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UK Outlines Plan For Internet Black Boxes

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the but-don't-panic-they'll-say-don't-panic-on-them dept.

Privacy 419

RobotsDinner writes "In what sounds like a dystopian sci-fi plot, the Home Office has made public plans to outfit the country's Internet with upstream data recorders to log pretty much everything that passes through. 'Under Government plans to monitor internet traffic, raw data would be collected and stored by the black boxes before being transferred to a giant central database. The vision was outlined at a meeting between officials from the Home Office and Internet Service Providers earlier this week.'"

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419 comments

i hate this country (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673209)

fuck this police state

I hate their lying ways (5, Insightful)

I cant believe its n (1103137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673369)

Reverse spam (reason):
As the cost of listening in on private communication is getting lowerer, we are seeing an effect similar to what we saw when mass-communication was made simple and cheap by email. The marginal cost of listening in on you as well, is close to zero, just as the cost of sending an additional email is close to zero for a spammer who has already sent a large amount of spam.

When that cost is sufficiently low, government has no reason to abstain from listening in. After all, if you look at every individual, you are bound to cover every criminal/hindu/terrorist/addict/pedofile/political opponent/whatever voter negative phrase.

We need to raise that cost in terms of the labour required. If they can not automate it, they will be forced to focus on the real enemies.

Re:I hate their lying ways (5, Insightful)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673457)

The cost of "listening" may drop to zero, but the cost to interpret the data is going to rise exponentially as the volume increases.

Re:I hate their lying ways (5, Insightful)

fluch (126140) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673573)

Your statement contains two steps: first listening, then interpreting. Apparently the politicians cannot think that far...

Re:I hate their lying ways (5, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673613)

Facial recognition software, voice pattern recognition software, intelligent pattern finding software... the list of automated analysis technology developments goes on.

It's easy to discard the majority of meaningless stuff automatically these days so that humans can focus on a subset of the data with a higher signal to noise ratio, and the ability of software to isolate such a subset is getting better, meaning that SNR will only get better, reducing the costs per hit of human analysis.

Does anyone out there still believe the made up religious fanatic terrorist fundamentalist threat pretext any more? I don't know about you, it's pretty obvious to me that that threat was just made up by the US/UK/Australian governments as an excuse to carry out the biggest power grab in history.

If the threat really was from organized groups who are well-resourced and determined to derail Western society, you have to wonder how this would help. You also have to wonder how it'd even help catch child porn purveyors who are typically reasonably computer literate, at least enough so to use encrypted ZIP files. The only conclustion that I can come to is that we have been lied to from the very beginning about the real reason behind all these security measures, and that so-called national security threats are nothing more than fabricated pretexts to consolidate the domination of the already rich and powerful even further, and to give their control a new, global reach.

To me, child porn and the terrorist threat are the equivalent of those malware popups. "Your country is infected with terrorism and/or child porn. Click here to install anti-terrorist / anti-child porn legislation, social controls and security-minded leaders who will protect you from the Bad Guys(tm)."

Re:I hate their lying ways (2, Insightful)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673699)

Facial recognition software, voice pattern recognition software, intelligent pattern finding software... the list of automated analysis technology developments goes on.

Now, show me only one of these tools that actually works... :)

Re:I hate their lying ways (3, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673771)

I don't know about you, but if I was high up in an intelligence organization and my internal team of developers came up with a great new was of spying, I don't know if I'd be releasing it under the GPL. I'd be keeping it secret.

Remember, these organizations have budgets that are larger than many entire countries' GDP so they can afford to hire large developer teams to work on things that the commercial marker wouldn't find profitable.

At the moment, commercial software can do rudimentary facial recognition in digicams and the like. If that's what my $200 Casio camera can do, imagine with a $200 million dollar NSA data mining cluster can do.

Re:I hate their lying ways (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673611)

How much will this cost in cash terms anyway? Can that be quantified in terms of NHS Doctors or Cancer Drug Subsidies? How about quantifying in terms of the number of road repairs (and thus increased employment) possible if this money were allocated to local councils for such purposes?

This does not rate anywhere on the list of things the UK needs to spend money on right now.

What a waste of my 22% £ contribution from my wages ; my 45% from the fuel pump ; my 17.5% on practically everything else. It's enough to make me consider emigrating.

Plus as so many others have already said here, all they will do is leave it wide open for others with bad intentions to steal then mine the data for nefarious purposes.

Didn't they get the memo... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673221)

... there was an election.

.

.

Oh sorry, forgot: this is the UK...

Re:Didn't they get the memo... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673545)

Remember to vote Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, etc in the upcoming general election. Anyone but Labour or Conservative.

Re:Didn't they get the memo... (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673701)

I'm interested in hearing why you believe that voting Conservative is equivalent to voting Labour when it comes to these kinds of matters? It was after all a Conservative Minister who stood down and held a by election on a ticket against the attacks on freedom by Labour. The Liberals have shown themselves to be completely lacking in any of the qualities required to function well as a Government, with two car crash like leadership elections and a complete about turn in their tax policy. I genuinely haven't decided how I will vote at the next election, and although it is likely to be Conservatives I will openly admit it is largely because I don't like the alternatives. Chances are I will vote tactically to maximise the chances of a Conservative Goverment without sufficient margin to pass Bills without the support of either the Liberals or Labour.

