Tuesday 18 December 2018

He knows when you've been bad or good...

We have been thinking about the American phenomenon of Elf on a Shelf, a recently established American Christmas tradition of placing a toy elf around one's house so that children think an elf is watching them and reporting their behavior to Santa Claus.

It's a pretty disturbing trend if you really think about it. I mean, is the North Pole a surveillance state or what? Is Santa a dictator?

We're making a list of Santa's transgressions and checking it twice:

He watches your every move.
He uses indentured servants to make his products.
He has minions to spy on you in your home (Elf on a Shelf!)
Citizens of the North Pole don't get to vote.
He's ruled the North Pole for...well, forever, we guess.
He punishes you if he doesn't like his behavior.

We'll tell you this: we don't want some elf watching everything we do. Fortunately, no elf is going to be able to watch our online behavior because we are using SumRando VPN. Even Santa himself can't crack its encryption.

Privacy is a human right, Santa. Don't put us on your naughty list because we are helping people execute their human rights in countries where dictators surveil their citizens and block information or lines of communication from them. Why not prove you are the nice guy everyone thinks you are and give some subscriptions to SumRando VPN for Christmas?

Thursday 13 December 2018

Lies, lies, lies

What incredible, vomit-inducing propaganda coming out of MBS's Saudi Kingdom. That a state-run media channel could lie so blatantly is testament to the perpetual state of cloudiness that Saudi citizens must endure when it comes to Truth.

The Saudi news channel claims MBS was awarded Time's Person of the Year, when the reality was that Jamal Khashoggi and other hero journalists, together called "The Guardians," were presented on four different covers. MBS is Mr. B.S.
The world of authoritarian propaganda is treacherous. If you control the information, you control the people. Using outright lies is a part of the dictator repertoire. Censorship and blocking the internet is another. Is Time blocked in Saudi Arabia? We don't know. But if MBS is going to lie about who's on the cover, the lie can be enhanced by blocking the truth from the Saudi people.

Fortunately, there is a way to circumvent the lies on the internet. If a site is blocked, you can use a  VPN. We have had a million people across the globe download our VPN in 2018 alone, including tens of thousands of Saudis who are interest in the truth, not the lies of the MBS regime. (You can download it free here.)
At least 16 Saudi journalists were in prison as of December 1, in what the New York Times has declared The New Normal. More than 250 journalists were jailed worldwide in 2018 alone. Now, more than ever, is it imperative for journalists to take precautions to protect themselves online. First step, always always always use a VPN. Second step, secure all communications with a safe messaging app. Third step, transfer all documents using a secure file transfer app

R.I.P. Jamal Khashoggi and the hundreds of other journalists who have lost their lives in pursuit of truth. You are our true Guardians.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Persbericht. Fógra. Announcement.

What could be more exciting than Amsterdam?

Red brick houses, picturesque canals, springtime tulips, world-class art, exotic nightlife, a SumRando VPN server...

Yes, that's right, we have added a server in Amsterdam.

But the luck of the Irish is with you, too because we have also added a server in Dublin. Two beautiful cities in one go!

As we grow across the globe - nearly one million accounts created in 2018 alone - we are able to expand our privacy tools to provide even better VPN service for you. We own all of our own equipment, so you never have to worry about third parties interfering with your online privacy and security.

Amsterdam and Dublin join our existing servers in Sweden, Spain, New York, Hong Kong, Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, and Singapore. And coming soon - Portland, Oregon.

Bonus: if you subscribe to our platinum plan, not only do you have access to the Android and Windows apps, but you are granted access to OpenVPN Config files for iOS, MacOS, and Linux. Now, for a limited time, get a year of unlimited VPN data, access to all of our servers, and those OpenVPN Config files for only $20.18.

Visit www.sumrando.com and start your download today!

Friday 24 August 2018

I read the news today, oh boy...

You'd think they'd be headlines.

Russia shuts down Telegram

Cameroon blocks the internet from English speaking population

India cuts access to the internet for 177th time in five years

But they aren't. Oh sure, sometimes a major world newspaper like the New York Times mentions them. But are they discussed by the shouting heads on Western cable news channels? The American CNN seems to talk of nothing but the tweets of their president. The BBC is not much better about its own political Yoricks. In many African countries, they aren't allowed to talk about these things at all, and in others, the political soap operas dominate the conversation.

Yet, the entire world is facing a sort of existential crisis when it comes to the very freedoms we all agreed human beings should have when we joined the United Nations. Granted, the internet was not invented when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, but then again, most people in the world did not even have televisions and we seemed to figure out that television was a part of free speech and such. We use the term "internet shutdown," but that is a generic term that encompasses many actions. A shutdown can range from blocking a single website or app to creating an alternate country- or region-wide intranet to cutting off access to the entire internet. We should add to that the issue of net neutrality, a sort of "evolved" version of an internet shutdown that makes it seem like it's all in the name of "business" or "jobs" but it's really just another means to control information and political power. It's all the more dangerous when telecommunications are controlled by only a few corporations with a large dollar stake in who is in power in a government.

