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Your Guide to Keeping Your Data Private – Part 2

January 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Welcome back for Part 2!  I know, it’s been a long time coming.  If you haven’t already, check out part 1 of this series before continuing. All of the disclaimers given at the start of part 1 remain in full force.  Without further ado… Internet Security Use Firefox for web browsing – Mozilla has no direct connection to any company taking part of PRISM (unlike Internet Explorer and Chrome). Use Firefox Extensions to add security – NoScript is a great little add-on that blocks scripts from running, thus helping to prevent script based attacks. HTTPS Finder and similar add-ons detect when a webpage has HTTPS (encrypted HTTP) and uses it when available.  This encrypts the connection between the site and your computer. Note that many sites have HTTPS but that the HTTPS version of the site may not be intended for public use so formatting issues, loading problems and errors are common. Use “private mode” in your web browser, particularly if using a public computer – it will leave no trace of your activity and will block any tracking cookies. Consider an alternate “private” search engine such as DuckDuckGo which claims not to keep any search records. Now, the above tips help to secure and […]

Did You Hear About the Recent School Shooting In Colorado?

December 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm

If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised.  Here is the rundown: On Friday, December 13th there was a shooting in Colorado at Arapahoe High School in Denver.  A single student entered the school openly carrying a firearm and wearing tactical gear.  He proceeded to shoot a fellow student (who is alive, though in a coma) before taking his own life.  The whole incident was over in 80 seconds. So, why hasn’t this been blown up by the media and run with a new headline hourly since it happened?  Why wasn’t this been reported on as heavily as Sandy Hook, or the Dark Knight shooting in Aurora, CO? The answer is simple, and sickening.  There is no political gain to be made from this horrible tragedy.  There are several reasons for that.  The first of which is the weapon itself.  The shooter was carrying a single firearm.  It was not an AR-15, or an AK-47 or any type of so-called “assault weapon”.  It wasn’t scary looking, and it didn’t have a “hi-capacity” magazine.  It was a shotgun.  The very same weapon Vice President Joe Biden recommended that people purchase. The second reason for the media silence is the shooter.  He was described […]

NSA Phone Records Dragnet “Likely” Unconstitutional

December 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Today it is being reported that a judge in Washington has issued a preliminary ruling that the NSA’s far-reaching collection of telephone call metadata is “likely” in conflict with the Forth Amendment.  The ruling is open to appeal and is not a final ruling that has any immediate impact on the NSA.  While it’s refreshing to see a judge employ some common sense, I think it’s unlikely that anything significant will come of this for a few reasons.  First, this is a judge making a ruling in court.  He’s a member of the judicial branch of the government.  The NSA is also part of the government.  Expecting the government to police itself is on the same level of naivety as expecting a serial murder’s left hand to control the evil impulses of his right.  My second reservation is the simple fact that the government flagrantly disregards its own laws whenever they are inconvenient.  So the judges can judge all they like, and the legislators can legislate until pigs fly; Leviathan will continue matching onward to its own drummer trampling our freedoms with each step. Here is the Guardian’s report on the recent ruling: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/16/nsa-phone-surveillance-likely-unconstitutional-judge Unless otherwise expressly stated, this work is licensed under […]

Pearl Harbor Day

December 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Today is the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  As FDR called it, a “date which will live in infamy”.  For our grandparents this was a defining moment in their lives. This was one of those events which is frozen in time, allowing you to recall where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.  It is what 9/11 has been for my generation.  But it shares another similarity as well. Pearl Harbor could have been avoided.  Just like 9/11, it was the result of foreign intervention on the part of the United States in the affairs of other nations.  The president at the time was Franklin D. Roosevelt.  FDR was relishing the idea of getting the US entangled in World War II but wanted an excuse to do so.  His first attempt was the coordinated attack with Britain on German U-boats in the North Atlantic.  Hitler did not take the bait.  After this first failure, FDR changed his focus to Japan (an ally of Germany).  Japan at the time was in the midst of an industrial revolution and relied heavily on the importation of raw materials and oil for its economic success.  Japan […]

The Roundup: Christie, Kokesh, Sarvis, Minimum Wage and Secession!

November 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Tuesday marked Election Day 2013 around the country.  The majority of positions up for election were local, but there were also two gubernatorial seats up for contest.  In addition there were a number of interesting ballot initiatives.  Let us take a look at some of the week’s events. Election Tuesday Chris Christie won reelection in the New Jersey gubernatorial race by a massive margin of around 20 percentage points.  This was not really a surprise given how he’s been riding the wake of Hurricane Sandy ever since the storm hit the Jersey Shore.  The fact that a Republican has won in such a traditionally “Blue” state has set quite a few tongues wagging about Christie’s bipartisan appeal and his seemingly imminent run for the White House in 2016.  He also brought in a large percentage of the Hispanic and black vote, which are two demographics Republicans always lose to the Democrats.  Christie points out that his success is based on being pragmatic and willing to compromise.  The problem is that Christie misses the mark with many conservatives, because he appears to most as just another moderate Republican.  Sure, he has a sharp rhetorical style, but it often makes him sound […]

