Bruce Schneier’s a security specialist with his own Internet meme. And while most people believe that technology elevates, improves things, Schneier holds that technology magnifies, makes things bigger, good and bad:
Whether it’s Syria using Facebook to help identify and arrest dissidents or China using its “Great Firewall” to limit access to international news throughout the country, repressive regimes all over the world are using the Internet to more efficiently implement surveillance, censorship, propaganda, and control. They’re getting really good at it, and the IT industry is helping. We’re helping by creating business applications — categories of applications, really — that are being repurposed by oppressive governments for their own use:
What is called censorship when practiced by a government is content filtering when practiced by an organization. Many companies want to keep their employees from viewing porn or updating their Facebook pages while at work. In the other direction, data loss prevention software keeps employees from sending proprietary corporate information outside the network and also serves as a censorship tool. Governments can use these products for their own ends.
Propaganda is really just another name for marketing. All sorts of companies offer social media-based marketing services designed to fool consumers into believing there is “buzz” around a product or brand. The only thing different in a government propaganda campaign is the content of the messages.
Surveillance is necessary for personalized marketing, the primary profit stream of the Internet. Companies have built massive Internet surveillance systems designed to track users’ behavior all over the Internet and closely monitor their habits. These systems track not only individuals but also relationships between individuals, to deduce their interests so as to advertise to them more effectively. It’s a totalitarian’s dream.
Control is how companies protect their business models by limiting what people can do with their computers. These same technologies can easily be co-opted by governments that want to ensure that only certain computer programs are run inside their countries or that their citizens never see particular news programs.
What goes unsaid in his essay is that the leader of the tech industry, and the most heavily-equipped to use IT — and therefor IT for oppression — is a lot closer to home. (more…)
During Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense against Palestinians in Gaza last November, Anonymous hackers launched a mass attack on Israeli government websites. In response to the eight day assault that killed 133 Palestinians, Anonymous’ #OpIsrael defaced thousands of Israeli sites and provided information for Gazans facing Internet and communications blackouts. 60 million hacking attempts were reportedly made.
Last week, Israeli airstrikes once again hit targets in Gaza, officially breaking a ceasefire established last November (although cross-border clashes have informally breached the ceasefire in recent months, leaving four Palestinians dead). In retaliation, Anonymous relaunched #OpIsrael this weekend, and according to an Anonymous spokesperson offering a partial damage report, 60,000 websites, 40,000 Facebook pages, 5,000 twitter accounts and 30,000 Israeli bank accounts got hacked, causing an estimated $3-plus billion damage, the hacker collective claim. “Not bad for 24 hours,” Anonymous noted.
A Facebook glitch briefly took down a large number of sites that use the social network’s login credentials on Thursday — highlighting just how wide Facebook’s reach has become.The glitch lasted a few minutes and affected only those who were logged into Facebook at the time. But there were widespread reports of users having trouble getting to sites such as Gawker, CNN, Mashable and, yes, The Washington Post. When users tried to visit those sites, they were sent to a Facebook page that displayed an error. To get around the bug, users had to log out of the social network.
Facebook released a short statement after the outage, saying, “For a short period of time, there was a bug that redirected people from third party sites integrated with Facebook to Facebook.com. The issue was quickly resolved.”The company has yet to provide further information about the flaw or say how many Web sites may have been affected.While the outage was a short-lived problem with a fairly quick work-around, some sites with Facebook integration may find it troubling that a flaw in Facebook’s code could affect so many users.
Every time you tap a land, you have to drink. No, really, this shit is educational. (img by Tom Longfield)
In case you didn’t know, you can totally justify playing shitloads Minecraft, because it’s educational and has more to do with building virtual computers than sculpting giant naughty things for your own amusement.
But let’s say your evil mom takes your computer away from you because she thinks you should go outside at least once in a while and maybe even interact with other humans irl. So she breaks her foot booting your tubby ass out the front door. What can you do?
You can take up Magic: The Gathering and spend a bunch of money collecting the most awesome and up-to-date cards! And when mom yells at you about how you’re just spending all your time sitting around with friends drinking sodas and fighting about rules (pretty much just like before), you can tell her that Magic is educational: you’re working on building a Turing machine with the cards, and this type of shit will bootstrap you into the next income bracket and you won’t even need to go to college.
Pro-tip: pour enough Turing on anything, and you’ve got yourself some education.
“If people don’t control their own infrastructure, they get needy,” he says. They’re at the mercy of service providers who can disappear, impose rules that constrain creativity and/or make it difficult to backup content that you’ve created. “It’s good to simplify things, but they shouldn’t be simplified in such a way as to make the user helpless.”
Can I take my data and run? Theoretically. But to where? Most of us, even those born before computers did everything seamlessly for us, don’t know. I’m a fairly smart guy, and I’ve done my share tinkering with computers, but I’m still helpless.
Cunningham’s come up with a solution to his particular problem (a centralized wiki): he’s gone on to launch the federated wiki, naturally hosted on github, a federated version control system that I still don’t quite understand. His solution requires that you have your own webserver. Which tweaked my “too complicated” default response until I thought about it for a second.
The “consumer/customer” mindset and habit is really hard to break. I don’t want to jailbreak/root my phone. I don’t want to have to run my own email server. That shit’s a lot of work. But more and more, I’m thinking it’s smart work.
Stay tuned. I’m going to have to change some habits, learn some stuff, translate documentation into human-readable forms, and keep you posted on how things go.
Bruce Schneier’s a security specialist with his own Internet meme. And while most people believe that technology elevates, improves things, Schneier holds that technology magnifies, makes things bigger, good and…