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Motorcycle Helmet Performance: Blowing the Lid Off


Motorcycle Helmet Performance: Blowing the Lid Off

Searching for the truth behind motorcycle helmet design, helmet standards and actual head protection

By Dexter Ford
Photography: Jim Brown helmet test

How good is your helmet? Will it actually protect your brain in your next crash?

These seem like easy questions, ones you probably think you can answer by reciting the lofty standards your helmet meets and the lofty price you might have paid for it. But the real answers, as you are about to see, are anything but easy.

There's a fundamental debate raging in the motorcycle helmet industry. In a fiberglass-reinforced, expanded-polystyrene nutshell, it's a debate about how strong and how stiff a helmet should be to provide the best possible protection.

Why the debate? Because if a helmet is too stiff it can be less able to prevent brain injury in the kinds of crashes you're most likely to have. And if it's too soft, it might not protect you in a violent, high-energy crash. What's just right? Well, that's why it's called a debate. If you knew what your head was going to hit and how hard, you could choose the perfect helmet for that crash. But crashes are accidents. So you have to guess.

To understand how a helmet protects—or doesn't protect—your brain, it helps to appreciate just how fragile that organ actually is. The consistency of the human brain is like warm Jello. It's so gooey that when pathologists remove a brain from a cadaver, they have to use a kind of cheesecloth hammock to hold it together as it comes out of the skull.

Your brain basically floats inside your skull, within a bath of cervical-spinal fluid and a protective cocoon called the dura. But when your skull stops suddenly—as it does when it hits something hard—the brain keeps going, as Sir Isaac Newton predicted. Then it has its own collision with the inside of the skull. If that collision is too severe, the brain can sustain any number of injuries, from shearing of the brain tissue to bleeding in the brain, or between the brain and the dura, or between the dura and the skull. And after your brain is injured, even more damage can occur. When the brain is bashed or injured internally, bleeding and inflammation make it swell. When your brain swells inside the skull, there's no place for that extra volume to go. So it presses harder against the inside of the skull and tries to squeeze through any opening, bulging out of your eye sockets and oozing down the base of the skull. As it squeezes, more damage is done to some very vital regions.

None of this is good. Helmet designers have devised a number of different liner designs to meet the different standards. The Vemar VSR uses stiffer EPS than most, but has channels molded in to soften the assembly (to ECE specs) and enhance cooling.

To prevent all that ugly stuff from happening, we wear helmets. Modern, full-face helmets, if we have enough brains to protect, that is.

A motorcycle helmet has two major parts: the outer shell and the energy-absorbing inner liner. The inner lining is made of expanded polystyrene or EPS, the same stuff used in beer coolers, foam coffee cups, and packing material. Outer shells come in two basic flavors: a resin/fiber composite, such as fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar, or a molded thermoplastic such as ABS or polycarbonate, the same basic stuff used in face shields and F-16 canopies.

The shell is there for a number of reasons. First, it's supposed to protect against pointy things trying to penetrate the EPS—though that almost never happens in a real accident. Second, the shell protects against abrasion, which is a good thing when you're sliding into the chicane at Daytona. Third, it gives Troy Lee a nice, smooth surface to paint dragons on. Riders—and helmet marketers—pay a lot of attention to the outer shell and its material. But the part of the helmet that absorbs most of the energy in a crash is actually the inner liner.

When the helmet hits the road or a curb, the outer shell stops instantly. Inside, your head keeps going until it collides with the liner. When this happens, the liner's job is to bring the head to a gentle stop—if you want your brain to keep working like it does now, that is.

The great thing about EPS is that as it crushes, it absorbs lots of energy at a predictable rate. It doesn't store energy and rebound like a spring, which would be a bad thing because your head would bounce back up, shaking your brain not just once, but twice. EPS actually absorbs the kinetic energy of your moving head, creating a very small amount of heat as the foam collapses.
Schuberth S1 insides
The Schuberth S1 uses five separate foam parts glued together to meet the ECE standard.

The helmet's shell also absorbs energy as it flexes in the case of a polycarbonate helmet, or flexes, crushes and delaminates in the case of a fiberglass composite helmet.

To minimize the G-forces on your soft, gushy brain as it stops, you want to slow your head down over as great a distance as possible. So the perfect helmet would be huge, with 6 inches or mosre of soft, fluffy EPS cradling your precious head like a mint on a pillow.

Problem is, nobody wants a 2-foot-wide helmet, though it might come in handly if you were auditioning for a Jack in the Box commercial. So helmet designers have pared down the thickness of the foam, using denser, stiffer EPS to make up the difference. This increases the G-loading on your brain in a crash, of course. And the fine points of how many Gs a helmet transmits to the head, for how long, and in what kind of a crash, are the variables that make the helmet-standard debate so gosh darn fun.
Standardized Standards
helmet drop test
The helmets are mounted on a 5-kilo (11 pound) magnesium headform and then dropped from a controlled height onto a variety of test anvils to simulate crash impacts on various surfaces and shapes. In the real world, your helmet actually hits flat pavement more than 85 percent of the time

To make buying a helmet in the U.S as confusing as possible, there are at least four standards a street motorcycle helmet can meet. The price of entry is the DOT standard, called FMVSS 218, that every street helmet sold here is legally required to pass. There is the European standard, called ECE 22-05, accepted by more than 50 countries. There's the BSI 6658 Type A standard from Britain. And lastly the Snell M2000/M2005 standard, a voluntary, private standard used primarily in the U.S. So every helmet for street use here must meet the DOT standard, and might or might not meet one of the others.

Just by looking at the published requirements for each standard, you would guess a DOT-only helmet would be designed to be the softest, with an ECE helmet very close, then a BSI helmet, and then a Snell helmet.

Because there are few human volunteers for high-impact helmet testing—and because they would be a little confused after a hard day of 200-G impacts—it's done on a test rig.

The helmets are dropped, using gravity to accelerate the helmet to a given speed before it smashes onto a test anvil bolted to the floor. By varying the drop height and the weight of the magnesium headform inside the helmet, the energy level of the test can be easily varied and precisely repeated. As the helmet/headform falls it is guided by either a steel track or a pair of steel cables. That guiding system adds friction to slow the fall slightly, so the test technician corrects for this by raising the initial drop height accordingly.

The headform has an accelerometer inside that precisely records the force the headform receives, showing how many Gs the headform took as it stopped and for how long.

If you test a bunch of helmets under the same conditions, you can get a good idea of how well each one absorbs a particular hit. And it's important to understand that as in lap times, golf scores and marriages, a lower number is always better when we're talking about your head receiving extreme G forces.
On The Highway To Snell
dual-density foam liner insides
All the Snell/DOT helmets we examined use a dual-density foam liner. The upper cap of foam on this Scorpion liner is softer to compensate for the extra stiffness of the spherical upper shell area. Some manufacturers, including Arai and HJC, use a one-piece liner with two different densities molded together.

On the stiff, tough-guy side of this debate is the voluntary Snell M2000/M2005 standard, which dictates each helmet be able to withstand some tough, very high-energy impacts.

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to "research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards."

If you think moving quickly over the surface of the planet is fun and you enjoy using your brain, you should be grateful to the Snell Memorial Foundation. The SMF has helped create standards that have raised the bar in head protection in nearly every pursuit in which humans hit their heads: bicycles, horse riding, harness racing, karting, mopeds, skateboards, rollerblades, recreational skiing, ski racing, ATV riding, snowboarding, car racing and, of course, motorcycling.

But as helmet technology has improved and accident research has accumulated, many head-injury experts feel the Snell M2000 and M2005 standards are, to quote Dr. Harry Hurt of Hurt Report fame, "a little bit excessive."

