illegal to write a computer virus. However, one should look at the difficulty of enforcing such a law. From what point onwards does a program qualify as a virus; those questions, looking at the heated regular debate on virus-l, are far from being answered categorically. The bottom line, IMHO, is that enforcement of a federal law against computer viruses writing is very hard. Moreover, most academic and company sites forbid their users in using computing facilities for writing viruses anyway, and it should be up to them to make sure locally that no viruses are written on their facilities. -------------------------- From Jay: Of course not, this is a first amendment right in the USA. Writing a virus is no different than writing any other computer program. Many "normal" computer programs share common coding methods with viruses. Who is to say that you intend malice by writing a small chunk of software? Are we supposed to sit down and have code reviews with federal agents in random spot checks to make sure we aren't writing malicious code? That's silly. -------------------------- From Ed: No. This is not the correct way to deal with the virus problem. Any form of restriction placed upon what someone does with their own computer would be unconstitutional, as it removes our personal rights. It has been said that the more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state. As the law stands, you can do what you want out *your* computer, but as soon as you infect *mine* it becomes illegal, and that is the way it must remain, or else the rights of everyone will be damaged. ******************************************************************************* 2) Should it be Federally illegal to distribute computer viruses, to KNOWING individuals (ie on "virus" boards)? (This does NOT mean infecting another person with a virus - it means giving them a copy of a virus, and making sure they KNOW it is a virus) ******************************************************************************* David: "Again, no. The distribution of information should be constitutionally protected. There are legitimate reasons why someone may want or need the source or executable form of a virus. The most obvious is in the field of virus research. It is necessary to obtain the virus in question in order to devise a vaccine for it. Security through obscurity has been tried before; it's great until some "unauthorized" person gets hold of some information others are hiding. He's free to use it to great success because the legitimate users don't know exactly what he's got, making it hard to devise a defense. A good example of this type of argument might be: Criminals have guns. It should be illegal to have a gun. In fact, let's keep the "knowing individuals" (ie. the police) from having them too... " ___________________________ From: an11445@anon.penet.fi: just because you make sure they KNOW it's a virus does not mean they will not do some destructive thing with it, perhaps even unintentionally. in my paper, 'circular time line model for addressing the impact of virus exchange bbs', i support the conclusion that it will not especially help to do this, and that it may not be even the most efficient way to deal with the problem of computer viruses. if people will not do the things that are right, however, they force people to do the things that are wrong, in this case. --------------------------- From: an10445@anon.penet.fi (Cutthroat): No. A weak system can be hit by a virus. A strong system is less likely to be hit by a virus. Make computers more secure. Viruses will always exist. --------------------------- From: an2284@anon.penet.fi > 2) Should it be Federally illegal to distribute computer viruses, > to KNOWING individuals (ie on "virus" boards)? (This does NOT > mean infecting another person with a virus - it means giving > them a copy of a virus, and making sure they KNOW it is a virus) Nope. It's just *executable* code this time. :-) --------------------------- From: an11290@anon.penet.fi: (Roger) > 2) Should it be Federally illegal to distribute computer viruses, > to KNOWING individuals (ie on "virus" boards)? (This does NOT > mean infecting another person with a virus - it means giving > them a copy of a virus, and making sure they KNOW it is a virus) Following the reasoning in the answer to the last question: yes. However I think there is a difference between distributing the actual code and only pseudo code. It's like telling someone the principle of an atom bomb, or sending him a "do it yourself kit". The last is certainly beyond the limit, whereas the first isn't. --------------------------- From Josh@lehigh: Doing so would absolutely cripple virus-fighting developments. If a user cannot legally send a virus-infected program to the author of a virus scanner/cleaner, it becomes impossible for the utility to detect and/or remove that type of virus unless the author somehow becomes accidentally infected by it. --------------------------- From Oliver in the UK: > 2) Should it be Federally illegal to distribute computer viruses, > to KNOWING individuals (ie on "virus" boards)? (This does NOT > mean infecting another person with a virus - it means giving > them a copy of a virus, and making sure they KNOW it is a virus) Yes. Virus boards, etc. are all nests for hackers-crackers & people envolved in the "computer-underworld". Distribution of sources on BBS to knowing individuals can only add to the spread of computer viruses. In addition to that, so many people would then be able to modify the original source code, that one would end-up with a virtually unlimited number of variants of each virus - definitely the horror scenario. --------------------------- From Paul Ferguson: That depends. If it can be proven in a court of law that