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Germans to avoid spying eyes with typewriters

22 Jul 2014

Typewriter Man Smoking Pipe

Sneak is working on a novel. It's a labour of love that is so complex, clever and cunning that it makes Game of Thrones look like Spot the Dog. When it's ready, and yes Mum it will be, the world will proclaim the greatness that is Sneak.

So good is this work that Sneak has always been concerned that writing it in the traditional method – on Microsoft Word on a laptop – posed the risk that if someone got wind of it and hacked into his machine, they could steal the idea and make gazillions.

To avoid this fate, Sneak has for many years used an ancient, bashed-around typewriter left to him by his great grandfather (the dapper chap pictured above).

Yes his friends mock him when they come round (OK, see it over his shoulder on the webcam) but it’s a trusty machine and no-one’s going to hack into it, that’s for sure. In fact, he often wondered why other security-conscious organisations don't have the odd typewriter kicking around for important intel.

Well it appears the Germans are catching on after Sneak read that the German government is considering using the old-fashioned machines to help stop spies, such as those from the US, from accessing, intercepting and reading the country's most secret data.

The Guardian reported that Christian Democrat politician Patrick Sensburg, after being asked, as a litte joke, if the country was considering typewriters to avoid spying that, "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either."

"Really?" came the response (in German though, no doubt). "Yes, no joke," Sensburg said back. He never jokes.

Good for you Germany! Let’s see you crack a unnetworked, decades-old, ink and ribbon typewriter, NSA. As for Sneak, he's off to write chapter 247 of his novel. It's an exciting bit, as the Orc King Gringarlos battles the Dragon Wizard Zilarbeth in the Moon Palace of Zingador. Excited? You should be.

Central Intelligence Agency joins Twitter and Facebook

09 Jun 2014

Sneak finally has some decent people to talk to on his social networking accounts, the venerable chaps, and ladies, at the US Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA to close friends.

Sneak is often found to be on the receiving end of a mute or blocking order, he hopes that the new social CIA will embrace him and his own brand of unclassified disclosure.

Certainly it looks like the CIA is open to the social experience and it has promised to share outwards. Sneak hopes that it will be equally open to responses.

While looking at the CIA account Sneak realised that other people have the same hope, and he noticed that a chap called @Wikileaks has promised to respond to official disclosures with some of its own. Sneak is looking forward to that.

However, while he is hoping for messages that are juicy like so many peaches, the truth is probably - and this is often the case - that things will be very boring indeed.

Take the CIA on Facebook. Sneak was expecting to see a video of a monkey sniffing something, a picture of some lunch, or hell, even a selfie, but none of that is in place. Instead there is a message that promises no fun at all.

"CIA welcomes your comments, however we wish to maintain the decorum appropriate to a taxpayer-funded organisation, we will moderate, and delete as necessary, comments deemed inappropriate. Failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in the author(s) being blocked from this page without notice," it says in a cat-free early post.

"Do not post graphic, obscene, sexually explicit or racially offensive comments or content. We also will not tolerate comments that are abusive, hateful, slanderous or that are intended to defame anyone or any organisation. All content must be unclassified. Do not post any content that may be considered classified, sensitive, or that would cause immediate and undue harm to a person or organisation."

First draft of Boris's letter to Apple, Samsung on street thefts emerges

09 Jul 2013

London Mayor Boris Johnson

As one who never ventures far from the safety of his living room Sneak can count himself lucky he’s not one of the many Londoners who have experienced street crime, especially not of his beloved mobile phone.

However, it’s a worrying trend and Sneak was pleased to see Mayor of London Boris Johnson tackle the issue head on with a letter to the top mobile phone makers, including Apple, Samsung and Google, asking them to help tackle phone theft.

Scanning the letter, it’s clear some hasty rewriting took place in City Hall to tone down some of Johnson’s more colourful prose. However, a source in the capital passed Sneak a copy of the first draft, which is presented below in all its glory.
 
Dear chaps or chapesses (yes I know women can be high-ranking business officials these days, the modern world eh, marvelous!)

