It’s been a few years since the Macomb County Circuit Court issued a warning to its residents about the growing threat of a cyber attack, but many of the county’s residents still haven’t heard of it.
That’s because there’s nothing in the county code that prohibits a person from having a chat on the internet, according to Michael Foltz, a lawyer who works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
He says the county is trying to get around that with a number of different legal means, including asking residents to provide a “credential,” a form of identification that can help people access certain types of services, such as social networking and email.
A computer expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his job, said Foltbergs case against the county has been on hold for years, but he’s still waiting to see if the county will ever go forward with a trial.
A trial, the expert said, would have to be held in a public place like a courthouse, and be overseen by a judge.
But the county hasn’t said when it plans to start one, and Folt, who specializes in cyber law, said that, in general, it’s not uncommon for governments to try and get around the state’s laws by working with civil rights lawyers to settle out of court.
The county has tried a number legal tactics, he said.
But he said he thinks that the best way to deal with a cyber threat is to not allow it to occur in the first place.
“I would just hope that there is a public conversation,” Foltzz said.
“The county has not had a public discussion about this.”
Foltzes attorney, John O’Brien, said his client is in good spirits, but his family still hasn’t received a response from the county.
O’Briens lawyers have filed motions with the court to get the trial moved out of the courthouse, arguing that the county should have made clear to the public in advance that a chat could be used to launch a cyber-attack, and should have told residents to turn off their computers if they were using them.
O`Brien, who has a background in digital privacy, said he was surprised to see the county take the stance it did.
“It is a concern that has been raised by other jurisdictions,” O’Connor said.
“[But] I think the county had better understand that, to the extent that they had any concerns, they were very clearly stated to the people that were affected, they had to be told.”
But even if it did get the public to understand that a conversation on the phone is potentially dangerous, O’O’Brien said, the county still could have taken a different tack.
“If the county was serious about getting the message out and was serious that it was a public safety issue, they could have communicated with the people to make sure that the messaging was not going to be misused,” O`Connor said, adding that it could also have taken measures to prevent the communications from getting to the hackers.
The legal battles have taken their toll on the community.
On Wednesday, the Macombs County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution stating that “we support the community in recognizing the risks of cyber-related activities and are committed to protecting ourselves and others from them.”
But the resolution, which passed with a 4-2 vote, didn’t mention the Macos, and instead referred to “cyberattacks.”
The Macos County Code says that a person is guilty of violating a cybersecurity ordinance if “a person communicates a threat of an unlawful act, including the use of a computer network or a communication system, to a third party” and that “a violation of this ordinance is a misdemeanor.”
But that doesn’t apply to people using a private computer, such a a laptop, or an iPad.
“In the context of the Maco County Code, the term ‘third party’ means a person or entity that provides service to the person,” the resolution reads.
“Any third party providing a service to a person through the Internet, phone, or other means is considered a third-party service provider.”
In the past, Oftrell and his colleagues have also been fighting the Macomans county’s decision to allow a Facebook user to share their own address on the Macome.
Facebook says it has “overwhelmingly” rejected the Macobans County’s request for a “prohibitively restrictive order,” and is reviewing the matter.
“We are currently reviewing this request for relief in light of the high level of privacy concerns expressed by the Macominas community, and are currently in discussion with them,” Facebook said in a statement.
In an interview with ABC News, Foltaz said that his case against Macomb was the first to get a trial because of the publicity it generated.
“At first I didn’t think it would be anything other than a civil suit,” Feltz