Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Did Lieutenant General Bonginkosi Solomon Ngubane of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Lie to South Africa?

While writing this I am honestly shocked. Lieutenant General Bonginkosi Solomon Ngubane of the South African Police Service (SAPS) as come out and (what looks like)...directly lied to the public of South Africa. I am using harsh words like, "lie" because this is something I can directly and empirically prove.

First some context. Yesterday I wrote about the hacker @DomainerAnon  hacking the SAPS website. At the time the hacker thought he was just going after SAPS data but he inadvertently dumped a lot of sensitive whistleblower information which has put the lives of many innocents at risk.

 So this afternoon I am busy reading my news feeds and a headline comes up stating that Lieutenant General Bonginkosi Solomon Ngubane of the South African Police Service has said that no sensitive data was leaked.  I will quote verbatim from the popular MyBroadBand website:
No criminal information or case information was compromised at all,” Lieutenant General Bonginkosi Solomon Ngubane told journalists."
Anyone with half a technology wit can prove that Mr Ngubane is misrepresenting the truth. Let me make the case. I have visited one of the mirrors where the hacked data is stored and will quote some heavily retracted comments from it. 
The above person is a prostitute who will be travelling with 2 men between Johannesburg, South Africa and CENSORED. She is a drug mule and will be carrying a large amount of cocaine. This will happen within the next 30 days. Her ID number is CENSORED.
There's a gentleman staying in CENSORED who sells drugs. Mostly dagga and cocaine. He runs CENSORED and also trains kids at his house. His name is CENSORED. ADDRESS CENSORED his phone number is CENSORED 
Drugs is being sold from this address from the CENSORED  in the back yard at this address. the suspect is also known to walk around with a fire arm a 38 special revolver.tik,dagga and heroin are his drugs that he sell to the young people of the area  
On the above mentioned date my younger sister age 16 was nearly rape and she was rescured by member of the public, when we went to the police station to open a case of attempted rape constable CENSORED and her superior inspector CENSORED told us that there was no panty torn so there is no way they can open a case,
All the quotes above represent but a tiny portion of the 16 000 reports and complaints of the hacked database. All the records come with additional information like telephone numbers, addresses and ID numbers (which for obvious reasons I have not included).

Mr Ngubane tries to pretend the data is not sensitive by saying:
Furthermore, the information that was accessed was the following;
o Information that is published usually, and
o Names and contact details of divisions and provinces, which is made public on the website in any case.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that Lieutenant General Bonginkosi Solomon Ngubane is deceiving the public about the scope of the hack. A lot of very sensitive information was released and I would assume that in the 16 000 records... more than a few of those are open criminal investigations.

I have lost a lot of faith in the South African Police Force since this incident. An investigation into the SAPS and their inability to protect sensitive data should be started immediately.

UPDATE: The hacker  has since read this article and responded with;
@safrikaan and I thoroughly agree with your article...
—Domainer V2 (@DomainerAnon) May 22, 2013
UPDATE: This is the full press released by SAPS

SAPS At about 10:00 on Tuesday, 21 May 2013, the State information Technology Agency (SITA) informed the SAPS that the website of the SAPS had been breached and that information had been obtained unlawfully.
SITA hosts and manages the website of the SAPS separately from the rest of the corporate systems of the SAPS. For this reason, no criminal information or case information was compromised at all. In fact, the corporate systems of the SAPS are hosted in a building in the Pretoria CBD, while the website of the SAPS is hosted in the data centre of SITA in Centurion. They are, therefore, hosted in completely different buildings with no link between the two.
The SAPS can state that no case information or classified information was compromised as this information resides in the mainframe systems of the SAPS, which is hosted separately from the website.
The SAPS has made a facility available on the website where a person may log a request to be addressed by a specific station or division or merely give a compliment. The person may log the request either with a name and contact detail or anonymously, depending on his/her choice. The persons who submitted their names and contact details made it available in order for a representative of the SAPS to contact them. This list was also available for the people who hacked into the website.
SITA has since addressed the security on the above details.
Furthermore, the information that was accessed was the following;
o Information that is published usually, ando Names and contact details of divisions and provinces, which is made public on the website in any case.
Hacking the website of the SAPS will always be a matter that the hacker community will strive to achieve and therefore the website of the SAPS and the corporate systems of the SAPS are hosted on completely different networks and therefore no corporate information of the SAPS will be compromised if and when the website is accessed unlawfully.

UPDATE: Annelize van Wyk Parliament's Police portfolio Committee Acting Chairperson has since responded to this article:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Think Twice, Hack Once - An important lesson to be learnt in regards to the South Africa Police Service (SAPS)website hack

Today I read a pretty disturbing exclusive news article on the ENCA, an independent and reliable news source website.

A hacker who calls himself, "@DomainerAnon" on Twitter hacked the South African Police Service website and it looked like he dumped the contact details of many people who used the website. Both police officers' and innocent whistleblowers' personal information was leaked. Apparently @DomainerAnon is really upset with our South African Police Service because of the Marikana incident..

