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. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Can WiFi Routers Kill Houseplants?

Even though the verdict is still out there, can our homes’ and schools’ WiFi routers kill nearby houseplants?  

By: Ringo Bones

Even though the facts behind this assumption was taken from a preliminary conclusion in a school science experiment done back in 2013. Back then, a Danish high school pupil named Lea Nielsen conducted a school science experiment to test whether radio-frequency signals from WiFi routers have deleterious effects on biological beings. Choosing to test on plants for their school’s science project, their results have been viewed with extreme skepticism by the global scientific community. Inexplicably, the global scientific community haven’t done their won more rigorous version of the Danish High School pupil’s school science experiment to test whether WiFi routers have deleterious effects on biological beings and published their results for all to see. 

This WiFi “controversy“ surfaced again after a recent episode of CSI: Cyber used the preliminary conclusions of the Danish High School WiFi experiment to search for a hidden WiFi router by observing dead or dying houseplants in the vicinity. Given that irrefutable results are still out there, can WiFi routers actually kill houseplants and / or inflict deleterious harm on nearby biological beings? 

Using cres plants growing near their school’s WiFi routers that went brown as the basis for their school science experiment, 15-year-old pupils from a school in Denmark decided to run the experiment after noticing that they also had trouble concentrating the morning after sleeping close to their mobile phones. Some scientists suggests that given the radio frequencies emitted by WiFi routers are the same frequencies generated by the magnetron of a microwave oven, it probably affected the hydrogen atoms in the water molecules inside plants and other biological beings in the same way that a microwave oven cooks food or heats a water placed inside the oven in a microwave-safe container. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Farewell Ray Tomlinson

The internet will be a bit sadder place as e-mail inventor Ray Tomlinson passed away.

By: Ringo Bones 

The internet pioneer and e-mail inventor Ray Tomlinson passed away on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at the age of 74 of an apparent heart attack. The US computer programmer came up with the idea of electronic messages that could be sent from one network to another back in 1971. His invention included the ground-breaking use of the “@” symbol in e-mail addresses, which is now standard. 

Ray Tomlinson has sent what is now regarded as the first e-mail while working in Boston as an engineer for the research company Bolt, Beranek and Newman. The firm played a big role in developing an early version of the internet, known as Arpanet. However, Tomlinson later said he could not remember what was in that first test message, describing it as “completely forgettable”. His work was recognized by his peers back in 2012, when he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. 

45 years after the first ever e-mail was sent, such form of internet communication has become so ubiquitous that it has even become a topic of political contention – i.e. US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s ongoing e-mail scandal. And despite of the widespread popularity of “newfangled” social media networks that only began during the first decade of the 21st Century, sending messages and other electronic files via e-mail is still the de rigueur method used by some due to its ease of use in relation to its security in comparison to upstart social media accounts. Will e-mail accounts like those pioneered by Ray Tomlinson as we know it still be around 50 years from now or will it be finally superseded by some much improved version wholly different from what we currently use? 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Apple Versus FBI iPhone Fight: Setting A Dangerous Legal Precedent?

The legal tussle seems like foreshadowing our increasingly “Orwellian Present” but is the current Apple versus FBI iPhone transcend mere legal rigmarole and sets a dangerous legal privacy precedent?

By: Ringo Bones 

The ongoing legal fight between the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple over a specific iPhone 5C owned and used by one of the Islamic State inspired terrorists involved in the San Bernardino, California massacre that happened back in December 2015 is setting up a dangerous legal precedent to everyone who holds dear their right to privacy and civil liberties. The FBI justifies their right to access the “locked contents” of the particular iPhone 5C citing that it is necessary to keep Americans safe from future attacks but is it really that cut-and-died? Other leading tech companies like Google, Amazon and others have sided with Apple in preserving their customers right to privacy and it also raises another question if the rumors are true that the FBI already has the world’s top “White Hat Hackers” working for them – would asking Apple to provide them with a back-door access to the San Bernardino iPhone 5C proof of laziness in the part of the FBI in performing its day-to-day law enforcement related telecommunications forensic duties? 

Currently, the federal government seeks a dramatic extension of a 1977 Supreme Court case of New York Telephone to cover ever-evolving technologies. But lawyers in Apple’s camp argue that it is dangerous to extend that limited endorsement of judicial power over third parties to situations the U.S. Supreme Court never could have envisioned. From a legal perspective, what the FBI currently wants for all intents and purposes sets up a dangerous legal precedent because the federal government’s demand here, at its core, is unbound by any legal limits. It would set a dangerous precedent, in which the federal government could sidestep established legal procedures authorized by thorough, nuanced statutes to obtain users’ data in ways not (yet?) contemplated by lawmakers. 

The way the iPhone 5C’s security feature works is that it automatically erases all of the phone’s data contents after 10 invalid password attempts are entered. But are “White Hat Hackers” currently in tenure of the FBI have the requisite skills to sidestep this clever security set-up? After all, there are rumors circulating out there that the tenured coders at Apple who made possible the clever anti-hack safeguard of the iPhone 5C has “allegedly” based their codes on those “500 to 600 US dollar unhackable phones” that were made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing back in 2005 that had been issued on critical VIPs working for the US State Department.