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UK Outlines Plan For Internet Black Boxes 419

Posted by timothy
from the but-don't-panic-they'll-say-don't-panic-on-them dept.
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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UK Outlines Plan For Internet Black Boxes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:53AM (#25673209)

    fuck this police state

    • by I cant believe its n (1103137) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:23AM (#25673369) Journal
      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.
      • by montyzooooma (853414) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:39AM (#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.
        • by fluch (126140) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:55AM (#25673573)

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

        • by MrNaz (730548) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:02AM (#25673613) Homepage

          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: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Extremus (1043274)

            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: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MrNaz (730548)

              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 i

              • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday November 07, 2008 @08:24AM (#25674481)

                But isn't this what legal systems call "assuming facts not in evidence"?

                I graduated from a well-known university, and I met some very clever people there, far smarter than I am. I expect that some of those people were at least approached by the security services, and maybe some of them actually joined. However, I rather doubt that those of them who remained in academia have suddenly become less smart than those who signed up. If the academic community hasn't developed and published research into, say, breaking well-established encryption algorithms other than by brute force, then I'm inclined to think that the government hasn't developed such techniques either, certainly not for all of the algorithms in use. It's just not credible that even a secretive government intelligence organisation with its hands in many pies could silence the entire academic community without any leak. Governments just aren't that competent.

                In any case, the evidence against them is pretty damning. Look at the picture of systematic incompetence that has emerged over the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes in recent weeks. Recall that the biggest terrorist attacks in recent history occurred just a few years ago and no-one picked up all the warning signs. Notice that while serving government ministers and senior figures in the police and security services are quick to claim the need for these sweeping powers, they have plenty of critics who have also been in privileged positions and would have had access to the same secret information about the real picture that the government has but we as average citizens do not. Look at the results of trials of the technology the government are actually installing in places like airports, or planning to use with the ID card scheme. Do we really believe that this is all an elaborate ruse to hide the true capabilities, and remarkably not a single person involved in the process at any level has leaked even a hint to the contrary?

                If the threat were really as great as the government makes out and the government really had reliable means to fight it, these sorts of things wouldn't be happening. But of course it's very easy to claim that they have secret knowledge none of us have, and we mere citizens don't understand what terrible things might happen, and we should just trust them. Such is the politics of fear, which must be opposed at every turn of the dark path down which it leads us.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by fish waffle (179067)

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

              And there's the solution, and also another problem. It is highly likely that like most government projects this is pure pork, with pretty much no chance of being successful by any objective measure. There are technical reasons why it doesn't work (and no, I don't think the NSA or MI666 has super-secret technology way ahead of current research), and there are statistical---with perhaps only 10^-5% or less of your population of any real interest

          • by RockoTDF (1042780)
            Agreed. I am convinced that if Al-Qaeda was a real threat, we would see far more bus/subway bombings. Another 9/11 would be a bitch for them to pull off, but how easy is it to just sneak one guy (a suicide bomber) in to some small town in the US or UK sans a "cell" for authorities to watch? Surely the terrorists know this, and if they were as real as we think, would exploit it. A major attack every 5-10 years is far less scary than 5-10 minor attacks in one year.
          • by Xest (935314) on Friday November 07, 2008 @08:44AM (#25674645)

            "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."

            What? 9/11, 7/7 and the Nadrid train bombings did actually happen. It absolutely is a real threat and there was even analysis of it as an emerging threat long before current governments started using it to push their agenda.

            Unfortunately in the case of the British government I do even believe that they think this will help and in a way hell I even think it's possible that it would. If they can see everything everyone is doing then yes I think it could reduce crime.

            What I don't agree with is the cost. My grandfather didn't fight on the beaches of Normandy so that our own government could instead come and take away the freedoms he fought for. Frankly, I'd rather live everyday free and run the risk that I be one of the 1 in 100 million people that die from a terrorist attack once every 10 years or whatever than I would be totally safe but not have any freedom at all. I have a higher chance of dying in a car crash each day but I wont stop driving because of that because in the grand scheme of things, that chance is still very small.

