Tech at Night

Yeah, terrorism is terrible, and we need to run Islamic State folks into prison, but the idea that a retweet is criminal, given the nature of how Twitter works, is kind of silly. It’s clear to me the Obama administration is just out of touch, as much as its FBI under James Comey is ridiculously power hungry.

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Tech at “Night”: Down Goes Silk Road 2.0

On November 9, 2014, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

Sorry this is late. I had a terrible headache Friday night.

Even as anarchists are talking about a “Hackathon” (a name that unfortunately for them will just remind everyone of Aaron Swartz’s crimes) to promote their extremist worldview, the FBI is busy on its own. Silk Road 2 is down, and its owner Blake Benthall has been arrested.

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Tech at Night

Sometimes the government cheers the idea that your data is being protected from the bad guys. Other times, the government grumbles and complains.

It turns out they’re fine with your data being at risk, as long as it means government can get to it whenever it wants. Funny, that.

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Tech at Night

Imagine a safe, one used to store important papers, extreme valuables, or even guns. When we put our things into a safe, to keep things secure against a determined thief. It’s very important they aren’t able to get in and take these things, so we ensure our safes are very difficult to open without authorization. The idea that we’d have a secret back door that could be exploited to gain unauthorized access, perhaps by the manufacturer, bypassing our control of the lock, would be unthinkable.

Yet, this is exactly what Obama’s FBI head, James Comey, is asking for when it comes to the safes protecting our online data. It’s madness.

I have long been a defender of NSA (one of our nation’s leading data intelligence and counterintelligence groups), of FISA (the spy courts), of ECPA as written (the law that allows ISPs to give access to their email servers), and of the overall role of government in monitoring online activities to further legitimate law enforcement and national security objectives. However, one big reason I’ve taken this position is that few of these surveillance techniques work against effective encryption techniques.

Basically, most of this “government spying” is rendered completely ineffective by the use of free, modern, commodity encryption tools and techniques widely available today. Anyone who wanted a great deal of privacy would be able to chose to take it, however, most Americans do not value their privacy, and are willing to sell it for cash and convenience.

However the fact that most Americans give away their data does not mean that we should all be mandated to do so. Even if we mistrust the crank Internet encryption communities out there, groups like Tor which are magnets for criminals and terrorists, the fact is we have a right to close the drapes, we have a right to lock our doors, and we have a right to encrypt our data.

Encryption is a lot like a gun. In fact, export law used to treat it as a munition. It’s a powerful tool that, put in the hands of honest people, is protective and good. In the hands of crooks and terrorists, it’s a tool for evil. The fact that the bad guys will encrypt their data is no more a reason for encryption restrictions, than the fact that bad guys get guns, is a reason for gun control.

The bad guys are going to grab GNU Privacy Guard or something, and encrypt their data, whether the good guys do so or not. FBI needs to lay off trying to intimidate private citizens from protecting themselves.


Yahoo joins Google and Facebook in kowtowing to the extreme fringe left against ALEC. That’s fine. Remember that, folks, the next time they push for Net Neutrality, or open borders, or any of the other astroturf campaigns the extremist left fringe of tech have been trying to foist upon us.

The Obama FCC is using prison phone bills as a pretext to fight federalism.

California already mandates kill switches in phones. What happens when cars are next?

Security is as much about people as it is about code. Note that FBI and DHS are warning the public about this, when government itself gets bitten in cases like Bradley Manning’s and Edward Snowden’s. Government is ing no position to regulate on cybersecurity. It’s not competent enough to do so.

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Tech at Night: This is why we need the NSA

On September 7, 2014, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

We need the NSA. I know the new hotness is following after Rand Paul’s inane blathering, and finding reasons to complain about the NSA. But rather than old and busted, the NSA is actually an important thing to have and to defend.

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Tech at Night

We missed Tech on Monday because of Memorial Day, but I was sick anyway so it wasn’t happening. Still getting over my cold though, so this tech is about 2 hours late.

Here’s your periodic reminder that kids and teenagers shouldn’t be online unsupervised. Adult sexual predators are actively hunting them to take advantage of them.

Keeping data Internet-accessible is inherently dangerous to your privacy. Internet security is spotty but still users don’t actually quit services that gather their data, as their outrage is always short lived. People want convenience and innovation so I reject calls for bigger government to try to use FTC to enforce a privacy few actually want.

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Tech at Night

So the House ended up passing the (originally anti-NSA, pro-Russian-and-Chinese) “USA Freedom Act”. But fortunately the radicals are mad about it because of the compromises needed to win enough votes to pass it. This is a rare case where I hope the Senate follows its usual pattern and refuses to pass a House bill.

Write it down, though: I agree with Senators Rockefeller, McCain, and Coburn. We need to go after foreign attacks on American companies, and inform the private sector about probable threats. So I support the Deter Cyber Theft Act, as far as I can tell. Naturally China responds to this by playing off of the Edward Snowden propaganda, but we must not be deterred ourselves.

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Tech at Night

So a continuing look at the NetMundial meeting to argue why American stewardship of the Internet is bad. It got hijacked by the Net Neutrality folks and the anti-American folks (with NSA as the word the Orwellian sheep are bleating), which tells you all about the orientation of this movement. Fortunately our adversaries have all the efficiency of the UN: “There were so many welcome speeches, and they went so much over time, that we did not even begin the substantive work of the conference until 5:30pm.”

Even as Putin calls the Internet a CIA project, Obama wants to hand over the Internet to these guys? Insane. Of course, it’s insane that he’s trying again on Net Neturality, though amusingly some Democrats are complaining this third attempt compromises too much.

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Tech at Night

It’s happening: the feds have arrested Bitcoin Foundation vice-chairman Charlie Shrem for money laundering. The key point seems to be that his service BitInstant was tied to Silk Road.

Good news: Microsoft and Google won and are getting some declassifications of aggregate data on FISA demands for data. Aggregate data from large providers won’t help the bad guys, but it will inform the voters, and that’s all that matters here.

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Tech at Night

Enough about Manning for right now. Back to Snowden. Edward Snowden and the Glenns Greenwald say Snowden wasn’t their source. Of course they’re saying that. Why wouldn’t they say it, whether it’s true or not? If Snowden was the source Greenwald and the Guardian gain nothing by admitting it. He especially has nothing to gain when his boy toy is getting stopped at airports.

And let’s be clear about the ongoing Time Warner/CBS dispute: the problem was created by government, specifically antiquated regulations designed to hinder cable television and aid the lucky network affiliates. That is, regulation hinders innovation and picks winners and losers.

Deregulate, or at the very least loosen the regulations as Steve Scalise and Jim DeMint tried a while back.

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