Sunday, February 11, 2018

Has Beijing Doing Cyber Espionage on the African Union?

Even though they had donated the building and the computer equipment, has Beijing been conducting cyber espionage work on the African Union headquarters during the last five years?

By Ringo Bones 

The 200-million US dollar headquarters in Addis Ababa – including the computer system - was fully funded and built by China and opened to great fanfare back in 2012. Many in the West see it as a symbol of Beijing’s thrust for influence in Africa and access to the continent’s natural resources. Then an article published back in Friday, January 2, 2018 in the French publication Le Monde quoting anonymous African Union sources – which included IT technicians – reported that data from computers in the Chinese-built building had been transferred nightly to Mainland Chinese servers during the past five years. After the massive hack was discovered a year ago, the building’s IT system including the servers was changes, according to Le Monde. During the sweep for bugs after the discovery, microphones hidden in desks and the walls were also detected and removed, the newspaper reported. 

Sadly, despite of the report’s credibility, Chinese and African Union officials that gathered in Addis Ababa for the bloc’s annual summit both denied Le Monde’s report. China’s ambassador to the African Union, Kuang Weilin, recently called the article “ridiculous and preposterous” and said its publication was intended to put pressure on relations between Beijing and the African continent. 

When asked about the report, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who assumed the African Union chairmanship this year, said that he did not know anything about it. “But in any case, I don’t think there is anything done here that we would not like people to know,” he told reporters after a meeting of African heads-of-state. “I don’t think spying is the specialty of the Chinese, We have spies all over the place in this world,” Kagame said. “But I will not have worried about being spied on in this building.” Kagame’s only concern, he said, was that the African Union should have built its own headquarters, instead of China. “I would only have wished that in Africa we got our act together earlier on. We should have been able to build our own building.”

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Are Filipino Facebook Content Moderators Compromised?

Rumors are abound online, but are Filipino Facebook content moderators actually bribed to remove content critical to Vladimir Putin, the Beijing Communist Party and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte from Facebook? 

By: Ringo Bones 

I first heard it back in Friday, February 2, 2018 that a whistleblower had acquired proof that Filipino Facebook content moderators had been receiving bribes from various entities to advance their respective political ends by removing Facebook posts critical of them. Even though someone from the BBC had taken the story seriously but is still awaiting verification on the authenticity of the material – which means it could be a big story two weeks from now. But is there any truth to the story that Filipino Facebook content moderators are taking bribes? 

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook started to hire additional personnel in the form of “content moderators” back in 2014 to control the tide of “propaganda posts” by the so-called Islamic State that showcased beheadings of western NGOs, charity workers and journalists caught up in their violent and bloody empire building in the wake of the Syrian civil war. It is not just “gruesome beheadings” that these so-called moderators block from being posted on Facebook. These also include inappropriate posts of pornographic nature – i.e. the so-called “dick pics” and their ilk. But since the so-called Islamic State is now in the wan, many of this so-called “Facebook Content Moderators” have branched out to do other tasks - sadly, they have the power to declare whichever of your posts is “spam” at their own discretion if they are not caught by their superiors.

Filipino Facebook Content Moderators are typically paid around 24,000 pesos a month – around 376 UK pounds (quid) or a little over 500 US dollars – which is twice that the typical salary of a public school teacher here in the Philippines. Rumors started to circulate around the middle of last year after one of the moderators who is actually working for Amnesty International infiltrated the center after it was found out that there are Filipino Facebook content moderators who are paid by the Kremlin with up to 10,000 US dollars if they block video posts on Facebook that are taken by Amnesty International operatives in Syria that show Russian troops and planes loyal to Bashar Al Assad committing war crimes. 

American and European non-government organizations and charity groups critical of the current Philippine president who recently compared himself to Adolf Hitler – i.e. Rodrigo Duterte – on his handling of the Philippines’ so-called drug problem got their Facebook pages either blocked or made “unvisitable” in the Philippines. Should there be an ethics committee serving as an oversight on Filipino Facebook Content Moderators?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Could The Ransomware Cyber Attacks Trigger A Malware Apocalypse?

Given that it was originally revealed as an NSA creation by Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing, could the recent WannaCry Ransomware cyber attacks someday trigger a malware apocalypse? 

By: Ringo Bones

The so-called “Zombie Apocalypse” might have been only a product of Hollywood, but the recent Ransomware malware attacks is not only real but painfully tangible for us who have grown dependent to the global internet infrastructure. The WannaCry Ransomware cyber attacks started back in May 12, 2017 and traced to be triggered in the Hong Kong – Singapore time zone in the South-East Asian region and then spread to over 150 countries. The worst-hit countries were reported to be Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan. It eventually infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries but got press notice only after the malware affected Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) and scores of children’s hospitals in the UK. 

The WannaCry Ransomware was found to specifically infect systems that have not been updated with the most recent security updates – especially the one issued by Microsoft back in March 14, 2017. The Ransomware malware also managed to scare the pants off of conspiracy theorists after I.T. experts found out that it uses the EternalBlue Exploit developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) as revealed by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden. 

