457 posts • joined 17 May 2013
Critical infrastructure? So who's really to blame, eh?
Irvine also explained ASIO's view of the ability to snoop on third-party computers, saying that it's necessary to prevent attacks against critical infrastructure.
Critical infrastructure worked perfectly well and was pretty secure BC--before computers, so why are those who are responsible for such infrastructure allowed to introduce vulnerable computers into its control systems (thus making it vulnerable)?
Moreover, what right do these bastards have to introduce such crappy vulnerable control systems which then, somehow, seemingly, give ASIO an excuse to carry out surveillance (an excuse which otherwise it would not have had)?
Why aren't those who introduce technologies whose consequential outcomes would restrict our fundamental freedoms, actually brought to account BEFORE they're able to introduce them?
In a democracy it ought to be unacceptable (and unlawful) to introduce vulnerable technologies which restrict our freedoms, especially so when there has been no public debate beforehand. (Right, democracy's broken.)
I don't see David Irvine taking the high moral ground on this point either. Why you may well ask! As Denarius rightfully points out "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Answer: David Irvine does not have to, as no one is!
@Omniaural -- Re: Thin end of the slippery slope
"I say this as someone who has NEVER downloaded music or movies illegally.
Why, because you're a Goody Two-Shoes or the stuff you want is always available wherever and whenever you want it?
There's little doubt there's a major problem in sourcing much of the content (for whatever reason), thus many resort to piracy out of desperation. Until content providers stop this 'supply' nonsense there'll be little incentive for the 'pirates' to change.
BTW, I never download movies, I very rarely watch them, even on free-to-air TV.
As KjetilS correctly says "They could perhaps try to give customers what the want." and there's precious little that I wish to see.
@A.C. -- Re: Does anyone know exactly what's being pirated?
"...It's mainly content I missed at the time, for whatever reason.
Right, such pirating would never bring in revenue for the copyright holder anyway, piracy often occurs just because it can be done. It's what I call the 'Photoshop issue': from observations many--probably most--users of pirate copies of Photoshop use it because they have had access to a pirate copy, not because they really need it (and thus would never buy it if not available as a pirate copy). For these users, Gimp or even something less exotic would have sufficed in most instances.
Most of us are guilty of this behaviour even if we're not conscious of it--myself included. For instance, if I record something off the TV for time-shifting reasons and then don't erase it immediately thereafter then this is technically piracy. In my case, stuff can hang around on the PVR or TV set HD until it's full then it's deleted but I'd never buy it--well anyway at least not 99.9% of it!
Unfortunately, the fudged statistics include such examples (thus stats are inflated and misleading). It just reinforces my view that copyright law is well overdue for reform (but don't hold your breath--as we've seen, international treaties aren't reformed quickly (and they usually favour those who originally demand them)).
Does anyone know exactly what's being pirated?
It seems to me it's difficult to get an accurate handle on what's actually being copied/pirated. From years of experience, we know it's completely nonsensical to take the copyright holder's figures as being even vaguely accurate, so exaggerated they generally are.
With reasonable percentages known for each type/classification (movies, audio, programs etc.) then the problem could be tackled logically instead of all the noisy rhetoric and ballyhoo that now surrounds the copyright problem. From having accurate figures it might be possible to reform copyright law sensibly.
For instance, does the 70-year copyright expiry rule actually make any sense? Having a royalty income for each classification versus percentage for each year from year one to 70 might show that for some classifications the rules are nonsense. Such figures also might show that copyright laws for say movies should perhaps be different to say photographs or books (seems to me much piracy has to to with fads/popularity and, as such, most piracy occurs within a few years of a works' release).
Personally, I believe true copyright reform is long overdue, especially in the case of orphan works or where copyright is continually renewed by farcically small changes to works just to keep them in copyright longer. Copyright holders object to orphan works being available (even on a private-use/non-commercial basis because the market is bigger and thus new works experience more competition). This, I believe, makes little sense unless one is trying to over protect an already existing monopoly (which is what copyright actually is).
The other scam of extending copyright by tiny changes to works is just as morally bankrupt. We see such practices manifest in various ways such as publishers making minor changes to the pagination or adding a new preface to xyz edition etc. just to extend copyright. Such practices should be outlawed.
However, until we've an accurate statistical picture of piracy together with the extent of the many abuses perpetrated by copyright holders, ordinary consumers will be held to ransom by both sides (and we'll continue to end up suffering stupid short-term solutions a la this proposal).
Hard to believe.
If these figures are correct (which I find hard to believe) then the only explanation that makes sense is that those who are silly enough to text whilst driving haven't had the sense to stop when the rules came in--only those who know texting whilst driving is extremely dangerous and never did it at any time actually obeyed the rules.
Personally, I find that even using a hands-free two-way transceiver in the car is distracting (as one concentrates on what's being said). As two-way transceiver conversations are generally shorter than mobile phone calls, it only increases my incredulity.
