Proton Mail Discloses User Data, Leading to Arrest in Spain

Proton Mail recently disclosed user data to officials in Switzerland, but it’s not really what it sounds like!


A few days ago a story broke about Proton Mail being given a court order to hand over the data of a Spanish dissident. As the headlines read, Proton gave the authorities the information they had and the user got his online privacy violated by Spanish law enforcements.That’s not the entire story, though.

What is Proton Mail?

Proton is a Swiss-based privacy focused company that provides secure email, vpn, calendar, digital keychain, and cloud storage. Proton use open source code so there’s really no reason for anyone to distrust the code. Anyone can verify that the code actually is safe.

Proton’s main selling point is privacy and online security.

Is Proton compromised?

Many privacy aware people jumped on the story and proclaimed that this is the end of Proton and their services. “They are no longer safe to use!” But what data did Proton actually give out?

Making the leap from being a safe and private alternative to other email providers, to freely giving out information about dissidents to officials is a rather big step. A step that would severely damage the company’s reputation in an incredibly scrutinising field. Privacy activists are certainly not forgiving when it comes to breach of trust.

As it turns out, however, Proton really didn’t give out any sensitive information, despite the very sensational headlines.

Enter the Backup Email

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to use a secure service and stop there. One must also make sure to secure anything that may lead back to it. In this specific case, the authorities gained access to the user’s Proton account by forcing Apple to give them access to the iCloud email. The user, unfortunately, used a non-secure recovery email for the Proton account.

OPSEC, OPSEC, and OPSEC…

If you, like this Spanish dissident, have sensitive information in your email account, do make sure that there’s no other way in. Operational security is key. This means that you cannot have any other way of gaining access to the account but for your long password, made up of random numbers, letters, and signs. If you forget the password, you’re locked out of your account, but this is the whole point.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE PASSWORD YOU CAN’T ACCESS THE INFORMATION, NEITHER CAN ANYONE ELSE!

The Disclosed Data

So, Proton didn’t give the authorities any encrypted data, email contents, or anything else that might give them an idea of what the dissident was up to. The information they gave out, according to a statement made by Proton, was limited to the IP address.

After forcing Apple to provide them with the login credentials to the iCloud account, they could then reset the password of the Proton account, using the iCloud email recovery function.

Proton’s response

While Proton can’t disclose additional information about the specific request from the authorities, they did give an answer via email to Restore Privacy. In their response, they concluded that the case involved alleged threats to the King of Spain, and that the access to the Proton account was gained via an Apple account as recovery email. To create a free Proton account you do not have to provide any recovery email, phone number, or credit card. These are all optional.

Conclusion

You can safely continue to use Proton’s services. They do answer the requests of authorities for data, but this data is limited to IPs. Everything else is encrypted and cannot be read by Proton.

Steps for safety

  • Make sure you don’t use any compromised services for backup email. Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. are all no-go.
  • Keep a long password that you can remember in your head and rely on that for access to the account. Any way of retrieving the account if the password is lost is a potential way in for others as well.

…and privacy

  • Use VPN to hide your IP when accessing your Proton account
  • Don’t use your real phone number, credit card number or anything else that can be traced back to you. Pay for, and verify your Proton account using anonymous cards and numbers. This information will be stored by Proton.

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The rise of synthetic coffee

Synthetic food products are becoming increasingly more common, whether we like it or not. the most recent example being synthetic coffee. Is this the future, or is it some kind of Frankenstein’s caffeinated monstrosity that no one will accept?

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Synthetic food products are becoming increasingly more common, whether we like it or not. the most recent example being synthetic coffee. Is this the future, or is it some kind of Frankenstein’s caffeinated monstrosity that no one will accept?

Why synthetic coffe?

According to some people the climate can’t handle the growing of coffee beans so we need to stop the natural production of them to be able to get our caffeine fix.

Coffee isn’t something that Western civilisation, or any civilisation for that matter, will accept to be cut off from. It’s just too ingrained into our culture by now, being consumed by rich and poor alike. If one were to accept the premise that we need to stop, or reduce the production of coffee beans, there must be a good alternative to take its place. Enter synthetic, laboratory- made coffee.

Making synthetic coffee

Currently, at least three startups are working on creating coffee alternatives in slightly different methods.

