Links and Thinks... and fears?

12 February 2018

Kia ora koutou and it's another sunny, rainy day in Aotearoa. Recently there's been a fair bit of Internet-y news that is either a) thought-provoking, or b) down-right troubling. So brace yourselves, here there by badness and cynicism.

The Internet of You presents: the House that spied on me

Kashmir Hill at Gizmodo has written up a great piece about home automation. Along with Surya Mattu, Kashmir walks the reader through making her home a Smart Home, and thanks to a dedicated, monitored connection with Surya, steps us through the privacy and family implications. A great read and a useful reminder on why we here at InternetNZ prefer to separate out the Internet of You (home automation, wearables etc) from the genuinely non-personal Internet of Things.

Crypto-currency mining malware & browsers

Crypto-currencies, as well as being a great way to burn electricity, are getting massive, and the crimeware that's targeting non-bitcoin currencies is getting pretty big. There's a lot here that I want to blog about, but for now, I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that someone is using some vulnerabilities in text-to-voice settings to inject Coinhive's Monero (a popular cryptocurrency) miner into other people's sites - including some UK Government sites.

There's a pretty good twitter threat about this, and some suggestions for site owners to mitigate the risk from Scott Helme, a UK-based security researcher here.

The other is that, if you are concerned or annoyed at the idea of sites using your computer to mine cryptocurrencies, here is an article with a some advice on how to spot it and some suggested solutions to blocking other people using your CPU for their mining army.

The terrible "innovation" that is Deep Fake porn

So, this is a bit… adult. And also very concerning so - warning to those of you who don't like talking or thinking about consent and porn.

Deep Fake porn is a new advent, where some scumbags have learnt how to leverage openly available AI-tools, cloud processing and the like to artificially add, or replace someone into a video. The non-porn example is the ability to add Nicholas Cage into any movie. Fun right?

Well the porn version isn't fun, it's downright awful. People are taking porn movies and seamlessly replacing the actors faces with those of Celebrities. It's caused quite an ethical debate on reddit (irony alert) with full on arguments. And it's only a matter of time before this move from creepers wanting porn starring their favourite Celebrity into a form of targeted harassment against women, activists and anyone else who has become the target of the wrong people.

As pointed out by Motherboard's Samantha Cole anyone who is victim to a deepfake is effectively at the mercy of the big platforms. PornHub has apparently made a policy decision that deep fakes are non-consented video and so they will remove them from their site, but still requires users to report them. This effectively treats deep fakes like a copyright infringement under the DMCA.

However, here in NZ you DO have a recourse if you are a victim to a deep fake. In my opinion, it's very clearly a Harmful Digital Communication and should be reported to Netsafe asap. Not exactly the type of thing that the law writers might have anticipated, but still online harassment of a most destructive manner.

Stuff media starts using SecureDrop

But, to make sure we don't leave this blog on a depressing note, Stuff have launched their own securedrop services. Securedrop is a privacy protecting service designed for journalists and news organisations so that their sources can provide them with information and documents while making it very hard for someone else to figure out who send them the information. Securedrop is already used by the New York Times, Guardian and the Washington Post. Great to see Stuff using good tech to help protect sources! Also - yay, a local, demonstration of how to use TOR for a good cause.

So, that's us for another week team. Here in the Issues team we're putting the finishing touches on some papers, designing an essay competition (more soon) and gearing up for some really cool events coming up:

  • Optimistic Futures - is a futures session that we're running with Victoria University of Wellington and DIA's Service Innovation Lab. The event takes place the day before Wellington plays host to the Digital Five nations' Ministerial Summit so we're hoping to get along some international speakers and participants as well.
  • We are hosting a special NetHui on Copyright on March 12. Cory Doctorow will be in town and speaking. Get involved and run a session, or hear about how important copyright is, all in time for the Government's Copyright review that is happening later this year.