The consequences of cyber warfare are wholly different from fighting in meat space.
Yes, there can be knock-on consequences into meat space, but that would be true of any human activity. I am not against violence, per se; I’m against violence which springs from any part of Western reasoning. That there will be violence is unavoidable in a fallen world. The point here is, cyberspace lends itself to God’s justice much more easily than meat space does.
I have no trouble telling you that most entertainment media is sinful. I’ve made it plain I generally hate TV and movies as a media form because they are inherently very dangerous. They weren’t designed that way on purpose, but it is a very bad side-effect discovered after the fact that humans are not wired to handle it. We remain fully accountable to God for how we respond, but we cannot remain fully in conscious control of our response.
That fact has been seized upon by the rapacious plutocrats as a means to control, control for the sake of milking us dry. We should hardly be surprised when the media moguls, so used to treating us as slaves to be manipulated at their whim, are demanding the right to install rootkits as a matter of course, as Sony Entertainment once did. You knew this was not going to die.
The true pirates of cyberspace are the major media corporations. They are the enemy, and you should not willingly accept their abuse. There is little likelihood governments will resist this move; one way or another, it’s coming. So you had best make sure your personal computing devices are well defended. I’m not sure how much the AV and computer defense vendors are with us or against us, but you need to study the situation and be aware of the measures you can take.
For myself, the shortest answer is running Debian Wheezy on my computer. I fully admit the tiny market share of Linux in general is part of the protection, and that Debian in particular refuses to cooperate with such nonsense. That is, if there is any way possible to play media and bypassing such controls, Debian will enable that. If the media moguls take notice of Linux as a problem for them, things could change.
Too often already here on my blog I’ve lamented how the sheeple as a whole have handed control of the Internet to marketers. Not all marketers are bloodthirsty, but the advertising industry does tend to attract psychopaths. The balance of distrust is against the entire industry, but most people never give it a thought. Fortunately, thoughtless folks tend to avoid this blog, so you dear readers are likely to think about this and take appropriate action.
While I still say we cannot use the typical means of facing this issue, this is one battle I find worthy of engaging.
I’m a true radical, radical about the very most fundamental elements of our assumptions about reality.
This blog assumes a huge difference between Western/Aristotelian epistemology and that of the Bible. I am wholly untroubled by apparent differences between human science, history, etc., versus assertions in Scripture. They aren’t talking about the same thing, nor even viewing reality from a similar set of assumptions. Your insistence on using the human viewpoint is not my problem. I may address it from time to time, but my blog posts assume a divine perspective when it comes to offering answers to anything.
While I’ve joked around a bit about starting up a new cult, I realize what I am doing constitutes a whole new approach to Christian religion. In many ways, it is the same thing as what has come before. You should have no trouble using what I teach in any current religious organization, simply because I assert theology and practice aren’t that important. Believe what you like; you can follow this blog and not see the need to argue about my conclusions. I don’t believe I’ve confused conclusions with assumptions, and I’ve often said you should always investigate these things for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. At the same time, I know this is a wholly different religion, in the sense that it is not like anything I’ve seen on this earth so far in these times.
The main reason I don’t belong to any group myself is a combination of two factors. First, my assumptions lead me to conclusions which no current organized religion accepts, so far as I know. There are overlaps here and there, but not enough anywhere to be useful. Second, I am commanded by God to teach wherever I go, and most organizations simply cannot handle that. Unwilling as I am to make trouble for anyone unnecessarily, I stay away. I strive to build outside the current system.
I don’t support any form of activism as people think of it. Nothing in human politics today is anywhere close to what God had in mind, so it’s a dead subject from the start. I recognize the peculiarities of the system, even to the point of understanding the various competing philosophical assumptions, but not one of them is even on the same planet with what God commands. Thus, there is no point at all to leveraging any part of the system except as an outsider. I’ll take advantage of what exists, but nothing in my world is worth any investment of emotional energy. I don’t want change; I want total removal of all the systems currently in place. That is not something I can assist much directly. It’s God’s department. I am called to focus on what I can do to implement His commands despite the system. The system may or may not notice me, but conflict of some sort is inevitable. Barring a miracle of God, I won’t win in any battles as humans measure such things. I don’t confront it if I can avoid it, because what really matters is nowhere inside this universe in the first place. I don’t have to accomplish anything; I just have to be faithful to my God.
