Sony, Nintendo, Is data ever safe?

Playstation Network – 77 million users
Sony Online Entertainment – 25 million Users
Sony Ericsson website in Canada – 2,000 users
Sony Music Entertainment website in Greece – 8,500 users 
Most people will have heard by this point about the hacking of many Sony website, and the subsequent loss of millions of user’s data – including credit card information. It has also just come to light that Nintendo have recently suffered from server hacking, though at this time they claim that no user information was stored on the compromised infrastructure.

‘Spear Phishing’ – new, targeted phishing attacks?

Interesting BBC article.

The targeted attack used by hackers to compromise e-mail accounts of top US officials is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions, say security experts.

 

The scam, known as spear phishing, was used in a bid to get passwords of Gmail accounts so they could be monitored.

 

Via a small number of customised messages it tries to trick people into visiting a web page that looks genuine so users type in login names.

 

Such attacks are often aimed at top officials or chief executives.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13626104

The invidious, insidious Controllers

Yes to AVRecently I went to a public meeting in support of the “YES to AV” campaign. For those of you who have no idea what this is, a brief summary: there is shortly to be a referendum in the UK to decide whether to end the “First past the post” voting system and replace it with “Alternative Vote” see here:http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/referendum_2011.aspx

The vote isn’t mainstream WSFF stuff, but it is hoped that a change to AV might make our parliamentary representatives more accountable, harder working and more willing to work together with people who have different views to the party line.

This was one of many rallies, and probably the smallest, comprising of around thirty activists of all ages, across all political persuasions (except for the very far-right). Typical British apathy meant that most people we could see were going shopping, rather than thinking about the future political landscape. There was some tension in the group, and I was asked if I was a “kosher Yes voter”. I bit my tongue on my first answer, which was to reply: “Not kosher, actually, but definitely Bona Fide”, and simply nodded. But I was puzzled – did they think I was an undercover spy? Later, standing arm-in arm with the purple-shirted man next to me, we looked into the camera and smiled. “Good thing my wife isn’t here.” he said “Perhaps she’ll see the photograph” I suggested. “If it’s printed.” He said bitterly. “The media are against us.” Which was when I realized that the man taking pictures was not a journalist, but a local politician. And that was odd. There may only have been a few of us but this was still a major event for a small market town. Where were the press? A few questions led to the opinion that the local paper was owned by a prominent NO2AV supporter, and therefore the rally wouldn’t get a mention at all. Far from it – the Media, they said, was gently pushing people towards a No vote. I gently suggested that, by clubbing together, the protestors could raise enough money to publish something themselves, but enthusiasm had stalled at the prospect of opening wallets.

Which, in a roundabout way, does bring us to a primary WSFF concern – invidious and insidious Control vs Free Will.

Media partisanship and spin is nothing new of course, and if you ask anyone in the UK if they believe what they read in the papers, most would answer “No”, with a knowing, wry smile. Unfortunately, they are deceived. Although they may know rationally that what they hear, see and read is subjective, unconsciously the brain accepts most of the information it receives without question. And if that is so for overt messages, how much more so must it be for the subliminal?

Free Will and Self-Determination

Are you as free as a bird? Well, that depends. Are you ruled almost entirely by instinct? Or do you have a mind of your own? What, or who, tells you what to do?

One of the ways in which we differ from most animals is in our ability to rationalize – to over-ride instinct and training, to act objectively. To be individual. But most of us do not live as individuals. It is a hard choice to live entirely on your own. So we make a pact with Society and follow its rules rather than our own desires, in order to be part of a couple, a community, a nation. Our egos are subordinated to the common will of the group. If we don’t like it, and the community is small, we can try and change it or leave. In big communities, where most of us live, both changing from within and leaving for somewhere else have become rather difficult. It is easier to do nothing; to grumble but go along the path everyone else is taking – to where we are being herded. And if we are become sheep, who are the shepherds, and how do they control their flocks?