Win win situation (5, Funny)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673225)

If they store all the raw data, they'll be downloading movies, music etc. Then they'll have to sue themselves... out of existence!

Re:Win win situation (5, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673311)

So would they store the individual parts of BitTorrent traffic, or would they just automatically be a client and peer all torrents?

And what about https traffic? I believe the keys used to encrypt the data are normally thrown away after they are used. Is the gov't going to require all business's to forward the keys to these servers?

And given the current high-level of protection that the UK gov't applies to the data and computers under it's control, how soon will these servers be repurposed by hackers for denial-of-service attacks (as they have most excellent tubes connected to the internets)?

However, I am sure they will "catch" some idiot who sends out an email with "I'm so mad at this tax increase for this stupid new internet monitoring system, I want to bomb 11 Downing Street tomorrow at 9 AM".

This would have to get so expensive to do, and yet, only be able to catch the dumbest of terrorist (the ones that would text "Now, where do I set the bomb off again?").

Re:Win win situation (4, Informative)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673399)

As it stands, they aren't going to store the raw data - just information on the endpoints.

This in itself is disturbing, since as Bruce Schneier points out [schneier.com] , data mining of this sort is inherently flawed.

It strikes me that this is politically driven - i.e. that GCHQ has an ample supply of mathematicians who can see that this is useless, but that the idiocracy that is Neues Arbeit still believes the bullshit that their highly paid, poorly educated advisors spew out.

Trouble is, the idiots won't listen to sense, so we'll have to wait until the next election to vote in another lot of idiots who may or may not be as stupid as this lot.

Re:Win win situation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673437)

I thought we were already doing this and the listening post is
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GCHQ_CSO_Morwenstow [wikipedia.org]
Nu Labour just want legalize the process so that local government can have access to the data - so they can bust people downloading porn or visiting political web sites they don't like.

Re:Win win situation (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673631)

I thought we were already doing this and the listening post is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GCHQ_CSO_Morwenstow [wikipedia.org] Nu Labour just want legalize the process so that local government can have access to the data - so they can bust people downloading porn or visiting political web sites they don't like.

That's not the only listening station, there are plenty more [wikipedia.org] SIGINT ground stations around the place (and not just in the UK). I always thought the radomes at Menwith Hill [wikipedia.org] were the most famous.

Re:Win win situation (0, Troll)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673559)

There are more and more polish in the UK, so...

> may or may not be as stupid as this lot

abandon your hope.

Re:Win win situation (1)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673601)

but that the idiocracy that is Neues Arbeit still believes the bullshit that their highly paid, poorly educated advisors spew out.

As they say, Neue Arbeit macht nicht frei.

I'm glad I got out of the UK. Unfortunately, Australia is going the same way too.

Elections (5, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673231)

The sooner we get to vote these clowns out, the better. Thr trouble is, the electorate have very short memories and either don't care about or don't remember such things when they get to vote. Mix in sundry wars, the collapse of banking, big brother mentality, greed etc etc and you have no good reason to let them stay BUT suddenly all the press report people rate Gordon Brown as our best hope to get out the financial state we're in. Ermm... who was in charge when the mess happened huh?
Last night on the radio there was a scary report on the UK radio where there has just been a Scottish by-election and they asked people why they voted the way they did and most camed out with excuses like 'my dad always voted for them', 'my wife told me to', 'they were the best of a bad bunch' etc.

Re:Elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673287)

Normal people don't know or care about the government spying on their internet communications.

Re:Elections (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673305)

Labour: making Tory policies look halfway sensible since ages ago.

I'll be voting against Labour come the next election and I look forward to telling them why if they come knocking. I would write to my MP, but being a Lib Dem I know he will be opposed to this moronic plan anyway.

Re:Elections (4, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673309)

It is your (not mine, I'm not in UK) to remind other voters about these issues. In return they'll tell you about agriculture and financial problems that were not adressed and that you didn't really mind at the time.

Re:Elections (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673709)

I wrote to my MP about some other measures recently proposed in this area. He forwarded them to the Home Office, and they replied with a form letter that didn't address any of my criticisms (I pointed out exactly why they wouldn't help fight terrorism and would cost the UK economy, they replied saying 'we are committed to fighting terrorism'). I'm starting to think the only way of injecting any sense back in to the political process is to start a new political party.

Re:Elections (5, Interesting)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673495)

To be fair, there is a pretty strong history in Scottish politics that leads to replies like that. The Conservatives literally destroyed themselves in Scotland for life during the 1980s; it is unlikely they wil return in any numbers until my kids are of voting age. And do bear in mind that voters who stop and give a considered rationale for their voting decisions are unlikely to be good fodder for a sound-bite.

Re:Elections (0, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673711)

Also, the people most likely to be available to talk to pollsters are the parasitic dole scroungers and long term sickie scammers who form the core of Labour's electorate. Those of us who have to work for a living have either voted by post, or don't have time to chit chat.

Re:Elections (1)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673583)

"either don't care about or don't remember such things when they get to vote"

I think it's the former. The majority of the UK public generally call for more of such protections, along with increased CCTV and use of DNA evidence.

A lot of people simply disagree with the assertion that these things "reduce their freedom".

