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Friday, June 27, 2014

Ramadan 101: Ten facts about the holy month of Ramadan

1. What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month on the Muslim calendar, is celebrated as the month when the first verses of the Quran were said to be revealed to the prophet Muhammad in 610 CE. Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power, is thought to be the actual day when the Quran was given to the prophet and usually falls within the last 10 days of the holiday.

2. What is the purpose of Ramadan?

During Ramadan, observers are expected to abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures from dawn to dusk. Removing these comforts from daily routine is intended to focus the mind on prayer, spirituality, and charity and to purify the body and mind. Muslims are also expected to abstain from impurities such as gossip and cursing.

3. Exceptions to the fast

Several different groups are excused from fasting during Ramadan: pregnant women, people who are mentally or physically ill, and sometimes women who are breastfeeding. Children are not obligated to fast until they hit puberty, although many choose to observe the fast at least part of the month in preparation for later years.

Sometimes political factors can also get in the way of the fast. In China, celebrating Ramadan has been banned by the government in Xinjian province, where ethnic Uighurs practice Islam. Last month, tensions between Uighurs and police forces led to widespread riots resulting in the deaths of some 35 people.

4. The start of Ramadan is determined by the moon

The exact start of Ramadan is often up in the air until just before the holiday begins because it is determined by a sighting of the new moon. Many places still depend on someone seeing the new moon with the naked eye in order to declare the holiday. As a result, Ramadan’s start can vary from place to place because of weather conditions and other factors that affect how easily the moon is seen.

5. The date changes every year

Islam functions on a lunar calendar that doesn’t quite line up with the solar Gregorian calendar that the secular world uses. So while Muslim holidays are always the same day on the Muslim calendar, they happen on different days on the Gregorian calendar – typically moving 11 or 12 days earlier each year.

6. A month of big changes

In countries where Muslims are the majority, Ramadan has a drastic impact on daily life. Egypt pushes the clocks back an hour during the holy month so that the fast feels like it is ending earlier and the evenings are lengthened. Work days are made shorter during the month to accommodate the additional time spent in prayer and in enjoying festive meals to end the daily fast.

According to bankers and economists in Muslim countries, Ramadan almost always ushers in a month-long period of inflation as people drastically increase the amount of money spent on clothing and food. The prices of certain staples go up dramatically – according to a former Monitor correspondent in Cairo, during Ramadan a cup of tea can cost six times its normal price. However, economic productivity also declines because of the shorter working hours and the general malaise among those abstaining from food and water all day.

Ironically, many people gain weight during Ramadan. They are more sedentary during the daytime, eat richer food than normal at the fast-breaking iftar meal in the evenings, and get the majority of their daily calories at night, shortly before they go to sleep.

7. Traveling during Ramadan

Though it is the holiest month of the year, Ramadan does not prohibit long-distance travel. Many Muslims will still celebrate even while in transit.

This year the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), anticipating the holiday, issued a statement on its website informing travelers of the increase in religious activities they may see in airports, according to the National Journal. Some of the practices include reciting passages from the Quran, whispering prayers, or performing ablution (the washing of the body).

If a non-Muslim wants to wish a fellow passenger a happy Ramadan, they can say Ramadan Mubarak, which means “have a blessed Ramadan.”

8. Charity is an important part of Ramadan

While most non-Muslims know of Ramadan for the fasting, charity is also an important part of the month long holiday.

Muslims are obliged to give charity on a regular basis in the form of either Zakat, which is mandatory giving, or Sadaqa, which is voluntary and meant to go beyond the mere religious obligations. During Ramadan, the rewards of charity are considered greater. As a result, many Muslims will choose to give more during the month.

9. The Five Pillars of Islam

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, the practices that all Muslims must follow. They are as follows:

Shahada: This is a profession of belief in the one true God. The declaration usually goes as follows: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet and servant.”

Salat: Praying five time daily facing the direction of Mecca. Muslims must practice ablution before the prayers.

Zakat: The giving of charity to the poor and needy.

Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca that each Muslim must make at least once in his or her lifetime.

