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Archive for July, 2012

If you go down to the Games today, you’d better not go in disguise

July 29, 2012 Leave a comment

AnonCentral has issued a warning to Anons:

WARNING! All Anons be aware that there is a UK wide Section 60 in place for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Section 60 (of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994), is the police stop-and-search-without-suspicion power. That is, if they don’t like the look of you, that’s all that is needed to stop and search you.

A person in that area can be searched to see if they are in possession of weapons or dangerous instruments (being anything that has a blade or sharp point). Arrests have already been made using these powers in the last 24hrs in London and Glasgow.

So, says AnonCentral,

…be EXTREMELY CAREFUL with what you are carrying on your person. DO NOT wear your Mask, if heading to a protest action Avoid taking Mobile Phones and anything that may Identify you.

This follows the wider, more general, post from Liberty. Liberty is concerned about all of the liberty-invading precautions being put in place for the Games – such as the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act (2006), which

…allows for the banning of advertising of a “non-commercial nature, and […] announcements of notices of any kind”. Section 22 of the Act allows a “constable or enforcement officer” to “enter land or premises” where they believe a prohibited advert is being shown or produced and destroy the materials.

And then there’s the potential use of LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices) as offensive weapons against crowds (which, in the context of dispersal powers available to the police, could be considered “children and adults in groups of two or more”).

The big concern is that these Games-specific restrictions and powers do an income tax – a law that was specifically brought in to fight Napoleon and has stayed ever since.

Kudos to the first person managing to film an unmanned spy drone flying over the capital…

Categories: All, Politics

The ICO, Google and the need for a new pit bull approach to privacy

July 29, 2012 1 comment

Have I mentioned that the ICO is a waste of both space and money? Well, if you ever doubted me, doubt no more. It has been treated with utter contempt by Google, and there’s not a damn thing it can do.

Do you remember Spy-Fi, when Google engaged in its very own version of drive-by downloading? Well the ICO said, “No! Stop it. Don’t do it again. And delete what you’ve got.” And Google said, ever-so politely, yes sir – we will. Only it didn’t. “Google has recently confirmed that it still has in its possession a small portion of payload data collected by our Street View vehicles in the UK.” It says it was an error and will work with the ICO to remedy the situation.

But how does the ICO know? How does the ICO know what Google has done with that payload data, what it may do with that payload data, or how many copies of that payload exist in what parts of Google’s vast and nebulous cloud? It wrote back, even more politely, asking for Google to store the data securely for examination before being told what to do with it.

But how does the ICO know, and what can it do? Nothing, except take the word of big business.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, has no doubt on what should happen:

The Information Commissioner is hampered by a woeful lack of powers and is forced to trust organisations to tell the truth. Given Google’s behaviour has called into question if that really is a proper way to protect our personal data, it must be right to now demand a proper regulator with the powers and punishments to fully protect British people’s privacy.

It’s time to get rid of the self-congratulatory lap dog and replace it with an angry pit bull.

Categories: All, Politics, Security Issues

Simon Cowell: creativity? Roger Daltrey: my generation? I don’t think so

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s a puzzle. What do Simon Cowell, Roger Daltrey (CBE), (the Lord) Lloyd Webber, and (Sir) Elton John (CBE) have in common?

Yes, you’re right, they’re all aging fuddy-duddies. But that’s not the answer. You can choose from any of the following correct answers:

Their letter includes this:

Illegal activity online must be pushed to the margins…

The simplest way to ensure this would be to implement swiftly the long overdue measures in the Digital Economy Act 2010; and to ensure broadband providers, search engines and online advertisers play their part in protecting consumers and creators from illegal sites.

Let’s look at this.

implement swiftly the long overdue measures in the Digital Economy Act 2010
That is, start the three strikes graduated response to frighten UK citizens into doing what we want: which is to support a broken business model in order to carry on making our fortunes even bigger.

ensure broadband providers, search engines and online advertisers play their part
That is, get ISPs to block sites we don’t like; get search engines to censor links we don’t like; and prevent advertisers advertising things we don’t like.

The problem here is this. Those things they don’t like are mostly (but far from entirely) already illegal. We have laws (even without the Digital Economy Act) that can be used against illegal things. But what these people want is to become the arbiters of the law – they wish to tell the courts what is illegal rather than have the courts decide. And they don’t care how many innocent people are hurt or disrupted in the process.

Yesterday, TorrentFreak published an overview of the rightsholders’ leaked strategy. On cyberlockers, for example, they want sites that do not comply with their own infringing-content removal criteria, to be shut down. Megaupload is a good example. It didn’t remove infringing copyright fast enough for the rightsholders – so in conjunction with the FBI it was taken down. Who cares about the thousands of legal users with thousands of legally stored documents? Certainly not the rightsholders.

