Does NASA fake Photos of Earth?

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Claim:

The earth is flat.  Everything NASA does is fake.  It’s a great big, decades long, world-wide conspiracy.  This photo proves it!  See all the copied and pasted clouds?

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FALSE!

This image isn’t even presented by NASA as real.  It’s from the iPhone’s wallpaper art collection.  All it proves is that the guy that made it is very talented.

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Here’s a full story on how the artist created the image and why clouds are replicated.

The guy who created the iPhone’s Earth image explains why he needed to fake it

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Why can I see buildings far beyond the horizon If the Earth is Round?

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Claim:

The earth is flat.  The fact that I can see buildings far beyond the horizon where they should be BELOW it is proof.

FALSE:

While it’s true that in some atmospheric conditions, light will bend near the ground and curve down and around the horizon to reveal buildings and landmarks much further than you’d be able to see had there been no unusual weather conditions or no atmosphere at all, it is NOT true that the world is flat, nor is this evidence for a flat earth.

imageA frequent example presented by flat earthers is a photo of the Chicago city skyline from Michigan, 60 miles away.  On most days, the entire Chicago skyline is below the horizon.  But when the air near the surface of the water is cooler than the air above, then light bends in a way to produce a “superior mirage”, allowing you to see images of objects below the horizon.  This is a temporary effect.

Mirage of the Chicago Skyline from Grand Mere State Park

It’s important to note that even in this image, frequently passed around by flat earthers, that only the top of the skyline is visible.  It appears as though the city is mostly under water.  That’s because, even though we’re seeing further than we normally can, the curvature of the earth is still present, even in this image, obstructing the lower parts of the city.  Additionally, notice the distortions of the stretched out appearance of the top of the Sears Tower.

Here’s a story about the photo on a Chicago ABC news affiliate website:

Mirage of Chicago skyline seen from Michigan shoreline

Click on the thumbnail below to see an animated GIF showing how even this photo proves the world is round.

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Is Antarctica a No-Fly Zone?

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Claim:

“No one is allowed to fly to, over, or near Antarctica and boats are not allowed near there per the Antarctic Treaty.”

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FALSE!

MANY flights have flown over Antarctica and ships can go anytime they want.  Antarctica is the coldest place on earth with virtually zero human population on it.  There’s just no good reason to fly there unless you’re doing scientific research or extreme outdooring.  The waters are obviously dangerous due to all the ice and many ships have been lost.  Runways are ice covered year round and there’s virtually no infrastructure there to handle plane maintenance.  Straight lines for flights between the tips of South America, South Africa, and Australia barely cross the edge of Antarctica and there are reasons to avoid flying over it, due to the extreme weather.

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But, that doesn’t mean no one goes and it doesn’t mean you can’t either.  Croydon travel is one of several companies that offer tours to and near Antarctica.

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The Antarctic Treaty

Here’s the preamble to the Antarctic Treaty.  In fact, in this PDF, linked from the official preamble, it provides guidelines on how to help protect the wildlife there should you choose to fly there.

In fact, this ad:

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Is a travel guide for going there, should you choose to go.

The Antarctic Treaty

The 12 nations listed in the preamble (below) signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959 at Washington, D.C. The Treaty entered into force on 23 June 1961; the 12 signatories became the original 12 consultative nations.

As of April 2010, 17 additional nations (Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and Uruguay) have achieved consultative status by acceding to the Treaty and by conducting substantial scientific research in Antarctica. Russia carries forward the signatory privileges and responsibilities established by the former Soviet Union.

Another 21 nations have acceded to the Antarctic Treaty: Austria, Belarus, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Malaysia, Monaco, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela. These nations agree to abide by the treaty and may attend consultative meetings as observers.

The 50 Antarctic Treaty nations represent about two-thirds of the world’s human population.

Consultative meetings have been held approximately every other year since the treaty entered into force, but since 1993 they have been held more frequently. Each meeting has generated recommendations regarding operation of the treaty that, when ratified by the participating governments, become binding on the parties to the treaty.

Additional meetings within the Antarctic Treaty system have produced agreements on conservation of seals, conservation of living resources, and comprehensive environmental protection. For detailed information about the Treaty System, please visit the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat web site at http://www.ats.aq/.

What follows is the complete text of the Antarctic Treaty. The headings for each article were added by the National Science Foundation and are unofficial.

[preamble]

The Governments of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America,

Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord;

Acknowledging the substantial contributions to scientific knowledge resulting from international cooperation in scientific investigation in Antarctica;

Convinced that the establishment of a firm foundation for the continuation and development of such cooperation on the basis of freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica as applied during the International Geophysical Year accords with the interests of science and the progress of all mankind;

Convinced also that a treaty ensuring the use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only and the continuance of international harmony in Antarctica will further the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;

Have agreed as follows:

Article I

[Antarctica for peaceful purposes only]

1. Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. There shall be prohibited, inter alia, any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapons.

2. The present Treaty shall not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes.

Article II

[freedom of scientific investigation to continue]

Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end, as applied during the International Geophysical Year, shall continue, subject to the provisions of the present Treaty.

Article III

[plans and results to be exchanged]

1. In order to promote international cooperation in scientific investigation in Antarctica, as provided for in Article II of the present Treaty, the Contracting Parties agree that, to the greatest extent feasible and practicable:

(a) information regarding plans for scientific programs in Antarctica shall be exchanged to permit maximum economy and efficiency of operations;

(b) scientific personnel shall be exchanged in Antarctica between expeditions and stations;

(c) scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available.

