Category: privacy

UK Porn Block Will Encourage VPN Use

It’s difficult to tell if this crazy, techno-backward, filtering scheme that the UK Government is intending to implement is actually going to happen. After all the Government is in turmoil and is currently trying to pick a new Prime minister from a bunch of distinctly shady looking characters, so it’s actually difficult to tell.

UK Porn Block

Some have suggested that they might just shelve it or push it back quietly. However there seems to be no sign of this and it looks like the mad scheme might actually be released. Here’s the latest opinion from the guys at Torrent Geek who are quite rightly pointing out another drawback.

This summer the UK government will attempt to ban underage access to sites that have a third or more of their content dedicated to porn. Everyone will be required to verify their age and sites that don’t comply with the regime will be blocked by ISPs. However, citizens who seek to circumvent the rules with VPNs, for example, will also find pirate sites wide open again.

Before the dawn of the mainstream Internet, underage access to pornographic content meant trying to sneak a glance over someone’s shoulder at a well-thumbed adult magazine.

Or, if you were ‘lucky’, finding a VHS cassette in a friend’s dad’s cupboard, behind the coats and shoes, in a box, inside another box, in an envelope marked “holiday video”. Such things apparently happened.

With the dawn of the Internet, things have certainly changed. With just a few clicks, one can find pornographic material, with ‘graphic’ often being the operative word. What adults choose to watch is their business, but children being able to access much of the content on today’s platforms is probably not what most parents want.

So in the absence of traditional parental controls, the UK government has stepped in to prevent youngsters from inadvertently stumbling across adult content. From July 15, the country will adopt a checking scheme that will require profit-making sites with more than a third of their content pornographic in nature to verify visitors’ ages.

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So basically by implementing their porn filter, the UK Government will be simply enabling a culture of filter avoidance. It’s very likely to happen, just the same way as it does in China – where I’ve heard of very small children routinely using VPNs to access blocked content from he Chinese state. You will probably find a VPN client shortcut sitting on loads of laptop and desktops for all sorts of reasons not just as a way to bypass the uK porn filter.

The UK Porn Block Launches in July 2019

Except of course it didn’t, again, the implementation has been delayed after a slight administrative issue. This time after years of discussion, months of planning the current government continued on it’s usual method of implementing any project with a technological component by completely buggering it up. Apparently the technology was all in place but someone had forgotten that such a huge intrusion into peoples freedom of choice and liberty actually required a notification being placed with the European commission.

Before anyone get’s too upset and starts shouting about ‘bloody Europe’ these are laws and regulations largely pushed by the UK themselves in order to control how companies manage age verification. However this high profile, flagship project floundered because the basic administrative steps hadn’t been followed. It’s something akin to getting a license before you can drive or planning permission before you build that extension. Yet again, a UK IT project fails dismally before it’s even implemented which perhaps maybe a blessing in disguise.

After all one of the important assurances given to back up this project is that great care would be taken with both the age verification and database of approved users. After all, having a huge list of adults ‘who would like to watch porn’ is obviously valuable on one side but also highly personal in another. We all know that the media would have a great time sifting through a huge list of people who’d asked to be able to watch pornography legally. This care was completely missing in the initial phase so why should we believe that it would get any better during the post-Brexit shambles that the UK has become.

The project has now been shelved again, initially without any firm date but now people are suggesting it’s only going to be a few months. It’s actually when the UK Porn block is implemented that we’ll see all the main issues occur, this pre-implementation shambles is something simply created by incompetence.

The current Digital Media secretary who was in charge of this project is Morgot James, promised that this act would make the UK one of the safest countries for children to access the internet. Although it should be pointed out that she has just resigned in the latest raft of political arguments. Whether this project actually happens or is  just kicked down the road by successive governments is difficult to tell.  It seems likely to simply be another back door to increase censorship in the UK and of course government surveillance.    Great news for all the best VPN service providers though as pretty much everyone will end up using one anyway.

 

Want to Bypass the UK Porn Block ?

So finally after many years coming up with a stupid plan, the UK Government is about to try to control access to porn supposedly to protect our children.  Apparently with little discussion and consultation it’s now about to be implemented on July 15th backed by a comprehensive UK age verification system.  The United Kingdom will be the proud owner of the first advanced democratic nation to implement a nationwide ban on accessing pornography online.

UK Porn Block

It appears though they haven’t really spoke to anyone apart from a few children’s charities. There certainly doesn’t seem to have been any input from anyone who knows something about technology.

First of all I’d like to state that 

  • a) I have kids
  • b) I don’t want them looking at porn

However I still think it’s a stupid idea, but before pointing out why – here’s a quick summary of what’s going to happen.

