Archive

Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

This snooper’s charter makes George Orwell look lacking in vision.

By Heather Brooke – Sunday 8th November 2015.

Find Article Here:-

When the Home Office and intelligence agencies began promoting the idea that the new investigatory powers bill was a “climbdown”, I grew suspicious. If the powerful are forced to compromise they don’t crow about it or send out press releases – or, in the case of intelligence agencies, make off-the-record briefings outlining how they failed to get what they wanted. That could mean only one thing: they had got what they wanted.

So why were they trying to fool the press and the public that they had lost? Simply because they had won.

I never thought I’d say it, but George Orwell lacked vision. The spies have gone further than he could have imagined, creating in secret and without democratic authorisation the ultimate panopticon. Now they hope the British public will make it legitimate.

This bill is characterised by a clear anti-democratic attitude. Those in power are deemed to be good, and are therefore given the benefit of the doubt. “Conduct is lawful for all purposes if …” and “A person (whether or not the person so authorised or required) is not to be subject to any civil liability in respect of conduct that …”: these are sections granting immunity to the spies and cops.

The spies’ surveillance activities are also exempt from legal due process. No questions can be asked that might indicate in any legal proceeding that surveillance or interception has occurred. This is to ensure the general public never learn how real people are affected by surveillance. The cost of this exemption is great. It means British prosecutors can’t prosecute terrorists on the best evidence available – the intercepts – which are a key part of any prosecution in serious crime cases worldwide.

Those without power – eg citizens (or the more accurately named subjects) – are potentially bad, and therefore must be watched and monitored closely and constantly. The safeguards mentioned in the bill are there to benefit the state not the citizen. The criminal sanctions aren’t so much to stop spies or police abusing their powers, but rather to silence critics or potential whistleblowers. That’s clear because there is no public interest exemption in the sweeping gagging orders littered throughout the bill. The safeguards for keeping secure the massive troves of personal data aren’t there so much to protect the public but to stop anyone finding out exactly how big or invasive these troves are or how they were acquired. Again, we know this because there is no public interest exemption.

While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.

The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.

Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.

In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.

While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.

The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.

Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.

In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.

Business owners will not be able to speak out about this to anyone, even their employees, or appeal to any court or legal authority. Their only recourse appears to be to appeal to the secretary of state: what sort of independent adjudication will they get from that office?

Companies can be legally compelled by the security services to hack their customers’ equipment. The immensely worrying power to acquire bulk personal datasets, means there’s nothing to stop the entire NHS being used in service of spying. After all, why not? I’m sure there are useful leads that could be mined from our health records. If avoiding risk at all costs is the goal then why allow any personal freedom or privacy at all? The reason we do is because the concentration of power in the state is the most dangerous threat of all.

There are two types of transparency: downwards – where the ruled can observe their rulers, as codified in Freedom of Information Acts – and upwards, where those at the bottom are made transparent to those at the top, such as by state surveillance. Democracy is characterised by transparency downwards, tyranny by the opposite. It is telling that at the same time this government is seeking to undermine the Freedom of Information Act, it has introduced an investigatory powers bill that puts us all under the spotlight of suspicion.

The World Cracks Down on the Internet.

By   4th December 2014.             Find Article Here:-

In September of last year, Chinese authorities announced an unorthodox standard to help them decide whether to punish people for posting online comments that are false, defamatory, or otherwise harmful: Was a message popular enough to attract five hundred reposts or five thousand views? It was a striking example of how sophisticated the Chinese government has become, in recent years, in restricting Internet communication—going well beyond crude measures like restricting access to particular Web sites or censoring online comments that use certain keywords. Madeline Earp, a research analyst at Freedom House, the Washington-based nongovernmental organization, suggested a phrase to describe the approach: “strategic, timely censorship.” She told me, “It’s about allowing a surprising amount of open discussion, as long as you’re not the kind of person who can really use that discussion to organize people.”

