Lineage OS and the importance of free software

Almost all of us carry phones with us, often smart phones that contain a lot of sensitive data. It can be very difficult to keep that data secure because phones often give up a lot of our information without our knowledge or, sometimes, consent. Your phone can be sending data every two seconds. So what can you do about it?

Lineage OS

PIC1Several years ago, I was struggling with an old phone and, as a way to prolong its life, installed CyanogenMod. That was an alternative operating system to Android which solved some of my performance issues, although it did cause some of its own issues. But it introduced me to the world of custom ROMs and all of my current devices are running the successor project, Lineage OS. Since I just recently re-installed Lineage OS on my phone, I thought I should briefly talk about it. Continue reading

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New tools for privacy

On-line surveillance, whether by companies, criminals or governments, is a worrying reality of our present time. A recent survey showed that feelings around government surveillance are quite mixed, though I’d say too much in favour. The same survey’s results on privacy (generally not related to government surveillance) seem more heartening but show large disparities between different countries.

In this context of widespread surveillance, I think it is important to have some idea of tools that can help protect oneself while on-line. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a new tool, Privacy Badger, which aims to help protect against third parties tracking your browsing across multiple sites. This should help protect against “canvas fingerprinting” which records your information about your computer (and in Slate) and settings which may allow it to be identified on different sites. Continue reading

Spying leftovers

Sorry for the sparse posting. I’ve been spending time with family and friends over the Christmas/New Year’s period. I was away for New Year’s with some of my family and am currently away again, staying with a friend. I will be home later this week and should then be able to start posting regularly again.

Over the past few months, I took note of a number of stories regarding how the US and UK were spying on essentially everyone. Many of them have already been posted (see here, here, here and here) but I still have a couple more that were not always focussed on the spying themselves or which were particularly interesting in light of the NSA’s actions. I’m posting all of them together here. Continue reading

Things to consider when using social media

I’ve really been neglected this site lately. I’m now longer busy at university, and will be graduating next week, but the biggest distraction has been Dota 2. I’d been hearing about it for years and finally got access. It’s a lot like the original and while some aspects are undeniably better (controls) others leave a bit to be desired (match set up) and a few things are just strange (non-game items). But this post isn’t about Dota, I want to draw people’s attention to two interesting videos on Youtube.


Continue reading

The road to hell

What is legal and what is ethical are two different things. It should be obvious but the two are often conflated. During Apartheid, certain beaches were reserved for Whites only and mixed marriages were illegal. At that time, something which was unethical was legal and something which was ethical was illegal. We are less inclined to look at the present and our own actions in the same way and, of course, even when we do we are unlikely to decide our own actions are unethical. We also seldom think through all the possible outcomes of a particular course of action and what effects it could have on other people. There is a reason we have the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Continue reading

Updates on US spying

Snowden’s leak of top secret US documents has been described as the most serious breach in US history. And it’s constantly brought up that it’s made the US more vulnerable to attack. It’s not often brought up, at least by the US, that their actions made everyone else more vulnerable or why US interests outweigh those of the rest of the world. While one could at least understand the risk of terrorist attacks (although to hear grown ups talking seriously about enemies does seem a bit like what you’d expect on a junior school playground) it’s a lot harder to take seriously the need to spy on allies. Continue reading

Two years, still going strong

Today marks the second birthday of my blog. You can read about the first birthday celebrations here. Hopefully the quality of posts has improved since last year, although I know that the overall number has decreased from 100 to 68. There have been some special moments this year which I didn’t include in my top 10 posts are worth noting. Early in the year saw the first guest post (I had a second one planned but that seems to have fallen away) and, a few weeks ago, the publication of my first scientific paper. Continue reading

Quicklinks: Government spying

Sorry for the lack of updates here. I’ve been very busy helping to organise the human genetics open day, where we show high school kids what we do, and preparing for a postgraduate research day talk, which I presented today. While I try rest a little I’ll share a couple of links I’ve been picking up that are related to the NSA leaks and government spying programmes.

Some people are reporting that the NSA has been bugging the EU and UN, a strange place to look for terrorists. The UN just said that it is protected by international treaties and members are expected to act accordingly.

Not unexpectedly, all the focus on the US spying has damaged people’s trust in US IT companies and fairly large numbers are moving to alternatives. Tech companies aren’t happy about that and this link talks about possible future conflicts with tech companies and government with regards to security and privacy. This is a big thing as Facebook received requests for info on 38 000 users in the first half of this year! Microsoft and Google are even teaming up to sue the US government over the restrictions about what they can reveal about user data requests.

Lastly is a disturbing report that the New York Police Department is labelling entire mosques as terrorist organisations! This allows them to spy on what happens even though they make these designations with apparently no justification, something the FBI refused to do.