Tag: David Cameron

Cameron presses ahead with internet spying

cameron_pigGateThe UK government of David “bacon sandwich” Cameron is pushing ahead with plans to update internet surveillance laws, despite criticism from privacy activists, communications firms and three parliamentary committees.

The  Home Office published the latest version of its Investigatory Powers Bill which had been released in draft form last November.

Home secretary Theresa May claims the draft is clearer clarifies that a company will only be forced to remove “electronic protections”, such as encryption, that it has applied to users’ messages when it is “technically feasible” to do so.

The earlier version suggested firms could be required to decrypt messages for which they do not have a key, which is impossible.

The government has also not stepped back from its heavily criticised plans requiring communications firms to hold “internet connection records”, detailing users’ web history, for a year , for use by police and security services in investigations. In fact the scope of these powers has actually been expanded to give police access to all web records, not just illegal websites or communications services.

Security services will also still be permitted to hack phones and computers en masse to gather surveillance data in the new bill. This is the same thing that Edward Snowden exposed and has been found to be illegal and abandoned in the US.

Critics say the government has ignored them and is attempting to rush through the legislation without proper scrutiny.

 

 

HTTPS kills Cameron’s smut plans

cameron_pigGatePig fancying British Prime Minister David “One is an Ordinary Bloke” Cameron’s attempts to ban smut from the Interwebs are coming unstuck because of basic technology that most people have.

For those who came in late, Cameron’s cronies spent a lot of time and effort forcing ISPs to block access to torrent sites. This would logically bring an end to torrented porn and mean that children would be safe in their beds.

But the likes of The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents offering secure, encrypted connection and all users need to do is stick an extra ‘s’ in the URL. This is not a new trick but word is getting out and HTTPS torrenting is increasing.

Rather than offering HTTPS as an option, a number of torrent sites default to the secure connection, automatically sidestepping ISP-level blocks. ISPs can block it, and Sky does.  But since HTTPS connections strip HTTP headers it may be harder to detect that a blocked site is being accessed.

ISPs could also block the site’s IP-addresses, but since many use shared IPs from CloudFlare this would also take down other unrelated websites.  Not that Cameron cares he is just thinking about the children after all if the great unwashed watch too much porn they will start forgetting they have children and leave them in pubs.

Italians waste money in anti-terror PS4 campaign

115926079-ac4de3c4-ef93-4f7b-aae9-061e6c008206Idioti in the Italian government are wasting 150 million euro the country has not got on a monitoring Playstation 4 games.

Someone has told Italian Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando that the Islamic State used the Playstation 4 chat to set up the recent attacks on Paris and he believed them.

He wants the cash spent on new equipment and techniques to monitor encrypted communications so they can watch gamers play games and look for hidden messages.

Orlando is also looking at ‘new instruments’ of electronic surveillance which if his PS4 plan is anything to go by might involve a banjo and a set of tarot cards.

Talking to Il Messaggero he said that he wants to set up ‘cultural mediators’ in prisons, “to prevent these forms of radicalisation that have developed in other countries.” So basically this person would asking prisoners “have you been radicalised yet?” Yeah that should stop them in their tracks.

Orlando is capitalising on Paris to publicise his cunning plan in much the same way that David Cameron did when he announced the addition of 1,900 staff to GCHQ in the wake of Paris.

Where Orlando differs is that Cameron has the money and the 150 million euro a year Orlando has to spend on reinforcing IT systems is next to nothing.

Orlando said: “The net offers numerous opportunities for communication.

“Antiterrorism investigations have highlighted the use of the PlayStation. Because of this every method of communication will be monitored with new instruments.”

However someone might have to actually tell the Minister that the Playstation was not used by the Paris terrorists and the idea appears to be the creation of a journalist’s overactive imagination.

The comments were based on the fact that three days prior to the attacks Belgium’s deputy prime minister Jan Jambon had said in a debate that the thought of ISIS and “hate preachers” passing messages via the PS network “keeps me awake at night.”

However it never happened, and the Italians would not be wasting the money if Jambon had decided to have a nice warm milk before going to bed.

Cameron thinks copyright theft is worse than manslaughter

David-Cameron-at-the-EU-s-007UK Prime Minister David “one is an ordinary bloke” Cameron has decided that his chums in the music and film industry should be allowed to keep their out-of-date distribution models.

He is bringing in a penalty for copyright pirates which is about the same as you would get for manslaughter – ten years.

Online copyright infringement currently carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment probably because no one gets hurt and society carries on.