10. Eid ul Fitr

The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid ul Fitr, a large festival to celebrate the end of the fast. The celebration begins as soon as the new moon is sighted in the sky. During Eid, Muslims celebrate by putting on their best clothing, attending large processions, giving gifts, spending time with their family, and having a large meal during the day. Muslims must also contribute a certain amount to charity so that the poor may also celebrate the breaking of the fast.

Eid ul Fitr is also considered a time of reverance. Muslims praise Allah (God) for helping them get through the month, and ask for forgiveness for the sins they’ve committed.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

But what if…

Salamu alaykom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

A dear brother and good friend emailed me a very good question. I thought I’d share it to spread the benefit. May Allah reward him:

“It’s extremely difficult to detach oneself from dunya whilst seeking aakhirah, unless you have strong imaan, which is difficult to attain.

Can it be that if one makes a decision solely for aakhira without having strong imaan, that they burn themselves out and thus ruining the decision they had made, therefore making matters even worse than before.

i.e should one act on a whim which is for dunya but not haram, then try to overcome it, because its difficult to know if you have overcome it beforehand?

…hope i made sense…”

So there are a few question or assumptions in this question, lets tackle them one by one:

Is it difficult to detach oneself from dunya ?

It’s as difficult as you make it. That’s not a cop-out answer by the way.

You see, some people will make the decision that it WOULD be nice to detach from dunya without having actually made the decision TO detach. But they kid themselves that they did make that decision and then they wonder why they still have difficulties.

Some reverts, for example, will sacrifice everything – cold turkey – without any ‘side effects’ what-so-ever. Others will make the decision that it would be nice, then act like they’ve made THE decision – they burn out as the brother described it.

There are a few ways in which people try to detach from dunya:

Theory 1: leaving it physically, so they go to monasteries or caves and they ‘meditate’.
This isn’t really detaching from dunya. It’s removing oneself from it.
It’s escaping the stimulus of dunya.
When they return, guess what ? Same old dunya ! AND Same old person !

Theory 2: staying with it physically but cutting it out completely
This is much closer to detachment than the first type
They won’t physically escape their surroundings, but they’ll reject dunya
A lot of homeless people fit into this category – though not all
This is where they shun everything whilst being within society
They only buy or own what they need – the bear minimum

Theory 3: where they are in society, they acquire dunya but it isn’t in their hearts
so they don’t escape civilisation to go to the mountains
and they don’t shun materialism whilst remaining in civilisation also
instead… they see life for what it is. A tool for the acquirement of akhirah
This one is as per the sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh)

Do you need strong Iman to be able to do so ?

I know of people that have detached from dunya that are not even Muslims ! And it’s important to note that whether you’re attached or not is not the sign of ultimate success: Islam, Iman and Ihsan are. (bear minimum being Islam)

It does help to know that there is something infinitely better coming though.

Can one burn themselves out if they over stretch ?

OK… well, now here’s where it gets interesting:

If you follow detachment theory 1 – it’s a game of will power, it’s a little easier because once you’re out there, you get used to it, you’ve got other ‘monks’ with you etc.

If you follow detachment theory 2 – it’s also a game of will power and it’s significantly harder than theory 1 because the stimulus is still present.

If you follow detachment theory 3 – the way of the sunnah, then you detach bit by bit. And it’s true detachment.

Theory 1 and 2 are a rejection of dunya… they are not a detachment from it.

Theory 3 is the only real way of detaching – actually detaching dunya from your heart. With theory 3, a person could be bribed, you could attempt to seduce them, to entice them… it wouldn’t work !

If theory 3 is done properly, releasing one whim at a time, then you will not burn out – EVER. insha Allah. The reason being, each time you detach, you become more free. You have more power to carry on.

With theories 1 and 2, with each thing you resist from dunya, you build up the temptations, you build up the ‘enemies’ that could potentially kill you whilst you’re not looking or at a moment of weakness.

Is it better to take it one step at a time, than to just make one big monumental decision ?

Both. You need to make the monumental decision that you want to be free. Then… one step at a time, you need to release your whims as you go along.

You won’t be able to release them unless you’ve taken the monumental decision, because you need a driver, an aim, an objective.

I hope this clarifies and explains things insha Allah :-)

NOW… to take this even further:

This question is one that almost everyone that hopes to tread this path asks themselves. If not outright, then a nagging feelings unsettles them. So lets analyse what whims this question represents.

