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Australian Metadata Retention - What you Need to Know

Australian Metadata Retention (known as Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015)) is now law, having received assent on the 13th April. Service Providers now must start retaining metadata from October 13 2015 unless acting under an approved Data Retention Implementation Plan
Do I Need To Retain Telecommunications Data?
According to Part 187A, Metadata Retention laws apply to any service provider whose service is for carrying or enabling communications, operated by a carrier or internet service provider, or declared by legislative instrument, or the person is operates infrastructure in Australia that provisions any relevant services but does not apply for a broadcast license.
This by itself is an extremely broad definition, which is why Part 187B adds some exclusions. Notably there are a number of exclusions defined as a person’s immediate circle in section 23 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. This will protect many people such an Hobbyists who self-host, Government Agencies, Authorities and Institutions. There are also provisions under section 36 of the act ensures that if services are provided to a principle person as defined in section 23, they too will be exempt from metadata retention.

SAGE-AU Speaks Out Against Data Retention

Over the last few weeks, debate on the government's proposed mandatory data retention legislation has increased as government hearings continue into the bill.  Members of the Australian IT sector and Privacy advocates have widely condemned the bill, citing privacy concerns, costs and who would have access to to data.

SAGE-AU was recently featured in a ZDNet Article where SAGE-AU President Robert Hudson raised concerns about the additional work it will generate for IT professionals in servicing requests for access to the data and needing the authenticate the legitimacy of the request. "It's casting a very wide net to catch a very small fish. As it stands, SAGE-AU could not be considered to support it. We would require a lot more of the gaps to be filled before we consider it. And even then, I don't think it is a good idea, and SAGE-AU doesn't think it is an appropriate path to be taking.", said Robert.

Well known Internet rights advocate Mark Newton slammed the bill in his submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee, accusing the AGD of incompetence and "expecting everything and justifying nothing". The overreach that this proposal represents is precisely the same sort of conduct that Edward Snowden revealed as being carried out illegally by the United States.

Unfortunately it would appear that mandatory data retention will be passed in some form, with the Labor opposition indicating conditional support for the bill. What it's final form takes is yet to be seen.


Stylus Showdown

It appears we have gone full circle. Styluses are trendy again. Last time I remember using a stylus was on the screen of the first handheld devices like the O2 Atom and the iPAQ (or even earlier a palm pilot). The arrival of the capacitive touch screen encouraged people to believe that your finger was the best stylus, and that was probably because a fine pointed stylus does not work on a capacitive touch screen.

However in time, people have found they want to write on their tablets with the feel of a pen rather than finger painting and to that end a number of styluses have been developed with varying degrees of success. by making a serious attempt at being paperless, I have been using styluses over the years and can now give a comparison on just how usable they are.

Pictured from top to bottom:

    1. Adonit Jot Script Smart Stylus 
    2. Adonit Jot Pro
    3. Pogo Sketch
    4. Generic rubber tip

Lets do this in reverse order.


SAGE-AU Tips for Mitigating SSH Brute Force Attacks

If you run a Linux server or workstation it's highly likely that you know that SSH is a fantastic way to obtain remote access to the machine. In a perfect world it would be only you trying to access your machine. A recent discussion on the SAGE-AU mail lists saw members discussing a recent increase in brute force attempts to access Internet-connected machines and tips on how to mitigate the threat of a brute force attack.


Thunderdisk 128GB mSATA SSD USB Flash Drive Review

There are a lot of external storage options available to PC users these days - USB flash drives, USB and Firewire connected external hard drives and optical media (CD/DVD/BluRay) are all valid options for getting data off one system and transferring it to another (this has often been referred to as "Sneakernet").

Most of these options though sacrifice performance for portability - USB flash drives have traditionally been limited by the bandwidth available on USB/USB2 ports, external hard drives tend to be slow (5,400rpm or 7,200rpm) rotational models with limited sequential data throughput (and still limited by USB bandwidth), burning CD/DVD/BluRay disks and then reading from them is also slow.  Firewire and USB 3.0 served to remove the bandwidth bottleneck for flash/external hard drives - often then uncovering bottlenecks in the performance of the media itself.

Thunderdisk have produced a product (imaginatively called the "128GB mSATA SSD USB Flash Drive"), which they believe removes the performance bottleneck in external media, by pairing up USB3.0 "SuperSpeed" with a theoretical bandwidth of 5Gbps, with the speed of a solid-state drive - in this case, a 128GB mSATA drive.  AusPCMarket have been kind enough to provide us with one of these devices for review - I've put it through its paces, and have come to a few conclusions - yes, the performance is there (and it's a *lot* better than the traditional alternatives), but there are some things to be aware of - read on to find out what they are. :)