BTW, I've nearly run over several people in the last year or so when they walked out into a busy four-lane road whilst texting on their smartphones completely oblivious of the traffic around them. Are you really expecting me to believe that people become much more aware of their surroundings whilst driving and simultaneously texting? Utter B.S. methinks!
When did science fiction movies ever make scientific sense?
"...violate common sense and laws of physics"
Come on, when did science fiction movies ever make scientific sense? They're not supposed to, after all they're just entertainment.
The last movie I saw that was vaguely credible was '2001 A Space Odyssey' and that was a long time ago. Truly great movie that it was, it still stretched credulity far past anything the rational mind ought to accept.
@btrower -- Re: Don't give up hope
Hope you're right, but depressingly I don't see it.
These stories make me feel sick. We might outnumber the bastards but they've hypnotised the citizenry from reacting to their excesses with one distraction after distraction another--from iPhones to high-definition TV, to sport, to reality TV--even weekends aren't free any more. There's no time to think.
Tragically, I don't see a skerrick of opposition in the Western World, there's just no will to fight the bastards. Citizens have rolled over, they know they've not a chance against corporate lobbying and big international power. Thus, they also know their vote only effectively represents about one third the value it ought to have. So there's no point in whingeing.
Roman emperors learned this propaganda trick several millennia ago. Everywhere Rome went amphitheatres appeared.
A real worry.
Just about every past free trade deal with the US has gone the US's way. Australia found this out with its free trade deal with the US. The US creamed the Oz negotiators over IP, pharmaceuticals etc. and the Australian public has been worse off.
Much experience has shown that it's not possible to negotiate on a level playing field with this bully.
This story is very disconcerting.
@JimmyPage -- Re: Going retro ... another idea
"...in the future I put Wordstar under CP/M back on my cv ?"
Hum, methinks not a good idea. (The spooks will probably recognise Wordstar's control diamond.)
Sorry neophytes, Wordstar in-joke!
@A.C. -- Re: Not foolproof. -- Ahh, I just love these arguments!
Love these arguments. Here we are designing the next-generation, post-Internet mechanical typewriter. (Flock to El Reg patent boys, get your designs here!) ;-)
Of course you're right: 'fingerprinting' of typewriters followed by some smart Fourier work on the acoustic noise will (can) identify what's going on--that's proven. Presumably a similar trick could be used on the input current if it's electric (sans electronics of course). Each key would have a slightly different loading signature on the motor, hence a different current pattern which could then be given the FFT treatment.
But what will happen if the post-internet mechanical typewriter takes off, eh?
We now know all these spying tricks from Cold War days so designers will go out of their way to obfuscate (randomise) the key noise (or current loads) and such.
...BUT that's just not the point of this argument.
Fact is, ANY mechanical typewriter--even ones with old fashioned one-pass, non-obfuscating ribbons where you can read everything that's been typed--is still a VAST improvement on internet hacking, it would put the kibosh on the NSA's internet operations (as it would mean a return to "real" spying). "Real" spying involves moving atoms from A to B, and that probably means physically moving the spooks themselves from Langley to Berlin or Moscow--a far cry from sedentary screen-gazing in Langley (and London, Oz, Canada, etc.).
Any such internet-free paradigm shift combined with newly-designed "quiet" typewriters would give the spooks a really big headache, it means almost starting from scratch (and it's obvious that's just what the Russians and Germans are attempting to achieve).
As they say, we live in interesting times.
@A.C. -- Re: Not so crazy
"All-in-all, one can see why George Smiley's job was so difficult in days of yore..."
That's why the German and Russian 'paper' solution is such a nifty one (albeit inconvenient).
George Smiley will have to get up off his arse, give up computer solitaire and work for a living.
@A.C. -- Re: But in the past mechanical Typewriters divulged their secrets to the spys
Come on, really?
Any new mechanical typewriter would automatically overwrite/obfuscate the ribbon on a one-pass basis. Remember, this problem is not new, nor are obfuscating-ribbon typewriters (they go back decades, so do the procedures for securely disposing of ribbons).
@ Anonymous Blowhard -- Re: I'm not surprised. (And there's....)
Right. As I've implied above "real" spying is difficult and expensive.
The last thing the NSA and GCHQ want is a return to "real" spying. That's why the 'return-to-paper' plan is so potentially effective. The words 'typewriters' and 'paper' must be blood-curdling in Langley, methinks.
Re: I'm not surprised. (And there's some practical reasons too.)
"Photographing paper will simply mean being far more selective about what they target."
Moreover, it's much more difficult and expensive to physically photograph, pinch and or rifle through paper documents in a high-security vault in Berlin (or get insiders to steal them for you) than it is to sit in front of a terminal in Langley Virginia whilst an automatic spider does the rifling of easily-broken databases.
(Cost is almost everything--the current worldwide surveillance rort by the NSA/GCHQ et al is only possible because it's comparatively cheap, doing the equivalent by paper would not only be impossible, it'd also be unthinkable).
If I was ultimately responsible for securing Russian or German high-security documents in the present uncertain security climate then I certainly implement a return-to-paper policy (as horribly inconvenient as it may be).
