Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Scam Protection - Open Letter to the bar owners of Thailand

Here in Chiang Mai, as well as various other parts of Thailand, one seemingly popular scam, is collection of music royalties and levying of fines for infringement. These "copyright police" show up with dodgy documents and a uniformed police officer in tow. These uniformed officers, either through sheer ignorance or an agreement for a cut of the profits, allow the "copyright police" to seize computer equipment, confiscate CD's, and even will arrest "violators" and take them down to the jail.

You can read more about this horrible scam here and here.

So, obvious legalities aside, I asked myself, "Why are they making it so easy?" "What would *I* do, if I was running bar in Thailand?" [Something that is actually part of my long-term goals, but that is a story for another day!]

So, Bar Owners of Thailand, here is what I would do:

First off, I would stop storing questionable items on my computer. On my personal computer, you will not find any mp3s, boot-legged movies, pornography, pictures of old girlfriends, etc.. Not saying I don't possess these items, I am just saying they are NOT stored on my personal computer. Now if I was going to have a PC sitting out in a public place of business, I think this rule of thumb should be infinitely more applicable.

So, how can I make this work? Easy! First I would head down to Pantip (or any other computer mall of choice) and buy a nice, cheap, external USB hard-drive. Next I would down the free/ open-source tool, TrueCrypt. I would use this to create one or two large encrypted volumes on the USB device. In these encrypted volumes, I now have a handy, safe, and very portable place to store my all questionable items!

If anyone ever tried to catch me with said questionable materials, hopefully me or my staff might have time to quickly disconnect the USB drive and physically move it out of sight. If not, it does provide me with some measure of plausible deniability.

There are no questionable items to be found on my computer, nor the encrypted device... Go ahead and take a look... I challenge you to show me these items! Most likely they aren't going to be able to.

If for some strange reason, the "inspector" is somewhat intelligent enough to figure out the encrypted USB storage trick, and presses me for the password, no problem! A simple white lie, for instance, "an unknown person accidentally left it behind.. I have no clue what the password is. I, being nothing short of a good Samaritan with the best of intentions, simply plugged it into my computer in hopes that I could determine the proper owner and return it to them."

What can they do? And better yet, what can they prove in a court of law? :)

[Disclaimer, I am NOT a Lawyer. I am NOT advocating unauthorized possession of copy-written materials and/ or the mis-leading of authorities. I have carefully reviewed the prevailing law here, the Thailand Computer Crime Act of 2007, and do not see indication of what I am proposing is in violation of any sections of this law. However, again, I am NOT a lawyer and more importantly I am NOT a Thai lawyer.]

On the off chance this helps someone and you end up saving 50,000 THB, feel free to comp my drinks next time I visit your fine establishment.

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Blogger packetwrks said...

Given that the "authorities" are applying a "law" via dubious means (at best), I'm not sure any of this would be effective at mitigating the risk. You are proposing actions to avoid prosecution that are within the law where the people doing the extortion are outside the law.

In the US, you can be thrown in jail [1] for not providing your password to authorities. In Thailand, I can only imagine.

[1] http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/26/2157256

As someone who posts comments on blogs, my expert legal advice is to develop a rapport with the authorities, put them in a compromising situation with photos, and then hold said photos as blackmail. Then, profit!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mestizo said...

"As someone who posts comments on blogs"... Love it!

However, you are trying to apply Western ideals, which is not going to fly. Compromising situations.. photos.. That translates to a loss of face for the authority. That's going to get you into hell of a lot more trouble than any amount of mp3's ever could!

Regardless, its not certain whether the authorities are in on it or not. Could be a simple case of extreme ignorance about the situation.

What it boils down to really, is if they CAN'T catch you red-handed, you smile alot, are polite, show a mai-pen-rai (nevermind) attitude, and offer them a beer, most likely they are going to move on and look for an easier target. That's basically the way it works here. The point of my post really, was to aid in the "CAN'T catch you red-handed" department.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009 2:21:00 AM  
Blogger whatever said...

There's also a false-bottom door for TrueCrypt volumes.. So like your fake password if forced to enter it will show 1 thing, and the uber secret password u'd never enter under pressure shows your real hidden treasure.

Sunday, May 30, 2010 3:19:00 AM  

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