Virtual Jurisdiction


A random thought occurred to me while I was taking my morning shower. The thought wandered towards criminal activities and how the disconnect between technology and law can be used to the advantage of the criminals.

While encryption is a powerful tool that can be used, as the little comic above shows, it is most easy to compel the criminal to surrender the password or keys to decrypt the information. However, there is another bit of technology that will come in useful: virtual machines.

As the name suggests, a VM is a software implementation of hardware. It fakes software into thinking that it is running on real hardware. Simply put, it allows a virtual computer to run inside a real computer.

To the end user, a VM can behave just like the real thing. In fact, an entire industry has sprouted up in selling ‘virtual servers’ for people who wish to have their own servers. It is a cost saving measure as several virtual servers can share an actual server.

Now, the thing is a virtual server is just like any other software. In fact, Xen advertises the fact that they have live migration capabilities – the ability to transfer a running virtual machine from one real machine to another, via the network.

This means that a criminal, should do all of their illicit work in a VM. Then, when they law comes knocking, they can just transmit the VM to a machine located elsewhere. If the machine is located in an unfriendly foreign country, this will frustrate any attempt to retrieve vital evidence from the VM.

However, the authorities can still compel the criminal to transfer the VM back into the host country. C’est tres interessant, n’est pas?

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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