But Tory Ministers think that it should be bought into line with copyright infringement of physical goods. This is a bad thing because it hurts business. The government said tougher sentences would act as a “significant deterrent” after all they have stopped the knock-off market dead in its tracks.

It is fairly clear that the move comes after lobbying from Big Content. They argue that a couple of years in jail just isn’t a sufficient deterrent to prevent online piracy and crucifixion has been banned.

It’s not, the police are clear to point out, aimed at small-time downloaders.

The problem is that internet rights groups will question the influence Hollywood and the music industry has over the daily operations of the police. Already industry bodies, funded by top studios and record labels, have paid for staff to work in police stations with the sole brief of investigating copyright crime.

Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “The government takes copyright crime extremely seriously – it hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy both on and offline.

“Our creative industries are worth more than £7 billion to the UK economy and it’s important to protect them from online criminal enterprises.

“By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals.”

Of course it is also taking the UK back to the 19th century where property was deemed more important than human life.

Tablets to sort Scots wolves from English sheep

David-Cameron-at-the-EU-s-007The UK government is pushing through a bill to allow only English MPs to vote on English only matters as part of a pledge UK prime minister David Cameron made before this year’s general election.

Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, said the Tory party is a “passionate supporter of the Union” of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As there are 50-odd Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) members in the Commons, and sundry other MPs from the other two countries, the logistical matter of separating the Scottish, Welsh and Irish wolves from the English sheep is a bit of a problem.

The Tory party only has one MP in Scotland after the SNP staged a landslide victory which swept away nearly all Labout MPs as well as Liberal Democrats.

Currently, when MPs vote they file through two lobbies – one for yes and one for no – and are counted by human tellers.

But in a move which will propel MPs from Gladstone’s days into the 21st century, the Clerks have come up with a new system of telling using tablet computers to account for the differences in nationalities.

The tablets, said Grayling, will “give the Tellers an immediate tally of whether a measure has a majority of English MPs”.

He did not say which brand of tablets will be used, but the method won’t apply to the House of Lords because, well, it just won’t.

Grayling’s plans were picked up by Pete Wishart, the shadow SNP leader of the House of Commons.

He said: “What a lot of constitutional bilge and unworkable garbage!” He said the plans will create two classes of members of parliament. “We would do as well to stamp the foreheads of Scottish MPs before they go into the Lobby, and I thought that the Leader of the House was quite close to suggesting or proposing it.”

Grayling said: “The honourable Gentleman seems a tad on the exercised side”.

Microsoft tried to bully UK government

David CameronA report said that Microsoft put pressure on the UK government after the Conservative Party said it would move government computers to use open source software.

According to Bloomberg, Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former director of strategy, said earlier this week Microsoft stepped up lobbying at Westminster.

Hilton said, according to the report, that Microsoft phoned Tory MPs with Microsoft facilities in their constituencies and threatened to shut them if the government went ahead with the plan.

Hilton said the MPs that were threatened told Microsoft to take a hike.

Recently, Microsoft has been less confrontational about open source software, which former CEO Steve Ballmer detested with a passion.

It has realised that if it wants to make money from the cloud, it has to cooperate with the entire community and cannot hope to use the strategies that at one time gave it and Wintel a virtual monopoly on computer systems.

Search engines agree to block child images

Google and Microsoft said they will implement technology to block people from seeing child abuse images.

That follows a threat from Prime Minister David Cameron who said that the companies must come up with the technology or he will implement legislation to force them to do it.

But the former head  of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said that it was unlikely the measures would make much of a difference.

Jim Gamble told the BBC said that the major search engines have already been blocking such content. He said a better step would be for the government to put more funding in police regions to employ experts to hunt down paedophiles.

He said that the dark corners of the web were where offenders lurked, often using peer to peer networks.

VPNs caught in Cameron's porn filter

Popular mobile operator GiffGaff, which runs on the O2 network, includes at least one Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in British prime minister David Cameron’s deeply unpopular ‘porn filter’ dragnet.

TorrentFreak found that some VPNs have already been automatically blocked under the guise of an ‘adult filter’ of some – but not all – mobile providers. Exchanged between VPN provider iPredator and GiffGaff show that the former has been placed on a blacklist because it could potentially allow children to get around age restrictions.

VPNs are a way to route traffic away from ISPs and through independent providers, and have gained popularity in oppressive regimes that impose censorship on their citizens. Although they can certainly be used to access pornographic material, it is understood that, for many, this is not the primary purpose of a VPN.

A statement from GiffGaff explains:

“The response received from head office have confirmed that websites or services that offer, inter alia, a method for younger members to access over 18 content, without age verification; such as VPN services, are blocked by our network provider (O2) and are not controlled by GiffGaff.

