Tag Archives: encryption

A New WikiLeaks-Style Website Is Taking Some Huge Bites Out of Wildlife Crime

WildLeaks is a new website using the internet to target and investigate the kingpins of illegal wildlife activities, such as poaching, the illegal trafficking of tropical pets and deforestation, among other things. The website utilizes Tor technology to ensure anonymity.

WildLeaks’s first major revelation was the story of how Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab had been smuggling ivory to fund their operations.

Founder of WildLeaks Andrea Crosta

“We had our first tip within 24 hours and the response has been beyond our wildest imagination,”

says founder Andrea Crosta, who is also the director of the Elephant Action League. Crosta explains that since many of the major wildlife crime operations rely on corrupt law enforcement officials, the site provides whistleblowers a safe avenue to report the crimes:

“You can’t, for example, export containers full of ivory from Mombasa without bribing people left, right and centre… We definitely feel we are filling a gap.”

In the three months it has been operating so far, the site has yielded 24 major tip-offs of wildlife crime, including:

• elephant poaching in Africa and illicit ivory trading in Hong Kong;

• killing of Sumatran tigers, of which there are just 400 left in the wild;

• illegal lion and leopard hunting in South Africa;

• chimpanzee trafficking in Liberia;

• illegal fishing activities in Alaska, including alleged mafia involvement;

• importing of illegal African wildlife products into the US;

• illegal logging in Mexico, Malawi and Siberia

According to Interpol, the illicit wildlife trade makes $10-$20 billion dollars every year. Read the full story from The Guardian here.

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#ResetTheNet Campaign: Major Websites Unite To Encourage Widespread Encryption Usage

Just last month, the House gutted the FREEDOM Act, which was put in place after the Snowden revelations to prevent mass cellular surveillance of American citizens in the future.

Internet and privacy activists alike have grown tired of the government’s empty promises about protecting internet privacy. So they decided to launch a campaign to take the issue out of Washington’s hands and put into the hands of the public.

The campaign, known as #ResetTheNet, was initiated by Fight for the Future, and encourages websites and individuals to start using encryption to protect their data. It kicks off today on the one year anniversary of the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance last year.

Hundreds of websites and other organizations are participating, including Reddit, Imgur, Mozilla, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Google, who initially refrained from joining, has now endorsed the campaign, and added that they will be, “releasing email encryption tools and data, and supporting real surveillance reform.”

The goal is to not only educate people about encryption but to actually provide them with the online resources to begin encrypting their own information. The campaign’s splash page, which is displayed on many of the participating sites, includes lists of good encryption software and tips for both computers and mobile devices.

Some of the companies participating in the campaign. Click to enlarge
Some of the companies participating in the campaign. Click to enlarge

While encryption definitely makes your data significantly more secure, it is not completely impervious- the NSA has whole departments dedicated to cracking encrypted info.

However, organizers of the campaign believe that if encryption starts to become fairly common, the government simply will not have the resources to be trying to break through everyone’s encryption, forcing them to give up on mass internet surveillance.

Yesterday, Edward Snowden issued a statement with his support for the campaign. He ended it like this:

The official website for the campaign is resetthenet.org. The organizer’s also released this video explaining the campaign:

Read more from RT here.

BONUS: The battle for net neutrality is also being waged right now. After approving a “fast-track” plan which would allow large corporations to pay for preferred real estate (ie. more visibility) on the internet, the FCC invited the public to comment for 120 days before they make their final decision.

Comedian and political satirist John Oliver used his new HBO series, Last Week Tonight, to explain what net neutrality is, why it’s so important, and how the major cable companies pushing to make it happen are screwing the consumer.

Oliver urged all of the internet trolls to take advantage of the FCC invitation to comment, saying,

“…for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.”

The massive comment volume following the airing of Oliver’s show crashed the FCC website for a while.

Check out video of Oliver’s net neutrality segment below:

NSA Developing Quantum Computer That Can Crack Any Encryption

Documents passed to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA is trying to build a quantum computer (which would be exponentially faster than classical computers) as part of an $80 million dollar project called “Penetrating Hard Targets”.

The encryption they are seeking to compromise is used to protect almost all private information: banking, medical, business and government records among others. What makes a quantum computer so much more powerful than a regular computer? Basically, no matter how fast a regular computer is, it can only do one calculation at a time.

Quantum mechanics is based off the principle of superposition: the idea that an object simultaneously exists in all possible states. So instead of using binary bits (the ones and zeros that are behind all programs), a quantum computer uses quantum bits, which are both one and zero at the same time.

Side-note: I know this sounds extremely far-fetched and illogical, but the whole field of quantum mechanics is like that. Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate widely regarded as the pioneer of the quantum-computing field, famously said,

If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

Because of these quantum attributes, a quantum computer would be able to recognize and avoid calculations that aren’t necessary for solving the problem, allowing it to reach a solution much more quickly.

NSA Headquarters

According to the documents released by Snowden, the NSA is worried that quantum technologies will soon jeopardize the government’s privacy and render their current code-breaking techniques useless. Here’s an excerpt from the documents:

The application of quantum technologies to encryption algorithms threatens to dramatically impact the US government’s ability to both protect its communications and eavesdrop on the communications of foreign governments.”

Although quantum computers built by the Canadian company D-WAVE Systems were recently sold to Google, NASA and the Universities Space Research Association, this computer is not useful for breaking encryption codes, as it is unable to run Shor’s algorithm, which is necessary for breaking encryptions.

D-WAVE Quantum Computer

Read the full story here.