Most people are A LOT more concerned about things like the economy where Labour are doing well politically, as evidenced by their recent Scottish local election win.

Re:Elections (2, Informative)

coffii (76089) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673599)

The political system in the UK is broken, there is no choice, there are two main parties, neither of which are interested in the country or the population. Politicians are interested in their own careers, money and power, and therefore courting the media, politics is now all about advertising. I now refuse to vote, in someway I feel that voting legitimizes a completely broken system. Short of full scale anarchy I don't see how you fix the political system in the UK.

Human societies progress despite the very best efforts of politicians.

Re:Elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673703)

Crap. As so many people have got to a point where they don't give a shit and don't vote, the remaining people who really do want change never get enough votes.

VOTE YOU FUCKING WANKER

Re:Elections (5, Insightful)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673749)

Boycotting election never helped, never will, nobody, nowhere. Vote whatever you like, make your ballot invalid - but not voting is definetly a silent YES to current politics.

No election boycott EVER reached its intented goals, only idiot politicians in the Third World encourage this.

Re:Elections (1)

SilentMobius (10171) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673621)

True, I'm worried about New Labour's Authoritarian leanings and this is just another horrific abuse of power. But the problem is: Who do you vote in to stop this? The Conservatives? Their record on civil liberties is just as bad if not worse, also the Financial crisis will not be improved with even more right-wing anti-regulation policies. After all, who deregulated the banks? That was Thatchers doing, (Not that I believe the Thatcher government is to blame to the current crisis, but the Conservative mindset is not one of regulation and not one I'd like to face going into a recession)

If we could get the Liberals in I'd dump Labour in a flash, but I'd rather have Labour over the Tories.

Re:Elections (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673745)

To be fair, the current conservatives are about as similar to Thatcher's conservatives as Blair and Brown's New Labour are to Neil Kinnock's Labour party. In Wales at least we have Plaid Cymru who have a reasonable track record and sane policies. England lacks an electable third party - the Liberal Democrats seem to be trying to turn themselves into a clone of the two main parties.

Re:Elections (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673675)

The sooner we get to vote these clowns out, the better. Thr trouble is, the electorate have very short memories and either don't care about or don't remember such things when they get to vote.

Indeed they do have short memories, and have forgotten just how Big Brother the Tories were when they were in power. A change of administration won't fix this; both major parties will continue to do this stuff, just because they can. Lobbying, legal challenges and (peaceful) civil disobedience seem to be the only things that actually make a difference, and even they only have a limited effect.

Good news (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673235)

Fully encrypted internet coming in 3, 2, 1 ...

Threat escalation in a system whose knowledge limit gives the advantage to your opponent is dumb to the point of retardation.

Our sons will be amazed that once we used a non ecrypted web where anyone could read our personal messages.

Re:Good news (5, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673281)

Fully encrypted net NOT coming in 3,2,1

For websites we have the political blockade of mixing up encryption, "trust", and money. Totally broken, totally beyond repair.

Then on the personal side you can't have a one-sided encrypted connection. You can't use encrypted jabber/email/etc because none of your friends or relatives do. In fact you can't use jabber at all because all your friends are locked into msn, or even use web services like facebook to communicate.

Everyone's screwed.

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673335)

Also, the sky is falling.

Re:Good news (2, Interesting)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673551)

One could improve the situation by providing users with a simple method of making the current security situation transparent and improving security.

For example a program named "Secure your Mail" that looks at your Thunderbird config and says: "Ah, I see you connect to mail.foo.com. But mail.foo.com also provides secure transmissions. I have checked it right now that it works. Do you want me to correct your settings? "
It has to be guaranteed to users that more security still works (that's what they care about). Also, if it stays available, the user always knows about the security status (if it is up to what it could be).

Microsoft and other OS update distributers (Redhat, Ubuntu, ...) could deliver such a program (like they do with antivirus checkings) to inform users and even (if the user agrees) collect a list of mail hosts that do not yet provide encryption. Microsoft or others could provide the list to warn users not to use the service and could inform these companies that they should provide encryption. After they do that, the companies is taken down from the list. That way, through some soft pressure, encryption could be reached.

A similar approach could be applied to mail server admins, getting them to improve their settings (e.g. SPF), and step by step excluding violators (first nothing, then latencies, then warnings, then blockings).

Google has a good approach here. They just don't provide unencrypted mail access anymore.

Parent is right, a grassroot approach doesn't work well here since we are blocking each other.

The PGP/GPG surroundings of mails could be more beautiful and come with a information for users that this part is change protected by signature. Maybe even with instructions how the other user can benefit from the same (they care about their benefit only).

Just some thoughts.

Re:Good news (2, Informative)

blowdart (31458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673603)

Actually Outlook, by default, when receiving and sending, attempts to negotiate secure channels. You can override it to choose SSL, TLS or none; but the default is "auto".

Re:Good news (1)

x78 (1099371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673581)

Yes but if you hop onto a proxy and do all activities from there you have a 2-way secure channel where the proxy server (which happens to be in another country!) is doing all the unsecure communicating.
IIRC shell hosting is pretty cheap, get a shell and use putty / ssh to make a socks proxy and ba-ding everything is good!