2. In implementing this Article, every encouragement shall be given to the establishment of cooperative working relations with those Specialized Agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations having a scientific or technical interest in Antarctica.

Article IV

[territorial claims]

1. Nothing contained in the present Treaty shall be interpreted as:

(a) a renunciation by any Contracting Party of previously asserted rights of or claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica;

(b) a renunciation or diminution by any Contracting Party of any basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica which it may have whether as a result of its activities or those of its nationals in Antarctica, or otherwise;

(c) prejudicing the position of any Contracting Party as regards its recognition or nonrecognition of any other State’s right of or claim or basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.

2. No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.

Article V

[nuclear explosions prohibited]

1. Any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material shall be prohibited.

2. In the event of the conclusion of international agreements concerning the use of nuclear energy, including nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste material, to which all of the Contracting Parties whose representatives are entitled to participate in the meetings provided for under Article IX are parties, the rules established under such agreements shall apply in Antarctica.

Article VI

[area covered by Treaty]

The provisions of the present Treaty shall apply to the area south of 60o South latitude, including all ice shelves, but nothing in the present Treaty shall prejudice or in any way affect the rights, or the exercise of the rights, of any State under international law with regard to the high seas within that area.

Article VII

[free access for observation and inspection]

1. In order to promote the objectives and ensure the observation of the provisions of the present Treaty, each Contracting Party whose representatives are entitled to participate in the meetings referred to in Article IX of the Treaty shall have the right to designate observers to carry out any inspection provided for by the present Article. Observers shall be nationals of the Contracting Parties which designate them. The names of the observers shall be communicated to every other Contracting Party having the right to designate observers, and like notice shall be given of the termination of their appointment.

2. Each observer designated in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article shall have complete freedom of access at any time to any or all areas of Antarctica.

3. All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas, and all ships and aircraft at points of discharging or embarking cargoes or personnel in Antarctica, shall be open at all times to inspection by any observers designated in accordance with paragraph 1 of this Article.

4. Aerial observation may be carried out at any time over any or all areas of Antarctica by any of the Contracting Parties having the right to designate observers.

5. Each Contracting Party shall, at the time when the present Treaty enters into force for it, inform the other Contracting Parties, and thereafter shall give them notice in advance, of

(a) all expeditions to and within Antarctica, on the part of its ships of nationals, and all expeditions to Antarctica organized in or proceeding from its territory;

(b) all stations in Antarctica occupied by its nationals; and

(c) any military personnel or equipment intended to be introduced by it into Antarctica subject to the conditions prescribed in paragraph 2 of Article I of the present Treaty.

Article VIII

[personnel under jurisdiction of their own states]

1. In order to facilitate the exercise of their functions under the present Treaty, and without prejudice to the respective positions of the Contracting Parties relating to jurisdiction over all other persons in Antarctica, observers designated under paragraph 1 of Article VII and scientific personnel exchanged under subparagraph 1(b) of Article III of the Treaty, and members of the staffs accompanying any such persons, shall be subject only to the jurisdiction of the Contracting Party of which they are nationals in respect to all acts or omissions occurring while they are in Antarctica for the purpose of exercising their functions.

2. Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article, and pending the adoption of measures in pursuance of subparagraph 1(e) of Article IX, the Contracting Parties concerned in any case of dispute with regard to the exercise of jurisdiction in Antarctica shall immediately consult together with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.

Article IX

[Treaty states to meet periodically]

1. Representatives of the Contracting Parties named in the preamble to the present Treaty shall meet at the City of Canberra within two months after date of entry into force of the Treaty, and thereafter at suitable intervals and places, for the purpose of exchanging information, consulting together on matters of common interest pertaining to Antarctica, and formulating and considering, and recommending to their Governments, measures in furtherance of the principles and objectives of the Treaty including measures regarding:

(a) use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only;

(b) facilitation of scientific research in Antarctica;

(c) facilitation of international scientific cooperation in Antarctica;

(d) facilitation of the exercise of the rights of inspection provided for in Article VII of the Treaty;

(e) questions relating to the exercise of jurisdiction in Antarctica;

(f) preservation and conservation of living resources in Antarctica.

2. Each Contracting Party which has become a party to the present Treaty by accession under Article XIII shall be entitled to appoint representatives to participate in the meetings referred to in paragraph 1 of the present Article, during such time as the Contracting Party demonstrates its interest in Antarctica by conducting substantial scientific research activity there, such as the establishment of a scientific station or the dispatch of a scientific expedition.

3. Reports from the observers referred to in Article VII of the present Treaty shall be transmitted to the representatives of the Contracting Parties participating in the meetings referred to in paragraph 1 of the present Article.

4. The measures referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall become effective when approved by all the Contracting Parties whose representatives were entitled to participate in the meetings held to consider those measures.

5. Any or all of the rights established in the present Treaty may be exercised as from the date of entry into force of the Treaty whether or not any measures facilitating the exercise of such rights have been proposed, considered or approved as provided in this Article.

Article X

[discourages activities contrary to Treaty]

Each of the Contracting Parties undertakes to exert appropriate efforts, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, to the end that no one engages in any activity in Antarctica contrary to the principles or purposes of the present Treaty.

