Told you so

Dear Reader,

Nobody likes the headline, told you so. But on this occasion it is needed.

On diablog I have been advocating privacy for well over a decade. And I warned you on multiple occasions, that the data you hand out, will be used against you.

Here now is a report from  Slashdot here:

Admiral Charges Hotmail Users More For Car Insurance (thetimes.co.uk)

One of Britain’s biggest car insurers has admitted increasing premiums for drivers who apply using a Hotmail account. From a report:

Motorists seeking cover from Admiral could be charged $45 extra if they use certain email addresses. The insurer said some domain names were “associated with more accidents” than others, raising applicants’ risk profile. Figures from the Association of British Insurers to be published today show that the cost of car insurance has increased by more than a quarter over the past three years. Admiral said that hundreds of factors were used by underwriters in setting car insurance, with riskier motorists paying more. Issues included the age of a driver and their postcode.

Can you now please act? How much worse does it have to get?

This is a prime example of the stupidity of “big data”.

Stay sane,

Engine Room

untie the knot

Dear Reader,

After the Brexit referendum Glynsky and I debated a lot. We were equally surprised to learn, Glynsky was pro Brexit, and I was against. Not that I had a vote.

After a few arguments, which got quite heated, we agreed to disagree. The always wise Glynsky ended our debate with: “Nobody can predict the future.” I agreed, of course.

Ever since I have been following the news about Brexit. And with news I mean the facts, not the cacophony of opinions, wishes, dreaming, infighting, and inflated egos.

I watched the rising prices in the UK, the continuing losses of jobs, the 32% drop in M&A deals, the decline of real estate value, the downgrading of the UK credit rating by Moody’s. And Brexit hit close to home. Family members, working in the UK for international organizations, were told to look for other positions within their organizations, but outside the UK.

During our debates Glynsky said, the EU needs the UK as much as the UK needs the EU. When challenged, he referred to the EURO clearing and the bond market at London Stock Exchange, and the transatlantic cables to the US. He considered those “must haves” for the EU. That was roughly 15 months ago.

In the meantime the Deutsche Boerse in Frankfurt started offering lower commission on EURO clearing. And the EU started the process for a new law, requiring EURO clearing to happen within the EURO zone.

Plus, an insider told me, the German state of Hesse wants its own direct cable from NYC, across the Atlantic, through the rivers Rhine and Main, directly into Frankfurt.

I interpret these actions, more than anything else, that the EU is preparing for what is called a hard Brexit.

Stay tuned,

Engine Room

Blue eye for Bluetooth

Dear Reader,

Posts about computers are not very popular on diablog. One could even say, they are unpopular. Yet, for your own safety, please, bare with me.

One of the reasons for the lack of popularity might be, that a lot of people are unaware, how often they are using a “computer”.

Prime example, do you use a smartphone? Great, that’s a computer. Do you own a smart TV? That’s a computer. And so is your car, and probably you fridge, and your internet router, and your electricity and/or gas meter, and, and ….

Why do I bother you with that? Because today it was revealed that Bluetooth has major security holes.

Blue what?

Bluetooth is a wireless technique invented in 1994, 23 years ago. It is in use heavily. Bluetooth is in almost all smartphones and laptops. For years now it has been bundled with WiFi on the hardware level. So Bluetooth is pretty much everywhere.

And today a research company published security holes in Bluetooth. Unfortunately, Bluetooth did not go with what is called “Opt-in”, where you have to activate it. Bluetooth is active by default. You have to ppt-out, so to speak.

If you own a laptop or a smartphone, please turn off Bluetooth.

 

If you do not know how, please ask someone who does.

You and we all will have enough problems with all the “internet of things” devices, where one cannot turn off Bluetooth easily. We do not want a gazillion hacked smartphones and laptops on top of that, do we?

Please, do it now.

Thanks in advance,

Engine Room

Bad luck – good luck

Dear Reader,

My love for espresso is well documented here on Diablog. A few weeks ago my espresso machine died. First the gasket went. I had pushed too much, my fault. Yet, after some hustle I bought a new gasket from a small lovely store. The gaskets I had ordered online previously never arrived. So much for that.