            The problem is people like Jacqui Smith who simply don't understand that we want freedoms and I can even understand why this is- because she is in a position where this wouldn't effect her. Being in the position she is she'd be privalaged enough to not be one of the citizens under her that have to suffer this. As such she can't possibly understand the worry this brings the rest of us unless it is the case that it's made clear to her for this to go ahead she must also accept that every single communication she makes must also be logged and available to the public to monitor.

            I agree with your sentiment, but your theory behind it seems a little paranoid. I don't think our governments are out to get us, they're just outright incompetent and entirely disconnected from the citizens they serve. It's easy to tell everyone they have to be monitored when you yourself aren't subject to such monitoring because you can claim your communications are sensitive to national security and must hence remain private.

            The problem you have in formulating your power grab plan is that you're crediting the people behind these ideas (again for example Jacqui Smith) with being intelligent enough to understand the flaws in her plan. To give an example that's fairly applicable here on Slashdot, think of your average fanboy. A fanboy will choose product/idea x and argue that it's the best or that their idea is right. You can provide countless facts and proof counter to their claim but it doesn't matter, they'll still believe they're right. This is the position Jacqui Smith is in, id cards, internet monitoring and so on are her pet projects, it doesn't matter how wrong they are, they don't want to hear it. They've sided with these ideas and they're not going to let go until they're forced to (i.e. election time).

            I do think it's possible to counter these things but there has to be the will to do so, the public needs to stand up and say enough is enough or at least provide work arounds (truly secure encrypted communication with encryption keys passed via a separate unmonitored medium such as post, voice or similar). In the UK the NO2ID campagin is a good start, it gets it's voice heard on the national news and such but they need more volunteers, more help, more donations to have a real policy changing effect.

            I do rather thing conspiracy theories are rather counterproductive and are really no different to the politics of fear you talk down when it comes to. It seems more sensible to take a step back and look at a more realistic view of what's going on and deal with it in the best way possible- actually make the physical effort to campaign against it.

        • by purpledinoz (573045) on Friday November 07, 2008 @09:00AM (#25674793)
          Can you imagine how much pr0n they're going to have? I'm jealous.
      • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:33AM (#25673819) Homepage

        We need software which sends trigger words between peers, 24/7/365.

  • by Cinnamon Whirl (979637) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:55AM (#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!
    • by davester666 (731373) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:15AM (#25673311) Journal

      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?").

      • by mpe (36238)
        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)?

        It might be wiser to assume that this will be the case from the outset.

        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
    • Re:Win win situation (Score:5, Informative)

      by aproposofwhat (1019098) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:30AM (#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.

    • It's funny because the parent poster can't tell the difference between the BPI and the government!

  • Elections (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:58AM (#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.
    • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:15AM (#25673309) Journal
      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.
      • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:44AM (#25673495) Homepage
      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.
    • by Candid88 (1292486)

      "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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by coffii (76089)

      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

      • Re:Elections (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phoenix321 (734987) * on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:24AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Daimanta (1140543)

          In the Netherlands there were some referendums about choosing a maor. A lot of people thought the referendum were bad because choices were lacking. In some cities there was a voting percentage as low as 9%. Adter a few of these failed referendums they stopped doing it and called it failed. It simply didn't have any sense of legitimity it should have. It can work but the voting percentage needs to be so incredibly low so you can show that nobody really cared or was against it.

          It can work, but it is highly un

    • by digitig (1056110)

      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.

    • Your only other option is the Conservatives, who would consider this measure as not going far enough and as for "sundry wars, the collapse of banking, big brother mentality, greed etc etc" - multiply by 2.

      I suppose you could always vote Libdem - or your could just not vote (same thing, I guess).

      I've said it before, and I'll say it again: democracy just doesn't work.

      I do think it's a bit naive to blame politicians for the current economic mess, as if they were deliberately masterminding the whole thing on th

    • 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.

      You think this is any different to the past? If anything, people now are more likely to vote independently. My parents' generation were the ones where the husband told the wife who to vote for, or the ones who

  • Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:58AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:07AM (#25673281) Homepage

      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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by fluch (126140) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:52AM (#25673541)

        Tor [torproject.org] might be helful here...

