Tag: current affairs

The War for the Internet


You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about ‘Cablegate’ – the continuing saga of USA, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Anonymous, TheJester, the list goes on. A quick summary of the situation follows, and some analysis and knock-on effects as I see them.

WikiLeaks is an anonymous whistle-blower organisation – ‘wiki’ being that anyone can contribute, similarly to Wikipedia. WikiLeaks stopped this ‘free edit’ policy a while back as it was too hard to manage, but set up a system for people to anonymously submit secrets. Now, we aren’t talking about how you’re the one stole your neighbour’s gnome here; we’re talking big things – governments, corporations, groups etc.
A while back, WikiLeaks released a multitude of material on the Iraq war, including video of US chopper pilots and soldiers shooting at a bunch of civilians, journalists and children. Ever since, the US has been on a slow burn – make no mistake, they hate WikiLeaks in the US Government. It’s very clear.
Cablegate has pushed the US to breaking – it is the simultaneous release of hundreds of ‘cables’ i.e. little notes or snippets from US ambassadors, representative and more. They are retained by the government and access is restricted but the cables are NOT classified. The contents range from little observances on foreign policitians, to records of orders from Hilary Clinton to collect intelligence, DNA, biometrics and more on foreign UN ambassadors. It also sheds light on the relationship between nations.

The US Government knew about the planned release and had worked hard to mitigate the damage but there will obviously be fallout, and perhaps a loss of trust between nations, spies, ambassadors and so on. And that’s when things get silly…
The Americans are taking things out firmly on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. I have a number of problems with that. Firstly, they are spouting a line of “This will cost lives” yet have admitted that the information has, thus far, neither been damaging nor has placed anyone at risk. They have also called to name WikiLeaks a ‘terrorist organisation’

WHAT? WikiLeaks a terrorist organisation? Or from Sarah Palin, who called that Assange be designated a terrorist and that US Special Forces move in and assassinate him? What is WRONG with the USA???

I know that every government, to a greater or lesser degree, involves themselves in this kind of stuff. But what they all have to realise is that information flow is greater now than it ever has been. When something occurs, everybody knows in seconds. And I’m sorry, but governments need to rethink themselves – this stuff WILL out, and in this age everybody WILL hear about it. So it’s time to STOP. If you don’t want to be damaged by a leak, stop doing crazy, morally ambiguous, evil, terrorising stuff.
“Oh, but the UK does it too, they all do” – Yeah, I bet. And it’s in YOUR name. Is ignorance bliss? You don’t care as long as nobody finds out? Bullshit. I don’t want this stuff done in my name.

Moving on to Assange. I don’t know the ins and outs of his accused crime, but all the coverage I’ve seen suggests that the allegations have some serious flaws, mostly in the two particular girls. They seem to have decided it was non-consensual AFTER they found out he was two-timing them. So, he’s a dick, but hardly rape. However, Sweden has odd sex laws such as “I was drunk therefore it was rape” kinds of allegations. I personally think these are damaging on the whole to the victims of rape.
I hope that the US did not put pressure on Sweden to continue to pursue allegations that had TWICE been rejected at appellate courts, but I’m willing to bet they did. At the same time, PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, SwissBank, Amazon, EveryDNS… they have all cut their ties with WikiLeaks for various reasons. This has severely hurt the funds of WikiLeaks. The only one to actively admit that it was pressed by the US was PayPal, who said that the “State dept. informed us that they were involved in illegal activities”.

So yeah, forget courts, burden of proof, justice. PayPal doesn’t care. I’m willing to bet the story is similar to the rest. What exactly has America got to hide?

Enter TheJester and Anonymous. TheJester is some absolute juvenile cunt who, prior to this, was presumably in the US army serving in the Middle East. He calls himself a “hacktivist fighting for good” when really he is a patriot. And you know, I use that word now without even thinking of the presumed “I love my country” bullshit. When I hear patriot I think of a stupid, blind, puppet of an American. The ones that blindly follow the whim of the government or their leaders for some delusion of national pride. TheJester also seems to be some sort of programmer, though I suspect his programming experience is average. He seems to have ‘adapted’ (plagiarised) a program called SlowLORIS to make XerXes, a DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) program that routes using Tor, the onion network, for anonymity. He has used his software in the past in order to DDOS ‘jihadist’ websites. A noble cause maybe.
Now he has turned on WikiLeaks. Yet, his failings became evident very quickly; mere hours after egotistically declaring “TANGO DOWN” on his twitter the WikiLeaks site was back. And this guy has himself an enemy.

Anonymous have waded in, in the name of Internet openness and freedom. And they have launched Operation:Payback, and it has been working fantastically! They have their target list of all those who betrayed WikiLeaks, and have been attacking as a group; today, MasterCard has been down.
Anonymous are a force and one you do not want against you – they have no head, only teeth. They are generally morally guided to causes, and while sometimes dicky, I think they are an important bunch. Those who do not care that their methods are illegal, they are vigilantes and rioters. But sometimes you need such people to effect great change.

So, in what could be the first Internet War, who are the players?
WikiLeaks and their ally Anonymous fight for a free internet and world.
USA government (and others), their foot-soldiers (TheJester) and their subservient corporations fight for their own ends.

