In perfect timing for holiday driving many will be doing in the U.S., we’re releasing episode 3 of Error451, The Final Straw’s occasionally weekly tech security podcast with William Budington. This episode is about GPS navigation on mobile devices and ways to use it without disclosing your information to service providers.
Oh, hand here’s a link to one of those Motherboard chat logs about Mr. Robot.
This is the first standalone episode of Error451, The Final Straw’s occasionally weekly podcast featuring a conversation between Bursts and William Budington about tech, security and safer practices. Upcoming episodes include how to avoid leaking info while using maps on your device and safer practices at borders. If you have other topics you’d like to see covered, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this episode, we have a brief conversation about the idea of burner phones, mobile devices kept insulated from the users personal information and which can just be dumped when no longer useful. We talk about reasons one might use them, approaches to getting them and using them and how to dispose of them after usefulness has ceased.
Hopefully you’ll find this helpful in your endeavors!
First this week, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr Kihana Mariah Ross, who is the daughter in law of Herman Bell, a former member of the Black Panther Party and a political prisoner who is currently clocking 44 years behind bars. We will speak about recent developments in his case, plus some historical context, and actionable items moving forward.
To learn more about Herman Bell and to read some of his writings, you can visit freehermanbell.org. To send him a card – and be aware that his 70th birthday is on January 14th and his upcoming parole hearing is in February 2018 – you can write to him at
Herman Bell 79 C 0262
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, NY 12589-0700
How Best to use Signal?
In the second segment of today’s episode, we’ll air another conversation with William Budington, a digital security expert and trainer about the Signal end-to-end text encryption app for smart phones and desktops. Signal, produced by WhisperSys, is an easy to use, free means for folks to avoid one type of surveillance in their day to day communication. The ubiquitous, normalized use of encryption shields the purpose of the use, obscuring whether the practice is to shield illegal activity or not. In the conversation we talk about the human failure side of communication, as well as the informational leakage possibilities of the devices we use to engage Signal app. If you really enjoy the pie-baking/Betty Crocker metaphor, don’t despair, it doesn’t end with this segment. Check out more on this topic in our occasional series, Error451.
Stay tuned soon for a conversation with William about burner phones and more. If you have a topic about digital security, devices and programs, surveillance or related topics, leave us a suggestion at email@example.com ! If you want our pgp key, check our website.
Now, it’s my turn for a brief editorial, dear listeners. This is Bursts. I grew up in a part of so-called California known as Sonoma County, lands stolen from the Pomo and the Miwok peoples first by the Spanish, then by Mexico and Russia and then the U.S. I lived there from the mid-1980’s through 2009 and consider it my home in a way I could no other place. The rolling hills, the foggy mornings, the Coastal Live Oak groves, the nasty but 100 year old Eucalyptis groves, the early evening sky that turns a goldish orange into purple, the Manzanita, the people, the ocean breeze coming out from Bodega. These are things that I remember fondly from the deeply damaged yet still beautiful biome I called home for most (and definitely the more formative years) of my life.
This has been a year for spectacular disasters around this hemisphere, with a record 10th hurricane now appearing in the Carribean and southern U.S., 2 major earthquakes rocking Mexico and now the fires in Northern and Southern California. The fires in the north, which I’ve been paying more attention to because they QUITE literally bring home to me a sense of devastation I still haven’t been able to digest from this distance, have been whipped up by winds, a seasonal dryness out of the ordinary and fed by the aftermath of a wet winter that created a ton of easy-to-burn fuels. California has long been racked by fires, but never this many deaths and never have they consumed large parts of cities as they have with Santa Rosa. Thousands of homes have been turned to ash, monuments standing over a hundred years are cinders, human and non-human animals have been killed, damaged and displaced. California is yet another part of the world feeling the first hand effects of anthropogenic climate change, after years of over-taxing it’s water levels with large scale and animal and food agriculture, it’s manicured industrial lawns, the barely regulated weed industry booming, the building of human settlements in the middle of deserts and the idea promoted by high levels of industry and state that as the 6th largest economy in the world it could buy itself climate chaos. Day by day, year by year, this is proven more and more a delusion. But I digress.