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsYou may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs), which shows how a human’s needs can change and grow, from the basics (food, air etc;) to the highest (morality, lack of prejudice, creativity). One thing Maslow doesn’t cover is the state of “I’m ok, thank you very much” – the point at which a human, having got enough to be comfortable, stops looking any higher. Despite our natural acquisitiveness and desire to succeed, I believe that the vast majority of people are, like my Jack Russell, difficult to shift once comfortable. It follows, therefore, that if you can feed peoples’ comfort needs, they will be happy to accept the Status Quo. Our human sheep, once shown a nice green field with a warm shed to retreat into at night, don’t particularly care about the electric fence that stops them looking for pastures new. And if trouble strikes, in the form of a wolf or a lack of water, there’s always the fear that things could be (and probably will be) worse the other side of the fence. Our sheep might even demand the presence of more shepherds to watch over their every move, just in case, which is where the analogy breaks down a bit – a real shepherd isn’t going to get a posse together to protect his sheep unless there is a real threat; our governments have no such inhibitions.

Effecting Change

How, then, do you set about changing the Society in which you live? Particularly if the vast majority of your fellow citizens are occasionally grumbly, but mostly satisfied with their lot? Ranged against you are the Powers That Be of the Status Quo – government, business, schools, Police.

Change can sometimes be very quick following collapse of the “comfort blanket”, due to natural disaster, war, disease. Occasionally, rapid change comes as the result of an incident which fires the public conscience, such as the avoidable death of a child, or the mal-treatment of an animal, when anger overcomes apathy and fear to demand changes to Society.

More often, though, change is gradual, incremental, spread by word of mouth, by example; even by big business if they see a product need, or by the Media, if they smell a money-making or popular stance. Once the balance has tipped far enough even your electoral representative may begin to take note.

The way to effect change from within is many-fold, to quote Thoreau:

  • To do, rather than do nothing, for the bystander is as guilty as the perpetrator
  • Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine
  • Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect and that will be one step towards obtaining it
  • It matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is well done is done forever
  • A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority…but it is irresistible when it clogs by its own weight

And I can’t resist adding this by Charles Wesley “Do as you would be done by”.

Don’t let people down by not telling them what’s really going on. After all, you would expect no less. Do, rather than do nothing. And maybe, just maybe, enough people will get fed up with being herded to make a difference.

Cookie Monster

Cookie MonsterIn the world of web browsing small packets of information called “cookies” are used to catalog important information used from login passwords and usernames to the items in your online shopping  carts.

However these little packets of information aren’t always used for such necessary web functions. Corperations can add, through their own on site ads, third party cookies that can be used to gather information on what webpage you have just visited.

Invasive as it may seem the purpose is simply focusing their advertisments more directly at you.

Most modern web browsers that are worth their salt have a feature that lets you to select which cookies you would like to accept. For example Mozilla’s Firefox has a check box for accepting cookies and a nother one for accepting third party cookies, unchecking the third party cookies box will deny access to your computer for applications/pop-ups that are not part of the site you are currently visiting. Likewise Apple’s Safari browser has three radio buttons for accepting cookies; “Always”, “Never”, and “Only from sites I visit” (in fine print below: “Block cookies from third parties and advertisers”.)

Cookie Monster

Cookie MonsterIn the world of web browsing small packets of information called “cookies” are used to catalog important information used from login passwords and usernames to the items in your online shopping  carts. However these little packets of information aren’t always used for such necessary web functions. Corperations can add, through their own on site ads, third party cookies that can be used to gather information on what webpage you have just visited. Invasive as it may seem the purpose is simply focusing their advertisments more directly at you.

Most modern web browsers that are worth their salt have a feature that lets you to select which cookies you would like to accept. For example Mozilla’s Firefox has a check box for accepting cookies and a nother one for accepting third party cookies, unchecking the third party cookies box will deny access to your computer for applications/pop-ups that are not part of the site you are currently visiting. Likewise Apple’s Safari browser has three radio buttons for accepting cookies; “Always”, “Never”, and “Only from sites I visit” (in fine print below: “Block cookies from third parties and advertisors”).

