Archive - March 2016

Weekly News Roundup: FBI drove Lavabit into closure to catch Snowden and other news

FBI drove Lavabit into closure to catch Snowden

Re-released court documents of the Lavabit case contains Snowden’s mistakenly unredacted email address. This is the expected confirmation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was targeting secure email service Lavabit to catch Snowden. A breaking report from the Guardian.

FBI drove Lavabit into closure to catch Snowden Click to Tweet

#OpWhiteRose fails…

The ‘Hacktivist’ collective group Anonymous claimed to have leaked personal details of Donald Trump, including his Social Security Number (SSN). Seems like the released information is not so new and has been circulating on the web since late last year. Read about the fail here.

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Weekly News Roundup: First Mac Ransomware

1 Billion dollar bank heist avoided by a typo

Hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s systems and stole its credentials for payment transfers, as news agency Reuters reports. The typo “fandation” in the name of the ghost NGO Shalika Foundation in Sri Lanka helped prevent a nearly $1 billion money transfer. Officials still don’t know how the hackers got into the system and are working to recover part of the 81 million dollars already transferred.

Bangladesh central bank building Source: REUTERS/Ashikur Rahman

Bangladesh Central Bank building
Source: REUTERS/Ashikur Rahman

Let’s Encrypt Has reached its First Million Certificates

This week, the Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority issued its millionth certificate. The World Wide Web is now more secure thanks to the program that was released only 3 months ago. This milestone reflects the important work done so far to reduce the bureaucracy of obtaining certificates. Here is the detailed report.

Certificates by day. Source: Let's encrypt

Certificates by day. Source: Let’s encrypt

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Peeple app: John Dow is about to destroy your life…

A few days ago a highly controversial people rating app has been launched. The two Canadian founders delayed the launch after a massive Internet backlash. They have spent 4 months reviewing the Peeple app and make it more attractive. Even so, the app is still raising concerns with some  features, settings, and rules. Reading the terms and conditions makes one believe the internet has gone too far. Not only is our privacy endangered, but identity theft, damage to online reputation and cyberbullying have found a flourishing environment to prosper.

In times when anti-cyberbullying measures are common practice in most educational establishments, it’s best to believe digital citizens will protect the web citadel and act rationale enough to just ignore this “positive app”. According to the press release announcing the launch, users will be able to ”look up anyone based on name, location, interests, and keywords”

The controversy resides in the ethical acceptance of humans being ranked and metrically assessed by other individuals. Click to Tweet

In case you are still not convinced this app might harm your online identity and reputation, here are some severe reasons to stay away from it:

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Unblocking websites and apps is still a big problem in 2016

More than 2 billion people are living under online censorship

This is more than enough for CyberGhost team to continue our fight for the free internet in 2016 with even more power and over 650 servers worldwide.

But the news from the Web Index Report is not great: “The internet is less free, more unequal, and web users are at increasing risk of indiscriminate government surveillance”. In 2013, the report showed over 30% of Web Index countries were blocking politically or socially sensitive Web content to a moderate or extreme degree. In 2014 that figure went up to 38%.

Here is a good definition of content filtering, as a form of online censorship, from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):

“Many governments, companies, schools, and public access points use software to prevent Internet users from accessing certain websites and Internet services. This is called Internet filtering or blocking and is a form of censorship. Content filtering comes in different forms. Sometimes entire websites are blocked, sometimes individual web pages, and sometimes content is blocked based on keywords contained in it. One country might block Facebook entirely, or only block particular Facebook group pages—or it might block any page or web search with the words “falun gong” in it.”

Use CyberGhost to access safely censored content and protect your online privacy! Click to Tweet

And in recent days, other massively used apps, such as Whatsapp, have been blocked for short periods in Brazil and United Arab Emirates.

The current censorship situation around the world

Censorship map

At the same time, there is a fragile legal frame to support online freedom, with 84% of the countries having no effective laws and practices to protect the privacy of online communications. China is leading the top of countries blocking and filtering the web content. According to the same report, Uruguay allows its citizens the most online freedom.

When governments really cross the line, violating fundamental rights, like Turkey, during the “Big Ban” from March 2014, when the government blocked several web pages and access to YouTube, Twitter and Soundcloud,  international organizations and companies react strongly.  Several countries pressured Erdogan’s government to release the ban and CyberGhost offerd 30.000 Premium keys to Turkish citizens so they can use the internet unrestricted.