This won’t be a war that you know when it ends. But it could fundamentally change the internet, and it some ways it already has shown me one thing. Companies control too much of the Internet for my liking. Amazon, Ebay, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, PayPal… the list goes on. And as long as these entities have no moral centre of their own and will do whatever the US tell them to, the Internet is at risk. They want WikiLeaks shut down because its not under their control, and that scares them. Bastards, that’s all I can say. USA always has the approach of policing the world, and always to its own ends. The line stops here; the Internet is NOT yours to police and there are those who will fight to keep it from you.

In summary; go WikiLeaks, go Anonymous, go fuck yourself USA. Hypocritical, paranoid monsters with some severe entitlement issues.

I know which side I’m on, have you chosen yours yet? The time may soon come where your voice needs heard, not just in disapproving comments in the pub, work, online comments, but instead on the streets – it is the only thing they will listen to.
It is time that governments started doing what their masters tell them; that’s you and me.

UPDATE: Anonymous has now taken down Visa

Vapourware – Like a Needle in a Haystack

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Vapourware describes a product, usually software, that has been announced by a developer during or before its development, if there is significant doubt whether the product will actually be released. It is software which at best is still in development, and at worst is no more than an interesting concept in the mind of someone at the organisation. Vapourware is sometimes announced with great fanfare as a spoiling tactic to hurt sales of a competitors already launched product.

Maybe you don’t know, but in many parts of the world the internet is not free. It is not open. Many countries have, or are considering, filtering the internet. The reason for this is always cited as “protecting the public” or even just “child porn” (‘Think of the Children!’ defence). Make no mistake; filtering the internet is a bad thing, and it is coming to a country near you – the USA, Australia and UK are both considering ‘net neutrality’ bills, and the continued tightening of digital rights (think the Digital Economy Act) pushes us one step closer to a constrained internet, an internet which is no longer the last true bastion of free speech.

…but this article isn’t about that. This article is a warning. Vapourware. The definition is above. So, Matt, why did you launch into a tirade against internet law? Well, because the people of the world have been had; specifically the people of Iran. I’m talking about ‘Haystack‘.

Haystack was a fantastic story. The myth – a young, bright, entrepreneurial and morally-guided man, Austin Heap, heard the suffering of the people of Iran, and developed an encrypted proxy network, one which would bypass the filtering imposed upon the innocent Iranian people.
The fact – no software officially released to date; the beta has leaked to many Iranians but is full of basic security holes. Despite much money donated to the project, it fails and in fact risks the security of millions of Iranians, both online but also from state police.

Austin Heap, the creator, was being lauded in the press, with absolutely no software credentials to back this up. He conjured false hope about a solution better than any currently available. He even claims that Haystack is better for privacy than the Tor onion network. He refused outside, open-source development, under the guise of preventing the Iranian authorities from breaking his system. However, when the executable finally found its way into the hands of some reputable software programmers, it was clear that the product was just not what it should have been (link is to Danny O’Brien’s twitter feed. He also wrote an article about Haystack here). Even their main developer resigned.

Austin Heap was quoted as saying:

“I hope we are ready to take on the next country. We will systematically take on each repressive country that censors its people. We have a list. Don’t piss off hackers who will have their way with you. A mischievous kid will show you how the Internet works.”

I think he fell victim to his own hype, and his own motto.

A lesson indeed in the dangers of getting wrapped up in an idea. I doubt that the Dragons from Dragon’s Den would have invested in his idea. An idea is NOT a product, not a result. Ideas are easy; the idea of creating a proxy system for repressed regimes is an easy idea. The reality is all the steps in between, the lives you are risking along the way, the code and its robustness. One error can spell doom, and it seems for Haystack, this might have happened.

So… Diaspora anyone? Yeah, this is still vapourware. Diaspora purports to be a better Facebook – fixing the much-maligned privacy concerns in Facebook, removing the trash, making it clean. You can host your own Diaspora network, with its own look and feel, but all the Diaspora networks can interact and share information in a controlled way. And, yet again, it was hyped to an insane degree, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, for a mere idea.

Even at the time of announcing I was dubious. Now Facebook is everywhere, it is tightly integrated into so much of the web at the minute. Diaspora might now be a step backwards. Heck, Facebook might even be getting into the phone OS game now. But Diaspora has now released the first elements of its source code. It at least has one advantage over Haystack – it is open-source. Bugs and problems can be fixed by the internet swarm. But, so far, it has more problems than fixes.

Diaspora may still come out clean in the wash. Haystack, doubtful. The point is, don’t pay people for an idea. Or at least, if you are going to pay someone for an idea that won’t happen, pay me. But don’t get your hopes up on software that might never materialise. And, Austin Heap, don’t get up the hopes of an entire country, and don’t release to them insecure software that might end up getting them in severe trouble for using it.

Peace, out!


Will the Digital Economy Act ever be repealed?


The Digital Economy Act… Passed by the Commons during ‘wash-up’… Democracy guys… democracy in action. Most MPs didn’t bother to turn up.

Do me, and online freedom a favour. Switch to TalkTalk:

One of the country’s largest broadband providers, TalkTalk, has said it would rather go to court than disconnect a customer’s account for alleged copyright infringement. It has also pledged to never surrender a customer’s details to copyright holders without a court order.

Andrew Heaney, executive director of strategy and regulation at TalkTalk, wrote on the company blog: “Many draconian proposals remain [in the Act], such as the presumption that they [customers] are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent, and, as in China, the potential for legitimate search engines and websites to be blocked.

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