Re:Good news (4, Interesting)

AnotherDaveB (912424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673735)

Obfuscated TCP [google.com] might be useful here:

"Obfuscated TCP is a transport layer protocol that adds opportunistic encryption. It's designed to hamper and detect large-scale wiretapping and corruption of TCP traffic on the Internet."

Re:Good news (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673321)

That is the fun part. My mail server has an SSL certificate; it supports TLS and SSMTP. So basically for a lot of emails they're just going to see encrypted traffic. What use is this again? (oh no, that's right, it's to stop terrorists, just like ID cards).

Re:Good news (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673373)

That is the fun part. My mail server has an SSL certificate; it supports TLS and SSMTP. So basically for a lot of emails they're just going to see encrypted traffic. What use is this again? (oh no, that's right, it's to stop terrorists, just like ID cards).

And what do you know about the connections your mail server makes? As long as not all the other mail servers support encryption, your mail server will forward your mails unencrypted. And as long as all the other mail servers don't care or know your mail server supports encryption, your mails will come in unencrypted.

Btw, what protocol is used between mail servers? SMTP too?

Re:Good news (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673575)

Oh indeed, not all messages will be sent or received encrypted; but Exchange, SendMail et al support it out of the box. My server talks to gmail encrypted, even hotmail.

It's still SMTP, but the first operation opens a TLS channel; it works in the same way that HTTPS does; it's still HTTP under the hood, just wrapped. The RFC is here [ietf.org] if you want to have a read.

Re:Good news (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673759)

encryption will not do any good or make any difference, if all these blackboxes do is record what you surf and share (websites you visit, ip addresses, p2p, & etc)...

Who's going to have time to look at it (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673249)

Seriously what use is this except to use as evidence for people you wish to persecute IF they happen to be doing anything dodgy online? Who's going to spend the time and money tracking down every 12 year old that downloads a movie or says the word "shit" on a public forum? What the fuck is wrong with these people, that they spend money on this? It doesn't even make sense if you do want a police state because there is always a way around this kind of thing and it's about as cost effective as a high class hooker. It means the people coming up with this aren't just evil: They're so evil they make cartoon and joke character the likes of Dr. Evil look sane. Governments around the world have seriously lost the plot.

Re:Who's going to have time to look at it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673343)

Never heard of data mining, have you?

bad idea, perhaps? (5, Insightful)

bs7rphb (924322) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673251)

Why do I get a sinking feeling whenever I hear the words 'government' and 'database' in the same sentence? It's made much, much worse when the words 'giant' and 'central' are between the two.

These clowns wouldn't be able to keep the data secure anyway, so soon enough any half-witted criminal will be able to do whatever they want with our connection logs.

It's enough to make you vote Tory. Ugh.

Re:bad idea, perhaps? (1)

foobat (954034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673491)

don't worry, just like every single other government IT project, it'll just cost billions of pounds and not work better than a paper based system

Who's first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673253)

£10 to the first person to hack one and switch it off! (alternativly a hammer might do but i think they will forsee that)

Personally i think this will be a massive invasion of privicy and a security risk. How many people will want to shop online if they know all their details of what they order and where is going to be stored for any dirty hacker to find!

Most likely... (5, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673261)

raw data would be collected and stored by the black boxes before being transferred to a giant central database
... and then left on a bus.

Re:Most likely... (1)

Shivinski (1053538) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673371)

...by a 3rd party contractor...of course...

Re:Most likely... (1)

Zsub (1365549) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673439)

But I've been thinking about this... I mean, I don't really know how much the UK government pays its contractors, but if my own country is any indication it'll be quite much.

Now, if the government itself loses data, there will be a great fuss and some guys get fired and that's it. But if a third party loses data, there will be a great fuss, and the government can sue the third party for losing their data, and get back some of their money! It all makes sense, now!

Re:Most likely... (4, Funny)

fluch (126140) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673553)

Never underestimate the bandwith of a bus fully loaded with hard drives... ;-)

Re:Most likely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673663)

Score:10, FABULOUS

I really, really have great trust in the big brother. He's incapable of doing wrong.

People just dont get it, privacy is like virginity, once you get fucked, you'll never get it back.

Time for some fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673269)

Anyone up for bouncing empty packets around?

Re:Time for some fun (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673379)

Anyone up for bouncing empty packets around?

I've got a better idea. Lets use /dev/urandom to initialise the packets first. Should look like really tough encryption. Might take years to crack.

Re:Time for some fun (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673443)

Can you provide the encryption key? No? Then it's prison for you if you live in England.

Blair + Brown are the worst government we have had.

Re:Time for some fun (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673695)

Can you provide the encryption key? No? Then it's prison for you if you live in England.

Blair + Brown are the worst government we have had.

You weren't around under Thatcher, then?

Re:Time for some fun (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673761)

You weren't around under Thatcher, then?

Good point. Blair + Brown have presided over a larger drop on civli liberties, in my opinion. Economic screwups can be recovered from and disappear in 10 or 20 years. Reduced civil liberties don't generally come back ever.

Re:Time for some fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673595)

Anyone up for bouncing empty packets around?

I've got a better idea. Lets use /dev/urandom to initialise the packets first. Should look like really tough encryption. Might take years to crack.

and when they do crack it, the answer will be "42"

That sounds like a really good plan (4, Interesting)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673319)

But I've got a better plan. How about I give you the finger, and you give us our country back.