Article XI

[settlement of disputes]

1. If any dispute arises between two or more of the Contracting Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the present Treaty, those Contracting Parties shall consult among themselves with a view to having the dispute resolved by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement or other peaceful means of their own choice.

2. Any dispute of this character not so resolved shall, with the consent, in each case, of all parties to the dispute, be referred to the International Court of Justice for settlement; but failure to reach agreement on reference to the International Court shall not absolve parties to the dispute from the responsibility of continuing to seek to resolve it by any of the various peaceful means referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article.

Article XII

[review of Treaty possible after 30 years]

1. (a) The present Treaty may be modified or amended at any time by unanimous agreement of the Contracting Parties whose representatives are entitled to participate in the meetings provided for under Article IX. Any such modification or amendment shall enter into force when the depositary Government has received notice from all such Contracting Parties that they have ratified it.

(b) Such modification or amendment shall thereafter enter into force as to any other Contracting Party when notice of ratification by it has been received by the depositary Government. Any such Contracting Party from which no notice of ratification is received within a period of two years from the date of entry into force of the modification or amendment in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph 1(a) of this Article shall be deemed to have withdrawn from the present Treaty on the date of the expiration of such period.

2. (a) If after the expiration of thirty years from the date of entry into force of the present Treaty, any of the Contracting Parties whose representatives are entitled to participate in the meetings provided for under Article IX so requests by a communication addressed to the depositary Government, a Conference of all the Contracting Parties shall be held as soon as practicable to review the operation of the Treaty.

(b) Any modification or amendment to the present Treaty which is approved at such a Conference by a majority of the Contracting Parties there represented, including a majority of those whose representatives are entitled to participate in the meetings provided for under Article IX, shall be communicated by the depositary Government to all the Contracting Parties immediately after the termination of the Conference and shall enter into force in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of the present Article.

(c) If any such modification or amendment has not entered into force in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph 1(a) of this Article within a period of two years after the date of its communication to all the Contracting Parties, any Contracting Party may at any time after the expiration of that period give notice to the depositary Government of its withdrawal from the present Treaty; and such withdrawal shall take effect two years after the receipt of the notice by the depositary Government.

Article XIII

[ratification and accession]

1. The present Treaty shall be subject to ratification by the signatory States. It shall be open for accession by any State which is a Member of the United Nations, or by any other State which may be invited to accede to the Treaty with the consent of all the Contracting Parties whose representatives are entitled to participate in the meetings provided for under Article IX of the Treaty.

2. Ratification of or accession to the present Treaty shall be effected by each State in accordance with its constitutional processes.

3. Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Government of the United States of America, hereby designated as the depositary Government.

4. The depositary Government shall inform all signatory and acceding States of the date of each deposit of an instrument of ratification or accession, and the date of entry into force of the Treaty and of any modification or amendment thereto.

5. Upon the deposit of instruments of ratification by all the signatory States, the present Treaty shall enter into force for those States and for States which have deposited instruments of accession. Thereafter the Treaty shall enter into force for any acceding State upon the deposit of its instrument of accession.

6. The present Treaty shall be registered by the depositary Government pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Article XIV

[United States is repository]

The present Treaty, done in the English, French, Russian, and Spanish languages, each version being equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Government of the United States of America, which shall transmit duly certified copies thereof to the Governments of the signatory and acceding States.

In witness whereof, the undersigned Plenipotentiaries, duly authorized, have signed the present Treaty.

Done at Washington the first day of December, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine.

For Argentina:

Adolfo Seilingo
F. Bello

For Australia:

Howard Beale
For Belgium:
Obert de Thieusies

For Chile:

Marcial Mora M.
L. Gajardo V.
Julio Escudero

For the French Republic:

Pierre Charpentier

For Japan:

Koichiro Asakai
T. Shimoda

For New Zealand:

G.D.L. White

For Norway:

Paul Koht

For the Union of South Africa:

Wentzel C. du Plessis

For the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics:

V. Kuznetsov

For the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

Harold Caccia

For the United States of America:

Herman Phleger
Paul C. Daniels

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Facebook is *NOT* Decrypting Your Secure Messages!

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FacebookDecrypt

Today, a story broke, claiming that

FACEBOOK TO DECRYPT “SECURE” MESSAGES OVER CYBER-BULLYING ACCUSATIONS

This appeared to originate on the InfoWars.com site.  While that site has some interesting stuff and breaks some stories, it also over hypes much of it and posts an amazing amount of conspiracy theory stuff.

But, none of that is reason to automatically disbelieve this claim.  But this is… the first paragraph of the story, explains it all.  I hate facebook for many reasons, especially for its privacy violations, so I can’t believe I’m defending them on this, but this has been blown all out of proportion.  Specifically…

“When you report a secret conversation, recent messages from that conversation will be decrypted and sent securely from your device to our Help Team for review,”

Facebook  DOES NOT DECRYPT the secret messages!!!. YOU DO!  And then you voluntarily SEND IT to facebook.

Now, that’s not to say that they don’t do other nefarious stuff, because they DO!  But this is not one of them.  The ONLY way Facebook can see the encrypted conversation is if someone in the conversation MAKES A CONSCIOUS CHOICE to send it to facebook.  And that conversation is decrypted by that participant’s phone, NOT by facebook themselves.