On Thursday, Freedom House published its fifth annual report on Internet freedom around the world. As in years past, China is again near the bottom of the rankings, which include sixty-five countries. Only Syria and Iran got worse scores, while Iceland and Estonia fared the best. (The report was funded partly by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States Department of State, Google, and Yahoo, but Freedom House described the report as its “sole responsibility” and said that it doesn’t necessarily represent its funders’ views.)

China’s place in the rankings won’t come as a surprise to many people. The notable part is that the report suggests that, when it comes to Internet freedom, the rest of the world is gradually becoming more like China and less like Iceland. The researchers found that Internet freedom declined in thirty-six of the sixty-five countries they studied, continuing a trajectory they have noticed since they began publishing the reports in 2010.

Earp, who wrote the China section, said that authoritarian regimes might even be explicitly looking at China as a model in policing Internet communication. (Last year, she co-authored a report on the topic for the Committee to Protect Journalists.) China isn’t alone in its influence, of course. The report’s authors even said that some countries are using the U.S. National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance, which came to light following disclosures by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, “as an excuse to augment their own monitoring capabilities.” Often, the surveillance comes with little or no oversight, they said, and is directed at human-rights activists and political opponents.

China, the U.S., and their copycats aren’t the only offenders, of course. In fact, interestingly, the United States was the sixth-best country for Internet freedom, after Germany—though this may say as much about the poor state of Web freedom in other places as it does about protections for U.S. Internet users. Among the other countries, this was a particularly bad year for Russia and Turkey, which registered the sharpest declines in Internet freedom from the previous year. In Turkey, over the past several years, the government has increased censorship, targeted online journalists and social-media users for assault and prosecution, allowed state agencies to block content, and charged more people for expressing themselves online, the report noted—not to mention temporarily shutting down access to YouTube and Twitter. As Jenna Krajeski wrote in a post about Turkey’s Twitter ban, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed in March, “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic.” A month later, Russian President Vladimir Putin, not to be outdone by Erdoğan, famously called the Internet a “C.I.A. project,” as Masha Lipman wrote in a post about Russia’s recent Internet controls. Since Putin took office again in 2012, the report found, the government has enacted laws to block online content, prosecuted people for their Internet activity, and surveilled information and communication technologies. Among changes in other countries, the report said that the governments of Uzbekistan and Nigeria had passed laws requiring cybercafés to keep logs of their customers, and that the Vietnamese government began requiring international Internet companies to keep at least one server in Vietnam.

What’s behind the decline in Internet freedom throughout the world? There could be several reasons for it, but the most obvious one is also somewhat mundane: especially in countries where people are just beginning to go online in large numbers, governments that restrict freedom offline—particularly authoritarian regimes—are only beginning to do the same online, too. What’s more, governments that had been using strategies like blocking certain Web sites to try to control the Internet are now realizing that those approaches don’t actually do much to keep their citizens from seeing content that the governments would prefer to keep hidden. So they’re turning to their legal systems, enacting new laws that restrict how people can use the Internet and other technologies.

“There is definitely a sense that the Internet offered this real alternative to traditional media—and then government started playing catch-up a little bit,” Earp told me. “If a regime has developed laws and practices over time that limit what the traditional media can do, there’s that moment of recognition: ‘How can we apply what we learned in the traditional media world online?’ ”

There were a couple of hopeful signs for Internet activists during the year. India, where authorities relaxed restric­tions that had been imposed in 2013 to help quell rioting, saw the biggest improvement in its Internet-freedom score. Brazil, too, notched a big gain after lawmakers approved a bill known as the Marco Civil da Internet, which protects net neutrality and online privacy. But, despite those developments, the report’s authors didn’t seem particularly upbeat. “There might be some cautious optimism there, but I do not want to overstate that because, since we started tracking this, it’s been a continuous decline, unfortunately,” Sanja Kelly, the project director for the report, told me. Perhaps the surprising aspect of Freedom House’s findings isn’t that the Internet is becoming less free—it’s that it has taken this long for it to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunspot Takes Aim: X-Class Flare Thought To Be Responsible For Widespread Power Outages and Internet Problems.