the provider of the computer virus knew before-hand that recipient would irresponsibly allow it to pass into the hands of someone who would a.) willingly transplant it into an unsuspecting public domain or b.) modify it and then release it into an unsuspecting public domain, then YES, I believe that is wrongful action that should be illegal. If the program (virus) is passed amongst two trusted individuals with little or no chance of it "escaping" into the public domain, then that is a matter of personal transaction which does not affect other computerists. --------------------------- From Jay: > 2) Should it be Federally illegal to distribute computer viruses, > to KNOWING individuals (ie on "virus" boards)? (This does NOT > mean infecting another person with a virus - it means giving > them a copy of a virus, and making sure they KNOW it is a virus) Of course not, if you write a note on a piece of paper and share it with a friend, is that a federal offense? What if that note contains information that could show your friend how to kill someone? What if the note contains a beautiful little poem that happens to describes how to kill someone? Software is a vehicle for expressing an idea or concept, no different from the written word. If there is no malice, there is no crime. It's not illegal to infect someone with a virus if you don't know that you passed it along, so why should it be illegal to give away a virus to someone who can handle it? --------------------------- From Ed: > Should the distribution of viruses to knowing individuals be illegal? Again, no. One reason is that I doubt very many virus authors would heed such a law, and so only the anti-virus community would suffer, making conditions worse. Another reason is the First Ammendment of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees freedom of speech to everyone. Distribution of viral code is a form of speech, as it is a transfer of data and information. If it weren't for virus transactions, no one virus scanner would be very complete, as each would only detect a handful of viruses, and one would have to obtain a copy of every scanner to have a complete detection system. ******************************************************************************* 3) If executable virus code is illegal, then should the SOURCE code to the viruses be illegal to copy, sell, or other wise distribute? ******************************************************************************* David: "I don't agree that either should be illegal, but outlawing the source would make it much more difficult to devise a defense. It's an extension of the above argument..." ---------------------------- From: an11445@anon.penet.fi: >> 3) If executable virus code is illegal, then should the SOURCE code >> to the viruses be illegal to copy, sell, or other wise distribute? If, then; else not. but should be not to begin with. ---------------------------- From: an11184@anon.penet.fi The answers arise from my views about individual freedom for every human. Governments should interfere as little as possible in this. --------------------------- From: an10445@anon.penet.fi (Cutthroat): No. A virus is less likely to be "accidently" released if it exists only as source code. Viruses are much easier to study for "legitimate" security purposes if it is released as source code. --------------------------- From Josh@lehigh: For similar reasons to 1) above, the thought is abhorrent. Taking an extreme example, suppose I was to write a compiler. The source code for this compiler consists of any text file, and its output is a file infector which randomly stamps the source code (text file) on someone's hard drive. Therefore, your resume, your letters--in short, any text you have whatsoever--becomes source code for a virus. Big brother returns--and with a vengeance. --------------------------- From Oliver in the UK: > 3) If executable virus code is illegal, then should the SOURCE code > to the viruses be illegal to copy, sell, or other wise distribute? See the answer to 2. The SOURCE code is even more lethal than the executable. The only way that such code would be transfered, should be for research purposes. I am talking here about serious scientific research. The more people that have access to source viral code, the more likely it is for non-authorised people to have access to it. In scientific research, a researcher has access to chemicals & data which (s)he is often not entitled to take out of the lab. The same should be for viral code. The argument of making Viral Code available to the public "because this is the only way to get to know about computer viruses" is hence a stupid argument. The sole purpose of releasing viral source code to the public is misleadingly "for informational purposes only" and can alas only lead to further propagation of the virus itself, as well as new variants. --------------------------- From Paul Ferguson: Executable code of any kind should not ever (and will not, IMHO) be illegal. That is absurd. It is the use of said code that would constitute a violation of another's practice of safe computing. If this code (viruses) are released into the public domain, I consider it a practice of reckless computing. Hey, we have laws against reckless driving and reckless endangerment, why not reckless computing? --------------------------- From Jay: > 3) If executable virus code is illegal, then should the SOURCE code > to the viruses be illegal to copy, sell, or other wise distribute? Executable code shouldn't be illegal. Is it illegal to translate a book from English to Spanish? Can you translate a book from English to Spanish without knowing either language? You CAN convert source code to executable code without knowing the source language, or assembly/machine code. Let's