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

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:

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:

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:

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.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

This Day in History - January 3

In this month named for Janus, the two faced Roman god who looked to the past and the future at the same time, so, too, do we look to the past and the future. Three rather meaningful events that relate to our work happened on this day.

🎂 1749 - Denmark's oldest continually operating newspaper, Berlingske, published its first issue.

Millennials probably don't remember when newspapers were a thing, but they were. Kind of fun to imagine what the founders of Berlingske would think if they saw their paper online today. They surely wouldn't be happy that journalists are too often targets for opponents of the pursuit of truth.

The first Apple computer with a homemade case.
🍎 1977 - Apple Computer, Inc. incorporated.

In the pre-pretty days of computers.

💰 2009 - Satoshi Nakamoto established the first block of Bitcoin.

Who Nakamoto really is remains a mystery. When the Bitcoin bubble will burst is also a mystery.

Do you think you could buy a subscription to Berlingske using Bitcoin on an Apple I? LOL. Well, no, those ancient computers didn't have enough RAM to run a dial-up modem. They only had 4 KB of memory.

As for the future, encryption is part of it. Presently, you can get it here.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

MMXVIII - Our New Year's Resolutions

He who gave us our calendar.
From the frigid tundra of Siberia to the scorching heat of Alice Springs, the start of a new year is a symbolic reboot point and a time to reflect upon the events in our lives that we can and cannot control. Many of us vow to eat healthier, exercise more, drink less, worship better, call home more often, or a myriad of other corrections to the flaws that make us human.  We have probably been doing that since the adoption of the first calendar.

Archaeologists have reconstructed methods of timekeeping that go back to the Stone Age, and the first calendars date to the Bronze Age when we discovered metal and writing. They were lunisolar in nature and needed intercalary months - leap months, basically - in order to keep summer as summer and winter as winter. Julius Caesar had enough of that nonsense and introduced a solar calendar to eliminate leap months, following an algorithm that added a leap day every four years. The Persian mathematician Omar Khayyam (yes, he of poetry fame) measured the length of a year to astounding accuracy in the eleventh century, showing that the Julian calendar had too many leap years. Pope Gregory XIII introduced calendar reforms based on the knowledge of the actual length of a year to set the date for Easter in 1582. There are at least thirty-three other calendars in use across the world today, most based on religious beliefs, but generally everyone uses the Gregorian calendar in civil life.

We have reached the year 2018 in the common era, a time of unprecedented technological progress. But with progress come problems, as complicated and complex as the technology itself. Human beings, for whatever reason, make life extremely (and needlessly) complicated, and we may spend as much time trying to solve the problems of our own making as we do sleeping. Consider the internet, arguably the most transformative invention in history. Here we literally have the world at our fingertips. You may be reading this blog post from Johannesburg, Tehran, Delhi, or Paris. You may be using a SumRando server in Sweden, USA, Turkey, Amman, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brazil, or Spain or another server from any corner of the world. You may buy SumRando VPN with Rand, Rial, Rupees, or Euros with just a number on a plastic card and a click of a button. It's pretty mind-blowing to think about.

Yet we have these people who want to limit our use of such an invention, who censor it or spy on us or steal from us or slow it down so they can make money off us. It's all stealing, really. So for this new year, let us make some resolutions to save the internet from these people who would destroy it, these corporations, governments, hackers, and lobbyists who just can't stand human freedom and dignity, who seek profit and power at the expense of humanity, who would still use a lunar calendar if there were money or power to come from it. Here are our resolutions:

1. Stand up for net neutrality. The regime in the United States has decided to give the corporations who fund it complete control over what Americans can see on the internet. What will stop other regimes across the world from slowing access to certain websites if the country that invented the internet is unwilling to protect it from those motivated only by power and profit? Even if we won't admit it, developing countries look to the United States for leadership or fear condemnation and consequences for bad behavior. Discarding net neutrality rules indicates to rogue regimes that it is ok to manipulate internet traffic. Unless the United States takes measures to reestablish net neutrality for itself, net neutrality in the world may be in jeopardy. As we've seen in Portugal, loopholes in EU net neutrality laws make it difficult for any EU country to be a global enforcer. There are just too many questions right now. We all need to push our governments to actively pursue net neutrality regulations so that we may enjoy a free and fair internet like we are wont to do.

2. Stand up for internet freedom and freedom of expression. Net freedom is a human right. It is that simple. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects freedom of expression, and as an extension, the United Nations passed a resolution stating that "the same rights people have offline must also be protected online." So not only is internet freedom in our hearts and minds, it is international law. Of course, the usual suspects opposed the resolution, given their addiction to censorship, fear, and surveillance. So we fight on.

3. Stand up for privacy. At a time when CCTV can recognize our faces and leviathan social media companies are tracking our every move online (and sometimes offline, too), privacy is threatened more than ever. Privacy starts with encryption. Encryption is kind of our thing. It's what we do. Get our free encryption tools here and take back control of your life.

4. Stand up for encryption. Yes, encryption itself is under threat, as prying governments want to know what you do, where you do it, and whom you do it with. Some lawmakers see boogeymen everywhere. Others just don't understand what encryption is. We are not psychiatrists, so we cannot help the former deal with their paranoia. We are, however, encryption experts. We literally make it. We will continue to help people understand what encryption is, how it is a vital part of our lives, and why you should not be online without it.

5. Stand up for internet access. In order to do the above, you have to have internet. As of June 2017, only half of the world had access to the internet, with only 41% of the developing world having access, most of that being mobile. Yet access is difficult for many in the developed world as well. Even though a federal court in the United States defined the internet as a basic utility, 35% of rural Americans have no access to broadband. U.S. telecoms corporations have fought pushes to expand access at every turn. We are familiar with that kind of corruption in the developing world and will continue to push for access and expose those who stand as obstacles to it. Rural America has started to take matters into its own hands; we should look to this story as an example for the world.

So that's our list, and we hope you make it yours, too. January 1 was established as the date for the new year by Julius Caesar to honor the god Janus, the god of gateways and beginnings. Janus, who had two faces, presided over the beginning and end of conflict, of war and peace. The internet took one heck of a beating in 2017. Here's to a much better, freer 2018, and the end of the conflict over internet freedom. Cheers.