I'd also ban anything but trivia being sent by email and telephone, encrypted or otherwise (metadata being useful and revealing).
@RobHib -- Re: I'm not surprised. ...And I should have added.
Social Democratic Party committee rep Christian Flisek also took to Twitter in opposition of the call for retro word processing labelling the idea "ridiculous" and not a normal part of counter-surveillance.
I should have added that Flisek is obviously from the post-paper generation. One of the major failings of the post-paper generation is to so completely embrace electronic data without properly understanding how the security paradigm has changed from paper to electronic systems. Flisek wouldn't make such categorical statements if more knowledgeable.
I'm not surprised. (And there's some practical reasons too.)
As we've seen, the Kremlin has mooted similar tactics of resorting back to typewriters and paper-based documents. Seems it's desperate tactics for desperate times.
From earliest days, I've always believed that it's fundamentally harder to steal lots of data from paper-based systems. Paper-based systems are fundamentally different from electronic ones; for starters, physical access to documents is a requirement to copy a document. In paper-based systems one has to physically move real atoms from A to B.
Paper-based systems don't stop data theft but the concept of stealing terabytes of data by photocopying/photographing properly secured paper documents is farcical, not so for ephemeral electronic data.
Practical electronic data systems aren't sufficiently secure as US military and NSA experience illustrates. Thus perhaps resorting to paper is the price that has to be paid until secure electronic document transport and storage systems are developed.
If nothing else, it'll focus the mind on what ought to be kept truly secure.
@ moiety - For Heaven's sake (some of us are actually human)!
Some of us are actually human--not automatons capable of instantly recalling every 25-digit Microsoft product code for every PC we own!
I'm reasonably security concious and even I take shortcuts. I have a small cadre of a half dozen or so helper passwords that I use on 'disposable' sites which I can actually remember. Mind you, these passwords aren't real words but rather are alphanumeric strings of no less than eight characters. If I forget a site's password then I only have to cycle through a half dozen or so well-remembered strings.
For important stuff I use much longer passwords which I have also committed to memory. And for truly critical stuff I use even longer passwords where the first dozen or so characters are recalled from my memory and the remainder of the string loaded from a source that's external from the PC (the full password doesn't exist anywhere--either written down or in my head).
What the Microsoft researchers are saying makes very considerable sense.
Isn't that bloody obvious!?
"England is one godforsaken corner of the earth. Ask the Romans ..."
...So is Scotland, the Romans proved it with a wall!
Look forward to the 13 TeV setup results.
I'm looking forward to reading reports say late 2016 when the dust settles on the 13 TeV setup results. As is always with science, additional research and time to digest results is necessary and prudent.
@ RobHib -- Boot Note -- Re: Agreed -- @ Paul Crawford [Two weeks on]
BOOT NOTE -- TWO WEEKS ON
Just read an article in New Scientist, 21 June 2014, No. 2974, p20 about this matter titled: Opening a can of bugs -- NSA spy gadgets built using info leaked by Edward Snowden.
It says radio hackers have reversed engineered NSA gadgets on info supplied by Snowden (based on the NSA's Advanced Network Technology). Article is brief and non-technical and refers to software-defined radio (RF generated presumably developing Fourier/DSP transients etc. (equiv filters) to generate RF frequencies without coils and inductors. Can be mounted in USB etc.
There's essentially two types: sniffers that collect the 'coherent' noise from keyboards, video cables etc. and ones that inject signals.
The vagueness and non-technical nature of the article doesn't help. But on the info supplied, this tech doesn't seem to violate RF engineering: RF leakage from non-message-producing devices (in the RF sense as opposed to leakage from a computer (which is 'partially coherent')).
Essentially, the key issues remain the same, there's RF sniffers that detect switching 'noise' and send it off for further processing and systems that generate RF which can be implanted thus allow info to escape by RF. The 'breakthrough'--if you can call it that--is the SDR, software defined radio, which allows transmissions on a very large band of frequencies (not being limited by tuned oscillators etc.) [heaven help the harmonics/interference to other RF devices!]
The SDR in this schema is somewhat functionally equivalent to the hypothetical DC-to-Daylight transmitter that I proposed in my earlier post. Basically, SDR allows any old TX frequency to be dialled up in software (over a large but not definitively announced band of frequencies). It states that these frequencies can cover AM, FM, GSM and Bluetooth, which implies a range from about 0.5MHZ to 2GHz or more, which is very wide (as it covers all wireless technology old and new, domestic and industrial/commercial, and perhaps up to the 5GHz band or even higher. (Very handy, I'd like several to distribute FM/AM/TV broadcasts to small portable devices around my house, methinks.)
In summary, watch out for spider like things attached to or hanging off your keyboard and video cables with 2cm of wire (antenna) attached; araldite your PC closed and bootstrap it with anti-tamper seals; and don't let USB devices, stray monitors, keyboards etc. that don't have a proper security 'lineage' (guaranteed free from tampering) anywhere near your PC.