According to the ENCA website:
"In so doing, the identities of nearly 16,000 South Africans, who lodged a complaint with police on their website, provided tip-offs or reported crimes, are now publicly available".
I contacted @DomainerAnon and asked him why he released the sensitive information of innocent whistleblowers in the course of his hacktivism. Apparently his hacktivist anger is directed at our corrupt government and the inequality still existing in a rich country like South Africa.

To be honest, I agree with him. We do have a corrupt government that is impacting our ability to deal with the social and financial inequality caused by Apartheid.

What I don't agree is his method. If he really wanted to help us he would actually be going after the corrupt politicians. It's not like we lack content. You really want to help South Africa? Expose the corruption.

I did ask why  @DomainerAnon was risking the lives of innocent whistleblowers to prove a point and he seemed to think that he had not released whistleblower information. I think in his mind he thought he was just "sticking it to the corrupt South African government"  by releasing police officer information.

However according the reliable media source ECNA:
"However, was able to download the list posted online in less than five minutes and spoke to some of the people who had logged concerns on the SAPS website. After informing Setati of this, his response was: “The SAPS would like to reserve its comment on the matter at the moment."
Complaints range from rape cases opened in Durban to police brutality in Port Elizabeth. Also on the list are ordinary South Africans asking for help in cases involving vehicle theft and illegal shebeens. People have also complimented police on their work, including speedy responses to emergencies and help in cases."
So it appears @DomainerAnon was wrong. He has inadvertently exposed the personal information of innocent whistleblowers. With one mistake, he managed to piss off just about every South African who is not a corrupt criminal.

After going through the data dump I can personally confirm that @DomainerAnon has released the personal information of many whistleblowers. These people are the most vulnerable in our society. They are rape victims, people reporting drug lords, people reporting corrupt police and victims of domestic violence. This is a pretty shocking release.

There is that old saying. "With great power comes great responsibility". When you become irresponsible with that power and start costing lives, how different are you from American drone strikes and their collateral damage?

I really hope one day to see a skilled hacker expose the corruption in my (and all) government. That's worthy of the respect of the South African people... but this hack. Is not worthy of respect.

EDIT: 22/5/2013: There is a follow on to this story where the South African Police Service misrepresent the truth about the whistleblower leak

Monday, May 20, 2013

Liberalism and Ubuntu. My personal thoughts

I was recently reading a Letter to the Editor that Gareth van Onselen wrote where he emphatically expresses that the concept of Ubuntu and the concept of Liberalism are not compatible. I feel that perhaps this should be looked at in another way.

I understand where the classical liberals (or what we today call “classical liberals”... as the definition of liberal keeps evolving) come from. They come from a time period in the 80`s where just about every government they dealt had a negative impact on society. You had Reagan's America, Thatchers UK, communist Russians and the Apartheid South African government. It was one massive conservative festival.

So when I listen to classical liberals today I totally understand their absolute paranoia for anything that sounds remotely like social welfare. It reminds them too much of their respective communist and nationalist days.

Times have changed. The world has moved on. There are new battles to be fought. We have noticed how countries like Canada and the Scandinavian countries have pulled ahead of other countries in areas such as education, health and safety. When we look at those countries we see that in many cases the state can and has played incredibly important and vital roles.

These days we have less problems with out of control states than we do have with out of control corporations (though generally the two are synonymous). When we look around the world we see new centers of power forming daily as multinational corporations spread around our globe. These new bastions of power are often more powerful than the countries they operate in. We saw what happened in the Great Recession where these giant (mostly unregulated) corporations pulled the economic systems of the world to its knees.

I feel this raw and almost uncontrollable, unaccountable power is a power that many classical liberals are unable to see. They are still so fixated on the dangers of state power and abuse that they willingly ignore the abuse of power from the market.

Too often I see my classical liberal friends using extreme forms of liberalism to justify their selfishness.  Its no small wonder that these type of liberals more often end as Neo-cons or market fundamentalists. Justifying selfishness was always a conservatives game.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”~John F. Kennedy
As a modern social liberal I am different from a classical liberal. I believe in civil liberties like a classical liberal does but I believe in two things that a classical liberal does not understand the importance of. I believe in a transparent and accountable state that is managed by the people for the good of the people that creates a well-regulated and open market, and I believe in social justice. 

I am  an empirical human being. I work on empirical evidence to guide my beliefs. Based on empirical evidence all the best countries in the world are modern social liberal countries or have modern social liberal governments.
In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Its pretty self evident that the bigger the gap between the rich and the poor, the more violent a society becomes. You just have to look at South Africa, its inequalities and its violence levels to get a clear picture of what happens to a society when there is a clear lack of social inequality.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.~Dwight D. Eisenhower
With Ubuntu, no one is advocating a classless state control society where everyone gets the same. Ubuntu essentially means, "people for people".  I know other people give it other definitions, just in the same way that the term, "liberal" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for the sake of this discussion and my mindset, I am working with the above definition. 

