This week in Techno-Liberty (March 21)

Learning digital security: A new project, the Digital Security Exchange, is dedicated to “helping the U.S. digital security community be more responsive to the needs of civil society groups and high-risk communities.” The introductory article, by Josh Levy, states that “digital security is largely a human problem, not a technical one.” It’s hard for people without much technical knowledge to understand. It will talk with high-risk groups and match trainers up with communities.
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The week in techno-liberty

Varying things a little again, here’s a digest of the top events of the past week in techno-liberty. These will be more substantial pieces than the “newsbits” I tried earlier, but not as extensive as full articles. If it works out, I’ll alternate these with essays. Let me know what you think.
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A bumpy week in government surveillance

William Binney (Wikimedia)It’s been quite a week. It may well be true that Trump was wiretapped, even if he was making it up. NSA whistleblower Bill Binney said, “I think the president is absolutely right. His phone calls, everything he did electronically, was being monitored.” Contrary to Trump’s charge, there’s no evidence Obama had anything to do with it. The intelligence agencies are a power of their own, apart from what any administration tells them to do.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks claims that “the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal.”

WikiLeaks says the archive appears to have been circulated among former government hackers and contractors, one of whom provided WikiLeaks with portions of it. The website says the CIA hacking division involved “more than 5,000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other ‘weaponized’ malware.”

These reports confirm the impression that not much changes in the intelligence world, regardless of who is in office. The “Deep State” goes on. It provides stability, but it creates power centers that no one can do much about. Whether the intelligence agencies barge ahead independent of executive control or Trump replaces the leadership of the intelligence agencies with people loyal to him, it’s bad.

The reports tells us that the intelligence agencies need to resort to exploiting security holes to get information. That’s good news, in a way. It confirms that they don’t have widely usable backdoors into systems. Encrypted applications such as Signal and WhatsApp are still secure, as far as I can tell.

It’s clear that the CIA has its own security problems. We should be glad it doesn’t have backdoor code, or there’s no telling who’d have it by now.

This breach just adds to the reasons to take security seriously. Whether it’s the CIA or some free-lance crook trying to get into your devices, you want to keep them out. This means the usual array of precautions: Use strong passwords, don’t run suspicious attachments, use security software, beware of USB sticks in the mail, set up a firewall, etc. There’s no reason to have high tech just for its own sake, especially considering how many “Internet of Things” devices have utterly sloppy security.

When doing anything on the Internet, remember the words of Barty Crouch, Jr., in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” Especially against Barty Crouch, Jr.

Ooniprobe exposes censorship worldwide

Internet censorship isn’t always obvious. Blocking may come and go, or censors might block just part of a site. Automating detection helps to unmask sneaky blocking attempts. Ooniprobe is a mobile application which lets people in censorship-prone areas contribute to a global picture of what’s hidden.

“OONI” stands for “Open Observatory of Network Interference.” It’s part of the Tor Project.
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Friday news roundup for Feb. 3

This week’s news roundup, with an effort to find more good news:

Brian CheskyAirbnb is offering free housing for refugees and others whom the US has turned away. Co-founder Brian Chesky wrote, “Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected.”

The US government subjected Twitter to two National Security Letters, one in 2015 and one in 2016. The NSLs “requested” “a large amount of data.” The gag orders were lifted only in January 2017.
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Effects of the Muslim ban on the tech world

Trump’s ban on non-citizens (at first including permanent residents) from seven countries entering the US has hurt a broad range of people. Let’s take a look at its effects on the tech world.

Sanaz Ahari LemelsonThe Guardian reports that “the ban dealt a blow to the technology industry, which relies heavily on foreign-born software engineers.” It cites examples such as Sanaz Ahari Lemelson, a Canadian citizen who was born in Iran and has a green card in the US. She’s the director of product management at Google. Her parents, who live in Vancouver, can’t visit her in Seattle.
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