I’ve Been Slacking…

October 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Yes, I’ve been a slacker.  I haven’t written or posted in a while and for that I am sorry.  My approach to this blog has been to focus on writing quality content on a “when its ready” publishing schedule.  In my view, that means at least 1,500 words, well thought out, and cited when possible.  I’ll call this the “Research paper” approach.  While it is my choice mode of writing, it’s not feasible as the norm given my numerous other responsibilities, as the sporadic posting history shows. In an effort to keep posts flowing I’m going to try a slightly different approach.  First of all, the “research paper” articles aren’t going anywhere.  I’ll still write them as time permits.  In the meantime, I’ll be trying to post shorter posts on a more frequent basis.  I hope they will act as discussion starters and present ideas in the same manner that the longer posts do, though perhaps without expounding as much.  I may also start expanding the scope of topics.  I will also be posting (reposting) videos and such from others that I think are relevant and worth checking out.  We’ll see how it goes.  Feedback is always welcome! Part 2 […]

Your Guide to Keeping Your Data Private – Part 1

June 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Today we’re kicking off a two part series on securing your digital life.  In this first part we’ll touch on passwords, PC security, and smartphone security.  Consider this the warm up for part two in which we’ll hit the nitty-gritty of securing your information online and in the cloud – where it is most vulnerable to NSA snooping. First off, this guide is not comprehensive.  In it, I will assume that you have some knowledge of the Internet, computers and smartphones.  Also, I will not be held liable for how you use this information. Following these tips does not guarantee that your online presence will be untraceable or completely secure.  As with many things, your results may vary. Second, security is a trade-off.  Generally, the more security layers you enable (and you do want layers) the less user friendly and convenient your environment will become.  That’s just the way it is.  You will have to find the balance between the two on your own.  If you are the only person using your network and you don’t mind the extra time and effort, by all means, build yourself a virtual vault inside a virtual bunker surrounded by a virtual wall and […]

Here We Go Again: NSA Spying on Internet Data of Americans

June 8, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Coming at the heels of Wednesday’s news that the NSA was secretly obtaining hundreds of millions of phone records belonging to American citizens, we have new reports from the Washington Post of yet another Top Secret program targeting Internet data.  Operation code-name PRISM refers to a Top Secret partnership between the NSA and 9 of the top Internet firms in the United States including Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and Apple.  Since the news broke on Thursday officials from the companies involved have been coming forward with denials that they had any knowledge of the program or that the government has direct access to their servers, as alleged by the leaked information on PRISM. Slides released by the Washington Post that outline the program detail the types of data collected which include email, photos, video, chat with voice and video, Voice of IP (VoIP), stored data, file transfers, social networking details, and “special requests”.  Essentially your entire online life is available to the government.  Anything you post to Facebook (regardless of your privacy settings), your emails, your Google Drive files, your photos, and any phone calls or “Hangouts” you are involved in over the Internet are possibly being collected by the government. This is a […]

Verizon Handing Phone Records to NSA

June 6, 2013 at 11:57 pm

The Guardian just broke this gem yesterday.  It would seem that the National Security Administration (NSA) has obtained a top secret court order compelling Verizon to turn over “all call detail records” on an “ongoing, daily basis” for all calls “between the United States and abroad” or those “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” There you have it.  From the issuance of this court order, which took place on April 25, 2013 until its expiration on July 19, 2013 Verizon is ordered to provide the NSA with records on every single local call and call between the US and other countries to traverse the Verizon network.  Verizon is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States.  We are probably talking about hundreds of millions of call records.  This is unfathomable.  By way of this order the government is obtaining just about every detail related to these calls including the telephone numbers of both call participants, the duration of the call, location information, and the time and date of the call.  Essentially the only information the government is not taking as part of this is the actual telephone conversation. This is an unprecedented level of privacy intrusion. […]

Consent and the Nature of Rights

June 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I was recently to a physician, and as is standard these days there was a stack of paperwork that needed to be completed.  Patient information forms, medical history, office financial policy, HIPPA, and consent forms.  What caught my attention was the consent form.  Why is it necessary?  If I scheduled an appointment, is it not obvious that I would like to be examined?  While it is logical to come to such a conclusion, consent must be specifically given.  Consent is an important concept with far reaching implications. From whence does this idea of consent come?  It comes directly from the principle of ownership.  Consent is the engine through which you allow others to utilize, institute change, or exert influence over your person, your property, or other items that are under your control.  Why is consent necessary?  It is the difference between a beneficial transaction, and an act of aggression.  It is choice.  When you enter into a contract you are consenting to its terms.  When you accept a job offer you are consenting to work for an agreed number of hours at an agreed wage and to abide by company policies and procedures.  Every beneficial interaction between individuals requires, at some level, consent. […]