Ruyan – the digital diary of an electronic smoker

It has finally arrived! I am handed a slightly torn and dishevelled package labelled ‘aromatherapy’ at the post office and begin the joyous trip home. Swinging it as I walk the snowy streets, a small hole opens up and plastic cartridges begin to fall out. I rush to pick them up, looking furtively round. This isn’t exactly legal in my country. These cartridges hold a newly found alternative to my fifteen year-old addiction. I’ve been waiting for them impatiently.  Continue reading Ruyan – the digital diary of an electronic smoker

Digital Security and Privacy Manual for Human Rights Defenders

This book is an introduction to the ever growing and complex world of electronic security. It is intended for human rights defenders and seeks to raise their level of knowledge about computers and the Internet. It also warns of different risks they may face in the digital environment and tells them how to deal with them. Alongside elements of theory, it offers possible solutions to some problems of computer and Internet security. Continue reading Digital Security and Privacy Manual for Human Rights Defenders

Cyber Security for International Aid Agencies

Digital technology plays a crucial role in the present-day activities and operations of international aid agencies. But it comes with a host of risks, from the threat of “cyber attacks” to the interception of communications, to the theft of digital information. Aid agencies and their staff are often not fully aware of risks or how to mitigate them, and little exists in terms of policy and operational procedures to help them do so.

Continue reading Cyber Security for International Aid Agencies

Content Censorship

Content and Censorship

The practice of censorship dates back thousands of years and has probably existed from the times when religious debate, political discourse and folklore first began. It can be found as early as the Old Testament – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain” – and in Plato’s proposed ideal society in The Republic where officials would prohibit the telling of stories that were deemed detrimental. The term “censor” is derived from the Latin denoting a Roman magistrate who took censuses and oversaw public morals1 Continue reading Content Censorship

Dark Corners of the web

Published 18.10.2010 ‘Feature’ Engineering & Technology Magazine

Barely out of its teens, the Web has a plethora of noble achievements as well as a few skeletons hiding in the closet. A shadow is cast by the growth of criminal activity online, dampening spirits and emptying pockets of users worldwide. Network resources are choking under the strain of botnets sending spam and phishing emails. Denial of service attacks and the looming threat of cyberwarfare are fuelling a digital arms race. Fraudsters, identity thieves and extortionists scour home pages and online profiles in search of their next victim. Will the Web survive as a tool of global progress and innovation, or will the Shadownet extinguish its short-lived spark, making life online unbearable? Continue reading Dark Corners of the web

Technology of the Vancouver Olympics

Published 03.02.2010 ‘Cover Feature’ Engineering & Technology Magazine

The faint sound of alpine bells must mean the Winter Olympic Games are set to begin this year nestling between the city of Vancouver and Whistler mountain in the Canadian West. The whisper is, Canada may just have a surprise up its sleeve with a top secret programme funding a small army of scientists and engineers aiming for the greenest ever Olympics. Continue reading Technology of the Vancouver Olympics

Manuscripts do not burn

Published 20.04.2009 ‘Gadget Speak’ Engineering & Technology Magazine

“Manuscripts do not burn” proclaimed the devil in Mikhail Bulgakov’s epic tale ‘Master & Margarita’. Well, digital storage devices definitely do, if that’s the solution you favour for retiring old media. There are other ways, however, to effectively delete unwanted data, sanitise hard drives and flash media storage devices. Continue reading Manuscripts do not burn

The Eyeborg man

Published 05.05.2009 ‘Feature’ Engineering & Technology Magazine

The history of technological breakthroughs is littered with simple questions producing groundbreaking answers. In an unremarkable townhouse in suburban Toronto, Canada, one-eyed film maker Rob Spence questioned why, if something as compact as a mobile phone could encase a digital camera, his eye socket couldn’t do the same. His answer was to replace his optical prosthesis for one with a video camera; the result could form the background of a revolution in optical technology. Continue reading The Eyeborg man

Around the mountain

Published 10.11.2008 ‘Comment is Free’

An old Russian proverb says: “A clever man doesn’t climb a mountain to cross it, he will walk around it.” Today’s endeavours to circumvent internet censorship are much the same. Curious and determined netizens continually find news ways to bypass restrictions for accessing websites. As the “mountain” grows and digital rocks fall to destroy old beaten paths, alternative routes are found and pathways built. And so it goes, the never-ending journey to circumvent the forbidden. Continue reading Around the mountain

Corporate complicity with the Great Firewall

Published 13.08.2008 ‘Comment is Free’

China is strongly criticised for its internet censorship – but it is western technology firms that have provided the tools for the job

Like its precursor, the Great Wall of China, the Great Firewall was constructed to guard China from waves of foreign influence and information intrusion. With the world’s spotlight on China and widespread criticism of its repressive actions, one should not forget that the knowledge and technology used to create the world’s most prominent Big Brother society was designed in the west, often by the very same corporations whose advertisements on TV take up the time between the relay race and the javelin competition. Continue reading Corporate complicity with the Great Firewall

Vaulting the great firewall

Published 05.08.2008 ‘Comment is Free’

Despite recent reports that restrictions will be lifted on some media and human rights websites, one event in which the Chinese are almost certain to win gold medals in is the internet surveillance and censorship race. But journalists do not have to wait for the vagaries of the policy shifts of the Chinese government in negotiation with the IOC. They can easily bypass the restrictions by using techniques that Chinese democracy activists already use, which are highly effective and practically unstoppable. Continue reading Vaulting the great firewall

Digital security consultant, sometime journalist and convicted optimist