Monday, October 13, 2014

Freedom is slavery

Winston Smith, one of the employees at the Ministry of Truth in charge of rewriting history every day,  comes to a conclusion that horrifies  and calms him at the same time, ‘How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’


This passage from the famous novel by George Orwell, ‘1984’, outlines a dystopian world consumed by a cold war between three superpowers. It is always related from the point of view of Oceania, which is led by Ingsoc and the Big Brother. For those concerned about privacy, this book is a true image of what a enslaved modern society could become. Recently The New Yorker Festival interviewed Edward Snowden. The video of such interview accompanies this article and should be an essential reference for you as well. On it Snowden attacks poor privacy provided by cloud services like DropBox, Google or Facebook, and highlights the important role of encryption in all digital communications.

Meanwhile, in California they are discussing the advantages and disadvantages of introducing a surveillance planes system over the city aimed to record possible murder or theft cases. Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) are seen by some people as a great tool to clear up most civil dispute cases, while for others it represents an assault on privacy that brings us one step closer to a state of permanent control by the government.

Privacy is on everyone's lips. Added to the recent leaks of celebrities’ intimate images on iCloud servers last weekend we learnt about the attack to Snapchat’s users through third party applications. Nevertheless the seed of intimate exposure is sometimes wrong file management. This happened to Delia from A Coruña. She discovered that four personal videos were being distributed around her town due to the employees at her computer repair service.

We may add wrong file management to the difficulty of implementing a security methodology in a company that covers all fronts. Frost & Sullivan launched a study this week that showed how at least 25% of companies are unable to control BYOD security, social media, smartphone, virtualization and cloud services alike, establishing poor risk management plans.

In fact, it is not really surprising that a company like HP discovers two years later that its certificate to sign the software it develops has also been used to sign some malware as well. Now its access has been revoked, but harm is already done.

We end with a case study. Selfmite, one of the oldest Android worms, is back with a new version. It takes advantage of some user’s ‘easy click’ (for instance, on common free app promotions) to download an APK which spreads the request across 20 contacts of your contact list, and install by Mobomarket some other infected applications, as it can be a Google+ app version designed to steal accounts or subscribe users to SMS premium services.

All these elements compose a complex technological landscape that feeds our greatest fears and comforts. The fight continues in the streets. Meanwhile we continue here informing and sharing with you what we learn. After all, information is power and keeps us from slavery.

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