On  the 15th July, anyone visiting a Pornography site from the UK will be presented with an age verification check.   Now many porn sites already have these, but currently they are merely a ‘Are you Over 18 button’ which you just have to press to confirm.  There are no real checks on these buttons and this is what will fundamentally change.

All these sites will require any user from the UK to verify their email address, then their current age.   There will be a variety of options to do this, including using a credit card, uploading scans of driving licenses or passports.

If you don’t like the idea of scanning your passport and uploading it to some website so you can gain access to pornography then there is another option.  You can also visit a local shop or newsagent and verify your age and address there.  In exchange you will be given a card or ‘porn pass’ which you can use to verify your age on the websites with a code.

Why the UK Porn Block is a Bad Idea

1) Goddamit there’s porn everywhere!

We probably all realise that there’s a lot of porn online. However it might come as surprise precisely how much. Nobody knows for sure of course, but even conservative estimates are pretty staggering. This article suggested that over 37% of the entire internet is made up from pornographic material.

Now even this is wrong there’s no doubt that there are literally millions of pages of pornography all over the internet. Much of it unregulated or posted casually in forums, social media sites, bulletin boards or shared via places like Twitter. Of course the big, legitimate multi million pound porn sites will implement these changes. However I suspect that a small website hosted in Ukraine by a bloke called Ivor who likes large breasted Grandmothers is not going to be that bothered about implementing the UK Government’s controls.

Basically one reason the porn block won’t work is because most porn sites will not bother installing the controls. In reality the only sites that will are probably never targets for kids anyway.

2) Push the Problem Underground

What inevitably happens if you start to regulate or control something like this, is that it goes underground. If you block access by age verification to established porn sites, people won’t just stop using porn they’ll just visit the sites which aren’t regulated or controlled. So instead of accessing popular or mainstream porn sites, more and more people will start using the dark web ones or those hosted in countries who don’t care about the UK’s Porno campaign.

3) A Massive Porn User Database Run by The Government

Let’s just consider what the Government is actually creating here – a massive database of millions of of UK porn users. Every person who wanted to watch porn online would have to add their details to this database. Sounds kind of intrusive? How many people would be comfortable adding their name to this list? Of course, why the hell should they ask permission and register their sexual interests with the government.

Even if you trusted the Government to protect and handle this information carefully (hmm) – the potential risks of accidents or misuse are extremely high. What if the information was compromised, and people started posting lists of teachers or clerics or police staff who were listed as ‘registered porn users’. Irrespective of the legality, the potential embarrassment and humiliation would be awful.

Hands up who wants to register their sexual preferences with the government so they can store it in a database that they promise never to use and keep safe.

4) It’s Easy to Bypass

The implementation of the technical infrastructure behind this is bound to be hopeless.  They almost always are whenever Governments attempt these sort of ill thought out projects.   There have already been rumours that one of the main age verification companies involved will be MindGeek using their AgeID system. The slight issue with this company is that they own three of the world’s largest porn sites,  no conflict of interest there then!  Although they keep that fact very quiet it should be said, nothing on there website for example.

Irrespective of how the age verification process is implemented the core problem will be that the UK Porn filter is only applied to UK people.  I’m sure the French wouldn’t be too impressed if the UK Government decided which porn sites they could visit!   This puts us with only one option, geo-location – determining peoples location from the IP address they connect with.  So every porn site will look up the inbound connection, and if it’s from the UK then the age verification module will be implemented.

This means that every half decent VPN service can be used to bypass these blocks easily.  If you ensure your VPN is connected through a Non-UK server then you’ll be completely unaffected by the UK Porn Block as it won’t apply to you. Many children are well aware of this technology as they’ve been using VPNs for years to download pirated films and music online.   Unfortunately as most won’t be able to afford the fast, safe versions they’ll end up using the dodgy free VPNs that install malware and hard porn popups on your computer instead.

Anyone with the slightest technological knowledge will be able to use a VPN like Identity Cloaker to bypass the UK Porn filter with no effort whatsoever.  That would mean they could watch porn without any restrictions and crucially without being added to the Government’s registered porn users list.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen – the UK porn block is a pointless, stupid and intrusive idea but if it does – do yourself a favor and use a VPN.  This our favorite – the best VPN which will keep your identity completely protected if you do want to watch porn online.

Identity Cloaker

 

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Sinister Saudi Tracking App – Absher

It’s quite incredible to believe that in 2019 that there exists an application who’s primary purpose for Saudi men is to monitor and track women’s movements.  It’s provided by the Saudi government and it’s called Absher.

Now for anyone from a Western style democracy this would seem obscene, inhuman and unbelievable, yet it’s very real and currently even available on the Google Play Store to install on your smartphone.  First though there’s a couple of background facts that you need to be aware of  –

  • Saudi Law stipulates that every woman must have a male guardian.
  • Much of this guardian system has been computerized and put online.
  • Guardians are allowed to specify which airports women can travel from (or not)
  • System send text message alerts to guardians when women use their passports.
  • This is not a new system it has existed for years.