Let's be real. An internet shutdown is censorship, no matter what form it takes.

And here we are, a small company from Africa, shouting into the darkness, with little name recognition and limited resources to do something about it compared to the Microsofts and Googles of the world. We do what we can.

The large, well-funded American organizations who fight for causes like ours have recently been busy with their own declining internet freedoms and creeping authoritarianism. They are getting a taste of the poison we have been dealing with in large doses since the internet started to spread in the
"developing countries." The EU countries are trying to figure out just what GDPR is and if it goes too far or not far enough in privacy protection. Those Western countries we looked to as ideals for freedom of speech and press are fighting the same authoritarian impulses that Africans have known since before they were born.

What has the internet done to us all?

 Do you ever wonder if people ran around at the time of Gutenberg acting all crazy like this?

So what we are doing here is providing some tools to fight censorship and trying to call attention to the missing headlines. These tools are open to the whole world, but we focus our attention on countries where oppression is severe and where people may not be able to afford a VPN subscription. When we're blocked by a country, we find solutions to make it work for the people there.  We have millions of users across the globe, but especially in regions like the Middle East and Africa where censorship is normal.

Why not try us out? Download SumRando VPN, Messenger, and STASH at https://www.sumrando.com.

Friday 29 June 2018

Protect journalists

Rob Hiaasen. Wendi Winters. Gerald Fischman. John McNamara. Rebecca Smith.

Yesterday, these people went to work in the morning. They never came home.

They are the 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, and 34th journalists and media workers killed this year in the line of duty. Telling the truth is a deadly job, with more than 1300 journalists losing their lives since 1992. This time seems a little different, though. While people in the many parts of the world are sadly used to hearing about the deaths of journalists, these five people were sitting in a newsroom in the United States of America.

We can argue about the merits and hypocrisies of U.S. foreign policy all day long, but one thing that the world has never had to question was the commitment of the U.S. to the principles of press freedom. Just three days after the current U.S. president used authoritarian language in calling journalists "enemies of the people," a man shot up a newsroom. Americans of a certain political persuasion wear t-shirts that call for the murder of journalists. Rightwing personalities actively have called for vigilantes to gun down those who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of truth.

The world weeps for you, America.

Here at SumRando Cybersecurity, we are committed to do our small part in protecting journalists from the sociopaths who would do them harm. While we can't provide physical security, we offer encryption tools to help protect their identities and information online. SumRando Messenger is a secure messaging app that also gives you the ability to destroy your messages forever, even on the phone of the person you sent it to. SumRando STASH is a secure file transfer service where you can exchange documents anonymously. SumRando VPN protects your online privacy and security. We currently offer journalists a year of unlimited VPN data for $20.18, nearly $50 off the regular price.

Thursday 14 June 2018

World Cup - not all fun and games

Finally! After four years of waiting, it's time for the World Cup! It's a time to wave your flags, shout until you have no voice, and maybe skip out of work. There's nothing like it in the world, this global celebration of sport, when half the world tunes in to watch with friends and family and cheer on the best players in the universe.

Unfortunately, for some people, it isn't all fun and games. For LGBT fans, it can be downright dangerous, especially in Russia.

The St. Petersburg based LGBT group Coming Out has set up a hotline for LGBT football fans visiting Russia in response to the oppressive environment created by the Putin regime - including recent discriminatory legislation - and threats from homophobic football gangs roaming the country. Violence against LGBT in Russia is not uncommon.

We invite LGBT football fans in Russia to use SumRando Messenger to communicate safely and privately during the World Cup. Our end to end encryption is top notch and is under the Russian radar, unlike some of the more trendy messenger apps. (For example, the Russian regime has given thumbs up to hacking WhatsApp and Skype as part of its plan to monitor all internet traffic in the country.) Even better, SumRando Messenger gives you the ability to destroy your messages forever, even if they are on the other person's phone. Leave no trace of your communications. Leave no "evidence" for oppressive governments to exploit should you be arrested for simply being you.

SumRando Cybersecurity is a proud supporter of LGBT rights. Time moves forward, not backwards. It's time for humanity to move forward as well. Until then, we'll continue to provide the tools to keep LGBT and any oppressed group safe from the hateful wrath of oppression.

Thursday 10 May 2018

It's the economy, stupid.

This tweet struck us yesterday as the perfect microcosmic example of the consequences of internet shutdowns.

