• A Practical Demonstration of what IPB will allow

    There have been numerous write-ups of the threat that the Draft Investigatory Powers Billposes to our privacy and security.

    The intention of this post is not simply to repeat those, but to provide a practical demonstration of exactly the kind of information that the proposed powers would compel your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to record.

    As well as demonstrating what an ISP would soon be collecting (and how simple it is to extract), we'll look at the issues the IPB presents in the context of the information we've extracted.

    As the IPB isn't exactly explicit about exactly what it allows, especially in terms of techniques, I've made some assumptions (though I believe their fair and reasonable).

    Most of the results were exactly what I expected, but I think describing them explicitly is probably more helpful than not - to that end, I've tried to keep the language as accessible as possible, as those who understand how tech works at the network level are unlikely to find much of surprise here.

  • David Cameron: Idiot, Dangerous or just a lover of soundbites?

    We've heard Theresa May parroting the same lines for months, but in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, David Cameron has joined the choir of people calling for new surveillance powers.

    Mr Cameron has stated that if the Conservatives are re-elected, he will ensure that there is no form of communication that cannot be intercepted by the government.

    So, one of the question we'll be examining in this post, is - Is David Cameron

    1. An idiot who doesn't understand the technology he's talking about
    2. Demonstrating that pre-election promises are inevitably broken
    3. Planning on introducing a draconian surveillance state
    4. Being mis-informed by other parties
    5. Simply creating sound-bites to raise the chances of re-election

    Most of the coverage thus far has focused on option 3 - which seems fair given that it's the inevitable result of actually attempting to do what he is claiming.

    We'll also be taking a look at why Option 3 could, and should not happen

  • Republished: A basic guide to the Internet for the Simple Minded

    Originally published on Benscomputer.no-ip.org 26 Nov 2009

    There's been something of a furore amongst the PC Brigade about a picture of Michelle Obama that appeared in Google's Image search result. As ever the BBC have launched a debate in the Have Your Say section. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this debate does very little other than highlighting how ill informed a large section of the Internet using populace are.


    So lets dispell a few of the most common misunderstandings that are displayed in the vast array of comments;

  • Republished: How Safe are Webcam Sites?

    This content was originally published to benscomputer.no-ip.org in December 2008

    There are a variety of websites available online which allow users to stream live footage of themselves, either to a specific person or indiscriminantly. The dangers of using these sites depends largely on the user.

    There is a danger of users attracting unwanted attention, or of finding their webcam session more widely distributed than they expected. Users should be aware of this risk before accessing one of these sites, but it is expected that most would be mature enough to accept this risk.

    One of the benefits of using an online meeting place, is that should a user be plagued by unwated attention they can easily report the issue to a moderator or simply stop using the site. However, this is reliant on users not disclosing personal details to people they do not know. There is very little benefit in leaving a site if you have given the person your home address.

  • The Importance of Provider Redundancy

    Icon made by Smashicons from flaticon

    Back in the days before cloud computing, it used to be accepted (if somewhat resented) by management types that having redundant systems in place was important if you cared - even a little - about uptime.

    In today's industry, those same management types generally understand that it's still important to have multi-region availability, with instances running in completely distinct provider regions, so that an outage in one area doesn't impact your ability to do business.

    What doesn't seem to be quite so widely understood, or accepted, though is the importance of ensuring that systems have redundancy across providers. It's not just management types who are making this mistake either, we've all encountered techies who are seemingly blind to the risk and view it as an un-necessary additional cost/hassle.

    Rather than typing "the provider" throughout this post, I'm going to pick on AWS, but the argument applies to all Cloud providers.

  • The Storm Ate my Broadband

    Like many in the country, the storm has left me feeling somewhat isolated - that is to say my broadband is down. Don't get me wrong, I'm just glad the power is (mostly) back, and I'm far better off than some who've had their lives affected.

    The simple fact, though, is that I have things I need to do, and not having a broadband connection really gets in the way of that.

    Living where I do, there's precisely one place in the house that gets a 3G signal, unfortunately that place isn't particularly conducive to sitting comfortably. Whilst the Wifi hotspot functionality on my phone helps, the range isn't great enough to let me sit somewhere that I might be able to concentrate.

    So, somewhat convoluted workaround needed;