July 27, 2011

Big Brother IS watching you

Big Brother is watching youWith the on-going phone hacking scandal continuing to dominate headlines both in the United Kingdom and United States, personal privacy and how to protect it is an issue once again in the minds of many people.

Online privacy has always been something of an issue, with computer malware and trojans a constant threat to the safety of our passwords, bank details and everything else we need to keep secret while browsing the internet.

Discussion forums, like ours here at Reality Uncovered, are a meeting place for like-minded people to discuss and dissect a wide range of stories and information relating to a particular subject – in our case more often than not in the fields of Ufology, Reality and the Paranormal.

We take the online privacy of our members very seriously, as does no doubt many of the other thousands of discussion forums on the internet. Most forums have a private messaging feature which enables members to talk to each other in complete privacy, away from any staff members and out of the public eye.  As an example, two people could meet in a public discussion forum posting back and forth on a public board viewable by whoever views the site. But if they want to exchange phone numbers or emails, they would use the private message function. This is normally very secure as not even the owner of the forum can view these messages. They are indeed private…..or so they should be!

MouseTrace: Dream or Nightmare?

Enter “MouseTrace”, a unique solution to help website owners, designers and Internet marketing professionals better understand how visitors are using their websites.

According to their website:

A single line of HTML code is all that is need to enable the website owner/designer to watch exactly what the visitors are doing on their website – see whether they are viewing the full page content, where they are clicking and how they are navigating through the website. This powerful information enables the website owner or designer to efficiently optimise the site which leads to increased sales and/or better viewer participation and response.

Elsewhere on the MouseTrace website we are told:

Within a couple of minutes you will be watching real-time replays of how your visitors are using your blog, watching every mouse movement, click and scroll – just like sitting next to your visitors watching their screen!

Not exactly the kind of software you would expect to see running on online discussion forum, after all, what would be the point?

The Open Minds Forum and MouseTrace

Enter The Open Minds Forum, Big Brother is watching you!

Most people who follow Reality Uncovered know we don’t have much time for the Open Minds forum. Ever since it opened, Open Minds has been a safe haven for hoaxers, scammers, conmen and liars. Enough evidence exists that shows how the owners and some staff of the forum have actively encouraged –and continue to do so – known hoaxes and outrageous claims. It is not a coincidence that many of these stories find their way to OM, it is by design. So no, it’s not the members we have a problem with, it never has been. It is the willingness to propagate myth and lies as fact and the jack-booted way they handle those who question them that we have always had a problem with.

The following account, then, should really come as no surprise for regular visitors to this site.

The MouseTrace software was discovered by an Open Minds member to be running on their forum. Naturally they were concerned about it so opened a thread on the subject, highlighting the sinister Watch replays showing exactly what your website visitors are doing and asking if the OM staff also used key loggers and snooped on private messages.

Other members also became concerned and asked questions, but a staff response was slow in coming. Five days slow to be exact.  One member even asked Patrick Clinger, owner of the ProBoards software if this was something ProBoards had done, but he confirmed MouseTrace wasn’t used on any of their sites. Incidentally, the member who questioned Mr Clinger has now been banned from the OM forum.

In the meantime and before a staff response was forthcoming, John Hicks (JeddyHi), posted about this issue in the OM thread here at RU. John has plenty of first-hand experience of Open Minds, being a former administrator of the site. He was also one of the principal investigators into the Source A scam hosted at OM, so John knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to OM.

Only after John had posted here, with serious concerns being raised by RU and OM members alike about the possible ability of the MouseTrace software being able to “view” members private messages, was a response from the owner of Open Minds, Brendan Burton, forthcoming.

Posting under the user account ‘Admin’, Mr Burton wrote:

Mousetrace is/was a promo plugin trial from Google as part of our Google Analytics package. From what it said in the promo it would be easier to access Google Analytics, and help make the site structure more accessible to users by providing a service ” to rapidly find faults and identify where improvements can be made.” But, as far i know it’s not possible to see any ‘private’ data like PM’s or even typed words, just navigation of visitors to the site, what boards they go to. And i’ve checked since this came to be a concern, and i can’t find any mention of it ever being able to see anything like passwords or the private pages of members actually logged into a site.

There would be no intention to, even if it was possible

It was only ever active for just over a day. In fact i deactivated it when it came to my attention that it was causing unnecessary alarm.