India is by the worst culprit in shutting down the internet, with 177 known shutdowns since 2012. African countries are doing their best to compete, with Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Chad among the guiltiest parties.

Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion USD in 2016. That's a lot of supplies not delivered, a lot of orders not taken, a lot of bills unpaid, a lot of products unused.

While a VPN can't help you when an ISP or a government completely turns off internet access, it can help when only certain websites and apps are blocked. Why not take advantage of our limited time offer of one year of unlimited VPN data for $20.18 USD?

Wednesday 25 April 2018

The pettiness of internet censorship

There's a story by the Russian author Fyodor Sologub called The Petty Demon about a vindictive, paranoid man and a vindictive, paranoid town. The main character, Peredonov, is obsessed with achieving material success, no matter whose life he has to destroy to get there. About Peredonov, Sologub writes, "He didn’t like people, he never thought about them other than in connection with what benefits or pleasures he might derive from them." His hostile treatment of others is a reflection of his egoism, a trait that has emerged in our modern world's obsession with materialism.

Peredonov's obsessions lead to paranoia, and he begins to see a little demon everywhere. In one scene, he cuts out the eyes of the royals in a deck of cards because he thinks they are looking at him. Everyone is out to get him and prevent him from obtaining the object of his desire - a position as school inspector, which would come with wealth and power. (SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't end well for him.)

Is this not an accurate description of Vladimir Putin?

Putin's recent ban on the messenger app Telegram is just the latest in a long list of assaults on online freedom and freedom of expression. As recently as 2014, Russia was ranked "partly free" on Freedom House's annual Freedom on the Net report. Since 2015, it has been ranked "not free."

This devolution has come as more Russians gain access to the internet. In 2004, only 8% of Russians had access. As of December 2015, 70% had access. Powermongering, paranoid Putin won't let Russians have access to the real internet because people might be able to spread information about protests and ways to elect opposition leaders like Alexei Navalny. Democracy and freedom are Putin's petty demons.

But - Russians can bypass Putin's censorship with SumRando encryption tools. Replace your Telegram account with SumRando Messenger. Download SumRando VPN for Windows and Android to access blocked websites. Visit www.sumrando.com for more information.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Update on SumRando Web Proxy

Last week, an article was published regarding VPNs and Proxies and potential vulnerabilities with WebRTC.  We felt the article was somewhat misleading, and we want to take the opportunity to clarify what this all means and how it impacts you as a user of SumRando's products and services.

What is WebRTC?
WebRTC is an HTML5 specification that allows for real-time communication between browsers and devices without plugins or other widgets installed.  It enables voice and video communication to work inside web pages.  Many popular browsers (think FireFox and Chrome) already have WebRTC enabled. 

What is a Web Proxy?
A web proxy server is a computer that sits between you and the internet, which reroutes your requests through our servers by way of the website on the browser. When you are using a web proxy, Internet traffic on that page is routed through the proxy server, making it look as if it came from the server's IP address instead of yours.  This is isolated to only the webpage you are using, not the entire browser.

What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network. VPNs provide a virtual version of a secure physical network, where the information you send over the Internet is encrypted and secured from others on the Internet. By running a VPN, an encrypted tunnel is established between your device and the VPN servers.  Once the connection is established, all of your Internet activity (from browser to Skype to email) is pushed through this secure tunnel, through the VPN servers, and out to the Internet. The video on our VPN page - https://www.sumrando.com/vpn.aspx - explains the process as well.

Great. Why are you telling me all this?
The article that was originally published last week and has since circulated in the community indicated that some privacy services (VPNs and Proxies) may be vulnerable to WebRTC leaks.  SumRando Web Proxy was identified on that list. 

Was my IP leaked when I used SumRando VPN?
No. SumRando is designed to encrypt ALL traffic including WebRTC offering you the most anonymity and security possible when using a VPN service.   

Was my IP leaked when I used SumRando Web Proxy?
Potentially, depending on the website(s) you visited. SumRando Web Proxy was released with the intention of circumventing geolocation blocking and for quick anonymous searches on the web.  It was not designed to serve as a complete privacy and security solution. (That's why we encourage you to download and use SumRando VPN).  Admittedly, we weren't clear on our website how the browser plays a big role in network communication and the risks related to WebRTC and other non-HTTP and HTTPS web traffic. 

I used SumRando Web Proxy.  Can you tell me if I was specifically impacted by the leak?

No.  SumRando does not track SumRando Web Proxy activity.  We have no insight into who visited what sites at any certain time.

Okay.  Now what?
We highly recommend that you download and use SumRando VPN - https://www.sumrando.com/download.aspx.  We have a free account option that provides you with 1GB of data per month.  If you need more, you can easily upgrade to SumRando VPN Platinum, which gives you unlimited data and access to all of our VPN servers around the world.

