I am not Microsoft’s greatest fan. It is a dinosaur stuck on the beach while the fleeter of foot are soaring through the clouds. The reality is that it has no, and has never had, any visionaries. Even its domination of the desktop was more down to luck and sharp practices than genuine vision.
It was lucky that Gary Kildall rejected IBM’s overtures, else there would never have been an MS-DOS; and it was sharp practices that killed off Digital Research — its one serious and technically superior competitor. It was lucky that Apple demonstrated the value of Xerox Parc research and paved the way for Windows. It was lucky Jobs was so far ahead of his time he thought he could have a walled garden in the ’80s; and almost destroyed Apple in the process.
But it was sheer arrogant blindness that made Gates think he could ignore the internet. For the last two decades Microsoft has been forced into playing catch up; but catch up never works if you don’t have the vision to get ahead of the competition.
Now, in just one area, Microsoft is showing visionary signs that could differentiate it from all of its competitors. Microsoft has started listening to its customers rather than imposing its will on its customers.
While Facebook is telling everyone that they don’t want privacy, Microsoft is listening and saying, OK, we will give you privacy. While Google is fighting the European Union over privacy and cloud storage, Microsoft is listening to the EU and saying, OK, we can accommodate and store European data in European data centres.
Now, it’s not as simple as that. The US government can still demand customer data from Microsoft’s European data centres simply because Microsoft is a US company. But it’s making that data much more defensible, and telling the EU that it is willing to cooperate rather than fight.
Similar over privacy. When it became clear last week that Microsoft had, quite legally, searched the emails of one of its customers concerning the theft of Microsoft IP, it knew there would be privacy issues. It immediately said two things: firstly that it would in future get a pseudo warrant from an independent lawyer who had previously been a judge, and secondly that it would include its own searches in future ‘transparency reports’ (the ones that publish the number of law enforcement searches).
It wasn’t enough for the privacy advocates who pointed to the hypocrisy of criticising NSA warrantless surveillance and then doing its own.
To Microsoft’s great credit, within a week, it has listened, heard and understood. Brad Smith announced yesterday,
Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.
We’re listening: Additional steps to protect your privacy
Is this a new Microsoft — the genuinely ‘listening’ company? It no longer dominates the world’s operating systems, and is losing ground on desktop office software. But it seems to be doing one thing that none of its competitors are doing. It is listening to its customers, and giving them what they want. That alone, over the next few years, could catapult Microsoft back into a leading position.
Wonderful idea from Deutsche Telekom. Yesterday it said it would launch a clean pipe secure service for small companies that cannot afford their own security. For a fixed monthly fee small companies will be able to access the internet via DT’s own secure data centres. “Hackers will have no chance,” said management board member Reinhard Clemens. Well, we’ll just gloss over that, and accept it at face value.
“The ‘clean pipe’ project, in which Deutsche Telekom partners with RSA – part of U.S. technology firm EMC – is in a test phase and scheduled to hit the market early next year,” reports Reuters.
So, just a little due diligence required before I sign up…
OK, Deutsche Telekom owns T-Mobile. T-Mobile “operates the fourth and fifth largest wireless networks in the U.S. market with 45 million customers and annual revenues of $21.35 billion.” (Wikipedia). Slight problem; that means that T-Mobile is subject to FISA in the US – and the US gets DT more than $20 billion.
OK, RSA is a huge name in encryption. That’s got to be good (even though it is, well, yes, an American company). RSA got big and very rich on its invention of public key cryptography. Thing is, RSA didn’t invent it – it was invented by Ellis, Cocks and Williamson at GCHQ.
Now the details are rather obscure and still shrouded in secrecy, but there are suggestions that GCHQ told the NSA what it had discovered, and shortly after that, public key cryptography was (re)invented in the US.
I would not for one moment suggest anything underhand in the timing – but given what we now know about both the NSA and GCHQ there is a temptation to ask whether public key cryptography would have been allowed to develop if the very same mathematicians who produced it had not also discovered a way to unpick it.
Mathematicians and cryptographers tell us that cryptography based on the difficulty in factoring large nearly primes is valid.
And that’s the point. But.
Thank you NSA. Thank you GCHQ. You have reduced a wonderful and exciting internet into something dirty and distrustful. Thank you for removing any possibility of trust anywhere.
What irony. As I link to my story on over-hyping the China threat, LinkedIn links to a story that over-hypes the same story. This one is from The Independent: “Microsoft admits millions of computers could be infected with malware before they’re even out of the box”. I’m afraid that I missed both the ‘millions’ and ‘before they’re even out of the box’ comments from Microsoft. Oh, no, I didn’t – they’re not there.
Prejudice is the difference and depth between any point of view and our own. If someone agrees with us, that person is unprejudiced; if someone disagrees with us, that person is prejudiced – either against us personally or at least our point of view. The ‘difference’ is a measure of distance in argument; the ‘depth’ is a measure of entrenchment despite argument. To be truly prejudiced, someone must have a different view and be impervious to logical and compelling argument.
So, from my point of view, anyone who disagrees with me and refuses to listen to me is prejudiced (and requires educational redirection). To them, it is I who is prejudiced and requires re-educating – but that is just a measure of their prejudice. I make this point so that any person who reads this post and flatly refuses to agree with me can understand just how prejudiced he or she really is.
OK – so I came across this article in governing.com, written by Steve Towns. It starts:
Until cybersecurity standards are in place, security professionals worry that terrorists could shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy with the click of a mouse.