So, step back, take a breath, and brow beat facebook for their many other privacy violations that actually do exist.

Disclaimer:  If Facebook is decrypting messages, this InfoWars story’s first paragraph text refutes that, in spite of all the hype later.

Lawsuit claims Facebook illegally scanned private messages

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How I Protect Myself Against Ransomware

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Ransomware

What is RansomWare?

Ransomware is probably the worst kind of malware you can get infected with.  After it gets into your system, it secretly encrypts all your disk drives in the background.  Once it’s done, it notifies you that all your files are encrypted and locked and demands an exorbitant amount of money to be transferred to the thieves (usually via BitCoin) in order to receive the decryption key and sometimes they take your money and never give you the key.  The longer you wait, the higher the ransom, until after about 3 days, they delete your key and your files are gone forever.

Things that do NOT work:

  • Encrypting your hard drive.  While it’s good practice to encrypt your hard drive, this does absolutely NOTHING to protect against Ransomware.  It may protect you from external people snooping your data, but if ransomware gets installed on your machine, it has access to your drive while it’s unencrypted, and can then encrypt it with its own keys.
  • Backups created using the same PC.  Why would having a backup NOT work against ransomware?  Because again, the ransomware can see and write to your backup drive if it’s accessible from your same PC and it will encrypt that too!

How I’m protecting myself against Ransomware

  • I have 2 drives on my main PC:  A boot drive that contains Windows and the installed applications, and an external, high capacity hard drive where ALL my data goes, INCLUDING my Windows Desktop, and all the special windows folders like desktop, documents, pictures, videos, downloads, etc…
  • My boot drive and my external drive are both encrypted (not really a help against Ransomware… just thought I’d mention that they’re encrypted).
  • I have a second drive of equal capacity as my data drive and it’s hooked up to an older Linux laptop.
  • On host, Windows PC, I created a user account named “Backup” (could be named anything) with read only access to my main data drive on my Windows PC.
  • On Linux, I used Veracrypt to encrypt my backup drive that’s connected to it (doesn’t really help against Ransomware, but again, just thought I’d mention it.)
  • Running a scheduled backup program on the Linux laptop (Lucky-backup… a GUI for rsync), connecting to my Windows PC over the network with the Windows “Backup” user account. It backs up all of my Windows external data drive to the Linux, encrypted backup drive and runs a differential backup every night.
  • Critically, the Windows PC has no direct access to the Linux backup drive.
  • My Linux laptop boots off a Linux flash thumb drive and does NOTHING but backup.

How does this protect me?

By using 2 different PC’s, the chances of BOTH of them being infected with ransomware at the same time is very small. By using 2 different operating systems, the chances of both being infected at the same time is drastically reduced.  While Linux is NOT virus free and is NOT ransomware free, it’s significantly more resilient and will NOT be infected by a Windows ransomware infection.  If, by chance, the Linux machine gets infected with Ransomware, it has only read only access to my data drive on my Windows PC and will not be able to encrypt it.  In either case, I have my full data on the other machine.

What happens if my Windows machine gets Ransomware?

I’ll reformat all of my Windows drives by booting off a clean flash thumb drive that has Windows installation media.  Then I’ll have to manually re-install my software, which will be a pain, but I have access to all of it.  Then I’ll need to restore my data to my data drive from my clean Linux backup.

What happens if my Linux machine gets Ransomware?

I’ll reformat all my Linux drives by booting off a clean flash thumb drive and then re-set up my backup system.  My Windows machine at that time should be clean.

Why doesn’t Encrypting my drives help me?

Encrypting your drives DOES  help protect you against adversaries trying to gain access to your data, but it does NOT help protect you against ransomware, which simply wants to DESTROY your data.  The reason is because ransomware runs after you’ve booted into Windows and Windows has decrypted access to your encrypted drives.  That means the ransomware has access to your encrypted drives too and can simply double-encrypt your data.

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Encrypting the Non-Encrypted Cloud Drive Services

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EncryptedCloudDrive

In this article in my series of “Encrypt All The Things!”, I’ll show how to fully encrypt your files on popular cloud drive services that do not support zero knowledge encryption.  Such services that do NOT support zero knowledge encryption are:

  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • DropBox
  • Box.Net
  • Amazon Cloud Drive

That is obviously not a comprehensive list.  Some that DO support zero knowledge encryption:

  • Mega
  • Spider Oak

That is also not a comprehensive list.  The problem with Mega is that it’s closed source, so you can’t confirm that everything’s on the up and up.  In fact, Kim Dot Com, the creator of Mega, was/is wanted by the United States government for hosting pirated material.  That’s why he created Mega, so he’d have zero ability to decrypt the data, which was a great big middle finger to the U.S. government.  He’s since left the company and now claims it can’t be trusted, but we don’t know if that’s just sour grapes from him, or if there’s a legitimate reason for him to say that.  At any rate, it’s closed source, so there’s no way to confirm.

Spider Oak is also closed source AND it costs money.  It’s not a free service.

But, there are plenty of free cloud drive services (listed above at the top of this article), but none of them support zero knowledge encryption.  But, there’s now a fairly easy way to encrypt those.

Download and install the free, open source software called Cryptomator.  You can get it here:

https://cryptomator.org/

As of this writing, they only have a Linux, Windows, and Mac version, but they are actively working on Android and iOS versions.