God forbid I should repeat the mistakes I see everyone else making these days. In theory what I offer is universal, but the teaching itself recognizes the lack of appeal it would have for most folks. On the one hand, I know the burden of my calling is to bridge the chasm between what people normally assume and what they really ought to believe. I’m supposed to communicate as clearly as possible. On the other hand, the means to appeal arising from what I believe rejects the majority of what people expect. That is, I can’t use the marketing methods everyone else is using, because all of that belongs to things I’ve rejected before the start. It’s sort of that thing Jesus said about new wine and old wineskins. It’s funny how what’s ancient is now radically new, but that’s where I stand. I’m part of the fresh crop from the original roots, I believe.
Critical to this is my understanding of how civilization is drifting toward a new type. I believe I understand what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean I approve. It’s just a new set of problems. It’s a new set of opportunities, too. For now, nothing currently embraced as the proper way to reach the widest audience is proper for me. Maybe you could take the same teachings and see no conflict; have at it. By all means, take the truth and run with it. That’s the whole point: It’s not my truth. It comes from God and you need your own version because you aren’t me. I’m not trying to build a community around my particular brand. I’m trying to teach the underlying assumptions first, because that’s the part that is universal. What makes them universal is also what keeps them out of my hands. I’m giving it away; take what fits into the holes in your soul.
Meanwhile, once we agree on a different set of assumptions, I do hope there is some community possible from what I teach as conclusions. That would require more direct involvement from me; that’s the leadership part. I’m still feeling my way along the ancient paths on this, and it’s very hard to track. While the assumptions are the truly radical part, what I build from them is what people see, and it seems more radical than it is. I’m not sure what would make anyone take an interest on the human level. This is the part where I take all comers, where I say that I am an Internet pastor who makes no rules about what you have to believe or practice. Nobody I know has any experience dealing with that, so I’m having to make it up as I go. The bond is not what I impose, but what we find in common. I’ll be in charge of my part, and you manage your part. The parts we share is the community. You tell me: What level of communion is comfortable for you?
The binding factor is sacrificial love, the most radical element of all.
They entered their hideaway and Preston took off his fanny pack, turned and dropped sideways across the hammock. Angie removed her pack and took his from the floor, moving to the desk to open them.
“Darlin’, I really love sleeping on this thing but it narrows our choices for other activities.” He turned his head back around and grinned at her.
She leaned over and put her finger on his lips, shushing him. Then she replaced her finger with her own lips, kissing him upside down. “We have work before pleasure. Come help me catalog these images.”
The cell signal was poor that evening, so nothing got shipped. They planned to carry the laptop down to see if the city offered enough wifi signal for the necessary traffic. Preston was quite sure there would be something in the dropbox, since they had nothing to indicate any schedule of events for the confab starting the day after next.
The next morning bright and early they walked down into the village, then followed the small road straight east toward Dinant. It was just over ninety minutes of brisk hiking to where the road began seriously descending down over the lip of the Meuse Valley. There were a couple of hairpin turns, bringing them right in front of the boarding school that Francophones referred to as “collége” before it offered a turn back down toward the main bridge. Preston decided to follow a hunch and chased the road farther south to the N936. He turned sharply left back down the hill a bit, then right at the overpass for the railroad tracks. Where the road sloped up toward the lip of the valley, about halfway to the converted monastery that was now a hotel, he stopped.
