Privacy News Roundup 26 September 2016

Opera launches VPN-integrated browser

Opera has launched Opera 40, a free, unlimited, no-log browser with an integrated VPN feature. Opera has become the first of the major mainstream browsers to release a browser-integrated VPN service.

The VPN can be enabled in the Privacy & Security options within the browser’s settings. Once enabled, a VPN icon will appear in the browser, from which you can toggle the VPN on and off, as well as choosing the server location.

Users have access to an optimal server feature where the Opera browser automatically selects the most suitable server location with the fastest available speed based on the following factors: network speed, latency, location and server capacity. Server locations include the United States, Canada, Germany, Netherlands and Singapore. All traffic going through Opera 40 is secured with AES-256-bit encryption.

Users can choose either to activate the VPN for all browser traffic or only when browsing in incognito mode.

Additionally, the browser includes a power-saving mode as well as support for users through the Chromecast add-on for Opera.

Opera 40 VPN
Opera has released a VPN-integrated browser offering free access to encrypted servers. Source: Opera.com

Switzerland votes in greater surveillance powers

Swiss citizens have voted in a new surveillance law with a 65.5% majority. The law came in following the government’s argument that the security services in Switzerland are in need of greater powers to combat increasing threats to national security.

The new laws mean that police and government agencies will have the ability to monitor phone or electronic communications, though only if approval is received from a federal court, the defence ministry and the cabinet. The government has said that the new laws will only be used a ‘dozen’ or so times per year to monitor high-priority suspects with alleged links to terrorism.

Up until now Switzerland’s law enforcement agencies had limited tools compared with other developed countries since phone tapping and email surveillance were illegal.

The Swiss government said that it was not intent on building a surveillance network akin to the NSA in the US. Yannick Buttet, the vice president of the Christian Democratic party, said, “this is not generalised surveillance…it’s letting the intelligence services do their job.”

Guy Parmelin, the Swiss defence minister, stated “leaving the basement and coming up to the ground floor by international standards.”

The law was initially passed in parliament in 2015 but after opposition from other parties, was put to referendum on 25 September. The poll is part of Switzerland’s direct democracy system, whereby votes are held on national issues four times per year.

Switzerland_Parliament_Bern
Voters in Switzerland have voted in favour of greater surveillance powers for law enforcement agencies. Source: Wikipedia.

Mexican police seize KickassTorrents clone

Police in Mexico have shut down the popular “clone” site Kickass.mx. The latest shutdown follows the seizure two months ago of KickAssTorrents (KAT) by the U.S. government after the original site’s alleged founder was arrested.

After the shut-down of KAT, multiple clone and mirror sites came about to fill the vacuum. Among these was the popular KAT.am. After the domain was seized, and then overtaken by scammers, the site continued on as Kickass.cd and Kickass.mx.

The latest move was carried out by Mexico’s federal police without prior notice. The police has said that they were tipped off by copyright holders:

“This action took place after various distribution companies reported intellectual property infringements. In response, staff at the Center for Prevention of Electronic Crimes started a cyber intelligence operation to locate the source where this crime was committed,” adding “Currently the website is out of service, and our research continues to locate the administrators.”

In a strange turn of events, the police also released a confusing press release referring to Kickass.co m.mx, a seemingly unrelated site.

In response to the seizure, the Kickass.mx operator said “The suspension of the MX TLD was very unexpected and came as a shock to us because we used EasyDNS to register the domain name.”

In shutdowns such as these, EasyDNS fights against closures requested without a proper court order. In this case, however, EasyDNS was bypassed since the police went directly to the MX domain registry.

“Their team is trying to get into touch with the Mexican registry to get the domain back though any positive development in this regard seems unlikely,” said the site’s operator.

For now, KAT’s mirrors are available at domains such as Kickass.cd, with more back-up domains expected, including three top-level domains.

KickassTorrents
Police in Mexico have seized the clone KAT domain Kickass.mx

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