Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal – Amazon Ads and Data Leaks
At the end of October the long awaited upgrade of free software operating system Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) was released, and it includes a plenty of new features — Dash previews, easy adding of your online accounts, better web app integration, full-disk encryption, secure boot support, and full 3D Unity experience, just to name a few.
While we absolutely love the full-disk encryption feature, Amazon Ads are, by far, the most disappointing “improvement” we have ever seen in Ubuntu till date.
Amazon search results appear in the dash when you perform a search – so if you’re searching for Terminal to launch the terminal application, you’ll see results allowing you to buy the movie “The Terminal” on Amazon.com.
Starting with this release of Ubuntu, Dash will be searching the Internet for you. While some users find this convenient, others find it a violation of their privacy. Even Richard Stallman has commented on this (link). Despite claims from Mark Shuttleworth that data is not sent to Amazon, a quick look at network protocol analyzer software (such as Wireshark) reveals that all images resulting from search results are downloaded directly from Amazon. The requests are being sent over plain, unencrypted HTTP.
From this, Amazon and any third-party on the line (your ISP, the computer geek next door etc.) gets the user’s IP, date, time, and can deduce the search terms through correlation with recent searches or by looking at the name of the products in the result set.
Pretty cool, ha? No, it’s not.
VPN: A Complete Solution to Privacy Leaks
This teaches us to not trust anyone, not even the operating system itself. First thing you should do is to remove the Spyware from your computer. If you are currently running Ubuntu 12.10, you can click here to open the Ubuntu Software Center, and then click the “Remove” button on the right. You can also uninstall it by opening the Terminal application and typing:
sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping
Next thing you can do is to encrypt all your Internet traffic in a way which will prevent any possible man-in-the-middle attack.
According to prominent security experts, a complete solution for privacy leaks is VPN (Virtual Private Network).
The best VPN Provider for Ubuntu
When talking about the best VPN service provider, there is a strong competition among a number of companies. After extensive research we have found that HideMyAss! is the absolute winner when it comes to quality Linux VPN support (learn more about their service at this link). Like in my other posts, I strongly recommend you chose HMA! Pro VPN as your VPN service provider. They have an insane number of VPN servers — 350 servers total and more than 40,000 IP addresses.
If you have some other tips on how to protect your computer and seal any privacy leaks, feel free to write them in the comments section below. Cheers!
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