Firstly, there’s a whim for security. You’re afraid of failure. It’s a threat. You’re also afraid of your own nafs – the possible back-lash !

Secondly, there’s a whim for control. You haven’t mastered your nafs enough to know how to control it. One of the things that I teach in “Whims-I-Kill Pro” is that you need to test your nafs after you release. YOU find out if you have released the whim, you don’t leave it to chance only then to be disappointed. That would be a lack of control.

Thirdly, you still want to approve of dunya.” It’s not all that bad, if it’s not haram, then surely I can dabble in it a little. It’s not so bad !”

Ironically, once you’ve detached from dunya… you will approve of it even more. You will know it for what it is worth. Up until then, it will continue to disappoint you – which is the opposite of approval.

There’s more to say, but that’s enough for now :-)

—–

I thought that I should share this question because we are only a couple of daysishs away from the month of Ramadan. The month where, if you want to take that monumental decision, well that’s the best time !

Monday, June 23, 2014

Social Media Mass Surveillance is Allowed in UK

The officials have officially confirmed the true extent of the government’s interception of social networks, including private messages between citizens. It was confirmed that searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and exchange of emails abroad can be monitored by the local security services.
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British government has finally admitted that communication of its citizens in private channels like Twitter direct messages are considered as legitimate targets that can be intercepted without a warrant.

The document representing defence of mass monitoring developed a legal interpretation,
provoking calls for the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to be overhauled urgently and the allegations that the authorities are exploiting loopholes in the law of which parliament was unaware.

The paper was released in response to a case brought by civil rights groups before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which deals with complaints against the intelligence services. The case was launched in the wake of revelations from Edward Snowden about the monitoring program dubbed Tempora operated by the British monitoring agency GCHQ. This program taps into the network of fiber-optic cables that carry the phone calls and online traffic worldwide, recording up to 600 million phone events daily.

According to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, traditional interception of internal communications within the country requires an individual warrant. The authorities argue that in a technologically-fast moving world, identifying individual targets before monitoring is too difficult. The external one, in the meantime, can be monitored without an individual warrant. The document explains that searches on social networks involve communicating with a web-based platform abroad, and are therefore external communications, not internal. Emails sent or received from abroad could also be intercepted in such a way.

The statement also points out that the issue was raised during the passage of the law a decade ago, implying that parliament knew about the difficulty of distinguishing between internal and external communications when it passed the bill.

Indeed, the Section 8 of the law reads that the internal communications between UK residents within the UK may only be monitored pursuant to a specific warrant, and if there’s a reason to suspect the individual in unlawful activity. But external communications may be monitored indiscriminately under a general warrant.

UK Economists Recommend to Replace Pound with Bitcoin

Professor of finance and economics at Durham University recommended the United Kingdom to privatize the pound and replace it with a cryptocurrency. He says that Bitcoin is not the first example of private money, but the cryptocurrency is the first one that governments are unable to shut down. In result, the authorities should admit that Bitcoin is here to stay, and allow competition between the alternative forms of money.
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This suggestion might include allowing taxes to be paid in Bitcoin or Dogecoin, or even fully privatizing the national currency. The economist placed Bitcoin at the pinnacle of a historical trend of government crackdowns on its citizens’ attempts to create private money. It is known that the creators of physical and electronic currency both ended up in court, the former being accused of counterfeiting, and the latter of money laundering. However, those charges were politically-motivated protectionism. Since Bitcoin is decentralized, it is harder to crack down on through the court system. If cryptocurrency does become popular, the governments will have to deal with it some other way.

However, the creators of cryptocurrencies realize that there's a lot of standing in their way before they reach that success. After all, to displace existing national currency they not only have to perform the basic functions of money better that state money, they also need qualities that transcend the way in which state money works.

The advocates of Bitcoin believe that those qualities come in the form of protection from inflation. Indeed, the cryptocurrency will only ever have 21 million coins created to make sure that it will always hold its value. On the other hand, its critics render the Bitcoin economy prone to deflationary slumps.

For some, those qualities come from the purely digital nature of the currency. They describe it as the financial equivalent of the worldwide web, saying that the Internet was a new way to transmit data, just like Bitcoin was a new way to transmit money. Of course, this process will take a long time, but it is a big opportunity. The economist explains that money is a very important issue, so if you can build a new way to deal with it, it's very valuable though time-consuming.


