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Archive for October, 2012

Statistics, false statistics and damned government lies – the Communications Bill and Theresa May

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has today re-iterated her and the government’s commitment to the Communications Bill, dubbed by many the snooper’s charter. She was answering questions from the joint parliamentary committee examining the proposals.

I wasn’t there and I have no transcript, so I’m taking the BBC report at face value. It says:

“The aim of this is to ensure our law enforcement agencies can carry on having access to the data they find so necessary operationally in terms of investigation, catching criminals and saving lives.” (said May)

Of the 30,000 estimated cases last year where the police made an urgent request for communications data, between 25% and 40% of them resulted in lives being saved.
Draft Communications Bill: May says web monitoring will save lives

I’ve never heard this before. Between 7500 (25% of 30,000) and 12,000 (40% of 30,000) lives were saved last year because of urgent police requests for communications data? I’ll be honest here: I don’t believe it.

But the question remains, where have these figures come from. Even this government wouldn’t dare pluck random figures from the ether without some face-saving backup.

Well, back in June the Home Office published a document called Communications Data Bill – key background information. It includes the following:

Many tens of thousands of communications data requests are made every year in urgent threat to life situations: e.g. to find a vulnerable or missing person or in kidnap situations.
Communications Data Bill – key background information – 14 June 21012

Ten thousand is not many tens of thousands. Twenty thousand is just a couple of tens of thousands. Thirty thousand could – at a pinch – be described as ‘many tens of thousands’. Logically, then, the figure mentioned back in June accounts for the entire 30,000 cases ‘where the police made an urgent request for communications data’ last year mentioned today by May. It’s the same 30,000 in both cases.

Those requests are largely (we can assume, since that is all that is mentioned) to do with missing persons and kidnaps. (I would guess that kidnaps are far fewer than missing persons requests.) This assumption has some weight because the next premise could, at a pinch, be true: if a missing person is not found, he or she could be presumed dead; or at least would have died if not found. Tenuous, but arguable.

This could easily be used to justify a claim that between 25% and 40% of such requests led to missing persons being found and lives being saved. And I don’t believe anyone would object to communications providers handing over limited intelligence (after all, they know precisely who they are looking for) as quickly as possible in these cases.

Where these figures cannot be used is to justify the blanket surveillance of the entire population on the basis that we’re all potential terrorists and criminals; and that just because missing children and vulnerable lives are saved, so will many more because of the Communications Bill.

That is such a blatant distortion and misuse of statistics that it goes beyond being damned statistics and is a pure and simple blatant lie.

Categories: All, Politics, Security Issues

Apple obeys the letter but not the spirit of the law

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

In losing its design case against Samsung in July, and the subsequent appeal earlier this month, Apple was ordered by the court to display a statement on its website confirming that the Samsung Galaxy Tab does not infringe the Apple iPad’s registered design. It has now obeyed the letter of the law and has posted the required statement in full, viz:

On 9th July 2012 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001. A copy of the full judgment of the High court is available on the following link http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Patents/2012/1882.html.
Apple statement

However, in typical Apple style it has turned defeat into victory by adding several additional paragraphs – including, for example, the famous statement that Apple “is cool”, while Samsung is “not as cool”. Apple’s statement concludes with a completely new paragraph:

However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design. A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple’s design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple’s far more popular iPad.

This, surely, is Apple obeying the letter of the law, but wilfully disregarding and exploiting the spirit of the law.

Categories: All, Politics

Engrenages!

October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

With the support of Eurojust and Europol, 48 members of an Albanian-speaking organised crime network were arrested on 16 October in the region of Mulhouse, France, during a simultaneous operation, coordinating 400 police officers, investigators and prosecutors from several European law enforcement agencies and prosecution offices.

The suspects were operating in Germany, France and Switzerland and active in trafficking heroin and cocaine, illegal immigration and the use of counterfeit documents.

This is not a teaser for the next series of Engrenages, but an announcement from Europol. Still, it will make a great next series when they do it…

 

Categories: All

Telegraph becomes the latest media organization to collude with government propaganda

October 23, 2012 Leave a comment

“Britain is target of up to  1,000 cyber attacks every hour” says the headline in a Telegraph article today. It comes from William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, in his latest interview with the media.

What neither Hague nor the Telegraph do is explain where this figure comes from, nor what type of attack is meant. Last month the White House was breached by Chinese attackers who gained access to US nuclear secrets. The reality is there was a single, but unsuccessful, phishing attack that got past the primary defences.  You have to wonder if similar disinformation is at work here.

If we’re talking about ‘all’ attacks, then I would suspect this is an unrealistically conservative figure – 1000 attacks per second – scam, spam, skiddie probes, phishing et al – would be more realistic for the whole of the UK. But limiting the figure to just 1000 makes the reader assume this is 1000 serious, APT-style attacks against the critical infrastructure alone. The problem is, no details are given, leaving the reader to assume the worst.