Atomo Coffee in Seattle are using upcycled plant-based materials to extract molecular compounds to create their beanless coffee. According to them, their coffee generates over 90% fewer carbon emissions and uses 94% less water than conventionally grown, real coffee.

In the next-door neighbour to Sweden, Finland, also the world’s largest coffee consumers per capita at 12 kg per person and year, the next startup is working on abolishing the bean.

Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre are taking a slightly different route, growing coffee from cell cultures in their bioreactors. This method requires no pesticides and much less water and is expected to become approved in Europe and US within about four years.

The nutritional value of the soil and food products

While climate change might be a good excuse since it’s already at everyone’s lips, it’s not the main motivation behind these efforts. An increasing population puts an increasing demand on the food production chains, and specifically on the land that produces the food.

There are studies suggesting that you have to eat about 8 times as much of any given grown food product today than you had to 100 years ago to get the same nutritional value. This is mainly due to overproduction and the impoverishment of the soil.

Conclusion

So, while we have a problem that require drastic solutions, it’s not certain that the general public would accept the solutions. I, for one, am not craving lab-grown coffee, or any other lab-grown food product for that matter.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts about this issue, please comment below! Would you drink synthetic coffee?

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2024-05-12 01:49 | 0 comments

Rakus the orangutang observed treating his wounds with medicinal plant

When speaking about animal intelligence, we often use examples of when certain animals use tools to accomplish tasks. Recently we learned that orangutans use medical herbs and plants to treat injuries!

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When speaking about animal intelligence, we often use examples of when certain animals use tools to accomplish tasks. Recently we learned that orangutans use medical herbs and plants to treat injuries!

The Study

In a study a team of scientists documented the Sumatran orangutan ‘Rakus’ while he was treating his injuries using medical plant Akar Kuning (Fibraurea tinctoria) to treat an open wound on his face. Rakus, collected the leaves from the plant, chewed them up and applied the juice to the wound. He made sure to keep treating it the whole time until it was completely healed.

Akar Kuning (Fibraurea tinctoria)

The plant, Fibraurea tinctoria,�have been used in traditional Indonesian medicine for a long time to treat wounds, diabetes, dysentery, and malaria. Its posstive effects on the body includes antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antoxidant properties.

It is locally common in the area where Rakus live.

First of its kind observation

According to the article, this is the first systematic observation of its kind, where and animal consciously have chosen a plant, treated the plant to extract the active substance, and applied it to the wounded area.

It is worth noting that the plant Rakus used to treat his injury does have pain relieving properties. It is possible that when chewing the plant, he realised that it made the pain go away and thus applied it to the wounded area.

It does pose the question of whether our medical practices can be traced back to shared primate ancestors that roamed the Earth. We might not have been the first primate to use the pantry of the forest to treat our ailments.

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2024-05-11 11:23 | 0 comments

Stargate, Microsoft’s new $100 billion supercomputer-powered AI datacenter

Using the name ‘Stargate’ from an old 1994 sci-fi movie about the uncovering of an interstellar teleportation device, Microsoft and OpenAI announces their 5-tier plan for creating the largest data centre ever built.

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Using the name ‘Stargate’ from an old 1994 sci-fi movie about the uncovering of an interstellar teleportation device, Microsoft and OpenAI announces their 5-tier plan for creating the largest data centre ever built.

Stargate data centre

With an ambitious 4-year plan to launch the next generation of data centres and AI systems, Microsoft and OpenAI are aiming to launch arrive at the fifth and final stage in 2028. The cost to build such a supercomputer could potentially be over $100 billion. This is more than 100 times the cost of the current largest data centre in operation today.

Goal of Stargate

Microsoft has been pouring quite a lot of money into OpenAI and their ChatGPT already, and this will certainly cement the belief of the company in next generation AI. As an increasing amount of traffic and, more specifically, compute online is driven by AI, more data centres and computational power will be needed for every new iteration of the AI.

This will put pressure on the companies aiming to stay at the forefront of the evolving technology. Our physical world is, as opposed to the digital world, finite and resources are becoming more scarce.

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2024-05-10 11:48 | 0 comments

Mobile minimalistic homes: A new opportunity

Working from home is allowing more people than ever to break free from the geographical restraints of having to settle in a specific area due to job opportunities. What it looks like in practice varies from person to person and between places, with some p

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Working from home is allowing more people than ever to break free from the geographical restraints of having to settle in a specific area due to job opportunities. What it looks like in practice varies from person to person and between places, with some people opting for remote cottages while some tour the world in a minivan.

