UFO hacker McKinnon loses final appeal against extradition

Oh dear… today, Gary McKinnon lost his appeal against extradition to the USA on hacking charges.
He appealed to the European Court of Human Rights,  saying he faced inhumane treatment if sent to America.  He claims that he might get a jail term of 70 years, and that he’ll be held in Guantanamo Bay type conditions.  The court gave him a temporary stay, but today turned him down without stating any reasons.
McKinnon broke into Pentagon computer systems and left messages saying “Your security is crap!”  So yeah, they’ll probably throw the key away.

Russia vs America – countdown to war?

US and Russian warships on opposing sides of the Georgia conflict took up positions in the Black Sea yesterday in a war of nerves.
The Russian’s are in control of Georgia’s naval base at Poti.  And they are sending vessels to the area, including the missile cruiser Moskva and two smaller craft on “peacekeeping” duties at the port of Sukhumi on the coast of Abkhazia, the breakaway region that the Kremlin recognised as independent on Tuesday.
The US Coastguard ship Dallas was due to visit Poti but has been sent instead to the southern Georgian-controlled port of Batumi to deliver relief supplies. This has caused raised eyebrows in Russia – they consider it most unusual for a NATO ship to be delivering aid under the circumstances.
“Let’s hope we don’t see any direct confrontation,” said Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin.  Putin who, you may remember, was the president who destroyed entire cities in Chechnya to defeat rebels there.  It is hard to believe that he suddenly dislikes confrontation.  The military victories of the past weeks are extremely popular in Russia.  So the government may well decide they’re on a roll, and go for the big one – a head-to-head with NATO and the USA.
Last week, president Dmitri Medvedev said that Russia would be within its rights to attack Poland since America had sited missiles there.  He actually talked of a nuclear strike on a NATO member state!  And Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko is saying that if someone doesn’t stop Russia, any country could be the next target.
Any country.  Even the USA.  Russia respects only the powerful.  And America doesn’t seem powerful at all right now, bleating about how invading Georgia was “wrong”.  Wake up, USA!  The rights and wrongs don’t matter now – Georgia’s being carved up, and talk won’t stop it.  Only action will count now.
So what should America do?  Stand by and let Russia conquer its neighbors? Or get into a war that might go all the way?

Russian troops ready to march on Washington!
Russian troops ready to march on Washington!


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ha ha bonk!!

Linux tutorial #56: sudo
To help you get your head round the command “sudo”, there’s an excellent example of its usage below:

The cartoon is from the webcomic xkcd.com.  For your homework assignment go check it out!  The cartoon on the front page today (26 Aug) is funny too.  If you don’t get it, google “2 girls 1 cup”… or is it “1 cup 2 girls”?  Whatever, once you’ve seen it you’ll wish you hadn’t!

Brit hacker McKinnon appeals to Europe against US extradition

Gary McKinnon, aka “Solo”, is to be extradited to the USA to face charges that he broke into computer systems belonging to the US Department of Defence and NASA.  The US authorities have dubbed him “the world’s most dangerous hacker”, faces up to 70 years in prison and his solicitors say he could even be given “enemy combatant” status, the same as that applied to terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay.
But he still has has a chance to escape extradition – when the House of Lords turned down his appeal they ruled that he could take it to the European Court of Human Rights.  So that’s what he’s doing.  And you can help him!
If you go to this link, you can join in Human Rights Defence’s petition to the European Court that the extradition order be overturned.  It’ll take you a couple of minutes to register your support… and it could make all the difference! The Court takes notice of petitions.  Help make this petition so huge that they can’t help but take notice!

Gary McKinnon needs you! Sign the petition today!
Gary McKinnon needs you! Sign the petition today!

Unfortunately, the House of Lords gave McKinnon only til the 28 August before he is extradited.  So we all need to make our voices heard now!  We can’t let him be dragged off to face whatever justice the USA doles out for “enemy combatants”.  We already know he could get 70 years in prison.  We also know the USA approve “robust interrogation” techniques including waterboarding!  If McKinnon were a US citizen wanted in the UK, no way would the American government extradite him under these circumstances.  So why should they get to torture him?
SIGN THE PETITION!  FREE GARY!