The killer—the hardest Snell test for a motorcycle helmet to meet—is a two-strike test onto a hemispherical chunk of stainless steel about the size of an orange. The first hit is at an energy of 150 joules, which translates to dropping a 5-kilo weight about 10 feet—an extremely high-energy impact. The next hit, on the same spot, is set at 110 joules, or about an 8-foot drop. To pass, the helmet is not allowed to transmit more than 300 Gs to the headform in either hit.

Tough tests such as this have driven helmet development over the years. But do they have any practical application on the street, where a hit as hard as the hardest single Snell impact may only happen in 1 percent of actual accidents? And where an impact as severe as the two-drop hemi test happens just short of never?

Dr. Jim Newman, an actual rocket scientist and highly respected head-impact expert—he was once a Snell Foundation director—puts it this way: "If you want to create a realistic helmet standard, you don't go bashing helmets onto hemispherical steel balls. And you certainly don't do it twice.

"Over the last 30 years," continues Newman, "we've come to the realization that people falling off motorcycles hardly ever, ever hit their head in the same place twice. So we have helmets that are designed to withstand two hits at the same site. But in doing so, we have severely, severely compromised their ability to take one hit and absorb energy properly.

"The consequence is, when you have one hit at one site in an accident situation, two things happen: One, you don't fully utilize the energy-absorbing material that's available. And two, you generate higher G loading on the head than you need to.

"What's happened to Snell over the years is that in order to make what's perceived as a better helmet, they kept raising the impact energy. What they should have been doing, in my view, is lowering the allowable G force.

"In my opinion, Snell should keep a 10-foot drop [in its testing]. But tell the manufacturers, 'OK, 300 Gs is not going to cut it anymore. Next year you're going to have to get down to 250. And the next year, 200. And the year after that, 185.'"
The Brand Leading The Brand

"The Snell sticker," continued Newman, "has become a marketing gimmick. By spending 60 cents [paid to the Snell foundation], a manufacturer puts that sticker in his helmet and he can increase the price by $30 or $40. Or even $60 or $100.

"Because there's this allure, this charisma, this image associated with a Snell sticker that says, 'Hey, this is a better helmet, and therefore must be worth a whole lot more money.' And in spite of the very best intentions of everybody at Snell, they did not have the field data [on actual accidents] that we have now [when they devised the standard]. And although that data has been around a long time, they have chosen, at this point, not to take it into consideration."
Z1R ZRP-1 insides
The Z1R ZRP-1 uses a soft, one-piece liner to soak up joule after joule of nasty impact energy.
A World Of Hurt

Dr. Hurt sees the Snell standard in pretty much the same light.

"What should the [G] limit on helmets be? Just as helmet designs should be rounder, smoother and safer, they should also be softer, softer, softer. Because people are wearing these so-called high-performance helmets and are getting diffused [brain] injuries ... well, they're screwed up for life. Taking 300 Gs is not a safe thing.

"We've got people that we've replicated helmet [impacts] on that took 250, 230 Gs [in their accidents]. And they've got a diffuse injury they're not gonna get rid of. The helmet has a good whack on it, but so what? If they'd had a softer helmet they'd have been better off."

How does the Snell Foundation respond to the criticism of head-injury scientists from all over the world that the Snell standards create helmets too stiff for optimum protection in the great majority of accidents?

"The whole business of testing helmets is based on the assumption that there is a threshold of injury," says Ed Becker, executive director of the Snell Foundation. "And that impact shocks below that threshold are going to be non-injurious. "We're going with 300 Gs because we started with 400 Gs back in the early days. And based on [George Snively's, the founder of the SMF] testing, and information he'd gotten from the British Standards Institute, 400 Gs seemed reasonable back then. He revised it downward over the years, largely because helmet standards were for healthy young men that were driving race cars. But after motorcycling had taken up those same helmets, he figured that not everybody involved in motorcycling was going to be a young man. So he concluded from work that he had done that the threshold of injury was above 400 Gs. But certainly below 600 Gs.

"The basis for the 300 G [limit in the Snell M2000 standard] is that the foundation is conservative. [The directors] have not seen an indication that a [head injury] threshold is below 300 Gs. If and when they do, they'll certainly take it into account."

So nobody is being hurt by the added stiffness of a Snell helmet, we asked.

"That's certainly our hope here," answered Becker. "At this point I've got no reason to think anything else."
European Style

The Snell Foundation may have no reason to think anything else. But every scientist we spoke to, as well as the government standards agencies of the United States and the 50 countries that accept the ECE 22.05 standard, see things quite differently.

The European Union recently released an extensive helmet study called COST 327, which involved close study of 253 recent motorcycle accidents in Germany, Finland and the U.K. This is how they summarized the state of the helmet art after analyzing the accidents and the damage done to the helmets and the people: "Current designs are too stiff and too resilient, and energy is absorbed efficiently only at values of HIC [Head Injury Criteria: a measure of G force over time] well above those which are survivable."

As we said, it's a lively debate.
brain injury
If your brain is injured, swelling and inflammation often occur. Because there's no extra room inside your skull, your brain tries to squeeze down through the hole in the base of the skull. This creates pressure that injures the vital brain stem even further, often destroying the parts that control breathing and other basic body functions. If you're hit very violently on the jaw, as in a head-on impact, the force can be transmitted to the base of the skull, which can fracture and sever your spine. It's a common cause of death in helmeted motorcycle riders—and a very good reason to wear a full-face helmet and insist on thick EPS padding—not resilient foam—in the helmet's chin bar. When your brain collides with the inside of your skull, bony protrusions around your eyes, sinuses and other areas can cause severe damage to the brain. And if your head is twisted rapidly, the brain can lag behind, causing tearing and serious internal brain injury as it drags against the skull. A helmet is the best way to avoid such unpleasantries.
How Hurt is Hurt?

Doctors and head-injury researchers use a simplified rating of injuries, called the Abbreviated Injury Scale, or AIS, to describe how severely a patient is hurt when they come into a trauma facility. AIS 1 means you've been barely injured. AIS 6 means you're dead, or sure to be dead very soon. Here's the entire AIS scale:

    = Minor
    = Moderate
    = Serious
    = Severe
    = Critical
    = Unsurvivable

A patient's AIS score is determined separately for each different section of the body. So you could have an AIS 4 injury to your leg, an AIS 3 to your chest and an AIS 5 injury to your head. And you'd be one hurtin' puppy. Newman is quoted in the COST study on the impact levels likely to cause certain levels of injury. Back in the '80s he stated that, as a rough guideline, a peak linear impact—the kind we're measuring here—of 200 to 250 Gs generally corresponds to a head injury of AIS 4, or severe; that a 250 G to 300 G impact corresponds to AIS 5, or critical; and that anything over 300 Gs corresponds to AIS 6. That is, unsurvivable.

Newman isn't the only scientist who thinks getting hit with much more than 200 Gs is a bad idea. In fact, researchers have pretty much agreed on that for 50 years.

The Wayne State Tolerance Curve is the result of a pretty gruesome series of experiments back in the '50s and '60s in which dogs' brains were blasted with bursts of compressed air, monkeys were bashed on the skull, and the heads of dead people were dropped to see just how hard they could be hit before big-time injury set in. This study's results were backed up by the JARI Human Head Impact Tolerance Curve, published in '80 by a Japanese group who did further unspeakable things to monkeys, among other medically necessary atrocities.

The two tolerance curves agree on how many Gs you can apply to a human head for how long before a concussion or other more serious brain injury occurs. And the Wayne State Tolerance Curve was instrumental in creating the DOT helmet standard, with its relatively low G-force allowance.

