2 April 2009
Every government intercepts electronic transmissions. Don’t forget that! The only thing we’re aware of is whether the bars on our individual cages are transparent or not.
I really enjoy my friendships with people from other cultures, but there is one area which I don’t usually engage in conversation. I don’t usually engage in any discussions with them online which I think might pose the slightest risk in terms of causing problems for them in their own country. I have broken my own rule from time to time, sometimes inadvertently.
One time, for example, a chat popped up on my screen. I don’t usually chat online, but my friend and I started "talking" online, and the conversation drifted to some things I had been told might not be a good idea to talk about. So I told him, "we shouldn’t talk about these things." He replied there was no need to fear, because things had improved in his country and there was now more tolerance. He typed, "things are different now". I replied with six words: "You still don’t have free speech."
No sooner had I typed the words and hit the "send" button, than my internet connection went dead . . . . Dead as a doornail!
The phone company said there was nothing wrong with my connection. They said that my computer must have malfunctioned. I tried everything. First of all, I had done nothing to change anything about my computer prior to the disconnection. Second, I even got an IT guy to look at it. There was nothing wrong with my computer. The phone company insisted it wasn’t them. A week or so later, my internet connection mysteriously started working again.
I got the message. Whomever it was that was monitoring my computer — the person who had been reading that chat in real time — had slapped my hand by shutting off my connection. What was ironic was that they cut off my internet because of the fact that I told someone they didn’t have free speech! The point proved itself!
Well, apparently it’s not just emails and chats that are being intercepted. Entire computer systems are being mined for information. Not just this, but there’s active listening going on, too. Computer worms are now being used to turn computers into spy machines. The headlines for the web site Democracy Now reported on 30 March 2009:
A team of Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast electronic spy network that infiltrated the offices of the [DL], the Asian Development Bank, the Associated Press and many foreign embassies. Researchers linked the spy operation to servers in China but cautioned that there is no direct evidence implicating the Chinese government. Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information. The spy network known as Gh*stN*t infiltrated nearly 1,300 computers in 100 countries. Once a computer is infected, the spies gain the ability to turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of the computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The spy network also gained control of mail servers for the [DL’s], allowing the spies to intercept all correspondence.
Hmm. I wonder if my virus and firewall protection is good against this? Somehow, I doubt it. I think that the countries specifically named in this report have especially sophisticated monitoring systems. Other countries aren’t quite as advanced — we hope — or, are they? We never know until it’s too late. I would be especially concerned for my friends in countries that are known for harsh punishment of those who speak their minds.
My father had a saying, that "sometimes discretion is the better part of valor". Sometimes, it’s better to avoid the fight than to engage in a losing battle. I think of years wasted in prison or house arrest, as well as years in exile, would probably be better spent working quietly as agents for good in one’s community. There are many ways of being effective. All things in good time.
As for me, if someone were to monitor the camera on my computer, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be very interesting at all. My computer is in the room where I do laundry; so they’d get a big eyeful of unwashed clothing. Once in awhile, they’d get the thrill of seeing one of us do some ironing. Wow. Now that’s some big stuff.