This lack of detail pervades the entire article/interview.

Hackers and foreign spies are bombarding government departments and businesses around the clock in what has become one of the ‘greatest challenges’ of modern times.

As well as targeting state or trade secrets, the cyber criminals and anarchists also try to disrupt infrastructure and communications and even satellite systems.
Britain is target of up to 1,000 cyber attacks every hour

Anarchists threaten the internet? Really? Typical fear-mongering, reminiscent of the Russian hacker who attacked a US water utility (not), or the attack on Brazilian power supplies that turned out to be soot on the insulators.

This speech is just another fear-mongering attempt by the government to ease the passage of the Communications Bill, and is typical of the sort of government warnings, on both sides of the Atlantic, that always precede new legislation.

That’s not to say the internet is safe. It isn’t. There are problems, lots of problems and serious problems. We think we’re secure when we’re not. But that’s not the underlying message from Hague and GCHQ. The underlying message here is that terrorists (and anarchists!) are attacking the UK, and the only solution is to pass more laws giving government more powers and us less liberty. The security industry joins in with this conspiracy by leaping on every word the government utters – even though they said it first – and claiming government endorsement of the need for business to buy their products. Government wants our liberty and the security industry wants our money.

But it’s the final two paragraphs of this article that should worry us most.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, appointed by the Prime Minister, believes Britain should declare cyber war on states and criminals who target the country by using aggressive retaliatory strikes to destroy their own operations.

Security and intelligence agencies should be willing to engage in covert cyber attacks on enemy states using programs such as the Stuxnet virus that targeted Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the committee members say.

The worrying thing is not the sentiment – we’ve already been doing that for years. The worrying thing is that government is now openly advocating what it is already doing secretly. The implication is that if things are that bad, we’re effectively at war. War invariably involves martial law. Martial law of the internet is what the government is after. If we think we are at war, attacking and being attacked, we are more likely to accept the draconian laws that the government wants to enact – for our own safety.

We are being manipulated into accepting the loss of liberty. It is disgraceful that a newspaper like the Telegraph should support this manipulation.

Categories: All, Politics, Security Issues

Rebellion follows breakdown in a feudal society – we are a broken feudal society; and Anonymous is the first sign of rebellion

October 21, 2012 2 comments

Nothing but the words we use have changed since the Middle Ages: we still live in a feudal society that is designed to funnel the labour of the masses into the pockets of the few. The ‘few’ are the owners of wealth: it used to be just landowners, now they are joined by financiers and industrialists. The government remains the administrative arm of the few: governments continue to organize the means by which the funnel works and cloak it in arguments about the ‘economy’. Even the social contract remains the same: the people hand over the results of their labour in exchange for peace, protection and security.

Problems arise in a feudal society, such as ours today, when that basic contract begins to fail. It is failing now: people feel neither protected nor secure. First, the people begin to question things. See the Truth movement. Then they start to protest. See the Occupy movement. Then they take action. See the increasingly interventionist stance of the Anonymous movement. This can only increase.

The problem is that the social contract has always been a fallacy. Government priority has never been to protect the people; it has always been to enrich the wealthy. Throughout history government has been able to fool the people by controlling information as well as money and arms. The internet is changing things. Governments still control the ‘media’, because they either own the media or are the servants of the owners of the media.

But the people are turning away from the media and looking for the truth on the internet – by reading independent bloggers, and multiple news sources such as alJazeera, RT and Mehr as well as the BBC in order to get a balance. And as the people learn more of the truth, they are less content with the status quo – that false social contract. We have reached that stage where the people will increasingly take the law into their own hands because they do not believe the governments’ law is working for them. It has already happened in parts of the Arab world. It is happening now in the ‘west’, not in the same open and bloody rebellion, but in the green shoots of rebellion shown by Anonymous.

The law was not able to protect Amanda Todd (watch her video, please), nor find the bully who drove her to suicide. So Anonymous did (or at least provided the name of the person it believes was responsible). The law is unable or unwilling to navigate the dark net and expose paedophile websites. So Anonymous does – and acts where the law doesn’t. This interventionist approach will grow because it is a popular uprising in protest against the way government fails to protect the people and concentrates on enriching the rich at the expense of the people; and that will not change.

Make no mistake, the few will not give up their current position. They are not going to say, you’re right, we’re wrong; here, take all your money back and let’s be more egalitarian from now on. They will fight, first by seeking to regain control over information through controlling the internet, then by demonizing all popular movements, then by new and draconian laws, and finally by increasing use of physical force.

All of this is happening right now, all around us. We see it everywhere. You can see it as clearly as I do if you just look and question. The issue is where do we go from here?

