December 7th, 2010

The leaks

I don’t think there is much to add to the unfolding Wikileaks saga. But this you might find this somewhat noteworthy: two public broadcast networks here (think a bit your PBS, although things are much more diversified here) have hosted a mirror site of Wikileaks now. This to the chagrin of my new, fresh, “let’s get to work” right winged administration, working with a parlimentary minority and a few ultry right wing opportunistic supporters.

I must say I was kinda flabbergasted by the almost lascivious suggestions made by both Australian and American representatives to actually execute mr. Assange. Hello??

In the meantime, here, parliament insist on having toilets on ALL trains, and cancelling the mandatory clubcard for people who want to view a soccer match, all while the economy is grinding. Oh, well, they WILL debate on Assange, see if freedom of press is being violated and to try to put pressure on Sweden to not let him be send to the US. If it wasn’t sad, it would be really, really funny.

Silly tidbit: A Danish newspaper started a Wikileaks mirror, and decided to host it on Amazon’s cloud servers, you know, the Amazon where Wikeleaks themselves have been thrown off two weeks ago. The newspaper simply stated it was the simplest option to use but added “it would make in interesting story if they were kicked out too”. Hee!

March 23rd, 2009

Riki Ott on Democracy Now! this Tuesday

I just received an email to let me know that Dr. Riki Ott, a resident of Valdez Cordova, a commercial “Fisherma’am,” author and Marine Biologist will be on Democracy Now! this Tuesday. Riki is the author of Sound Truths & Corporate Myths and more recently, Not One Drop. It’s rare that current Alaskan environmental issues get national coverage. If you miss Tuesday’s show you can always download Tuesday’s show fromThe Democracy Now! website.

February 2nd, 2009

What should we expect?

We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision.

They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of past.

There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.

The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.

—William S. Burroughs, “No More Stalins, No More Hitlers,” from Dead City Radio, Island Records, 1990; and Interzone, Viking Books, 1989.

November 5th, 2008

I voted today – it’s warmer down south

Now if Don Young and Ted Stevens win – I may consider heading south; life is too short. Quoting from “Mudflats:”

The Alaskan Republican Party has just reaffirmed their endorsement of, and told you to vote for A CONVICTED FELON! You show ‘em Alaska Republicans! Hold your head high, walk in to the voting booth with the blessing of your political party, fill in that little oval, and vote with impunity for A CONVICTED FELON! Drive home with a satisfied smile, kiss your spouse, and say, “What did you do today, Honey? I voted for A CONVICTED FELON!“ Proudly call your friends and relatives out of state, and tell them how you, and all your buddies in the Republican party, puffed out your chests, and proudly hitched your wagon to the star of an 84-year old CONVICTED FELON! Maybe you should call your local party headquarters and suggest a fundraiser…you could do t-shirts, and hats that say, “I VOTED FOR A CONVICTED FELON!”

Amen brothers and sisters!

November 3rd, 2008

Eve of Destruction

Noam Chomsky recently noted that the United States has one political party with two factions: the Republicans and the Democrats. The elections to be held this Tuesday in the United States will, no doubt, impact people around the world, some for better and many for worse. I’m not sure why, but I was poking around in my “archives” tonight and revisited a lecture that has had a big impact on how I view my country. Speaking at Riverside Church in New York City author Arundhati Roy delivered her thoughts in a message titled, “Instant Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One Get One Free),” on April 13, 2003.

Roy noted, among many other things, that:

Way back in 1988, on the 3rd of July, the U.S.S. Vincennes, a missile cruiser stationed in the Persian Gulf, accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner and killed 290 civilian passengers. George Bush the First, who was at the time on his presidential campaign, was asked to comment on the incident. He said quite subtly, “I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are.”

I don’t care what the facts are. What a perfect maxim for the New American Empire. Perhaps a slight variation on the theme would be more apposite: The facts can be whatever we want them to be.

When the United States invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey estimated that 42 percent of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And an ABC News poll said that 55 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported Al Qaida. None of this opinion is based on evidence (because there isn’t any). All of it is based on insinuation, auto-suggestion, and outright lies circulated by the U.S. corporate media, otherwise known as the “Free Press,” that hollow pillar on which contemporary American democracy rests.

Public support in the U.S. for the war against Iraq was founded on a multi-tiered edifice of falsehood and deceit, coordinated by the U.S. government and faithfully amplified by the corporate media.