Nothing much has changed, but the ante has been considerably upped (and it'll be surprisingly sophisticated in its delivery and miniaturised packing and such), as the money thrown at it by the NSA et al will essentially be limitless.
The good news is that the article also points out that hackers are working all-out to reverse engineer this stuff and to provide suitable antidotes.
Re: Agreed -- @ Paul Crawford
BTW, whilst eliminating mobile phones from workers today might me nigh on impossible, a secure environment could easily ensure the cell phones were only ones without an internet connection (and that was the condition of entry/employment etc. I'd not think this not unreasonable in a nuclear research establishment and such ).
Such phones do still exit. My own cell phone is an LG (model A-190) which has no internet connection (only phone and text). This is deliberate, I prefer to use a laptop or netbook.
Agreed -- @ Paul Crawford
Agreed, if you have a detector sniffing the RF leakage from keyboards, screens etc. then you can sniff that. Years ago, PGP had a secure view (video) mode to overcome that problem.
Infecting a machine that doesn't have 'sensors' [receivers] to detect a RF data stream is another matter altogether. Even if theoretically possible, doing so from a low powered cell phone that already has a severely limited range of transmitter frequencies (~1GHz or so plus the usual wireless and Bluetooth stuff) is highly unlikely (and you'd have to know a reasonable amount about the internal electronics etc. to have a sporting chance). Even with a reasonably high powered transmitter with a theoretical DC-to-daylight frequency output range then you'd still have a problem.
Seems to me Suxnet could only get onto the centrifuge via exciting hardware ports: wireless, LAN, USB, floppy disk etc., lots of stray RF near computers usually crashes them.
@RobHib -- Re: @Mr_Toad - - "Men have become the tools of their tools" Henry David Thoreau
Since I posed my Thoreau comment several hours ago, I've actually reread Civil Disobedience--it takes about an hour. Well, it's lost nothing for me, it still has the relevance, boldness and frisson as I remembered it from my last reading about five years ago.
What I continue to find surprising is how relevant much of it is today--and it tells be that not much has changed in our democracy in the last 165 years or so, if anything the ethics are worse today because of slick PR.
BTW, I found it a pleasant experience following the text and audio together (I combined the first text link and audio, it's very easy to follow that way.)
@ Arnaut the less -- Re: @Mr_Toad - - "Men have become the tools of their tools" Henry David Thoreau
"Walden phase Mummy still did his laundry"
Yeah, they say some very unsavoury things about Plato's habits too but we still read him several thousand years later. For example, The Republic is still the first and definitive book on formal argument (the first part that is); the debate between Socrates and Thrasymachus is riveting stuff, and it still never ceases to amaze me.
So let it be with Thoreau. Read the words in Civil Disobedience and let them speak for themselves. The text's 165 years old but it's uncanny how relevant some of it still is. And that's not just my opinion, the number of Thoreau readers/sites etc. on the net attest to this. Years ago, in part of my training, Civil Disobedience was compulsory.
Seems it still is, it's long past the flavour of the month and now long-established in the canon, so there's substance there that's past the test of time. (As I've said elsewhere, I've read it again in the last hour or so since I made the post, and for me it's still pretty damn relevant).
@Mr_Toad - - Re: "Men have become the tools of their tools" Henry David Thoreau
Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with Mr Thoreau before making pronouncements about his politics.
I'd suggest you start with Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, it's a very short text. Years ago, I had to study this text for exams, and I must say--appealing to my nature as it did--I actually enjoyed studying it.
In this age of NSA, GCHQ spying and governments out of control, it seems to me that wheeling out a good dose of Thoreau once again might be just what the doctor ordered.
You'll note, unlike today's weasel-worded politicians and PR cretins, Thoreau doesn't muck about, he cuts to the core in his very first sentence:
or you can even listen to the audio here:
Now, if you're ever feeling you need to get away from things (escape NSA spying etc.), then you could try one of Thoreau's more sedate works, Walden perhaps (I'll let you Google it).
Thank you for raising my old friend Thoreau, it seems timely we resurrected him once again.
Much tech has lost the plot.
I too could write a book on this subject but I'll be brief.
You know the tech world's gone mad when you find it's cheaper to buy replacement printers rather than ink cartages.
Re: @ moiety -- @ moiety
Yes, I'm sure you're correct about it not being censorship. Unlike Snowden, Cryptome is an annoying pimple rather than a gangrenous leg. If anything, it probably acts as a reliable, all-in-one-place updater for second/third-line public servants.
As the site is and has been accessible to US authorities for years, it's probably tolerated on the basis that weighing up the noise of closing it down/free-speechers etc. versus propagation of potential damage a la Snowden-level leaks, they've let things lie (it's what those in power are prepared to put up within a democracy). It seems to me that most of the stuff leaked was already available elsewhere.
Again, total supposition on my part, but I'd reckon it'd be a good assumption that John Young and Deborah Natsios have been spoken to in the past and they've a red line they will not cross. The stuff on the site is fascinating (I can read it for hours--it's more entertaining than whodunnits on TV) but, to me, it doesn't seem to be the stuff that'd bring out the Apaches and support crews.