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        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 abou

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by blowdart (31458)
          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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AnotherDaveB (912424) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:21AM (#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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by qbast (1265706)
        Solution: opportunistic encryption (I think freeswan supported this). Select one scheme, put it in Linux, enable by default and in 2 - 3 years, after everybody upgrade you will see a lot of encrypted traffic - small ISP routers, web shops, small business servers and others. Of course if it really works, MS will invent its own incompatible scheme, but the goal will be achieved anyway.
      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        > Then on the personal side you can't have a one-sided encrypted connection.

        You can't have one sided encryption, but nothing forces you to solve this problem with just two sides.

        A third side (in the middle) can let you open an encrypted connection to it and then connect unencripted to the target.

        That third side doesn't even have to be a central known server, or a server on the same country, or even a server at all.

        That third side doesn't even have to be singular. The bandwidth people are getting to downl

    • What about our daughters, you insensitive clod!

    • by FudRucker (866063)
      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)...
  • 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 hoo

  • bad idea, perhaps? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bs7rphb (924322) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:01AM (#25673251) Homepage

    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.

  • Most likely... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:03AM (#25673261) Homepage

    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.

  • by thermian (1267986)

    So I assume the UK Government wants to store a mirror of the content on piratebay?

  • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:15AM (#25673319)
    But I've got a better plan. How about I give you the finger, and you give us our country back.
  • 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).

  • *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'm a liberal at heart, but christ, have you seent the libdems policies?)

      to be honest, I'd vote Monster Raving Loony if they were second place to Labour in my consituency.

  • Do I need a larger hard drive?

  • 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."

    • by Oxygen99 (634999)
      Funny? Funny?! Dammit, this is my country. That'd only be funny if the statement was made by someone in the United States who also makes reference to tubes. Or possibly in Belgium where its unlikely anyone outside of Wallonia would care anyway.

      Why oh why isn't there a "Wingnut-politican-in-position-of-alarming-power-makes-statement-that-appears-so-far-out-of-touch-with-the-populace-that-she-seems-certifiable-yet-when-you-look-into-it-seems-to-accurately-reflect-what-the-vast-majority-of-the-citizenship-
  • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:32AM (#25673417) Journal

    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustKidding (591117) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:32AM (#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.

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:32AM (#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?

    • by Chrisq (894406)
      Just get everyone to prefix every email with "bring the bombs to Downing Street" or something similar.
    • by digitig (1056110)

      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 bel

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday November 07, 2008 @07:59AM (#25674311)
      They are supported by MPs because they have houses in London and are surrounded by frightened middle class and upper class people. I live in a small town and in the last 20 years petty crime has dropped, especially since PCSOs (a kind of return to the old village policeman) were introduced and started talking to the local kids instead of trying to recognise them on CCTV pictures.) The UK is actually run on the basis that it is all like London. It is not.

      Even the last two directors of our security service say the Government is way over the top. But (see posts below) the paranoia is of huge benefit to the large,foreign IT firms who want to put this stuff in and are worried about their gravy train of huge, over-budget projects coming to a stop in the recession. The opportunity to create huge server farms, cable backbones and data mining operations out of taxpayer money must look like take-candy-off-a-rich-baby time, and with no risk its effectiveness will be called into question. If as we susopect the terrorist threat is minute and under control, they will not have to worry too much about the effectiveness of the system. Allow me to sell you my tiger repellent spray for use in Iceland.

      (You may want to discount some of my opinion because I work for a consultancy that aims to do - guess what? -reduce IT costs.)

  • 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.

  • by mrpacmanjel (38218) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:44AM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:08AM (#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.

    • by AlecC (512609)

      Absolutely agreed.

      Has anyone done a cost/benefit analysis on this? Not only the cost of the original "black boxes" and their databases, but the cost of doing any effective analysis on the database, and the cost of following up any false positives you get from that analysis.

      Remember that that the traffic they are looking for (allegedly), the real terrorist traffic, is a tiny, tiny part of the total net traffic. There are few terrorists, and even those that there are probably use the net legitimately as well

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:44AM (#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)?