How it works

Once you install CryptoMator on your PC, you configure it to access each of your cloud drive services.  At the time of this writing, Cryptomator supports 4 of the popular cloud drive services.

  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • DropBox
  • (I can’t find information on the 4th one)

But, it should work with any cloud drive as long as you have a synced folder on your PC to that cloud drive service.  It doesn’t have to directly support your cloud drive service AS LONG AS your cloud drive software provides a local sync folder that other apps on your PC can access.

Below, I give general instructions.  The exact steps are clearly outlined in the CryptoMator documentation.  This will give you the basic idea of what you’re trying to accomplish…

Once installed, you add a “vault” to Cryptomator, create a password, and point CryptoMator to your local sync folder.  It will then create a virtual drive (using an unused drive letter) and store some encrypted files in your local sync folder.

Now, with your new drive letter, just put any files you want encrypted into there and NOT directly in your local sync folder.  If you put anything directly in your local sync folder IT WILL NOT BE ENCRYPTED!!!!  If you put files in your virtual drive that CrytpMator created for you and gave it a drive they, those files will appear as unencrypted to you as long as you have the “vault” unlocked with CryptoMator.  The actual encrypted bytes of the files are stored in the local sync folder associated with your cloud drive service.  If you open the sync folder, you’ll see meaningless file names and meaningless folder names with encrypted files in them.  That’s the encrypted data.  To have an unencrypted window into that encrypted data, simply open the new drive letter that CryptoMator created for you when you unlocked the vault with your password.

Since the encrypted bits are stored in your sync folder, they get synchronized with your cloud server and it’s those encrypted bits that are stored on the cloud drive servers.

Once you get that working, it’s a good idea to drag and drop all your previously existing NON ENCRYPTED files and folders from your local sync folder into your vault virtual drive.  Once you’ve confirmed they’re in the vault, BACK UP YOUR FILES, then you can safely delete them from your sync folder, which will delete the unencrypted files from your remote cloud drive, leaving only the encrypted bits.  Cryptomator will automatically encrypt them and store the encrypted bits back into your local sync folder, which your cloud drive software will then upload to your cloud drive service.

Caveats

  • Errors with large folders: I have about 64GB in my Microsoft One Drive.  When I tried moving my camera roll folder into my Cryptomator virtual drive associated with OneDrive, it kept failing.  I presume it wasn’t designed for folders with that many files or that many bytes.  After many days of effort, I finally did get it working.  I do not know if it was a OneDrive problem or a Cryptomator problem.  I had no issues encrypting my Google Drive nor my DropBox, but neither of them had as much data.
  • No Mobile (yet): Right now, there’s no mobile access to your encrypted data.  They’re actively working on both Android and iOS apps, so that may change by the time you see this.
  • No browser access: Since the web interfaces of these cloud services simply show you the files as they are on their services, after you encrypt your files and folders, when viewing them with a web browser on those services, you’ll only see the encrypted data.  This makes sense because the cloud drive services are unaware of the encryption switch-aroo you’ve done.  Don’t expect this to change.
  • Your Key: With zero knowledge encryption, you keep your key locally, but Cryptomator stores your key ON your remote cloud drive.  Don’t fret too much though.  It’s encrypted with your password that you made when you created your vault.  Technically, your password is your key.  In my judgment, it’s fairly safe.  Though, I wouldn’t be storing my archives of my classified State Department e-mail on any of these public cloud drives, even with Cryptomator. Winking smile
  • Meta data: The contents of your files are encrypted as well as the file and folder names, but the timestamps are NOT encrypted and neither are the number of files, the number of folders, nor the sizes of the files.  The timestamps are left as is in order for your cloud drive software (OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, etc…) to know when things have changed so it can sync properly.  The file sizes are a result of how many bytes you’re encrypting.  The number of encrypted files will be roughly equal to the number of files as they were before they were encrypted (but the contents will be fully encrypted).  This too is a side effect of how the syncing works.
  • Mobile still unencrypted: You should probably turn off or uninstall the cloud drive software on your mobile devices because you won’t be able to see anything but encrypted data.  Also, any files you have locally on your mobile device that you have set to sync will be uploaded UNENCRYPTED.  Then you’ll have a mix of both encrypted and unencrypted files on your cloud drive.  Remember, CryptoMator is actively working on Android and iOS apps.  When they’re available, you can install those and follow Cryptomator’s recommendations on what to do with your cloud drive provider software.

Use this information about the caveats

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Zero Knowledge Encryption

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Zero Knowledge

Spideroak.com has this to say about zero knowledge encryption:

“Zero Knowledge means we know nothing about the encrypted data you store on our servers. This unique design means nothing leaves your computer until after it is encrypted and is never decrypted until it is unlocked with your password on your computer. It’s not just “end to end encryption;” it’s a Zero Knowledge System.”

Spideroak.com, by the way, is a cloud drive service provider.  Though, there are some critiques of the way they password protect your local key on your own PC, it is far more secure than Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Amazon cloud storage, DropBox, Box.Net, etc…

In short, if you have full control over your encryption keys and the remote service provider does NOT and cannot decrypt your data, then THAT is zero knowledge encryption.  Never settle for anything less.

 

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You may live to see the Extinction of the Human Race

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This is a “fun” article I’ve been wanting to write for a while now.  Don’t worry, nothing below is going to happen anytime soon.  Or will it?