According to both these curves, exposing a human head to a force over 200 Gs for more than 2 milliseconds is what medical experts refer to as "bad." Heads are different, of course. Young, strong people can take more Gs than old, weak people. Some prizefighters can take huge hits again and again and not seem to suffer any ill effects other than a tendency to sell hamburger cookers on late-night TV. And the impacts a particular head has undergone in the past may make that head more susceptible to injury.

Is an impact over the theoretical 200 G/2 millisecond threshold going to kill you? Probably not. Is it going to hurt you? Depends on you, and how much over that threshold your particular hit happens to be. But head injuries short of death are no joke. Five million Americans suffer from disabilities from what's called Traumatic Brain Injury—getting hit too hard on the head. That's disabilities, meaning they ain't the same as they used to be.

There's another important factor that comes into play when discussing how hard a hit you should allow your brain to take: the other injuries you'll probably get in a serious crash, and how the effects of your injuries add up.

The likelihood of dying from a head injury goes up dramatically if you have other major injuries as well. It also goes up with age. Which means that a nice, easy AIS 3 head injury, which might be perfectly survivable on its own, can be the injury that kills you if you already have other major injuries. Which, as it happens, you are very likely to have in a serious motorcycle crash.

The COST study was limited to people who had hit their helmets on the pavement in their accidents. Of these, 67 percent sustained some kind of head injury. Even more㭅 percent—sustained leg injuries, and 57 percent had thorax injuries. You can even calculate your odds using the Injury Severity Score, or ISS. Take the AIS scores for the worst three injuries you have. Square each of those scores—that is, multiply them by themselves. Add the three results and compare them with the ISS Scale of Doom below.

A score of 75 means you're dead. Sorry. Very few people with an ISS of 70 see tomorrow either.

If you're between 15 and 44 years old, an ISS score of 40 means you have a 50-50 chance of making it. If you're between 45 and 64 years old, ISS 29 is the 50-50 mark. And above 65 years old, the 50-50 level is an ISS of 20. For a 45- to 64-year old guy such as myself, an ISS over 29 means I'll probably die.

If I get two "serious," AIS 3 injuries—the aforementioned AIS 3 head hit and AIS 3 chest thump—and a "severe" AIS 4 leg injury, my ISS score is ... let's see, 3 times 3 is 9. Twice that is 18. 4 times 4 is 16. 18 and 16 is 34. Ooops. Gotta go.

Drop my AIS 3 head injury to an AIS 2 and my ISS score is 29. Now I've got a 50-50 shot.

Obviously, this means it's very important to keep the level of head injury as low as possible. Because even if the head injury itself is survivable on its own, sustaining a more severe injury—even between relatively low injury levels—may not just mean a longer hospital stay, it may be the ticket that transfers you from your warm, cushy bed in the trauma unit to that cold, sliding slab downstairs.
helmet test graph
Department Of Testing

In the other corner of the U.S. helmet cage-fighting octagon is the DOT standard. It mandates a testing regimen of moderate-energy impacts, which happen in 90 percent or more of actual accidents, according to the Hurt Report and other, more recent studies.

Where the Snell standard limits peak linear acceleration to 300 G, the DOT effectively limits peak Gs to 250. Softer impacts, lower G tolerance. In short, a kinder, gentler standard.

The DOT standard has acquired something of a low-rent reputation for a number of reasons. First, it comes from the Gubmint, and the Gubmint, as we know, can't do anything right.

The DOT standard, like laws against, say, murder, also relies on the honor system; that is, there's only a penalty involved if you break it and sell a non-complying helmet and get caught. Manufacturers are required to do their own testing and then certify that their helmets meet the standards. But it also gives helmet designers quite a bit of freedom to design a helmet the way they think it ought to be for optimum overall protection. The question is, how well are those designers doing their job with all that freedom?
DOT, ECE BSI, SMF—Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

In a typical large motorcycle dealership you're likely to find helmets that conform to all these standards. Most U.S.-market full-face helmets made in Asia—Arai, HJC, Icon, KBC, ScorpionExo, Shoei, and most Fulmer models—are Snell M2000 or M2005 certified. (The Snell standard did not change substantially from M2000 to M2005.) Most helmets from European companies—Vemar, Shark, Schuberth, etc.—conform to the ECE 22-05 standard.

Suomy helmets sold under its own name conform to either the ECE or the BSI standard, but Suomy private-labels some helmets to brands such as Ducati that are built and certified to Snell. Some AGV models sold here are made to Snell standards, some to BSI. And a few Asian-made helmets are DOT-only. Among major manufacturers, Z1R (a subbrand of Parts Unlimited) and Fulmer Helmets sell DOT-only lids at the lower end of their pricing scales. You can also get 'em at Pep Boys under the Raider brand name.
crash dummy head
Hurts So Good

To talk about helmet design and performance with any measure of authority, we should first look at the kinds of accidents that actually occur. The Hurt Report, issued in '81, was the first, last and only serious study on real motorcycle accidents in the U.S. The study was done by some very smart, very reputable scientists and researchers at the University of Southern California. The Hurt researchers came to some surprising and illuminating conclusions—conclusions that have not been seriously challenged since.

First, about half of all serious motorcycle accidents happen when a car pulls in front of a bike in traffic. These accidents typically happen at very low speeds, with a typical impact velocity, after all the braking and skidding, below 25 mph. This was first revealed in the Hurt Report but has been recently backed up by two other studies, a similar one in Thailand and especially the COST 327 study done in the European Union, where people have fast bikes and like to ride very quickly on some roads with no speed limits at all.

Actual crash speeds are slow, but the damage isn't. These are serious, often fatal crashes. Most of these crashes happen very close to home. Because no matter where you go, you always leave your own neighborhood and come back to it. And making it through traffic-filled intersections—the ones near your home—is the most dangerous thing you do on a street motorcycle.

The next-biggest group of typical accidents happens at night, often on a weekend, at higher speeds. They are much more likely to involve alcohol, and often take place when a rider goes off the road alone. These two groups of accidents account for almost 75 percent of all serious crashes. So the accident we are most afraid of, and the one we tend to buy our helmets for—crashing at high speeds, out sport riding—is relatively rare.

Even though many motorcycles were capable of running the quarter-mile in 11 seconds (or less) and topping 140 mph back in '81, not one of the 900-odd accidents investigated in the Hurt study involved a speed over 100 mph. The "one in a thousand" speed seen in the Hurt Report was 86 mph, meaning only one of the accidents seen in the 900-crash study occurred at or above that speed. And the COST 327 study, done recently in the land of the autobahn, contained very few crashes over 120 kph, or 75 mph. The big lesson here is this: It's a mistake to assume that going really fast causes a significant number of accidents just because a motorcycle can go really fast.

Another eye-opener: In spite of what one might assume, the speed at which an accident starts does not necessarily correlate to the impact the head—or helmet—will have to absorb in a crash. That is, according to the Hurt Report and the similar Thailand study, going faster when you fall off does not typically result in your helmet taking a harder hit.

How can this be? Because the vast majority of head impacts occur when the rider falls off his bike and simply hits his head on the flat road surface. The biggest impact in a given crash will typically happen on that first contact, and the energy is proportional to the height from which the rider falls—not his forward speed at the time. A big highside may give a rider some extra altitude, but rarely higher than 8 feet. A high-speed crash may involve a lot of sliding along the ground, but this is not particularly challenging to a helmeted head because all modern full-face helmets do an excellent job of protecting you from abrasion.

In fact, the vast majority of crashed helmets examined in the Hurt Report showed that they had absorbed about the same impact you'd receive if you simply tipped over while standing, like a bowling pin, and hit your head on the pavement. Ninety-plus percent of the head impacts surveyed, in fact, were equal to or less than the force involved in a 7-foot drop. And 99 percent of the impacts were at or below the energy of a 10-foot drop.
helmet testing lab
To Snell? Or Not To Snell?

