A New Age of Humane Treatment: How Technology Can Change Prisons

Corporations all over New Zealand are increasingly becoming more high-tech as a way to increase productivity while cutting costs. That’s where companies like BlueJeans enter the picture, with their video conferencing equipment, making it possible to hold meetings across a variety of platforms. But today’s high-tech world also makes it possible for prisons to treat its inmates more humanely.

The concept of humane treatment has been at the forefront of the New Zealand prison system since it is believed that by treating prisoners with care and respect as well as giving them the means to integrate themselves back into society, this can help to prevent them from walking back down a criminal path. It is based on the concept of humane treatment in action that one of the current debates within the New Zealand government has been to implement new technological methods into the way in which prisoners are dealt with. This is due to the need for both rehabilitation as well as lowering the overall cost of management in today’s prison system.

Fewer Guards and Fewer Walls

One of the first proposed changes for the New Zealand prison system is the implementation of RFID prisoner tracking which would enable the prison guards to monitor the movements of prisons throughout the facility. Basically, as explained by Computerworld.co.nz, the system utilizes medical grade RFID chips which will be placed into prisoners as a means of tracking their movement throughout the prison which would result in a faster and more efficient method of prisoner tracking. The Identity Chip, a small innocuous device no bigger than a grain of rice, can be surgically inserted within the skin of a prisoner enabling a safe and efficient way for prison staff to access the personal history of prisoners as well as track their movements within the jail without having to track them via CCTV cameras and prison personnel.

The RFID system can also limit the ability of prisoners to enter particular areas of the prison by keying the RFID frequency emitted by the chips to the door locks which helps to minimize instances where prisoners inadvertently get a hold of the keys to a restricted area of the prison. Through the implementation of a prisoner tracking system, the New Zealand government will be able to save significant amounts of money on the cost of prison operations. This in turn could go towards improving the conditions within prisons such as better access to medical care and more productive activities (i.e. classes so that inmates can learn skills which they can apply outside of prison). It is expected that once the tracking system has been successfully implemented, this will result in altered operations for local prison systems towards more efficient and effective prison management without having to scale up personnel.

Changing Prisoner Visits

Aside from using RFID tags on prisoners, another change that has been implemented over the past few years has been the use of video conferencing in order to create a means by which families and friends can stay in touch with their loved ones that have been incarcerated in prison. Globalmed.com explains that this program was implemented as a means of enabling prisoners to maintain ties with their family members and friends outside of prison. Medscape.com states that by maintaining these ties and having the prisoners know that they have people missing them and waiting for them outside the prison that this can aide in their rehabilitation. Such a notion does have a lot of promise since it is thought that one of the reasons why criminals go back to being criminals after their prison time is over is because they believe that there is nothing more for them in society. If they can see that there are people that love them and are missing them, it is likely that rehabilitative measures are going to be more successful due to the desire of a prisoner to continue to maintain such bonds.

Creating Access to Online Courses

Another possible change that may be underway in the New Zealand prison system is the potential for prisoners to have access to online lessons. This can range from enabling them to finish high school or even earn a certificate for a particular skill such as plumbing, construction, etc. The point of this system is help prisoners integrate better into society once they are out of prison.


Through the implementation of an RFID prisoner tracking system, the job of the support staff will be that much easier since they will be able to immediately monitor and restrict the movement of prisoners throughout the facility. By knowing where all prisoners are at all times, this helps to reduce the need for a block by block examination of the entire facilities of the prison and makes their job safer since they do not need to be among the general prison population to conduct a daily headcount of the prisoners. Aside from this, the use of video conferencing also aides in helping prisoners realize the need to become a positive part of society through proper rehabilitation and potentially even taking some of the prison sponsored courses so that they will be able to have some means of earning a livelihood once they are out of jail.

Firefox On iOS? There’s A Catch With That!

Mozilla Firefox have deployed new ways of attracting a bigger share of the browser-based market, now, users of iPhones and iPads who would like an alternative to their current mobile browsers might have found one, as Mozilla is going to begin rolling out the first public preview version of the popular and well-recognised browser for iOS. Sounds good, slight problem with that, you may need your passport.

Mozilla is aiming to garner public opinion and feedback in order to develop the software for the Apple platform, ready to immediately test drive the software? Good, I take it you do reside in New Zealand. Yep, Firefox in their blog post have stated that “we will be collecting feedback in one country, before we extend availability to get feedback in a few more countries prior to a full public launch” Did Mozilla throw a dart to determine which country would receive the preview first?