SumRando Web Proxy is temporarily unavailable while we work to determine is there are additional ways to reduce the impact of WebRTC.  If you are concerned with WebRTC, it is possible to disable it directly in your browsers - https://www.privacyend.com/disable-webrtc-in-various-browsers/.  This may degrade some performance of websites, but it will prevent other websites from obtaining more inforamation under the guise of WebRTC requests.

As always, if you have any feedback, questions, or concerns, please reach out to us at support@sumrando.com.

Friday 16 March 2018

"I Heard a Siren from the Silicon Docks"

Happy St. Paddy's Day to all the Irish out there and to those non-Irish who just want a reason to drink Guinness.

The Irish may be the largest diaspora in the world. Some 80 million people worldwide claim Irish heritage; this, from a country whose peak population reached 8 million. Even those not so well-versed in history know that oppression sent millions to emigrate or to their deaths. Poverty was a major struggle up until the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s, after decades of European Union structural funds propelled the economy to the top tier. It was an opportune time, as a fledgling tech industry would soon grow into a major global force. Many of the biggest tech companies in the world now have headquarters in Dublin; they have rebuilt the docklands - a once dirty old town of warehouses and factories - into a glittering, glass and steel mini city known as the Silicon Docks. If you've ever been to Dublin, you'd marvel at the changes over the last twenty years. It's a whole new world.

One reason the tech companies flocked to Dublin was its weak privacy laws. Data drinking companies like Google and Facebook were able to build massive data empires in part because these laws made privacy virtually an afterthought. Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner has been repeatedly challenged in courts by the European Union, and a new EU privacy law may open the floodgates for more litigation.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will restrict how tech companies collect, store, and use personal data beginning 25 May 2018. Businesses and organizations that fail to comply with GDPR will be fined 20 million euro or 4% of their global annual revenue, whichever is higher. 

The Irish government is trying to make the state exempt from provisions of the GDPR. A massive 132 page bill is still under debate with some rather bizarre points, such as reducing the age of consent from 16 to 13! Irish data protection experts are universally opposed to the bill, which they say, "has the potential to kill data protection enforcement in Ireland and will take years of litigation to fix.”

So why is Ireland opposed to data protection? For one, most businesses in Ireland are not prepared for the GDPR changes. Then there is the government itself that feels it is not prepared and worries that any fines on its public bodies may drain the budget and prevent them from fixing the problems that led to the fines in the first place.

These issues will be discussed in April at the Dublin Data Sec 2018 conference. Let's hope Ireland can get the bill sorted out before the GDPR deadline. In the meantime, here's to all the Irish out there. 


Thursday 8 March 2018

SumLinks - Women Matter

In honor of International Women's Day #IWD2018, some links:

The Center for the Protection of Journalists looks at the threats women journalists face.

Have you seen Bombshell: The Hedy Lemarr Story? It didn't seem to get a lot of press coverage, which is a shame, because Hedy Lemarr never gets the credit she deserves for basically inventing wifi.

In addition to Lemarr, here are nine other important women in tech.

Article 19 speaks out about online abuse of women.

Access Now takes a look at women making the internet safer for everyone.

A history of men taking credit for women's accomplishments.

Ten more women who changed the course of history.

And let us not forget the countless number of women who are prisoners of conscience, those who strive for human rights and democracy, who languish in the dank prisons of authoritarian regimes.

Tuesday 27 February 2018

SumLinks - Cyberattacks, censorship, espionage, and more

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to an additional five years in prison for tweets.

An Inside Look At The Accounts Twitter Has Censored In Countries Around The World

Cyberattacks increasing against civil society in Azerbaijan ahead of election

Worst Innovation Mercantilism Policies of 2017

Internet Governance Forum 2017 was one of the first times that "various organizations and professionals came together to address the links and gaps between the internet governance and media development communities. Synopsis from the Global Forum for Media Development.

The size of your app matters. Just ask Ethiopians.

Pakistanis are speaking out against internet shutdowns.

Zimbabwe: Omnibus Cyber Bill muddies Fundamental rights

Read more at: http://www.africafex.org/access-to-information/zimbabwe-omnibus-cyber-bill-muddies-fundamental-rights
Zimbabwe: Omnibus Cyber Bill muddies Fundamental rights

Read more at: http://www.africafex.org/access-to-information/zimbabwe-omnibus-cyber-bill-muddies-fundamental-rights
 Cyber bill threatens fundamental rights in Zimbabwe

Laughing in the face of internet shutdowns in Bangladesh
Zimbabwe: Omnibus Cyber Bill muddies Fundamental rights

Read more at: http://www.africafex.org/access-to-information/zimbabwe-omnibus-cyber-bill-muddies-fundamental-rights

New bill threatens internet freedom in Honduras.