“O2, along with other major mobile operators in the UK, have signed up to the code of practice with the UK’s Independent Mobile Classification Body which sets forth guidelines in terms of content management and the protection, amongst others, of customers and members below the age of 18.

“In section 2.8 of our terms and conditions it states that we have the right to restrict access due to age which all of our members have agreed to abide by when joining the service.

“GiffGaff reserves the right to restrict access to certain services due to age restrictions”.

This is the same reason Cameron used to justify a censorship programme which would see new customers actively have to opt-in to receiving adult services. The proposal was put forward to protect children, however, the terms of censored content are vague: as well as pornography, websites that are classified as “violent material,” “extremist related content,” “anorexia and eating disorder websites,” “suicide related websites,” “alcohol”, “smoking,” “web forums,” and “esoteric material” are all included under policy.

Although those over 18 can enable such material, critics say the terms are deliberately vague and can be applied to a wide range of material.

For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “esoteric” as “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest”.

However, internet activists have a long history of dodging centrally imposed sanctions – indeed, the content industry’s bureaucratic attempts to shut down piracy, through policy or otherwise, has turned into a game of whack-a-mole. When one is blocked or shut down, another appears, as in streaming websites. Proxy websites are made available, hosted outside a nation state’s borders, making them more difficult to censor or control.

TechEye recommends a scan through the Streisand Effect’s Wikipedia page.

UK parliament accessed porn 300,000+ times in just one year

A Freedom of Information request has revealed there were over 300,000 attempts to access pornography on the Parliamentary Network in the last year alone.

Roughly 5,000 people work in parliament – among them MPs, peers, and plenty of staff – but the number is still very high considering.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from the Huffington Post UK, the House of Commons said users of the Parliamentary Network – including MPs and staff – repeatedly tried to access websites classed as pornographic. 

The numbers fluctuated wildly, but at their highest, there were 114,844 attempts in November 2012 and 55,552 in April 2013. This May, there were 18,436 attempts.

A spokesperson for the Commons was quick to say the figures do not prove access was intentional – because a user could have accessed a site that contains “optional or automatic links to others” or other “pop-up” arrangements, recorded as requests.

Generally speaking, the sort of websites that throw up such dodgy adverts are grey-area legal themselves, such as dating websites or ad-packed content streaming.

The spokesperson added the Commons had no intention of restricting Parliament’s “ability to carry out research”.

The dodgy figures were revealed just months after British PM David Cameron decided to begin a moral crusade against pornography by introducing a blanket opt-out option for all major internet service providers.

300,000 attempts is certainly a fair amount of research to discover  “content tagged as violent, extremist, terrorist, anorexia and eating disorders, suicide, alcohol, smoking, web forums, esoteric material and web-blocking circumvention tools” or pornography which is “so extreme it can’t even be purchased in a licensed sex shop”.

Huawei cast as bogeyman in web of intrigue

Huawei’s in the headlines again – as scrutiny is placed on the Chinese company by the Intelligence and Security Committee – with the usual accusations of links with the Chinese state and secret surveillance dredged up yet again. But what does the government suspect Huawei is up to, and how does that compare with we know about the British government?

The BBC claimed the filtering system proposed by David Cameron would be controlled wholly by Huawei, citing how it recently emerged the company designed Talk Talk’s web filtering system, Homesafe.

That didn’t really just emerge at all – and has, in fact, been public knowledge for some time.

The panic is that Huawei will have full control over Cameron’s proposed opt-out porn filters, but in light of recent relevations about the British state, the concerns are deeply hypocritical and stink of jumped up paranoia, ignoring the more widespread, grave questions about  the secret surveillance state erected in the UK.

First, some background. Huawei has long had a relationship with the United Kingdom. It has also frequently been the target of the American network lobby and US neo-McCarthyism.

Huawei has been the go-to Chinese boogeyman for American lawmakers.

Citing spying concerns, there have been efforts to restrict the use of goods from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE. Perhaps for good reason: there have been murmurings of backdoors discovered in Huawei routers and ZTE was flagged for selling surveillance capable equipment to Iran. But there has not been any solid evidence about Huawei to date.

It’s a complicated question that is tied to the global productive process, where it is cheaper and more cost productive to produce in, and buy from, countries such as China.

Other US lawmakers alleged that Huawei could be receiving funding from state owned Bank of China, which would mark it as in breach of anticompetition laws. Although not precisely comparable, US and European bank bailouts with state money let these institutions continue selling and speculating their financial products on the world stage, and when US companies such as Google, Microsoft or Intel are flagged the penalties are so minimal compared to their profits they amount to being slapped with a wet bus ticket.