assume that I was to give a computer illiterate friend, a floppy containing source code to computer mortgage payments, a public domain compiler, and instructions for compiling the application, "type MAKE". Lets also assume that I received the source code from someone else, and the code contained a virus hidden in the source (in source code form) that I was unaware of. If the friend follows the instructions, and compiles the virus did he break the law? He thought he was just getting a program to calculate mortgage payments. Am I guilty of a crime? I just gave a friend some innocent source code. This is ludicrous. If source code for a virus causes no problems for either the giver or receiver, why should it be banned? If I write a book that contains a series of instructions that detail a plan to overthrow the US goverment, is that a crime? If I sell the book, is that criminal? Tom Clancy does it...he sells millions. If I write a book that details instructions for overthrowing MSDOS, is that crime? What if I choose distribute it electronically? This is all stupid, prohibiting information doesn't work. The bottom line is that if an act was done with malice, there may be a crime, if the act was done without malice, there is no crime. --------------------------- From Ed: > If executable virus transfer is made illegal, should source code be > restricted as well? I would prefer that neither are made illegal, but if this situation were to arise, I would have to say no. Source code qualifies for the First Ammendment more so than viral samples. Now, I'm not saying it's justified to go and give source code to anyone who asks for it, after all why do you think there are so many variants of Vienna and Pixel? But legal action used to restrict the actual transactions of viral material is not a valid course of action, practically or ethically. I can not condone distribution of viral samples to anyone who asks for it (especially "Nuke-EM!!" types), however I've found that many anti-viral researchers simply can't obtain the samples they need because they aren't in the "inner circle" of trusted anti-virus vendors. It's a very difficult issue to deal with, as to how to deal with virus distribution, such as who should be allowed to procure the viruses they need, and who shouldn't. It's an ethical and moral delemma, but one this is for sure, it should not be illegal! ***************************************************************************** Please mail me with YOUR opinions to the above, and feel free to explain your views, or present other opinions you may have. ***************************************************************************** From: an11445@anon.penet.fi: There are already enough laws in existance. we do not need more laws. we need people who know how to interpret the existing laws in light of the societal and technological changes in our society. --------------------------- From Marc: There is no statement of illegality in this domain that wouldn't lead inexorably to the licensing of anti-virus software developers and the stifling of most forms of independent research into system security. You would end up with the same kind of idiocy that makes it impossible to use certain drugs as medicines or even to do research with them. You would also end up having to give the police extraordinary powers to enable enforcement, as in all cases of victimless crime. --------------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Note From DecimatoR: The following conversation was between myself and Oliver, the one person who stated that everything dealing with the creation of viruses should be internationally controlled. Since his opinions differed so strongly from mine, and most of those I recieved, I chose to include our conversation here, unedited. I appreciate the time he took in corresponding with me. Thanks, guy. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- (The quoted text is from me, the others from him. Like you couldn't tell) From Oliver: Hello, I got your 2 emails regarding the fact that I was the only person to favour a full clampdown on viruses etc. Let me answer the direct questions in your 2 emails: >Your response so far has been the only one which out-and-out said that YES, >viruses, source code for them, etc should be internationally illegal. I >actually thought there would be more opinions like yours, however this seems >not to be the case. So, if you don't mind, I'd like a little more insight >into your ideas. I noticed you were from London, where there have recently >been arrests of people who write and sell viruses. I assume you agree that >the government has the right to make such an arrest. My question to you: Yes, I agree with the government regarding those arrests. >where do you draw the line regarding censorship? Many respondents claimed >that banning the writing of viruses would be censorship, to an extreme they >are NOT willing to tolerate. You think differently. So, where do you think >the line should be drawn? With viruses? Maybe "trojanized" code? Or code >that will disable itself after x number of runs? This is a very difficult line to draw. I think that the first selection that one must make is whether the code is to destroy data, or will simply replicate (like a worm). The easiest piece of code to look at is trojanized code. Its sole purpose is usually to destroy data. I qualify purpose- made trojanized code as malicious vandalism. In addition to that, "trojanization" of a commercial or public domain program itself already breaks the law due to copyright infringements and/or license breaches. Viruses are, also by definition, data destructors. Anyone writing a virus and planning to distribute it should hence also be breaking the law. Worms are supposed not to destroy data; however