So, what features will the good folks in New Zealand have available to them? The preview release features include,

  • Intelligent Search – Which provides suggested search results and the choice of search providers
  • Firefox accounts – take your Firefox browser history, passwords and tabs from your desktop to your iOS devices.
  • Tabs – Visual Tabs, an intuitive way to keep track of your open tabs

If you’re a Kiwi and would like Firefox on iOS, then by all means test the first preview, if you’re not a Kiwi but would like to try the software, you will have to wait until Mozilla throws another dart to decide the next country to be rewarded with the version.

Thank you mozilla blog for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of wmpoweruser

It Might Be Time to Delete Your Mega Account

Controversial German web entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, founder of defunct file sharing site Megaupload, and its sister cloud-sharing service Mega, has warned that Mega has been forced out of his control via a hostile takeover and into the hands of the New Zealand government, via a Chinese businessman wanted for fraud.

Dotcom revealed the news during a Q&A session on Slashdot, during which he responded to user questions ranging from his foray into politics with the Internet Party in New Zealand to his dealing with US law enforcement. When asked, “What assurance could you give someone to the point that their files may not be kept secret while hosted on [Mega]?”, Dotcom replied:

 I’m not involved in Mega anymore. Neither in a managing nor in a shareholder capacity. The company has suffered from a hostile takeover by a Chinese investor who is wanted in China for fraud. He used a number of straw-men and businesses to accumulate more and more Mega shares. Recently his shares have been seized by the NZ government. Which means the NZ government is in control. In addition Hollywood has seized all the Megashares in the family trust that was setup for my children. As a result of this and a number of other confidential issues I don’t trust Mega anymore. I don’t think your data is safe on Mega anymore. But my non-compete clause is running out at the end of the year and I will create a Mega competitor that is completely open source and non-profit, similar to the Wikipedia model. I want to give everyone free, unlimited and encrypted cloud storage with the help of donations from the community to keep things going.

Mega, if it was ever trustworthy, certainly isn’t now. Deleting your files and closing your account seems like a sensible move.

Thank you Slashdot for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wired.

TV Companies to Sue VPN Providers “In Days”

Two New Zealand internet providers who refused to disable their VPN services are to be sued by television providers within days. CallPlus and Bypass Network Services, both ISPs that provide their customers with VPN functionality, will face legal action from media companies SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox, and MediaWorks for continuing to allow users to bypass geo-restricted content.

SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox, and MediaWorks contacted the two ISPs – as well as a number of other New Zealand-based providers – earlier this month, threatening legal action unless they cease VPN services. Both ISPs refused to comply, though Unlimited Internet was one ISP that, when challenged, dropped its VPN service.

Using VPNs to access region-locked content – as many Australians were doing to access Netflix before the on-demand streaming giant expanded its service into their territory – has become a common practice which, despite being referred to as “VPN pirates”, is not illegal (yet).

Patrick Jordan-Smith, CEO of Bypass Network Services, responded to the initial threat by TV companies with a letter, calling them bullies and reminding them that no law was being broken.

Jordan-Smith wrote, “To receive without warning a grossly threatening legal letter like that from four of the largest companies in New Zealand is not something we are used to. It smacks of bullying to be honest, especially since your letter doesn’t actually say why you think we are breaching copyright.”

He continued, “[We provide our service] on our understanding that geo-unblocking to allow people to digitally import content purchased overseas is perfectly legal. If you say it is not, then we are going to need a lot more detail from you to understand why. Simply sending us a threatening letter, as frightening as that may be, does not get us there and is not a fair reason for us to shut down our whole business.”

The TV companies were unmoved by the letter, with Kevin Kendrick, Chief Executive of TVNZ, saying, “Our position has not changed and unless they remove the unlawful service we will begin court action in the next few days.”

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

US Government Seizes Kim Dotcom’s Assets Again

German web entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, as a businessman, politician, and world-ranking FPS player, is like a real-life Buckaroo Banzai. Unlike Banzai, however, Dotcom does not have friends in the United States government which, for the second time, has seized the New Zealand-based MEGA owner’s assets, worth millions of dollars.

The US government has won a civil foreclosure case against Dotcom, which has separated the mogul from around $67 million-worth of assets, including cash, property, luxury cars, jet skis, high-end appliances, and his art collection.

Dotcom told the New Zealand Herald that he feels cheated, since he was not entitled to defend himself against the foreclosure. He said, “By labelling me a fugitive the US court has allowed the US government to legally steal all of my assets without any trial, without any due process, without any test of the merits. The asset forfeiture was a default judgement. I was disentitled to defend myself.”