Good luck to us all.

A written transcript of Roy’s presentation is available here.

October 23rd, 2008

(if) The world could vote

The world can’t, and I am the first one to say that inhabitants of a country should be the only ones who elect their representatives. As in, erm, you get what you deserve, and, no invasion, thank you very much. Still, claiming to be the last superpower with supreme moral values does come with obligations doesn’t it? So here is how that is perceived outside of America’s legal borders (yes, really!). Please note the irrelevance of one label in the graph and the indecisiveness of one rather large and let’s say involved country. As Diane would say: 90 days.

October 2nd, 2008

The breach of trust

Skype is a communication platform for instant messaging, video and voice. One of it’s virtues is that the communication is end to end encrypted, meaning any middleman cannot intercept the communications, an important reason I use it a LOT.

In China, you cannot download Skype, only a localized version, distributed by a company called TOM. I already knew this version blocks IM sentences that contain a set of “unsafe” words. What probably not many people know is that when these words are encountered (and god knows what other criteria like usernames), the conversation is being logged by the TOM skype client on (insecure) webservers in China.

Major Findings

  • The full text chat messages of TOM-Skype users, along with Skype users who have communicated with TOM-Skype users, are regularly scanned for sensitive keywords, and if present, the resulting data are uploaded and stored on servers in China.
  • These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly-accessible web servers together with the encryption key required to decrypt the data.
  • The captured messages contain specific keywords relating to sensitive political topics such as Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong, and political opposition to the Communist Party of China. (y-t: I can confirm it blocks the word “fuck” too.)
  • Our analysis suggests that the surveillance is not solely keyword-driven. Many of the captured messages contain words that are too common for extensive logging, suggesting that there may be criteria, such as specific usernames, that determine whether messages are captured by the system.

Sounds a bit like yahoo and google eh?

If you happen to chat with Chinese people, do NOT rely on the security model of Skype. While I am reasonably convinced skype is one of the best secured applications and I like it’s end to end encryption a lot better than my conversations going over say Microsoft’s servers, the Chinese client is proven spyware. And to be honest, it makes you wonder what “our” cient is doing.

Skype, the company allowed this is telling us TOM did this without their knowledge. I am very disappointed.

Added: whoa, this is all over the place. Herald Tribune‘s on it. Others will follow soon.

Added: Skype president’s response.

You may have seen some reports in the media about a security and privacy breach in the software provided by our Chinese partner, TOM Online. I’m writing to let you know where we stand, and what we’re doing to resolve the problem.

Some brief background: In China, TOM is the majority local partner in our joint venture that brings Skype functionality to Chinese citizens. The software is distributed in China by TOM and TOM, just like any other communications company in China, has established procedures to meet local laws and regulations. These regulations include the requirement to monitor and block instant messages containing certain words deemed “offensive” by the Chinese authorities.

It is common knowledge that censorship does exist in China and that the Chinese government has been monitoring communications in and out of the country for many years. This, in fact, is true for all forms of communication such as emails, fixed and mobile phone calls, and instant messaging between people within China and between China and other countries. TOM, like every other communications service provider operating in China, has an obligation to be compliant if they are to be able to operate in China at all.

In April 2006, Skype publicly disclosed that TOM operated a text filter that blocked certain words in chat messages, and it also said that if the message is found unsuitable for displaying, it is simply discarded and not displayed or transmitted anywhere. It was our understanding that it was not TOM’s protocol to upload and store chat messages with certain keywords, and we are now inquiring with TOM to find out why the protocol changed.

We were very concerned to learn about both issues and after we urgently addressed this situation with TOM, they fixed the security breach. In addition, we are currently addressing the wider issue of the uploading and storage of certain messages with TOM.

It’s important to remind everybody that the issues highlighted in yesterday’s Information Warfare Monitor / ONI Asia report refer only to communications in which one or more parties are using TOM software to conduct instant messaging. It does not affect communications where all parties are using standard Skype software. Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private.

I passionately believe in Skype’s mission to enable the world’s conversations. Allowing the world to communicate for free empowers and links people and communities everywhere. Our challenge is to bring this valuable service to people all over, including China, while being transparent to our users and staying within the boundaries of the local laws. We are committed to meet this challenge.

Please note that “fixing” (my emphasis) means: securing the breached webserver where the logs are stored, not killing the logging.