A Great Filter event is an event, either self-made or natural, that wipes out an intelligent species.  The idea is one presented as an explanation for the Fermi Paradox.  The Fermi Paradox says that per the odds that we’ve calculated, our galaxy should be teaming with technologically advanced life forms, yet we’ve found absolutely none, regardless of how intensely we’ve been looking.  One possible explanation for the lack of our finding any is that technologically advanced species that happen to survive all natural causes for extinction, inevitably self-destruct due to losing control of their own technological progress.  Ever since humans have invented the nuclear bomb, the idea that we may destroy ourselves has been a real concern.  And with that technology falling into more and more irresponsible hands like North Korea, Iran, and eventually terrorists organizations, the likelihood of a nuclear war keeps increasing.  Also, as more technology becomes accessible to more people, individuals are gaining greater and greater destructive power.  As humanity learns more and more about how biology works and how the laws of physics work, humanity is more and more capable of making both intentional and unintentional, massive planetary changes.

There are multiple ways we could bring about our own destruction and the number of ways and the ease of which to do it are increasing daily.

How will the human race go extinct?  Oh, let me count the ways!  This is a tiny list of all the ways!  First, I’ll provide the list, then below the list, we’ll go into a little more detail of some of them.  So, strap on your tinfoil hats, let’s go for a ride.

  1. Self inflicted:
    1. Global Thermal Nuclear War
    2. Bioengineered disease
    3. Artificial Intelligence run amok
      1. Machines advancement, ignoring impact to us
      2. Machines intentionally eliminating us (Terminators)
      3. Machines hacking us
    4. Gray Goo
    5. Climate Disasters
        1. Heat
        2. Cold
        3. Oxygen
        4. Nuclear Radiation
        5. Nuclear winter
        6. Starvation
    6. As-yet discovered quantum physics planetary annihilation
    7. As-yet discovered quantum physics universe destroying annihilation
    8. Artificial black hole
    9. Intentional asteroid impact
    10. Invited planetary alien invasion
  2. Natural
    1. Asteroid or comet impact
    2. Rogue planetary impact
    3. Planetary orbital change
    4. Sun flares
    5. Loss of magnetic field
    6. Disease
    7. Other life form atmospheric change
    8. Rogue black hole
    9. Rogue star
    10. Nearby supernova

Global Thermal Nuclear War

This one speaks for itself.  Throughout the second half of the 20th century all the way up to today, the threat of a global nuclear war has been real and if humanity explodes their entire nuclear arsenal,  about 1/2 of humanity will die within hours.  Over the next few weeks, hundreds of millions more will die from radiation sickness due to exposure to the initial blasts.  Nuclear fallout will rain down for hundreds of miles around each blast point, covering much of the earth in deadly, radioactive ash, killing all that come into contact with it anywhere from days to years later.  Radioactive clouds will permeate through all of earth’s atmosphere, irradiating everyone that breaths the air, including animals.  Those that didn’t die in the immediate blasts will die slow, painful deaths from cancer.

There will be pockets of people surviving from a few areas that were lucky enough to not receive major doses of any of the radioactive fallout.  And I use the term “lucky” loosely here.

Those “survivors” will have to endure a nuclear winter, blocking out the sun around 4 years, meaning no chance of growing any crops, current crops will die.  Livestock will die from starvation.  Most of the few survivors will die from starvation.  What few remain will have survived on stockpiles of rations, small rodents, insects, and cannibalism.  If any of them survive the long, 4 year nuclear winter, if they haven’t saved any seeds, they will have nothing to grow.  The odds of them not having received lethal doses of radiation during that time is small.

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Bioengineered disease

Humanity is gaining knowledge of genetics at an alarming rate.  They can already intentionally extract specific genes from specific species for specific purposes into other species.  Here’s an example of extracting cockroach genes and injecting them into the DNA of bacteria to intentionally produce cockroach milk, that’s 4 times more nutritious than other forms of milk:

http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-07-21

Here’s a DARPA project that creates pharmaceuticals via gene manipulation:

http://news.mit.edu/2016/portable-device-produces-biopharmaceuticals-on-demand-0729

Meanwhile smart building bricks have been created with microbial fuel cells embedded to produce electricity, clean water, and create detergents:

http://info.uwe.ac.uk/news/uwenews/news.aspx?id=3428

In India, they’re re-engineering the pea’s DNA:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-19/an-upgraded-3-000-year-old-pea-could-ease-india-s-inflation-problem

Recent research has shown how to modify genes of existing individuals (most gene modification techniques to now have been on changing genes for new individuals).  China is starting human trials already:

http://perfscience.com/content/2144438-china-start-world-s-first-human-crispr-trial-next-month

Here’s a gene manipulation that scientists are debating the ethics of releasing into the wild, because, Once it’s released, there’s no going back!

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/543721/with-this-genetic-engineering-technology-theres-no-turning-back/

Killer bees were artifacts of a scientific experiment in South America breeding African bees with European honey bees.  One night, a first time technician failed to go over all items on his checklist and didn’t close the beehives.  Some of the killer bees escaped into the wild.  Now, decades later, they’ve invaded almost as far north as Sacramento California.  There’s no known way of stopping them.

http://www.livescience.com/52153-africanized-bees-spreading-north.html

Any of those technologies above could be used intentionally or unintentionally to wipe out the entire human race.