Preston pointed out they had direct line of sight across the river, down the narrow lane to the front of the Hall of Justice. That building was built tightly against the gray stone bluff. He checked it through the newer camera and zoomed in for a good, clear view of the entrance. He looked up behind him and noticed it was possible to climb up on the rocky embankment that had been cut for the road. Farther up near the hotel the slope was easy enough to clamber up. From there it was a simple matter of walking back along the higher point of view to the same line of sight. It was a beautiful shot, and Angie took a turn looking at it through the camera.
They went back down the road into town and crossed the bridge. This placed them back in the open square next to the cathedral, and at the foot of the stairs up to the citadel. A couple of the cafes were offering a decent breakfast, and they decided it would give Preston a chance to begin scanning some of the hotels and other places likely to offer wifi. His hand held wifi channel receiver hadn’t offered much so far.
One cafe not yet open had a signal too weak from that distance. After breakfast, they wandered south along the river. Most of the signals were encrypted, but up near the Ibis Hotel it got strong. The casino next door had a great open signal. Sitting on the walkway along the river was possible, but there was terrace cafe service there for coffee, so Preston felt it was only fair. Besides, the coffee smelled too good.
Once connected to the Net, they managed to exchange the images and videos taken so far. And sure enough, the dropbox contained a PDF with the itinerary for the three-day conference. There was also an appendix:
Don’t worry about the chateau where they are staying. We have a couple of friends there. Try to catch the limousines where they park and who hangs around them, and be sure to catch the river ride.
They noticed the schedule started with meeting the first day in the Hall of Justice, then a private hotel conference room on the outskirts of the city. The second day was a deluxe barge ride upriver and back, projected to run until mid-afternoon. In his mind, Preston saw lots of police and paparazzi boats escorting them.
Angie asked him, “Are we going to use that spot on the hillside to watch them unload the limos?”
“That would be cool only if we need to catch the big shots with telephoto, but I’d rather be in place to see where the limos go from there. Can’t be that many places to park a bunch of big cars all in one spot.”
They studied a detailed city map they found and noticed the streets were almost all one-way in that part of town. Preston noted, “If we can bank on the cops sticking with the simplest plan, that would mean pulling up in front of the Hall of Justice up that narrow street, unloading, and then turning left toward the cathedral. So when they start arriving, we’ll post ourselves on the plaza and see where the first one goes and take it from there. I rather doubt they’ll all come at once, for security reasons. If they are staggered out enough, we’ll have some time to get an idea where to start looking. I’ll bet they don’t go far.”
For the next few hours, they referred to the agenda and walked around, trying to estimate where the paparazzi and other onlookers would cluster. They found out the citadel would still be open, and expected a few to use that high angle view. Preston doubted there would be any helicopters or other aircraft, though. He joked about camera drones with the private and police ones crashing into each other or dog fighting.
As they stood on the bridge, leaning on the railing and gazing upriver, Angie asked seriously, “What if someone figures out what we are doing and takes exception. Could we be arrested?”
Preston thought for a moment. Turning his head, he met her eyes. “Somehow, I doubt it. We’ll be two out of hundreds of people using cameras. Even if someone gets upset at our behavior, they would have a hard time convincing the police to come after us. It’s more likely they’ll try to come after us themselves.”
She wrinkled up her mouth, twisting one side up without amusement. “I was afraid you would say that.”
Her name was Anja.
Preston reflected a moment. “That’s rather like Angie in America.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “You can call me Angie; I like that.” Angie it was.
By the time they arrived back in Gouda, he realized she had to be around thirty years old. Her story was pretty simple, in that she grew up in a Catholic orphanage somewhere close to Delft and never knew her parents. She managed to graduate just about the time the orphanage closed and found various jobs with an inter-denominational Christian missionary society. She played whatever volunteer sports were available.
“I was sexually abused along with all the other girls, but far less often because I was never as cute as the others. I was considered too boyish.” She was also exposed to numerous different languages and spoke a few with enough fluency to pretend it was her native tongue. He noticed her English had a hint of proper British enunciation, but not too strong. As she continued chatting with him, it faded noticeably into a standard American sound.