EFF and Lookout Uncover New Malware Espionage Campaign in Chat Apps Infecting Thousands Around the World


Dependent Yet Disenfranchised: The Policy Void That Threatens the Rights of Mobile Users in Arab States
Amazon Go’s ambient processing of special category data (eg ethnicity) to create “checkout free shopping” might cause problems if moved to Europe under the GDPR given the inability to freely consent.

Mapping Digital Freedom in Palestine

The Importance of Privacy by Design and Data Protection Impact Assessments in Strengthening Protection of Children's Personal Data Under the GDPR

The State of Privacy in Lebanon

Tuesday 13 February 2018

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

Protect Your Privacy This Year! Limited Time Offer.

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.

Friday 19 January 2018

SumLinks - democracy at stake

News, opinions, and tips

EFF and Lookout uncover new malware espionage campaign infecting thousands of Signal and Whatsapp users around the world

It's the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech

Online voting won't save democracy 

Can technology rescue democracy?

United States fails to reform mass surveillance program

Apple blocked an app that detects net neutrality violations

Legislation to look out for in 2018 in Europe

Why a major cyberattack could be as costly as a hurricane

Vast cybercrime syndicate in China

How to read a privacy policy

Research and reports

Freedom of the World 2018: Democracy in Crisis - Freedom House

Malware, web-based attacks remain top cybersecurity threats - European Union Agency for Network and Information Security

Fact sheet - Access to internet and freedom to receive and impart information and ideas - European Court of Human Rights

The safety of journalists and the danger of impunity - UNESCO


Computers, privacy, and data protection 2018 - Brussels, 24 - 26 January

Internet Governance Forum USA 2018 - IGF-USA

This week in history

1883 - First electric lighting system employing overhead wires
1903 - First regular transatlantic radio broadcast between USA and England
1920 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) founded
1941 - British Daily Worker banned
1951 - Supreme Court of the United States rules incitement to riot is not protected speech
1955 - SCRABBLE debuts
1986 - First meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force
1988 - Future Czech President Vaclav Havel is arrested for protesting
1999 - China News Service announces new restrictions on internet use, especially at internet cafes
2012 - SOPA protests
2012 - US FBI shuts down megaupload.com

Wednesday 17 January 2018

The crime of the 21st century

They said it was the perfect crime, except it wasn't. The gang would have gotten away with it were it not for greed, criminal stupidity, and the frigid obstinacy of a Boston winter.

The Great Brink's Robbery occurred on this date in 1950. The heist took two years to plan and was at the time the largest bank robbery in United States history, pulling in $2.775 million USD ($28.2 million USD today.) The robbers, who wore uniforms similar to those of Brink's employees and Halloween masks, left but three clues, none of which was helpful in their capture. (DNA evidence was not used in forensics until 1986, otherwise the chauffeur's cap left behind by one of the robbers may have given him up sooner.)

Brink's attempted some prehistoric crowdsourcing in seeking information about the crime, offering $100,000 USD for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. No internet was needed to receive hundreds of dead ends and conspiracy theories, as any kook with a phone seemed to have a "tip." Police rounded up the usual suspects around Beantown, but it was a long list of hoodlums and hooligans.

Since the robbery had occurred in the dead of winter, the Boston ground was thoroughly frozen. Despite the careful planning of the thieves, it seems they had not considered winter's wrath, as they surely would have buried the cut up pieces of the getaway truck had the ground been receptive to a shovel. Instead, bags of the cut up truck meant for interment were discovered by police two months after the heist. Having learned through interviews that witnesses had seen a green truck outside the bank that day, the discovery of parts of a truck matching that description proved to be a break in the case. Two of the suspects lived in the neighborhood where the parts were discovered, bringing closer scrutiny upon them.

But it would be years before any arrests could be made; in fact, the gang were arrested a mere five days before the statute of limitations ran out, five days shy of the six year mark that would have put them in the clear forever.

In the meantime, two of the gang members went to prison for another burglary. Another went to prison for tax evasion. One had to fight deportation. A fifth spent time in prison for parole violations. One died. The robbers had agreed not to touch the money until the statute of limitations had expired, but all of this legal trouble left some of them in need of the loot before then. One kidnapped another for ransom, then was shot and wounded by a hitman. In the end, he was the one who confessed, imagining his associates living life in luxury while he spent his remaining years in prison for another crime. The gang ended up getting eight to ten years in prison, and half of the money was never recovered.

