Task Force arrests piracy suspects

    By Len,
    Following last Monday’s raid of the notorious Alaba Market where three suspected pirates were arrested, the taskforce set up by the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) against unauthorized distribution/uncensored and unclassified movies, on Wednesday, increased its arrest to four, while on Thursday, it also confiscated a container-load, consisting 103 sacks of DVDs of different titles, believed to have been imported from China.

    The 8-man taskforce made up of largely members of the Film and Video Producers and Marketer Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN) alongside the Nigeria Police, on Monday, arrested three men – Ndu Celestine, Okechukwu Ikuagwu and Austine Ugokwe – and confiscated several film titles and machines said to be worth N50million. The suspects were immediately taken to Abuja from the Area E Police Command, Festac Town.

    Some of the film titles include, ‘Ayamma’, ‘Wedding Party’, ‘Three Wise Men’, ‘30-Days In Atlanta’, ‘A Trip to Jamaica’, ‘Lekki Wives’, ‘Wives On Strike’, ‘Jennifer’s Diary’ and ‘Fifty’.

    The fourth suspect popularly called Mayor is said to be the assistant Financial Secretary of the Fancy and Furniture section of Alaba International Market, where CD and DVD business holds sway.

    The raid was spearheaded by the Executive Director of NFVCB, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas; notable film marker, Gabriel Okoye, aka Igwe Gabosky; Chairman of FVPMAN, Emeka Aduah and film marketer and lawyer, Nobert Ajaegbu.

    Speaking to newsmen at the Area E Police Command on Monday, Adedayo described the unlawful distribution of uncensored intellectual properties, and piracy as a serious economic crime.

    He said: “We are saying no to unwholesome, unclassified and uncensored content visa-a-vise piracy. Piracy is a serious economic crime. What they are doing to intellectual properties is worse than what you can imagine.

    “We had warned them to stop the unlawful act. Unfortunately, they didn’t stop and we promised the stakeholders and those concerned within the film and creative industry that we are going to start action. So, this is one of the actions that we have promised them, and it is going to be continuous because now, we have the full support of the police. It makes our job easier; the lawyers are ready to prosecute.”

    According to Okoye, “majority of the stakeholders have been rendered prostrate by the activities of the pirates, and no more operating, some of them have gone broke.

    “If you go to Alaba where our business used to thrive, the situation is not the same, as cosmetics and phone accessories sellers have taken over because the pirates have driven us away and feeding fat on our sweat. They have even started investing in hospitals and other businesses while the creative industry is getting broke.”

    Continuing, he said, “The Bank of Industry floated a loan scheme for people to come and take and produce contents to engage Nigerians to be productive, but all those who took the loan are owing the bank. These films are genuinely produced but before my company, G-Media could release them, they had been pirated and we have been tracing most of these people who have been hiding themselves inside Alaba. Imagine Alaba operating as if it is a sovereign state of its own.”

    One of the suspects, Austine Ugokwe from Anambra State when questioned by our reporter said he was innocent and was set up by his Liberian friend called Mr. Obi.

    “I was set up by someone. It was a friend Mr Obi who usually comes from Liberia that called me to come and he directed me there and immediately I got there, I saw taskforce people, and they arrested me. I am a business man, I sell Nylon and CDs,” he said.

    When asked how he got to know Mr. Obi, he said “he buys blank CDs from me.”

    On his part, Celestine Ndu said “I’m being accused of piracy. I was arrested because I was trying to help someone to package his goods (CDs).

    “I am not the one doing it, I was just helping the owner to package it. The owner calls me to help and he gives me some money. Mr Bassey the man who called me to come and package the CDs for him is not my boss. I don’t know where he lives; I only know his shop in Alaba, shop GJT28.”

    HBO Hacks and Leaks: How Much Have They Hurt the Business?

    By Len,
    HBO has endured an uncomfortable bummer of a summer of hacks and episodes of original series leaking out into the internet wild, including from its tentpole “Game of Thrones” franchise.

    The cyber-chaos — whether driven by money, mischief, malice or just plain mistakes — may well continue: It’s possible that whoever was behind the massive hack of the programmer’s networks perpetrated in July has additional data dumps in store. The anonymous hacker, who has called himself “Mr. Smith” in some communiques, has demanded millions in ransom payments from HBO.

