Our Technology Advantage and Freedom of Information

Hackers, whistleblowers, conspiracy theorists, Anonymous; none of these are new to us, yet we’ve found ourselves in amongst some of the most interesting times in the fight for and against transparency of information.

…or perhaps the same things have been happening for hundreds of years, in the same swelling and falling pattern that information seems to flow with. The difference being – and naturally this is what’s piqued my interest – in recent times the fight is digital.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but for someone like me – someone who likes patterns and puzzles and finding out how people and things work – it’s a very curious subject. Information is such a seemingly spurious notion; one person’s heartfelt account of events is another person’s angry loon in need of some medication.  Yet now there are ways to find out if original sources have been tampered with, amateur video recordings during or seconds after big events, and an apparently sizable number of people hungry for the truth.
Psychologically speaking, it’s a minefield. Stray too far into the world of those seeking to know how our governments control their and our information and you find conspiracy theorists aplenty. YouTube is rife with videos claiming both the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Sandy Hook Shooting to be hoaxes with no real injuries, planned by the US Government in order to scare the nation and implement Martial Law.

Sounds crazy and exceedingly disrespectful, right?

There are hundreds of comments passionately stating the same thing on these videos, and yet the theorists don’t back down, they come back with more ‘evidence’. Some of it can be easily dismissed (if you’re interested, here‘s an example), yet some of it begins to look a little suspect if you choose to delve down that particular rabbit-hole…

 

However, unless you have original information from a proven source, how can anyone judge fairly on what is real and what is faked?

Bring in the whistle-blowers and hackers! Edward Snowden, Julian Assange et al have given us substantial proof from source that our Governments willfully withhold information, have a penchant for listening in on us, and commit atrocities ‘for the greater good’. So perhaps we have good reason to listen to those who choose to question what’s on the surface.

In fact our quest for reliable, untampered information has gotten so big and sophisticated it’s becoming even more difficult for those that want to keep things buried. Government and Big Corps(TM) do not have the technological infrastructure to withstand our combined curiosities; they never have. The only difference is that in recent years people have started seeing it as a threat.

In the early days of computer hacking, Kevin Mitnick and even Assange hunted for the truth and were caught by authorities who passed them off as just curious kids. In Mitnick’s biography there are several instances in those hacker halcyon days where people just laughed at his exploits.

You wouldn’t find your LEA doing that today – Assange and Snowden are both in asylum, and hackers all over are being found and either turned informant or imprisoned, it’s no wonder that the hackers of the old days now all work as Security Analysts. Computers are no longer the joke they were back in the 80′s and 90′s – everyone’s wised-up to the fact that they are SRS BSNS.

But as the technologies and social engineering skills required for stopping or tracing and catching hackers, whistleblowers and those on quests for freedom of information advance, so too do the technologies and soft skills that ensure validity of information, and the means of communicating it.  As a shining example, the anonymous communications network project Tor only became something known to the general public through the fall of the Silk Road Marketplace in October 2013. In fact, Tor was initially developed by a US Naval Research Laboratory and continues to be used by them as well as various LEA today. Somehow, Silk Road itself had been operating for six months before a tip was given to the FBI.

If you’re reading this post, you can be anonymous and browsing one of the alternative marketplaces to Silk Road in around 5 minutes, given a Google search and very little need for advanced computer literacy (N.B. If you were actually to engage in illegal activities you would need advanced skills, and I am not in any way condoning any illegal use!).

Governments clamping down against freedom of information, personal privacy, and protesting rights in the digital world only serves to drive it further underground, not eradicate the problem. However, it does produce a very interesting side-effect.

 

In the world of Anonymous – and I’m sure you’ve heard lots about them – there exists an action called ‘doxxing’.  If you’ve not heard of this, it’s simply the act of collecting personal information about someone and usually making it public in some form, but perhaps also to use as blackmail material.  In the beginning Anonymous used doxxing to fight what a majority would call the good fight: naming pedophiles and those involved in producing child pornography, targeting corruption and oppression, and in the course of their involvement in ‘good causes’. Of course a lot was also done for the lulz, in true style when you can be anyone on the internet.

But then the FBI started turning some Anonymous members that they had quietly plucked and threatened with severe arrest penalties, most notably the key LulzSec member Sabu. Doxxing between Anon members had always been around, but with Sabu’s information leading to five V&s and two UK arrests, it seemed to stir up a nest of people who can dox, who like the challenge of doxxing, and remain probably the biggest problem to Anonymous today; themselves.

There are some still out there fighting ‘the good fight’ – proving that the technology is there to remain Anonymous. However scattered above are good examples that go to show people don’t like to stay Anonymous, even subconsciously. Doxxing proves that people leave a trail, and besides Ed Snowden wasn’t worried about Stylometry for nothing.

It’s fascinating, psychologically speaking, how many Anonymous members like to boast about their accomplishments, use pseudonyms, and build on-line alliances, friendships and even romances. They appear to break their anonymity quite easily; do they believe their exploits are illegal, or do they know and not care?

Through all these groups of people, the common threads are of the freedom and flow of information and the notion of the ‘greater good’. These folks believe we are receiving false information, and that Governments aren’t the only ones who can act in the interests of the people.