The night air was still warm as they entered Gouda and made their way to the old market plaza. Preston pulled a small gadget from his pocket and was delighted to see several unsecured wifi signals were still available. The only lighting was the minimal security lamps here and there. He sat down in the shadows; Angie huddled next to him as he opened his laptop. He transferred the memory chip from the camera to the laptop and copied the video first.
After running through it couple of times, Preston zoomed in the middle frames of it to see the action with as much clarity as possible. He used editing software to bring the ambient light level up just a bit more. This he saved as a second video file. Then he copied out several frames showing the man’s face as he walked back toward the wheelhouse after dumping the bag.
He explained to Angie, “First, we take advantage of the face recognition software on a couple of major social websites.” Sure enough, the site searching algorithms found a few matches, but only as a secondary person unnamed in the pictures.
“So it means he has a social life of sorts, but avoids being identified the way most people do.” Angie seemed rather surprised how easy it all was.
He turned to her and warned, “This next part is rather risky. I have access to a commercial vendor site that happens to have a development contract with several national and international law enforcement agencies. One of my friends works there and lets me use his login. It checks images on file with the likes of Interpol and the FBI to see if there’s a match. The problem is, if I get a hit, someone in those agencies is going to know about it. They might not have any idea who, simply because I’m using a public wifi connection, but they are going to know where it was and when. I would go through Tor, but the site doesn’t allow connections from there.”
As he logged in, he added, “Depending on what I find, I’ll probably try to send a copy of the video to whichever agency seems most interested in him.”
It took quite a while, but as long as the site seemed to be working and didn’t come up empty, he waited. He was about to give up, though, when suddenly a black and white mugshot popped up on the screen. It was the same guy a good bit younger. All the data boxes below it were blank, except for the Interpol case number.
“Why is there no data?” Angie asked.
Preston’s face went pale as the meaning dawned on him. He pressed the button combination for a screen grab, saved it to the camera chip and closed his laptop. He paused a moment and extracted the camera memory chip, stuffing it securely in his pants pocked. Then he thrust his laptop back into the knapsack. Jumping to his feet, he began walking immediately off toward the north. It took only a few moments for Angie to catch up on her bicycle. He cautioned her to silence with his finger and very nearly jogged along the narrow side streets. In the shadow of some trees a couple hundred meters from the train station, he stopped long enough to explain in a loud whisper.
“Our boy was arrested at least once in the past; that was a mugshot. However, something on the level of a government agency covered for him. That would mean CIA, MI6 or perhaps Mossad. What we witnessed was not likely a common criminal act, but some kind of espionage. While I don’t specifically know what they can do, nor how quickly, it is guaranteed to be very unpleasant if they ever find out about us and what we know.”
He paused a moment while she absorbed that. Then he went on, “As quickly as I can I am going to disappear. I’m going to get as far from here as I can, and I suggest you do the same. Pretend you were never here, that you never met me. And for God’s sake, make sure there aren’t any more tags following us around. Pull the battery from your cellphone. Go somewhere safe and wait at least 24 hours before turning it back on.”
She remembered the little tag and tossed it into bushes.
He turned to go in the direction of the open train platform. There were night trains at odd intervals in this part of the country. She caught up with him again. Keeping her voice in the same loud whisper he used, she pleaded with him. “Take me with you! I know this area better than you; I know places to hide.”
He barely turned his head as he walked a blistering pace along a narrow street. “Are you ready to give up your whole life and marry me? Can you team up with me as if the only thing that matters is whatever crazy shit I think sounds like fun tonight or tomorrow? Are you ready to watch me die under torture and not say anything? Because I assure you right now, I’m not all that interested in living a long and healthy life of peace and security. I’m a complete madman. I have an important mission in life and this business just threw me a curve ball. I’m going to face it but I have no illusion about saving the world. I’ll stumble along trying to estimate what makes the most sense according to what I believe.”