    But how much has HBO really been harmed? Observers say that the Time Warner-owned network hasn’t sustained any serious blows to its finances or reputation, especially compared with the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that nearly pulled the studio under.

    “In the pantheon of hacks and corporate fallout from them, HBO is getting off light so far to date,” said Stephen Beck, managing partner of management consultancy cg42.

    HBO has had a string of digital headaches: The hack has resulted in the release of a “Game of Thrones” script and episodes of HBO shows including “Ballers” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Separately, two “Game of Thrones” episodes have been pirated before their premiere this season — episode 4, attributed to employees of a vendor working with HBO partner Sky India; and episode 6, which leaked online after it was inadvertently published by HBO’s European services. And on Wednesday night, a notorious hacking gang hijacked HBO’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

    Those may be an unfortunate confluence of events, or it could be that HBO has been singled out for attack. “Once you’ve been compromised, you’re seen as someone who’s been attacked and has a vulnerable,” said Dimitri Sirota, co-founder and CEO of BigID, a security software vendor.

    It’s impossible right now to determine the full cost of the hack, because even HBO might not know the full extent of what’s in the 1.5 terabytes of data the hackers claim they’ve stolen, said Tim Crosby, senior cybersecurity consultant for Spohn Security Solutions. A security contractor enlisted by HBO disclosed that the hackers got their hands on “thousands of internal documents.”

    With any data breach, there are costs for legal reviews, security remediation, and forensics investigations. “It’s unfortunately become a cost of doing business today,” said Mark Lobel, principal in PwC’s U.S. advisory practice and leader of its cybersecurity team for the technology, media and telecom sector. “These types of attacks against media companies are happening a lot, and many are not reported publicly.”

    Still, the damage from the hacks and the other leaks appears to be limited. In fact, “Game of Thrones” scored the series’ best-ever ratings for the Aug. 6 airing even with the leak three days beforehand. Season to date, “GOT” episodes are averaging nearly 30 million viewers across all platforms, 38% more than the same point in time versus last season. HBO half-hour comedies “Ballers” and “Insecure,” both of which had episodes leaked by the hacker, have both set record highs for viewing on Sunday nights this summer, according to the network.

    Experts say it’s unlikely HBO has lost subscribers or that its brand has been tarnished. “They have some public sympathy – they didn’t do anything wrong,” said Carl Folta, an entertainment PR veteran. “They are the victims here.”

    A big difference between the Sony and HBO hacks is that in HBO’s case, there hasn’t been much private email or employee personal information divulged. The hacker group did leak about a month’s worth of emails from one senior HBO executive. But the contents of those haven’t been published, as Sony’s emails were — which corroded the studio’s relations with talent, employees and partners. (HBO CEO Richard Plepler has told employees that the network doesn’t believe the email system “as a whole” has been compromised.)

    In many ways, the HBO leaks arguably have been unpaid promotion for the network. The latest episode leak even spawned a trending hashtag on Twitter, #FakeGameOfThronesSpoilers, on Thursday.

    “Obviously, no company wants their proprietary information stolen and posted online,” said Beck. “But this amounts to free marketing.” Recall the quip from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who said on an earnings call in 2013 that piracy of “Game of Thrones” was “better than an Emmy” in terms of driving buzz.

    HBO, for its part, has said it is not in communication with the hacker and that its priorities are to maintain transparency with employees and partners about the incident. “We’re not going to comment every time a new piece of information is released,” the network said in a statement Sunday. “The hacker may continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention. That’s a game we’re not going to participate in.”

    Industry analysts say HBO has done a good job in responding quickly with public and internal messaging. One of the mistakes companies that have been hit by a data-security breach often make is that they release partial or inaccurate information, said PwC’s Lobel. “They release a hypothesis and not facts,” he said. “That just extends the story. In many cases the hackers are trying to kill you by a death by a thousand cuts.”

    As for HBO’s decision to offer a $250,000 payoff to the hacker, aiming to fend off the release of any purloined episodes or information, experts say there’s no right answer in what to do in this case. A source familiar with the matter confirmed that the offer of the “bug bounty” was a stall tactic by HBO as it assessed the situation.