The foreclosure case relates to the on-going legal action against Dotcom over his former file-sharing site Megaupload, through which Dotcom was accused of breaching copyright, piracy, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom and his fellow Megaupload defendants are due for a hearing in June which may see them extradited to the US on criminal charges.

Source: New Zealand Herald

Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom Declares Himself Broke

The founder of seized file-sharing website Megaupload, Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz), has announced that he is “broke”. He claims to have expended £6.4 million in legal costs, defending himself against charges of internet privacy in New Zealand. His defence team, from law firm Simpson Grierson, has now stepped down since Dotcom cannot afford to continue paying them.

Dotcom said at a London conference, by videolink, “The [US authorities] have certainly managed to drain my resources and dehydrate me, and without lawyers I am defenceless. They used that opportunity to try and get my bail revoked and that’s what I’m facing.”

Dotcom’s finances also took a hit when the political party he backrolled, the internet Party, failed to gain a seat in New Zealand’s last general election back in September.

“Before I started my political movement – the Internet Party – I was quite popular in New Zealand,” Dotcom said. “After I got involved in politics and the prime minister of New Zealand and his party attacked me viciously, labelling me a Nazi… and [saying] I’m only starting my political party to fight my extradition… New Zealanders unfortunately have bought into that narrative and today I’m a pariah. The witch-hunt worked, and everyone wants to see me burn, and next Thursday I might go to jail because of that.”

The trial of Kim Dotcom continues.

Source: BBC

Tor/Tails Linux Users and Linux Journal Readers Tagged as “Extremists” by NSA

Tor and Tails Linux Users, as well as Linux Journal readers have been apparently tagged as ‘extremists’ by the National Security Agency, having leaked documents reveal that the XKeyscore snooping program is apparently targeting anyone who is interested in online privacy and use the latter software.

For those who do not know, XKeyscore is a piece of software which was among a number of surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden last year. Having said that, sources say that a number of Tor project members and security specialists from NDR and WDR in Germany have analyzed the source code and identified two German Tor Directory Authority servers as being under surveillance by the NSA, having other specific IP addresses cited.

However, the code appears not to keep every country in ‘lockdown’. Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia and the US have apparently been given a free pass from the NSA’s surveillance program. For those who are not, the program is stated to mark and track IP addresses of users who search for keywords such as ‘tails’ or ‘Amnesiac Incognito Live System’, along with ‘Linux’, ‘ USB ‘,’ CD ‘, ‘secure desktop’, ‘ IRC’, ‘truecrypt’ or ‘ tor’, having also referring to the Tails Linux distribution as “a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums”.

The report also states that, aside from Linux Journal, other websites such as privacy.li, FreeProxies.org, HotSpotShield, MegaProxy, FreeNet, Centurian, and an anonymous email service called MixMinion are on the surveillance list. Aside from the surveillance details, nobody knows who leaked source code in question. While the obvious ‘target’ would be Snowden himself, other security specialists point to a ‘second leaker out there’.

Following the leaked information, the NSA has apparently released an official statement (available here), stating that the agency only collects data relevant for them and authorized by law, pointing out that tools such as the XKeyscore have different layers of searches and data gathering, relevant to and in accordance with every nation’s laws.

Thank you Tech Spot for providing us with this information

Australian Apple Devices Get Hijacked Using ‘Find My iPhone’ Feature

Apple’s Find My iPhone feature is one of the most important features of the company’s security, having the ability to find, lock and even erase and iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac’s data in case it is stolen or lost. However, what would happen if it would somehow got ‘hijacked’? Some Apple users from Australia might have an idea on that now since their devices were hijacked by a hacker or a group of hackers.

The hacker (or group of hackers), no details confirming the number or identity has been officially confirmed, locked the devices using Apple’s own Find My iPhone feature and held them for ransom having set a PayPal account to transfer the money in order to regain access to the devices.

What is known about the individual(s) is that he/they go by the name of “Oleg Pliss”. The ransom amount varied from $50 to $100 and the instructions were quite clear, to transfer the named amount of money to the PayPal account displayed in the message. Fortunately, users who have set a passcode on their accounts were able to regain access to it quickly due to the fact that nobody can add or change a passcode on a device that already has one.

Less fortunate users however had to deal directly with Apple Support and solve their hijacking problems. The reports indicate that the incident occurred only in Australia, though there are some reports indicating similar issues in New Zealand and the UK.

The exact method of hacking has not yet been confirmed, though it is believed that it has something to do with users recycling the same passwords captured in other internet breaches.