In analyzing the accident-involved helmets, the Hurt researchers also addressed whether helmets certified to different standards actually performed differently in real crashes; that is, did a Snell-certified helmet work better at protecting a person in the real world than a plain old DOT-certified or equivalent helmet? The answer was no. In real street conditions, the DOT or equivalent helmets worked just as well as the Snell-certified helmets.

In the case of fatal accidents, there was one more important discovery in the Hurt Report: There were essentially no deaths to helmeted riders from head injuries alone.

Some people in the study, those involved in truly awful, bone-crushing, aorta-popping crashes, did sustain potentially fatal head injuries even though they were wearing helmets. The problem was that they also had, on average, three other injuries that would have killed them if the head injury hadn't.

In other words, a crash violent enough to overwhelm any decent helmet will usually destroy the rest of the body as well. Newman put this into perspective. "In most cases, bottoming [compressing a helmet's EPS completely] is not going to occur except in really violent accidents. And in these kind of cases, one might legitimately wonder whether there is anything you could do."

How many people were saved because their helmet was designed to a "higher" or "higher energy" standard than the DOT standard? As far as the Hurt researchers could ascertain, none.

But the Hurt Report was done nearly 25 years ago. There have been a couple of significant accident studies done since. Both of which, by our reading, tend to back up the Hurt Report's findings.

The COST 327 study investigated 253 motorcycle accidents in Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom, from '95-'98. Of these, the investigators selected 20 well-documented crashes and replicated the impact from those crashes by doing drop tests on identical helmets in the lab until they got the same helmet damage. This allowed them to find out how hard the helmet in the accident had been hit, and to correlate the impact with the injuries actually suffered by the rider or passenger. The COST 327 results showed that some very serious and potentially fatal head injuries can occur at impact levels that stiffer current helmet standards—such as Snell M2000 and M2005—allow helmets to exceed.

And remember, these guys are investigating crashes in Europe, where Snell-rated helmets are a rarity because they can't generally pass the softer ECE standard required there.

In other words, the latest relevant study, which used state-of-the-art methods and covered accidents in countries where there are plenty of 10-second, 160-mph superbikes running around, concluded that current standards—even the relatively soft ECE standards—are allowing riders' heads to be routinely subjected to forces that can severely injure or kill them. The COST study estimated that better, more energy-absorbent helmets could reduce motorcycle fatalities up to 20 percent. If that estimate is legitimate and was applied in the U.S., it would mean saving about 700 American riders' lives a year.

There's no good reason to think things are different here in the States than in Germany, Britain and Finland, all modern, well-developed, superbike-rich countries. Heads are heads, asphalt is asphalt, and falling bodies operate under the same laws of physics there as they do here in America.

If you ask most head-impact scientists or the representatives of the European helmet manufacturers how they like the Snell M2000/M2005 standard, they will generally tell you it's unrealistic, based more on supposition than on science, and forces manufacturers to make helmets that are stiffer than they should be.

If you ask the representatives of many of the top Snell-approved helmet companies, they'll say the Snell standard is a wonderful thing, and they'll imply helmets certified to lower-energy standards—that would be any other standard in the world—are suspicious objects, like smoked clams from the 99 Cents Only store. And not as good at protecting you in an extremely high-energy mega-crash as a Snell-approved helmet is.

What the Snell advocates won't tell you is that when these same makers sell their helmets in Europe, Japan and the U.K., they are not the same helmets they sell here, and they're not Snell rated. They are built softer, tailored to conform to exactly the same ECE or BSI standards as the European makers.

If you get these two groups of folks in a room together and ask these questions, we'd suggest wearing a helmet yourself.
Can Less Be More?

In the last 10 to 15 years a number of Asian-made helmet brands such as HJC, Icon, KBC and Scorpion have entered the market to challenge the once-reigning Japanese leaders, Shoei and Arai.

These new brands offer helmets that look and feel pretty much like the Arais and Shoeis we were used to wearing and seeing on all the magazine covers, but at substantially lower prices. Problem is, a lower price, especially in a potentially life-saving piece of safety equipment, can do as much harm as good to a brand. There's always the perception lingering in a buyer's mind that a product can't be as good or protect as well if it doesn't cost as much.

So what can a lower-priced maker do to enhance its brand reputation? Get Snell certified. Whether they think a Snell helmet is actually better at head protection or not—and there's no shortage of debate on that subject—they're essentially over a barrel. If they don't get Snell certified, they give the perception their products are not as good as the others on the shelf. And their helmets will sell like Girls Gone Wild videos at a Village People concert.

In six months of researching this article, I spoke to many helmet company representatives. Some in civil tones. Some not so much. One, in particular, summed up the Snell-or-not quandary best. It was Phil Davy, brand manager for the very popular Icon helmets and riding gear. "When you build a helmet for this market, meeting the Snell standard is your first, second, third, fourth and fifth concern. You can then start designing a helmet that's safe," he said.

It is important to note that every one of Davy's Icon helmets is Snell certified. He's no fool.
motorcycle helmet

Fewer Gs = Less chance of brain injury

DOT-only helmets:

Z1R ZRP-1 (P)
Average: 152 Gs
LF: 148 gs
RF: 176 gs
LR: 153 gs
RR: 130 gs

Fulmer AFD4 (P)
Average: 157 Gs
LF: 152 gs
RF: 173 gs
LR: 175 gs
RR: 130 gs

Pep Boys Raider (P)
Average: 174 Gs
LF: 163 gs
RF: 199 gs
LR: 185 gs
RR: 152 gs
BSI/DOT Helmets

AGV Ti-Tech (F)
Average: 169 Gs
LF: 156 gs
RF: 199 gs
LR: 195 gs
RR: 129 gs

Suomy Spec 1R (BSI) (F)
Average: 182 Gs
LF: 192 gs
RF: 215 gs
LR: 197 gs
RR: 126 gs
ECE 22-05/DOT Helmets

Schuberth S-1 (F)
Average: 161 Gs
LF: 151 gs
RF: 180 gs
LR: 176 gs
RR: 137 gs

Suomy Spec 1R (ECE) (F)
Average: 171 Gs
LF: 156 gs
RF: 200 gs
LR: 190 gs
RR: 140 gs

Shark RSX (F)
Average: 173 Gs
LF: 166 gs
RF: 187 gs
LR: 201 gs
RR: 141 gs

Vemar VSR
Average: 174 Gs
LF: 171 gs
RF: 198 gs
LR: 166 gs
RR: 162 gs
Snell 2000/DOT Helmets

Icon Mainframe (P)
Average: 181 Gs
LF: 168 gs
RF: 217 gs
LR: 189 gs
RR: 152 gs

Icon Alliance (F)
Average: 183 Gs
LF: 179 gs
RF: 200 gs
LR: 179 gs
RR: 175 gs

Scorpion EXO-400 (P)
Average: 187 Gs
LF: 185 gs
RF: 212 gs
LR: 193 gs
RR: 158 gs

AGV X-R2 (F)
Average: 188 Gs
LF: 192 gs
RF: 226 gs
LR: 166 gs
RR: 167 gs

Arai Tracker GT (F)
Average: 201 Gs
LF: 193 gs
RF: 243 gs
LR: 203 gs
RR: 166 gs

HJC AC-11 (F)
Average: 204 Gs
LF: 195 gs
RF: 230 gs
LR: 231 gs
RR: 163 gs

Scorpion EXO-700 (F)
Average: 211 Gs
LF: 207 gs
RF: 236 gs
LR: 226 gs
RR: 176 gs

Impact Key: LF: Left Front, 7-foot drop, Flat Pavement. RF: Right Front, 10-foot drop, Flat Pavement. LR: Left Rear, 7-foot drop, Flat Pavement. RR: Right Rear, 7-foot drop, Edge Anvil. Shell Key: (P): Polycarbonate (F): Fiberglass
The Rules Rule

OK. We promised an actual helmet impact test, and it's time to give it to you.