Nevertheless, replacing the seal was easy and things were fine again. I was back on my drug.

And then the machine died for good. The on/off switch did not work properly anymore, and steam was coming out of strange places. This was far beyond my repair capabilities. And after almost six years of constant use, I was not too sad. Remember, I had paid a mere $20 for it.

When I had bought the gasket, the shop owner informed me, that what I thought was an AEG machine was in fact a DeLonghi. It seems, DeLonghi is selling its espresso makers under various labels, like Krups, AEG and what not.

So this time DeLoghi machines were included in my flea market hunt for a new/old machine.

And my luck, I found:

a DeLonghi ECP31 at a bargain of $25.

It is dead simple, easy to use, has high pressure of 15bar, and most importantly makes absolutely delicious espresso.

Bonus, when a friend dropped off the old machine at the recycling center, one of the employees asked to have it for repair.

Consider me a very happy camper again, going to make an espresso now,

Engine Room

Palemoon instead of Firefox

Dear Reader,

What is your favorite web browser?

For as long as it has been around I have been using Firefox by the Mozilla foundation. And prior to Firefox I used its predecessor, Netscape Navigator.

Microsoft Internet Explorer was used only to install Firefox. Apple fanboys are using Safari quite often, but that’s their problem. The market leader today is Google Chrome. And it is just as bad as Microsoft Edge, which is what Microsoft calls its Internet Explorer now.

Why do people use Chrome? Why would you hand over all your personal browser data to an advertising company??? Beats me.

Occasionally I see friends using Chrome. And there, a lot of websites are so plastered with advertising, that they become almost unusable. It has gotten so bad, that Google is threatening to include an Ad Blocker in its web browser Chrome. Imagine, the advertising company number one complaining about too much advertising. Oh, the irony.

In any case, I never wanted advertising, And Firefox has had Ad Block extensions for many years. Those were among the first things to install.

Unfortunately, Google has been very successful in pushing people to use Chrome. Partially because of its smartphone operating system Android. There Chrome is the pre-installed browser and mobile web browsing counts for half the internet traffic by now. In response websites are following what Google demands And the Mozillla Foundation has been following Google for a while now in its quest to maintain market share. So the Firefox browser is becoming more and more of a Chrome lookalike.

Could Mozilla have known better? Yes. The most popular extension for Firefox is CTR, Classic Theme Restorer. It makes Firefox look and behave like, well, Firefox.

Now besides making Firefox as bad as Chrome, Mozilla is screwing with extensions. And CTR will not work after November 2017. What to do?

Luckily, Firefox is Free Open Source Software. And even better, knowledgeable people have been upset with Mozilla for a while. They took the source code and built what is called a fork.

Say hello to:

You can get it here Pale Moon

Pale Moon is based on the old Firefox. It looks and behaves like Firefox (should). And equally important, the must have extensions work.

Just in case you don’t have those yet, get uBlock Origin and uMatrix. uBlock is the best advertising blocker around, and uMatrix blocks trackers. Don’t go online without them!

Stay safe,

Engine Room

Good news: control your data

Dear Reader,

Diablog is a bit silent right now. The head honcho is still very busy, and so am I. But the following good – or rather excellent – news need sharing.

Let me start with the tl;dr (too long, didn’t read):

The FreedomBox is ready for productive use.

In case you forgot, here now the longer part.

Since 2011 I am advocating for more privacy and for us to take back control over our data. And I am very much against censorship.

Yet, the last five to six years we have seen governments and companies going exactly the other way. The USA, UK, France, Switzerland and even Germany increased mass spying, instead of reducing it. F*c*book, Google, Microsoft and other internet biggies are taking and selling more of your data than ever.

Already in 2011 some very smart people wanted to reverse this mis-development. They started the FreedomBox. And diablog donated to make it happen. In 2012 I wrote this little post explaining it a bit.

Like many software projects it took a while. And since the hardware changed quite dramatically in the meantime, FreedomBox had to adjust. In 2014 I almost lost patience, as you can read here.