It got the moniker “Ransomware” after the NSA-developed malware got into the hands of criminal hackers who extorted money to computer system owners affected by their malware attack. They usually ask for 500 to 600 U.S. dollars worth in bitcoins to restore their computer systems into full working order. Sadly, there are variants of the Ransomware malware that doesn’t have the kill-switch that can be turned off by the criminal hackers after you pay then the required bitcoin funds.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Adblockers: Online Protection Racket?

Given their “proviso” for a whitelist so that your ads will still be displayed when they’re installed, are adblockers nothing more than a 21st Century online protection racket? 

By: Ringo Bones 

The “whitelist” proviso of some leading adblockers out there, the most notorious of which is Adblock Plus’ Whitelist that allows “acceptable” ads to show or punch through once the Adblock Plus application is installed in your personal computer or smartphone had many comparing it to an online protection racket after it was leaked that if a company or agency wants to get into Adblock Plus’ “Whitelist”, all they have to do is to pay the company who runs Adblock Plus this amount of money to be included on their so-called “Whitelist”. If this is not a bona fide protection racket, I don’t know what is. 

As of late, the online adblocking industry had engendered a so-called online adblocking arms race where some firms already have created and successfully tested easily installable applications that can block the adblockers for those firms who find that Adblocker Plus’ “Whitelist” fee just too rich for their blood.
On of these blockers for adblockers applications is Page Fair which according to the firm aimed to benefit small to medium scale mom and pop online publishers and content providers to circumvent Adblocker Plaus and other adblocker apps from depriving them of their revenue. Given that current adblocker apps are a threat to online free enterprise comparable to Stalin era Marxist-Leninist socialism, why are a growing number of netizens are installing them in the first place? 

The adblocker apps’ original raison d’être was to block annoying ads from popping up when a typical netizen is doing online research. Sadly, the latest versions of adblockers – especially those that are bundled with the latest personal computer and smartphone operating systems are no longer provided with an on-off switch. Worse still, unless you are a high level information technology engineer who knows how to check the subroutine and / or source-code of the operating system of the desktop personal computer, smartphone, tablet or other smart device you are currently using, your device doesn’t tell you that there is some form of adblocking application installed in the device you are currently using to surf the web – it only tells you once you’ve visited an internet site with an adblock detector that tells you that you can only proceed further once you’ve turned off your adblock app. Sadder still, the latest adblock apps don’t come with an on-off switch. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Panama Papers Leak: The Largest Data Leak In History?

Shown to be bigger than 2010 WikiLeaks or the Edward Snowden leak of 2013, is the Panama Papers Leak of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseka the largest online data leak so far?

By: Ringo Bones 

Despite and online publication about it is currently being blocked by Baidu – The People’s Republic of China’s equivalent of Google and the only search engine permitted to function in Mainland China by the Beijing Communist Party – the Panama Papers Leak of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseka is currently revealed to be the largest online data leak ever. It is larger, in fact, than the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and the secret intelligence documents given to journalists by former U.S. National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden in 2013 – but actually, how big is it? 

There are 11.5 million documents and 2.6 terabytes – or about 260 gigabytes – of information drawn from Mossack Fonseca’s internal database. By way of comparison, the 2010 WikiLeaks only consisted of 1.76 gigabytes of data and the Edward Snowden revelations of 2013 is even much smaller in data size despite of the large-scale global political fallout. And because of its size, the Panama Papers Leak could be harder to cyber-censor because proxy sites are probably popping up all over the world-wide-web. The “Great Firewall of China” would be akin to using a sieve to plug a water leak.     

The records were first obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Sϋddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners – including the Guardian and the BBC. The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among the 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens and a significant number of them are incumbent members and immediate families of the Beijing Communist Party. Ever since the news about the Panama Papers Leak went global, Baidu – The People’s Republic of China’s equivalent of Google and the only search engine authorized by the monolithic communist party to operate in Mainland China – had been blocking the story for frat that it may be just a “Western Plot” against the Beijing Communist Party.

A 2-billion US dollar trail leads all the way to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin via the Russian president’s best friend – a cellist named Sergei Roldugin – is at the center of a scheme in which money from the Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin’s daughter Katerina got married. And despite the legality of the leaked documents, Russia’s official news agency had dismissed the revelations as a “Western plot” against Vladimir Putin. 

Among the other national leaders revealed by the Panama Papers Leak to have offshore wealth are Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq Ayad Alawi, president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, Alaa Mubarak – son of Egypt’s former president and the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíỗ Gunnlsughsson. And what irked the international community most is on how Mossack Fonseca helped governments that are under imposed economic sanctions by the UN Security Council to still do business with impunity – like North Korea and Russia since the unlawful Donetsk Region annexation by the Putin regime.    

Mossack Fonseca is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. It administers offshore firms for a yearly fee. Other services include wealth management. The firm is Panamanian but runs a worldwide operation. Its website boasts of a global network with 600 people working in 42 countries. It has franchises around the world, where separately owned affiliates sign up new customers and have exclusive rights to use its brand. Mossack Fonseca operates in tax havens including Switzerland, Cyprus and British Virgin Islands and in the British crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.