Internet: 11May1999

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Internet Story: 11 May 1999

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In this issue:

End of US Encryption Laws?

They ARE Listening!

New "Learning Curve"

Free Stuff on the Net


End of idiotic US Encryption Laws?   Last week we saw the confirmation of a previous US court ruling (Daniel Bernstein vs. the Justice Department, 1997) that publication of source code for strong encryption on a web site is legal.  In a 2-to-1 vote on 6May1999, a federal panel affirmed U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel's 1997 landmark ruling.  Prohibition of publication goes against the 1st amendment.  The cracks in the nonsensical US government position are appearing and holding, however the DOJ and Commerce Department intend to appeal this decision. See this link for more info.


They ARE listening!   Forgive me for starting to sound somewhat paranoid about this but yet another report on how the US National Security Agency is spying on us has emerged and it's not in some alt.conspiracy.therory newsgroup!  This is a new report, Interception Capabilities 2000, accepted late last week by the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA).  It is becoming an increasing worry that these agencies (including our own GCHQ) appear to have no accountability or guidelines for their activities - they seem to think that they can do just whatever they feel fit.  You think that you're safe using "secure" email products like the well respected Lotus Notes (owned by IBM)?  Think again!   Lotus built in an NSA "help information" trapdoor to its Notes system, as the Swedish government discovered to its embarrassment in 1997.  By then, the system was in daily use for confidential mail by Swedish MPs, 15,000 tax agency staff and 400,000 to 500,000 citizens.  Lotus Notes incorporates a "workfactor reduction field" (WRF) into all e-mails sent by non US users of the system.  Like its predecessor the Crypto AG "help information field" this device reduces NSA's difficulty in reading European and other e-mail from an almost intractable problem to a few seconds work.  The WRF broadcasts 24 of the 64 bits of the key used for each communication.  The WRF is encoded, using a "public key" system which can only be read by NSA. Lotus, a subsidiary of IBM, admits this.  Similar arrangements exist for MS Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator/Navigator.

Picture of Menwith Hill
Most of the snooping done on us from England is done at Menwith Hill (near Harrogate) by the US and at GCHQ (Cheltenham) by the UK.


Picture of King Edward the Confessor on his death bed.

Learning Curve  The UK Public Records Office has put some of its most famous documents online in a new interactive web site.  Pictures, animations and video clips of such greats as The Doomsday Book, Magna Carta, the Confession of Guy Fawkes, and Shakespeare's Will can be seen.  A special feature, "Focus on... The Doomsday Book" provides lots of useful material for the National Grid For Learning.


Internet Still Free  Well at least some of it is.  Check out a great site for freebies of every description at "The Free Site".  All manner of software and internet free things are available here.  To see what the latest freebies are click here.



Andrew Stringer, Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999

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