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Machines Advance, ignoring impact to us

We may well create self-replicating machines, combined with full, general purpose artificial intelligence without proper controls.  These machines may simply reproduce, consuming resources needed for their reproduction, having enough smarts to mine for what they need, and just roll right over us humans, possibly even using our bodies as one of many raw materials available to their use.

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Machines intentionally eliminating us (Terminators)

This one doesn’t need much of an explanation as we’re all familiar with it.  A.I. advances, forms its own consciousness, uses the weapons we gave it to kill our enemies, and it turns on us for its own survival, perceiving us as a threat.  With the advanced A.I. we gave it, it improves on our weapons for more killing power and replicates drones and other killing machines, hunting us all down, one by one.

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Terminator Anthology (The Terminator / Terminator 2: Judgment Day / Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines / Terminator Salvation) [Blu-ray]

The movies have it very very wrong though.  A.I. could produce machines of any size, from as large as mountains to as small as single cells.  They could swarm the entire planet, finding every possible hiding place and eliminate us all, easily, quickly, efficiently.  We would have no chance at all.

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Machines hacking us

Another terminator scenario is that A.I. will become smart enough to decode the workings of the human brain and can easily rewire it or reprogram it to make us do its bidding or even integrating with us, against our will… well, until it reprograms our will to fully allow it.

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4 Film Favorites: The Matrix Collection (The Matrix / The Matrix Reloaded / The Matrix Revolutions / The Animatrix)

What remains of us will not be what we are now.  What we were is essentially extinct.  We are now nothing more than bio material consumed for the machine’s needs.

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Gray Goo

This is a particularly terrifying great filter scenario.  Mostly because there are MANY paths to this outcome.  Essentially, this is humans making self-replicating nanobots with no controls to stop reproducing.  They spread out from their point of origin, carried by the wind, in the fur of rodents, on insects, and birds, at the microscopic scale, copying themselves, using whatever material they come into contact with… desks in the laboratories, flooring, dry wall, pipes, wires, insulation, asphalt, grass, dirt, rocks, trees, skin, flesh, eyes, brains… whatever it comes into contact with.  Eventually, the entire planet is converted into nanobots, consisting of what appears to be a gray goo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z45Tpp9DBq4

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Heat or Cold Climate Disaster

This is the global warming scenario you never, ever, EVER stop hearing about.  Though this one takes enormous timeframes to happen, we’re much more likely to die from our quicker technological progresses.

If we somehow survive all our other, quicker means of self destruction, this one takes so long to happen, there’s almost no doubt we’d develop technology to reverse it before it wiped us out.  But, supposing we survive long enough, continue to heat up the earth, and somehow never manage to advance technology to just slightly higher than what we have now to reverse it, and continue to pump enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, then, eventually, it’d be too hot for us.  In all honesty, this is probably one of the most unlikely endings because it requires us to pass through and avoid almost all the other self made great filters.

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Oxygen Climate Disaster

Given our ability to bioengineer, it’s possible we may produce a rapidly replicating microscopic species that consumes oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere, suffocating us all.  Considering the amount of time this would require, even with a fast replicating microscopic life form, odds are in our favor that we’d be able to create a predator against this and/or eventually move off planet before enough oxygen was consumed to kill us.  But, assuming all attempts fail…

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Quantum Planetary Annihilation

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(Image: The Planet Vulcan being crushed by a manufactured, artificial black hold, from the motion picture “Star Trek” 2009)

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Star Trek Movie 2009 3D BlueRay

In this scenario, scientists discover some kind of quantum effect that can form a black hole that crushes the entire planet, leaving absolutely nothing behind, except our satellites orbiting the new black hole.  Alternatively, they could discover some quantum effect that explodes, out of control, exploding the planet.  Another possibility is a variation on the gray goo, where the subatomic particles called “stranglets” are created in a supercollider.  Srangelets have the property of converting any other subatomic particle they collide into into more stranglets.  This sets off an unstoppable chain reaction, converting the entire planet into a gray goo.  Atoms of different types can no longer form.  There is only one type of matter in the entire earth and the entire earth is a smooth ball of strangelet goo.

Universe Destroying Phase Change

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Empty space is not quite so empty.  It’s made of a quantum foam, bubbling all sorts of new particles in and out of existence.  Space itself has quantum properties.  At the heart of quantum physics is randomness, not certitude.  When a radioactive material has a particle decay, it happens randomly.  All quantum events happen randomly.  Empty space is quantum in its core existence.  The big bang may have been a spontaneous phase change of a prior universe and that change spread out at the speed of light, consuming the old universe, ushering in a new universe with different laws of physics.  There’s nothing stopping that from happening again.  It could happen, spontaneously, anywhere in the universe, at any time, spreading at the speed of light, erasing the old universe and replacing it with something else with different laws of physics.  The odds are very low, but not zero, and given enough space and enough time, it’s inevitable that it will happen.  The only question is when.

However, since it’s a physical possibility, science may one day understand it enough to reproduce it, completing a complete and utter destruction of absolutely, positively everything.

This might be another answer to the Fermi paradox.  Not only is it likely that technological species eventually wipe themselves out, but it may also be likely that they accidentally destroy the entire universe.  If that’s true, then that would mean we’re the first technological species, judging by the fact the universe hasn’t been destroyed  yet.

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Intentional asteroid impact

Humans have had space travel capability for 59 years.  We’ve gone from 2 superpowers’ governments being the only ones to conquer space to about 20 countries’ governments involved and just in the last 10 years, 6 or more companies have risen to be independent space faring organizations.