    Some experts say it’s never advisable to make payouts to cybercriminals, although they say that does sometimes happen quietly. “It’s the same reason U.S. government doesn’t pay ransom for kidnapped Americans,” said Brian Pearce, COO of Beyond Security, which sells network-vulnerability testing tools. “It paints a giant target on not only on the back of the company, but the entire industry they’re in.”

    Other say offering payments to hackers can be a reasonable step to negotiate a settlement to limit the fallout, or to figure out if the attackers really have anything of value. Additionally, the tactic of offering payment might be part of an effort to gather more info about the hackers so that law enforcement can track them down.

    In any case, internet-borne threats will continue. Tools that cybercriminals have access to are very user friendly and easily available. With a monetary incentive, they will be relentless. “Your adversaries are getting smarter, so you have to get smarter,” said BigID’s Sirota.

    The “Game of Thrones” script provides a lesson in architecting a data-security defense, according to Sirota. The Wall, the huge barrier of ice in the north of Westeros, doesn’t stop the White Walkers from breaking through. In the same way, in trying to protect their networks, “Companies try to build bigger walls and deeper moats, but there will always be ways to get around that.” Sirota recommends deploying a variety of more agile and intelligent defenses, such as “honeypots,” which are false targets designed to attract an attacker and trap them.

    The HBO hack and related events have once again spurred media and entertainment companies to consider how susceptible they are to similar attacks. The real danger is believing they are safe, said Spohn Security’s Crosby: “There are lots of people who will forget this. They’re more interested in focusing on something else.”

    Prosecutors seek records related to Inauguration Day protest

    By Len,
    "What we have is a sweeping request for every single file we have" in relation to DisruptJ20.org, said Chris Ghazarian, DreamHost general counsel, according to the Washington Post.

    Web provider DreamHost has just two days before the company lands in court to fight the US Department of Justice's "overbroad" request for information on users who visited the group's site, a move targeting demonstrators who took part in the #DisruptJ20 movement, activists say.

    The warrant was served to the hosting company on July 17, and the government is seeking all information related to that particular website. "But the Fourth Amendment was created to prohibit fishing expeditions like this", he said.

    A hearing in Superior Court in Washington was scheduled for Friday, but has been postponed.

    The company Dreamhost warns people that the information they are requested to release could be used to identify those who used the websites to express their political speech, an act protected by the First Amendment.

    Robert Cattanach, a former lawyer in the Justice Department's civil division with an expertise in cybersecurity, said the loads of "raw data" sought by the government is "too unmanageable to be useful" and was likely a first step in an attempt to ultimately identify protesters. In April, the U.S. attorney's office in Washington DC filed a single indictment charging more than 217 people with identical crimes, including felony rioting. They've been nothing but supportive and helpful throughout, and we're honored to have them in our corner. Federal prosecutors have always been looking for information, including social media account information, related to the Inauguration Day arrests and those involved.

    Stephanie Lacambra, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital privacy and advised DreamHost early in the case, believes that the company "did the right thing in standing up for its users".

    "I can't conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible to justify millions of user logs", senior staff attorney Mark Rumold told the Guardian.

    "What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests or seeing what was going on at the protests and that's the troubling aspect".

    Wide-reaching warrants for user data are sometimes issued when the content of a site is illegal such as pirated movies or child sexual abuse imagery, but speech is rarely prohibited.

    This isn't the first time the organization has had to defend those protections this week. In addition to the thousands of people who protested peacefully that day, there were a relatively small number of people who broke windows, set a limousine on fire, threw rocks at police and, in one case, "sucker punched" prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer.

    After public outcry over the administration's overreach, CBP dropped the request.

    China’s top Internet regulators warn Alibaba over illicit content, VPNs

    By Len,
    INTERNET regulators in China have warned online services, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., against carrying illegal content such as virtual private networks (VPN) that help users bypass its censorship actions.

    On Thursday, the Cyber Administration of China named Alibaba’s Taobao Internet bazaar as among five services that needed to rectify related issues immediately, Bloomberg reported.