He paused and caught his breath. “Not much in this world really matters to me. Are you ready to sign onto that mission, sight unseen?”
He barely closed his lips before she said, “Yes! Of course I am. Do you think it’s been a nice life for me up to now? Until an hour ago I had no idea, but this is exactly what I’ve been training for my whole life. If I get killed chasing you around the world, that would be a lot more meaningful than what I’ve been doing so far.”
He grinned and turned to face her. “You’re my kind of gal. You may regret this just a few hours from now, but I’m willing to let you come along if you can keep up.”
With that, he pushed off in a renewed attack on the distance to the train platform.
Can you weather the storm?
Perhaps with the outrage in Cyprus with the banking situation, you now realize how tenuous is your control over whatever you have deposited with your bank. Without warning, the whole thing can be frozen and you can’t touch your own money. It might quickly no longer be yours. There was a time when carrying around loads of cash was risky, and so was trying to hide it at your home. Banks were more secure and they had a contractual obligation to give you quick access. Then there arose the system by which they would handle the transfer of funds for you. Now it’s just a matter of waving your plastic cards. But the whole system is surprisingly fragile and degrading before our very eyes.
Worse, far too many of us have no choice. Our income source demands we accept it in the form of a direct deposit at the bank. Do I have to make note how this plays into the hands of oppressive government officials who don’t love Jesus and aren’t particularly fond of you and I, either? The probability of having your access blocked in the near future is very, very high. You might want a backup plan.
The same goes with your digital data. While I can’t prove it’s a nasty plot to intrusively grab control over our private data, you’d have to work pretty hard to convince me otherwise. Who uses film cameras any more? All your pictures, your financial records, private correspondence, everything you’ve written — they want you to put in the cloud. They want you to trust them to guard it for you so you can get to it as you wish without anyone else seeing it. Except you’ve already seen what happens with things like the Mega Upload caper.
I suppose if the cloud was totally automated and distributed with failover backups across some global system, blindly shared between a large group of servers scattered across the world, I might be more relaxed about it. Instead, they are already planning to make all commodity computers incapable of actually storing data, so you are forced to use the cloud.
But having seen what TPTB can do with stuff like this, I think I’ll keep my old computers and rely on my own storage, thank you. I keep at least two copies of the valuable stuff on separate drives not permanently attached to my computers. Stuff on this blog that I really value I keep that way; some of it becomes articles on my static website or published as books elsewhere. Most of it reflects what’s already in my soul, and I can regenerate it when needed. Still, I don’t trust anyone else, given I teach you can’t even trust yourself.
If you fall for the propaganda ploy to let someone else hold your money or your data, don’t cry when things fall apart on you.
Systems administrators can be caught up in senseless prejudice, at least as bad as the rest of us. There was a time when hackers used Lynx and other text-only browsers as a major tool for cracking websites and servers. It’s been at least two decades since that changed. These days such use is exceedingly rare. For the most part, Lynx is now used more by blind or sight-impaired surfers. But the prejudice hangs on and we have a whole generation of sysadmins who believe it’s a good idea to block disabled users. Of course, these younger guys think they are demigods and never listen to the facts.
More and more I’m forced to stop using non-graphical browsers, or avoid the growing number of sites administered by these jerks.
You can write me off as an information purist who refuses to participate in the ad-supported Internet and it would be partly true. I also suffer a bit from Adult ADD — whatever that really is — to the point that, if I have to put up with all the graphical sewage, I might as well not even be on the Net. There are other ways to handle this.
I use Chromium (the open source version behind Google Chrome) for sites which simply cannot be used without graphics, like Facebook, Wired, etc. I also run it with Ghostery and Adblock Plus, obtained pretty much the same way as with Firefox. Stuff like FlashPlayer can be controlled by checking the advanced options to load on demand, not automatically. However, because of Facebook’s ubiquitous and deceitful tracking practices, I create a second profile in the browser and use that only for Facebook. I never chase links in that profile. It is Facebook only, and it has none of the blockers installed.