I’d like to give a shout out to the brave folks doing search and rescue in my home away from home, the neighbors who look out for each other, that roused each other from sleep to escape the fire storms, who shelter and feed each other. Also to the fire professionals who are working to fight back the fires. An element of this that is under reported, of course, is the fact that over a thousand prisoners of the state of California and it’s included counties, are putting their lives on the line for $1 to $2.56 a day to train and then fight these blazes. That can be compared to the $31.85 an hour of the median hourly wage for non-inmate firefighters. I would like to bring this up because as the climate becomes more chaotic and the ever-tighter squeeze of austerity capitalism turns further and further away from more sustainable and stable incomes like unionized firefighters this continues a nasty trend.
Putting prisoners on the fire lines to fight the blazes, while more deadly for them than other modes of work, arguably offers them a potentially more meaningful and lucrative engagement with community service. This also fuels the profit motive of governments bent on incarcerating mostly poor communities of color, often people with chemical dependencies and neuro-divergencies the state can’t be bothered to treat but to stick them in a concrete and steel cage. More prisoners means more low-pay and expendable firefighters who’s crime was to be born the wrong color or class in the age of mass incarceration. I don’t bring this up to denigrate those risking themselves to save lives and homes, whether a prisoner or not, but to point out that this is not how a community organizes itself for it’s members, this is the logic of capital and thus streams value to the top of the pyramid.
My heart goes out to those who suffer at the hands of these fires. Let’s fight for futures where we are better prepared, where we don’t employ slave labor to fight them, and everyone has what they need to live in true community, which means true accountability to the impact of our survival on the non-human environment with which we share this awesome world.
This week Bursts spoke with William Budington, a digital security expert, about various topics under that heading. We spoke about: encryption for texting, email and mobile devices operating systems; about anonymity on the internet; safer practices with social media; doxxing; and more.
The conversation was ranging and a bit thick at times due to Bursts very specific style of posing questions. Thusly, the notes will be very long with lots of links embedded for further reading on the topic, posted in the Further Reading section below. If there are other topics around security that you’d like to hear discussed on this show, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mull it over. This chat was by no means the end of a conversation. The practices and tools we talked about here are meant to keep you SAFER, but can’t promise your safety. But hopefully some of these words can get more of us to take our digital hygiene more seriously!
Political Prisoner Herman Bell Assaulted
We received this notice after the show aired, but hope that folks read these notes and get this info. Herman Bell is one of the New York 3, the same group of defendants as Jalil Muntaqim, who we featured an interview with in our last episode:
Black Panther Party political prisoner Herman Bell was viciously assaulted by guards at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Comstock) on September 5, 2017. While being “escorted” by a guard back to his housing unit, a guard struck Herman, age 69, in the face causing his glasses to drop to the floor. This same guard then repeatedly punched Herman about the face, head and body. Responding to a commotion, 5-6 other guards arrived and joined in the assault. One of them was able to knee Herman in the chest causing two cracked ribs. Another guard took out a bottle of mace and sprayed it all over Herman’s face, eyes and mouth.
Herman was then taken to the prison infirmary. X-rays have confirmed fractured ribs. Herman’s left eye is damaged from the mace and blows. He has bruises to his body and is suffering headaches, a sign of a possible concussion.
Herman Bell has now been charged with “assault on staff”. Defying common sense, they allege that Herman, for no apparent reason, slapped the guard escorting him. He did this, they claim, in a location out of the view of all inmates but in the presence of other guards. He is now in the Special Housing Unit (box) at Five Points Correctional Facility where he was transferred after the incident.
Herman Bell has not had a disciplinary violation in over 20 years. He was scheduled to begin a three day family visit with his wife a few days after the incident, their first such visit in over 2 1/2 years. In addition he is to appear before the parole board, for the 8th time, in February 2018.
Herman has, however, been the target of guard harassment due to his political background. Visitors report that guards processing them and in the visiting room comment that they are visiting a “cop killer” or “terrorist”. Some guards have been seen passing around the book “Badge of the Assassin” written by Herman’s prosecutor.
At this time, we are encouraging everyone to take the time to write to Herman or send him a get-well card, so that the authorities know we are paying attention and are concerned for Herman. Stay tuned for updates as we develop this campaign.
