The Year’s Biggest Internet Happenings 2013
For the third year in a row it’s time for me to list the biggest internet happenings of the year, and for 2013 there is no question of what belongs in first place: Edward Snowden, his leaking documents and the surveillance society we live in.
(This is a translated blog post, written by Patrik Wallström, DNS expert at .SE)
1. Edward Snowden
After the recent years of Wikileaks being the source of large leaks on the internet, Edward Snowden is certainly a worthy heir of the number one position. The information we acquired through Snowden has been dominating the discussion of the internet’s future over the past year.
Almost daily since June 6th when it was first revealed that the NSA was listening in on phone conversations through Verizon there have consistently been more revelations. We now know that the NSA and GCHQ, together with others within Five Eyes have conducted a global and systematic business of listening to the entire internet and performed targeted attacks to eavesdrop on particularly interesting sources. Also, the documents Snowden took from Booz Allen Hamilton while working as a subcontractor to the NSA have not even finished leaking information. Expect more revelations during 2014.
Sweden has also been revealed to be deeply involved and is basically now a full member of the group Five Eyes. The Swedish investigative journalism TV show “Uppdrag Granskning” has now gone through those documents that show FRA’s involvement.
Brazil will be hosting the Internet Governance Forum in the spring where questions about the governance of the internet regarding the current mass interception will be discussed. Of course there is fear that we will have a layered internet (or a balkanized internet as many think), where the different nets will not be able to communicate with each other – the opposite to the open and free internet we’re used to.
What Snowden revealed is how we who develop the internet are not taking personal integrity seriously, but have allowed many internet protocols to be in plain text. When 2013 is over, it is clear that we must improve the internet and the underlying protocols so that using the internet will once again be safe. You should not have to wonder how you should formulate yourself or which texts on the internet you can read without also wondering how what you do will be interpreted by others. Many of us have wondered once or twice if personal integrity is dead or at least temporarliy dropping. The hope is that it is the latter.
I’ve also made a list containing this years most important Snowden revelations, you can read it here.
The virtual currency has certainly exploded this year. Bitcoins have definitely gained the most attention for the strong rise in value during the last half-year. As I’m writing this, BTC has gone up in value over 6000 kronor, after being worth around 500 kronor in the summer, which gives an increase of about 1200 percent. Swedish bitcoin companies have also started to pop up, for instance the hardware company KNC Miner.
Now the next question is, when will the Swedish banks take this value seriously? Or will BTC crash and pave the way for one of the other virtual currencies that also have strong growth?
According to The Economist, Bitcoin shows all signs of being a bubble on its way to pop.
But if you are still interested in buying Bitcoins, you can soon do this at a Swedish Bitcoin-machine. If you choose to start shopping with Bitcoins, make sure you’re not robbed. This can happen fairly easily if you don’t protect your digital wallet. Because the value is anonymous, it’s not easy to track down a thief.
3. Television tax goes into effect for computers and mobiles
The administrative court in Luleå finally stated that it is justifiable for Radiotjänst to demand a television license fee from computer and smartphone users.
This is the year’s strongest indication that we’ve quit watching scheduled TV and instead have begun watching TV through the internet whenever it suits us. Last year I noted that the war to sell streamed video and TV online had begun, and this year it’s definitely been proven that these services are popular (although some services were outcompeted: Lovefilm closed its operations in June of this year). SVT also went out in January and said they would stream all of their TV on the internet (but that they wouldn’t require a license for computers). This year’s edition of Swedes and the Internet, however, shows that only three percent of Swedes use the internet as their only source for TV watching and that illegal file sharing is on the same level as previous years.
4. Password leaks continue
Password leaks continue and they also affect more people than ever. This year, for example, we’ve seen a massive leak from Adobe where 135 million passwords were leaked. Surprisingly, many sites that leak out their passwords don’t protect passwords with encryption at all, or use very mediocre protection. It’s been noted that Dustin stores passwords in plain text, which is startling in 2013. It’s possible to store passwords in a way that makes it extremely difficult for an attacker to figure them out. If you make any New Year’s resolution this year, let it be to take control of your passwords so you can minimize the risk of them ending up in the wrong hands. In order to protect yourself as a user, it is best if you can set unique passwords for each service you use (or even use two-factor authentication where possible) by using a password manager. Some tips from our security manager Anne-Marie can be found here.
In last year’s blog post I wrote, ”In Sweden, we have no law that forces companies or agencies to inform their users that they have been infringed and have lost, for example, customer data. I would have liked it if we had a law like that, because the unrecorded cases of password leaks are certainly much higher than the ones we know of. ” I feel this is still valid.