I still use Opera for email and chasing links that come in my email. While it offers far more fine-grained controls built into the browser, it also tends to screw up DNS queries randomly on Linux. I’m not sure what it is, but at odd times it can’t seem to find certain sites, but those sites load very quickly in some other browser. I’m wondering how things will change when Opera switches over to Webkit for their core rendering. Webkit is notoriously anti-user, favoring the big advertisers by refusing to implement features that users want that might block the more egregious tracking practices. All those protections have to be implemented on top of the Webkit engine, and they don’t make it easy.
Yeah, all browsers suck. Most sysadmins suck, too.
Perhaps you are aware of the recent incident where hackers obtained the credit reports of some big names. Much entertainment; they even got His Majesty Bill Gates. Part of this is connected to revenge for the treatment of the Occupy protesters. I suppose there is some sense of getting even here, since it’s celebrities none of us would ever likely meet in real life, and whose lives intrude pointlessly on our news media all the time. You can’t escape them.
Unfortunately, at about the same time, some very carefully targeted fraud sprang to life. For example, that old scam phone call with people claiming to be with Microsoft and talking you through examinations of your computer to show you serious problems they can help you fix. They try to get you to download and install something that gives them control of your computer. It seems the most recent round of this foolishness is aimed precisely at seniors. Not just sort-of-old like me, but 70+ — those most likely to be uninformed confused enough to believe this scam. It was previously randomly aimed at all ages.
Meanwhile the same victims are hammered with fake spam bounces because someone is spoofing their email address. Again, older folks who usually don’t have a clue about such things. I understand there is also some texting scams on the same victims, faking their phone number on spam texts. At least one older lady I know has been hit with all three attacks. She’s not stupid; she resisted the phone call, but was shocked when her relatives started getting texting spam from her number. She doesn’t have texting on her landline phone.
While I don’t know if this stuff is connected, the timing is truly suspicious. It would seem someone is siphoning off the non-famous credit information and abusing those who are old with good credit ratings. This is not a “hooray for our side” moment.
Oh, and one other tidbit: The federal government is now allowing every clandestine intelligence agency total free access to your banking and credit information. The crooks in Washington will always outdo the amateurs.
The Internet is the one place where anyone can be somebody.
On the network, we are all nothing more than a collection of bits and bytes. It is the ultimate home of anonymity and individuality all at the same time. There are no barriers to race, gender, religion or any other human trait. If you can adapt, you can have whatever you really want, so long as your wants aren’t contrary to the nature of the network itself.
In the First Century, the public square was the place where everything happened. It was where the first Christian missionaries went to spread the gospel. When news and information was a rare treat, almost anyone might be willing to listen to their sermons at least once. There was nothing sacred about preaching in the public square; it was what everyone expected. We are several complete civilizational shifts away from that mode of life. Now we have a glut of information and the common square is the whole Internet. It is also the one place easiest for others to ignore you.
This does not silence the gospel.
There are still a handful of missionaries who get a modicum of attention on the Net. God never calls very many to that work. The rest of us are just ordinary Christians going about our business. Our witness is how we go about it, same as in the First Century churches. They didn’t have bumper stickers and t-shirts with slogans, but wore their message in their living presence. Still, we do have evidence of sacred art very early in Church History.
If all you do with the Net is consume information and chat or trade photos, you don’t really need it very much. Your witness will be almost non-existent in the virtual world. If you possess any kind of creativity, use it on the Net. People are constantly searching for things. If you become a credible and reliable source for anything at all while representing Christ, you have a witness.
But the most important thing you’ll ever do is give people room to ignore your witness. If God is not your sole publicist, nothing else you do matters. If you are faithful to His glory, nothing you do can fail.
You may try a hundred different things to build a presence on the Net. All that matters is your sense of peace that you have obeyed that persistent leading and pushing from the Spirit. Again: Don’t pursue simply what makes you happy, but pursue what you must to serve God’s glory.