Over the years, many bigger bank heists made the nearly $3 million from Brink's seem like small potatoes. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the robbery of the Banco Central in Fortaleza, Brazil as the largest physical bank heist in history. They made off with about $160 million USD. Some of the thieves have been arrested; most have not. Some ended up dead. Only $20 million USD have been recovered to date.

These days, you need not suffer the physical labor of robbing a bank or risk getting backstabbed, kidnapped, or murdered by your co-conspirators.  Now you can rob away from the comfort of your living room all alone. All you need is a decent internet connection, some hacking skills, and a secure place to change the money into something usable and untraceable.

The first online bank robbery happened in 1994, when much of the world had never heard of the internet, the FBI had no cybercrime team, and Nigerian princes had yet to ask you to help them save their funds. A group of criminals on mulitiple continents, led by a Russian programmer named Vladimir Levin, hacked into Citibank and began to steal money, adding up to more than $10 million USD. (The more things change, the more they stay the same?) He was eventually convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, with all but $400,000 USD recovered.

Today, a major target for virtual bank robbers is Swift, the international monetary transfer system. Perhaps the largest of these robberies involved the Bangladesh Bank, when hackers made off with more than $80 million USD. It is thought that at least ten similar, albeit smaller attacks, have hit Swift.

Card cloning is another new development in the world of bank robbery. One group took $45 million USD from ATMs in a matter of hours. Hackers can get your card information when you use it online.

Phishing and malware are a favorite tool of the nouveau bank robber. You can protect yourself by reciting this mantra: if it's spamming that you think, don't you dare click that link. Or just follow this advice: https://www.welivesecurity.com/2016/09/22/5-simple-ways-can-protect-phishing-attacks/

Global financial institutions suffer tens of thousands of cyberattacks every minute. Hackers would love to get their hands on your financial information - account numbers, your address, the routing number that would allow them to transfer your funds into an account of their choosing... Yet too many of the world's banks don't realize the extent of their cybersecurity problems. One macrocosmic solution to the problem is to introduce regulatory legislation that requires financial institutions to take greater cybersecurity precautions. At the very least, you can ask your bank to do so.

Of course, physical bank robberies still happen. In 2016 in the United States alone, more than 4,000 bank robberies took place. But there's a new twist on the physical robbery - thieves are posing as IT support and installing devices to siphon off cash electronically. What's more, criminals can use DDoS attacks to take CCTV offline long enough for them to pull off a traditional mask-on, hands-up bank robbery. Technology can make our lives easier, even for those of us with criminal proclivities.

One aside: several films were made about the Great Brink's Heist, including 1978's The Brink's Job. In August of that year, 15 unedited reels of the film were stolen at gunpoint by robbers demanding a $1 million USD ransom. The joke was on them, however, as positive prints of the negatives existed elsewhere, and nothing was lost, proving, once again, that crime doesn't pay in the end.

All is not lost. Take steps to protect yourself from virtual bank robbers using VPN encryption. Get it here: https://www.sumrando.com/vpn.aspx.

Monday 15 January 2018

Let's talk about surveillance on Martin Luther King Day

Last November, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation released some previously classified files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The contents of the files were largely unsurprising and already known. A 20-page document on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. included in the files painted a picture of the famed civil rights activist and Nobel Prize recipient as something straight out of a book on paranoia.

The FBI did its best to tag King as a communist, as it did to everyone who didn't toe the white, flag-waving, military industrialist line of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and ilk. It's no secret that the FBI under Hoover was obsessed with communism, nor is it a secret that Hoover loathed King and surveilled him extensively. It all began when the FBI was informed about Dr. King's connection to Stanley Levison, once a financier of the Communist Party USA. (Full background here.)

The most outlandish thing about the FBI's attempts to discredit King by labeling him a communist may be that they knew he was not a communist. They knew he wanted to distance himself from communism. They knew, because they had unwarranted wiretaps of him saying he wanted to distance himself from communism. They also knew Stanley Levison had severed ties with the Communist Party USA because they had tapped his phone, too. The FBI used wiretaps, bugs, and informants because the United States government was afraid of peaceful activism for civil liberties that would disrupt existing power structures.

Now, King was just one of many people the FBI wiretapped; it was common for people of color to be surveilled in America throughout its history. It is still common today, as we learned from Edward Snowden and continue to discover. The US Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the civil rights activist group Black Lives Matter since the protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. (The DHS even monitored a walk to end breast cancer; it seems no cause is out of reach of the profane arms of government surveillance.) Unlike in King's time, US law enforcement can now legally wiretap without a court order under the expanded Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which is used to spy on American citizens.

