Posts Tagged ‘Internet Cryptography’

The global future of the surveillance states

December 6, 2019

Knowledge is power.  If I know everything there is to know about you, and you know nothing about me, I have power over you.

That power takes two forms.  One is the power of blackmail.  You would be highly unusual if you not only had never done anything bad, but had never done anything that could be made to look bad.

The other is the power of manipulation.  If I know everything about you, I have an idea of what psychological buttons to push to get you to do what I want.

Edward Snowden, in PERMANENT RECORD, told of how U.S. intelligence agencies are collecting information about the whole American population based on their electronic records and Internet activities.

We know that intelligence agencies use blackmail.  And we know from Shoshana Zuboff’s THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM that corporations such as Google, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica use data about individuals to help advertisers and win election campaigns.

But surveillance is not just American.  if U.S. intelligence agencies are gathering data about foreigners, foreign intelligence agencies must surely be gathering information about Americans.  And if they don’t yet have the technical capability to equal the American effort, it is only a matter of time until they do.

The government of China, for example, has financial and technological power equal to the USA, and the Chinese have an attitude that anything Americans or other Westerners can do, they can out-do.

They already carry surveillance of their own citizens to terrifying lengths, and there is no reason to think they would limit surveillance to their own citizens.

Snowden’s solution is strong encryption of electronic communication.  Individuals may or may not be able to bring their governments under control, he wrote, but they can take action to protect themselves.

There are problems with this.  One is persuading companies such as Google and Facebook to go along with it or persuading individuals to go without the convenience of using Google and Facebook.  After all, the Google and Facebook business model is based on collecting data from their users.

Another is whether they can be any encryption that is truly unbreakable.  Snowdon in his book gives examples of the Tor system of encryption and explains why it is not mathematically and technologically feasible to break it.

I don’t know enough about cryptography to contradict him.  But I do know the history of code-making and code-breaking has been a back-and-forth struggle.


Cypherpunks uncut

August 1, 2012

I think the Internet is potentially one of the greatest tools to promote human freedom and access to ideas and knowledge.  I think it also is potentially one of the greatest tools of Big Brother for surveillance and censorship.  For this reason I was particularly interested in the two-part series on the Cypherpunks on Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow program.  The RT network recently released an uncut version of Assange’s Cypherpunk interviews, which I also viewed with great interest.

The first part is more than an hour long and the second part is two hours long, and my guess is that most people who view this post won’t have the time or the interest to watch them in their entirety.  But I am posting them anyhow, for whoever might be interested, and also am linking to them in my Documentaries menu on the right.

The Cypherpunks are a loose movement whose goal is to promote individual privacy by providing encryption that would allow people to prevent unauthorized people, including government agents, from reading their private communication.  Assange interviewed three notable Cypherpunks—Andy Muller-Maguhn of Germany, a member of the Chaos Computer Club, a hacker organization; Jeremie Zimmerman of France, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net, which advocates for free circulation of knowledge on the Internet; and Jacob Appelbaum of the USA, an independent computer security researcher and a participant in the Tor project to create on-line anonymity systems.

They drew a frightening, but (I think) true, picture of the ability of governments to collect and record every electronic transaction by every individual—e-mails, credit card purchases, Google searches, bank deposits and withdrawals, telephone calls—while themselves operating behind a veil of secrecy.

Applebaum gave an example of a man indicted for posting information on the Internet in violation of a secret law whose text he was not allowed to see.  The judge was allowed to see the law, and the man was acquitted, but presumably the loophole in the law was tightened up.  I have to write “presumably” because there is no way to know.

Muller-Maguhn said that just as the invention of the printing press made everyone a potential reader, the creation of the Internet has made everyone a potential writer.  Anyone, not just professional writers who are able to please professional editors, has the means of writing out what they think and know, and communicating it to the world.  This is valuable and important, and it doesn’t matter that only a little of the writing is of high quality.

These three, and Assange himself, are more libertarian than socialist.  Assange said the three basic freedoms, from which all other freedoms flow, are (1) freedom to communicate, (2) freedom of movement and (3) freedom to engage in economic transactions, and the third may be the most fundamental.  He may have been playing devil’s advocate when he said the latter, but I don’t think so.

I came across these videos on This Day in Wikileaks, a daily blog with daily news and commentary about Wikileaks, Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.  I have put a link to it on my Links menu on the right.

I have put a link to Assange ‘The World Tomorrow’ —Cypherpunks uncut version, the Digital Journal version of the interviews, on my Documentaries menu on the right.

Click on Digital Journal: Cypherpunks Part 1 and Part 2 for the original 25-minute broadcasts.

Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow was broadcast by the RT (Russia Today) network.  It was started by the Russian government for its own purposes, and for that reason should be regarded with skepticism, but it also provides information and ideas not available through the established U.S. TV networks.  In the same way, the Voice of America is an agent of the U.S. government, but provides information to Russians they might not get from their domestic broadcasters.  When I was younger, I never thought I would ever make this comparison, but times have changed.

Julian Assange and the cypherpunks (2)

June 12, 2012

We live in a world in which information about the private lives of individual citizens is becoming increasingly available to powerful organizations and to governments, and in which the activities of powerful organizations and citizens are increasingly hidden from individual citizens.  Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, sought to penetrate the secrecy of powerful organizations and governments.  The cypherpunk movement sought to protect the privacy of individuals through creation and distribution of cryptography.

Assange, on his The World Tomorrow program, interviewed three leading lights of the cypherpunk movement, Andy Muller-Maguhn, a member of the Chaos Computer Club, a German hacker association; Jacob Applebaum, an independent security researcher involved in the Tor project to create an online anonymity system; and Jérémie Zimmerman, co-founder of the French La Quadrature du Net, which advocates free communication on the Internet.

Assange is under house arrest in Britain, facing deportation to Sweden to face charges of sexual misconduct, from which he fears deportation to the United States to faces charges of espionage.  Yet he manages to attract a wide array of fascinating characters to his weekly TV program, people I don’t think I’d get to see otherwise, and he seems to be having a good time doing it.

Click on Digital Journal for summaries, transcripts and commercial-free videos of the latest and previous World Tomorrow broadcasts.

Click on Julian Assange: the Cypherpunk Revolutionary for a long but interesting and sometimes unflattering article by an Australian about Julian Assange’s background