Linux Tutorial: How to create a password-protected folder

UPDATE: 11 SEPTEMBER 2011
When I first wrote this post, I recommended the use of cfs.  But that was a few years ago, and now I recommend truecrypt.  cfs is fiddly, and is hard to get used to if you don’t use the command line interface much and don’t know how to RTFM.  Whereas truecrypt has a nice graphic user interface, encrypts “on the fly”, and has a ton of other features that make it my fave encryption application.  You can read all about it, and download it, at www.truecrypt.org.
Ubuntu does not, by default, provide a way to create password-protected directories.  A right-click on a folder does offer to encrypt, but that is done with gpg, which uses a gpg key.  You’d need to email your public key to anyone you wanted to have access to the folder, which is a rather cumbersome procedure when all you want is a simple password protection!
Using the -c flag with gpg (gpg -c) uses symmetrical encryption –  this means a protected file can be opened with a password.  But gpg -c works only on files, not directories.
Truecrypt is an encryption package that does allow the user to create password-protected directories.  Unfortunately, you can’t install truecrypt with apt-get or Synaptic – it is not in any of the repsitories.  But you can get it in .deb form, from www.truecrypt.org.
There is an app in the repositories that enables the user to create password-protected folders.  This app, cfs, is for creating encrypted partitions and filesystems.  And as a directory is a filesystem, cfs is good for our purpose.
cfs is a command-line utility.  Unfortunately, many newbies don’t like using the command-line interface.  But there’s no need to fear the CLI.  Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to use cfs to create a password-protected directory.
First thing  we need to do is install cfs.  This can be done through Synaptic or with apt-get.  And as are going to be using a terminal for this procedure, we may as well start right now. So, open a terminal Applications > Accesories > Terminal and type in the command
sudo apt-get install cfs
Type in your password when prompted.  apt-get will ask if you want to install the other packages that cfs depends on – answer “y” to all this.  When cfs has been successfully installed, apt-get will exit and you’ll be returned to the command prompt.
There will now be several new commands available to you.  The ones we will need today are cmkdir, cattach and cdetach.
Now we need to create the encrypted directory. To do this, we will use the command cmkdir.  cfs will ask for a “key” – this is the pass phrase you will use to open the folder in the future, and must be at least 16 character long.  In this example I’m going to call my encrypted directory “lock”.
So, go to the location where you want to put the directory and create it,
user@ubuntu:~$ cmkdir lock
Key:
Again:
user@ubuntu:~$

So, the encrypted directory “lock” has been created in my home directory – ie ~/lock.  Now we want to put our secret files into it. This is done by attaching another directory to ~/lock. I’ll call this one “clock”, but you can call it whatever you like. cfs will ask for the key – this means the pass phrase you just made up.
user@ubuntu:~$ cattach lock clock
Key:
user@ubuntu:~$

If you look in the directory /crypt you will find the directory you just made – /crypt/clock.  This is where you want to put your secret files. You don’t put the files direcly into ~/lock.
user@ubuntu:~$ mv file1 file2 file3 /crypt/clock/
user@ubuntu:~$

Now, to close ~/lock so no one can get into it, we need to unattach the directory with the cdetach command.
user@ubuntu:~$ cdetach clock
user@ubuntu:~$

Do you want to check that your files are in ~/lock, and that they’re encrypted?  Well, let’s see a list of ~/lock’s contents:
user@ubuntu:~$ ls lock
19929910f65ed51c  1deec15b5201f48d  c8b70c7c5b4e5884

user@ubuntu:~$
So the file names have been encrypted too.  And what’s in them?
user@ubuntu:~$ cat lock/19929910f65ed51c
��A���3��<g�Y���f�h�RCC\��%v�|
AB�r��Ҍr�z���|�ݒy�mAp�’��܅�n�x����Y/Oªøù+¥Ö©õYŒ«Â┌&:/P⎻B®¯ò␍úX²…Æ¿␍␋€”Ç─◆¤/¦¤‰Š£ç≤¬¼=öπŠ‰/¡û™␍!L─≠⎻ž$/.€Ø<–)ù(î-ÈýÏþOø
”’8L„åD3&O0”Ç›5┌¦·1Þ_-R⎽û°8(Ôµ┬çH¸SȾ°␉⎽«¦S£ò?ÿßë´æ‘¡⎺V◆O├ä„E◆ì$VEM¨⎺†VüÔОÄ²ïÑ├] >(␤ ª@Õ呵┘¡•┬/‰éâ┌␌O±“Àâ0Q
IX\B¸6ž2SÁ␌åˆ
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<snip>