They’re currently facing a clusterfuck, both from LEAs and from inside, and it’s difficult to know what side to be on.  The best advice I can give anyone who is interested in learning more about anything I’ve covered in this post, is to stay informed and make your own decisions, but keep yourself in check; if anything sounds radical, don’t be easily sucked in.

Also please don’t do anything illegal, even anonymously. I’m not condoning breaking any current laws, merely looking at those who do for the greater good, as well as predicting big things coming in the worlds of digital privacy, security and information. It seems the hive is angry.

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Randomness

I realised I was still tired this afternoon when I was knitting in a car and I couldn’t make 42 stitches stay as 42 stitches.

I’m still swithering (ooh, what a good word that is) about what to be writing here… I have no focus/energy for long posts at the moment. I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with this drivel.

Why does drivel only have one ‘v’? Does anyone pronounce it ‘drive-l’?

While I’m asking questions, why am I still writing this inane post when I should go and take a nice hot soak in the bath before bed? And will I actually press ‘Publish’?

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Throw me a lifeline!!

It’s been far too quiet around these parts, especially for a new blog… must try harder!

Anyhow, I’ve been busily knitting… I seem to have gone from 0 to 5 projects on the go at once,; such is the way of buses and crafting it appears ;)

I thought I’d just quickly make mention of the absolute saviour of my lace-work project: lifelines.

The beauty of lifelines means that if you have to frog back your knitting because of a hitch you don’t have to lose it all, painfully tink back, or try to pick up a row of dropped stitches. I know they are hated by some, but some very experienced knitters in my local knit group use them. They really have saved a special, lace-heavy project for me.

Here is a fantastic link which shows just how easy they are http://theknitter.themakingspot.com/blog/lace-knitting-using-a-lifeline

Happy lifelining :D

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Craft Swappage

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I has an excite! I have been working with the above yarn for a very special project :) The wonderful Clair has organised a secret craft swap, open to all kinds of crafty people! The first swap is underway, but the link to sign up for future swaps is on Clair’s blog.

Between this and another Clapotis I’m making (blog post imminent), I’m really getting back into knitting for the first time in months. I’ve frogged the Swappage project a few times now, but I will not be defeated! The yarn is so gorgeous to work with, but you will have to come back in December when the recipient has the swap to find out all about it ;) In the meantime, expect teasers :D

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It didn’t take me long to post a rant…

… and I’m afraid it’s probably going to cover old ground, but it’s about the NHS.

See, the problem is I have mental health issues.

Now that I’ve gotten that non-revelation out of the way I’ll drop another one… the NHS is shit when it comes to mental health.

The NHS may well be shit when it comes to numerous other things that I don’t have experience about; I have no doubt that will be the case, but “talk about what you know” and all that…

I’m quite frankly fed up of finding it so difficult to get an appointment to talk to my doctor, of being treated with pills and no support, of being talked down to and messed about in the name of “process”.

Now, I understand that the NHS is hugely underfunded when it comes to a lot of things, not least only 13% of the budget going to mental health (see this article for some more scary stats as well as a genuine concern of high rates of mental health problems in women). So we can blame the government and the NHS as an organisation, but there is such a dearth of knowledgeable GPs/practices who are willing to help, that I can’t help but think surely some of the problem comes from ‘those on the ground’.

A couple of the receptionists in my practice have been pretty condescending and rude, my doctor has been sympathetic but has treated me with pills and has had to be pushed to refer to other resources, and apparently the chances of me having a CPN are 0% as I have the “wrong” kind of mental illness.

That’s just *my* story. I have friends that have told me stories a lot worse than this, including premature release from hospital following a suicide attempt. Isn’t that scary? This country’s “system” for dealing with those who are severely incapacitated by mental health is essentially palliative care until a fuss is made; after which you’re left with long waiting times for stretched resources. If you can make a fuss while suffering from (e.g.) severe depression and anxiety, that is… I couldn’t.

I’ve long ago come to terms with using medication to control my symptoms. It’s a cheap method however, and it definitely falls under the remit of palliative care. Hell, it’s barely even that, as you’re sent home with a month’s worth of tablets and a warning that in a couple of weeks you might still feel bad enough to want to “off” yourself, but now with the energy to actually do it.

At least then you’re not a problem case in the NHS system, eh? *puts cynical hat down for now*

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The beginning is the end is the beginning *cue ominous music*

Hello,

It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…

Let’s just start by saying that, although my site has been years in the making, it comes down to me staring at a white text box wondering what the flamin’ ‘eck to write. Knowing that whatever I do, I’ll look back in years to come and scoff at who I was. No pressure or anything…

Ahem, yes, where was I?

Hello,

I aspire to the dream that this website and specifically the blog will one day paint as accurate a picture of ‘me’ as I want to represent to the world at large. Or at small. I don’t hold delusions of grandeur that I will be in any way popular ;)

Oh, bugger, I’ve gotten distracted aga*SQUIRREL*…

I’m giving up on writing this post before I’ve even begun… I think it’s probably given more of an insight into my psyche as anything else I could write. What this place will normally be about is described all over the site, so please go check it out :) This first post in categorised in both Crafts and Personal as it’s my first post, but from now on they will be separated out as much as possible!

If you like the promise from my first bout of randomness, please share the site with all your friends! There are social buttons for every post, RSS feed, and the guarantee of goodies for loyal readers :) xx

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