Nevertheless, it's a warts-and-all, in-your-face, site that would annoy many and I'm sure it is monitored by the powers-that-be on a regular basis. Moreover, I'd reckon the site would regularly come under attack, even if not from government.
As a visitor to the site (albeit last time some months ago), I'd love to know what PHP code was suss--what does it do etc. After all, the site is designed not to be a script haven, plain as it is.
What NetSol and likes have been up to is anyone's guess (and a lot of what's happened is probably based on internal politics / perceptions etc.).
Again, any/all of those options you mention could come into play--even the duty IT staff may have played a 'political' hand given an opportunity, who knows. Perhaps Cryptome might be able to eventually leak that too.
Sure, I agree (in normal circumstances anyway).
But have you ever visited Cryptome? It mightn't take much of an excuse in Cryptome's case, as I'm sure it's high on the reading list of many government officials and often they won't like what they read (hence my earlier facetious comment re NSA et al).
Re: Bit worring. -- @ Destroy All Monsters
I hope they're here soon, I've run out of pills and the dog's chewing my internet modem again!!
It's a bit worrying knowing a site one's visited might be suss. But then I'm an infrequent visitor and the last time was several months ago.
Cryptome must take the cake for the plainest site on the Web but its articles are riveting. I find it endlessly fascinating. Once there, I can spend hours jumping from one government scandal to another. It's quite addictive really.
Nevertheless, when visiting Cryptome, I've always the nagging feeling that the NSA, GCHQ and DSD are logging my IP and every single article/PDF I flip through.
But perhaps I'm just paranoid.
Another Australian Telecom Scandal -- And Two Days On Yet There's Only Two Posts?
I picked this up story two days on in 'older stories' and there's still only two posts. Why?
Frankly, I think Australian users of telecommunications services have been and remain shell-shocked. Wireless charges in Australia are nothing other than extortionate--there's simply no other way of putting it.
Let me give you an example: two weeks ago--having temporarily misplaced my mobile phone--I borrowed a prepaid Telstra mobile from a colleague. The account balance when I started was about $14.50, I then added $20. However, unbeknownst to me, the phone's owner checked the account on-line before I added the $20, and realising the balance was low he added a further $40, so the balance was about $74.50.
The balance of that account is now exactly $4.15. So where did $70+ go?
I made two short calls to the phone's owner (even exaggerating, the total time can't have been more than 15 mins), and I made three calls to a client just to organise meeting times (several minutes at most for each call). As this phone doesn't log the call duration, only numbers, I can't provide exact times until I get them from my colleague when he next checks the account.
So you think I'm exaggerating. Well, believe it or not, here's a cross-check:
This prepaid account was opened in Feb 2011 so that makes the account about 3 years 4 months old. Now the phone does log the total outgoing talk/dialled* time since the phone SIM was first used which is :
02:56:05 hours - - Total outgoing call time since new
Essentially 3 hours in 40 months. Now the account is a 30-day prepaid so let's do the sums:
Total monies paid to Telstra: $30 x 40 months ==> $1,200
Total time in minutes (60 + 60 + 56) ==> 176 minutes
Average price per minute of this Telstra prepaid mobile: 1200/176 ==> $6.82 / min.
If I was Euler or Gauss and derived an optimising algorithm/ideal usage path [à la the Königsberg Bridge Problem or such] to optimise call times/versus/persons/versus duration of call etc. (such as ensuring this spare phone was handed around in such a way that the $30/month ran out exactly at the 30-day point and the recharge entered at that point), then I'd guess the cost of the call would be somewhat cheaper.
The fact is one can't run a prepaid monthly by clockwork unless one is C-3PO, so Telstra has yuh by the short and curlies.
Australia needs a Royal Commission into telephone pricing and how deregulation went so horribly wrong. But that will never happen. Why would it when it was the government that fucked up big time. Moreover, many of us saw it coming but were powerless to stop it.
(PhD thesis anyone? Providing a definitive historical account and financial analysis of Australian telecommunications deregulation would have to get someone a PhD and thanks from a very grateful public -- and if you want background info I'll even give you copies of still-disputed accounts with both Telstra and Vodafone which amount to many thousands of dollars.)
El Reg, If Vulture South wants 5-brownie points and a koala stamp, not to mention accolades for the Oz public, it could expose what's really going on behind the Great Australian Telecommunications Fraud. Perhaps we could start a fund to pay whistleblowers to get the real dope on what's going on inside these secretive phone carpetbaggers.
* There is no internet connection on this phone and total outgoing SMSs since new is only 22, so other charges are negligible for this accounting.
Hard to believe
Hard to believe unless the stats are slanted at back-yard businesses in Asia. Most IT pros know it's too much trouble.
Besides, the BSA has always exaggerated. (As an IT department head, I recall using using their bullshit stats in the early 1990s into frightening management to giving me more money for my IT budget. The BSA's copyright claims are so way-out that even hardened financially-tight-arsed managements will pay up without question.)
