2011 ES4 – Small but Close

For September 1, 2020 NASA schedules the close passage of asteroid 2011 ES4. “Close” meaning 0.32 LD, where LD stands for lunar distance which in this context is 382,400km. So it comes as close as 122,368km.

Currently August 11, 2020, the asteroid 2011 ES4 is here:

Fig.1 – 2011 ES4 orbit as per NASA JPL

It’s size is given as being between 22 and 49 metres. So it’s not too large and difficult or impossible to view with a telescope.

In theory it is visible from Zurich, Switzerland but only via long exposure photography – and if you can find a place dark enough:

Fig. 2 – Asteroid 2011 ES4 according to TheSkyLive

NSA on Limiting Location Data Exposure

The National Security Agency has issued a document about how to mitigate security issues that may arise through use of “location services” and how to mitigate those risks.

Mobile devices determine location through any combination of Global Positioning System (GPS) and wireless signals (e.g., cellular, wireless (Wi-Fi®), or Bluetooth® (BT)). Location data can be extremely valuable and must be protected. It can reveal details about the number of users in a location, user and supply movements, daily routines (user and organizational), and can expose otherwise unknown associations between users and locations.

Key point: Turning off location services does not turn off GPS, and does not significantly reduce the risk of location exposure.
Also, location services is not synonymous with GPS. Even with GPS and cellular data unavailable, a mobile device can calculate location and apps and websites can use sensor data without requesting permission from the user.
And it’s not just your smartphone or tablet. This applies to fitness trackers, smart watches, smart medical devices and other smart and IoT devices as well.

The mitigation measures given by NSA would likely turn your mobile device into a useless brick, so they are unlikely to help the average user much. Still they are worth a read and some can be used by everyone. However, if you want to be sure, leave the device at home! Keep this in mind when an app promises anonymity or data privacy

The full document:

Solar Cycle 25 May Already be Upon Us

The scientific consensus of the NOAA/NSA co-chaired international panel to forecast the new says that the new cycle will peak around July 2025 (+/- 8 months) and will be of average, i.e. moderate, intensity.
The solar minimum may have already occured in April 2020 (+/- 6 months) which seems likely judging by the recent sunspots and acitivity.

However, there are non-consensus opinions that see Solar Cycle 25 will be one of the strongest since records began. A chart from the work of McIntosh, Chapman, Leamon, Egeland and Watkins:

The green dot is the number of sunspots predicted in the consensus view, the blue dot is the number of sunspots their model predicts.

Why Contact Tracing Apps Are Not Anonymous

First a couple of definitions.

Track or trace? It depends, it means different things. From basic dictionary definitions, I paraphrase the following meanings:

to trace: follow the completed path backwards from its current point to where it began.

to track: follow the emerging path forwards from your starting point to wherever the thing currently is.

What is contact tracing in the context of epidemic outbreaks? According to WHO definition it is a “monitoring process” consisting of “3 basic steps”: Contact identification, contact listing and contact follow-up.
The full definition can be found here.

Continue reading “Why Contact Tracing Apps Are Not Anonymous”

FreeBSD Gateway to Access ProtonVPN

was playing around with different setups to connect several devices to ProtonVPN being aware of the limit of one or two devices with the Free and Basic ProtonVPN packages. The obvious way is to configure the VPN on your router/gateway. If you have one that allows for OpenVPN to be configured, you can do it there. Mine doesn’t so I had to find another way.

Note, this is not a tutorial, so it does not contain a complete list of steps to be performed. It’s intended to give you ideas how to go about doing this by sharing my experiences. The complete setup is, as they say, left as an exercise to the reader.

I was playing around with different setups to connect several devices to ProtonVPN being aware of the limit of one or two devices with the Free and Basic ProtonVPN packages. The obvious way is to configure the VPN on your router/gateway. If you have one that allows for OpenVPN to be configured, you can do it there. Mine doesn’t so I had to find another way.
I also didn’t want to rout all my traffic through the VPN, just basically be able to browse the web.

So I came up with the idea of installing a FreeBSD gateway with two network interfaces, one connected directly to the Internet over which I route the traffic to a ProtonVPN server or servers.

Of course, the machine is running PF firewall software with the appropriate rules, and name resolution happens with unbound which basically just forwards requests to public DNS servers. I am not going to describe either here, because you can use other software to do these task (e.g. use IPFW and hardcode public nameservers in the /etc/resolv.conf file).

Continue reading “FreeBSD Gateway to Access ProtonVPN”

To VPN or not to VPN

A Swiss VPN provider

I started researching VPN providers some time ago and gave ProtonVPN c closer look since they provide a free base service that isn’t too performant but good enough for testing and many daily activities. With their free offering, which is unlimited in duration, you have the choice of servers in three countries and can connect one device – which may be enough for your whole home network if you configure the VPN connection on your router. The router needs to support OpenVPN and all your traffic will go through a VPN connection, and that may not be what you want.

Also, some sites do block or restrict traffic that come from known VPN gateways, as they do with traffic coming from Tor exit nodes. They identify them as “sites with suspicious traffic” and ask you to do a Captcha every time. Some other sites provide a security warning if you suddenly log on from a different country.

Continue reading “To VPN or not to VPN”

Random News & Comments

This blog contains random musings and occasional rants on news items that are of interest to me. It’s mostly about politics here, but may also have some occasional topics on IT, Data Science and other topics I find interesting.
I found this to be a better way, than writing comments on news sites that may or may not be published and I can’t find anymore after some time.

If you find something interesting, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Comments will be open for seven days after publication.

If you want to make a contribution to covering the costs of running this blog, you can donate at paypal.me/ofehrmedia