It’s incredible, amazing, the digital 21st century meets the medieval ages courtesy of the Saudi Arabian State.  What’s more it seems that this is application has even been given mainstream approval by appearing in places like the Google Play Store and Apple App store too.

Looks quite friendly and innocuous, doesn’t it?  Absher has many meanings in Arabic which don’t really tell the real story – ‘your request is granted’, ‘good tidings’ and ‘at your service’.   However these phrases are only really true if you’re male, for this application and digital service effectively enslaves women under the guardianship laws.

Imagine sitting behind this application is a database of Saudi Arabian women, with details and settings which are controlled by their male guardians.  Now much of the Absher system is very ordinary and wouldn’t look out of place in London or New York.  You can pay government fines, register the birth of a baby or renew your driving license (if you’re male obviously!).

Yet you really can use Absher to specify which (if any airport) a women can use to fly out of the country.  Permission can be given or revoked with a couple of button clicks, so for example you could block local airports.   If your digitally tracked female attempts to use one of these airports their ‘male guardians’ would notified by an SMS message to their phone.

The control over women is just restricted to which airports they can use either.  The guardian can specify how many journeys the woman can take, where they can travel to and for how long.  It’s supposedly there for safety yet obviously it is capable of much more.   Many women attempting to escape from the confines of Saudi Arabia are caught using this system.  As soon as any women attempts to use a passport they are effectively alerting any male guardian of their location and intentions.

The state argue that Absher app is available for women to use too, however this doesn’t include the travel permission pages.  Any woman who wants to escape what in some cases is little more than legal slavery has to find a solution to evade Abshar.  Many young women steal guardians phones and reset passwords, they can then give themselves permission to leave.  Obviously this has to be done quickly before hte guardian realizes and resets those permissions.

Digital technology does offer some balance though to this grim story of modern day repression.  It comes from the internet and social media which is full of stories of women escaping Saudi Arabia and starting new lives.  There are lots of forums and groups where women and girls share tips and advice about making their own escape plans.   Women are becoming aware that there are options and that other countries will offer them asylum if the escape the Kingdom itself. News and documentaries are spreading word of their plight too including some programmes still on the BBC iPlayer which are available by proxy.  The pictures of happy, escaped Saudi women living normal lives in other countries are in themselves inspirational.

 

Using Rotating Residential Proxies Online

Finding a proxy or two online isn’t very hard, there’s always a few new ones being left open somewhere. Perhaps from an inexperienced administrator who’s accidentally left his server open to the world or someone who’s not configured their firewall properly. It’s actually much more easily done than you’d imagine, often web enabled applications install or enable proxy services with little warning. Before you realise then thousands of strangers are piggybacking your server and bandwidth without your permission. Of course, this scenario is even more likely with the prevalence of ‘always on’ internet connections in millions of homes across the world. Lots of malware is configured to install things like Glype proxies or FTP servers for attackers to use without their owners knowledge too.

Rotating Residential Proxies
Despite this, the reliability and of course the safety of using these servers is obviously not great. Using someones misconfigured or worse hacked server is never a wise move even if you accept the fact that you’ll be sharing it with thousands of others. Yet the demand for proxies for a variety of reasons is growing all the time.

So why do people need loads of proxies? After all you can only use one at the time when you’re browsing the web or watching something online. Well there are actually lots of reasons, people use all sorts of automated software which harvest and analyse data, post adverts on multiple sites, or even bots which are used to buy products online.

Internet marketers for instance use all sorts of software to promote their products by automatically posting on social media, creating links on websites publishing adverts on commercial sites. Other people use bots (automated robots) to make multiple applications for online goods like sneakers and concert tickets for reselling. There are literally hundreds of applications which require access to multiple identities to work properly and they need proxies and lots of them.

Let’s take one example, there’s a whole host of online tools which allow people to buy lots of the latest sneakers online. These work by making repeated applications and requests to the web servers until they are successful, unfortunately if all these applications come from the same IP address then they get blocked very quickly. In order to work these ‘bots’ need lots of residential IP addresses to work, they’re commonly described as sneaker proxies but all they are is proxy servers which have access to lots of these home registered addresses. Each one of these residential addresses however is expensive and if they are overloaded become worthless as they end up being blocked by the websites themselves.

There is a solution developed by the specialist residential IP providers who operate in this space, who’ve developed systems that give access to hundred of residential proxies and addresses.