    Users had told the regulator they found “controlled substances”, including VPNs used to access foreign websites, for sale in Taobao.

    According to Bloomberg, the warning came amid Beijing’s clampdown on restricted Internet usage in the lead-up to the prominent Communist Party Congress scheduled for later this year. The congress is expected to see President Xi Jinping consolidate his authority.

    In a statement, Taobao, the country’s largest online marketplace, said it was unclear what the regulator meant by illegal substances, as such content would cover items ranging from drugs and pornography, among others.

    It did, however, maintain it would continue its efforts to bar illegal products, in line with its policies.

    “Taobao forbids the listing or sale of any products that are forbidden by applicable law,” Alibaba was quoted as saying.

    “We screen and remove product listings from third-party sellers which violate our marketplace rules.”

    China held a drill on Thursday with Internet service providers to practice taking down websites deemed harmful, as the country’s censors tighten control ahead of a sensitive five-yearly political reshuffle set to take place later this year.

    Internet data centres (IDC) and cloud companies – which host website servers – were ordered to participate in a three-hour drill to hone their “emergency response” skills, according to at least four participants that included the operator of Microsoft’s cloud service in China.

    Earlier this month, China’s Public Security Ministry called for the drill “in order to step up online security for the 19th Party Congress and tackle the problem of smaller websites illegally disseminating harmful information”.

    Xi has overseen a tightening of China’s cyberspace controls, including tough new data surveillance and censorship rules.

    The drill asked Internet data centres to practice shutting down target web pages speedily and report relevant details to the police, including the affected websites’ contact details, IP address and server location.

    China has been tightening its grip on the Internet, including a recent drive to crack down on the usage of VPNs to bypass Internet censorship, enlisting the help of state-owned telecommunication service providers to upgrade the so-called Great Firewall.

    In late July, Apple removed VPN apps from its app store, while Amazon’s China partner warned users not to use VPNs.

    Tech Giants Have the Right to Censor Internet, Says Free Speech Lawyer

    By Len,
    Recent court rulings seem to favor Amazon and Google in the ongoing battle over Internet censorship. AFP asked a professor who specializes in Internet law to explain how such tech giants are legally allowed to censor the Internet. 

    As readers and supporters of American Free Press and its sister publication The Barnes Review are well aware, books and videos considered to be verboten by the reigning tech giants have been removed for sale or distribution from these companies’ bookstores and websites.

    “In early March, to the shock and dismay of free speech advocates around the world, Internet retail giant Amazon caved to pressure from special interest groups and mainstream news outlets and quietly pulled at least 100 political and historical books from its website,” wrote Paul Angel recently in AFP.

    Prior to this mass book banning, YouTube, the video-sharing website created by three former PayPal employees in 2005 and bought by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion, has come down hard on videos on AFP’s website, by sending a shot across our bow in the following email:

    As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow—and don’t allow—on YouTube. Your video ‘Jewish Groups Shut Down Canadian Newspaper’ was flagged for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines. We’ve removed it from YouTube and assigned a Community Guidelines strike, or temporary penalty, to your account.

    We encourage free speech and defend everyone’s right to express their points of view, even if unpopular. However, YouTube doesn’t allow hate speech. Sometimes there’s a fine line between what is and isn’t considered hate speech. If you’re not sure whether or not your content crosses the line, we ask that you don’t post it.

    This is the first strike applied to your account. We understand that users seldom intend to violate our policies. That’s why strikes don’t last forever—this strike will expire in three months. However, it’s important to remember that additional strikes could prevent you from posting content to YouTube or even lead to your account being terminated.

    The video cited, “Jewish Groups Shut Down Canadian Newspaper,” was simply an audio interview this reporter conducted with Dr. James Sears, editor-in-chief of Your Ward News, a quarterly local newspaper distributed in Toronto, discussing the fact that Jewish groups had complained to Canadian politicians about Sears’s newspaper. In response, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada Judy Foote ordered Canada Post to stop the distribution of the paper, which was called “anti-Semitic” and “racist” by its critics.