let us consider the fact that a worm spreads on computer systems and a bug in the worm's code corrupts user data. What I am trying to get to is the fact that worms spread in people's machines without their approval, and I find this to be morally wrong. Compare this with, say, skeleton keys of apartments in a town. Would you support the idea of making skeleton keys, exchanging them on "skeleton-key-BBS" legal ? It would mean that it's legal for anyone to have skeleton keys and use them to "visit" apartments at will. So here, we are reaching the fact that a computer's HD has now grown to be part of someone's house, someone's belongings, someone's living space, and that any breach of privacy is unwelcome. Since worms breach that privacy, then wouldn't it be a protection for the public to outlaw those worms ? So I support the fact of making all code that self-replicates from system to system illegal. >Doesn't the intervention of the government in such areas bother you? If >not, why not? Obviously your opinions are quite different than mine. No. The government has many duties towards the people of a country, and one of them is protection of the people themselves. Remember, I am not asking for the government to censor ideas, I am asking for it to stop propagation of malicious items; people often refer to this as censorship since we're talking about intellectual data, but this is a big mistake. I believe that freedom will be more easily enforceable if simple basic laws of morals can be enforced. Consider gun laws: - in UK, gun laws are very tough indeed. No individual is allowed to carry a gun without special permits, and those are extremely hard to obtain. Individuals allowed to carry a gun are usually under threat from terrorism, etc. Those are very isolated cases. As a result, the British police is mostly still unarmed. The number of gun-related offenses is very low indeed, and any injury is usually caused by knives. As a result, repression from the British police needs not be so strong. - in USA, in some states, gun laws are very relaxed. Gun-related offenses are high, and the US police needs to carry guns as well. The amount of repression used by the police has to be much higher than elsewhere. I was shocked to hear that police in USA had their gun out when stopping a car for speeding. How "friendly" does that make them ? Pro-gun individuals would immediately shout that any clamping-down on guns is a breach of their freedom, etc. etc. And they even have an advantage over pro-virus-enthusiasts that they can argue that the gun is for their safety, while I can't think of a positive use for a virus. >is a good thing, because I am looking for differing points of view. I >consider England to be far too strict in censorship, and government control. >It would really bother me to have to put up with that kind of control over >my life. Yet you seem to agree with it. Agreed, there are a few things which the UK government censors that I don't agree with. But take, for example, the freedom of the press: - Should newspapers have the right to write *anything* about *anyone* ? Freedom of speech in this case is only possible if newspaper editors are reasonable about what they write. But what often happens is that editors praise their "freedom of speech" and allow defammatory articles, made-up of lies, etc., thus hurting individuals to such an extent that those individuals may have their life affected by that so-called "freedom- of-speech" forever. Full open democracy, full freedom of speech, full openness only works when everybody is nice and kind, and no-one is malicious etc. But this unfortu- nately isn't the case in real life. Censorship has to be applied in areas which could hurt more people than help them. >like your answers to a few more in-depth questions. First of all, many who >responded said that banning viruses would be a form of censorship, one which >they would not be willing to tolerate. How would you reply to this? Censorship applies both to intellectual ideas, as well as material ideas. The only thing that people make mistakes about is believing that censorship of intellectual ideas is bad, and censorship of things (something which may be dangerous to them - say a chemical) is okay. The big mistake made is to think that intellectual ideas may not hurt them. Computer viruses are thought of as intellectual ideas, and thus people usually adopt a soft policy towards them by thinking that it cannot hurt them. >ALso, I believe you are from England, what do you think of the recent raids >on virus writers, and the man who was selling virueses in your country? >Good? Bad? I completely agree with the government on those matters. What good to society are virus writers ? Their sole purpose was to spread their viruses worldwide. Their initial statement (which I didn't keep a copy of, unfortunately, thinking it was a joke) was so childishly written, I could not believe it, but let's not divert to talk about the personality of some virus writers. The fact is clear: Viruses can do more harm than a lot of other things in life. Have you ever witnessed someone who has made no backup of his work, and has had much of his work destroyed by a virus ? We aren't talking here about a corrupted copy of Windows 3.1 that can be re-installed in 30 minutes but about 1 week's original work from somebody. I personally haven't been hit, but I have seen people in the labs here, and believe me, it's time we stop treating virus-writers as "joyful hackers" that do this for fun. >And lastly, a question: do you write computer programs? If so, then doesn't >it bother you knowing that you are _not_allowed_ to write a certain KIND of >program, simply because the government considers it "bad"? I write computer programs daily, in the course of my