Target sighted! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673325)

+10 script kiddie points for every black box 0wn3d... They'll not last 10 minutes!

publicvpn.com ? (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673339)

These guys seem to offer a public VPN service - anyone got any experience, or know of something on a lower latency path from UK? (e.g. VPN servers situated in mainland Europe).

God damn (1)

FluffyWithTeeth (890188) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673353)

*sigh*, just another sign of how ridiculous this country is right now. I'm going to be voting for the conservatives because the labour party is too right wing...

It's a shame our three party system is currently right wing, more right wing, and retards. (I'm a liberal at heart, but christ, have you seent the libdems policies?)

I want to download the internet (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673357)

Do I need a larger hard drive?

Re:I want to download the internet (1)

lerox (1402173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673435)

No. Just ask for an access to that database. Maybe anyone can get a free account there by ordering a pair of these black boxes.

People "can't wait for ID cards" (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673391)

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has hailed spectacular, record-breaking public demand for identity cards [today.com] and will allow people to pre-register within the next few months.

"I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they have nothing to hide and want me personally to have every detail of their lives and pressing ten-pound notes into my hands for their very own precious pink and blue card," she said, taking another hit of her pipe.

The first biometric cards are being issued this month to foreigners who can be forced into it. They will be issued to young people on a voluntary basis from 2010, per every teenager's dream of having their every movement tracked.

People applying for cards and passports from 2012 will have to provide fingerprints, photographs and a signature, which Ms Smith believes will create a market worth about £200m a year by the "mended windows" theory of economics. "It takes money that was being wasted on food and rent and puts it into circulation for the betterment of the whole economy, particularly our dear friends at EDS Capita Goatse."

The Home Office is talking to retailers and the Post Office about setting up booths to gather biometric data. "We're sure everyone would be happy with having their fingerprints taken at Tesco when they get their shopping."

In her speech, Ms Smith rejected claims handing enrolment over to private firms would compromise security. "We're introducing new certification authorities and so forth, which will mean that masses of data never leaves our offices and the BNP never gets a database of every immigrant in the country or anything like that."

That won't take much to overload (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673405)

Can we just modify the bittorrent protocol so that port 80 is fine and each packet starts with an GET /$RANDOM\n HOST $RANDOM?

As V said: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673411)

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Actively screw up their plan. (3, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673417)

Write a script to do the following:

Search for a common word on google (eg "the"). Then write a bot to visit every link in turn, and every link referenced by those pages (ie recurse to a depth of 2).

Do this for the forst 100,000 links from google.

Comapred to huge torrents, etc this probably won't take up much of your monthly quota if you have one, but it'll really fuck up their stats. If everyone did it, their stupid idea would become as worthless to them as it ought to be.

UK vs. Australia (5, Interesting)

JustKidding (591117) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673419)

And here we were joking about how retarded the idea of filtering all traffic in Australia was.

Not only do they intent to capture every packet, but they also intent to store them and analyze them off-line.

Especially considering the growth of bandwidth usage the past couple of years, this is nothing short of an absurd idea.

Social background, please? (4, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673421)

I'm increasingly amazed (well, until my amaz-o-meter reached $FF a while back) at the Orwellian policies being established in the home of Orwell. I mean, from traffic cameras to tracking of people in public places, to storing of all types of personal information and communication -- even the Stazi would be impressed.

I haven't been to the UK in several years. Could someone explain how these projects have any kind of public support at all? Even in the US -- hardly a standard-bearer for liberal thought -- the UK proposals would produce an uproar.

What is the underlying sentiment of the people that continues to produce these ideas?

Re:Social background, please? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673461)

Just get everyone to prefix every email with "bring the bombs to Downing Street" or something similar.

Hang ona a minute.... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673501)

I can hear sirens outside. Someone just knocked at the door I'll be back in a......

Re:Hang ona a minute.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673669)

So who hit Submit?

Re:Hang ona a minute.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673753)

I think Candlejack di

Re:Social background, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673519)

It's "Meh"

Whenever I try to engage people on this issue, tell them we're very definitely sleep walking into a police state. They laugh it off, think I'm exaggerating and shrug their shoulders... it doesn't affect me etc. etc.

No-one really cares. The opposing conservative party moan about it but only from the point of how much it's costing. As far as I'm aware there's only one party that's against this on principle (lib dems - their leader announcing he'd go to jail rather than carry an id card) and they're often seen as a bit of a joke, they're never going to get in.

30 years ago, a more politicised Britain, or more politicised students to be exact, would've been marching or even rioting over this. These days no-one seems to care.

Re:Social background, please? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673765)

I'm increasingly amazed (well, until my amaz-o-meter reached $FF a while back) at the Orwellian policies being established in the home of Orwell.

You shouldn't be -- 1984 was a parody of the European governments of the time (1948), they just didn't have the technology then.

I haven't been to the UK in several years. Could someone explain how these projects have any kind of public support at all? Even in the US -- hardly a standard-bearer for liberal thought -- the UK proposals would produce an uproar.

What is the underlying sentiment of the people that continues to produce these ideas?