Either way, Apple users have been recommended to change their passwords to a more unique combination or even enable the two-factor authentication and set passcodes on all of their devices.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Endgadget

Final Specifications And First Images OF R9 295X2 Leaked

While the new card from AMD isn’t due to be fully revealed (officially) for another week, that hasn’t stopped a few leaks from getting through the cracks in the internet, just like every other major hardware reveal. As you may already know, the Radeon R9 295×2 is a single GPU that features two 290X cores on one PCB, offering massive power gains from its two full-Hawaii XT cores.

While the specifications above are just a rumoured leak, this close to the reveal we have little reason to doubt they’re as close to final as can be. As you can see above we have 5632 SPs, up to 4-8GB GDDR5, which can be doubled in a 4+4 or 8+8 format on a per GPU basis. A huge memory bus, dual 8-pin power connections and a retail price that is half of the Titan Z. Does this card have any hope of competing with the Titan Z? Nope, not really, but in terms of price vs performance it could smash Nvidia into the ground.

The cards have already started to surface in the tech world, but that hasn’t stopped someone from leaking two images of what is belived to be the new card and the water cooler that has been rumoured. We long suspected the card would be water cooled, especially given that the 290X Radeon cores run very hot, putting two on one card runs the risk of the card melting through the Earths crust without sufficient cooling.

Only one week to go and well know for certain what this card is capable of and with this and the Titan Z hitting the market, it’s going to be a very exciting month for ultra-high-end graphics cards.

Thank you PC Max for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Chiphell.

Microsoft To Be Worried About PCs That Are Still Using Windows XP

According to Redmond’s statistics, Microsoft has around 377,000 PCs in New Zealand alone that are running Windows XP and will be made vulnerable after April 8, 2014. Also, users of the old and popular WIndows XP could affect others who have already upgraded. Personal information could be put at risk as well as business trade secrets, customer account data and more.

“We estimate that up to 377,000 PCs in New Zealand running Windows XP could be vulnerable to malware attacks after 8 April 2014 and we want to make sure that Kiwis upgrade before Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP”. “For businesses, upgrading an operating system takes time. Depending on complexity, small businesses could take three to six months to upgrade, and larger businesses can take six months or more. We are really worried that some New Zealand companies are cutting it too close to the end of support date.” – Dean Edwards, Windows business group manager at Microsoft NZ.

Hackers could reverse engineer fixes made to the newer platforms and see if the exploits work on Windows XP. Therefore, Microsoft has a big challenge not only to provide customers with their latest products such as Windows 8.1, but also convince users and businesses to switch to a more up to date operating system like Windows 8 or Windows 7.

Thank you Tom’s Hardware for providing us with this information

New Zealand’s GCSB Avoid Police Charges Over Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom

The New Zealand Herald reports that New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has been let off facing police charges for illegally spying on Kim Dotcom, founder and owner of Mega and MegaUpload. Despite Green Party co-leader Russel Norman filing a complaint against the GCSB no further action will be taken against New Zealand’s NSA-equivalent.

“Detective Superintendent Peter Read said today that while there was one occasion of illegal activity under the Crimes Act, there was not the element of criminal intent needed to show the GCSB was were criminally liable.”

Despite being let off without disciplinary action the GCSB were still criticsed for poor performance:

“Mr Read said while there was no criminal liability by the GCSB, police did identify a number of shortcomings” in the handling of the interception requests, including the GCSB had an incorrect understanding of the Immigration Act 2009 and how it related to the GCSB Act.”

The prosecutors, on behalf of Dotcom, stated that the so called “independent” overseer of the case, senior barrister Kristy McDonald, is working for the police in the case against Kim Dotcom. They say that outcome is is just another example of the failings of New Zealand’s spy agencies not being held accountable.

Image courtesy of the GCSB

Anonymous Targets New Zealand’s GCSB in #OpKiwiFreedom

Anonymous are continuing their campaign against the New Zealand government. The new campaign #OpKiwiFreedom is fighting against the recently passed GCSB bill which essentially authorises the government to spy on its citizens, more so than it had done previously. As part of this campaign Anonymous have targeted the New Zealand’s GCSB with DDoS attacks and have successfully managed to take site down on numerous occassions leading to what the GCSB called temporary service interruptions, according to the New Zealand Herald.


The message from the campaign is pretty clear and isn’t that different to what civil activists are lobbying for in the USA right now. That is; they want the mass surveillance to stop, they want transparency and they want the New Zealand government to be accountable to the people and to be controlled by the people – not the other way round. The New Zealand government has refused to comment if it is involved with the NSA’s PRISM and Xkeyscore programs. Despite their denial there has been sufficient evidence from the Snowden leaks to implicate the New Zealand government at the heart of the Xkeyscore program.