What spiffing weather we’re having! Anyhoo, look, there’s this dash awful phone-gizmo theft problem in London that I need your help with. It seems some of the awful scallywags and ne’er-do-wells who don’t live in Kensington and Chelsea are appropriating – through foul means – the portable telecommunication devices of upstanding citizens.

The rozzers at Scots Yard tell me they’re powerless to stop anyone and that I should ask you geek and nerds – and I mean that affectionately you brilliant brainy boffins – for some help stopping these ruffians.

No, I don’t mean some sort of weedy geek squads patrolling the streets, Lord no!

What I want is some sort of whizzo tech solution. Surely you can rustle up some nifty gizmo to stop this happening? Some sort of Heath Robinson contraption that stops someone being able to use a stolen phone would be great – you could call it the Boris-a-tron! You can have that free of charge! Marvelous!

Anyway, send me some drawings of what you think could work and I’ll personally look over them before giving them the sign off.

Toodle pip,

BoJo.

Sent from my blasted tablet device (haha!)

Thieves of London, you have been warned...

Budget 2013: George Osborne joins Twitter, instantly swamped with abuse

20 Mar 2013

UK chancellor George Osborne has chosen the morning of the 2013 budget to unleash himself on the Twittersphere, sending his first tweet on Wednesday morning. Under the @George_Osborne account, he tweeted:

The tweet is accompanied by a picture of the chancellor with his red box, indeed working hard and getting on, if you call sitting with a blank piece of paper and doing some scribbling as evidence of achievement.

Sneak hopes that one of the budget announcements will be providing the UK chancellor with a calculator or actual computer to add up his sums. 

Osborne had managed to amass more than 20,000 followers by mid-morning Wednesday, including  MPs and industry groups like David Cameron, Liam Fox and the British Chambers of Commerce - those that Sneak would define as dull as ditchwater, and keeps far from his Twitter feed - plus a few random ones like Bill Gates and The Beautiful World: the most beautiful, crazy, stunning pictures of this earth, the biography claims.

Obviously our chancellor needs a little light relief every now and again, though Sneak would have gone for @sockington.

However, no sooner had poor George published his one and only tweet this morning, but the floodgates opened on a torrent of abuse and mick-taking aimed at the chancellor.

It took Sneak a fair while of searching through the hundreds of welcome tweets to Osborne to find some clean enough to post on a professional site like V3, but this gives a taste of the messages.

Some might feel sorry for the chancellor being subject to this level of abuse and ridicule, on the most important day of his year. But Sneak suspects an ulterior motive.

Osborne, or his canny PR team, would have known full well the likely outcome of unveiling his Twitter account on Budget Day, and must be secretly hoping that the interest in all the tweeting will overshadow any controversial decisions the chancellor announces this afternoon, or at least encourage some level of sympathy for him.

Sneak is sorry to reveal to Osborne that Twitter is not exactly a hotbed of sympathetic and measured viewpoints. All of which puts us in mind of this delightful moment from last summer:

George Galloway launches one-man crusade against Twitter

15 Mar 2013

twitter-bird-megaphone

Sneak has always admired those lone fighters, the rebels, the individuals who stand against the odds to stick it to The Man. So it is with utter admiration that Sneak doffs his hat to rapid left-wing street fighter George Galloway, having learned of his one-man fight against the might of microblogging site Twitter.

Galloway, most famous for his sumptuous facial hair and cat impersonations, has manfully tried to get the lily-livered weaklings in the House of Parliament to wake up to the spectre of Twitter, proposing an early day motion to impose sanctions on on the site.

“This House notes that Twitter is now a very widely used mode of social networking,” his motion begins inauspiciously. Thanks George, Sneak – along with the rest of Western civilisation - was kinda aware of that.

But old firebrand Galloway soon gets going.

“Twitter is now used for a variety of criminal activities including sending malicious communications,” he rails, before accusing the site of failing to co-operate with police, calling its behaviour “reprehensible”.