As simple as it is to go into your web browser’s settings and simply click either a check box or radio button the European Union has decided to do something quite intelegent and beneficial to the protection of the average (particularly the “below” average) computer using citizen. Begining on the twentyfith of May all cookies not deemed to be absolutely necessary must obtain the user’s explicit consent before installing onto the computer. Unfortunately this means the minor inconvenience of pop-up windows asking for permission to install a cookie onto your computer for every site you visit and every time you login to any one of your online accounts.

The question one should be asking themselves is will this law change anything? If we already have the ability to block unwanted and invasive cookies then what difference does this law make? The internet users that don’t use the built in third party refusal settings of their browser are, most likely, the same type of computer users who will just hit “accept” or slam the “enter” key as soon as the pop-up appears. A good portion probably wont know what a cookie is and hit “deny” just to be on the safe side and then wonder, and complain, as to why the website isn’t keeping their information or otherwise functioning as expected.

All in all this new law is a big step forward for the privacy concerned population but it is generally useless and will create nothing but a bother to the general population unless proper education on what a cookie is comes along with the pop-up. We shall see how this turns out, rumors have spread that such a law isn’t that far away for our friends in the States but it all hinges on how the European test subjects react.

Freedom and Privacy Roundup – March 4, 2011

Welcome to the March 4, 2011 edition of freedom and privacy roundup.

Political

Jay Smith presents 20 Powerful TED Talks for Political Minds | Bachelor's Degree posted at Bachelor's Degree.

Jay Smith presents 11 Fictional Presidents We Wish Were Real posted at Online University Reviews.

Gary Voysey presents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Tse Tse Fly posted at Ramblings and other savageries, saying, "1891; genaesd"

Wenchypoo presents Bailout Boomerangs posted at Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket.

Privacy

Idiot/Savant presents DNA bill breaches BORA posted at No Right Turn, saying, "Spleen-vent about the NZ government's plans to go on a DNA fishing expedition"

Freedom

Preity Smith presents 80 Great Twitter Feeds for Tracking Human Rights posted at Bachelor's Degree.

Charles Chua C K presents Be Free and Be happy posted at All About Living with Life.

Socratez presents Wikicracy | Socratez Online posted at Socratez Online, saying, "An article about the hypocricy of 'free' democratic nations."

Gary Voysey presents Ahmadinejad: Obama can?t spell his own name ? Israel News, Ynetnews posted at Ramblings and other savageries.

Scott Hughes presents What Freedom Means to Me posted at Philosophy Forums, saying, "The word freedom has little meaning if we do not have a common definition. In this article, I explain my definition of freedom."

Dividist presents Obama Embraces the Bush/Cheney Unitary Executive. Again and again and again. posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall, saying, "During the FISA debate last summer, Markos Moulitsas asked "Where are the Libertarians?". He obviously was not looking very hard. No matter. As we now watch Barack Obama embrace and defend the Constitution trampling, power grabbing excesses and abuses of the Bush/Cheney imperial presidency, it is time to ask "Where are the Liberals?" Certainly there are a few liberals who have not hesitated to pick up the gauntlet, most notably Glen Greenwald, as he takes to task those whose loyalty is not to principle but to a man:"

Suppression

Gary Voysey presents Egypt Opposition to End Protest in Cairo Square « Ramblings and other savageries posted at Ramblings and other savageries.

Other

Cynthia Merritt presents The 10 Biggest Labor Showdowns in U.S. History posted at Criminal Justice Degrees Guide.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Facebook Face Off? posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of freedom and privacy roundup using our carnival submission form.

Technorati tags:

, .

 

PEOPLE POWER in action

The recent upheavals in northern Africa show just how fast popular action can spread, once the fuse has been lit and the “tipping point” reached between damp squib and satisfying explosion. At the same time as these momentous uprisings, a parallel revolution has shaken politics in the UK; tiny in comparison but no less important for students of People Power. In Africa, despotic rulers have tried for too long to control their people with violence and oppression; in the UK, the government tried to sell off forests belonging to the English people. In both cases there has been a loss of control by the respective governments fuelled by the failure of that well-known governmental tool, the Propaganda Machine.

