Cabbies Blockade Westminster, Forget It’s Recess

Black cab drivers are blockading Westminster this afternoon in their latest anti-Uber protest, organised by United Cabbies Group and supported by the LTDA and RMT. Just one problem. It’s recess and there aren’t any MPs in town…

Placards include charming sentiments such as “Cameron Osborne you will hang for this“.

Not like the cabbies to lose all sense of perspective… 

Siôn Simon’s Tech Jobs Hypocrisy

Point 2 of Siôn Simon’s 10 point plan for the Midlands is to rebuild “the West Midlands as Britain’s capital of technology”. A noble aim. As he says

“The collective geniuses of the West Midlands are game-changers – global and historic leaders. We should celebrate this more. As Mayor, I will champion our region”

So, besides soundbites, what has candidate Siôn done to champion his region?

Well to be fair there is not a lot he can do out of power. He does however have a fancy campaign website – so what Brummie web wizards did he get in to showcase Britain’s would be capital of technology by building his website? Errr…

His website was built by Tectonica, in Buenos Aires, Argentina: 

So much for bringing those technology jobs to the West Midlands…

Davis: Encryption Ban Devastating, May “Laughable”

As Amber Rudd ramps up the government’s draconian rhetoric on encryption, it could fall upon one of Theresa May’s close Cabinet allies to stand up for civil liberties. In November 2015 David Davis, then a humble backbencher, wrote this article for the FT blasting the Cameron government’s proposal to ban end-to-end encryption:

“The government’s approach to encryption also leaves much to be desired. At least it did not go ahead with Prime Minister David Cameron’s unwise proposal this year to ban end-to-end encryption — the unbreakable code that makes it impossible to read our online messages and transactions even if they are intercepted. Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about.”

Davis pointed out that ending encryption would be

“likely to strangle UK tech businesses, by prohibiting the spread of encryption to those services that do not already use it. This will put our communications companies at a severe disadvantage, as their overseas competitors are permitted to offer fully secure services forbidden to UK companies.”

And he had these choice words for the then Home Secretary Theresa May:

“The proposed authorisation and oversight are nowhere near as intelligent as the American, Canadian, German or Dutch systems. The claim by Theresa May, home secretary, that ours will be one of the strongest systems in the world is laughable. It will arguably still be the worst.”

Surely DD will not waver from his admirable stance just a year and a half ago…

Amber Rudd and Fleet Street Don’t Understand Encryption

Following Amber Rudd’s talk of “necessary hashtags” and how “we don’t want to go into the cloud”, you’d be forgiven for thinking she is something of a digital immigrant. The Home Secretary has her sights trained on the messaging service WhatsApp and end-to-end encryption, the system which means a conversation can be read only by the sender and recipient and not intercepted by a middle man. Here’s why that’s a red herring…

1. A backdoor to end-to-end encryption would not have stopped the Westminster attack

Khalid Masood was not on the security services’ radar. So even if MI5 and GCHQ were able to intercept his WhatsApp messages before the attack, they would not have done so. The attack would have proceeded all the same. Any change in law or policy would have made no difference.

2. End-to-end encryption is not preventing MI5 read Masood’s messages

Rudd says detectives cannot access Masood’s final messages and that WhatsApp’s complicity in this is “unacceptable“. Today’s Telegraph front page says “Internet giants hide terrorist’s final note”. This is just wrong. WhatsApp do not have access to the unencrypted messages – the messages can only be read on the phones of the sender and recipient. The police presumably have Masood’s phone, it is highly likely they are now inside and able to read the messages. The only thing stopping them get in would be the phone’s passcode. Which is nothing to do with WhatsApp.

3. Encryption is binary

Either you have end-to-end encryption or you don’t. Giving MI5 and GCHQ a backdoor into WhatsApp means the service is no longer secure and any hacker can break in to any user’s messages. As Open Rights Group say, “compelling companies to put backdoors into encrypted services would make millions of ordinary people less secure online. We all rely on encryption to protect our ability to communicate, shop and bank safely”Rudd is asking WhatsApp to open up all their users to attacks by cyber criminals and foreign regimes. 

