Welcome to Cybersecs Pulse: Cybersecurity, privacy, digital rights and more. Whose school fell in the ransomware trap this week? Find out here!
- Virtual Security And Surveillance Of Students
- Turn your browser into a proxy
- The Tor Project
- 100 million people kept from the internet in 29 countries in 2020
- Anti-terrorism tech hits schools, saves the day?
Fake titles have been a rising problem for the past 5 years.
85 websites posing as universities were shut down thanks to a government crackdown on degree fraud.
This problem has arisen due to the high demand for training for candidate people who want to apply for a job in a specific department.
The closures have been carried out by the government since 2015, with the aim of protecting the international reputation of universities in the United Kingdom.
As a result of this government program, it was established that more than 300 sites are being investigated because they appear to be offering bogus titles.
Some of these fake institutions offer degree certificates that were not authentic and that according to what they came from universities that if they are real.
The search found sites that sold the degrees for 500 pounds ($ 689.55 at time of writing) with the excuse that they could replace the lost documents.
Fraud regarding university certificates has increased in the United Kingdom since the pandemic began, as more people are working and studying from home and relying on the information they find online.
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Virtual Security And Surveillance Of Students During The Pandemic
Students are being watched at home while studying.
Before the pandemic, educational institutions observed what students did through cameras with facial recognition and microphones that could detect signs of abuse.
But with the pandemic, virtual education had to be forced to transform its methodologies to virtuality.
This means that while students are taking exams, spy technology arrives to prevent copying, fraud and plagiarism.
This invasive technology consists of making an easy recognition of students during their educational activities, this software can even collect thousands of confidential data belonging to the person being spied on.
Which in turn can bring prejudices, since this software does not adapt to diversity, white, neurotypical and without disabilities, making students even more exposed to any harm.
Do you agree that students are exposed that way?
Turn Your Browser Into A Proxy Using Snowflake Bridges
We know that in some countries there are restrictions on using certain websites. A clear example is China, there it is not allowed to use Facebook, WhatsApp, those services in that country are blocked.
And for this, if you want to enter and you are in a nation where services are blocked, it is necessary to use a VPN or a Proxy to simulate that you are connected from another place.
This is where the idea of the Tor server came from, to help anyone who is in the situation of wanting to access a blocked service.
But what does it consist of?
The extension or proxy network, Tor decided to call it Snowflake Bridges, is a browser extension that is made through a Chrome or Firefox installation, and so you can access any service, and you will also pretend that you are connected from another place.
This strategy created by Tor causes a mesh to be generated where users who resort to using the bridge to be unblocked are present, which means that the more people accessing the bridge there will be more proxies.
In addition, with this strategy, it will be difficult for governments to block any website due to the user traffic that the site has and the constant change of addresses.
In order for you to make use of the Snowflake bridges, you must have Tor Browser Alpha. If you have the desktop version, you can click on settings on the home screen, and you will see the option “Tor is censored in my country,” then click on “Select a built-in bridge” and then choose the option “Snowflake.”
Anonymous, Not Untraceable: What Elearning Professionals Need To Know About The Tor Project
What are the Tor Project, the Tor Proxy and Browser?
Leveraging the concept of “onion routing,” the Tor Project is a non-profit that advocates for the right to privacy and anonymity in the use of the internet. Named originally after “The onion routing network,” it seeks to educate the public on their rights not to be tracked, digitally targeted, nor facing repercussion for choosing to use anonymous ways to access the internet.
Tor develops free and open source technologies that help users navigate the internet at no cost to their privacy. The technologies Tor helps build and advocate for are the basis for what is popularly known as the Dark Web, on which the Hydra-like 2014 shutdown of darknet market Silk Road by the FBI took place. In earth temperature fashion, marketplaces break records or users every year they are busted. The biggest to date, DarkMarket, was shut down just last January.
Tor is supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as well as countless (uncountable?) small donors. Growing interest in privacy and decentralization, and the strategic need for communication tools on which activists can rely on despite authoritarian intervention, has led to increased support in recent months, allowing the project to speed up their development roadmap. In particular, it has made the Tor Browser easier, more dependable and ubiquitous, in addition to strengthening protections with Tor v3.