The Politics of Self-Interest vs. the Politics of Fear

Generally speaking, people will put up with any type of government, democratic or despotic, as long as times are good, or even when they are merely “ok”. It is simple at these times for governments to appeal to their people’s self-interest.

However, when times start to go bad, and government and individual self-interest part company, governments have to work a little harder if they want to maintain the Status Quo.

It helps for several Conditions and Tools to be in place in order for governments to work against peoples’ self interest:

  • Apathy is a government’s best friend, and the most usual one for a Parliamentary Democracy like the UK
  • Partisanship, whether Tribal, Religious or Ethnic, is a key player all over the world, even in the USA where divisions between Republican and Democrat can in places take on tribal connotations
  • A poorly or narrowly-educated population is easier to steer, particularly with emotive messages
  • Ignorance of the outside world via Media Control means a population can be isolated from dangerous ideas
  • Powerlessness, stemming from a widely held view that the government is too strong to oppose, is a common control myth used throughout the world
  • Widespread Fear of the alternative helps keep a population in line
  • An Information Network that correctly informs the government about its people’s attitudes, thoughts and feelings is necessary if these things are to be manipulated
  • A powerful and effective Propaganda Machine using trained or naturally charismatic spin-doctors is invaluable when a government has difficult messages to put across

Under all these Conditions, which can be perfectly normal for any country whatever the political system, the current government can stay in power for decades with very little effort. Simple Propaganda messages such as “The alternative would be so much worse”, “It’s for the good of the people” and “We’re all in this together” can be very effective, when really they are only lies whose true meaning is: “Do as we say or else”. When some of the above Conditions no longer apply, governments start getting into real trouble.

The Voice of the People

If we take the examples of Libya and Britain, it becomes obvious how the removal of the above Conditions can encourage the rise and eventual success of Vox Populi.

Libya

Since Colonel Gaddafi established the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in the early Seventies, he has increasingly relied upon the Conditions of Powerlessness and Fear, supported by Information Networks and an effective Propaganda Machine. Gaddafi himself is supposed to have relinquished personal power in favour of a Direct Democracy, where there are no political parties and the country is controlled by the populace through local councils, communes, and a General People’s Congress. In reality, the Colonel kept his hands firmly (and individually) on the reins, and policy was disseminated in a top-down direction.

He was never really able to use the Condition of Ignorance as Libya welcomed foreign workers into its economy and at the same time embraced the new Media Technologies. For decades the young people of Libya have enjoyed an excellent education system, and as a result the populace is largely well-educated.

The Conditions which still kept the Voice of the People down; those of Powerlessness and Fear were defeated by the sight of successful popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt – viewed and spread, of course, by media-savvy Libyans via the Internet and Mobile Phone networks. Gaddafi’s Propaganda Machine seems to be limping along, churning out old messages of anti-West and anti-Zionist type, but his Information Network has either broken down completely, or he dissembles when he declares, as he has done recently, that “All my people love me”. Neither of these two Tools is adequate for the task.

His only resource, if he wants to stay in power, can be Fear through violence against his people. Unless he steps down the consequences are inevitably going to be bloody and tragic, especially as that other Condition of Partisanship has reared its ugly head, pitting tribe against tribe, though this may also fall as perceived self-interest overcomes it.

Britain

Politics in the UK seem very tame by comparison! But the British government has recently made a huge mistake by failing to use any of the Tools which might have been at its disposal, at a period when most of the Conditions had disappeared.

