Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Olympic Special: Get 12 months of Unlimited VPN for 20.18.

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To celebrate the 2018 Winter Olympics, we are offering one year (12 months) of unlimited SumRando VPN for 20.18 USD. Get 24/7 protection for your online activities on Android and Windows.

More info: https://sumrando.com/vpn-olympics/

Friday, 2 February 2018

El corazón de la democracia oriental

Today is Constitution Day in the Philippines. The road to the establishment of the constitution was a rough one, to say the least. Filipinos suffered the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos for two decades, including ten years of martial law. It took the assassination of Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. to inspire a national movement against Marcos and one heck of a strong woman, Ninoy's wife Corazon, to throw Marcos out. What a time it must have been, the end of February 1986, after Marcos had claimed victory in a sham of an election, when 2 million Filipinos took to the streets in the People Power Revolution, wearing yellow ribbons and pining for democracy and freedom.

They got it. The "Mother of Asian Democracy" oversaw the promulgation of the Constitution, which limited the powers of the presidency and reestablished the bicameral Congress. Corzaon was true to her name (Spanish for "heart"), working for human rights and the peace process with communist insurgents and Islamic secessionists. She focused on improving the economy through market-oriented reform and socially responsible enterprise, a far cry from the corruption and extravagance of the Marcos regime.

What a woman! She was awarded Liberty International's Prize for Freedom in 1987 and the Ramon Magsaysay Award (Asia's version of the Nobel) in 1998, and a statue of her stands proudly in Manila next to her husband.

But she must be frowning now, right there in the heart of Manila, el corazon de la perla del oriente.

Why did the Philippines elect a bloodthirsty murderer who jokes about rape, hates Jews, and despises the Constitution that is celebrated on this day? And do the people still support him? Recent polls have show his popularity slipping as people remember unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and corruption are still rampant and ignored in his obsession with the so-called "Drug War." Thousands of Filipinos rallied last September against 'rising tyranny.'

But you wouldn't know it from social media, thanks to the new phenomenon of "opinion-shaping," where governments use social media to influence elections, drive agendas, inflate support, and counter critics. At least 30 countries are guilty of employing armies of these opinion shapers, according to the latest Freedom on the Net report from the Washington-based NGO Freedom house. In the Philippines, the "keyboard army" is paid a reportedly $10 USD per day to operate fake social media accounts that support Duterte's agenda and his drug war, which has, by some estimates, resulted in the deaths of more than 14,000 people. Regimes use the false perception that most citizens support them to justify crackdowns on human rights and silence opposition. While Philippines still enjoys "free" status in terms of net freedom, its score dropped (which, sadly, is consistent with much of the world.)

Last week, the investigative reporting site Rappler had its operating license revoked for supposedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media. Duterte called Rappler a "fake news" outlet on Tuesday (the "lugenpresse" of the digital age.) Rappler has published a series of reports on the Duterte regime's strategy to "weaponize the internet" by paying bloggers and social media users to be anger-arousing trolls. In one instance, one of these trolls cloned a Facebook page of an anti-Duterte activist and posted a fake assassination plot. The real owner of the page, noted human rights defender Willyn Trabajador, now faces prosecution under the Cybercrime Law, a result predicted by human rights organizations when the law was passed in 2012. 

It remains to be seen whether or not the Philippines Constitution is strong enough to withstand the subtle and not-so-subtle hits it is taking under the Duterte regime. So far, it is presenting itself as a formidable defender of democracy in the Philippines. But we must keep a close eye on the situation and call out the abuses of Duterte's making. A generation too young to remember the Marcos years must learn from history, lest it be repeated.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Every picture tells a story

On 27 January 1888, the National Geographic Society was founded. While the society is one of the largest non- profit scientific and educational institutions in the world, the public face of the organization is its iconic magazine, which was the first to use photographs to tell stories.

In the age of Instagram, it might be difficult to by grasp just how revolutionizing it was for a magazine to use photos as stories, especially a scientific journal like National Geographic. The magazine brought the world to people before the existence of commercial air travel, color photography, and radio. People then had seen the invention of electricity, cars, and telephones; we tend to exaggerate the technological advancement of the present day. Their technology must have seemed like witchcraft to them! What is Instagram but a glorified photo album that uses electricity and radio waves to work?

Now, we use images to tell our personal stories to the entirety of the world in an instant. One thing the people at the turn of the last century didn't have to worry about is malware. But you do. It could be hiding in the images you see on the internet. Through what is known as steganography, crooks have used JavaScript code hidden in pixels in images. Thus far, security researchers have discovered the technique used in banner advertising. Can other images be far behind?