I see no logical reason why the word Ubuntu is "anti-liberal" anymore than my other liberal ideologies. Technically, nothing can be truly "liberal" -- i.e. there can not be absolute "freedom", as the concept is paradoxical  You can not have freedom without taking away freedom. Meaning, I cant have the freedom to live without taking away the freedom of the psychopath to kill me.  So we have established the rights of the individual while sacrosanct, does have limits. 

Looking after our fellow South Africans and expressing our humanity by looking after our humanity is not socialism, it is not nationalism, it is not conservatism, it is not communism. It is humanism.
It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”~Hubert H. Humphrey
So I am going to have to say, yes. I agree with Mmusi Maimane. You can have Ubuntu with Liberalism.  We can both believe in the importance of civil rights and liberties of the individual and fuse that with the humanity to make sure that the weakest and most vulnerable in our society are not left behind. 

All the best countries in the world have managed to get this right, I dont see why we can’t. 

One of the reasons I initially joined the Democratic Alliance is because internationally they are recognized as a modern social liberal party. In fact, if you look under social liberalism on Wikipedia, South Africa's Democratic Alliance is listed there. However, being a modern social liberal means nothing I believe is set in stone. Everything I believe is subject to criticism and change. As a liberal, being adaptable to change is one of those core values we should continuously endeavor to.

I also accept that the Democratic Alliance has migrated onto being an Open Opportunity Society for All and this is an ideal I can fully embrace.  I love diversity (as should most liberals). It means I get to hear all opinions. Right wing and left wing. Conservative and liberal. What old classical liberals need to realize is that an Open Opportunity Society for All is not just about the "Open". It is about the "Opportunity for All" as well.

There is an African proverb that I think best describes this entire article I wrote but includes the spirit of Ubuntu in it:
If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.
So are we the type of country that goes quickly and alone, or are we the type of country that incorporates the spirit of ubuntu and goes far together?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Political Cartoon of the Week

What do you mean. YOU need a bailout??

PUT.IO an honest review

I am going to start this review with a disclaimer. PUT.IO is a website service I subscribe to. They emailed me recently offering me a couple of months free usage of their service if I wrote an honest review. They were pretty insistent about the honesty bit. They insisted I talk about positive or negative experiences I have had with their service.

I had been meaning to write an article about their service so I guess this is as good a time as any other.

I came across PUT.IO around six months ago when it was recommended to me by a friend. For those of you who are not familiar with the service, PUT.IO is a specialized cloud storage system. It comes with a diverse set of useful tools:
  • Cloud torrent application
  • MP4 converter
  • The ability to schedule torrent downloads with an RSS feed
  • Video streaming (Browser and other internet steams)
Why would I want a cloud torrent application? For two primary reasons. Speed and security. One of the disadvantages of running with torrents is connections are peer-to-peer which means bad guys like the Russian mafia and RIAA can snoop on what you are downloading. Since PUT.IO is doing the downloading, your downloads are private and incredibily fast. 

If you select your media from ThePirateBay Top 100 Files, then downloads are pretty much instant. If you are like me and have a few regular files that are released weekly, you can use the schedule option so that your media is automatically downloaded and waiting for you to watch at your convenience. 

Have a look at a schedule service like

I think without a doubt the ultimate feature of this service for me is the speed at which you can start consuming your media. Normally I can add any file I want and be watching it within 20 seconds. For someone like me in bandwidth starved South Africa this is important. 

Torrent traffic in South Africa is heavily shaped (slowed down), so one of the added advantages of using PUT.IO is the HTTPS encryption which not only means your traffic is unshaped, it also makes it harder for someone to spy on you.

If you run a Plex or XBMC media player for your home entertainment system, then you will be happy to learn that there are plugins to allow you to stream the media content directly to your main screen. 

Well... thats a short breakdown of the positive side of PUT.IO, now I guess its onto the negative. They are a new service working with some amazing concepts, and a lot of what they are working with is beta type, cutting edge technology. So there have been some teething issues as they have expanded. I also am looking forwards to the day that one of the proxy servers are located in South Africa so I can get even better streaming speeds.

On at least three occasions in the last 6  months there has been lengthy service disruptions. In their defence the last one was caused by one of their datacenters and was beyond their control. They do communicate with you via Facebook and Twitter when there are service issues. The only other complaint I have is with the mp4 conversion times which can be frustratingly slow sometimes. 

All in all I believe it to be a very useful service, one that I am happily willing to pay for monthly. I love it that I can pick any media I want and be watching it on any device in seconds. I can watch it on my XBMC media player, I can watch it on my S3 Samsung phone and I can watch it on my 10" Samsung Android Tablet.

Go check them out, they are a fantastic web based service:

Monday, May 13, 2013

David Bowie on the ISS

First music video ever shot in space. A revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.

Be sure to follow all his social networking feeds!