For half a century, the defining Conditions in the UK with regard to politics have been Apathy and Powerlessness. An indifferent education system for the masses has also contributed to a feeling that politics doesn’t matter. “Whoever gets into power, nothing will change” and “they’re all the same” are still commonly held beliefs. With these ideas in place, there has been no need to foster other, more repressive Conditions. Governments have, however, made use of the Tools of the Information Network and the Propaganda Machine. Words that were once foreign to British ears, such as Spin-Doctor, and phrases such as “Keeping in touch with the people” are now well-worn and little loved.

At the General Election, the Labour government’s Propaganda Machine was no match for the anger of voters who had been let down by the credit crunch crisis. Despite this, a hung parliament resulted, meaning that no party had an overall majority. A Coalition government of Conservatives and Liberals was elected, and that seems to have had a curious side-effect on the British people: Apathy and Powerlessness have suddenly gone out of the window.

The public knows that if the Coalition doesn’t deliver, it can be brought down. It also knows that Times Are Hard, and that unpalatable decisions need to be taken to get the country back on track. You would think that, at such a time, the government would work extra hard to hone the twin Tools of the Information Network and the Propaganda Machine. And in some ways, they have: witness the Prime Minister’s lame call that “We’re all in it together” – not particularly effective when delivered by a government full of moneyed and landed public school types. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has actively encouraged people to tell the government what is wrong, and how it can be changed for the better. Whether this will lead to change is anyone’s guess.

However, in the case of the Great English Forest Sell-Off, the government didn’t bother to use either of these Tools at all, with disastrous (or comical, depending on your point of view) results.

The UK government, along with many others, needs to raise money. One idea they wished to adopt was to sell off much of England’s publically owned forests. The sale would be hedged around with vague conditions about continued public access and restricted commercial use, and a great deal of money might be raised. The Minister in charge says that in order to sell the idea to likely stakeholders (environmental groups, nature charities, and rambling associations) she asked them “Whether they would like improved security of access rights to English woodland. And of course they said ‘Yes, they would’”. No sell-off was mentioned, probably because the public knows that government conditions of sale are empty promises. As a piece of manipulation, it’s breathtakingly crude, and also begs the question of why the interested groups did not smell a rat.

Normally a proposed Bill like this goes to public consultation before Parliament, giving time for objectors to suggest changes. This Bill didn’t even get that far. As soon as the Press got hold of it, they knew they had struck gold, for the following reasons:

  • People who use English forests for recreational purposes tend to be better educated, passionate about the environment, and not afraid to express their opinions
  • They are likely to include family members and friends of politicians of the current government
  • The paid-up membership of one wildlife organisation in particular, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is greater than that of all the political parties put together
  • The concept of selling forests is very emotive

The Press had a field day: petitions were organized by Newspapers, TV, Wildlife Charities, Public Watchdog organisations and by individuals using Social Networks and the Internet to out-manoeuvre the government. Within the space of a few days millions of signatures had been obtained and delivered to the Prime Minister. Shortly afterwards the Bill was history.

The government had not only failed to properly canvass peoples’ views before deciding to unveil the proposal, but they had also neglected their propaganda messages, to the extent where they were completely unable to explain their position to an irate public.

To sum up: none of the Conditions were in place which enables the state to control the people, but despite this, Tools which could have been used to support the government’s proposal were considered unnecessary.

Two different governments and two different scenarios, but a win in both cases for Vox Populi, powered by an increasingly knowledgeable, capable and empowered world population, and the breaking down of Conditions and Tools historically used to control and manipulate the people.

Kill Switch

It’s been hinted before, but until recently, no government under democracy has ever attempted it.

As you all have probably heard, the Middle East is going through some drastic overhauls with their government systems, and the governments have begun taking actions. They have began limiting and even completely halting internet activity to avoid any further rallying and other “anti-government” activities.

Is it possible for any country to just shutdown internet activity for an undefined amount of time? Or was this just something that we will only see in the Middle Eastern countries?

The truth is, talks about having the power to halt our most liberal means of free speech have been going on for years now – it’s not just a most recent event.

Over the past few years, America has attempted to pass a bill called, “Kill Switch” which gives the executive branch the power to close off or limit the internet.