So there is hope. Out of the 45 Web Index countries with extensive constraints on speech, only seven (about 16%) seem to censor more heavily online than offline.

What can you do?

Use a trusted VPN to access safely the censored content and protect themselves and their online privacy.  In some cases, like the case of some journalists in conflict areas, even their life.

Here’s a video that explains how hiding your IP helps you unblock restricted websites and banned apps:

If you want to learn more on how to avoid being tracked online, read these 3 essential tips.

Does your government block access to an app or website? Enter here and tell us which ones and we will fight to help you unblock them with Cyberghost.

Does your government block access to an app or website? Use #CyberGhost to unblock them safely! Click to Tweet

So we just have to keep on reporting the abuses and demanding better laws to sustain online privacy for everybody, while using encrypted online connection.

What is the FBI trying to achieve?

In the past few days, media reported about how parts of the US IT industry resist the espionage plans of the US government – triggered by Apple’s refusal to hack the phone of a suspect and prospectively install backdoors for secret services. What exactly is Apple required to do? And why is the company’s resistance so important? Also concerning VPNs …

For the first time in history, the government asks a company not just to assist in the investigation of an offense, request that no one would actually complain about; but publicly demanding Apple to develop a completely new software that makes the onsite security of its devices and features superfluous. This demand is affecting the security features that impact all Apple users and anyone who communicates with Apple’s users, and which are essential in the prevention of digital crimes. Bottom line, the company is forced to develop a master key that unlocks every single iOS device.


What would be the new changes? If FBI is successful, three major changes should be implemented by Apple:

  • Currently, iOS can be adjusted so that it clears the internal keys after 10 unsuccessful password entries. FBI wants the software without this feature.
  • After each unsuccessful password entry to unlock a device, iOS prolongs the time until another attempt can be made. The FBI wants the new software to accept an infinite number of entries without breaks.
  • iOS requires that passwords are entered manually. The FBI would like the possibility to enter passwords electronically, so one can run automatically a variety of options in a short period of time.
FBI's demand is affecting all Apple users and anyone who communicates with them. #PrivateLivesMatter Click to Tweet

If FBI’s requests will be approved, not only would Apple suffer of a bigger image loss than the one triggered by the Snowden revelations, but there would arise a fatal situation for citizens and businesses alike. By default, built-in back doors would not only be available for the US government, but potentially for others as well, especially for known enemies of the western countries like Iran, North Korea and Russia, but also the competing national economies, hackers and cybercriminals.

It’s rather naïve to believe that for the sake of all citizens, governments are the only ones trying to keep an eye on encrypted data. This rather reveals how much the thinking of law enforcement agencies has developed in only one direction: understanding total surveillance with themselves as luminaries of the planet, morally unassailable and almost uncontrollable anyway.

Another step towards 1984 2.0

And it would be only the first step, because once the protection of devices is gone, VPNs are just the next target on the hit list. If Apple’s refusal fails in court, the enforcement of backdoors for encrypted Internet access via virtual networks is only a matter of time. And besides: US companies operate globally. What arguments will be used for denying the Chinese government to do the same? And the Iranian? Who then has the last word when it comes to separate the evil from the good? And how exactly is the Russian mass surveillance different from the US one?


Weekly News Roundup: Facebook's Vice President Arrested in Brazil & Other News

Facebook’s Vice President Arrested in Brazil for Refusing to Share WhatsApp Data

Seems like Apple is not the only company in trouble. Brazilian police arrested Facebook‘s Latin America Vice President, Diego Jorge Dzodan. WhatsApp has refused to share the content of communications between alleged drug dealers involved in a drug trafficking case. Read more about here.

Brazilian police arrested Facebook‘s Latin America Vice President, Diego Jorge Dzodan. Click to Tweet

Bounty hunters, “Hack the Pentagon” competition is on

Well known “bug bounties” competitions are already a best practice among large companies worldwide. This programs are aimed to identify critical issues and avoid damages caused by cybercriminals. In the search for security gaps, the U.S. military has launched a similar program called “Hack the Pentagon”. To enter, security experts must be US citizens and will have to submit to a background check.

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