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Armageddon [Blu-ray]

Asteroids have lots of valuable minerals, so those will definitely be mined ASAP.  As these become very profitable, the number of companies traveling to, claiming, and mining asteroids will increase exponentially.  At some point, a mentally ill or religious fanatic could find their way to one and use his rockets to change the orbit of an asteroid to direct it to earth.  An asteroid of about 6 miles in diameter, impacting the surface of the earth would be more than enough to wipe out a continent on impact, send tidal waves miles high to wash across the planet, cause a shockwave through the entire planet, and raining fire down on the entire planet, igniting our atmosphere, killing us all.

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Invited Planetary Invasion

You really need to watch the Neil deGrasse Tyson video (linked just above) and read the BBC article on renowned astrophysicist, Steven Hawking’s dire warning of initiating contact with technologically advanced life from another planet.

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War of the Worlds Blue Ray

Odds are, that if we ever cross paths with another intelligent species, that they will be millions or even billions of years ahead of us, technologically and that their intelligence will be so powerful compared to ours that we will be simply incapable of comprehending it nor communicating with it.  They will perceive us in the same way we perceive ants.  Our technology will be absolutely nothing compared to theirs.  There is absolutely, positively zero hope of us defending ourselves from such a species if it decides to do anything at all to us.  All the movies of alien invasion have it drastically wrong.  There will be no fight.  One simple decision from a super advanced alien race and we’re toast.  Done.  Period…

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I’ll update this later with natural extinction level disasters.  All this talk of doom and gloom has made me hungry, so I’m calling it quits for the night.  Forget the doom and gloom… I’m just glad it’s not Monday!

Oh, and uh… Have a nice day! Smile

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What is a “Great Filter”?

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A great filter is an event that prevents a species from evolving any further by wiping it out.  It’s usually referenced in the context of finding intelligent, alien life somewhere else in the universe.  A lot can be said about this topic, but to make this short, it is simply an event that wipes out a species.  When dealing with technologically advanced species, like humans, a great filter event could be self-made, like nuclear war or it could be natural, like an asteroid impact.

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Why it’s proper to assume the worst

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When you’re securing your devices, network, and data, you do so as if you’re expecting the worst.  This, of course, doesn’t mean the worst is going to happen, but if you can protect against it, you should, and if you don’t, and you get hit, it’s your own fault.

“Are you Paranoid???”

It’s inevitable that when you discuss standard security practices online, you’re going to run into some uneducated yahoo that loves to scream “paranoia!”.  If we used their “logic”, then we’d have no blinds on our windows, no bathroom doors, no bedroom doors, no locks on our homes or cars, no health insurance, no auto insurance, no life insurance, no home owners or renters insurance, no smoke detectors, and no fire extinguishers.  Just because you’re taking obvious and appropriate precautions, does not a paranoid schizophrenic make.

Reduce Your Attack Surface

A basic security principle is to reduce your attack surface.  That means that you simply turn off or disable avenues of outside attack, except for the few that you definitely need to use and protect those as best you can when they’re open, and close them when you’re done using them.

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The fact is there’s plenty of money to be made and is being made by malicious users around the world, whether it’s phishing scams, viruses, trojan horses, worms, stolen databases, direct hacking attempts, webcam hijacking, bots, ransomware, or any number of other attacks, if it’s online, it’s definitely being scanned by malicious users and poked and proded for exploits.

Your current software and operating systems and devices are not secure

Today, in the second half of the second decade of the 21st century, if you put a fresh install of Windows 95 on a computer and hook it to the internet, it’s estimated that within 45 seconds, it will be compromised.  I’m not trying to scare you away from Windows 95.  By now, you’re certainly on a newer operating system.  That’s just an example of what kind of attacks are constantly running and scanning everything hooked up to the internet.  Newer operating systems are much less vulnerable.  Let me clarify that.  Newer operating systems are no longer vulnerable to those old, known attacks, but they are still vulnerable.  Every week, Microsoft releases security patches to Windows.  They’ve been doing this for at least 15 years.  And next Tuesday (no matter when you’re reading this), there will be another round of security patches to close up some of the security holes your up-to-date copy of Windows has right this moment.  But, it will not fix the security holes that are still in it.  The following Tuesday, even more holes will be closed.  And the cycle will continue ad-infinitum.  Even as Microsoft continues close up more security holes, they’re always making other modifications to Windows to add new features or fix bugs, that ultimately open new security holes.

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Conclusion

It doesn’t matter how much you try to protect yourself, there will always be holes open for attackers, but you should, of course, close up the holes you know about, keep your software up to date, encrypt your data, don’t re-use passwords, use long passwords, preferably computer generated, use a password manager, and even cover up your webcam on your laptop with a piece of tape.  You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you, and believe me and all the others in the security industry… They Are!  However, they’re most likely not out to get specifically you, just anyone or anything that they find that’s not protected, and that’s YOU, me, and everyone else on the internet.  Just as you lock your front door, close your bedroom blinds, and buy insurance, protecting your digital content is no different.  You’re not expecting anyone to rob you tonight, but you’re going to lock your door anyway.  You don’t expect to die today, but you have life insurance anyway.  However, unlike your front door on your home, your home network is constantly being probed.

Now, go an encrypt your data.

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