Want some privacy and security online? Check out ibVPN!

July 4, 2015

I’ve been using using ibVPN for a while, and I think it’s great.  In case you don’t know, “VPN” means Virtual Priivate network.  To use Webopedia’s definition:

VPN is pronounced as separate letters and is short for virtual private network.

VPN is a network that is constructed by using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect to a private network, such as a company’s internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. These systems use encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.

At ibVPN they delete their logs after 10 days, which no doubt frustrates the police.  But they need to learn: Not all users of VPNs and other privacy tools are terrorists or drug traffickers.  Using a VPN, or encryption tools like PGP/GPG is like putting a letter in an envelope rather than sending a postcard that anyone can see.  I think having a private life is an essential human right.

In fact, I’ll offer Cameron and his cronies a deal: if they start posting their private emails, texts, Instant Messages and letters on a website for all to read, I’ll stop using a VPN.  I’m not talking about secret government correspondence.  Just their private, personal communications.

We got a deal, Dave?  Hmm, I guess not.


Protest at Israeli drone factory in Birmingham planned for July 2015 – everyone welcome!

June 24, 2015

Activists standing in solidarity with Palestinians will attempt to shut down an Israeli arms
factory in England next month, on the anniversary of Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which caused massive  destruction and loss of life in the Gaza strip last summer.  And to counteract the violent nature of the factory, the protest will take the form of “a creative and positive space that meets the needs of justice and solidarity, and not the needs of Israeli multinational corporations that export death for profit.”

Last year, news of the Israeli attacks on Gaza led to demonstrations such as nine activists who occupied the roof of he UAV Engines Ltd factory in Shenstone, near Birminham, which is owned by the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. They shut down the drone engine factory for two days costing the company more than £180,000.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year.  This year's planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

Rooftop protest at Elbit Systems last year. This year’s planned even will be far more peaceful and suitable for all the family.

This year, on 6 July (the anniversary of the start of the onslaught on Gaza), a more organized demonstration  at Shenstone is planned.  “Block the Factory” will “be transforming the space around the arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment”.

Elbit Systems makes engines for drones, surveillance equipment for the militarized USA/Mexico border and the Israeli Separation Wall, which breaches international law and stretches for hundreds of miles, dividing families and confiscating large swathes of fertile Palestinian land as it goes.  Elbit Systems is just one part of the massive arms industry that makes Israel  the largest per capita arms exporter in the world. Israel is the world’s second largest exporter of military drones, selling thousands all over the world.  And who makes the engines for the drones?  UAV Engines Ltd, whose factory is in Shenstone, near Birmingham.

From Mondoweiss.net:

‘Block the factory’ aims to turn the space around the factory into a fun, creative and inspiring place, rather than one associated with death, destruction, and injustice. Whether it’s by telling stories or holding workshops, making art or flying kites (not drones), playing music or sharing food together, it will be a space for activists to build support networks, find new allies and make new friends.

This mass action is part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions  campaign (BDS) and the Stop Arming Israel Campaign, which call on the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo.  Many groups are involved in the day so far, including:

Boycott Israel Network, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, West Midlands PSC, Drone Campaign Network, Coventry Friends of Palestine, Smash EDO, Manchester Palestine Action, Glasgow Palestine Action, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Stop The Arms Faircoalition, War on Want, and London Palestine Action

The organisers want to make this an inclusive and family friendly affair, believing that diversity makes us better and stronger. So, whether you have never been on a protest before or are a seasoned activist, whether you are disabled, an older person, a younger person, whether you have five children or none, you are encouraged to come and help make this the biggest, most beautiful action yet at an arms factory in the UK.

Better still, there are ways to get yourself or your group actively involved. That could be running a workshop or a creative space, playing music or organising food, or even creating an activity session for children. The organisers stress that the action is what people make it, and welcome ideas and input.

Getting to the demo

Shenstone is a small village outside Birmingham, accessible by National Rail trains. If you are coming from outside Birmingham, this generally means travelling to Birmingham New Street and changing there.

Trains run roughly every 20 minutes from Birmingham New Street, and tickets cost around £4.50. Earliest trains are at 06:01 and the last train returning to Birmingham is at 23:32.

More info at www.blockthefactory.org.

blockthefactory.org


UK To Scrap Human Rights Shock Horror!!

May 26, 2015

Okay, prime minister David Cameron isn’t planning to scrap human rights in Britain (I hope).  The plan, which was (i’m told) in the Conservative election manifesto, is to dilute Britain’s obligations under the Convention on Human Rights, in particular to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights, and to create a British Court of Human Rights to enforce whatever rights the government decides all humans deserve (which, to judge from the Conservatives’ record, doesn’t seem too appealing).

But he is apparently facing a backbench rebellion over the issue and even ministerial resignations.  The former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said he was “extremely sceptical” about proposals:

“I have clear views about the importance of international justice, which we need to expand, and Britain pulling out of the European Court will send all the wrong signals on the British commitment to expanding human rights around the world”

The SNP, which is now the third biggest party in Parliament, said it had begun sounding out lawyers on the Tory benches about uniting to defeat Mr Cameron’s plans.  Labour and the Liberal Democrats are also expected to oppose attempts to repeal the Act, and as Mr Cameron’s majority is just 12, any rebellion will leave him vulnerable to defeat even if he gets the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.