There is an uproar, and there are groups such as Liberty (approximately equivalent to the ACLU) organising opposition, but there are also an awful lot of people who believe the lie that if you don't do anything wrong you don't have anything to fear from these policies. Which would only be true if everybody with access to the data were (a) competent and (b)benign. Even those who believe (b) should think long and hard about (a).

No more Jacqui (1)

c_g_hills (110430) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673481)

I am a registered voter in M.P. and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's constituency. I just hope I can persuade enough other voters to vote for someone else at the next election.

Look A Little Deeper? (4, Insightful)

mrpacmanjel (38218) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673485)

My theory is the big IT contractors that work for the Government have probably pursuaded ministers that this is a good thing.

These IT contractors are mainly responsible for computerising the various departments within the Government (e.g. the NHS, "chipped" passports and implementing National ID Cards). These systems have cost the tax payer millions and millions of pounds and two of these are complete. There are probably just a handful of these companies (and close may have ties to the established "old boys" network) working for the Government and have shareholders(some are also Government ministers) to answer to.

This has been a major cash cow for these companies and now they need to persuade the Government to spend even more money to keep them afloat. As you can imagine the Government is a *huge* client to have on your order books, the last thing you want as a contractor is to lose your client - your survival may depend on it.

The contractor and Government minister(probably a shareholder) will influence Government policy and departments (e.g. the police think monitoring the internet is a "great" idea) to ensure this cash cow is alive and kicking and everybody "wins".
The police get a "mine" of "evidence" to "convict criminals", the Government can justify thier existance, the minister shares gain value (and maybe get a promotion), the contracter gets paid and of course the Government patronisingly "pats us on the head" and tell us they are looking after our best interests.

The whole thing stinks and will get worse while our Labour "Government" is in power.

Mod this up (4, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673661)

I have mod points but would like to add to this. I can assure you that there are civil servants at the Home Office who know that this is stupid, though obviously to name them would be to put their jobs at risk. You are exactly right. Let's name the guilty parties. EDS. Cap Gemini. Fujitsu Siemens. A US company, a French company, and a Japanese/German company. We in the UK invented the digital computer (I'm not arguing about whether we beat the US or the Germans to it, but we invented it independently) and yet our infrastructure is entirely foreign owned. Yes of course these leeches want to repatriate our taxes.

Boris Johnson has stopped the wastage of cash on extending the London car tax zone westwards. The NHS project is being scaled back. People are beginning to believe that PCSOs on the beat are far more effective at crime prevention than CCTV systems or policemen in cars. These people are desperate to keep their revenue streams intact. They need to sell a vast scheme to the UK Government, and what better than to prey on the control freakery and insecurity of Labour, a government so incompetent that it has illegal immigrants working in the department that is supposed to prevent illegal immigration.

Meanwhile we have massive infrastructural problems in IT because of a lack of people to carry out necessary on-the-ground projects. Dismantling these vast Government willy-waggling programmes and reallocating skilled staff to fixing the IT problems in local and national government all over the country would be a huge benefit - but it would mean dismantling departments, and it would mean overpaid business development managers getting the push and real IT implementers getting more visibility. And we don't want that, do we?

Personally, I think ALL responsibility for Government IT should be taken away from people like Smith, who should revert to her proper job as an inner city nightclub bouncer, and be handed over to a department staffed by people who would not merely be forbidden to accept any gifts or trips from large IT companies, but would have to agree never to work for an IT company with a turnover in excess of, say, 500 million Euros after leaving Government. There is simply no other way to prevent corruption.

Stop the hand waving... (2, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673487)

FTA:

'One delegate at the meeting told the Independent: "They said they only wanted to return to a position they were in before the emergence of internet communication, when they were able to monitor all correspondence with a police suspect. '

Oh, so that's all right then.

Soon, they'll want to re-introduce national identity cards...oh wait.

Then what? Ration books? National Service (Conscription)?

This is from the Telegraph (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673527)

They publish this sort of rubbish all the time. The standard spin for the paper is that the government wants to know everything and how life would all be much better if only multinational corporations were able to store data about us.

While it's possible that the UK government may be trying to do something stupid and excessive, a story in the telegraph is neither evidence for or against this fact.

know of a good vpn service? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673543)

im suddenly in the market for one.

Erm... (5, Informative)

robajob (1238762) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673593)

Isn't this story wildly inaccurate, at least according to The Register [theregister.co.uk] ?

Re:Erm... (2, Funny)

blowdart (31458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673681)

You're using The Register as a measure of accuracy? Hey, I have some land I want to sell you .... and a bridge .... and I can transfer £6,000,000 into your bank account that was left on a train by a government employee if you'll just ....

In case of an internet crash... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25673635)

Excellent! Now we can find out what happened just before a major internet crash! It's not pretty when servers come crashing down with hundreds of websites in them. Now we have at least a chance to recover the black box and find out.

Question Time (5, Interesting)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673637)

There was a Question Time (BBC programme where people get to question the political parties) where one of the party members asked Jeff Hoon (the transport secretary) "how far is the government willing to go undermine civil liberties to monitor extremists?".

His answer? "To stop terrorists killing people in our society quite a long way, actually." Which sent a chill down my spine.

