Archive for January, 2011

Seven Firefox add-ons that improve online privacy

by Joseph Guarino, CSO Mar 12, 2010 10:30 pm

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from CSO.

As strange as it might sound, there are times when I wish for the old days of the Internet circa the early 1990’s. The days of Mosaic and Lynx, where there was no Flash, no JavaScript and no Java. A simpler time where protecting your privacy and security wasn’t as essential as it is today.

Time travel isn’t an option for securing my browser. But Firefox gives me it all and then some. The number-two browser (with 32 percent market share), Firefox is a cross platform, standards based, open source browser. It is feature rich and has supernumerary add-ons to extend its functionality. In the spirit of Open Source, its community maintains a focus on security and has a strong record of swiftly patching known vulnerabilities, faster in some cases than most others in the market.

Firefox isn’t just a killer app; it’s also a pillar of the Internet community. When it comes to security and privacy, the Firefox picture is compelling, with over 600 add-ons related to privacy and security. Acknowledging the current state of privacy and security, these add-ons are a welcome addition to any browsing experience.

My goal in this article is to highlight a few of my favorites with the hopes that you too will take advantage of them.

NoScript NoScript is a powerful add-on that blocks and blacklists JavaScript, Java, Flash, and other plug-ins by default. It features protections against Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Flash XSS and clickjacking, to name a few. With most websites relying on these plug-in technologies, you effectively have to whitelist the sites for them to function. Using the NoScript status bar icon, you can whitelist on a temporary basis or add sites to your permanent whitelist. This preemptive script blocking tool is a must for any Firefox user.

BetterPrivacy BetterPrivacy is an add-on that lets you manage LSO-cookies — or, as they are commonly known, flash cookies. Flash cookies are a newer and more enhanced way of storing information about you and your online activities than traditional cookies. Unlike the traditional Web cookie, flash cookies don’t expire and can’t be deleted within the browser’s interface. Even “delete your recent history” doesn’t remove these “super cookies.” Adobe currently only provides an online-only website storage panel to manage them, which is hardly user-or-privacy friendly. Thankfully, BetterPrivacy helps us chomp on those pesky cookies, allowing us to manage and remove them.

Adblock Plus Adblock Plus is a simple add-on that gives granular control over page elements such as ads/banners content in your browser experience. Although it does use a region-specific block list, you can configure filters with great flexibility, blocking or allowing content as you see fit. Adblock is a God-send for those of us who don’t want a Web littered with poorly targeted ads.

Foxproxy Foxproxy is a feature-rich proxy management add-on. It allows ease and customization in managing your proxy setting. For example, you can add multiple proxies and to define how and when they are used based on URL patterns, wildcards, expressions, etc. Added support for Tor provides some privacy and anonymity. Foxproxy even supports Tor in conjunction with Privoxy, the non-caching Web privacy enhancing proxy offering even greater potential for online privacy and anonymity.

Firebug Although Firebug is technically a Web-development tool, it certainly holds its weight in helping protect our privacy/security. This tool allows us to monitor, debug and edit the content of any website live in any webpage within the browser. We can see all the details on the regarding HTML, CSS, JavaScript and related webpage resources in great detail. It does help the more nerdy among us ascertain what’s going on under the hood of a website with nicely detailed, color-coded and organized displays. It’s helpful in investigating websites that seem slightly fishy.

Torbutton Torbutton is a simple add-on that allows you to configure Firefox to use Tor. For those unfamiliar with Tor, it is a distributed, community run network that provides relative anonymity/privacy to those utilizing it. Torbutton allows for a Firefox user to easily and quickly turn on Tor for some basic anonymity in their Internet activities.

FireGPG FireGPG is an add-on that allows integration with the cross-platform, free software encryption suite GnuPG. (GNU Privacy Guard). GnuPG is an OpenPGP standards-based free software encryption tool that allows you to encrypt and sign your communications. FireGPG allows you to encrypt, decrypt, sign, etc. directly within Firefox. FireGPG also supports direct integration with Gmail, with more webmail applications planned the near future.