October 25, 2014 1 comment

By Mac Slavo  October 23rd, 2014.     Find Full Article & Video Here:-

ar2192

A massive sunspot dubbed ‘Active Region 2192′ has rotated into an earth-facing position. NASA says the Jupiter-sized magnetic anomaly on the sun is crackling with energy and several days ago it fired off an X-class flare right in earth’s direction. Then, yesterday, it launched another flare that was measured to be five times more powerful than the first.

Though the classification of both flares was fairly low and rated in the 1.0 to 2.0 X-class range, the earth’s power and internet infrastructure has experienced some unusual effects over the last 48 hours.

As of this morning, numerous power outages have been reported by internet providers, electrical utility companies, cable companies and even large inter-networks like MSN.com and Amazon. The outages are being reported by users on Twitter all over the northern hemisphere, including from Canada all the way down to Boston. Many of the companies involved have suggested that the outages were planned or the result of wind storms, but what is curious is that at the very same time all of these outages were being reported on earth, the National Weather Service’s National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) announced that their space-based satellite systems stopped reporting data.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

But an alternate theory is that the solar flares emitted by AR 2192 have something to do with it. How else can we explain widespread outages for literally hundreds of thousands of people occurring almost simultaneously at key utility and internet nodes across thousands of miles on earth, and happening in tandem with a breakdown in communications from the NCEP’s weather monitoring satellite?

An X-class solar flare designated in the 1.0 to 2.0 range doesn’t usually take down power grids and communications infrastructure, though they have been known to temporarily knock out satellites and cause problems with Global Positioning Systems and radio communications.

The outages being reported by users are more than likely temporary without any permanent damage to the physical equipment involved in carrying the signals from point-to-point.

However, historical examples of large-scale outages resulting from solar flares have been well documented. In 1859 a massive solar flare known as the “Carrington Event” left newly developed Telegraph systems inoperable and reportedly even led them to explode and set stations on fire. In 1989 a geo-magnetic storm caused the collapse of Quebec’s hydro electric power station. The flare that took only 90 seconds to bring the electric company to its knees was a fairly powerful x15-Class discharge.

Given these examples, it’s not out of the question to suggest that a solar flare directly targeting Earth could potentially take out many modern day systems hooked into the grid.

In fact, 18 months ago the sun emitted what researchers called a “Carrington Class” solar flare. It just slightly missed earth, but had the sunspot been earth facing at the time it could have been the Kill Shot that took the majority of the planet back to the stone age.

‘The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,’ Henry Cooper, who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defence, told Washington Secrets.

‘There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,’ added Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission.

Major Ed Dames, who has long proposed that a massive solar event known as the Kill Shot will eventually hit earth, says that when it happens, expect widespread global outages. Unlike what we experience with lower classification X-flares, however a Kill Shot will be a long-term event:

Yeah, if any particular grid goes, they’re not all going to go down at once and some will never go down. The ones that are stretched out over long wide spaces, they will. They will under the right circumstances and the right circumstances are happening real soon, watch the solar flares from (sunspot) 2192 as a harbinger of what’s coming real fast.

When the grids go down, we’re looking at easily no less than 6 months, but probably 2 years. A lot can happen in terms of Mad Max scenarios.

(Full Interview and Transcript From Holly Deyo)
(Also see: Kill Shot, the documentary)

It’s a sentiment that has been expressed by many, including members of Congress, who say that that the threat of a massive solar flare is a clear and present danger to the United States and the world.

Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher.

By James Vincent  22nd July 2014.      Find Article Here:-

Apple says its diagnostic tools “do not compromise user privacy” but researchers say the un-publicised tools give access to ‘excessive’ data.

Apple has been accused of intentionally installing security backdoors in some 600 million iOS devices that offer surveillance-level access to data including photos, browsing history and GPS locations.

The vulnerabilities were uncovered by security expert Jonathan Zdziarski, who presented an academic paper on the subject at a hacker conference in New York last Friday.

Apple has issued a statement in response to the allegations saying that the company’s “diagnostic functions do not compromise user privacy and security,” but Zdziarski has responded by noting that these services “dish out data” regardless of whether the user has agreed to diagnostics.