See also: Civil war isn’t coming – it’s here

Categories: All, Politics, Security Issues

Censorship: idiots playing god with morality

October 18, 2012 2 comments

Isn’t censorship a wonderful thing? While my friends were exercising at the local sports centre in Newton Abbot, I decided to sit things out and carry on working in the gallery. Out came my trusty tablet to connect with the centre’s BT hotspot – and I scanned the news.

This headline caught my eye: New MegaUpload will deflect copyright liability and become raid-proof.

I assumed it would be a move to the cloud – just as I understand The Pirate Bay has or will be doing. But I had to check, so I clicked the link. What I got was this:

Domain Blocked: feed.torrentfreak.com

The domain you are trying to access
has been blocked by the network
administrator.

If you feel this is in error, please contact support@wifispark.com

Why on earth would someone block a legitimate news site? So that’s what I wrote to support@wifispark.com.

This is the reply I got from Jonathon:

This site is obviously blocked under torrents, due to its relation to torrenting and the provision of links to torrent sites and torrent programs. Unfortunately we cannot allow such p2p communication over the network as it is a public service, and these types of communications can massively impact the network for other users.

Let’s be clear – TorrentFreak is a highly regarded news site that provides news on a popular, legal, and pretty damn good and technically advanced computing concept. TorrentFreak does not provide a torrent service, so you won’t get ‘p2p communication over the network‘ from TorrentFreak. If you search through its archives you will find links to some sites and some software – but even there it would be a whole lot simpler to use Google.

block

Google page one on  ‘torrent sites’ search

Why, then, doesn’t WiFiSpark block Google? Doesn’t stand up does it? This is simple censorship, either because they’ve got crap censorship software that blocks any site with the word ‘torrent’, or because someone has leant on them, or because they think they are the arbiters of right and wrong. And that’s the danger in censorship: some idiot gets to play god with morality and invariably gets it wrong.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

GateGate – a scene from a Dennis Potter parallel universe

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

blue remembered hills

The bully versus the copper

I think I’ve slipped into a Potteresque parallel universe inhabited by 1940s dressed children who look like adults. Anyone in the UK will know I’m talking about GateGate.

Let me explain to others. GateGate is the incident where the government’s chief whip was unkind to the policemen on duty at the gate. The chief whip is the title given to the honourable member charged with making sure other honourable members vote in accordance with the leading honourable member’s wishes. He is a career bully – that’s his job.

But then he was unkind – probably couldn’t help himself, it’s his nature – to the policemen. He called them a vile and disgusting name, cleverly stopping just short of anything illegal.

The policemen were appalled. Never before had they heard such dreadful language. But there wasn’t anything they could do about it, so they told their Union mother. Union mother did what all mothers do when their child is upset – she screamed long and loud (she’s still screaming, joined by the honourable leader of the honourable opposition) calling for the chief whip to be disemboweled (an ancient and honourable remedy for naughty children).

The word used – I can barely bring myself to repeat it, but must for the sake of honourable journalism – was… ‘plebs’. He actually said ‘fucking plebs’, but fucking is okay. If he’d used a second word more on a par with the first, he would have been okay. Apparently, ‘fucking arseholes’ would have been acceptable. But he didn’t say that; he said ‘plebs’.

And for that, in this Potteresque parallel universe in which all now seem to live, he is to be disemboweled.

UPDATE:
The chief whip has now cheated the audience. He fell on his own sword and disemboweled himself.

Categories: All, Politics

McKinnon saved; O’Dwyer still hanging

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, of course I knew the extradition would be blocked long before the mid-day announcement by Theresa.

You have to understand how politics works: they’d rather crucify Jesus than take the unpopular choice. Nobody wants to do anything unpopular, so there was no overriding will to extradite. But Theresa would have to get the okay from her boss, David. And David would need to get the okay from his boss, Barack.

Why wait, I asked myself. So I used Facebook to get Barack’s secret mobile, and gave him a quick call. “Hell, dood,” Barack replied. “I got an election over here; and Gary’s got enough space ranger supporters for me to be concerned about my, er his health. I don’t want him over here just now. O’Dwyer’s different. I’ll be re-elected by then, so we’ll get him instead.”

But, you know, you’ve really got to admire the weasel acuity of these politicians. Gary has been saved not on any point of law, but on absolutely acceptable humanitarian health grounds. These health grounds do not apply to Richard, so his position is still hanging. But Theresa has very cleverly side-stepped any possible criticism. She gets the kudos of saving Gary.

But she knows that saving Richard won’t be so easy. So she hands off the responsibility. Now, if he gets extradited it is not her fault but the fault of the ‘forum bar’ she is setting up. But if he’s saved, then she gets the kudos for setting up that same forum bar.

All depending, of course, on what Barack tells David to tell Theresa to tell the judges.

