January 19, 2017
Let us reminiscence for a moment (and if you like you can visit the Internet archive) about the Internet’s early days, circa late 1990s. It was a magic time, because there were chatrooms, instant messaging, and forums. The Internet has not changed these forms of communication much, although chatrooms are pretty dead, but one great thing about the early days is that the Internet was mostly anonymous. With the increase in tracking software, IP awareness, and social media, Internet anonymity is reserved for the few who are vigilant and never post anything online. Sometimes, however, you want to interact online without repercussions and TechCrunch shares that “Secret Founder Returns To Anonymous Publishing With Launch Of IO.”
David Byttow, Secret co-founder, started the anonymous publishing app IO that is similar to Postcard Confessions. IO’s purpose is to:
IO is a pseudo-resurrection of Secret that Byttow told us in November came into being partly because “the downsides of current social media products MUST be addressed,” an imperative he felt was especially urgent following the results of the last U.S. election. IO’s stated mission is to achieve “authentic publishing,” by which Byttow means that he’s hoping users having an option to publishing either anonymously, using a pseudonym or as their actual selves will allow for easier sharing of true thoughts and feelings.
IO really does not do much. You can type something up, hit publish, but it is only shared with other people if you attach social media links. You can remain anonymous and IO does include writing assistance tools. I really do not get why IO is useful, but it does allow a person to create a shareable link without joining a forum, owning a Web site, etc. Reddit seems more practical, though.
Whitney Grace, January 19, 2016
January 17, 2017
Unsuspecting Royal Mail postmen are delivering narcotics and drugs ordered over Dark Web to punters and buyers with much efficiency. Taking cognizance of the fact, The Home Office is planning an investment of GBP 1.9 billion over next five years to fight this new face of crime.
The Sun in an article titled Royal Mail Postmen Unknowingly Deliver Drugs Parcels Bought From the Dark Web says:
Royal Mail postmen are unknowingly delivering drug parcels bought from the dark web, it has been revealed. Millions of pounds of drugs are bought online every day via the dark web and shipped to punters anonymously.
The postmen, however, cannot be blamed as they are ill-equipped to find out what’s hidden inside a sealed parcel. Though drug sniffing dogs exist on paper for the Royal Mail, many postmen say they never saw one in their service life. Technology is yet to catch-up with dogs that can sniff out the drugs.
As the postmen are being put at risk delivering these packages, the Home Office in a statement said:
We have committed to spending £1.9bn on cybersecurity over the next five years, including boosting the capabilities of the National Crime Agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit, increasing their ability to investigate the most serious cybercrime.
Law enforcement agencies, including the ones in the US will have to invest in detecting and preventing such crimes. So far the success ratio has been barely encouraging. Till then, unsuspecting people will be used as pawns by cybercriminals, royally!
Vishal Ingole, January 17, 2017
January 13, 2017
The Dark Web continues to be under the microscope. Sophos’ blog, Naked Security, published an article, The Dark Web: Just How Dark Is It? questioning the supposed “dark” motivations of its actors. This piece also attempts to bust myths about the complete anonymity of Tor. There is an entry guard, which knows who the user is, and an exit node, which knows the user’s history and neither of these are easy to avoid. Despite pointing out holes in the much-believed argument full anonymity always exists on Tor, the author makes an effort to showcase “real-world” scenarios for why their average readers may benefit from using Tor:
If you think a web site is legitimate, but you’re not completely sure and would like to “try before you buy,” why not take an incognito look first, shielding your name, your IP number, even your country? If you’re investigating a website that you think has ripped off your intellectual property, why advertise who you are? If you want to know more about unexceptionable topics that it would nevertheless be best to keep private, such as medical issues, lifestyle choices or a new job, why shouldn’t you keep your identity to yourself? Similarly, if you want to offer online services to help people with those very issues, you’d like them to feel confident that you’ll do your best to uphold their privacy and anonymity.