Dr. King lived in pre-internet times, before cameras were on every corner and facial recognition software made it impossible to walk down a street unknown. Wiretaps and mini spy cameras that seem quaint in a day when we all carry a camera in our pockets were the available technology of his day. Imagine if he had lived in our time, when governments, corporations, and cybercriminals work hard to monitor our internet activity and steal our data. Imagine law enforcement trying to crack the encryption on his phone while he sat in a Birmingham jail. Imagine the government requests to Google and Facebook for access to his accounts. Imagine DHS using location and social media tracking to map the Selma march as they did for a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, DC. Imagine those things, as they would have happened to King were he active today, because they happen to others now.

The excuses vary from country to time period. National security is usually the reason given by the Americans, but some form of that excuse is used across the globe. In our current time and too often, governments use "terrorism" as the excuse to monitor their citizens, when in reality all they want is power and control. From Hoover to Trump to Sisi to African dictators to the mullahs of Iran, no country is immune to such fearmongering. Telecoms corporations are frequently all too complicit in this government surveillance as well. It's a match made in that hot place that preachers talk about. The word paranoia comes from the Greek παράνοια (paranoia), "madness", and that from παρά (para), "beside, by" and νόος (noos), "mind". Suffice it to say that is the true motivation for much if not most surveillance. Most people just want to live their private lives in peace.

We all have a dream to end the overzealous, Orwellian surveillance of the paranoid state. But like King's dream of a colorblind world, our dream, too, is far from reality. That's why we have created encryption tools to avoid surveillance. Privacy is a human right.

Protect yourself from the watchful eyes of Big Brother with our VPN, messenger, and file transfer app. Get them here: https://sumrando.com.

Monday 8 January 2018

"They ate dust."

Today marks the 116th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress (ANC) under the original name South African Native National Congress. Like any aspect of life, the history of the ANC is full of contradictions, with noble goals and atrocious antics and hope and despair and good and evil all wrapped into one black, green, and gold flag.

The party was founded to defend the rights of black South Africans and until the 1960s practiced non-violent resistance. Dark days tormented the divided country when the ANC turned to violence, which lasted three decades and saw some of the worst atrocities human beings can commit. The South African military responded with equal brutality, none worse than the Sharpeville Massacre that resulted in 69 deaths and 180 injured, according to official statistics. The apartheid government banned the ANC and designated it as a terrorist organization with some Western countries following suit. As in so many other places in the world, South Africa became a proxy battlefield for the Cold War, where the ANC was supported and funded by the USSR and the apartheid government was backed by Western powers until the fall of the Soviet Union made it impossible for the West to justify backing the racist regime any longer.

As expected, the ANC won the 1994 elections in a landslide. But governing and wanting the opportunity to govern are different animals. Fighting for rights is a noble goal, fueled by passion, the pursuit of justice, and a desire to change the world. Governing, however is an exercise in the mundane and is filled with the temptations that power brings. Let's face it. Governing can be BORING. One can be mired in the swamp of legalese and procedure, drowning in the problems of the people, such that one may intend to do something just so something - anything - is done. That often results in bad or unnecessary policy. Take internet policy, for example.

It's no secret that South Africa wants to play a leading role in shaping telecommunications policy and regulation in Africa, having supported the Constitution and Convention of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) and the Final Acts of the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Across the continent, citizens are feeling the crushing blows that regimes are dealing to their digital rights, with 30 of 54 African countries violating internet freedom in 2016. The ANC, not content to let all the other regimes have all the fun, proposed its own inimical internet policy in 2015 then known as the Draft Online Regulation Policy of the Film and Publications Board and becoming the Film and Publications Amendment Bill [B 37-2015]. The draft bill was widely condemned by internet freedom experts in South Africa and across the globe, but the ANC-led government pushed forward anyway. The bill was amended in November 2017 and sits before committee in 2018. We shall see what happens.

The Films and Publications law was originally passed after the fall of the apartheid regime with the intent to prevent the spread of propaganda in films and publications that advocated hatred and violence based on race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. When trying to rebuild a state after decades of such violence, sometimes censorship is necessary for stability. But it was never meant to be expanded to cover the day-to-day communications of South African citizens. Of course, no one could have anticipated the way we use the internet today. This bill would give the government sweeping powers to control content on the internet, where every person has the ability to publish his thoughts and ideas or lack thereof. All it takes is one corrupt, power-hungry official to use the law to curb opposition speech. Like this blog post, for example.

Former state security minister David Malobo (and current energy minister after a round of musical chairs) justified online content regulation by citing "fake news" and scams as evidence of a need for tighter control of the internet. His replacement, Bonjani Bongo, is busy bribing officials and hasn't said much about it. But corruption in the ANC is nothing new. In fact, the ANC became so corrupt and incompetent that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, sometimes described as the conscience of South Africa, wrote in 2013 that he would not vote for it, that it was "worse than the apartheid government." Tutu has been a vocal critic of the ANC for a while - in 2009 he condemned the greed and corruption that pervaded it, and in 2011, after the ANC-led government failed to give the Dalai Lama a visa, he said, "We will pray as we prayed for the downfall of apartheid government, we will pray for downfall of a government that represents us."