Herman Bell #79C0262
Five Points Cor. Fac.
P.O. Box 119
Romulus, N.Y. 14541
2018 Certain Days Calendar
I’d like to quickly announce that the 2018 Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar has just been posted as ready for pre-order. The calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal, Toronto, and New York, in partnership with three political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons in New York State: David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes and Herman Bell. The proceeds from Certain Days 2018 will be divided among these groups: Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association (Palestine), Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and other groups in need. More info on the project and where to sign up is at certaindays.org
For all you artistically minded listeners out there, who would like to see their art worn by people (potentially) all over the world, The Final Straw is looking for tshirt desgins! If you like the show, or love it, or just think it’s ok-ish but like to make designs then this challenge is for you.
We will be accepting submissions until the (end of November), and lest you think this is a one way street, the winner of this challenge will recieve a special prize from each of us (Bursts and William) of a personal and one of a kind mixtape which will include all sorts of audio goodies. Runners up will also get prizes, so never fear there’s no heirarchy here.
Want in?? Just email your submission and any relevant info to email@example.com and keep your ears peeled for the winner announcement.
Show Notes begin in vain
For a starter on COINTELPRO, check out the wikipedia page on the topic.
PGP Enigmail for is an add-on to the Thunderbird email client that makes creating a pgp key set easier.
The Onion Router (TOR) produced this really great package for safer browsing called the Torbrowser package. TAILS is a portable operating system so you can operate a computer and leave less traces Signal is a phone app for end-to-end encryption available for iphones, android phones and desktops.
HTTPSEverywhere is a useful add-on for your web browser
One VPN intro, including links to clients you can use, can be found at riseup
Various other nefarious tech the state and non-state actors may deploy
IMSI catchers, or phone spoofers, include the name-brand Stingray. The ACLU has this little site that allows you to see what law enforcement agencies they know to have (and probably use) them!
In reference to the Automatic License Plate Readers mentioned by William, here’s an article on the subject
In the first half of this week’s show we spoke with Rodney about the upcoming Heartwood Forest Council, one of two yearly meet and greet events by Heartwood. Heartwood “is a regional network that protects forests and supports community activism in the eastern United States through education, advocacy, and citizen empowerment. We are people helping people protect the places they love.
Heartwood was founded in 1991, when concerned citizens from several midwestern states each defending their national forest from logging, mining, roads and ruin, met and began to work together to protect the heartland hardwood forest.”
They’ll be holding their “Strong Roots”, the 27th Forest Council from May 26-29 at Camp Spring Creek, 774 Spring Creek Rd, Bakersville, North Carolina, the heart of the Katuah Bioregion. Info on the event, how to register yourself to attend, what’ll be offered and how to get involved in Heartwood can be found at https://heartwood.org
The second half is an interview conducted by Pinda and aired on episode 192 of Dissident Island Radio, an anarchist podcast out every 2 weeks from London and available at http://dissidentisland.org. In the chat, Pinda spoke with Crossbill, a bird of the Riseup! collective about the recent FBI gag order ordeal and what this means for users of riseup mail and other services.
Stay tuned to our website, social media & podcast feed for a special podcast release of an interview with the Liverpool based anarchist black metal project Dawn Ray’d. In this interview we speak about the inception of the band, the political situation in Liverpool, and the many ways in which anarchism and black metal can inform and augment each other.
This band is just about to embark on a tour of the U.S., organized by the Milwaukee based label Halo of Flies, with dates in Cincinnati, Detroit, Texas, and in Asheville on June 1st at the Odditorium! You can check out their music for free on bandcamp, and keep in touch with tour dates and new releases by visiting their fedbook page.
From the Durham Solidarity Center: “Dozens of southern anti-racist activists organized a counter protest today, May 20, 2017, at a so-called “Confederate Memorial Day” rally organized by the white supremacist organization, ACTBAC (Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County). Three were arrested and given serious charges and high bail – the highest was $15,000. The Alamance County Sheriff is a notorious racist. According to witnesses, Alamance police were seen shaking hands with known Klan members. We need your support to support these anti-racist fighters.”
This week’s episode features two conversations. The first is with Micah Lee of the Electronic Frontier Foundation about the NSA leaks and what information that came out of it (at the time of this show’s airing) was actually new and a general overview of what government surveillance in the U.S. looks like over computers.
