March

New services in development

We are in the testing phase for our VPN, chat, and etherpad services. These services are still under development, and may be unreliable (ie, they might crash) at times. If you want to help test them, please give them a try.

With our VPN you can configure your computer to securely route all its internet traffic through riseup.net. This can be useful to prevent censorship, corporate surveillance, and monitoring by your ISP. As a bonus, we also block advertisements, behavior tracking, and location tracking. help.riseup.net/vpn

Riseup provides chat service using jabber, the open-standards protocol for instant messages and voice communication. With jabber, you can send and receive messages between corporate services like Google Chat, as well as activist providers like riseup.net or autistici.org. help.riseup.net/chat

Etherpad is a software libre web application that allows for real-time group collaboration of text documents. The Riseup etherpad does not store IP addresses, we require https, and pads are automatically destroyed after 30 days of inactivity. pad.riseup.net/

Please note that these are experimental services and we may not be able to answer your emails and help tickets asking for assistance getting them to work.

News of the creepy

A start up company, Prism, now offers shopping malls the ability to perform analysis of human traffic by mining video from surveillance cameras. Do you like how advertisers track your every page view across the internet? Great, that same tracking is coming to your shopping mall. “It’s like Google Analytics for the real world,” says the Prism CEO. Lovely, just what we need.

“Surveillance Video Becomes a Tool for Studying Customers”
www.technologyreview.com/computing/39552/

Of the top four web browsers, Apple’s Safari is the only one that blocks third-party cookies by default (third party cookies are the culprit in online behavior tracking and targeted advertising). Several of the major online advertising companies, including Google, have been caught using sneaky methods to trick Safari into accepting third party cookies anyway.

“Google Caught Tracking Safari Users: What You Need to Know”
mashable.com/2012/02/17/google-caught-tracking-safari-users/

The attack of the drones: new bills in the US Congress are poised to bring 30,000 drones to American skies; the US Airforce has 65,000 people employed to analyze data collected by drones; police in Texas are launching a drone equipped with a taser-like stun-gun. Feeling left out? Don’t worry, drones are probably coming soon to your country, too.

“Ten Fun Facts About Drones”
www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/09/10-fun-facts-about-drones/

Notes from the Help Desk

Why is GNU/Linux better than Windows or Mac OS?

There are a number of reasons. One of the biggest is that the large quantities of viruses, trojans, back-door programs, security bugs, targeted government hacking, and other exploits over the years make them very difficult to trust, especially because you are not given the opportunity to look under the hood to see if what is going on is ok. The software is proprietary and closed source, that means you are trusting your private information to a corporation whose sole focus is profit, not the security of your personal information and whose methods you are unable to audit for yourself.

OS X suffers from similar issues that windows does. While it is based on Unix (of which Linux is a “clone”), a large portion of the operating system is not open source and thus not available for third party review. Its increasing popularity has been resulting in increasing viruses and exploits (though still far fewer than windows) and its corporate culture of authoritarianism is reflected in the structure of the operating system. OS X also includes the built-in “feature” to remotely activate the webcam which, as a feature regardless of the OS its on, has been shown to be used for other purposes.

GNU/Linux, however, is composed primarily (and can be made exclusively) of software whose source can be obtained and audited by essentially anyone, it has been built by a community of people for years. Its history is filled with few viruses and user-level exploits. Linux is also an easy to use operating system that supports a wealth of older hardware that makes this level of security accessible to the average individual.