We’re not convinced — but perhaps that is because the article put its foot in its mouth. First, they tell us Tor does not provide full anonymity and then the author attempts to advocate readers use Tor for anonymity. Which is it? More investigation under a different lens may be needed.
Kenny Toth, January 13, 2017
January 10, 2017
From emails to Netflix and Uber account information to other personally identifiable information has long been for sale on the Dark Web. A recent article from Fast Company, On The Dark Web, Medical Records Are A Hot Commodity, shares that medical records are the latest offerings for sale on the Dark Web. Medical records sold in these marketplaces usually include an individual’s name, birthdate, social security number and medical information. They fetch the relatively high price of $60 a piece, in comparison to social security numbers at $15. The article explains more,
On the dark web, medical records draw a far higher price than credit cards. Hackers are well aware that it’s simple enough to cancel a credit card, but to change a social security number is no easy feat. Banks have taken some major steps to crack down on identity theft. But hospitals, which have only transitioned en masse from paper-based to digital systems in the past decade, have far fewer security protections in place.
Cybercrime of medical records is potentially life-threatening because oftentimes during the theft of medical records, data showing allergies and other vital information is erased or swapped. Hopefully, the amount of time it took the medical industry to transition from paper to electronic health records is not representative of the time it will take the industry to increase security measures.
Megan Feil, January 10, 2017
December 15, 2016
Incidences of law enforcement agencies arresting criminals for selling their services on Dark Web are increasing. However, their success can be attributed to the foolishness of the criminals, rather than technological superiority.
Cyber In Sight in a news report titled IcyEagle: A Look at the Arrest of an Alleged Dark Web Vendor, the reporter says:
the exact picture of how law enforcement has managed to track down and identify Glende remains unclear, the details released so far, provide an interesting behind the scenes view of the cybercrime-related postings we often highlight on this blog.
The suspect in this case inadvertently gave details of his service offerings on AlphaBay. Cops were able to zero on his location and managed to put him under arrest for drug peddling. The report reveals further:
An undercover officer purchased stolen bank account information from IcyEagle in March and April 2016, according to the indictment. Interestingly, Glende was also arrested by local police for selling drugs around the same time. A tip from U.S. Postal Inspectors led to police officers finding a “trove” of drugs at his Minnesota home in March.
It is thus apparent that the criminals, in general, are of the opinion that since they are selling on Dark Web, they are untraceable, which clearly is not the case. The trace, however, was possible only because the suspect handed it over himself. Hackers and real cyber criminals are still out of the ambit of law enforcement agencies, which needs to change soon.
Vishal Ingole, December 15, 2016
December 14, 2016
Google‘s dominance on our digital lives cannot be refuted. The tech giant envisages that the future of computing will be Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the search engine leader is all set to dominate it once again.
Arabian Business in a feature article titled Inside Google’s Brave New World, the author says:
The $500bn technology giant is extending its reach into hardware and artificial intelligence, ultimately aiming to create a sophisticated robot that can communicate with smart-device users to get things done.
The efforts can be seen in the form of company restructuring and focus on developing products and hardware that can host its sophisticated AI-powered algorithms. From wearable devices to in-home products like Google Home, the company is not writing powerful algorithms to answer user queries but is also building the hardware that will seamlessly integrate with the AI.
Though these advances might mean more revenue for the company and its shareholders, with Google controlling every aspect of our working lives, the company also needs to address the privacy concerns with equal zeal. As the author points out:
However, with this comes huge responsibility and a host of ethical and other policy issues such as data privacy and cybersecurity, which Google says its teams are working to resolve on a day-to-day basis.
Apart from Google, other tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple too are in the race for AI dominance. However, the privacy concerns remain there too as the end user never knows, how and where the data collected will be used.
Vishal Ingole, December 14, 2016
December 13, 2016
Paranoid internet users and people with weird secretive fetishes alike, rejoice! DuckDuckGo will soon be vastly improved. The article does not state an exact date for this new functionality to be revealed, but it is coming soon.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 13, 2016
December 13, 2016
Tor users have nil or very limited options to surf Underground Web anonymously as Android-powered phones still manage to scrape user data. The Tor Project intends to beat Google at its own game with Tor-enabled smartphone.
