Sunday, 9 June 2013

almost as though someone were watching donkey porn with me

It's about time there is some public focus shone upon the dark underbelly of technology. But it's unfortunate, that at the same time, it's simply the tip of the iceberg. You see, just about every bit of code ever written has certain backdoors and open loops whether deliberate or accidental. Some software has been deliberately crippled in order to allow its compliance with U.S. encryption export laws... Think about that one for a second...

Why should the U.S. hold the monopoly on high encryption? What does this mean for anybody outside Amerika? A long time ago, I bought a copy of "Netscape Navigator" (for you young'ens, this was the predecessor of Firefox), sure it was available as a free download, but the free version had crippled encryption. The paid version required my attestation that I would not sell or lend my copy to China, Iran, Syria, Libya or a whole bunch of other countries that are now seemingly occupied by Amerikan soldiers or might be soon. I thought it odd at the time, but it makes much more sense now having witnessed the history of the past two decades.

It also doesn't hurt that I know much more now than I knew then. You see, that was very early in the commercialization of the ARPANET (under it's rebranded name: internet)... Google didn't even exist yet, or they did, but nobody knew who they were. But already, there were agreements to be signed about not giving 'terrorists' encryption technologies. And already, there was a codified NSAKEY deep inside Microsoft's Windows product. A short while later, there were also 'secret rooms' being built at AT&T's central data hubs whose purpose was to receive an unfiltered replica of all traffic running through the hub.

Many of these things, I read about at different times and never fully put together. Now it's true that the technology required to sift through the jumbled mess that would be a complete dataset of internet hub traffic probably didn't exist when the secret rooms were built, but technology is so much more sophisticated now. Of course the distributed way in which internet traffic moves could also mean that my traffic divides itself between several hubs so the secret rooms would need to exist everywhere a central hub exists, and that data would need to be reconstructed in some central database. Complex, sure, impossible, not at all.

The major problem is that many of the Internet's central hubs (AKA Backbones) exist in the U.S. so there is a while lot of traffic that could pass through the U.S. even if I am in Halifax and accessing a server in Calgary, the traffic could be going through New York without my knowledge. That is the nature of TCP/IP, it specifies where it is from and where it is going, but not how to get from A to B. This is actually what makes it resilient to failures. Maybe the path it takes to get around busy or dead hardware adds a few milliseconds to the round trip, but we humans don't notice much difference. There is also no rule that tells us which country a server is in without looking @ the whois records, and no, the '.ca' does not mean the server is in Canada because I had a .ca hosted in New York (actually, 3 .ca's on the same server).

Heck, there are backdoors built into Windows and other software for use in corporate networks... I've spent years being paid to use those... How else do you think an organization with thousands of computers can install new software in a few hours, or ensure that all of those computers have recent virus definitions or updates? Home users don't get to see that end of it, because these tools are impractical and sometimes even unruly if you are talking about only a few computers. And some servers do away with a visual interface altogether... (Mind you, not Microsoft servers... But even they at least default to looking like it's still 1995)

With all of the potential backdoors and listening posts that are already out there, I laughed really hard when politicians started bantering on about needing an internet kill switch... Why? They likely already have everything they need to use our own computers and communication against us. Maybe they aren't aware of what the shadow operators like the CIA, FBI & NSA already have at their disposal, or maybe the bureaucrats simply don't know how to make it work. But there is a gold mine hidden away in some backroom if that is the case.

I started out my career in IT as a technology enthusiast with infinite curiosity. My enthusiasm for the new and shiny died and was replaced by caution many years ago as words like data mining were born. Delivering customized advertising is the implication I am the least worried about if you stop and think of all the other things which can be done with such vast knowledge of everything I've ever done online. I mean, a friend of mine once started a clothing line called Donkey Porn Industries.... Two out of three of these words when combined would look horrible on a résumé, wouldn't they? I'm not saying you shouldn't be up in arms about government snooping, I'm saying, it's worse than what you've been made aware of.


NOTE: I have tons of unread NEWS in the same topic... I have not yet decided if they will be included in a new post, or comments to this one so you might have to check back here later.


    A long and interesting read that breaks down the 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' straw-man argument on many levels.

    and an entertaining, and really old take on similar 'technologies' which, of course, ends in 'aliens' because that is how these things are holywooded into being some sort of fiction: Try not to take the technojargon too seriously, but the demoralization aspects, and some of the other dialogue is actually pretty 'on point'.

    "Stellar Wind" Yet another 'new' program name... I've also seen "thin thread" the archival system used to organize all this data, and, of course "prism".

    I am beginning to have little doubt in my mind that somewhere, there exists a database of every TCP/IP datagram that's ever been sent anywhere within the U.S. in the past decade.