Collapse of Cyber Anonymity

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Published on The Doomstead Diner August 23, 2017

Discuss this article at the Cyber Security Table inside the Diner

A few weeks ago I bought myself a new computer, a Dell "All-in-One" unit which is sort of a Laptop on Steroids.  All the components besides the keyboard and mouse are packed into the same framework as the screen. No tower necessary here, so very clean on the desk or wherever you wish to put it.  Much larger screen than even the largest laptop, good for watching videos if you do that sort of thing on your computer, which I do periodically these days.  I don't watch whole movies generally speaking or have a Netflix account, but I do watch music videos and some newz stories.  It is also nice to have a real big screen just for reading these days, as my eyesight finally appears to be deteriorating after 60 years of not needing glasses or contacts.  I'm going to have to go in to an optometrist and get glasses pretty soon I think.  My right eye is much worse than the left one, and overall the right side of my meat package is deteriorating faster than the left, not sure why that is.  I am left-handed though, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

Unboxing the new computer on Christmas Day as my present to myself was a bit of chore, since my right arm doesn't work too good anymore and has little strength.  It is OK for keyboarding, but doesn't work too good for tasks that take some strength like pulling an object tightly packed into a box out of that box.  But I did in the end get this job accomplished, and after installing batteries in the wireless keyboard and mouse that came with the computer, I was ready to get it set up!

This is the first new computer I have purchased in a couple of years, and the last time I bought a new one I did notice that I was asked to Sign On to the internet in the process of setting up the computer, but it wasn't required and I was able to set it up while not being internet connected.  NOT SO THIS TIME!

The second screen that showed up after firing up the new Dell was a screen that asked me to make an internet connection.  There was no Option Out of this that I could see.  Unless I signed on to the internet, there was no way to make the computer actually WORK!  Now, I am sure a good Code Jockey could have loaded Linux onto the computer from a disk and circumvented this, but I am not that conversant with this stuff, as most people are not.  So for me as for most people who buy computers you are dependent and TRAPPED by the folks who make them into giving up a lot of information about yourself the moment you unbox your computer and want to work with it.

Who wanted my personal information here?  Well, first off, Dell the manufacturer of the computer wanted it in order to provide "support" for the computer, including of course the regularly scheduled and NECESSARY updates.  In fact, even on unboxing here a brand spanking new computer, it already needed updates to the OP system.  OK, it took me 3 weeks to unbox, and it probably was sitting in the inventory at Best Buy for a month before that, and then it also probably took a month before it made it from the Factory Floor in China via a COSCO Container Ship to the Best Buy Big Box store in Anchorage, so the OP system it was loaded with was already at least 3 months old, but probably more than that since on manufacture the latest version of the OP system is already months old.  In order to combat viruses and malware that circulate around the internet, the OP systems have to be constantly updated with the latest in barriers to infection of some kind.  This kind of updating is now done on a Monthly if not Weekly basis.  No way to keep up with it manually, you gotta TRUST that the automatic updates are all good and for "your protection".  Why am I suspicious of that idea?

If you are not a Code Jockey, you gotta depend on the pros who manufactured your computer to regularly update it, so you sign off on the Support Agreement.  What this does though is allow said manufacturer access to the basic OP system of your computer, including really just about everything you ever keyboard in or websites you ever visit.  Even if you did encryption on everything, the computer could still have a "backdoor" which records your passwords in some hidden file you never would be aware of unless you were a really first class Code Jockey  and went through every line of code running the computer with a fine tooth comb.  So, OK, I grasp this fact of life and cough up my personal information to Dell so I will get support for the unit.

Next up in the line of corporations I need to cough up my personal information to is Microsoft, who provides the Edge Browser the computer is loaded with which allows me to begin surfing the internet.  Until I get the Edge browser activated, I can't even surf to download Firefox so I can stop using Edge and use Firefox instead!  I could circumvent that by downloading Firefox onto another computer, then loading the .exe file to the new unit, but this is a fucking pain in the ass most people including yours truly will not do.  It's a waste of fucking time because by one means or the other, all these corporations will get your personal information in the end anyhow.

