Blurring the Truth: ‘Newstweek’ Makes Reading Content in Wifi Hotspots a Vulnerable Reality

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“A strictly media-informed reality is a vulnerable reality,” according to Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev, the founders of Newstweek, a satirical spin-off of Newsweek magazine and other mainstream media outlets. The Newstweek site directly challenges the status quo of how people consume news AND challenges how we view Internet privacy in wifi hotspots.

How it Works

Let’s say you grab a table at Starbucks and are reading a news website. Without even knowing it’s happening, hackers who have plugged in Newstweek — either sitting next to you or from a remote location — can modify or edit all media content you are currently reading.

The Berlin-based techno-artists who started Newstweek say they are doing it to call out the rise in consumer privacy threats in a wireless world, calling the networked personal computer an oxymoron:

“It is in fact very impersonal, from the back-door like aspects of the operating system, to the vast number of other distant computers that are ‘touched’ with every transaction. People are very unaware of this, and a part of our project is to signal an educational alert to this extent. A wireless card on a phone or computer is actually technically referred to as a ‘radio device’ for a reason. All one needs to know is how to ‘tune in’ and combine a chain of free and open source tools- often even just using scripts and with minor modifications to operating system – to ‘mischieve’.”

And the duo says news found online is up for modification to allow for several interpretations of the truth:

“Once lifted off paper into the network domain – once digital – it is truly up for modification. A device like Newstweek could be used for activism in this case, a means for citizens to ‘fix back’ the facts, to improve and/or correct the news, as it comes off the digital press.”

Because Newstweek manipulates data, the founders suggest that it is not necessarily clarifying the news, but just giving someone else’s view:

“The selective gatekeeper is still there, it has just changed its owner.”

Use a VPN For Safety

Julian and Danja told Computer World magazine that one of the best ways to secure your computer against such an attack is to install a personal VPN (for example, PRIVATE WiFi™):

“Using a Virtual Private Network for connecting to the Internet would eliminate the chance of being ‘newstweeked’ entirely.”

How does all this make you feel? Would you be less likely to want to access the Internet in wifi hotspots, more likely to do so if using a VPN, or would you just take your chances despite the “threats” to what you’re reading? While you think about that impromptu quiz, check out this video of Newstweek in action, then let us know how you feel in the comments section below.

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi’s manager of digital content strategy.