The greener side of the fence says that this sort of “limit to freedom” will never be possible because of our 5th Amendment to not have our freedom of speech suppressed, or even that our internet network is much more complex than that of a country in the Middle East’s making it much more simpler to control as a whole, i.e. only has about 0.5% of the worlds IP (internet provider) addresses, opposed to the estimated 55.9% of IP that North America alone has.

Then again, in the past 10 years our freedoms have taken a turn for the worst in the US, at least, with acts like the PATRIOT ACT and the Freedom of Information Act, which allows for a disregard for freedoms if you even show the slightest signs of defying the will of the government, in its simplest definition.

Overall, I do believe if the governments needed to, they wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug on the public portion of the internet calling it, “Protecting the People”, and like many other acts currently in place, people will convince themselves that the little security is greater than the cost of the freedom lost.

Kill Switch

It’s been hinted before, but until recently, no government under democracy has ever attempted it. As you all have probably heard, the Middle East is going through some drastic overhauls with their government systems, and the governments have begun taking actions. They have began limiting and even completely halting internet activity to avoid any further rallying and other “anti-government” activities.

Is it possible for any country to just shutdown internet activity for an undefined amount of time? Or was this just something that we will only see in the Middle Eastern countries?

The truth is, talks about having the power to halt our most liberal means of free speech have been going on for years now – it’s not just a most recent event. Over the past few years, America has attempted to pass a bill called, “Kill Switch” which gives the executive branch the power to close off or limit the internet. The greener side of the fence says that this sort of “limit to freedom” will never be possible because of our 5th Amendment to not have our freedom of speech suppressed, or even that our internet network is much more complex than that of a country in the Middle East’s making it much more simpler to control as a whole, i.e. only has about 0.5% of the worlds IP (internet provider) addresses, opposed to the estimated 55.9% of IP that North America alone has.

Then again, in the past 10 years our freedoms have taken a turn for the worst in the US, at least, with acts like the PATRIOT ACT and the Freedom of Information Act, which allows for a disregard for freedoms if you even show the slightest signs of defying the will of the government, in its simplest definition.

Overall, I do believe if the governments needed to, they wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug on the public portion of the internet calling it, “Protecting the People”, and like many other acts currently in place, people will convince themselves that the little security is greater than the cost of the freedom lost.

Facebook, The Flashpoint

WorkFacebookFacebook, merely a social networking site or is it far more? It seems that any young adult living in a modernized country has found their way onto Facebook as something of a social necessity and it’s no longer just young adults - people of all ages are creating Facebook profiles for the purposes of staying connected with friends and family. The intentions of Facebook are spot on good, they promote a friendlier world - people can “friend” people they know and stay in touch. It is, perhaps, the greatest social networking technology since the invention of the telephone - and it is far easier to keep in touch with people over Facebook than over the telephone. But what is it costing us? With a telephone you receive a monthly bill charging you for its use, but Facebook is free and if there is anything at all that I can say for certain it is that nothing is ever truly free.

Some users who follow the growth of Facebook’s dominion over our privacy will remember back to March of 2009 when Facebook announced it was changing the Terms of Service that every user must agree to in order to use Facebook. Not a big deal except that in this change Facebook put forth the claim that it actually “owns” all user content and data. This premise would allow Facebook to, quite literally, sell any of its user’s personal information (likes, dislikes, applications used, birthday, family members, etc.) to anyone it pleases. Rationally one finds it hard to justify this, period. Now Facebook will be allowing companies to repost stories on stuff you liked (of theirs) to your friends’ profiles as sponsored advertising, invasion of privacy? I quite think so.

With millions upon millions of users Facebook is likely to be the flashpoint of a mass international revolution towards the protection of one’s privacy. As time has progressed and as Facebook’s popularity and user basis has grown more and more privacy has been withdrawn from the user - the CEO of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) made a statement in which he stated that he “knows people don’t want privacy.” With this kind of an attitude leading Facebook We Speak for Freedom will soon need a larger server to accommodate the revolution that is sure to come.