Sneak had been rather impressed with the Transparency Report Twitter had published earlier this year, but now feels – in light of Galloway's clear-sighted rant – that he must have had the wool pulled over his eyes by this, “US-based enterprise whose primary motivation is to maximise its profits”, as @georgegalloway describes them.

Sadly, no other MP has dared rally to the cause, making Gorgeous George's the only signature of the motion to date. Odd that, it's almost as if this were just some crude publicity stunt rather than a serious political campaign.

North Korean leader in HTC smartphone use shock

05 Feb 2013

HTC One X Plus comes with HTC's Sense user interface

The folk in North Korea don't have it easy and that's putting it mildly.

In fact Sneak finds it outrageous that in a world of internet access and smartphones and tablets people in the nation are barely allowed online and mobile phones can only call internally, effectively shutting off the outside world.

Of course, the leaders of such despotic regimes rarely place the same burdens on themselves as they do to their poor populous, and a photo that's emerged from North Korea shows its leader Kim Jong-un seeming to enjoy the benefits of smartphone.

Speculation immediately suggested it could be a Samsung. This would of course be highly embarrassing for the North Korean leader as the south is the nation's sworn enemy. However, it appears more likely to be an HTC device.

HTC is a Taiwanese firm, struggling in the market, and having its brand associated with a tyrannically leader bent on smothering a downtrodden population with the simply swipe of a smartphone doesn't help.

The use of an HTC would suggest Kim is a fan of the Android operating system, despite its security issues. Only recently the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, was in North Korea to talk up web access. Perhaps he gave it to him as a gift.

Of course, the real question is, what does he think of BB10?

David Cameron finally embraces Twitter

08 Oct 2012

With the UK heading into the last week of its conference season, Sneak was heartened to see the prime minister David Cameron doing his 'man of the people' bit and belatedly joining Twitter. What better way for the country's leader to keep in touch with voters (and the latest foul-mouthed tirades from professional footballers) than to join the microblogging site.

While Cameron may have been hoping to learn a thing or two from this social engagement, Sneak has to confess that a quick peek at the tweets sent to the PM provided a different sort of education. In fact, Sneak had no idea that it was physiologically possible to do such things with watermelons.

The prime minister kicked off his Twitter stream with a little joke about the frequency with which he'd be tweeting.

I'm starting Conference with this new Twitter feed about my role as Conservative Leader. I promise there won't be "too many tweets..."

His comments recall his previous proclamation that “Too many tweets might make a...” with the blank standing in for a word Sneak couldn't remember until reading through the messages sent to the prime minister. 

At least now Cameron can save himself from having to listen to the endless conference speeches by checking out the latest Twitter updates. 

ICO taunted over cookie law by software firm

07 Sep 2012

cookies

Ever since the so-called cookie law came into force in May, Sneak has noticed his web browsing experience rudely interrupted by annoying pop-ups, slide downs and overlay boxes urging him to give consent for the use of cookies.

For the majority of web users this will have been met with confusion and irritation as usually these sorts of attention-grabbing methods are nothing more than adverts or, worse, spam-filled linkbait.

However, the cookie law is meant to be noble, to protect web users from evil privacy-related concerns. Oh, the horror, the horror.

Despite this, though, it's proved such an annoyance to one web firm that it's issued a challenge to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) over its lack of compliance.

On a specially designed nocookielaw.com site, Oliver Emberton, the founder of the firm, Silktide, laid down the challenge after revealing he'd removed all relevant cookie-related warnings from the site.

"We've taken all our cookies solutions off all our websites. The evil cookies are back, and the pointless slidey warning messages are no more," he wrote.

"Presumably we now fly in the face of the law you are sworn to uphold. Please, please do your worst. Send in a team of balaclava-clad ninjas in black hawk helicopters to tickle us to death with feather dusters. Just do something."

Sneak loves the idea of Christopher Graham and David Smith donning ninja suits and breaking into Emberton's house in the dead of night, slowly reconfiguring his software so the cookie warnings do display, but somehow Sneak doesn't think it's going to happen.

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V3.co.uk's undercover reporter offers odds and ends from the odd end of technology.

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