    Naturally, Foote would not make such a move unless someone complained, and that someone, as is clearly documented, was Jewish groups. So there was nothing “hateful” about the interview. Sears was just explaining what happened.

    YouTube attacked some other videos as well, claiming they were not “advertiser friendly.” This is quite odd, as the videos merely discussed a very hot topic: the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. These videos, which were simply audio interviews adapted to video format, can garner income, depending upon how many views or listens they accumulate. YouTube would have none of that with this video:

    Hi American Free Press,

    Thanks for submitting your video(s) for monetization. We didn’t approve your video(s) for monetization because the content in your video(s) or video details may not be advertiser-friendly. If you believe that the content in your video is advertiser- friendly, you can request an additional review below:

    “Wolfgang Halbig Gains Some Ground”

    Please note that review times may vary, and YouTube reserves the right to make the final decision whether to monetize a video. All videos are subject to our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines, and may be removed from the site if they don’t meet those standards.

    The YouTube Team

    AFP received a nearly identical warning when it came to the interview we conducted with Dr. James Tracy titled “Firing of Professor for Sandy Hook Beliefs Cowardly.”


    Do booksellers and content creators have any recourse if Amazon and YouTube remove content they deem to be “offensive”?

    The short answer is “no,” as this newspaper discovered via an email exchange with one of the nation’s top Internet law professors.

    Eric Goldman is a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law in California, where he teaches and publishes in the areas of Internet law, intellectual property, and advertising and marketing law.

    This reporter became acquainted with Goldman via an article he wrote for Forbes entitled “Can YouTube ‘Remove and Relocate’ User Videos Capriciously?” The article makes reference to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is central to understanding why these tech giants can do as they wish.

    The act was part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which amended or repealed sections of the Communications Act of 1934 and was the first major overhaul of U.S. telecommunications policy in nearly 62 years. It allows Internet service providers (ISPs) and other service providers to restrict customers actions without worrying about being found legally liable. Specifically, the act states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

    Section 230 had its beginnings in protecting children, and was passed in part in reaction to 1995’s Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., “which suggested that service providers who assumed an editorial role with regard to customer content, thus became publishers, and legally responsible for libel and other torts committed by customers.” Section 230 was passed to allow service providers to delete and monitor content without becoming publishers.

    The court stated in another lawsuit, Zeran v. America Online, Inc., (where the plaintiff, Kenneth M. Zeran’s phone number was posted on an Internet bulletin board that glorified the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which Zeran had no connection to or involvement with) that:

    Congress enacted § 230 to remove the disincentives to self-regulation created by the Stratton Oakmont decision. Under that court’s holding, computer service providers who regulated the dissemination of offensive material on their services risked subjecting themselves to liability, because such regulation cast the service provider in the role of a publisher.

    Fearing that the specter of liability would therefore deter service providers from blocking and screening offensive material, Congress enacted §230’s broad immunity ‘to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material,’ and ‘the amount of information communicated via interactive computer services is . . . staggering.’ The specter of tort liability in an area of such prolific speech would have an obviously chilling effect. It would be impossible for service providers to screen each of their millions of postings for possible problems.

    Faced with potential liability for each message republished by their services, interactive computer service providers might choose to severely restrict the number and type of messages posted. Congress considered the weight of the speech interests implicated and chose to immunize service providers to avoid any such restrictive effect.
    AFP asked Goldman about the significance of Section 230. “Section 230(c)(2) is directly relevant by providing websites with a safe harbor for removing content they consider objectionable,” he explained. “The website’s terms of service are also highly relevant, such as where the sites say they can terminate accounts or delete content at their discretion.”

    Since Section 230 allows these companies to censor any material they wish, AFP asked if it is foolish for someone “to piggyback on the audience aggregated by third party intermediary publishers,” like YouTube, since “the cloud service provider’s policies and practices can easily moot those investments with little recourse, judicial or otherwise.”

    “I don’t think it’s foolish at all,” Goldman said. “Usually, content producers must rely on third party intermediaries for ‘distribution,’ i.e., to reach a broader audience. However, if the distributor has the contractual and legal right to pull the rug out from under the content producer at any time, then the content producer either needs to accept that contingency or bargain for a better deal.”