It also didn't help by the fact that he was deliberately trying to confuse the audience into thinking that the police getting a court order to monitor someone's internet traffic was the same as continually monitoring everyone's internet traffic in case a court order is sought. Even though several people attempted to correct him.

You can see it on iPlayer here [bbc.co.uk] . Start at about 40 minutes in.

Tor - still a protection ? (1)

yossarianuk (1402187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673645)

If this crazy scheme ever goes ahead wouldn't tor still allow us privacy (until the make such applications illegal ...) Although the blackbox would contain details of us using tor they wouldn't be able to see what we were doing with it - right ? If that fails we should group together and start physically attacking the locations which host these databases (my dream is to see the citizens of the UK rise up with axes and start to attack the cctv/bb infrastructure) cheers

A few points (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673691)

First, do you mean that everybody with half a brain doesn't already work under the assumption that, if they wanted to, the UK government (or indeed any government) can *already* do this, or *are* already doing this? If in doubt assume the worst. The Internet is an insecure channel, which is why things like SSH and SSL exist. You *know* that your ISP can / will monitor the basic contents of your connection (just ask the record companies, or Phorm). At any point, a court could order surveillance of your Internet connection remotely without your knowledge. Therefore the *only* sensible thing to do is to treat your Internet connection as the insecure channel that it is.

Secondly, I don't believe for a second that there's enough processing power anywhere to do anything useful with this amount of data or intercept anything more than a specific customer or two. The infrastructure required to pipe entire ISP's worth of data to "some secret datacentre" is something that would not go unnoticed, would raise an awful lot of eyebrows and technical problems, not to mention a technical nightmare for ISP's and governments alike. They can't get every doctor's surgery online, for God's sake, after decades of work and that's making them an international embarassment and costing *billions*.

If the plans go through and the equipment is installed, there's no practical way it can "monitor" everything simultaneously for those magic words, and doing it via protocol/plaintext analysis on a CPU inside an ISP is a damn sight easier than that mythical American data centre that recognises multilingual speech in every phone conversation taking place across the country (Yeah, right, I can't even get ViaVoice or the automated bank systems to recognise a number correctly three times out of ten in English from a limited vocabulary on a perfectly clear, high-quality microphone, with oodles of processing power behind it).

What this is, is a filter. It would allow the government to implement a wiretap quickly once they had a suspect, so that they can issue a command that would send a BGP request or similar, which the ISP would be required to honour, which would allow them to intercept the traffic to a particular IP that they already suspect. It might even have a decent amount of processing power on the ISP side so that the full IP contents don't have to be re-transmitted over the "super-secret-network" to a mainframe for analysis.

The problem is, for anything practical, you have to then bring that evidence to court and show that you were entitled to that information in the first place (i.e. you had a *prior* court warrant to allow you to do so) or it just gets thrown straight back out, if not in the UK, then in the appeal to the EU court (who are no friends of the UK when it comes to legal decisions), etc.

I can tap your Internet illicitly, or put an tap on your keyboard, or steal your machine and find evidence that you committed a murder, or a terrorist act, or a copyright infringement - it *isn't* necessarily true that such evidence is admissable in court. In fact, it's more likely to *jeopardise* a case against you, even if I'm a policeman, because it was collected by illegal means which means it is possible that an order is given that it *must* be disregarded and cannot be brought up ever again in any court. So my hard work to prove you are a terrorist may actually end up making you a free man *forever* from anything in that confession. The only way to make sure it's admissable is to ask permission from the court *first* (i.e. get a warrant, based on your suspicions), in which case you could get all the information you wanted anyway. You can think about "super-secret" organisations not limited by such things all you want - the fact is that if they exist, they already have all the capabilities they ever need without such assistance.

If the plans go through, it's just how it works now, only speeded up a bit. The legal ramifications alone of any other method would have lawyers begging to take cases on.

And that entire thing is defeated by a bit of encryption and making sure there's no "plaintext" traces if you are a terrorist (i.e. not connecting to https://www.alqaeda.com/ [alqaeda.com] to transmit your super-secret plans). You can do some fancy stuff with Tor but that can be defeated by timing correlations if they are also able to monitor exit points of Tor networks or your known destination. Then you have public WiFi (with a Yagi, you don't even need to be in the same town or attract suspicion), PAYG phones, etc. so monitoring data, even when you know the IP it's coming from, can be made largely useless by living on a hill and pointing a Sky Digital dish (innocent-looking) connected to a USB Wifi stick into a nearby city. Or Wardriving. Or sniffing the Wifi of passing cruise ships (which may not even be registered in the UK). Or a million and one other ways.

Breaking encryption? Highly doubtful. The government's might have a few unpublished tricks to speed it up a bit but it'll still take months/years to get anything practical out of an encrypted message and it would cost *millionths* of the price to sneak into someone's house and stick a miniature wiretap on their keyboard (of which there are actual documented legal cases). They certainly aren't routinely decrypting everyone's bank sessions... a quick legal request would do the work on that for you if you were at all interested. They aren't breaking terrorist communications - there's a case still in court at the moment where a terrorist suspect refuses to hand over encryption keys because it would be self-incriminating (shock, horror, it's going to the EU courts) - there's a perfect, legitimate, legal, highly-critical, national-security issue where cracking a basic home user encryption would provide vital evidence that could save lives and reveal some identities of those most hated of modern people, the terrorists, and they are no nearer to getting his message.

