In case anyone’s been wondering I’ve not given up just work has been busy and at this time of year the garden needs a lot of attention (on which more later). Diverting from politics for a little bit and turning to something I know a bit more about, namely IT. In this case I want to talk about e-mail, I have a Gmail account (or two) that I use for something (with an android device it’s hard to avoid) but I don’t particularly like it. The main reason I don’t like it is it’s a pain to archive from and it’s run by Google (peace be upon them)*, who I trust about as much as I could throw Eric Pickles. So I tend to play with other e-mail providers and such just to see what’s out there, unfortunately very few compare well against Gmail. Currently I’m rather liking the new thing from Microsoft (outlook.com) as it’s nice and clean and claims to have better privacy policies. Fortunately for me these are all just secondary accounts I can give up on easily, but in my hunting for alternatives I came across the guys at lavabit.com. Reading through their features it all looked terribly impressive until I came across this bit:
A unique feature offered by our service is called message rollout. This feature, if enabled, allows a user to continually store e-mail on our servers. When their quota is reached, the server will automatically delete the oldest messages to make room for incoming e-mail. This feature allows you to retain your e-mail securely on the server without fear that doing so could cause you to lose an incoming message by exceeding your quota.”
Which made me boggle, and stop to read it twice as it’s implementing such a monumentally stupid idea:
If you go above quota we delete your old mail for you
So that important mail you were going to return to, gone trashed by a bit of spam. Worse that important mail you were waiting for gone without you ever seeing it because someone decided to attack your mail and you never know it was there and they never know it was gone. Such an attack is made even easier because they publish the limits:
Basic account: 128Mb of space, maximum message size 32Mb,
so just 4 of your allowed 1,024 messages a day and your mail box is gone. AS account size increases so does the size and volume of allowed incoming message so it doesn’t at any point get much better. It’s a system ideal to lose mail.
I mention them because they amazed me but also because it highlights how much we’re all dependent on external providers to allow us to communicate and share idea and organize. The petition from Olly Cromwell I linked to the other day is still unavailable, as is his site, due to issues with either his DNS provider or registrar. Both seem to be properly registered still but the DNS provider invisihosting.com are refusing DNS requests for both domains. No idea if it’s cock up or conspiracy, but it’s a dependency we all have on external providers which almost certainly don’t have out interests at heart, after all in many cases the business model is “pile it high and sell it cheap” so no point really in fighting for any individual customer.
In Olly’s case I’ve no idea if it’s cock up or conspiracy, I deal with enough hopeless DNS providers day to day that cock up is always plausible. But then you have the likes of Cisco who decided that they’d lock you out of your own router unless you got a cloud account with them so they can monitor your traffic, which is rather like Barrets or B&Q changing the locks on your doors and only letting you have keys back if you agree to let them put CCTV in your house so they can pass the data on to “third parties of their choice”. The search engines bubble you by deciding what you’ll be interested in depending on what data they’ve gleaned about you.
To avoid these problems we might turn to VPN providers or TOR routers or other secure network communications, but again these tend to be run by either the same sort of company or companies that really aren’t keen to tell you much about themselves. Which does rather leave anyone that wants to use the Internet as a tool for dissent organized or otherwise with a bit of a pickle.
I’ve no solutions for these problems really, as fundamentally it’s a trust issue- who do you trust to provide your means of communication and what can you do to prepare in case that trust is misplaced? Backups of blogs and articles is important but also I’d say the writing of blogs is vital, it being much harder to swat a cloud of flies than a single wasp.
I probably had a point somewhere back there, if you find it do let me know.
* Is that right?