    AFP asked what would be an example of “the contractual and legal right to pull the rug out from under the content producer at any time.”

    “A clause like, ‘We can terminate your account or delete your content at any time in our sole discretion,’ ” he explained.

    It’s worth emphasizing that Goldman inexplicably disagrees with the argument that Amazon and Google, which operate as virtual monopolies when it comes to book sales and advertising on the Internet, should not censor media companies, given that even Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., conceded to Business Insider recently, “[Google] was founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based thinking.”

    AFP finally asked Goldman about Amazon’s book banning binge and if Section 230 allows Amazon to get away with this.

    “Probably, but we may not need to get that far,” he said. “Retailers are not required to put any particular item on their shelves.”

    Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him. Dave is the producer of an upcoming full-length feature film about the attack on the USS Liberty. See erasingtheliberty.com for more information.

    Five ways to protect your privacy on the internet

    By Len,
    Because these days, you never know.

    The internet has revolutionized our lives in numerous positive ways, but it also has an unpleasant side. Sensitive personal data may be compromised leaving you vulnerable to fraud, extortion and unwanted advertising.

    There are a number of steps you can take to keep your personal information secure, reduce the risk of a breach, and ensure a safer and more enjoyable browsing experience.

    Leave Your Social Media Profiles Incomplete

    When you create an account on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, you will be asked to fill out certain personal information. They require this data to ensure you have a more personalized experience. Yet, what is good for them is not necessarily good for you.

    If any of the information is not mandatory (and the majority usually isn’t), you should not provide it. Even when you do avail the requested data, examine the platform’s privacy options so you can hide information that you do not want in the public domain such as date of birth, phone number and email address.

    Protect Your Hardware

    Install a credible antivirus software on all your devices to guard against malware. Also, configure your laptop, PC, tablet, and smartphone to prompt you for a password or passcode when it boots up or wakes from sleep.

    It’s natural to trust your family and the people you live with. However, your laptop can be stolen or lost. A password makes it harder for thieves to extract your data. You can also install an app on your tablet or phone that will show your gadget’s location and allow you to remotely delete the data on it.

    Private Browsing

    Many websites and online advertisers are keen on knowing your browsing habits, online purchases, preferred social networks, and socioeconomic status. By gleaning information about you, they can better target ads and present to those that are more likely to entice you to buy.

    Private browsing can make it harder to figure you out. It was pioneered by Opera but is now available on all major web browsers. The private browsing setting deletes session history, temporary internet files, and cookies when you close the browser tab. For even greater privacy, you can surf the web using a proxy server or a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

    Strong Password

    A strong password makes it harder for your account to succumb to a brute-force attack. The ideal password should have a mixture of letters, numbers, symbols and be at least eight characters long. In the past, one needed a password for each website they subscribed to. That has significantly changed now with a growing number of sites allowing you to register and sign in using your social media profile such as Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.

    Nevertheless, there will still be instances when you’ll require a fresh password for some sites. Using the same password on multiple sites may expose you to phishing and social engineering attacks in the event a third party gets hold of it. To eliminate this risk as well as the difficulty of remembering multiple passwords, use a password manager.

    Two Factor Authentication

    Strong passwords are good; 2-factor auth is even better. Initially a preserve of enterprise applications, two-factor authentication is now available on popular websites such as Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and Dropbox.

    This means once you provide your user id and password, you’ll be required to key in a one-off code that’ll be sent to your phone. Some online services will have you enter this dynamic code each time you log in while others will only prompt you for the code when you’re accessing the site using a new browser or an unfamiliar device.

    Follow these five steps and you’ll be in a better position to prevent your most sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.

    Internet Companies Are Teaming Up To Block White Nationalists

    By Len,
    After the Charlottesville rally, major online companies like Google are barring white nationalist groups and figures from using their platforms.

    After the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a Confederate monument, internet companies are making it difficult for white supremacist groups to organize online.

    Neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer was booted from web host GoDaddy after the rally. GoDaddy tweeted the site violated its terms of service.

    The Daily Stormer then tried to move to Google and then a Russian domain, but both hosts rejected the site.

    Twitter and LinkedIn also canceled Daily Stormer-related accounts, and YouTube has cracked down on accounts associated with alt-right figures.