Re: I am delighted to see this... @ Preston Munchensonton
'And this highlights everything wrong with modern' [democracy].
Is there anything really wrong with modern democracy or rather is it just our [the common] perception of it?
In my other post cynicism reigns. But why? Well, the reality of modern democracy is nothing like I was taught at school, and years later I'm still struggling to get used to the fact! In practice, all that stuff from Plato to Rousseau and later is balderdash. Perhaps we should blame our teachers for indoctrinating us with fairy stories.
Seems to me that if we were told the truth then we'd be better equipped to manage the power-hungry. But Catch-22, why would they tell us the truth? Clearly, telling fairy stories to the citizenry ensures it remains docile.
I too have great respect for those who serve in the military; tragically, the fairy stories damage them the most (ask most veterans).
Re: ... and E) -- @Charles Manning
'They don't care what the prez tells them.'
Right. The only way to make this even reasonably watertight is to enact laws to ensure the Nuremberg defence cannot be used no matter who is responsible—'following orders' would be no excuse irrespective of who (or whatever authority) gives the orders.
Laws with substantial penalties that directly put the onus on both organizations and individuals not to act in certain ways—whether they be public or private entities, public sector employees or individuals would be necessary. Thus, anyone breaking such laws would always be under the threat that a whistleblower (a la Edward Snowden) could easily land them behind bars.
Of course, Hell's likely to freeze over first. Even outside secret organisations such as the NSA, GCHQ etc. governments have been long averse to passing laws that make individuals directly responsible whether they are public sector employees or those employed by corporations ('tis why we've so many badly behaved corporations—employees are mostly immune from prosecution, e.g.: witness the global financial crisis and how so few are actually behind bars).
Another essential rider would have to be that the laws would apply no matter where the crime was committed thus negating any Guantanamo/rendition—type 'escapes'.
Don't hold your breath, nothing much will change except Government PR/BS.
I'll employ 'em.
(For legit work of course.)
Re: I am So Proud -- @ AC
"...we seem to have a rather world class spying and surveillance network out there."
No one is doubting that, even its strong detractors would openly acknowledge that. GCHQ has its lineage in a long line of spies that go back many centuries.
Take the case of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. In 1585/6, during the ongoing struggle between Protestantism and Catholicism, Elizabeth's secretary, Francis Walsingham successfully spied on Mary which led to her execution.
Walsingham was the master spy of Elizabethan England, GCHQ's lineage goes back at least that far.
Walsingham's well worth a read (scroll down to 'Espionage' and 'Entrapment of Mary, Queen of Scots'):
Re: J'accuse -- @ T. F. M. Reader
I assume you are referring to AC's comments and not my reply to him. I'll comment anyway.
Whether it's relevant depends on one's worldview. As I see it, Zola's accusation of the French Govt. centres around the breaking of the covenant that existed between it and the citizenry and concerned matters of fidelity and (dis)honesty, etc. It's an archetypal case over a century old, it's well known and studied.
(Moreover, in a dictatorship, what happened to Dreyfus would have just been another case of in justice; however in the French Republic where Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité were (and are) a big deal and taken seriously, what the Government did to Dreyfus was not only a mistake but also a disingenuous breach of the covenant—the Government was caught out doing what it thought convenient which was not right, its actions were unacceptable and its bigotry was exposed. Democracy was put under strain.)
As with Dreyfus, current government spying etc. involves government(s) breaking covenants of trust (etc.) with their citizens, and the recent Snowden exposures have shown that, at minimum, they've been overly-secretive, disingenuous and distrustful to a point well above and beyond that which functional (operational) necessity would have dictated.
Again, whether one holds my—and from these posts, a seemingly common view—or those of the NSA or GCHQ depends on one worldview. [Some of] Those in the French Government who read Zola's accusations on the front page of L'Aurore in 1898, considered Zola a traitor, he spilt the beans and blew the Dreyfus case wide open. Zola was a whistleblower par excellence.
Irrespective of the position one takes in this case, the parallels/similarities between Zola's actions and those of Snowden are nothing but striking; it's very difficult to conclude otherwise.
As with Zola, history will ultimately judge these actions.
Re "Impossible. The last government alone passed some 3000 new laws" - - @ AC
"Impossible. The last government alone passed some 3000 new laws".
Absolutely correct! Long before Dreyfus and Zola, 'that ignorance of the law is no defence', was a fundamental conundrum for democracy (and, more than ever, it still is).
No one in a democracy has a hope in Hades of being knowledgeable about all its laws. Thus, by definition (through logical argument) the 'democratic' state is both intimidatory and not democratic (at least in my understanding of the word).
Any true law-abiding citizen would have to end up schizophrenic or do absolutely nothing for fear of breaking the law. The only other option is to put oneself in jeopardy and act without knowledge of the law—thus the conundrum. There is, of course, that other option which is for one to deliberately act unlawfully.