So now OK, I now have Firefox installed, but they ALSO want my personal information for further support on their browser!  Dutifully, I hand off this information to Firefox as well.  After Firefox gets my information and I use it to sign on to my Yahoo Email Addy, Yahoo recognizes I am using a new computer and asks for all sorts of Verifications that this is really me, including my Cell Phone number which they asked for a while back so I could "recover" my account in an emergency.  So once again, I dutifully keyboard in my personal information to Yahoo, who already has it from previous episodes of this nonsense so its not a big deal, other than the fact this now ties the new computer and everything I ever drop on it to ME!  Incontravertible EVIDENCE someday in a Court of Law when I am tried for TREASON before being sent to GITMO for some Waterboarding Fun as my last stop on the way to the Great Beyond.  I am not sure if this is better or worse than Freezing to Death as a Homeless Cripple on the Streets of Palmer, Alaska or not?  That's a tough choice on worser endgames for RE. lol.

Now, perhaps a super-duper Code Jockey can still stay anonymous on the net, but I sure can't.  Every time you want to access some new necessary service, whoever provides that service wants to know everything about you that is the least bit important.  Name, Physical Address, Email Address, Phone Number how big your dick is, etc.  I keyboard in my Dick size measured in Nano-meters so the number looks really BIG! Anonymity on the internet is a thing of the past in any event, regardless how big your dick is.

I'm a child of the computer age, even though I never specialized to become a Code Jockey.  When I began at Columbia University in 1974, computers were just starting to get distributed out somewhat.  The TRS-80 and Apple 2e had yet to be born.  To use the computers of the era, you had to go to the Computer Center on campus, and mainly they were good only for Word Processing tasks at the time.  Keyboarding out your weekly required papers was better to do there than your Electric Typewriter, because you could fix your mistakes and get a nice clean copy off the printer without using Whiteout.

Around my Junior Year, they installed computer centers in all the dorms, but these weren't really independent computers, they were terminals that were wired in to the mainframe at the computer center on campus.  At this time they also were wired into the "Arpanet", and chit chat from some University Geek at Columbia to some University Geek at Harvard or Yale or Princeton became common on IRC, or "Internet Relay Chat".

After graduating, there were a few years where I wan't connected to this growing communications medium, but in the early 90s I finally got my first Personal Computer, an ACER Tower Unit with all of 500 MB on the hard drive and maybe 4 MB of RAM.  Things were really starting to HOP at that time, AOL got on the top of Networks fairly quickly and "You've Got Mail" became a feature of life for a small portion of the population of early adoptees of the systems.  It was at that time believe it or not if you are  millenial very rare to find somebody else who had an email addy.  Only other geeks had email addys at this time, and no official communications with anyone were yet done over the internet.  In fact, Goobemint Agencies were among the last adopters of email, and they still lag to this day in terms of communicating this way.

The other difference between the 90s and today on the net is back then it wasn't very well tracked in any way, which is why I refer to the period as the "Wild West".  There were all sorts of crazies running around the net at the time, and they would play havoc with anything you were doing.  The big ISPs began to clamp down on the stuff though as we moved into the 2000s, and each year as we move forward the "Free & Open" internet disappears even more.  Everything is tracked now, everything is recorded, and you absolutely CANNOT keep your identity SECRET if you want to access the services that the net provides in terms of communications.  It's very reminiscent of the scene in "Dances With Wolves" where Kevin Costner as John Dunbar wants to go see the Frontier "before it is gone".  The frontier is gone now on the internet, and what we mostly have left is a tracking mechanism that will collate and store everything you ever do or say, and peg it to your phone number which is pegged to your credit card number which is pegged to your social security number.