Added: I am not copying Josh’s second post. Yack yack local laws, yack yack continue in the Chinese market, yack yack looking into. BS. My prediction is a follow up version will tell the user the counterpart is using TOM-Skype and will, in very vague words hint that might not be ENTIRELY secure. Trust is plummeting. Oh well, probably everybody will have forgotten about this in less than a week. Again, trust is very affected.

July 31st, 2008

The hacker

Background: In 2002 British citizen Gary McKinnon was arrested in the UK. He confessed he had hacked himself into several dozens of NASA computer systems. While NASA claims the damage done was worth $ 700.000, that claim has never been substantiated. If he were trialed and convicted in the UK, he would probably serve somewhere between community service and worst case 5 years imprisonment.

Now, I don’t deny this guy did wrong and should face the courts, but the thing is, the UK never pressed charges and instead let the US do the dirty work. Even stranger is that up until the highest UK court agreed to have Gary been extradited to the US, where, if convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 60 years. He claims he might even have to serve that in Gitmo.

I have a couple of questions about this.

  • I don’t think many countries actively deport their own citizens to a different country to be trialed there. When did this change in the UK, which I believe most people regard as having a reasonably fair justice system?
  • What if it would have been China, or Iran asking for the guy?
  • 60 years behind bars for some hacking? In most of Europe, you would have to have slaughtered quite a few blue eyed blond virgins.
  • When can we expect the US to extradite a US citizen to ANY country, or super-national body like the UN? (hint 1: google ASPA. Hint 2: never).

This is plain wrong. Wait for the first copyright-case to be “handled” that way. Thanks Jondo

June 25th, 2008

The chipcard (and the shame)

The administration is trying to get all public transport companies (who are heavily subsidized anyway) to use a unified chipcard. Unfortunately, they used Myfair one, a Mickey Mouse card when it comes to security (I am not even going into the privacy issues). The University of Nijmegen exposed this and delved deeper and deeper, until they copied a card in less than 2 seconds, enough to do it standing close to a clueless traveler.

And then they stepped it up a bit, went to London, where London Underground uses the same card. And published their results. Bravo right? Exposing weak systems compromising the wallet of the consumer, right?

Wrong. The responsible minister is arm twisting the University board and the research group is more or less stifled, using the argument of “acting responsible”. Shame, shame, shame on you, minister Huizinga.

May 21st, 2008

The tunnel vision

1994. 22 Year old stewardess Christel Ambosius is raped and killed in the house of her grandmother in the village Putten. A drop of semen is found on her leg and preserved. Soon, two men are arrested.

1995. While they admit under intense police pressure, they later deny any involvement. The interviews were not recorded on video. The two are convicted to 10 years imprisonment.

2002. The two are set free after serving 7 years. Only after they are set free, the highest court tosses out the conviction in not to be misunderstood words. Police had tunnel vision, evidence against the two was withheld, etc. They are set free and are given compensation, but of course their innocence is not accepted by everyone. Where there is smoke, there must be fire. The case is wide open again, stirring up the village. By now, this is already the most discussed case in my country’s history.

2005. A 29 year old man is convicted of beating up his girlfriend.

2007. After fierce legal protesting, he is forced to give DNA material, which is analyzed and stored in the national database for convicted offenders.

2008. The National Forensic Laboratory calls the cold case team: a coincidence, a present, a gift: the DNA of the man shows a match with the semen found on Christel Ambrosius’s leg 14 years earlier. The then 18 year old man (boy?), now 33, lived in the same village at the time of the murder, but he was never seen as suspect. Police cries victory, evidence is, as it seems, conclusive and undeniable. Kristel’s family keeps quiet, but the earlier convicted men are relieved the case seems to come to a close.

This is not the first time police is said to have serious tunnel vision in high profile cases. I have very mixed feelings about this.

  • Record keeping of one’s DNA? Hmmmmm, I am not too sure I like that. It is now mandatory for convicted criminals. The profiles are destroyed for the suspects not guilty.
  • I am thrilled the bastard is caught, and two innocent (but scarred) men walk.
  • Once a criminal, always a criminal? I like to think not.
  • How the hell did it take 3 years to find the match?

BTW: Anyone in favor for the death penalty, hmmmm? Sure, sure, for THIS guy of course yes, but we wouldn’t know that would we? (“Ok, ok, we killed the wrong ones, sorry, SORRY!!! But we are most definately sure we got the real bastard now, so, let’s kill him too”)