5. The first new top level domains have been approved
The new top level domains have gotten started. We at .SE have worked hard to test the quality of the new top level domains that ICANN has just approved. .SE won the contract to quality test all of the new top level domains for ICANN, and now the first domains are beginning to be delegated in the DNS root after our tests.
When they have been there for a while, those who own the top level domains can open up for the registration of domain names for end-users. Already we have .photography, .tattoo, .bike and .sexy to name a few examples. So next year we will see how the market develops and how it goes with the existing structures of the country-code top level domains like .se and .nu that we now administer. Peter Forsman has blogged about this earlier here.
6. The tablet triumphs
Tablets have really taken over our homes this year. There are now more tablets being sold than personal computers. They say that this year’s Christmas present in Sweden is a juicer, but I think that sounds fishy. I believe there are more tablets than juicers under the trees this Christmas. The great thing is that tablets can really get kids to use the internet more. The bad thing is that it’s still difficult to create content using a tablet. Writing longer texts on a tablet is unbearable, so it’s fortunate that it’s possible to connect a keyboard to them. However, then it’s just like a laptop again! Are we going in circles? Soon, of course, there will be portable computers in our watches and glasses. This year, Google Glass came to selected developers, while Samsung and others have introduced smarter watches, which for example can receive different notifications.
7. Data retention directive
The data retention directive – which means operators have to save metadata from their internet and mobile phone traffic – became law already in May 2012. Internet operators, however, have had little time to implement the features required to comply with what the law requires, so it’s only now that we begin to see the impact of the directive. For years, operators have worked hard to implement the support systems necessary to disclose information to law enforcement authorities. One company, Maintrac, has sold a system to smaller ISPs that has automated the entire process. In this system there was an automatic function for the disclosure of data, which meant that the Swedish Security Service and the police would be able to acquire the information without any control whatsoever. Thankfully, this was stopped at the last moment when the ISPs received criticism. Now some Swedes are starting to think about their personal privacy, even if we have a long way to go. See for example here.
8. Significant increase in data traffic on mobile networks
According to internetstatistik.se, Swedes’ hunger for data is largest in the Nordic countries – we use the most data per subscription in the mobile networks and also have the highest number of fixed subscriptions with 100 Mbit/s per capita. And yet the data traffic in mobile networks continues to increase. During the first half of 2013 we saw an increase of almost 70%. Now that 4G subscriptions have started to roll out to consumers (the number has increased with almost 900%!), this has also led to a sharp increase in the average speed of mobile internet, according to a report from Bredbandskollen. All of this is happening while the number of SMS text messages in mobile networks has been drastically reduced (have you noticed that the offers to send an almost infinite number of SMS in mobile subscriptions have increased?). Read more here.
9. 1 billion gamers worldwide
There are now over 1 billion people around the world who play digital games! This joyful news was delivered by the game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal at Internetdagarna recently. More good news is that GTA V broke sales records when the game was released in September and made a pretty unbelievable $800 million in the first 24 hours. Another reason that there are so many gamers around the world now is of course mobile games – right now, Candy Crush Saga is in the lead as the most time consuming game on the subway. People are simply playing like never before! Because of this, there are more demands on the networks. Hardcore players want high bandwidth and low latency to survive longer than their even more dedicated opponents. When Xbox One was announced at E3 last summer, Microsoft said that it wouldn’t be possible to play games without the console being connected to the internet. However, this was a statement they were forced to back off from, as the world is not (yet) ready to be constantly connected. It would also place even higher demands on availability, and not even Microsoft can promise that your internet operator can provide that.
10. ” My computer was controlled remotely! ”
When the sentence from Svea Court of Appeals came in regarding the case against Gottfrid Swartholm Warg’s hacking of, among others, Logica and Nordea, it became clear that the sentence was milder than the earlier judgmenent of the district court. One of the reasons for this was a weak point in the investigation where the prosecutor failed to prove that Gottfrid’s computer was not being controlled by someone else – something Gottfrid himself claimed. This type of defense has, since then, occurred in other criminal cases and investigators will probably have a more difficult time proving this type of crime in the future.
Up and Coming
• The EU has opened a cybercrime center, EC3, located in The Hague while the Swedish police have also begun to prepare themselves against the organized scam companies that have been running wild on the internet. .SE has also released two great internet guides , ”Protecting your business against fraudsters ,” and “IT security for private individuals.”
• It is becoming increasingly clear that access to the internet is extremely important. This is particularly noticeable when the internet disappears, as happened when Comhem had a major outage in September because of a broken cable, and over 10,000 subscribers were left without internet, some for up to a couple of weeks.