We asked the major helmet brands sold in the U.S. to each pick one model of their helmets. We asked for two functionally identical helmets in the same size, medium or 7¼. Why two? To give us a look at the consistency of the manufacturer's production techniques. Why all one size? To make sure any differences we saw were due to design and production differences, not random differences due to sizing. And we wanted to use the same-size headform in all our testing, again for consistency. We were also interested in learning as much as we could about different helmet constructions, and about how helmets built to different standards vary. So if a manufacturer made both fiberglass-shell and plastic-shell helmets, we asked for a pair of each. And if a manufacturer made helmets to two different standards, we asked for both as well.

Icon and Scorpion sent both fiberglass and polycarbonate helmets, all Snell/DOT-rated. AGV sent a pair of Snell/DOT-rated X-R2s and a pair of BSI/DOT-rated TiTechs. And Suomy sent the same model, its Spec 1R, in both BSI-rated and ECE-rated versions.

In the end, we wound up with 16 models, 32 helmets in all. A look at the accompanying chart will give you a rundown of the helmet brands that elected to participate and the models they sent. A number of manufacturers chose not to participate: Bell, KBC, OGK, Shoei and Simpson were contacted repeatedly, but chose not to send helmets. We also tested a couple of full-face Raider helmets purchased from Pep Boys for $69.95 a pop.

Unlike other standards testing, where the test parameters are published years ahead of time, we did not reveal the actual tests we were going to perform before we did the testing. So there was, essentially, no chance for them to send mislabeled, ringer helmets.

We needed somebody to help us design the tests and do the actual testing. So we hired David Thom. Remember the Hurt Report? Thom was one of the USC researchers who went out to investigate all those motorcycle accidents and then helped pull it all together. Thom worked at USC with Professor Harry Hurt for many years, investigating all the various ways motorcyclists and other folk hurt themselves, and striving mightily to find better ways to protect them.

Thom subsequently formed his own company, Collision and Injury Dynamics. He has his own state-of-the-art helmet impact lab where he does impartial, objective certification testing for many helmet companies. The DOT standard, for instance, relies on companies certifying their own helmets, and Thom is one of the people they contract with to do the actual testing. In other words, he knows what he's doing.

We had no interest in checking to see whether our helmets conform to any specific standard. Because a helmet's job is protecting your head, not passing a standard. We came up with our own battery of tests designed to duplicate, as best we could, the impacts that really happen on a statistically significant basis.

Real motorcycle accidents don't end with a helmet hitting a machined stainless-steel anvil—they end up with a helmet bashing down on good old lumpy, gravel-studded asphalt. So the industrious Thom grabbed a square-foot piece of Sheldon Street in El Segundo, California, the street out in front of his lab, when the paving crew tore it up for resurfacing. Set in concrete, that would be our "anvil," as they say in the biz, for flat-surface impacts.

Three of the four impacts we planned for each helmet would be on that flat asphalt surface—simply because that's what real motorcyclists land on when they fall, more than 75 percent of the time. The Hurt Report established this, and in the recent Thailand helmet study 87.4 percent of the helmet hits were from the road surface or the shoulder. Helmets do hit curbs a small percentage of the time, but usually after sliding along on the road first, which means that in most cases they are actually hitting a flat surface—the vertical plane of the curb.

For the energy of each drop, we selected a range of hits typical of both the DOT and Snell testing regimens. We hit the left front and the left rear of the helmets with an energy of 100 joules, which translates to a drop of about 2 meters, or 6.6 feet. According to the Hurt Report, this drop represents the 90th-percentile energy of the crashes they investigated. We also did one high-energy drop with an energy of 150 joules, the same energy—about a 10-foot drop—as the hardest hit specified in the Snell standards, on the right front of each helmet. That's 66 percent more violent than the drop specified by the DOT standard for a medium-sized helmet, and represents the 99th-percentile impact seen in the Hurt Report. Which means 1 percent or fewer impacts seen on the street exceeded this energy level. So we weren't exactly taking it easy.

To see what happens when you're unlucky enough to rear-end a truck's lift gate, slide into a storm drain or be flung into the Eiffel Tower, we also did an edge hit onto a scary-looking piece of upright steel bar. We debated whether to do this hit at a 2-meter, 100-joule energy level or a more violent 3-meter, 150-joule impact level. We opted for the smaller hit, more to protect the helmet test rig than to play nice with the helmets. If a single helmet bottoms out and squishes its EPS liner flat, the total impact goes right into the headform and test rig—as it would to your head. And just like your head, the test rig is gonna break. We weren't sure all the helmets would survive the 150-joule edge drop, so we pulled back to the 100-joule level. Fracturing the rig would put us out of commission for days, and we didn't have the time—or money—to risk that.

In the end we were too conservative. When we inspected the helmets after the full course of testing, the 100-joule edge hit hadn't come close to bottoming any of the helmets—even the supposedly wimpy DOT-only ones. We are confident we could have done the edge test at the 99th-percentile 150 joules—the Snell edge-anvil test—and seen results commensurate with those we saw from the other impacts.

The results of all our laborious impact testing were exactly as expected—but still surprising as hell.

The helmets ranged from the softest regimen, the DOT standard, to the Snell standard, the stiffest. But would the real-world, production-spec helmets actually show that progression from soft to stiff? In other words, can you predict how stiff a helmet will be simply by looking at the standard label? Absolutely.

In fact, our results show that modern helmets are all made with an amazing degree of precision, with their shell construction, liner density and liner thickness all controlled very well in the production process. In other words, almost everybody designing serious helmets seems to know exactly how to get what they want—the only variable is deciding what they want. And for the most part, the standards make that decision for them, not flashes of genius on the parts of the helmet designers themselves.

All the helmets we tested performed exactly as the standards they were designed to meet predicted. And they seemed to exceed those standards—that is, the DOT-only helmets were better at high-energy impacts than they had to be just to pass the DOT standard, and the Snell helmets were better at absorbing low-energy impacts than they had to be to pass DOT or Snell. So choosing a helmet, at least in terms of safety, is not a question of choosing high or low quality, it's one of choosing what degree of stiffness you prefer, finding a helmet in that range by choosing a particular standard, and then worrying about fine points like fit, comfort, ventilation, graphics, racer endorsements or computer-generated spokesmodels.
helmet test
How Hard Is Hard?

Not one helmet came close to bottoming in any of our tests. And they all handled the low-energy impacts, even the scary-looking edge impact, without strain.

In fact, in most cases the peak Gs in the edge impact were lower than the flat-anvil peak Gs for the same helmet at the same impact energy. Why is this? Because the edge impact flexes and/or delaminates the helmet shell sooner in the impact, letting the EPS inside—the real energy absorber in the system—start doing its work sooner.

In the high-energy impact, the 3-meter, 150-joule drop—the kind of hit a Snell helmet is, presumably, designed to withstand—the differences became more apparent.

The stiffest helmets in the Big Drop test, the Arai Tracker GTs, hit our hypothetical head with an average of 243 peak Gs. The softest helmets, the Z1R ZRP-1s, bonked the noggin with an average of 176 peak Gs. This is a classic comparison of a stiff, fiberglass, Snell-rated helmet, the Arai, against a softer, polycarbonate-shell, DOT-only helmet, the Z1R. OK. So let's agree that we want to subject our heads to the minimum possible G force. Should we pick an impressive, expensive fiberglass/Kevlar/unobtanium-fiber helmet—or one of those less-expensive plastic-shelled helmets?