An article that appeared on arsTechnica and titled Tor Phone Is Antidote to Google “Hostility” Over Android, Says Developer, says:
The prototype is meant to show a possible direction for Tor on mobile. We are trying to demonstrate that it is possible to build a phone that respects user choice and freedom, vastly reduces vulnerability surface, and sets a direction for the ecosystem with respect to how to meet the needs of high-security users.
The phone is powered by custom-made CopperHead OS and can be run only on Google Nexus or Pixel hardware phones. Of course due to high technicalities involved, it is recommended only for Linux geeks.
For voice calls, according to the article:
To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal.
Google’s Android is an Open Source platform that OEMs can customize. This creates multiple security threats enabling hackers and snoopers to create backdoors. CopperHead OS, on the other hand, plugs these security holes with verified boot and also stops Google Play Store from overriding native apps. Seems the days of mobile Tor are finally here.
Vishal Ingole, December 13, 2016
December 12, 2016
Peer-to-peer file sharing gets a boost with AlphaReign, a new torrent sharing site that enables registered users to share files anonymously using Distributed Hash Table.
TorrentFreak in an article titled Alphareign: DHT Search Engine Takes Public Torrents Private says:
AlphaReign.se is a new site that allows users to find torrents gathered from BitTorrent’s ‘trackerless’ Distributed Hash Table, or DHT for short. While we have seen DHT search engines before, this one requires an account to gain access.
The biggest issue with most torrent sites is The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the sites (if possible) and the search engines from displaying search results on the search engine result page. As content or torrent indexes on AlphaReign are accessible only to registered users, seeders and leechers are free to share files without risking themselves.
Though most files shared through torrents are copyrighted materials like movies, music, software and books, torrents are also used by people who want to share large files without being spied upon.
AlphaReign also manages to address a persistent issue faced by torrent sites:
AlphaReign with new software allows users to search the DHT network on their own devices, with help from peers. Such a system would remain online, even if the website itself goes down.
In the past, popular torrent search engines like YTS, KickAssTorrents, The Pirate Bay, Torrentz among many others have been shut down owing to pressure from law enforcement agencies. However, if AlphaReign manages to do what it claims to, torrent users are going to be the delighted.
Vishal Ingole, December 12, 2016
December 9, 2016
I love Google. You love Google. Everyone loves Google so much that it has become a verb in practically every language. Google does present many problems, however, especially in the inclusion of paid ads in search results and Google searches are not academically credible. Researchers love the ease of use with Google, but there a search engine does not exist that returns results that answer a simple question based on a few keywords, NLP, and citations (those are extremely important).
It is possible that a search engine designed for academia could exist, especially if it can be subject specific and allows full-text access to all results. The biggest problem and barrier in the way of a complete academic search engine is that scholarly research is protected by copyright and most research is behind pay walls belonging to academic publishers, like Elsevier.
Elsevier is a notorious academic publisher because it provides great publication and it is also expensive to subscribe to it digitally. The Mendeley Blog shares that Elsevier has answered the academic search engine cry: “Introducing Elsevier DataSearch.” The Elsevier DataSearch promises to search through reputable information repositories and help researchers accelerate their work.
DataSearch is still in the infant stage and there is an open call for beta testers:
DataSearch offers a new and innovative approach. Most search engines don’t actively involve their users in making them better; we invite you, the user, to join our User Panel and advise how we can improve the results. We are looking for users in a variety of fields, no technical expertise is required (though welcomed). In order to join us, visit https://datasearch.elsevier.com and click on the button marked ‘Join Our User Panel’.”
This is the right step forward for any academic publisher! There is one thing I am worried about and that is: how much is the DataSearch engine going to cost users? I respect copyright and the need to make a profit, but I wish there was one all-encompassing academic database that was free or had a low-cost subscription plan.
Whitney Grace, December 9, 2016