Firefox is a great choice for those interested in a feature-rich, stable and secure browser. With the addition of these add-ons it proves to be a powerful tool for protecting your security and privacy. If you’re not already a user I encourage you to give it a try. The dedicated nature of the Firefox community promises more innovations to look forward to in the future.

Joseph Guarino is the owner and senior consultant at EvolutionaryIT and is based in Boston.

Reprinted from Macworld


An Open Letter To The Kashmir Interlocutors

By Javed Naqi

22 December, 2010

I am a voice from Kargil, an isolated barren island of forgotten people and I want to be heard. I have several questions.

I strongly believe that the call for Azadi/Freedom or for that matter political resolution and other similar demands is a concern that is secondary to us. The primary concern is on the issue of basic survival, which is threatened and remains at stake due to the geographical isolation and harsh climatic conditions of Kargil. Kargil is connected to the outerworld via Zojila pass, which becomes inaccessible atleast for six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and hence begins a period of isolation for the people of Kargil. This isolation results in great loses in terms of education, health, rural infrastructure and most importantly sustainability. During summers, the people and the government become more involved in stocking basic amenities for the winters. Thus, energy and time are invested into it and other major development issues in different sectors get ignored. We have little choice but to consume stocked stale food items, thus raising health concerns among the people of Kargil. Can you imagine how this impacts our well being and bodily and mental developments? This tragic existence rests far from the reality in which rest of India and the world lives.

The people of Kargil have been demanding construction of a tunnel through the Zojila pass or an all weather road for years but ability is forced into disability and disability is made more difficult. People who can make this happen have no justification to give. Pleas and requests find their place in the dustbin. The well-being of the people is a lip story. It hasn’t reached the hearts and the minds of those who have the power to turn the tables. The situation is gross and needs to be assessed.

This is what I feel is a sheer injustice and violation of Right to Life depriving Kargil of all weather connectivity. This gives an impression to a youth like me that the powers at New Delhi have always viewed Kargil as a battle field rather than a human inhabited territory. The aspirations and concerns of the local mass are always pushed back in the priority list and hence leaving the inhabitants to struggle for the survival.

If our country can give grants in millions of dollar in the neighbourhood for infrastructure vis-a-vis road development and connectivity, isn’t it possible for the nation to spend a minute sum of it for its own people to connect them with the outer world round the year. The construction of tunnel at Zojila or all weather road will result in a dramatic shift in socio-economic development of the region. The dream tunnel will save crores of state money, now being spent for air maintenance and winter stocking of the region both by army and civil administration.

I wonder when looking at stories of technological developments in our country, isn’t it possible for this technology to break the centuries old isolation of Kargil. As a youth who believes in change plus follows and admires wonders of mankind’s ingenuity, I can’t take that Zojila tunnel is an impossible venture owing to the geo-climatic conditions. There are many examples of similar and much difficult projects carried out by different nations. China made it possible the miracle train to Tibet which traverse a mountain pass sitting 5,072 meters (16,737 feet) to rise up to the Tibetan plateau. Zhongnanshan Tunnel in Shaanxi province, China, is the longest two-tube road tunnel in the world. The 18,040-metre long tunnel, crosses under the Zhongnan Mountain.

I dread the winter isolation more than a war happening in Kargil. The war would come once in a while but this isolation knocks at the door every year. The war would kill during the war but this isolation kills every year. I often ask myself a question. What is happiness and what is national pride?

I want AZADI from the six months isolation during winter. I don’t want to see it as a fate as it has been accepted by my people for this long. This isolation has rendered us as the most backward district in the entire country.

Why are we quiet? Winters are there and Kargil, my destination is cut off from the rest of the nation. I raise my voice to save lives that perish due to approach being blocked in winters and so unavailability of basic amenities, for educational institutions shut down due to harsh climatic conditions, roads are completely blocked with no resources reachable, cultivation and irrigation comes to a standstill. Under such climatic conditions year after year human life is always at stake.

Javed Naqi
A Voice of an inmate youth from the freezing prison, Kargil.