The well-known scum-bag and new Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has been charged with drafting a new Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act.  If the British Bill of Rights waters down Britain’s obligations under the present European Convention opf Human Rights, at least one minister has said he’ll resign.  And the Conservative former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve said: “A Bill of Rights that places us outside the European Convention on Human Rights would be reputationally disastrous for this country and would have very serious consequences for the survival of the Convention.”  So the plans threaten not only British citizens but all of the European Convention’s members.

Congratulations are due to Cameron for out-Faraging Nigel Farage – in a desperate ploy to win back disgruntled Tories who’d decided to vote Ukip instead, he has managed to become the most right-wing politician since Mussolini, or Nero.  Good one Dave!  Perhaps, as a finale, you could FOAD?


The Promise

May 26, 2015

The Promise

Please don’t ask me where or when
I do not know
Don’t ask again
All I know is that one day
I’ll leave you.
I will walk away
Without a final backward glance.

There. You know. Now, shall we dance?

walking-away


Silver Lining

May 23, 2015

After taking a trip down memory lane, I decided to share with you an acoustic performance of “Silver Lining” by Stiff Little Fingers:

And so you can sing along, here are the lyrics:

They tell you not to worry
They say they’re terribly sorry
But that’s the way it has to be
For the likes of you and me

Just be good and know your station
Always look on the bright side
Keep you faith and keep your patience
Your reward is after you’ve died

So don’t be told, don’t be consoled
Things are so bad, you can never make do
And there’s always someone better off than you

They tell you that’s your future
It’s all down to human nature
Simply settle for what you got
That’s destiny and that’s your lot

All of us cannot come first
Yes, what you have is second best
But it might be a good deal worse
Third world peasants get even less

So don’t be told, don’t be consoled
Things are so bad, you can never make do
And there’s always someone better off than you

Do you care that it’s not fair?
Is this the way we have to live?
I know I care and I want an equal share
Even if it mean I have to give

The people who are on top
Say that you should keep your chin up
And they are keen to show you
The unhappy ones below you

But I want no more of that stuff
That’s looking at it upside down
And the world has got money
Enough for us to make it go around

So don’t be told, don’t be consoled
Don’t be ruled and don’t be fooled
Because things are so bad you can never make do
And there’s always someone better off than you
(Burns, Jake / Ogilvie, Gordon Archer)

Those lines “I know I care and I want an equal share / Even if it mean I have to give” were pretty unfashionable in 1981, when the album Go For It was released, during the first few years of Margaret Thatcher’s reign; and they’re damn unfashionable now, when thhe entirety of British politics has taken a lurch to the right. Labour’s a centre-right party now, joining in the Punch & Judy show of bashing immigrants and espousing an in/out referendum on the European Union during the election campaign. If a true left-wing politician doesn’t become Labour leader and drag the party back to its proper place in the scheme of things, a new popular socialist party will have to materialise or British politics will remain a “right is right” scenario. And where “right is right” lives can quickly become a white is right domain – something that certain well-known politicians would have no problem with.

Anyway, that’s enough evil for one day. I found the entire SLF album Inflammable Material on Youtube:

Reminiscent of the days of audio cassette, when you had to fast-forward or rewind semi-blind to find a particular track you might want to play. If you want to have this lumbering video file into mp3, there are several websites that’ll do it for you: I did a Google search “convert youtube to mp3″ and got so many results… here are the first 2: http://www.youtube-mp3.org/ and http://www.video2mp3.net/. I haven’t tried either yet, but please tell us your horror stories in Comments if things should go wrong!  As I’m a Linux user (yah boo windoze sucks… I got a new laptop last week and it’s got Windows 8.1 on it and I think it’s giving me a glimpse of what Hell will be like for a computer user like me…) Where was I?  Oh yeah, as a Linux (Ubuntu, no less) user, I’ve converted it myself with a program called avconv which seems to have actually come with the operating system (I can’t remember ever installing it); avconv is cool, it’s a terminal/command-line program which will convert one ausio or video file into a different format – eg an mp4 video into an mp3 audio file – really simply… and it was FREE – didn’t cost me a single bale of hemp (respect to Eris) – just liuke the whole of Ubuntu was FREE.  Whereas my new laptop came with Windows on it and almost nothing else… I have had to spend hours installing apps like LibreOffice (a free word-processor/spreadsheet/goddess-only-knows-what-else, kind of like Microsoft Office, only FREE) and VLC (a – you guessed it – FREE audio and video player that lets me play what the hell I want, when the hell I want, regardless if the video’s ripped from a DVD or whatever… WHOA this is not meant to be a Linux vs Windows post so I’ll stop ranting now.  But I WILL be writing a Ubuntu v Windows 8.1 post sometime soon, so go put your ass-hats on if you got em!