research (which is unrelated to viruses). I use my programming skills to develop systems not only for my benefit but also for the benefit of mankind, through better future telecommunication systems. My competence in programming is high enough to write viruses, trojans, etc. but I am not attracted to it whatsoever. If those programming geniuses (aka virus writers), devoted their programming time to other activities than virus writing, than perhaps they would be able to make something out of their life, instead or ruining other people's. But let's imagine that I was interested in writing a virus. Who would know ? If I wrote a virus on my PC at home, and not release it, not publicize it, not mention it to anyone, who would know ? If then I made a mistake, and transfered it (against my will) to my computer at work, and infected computers all around the place, then whose fault would it be ? Mine. I would then have to be ready to face the consequences. >think censorship and banning of code should go? And, for those who violate >the bans, what punishment do you believe is suitable? Banning of the code, IMHO, should be as far as public posting of the source on BBS, distribution by any means, infection of any computer. I am hesitating about banning the publication of flow charts for the code, since this would involve a fair amount of work from potential copycats. But banning of full-working virus sources is certainly a priority. I am not a lawyer, so it would be hard for me to expand on the form of punishment for those violating the bans. I think that each case should have to be taken separately, depending on the potential danger of each piece of code, and also on the damage already inflicted (if any) before the trial. Cheers, Oliver -------------------------- Final note from Dec: -------------------------- All in all, the majority response was that no, the coding of and distributing of virus code should _not_ be outlawed in the United States. Of course, I certainly feel the same way. The government should NOT be able to say that any piece of code, no matter what the purpose or possible use may be, should not be written. Programming is freedom of expression, and to some, even art. To limit that with laws and stipulations not only takes away the rights of ALL Americans, but goes against the freedoms that America was founded upon. No matter what your point of view on viruses - be they ethical, unethical, whether you write them or hunt them down and destroy them, I truly hope you would never want them to be outlawed. Of course, I should mention my views concerning the spreading of viruses to unknowing users. I firmly believe that such action IS unethical, and, quite simply, wrong. And yes, that action SHOULD be made illegal. Many of the respondees to my post compared the legallities of viruses with those of firearms. While this may be a valid comparison in some cases, in others it is quite unrealistic. Most who used this idea said that virus code should be restricted to those responsible enough to handle it, just like guns are restricted to those who are responsible. I have a small problem with this. Firearms are restricted because they can be used to cause serious or fatal injuries. No computer virus can be used to kill another person. However, no gun actually KILLS another person. People kill people, the gun is simply an instrument used. Maybe a knife would be a better comparison. Just becuase murders are committed with knives, should we restrict them? OR ban them outright? No, of course not. Same with viruses. Although they have the potential to be used in destructive ways, they should not be banned. The people who abuse them should be treated as the criminals they are. The people who create and help educate others with them should not be treated as criminals. We in Phalcon/Skism all believe in the freedom of information, and the right that each and every American has to his own opinions. Yes, we've written viruses, and yes, we have no qualms about distributing virus code. (This magazine is one good example) No one will be injured through our actions, because we simply cranked out this 100% ascii text magazine. We don't spread our creations intentionally. We do distribute them to those who want them, and sometimes people do spread them. We cannot control the actions of others. Breaking the law is wrong. We don't break the law by programming. We don't break the law by sharing code. Don't hold us responsible for those who use our creations to break the law. After all, you wouldn't hold Smith and Wesson responsible for a crime committed using one of their firearms, would you? No. Nor would you hold GMC, Inc. responsible for a death caused by a drunk driving one of their vehicles. They were not at fault for creating the vehicle. The drunk was at fault for acting the way he did. Same goes for viruses, and virus authors. Don't place the blame on the wrong party. There is a strong difference between creation and abuse. Next time you ponder the legality of virus writing, think about this. You wouldn't want cars banned just because a few people don't handle them responsibly. Attack the criminal, not the creator. And NEVER take away a person's right to create. --DecimatoR Phalcon/Skism Author's Note: This article is dedicated to the members of the ARCV, a England based group of virus authors, who were arrested, jailed, and had their equipment confiscated, simply because they chose to express themselves through the creation of self- replicating code. This is also dedicated to the man arested by Scotland Yard on December 10th, for advertising to sell virus code in the UK. I hope to God that NEVER would ANYONE in America need to fear for their freedom, simply because they chose to program a computer or sell public domain code.