Basically, it's all smoke and mirrors around the fact that the government can't do much more than a local police force, an authorised court and a couple of decent-sized universities who collaborate couldn't do (because that is, in fact, their best bet and where they find all their super mathematicians to decrypt stuff). Rather than admit that and have people up in arms, better to "spend" (i.e. give to IT Consultants who are related to your wife) several million pounds on a public-facing project that puts the fear of God^H^H^HGovernment into people who don't know any better. Then maybe your friend at the RIAA or equivalent will slip you a nice backhander too for helping to reduce "piracy".

There are a *myriad* of much easier, cheaper, "legal", more effective and more damning solutions that are available to anybody who thinks for a second. Literally - a five pound gadget stuck on a suspect's computer, who you followed in a car. But because it's a "black box" and "computers can do things", it's always seen as sexy, dangerous, effective, etc. San Francisco couldn't get the password out of a sysadmin for a few months who held the City's IT systems hostage. It's only because he caved under the legal threats that they got anything at all. The UK Government can't organise an IT pea soup in a brewery (seriously, you've never seen such IT shambles as occur in UK government institutions). The millions of CCTV cameras in the UK have reduced crime, increased convictions, produced evidence ***by absolutely neglible proportions***, but people like to think that somehow the UK is the modern-day Big Brother. It's not. The government just like to make people *think* they have those capabilities.

It's like the TV Detector vans (this will be a new thing to American friends)... for years the Government scared people into paying the TV licence by threat of mystical "vans" that could "detect" you using the television, which they could then correlate with licenses databases. Real or not, I've never seen one in all the years that I've been hearing of them. I know that some things claiming to be "detector vans" exist but I've never seen one in operation. But I do know that you're required to give your name and address if you purchase any new TV equipment which would require one. And if you don't have a licence, once a month or so, someone will come knock on your door and ask. And I've lived in streets where less than 50% of people actually do buy a licence. Any convictions/fines are based on the fact that you live at an address which hasn't had a licence purchased.

Try living in the UK without a TV for a few months and see how much hassle and threats you get through the post from the licensing authority, whether you even possess a TV or not - they aren't "detecting" anything, they just write to every household on the assumption it has a TV in it. Their "detection" consists of knocking on your door and asking/listening for a TV or, in extreme cases, using a court warrant to search the premises. But some people still believe that not only do the vans exists, but that they can detect the reception of TV signals (including Digital, I suspect!), and that are they so prevalant that they will catch you.

I deal with Government IT types all the time. If it don't say Windows, or have the current year in their software names, then they don't know what it is. The military can't even afford a couple of decent landrovers or keep Bletchley Park open as a museum (which would only serve to enhance their "we can decrypt all your data" credentials), so the chances of a highly sophisticated, government-led, IT project, which no-ones knows about, which is located somewhere secret, which can monitor anything or crack encryption is only a myth.

I have no doubt that the modern GCHQ could correlate a terrorist by his Internet activity to a range of terrorist groups, contacts, etc. decrypt his communications, without anything at all being in an ISP. Hell, they did it with the Enigma machine back in the 40's and had to invent Computer Science to be able to do it, I'm sure they have *that* capability. When they discovered how to break Enigma they also *invented* public-key-encryption (check the Wiki for the full history) as a method that couldn't be broken by a foreign military in the same way, years before the Americans that thought they were the first to do so, only to de-classify their invention after *decades* of use when the Americans discovered it themselves.

I doubt that anything of the "black box" genre would do anything more than make the process slightly more convenient for them. I don't doubt that having caught a terrorist, given enough impetus GCHQ could extract enough information from his Internet records (no matter how careful he was) to build a solid legal case against him in a public court. But blackboxes inside ISP's? Please... they probably held someone's lunch until someone thought of a "use" for them.

Anyway, let's assume they do exist, are in place, and work as advertised. What are you actually going to do about it? (Hint: Do it **now** before these assumptions are true).

All any scheme like this will do is fund the enthusiasm for a global Tor-net, so that the whole Internet is nothing more than a layer for a secure, encrypted, anonymous, network. Joe-average will end up running encryption beyond the Government's wildest dreams of decryption and the whole program would have done nothing more than lock the Governments of the world out of snooping the Internet. No, much better to "pretend" we have this magic capability, shroud it in fake secrecy, make sure that it doesn't kick up *too* much fuss (just enough to scare the Joe Bloggs' into stopping downloading that MP3) and so keep people on a level where they *can* still be monitored, their communications *can* still be decrypted but only use it where necessary because it's so god-damn expensive to get just the messages we absolutely need, let alone every citizen's MySpace postings tied in with the data.

This is a negative feedback loop... (1)

ewe2 (47163) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673705)

...where the government distrusts its citizens and snoops upon them, and citizens take steps to protect themselves from the government, and the government gets more power to snoop more intrusively, and so on ad absurdum.

As we have seen, massive data collection is useless without the wit to mine that data (as per 9/11). This will not prevent another 9/11, this will merely give little men power too big for them. And we are simply not doing enough to stop this.

Isn't this copyright violation? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25673737)

I'm sure the UK gov is pretty much just trying their best to copy George Orwell's Big Brother from the book 1984.
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