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.


Camover: Germans vs CCTV

January 27, 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).


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

August 27, 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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Big Brother is watching you… watching him… watching you… watching him…

June 3, 2010

Seeing that I’m a bit of a shutterbug on the side as well as a tech freak/geek, this little birdy caught my eye:

It’s the DraganFlyer X6, a remote controlled helicopter with camera attached. Any gadget-madmen amongst us must surely salivate at the idea. As will voyeurs, photographers, and voyeuristic photographers. It has a range of 8000 ft, and built-in stabiliser sensors mean you can tell it to hover round while you concentrate on your photographer. The version that the What Digital Camera reporter hot his hands on carries a Panasonic Lumix LX3, though apparently there are 3 others to choose from.

All sounds great, huh? So what’s the catch? £21,585 plus VAT.

But those of us who lack pockets overflowing with gold sovereigns don’t have to sit to one side of the playground, weeping piteously while everyone else wants to hang with the kid with the DraganFlyer. Reading the What Digital Camera article stirred something deep in my memory, and a quick google sussed it out – check out this video from the DefCon 17 archives. And a video google for “quadrotor” turns up a whole bunch of projects where hackers are building remote controlled flying vehicles with live camera connections. A good few of them are autonomous too – meaning they are robotic birds!

Of course the authorities love kit like this… so long as it’s the forces of law and over at the controls. Many countries (the UK included) strictly restrict where and how remote controlled vehicles can be operated. All under the blanket excuse of “safety”. And “security” too, no doubt. Just think of all those terrorists spying on us through our bedroom windows, or delivering bombs to high-rise high-profile targets! OMG I’m terrified!

I certainly do dread the thought of big brother sending out flocks of quadrotors to do their evil bidding. But the mass of detail out there on the interwebs about hackers’ projects to develop the same kind of thing for a much smaller budget makes me feel a little better. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having one of these things for myself. For its photography potential, of course: just think of all those shots that would be otherwise unobtainable… like the flash of claw and fang of a murderous pussycat that mistakes your quadrotor for a quick snack…

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