Mere speculation, of course, but you can take steps to protect yourself now. Don't click suspicious links. Back up your data on a separate device that you keep unplugged and stored away. Use SumRando VPN when you are on public Wi-Fi to protect online access points. Never click a pop-up window that claims you have malware - always use a keyboard command or taskbar to close those types of windows.

By the way, Natgeo, as it's known these days, is the #1 brand on social media in the United States year after year. And why not? They've been storytelling through photography for 130 years. Happy birthday, @natgeo!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

#Jan25 revisited

A rock n roll band. A flag. A state-run media backlash. Arrests. Anal probes. All in the name of dictatorship.

We look upon 25 January with nostalgia or despair or in some cases, horror, and we remember when we had hope for Egypt, when a hashtag #Jan25 was about power of the people. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi has created a dystopian nightmare from the ashes of that hope, a nightmare full of police brutality, lawlessness and vigilantism, torture, violence, and death.

"Fighting terrorism," an excuse made popular by the President of the United States George W. Bush, is the justification given for the crackdowns on human rights in so many countries, especially in Sisi's Egypt, who seems to be under the impression that he is some sort of pharaoh divinely appointed to rule Egypt. From "fighting terrorism," he has expanded his facetious legal arsenal to oppress. The West mostly ignores what is happening, choosing to side with a "partner" in the "war on terror" rather than standing up for real human rights, even if Sisi's "war on terror" includes opposition, dissidents, comedians, teenagers on Facebook, or LGBT citizens.

2017, to put it simply was a year of horror for Egypt's LGBT community, especially after the Lebanese rock band Mashrou' Leila - whose lead singer is gay - played a concert in Cairo on 22 September. Images of a rainbow flag unfurled during the show spread across the internet, igniting the self-righteous fury of the intolerant establishment and fueling the mass arrests of at least 75 human beings who by the coincidence of their birth were born gay in Egypt. Many were subjected to anal probes to determine whether or not the men had anal sex, despite such probes having been scientifically debunked ages ago.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but in a dictatorship, what is truth? The Sisi regime uses an age old tactic in finding some other dubious law on the books and spinning events to fit that law. In this case, "debauchery" is the charge. One of the favorite tactics of so-called law enforcement is to set up sting operations through dating apps. Apparently, Egyptian police have nothing better to do than to play on Tinder and Grinder and seek out gay men for dates.

According to a November 2017 report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 232 Egyptians were arrested and prosecuted for sexualities or sexual practices, actual or perceived, from October 2013 to March 2017, many months prior to the flagwaving incident.

But let's not give Sisi all the credit for being the monster he is. Members of the Egyptian Parliament support the suppression tactics of the regime. More than 60 legislators have signed onto a bill that would criminalize homosexuality. In an Egypt that is mired in economic stagnation with no end in sight, this popular stance is a welcome diversion for the inept politicians. And with Sisi all but a shoo-in for this spring's presidential elections and the military controlling a third of the nation's economy, Egypt will see more of the same in 2018.

So what is one to do if he or she is LGBT in Egypt? Flee? To where? One small thing that can be done is protect yourself in your online communications with encryption. Egyptian law enforcement is actively watching for LGBT activity online, ready to raid at a moment's notice. So take care, Egyptians. Download our VPN and messenger apps for an added layer of protection. You have our support.

Monday, 22 January 2018

5 types of cybercriminals

Technology has evolved. Unfortunately, humanity does not always evolve with it. As soon as the internet was invented, bad people were coming up with bad ways to use it.

Here are five types of cybercriminals:

INDIVIDUALS who are motivated by financial gain, basically your run-of-the-mill thieves with a 21st century twist. They can get you with phishing or malware scams.

ORGANIZED GROUPS who are motivated by financial gain. These groups are often highly organized, with specialization of roles and responsibilities. They often attack banks or go after intellectual property.

NATION-STATES whose intent ranges from monitoring other countries to interfering in elections to outright cyberattacks. They sometimes go after intellectual property. (Here's looking at you, China.) Some states employ thousands of citizens to conduct such activity.

CYBERTERRORISTS who partake in a sort of digital nihilism, where the only goal is disruption and destruction, often for political reasons. While ISIS immediately comes to mind, cyberterrorism is not limited to jihadists, but can include any group whose aim is to disrupt and destroy, such as eco-terrorists, white supremacists, and homophobes.

HACKTIVISTS are distinguished from cyberterrorists in that their goal is not destruction per se. Hacktivism is the subversive use of computers and computer networks to promote a political or social agenda. The term is confusing, because many self-described hacktivists are do-gooders who seek to advance human rights. While their actions are technically illegal, we'd like to distinguish them from the attention seekers or those with nefarious social goals or the generic "disrupt the status quo" justification. These often call themselves "hacktivists" though they would fall into the cyberterrorist category.