There is absolutely no intention, desire or need to look at anyone’s private PM’s or anything like that. And there’s no ability to do so.

Let’s take a look at this reply in more detail, starting with the very first line:
Mousetrace is/was a promo plugin trial from Google as part of our Google Analytics package.

This sentence is wrong in every single way. Mouse Trace is not a plugin, it has absolutely nothing to do with Google and it is not part of the Google Analytics package.

From the company website ‘About’ section, we can see that MouseTrace is a privately held company, founded in the United Kingdom by Dan Field in 2010. The company has no affiliation with Google and the Google Analytics software doesn’t include anything like the MouseTrace software.

From what it said in the promo it would be easier to access Google Analytics, and help make the site structure more accessible to users by providing a service ” to rapidly find faults and identify where improvements can be made.”

Google Analytics is accessible by going to http://www.google.com/analytics and entering your user details. Is that not easy enough!? As we have already seen, the MouseTrace software is (allegedly!) a tool to enable website owners better understand how visitors are using their websites – it has absolutely nothing to do with finding faults and identifying where improvements can be made.

But, as far i know it’s not possible to see any ‘private’ data like PM’s or even typed words, just navigation of visitors to the site, what boards they go to

As we will see further below, that is simply not true.

It was only ever active for just over a day. In fact i deactivated it when it came to my attention that it was causing unnecessary alarm.

As one can see from the posts in the OM thread, it was active for at least four days and why deactivate it in the first place if they’re only using it “to find faults”?

On July 26th, OM Moderator “Fore” posted the following in an attempt to further bolster the explanation offered by Bren:

The day after mouse trace was used, I brought it up in our mods board. I was told it was a plugin to “Google Analytics” and after I investigated personally, it seems it doesn’t have the features I feared it might have.

(Like a Keylogger or screen captures of text, stuff that was a real concern.)

One wonders how extensive this “investigation” was, bearing in mind it didn’t take us very long to discover that “screen captures of text” is exactly what it does! Fore’s very lengthy post then went on to explain what MouseTrace does and doesn’t do, and why our conclusions were wrong and couldn’t be trusted. Needless to say, almost every aspect of the post was full of inaccuracies and only served to confuse their, by this time, bewildered membership.

Finding the Truth

These denials and obvious misdirection attempts were beginning to look very suspicious indeed.

John Hicks (JeddyHi) decided to investigate this issue for himself in a way he knows best; thoroughly!

Wondering if Open Minds staff could actually be snooping on its members, he decided to do some testing of his own. John created a discussion forum at the ProBoards website – the same site used by OM – and as soon as it was completed he installed a free version of the MouseTrace software. The installation was pretty easy and straight forward; it only involved entering two to four lines of HTML code into the global header and footer files.

Once everything was up and running, RU member ‘Philliman’ and I both registered an account at John’s test site. Once activated, we sent PMs to one another with each of us receiving or sending a PM to the other. Meanwhile, MouseTrace is quietly running in the background and lo and behold….it recorded our activity perfectly. The traces John viewed allowed him to read the messages between the two of us. The ‘private’ in Private Messages was now a useless word.

The Proof

We were actually astonished at the fact that a discussion forum’s private messaging system had been fully compromised. More astonishing though, was the question of just why the owners of a discussion forum would install this program in the first place. Snooping on members, reading the occasional private message, and more or less just violating every member’s privacy?

The Open Minds forum still denies any wrong doing and continues to claim that MouseTrace does not have the capabilities to violate PM privacy.

We now know the truth.

Beware of Mouse Trace and especially beware of any discussion forum that installs it.

Stephen Broadbent and John Hicks (JeddyHi)

Discuss this and more in the Reality Uncovered Forums or leave a comment below.

Filed under: Disinfo,Weird — Tags: , — Stephen Broadbent @ 2:13 am

January 18, 2010

The Open Minds Forum and Gordon Novel CIA Documents

open minds forum

Are you looking for the Open Minds Forum and the Gordon Novel CIA documents mentioned by George Knapp on Coast to Coast AM on January 17th, 2010? Well, you’ve come to the right place! You’ll find it all here.