When you want to access your secret files, or if you want to put more files into ~/lock, you must first reattach it, using cattach.  You move files in or out of the attached directory in /crypt – you never put files directory into ~/lock. Then when you’re finished, you retach using cdetachYou must never forget to detach if you want to keep the secret files secret.
——–
If you’ve got any questions or comments, don’t be shy!
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Pedophiles to be banned from international travel

Gary Glitter -  70s rock god and child molestor
Gary Glitter - 70s rock god and child molestor

UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today announced that convicted paedophiles could be subject to much stricter movement controls.
The changes to the rules include increasing the length of time child-sex offenders can be banned from travelling abroad and making it easier for the police to obtain orders curbing activities in the UK.
Now, it’s all very well imposing these kind of draconian measures on pedophiles – no one has sympathy for a beast, most people think they deserve everything they get.  But I worry this is just the start of something much more wide-ranging.  First of all it’ll just be sex-cases who get these restrictions… but soon it’ll be all criminals… then all people who the government decide need restriction.  Before you know it, you’ll be banned from leaving the country because you voted the wrong way at the last general election!
And don’t say “It can’t happen here!”  It can.  It has before.  And it certainly will again!

Pulseaudio/Flash issues in Ubuntu Hardy… solved at last?

There have been some right problems with Pulseaudio and Flash in Hardy.  Youtube videos playing with no sound… Firefox freezing and crashing… it’s been a right pain in the ass.
But it seems these issues may have been resolved.  Psyke83, an Ubuntuforums.org member, posted what appears to be a definitive fix here.  This howto enables you to use Pulseaudio and Flash 10.  Something I’d begun to fear might never happen…
Now, I only just enacted this fix on my machine, and I have yet to give it a proper testing on a variety of video streaming sites and music formats and so on.  But it does look promising – right away I’ve noticed how less buggy Firefox seems…
Anyone who’s been suffering Pulseaudio/Flash problems in Hardy: follow the instructions in psyke83’s guide, then please post here your experiences.

Will "Russia vs Georgia" become "Russia vs America"?

Over the past week or so, the Russian army and airforce have pelted Georgia to hell and back.  And we in the West have been fed a constant diet of pro-Georgian propaganda: Russia is a big bully, we’re told, picking on plucky little Georgia for no good reason.  Of course, anyone with half a brain will know it isn’t quite that simple…
The truth of the matter is, there are no good guys in this scenario.  South Ossetia, an “autonomous” region of Georgia, has wanted to become part of Russia for a long time – there is a large ethnic Russian community there.  In the past month, South Ossetian separatists took military action against Georgian authority.  Georgia struck back at the rebels.   And Russia moved to protect its Ossetian buddies.
And then the USA weighs in on Georgia’s side, accusing Russia of aggression.  Georgia could certainly do with some support too!  Russia has large, powerful armed forces, whereas Georgia has… not much of anything, to tell the truth.
But the USA  isn’t mouthing off because it believes in Georgia’s moral rectitude.  Georgia wants to join NATO, and America is very keen on having a military ally in the Caucasus.  That’s why the USA is acting like protective Uncle Sam.
And Georgia’s pro-NATO attitude is the real reason why Russia attacked – South Ossetia was just a pathetic excuse.  Russia is feeling rather vulnerable at the moment.  Poland has agreed to siting the USA’s missile shield on its territory, which is too close for comfort to the Russians. The Ukraine is also in on the US missile deal. And now Georgia wants to join forces with  NATO – an organization which, not so long ago, was Russia’s enemy.  No no no!!
America is putting itself right into this conflict.  Not militarily, but politically.  And Russia isn’t going to quietly accept more American involvement in the region.  At some point, Russia’s going to tell the USA: “Put up or shut up.”  What happens then is anyone’s guess…

