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How I learned to stop worrying and love the insecurity

A ‘source close to’ ICANN, the International Organisation responsbile for the co-ordination of the internet’s naming system, tells me that they are :

“assuming that every inbound/outbound IP packet over the course of the ICANN conference will be thoroughly inspected and dissected” and that “it’s likely that it will be  impossible or extremely difficult for anyone attending to establish a VPN.”

First of all, I doubt things will be as blatant as this. Beijing is not Pyongyang.

China is the worlds largest nation, Its prosperity depends on its relationships with the rest of the world. No matter what it does with its own population’s access to information, it seems to me that it is not likely to jeopardise its standing in the world by excessively locking down normal standard internet access for some of the most important people in the internet world while they meet in its capital to decide the future shape of the ‘net.

Of course that doesn’t mean that things will be quite as straightforward as they are in, say, Canada or Germany. China hosted a similar (but smaller) international meeting in Shanghai somewhat over ten years ago. Most things worked. I did find BBC news to be inaccessible — which was a bit of a black mark — but that was just a duhka, easily overcome with the right kind of meditation.

Now I have no doubt that Unit 61398 will also have a plan to to safeguard the economic well-being [of the People's Republic]‘.  After all, it’s only reasonable to expect that China would avail itself of opportunities that the UK and USA would not fail to pass up, would you?

Unit 61398


So what could attendees do? I mean that’s proportionate and sensible.

First of all, as Douglas Adams would say: ‘DON’T PANIC’.

I mean, really, you are probably not as important as you think you are.

But, if you work for a corporation, you do have a duty of care to your employers and shareholders so you should not be blind to the possibilities.

The easiest thing is, that unless you have skills in data destruction (DBAN is your friend),  it would be quite sensible to take a brand new laptop to Beijing. Data can’t be stolen from it if it was never there in the first place.

And, unless you are going to keep your electronics close to your breast 24 hours a day, even when sleeping, it seems to me that, rather than interception of your emails,  the biggest threat is that of the ‘evil maid attack’.

If you leave a laptop unattended for even a short time, mirroring your harddisk is a trivial task for someone who has physical access to it.

You can buy a cheap netbook at Tesco (UK) or BestBuy (US) for not much more than two or three hundred dollars.  Cheap at twice the price. There are slightly more sophisticated techniques you can use, too.

Secondly, don’t forget that you might have sensitive information etc on your tablets and iPhones. Leave them at home and take a new GSM only device if there’s a possibility of commercially sensitive data being on them.

Finally, if my sources worst fears are confirmed, and you find that after all you cant ‘call home’ securely (i.e. using your corporate VPN) over the internet, then just sit back and enjoy the holiday away from the routine rush of work emails.

You’ll probably realise that 90% of them you didn’t need to see.

Consider the time you will gain as sesshin.


Silent movie stars, presidents and queens

Last week I stayed at the St Francis Hotel in Union Square, San Francisco. Currently operated by the Westin Group, it is a hotel full of history.

Pictures, July 23 1921, Roscoe

Image via Wikipedia

It was the hotel where Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle stayed, in room 1221, on fateful night which resulted in the death of Virginia Rappe during a party. It is also the hotel where Al Jolson, during a poker game, passed away. Also in Room 1221!

Some years back, the Queen and President Reagan both stayed there at the same time. (Behave!). Bill Clinton was there at the same time as me.

More recently, because of a labour dispute, the hotel was invaded by a flashmobbing brass band and people singing ‘Don’t Stay in a Bad Hotel’.

But my experience was different. There were annoyances, like the exhorbitant cost of sandwiches at the lobby coffee shop, but generally, the attitude of staff to guests was genuinely friendly and concerned and they didn’t seem exploited to me.

There was also another picket (this one was by the hotel workers union — not the one by porn stars) but you know, from a foreigners point of view what I found curious, is that none of the people picketing seemed to be staff.

Bill Clinton

Of course I might be wrong. But from what I’ve seen I would certainly stay there next time I’m in SF.

I wouldn’t mind being caught in a (reasonably) good hotel.

But not in Room 1221.

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Thunderbirds are go!

I’m writing this from the Privium lounge at Amsterdam Airport.

For those of you (probably most) who have never heard of it, Privium is a program – open to all EEA nationals (the EU, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland), which allows high-tech border passage, bypassing the Koninklijke Marechausee‘s passport control checkpoints on entering or leaving the Netherlands to/from a non-Schengen state.

You have a card, which you have to pay for, on which is stored your biometrics (not in any database).

You use an iris recognition device which opens a turnstile which lets you bypass the passport checks.

The look on the faces of US and other visitors to Europe as you use the device and sail past the massive queues is priceless. 

It’s actually open to US citizens too so long as they are Global Entry vetted (There’s a reciprocal deal with Global Entry, although at the moment, European can’t get Global Entry privileges unless they are Dutch citizens).

Privium also has its own dedicated lounge, for which there is an extra fee (this is called Privium Plus). But if you only use it once or twice a year, it costs in with the quality of the food and the ambience, compared with the cavernous KLM Crown Lounge.

The Privium lounge is intimate and cosy,. It’s decorated in a 1960s UFO chic and even better the uniforms worn by the staff seem to have been designed by Gerry Anderson!

Naturally the lounge has its own Privium turnstile, giving instant access to airside, so you have the benefits of being either landside or airside right up until the last moment. (Security checks are at the gates for non-Schengen flights, so you need to add a few mins extra for that).

The only disadvantage is that it’s not open at weekends. But if you transit between Schengen and non-Schengen at Schiphol more than twice a year, its cheap insurance against a missed connection.

(And the lounge is the height of cool!)


Small Island – the movie

Dawn Over Braye Beach - Alderney

Image by neilalderney123 via Flickr

Since starting writing this blog, a number of people have asked me what the small island actually looks like.

So for anyone who is interested, please see the attached video prepared by the Tourist Department and

View the streaming video

Note: Since VISITALDERNEY.COM has done a revamp, the old link to the video is not working. As soon as I find it again, I will update this post.

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