As I was listening to Coast to Coast AM last night, when George Knapp was interviewing Gordon Novel from about 1am to 3am, I noticed at one point George mentioned the intriguing Gordon Novel CIA documents that we originally wrote about here at RealityUncovered on October 27th of last year.

I was very surprised to hear George mention these documents – because not only were they brought to light by one of our sources and originally noted here at RealityUncovered and recently on Jack Sarfatti’s email list, but also because those documents revealed that not only did Gordon Novel not ever have any affiliation with the CIA, but the CIA was actively trying to figure out why this convicted arsonist kept telling people that he was working with or for the agency.

What Does Open Minds Forum Have to do With the Gordon Novel CIA Documents?

My surprise was mostly due to the fact that I was doubting all week whether George would take Gordon Novel to task for what the facts on these documents reveals – that Gordon Novel was attempting to pawn his various technology schemes not only upon individual investors, but even upon the U.S. government. When Knapp mentioned the documents, my heart raced – was our source listening, the man who originally discovered the repository of online documents where these Gordon Novel CIA documents resided?

Only a small part of me was somewhat interested to hear how George would refer to the documents, which Jack Sarfatti had been mentioning all week as he forwarded our original Gordon Novel expose to his entire list, noting how RealityUncovered had revealed this amazing library of Gordon Novel CIA documents. Surely Knapp would at least briefly mention the RealityUncovered Gordon Novel expose that Jack forwarded, and ask Novel to respond?

George Knapp’s Strange Promotional Decisions

open minds forum

Earlier in the show, Knapp promoted Gary Bekkum as a good source to learn more about Ron Pandolfi. I blinked a couple of times at that…I could think of hundreds of better resources – but I digress. Bekkum and I have resolved our differences regarding evidence and not jumping to conclusions in published articles, and ultimately Gary does work very hard to uncover the truth, however he sees it. Ultimately, Gary really has published more online about Ron Pandolfi (especially in various code-named forms) than most anyone else online.

However, what came next was rather shocking. George Knapp mentioned the CIA documents again, and stated they came from the Open Minds Forum. I blinked a couple of times. Say what?

I immediately emailed Sarfatti, cc’d Steve and George Knapp, and mentioned the strange choice of promotion – why would Knapp mention the OM Forum in relation to these documents? An obscure website that had no content published about these topics until we originally published our findings on Gordon Novel in October of last year.

George immediately responded with an apology for the slip-up and immediately fixed the error on-the-air. Apparently he was monitoring email traffic during the show, and his sincere response told me that his slip-up had nothing to do with more sinister motives – for some reason he had been misinformed or just didn’t dig very deeply into these matters.

After sleeping on it, this morning as I was snowblowing my driveway (a time when I really have some major deep thoughts), I realized what must have happened. Unlike the OM Forum, the first priority of investigators here at RealityUncovered is to make sure that the truth is revealed. Self-promotion doesn’t really make the top-ten – we just want the real story published and out there. But I have a suspicion as to what happened last week when Knapp first announced his show.

The Open Minds Forum PR Effort

For those of you who don’t know, the Open Minds Forum is a very small conspiracy theory forum. It originated as one guy’s website covering the topic of psychic phenomenon, but grew a little after the whole Serpo affair left AboveTopSecret and the believers (and quite a few nutjobs) needed a new home. In fact, it was the new home for Steve and I for a while, until we realized that the truth could not be uncovered there, because there’s no one actively researching the truth – they simply regurgitate information that they find elsewhere on the web, as happened in this case.

The sad part of this episode is that after Knapp announced his interview with Gordon Novel, I suspect Gary Bekkum and the Open Minds Forum jumped into high gear with their self-promotions…forwarding Knapp various links from their own websites.

Meanwhile, not thinking about self-promotion but making sure Knapp truly dug into Gordon Novel’s background so that he’d ask the hard questions, I told Knapp as much – to his displeasure, obviously. Never, once, did I think of simply self-promoting by sending him links from our own website.

So, for those of you who heard the show and are looking for the OM Forum link to the CIA Gordon Novel documents, you’ve come to the right place – because they’re actually right here at RealityUncovered. And you can discuss this entire matter in all of its great drama at our Forums…we look forward to seeing you there. It is one place where you can be sure to cut through the b.s. and learn the truth.

We will have a full review of the interview, and our response to a few of Gordon Novel’s statements, in an upcoming article this week.

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