The second conversation is with the Bay Area-based hacker, Bill Silverfox. Bill works with Hackmeet.org. We spend most of the hour discussing different communication technologies that most of us take for granted and talk about what can be done to use those mediums more safely.
Here’s a short list of projects worth checking out:
https://ssd.eff.org : The Surviellance Self-Defense project by the EFF has tons of information about technology and what’s known about tracking over those mediums. Also, check out https://www.eff.org for more general information, links to the https everywhere add-on for Mozilla Firefox.
https://optin.stopwatching.us/?r=eff : a petition site set up in response to the NSA spying revelations.
https://torproject.org : Information and tools developed for freer and more secure use of the web. This project helps provide and protect anonymity of activists, journalists and other folks around the world, including in countries with strict internet censorship. You can download a more secure web-browser from them, too! It’s pretty rad. But, as their website points out, it’s not just your browser but how you traverse the web that can be a dealbreaker. This project has helped to secure communications among activists struggle against the state worldwide.
https://www.riseup.net : An amazing resource for anti-state, anti-capitalist, anti-oppression activists. They provide social-networking (via crabgrass), email, lists, information on web security, document sharing (via etherpad), news, chat, vpn and MORE! This project is pretty darn internally secure AND has refused to hand over information before. Plus, these little birds need some funds.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-nsa-files : Check out the ever-growing and increasingly embarassing (for the U.S. security apparatus, that is) scandal from the paper that’s releasing Snowden’s reports.
http://hackmeet.org/ : A project created to facilitate the spreading of hacker awareness and skills on the (post)left coast.
http://zinelibrary.info/files/savethecellphonesforthesnitches.pdf : “London Calling: a cellphone and internet security primer for the criminally-minded anarchist” is quite a good read, explaining some of the case histories that are the bases for our knowledge of surveillance and safer operations.
http://www.enigmail.net/ : is one of the better and more accessible pgp (pretty good protection) email interfaces. Works great with Mozilla Thunderbird email.
https://www.noblogs.org This italian-based blog-hoster for political websites. They host OUR archives @ https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org
Also, Bursts speaks to Bella about Marius Mason, long term ecological, animal rights, labor and anarchist activist. Marius is also serving a 22 year sentence. Bella also talks about the upcoming day of Solidarity with Marius Mason, Eric McDavid and Other Longterm Anarchist Prisoners on June 11th. We also talk about the despicable snitch, Frank Ambrose (more info on the below sites).
This week’s show features an interview with Adesina, Jude and Emily, three folks doing support work for the NATO5. The NATO3 consist of Brent Betterly, Jared Chase, and Brian Church who were arrested in a house raid orchestrated by Chicago PD and with the use of two undercover infiltrators known as Mo and Gloves, during May of 2012 as Chicago prepared for the protests against the NATO Summit. The 3 are being charged with 11 felony counts including terrorism. With the addition of Sebastian Senakiewicz (Sabi) and Mark Neiweem (Miggs) who were picked up seperately, they are collectively known as the NATO5.
The conversation with support people introduces the case to listeners, talks about the ongoing use of conspiracy and infiltration in the United States of movements of dissent and the creation of the threats by the U.S. government that it simultaneously claims to be protecting the population from as it further expands the prison culture that is America. We talk a bit about the Gulf Port 7, Eric McDavid and the Cleveland 4, cases over the last decade focusing on Anarchists in the U.S. that included police infiltration and false imprisonment on terror-related charges.
In march of 2012, the Federal Government initiated a Grand Jury in the Seattle Area to focus on Anarchists. FBI began tailing Anarchists in Portland around this time, and probably in relation. This Grand Jury will likely continue to carry on through at least September of 2013, if not March 2014. Houses have been raided in Olympia/PDX/Seattle, folks have been jailed, some have been pressured into snitching and breaking bonds of trust. Two people are currently being held for refusing to speak to the Grand Jury and a third, Maddy, stands strong on the outside.
This week we speak to 2 people, Corey and Sophie, from the Pacific Northwest about how this case is proceeding, how people keep themselves safer, how we support each other and what solidarity looks like.