Rotating Residential Proxies

The problem is two fold, the IP addresses that are needed are classified as residential ones which in turn are extremely difficult to obtain unless you own an ISP. These applications also need lots of these addresses to run properly because each individual connection needs to be made from a different IP address. Having dedicated access to hundreds of residential IP addresses would cost a fortune every month so a systems has been developed which allows these addresses to be shared effectively.

They are known as backconnect residential proxies and they are in effect a single proxy gateway which gives access to a whole network of individual proxies with different configurations. The backconnect proxy operates usually under a single gateway IP address yet rotates it’s external calls through randomly selecting individual residential based proxy servers. The gateway will automatically rotate through these addresses every few minutes so that no single address is ever the same or over utilized. This is essential because if too many requests come through a single address then this will be flagged by the destination websites and they’re likely to be blocked. This makes them worthless for that particular site until the block is lifted.

This setup means that all you need to do is configure your application to point at a single gateway IP address and the backconnect proxy will then rotate through individual proxies automatically, making them virtually indistinguishable from normal home users. They can be used to automate all sorts of tasks from applying for concert tickets, to posting hundreds of adverts on localised portals like Craigslist or Gumtree. Without using software and residential proxies then posting more than a single time would be pretty much impossible.

Each individual connection therefore looks like it comes from a completely different location and machine.  Each of these proxies not only has a different residential IP address but a completely different footprint too supplying varying metadata like OS, browser types etc to complete the deception.

The other main advantage though is that it significantly brings down the cost.  Because each server is only used for a couple of minutes by each backconnect proxy before being rotated, that means that they can be shared around users and applications much more effectively.  Paying for dedicated access to thousands of residential proxies would cost a fortune and would simply not pay.

Using this method,  for a few dollars you can have automated software running through this network of residential proxies almost twenty four hours a day. This  means that it’s much more affordable for all sorts of online entrepreneurs.   remember some of the applications only cost a few hundred dollars and can earn people a substantial online income.  We’ve mentioned the ‘sneaker bots’ above, the applications which automate buying designer and limited availability sneakers – many individuals earn a six figure income from running these Bots and reselling the sneakers on places like eBay and Amazon.

So if you’re looking to expand your online empire, or need to run automated software which requires multiple residential IP addresses then you’re best bet is using rotating residential proxies.   This is a very specialised market and they’re only a few companies who maintain and run such a network, here’s our recommendation.

The fastest, safest and best rotating residential proxies come from a company called Storm.

Storm

Check out their backconnect residential proxy trial which you can test for 48 hours and get your money refunded if they don’t work for you.

Digital Clue Leads to Drug Dealers Arrest

In the famous Sherlock Holmes novel  – ” A Study in Scarlet”, one of the clues that helps Holmes solve the mystery was identifying some cigarette ash left at the scene of the crime.   Indeed he actually informs Watson in the same book that he has written a monograph of cigarette ash.    The incriminating ash belonged to something called a Trichinopoly cigar from Tiruchirappalli in India. However in today’s world I suspect Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t need to bother with such detailed research as criminals seem to spend a lot of their time posting them up on social media.

Take for example the recent case in South Wales, where a large drugs gang where caught primarily not because they were smoking Indian cheroots, but because of the incriminating evidence they placed online themselves.  It sounds stupid, but it’s true – here’s the photo which led to the arrest of the gang.

The photo was posted to a WhatsApp group, and before you start worrying about the police monitoring all these groups – it turns out it was actually retrieved from the mobile phone itself.  This criminal mastermind had taken a photo, of his drugs for sale posted it to  a WhatsApp group and then failed to delete or remove the photo from his phone.

It was subsequently seized by the police in a later unrelated arrest and passed on to the police forensics team.  They discovered lots of drug related deals and messages, plus crucially this photo which was to lead to the arrest of other members of the gang.

From the picture, the police analysed the partial fingerprint which was enough to match to another known suspect.  From this the police were able to trace other members including bitcoin deposits of over £20,000 in several dealers accounts.  I suspect if Sherlock Holmes were involved he’d probably have solved the whole lot using a fast broadband connection in Baker Street!

It illustrates several things, including perhaps the IQ levels of some South Wales based criminals!  One of the points worth remembering for those who do value their privacy is that although messaging applications like WhatsApp offer end to end encryption, that’s not the whole issue.   There are lots of ways to hide the transmission including the applications security plus layering on encryption using a VPN with a residential IP.  However secure a messaging system is regarding transit and delivery, it’s normally very difficult to apply that security to the end devices.  If anyone has access to the device that was used to send or receive the message, whether it’s phone, tablet or PC, then it’s usually fairly simple to access it.

Of course, the ground breaking element of this case is using a partial photograph to provide fingerprint evidence.    It would seem that there’s huge potential here to identify and solve all sorts of crimes using social media images and related records.  How many incriminating images are posted on Facebook and Instagram daily  for example, I’m certain plenty if you knew where to look.