Category Archives: News

What’s Happening?

US Leads the World in Spam

One interesting fact that didn’t make it into this month’s newsletter article on “The Secret Life of Spam” is that the United States leads the world in the overall volume of spam produced. And by a huge margin, too: according to security site Sophos, 24% of all spam generated this spring. That’s nearly a quarter! France and China, the runners-up, come in at less than 7% each. The full results can be accessed here. The results may be surprising because we tend to think of spam originating in Russia or Nigeria, or the actual place where the criminals who generate it live. But spam is a world-wide problem, and one would think the bad guys generally know enough to not spoil their own nests. Instead, the countries which actually generate the most spam are those where the most computers are infected with malware. The US merits the top billing for volume not so much due to poor security practices, but to our large and highly-connected population. When the overall amount is divided by population, the US doesn’t do so badly. In a per-person comparison, we come up merely twelfth, near the bottom with Bulgaria and Belarus being tops at 2.7 and 1.9 times the American rate. However, the US is still spewing a lot of crap messages, and if you’re infected, you’re part of the problem. Once your machine becomes part of a botnet, it’s essentially a zombie out of … Continue reading

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Taking Control: Managing Cookies

With the revelations of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers, the cat’s out of the bag: we’re all being watched 24/7. But along with the government, we’re being followed around the web by a shadowy legion of other parties. Chief among them, and perhaps furnishing the NSA with the idea and a whole lot of data, are those big friendly sites like Google and Facebook. These avid online trackers want all that personal information for their own unnamed purposes in exchange for the “free” services they provide. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now everybody’s into it, and people are slowly becoming aware of the downside. For all that data can be used for more than just advertising. Your personal choices, the sites you visit, the searches you conduct, and the purchases you make online may have serious consequences down the road. Visits to medical websites could affect insurance coverage or rates, postings to social media might influence potential job offers, and purchasing history might limit credit. Worst of all, these judgments about you are being made in secret based on information that you are not allowed to see or to contest. Since that data is being freely sold and traded between trackers, anything that one party knows about you may be known by others. Until such time as an electronic Bill of Rights becomes law, there’s little you can do about it. But there are a few ways … Continue reading

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Snowden Speaks

Almost a year after his name first surfaced in connection with the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden has finally been heard in an interview on American network television. It has not been an easy go. All that time, Snowden has been a man publicly reviled in near-Orwellian terms as someone putting American lives at risk and single-handedly destroying our ability to fight terrorism. Even afterwards, Secretary of State John Kerry, during a live interview on NBC’s TODAY show, made his position known: “Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor, and he has betrayed his country.” Yet Snowden was not what one would expect. Edward Snowden, in his interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, turned out to be a surprisingly level-headed, thoughtful, and soft-spoken young man – hardly a firebrand. And if he is to be believed, a true patriot acting in the highest interests of freedom and democracy. You can see it and judge for yourself here: “Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden“. But what is he really, and what are the issues involved? According to NBC’s own polls, opinions on whether Snowden is a traitor or patriot are still about even. But the issues are deeper than just the legality and ethics of Internet monitoring by the state. The questions reach down to the very bedrock of our values of privacy, freedom, and democracy. They don’t entirely hinge on the government’s secret activities either. The vast, indiscriminate, and totally … Continue reading

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