A CCTV Surveillance camera on a street in China

How Does China Use Mass Surveillance Technology?

In his celebrated work of dystopian fiction “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” author George Orwell once envisioned a “world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon.” Describing a society menacingly ruled by a dictatorship solely interested in using its considerable political influence to oppress its own citizenry, [1] many readers in Orwell’s time thought that the author was predicting a social scenario that could never actually come into being. In essence, the notion that a government could spy on its citizens through their television screens seemed like the stuff of science fiction to a populace that couldn’t even afford to purchase television sets. At the time, in fact, Orwell was writing about the rise of Stalinism in the then-burgeoning Soviet Union. But a year after “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was written, China experienced its own Communist revolution, [2] and in the wake of that event, the country descended into a surveillance state in all but name. As China ushers in a new age of social surveillance technology 70 years after Maoism became the country’s de facto political philosophy, [Read More…]

Dronebuster device in use during a training exercise for dealing with COTS drones

Methods to Counter Drones

Cheap drones, like the DJI Phantom, are becoming a ubiquitous technology. They can be cheaply used for surveillance (unmanned aerial surveillance), and in some cases they are being weaponized. How can you perform counter-drone operations? First of all – we’re assuming you are legally able to do this. There are “no drone airspace” restrictions in place around many government facilities, including Air Force Bases. Let’s look at the options. Kinetic Methods Physical damage to the drone through gunfire is also an option. But, firing off guns (especially up in the air) can lead to more trouble than it is worth. Bullets fired on a high arc have to land somewhere – and that’s both a safety risk to people and it is highly likely to cause collateral damage. Nets can be used to ensnare drones – but this is a relatively short range method. As we’ll see, there are easier ways to counter drones. Command and Control Disruption Systems like the Dronebuster are capable of interfering with the drones radio command frequencies. This effectively neutralizes the drone, and prevents it [Read More…]

Poster showing how GPS works

How GPS Works

GPS is a constellation of 24 or more satellites flying 20,350 km above the surface of the Earth. Each one circles the planet twice a day in one of six orbits to provide continuous, worldwide coverage. 1. GPS satellites broadcast radio signals providing their locations, status, and precise time (t1) from on-board atomic clocks. 2. The GPS radio signals travel through space at the speed of light (c), more than 299,792 km/second. 3. A GPS device receives the radio signals, noting their exact time of arrival (t2), and uses these to calculate its distance from each satellite in view. To calculate its distance from a satellite, a GPS device applies this formula to the satellite’s signal: distance = rate x time, where rate is (c) and time is how long the signal traveled through space. The signal’s travel time is the difference between the time broadcast by the satellite (t1) and the time the signal is received (t2). 4. Once a GPS device knows its distance from at least four satellites, it can use geometry to determine its location on [Read More…]

Cellular phone tower

Why Cell Phones Are Inadequate For Private Communication

Cell phones (smart phones) are not a good option for private communications. Why? They way cell phones work is that they are actually mobile radios. They communicate with a network of cell towers – think of these as “relays” for the cell phone network. And for calls to be routed properly, the cell network has to know the physical location of your phone at all times – so it can route incoming calls to your phone. That’s right – when your cell phone is not in airplane mode (or turned off) it is constantly reporting it’s location to the cellular network. And that’s the origin of the term “cellular” network – it’s split up into cells covered with radio towers. Additionally, your voice calls are routed through the cellular provider’s network. Cell phone calls are encrypted – in that you can’t listen to them over the air using a generic radio – but your cell provider can of course decrypt and listen in. How about using Internet connected applications? Internet applications like WhatsApp are a better choice. WhatsApp has end-to-end [Read More…]

USB cable connecting to a USB port on a laptop computer.
Cyber Security

USB Can Be Dangerous

The USB ports on your computer are dangerous! Did you know that? Maybe not – but let’s go through the potential threats in depth. USB ports have been around for a long time – and just about every computer has them. They can be used for a variety of devices – thumb drives or flash drives, keyboards, mice, web cams, and much, much more. The USB (or Universal Serial Bus) port was a big hit when first introduced. There’s a few reasons for that. The USB port is very versatile. It can provide power to devices – which is great for flash drives and small portable hard drives – or even a mini fan! They can transfer data signals. And they are part of a “bus” -which means they can pass on data from another USB device. USB is very friendly to computer users – but the original designers did not foresee how these devices might be abused by hackers and cyber criminals. USB – Power Surge The ability of a USB port to power small devices is very handy. [Read More…]