    White supremacists aren't being allowed to express themselves through song, either. Spotify is purging white supremacist music from its archives. And Pandora said it's making sure there's nothing like that on its service.

    This was a trend before the "Unite the Right" rally even started. Airbnb deleted accounts of users it suspected were trying to book rooms in Charlottesville before the event.

    White supremacists aren't just being blocked from posting on the internet. They're also being blocked from profiting from it.

    Crowd-funding sites like Patreon and GoFundMe blocked the accounts of alt-right figures and groups, forcing some to use a knockoff called Hatreon.

    Will Chinese internet companies beat Amazon and Facebook?

    By Len,
    “This year may finally be the year that global investors put Chinese internet companies alongside American giants like Facebook and Amazon,” Paul Mozur writes (paywall) in the New York Times.

    The reason: record-breaking revenues of two companies, internet technology and social media leader Tencent and ecommerce behemoth Alibaba. Mozur notes that both have “valuations that hover around $400 billion,” while Amazon.com and Facebook stand only a little ahead at $470 billion and $490 billion, respectively.

    Both Chinese giants have to deal with something their American competitors do not, however: censorship.

    - Tencent, along with other internet companies that run social media platforms, is facing a crackdown on content that authorities said violated cyber security laws, but is more likely politically motivated.

    - Alibaba’s Taobao and four other ecommerce platforms were instructed on August 17 to conduct “self-examination and correction” for allowing the sales of VPNs, Reuters reports.

    - Intellectual property
    China says its bullet train technology was stolen, days after U.S. trade probe move / SCMP
    “Developing countries had ‘spied on and stolen’ China’s fast-train technology to get the competitive edge at the expense of Chinese companies.”

    - Sexism
    China tech workers wanted: Women need not apply / WSJ (paywall)

    - Young entrepreneurs
    Tech publication gives nod to Chinese brains / Caixin

    - Southeast Asia
    China’s growing its share of Southeast Asia’s infrastructure pie / Bloomberg

    - Foreign investment in China
    China orders ministries to open up more of economy to foreign investors / SCMP

    - Debt
    Prominent China debt bear warns of $6.8tn in hidden losses / FT (paywall)

    - China Unicom
    China Unicom shares still halted amid confusion over $12 bln fundraising / Reuters
    China shows how not to sell $11.7 billion in shares / Bloomberg

    - Advertising
    Alibaba, Tencent lead China’s rise in global digital ads / Bloomberg

    China cracking down on anonymous browsers

    By Len,
    Beijing - The Chinese government has issued a warning to websites that are selling virtual private networks (VPNs). The country outlawed the sale of VPN except those approved by the government in July.

    While many articles speak of China having outlawed all VPN's in July that is not technically correct. What it did was require all VPN services to be certified and licensed by the government. This would require them to agree to censor those websites the government blocks. Businesses and individuals would still find VPN services significant for security purposes.

    However China has issued a warning to websites that are selling VPNs. The Cyberspace Administration of China demanded that five different website remove vendors who sell VPNs that are not government approved. The VPNs are used to evade what is called the Great Firewall of China. Even such common websites as Twitter and Facebook are blocked by the Great Firewall. VPN's also keep ones Internet activity private from the government or others who might be spying on you. They are important for both both businesses and individuals.

    One of the websites that received the warning is Alibaba's Taoba which is China's largest online retailer. The Cyberspace Administration ordered that the sites "immediately carry out a comprehensive c,lean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal accounts and submit a rectification report" according to Reuters. The government also ordered Apple to remove all VPN apps on its Chinese stores. Presumably they were all not government approved VPNs.

    The VPNs that are being banned are able to route traffic through routers overseas that are free of the filters China used to block sites such as Twitter and Facebook. GreenVPN already stopped service as of July 1st in China after being ordered to cease operating. However, other popular services may also be blocked by now. The Chinese government has also intervened on its own local media platforms such as Weibo where it has blocked "negative talk".