Categories: All, Politics

Secondary legislation is undemocratic and should go

October 13, 2012 1 comment

It’s time to abolish secondary legislation – urgently. It is nothing more than an undemocratic anomaly.

During the second reading of the Defamation Bill, Lord McNally (Minister of State, Justice) said

As your Lordships know, technology develops apace, and rather quicker than primary legislation. Had we sought to specify the detail of the system that we propose for the internet, we would have risked it being out of date before noble Lords had concluded their considerations. Rather, we propose that much of the detail will be set out in regulations.

Let’s be clear about these ‘regulations’. They are better known as ‘secondary legislation’. Secondary legislation is legislation that has been delegated by parliament to another body. Usually, as in this case, it is delegated to the relevant Minister or Secretary of State. That minister can subsequently and simply say, “I am changing this law because I want to and I can.”

Much of this Defamation Bill will never be debated nor voted by parliament – it will simply be the Ministry of Justice enacting the will of el Presidente Cameron (or whoever occupies that position at the time), enacting the will of whichever unelected pressure group (GCHQ/MI5, Hollywood, Pharma, Banks, whatever) holds him in thrall at the time. This is not democracy, this isn’t even autocracy; it is plain and simple government by vested interests via dictatorship.

The prime minister chooses the ministers. If he doesn’t like any or all of them, he dumps them and installs more malleable careerists in their place. Parliament is full of careerists, where the increased salary from promotion is far more attractive than following the will of constituents or even their own conscience. The prime minister will never have difficulty in finding MPs willing to do his bidding.

Such secondary legislation isn’t a new device. It is frequently employed. And the more contentious the issue, the more likely it will be used. It is nothing more than a way to avoid the inconvenience of democracy. Much of the Defamation Bill is contentious because it limits freedom of speech – and in the UK we have no constitution able to protect our freedom of speech (nor any other of what we instinctively feel to be our rights).

If we can’t have constitutional rights to protect us, we should at least abolish this undemocratic anachronism.

Categories: All, Politics

Helping Anonymous to ‘get organized’ will not help Anonymous

October 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Jeffrey Carr tweeted about my blog on Akamai and Anonymous (Anonymous and the ‘threat’ against Akamai and Josh Corman).

Jeffrey Carr’s tweet

Interesting to say the least.

But before saying anything else, I should stress that I am taking this tweet and the TechWeekEurope report on Josh Corman’s RSA 2012 comments at face value. I cannot personally corroborate either.

Firstly, the idea that being ‘kind’ yesterday should excuse being ‘unkind’ today seems strange. Corman’s latest reported comments are not capable of being misconstrued:

Anonymous has very few hackers, it has very few activists… It is very misleading to call the groups hacktivists. The common attribute is angst. The talented ones are either quitting or starting to do things that are more clandestine.

If accurate, the purpose of these sentiments can only be to belittle and perhaps ridicule Anonymous. The reality is, ridicule and disinformation are Authority’s most effective weapons against Anonymous. This explains why Anonymous questioned his motives.

But this is not what intrigues me most about Carr’s tweet. It is the comment, “trying to help Anonymous become a more effective org”. It is a fundamental contradiction in terms that displays a basic misunderstanding of Anonymous. In fact, I would go further. If someone really does understand Anonymous and tries to help it become a more effective organization, then that person has an ulterior motive and is actually trying to weaken Anonymous.

Anonymous is not an organization. Its strength is that it is not an organization. In fact I suggest that its survival depends upon it never becoming an organization. Organizations have structures. Structures have hierarchies. Hierarchies have heads – and heads can be beheaded.

Think of LulzSec. It was taken apart because it had at least a nominal head in Sabu. By first taking Sabu, the FBI was able to destroy LulzSec. It also explains why the US is expending so much effort on getting Assange – by attacking the structure of Wikileaks it will ultimately destroy Wikileaks. So long as Assange is a primary focal point for Wikileaks, Wikileaks has a weakness. But by having no structure, Anonymous becomes a Hydra.

I don’t know whether any such thinking exists within the Anonymous movement. I suspect the ‘official’ line is that it is governed by its own ‘collective consciousness’. On one level this is a weakness because it allows different factions to act out their own predilections in the name of Anonymous. The collective (not the organization) cannot denounce these acts because it would deny the principle of collective consciousness. As a result, winning the hearts and minds of the unaligned public becomes difficult and highly susceptible to ridicule and accusations of terrorism.

But it does have one huge strength. The mere fact that Anonymous exists is a testament to increasing worldwide discontent with the political and social status quo. As this discontent, illustrated by the Occupy Movement, continues to grow, so Anonymous will continue to strengthen. Becoming ‘organized’ will provide a weakness that the authorities will exploit. So it must continue with its disorganized and decentralised lack of structure. It will make the battle longer; but it is the only way it can win. Organizing itself will destroy itself.

Categories: All, Politics
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