The Home Secretary is using encryption as a scapegoat when it is completely irrelevant to the Westminster attack. She is being aided by establishment journalists who do not understand technology – Andrew Marr’s interview was pathetic in its amateurism and today’s Telegraph front page is factually incorrect. As a side note, newspapers have splashed on attacks on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Uber and WhatsApp in the last week, today’s Mail bizarrely claims WordPress is helping terrorists. Almost as if Fleet Street has an advertising revenue-shaped ulterior motive for going after tech companies…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Rudd: WhatsApp Unacceptable

Pro-Erdogan Mass Twitter Hack

Last night several major Twitter accounts posted tweets showing a swastika symbol and the words “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland” written in Turkish. Some accounts had their header image changed to the Turkish flag in what seems to be a mass hack by supporters of the Turkish autocrat Erdogan. Affected accounts include Forbes, Amnesty International, the European Parliament, Justin Bieber, Dortmund football club, the UK Department of Health and EyeSpy.MP. It seems the hack happened via a third-party app – possibly Twitter Counter – rather than the accounts themselves being compromised. Twitter Counter claimed in November that they had secured their accounts after a hack…

Facebook Reports BBC to Police

Facebook has reported a number of BBC journalists to the police after they “provided” them with evidence of child abuse image that appeared on the social network. It is obviously illegal to distribute child abuse images, so when Facebook asked the BBC to “provide examples of the material” they had apparently found, the Beeb’s lawyers should have sounded alarm bells. Instead, the BBC “did so”, and Facebook then reported them to the National Crime Agency. As a Facebook spokesman says:

“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.”

And in their write up of the story the BBC admits to have confessed all. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to invite them in and show them in person?

How Telegraph Exploits Revenge Porn Market For Clicks

Ever wondered why newspaper websites publish so many articles about ‘revenge porn’? The answer, of course, is search engine optimisation. MediaGuido can reveal exactly how the Telegraph exploits the revenge porn market and its victims for traffic. This email was sent to journalists ordering them to “target” “popular search terms” like “revenge porn sites” and “Girlfriend revenge”.

Subject: Revenge Porn SEO Research
To: news_newsdesk 

Hello everyone.

I’ve done some keyword research into revenge porn following the recent leaks/scandals etc.

Popular search terms

Revenge Porn Sites – this phrase would be good to target, obviously don’t include site names.
Revenge Porn Site
Revenge Porn Videos
Revenge Porn pics
Girlfriend revenge

Let me know if you need anything else on this “interesting” topic.

The aim is that people trying to find revenge porn online end up clicking on links to the Telegraph, delivering them traffic and ultimately profits. Classy stuff… 

Amazon Broke the Internet Yesterday

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the plumbing that makes a lot of the internet work, not just for Amazon but for a lot of other big companies – our daily Guidogram email didn’t go out last night because it relied on AWS. It was by one of those cosmic ironies also the day Amazon’s marketing people had decided to call “AWSome Day”. The above video is of a hapless Amazon booster discovering he can’t make his presentation about the brilliance of the AWS cloud because it was down. Even the geek’s website isitdownrightnow.com, used for checking if internet services are down, relied on AWS:

Rivals have not wasted any time, in Guido’s inbox this morning was an offer from Google Cloud Services:

AWS going down for a few hours reminded people that there is no such thing as “the cloud”. There are just other people’s computers…

Pro-Trump Twitter Bots Pumping Out Guardian Links

This is a weird one: a co-conspirator has noticed that large numbers of pro-Trump Twitter bots are endlessly pumping out links to the Guardian‘s website. Accounts with names like @TroopsTrump, @ViewTrump, @TrumpNoticie and @DonaldsNewws have been programmed by unknown persons to automatically tweet out Guardian stories, often about Brexit. The accounts have real human followers, meaning the automated tweets will be driving traffic towards the Guardian’s website, as well as inflating their social media sharing stats. Guido is stumped as to why someone controlling pro-Trump accounts would want to do this. Putin knows Seumas has left the Guardian, right?