South Korea and EU Will Develop 5G Together

South Korea and the European Union agreed to cooperate on developing 5G wireless network technologies and are expected to come up with a global consensus on standards. The countries have finally come to a conclusion on the need for a harmonized radio spectrum policy in order to ensure global interoperability of 5G networks, along with global technical standards.
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The parties will also collaborate with the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, a group of telcom standards organizations, as well as with the International Telecommunication Union that sets global policies for spectrum use. The European Union and South Korea have decided to form a joint research and development group and cooperate on developing ICT services for the cloud and the Internet of Things, apart from many other areas.

This move was supposed to ensure a globally agreed definition and standard for 5G telecommunication networks in the future. The Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda arrived in Seoul a few days ago to sign the agreement, saying that the move would certainly speed up and make sure that the European Union wins the global race to create 5G network. Earlier in 2014, the Commission set 2020 as the goal to introduce 5G networks across Europe.

The new agreement would see the European Union and South Korea launching jointly funded research projects in two years. As for South Korea, the country is planning core 5G wireless technologies to be ready in time for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, while the world’s first 5G network services are expected to be introduced by 2020.

Of course, these plans put Samsung into the spotlight, as the company has already successfully tested technologies considered key to 5G back in 2013. The country’s major carriers SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus are currently fighting for the right to become the first 5G network provider.


Cheap Chinese Smartphone Carries Built-in Malware

Star N9500, a Chinese Android smartphone, which can be bought on Amazon, eBay and from other online retailers, has been found to contain a built-in trojan that pretends to be the Google Play Store. The smartphone closely resembles Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and is manufactured in China. The device is sold online through resellers in Belfast and Hong Kong.
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The virus, known as “Uupay.D”, pretends to be the Google Play Store and comes pre-installed on the device, so that the user can’t remove it. One of the German security companies analyzed the smartphone purchased directly from the factory in China.

The trojan steals personal data from the device and sends it to an anonymous server in China. Moreover, it can install additional apps or malware without your knowledge. The experts admit that the options with this spy malware are almost unlimited. Users see nothing else than an app with the Google Play Store icon in the running processes. The malware allows the criminals to track your location, intercept and record phone calls, make purchases and send text messages. Finally, it could be used to break into online banking and similar services.

In the meantime, users are likely to be oblivious to the fact that their cheap and cool device could be stealing their information and live its own life, rating the smartphone five stars on Amazon and other online stores. You can buy Star N9500 across Europe two or three times cheaper than comparable devices from other manufacturers. Of course, the device has sold in the hundreds.

The security experts think that the low price of a device is a criminal tactic to entice users. The criminals may make money from the sale of stolen personal information. In is unclear at what stage the malware is introduced, but the buyers should beware in any case. Although very cheap offers online must make buyers suspicious, for some reason they don’t.

The statistics say that Android accounted for 97% of the malware targeted at mobile devices in 2013, which shows an increase of 20% from 2012. However, the Google Play Store, which is pre-installed on all Google Android devices, can only be blamed for 0.1% of the malware, because the majority of malware is downloaded by the users from third-party app stores like Chinese Baidu and Anzhi. Why do people go there? Just because access to Google Play is restricted in the country.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

For Sale: Boneless Pork Rectums (Inverted)

A pallet of delicious pork rectums was spotted outside of a dumpling shop in Taipei, Taiwan. Please note that it is a product of the great republic. Despite complaints to the contary, American workers can still produce goods sought across world.

It appears that pork rectums must be properly deboned and inverted before they become sellable. These can be made into dumplings. Here in the South, we deep fry pork intestines and call them chitlins. Alternatively, we may use them as sausage casings. To my knowledge, these practices do not include the actual rectum portion. Perhaps the people of Taiwan prize quality American pork rectums so highly that they price domestic consumers out of the market.

How many pork rectums are present in this picture? How many would fit into a standard shipping container? W.M. Briggs, a statistician, learned that just one South Korean food company imports 2-3 shipping containers full of American pork rectums a month. He crunches the numbers:

    The 20-foot container is a standard size; we have all seen these containers on the highway. They measure 20′ x 8′ x 8.5′ feet. The volume is 1,360 cubic feet.