A handheld GPS receiver

GPS Spoofing

The Global Positioning System (or GPS) is a satellite navigation system that uses satellites to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning. This technology is everywhere – it’s in your car, your smartphone, your watch, your fitness tracker, handheld GPS receivers, and more. But did you know that these satellite signals can be jammed – or even worse – deceived using something called GPS spoofing? Let’s take a look at this interesting topic of discussion. What we’re going to review here applies to any of the popular satnav systems – that includes GPS (the US satnav), Galileo GNSS (or Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System – the European version), and Russia’s GLONASS system. How does GPS work? There are multiple GPS satellites in orbit around the earth. Special chips can be included in nearly any electronic device that can read signals transmitted from the satellites. And combined with a bit of math – the device can determine your position with great accuracy as long as it can receive signals from at least 4 of the satellites overhead. Sound expensive? Yep – it is. (At [Read More…]

ProtonMail offers end to end encrypted email, with a privacy first focus

Using Encrypted Email for Privacy

Do you use gmail for your email address? Google has very lax privacy rules about the contents of your email. Basically, your personal emails in Google are a treasure trove for advertisers, and Google. For true email privacy, we recommend ProtonMail instead. Why ProtonMail? That’s what we’ll discuss here. By the way, ProtonMail is the secure email that international journalists use to foil Russian security and intelligence agencies. Swiss Privacy – Data Security and Neutrality ProtonMail is incorporated in Switzerland and all their servers are located in Switzerland. This means all user data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws. From their website: “ProtonMail is outside of US and EU jurisdiction, only a court order from the Cantonal Court of Geneva or the Swiss Federal Supreme Court can compel us to release the extremely limited user information we have.” Having said that, ProtonMail is subject to the rules of law and order in Switzerland – and the Swiss do cooperate with international law enforcement agencies, as you would expect. End to End Encryption – Automatic Email Security In Protonmail, all [Read More…]

Tor Browser - Defend yourself against tracking and surveillance. Circumvent censorship.

The TOR Browser and Tracking, Surveillance, and Censorship

In a previous article, we talked about how using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help provide better security and privacy when you use your computer. A VPN can help obscure your location, and also provides additional encryption to prevent snoops from seeing what you are doing, and to hide sensitive data. But, there is another solution for those who are privacy conscious – The Tor Browser. First of all, what is the Tor browser? TOR stands for the The Onion Router. It’s a system built to help provide privacy and can help you browse the web in anonymously. The Tor Browser is a special version of the FireFox web browser – so if you’ve used Firefox it will feel very familiar. And it’s free. But there are MAJOR changes under the hood. Let’s talk first about what the benefits of using the Tor browser are. Benefits of using the Tor Browser Firstly, the Tor browser blocks trackers. Third-party trackers and those annoying ads that follow you around the Internet can’t happen when using the Tor browser. It is constructed [Read More…]

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an important tool to use to protect your privacy and to enhance your security.

Using IPVanish for VPN

Here at CovertBlueprint.com we recommend everyone use a VPN. Maybe not for all network access, but to help ensure privacy and confidentiality when it matters the most. We use IPVanish. Why? First of all, when considering privacy a VPN is only as good as it’s adherence to a zero-logging or no-logging policy. IPVanish does not keep logs – period. That means there’s no record of when your home IP connected to their service – or to where you connected afterwards. Secondly, the performance is very good, and they have a lot of options. Lastly, they allow up to 10 connections on one account – which means you can cover multiple computers, iPads, and smartphones all at the same time. Setting up IPVanish on MacOS After you’ve purchased IPVanish, you’ll need to verify your email address. Once that’s done, you are ready to go. You’ll see options similar to this. In this case, I’m setting up a Mac. The link downloads a Disk Image (.dmg) file. Click to open, and drag the icon onto the Applications shortcut link. Launch the program, [Read More…]

Thermal imagers have many uses in hunting, surveillance, and equipment maintenance

Thermal Imaging for Surveillance

In this article, we’re going to take a look at using thermal imaging (or “thermal vision”) for surveillance purposes. First of all, what do we mean by thermal imaging? All natural and manmade objects emit infrared energy as heat. With the right equipment we can detect the very subtle temperature differences of everything in view – and present it as a video image. Thermal imaging technology reveals what otherwise would be invisible to the naked eye. This sounds like exotic technology (and it sort of is) but you’ll also be surprised at just how capable and affordable these thermal vision devices have become. Having said that – “affordable” is relative in this case. This IR gear is more expensive than night vision devices that use Image Intensification methods that amplify ambient light. There are also a lot of interesting uses of IR that aren’t just for surveillance – we’ll talk about those too. Advantages of Thermal Imaging for Surveillance Thermal Imaging has some substantial benefits over class night vision using Image Intensification. Thermal imaging works in daylight or darkness – [Read More…]