Tracking jihadis on Twitter

19/01/2015

Interesting article in the Guardian, on how social media experts are tracking and identifying foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. These analysts work for the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), at King’s College London. The ICSR is “the first global initiative of its type” and is frequently contacted by counter-terrorism officers “hungry for information on the continuing flow of Britons to the ranks of Isis.”

The ICSR claims to have greater success in tracking fighters than any government-run organisation, even though its resources and its access to information is much more limited than those available to the likes of MI6 and the CIA. According to the article, Professor Peter Neumann, the leader of the team, says hat blanket surveillance is not effective unless you have the skills to decode the information acquired.

Neumann said that the centre had built an enviable repository of online data from open sources – tricks that the security services are keen to learn and replicate, although the ICSR refuses to hand over data to the intelligence agencies. He added that the databases were compiled using legal means, with no hacking of accounts or even the use of fake online profiles.

“We are using information that is openly accessible to anyone who wants to look. Over the years we’ve become quite clever, but none of what we’re doing involves hacking and obviously we do not have special powers granted to us by the authorities,” said Neumann, who advocates a more targeted approach to intelligence-gathering rather than reliance on mass surveillance techniques.

So the strategy employed by the NSA and GCHQ is less effective. They collect huge amounts of information but do’t know what to do with it. Whereas the ICSR’s more targeted approach yields much better quality intelligence. For example, Shiraz Maher, senior fellow at the centre, has a good grasp on what jihadis are like because he actually orchestrates conversations with fighters over Facebook and Twitter. He says “From an intelligence perspective, social media allows us to gauge their mood and gives opportunities to perhaps create or exploit dissent. Before social media you would have needed to have recruited spies.”

An example of this ability to gauge the mood of ISIS fighters and their supporters is provided by Melanie Smith, another ICSR research fellow. She told the Guardian There’s been some grumblings recently. Some of the British women have been complaining because it’s the depths of winter and there’s no electricity. The water’s been so cold they can’t do their washing and their kids are getting sick.” Obviously, knowledge of the enemy’s state of morale can be extremely useful when planning operations.

"Jihadi John", British ISIS fighter involved in the killings of Western hostages.  Photo from Wikipedia

“Jihadi John”, British ISIS fighter involved in the killings of Western hostages. Photo from Wikipedia

Professor Neumann says that if he had had a larger team 2 years ago, the ICSR would have been able to identify “Jihadi John”, the British ISIS fighter involved in the killings of several US and British hostages. As it is, the ICSR can only assert that the extremist is not Londoner Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, as claimed by the media.

So the experts believe that the approach espoused by Western leaders such as David Cameron and his beloved snooper’s charter is wrong. What is needed is targeted intelligence gathering and surveillance of named individuals. And where will these names come from? Well, if the ICSR has been able to identify fighters using only information that is already in the public domain, imagine how much more they could do with warrants and access to restricted files. This could all be done within the current legal framework, with no need for snoopers’ charters and large-scale trawling of everyone’s communications.

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‘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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Unintentional prank emailing

26/03/2014

stoned-agin

 

After a lifetime of sex and drugs and rock n roll, I have learned a few things (despite my brain atrophying to the size of a garden pea). Admittedly a lot of this learning is due to people sending me emails or texts that say “wtf you on about last night?” and “omg I didn’t know you love me!  Let’s get married!  A June wedding would be so wonderful!!”   When you end up marrying some bird you don’t even like, that is your inner self begging for you to get your dumb ass in order.  Drugs = good times = fun is all very good.  But when your actions under the influence bring to the mind the phrase “drugsarebadmmkay?” it’s time to ease back a little, take some time to smell the coffee/roses, and generally STOP BEING SUCH A COCK!

Sending declarations of everlasting love to ex-partners is not good.  Especially when those exes dumped you years ago and are now happily married with 2 kids.  Telling your ex-boss that he is a dumbass for sacking your ass can be good.  But not via email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook… you think that’s gonna  look good on your CV?  FFS Foolish child!

When you plan to get pissed and/or stoned, first of all cut your arms off so you can’t do any of the above.  Legs too, it’s possible to type with toes and even elbows.  Keep your feelings under control until you’re sober.  Then you’ll see how ABSOLUTELY STUPID your it-seemed-perfectly-fine-at-the-time plan actually is.  Drugs + internet = Noooo!  Bear this in mind, you mindless fools!

 

 

Make_a_donation

 

 
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I know I asked for more Comments… but not bloody spam!!!

18/04/2013

I know, I know… I asked for more Comments and now I’m getting more Comments. So why am I moaning here? Because I suspect a lot of them are real actual Comments from real actual people. I’m getting spam comments!

So okay, why do I believe this? Am I a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur? I don’t think so (yeah I know, I would say that wouldn’t I?) – let me share my “evidence” before it’s laughed out of court –

In response to one of my most popular posts (“How to download and save streaming video from the internet, using Linux”) I have received Comments:

My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog. He was once totally right.

This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine just how a lot time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

and

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and

each time i used to read smaller articles or reviews that also
clear their motive, and that is also happening with this
article which I am reading at this place.

All these Comments make no comment on the post they’re claiming to comment on. Some of them are bizarre, like maybe computer-generated? And all the Commentators have included a url which improves their Google score and can lead to Google Adverts revenue earned (every time a site’s url appears online, the site’s Google rating gets higher, and they can earn more from Google Ads).

Please don’t take this as a “don’t comment” warning. I want people, as many people as possible, commenting on my posts. But I want them to be relevant. What I’d really like is for readers to comment on my posts, others comment back, and before too long there are online conversations going on here, like that damn Bruce Schneier and others. I’ve been blogging here since 2007, and I’d really like I HATE HATE!!! become popular (I know I’ve got some regular readers and I love ’em, but I want more more more!

If I’m not posting stuff you want to get into conversations about me, use the CONTACT FORM button at the top of the page. Tell me what you like/hate/kill people for, and I’ll try to post about it. I don’t want this blog to be just a me-telling-you-stuff kind of place – I want lively discussions. I want to make my readers happy/sad/angry/peaceful/murderous. All you gotta do is hit the CONTACT FORM button.

Oh and please, no more spam. Or I’m gonna name and shame you, your email accounts and IP addresses and everything. I hate douchebags.

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Social unrest? Blame the internet!

12/08/2011

The past few days’ rioting in England are all due to the internet, says prime minister David Cameron.

So news of riots spread via the internet/facebook/twitter etc etc. So now Dodgy Dave says that Facebook, Twitter and Research in Motion (Rim), the maker of BlackBerry devices, should take more responsibility for content posted on their networks, warning the government would look to ban people from major social networks if they were suspected of inciting violence online.

Yes, the news spread via the internet. But it also spread via the telephone, snail mail, newspapers, television, word-of-mouth. So shouldn’t we just ban communication outright?

Heck, I better get this posted then get out of here, before the government bans me!

Riot police watch a London bus burn

[If you wanna see more pretty pictures of the riots in London, go to the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” feature – link here.]

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