Robot Warehouses: Automated Click to Dispatch

All those complaining about Amazon and SportsDirect exploiting minimum wage workers can stop worrying. Those humans are soon going to be out of work and the robots won’t join the union.

The robots are coming…

Save the (Tax Free) Link

Ju­lia Reda, the Ger­man Pi­rate Party MEP, is the most vo­cal op­po­nent to the EU’s pro­posed neigh­bour­ing right: “neigh­bour­ing rights al­ways have a broader scope than copy­right, be­cause they don’t have a thresh­old of orig­i­nal­ity. Whereas sin­gle words or very short sen­tences can­not be pro­tected by copy­right, they would fall within the scope of the neigh­bour­ing right.” She adds that “the pro­posed new right would make links to news ar­ti­cles sub­ject to a fee, even if only the head­line is re­peated in the link. That’s a se­ri­ous threat to free­dom of in­for­ma­tion on­line.”

On September 14, 2016, the EU Commission tabled a directive proposing the worst copyright rules in the world. These include unprecedented new link tax powers for publishing giants. The EU is proposing to tax web links, Google, Twitter and Facebook would have to pay a fee to display the headline and preview snippets to online links. This is absolutely crazy.

The only organisations that want this tax are failing publishers who can’t cope in the digital age. The EU is once again showing its protectionist colours, effectively proposing a new digital tariff…

80% of State Bureaucrats Will be Replaced by Robots

Britain’s bloated public sector could save £4 billion-a-year over the next 15 years by replacing 250,000 human civil servants with more efficient robots, according to a study by the wonks at Reform. Chat bots and other web AI could all but wipe out administrative roles, while drones and robots will take over policing and medicine. This would streamline the sector to its essential human core: the 20% of strategy-setting top minds. Reform said the changes would mean:

“The NHS, for example, can focus on the highest risk patients, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions. UK police and other emergency services are already using data to predict areas of greatest risk from burglary and fire.”

Robots – in the form of AI driven software agents – also have the advantage of not going on strike and making fewer mistakes than humans in critical processes. Today’s study is the latest in a slew of similar reports: Oxford University predicted 850,000 jobs could go to robots. The data-driven, automated public sector would wipe out the government’s budget deficit…

Porn Bill Lobbying Gets Dirty

Lords are en masse debating the Digital Economy Bill this week – its passage means the British Board of Film Classification will be the regulator of age verification for online porn. The government’s current position is that the policy would apply to commercial porn sites and payment services that generate revenue. Yet the BBFC are mounting a power grab – they want anything on the internet that can be connected to porn to come under their remit. Guess who hosted a glitzy dinner in parliament in January giving them ample opportunity to lobby MPs over bottles of wine? Yep, the BBFC. The government’s own regulator using parliament to lobby the government…

GCHQ Director Resigns Only Two Years Into Job

GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan has quit after just two years in the job, citing personal reasons:

“Dear Foreign Secretary.

I have had the great privilege of leading the men and women of GCHQ since 2014. I am proud of what we have achieved in those years. not least setting up the National Cyber Security Centre and building greater public understanding of our intelligence work. I am equally proud of the relentless 24 hour operational effort against terrorism, crime and many other national security threats. While this work must remain secret, you will know how many lives have been saved in this country and overseas by the work of GCHQ.

Underpinning this is our world-class technology and, above all, our brilliant people. As you know, I have also initiated the greatest internal change within GCHQ for thirty years, and l feel that we are now well on the way to being fit for the next generation of security challenges to the UK in the digital age.

After a good deal of thought I have decided that this is the right time to move on and to allow someone else to lead GCHQ through its next phase. I am, like you, a great enthusiast for our history and I think it is right that a new Director should be firmly embedded by our centenary in 2019. I am very committed to GCHQ’s future and will of course be happy to stay in post until you have been able to appoint a successor.