Novel about the prophet's wife cancelled amid fears of extremist backlash

A romantic novel about Aisha, wife of the prophet Muhammad, has been withdrawn because its publisher fears a violent reaction from Islamic extremists.
The Jewel of the Medina, the first novel by Sherry Jones, 46, was due to be released on August 12 by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. But the publishers apparently panicked after Islamic scholars objected to the work.  One scholar, Denise Spellburg, who teaches Islamic History at the University of Texas, described the novel as “soft-core pornography”.
Sherry Jones thinks that Spellburg’s comments are ridiculous.  She said: “I must be a heck of a writer to produce a pornographic book without sex scenes. My book is as realistic a portrayal as I could muster of the prophet Muhammad’s harem and his domestic life. Of course it has sexuality, but there is no sex.”
Sherry wrote The Jewel of the Medina hoping it might develop empathy for the female culture in Islam.  She has always been dissatisfied with the way history always focuses on men, and she hoped her novel would honour the women in Muhammad’s life.
She suggested getting an endorsement for the novel from Spellburg – and that’s when things started to unravel.
Spellberg was horrified by the book.  She said: “It is not just that there were issues with historical accuracy. This was quite deliberately provocative. She objectified the wife of the prophet as a sex object and made her violent as well.”
Spellburg shared her misgivings with a colleague and the editor of a Muslim website.  The novel became the topic of heated discussion on the internet.
Ballantine Books saw the uproar caused by the novel, and the publishers could envisage a re-run of the Satanic Verses affair, when author Salman Rushdie was sentenced to death by Iranian Ayatollah Khomenai and had to spend years in hiding.  It was decided that the novel wasn’t worth the danger.
Many people will dismiss the affair because the novel is a luridly written amalgam of bodice-ripper and historical fiction rather than a “serious” work of literature. But I think that’s a condescending, snobbish attitude.  This is a case of religious censorship.  Self-imposed, but censorship nonetheless.  And we should fight the censor wherever it may appear.
Jones has been released from her contract so she can try to resell the novel elsewhere.  And I hope she succeeds in placing it.  Not because I’m a fan of romantic historical novels – I’m not at all – but because censorship is evil.

Brit hacker loses fight against extradition

Gary McKinnon, the British hacker who broke into US Defense and NASA computer systems in search of evidence of UFOs, has lost his battle against extradition.
It was 2002 when the police came round to McKinnon’s house to nick him.  Now 6 years later,  on 30 July, the House of Lords agreed he should be sent to America to face trial and possible imprisonment.
Initially, McKinnon thought he would be tried in the UK and might get, at most, 3 or 4 years in prison. But then the US authorities decided they wanted to try him in an American court with charges that could a sentence of 70 years.
The Americans claim that McKinnom was intent on sabotage and that he did $700,000 worth of damage to US computer systems.  McKinnon refutes this – he says he had no malicious intent and was just trying to find the “truth” about America’s dealings with extraterrestrials.
The Americans have been hyping up the case, claiming that his hacking activities damaged defense systems in September 2001 – during the 9-11 crisis.  They’d have us believe that McKinnon is an online terrorist.  And they want to punish him accordingly.
Of course it’s no surprise that the UK government supports the USA’s desire to put him on trial in a US court.  But it is worrying to know that the UK authorities has no problem with sending a British citizen to another country to face a possible 70 years in jail.  McKinnon could have been tried in a UK court… so why wasn’t he?  Why is everyone so keen to ship him abroad?
I’ll tell you why: it’s because the UK government loves the USA.  A perverse love.
Remember when there was all that hullaballoo about “extraordinary rendition” (aka kidnapping)?  The UK government had absolutely no problem believing the lies told by the USA about how no rendition flights came anywhere near British territory.  It’s since been proven that these illegal flights often used to land in the UK territory of Diego Garcia to refuel.  And rendition planes frequently overflew the UK despite US assurances this never happened.
And now the UK is actively helping with a rendition.  They are to render McKinnon to the Americans, to do with as they will.