There is a  tradeoff that has been made for "security" versus "freedom" on the internet, just as the same tradeoff is being made IRL.  There is less threat now from sexual predators for instance than there was in the 90s.  Now everyone can be tracked, along with all their downloads and conversations on the net, so it's harder for a sexual predator to operate now on the net than it was back then.  But in return for that additional security, you pay for it with your own daily conversations and downloads being recorded and tracked.  Beyond that, the fact that computer memory has become so cheap allows TPTB that run these systems to record EVERYTHING you ever do or say every moment of your life, long as you are carrying a cell phone connected to the 4G network, soon to be 5G.  It has a GPS chip embedded, so your location is always known.  When you go in to buy a 6 pack of beer at the liquor store, also known and recorded to your file.  As long as you use the system, you can and will be tracked, basically from the moment you are born until the moment you die.  You cannot avoid this tracking as long as you want to use the system.

Really, REALLY good Code Jockeys can still avoid some of the tracking, but even for them to do so is a major pain in the ass.  A simple example would be setting up a Skype account. Soon as you do that, the computer you did it with is recorded, so is the ISP you have your account with, which you pay with your credit card which is tied to your bank account which has your social security number on it.  You're a part of the MATRIX here with all of this stuff.

For myself, I have quit on the idea of anonymity as long as I continue to use the internet, along with mostly the idea of using encryption to maintain sececy in communications.  For the average J6P, you simply do not have enough knowledge to control what is being "updated" on your computer automatically each day by whoever manufactured it or whoever provded your browser so you could surf the collapse blogophere.  Today, I simply no longer CARE if the NSA reads what I write, in fact I hope they do.  I hope I have some spook who gets the thankless job of having to read through my fucking endless stream of prose! lol.  Talk about a job you don't want to do every day to make a living! Prison Guard would be a better job! lol.

OK, now back to the task of getting the new unit set up completely so I can switch over and have a nice HUGE screen I can read without squinting or closing my right eye.  Then getting all the fucking software I use installed on the thing.  Such are the pleasures of life at the close of the techno age.

6 Responses to Collapse of Cyber Anonymity

  • Mo Flora says:

    RE  Glad to see you survived the eclipse and are still with us.  

    • RE says:

      Made it thru the eclipse, still gotta make it back to the Last Great Frontier.  Currently sitting in the Spokane airport waiting for a flight to Seattle where I will spend another couple of days hanging out with another Diner who was at the Big Event with me.  Got some good video and a lot of pics.  Hope to have an article ready for Sunday Brunch when if all goes well I should be back in my digs.


      • Hugh Culliton says:

        Hi RE: Glad you're still hanging in there!  Ironically, my kids and I read Nineteen Eighty-Four as a fun summer shits and giggles thing to do. Privacy is a thing of the past – watch the Snowden Vice interview if you haven't. WRT computers, I've taken to setting all our old computers down at the 100 yard butts and shooting them with 100-plus year old firearms.  A 600-grain minie-ball out of my .577 Snider-Enfield moving at ~1200ft/sec, is surprisingly good at circumventing the firewall and password.

        Even up here in the 65% – zone, the eclipse was impressive!  In 4 years the next one comes right over my house – can't wait! Hell, it might be the only broad-band entertainment still available (LOL)!

        Safe trip back!

  • ALLEN J THOMA says:

    Hi RE,

    Also glad you're back. I enjoyed 15 seconds of totality here in the coastal mountains of central Oregon. Was a little scared we might have heard the last of your Wit and Wisdom. Hopefully you can stay around for the collapse, any day now;-) Have a safe flight north.


  • David Thomas says:

    Well RE, with all of your quite obvious IT skills, installing/using Linux would be a breeze. I generally use Ubunto comes with Libre Office, Firefox and numerous tools plus all the WiFi bitsand low overhead so high performance hardware not mandatory. There are of course updates but don't take anywhere near the time of MS updates to install. Got to be a bit careful with bios setup sometimes if you want to dual boot!! Pick yup yourself a $50 laptop or just bring back into use one of your old boxes and play!

    • RE says:

      I have been advised many times to switch to LINUX.  Sadly, I am a creature of Habit and have been using MicroScum OP systems for decades, and I don’t have the energy these days to teach myself a new OP system.  Besides, when you buy hardware units on the cheap at the Big Box stores, they always come with Windows OP already installed.  I would have to partition the hard drive and set up a whole other OP system. I just don’t have energy or motivation to do that.



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