    The Chinese government requires all VPN services to apply for a licence, which will not be granted unless the service agrees to the government censorship policies. They have set a deadline of February 1 next year for all three of China's mobile operators to block all unlicensed VPN services. The Ministry of Information Technology said back in January of this year that the VPN and cloud computing market was undergoing "disorderly development" and there was an "urgent need for regulation norms". Russia also has recently passed legislation that will have effects similar to that of China's new rules.

    Turning To VPNs For Online Privacy? You Might Be Putting Your Data At Risk

    By Len,
    Worried about Internet companies snooping on your online browsing? You might turn to something called a virtual private network to protect your privacy. But researchers say these networks can themselves be insecure.

    Earlier this year, the federal government rolled back rules that would have prevented Internet service providers from tracking your activity online.

    Comcast, AT&T and other providers are now allowed to track and sell your personal data too — with much less fear of regulatory action. (Major providers insist that they don't sell their customers' browsing histories.)

    One solution is a VPN, which is like a dark, secret tunnel you use to go from your computer to a website. While you're inside the tunnel — clicking on Instagram photos or checking your bank account — third parties can't see what you're doing. The data are encrypted.

    There are lots of reasons people around the world use VPNs: to hide location, to access work networks, even to avoid government censorship. But Loraine Kanervisto, a software engineer in Seattle, says she downloaded a VPN on her computer and cellphone because she doesn't want her Internet provider spying on her.

    "The more I read about how much power my Internet service provider is getting, the less inclined I am to share that data with them willingly," she says.

    NPR reached out to six popular VPN companies and all have seen double-digit increases in downloads since Congress repealed Internet privacy rules.

    Ryan Dochuk, co-founder of TunnelBear, says his company had a 200 percent increase in the usual amount of people joining from the U.S. in March, when the federal rules were rolled back, and demand continues to be strong.

    "Before, where there were services that might collect a chunk of your browsing habits, like Google or Facebook, this change allows U.S. ISPs to collect 100 percent of your Web browsing and sell it to third parties," he says.

    Internet providers handle customer privacy in different ways. Some say you have to opt in for them to sell your data. Nuala O'Connor, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a privacy advocacy group, says because of Internet-connected devices, providers can see more than the websites you browse.

    "The Internet is in everything — increasingly in your house, in your smart water meter, in your refrigerator, in your toothbrush. The Internet service provider to your home knows a whole bunch of stuff about you," O'Connor says.

    So, who cares whether Time Warner Cable or Verizon knows when I turn off my lights or whether I stock my fridge with Swiss or cheddar?

    For one thing, those data points can be used to target advertising, O'Connor says. And she worries the government or private companies could use the information to deny services, like health insurance — or even water.

    "You can think of water rationing in certain parts of the country being enforced via your smart water meter or your other devices," O'Connor says. "So it's a level of intrusion into the home and into your daily lives that we think people should be really mindful of and guard against."

    Some VPNs promise anonymous browsing for free or just a few dollars a month; they claim not to share your data. But these services don't always deliver on their promises.

    "If you're not careful with choosing your VPN service provider, the medicine might be worse than the illness," says Nick Feamster, a computer science professor at Princeton University. He says tens of millions of people have downloaded VPNs — and many don't realize they're not as secure as they claim.

    In the first major review of VPN providers, researchers from across the globe tested nearly 300 free VPN apps on Google Play. What they found was alarming. Nearly 40 percent injected malware or malvertising. And nearly 20 percent of the apps didn't even encrypt user traffic.

    This month, the Center for Democracy & Technology filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging the VPN Hotspot Shield collects data and intercepts traffic. If true, that would be a direct violation of claims by the company's policy to "never log or store user data."

    Amid all the VPN angst, the app TunnelBear is fighting for its reputation. To verify it is committed to protecting user security, the company became the first in the industry to complete a third-party audit.

    Feamster, with Princeton, says that's very encouraging — even though the most recent audit turned up some vulnerabilities.

    Experts say the safest option is to set up your own VPN server and connect to it, or use Tor to browse the Web anonymously. But Feamster admits most people won't do that.

    For now, he suggests researching a VPN before using it and to think of it as a supplemental tool, not a privacy solution. He advises reading the VPN service provider's privacy policy to see whether it collects or retains any user information that could be traced back to you — and if so, for how long.