    We only need one more piece of information. The size of the average, deboned, inverted pig’s rectum is two feet long, and 2 inches wide. For the purposes of this calculation, we can assume that the rectum is a parallelepiped, which is to say, a rectangular box of size 2′ x 0.167′ x 0.167′ feet.

    A standard rectum thus takes up 0.056 cubic feet. We’ll ignore packing considerations for now and imagine that we’re trying to stuff as many rectums as we can into a container. This calculation, which will represent an upper bound, is easy: we have 1,360 available cubic feet, and each rectums takes up 0.056 cubic feet.

    That makes about 25,000 rectums per container. Using the universal principle “one pig, one rectum”, this makes it 25,000 pigs slaughtered per container. Of course, packaging adds bulk, so that the actual number of rectums that can be transported per container must be less. A figure of 20% to 30% increase per rectum seems reasonable. That is, each dry rectum, considering the plastic, dry ice, cardboard, etc., is like 1.2 to 1.3 packaged rectum.

    This means that each takes up about 0.067 to 0.072 cubic feet per rectum. That gives us a low of about 18,500 to a high of around 20,000 rectums per container.

    Now, those Koreans are importing 2 to 3 of those containers every month. Pick the middle figure. That makes 30 containers a year, just going to this one company. That gives a grand total of between 560,000 to 610,000 rectums per year sailing across the high seas on their way to Korea.

P.S. Shouldn't these actually be labeled as boneless pork recta? I cannot confirm it, but I think that rectum is a second declension noun.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Police & FACT Claim Big Successes in UK Anti-Piracy Drive

City of London Police and Hollywood's Federation Against Copyright Theft are claiming big results in a new government IP crime report. PIPCU say they have suspended 2,359 UK domains and cut off payment to 19 sites, with FACT claiming the closure of 117 pirate sites and the arrest of seven release group members in the past 12 months.
In recent times the UK has become one of the most unfriendly countries in the world when it comes to operating a file-sharing site. Efforts by the movie industry and their local proxies have restricted opportunities, and the addition of government assistance since the summer of 2013 has only made things more claustrophobic.
The two main players on this front are FACT, the Hollywood-affiliated Federation Against Copyright Theft and PIPCU, the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Both have been very active recently, with the latter doing most of its work in the past 10 months or so.
While there are few big announcements from either group, a new UK government report now provides updated statistics from both. The numbers in the just-published IP Crime Highlight Report 2013/2014 show considerable activity, for FACT over the past 12 months and for PIPCU since September last year.
PIPCU
cityoflondonpoliceThe headline figure from PIPCU indicates that the unit is currently investigating ‘IP Crime’ to the value of £28,869,991, which in the overall scheme of things doesn’t seem big by industry standards. Music sales alone were worth more than £1 billion in the UK during 2013 and it’s not unusual for the industry to claim piracy rates in excess of 90%.
Still, the police unit is not only about investigation, but also about disruption, and their aim to have the domains of infringing sites suspended has reportedly enjoyed some success. According to the new stats, since September 2013 PIPCU have had a hand in the suspension of 2,359 .co.uk domain names. It’s a significant number, no doubt, but the disruption one might expect from such broad action has certainly not been reflected in the press.
Other figures presented by the government relate to the execution of 15 search warrants. No further details have been provided but the action against a local streaming link site accounted for at least one of them.
The final piece of information from PIPCU relates to the current “follow the money” approach employed by anti-piracy groups worldwide. The unit claims to have suspended the ability of 19 websites to process payments, although no detail is given on the nature of the sites from where the processors backed out. PIPCU do work with PayPal, MasterCard and VISA, so it’s likely they’ll be somewhere in the chain.
FACT
factWithout doubt, FACT are the busiest ‘boots on the ground’ anti-piracy group in the UK and the most likely to trouble UK-based file-sharing site operators.
According to the report, in the past 12 months alone FACT has managed to close down 117 ‘pirate’ websites. No further details are provided but the group works on a number of levels, from scaring operators via email to physically arriving at their home addresses. When site operators have been brave enough to talk we have reported on a few instances here at TF, but in nothing like the numbers suggested in the report.
FACT also claim to have targeted people higher up the food chain in the past 12 months, after having a hand in the arrest of seven “alleged” release group members. The inclusion of the word ‘alleged’ suggests ongoing cases, but it’s certainly possible that FACT are referring to individuals arrested in the West Midlands last year.
In addition to having another 10 websites blocked by UK ISPs following action in the High Court, FACT secured the first ever UK conviction of an individual streaming live football matches over the Internet. The case involved the operators of a website called FreeLiveFooty, both of which were arrested in 2010 following complaints from the Premier League.
“FACT’s successes in the past year show the benefits of intelligence led, targeted actions against criminal websites and the people behind them,” FACT’s Eddy Leviten told TorrentFreak. “We also help to guide consumers to legitimate entertainment sources online, in cinemas and on TV.”
News-shy
While both PIPCU and FACT do make the occasional announcement on achievements, there is a tendency for them to work under the radar.
For example, while FACT has on occasion pressed the big publicity button, such as when they took the BBC along to the home of a file-sharing site operator, often the only reports to surface are the ones published here on TF with the assistance of FACT targets (for example 1,2,3,4,5)
PIPCU also tend not to shout too loudly or too often about their achievements, action against counterfeit domain names and other sundries aside. Again, word often reaches TF of attempted domain seizures or threatening letters way before the police make any announcement, if they ever do. Why they take this approach isn’t clear, but the fact that some attempts fail, such as recently with torrent index Torrentz, is certainly a motivator to keep things low-key.