Frankly, if it wasn’t so serious it would be hilarious. Daltrey made a fortune by talking about his generation. That generation was young and dynamic and rebellious. Now he has abandoned the young and the rebellious in favour of the rich and staid. Cowell has put his name to the statement, “To continue to create world-beating creative content…” This is Simon Cowell. The same Simon Cowell who has sucked creativity out of the music industry by concentrating on pre-packaged, good-looking pretty boys and girls who can do nothing but recycle cover versions of old music. Creativity? All of these people want to stamp out creativity and concentrate increasing their own – nobody else’s – fortunes.

You and me and the internet generation are the enemy; and you and me must be made to conform to an internet made in their own image.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

Tokyo police go for the cuddly image

July 23, 2012 Leave a comment

I guess the Japanese police have decided that their public image is too harsh. They seem to have adopted Yogi Bear for their future logo.

Here’s the real Yogi Bear.

I wonder how long it will be before Hanna-Barbera Productions issues a takedown notice on the Tokyo Metropolitan Police?

Or me for that matter.

Categories: All, Politics

The Olympic spirit died when they left out Beckham

July 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Just as a quick aside, I long ago became sick of the over-commercialisation of the Olympics. Months ago I realised that the only thing I would follow would be the football – until they left out Beckham.

That man has done more for the good name of sport in general and the Olympics in particular than anyone else I know. Leaving him out of the GB football team is a slap in the face for selfless sportsmanship. This is not what the Olympic spirit should mean.

These Olympics now mean nothing – it is just an ego-boost for government and a commercial opportunity for business. And as ever it is the people who are being fleeced; and genuine sportsmanship ignored.

Categories: All, General Rants

Thus did the Great Darkness begin…

July 22, 2012 Leave a comment

There is a tight correlation between the escalation of cyber warnings and the introduction of government legislation or agency budget requisitions. This is an empirical fact. In fact, you can go further: the more contentious the legislation, the more dire the warning; the greater the budget request, the more severe the threat.

The problem is that these threats and warnings are peppered with lies. On Thursday, the president of the United States lied to the world, and more specifically to the American people. He wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Last month I convened an emergency meeting of my cabinet and top homeland security, intelligence and defense officials. Across the country trains had derailed, including one carrying industrial chemicals that exploded into a toxic cloud. Water treatment plants in several states had shut down, contaminating drinking water and causing Americans to fall ill.
Taking the Cyberattack Threat Seriously

That is a lie. It didn’t happen. There was no toxic cloud. Contaminated water did not make Americans ill (at least not cyber-instigated contamination). It was, he says later in the article , “a simulation.” But by now his sensationalist lies have had their effect – they have frightened the American public into accepting the article’s ultimate conclusion:

For the sake of our national and economic security, I urge the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and Congress to send me comprehensive legislation so I can sign it into law.

It’s time to strengthen our defenses against this growing danger.

Here in the UK we are suffering this same linkage between threat and legislation. In the UK, the legislation is the proposed Communications Bill; which shares with the Cybersecurity Act greater ease and facility in sharing information between industry and government. That’s how both governments describe it; and that sounds innocuous and worthwhile. But when you translate that into reality, its truly evil nature is clear. ‘Industry’ equates to your Google and Hotmail and Facebook and LinkedIn and every other account you have on the internet. ‘Sharing’ equates to government ability to take on demand without judicial warrant. That is, ‘sharing’ means the ability of government to access your accounts and to monitor your movements.

But do not ever expect government to share information back with the people. It is contrary to their secrecy DNA. Years ago I took part in a very worthwhile UK project called WARP (Warning, Advisory and Reporting Point) that came out of CESG. My purpose was to extend the WARP concept beyond the public sector and into the private sector. At one point I was operating three separate private sector WARPs. I gave up when CESG issued a security warning to all of the public sector WARPs and withheld it from the private sector WARPs. This is government’s view of sharing: we take; we do not give.

The true purpose behind most of the cyber legislation on both sides of the Atlantic has little to do with security. It has all to do with control. While the internet gives liberty to the people, it withholds control from the government. The internet must therefore be controlled; and if that destroys our liberty, so be it. If our governments succeed, history will look back on the first two decades of the 21st century and say, ‘that is when the Great Darkness began…’

Categories: All, Politics, Security Issues

An electrician’s view of world affairs

July 21, 2012 1 comment

We needed an electrician. He was an ex-Marine – as they often are down here. We talked while he worked, as one does.

He was stationed in Norway during the cold war – and he and his mates came to the conclusion that the reason they were there was to prove that they were needed to be there. “The real enemy,” he said, “is behind us, because every 20 years America goes to war. It has stocks of out-of-date armaments that it needs to use up and replace. Now, of course,” he added, “things are speeding up.”

Later, he was stationed with other troops in Turkey, waiting to go into northern Iraq at the time of the first Gulf war. Down the road were US troops. Between them was the local police station. One night the police station was attacked by the PKK. Next day he and his mates went to the area from whence the attack came – and the only shells they found were the very latest advanced armaments available only to US troops. “The truth is there,” he said. “You just need to know what to look for.”