A fish rots from the head down, and that fish started to rot years ago. That a bill continued to progress through the legislative system despite the public's disapproval leaves only the question, Cui bono? It certainly isn't the people.

The ANC was good once. Ousting President Jacob Zuma as leader was a good start to reforming the party. Listening to the people would be another big step in the right direction. Putting human rights - the purpose of the party's founding - at the forefront of legislation is another big step. Adapting to the changing times is the only way to survive, and internet freedom has to be a part of that. A generation of digital natives has come of age and are ready to govern. But they need to have the freedom to do so.

"The Nationalists had a huge majority. They ate dust," Tutu once said while shaking his finger. Let that be a lesson from which we all can learn.

Friday 5 January 2018

The Moral Order

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, United States President, 6 January, 1941

Norman Rockwell's depiction of the four freedoms
Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech in his annual address to the U.S. Congress prior to American entry into World War II. The war had already raged on in Europe for sixteen months; F.D.R wanted to justify the provision of military aid to American allies and to convince citizens who favored isolationism to support the war efforts. Roosevelt sought to garner this support by reminding the American people that their very existence was threatened by foreign aggression and that the values on which the country was founded were in peril. But the speech was not the first time the president had discussed the freedoms.

In July 1940, six months before the address, Roosevelt called reporters into his home to announce his new presidential library. It was an election year; there was speculation that he would run for an unprecedented third term, but other indicators pointed to his retirement. Discussions turned to the war in Europe and raised anxiety in the room.

"You might say there are certain freedoms," Roosevelt told the reporters. “The first I would call ‘freedom of information,’ which is terribly important. It is a much better phrase than ‘freedom of the press,’ because there are all kinds of information so that the inhabitants of a country can get news of what is going on in every part of the country and in every part of the world without censorship and through many forms of communication.”

He went on to talk about the second freedom - freedom of religion - before saying, "Then, a third freedom is the freedom to express one's self as long as you don't advocate the overthrow of Government. That is a different thing. In other words, the kind of expression that we certainly have in this country, and that they have in most democracies. That, I think, is an essential of peace-I mean permanent peace."

The fourth freedom mentioned in that press conference was freedom from fear. A reporter then asked him about what would be the third freedom in his address to Congress. The president responded, "I had that in mind but forgot it. Freedom from want—in other words, the removal of certain barriers between nations, cultural in the first place and commercial in the second place. That is the fifth, very definitely."

He eventually did run for a third term and won, paving the way for his famous address to Congress. His initial "freedom of information" was subsumed in the address as "freedom of speech and expression," an understanding which is as common today as it was then. In Roosevelt's time, the term "freedom of information" was relatively new, though the concept was not. It seemed the term was a buzzword that was making its way around policy circles. Indeed, when the new term "freedom of information" was en vogue in the United Nations, it covered "freedom of expression," but the approach has been inverted so that "freedom of expression" includes "freedom of information," just as Roosevelt had done in 1941.

Now, America was as complicated a place then as it is today, and some of what ended up in Roosevelt's address to Congress had political implications that ran along ideological lines. But his fundamental points were universal - and universally opposed by tyrants and tycoons alike.  

Tyrants across the planet continue to oppose such freedoms. As there was no free press in Nazi Germany and no truth in the press that was still operating there (even the Associated Press was duped into posting Nazi propaganda in a secret deal over photographs), the poster child for modern dictatorship would certainly have censored the internet like they now do in oppressive countries around the world. He would have loved the ease at which he and his fellow petty demons could post fake news and propaganda as today's tyrants do. He may have taken to Twitter to post outrageous statements and start diplomatic rows. Whatever he would have done in the internet age, without a doubt it would have violated basic human rights. Freedom of speech, expression, and information have no place in countries where human dignity is not valued.

F.D.R. concluded the remarks with "The question really comes down to whether we are going to continue to seek those freedoms or whether we are going to give up." 

It's the people who can change things. We see brave Iranians who are fed up with being denied those four freedoms taking to the streets to express their disapproval despite the dangerous consequences. We see journalists, bloggers, and activists being arrested seemingly daily for their expressions online. We see advocate organizations like EFF, Access Now, CIPESA, Bolo Bhi, and SMEX pushing the ideals that we consider basic human rights.

They haven't given up. We're not giving up. Are you with us? 


Take back your freedom. Get encryption here and get a better kind of free speech.