Conventional helmet-biz wisdom says fiberglass construction is somehow better at absorbing energy than plastic—something about the energy of the crash being used up in delaminating the shell. And that a stiffer shell lets a designer use softer foam inside—which might absorb energy better.

Our results showed the exact opposite—that plastic-shelled helmets actually performed better than fiberglass. In our big 3-meter hit—the high-energy kind of bash one might expect would show the supposed weaknesses of a plastic shell—the plastic helmets transferred an average of 20 fewer Gs compared with their fiberglass brothers, which were presumably designed by the same engineers to meet the same standards, and built in the same factories by the same people.

Why is this? We're guessing—but it's a really good guess: The EPS liner inside the shell is better at absorbing energy than the shell. The polycarbonate shells flex rather than crush and delaminate, and this flexing, far from being a problem, actually lets the EPS do more of its job of energy absorption while transferring less energy to the head.

Remember, these polycarbonate helmets from both Icon and Scorpion are also Snell M2000 rated. So they are tested to some very extreme energy levels. And Ed Becker, executive director of the Snell Foundation, is on record as saying that a low-priced—that is, plastic-shelled—Snell-certified helmet is just as good at protecting your head as a high-priced—that is, fiberglass—Snell-certified helmet. So at the high end of impact energy, we have the Snell Foundation vouching for their performance. And our testing, without the extreme two-hit hemi test, says they're actually superior.
Score One For Faceless Government Bureaucrats

The DOT helmets we had were all plastic-shelled, and none cost more than $100. How did they do? They kicked butt. In what must be considered a head-impact Cinderella story, the DOT-only helmets from Z1R delivered less average G force to the headform through all the impacts than any others in the test.

And they still excelled in the big-hit, 150-joule impact—a blast 66 percent harder than any actual DOT test for a medium-sized helmet.

The Z1R ZRP-1s continuously amazed us. After all the testing, its outer shell looked essentially unharmed: The slight road rash at the impact sites caused by our stubborn insistence on hitting actual pavement looked no worse than we'd expect if the helmet had fallen off the seat at a rest stop.

When we pulled the ZRP-1s apart, the EPS had cracked and compressed at the impact sites, just as it's supposed to do, and just as it did in every other helmet. But it had come nowhere near bottoming; there was still an inch or more of impact-absorbing foam left. And the plastic shell seemed completely unharmed, from the inside as well as the outside, even where it had taken the terrifying edge hit and the big three-meter bash.

This illustrates just how hard it is to tell from the outside whether a helmet has taken a severe hit. And why you should never, ever buy a used helmet.
fiberglass helmet damage
Fiberglass helmets such as the the Arai Tracker (shown) showed substantial damage to their shells after the edge impact. The polycarbonate-shell helmets were largely unmarked. Neither result is essentially better: Either shell material can be used to make excellent helmets. Polycarbonate helmets generally transmit fewer Gs to the head in our testing than fiberglass-shell lids, even when certified to the same standards.
The Hardest Hits

So the softest DOT helmets came through our tests with protection to spare. But doubt lingered, in spite of everything we had seen: How would they do in a monster, wicked-big impact?

So we decided to kill them. We ran the Z1Rs up the test rig one last time. Not just to the 10-foot, 150-joule Snell test height, but all the way to the top of the rig: 3.9 meters, or 13 feet. This hit would be at 8.5 meters per second, an energy of 185 joules. That's higher and harder than any existing helmet standard impact. And, not coincidentally, the same height and energy called out in the COST 327 proposed standard, the one that may replace the current ECE 22-05 specification. We did one hit on the pavement and one on the curb anvil—the same hits called out in the COST proposal. We did them on the back of the helmets, in the center, because that was the only place we hadn't hit them before.

So this last test is not directly comparable to the others. But it showed, in no uncertain terms, just how tough—and how protective—an inexpensive helmet can be.

The peak Gs for the monster hits were 208 for the curb impact and 209 for the flat-pavement impact. Just a few Gs more, that is, than many of the Snell-rated helmets transmitted in their seven-foot hits on the flat anvil. And even after these mega hits, the EPS liners were still nowhere near used up.

The ZRP-1s are also well finished, quiet and very comfortable, though maybe a little short on venting. They're also light: Our ZRP-1s weighed only about an ounce more than the lightest helmets in the test, the Arai Tracker GTs. What's the cost for all this excellent impact absorption, comfort, light weight and highly durable finish? In a solid color, a ZRP-1 retails for $79.95.

The least-expensive helmets in the test, the $69.95 Pep Boys Raiders, also did well in all the standard impacts. But we can't recommend them because their chin bars have soft, resilient foam, not the EPS you need to absorb a severe head-on impact. Our advice is to spring for the extra $10 and treat yourself to a Z1R ZRP-1.

Another helmet that taught us a thing or two was the Schuberth S-1. The Schuberth is certified to the ECE 22-05 standard, which dictates impact energies marginally higher than the DOT standard. Like the Z1R ZRP-1 and the Fulmer AFD4, it has relatively large outer dimensions, leaving room in the shell for thicker, and presumably softer, EPS. And like the DOT-only lids, it soaked up energy like a sailor soaks up Schlitz. If you can't bring yourself to wear a $79.95 helmet just to get excellent energy management, you'll feel very comfortable with the Schuberth, which sells for $640 to $700.

The other helmets we pulled apart used either a one-piece or a two-piece EPS liner. The S-1, on the other hand, uses a complex, five-piece liner, with separate front, rear and overear pads glued to a central foam hat. Leave it to the Germans to use five parts to do what the Z1R does with one.

A few of the European helmets—the Vemars, the Sharks and the Suomys—use a different kind of EPS liner than we're used to seeing in Asian-built helmets. Instead of a solid foam liner of a specific density, these Euro-lids use stiffer, more rigid foam with deep channels in it to soften up the assembly and vent air through the shell. The effect is that of a highly vented bicycle helmet stuffed into the requisite hard outer shell. The ECE-rated Vemars and Sharks and the ECE and BSI-rated Suomys performed well on the impact torture rack, showing generally lower G-transmission than we saw in typical Snell-rated helmets.
helmet layers
The Human Race

"But I'm a racer," we hear you rationalizing. "I go really fast. I go so fast, in fact, that I need a very special, high-energy helmet to protect my wonderful manliness and fastness." Not so, Rossi-breath.

If you're going to land on flat pavement when you crash—and you almost always do—you can afford to wear a softer ECE or DOT helmet, because softer helmets do a very good job of absorbing big impacts—even really, really big impacts—on flat surfaces. Remember, the hard part about getting a helmet past the Snell standard involves surviving that mythical steel orange very hard twice in the same spot on the helmet, simulating a monster hit—or two—on, say, a car bumper. Been to Laguna Seca recently? No car bumpers or steel oranges anywhere.

Racers don't typically hit truck parts, storm drains, sign posts, tree shredders or the Watts Towers. They fall off, sometimes tumble, and almost always hit the racetrack. Or maybe an air fence, a sand trap or hay bale. In other words, the racetrack is the best-controlled, best-engineered, softest, flattest environment you're going to find. Racers are even more likely to hit flat pavement than street riders—and street riders hit flat pavement around 90 percent of the time.

The AMA accepts DOT, ECE 22-05, BSI 6658 Type A or Snell M2000-rated helmets. That's for going 200 mph on a superbike at Daytona. The FIM, which sanctions MotoGP races all over the world, accepts any of the above standards but DOT. Why not DOT if DOT helmets are comparable to ECE helmets? Because the DOT is an American institution, and the FIM doesn't really do American. And because the DOT standard doesn't require any outside testing—just the manufacturers' word that their helmets pass.
Yes, Size Does Matter

There's one more issue with the Snell and BSI standards we should mention, even if we didn't specifically address it in our testing.