There’s only been one genuine war recently, he added. “That was the Falklands War. The rest have been manufactured.”

On G4S he said, ‘Who is surprised? Anyone involved in securing sporting events knows the problem: how are you going to get trustworthy, suitable staff available for just a couple of weeks?” He told me about a solution used by one of the major UK rugby venues (they’re big on rugby in the marines). Off-duty troops were used. A few quid in hand, travel expenses and a share of any confiscated alcohol. “To amuse ourselves,” he added, “we picked on Sky photographers and reporters. Any equipment had to be kept within so many feet of the owner. We knew who it belonged to because it was labeled. But if the owner wandered a few feet over the limit, we confiscated the equipment and didn’t let them have it back until after the game.”

I’m not commenting. I’m just reporting…

Categories: All, Politics

Hackers and girlfriends

July 17, 2012 4 comments

“Want to put a stop to hacking? The solution is simple: Get hackers girlfriends,” says an article in InformationWeek. OK; that’s a simplification, but it is the basic message of the article.

But there’s one problem with this theory: is a serious hacker capable of a serious relationship? The author touches on the problem when he raises the issue of Asperger’s syndrome. There has long been a link between Asperger’s and hacking. Kevin Mitnick once read about the symptoms, and thought, hey, that’s me. Gary McKinnon is a known sufferer.

But the subject of the article, Grainne Kirwan, gets it the wrong way round. “She cautions against trying to reduce the cause of hacking to just a developmental disorder,” says the article. The reality is not that Asperger’s causes hackers, it’s more that hacking is unlikely without Asperger’s.

I was talking to a member of Anonymous recently. We were talking about Jester. “Jester is not a hacker,” I was told. “Jester is a social engineer. He doesn’t have the application necessary to be a serious hacker. He’s not autistic. Most serious Anons are autistic to one degree or another.”

It was the matter of fact way it was delivered that took me by surprise.

Categories: All, Security Issues

BT: major outage in Exeter

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Question 1.
What sort of third world, tin pot organization doesn’t carry hardware backups in this always on interconnected world?

Answer 1.
BT. Thousands of users in the Exeter/Newton Abbot area have been without a broadband connection for more than 20 hours. Current status: awaiting delivery of hardware; expected fix in 4 hours.

Being without Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and access to the newswires makes me realise how sad I have become.

Question 2.
Is it time that Townsend got a life?

Answer 2.
Yes; but without the internet I don’t know where to look.

Posted by phone – with great difficulty and annoyance.

Categories: All, General Rants

The UK and the USA – identical in war and law

July 15, 2012 Leave a comment

The text books say there are fifty states in the USA, plus Washington DC. Actually, there are fifty-one states, plus Washington DC. That elusive fifty-first state is the UK, whose lawmakers and intelligence agencies so closely mimic the USA you have to suspect they are instructed by the same.

The latest examples are the Cybersecurity Act in the US and the Communications Bill in the UK. EFF describes the Cybersecurity Act as “a bill that would allow Internet companies to monitor the sensitive communications of users and pass that data to the government without any judicial oversight.” It adds, “In response to ongoing delays in passing the bill, backers of the Cybersecurity Act have been attempting to drum up fears about catastrophic cyberattacks.”

EFF specifically mentions Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, who just a week ago said, “The conflict is growing, the probability for crisis is mounting. While we have the time, we should think about and enact those things that we need to ensure our security in this area. Do it now, before a crisis.”

Meanwhile, back in the good ol’ Ranch UK, the Open Rights Group says of the Communications Bill, “We have dubbed it the Snoopers Charter, because we believe it is a significant threat to our privacy. It marks a serious increase in the powers the state has to order any communications provider – whether it is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like BT or an Internet company like Google – to collect, store and provide access to our information about our emails, online conversations and texts,” adding that “there will be no external, meaningful and direct oversight of access requests,” (that is, no judicial oversight). Cybersecurity Act = Communications Bill.

But, just like the Cybersecurity Act, the Communications Bill is not without its critics. So who does the UK roll out in defence? None other than the head of MI5, Jonathan Evans. In a speech, titled, ‘The Olympics and Beyond’, he concludes, “the proposed legislation [ie, Communications Bill] to ensure that communications data continues to be available to the police and security agencies in the future, as it has in the past, is in my view a necessary and proportionate measure to ensure that crimes, including terrorist crimes, can be prevented, detected and punished. It would be extraordinary and self-defeating if terrorists and criminals were able to adopt new technologies in order to facilitate their activities while the law enforcement and security agencies were not permitted to keep pace with those same technological changes.” Pentagon = MI5.

I cannot go any further without pointing out that “as it has in the past” is so misleading and such a distortion of reality that it is, too all intents and purposes, nothing short of a blatant lie. However, that aside, it is clear that the UK and the USA act in complete unison in both war and law – and I see no reason to claim that the UK is still a sovereign nation.

Categories: All, Politics
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