Want some privacy and security online? Check out ibVPN!

04/07/2015

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.


‘We can intercept your Google and Facebook activity all we want, so screw you!’ says UK government

17/06/2014

The British government has for the first time spelt out why it thinks it has the right to snoop on our Google, Facebook and other internet traffic all it wants.

Charles Farr, the Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, has made a statement (available here) that claims according to UK law the security services only need to get warrants to snoop on communications from one UK party to another. Traffic to and from services like Google (which includes Gmail) and Facebook are classed as “external communications”, for which no warrants are required.

This is horrendous. The internet is a network of networks, many of which are in other countries. So a large amount of our online activity will be transferred via networks in the USA and other countries even if the activity is practically domestic. If you send an email via Gmail to another UK citizen, the government classes it as an “external communication”. The same will be true of activity on Facebook, Twitter, and a great many other services, even though your intention is to communicate or share with other UK residents. Tempora, the program run by the British snooping agency GCHQ, gathers data and metadata, then shares it with the NSA. This means that practically all our online activities are stored, and can be used in fishing expeditions, even though GCHQ or NSA do not suspect you of any potentially criminal activity. Tempora is a “buffer” which stores internet data for 3 days and metadata for 30 days. GCHQ’s computers sift through all this data, storing anything that is “of interest”, which means that online privacy really is nonexistent. Which is what many of us have assumed for ages (especially after Edward Snowden’s revelations), but now it’s official.

What really exasperates me is that major criminals and terrorists will be taking steps to avoid this already, for example by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The real victims of GCHQ’s activities are us ordinary joes who are not engaged in criminal conspiracies but who want privacy (like people who send letters in sealed envelopes rather than postcards). We could encrypt our communications; but how many of us want to do this? and I’ll bet Tempora looks out for encrypted traffic and logs it as suspect.

The law needs changing. But that’s not going to happen. Why would the government give up these powers? So, I’m going to use my VPN account when I go online, and I advise everyone else to do the same. Tempora’s alarms will be set off by my suspicious activity; but if everyone is doing it GCHQ’s systems will overload. I hope. Remember, GCHQ has supercomputers and massive storage facilities. Big Brother, man! 1984 man!

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Camover: Germans vs CCTV

27/01/2013

Here’s something that may interest you: a reaction to the increasing intrusive surveillance in Germany – nowhere near the police state I live in (the UK) but it’s certainly trying to catch up. A group called Camover has started a campaign of trashing CCTV cameras in public places. The participants have called it a “game”; from the Guardian:

The game is real-life Grand Theft Auto for those tired of being watched by the authorities in Berlin; points are awarded for the number of cameras destroyed and bonus scores are given for particularly imaginative modes of destruction. Axes, ropes and pitchforks are all encouraged.

The rules of Camover are simple: mobilise a crew and think of a name that starts with “command”, “brigade” or “cell”, followed by the moniker of a historical figure (Van der Lubbe, a Dutch bricklayer convicted of setting fire to the Reichstag in 1933, is one name being used). Then destroy as many CCTV cameras as you can. Concealing your identity, while not essential, is recommended. Finally, video your trail of destruction and post it on the game’s website – although even keeping track of the homepage can be a challenge in itself, as it is continually being shut down.

…The winner of the game does not get a trophy or a year’s supply of spray paint. The competition ends on 19 February, to coincide with the start of the European Police Congress. The prize, says Camover, is to be in the frontline of a protest that will take place three days earlier, on 16 February. The location has yet to be confirmed, but Camover advises anyone who turns up to “crouch to avoid the flying cameras”

…”We thought it would motivate inactive people out there if we made a video-invitation to this reality-game,” the creator of Camover (who wanted to remain anonymous) told me. “Although we call it a game, we are quite serious about it: our aim is to destroy as many cameras as possible and to have an influence on video surveillance in our cities.”

.

I must say, this game sounds like fun. And the video 9and this one) is instructive as well as entertaining. Any chance it might catch on over here? 😉

PS: That pesky German government, eh? I thought I’d found some sort of “official” site – http://camover.blogsport.de – only to find it’s been taken down! Petty rodents or what! Also this page: https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=camover&source=web&cd=10&cad=rja&ved=0CGoQFjAJ&url=http%3A%2F%2Finagist.com%2Fall%2F295325266933342208%2F&ei=9VAFUYSRM4PAhAeproDwDg&usg=AFQjCNHWWjeT8A1f7ickVsngqAktR5j6qQ&bvm=bv.41524429,d.ZG4′ The European Police Conference are due to gather in Berlin soon. How embarrassing for the “authorities).

Fist

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“Big Brother” traffic camera network stays secret… because it is crap

27/08/2012

The British police have a high-tech system of road cameras that can recognise car registration plates, feeding this info to a computer centre in Hendon, north London, which holds more than 7bn records of the movement of traffic records the whereabouts of 16m vehicles per year stretching back six years. Police hope the database will be able to record up to 50m licence plates a day.

Such a “Big Brother” surveillance system is worrying, for reasons I won’t go into here (fer krist’s sake, does anyone actually need to be told of the terrible ramifications? Even home secretary Theresa May, not known as a champion of civil liberties, has ordered that regulation of the Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras should be tightened up. No other “democratic” country routinely tracks innocent motorists in this way.

Yet the police have successfully won a freedom of information tribunal precisely because, they allege, the system is crap. Apparently, if the location of ANPR cameras were revealed publicly, the blind spots would allow crooks to evade the system. DS Neil Winterbourne, in charge of the ANPR cameras for Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, told the tribunal criminals could evade the cameras by adopting “a particular driving style”, which he did not describe. Maybe because the “particular driving style” does not exist?

The police cited examples where ANPR cameras had been moved or realigned so they couldn’t read registration plates. But they neglected to mention the fact that many roadside cameras are tampered with because drivers think they are speed cameras – there is a very active anti-speed camera movement, with websites like www.speedcam.co.uk which has a map of cameras nationwide and a press release made by Motorists Against Detection (MAD) which describes itself as “the UK’s only direct action anti-speed camera group”, and which claims to have “taken out” 1000 cameras since the groups formation in 2000. Don’t the police think that some of their ANPR cameras may have been messed with by MAD who have mistaken them for speed cameras?

break a camera today
A MADman doing his bit to help us hold onto our civil rights

The UK has a terrible track record re civil liberties. Just look at all the CCTV cameras in our town centres (there for our “protection” apparently, though I have yet to be convinced how an inanimate object will “protect” me when a ruffian is kicking my head in). Ask any American what he thinks of our surveillance culture: no other nation would accept it. Only the British, it would seem (baa baa). And now this secret network of cameras what can follow us everywhere, anytime. Baa baa, my fellow Brits. Baa bloody baa.

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

15/12/2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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