The most wanted man in the world

“The question for us is not what new story will come out next. The question is, what are we going to do about it?” James Bamford interviews Edward Snowden, who regards the use of strong encryption in your everyday communication as a viable means to end mass surveillance.

Also watch United States of Secrets, a two-part series detailing how the US government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions around the world.

Now then

“What Amazon and many other companies began to do in the late 1990s was build up a giant world of the past on their computer servers. A historical universe that is constantly mined to find new ways of giving back to you today what you liked yesterday—with variations.” Adam Curtis highlights the mechanisms that help to narrow and simplify our experiences to the point that we are in danger of getting stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of ourselves, locked into place, “perpetually repeating the past and terrified of change and the future”.

Facebook pays $19bn for WhatsApp. Yep. $45 for your phone book

“WhatsApp notoriously rifles through your address book, scoops up your phone numbers, and uploads them to its servers. This is something Facebook has wanted for some time since its own phone records are incomplete.” Andrew Orlowski is convinced that what Facebook actually bought are your contact’s phone numbers.

OS X Mavericks forces iOS calendar, contact syncing into iCloud

“Basically, iCloud is appallingly insecure, and Apple has just dramatically increased the volume of information that’s about to start flowing through it—names, email addresses, home addresses, and phone numbers in droves, not to mention your doctor’s visits.” Molly Wood does not regard Apple’s iCloud a safe place for her data.

The danger of fetishizing BlackBerry Messenger security

“I would suggest that it is more useful to take a holistic democratic accounting of lawful access laws and their implications. Where such laws are prospectively damaging to the fabric of the democracy, perhaps by threatening rights of free speech, association, and limitations of governmental search powers, then those are the areas that we as citizens, journalists, and commentators must focus our attention. Such democratic narrative can be supported by technological and legal facts and opinions, but critically the basic narrative is not on corporate products, whiz-bang technologies, nor legal minutia, but the very principles of a democracy.” Christopher Parsons in 2012, more than one year before Edward Snowden, is right on the money pinpointing the implications of unrestrained government surveillance.

How the NSA threatens national security

“Our choice isn’t between a digital world where the agency can eavesdrop and one where it cannot; our choice is between a digital world that is vulnerable to any attacker and one that is secure for all users.” Bruce Schneier regards ubiquitous surveillance as a quixotic undertaking that does nothing to keep us safe and does everything to undermine the very societies we seek to protect.

This structure of surveillance will stop us doing things which are right

“We now face the greatest threat to our liberties since the second world war. We are sleepwalking into despotism. Because of the amount of material that is being collected, because these databases, which are not about tiny items of information, will be used and not just by governments. Snowden was working for a corporation. They will be accessed by others in government and because, that’s most important of all, people will start to self-censor. We will find that the very fact of the total surveillance of our activities means that we are going to sort of … it’s not a question, as the foreign minister said, of ‘if you haven’t done anything wrong you have nothing to fear’. [sic] This structure of surveillance will stop us doing things which are right, that we know we should be doing.” Anthony Barnett appearing on yesterday’s Newsnight programme.

Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger

“The RockYou dump was a watershed moment, but it turned out to be only the start of what’s become a much larger cracking phenomenon. By putting 14 million of the most common passwords into the public domain, it allowed people attacking cryptographically protected password leaks to almost instantaneously crack the weakest passwords. That made it possible to devote more resources to cracking the stronger ones.” Dan Goodin details the many reasons you should choose your passwords even more carefully.

How to remain secure against NSA surveillance

“The NSA has turned the fabric of the internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical. They’re limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.” Bruce Schneier works on the assumption that the NSA is able to decrypt most of the Internet.

On the same subject, David Meyer felt moved to pen an open letter titled ‘Dear stupid, stupid NSA’.

The public-private surveillance partnership

“The losers are us, the people, who are left with no one to stand up for our interests. Our elected government, which is supposed to be responsible to us, is not. And corporations, which in a market economy are supposed to be responsive to our needs, are not. What we have now is death to privacy—and that’s very dangerous to democracy and liberty.” Bruce Schneier shares his thoughts on the incestuous relationship between corporations, lawmakers and the intelligence community in the US.