Secure Platform for Whistleblowers Launched

The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper known for publishing leaks from Edward Snowden, has launched a secure platform for whistleblowers that enables them to securely submit confidential data to the reporters. A year ago the Guardian posted the first of a series of NSA documents leaked by Snowden, which sparked a worldwide debate on surveillance and civil liberties.

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A number of free speech and privacy groups and popular websites are also marking the day with a so-called Reset the Net campaign. They encourage Internet users to do something to secure their privacy on the Internet. In addition, some tech firms are also expected to announce new steps to protect users’ privacy.

The new SecureDrop open-source whistleblowing platform allows those who want to remain anonymous to submit files and data while avoiding online tracking. The platform combines the use of the well-known anonymizing technology (Tor network) and the Tails OS, which was used by the reporters to work on the NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden.

A number of outfits, including The New Yorker, the US non-commercial investigative newsroom ProPublica, and The Intercept startup, are already making use of the SecureDrop system, which was originally developed by a computer genius Aaron Swartz. The latter is known for committing suicide last year after facing pressure from the law enforcement for the mass downloading of academic articles. SecureDrop was finished after his death, and since then has been maintained and promoted by the non-commercial Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The Guardian announced that the page for requests on using the system is hosted on a separate server, includes no tracking cookies, and records no logs. In the meantime, regular Guardian webpages use tracking cookies to serve advertising. SecureDrop system is installed outside of the United Kingdom, as the UK government applied pressure to the Guardian, forcing the news organization to relocate its reporting on the files to the US.

The system was given an extensive security audit by a team of cryptographers a year ago and then updated to address the Heartbleed security vulnerability. However, SecureDrop specifically doesn’t promise 100% security, because its developers admit that there are always risks. Along with just sending classified content to the journalists, the system also allows for subsequent secure two-way communication between sources and reporters.

Microsoft Puts Pressure on American Government over Surveillance

It’s been a year since the first Snowden revelations about the NSA surveillance, and the software giant has finally unleashed its nastiest lobbying hounds into Washington to request for reform. Media reports say that Microsoft is demanding that the US search warrants should end at the country’s borders.

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Microsoft faces problem overseas, because foreign countries, especially China, don’t like the US government’s surveillance methods through US companies. Microsoft claimed that the government should better address important unfinished business in order to reduce the technology trust deficit it has built. The software giant is concerned about the US government’s efforts to use search warrants to try and force the companies to disclose the contents of communications of overseas customers which are stored abroad.

Edward Snowden revealed that the government intercepted information in transit across the worldwide web and hacked links between company data centers. This move could literally kill off the chance of the United States to make any impact in the lucrative Cloud trade.

