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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