This reasoning is as is old as the hills, it goes back to the Ancient Greeks/Pythagoras who was attributed with saying "No man is free who cannot command himself." Millennia later,  in Book I, Chapter I of the The Social Contract Rousseau develops the idea with is famous statement:
"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they." (p49 in my now very-yellowed Penguin Classic paperback—having just checked it.)
Whilst Rousseau and his contemporary, Diderot, had the noble intention of pointing out that citizens were better off submitting to the The General Will of [all] the population than to be subservient to the will of more powerful individuals, it did nothing to stop the French Revolution of 1789 and The Terror which followed—albeit that The Social Contract was published over a quarter century earlier. In fact, The Social Contract is often attributed with contributing, even causing, the Revolution by fuelling the discontent.
What I find so concerning is that so few citizens actually find this seeming paradox disturbing (i.e.: of there being no excuse for violating laws that cannot be substantially let alone fully known). In truth, it's definitely no paradox but a very unpalatable anomaly in our 'supposed' democracies that's used to keep the citizenry in check. Even though several centuries have passed—not to mention the many intervening wars and revolutions—since those famous words in The Social Contract, it seems, from prevailing attitudes, that little hindsight has been gained (and that history is again repeating itself).
With a moment's thought, its consequences are clear: (a) most citizens never extend their freedom to the full extent for fear of 'unknown' law, (b) the bold and unlawful ignore such constraints and thus are often more successful in life than their law-abiding brethren, and (c) those in power exploit the anomaly to both the The State's and their own advantage (à la 'Yes Minister' and even more sinister—such as sending young soldiers off to war to be killed in the name of non-existent WMDs for instance).
Remember, the more The State allows those to obfuscate in its name—no matter what the excuse—the fewer freedoms citizens have. Overwhelming citizens with tens of thousands of laws which they can never expect to fully understand is obfuscation, and every new law that's passed further restricts a citizen's freedom.
Re: Britain's got secrets -- @ Jason Bloomberg
"Big Brother isn't running the show from parliament nor Downing Street. You are simply looking at puppets there."
Right. I can remember the time when Tony Blair's government was about to come into existence. Blair or one of his cohorts made the promise that they'd reverse the onus of the FOI laws--meaning that all government documents would, by default, be unclassified and available and that public servants etc. would have to apply to have them classified otherwise.
At the time I thought this was a deliberate election promise for the truly gullible or they were just damn stupid if they actually believed they could pull it off.
Of course 'Big Brother isn't running the show from parliament nor Downing Street', but his stronger-than-spider's-web strings firmly extend back to HQ (as they've always done).
Re: TRAITORS - - @ DavCrav
"... that isn't a good argument."
Right, the argument is logically correct but that's not the real point!
What's significant and key is that the citizenry's trust in its governance and belief in democracy is low and continues to fall*. That even the act of surveillance is made covert by The State (rather than just its substance) is further aiding and abetting that belief/perception.
* Just tally the up/down votes on this story/posts alone and there's little doubt as to the truth of this statement. Even with the wildly anarchical tendencies of many El Reg readers, the stats are too strong to fudge. The figures are too strong to conclude otherwise for the general population.
Re: TRAITORS -- @AndrueC
"Like all EU member states we have abolished the death penalty for all crimes."
Just because it's the current status quo doesn't mean it will always be so. From time immemorial the death penalty was ever present in most countries until recently; with recent politics moving to the extreme right in many places, there's more than a possibility such laws could be reversed.
Citizens' vigilance is essential to see they're not.
Re: TRAITORS — @ I ain't Spartacus
"And I'm perfectly happy for that to include allies like Angela Merkel."
Perhaps you're right. Irrespective, I reckon these Snowden (and associated ) revelations are of such an extent that they've the power to shock even the complacent into action in ways that The Secret State and similar revelations were never able to do.
Furthermore, with the enormous proliferation of smartphones worldwide, millions are now aware they're being snooped upon by their governments—and even if they're as innocent and white as newly-fallen snow, they're left with nasty feelings of their privacy having been violated.
This could change the ballgame altogether. In the past, people never responded to the The Secret State and such revelations so emphatically as they have now done here; back then these matters were more abstract, now they're immediate, up-close and personal. The CERN scientists' newly and promptly developed encrypted email based in Switzerland is likely only the beginning of considerable research and development in obfuscating communications.
Currently, the 'weakness' in mail is that interception is easy, as the source and destination addresses are known or can be readily determined—certainly so with IP addresses (with snail-mail knowing the source may be more problematic but the destination is usually clear). Even if mail is encrypted, its metadata is abundantly clear (and thus useful to interceptors).
As I've mentioned in previous posts on similar matters, it seems to me there'll not only be considerable research into encrypted email that's easily used but also in ways of bringing stenography back into the main stream. However, stenography isn't as easy as it seems. Data that's obfuscating messages can be statistically analysed which reveals the presence of messages even if they're not able to be decrypted and the metadata (sender/receiver's ID etc.) may indicate reasons for intent to obfuscate.