An “anonymizing network” alternative is I2P, which is also growing in awareness but remains with a fraction of the popularity and support.
What are onions, and are they safe?
Onion routing, the principle behind the Tor network, scrambles the identity of the user who tries to access a website by going through a series of edges, none of which know both the origin of the request and final destination. They also work as edges themselves for the connections of others. Anonymity is not a guarantee but a probability, which increases proportionally to the number of users on the onion network, the browser they use and the type of website they access. (Those odd-looking URLs with .onion at the end instead of .com, .edu, ac.)
So while it is possible for a sufficiently motivated and resource-flush actor to track you and find you on the dark web —as researchers and authorities have repeatedly demonstrated— a larger number of users will increase the difficulty of doing so. For specific users, anonymity also improves in relation to the number of onion edges geographically close.
Tor-based education: Anonymity as practice and debate subject
Should your start conducting your classes through the onion browser? That might be overkill, not to mention infuriatingly slow with today’s technology. (Ongoing support to the Tor project might change the situation sooner rather than later, thought.)
But Tor, onion routing and the philosophy behind it are worthwhile additions to curricula on subjects of technology, culture, economics, humanities, society and even culture. Think debate questions like:
- What is the extent of data gathered about us during our internet use, and by whom?
- Do users, students in particular, have the right to request not to be tracked during their educational internet activity? Should schools have the discretion whether to honor or not these requests?
- What other principles or desirable practices deserve more widespread awareness and demystification?
Training resources are available at community.torproject.org/training
Get started: Download Tor Browser
From a convoluted proxy system, Tor’s technologies have been evolving rapidly in their ease of use. Nowadays, it’s a matter of downloading the Tor Browser, available for Linux, Windows, OSMac and Android devices. The latest release of current version, Tor Browser 10, became available for Linux in March 3.
iPhones and other mobile iOS devices can have the Onion Browser, which encrypts access through the Tor network. Given Apple’s imposed limitations it does not guarantee the traffic to always be onionly-routed.
The Tor Browser lets you use the web and visit normal sites, which still collect data. Find here a list of .onion sites and onion versions of public search engines and sites including BBC, NYT and the DEF CON Hacking Conference.
It is more likely to be identified on the Tor network through social engineering and statistical analysis about your than through technical methods or loopholes. Read some stay anonymous online by never providing revealing information
You can also join the Tor Community or follow the project on tracked (Twitter, Facebook) and untracked (Mastodon) social media.
29 Countries partially shut down their internet in 2020
Digital liberties advocacy group Access Now released the #KeepItOn report, documenting 155 instances of internet being shut down or interfered with by 29 national governments in 2020. In 29 times, they shut down entire internet access to citizens.
Highlights of #KeepItOn include:
- India shutting down the internet 109 times.
- 17 shutdown instanced tied to human rights abuse and cover-up attempts.
- Notable incidents in addition to India included Belarus, Venezuela, Bangladesh and the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
- In total, 100 million people faced blackouts and inability to access websites, social media or messaging apps.
At writing, internet is reportedly inaccessible in Uganda, Ethiopia and Myanmar, the latest of which records the largest shutdown, with 9 townships facing a 19-month restrictions period.
U.S. Schools are buying tech that lets them track students’ devices
In 2016 a student allowed his phone to be searched, with the intention of looking for evidence of a romantic relationship with his teacher.
The officer who searched his phone connected it to Cellebrite UFED, a software that retrieves deleted messages from the phone. Using Cellebrite UFED, school officials found out that the student was having an affair with his teacher.
While companies like Cellebrite have partnered with federal and local law enforcement for years, the controversial equipment is also available for school district employees to search students’ personal devices.
Cellebrite is a Digital Intelligence company that provides tools that allow organizations to better access, analyze and manage digital data.
Many school districts have Cellebrite devices for the purpose of ‘assisting with student safety, fraud, collision, or conflict of interest’. According to Gizmodo, school and district contracts with Mobile Device Forensic Tools, the likes of Cellebrite, run anywhere form $995 to over $11.5k USD a year. Cellebrite is reportedly on the lower pricing end. MDFT, commonly used in counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism operations, have found in schools a place to help employee misconduct investigators, who are usually able to do so covered by the law as long as there is “reasonable” belief there has been a violation of the law or the school policy.