Anti-Surveillance Technology


Recently China implemented new restrictions on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), by introducing the requirement for VPN providers to be registered with the Chinese Government. VPNs are very popular in China as a means of getting around the Chinese Government’s internet monitoring and censorship programme that goes under the euphemism of the “Great Firewall of China”.   Given the ability of VPNs to break state censorship it is not surprising that the Chinese government has initiated a clamp-down on their use. The internet monitoring busting capabilities of VPNs is something that the UK Government may have to face in the near future following the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Act (IP Act) and the Digital Economy Act (DE Act).  Both of these will drive an increased use of VPNs in the UK. In the case of the IP Act VPNs are likely to be employed by internet users to […]

What Chance a UK Ban on VPNs?


In a very interesting article on the Slate website Kevin Bankston highlights that despite claims by some law enforcement officials that encryption is a tool that will allow criminals to evade justice, the use of strong encryption actually helps to reduce crime. Bankston points out that although it is true that criminals will make use of encryption technology to shield their activities, the use of the technology will overall prevent millions of crimes.  For example smartphone theft is at epidemic proportions, with millions being stolen annually which often involves robberies which are by definition violent crimes.  However, strong encryption will block the criminals from using the commonly available tools to unlock a smartphone, rendering it useless to them. The article also highlights that criminals are increasingly not just interested in the phone, but also the personal and other data contained on it which can for example, allow them to commit […]

Smartphone encryption will help cops more than it hurts them


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a tool called Privacy Badger to allow web users to block tracking cookies and spying adverts which ignore the Do Not Track setting in browsers.  Privacy Badger is not an ad blocker and adverts which do not contain tracking functionality, or respect Do Not Track settings are not blocked. Privacy badger also offers some protection against browser fingerprinting (see Panopticlick) by blocking third-party domains that use the technique, although it is not totally effective against what is a very sophisticated and subtle form of tracking. The plug-in is currently available for Chrome and Firefox and can be found and downloaded here.

EFF Release Privacy Badger Browser Plug-in to Stop Online Tracking



Yasha Levine reports on the PandoDaily website on how the U.S. Government has and continues to fund internet tools that provide anonymity and privacy such as Tor, CryptoCat and Open Whisper Systems. The article provides an interesting insight into the activities and history of the blandly named Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which has its origins in the cold war, and the way money passes through BBG controlled Radio Free Asia and the stations Open Technology Fund, to groups and individuals developing various privacy technologies. Although the author questions whether privacy activists should be accepting funding from the US Government, a probably more important question is why the US Government would want provide funding to organisations and individuals to develop technology that provides protection from surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s GCHQ etc.  This is a question very rarely discussed by privacy campaigners or journalists, […]

Internet Privacy Funded by Spooks: A Brief history of the ...


Neil McAllister reports on The Register website that an audit of the TrueCrypt disk-encryption software has been completed and confirms that it is secure and there is no evidence of back-doors, or serious design flaws in its code. Attention became focused on the ongoing audit of TrueCrypt after the anonymous developers of the software mysteriously abandoned its ongoing development in May 2014. The potential loss of TrueCrypt was an issue for people who rely on encryption to protect their data such as Journalists. However, a number of other disk encryption systems are under development based on the TrueCrypt source code such as CipherShed and VeraCrypt. The actual report on the audit of TrueCrypt can be found Here.

Audit Confirms TrueCrypt is Secure


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Kevin Rawlinson reports on the BBC news website that the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), has issued a report which states that banning online anonymity networks such as Tor, would not be technologically feasible. POST, which provides analysis and advice to MPs on public policy issues related to science and technology also stated that there was: “widespread agreement that banning online anonymity systems altogether is not seen as an acceptable policy option in the UK”. The report highlights that anonymity often had legal and socially useful benefits such as protection of whistleblowers. While trying to block such sites would present significant technical challenges, as demonstrated by the difficulties the Chinese government is having with trying to block access to Tor in order to enforce bans on unauthorised websites. The report contradicts the view of Prime Minister David Cameron, who earlier this year said that law enforcement should be […]

Banning Tor unwise and not feasible, MPs told



Jane Wakefield reports on the BBC News website that researchers have identified a threat to browser security from software designed to block advertisements. PrivDog, a tool designed to block ads and replace them with ones from “trusted sources” has been found to compromise a layer of the internet known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) which is used to safeguard online transactions.  It follows the discovery of a similar problem with Superfish software pre-installed on some Lenovo computers. PrivDog said in a statement issued on 23rd Feb 2015: The potential issue is not present in the PrivDog plug-in that is distributed with Comodo Browsers and Comodo has not distributed this version to its users.  There are potentially a maximum of 6,294 users in the USA and 57,568 users globally that this could potentially impact. “The potential issue has already been corrected. There will be an update tomorrow, which will automatically update […]

Ad-blocking software is ‘worse than Superfish’


The Russia Today website reports that Mozilla are teaming up with Tor to provide increased internet security by allowing Firefox browser users to easily access the Tor network. Undertaken as part of the so called Polaris project, it aims to significantly improve internet privacy as well as combating internet censorship. The article highlights that although internet privacy is often a topic of conversation, it is yet to go mainstream; with many ordinary computer users put off by perceived complexity.  However, Mozilla hope the Polaris project will help to change these stereotypes.

Mozilla team-up with Tor to improve internet privacy


James Vincent reports in the Independent that Facebook is to allow a Tor link to its site via a special URL for users who wish to stay anonymous as possible.  Prior to this link, access to Facebook via Tor was essentially blocked by the sites security protocols. Users will not be anonymous to Facebook as they still have to log on; however, anyone monitoring the internet connection will not be able to identify the user or the user’s location.  This could be useful in countries like Iran, China and North Korea where Facebook is blocked for fear that it will be used by opposition movements.

Facebook offers Tor link for users that prefer to stay ...



Sean Gallagher writes on the arstechnica website that the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs is offering a reward of 3.9 million rubles ($110,000) to any Russian citizen or company that can identify users of  the popular Tor network, which allows internet users to conceal their web browsing activities from much Government surveillance. Gallagher highlights that: Tor has been the constant target of intelligence agencies and other entities seeking to unmask anonymous Internet users. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the NSA and GCHQ made multiple attempts to break Tor users’ anonymity. Malware exploiting a Firefox vulnerability was used to unmask users of “hidden services” on Tor last year and may have been part of an effort by the FBI to crack down on Freedom Host, a Tor server provider, as part of a child pornography case. The  Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has previously sought to […]

Russia offers $110,000 to crack Tor