“There is no way to disable these mechanisms,” Zdziarski writes on his personal blog. “This makes it much harder to believe that Apple is actually telling the truth here.”

The backdoors reportedly cover a range of hidden tools and protocols that activate with “paired” computers – machines connected to an iPhone or iPad via USB that the user has granted security access to.

Apple says that this allows individuals and businesses to manage their devices, but Zdziarski has pointed out that the system offers unecrypted access to users’ online log-ins, contacts and web history and could be compromised by anyone with access to the same Wi-Fi network.

“Pairing records can be stolen a number of different ways, ranging from a shared coffee shop computer to an ex-lover whose computer you used to trust,” writes Zdziarski.

Technology site The Register speculates that the protocols are there to conform with America’s 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act – legislation that requires technology companies to maintain backdoors for the benefit of law enforcement agencies. Zdziarski, however, told the site that the level of access Apple provides “exceeds anything that law requires.”

The allegations could be especially damaging for Apple in China, where the national broadcaster CCTV recently suggested that the iPhone’s ‘Frequent Locations’ feature was a threat to national security.

Apple has responded by repeating that it has “never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services”.

Zdziarski has since repeated his assertions that the amount of information offered by these backdoors is unprecedented: “These services break the promise that Apple makes with the consumer when they enter a backup password; that the data on their device will only come off the phone encrypted.

“The consumer is also not aware of these mechanisms, nor are they prompted in any way by the device. There is simply no way to justify the massive leak of data as a result of these services, and without any explicit consent by the user.”

He adds that he is in no way accusing Apple of working directly with security agencies but that he suspects that “some of these services may have been used by [the] NSA to collect data”.

See Also:-  http://www.zdnet.com/forensic-scientist-identifies-suspicious-back-doors-running-on-every-ios-device-7000031795/

Categories: Internet, Surveillance

Young people give up privacy on Google and Facebook ‘because they haven’t read 1984’.

By   6th June 2014.          Find Article Here:-

Young people hand over their private details to internet companies and on social networking site too readily because they have not read 1984 by George Orwell, an academic warns.

A photo taken on May 16, 2012 shows a computer screen displaying the logo of social networking site Facebook reflected in a window before the Beijing skyline.

The services that Google and Facebook give us are so good that people are willing to trade off their privacy for them.

Young people willingly give-up their privacy on Google and Facebook because they have not read George Orwell’s ‘1984’ unlike previous generations, a leading academic has warned.

Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University, said that large corporations were hovering up private information and modern generations did not realize it was wrong.

He said that older people who had grown up reading George Orwell’s 1984 about ‘Big Brother technology and ‘ authoritarianism’, were in a better position to resist the creeping erosion of privacy.

Professor Sharkey, speaking at Cheltenham Science Festival, said: “I’m 65, I don’t want to be targeted. I am very uncomfortable with it. It seems to me that our privacy is gradually being violated and eroded without us noticing.

“I am part of the generation which all read 1984 – I think we are less happy about giving up our privacy.

“But the younger generation aren’t really thinking about it. The services that Google and Facebook give us are so good that people are willing to trade off their privacy for them. If you grow up with that, that is what you know to like.”

Technology commentators have become increasingly concerned that Google has recently purchased a collection of artificial intelligence and robotics companies.

They fear it will give the technology giant unlimited access to private information.

Google recently paid £1.9billion for Nest Labs, a firm which makes internet–connected heating systems, allowing people to control their thermostats from afar.

Although supporters ague that having greater control over home applications can only be beneficial, others are worried that it enables firms to collect data about energy use and living habits.

Google also spent £300 million on Deep-Mind, a British artificial intelligence firm which specialises in quickly building up a profile of an individual based on their internet activity.

He said: ‘Google has a policy where they keep our entire history. They know far too much about us.

“At the moment it doesn’t seem harmful. But because governments can get hold of this information, they can monitor you, things might change quite dramatically.