I have been lucky enough to have some extraordinary roles in public service over the last twenty years, from Northern Ireland to No.10, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office. But they have all demanded a great deal of my ever patient and understanding family. and new is the right time for a change in direction.

I want to thank you and the many Ministers I have served over the years. and to thank the Prime Minister and her three predecessors. for the opportunities I have been given. I have worked with outstanding people, whether politicians or Crown Servants, and none more so than in GCHQ. I am very confident that they will continue to achieve even greater things in the future.”

Curious…

Guido is Secure

Co-conspirators may have noticed that a little lock now appears in their browser when they come to read Guido. This is because we have switched to HTTPS, the industry standard for providing encryption, authentication, and integrity for content on the web.

We have done this because the news you read can provide intimate details about your interests, your work, and your personal life that you may want to keep private from prying eyes. Without HTTPS, an eavesdropper—whether it’s a snooper on public wifi, or GCHQ collecting information about websites you visit—can trivially see exactly what news articles you read when you go to sites. Eavesdropping on people reading the news is a real threat, as demonstrated by the NSA and GCHQ spying on visitors to WikiLeaks.org.

HTTPS prevents this type of spying, and while an eavesdropper might be able to determine that you visited the website that the Russian Foreign Ministry instructs diplomats to read to find out what is going on in Westmnster, they wouldn’t be able to see which specific stories you read.

According to Der Spiegel GCHQ takes advantage of the lack of encryption to inject malware into a website, which can lead to the complete compromise of a user’s computer and all of their data. A version of this technique, codenamed “Quantum Insert,” was used by GCHQ to attack network sysadmins who read Slashdot, the popular news website in the IT community. (Slashdot has since deployed HTTPS site-wide). Guido wants to protect you from government spies…

Snapchat Headquarters in Britain, Rolls Royce Rolls Back on Brexit Scares

Snapchat today makes London its main hub outside the US and announces it will book all its non-US sales in Brexit Britain. Remainers had predicted the UK tech sector would be hit particularly hard by leaving the EU, but Claire Valoti, general manager of Snap Group in the UK, said:

“We believe in the UK creative industries. The UK is where our advertising clients are, where more than 10 million daily Snapchatters are, and where we’ve already begun to hire talent.”  

Meanwhile, car-maker Rolls Royce U-turned on its pre-Brexit plans to leave the UK, instead confirming its commitment to its West Sussex HQ. A letter from CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös leaked to the Guardian last year said Brexit would affect the firm’s “employment base”, but now he says:

“Success for Rolls-Royce is success for Great Britain and we reaffirm our commitment to maintaining the home of Rolls-Royce in the UK.

Brexit Britain: A booming tech and design hub…

Sexy MP Poll Rigged Against Female Tory MPs

Worldly readers will be aware of SexyMP.co.uk, the most popular banned website in the Commons which ranks parliamentarians on their looks according to a popular vote. The cheeky and good-natured site appears to have been sabotaged, Guido can reveal. In the last few days the vote has been rigged to push female Tory MPs to the bottom of the rankings. While the most photogenic Tories had previously held several places in the top ten, the first Tory MP to appear in the female rankings today is down in a lowly 58th place. Almost all of the bottom 50 places are held by Tories, while all of the top 57 places are held by Labour , SNP and Plaid MPs. An accurate aesthetic reflection? A theory is circulating among concerned users:

“This is not normal. The site wasn’t in this state a few months ago. Historical Rankings shows no significant favouritism for one party over any other. My best guess is that someone wrote a script to play SexyMP and have it automatically select the non-Conservative option when a Conservative came up. I estimate ~200,000 votes in total performed by this script.”

Those Russians have gone too far this time…

Happy New Year!

We want to thank you, the reader, for making our year. For providing the gossip, the tips, the jokes, the leaked documents, the tearfully funny comments and innovative insults that make Guido Fawkes the website it is today. Our free wheeling editorial culture hopefully still does not take itself too seriously, even when breaking serious news.[…] Read the rest

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