A couple of resources for beginner hackers

May 23, 2015

Hacking and phreaking have had a few set-backs over the past decae or so. But things never really change, only the methods needed to achieve those things. Blue boxes and the POTS have been made difficult to utilize, but now there are voice mail systems to break into, even after all the furore about reporters ‘hacking’ celebs’ voice mail accounts; you can listen to other people’s messages, even make phone calls on poorly configured voice mail systems (do a bit of googling about hacking into VMS) – I’m spreading news, not giving tutorials, and anyway I have not the first idea how to do anything illegal! – and you shouldn’t do anything illegal either, I’d never encourage anyone to break the law :)

I don't think she should be listening to that!  (pic stolen from http://www.theregister.co.uk

I don’t think she should be listening to that! (pic stolen from http://www.theregister.co.uk

So that’s phreaking still alive and kicking, just in a different form to what older phreaks might recognize. And “hacking”/cracking still lives and kicks too!!! It’s still possible to carry out SQL injection – link (though more companies are getting wise to the tricks and closing the loopholes), malicious websites that put nasties into your computer while you’re browsing asian porn or whatever are thriving, and if you want to be a “proper” hacker who knows how this stuff works under the hood and maybe wants to write your own tools, there are books like Violent Python (pdf download link) out there that can explain some of the nuts and bolts (shh, you didn’t get that link from me!). Amazon says of Violent Python

[It] shows you how to move from a theoretical understanding of offensive computing concepts to a practical implementation. Instead of relying on another attacker’s tools, this book will teach you to forge your own weapons using the Python programming language. This book demonstrates how to write Python scripts to automate large-scale network attacks, extract metadata, and investigate forensic artefacts. It also shows how to write code to intercept and analyze network traffic using Python, craft and spoof wireless frames to attack wireless and Bluetooth devices, and how to data-mine popular social media websites and evade modern anti-virus.

High praise indeed. especially when you consider that they’re charging £17 to £18 for the book.

violent-python-cover

For a more gentle and possibly more fun way to learn Python is at Invent Your Own Computer Games With Python (but if you’d rather just have a pdf of their book to read offline it can be gotten here – the book is available under Creative Commons so you don’t need to be antsy about that download at least). A lot of hackers sneer at “script kiddies” who know nothing about programming and who rely on ready-made tools. So fuck em, right? Learn Python – a simple yet powerrul language.

And then there’s the sneaky practice of snatching random strangers’ (or indeed targeted targets’) data off the air when they’re using the net in coffee shops etc. It’s becoming more difficult as people become aware of the danger (for instance if I’m out and about I use https and a VPS) but there are still a lot of possible targets sending bank or card details, or other sensitive info over the air – look here and here for tips and tricks.

So, phreaking and hacking isn’t dead – it’s just grown up a bit. As long as the hacker is also prepared to grow and change, all will be well for the infonauts of the future.

Abby Sciuto is the hacker of the future (and of the present).  I'd love to spend a day/night - KAF-POW! -  in her NCIS lab!!

Abby Sciuto is the hacker of the future (and of the present). I’d love to spend a day/night – KAF-POW! – in her NCIS lab!!


The Tories won the election; but our true political ruler is still in charge – the Queen!

May 13, 2015

I’ve always thought that the UK’s status as a “constitutional monarchy” meant that political decisions were made by our elected government and parliament, and that the Queen’s job was to attract the tourists and to rubber-stamp legislation with her truly ceremonial “Royal Assent”.

But it seems that I, and just about everyone else, have been misled.  The Guardian has reported that the Queen has powers of veto that are stunningly far-reaching.  One small example is the Queen vetoing the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.  In effect, it’s the Queen who decides whether to take military action or not, and there is nothing the government can do about it!

Downing Street did what it could to keep all this secret – we only know about it now because of a court order to release details of an internal Whitehall pamphlet was only released following a court order and shows ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of legislation than was previously understood.

The new laws that were required to receive the seal of approval from the Queen or Prince Charles cover issues from higher education and paternity pay to identity cards and child maintenance.

In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

She was even asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 because it contained a declaration about the validity of a civil partnership that would bind her.

In the pamphlet, the Parliamentary Counsel warns civil servants that if consent is not forthcoming there is a risk “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.

“This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a ceremonial role,” said Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales’ hereditary estate.

“It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic process and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be fully appraised of whether these powers of influence and veto are really appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was.”

This power of veto has been described by constitutional lawyers as a royal “nuclear deterrent” that may help explain why ministers appear to pay close attention to the views of senior royals.

The guidance also warns civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation and reveals that even amendments may need to be run past the royals for further consent.

And of course, how is the government supposed to do away with this remnant of absolute monarchy?  If a bill was voted through parliament to do away with the royal power of assent, the Queen would simply veto it – and the veto would probably remain secret, just as it has for so long!

The concept of Royal Assent has always been considered as a quaint anachronism that allows the UK to be both a functioning democracy and a monarchy.  Now we know that’s a lie.  The question is: what the hell are we going to do?

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II.  Don't mess with this bitch!"  Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/

British dictator for life Queen Elizabeth II. Don’t mess with this bitch!” Picture stolen in the interests for freedom from http://guardianlv.com/


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