In the meantime, Microsoft is not the only company which threatens to cut off the country’s politicians political funding. Other tech giants, including Cisco Systems, are also jolly cross. Cisco penned a stiffly worded letter to Barack Obama last month, asking for his intervention so that the technology business of the United States wasn’t hit by a loss of trust from customers all over the world thanks to reports of NSA surveillance.

This letter was written after the publication of reports on how the National Security Agency physically intercepted network equipment and planted surveillance tools before repackaging the devices with a factory seal. These devices were then sent to international customers.

So far 8 tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo, have asked for a reform of government surveillance legislation and practices all over the world. The corporations are sitting on shedloads of lobby dollars which the politicians definitely need.

American politicians don’t really seem to understand the risk they are facing. Last month, they watered down the USA Freedom Act – this basically meant the spooks can continue to do what they like. While Microsoft pointed out that it never received an order related to mass collection of online information, the company believes the USA Freedom Act should be strengthened in order to prohibit more clearly similar orders in the future.

European Court Ruled Piracy May Be Legal, Sometimes

A court in the EU has recently ruled that its citizens may pirate copyrighted material if they do so in a particular way. It turned out that if an Internet user is streaming the material protected by copyright online, it is legal for the user, as they are not willfully making a copy of that content to view. Although the pirate can not save files and store them on their drives, they can watch them directly via a web browser, streaming from a service that hosts the content. This will be absolutely legal, according to the court of the European Union.

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The court ruling was delivered as part of a legal battle between the EU media service Meltwater, which used to include headlines from news stories in daily digests it sent to its subscribers through email, and the news copyrighters. Various copyright holders, including the Associated Press, have sued the media service, claiming that Meltwater stole their content.

Surprisingly enough, the case crossed into strange territory in Europe. The rights owners suing Meltwater argued that recipients of the emails from the media service had to pay license fees for the letters they received. However, the court of the European Union basically decided that Internet users who see the material online, without actually willingly making a copy of it, cannot be held responsible for any resulting copyright violation.

Although Meltwater is not off the hook yet, at least its customers certainly are. In addition, the ruling actually means that if you stream content from the website, you can’t be done for piracy. In other words, Europe got a new rule to follow: viewers cannot be prosecuted. This precedent should be good news for thousands of German users who recently received fines at home for streaming porn content from a site in 2013.

Snowden Claimed NSA Can Spy on Turned off iPhone

The National Security Agency can supposedly exploit the security features in Apple’s iPhone that allows the agency to spy on people when they think the device is completely switched off. According to Edward Snowden, the NSA can get into your iPhone, turn it on and remotely turn on apps.

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Of course, Apple dismissed Snowden’s claim as “magical” – everyone knows that the iPhone was designed by Steve Jobs and is therefore completely unhackable and absolutely secure. For some reason, the company didn’t comment the well-known fact that it takes experts less than a minute to break into one.

On the other hand, a group of cunning iPhone hackers claims it is possible. The only thing the spies have to do is trick the user into installing malware before shutting down the iPhone. That malware would make the device look like it is shutting down, showing the user a fake “slide to power off” screen. But instead of powering down, the device would enter a low-power mode which leaves its baseband chip responsible for communication with the carrier on.

The chances are that the NSA could install that malware before you even bought your iPhone. Now everyone knows how NSA intercepted routers from Cisco to install backdoors, so it would just be a doddle for the agency to show up at an Apple store and install their own software before putting the devices on sale. By the way, this may explain the constant troubles with battery life which consumes power for hell knows what in great quantities.

The same hackers pointed out that that you are still able to completely turn off your iPhone so nobody can use it to spy on you (that is if you have something to hide or just don’t like the fact of being tracked). The hacker even specified that their method doesn’t involve a hammer and changing your iPhone for another device, like the Russian government did – not the hammers of course, but they changes all their iPhones for Samsungs in just one day.

So, what is the method for those who still feel they have no spare money to buy another phone right now? They can turn off their iPhones by putting the device into firmware upgrade (DFU) mode. This is a kind of “panic” state, which let the device reinstall its firmware or recover from repeated OS crashes. In DFU mode all elements of the device are entirely shut down except its USB port – that one would be waiting for a signal from iTunes to install new firmware.

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