Snell and BSI dictate that every helmet be impact-tested with the same-weight headform inside, no matter the size of the helmet. That is, an XS helmet is required to withstand exactly the same total impact energy as an XXL.

The DOT and ECE standards vary the energy of the impacts by varying the weight of the headform, under the reasonable rationale that a very small head weighs less than a very big one. In the eyes of the governments of both the U.S. and the European community, in other words, helmet makers should tailor the stiffness of their helmets to suit the head sizes of the wearers to protect everybody's brain equally.

What does this mean to you? If you have a relatively heavy head, the difference in stiffness between a Snell helmet and a DOT or ECE helmet will be relatively small. If you are a man, woman or child with a lighter head, on the other hand, the difference in stiffness between a Snell helmet and a DOT or ECE helmet will be relatively huge.

So if you are concerned after reading all this that a Snell helmet might be too stiff for you, Mr. XXL, you should be even more concerned about putting your XS wife or child into a Snell or BSI helmet. The Snell Foundation's position on this is that they have no proof big heads weigh more than small heads. Hmmm. Isn't a head basically a shell of thin bone filled with water? Doesn't more bone and water weigh more than less bone and water?

And it's not just us. One study by Mr. Thom concluded that head weight does increase with head circumference. He found there is good evidence that smaller heads weigh less and that smaller helmets should thus be softer.

As Thom says regarding the Snell Foundation's position on this: "They are not in touch with reality."
All Helmets Are Great. We Investigate.

The good news in all this is that helmets—all helmets—are getting better. The last time we did an impact test on helmets was back in '91, in the November issue if you're rummaging through that pile in the garage next to your 1929 Scott Flying Squirrel.

We did some of the same impacts this time, a 7-foot flat drop and a 10-foot flat drop, as we (and Thom) did in '91. So the results, at least on those tests, are highly comparable.

Back in '91, both DOT and Snell/DOT helmets routinely exceeded 250 Gs in the 7-foot drop, and often spiked past 300 Gs in the 10-foot drop. Ouch.

In our new results, no helmet exceeded 250 Gs in the 10-foot drop, and the vast majority of the 7-foot drops stayed well below 200 Gs. So falling at a 10-foot energy level today—a 99th-percentile crash—is like falling at a 7-foot energy level was back in '91. That means more and more people are being protected better and better. It also means that in well over 90 percent of the impacts we did, the rider would probably have come out with no more than an AIS 3—or serious—brain injury.

Helmets are getting better, and some of the least-expensive helmets provide truly amazing protection. But just how good can helmets get? Stay tuned—we'll explore that topic very soon.

Emilio Rivera, Words Of Wisdom.

Sometimes the most important life lessons are the ones we end up learning the hard way!
Lots of #Love ❤️& #Respect 👊
to Emilio Rivera
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Freedom Isn't Free 9th Annual Fundraiser


Flier still to be determined. PPB will be performing to support a Marine Combat Veteran. More details to follow ..

  • Saturday, October 14 at 1 PM - 5 PM
  • Temecula Valley VFW Post 4089
    28075 Diaz Rd, Temecula, California 92590

  • Find Tickets
    Ticket Information
  • List of 53 gun-banning companies that don’t want your business

    Many businesses across the country have begun banning guns on their property.

    It is a free country after all. They are free to ask you to leave your gun at home, and you are free to take your business elsewhere.
    Here’s a list of 53 businesses who would prefer to keep you unarmed.

    Many of these businesses are large chains. While some local establishments may turn a blind eye, their corporate policy calls for a weapons ban. Target was one of the few to publicly announce that they would not actively enforce their own ban. In 2014 Target announced their decision to ban firearms as an attempt to placate gun reform groups like Moms Demand Action, but have refused to actually enforce the ban to prevent alienating their customer base. In public statement Target interim CEO John Mulligan wrote, “we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.”
    This list was established in 2014 by, please share it with other responsible gun owners. The policies of these businesses are subject to change and may differ between states, particularly with  larger chains. If you know of any other businesses that should be added to this list, please leave a comment on Facebook.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    Police Research confirms the majority of the members of MC Clubs do not have any serious criminal history, and 7 of the 26 clubs subject to VLAD laws do not have members with serious criminal history.


    Police Research confirms the majority of the members of MC Clubs do not have any serious criminal history, and 7 of the 26 clubs subject to VLAD laws do not have members with serious criminal history.

    The innocent deserv protection, and should not be the subject of these draconian VLAD laws.The research, as provided to the Courier Mail last week, confirms that these laws effect people with no serious criminal history, and target 7 clubs whose members do not have any serious criminal history.

    According to an article published on the weekend, police “researchers” told the Courier Mail that “…more than 70 per cent of members of some bikie clubs have serious criminal convictions” and that “nearly half of all members of the top 19 violent outlaw gangs had convictions for serious crimes.”
    Statistics can be manipulated and I would like to make some comments on these ones in particular.
    The public is being asked to swallow these figures and conclude that the VLAD laws are justified because some of the members of clubs have a criminal history.
    It is important to remember these laws allow for severe mandatory sentencing, solitary confinement, fear of being seen in public, the reversal of the right to bail and innocence, and other denials of natural justice and human rights.
    These sorts of laws should not be passed lightly, or without careful research on who will be effected.
    They should not undermine the rule of law, or civil rights, nor should they prevent freedom of the right to protest, or the right to associate.
    Unfortunately this is not the case with the VLAD laws.
    This is why these laws have come under strong criticism from Judges, Amnesty, human rights groups, and organisations across the globe.
    They offend Australia’s treaty obligations, and involve a serious erosion of civil liberties, freedoms, and rights.
    The means never justify the ends, and these means are undeniably draconian.
    Let’s look at the police “statistics” – noting the Courier Mail did not provide much detail, because they actually demonstrate that the majority of members of these clubs do not have criminal histories.
    Firstly, these statistics choose to only refer to 19 of the 26 clubs named – so how do they justify the laws applying to the other 7 clubs named on the list?
    Does that mean they made a mistake naming the other clubs?
    Presumably the statistics for those clubs are insignificant which is why they have not be mentioned in the Courier Mail.
    Lest we also forget that they have named a club (The Scorpions) that does not even exist in Australia – why include them!
    So much for carefully researching and vetting which clubs deserve to be subjected to draconian laws.
    Secondly, on their own “statistics”, 2/3rds of members of the majority of clubs DO NOT have any serious convictions.
    Why tar all members with no history with the same brush then?
    Why are these laws being used to target clubs where less than 1/3 of members have a criminal history?
    Why are persons with no criminal history subject to the same draconian laws?
    Can the loss of the presumption of innocence really be justified where the majority effected have no history at all?
    Finally, the statistics also fail to differentiate between criminal histories which predate membership of a motorcycle club, and therefore have no relevance to their membership of the club, or their current lifestyle. As a lawyer I was always taught that people can rehabilitate, and indeed I have seen first and people change their lives around when they mature and start building a family life.
    To judge someone on their past is a mistake. People do change.
    Sometimes people need a place to belong – such as a club – to help them achieve their life goals.
    Many Vietnam veterans for example joined clubs when they returned from fighting for Australia – yet these guys are also subject to the same draconian laws, even if they only joined for a few months in the 1970s (the laws are retrospective too by the way!).
    These are men that fought for Australia, yet now they fear marching on ANZAC Day!
    What is happening to our country!
    Then there are the funerals that are being stalked by police trying to catch more than 2 club members arriving at the same time to mourn the death of a friend.
    I cannot see how that can be justified (especially when the deceased was not even a member at the time of his passing which has been the case on at least two funerals this year).
    Surely some things are sacred – births death and marriages would have to be three of the ceremonies that deserve respect.
    Laws should not target people simply because of what they might do.
    Laws should not punish people for who they choose to befriend, or associate with.
    If the majority of members do not have convictions, then why are they being targeted?
    If only a minority of members have any criminal history, then how can they justify why are these clubs being declared to be “criminal organisations”?
    How can they justify targeting their friends, family and associates?
    The innocent deserve protection from these laws.