You might also wish to compare Article 12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Anonymous speaks: the inside story of the HBGary hack

“I’ve talked to some of those who participated in the HBGary hack to learn in detail how they penetrated HBGary’s defenses and gave the company such a stunning black eye—and what the HBGary example means for the rest of us mere mortals who use the Internet.” Peter Bright’s story may be a couple of years old, but it still makes for an interesting read and tells you what not to do.

This Dianamania is a slur on Jobs

“What the Jobs hyperbole means is that your world is no bigger than your media. Or your computer. There can’t be a more tragic expression of the internet’s self-absorption.” Following the media’s response to the death of Steve Jobs, Andrew Orlowski would like to keep things in perspective.

Meanwhile, Richard Stallman is not sitting on anybody’s fence and declares Steve Jobs to have had a predominantly “malign influence on people’s computing”.

Introduction to VoIP

“Clearly, the future of telephony is the Internet, for which geographic location and distance don’t matter.”
Andrew Sheppard

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enables you to use the Internet for making phone calls. Calls from one VoIP phone to another are free and long-distance calls to a landline can typically be made for the price of a local call. VoIP also enables you to receive calls anywhere you connect to the Internet.

What Do You Need?

VoIP telephony requires reliable broadband connection to the Internet with a speed of at least 128 Kbps in the upload direction. In addition, there are three different types of hardware to chose from:

1) Peripherals, such as USB handsets, are relatively cheap to buy and plug straight into your computer. Used in conjunction with suitable software, they instantly turn your computer into a VoIP telephone. The most obvious drawback to such a solution is that your computer needs to be switched on to receive incoming calls.

2) Dedicated IP telephones are generally more expensive and function as independent devices on the network. However, setting up an IP telephone behind a router/firewall with Network Address Translation (NAT) can present you with additional configuration challenges.

3) Analog telephone adapters (ATAs) connect your existing telephones to VoIP services. ATAs usually have built-in ADSL modems (Annex A or Annex B, depending on your country) and, in addition to VoIP telephony, are capable of providing the computers in your home with broadband-access to the Internet. In Europe, and probably elsewhere, the ATA currently is the best tool for Voice over IP.

Session Initiation Protocol

Like any other application on the Internet, telephony services need to communicate by an established protocol. VoIP services that use the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) benefit from the fact that SIP was designed as an open standard. As a result, any SIP-capable device should be able to link up with any other. What this means is that everybody can call anybody else and for free.

Why Not Use Skype?

Skype is a VoIP service with more than 663 million users as of 2011. It helped start the VoIP revolution. However, Skype uses a proprietary protocol that is subject to a number of security concerns and prevents free calls to and from anyone outside of the network.

What about Vonage?

Up until 2007, Vonage held on to the top spot as the largest provider of Internet-based telephony services in the US. Unlike Skype, Vonage does employ SIP to connect your calls. But it is still very much a closed system, because Vonage require you to use their own proprietary hardware and prevent direct connections to and from other SIP-based providers.

Service Providers

Connecting a call over the Internet is the basic task of an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP). Additional services, such as voicemail and incoming numbers that can be dialled from normal telephones, are often available at no extra cost.
Skype and Vonage are by no means the only culprits when it comes to selling their customers short. The fact that a service provider is using SIP to connect your calls does not always equate to a service that is open and free from artificial restrictions. In particular, beware of providers that proclaim to offer a SIP-based service but then disable the facility to call users on other networks for free.
Because dedicated SIP devices can manage up to ten different accounts simultaneously, there is no need to limit yourself to just one provider. Pick and choose to create a mix of services that best suits your telephony requirements.

Expect No Less

So what should you be looking for in a good SIP provider? The first thing to bear in mind is that when it comes to setting things up, SIP is very much like email. On signing up, a provider should issue you with a username, a password, a SIP address and information about their SIP registrar. If any of these are missing or not documented, for whatever reason, just find another provider who does not keep this information from you.
Your SIP provider should offer a gateway to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), enabling you to make calls from your internet telephone to regular landlines and mobiles. Not all providers charge the same rates, so compare their respective tariffs. Billing should be by the second, and not the nearest minute.
Often there is a telephone number that others can use to call you on your internet phone. Be sure to find out what rates apply to calls to such a number. True geographical numbers are best, as they will always be charged at the same rate as regular numbers with the same area code.
Your SIP address should work exactly as you would expect, in that anyone with a SIP device or compatible software should be able to use the Internet to call you for free. Otherwise, you might as well be using Skype or Vonage and never really experience the power of true Voice over IP telephony.