To get around the metadata problem, any modern form of stenography would have to obfuscate both source and destination addresses. I've little idea how this would be achieved except to say that it would perhaps have to involve the 'smearing' of addresses over multitudes of servers combined with say breaks in the communications chain—by say inserting wireless links into cable/fibre paths to disrupt directly-traceable routes. (Radio circuits would enable source and destination to appear at different virtual locations other than actual real ones. If a fuzzy distributed system that used smartphone wireless connections were ever conceived then tracing source and destination would be a nightmare if nigh on impossible.)
If heavy-duty research into such methods hasn't already begun then I'd be mightily surprised.
Re: TRAITORS @AC no.1 - - @ El Reg
[El Reg, it would seem like a good idea to number ACs as above. Numbering each AC would reduce confusion when referring to earlier posts or following threads especially when there's many, as here. Alternatively, indent or colour-code threads.]
Re: TRAITORS - @ Luke 11
" TRAITORS... ...You people absolutely disgust me.
Perhaps it's real democracy at work! At the time of my reading, the votes were to the tune of 14/193. That's almost 14:1 against your view!
With numbers like that, it's little wonder our supposed democracies have to keep even the very existence of such surveillance secret.
Re: Software Defined Wanking - @Bertie D'astard
... without any backdoor exploits :-)
Exploits such as the common and inconvenient "I've got a headache" virus, perhaps?
Re: Oh bugger!
This might be useful to someone. My versions are as follows:
– Modified: 28-12-2008, 07:48. – File size: 3,142,768 bytes
– Modified: 18-11-2009, 22:48. – File size: 3,358,808 bytes
– Modified: 22-02-2010, 08:57. – File size: 3,358,880 bytes
– Modified: 07-09-2011, 00:21. – File size: 3,470,688 bytes
– Modified: 10-02-2012, 03:30. – File size: 3,466,248 bytes
All files been on this system since: 29-11-2012
Local timezone: GMT: +10 (+11 summer, southern h.)
I'll do CRCs if anyone needs them. (BTW, I'm not using them on this system, storing EXE's only--nothing important enough to encrypt.)
I know from experience the dangers of Li batteries.
It's not much further back than a decade or so when lithium batteries had to be transported by sea—taking them on board passenger aircraft was a no-no. (I was involved with an outfit that had major problems because of sea transport delays.)
From what I can gather, Li batteries are particularly prone to internal shorts from impurities etc. (i.e.: caused by cheap, insufficiently-purified ingredients or metal shards leftover from manufacture).
I had one of the great scares of my life some years back when I had a box of primary Li AA batteries with pigtail connectors (for circuit board mounting) and one battery somehow managed to get its pigtail leads shorted. The batteries, 20 or so, were individually separated in Styrofoam and wrapped in a tough plastic bag which, in turn, was in a solid two-ply cardboard box and the box was in a solid plastic storage container about the side of a milk crate.
I was several metres from the box when the battery exploded. The explosion was deafening, the plastic wrapping was shredded the size of confetti and distributed across the room, tiny bits of Styrofoam the size of a match head were everywhere, the cardboard box disintegrated into tiny pieces and the plastic container had one side completely blown out, and the case of the cell had peeled open from top to bottom. There's no doubt that had the shrapnel (the exploding case) hit me when it exited the plastic container I'd have been seriously injured or even killed (the case left a ricochet dent in the nearby wall).
Moral, there's so much energy in Li batteries that they shouldn't be treated casually as one does with say AA alkaline batteries, also ensure you buy the best brand available.
Not a bit surprised!
Not surprised really, France has always been a law unto itself; and hypocrisy has never particularly worried the French.
After all, the French were the driving force behind the Berne Copyright Convention of 1886—Victor Hugo and his cronies. We owe the enormous strength of modern copyright law to the French who argued so fervently for strong copyright at Berne. Even today, the French are extremely strong on all matters pertaining to intellectual property laws and IP generally.
That said, copyright and IP only seem to matter when they're aggrieved.
I've French relatives and this article reminds me of something they've said to me on more than one occasion "You Anglophone speakers—especially the UK—are France's 'natural' enemy, it's always been thus! So, why during the 20th C. have you been so stupid as to spend so much time fighting your brothers the Germans? (They're grateful of course.)
Conversations usually end thus:
"Mais que pouvez-vous attendre d'un bouledogue stupide?"
[Excuse my French.]
Ticket to Mars please.
Re: I'll admit to being hugely biased here - @ Tim Worstal
I too have been a fan of fuel cells since I first heard about them being used in space flights. But where are they in everyday life? They can't be classes as AWOL as they never arrived in the first place.
A few years back I recall reading that the laptop battery problem would be soon solved by a small fuel cell that used ethanol (or was it methanol). The plan was that the cell would oxidise the alcohol and whenever it needed a top-up the user could inject alcohol from squirt bottle/pressure pack etc. in the way cigarette lighters are recharged. It made perfect sense to me and still does.
...But it too never eventuated.
For 50 years or so, fuel cells have been hyped and hyped but in practice they've come to absolutely nought.
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