Now the developers – thank you debian – announced at debconf17, that the software bundle for a FreedomBox is what is called “stable”. It is ready for productive use.

During the next few weeks I will get one ready and keep you posted.

To quote Craig Ferguson, an American late night talker originally from the UK:

“It is a good day for America”.

Stay tuned,

Engine Room

Stasi UK style

Dear Reader,

As you know, I value privacy. And I have a very strong dislike for snooping governments and companies.

In the run for “which government is spying on its citizens the most”, the UK is aiming for #1.

Your politicians must be scared to no end Are they expecting a revolution?

Here is their latest measure, and I would call it the worst case scenario (quote, emphasis mine):

Leaked: The UK’s secret blueprint with telcos for mass spying on internet, phones – and backdoors

Real-time full-blown snooping with breakable encryption
The UK government has secretly drawn up more details of its new bulk surveillance powers – awarding itself the ability to monitor Brits’ live communications, and insert encryption backdoors by the backdoor.
In its draft technical capability notices paper [PDF], all communications companies – including phone networks and ISPs – will be obliged to provide real-time access to the full content of any named individual within one working day, as well as any “secondary data” relating to that person.
That includes encrypted content – which means that UK organizations will not be allowed to introduce true end-to-end encryption of their users’ data but will be legally required to introduce a backdoor to their systems so the authorities can read any and all communications.
In addition, comms providers will be required to make bulk surveillance possible by introducing systems that can provide real-time interception of 1 in 10,000 of its customers. Or in other words, the UK government will be able to simultaneously spy on 6,500 folks in Blighty at any given moment.
According to the draft, telcos and other comms platforms must “provide and maintain the capability to disclose, where practicable, the content of communications or secondary data in an intelligible form and to remove electronic protection applied by or on behalf of the telecommunications operator to the communications or data.”
The live surveillance of individuals will require authorization from secretaries of state, overseen by a judge appointed by the prime minister. And there are a few safeguards built into the system following strong opposition to earlier drafts of the Investigatory Powers Act.
Closed doors
What will concern many, however, is how the draft paper and its contents are being handled.
The technical capability notices paper has only been provided to a select few companies – mostly ISPs and telcos – on a short four-week consultation, but a copy of the draft found its way to the Open Rights Group, which popped it online today.
According to the document, it has already passed through the UK’s Technical Advisory Board, which comprises six telco representatives – currently O2, BT, BSkyB, Cable and Wireless, Vodafone and Virgin Media – plus six people from the government’s intercepting agencies, and a board chairman.
That means that the contents have already been largely agreed to by most of the organizations that have been included in the closed consultation.
It is unclear whether the Home Office intends to make it available for public comment after that time or whether it will seek to push it through the legislature before anyone outside the consultation group has an opportunity to review it.
The rules will have to be formally approved by both houses of Parliament before becoming law.
You ain’t see me, right?
The process and the approach seem to be purposefully obscure. The rules come under Section 267(3)(i) of the Investigatory Powers Act – a one paragraph section that refers back to Section 253, which covers “Technical capability notices.”
There is no mention of the technical capability notices paper existing either on the Home Office website or on the Gov.uk consultation website. And the only reason we know about it is presumably because someone at one of the few companies that have been sent the draft rules decided to tell Open Rights Group about it.
But what the nine-page document does is provide the government with the legal authority to monitor anyone in the UK in real time, as well as effectively make strong and unbreakable encryption illegal.
This act of stripping away safeguards on people’s private data is also fantastic news for hackers, criminals, and anyone else who wants to snoop on Brits. The seals are finally coming off.
“This lays bare the extreme mass surveillance this Conservative government is planning after the election,” Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton told us in a statement.
“It is a full frontal assault on civil liberties and people’s privacy. The security services need to be able to keep people safe. But these disproportionate powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare and have no place in a democratic society.”

 

 

Imagine what Mrs. MayDay will do after the election.

And I thought we had it bad.

Stay sane,

Engine Room