China’s long history of web monitoring and censorship provides an easy backdrop to scapegoat these companies. But who benefits most from a blockade on these goods? Could it be… American networking companies?

The constant whispers among the networking giants such as Cisco and Juniper are that companies such as Huawei essentially use the wonders of a globalised free market against them. They (it has been alleged) buy up American kit and reverse engineer it with cheaper components, then flood emerging markets with affordable kit that prices American corporations out of the market. Huawei proudly boasts it has an extensive patent portfolio of its own.

In recession, it is tempting for Western private enterprise to use the products too. Indeed, Huawei has an established market presence across Europe and in Australia. It is understandable companies like Cisco would be terrified of Huawei touching their profits.

To further complicate, or clarify – depending on your perspective – Cisco’s CEO is the politically active Republican donor John Chambers, who has pledged over $1 million to various political causes.

If Chinese enterprise is indeed funded by the government, in the United States it is the other way around.

A thorough response comes in the form of this open letter from Huawei’s Ken Hu, part of the company’s drive to address the criticisms levied against it. 

It includes clarifications about CEO Ren Zhengfei’s time in the People’s Liberation Army, funding from the Chinese government, and the allegations of intellectual property infringement. In each case, it compares itself to accepted business practices from non-Chinese companies.

Critics will say Huawei’s resistance to an Initial Public Offering is evidence of its lack of transparency. But in fact it’s possible the company is guarding itself from the volatile markets and hostile forces within those markets.

Speaking of markets – attempts to block Huawei in the USA don’t seem to be particularly damaging. Although, as it is a corporation, it would naturally like access to all markets, a scramble for Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe and Latin America has ensured Huawei will be lucrative with or without US cooperation.

Existing relationships

Huawei already has links to the western networking companies. Have a quick look at a list of corporate execs and you’ll see plenty of ex-Ciscoers on board. In effect, Huawei is winning at capitalism, an intriguing turn for a company that claims to be a collective in a country that claims to be communist.

Not only does Huawei have the hiring power to headhunt execs with the relevant knowledge on how to capture crucial – booming – emerging markets and established Western markets, it also has links with ex government forces here in the UK. With Prime Ministerial permission, ex UK CIO John Suffolk publicly posted on his blog that he was to join Huawei.

The stated purpose of Huawei’s Banbury cyber security centre was to soothe fears of ‘Red’ China snooping on these green and pleasant lands. It was opened with the blessing and cooperation of GCHQ, Britain’s spying agency, to vet and test Huawei equipment for its spying capabilities.

Presumably with the view to removing any indiscrepancies, but, hey, you never know.

A former deputy director at GCHQ is now, the Times reports, on Huawei’s payroll. It cannot be a wholly mysterious entity to British intelligence.

 

Huawei and Five – why Huawei, and why now?

Considering what is now public knowledge about the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand with their ‘Five Eyes’ prograame, British Tempora and the USA’s Prism, this fuss about Huawei is certainly cropping up at an interesting time.

A D-Notice was issued to the UK nationals politely asking them to drop reporting on the Snowden revelations. Although D-Notices aren’t enforced by law, they exist to tell the press to drop a particular story, especially if it is a matter of defending the national interest.

Before the Edward Snowden story was transformed into a fugitive drama, Snowden’s revelations revealed something much more meaty.

The UK, in cooperation with other English speaking countries, was spying on an absolutely unprecedented scale with some pretty impressive feats of engineering. GCHQ, an exclusive Guardian report revealed, was tapping international fibre-optic cables to collect and store “vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls”, sharing them with the USA’s National Security Agency.

So what do we know about GCHQ and the NSA, and what are we speculating about with Huawei?

The fear is that Huawei equipment in every home could lead to widespread intelligence gathering by the Chinese government. This is possible but not proven.

The fact is that the UK, the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Australia are conspiring, worldwide, to track and store information of citizens worldwide. This is proven.

Why, now, is Huawei being targeted by the British media as part of Cameron’s ill thought out, unpopular and technically impossible filtering system?

The focus is shifted from Cameron’s arrogant censorship posturing and onto the mysterious, foreign Huawei.

We should be asking, in light of the Snowden revelations, where our representatives, our governments, in our names, have embarked on a program of blanket surveillance – effectively treating us all as suspected criminals – where is the transparency with government? Because we, as citizens, could benefit a lot more from that than speculation about Huawei.