My hackles rise. Typical government-sponsored fear-mongering to get the people to accept loss of freedom to an increasingly authoritarian government in exchange for the fallacy of security.
The second paragraph continues
Dan Lohrmann has been in the information security business for the bulk of the past decade, and he’s scratching his head over the continued inability of Congress to enact nationwide cybersecurity protections.
I don’t know Mr Lohrmann, but I scratch my own head that any thinking person can be taken in by this government claptrap. So I need to know more about Mr Lohrmann. Enter LinkedIn. A quick search reveals
Since his career began as an [sic] computer systems analyst at the National Security Agency (NSA) in the 1980s, Daniel J. Lohrmann has been a recognized leader in addressing the importance of global computer networks and security.
NSA huh? Well that explains it all. Just another pro-government, un thinking, pre-packaged, prejudiced apologist.
But seriously, I beseech all citizens of the land of the free and the home of the brave to stop and ask, just how much of that freedom am I willing to give up for the promise of unquantified, un-guaranteed, undeliverable, vote-winning security?
Well, as you know, I got in a bit of a mess over my BT password. All sorted now.
One of the reasons for choosing BT was to avail myself of the 3 million free WiFi hotspots it offers (and yes, when available in the right place, it’s a very, very good service). But, oh, those passwords again. My new BT account password didn’t work with BT WiFi. Nor was my BT account username recognised by BT WiFi.
So I contacted support. Let’s not go into all those recorded messages advising you to check their website for a solution to your problem (which is, of course, that you cannot check their website). No matter. Persist. There is a human being at the end of the monologue. He may not be in the same country, and he is almost certainly difficult to understand – but he exists and is polite so long as you don’t venture off the hymn sheet.
Turns out I needed a BT email address which I didn’t have. It’s OK, he said, I’ll give you one now. Which he did. And your password, he said, is…
Whoa, I said. Couldn’t you mail it to me? No. What about email, and I’ll change it as soon as I get it? No. What about security, I asked? This is secure, he said. What about eavesdropping, I said? It’s not possible, he said. This is secure.
OK. He didn’t actually know he was talking to me over a VoIP phone which I had on speaker in a crowded – but quiet – room. But, well…
This, he said, is your secure password: paris123.
Umm. If you don’t hear from me for a while it’s because our local terrorist or his file-sharing brother sniffed the details and used my account before I changed my brand new secure password.
Life is a game of cricket – sometimes you face bouncers, and sometimes beamers; but usually it’s spin and swing. The internet is full of spin and swing, with business, government, law enforcement and hackers all trying to spin the news to their own advantage in order to swing public opinion behind their own position. It’s called disinformation, and everyone’s at it. But like cricket, you only need one ball to spin or swing, and you cannot trust anything ever again.
So with that introductory warning that I really haven’t got a clue, we can ask, what’s going on with WikiLeaks? This is one possibility. It’s all down to TrapWire and the information about TrapWire coming out of the latest WikiLeaks Stratfor emails.
TrapWire seems to be an international surveillance system centred in and run by the US. It makes Cameron’s Communications Bill look pedestrian. That’s not strictly accurate, since the Communications Bill watches people’s cyber movements, while TrapWire watches real world movements; that is, pedestrians (and cars and anything else that moves). It connects the nation’s CCTV surveillance cameras. As an aside, we can be pretty confident that when (not if) the US gets its Cybersecurity Act, that data will be connected to the TrapWire data. What’s more worrying for Brits is that when (not if) Cameron gets his Communications Bill into an Act, that data will also be connected to TrapWire.
This latter is just conjecture, but look at the parallels in UKUSA and do the math. Also consider this from one of the WikiLeaks emails (dated 22 September 2010):
This week, 500 surveillance cameras were activated on the NYC subway system to focus on pre-operational terrorist surveillance. The surveillance technology is also operational on high value targets (HVTs) in DC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and London and is called TrapWire (www.abraxasapps.com).
So TrapWire was already operational in the UK almost a year ago.
Well, of course I checked on the Abraxas site (a company apparently populated by a high density of ex-CIA staff), but got nowhere.
It’s not just me.
There’s no buzz on the internet (yet at least) that Abraxas has been tangoed down by Anonymous (in retaliation for Antileaks taking out WikiLeaks). So – pure conjecture – they’ve taken it down themselves.
Thank goodness for Google cache (if you’re quick, it might still be there…)
It wouldn’t be surprising if Abraxas has disconnected itself. This TrapWire thing is big, and the Stratfor emails show it’s being used much wider than published. It’s bad enough that the UK government wants to spy on its own citizens (using our taxes to pay for it, of course), but that it has already opened the door to facilitate US government spying on the British people is quite simply obscene. Or, to be British, unacceptable. I can’t begin to think what the American people will make of it.
So, to go back to the original question, what’s going on with WikiLeaks? The obvious conclusion is that it has been taken down (well, effectively blocked) by a continuing DDoS that has been claimed by Antileaks specifically to suppress the emerging information about TrapWire (WikiLeaks is still down as I write this). This is just conjecture on my part; but, well, the dots connect. Under the guise of anti-terrorism western governments will stop at nothing in their determination to have absolute control over us.
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:
- they’re all multi-millionaires
- they’ve all written an open letter to prime minister David Cameron
- they all want to remodel the internet to suit themselves
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.