  • Erm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by robajob (1238762) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:00AM (#25673593)
    Isn't this story wildly inaccurate, at least according to The Register [theregister.co.uk]?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by blowdart (31458)
      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 ....
  • Question Time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:04AM (#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.

  • Hadrians Firewall??? Getting more like China over hear everyday :(
  • A few points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:14AM (#25673691) Homepage

    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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alioth (221270)

      A better way is for the bad guys, if they want to use the internet to get their messages out, is to use spammers. Steganographically hide the message in the "hash busters" spammers have regularly inserted for years. The authorities won't even be able to tell who the actual recipients are, nor distinguish them from the mountains of normal run of the mill spam.

      Wouldn't surprise me if the bad guys are already doing things like this. It would be a bit like a poor man's "numbers station" (but much harder to tell

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aleph42 (1082389) *

      You deploy a lot of energy to convince us that this is no big deal. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, your post is full of the usual fallacies on this matter:

      1) "People 'with half a brain' arleady use encryption":
      People who deliberatly use encryption are so few that the governements do not really care. If you look at the history of wiretap abuses, you'll see that it's mostly about political activists (who think they have nothing to hide, since what they do is legal), or simply random wiretaps to see what people

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ledow (319597)

        I'm not saying that your points don't have merit. I just don't believe any of them to be true. In the face of almost zero evidence, people choose different beliefs.

        "1) "People 'with half a brain' arleady use encryption"."

        This isn't one of my points. My point is, it's an insecure medium. So either secure it, or don't be surprised that you can't trust it.

        "People who deliberatly use encryption are so few that the governements do not really care."

        Just about everyone who uses a bank account. Most people who

  • ...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.

  • Correction (Score:5, Funny)

    by mpe (36238) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:29AM (#25673787)
    It probably should read more like "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. It will subsequently be copied onto laptops, USB flash drives, portable hard drives and DVDs. Which will be left in random locations, including pub car parks, petrol stations, trains and taxis."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by daveime (1253762)
      My God man, haven't you ever heard of data redundancy ? Backup copies are always safer if they are stored in deiverse locations.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@gm a i l.com> on Friday November 07, 2008 @08:10AM (#25674393) Homepage Journal

    I mean, the people there railed about Bush doing his USA PATRIOT and wiretaps, and immediately turn around and enact successive governments that would make the Stazi -blush-. Cameras everywhere, universal internet monitoring. Where is the England that gave us John Lennon?

  • New market. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Larryish (1215510) <larryish@gmail.cDEGASom minus painter> on Friday November 07, 2008 @10:07AM (#25675557)
    I live in the U.S. and will provide U.K. citizens with custom VPN configurations at reasonable cost (especially considering the sorry state of the U.S. dollar).

    Sounds like you're are going to need it, mate.

    Accounts can be had from servers in either the U.S. or the Netherlands, depending on your needs.

    admin@amigahost.com
  • Duh! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:17PM (#25682203) Homepage

    Labour is the same as the Tories.

    Democrats are the same as Republicans.

    You people never learn, do you?

    You just keep voting them in, year in and year out.

    Someone once pointed out that if you put cheese in a maze, mice will navigate that maze until they find the cheese. But if you take the cheese out, eventually the mice will stop trying.

    But with humans, once they think the cheese is in there, they'll keep navigating that maze no matter how many times they never find the cheese. Because they "know" the cheese is there.

    Same thing with the state - people just keep on believing that if they just had the "right" people in the government, everything will magically work out just fine.

    Humans vs robots - as Dr. Tim used to say, anyone who doesn't realize that they're 99.95 percent robotic is too stupid to talk to.

    You think Obama is going to make a difference?

    Making Excuses for Obama
    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=13698 [antiwar.com]

    The Limits of Change
    What to expect from the Obama administration on the foreign policy front
    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=13709 [antiwar.com]

    Forget the Honeymoon
    Getting down to bizness with Obama
    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=13728 [antiwar.com]

All the simple programs have been written.

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