“You give away that much information – you can now take little bits of data, put in a simple little algorithm, and it can put it all together and build up a big picture about us.”

He warned that soon Google would know ‘where you are all of the time.’

“The problem with any technology is that once it goes into the wild, once it starts picking up momentum and getting critical mass, we have no idea how it will be used, no idea. It is quite worrying,” he added.

World’s biggest cyber crime gang thwarted by police.

By   2nd June 2014.          Find Full Article and Video Here:-

It was one of the most sophisticated cyber crime campaigns ever mounted: a hacking spree that snared millions of victims worldwide and netted the gang behind it as much as half a billion pounds. Not content with raiding the bank accounts of their victims, the thieves blackmailed them, and then hijacked their computers to snare even more targets.

The criminal network behind it has now been hit by a global police operation. Channel 4 News was given exclusive access to the UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) as it helped in the take-down of the GameOver Zeus Crew, a notorious group of computer criminals believed to be based in Russia.

Phishing emails

The gang used carefully crafted phishing emails to trick its way on to victims’ machines, often masquerading as urgent messages from HMRC or Companies House. Some corporate victims told Channel 4 News that the emails included specific details about their company to add to their authenticity.

The emails included an attachment or link, and when the recipient clicked on it they were infected with GameOver Zeus, a powerful new virus. It first checked whether the computer’s keyboard was set up in Russian, and if not, it installed a more complex virus which gave the criminal gang complete control over the machine.

“Anything you can do on your computer, they can do on your computer without you knowing,” said Stewart Garrick, who has led the NCCU’s investigation into the gang. “I know of more than 15,000 computers in the UK infected with this right now.”

The virus was used to blackmail victims, steal cash from their accounts, and then force the infected computer to snare other victims.

It gave the criminals real-time access to the victim’s entire online life: Channel 4 News was shown how the hackers can record videos of everything that appears on the screen, gather passwords for websites, and even switch on the webcam.

Extortion campaign

Blackmail is a key tactic, and the gang was behind a global extortion campaign that snared doctors’ surgeries, lawyers and even police stations. It used the virus to launch Cryptolocker, which scrambles the victims’ files and gives them deadline to pay a ransom of hundreds of pounds to get them back.

Eunice Power, a chef in Co Waterford, found the contents of her laptop scrambled. “This big red screen appeared saying ‘your files have been encrypted’. I checked the files and it was all gobbledy-gook, one after the other. I unplugged it thinking that would sort it out but it didn’t.

“At this point it was flashing up an amount of time, I had 72 hours to pay a ransom. I had an external back-up which was plugged in at the time so that was all encrypted. I could feel perspiration coming out through me. I didn’t believe anything could be so evil.”

The blackmailers demanded payment in the virtual currency Bitcoin. As Mrs Power struggled to make the payment work, the countdown hit zero.

“I lost everything: family photos, accounts, payroll, everything. If someone had robbed my house it would have been easier. It was devastating,” she said.

Her folders are still intact, meaning she can see which photos and documents she lost, but when she tries to open them, she is confronted with incomprehensible code.

Bank accounts targeted

Blackmail is just one option: the thieves’ main target is internet banking.

“They want to monetise the investment they’ve made in getting into your machine,” said Don Smith of Dell SecureWorks, which has spent years tracking the gang. “They are absolutely after dollars, pounds and euros.”

Once installed the virus waits for the computer to connect to online banking, and then alerts the criminal, who can manipulate what the victim sees on screen, throwing up fake pages and tricking them into authorising transfers out of their account.

Protecting yourself

With the criminals’ network disrupted, now is the time to protect your computer. There are three things you need to do:

1. Update your operating system (this is Microsoft Windows if you own a PC, or Mac OS if you have an Apple machine).

2. Install, update and run anti-virus software.
There are many options but try to buy it as a physical CD – that way you don’t risk downloading from a dodgy website.

There is more advice on the government’s Get Safe Online website.

SEE ALSO:-

Global Police Operation Disrupts Aggressive Cryptolocker Virus:-

How To Protect Yourself From Gameover Zeus:-