The Anonymous campaign was finished with the traditional message;

Operation Kiwi Freedom initiated.


Image courtesy of New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau

Kim Dotcom Will Lobby Against Surveillance Bill In New Zealand

Government surveillance is the hot topic on everyone’s minds these days and it seems Snowden’s actions in revealing the PRISM program in the USA have set off a chain of investigations in other countries into government surveillance. The latest government to take fire is the New Zealand government and Kim Dotcom is the man leading the charge.

Kim Dotcom intends to become involved in the next general election of New Zealand in an effort to lobby against new legislation that would grant New Zealand’s spy agencies more powers in retrieving personal information of internet users. Kim Dotcom was speaking with the New Zealand Herald and had the following to say:

“I’m going to get engaged. I’m going to help as much as I can during the next election to make sure there is a government that takes the Internet more seriously”

There is currently a new bill being discussed in New Zealand that would give its Government Communications Security Bureau more powers to spy on citizens on behalf of other agencies providing there is a warrant. Kim Dotcom is unhappy about this and no doubt is influenced by his own personal experience of being illegally spied on before his house was illegally raided by an invalid warrant.

Image courtesy of Kim Dotcom

Kim Dotcom Does Interview With Australian News Station

Megaupload Limited was a fairly large website, which provided a single service, cloud storage. Kim Dotcom founded the website in 2005, active for almost seven years before the United States FBI seized the website. But not only that, they froze all his assets, confiscating computers and equipment.  It has been a year and a half since Megaupload was seized, but that won’t stop people who want to illegally obtain software, movies and more.


The F.B.I. “Charges Leaders of Megaupload with Widespread Online Copyright Infringement”, which is just the start to a laundry list of charges.

  • Engaging in a racketeering conspiracy
  • Conspiring to commit copyright infringement
  • Conspiring to commit money laundering
  • Two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement

If found guilty of all charges, each individual could easily spend the rest of their life in prison. Racketeering conspiracy and money laundering both carry a 20 year sentence, while copyright infringement carries a 5 year sentence, each charge of substantive criminal copyright infringement caries a 5 year sentence.

Cloud storage is getting more and more popular, many websites use cloud storage, allowing you to store and share your files, and many of the services tell users right in their “Terms of Service” that you are not allowed to upload copyrighted material, just not in so many words. For example Dropbox says “Dropbox respects others’ intellectual property and asks that you do too.” As websites and services offered are not able to monitor everyone on the internet, unless you are the F.B.I. & N.S.A. and have PRISM doing all of your work. Megaupload received over 15 million takedown notices for copyright materials, in which they complied faster than the law requires.

Mega, the successor to Megaupload was launched January 19, 2013, advertised to be “BIGGER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER. SAFER” is hosted in Dotcom’s home country of New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom stated in an interview with the Australian Public Television station, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  “Let me make one thing crystal clear. I haven’t uploaded any copyright infringing material, I haven’t shared any copyright infringing material”

If you would like to see the full interview, produced by ABC, you can check it out HERE. During his interview he stated that he would upload video of the raid to YouTube.


One theory is that the reason for the takedown of Megaupload is that the New Zealands Prime Minister handed the U.S. Government on a silver platter as part of negotiations with Warner Brothers executives for filming “The Hobbit in New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload charged for users uploaded content, do you think he should be held accountable?

I would like to give a special thank you to Australian Broadcasting Corporation News for sharing this interview.

Image from http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk

Magnitude 7 Earthquake Under New Zealand Has Been Happening For 5 Months

A report by GeoNet suggests that a magnitude 7 earthquake has been occurring underneath New Zealand’s North Island now for over 5 months. Citizens in the city of Wellington and in other places on the North Island have yet to feel anything either despite a magnitude 7 earthquake taking place 40km below the ground.

The earthquake is said to be New Zealand’s largest earthquake in 150 years yet nothing is felt at the surface and recording instruments are struggling to pick it up. The reason is that unlike “normal” earthquakes that release their energy in minutes, this is a silent or slow-slip earthquake that takes ages to release its energy over a longer period.

The current silent earthquake beneath New Zealand involves the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates and affects 100 square kilometers of land from Levin to Marlborough Sounds. Specialists expect it to continue, largely unnoticed, for another few more months.

“GeoNet’s continuously-running GPS instruments in Wellington and Kapiti show that the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates are slipping past each other more rapidly than usual. This has been going on since January of this year, and will most likely continue for several months.”

While slow-slide events are unlikely to cause any damage, they can trigger other damaging earthquakes so New Zealand definitely isn’t out of the woods yet.

Image courtesy of GeoNet