Why break free?

There are many reasons as to why someone would ‘take to the woods’ after scoring a remote job. Some people just want to avoid other people and do so by creating their own little place on earth. In other cases it is to reduce their living expenses. It’s not cheap to own or rent a house nowadays and by leaving cities and larger areas the prices tend to go way down.

Some just have a wandering soul, where they feel a need to not be here. It’s like the opposite of longing for something. To crave the adventure.

How to break free

First of all, we’ll need something to live on, whether it’s old cash you’ve put in your mattress for a rainy day or a job that allows a traveling, remote job. We also need some means of getting around.

Your vehicle of choice may vary, some people prefer the sea and head for open waters in an expedition sailboat, yet some feel at home on the open roads.

Due to the small and cramped spaces of most minivans and the possibilities of a trailer, there are a lot of hype going into different types of trailers for more than camping.

The MOCA timber-framed cabin on wheels

In a recent article in Wallpaper magazine we’re introduced to a relatively new way of accomplishing remote living. The MOCA (Mobile Catalyst) house on wheels is a self-suffiecient mobile home designed by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC). Their goal was to create a minimalistic, beautiful, self-sufficient home easy to transport made for off-grid living.

It’s like a prepper’s dream meeting an old-school timber cabin maker!

It’s made from locally sourced materials, not dependent on fossil fuels for two people to live in. It sits on a 5.4 meter long and 2.4 meter wide platform, reaching it’s highest point at 3.6 meters.

Some of its features are:

  • Kitchen
  • Shower area
  • Toilet
  • Utility cabinet for electric and water metabolic systems
  • Glass façade with cotton curtains for increased privacy
  • Solar panels on roof, with batteries that can sustain the wheeled house for 24 hours without recharging

There’s a lot of development in the areas of tiny homes, on wheels and otherwise, from battery packs, cleverly engineered heaters, dry toilets, and much more. I believe it’ll be one of the outlets we will have in the near future to remove ourselves from the increasing monetary burdens of taxations and regulations.

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2024-05-07 11:52 | 0 comments

A Third of US citizen’s health care information leaked in UnitedHealthcare hack

Healthcare data is the new gold for hackers on the dark web, where this type of information pays significantly better than other types of data, like credit card information, or passwords.

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Healthcare data is the new gold for hackers on the dark web, where this type of information pays significantly better than other types of data, like credit card information, or passwords.

The UnitedHealthcare hack

The estimation of the hack is “maybe a third” of Americans having had their personal health information and personally identifiable information stolen, according to Andrew Witty, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group. To gain entry to the database, the hackers used compromised credentials without any type of multi-factor authentication.

While the data didn’t include complete medical histories or doctor’s charts, the full scope of the hack is still under investigation. It have caused significant concern due to the volume of sensitive information that has potentially been exposed.

Passwords and multi-factor authentication

Due to the fact that more and more websites and accounts require, or at least have the option to use 2FA (two factor authentication), mere passwords doesn’t really get you anywhere anymore. The same goes for credit cards, where more and more card companies have similar setups. In Sweden, e.g. almost all online transactions require you to verify your true identity with BankID.

Health care data

Health care data doesn’t really have any such safeguards.

Normally, your health care data sits in a huge database together with other people’s health care data. While there certainly are numerous safeguards provided by the host, we’ve come to realise from leaks all over the world that no data is safe. Anywhere.

Previously, this data was held in a physical folder in your local doctor’s office. Sure, a burglar could smash a window and grab all folders in the office and even publish all of your health care data in the local newspaper. While horrible for the people who got their data stolen, the reach is still quite small and thus the damage not enormous.

Digitalised and centralised health care data

Today, pretty much any hospital and doctor’s office can fetch your information from the centralised system to review your history, etc. This is great should one find oneself at the need of a doctor in a new place. It is also great for anyone interested in stealing health care information en masse.

We will most certainly see a lot more of hackers gaining access to official databases, like that of the health care, in the near future. Open source AI can already hack websites autonomously and as time passes the targets will become bigger and more advanced.

It might not be the best idea to keep valuable information such as health care data open to the masses and governments around the world might want to rethink the great digitalisation strategy with outsourced data centers and private contractors.

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2024-05-06 11:15 | 0 comments