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    Image may contain: 1 person, standing and shoes

    Motorcycle Versus Car Insurance


    If you already know and understand the basics of car insurance coverage, you’re in good shape to know the basics of motorcycle insurance coverage. But there are some differences between motorcycle and car insurance. Motorcycle insurance, which is required in nearly every state, helps to protect the owners’ investments in cases of collisions, theft, injury, and much more.

    What do motorcycle and auto insurance policies have in common?

    A good rule of thumb: if specific coverage is required for auto insurance in any particular state, the same will generally be true of motorcycle insurance. Even in states that don’t require motorcycle insurance, coverage options are normally quite similar to those offered on auto policies. Liability, uninsured motorist, medical payments, and physical damage coverage are fairly common coverages to see offered by motorcycle insurance providers.

    Motorcycle Liability Coverage

    As is the case with car insurance, liability coverage is extremely important, as it covers the other driver and the other vehicle and property in the event that you cause a collision. This is the minimum type of motorcycle coverage required by most states.
    While motorcycle riders are less likely to cause as much damage as an automobile, strictly considering the weight of the vehicle, riders are still liable for damage and injury that they cause to a third party. Further, lawsuits don’t discriminate based on what sort of vehicle the liable party was driving (or, in this case, riding). If you caused an accident, you expose yourself to a potential lawsuit. Since liability coverage is intended to protect the primary named insured’s assets, carrying as much liability as you can afford is always the best option. Pro Tip: Increasing liability limits on a motorcycle policy is fairly inexepensive, so maxing out your coverage will generally result in a very small, if any, increase in premium.

    Uninsured Motorist and Medical Payments Coverage for Motorcycle Owners

    Having both medical and uninsured motorist coverage broadens the scope of an insurance policy to cover the rider in a more comprehensive manner. Uninsured drivers are a big problem for car owners and motorcycle owners alike. Uninsured motorist coverage keeps you (the rider) and your bike protected in the case that you’re hit, injured, or otherwise sustain damage caused by someone who is uninsured or underinsured. For motorcyclists especially, this type of coverage is critical. According to a study conducted by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), as of 2012, about one in eight drivers (more than 12%) was uninsured. And going without uninsured motorist coverage would mean your medical bills would not be covered in these all-too-frequent dangerous scenarios.

    Where uninsured motorist coverage protects riders from other drivers who may be without insurance at the time of an at fault accident, medical payments coverage is intended to protect the rider when they suffer injury due to an accident that is considered their own fault. And even if you consider yourself a superb and safe driver and you’re more worried about the dangerous behavior of others on the road, you could be on the hook for major medical expenses if you forgo medical payments coverage and cause a collision.
    Pro Tip: Uninsured motorist coverage amounts don’t have to match your liability limits if you choose to carry a higher amount of liability.

    Motorcycle Full Coverage (for Physical Damage to the Bike)

    Physical damage coverage is extremely important to both auto and motorcycle owners as well; especially folks who are financing their cars or cycles. When signing the loan paperwork for that sweet new Harley or Indian or…, your salesperson will undoubtedly mention the fact that you will need insurance coverage to take the bike home. What they really mean is that, while you’re making payments on it, the motorcycle will need to be protected against damage and theft — not just liability. Fortunately, motorcycle owners can select deductible options similar to those available to automobile owners.

    Pro Tip: Physical damage coverage can be a bit expensive for motorcycles due to the likelihood of damage and theft, so ask your salesperson about the highest deductible your finance company will allow you to carry. The higher the deductible, the lower the premium.

    What’s the difference between motorcycle insurance and car insurance?
    As you’ve seen above, motorcycle and auto insurance overlap in a number of ways, but here are a few types of insurance coverage unique to those choosing the motorcycle life:

    Trip Interruption Coverage

    As far as coverage is concerned, most motorcycle insurance providers offer Trip Interruption coverage. This will normally pay for things like hotel, food, and even transportation expenses if your bike breaks down, or you’re involved in an accident, while on a trip. Most companies stipulate that the breakdown must occur more than 100 miles from your home address, but it’s a great thing to have if you like to hit the open road for days on end on your motorcycle.

    Pro Tip: Insurance providers can have different stipulations and benefits offered under this coverage type so make sure to ask your agent about the specifics if you choose to carry Trip Interruption coverage.

    Coverage for Add-Ons and Customized Parts

    Customization is much more common among motorcycle owners than car owners, so the majority of insurance companies providing motorcycle coverage will offer additional protection on custom parts and equipment that weren’t originally installed at the factory. It’s common for riders to have many thousands of dollars worth of add-ons on their bikes, and it’s equally as important to protect those parts as well as the parts that came from the factory. With most standard insurance companies, coverage for custom parts normally extends to $3,000 worth of equipment at no additional charge. The coverage amount can be increased up to the limit set by each company for more heavily customized bikes.

    Pro Tip: Keep the receipts of any custom equipment added to your bike to make sure those parts can be accounted for when purchasing your policy and that you are adequately compensated if you have to file a claim.

    Coverage for Your Bike’s Trailer

    For riders who prefer to haul their motorcycles with them on vacation or other adventures, motorcycle insurance companies also offer coverage for a transport trailer. As trailers used to haul motorcycles can be quite expensive, this can be an invaluable coverage option for riders who want to tow their bikes to their destination.

    Pro Tip: Ask the agent quoting your motorcycle coverage how much coverage they offer for a trailer as this can vary by company.

    The biggest difference between auto and motorcycle coverage?

    Just as car insurance covers vehicles from trucks to vans to sedans, etc., motorcycle insurance can also extend beyond your traditional bike to cover vehicles such as golf carts, ATVs, and side-by-side offroad vehicles. People generally seek to insure these recreational toys for medical and physical damage coverage, but it’s important to clarify that you’ll still be purchasing a motorcycle policy if you want to insure any of these types of motorized vehicles. The benefit here is that covering any of these other vehicle types is generally quite inexpensive. (photos @ H-D)

    Online Privacy Guide for Journalists 2017

    Online Privacy Guide for Journalists 2017

    You can see the eBook PDF-version of this guide here.

    1. Introduction

    Many veteran journalists, but not only these, surely noticed that we are all of a sudden bombarded again from all-over with mentions of Watergate. Books like George Orwell’s 1984 are on display at bookstores and an air of danger to freedom of speech and freedom of the press is spreading slowly like a dark cloud over the Western Hemisphere, raising old fears.
    When an American serving president accuses a former president of surveillance; when he prevents central US media outlets access – so far always granted, and taken for granted – to press conferences he holds; and when he incessantly knocks and accuses the media of being the country’s enemy number one, it isn’t surprising that memories of President Nixon surface up more with every self-pitying tweet about SNL, and that even Republican Senators such as John McCain express fear for the future of democracy.
    And McCain is not alone. Many journalists whom I have spoken with recently, expressed concern for whatever lays ahead for the freedom of the press. At a time when it’s possible to express the following statement – “Donald Trump controls the NSA” – and not be held a liar, anything’s possible. Add that to the fact that recent news on CIA taught us that almost all encryption systems can be compromised, if someone has the perseverance to crack them – and you are en route to envisioning an utterly Dystopian world, where you cannot even get too comfortable laying on your sofa, in front of your own smart TV.
    The good news is that it is nevertheless possible to make it difficult for anyone to try and intercept your emails, the text messages you’re sending or your phone calls. You can take measures to make the lives of those who want to uncover your sources and the information being revealed to you, much harder. Of course, the degree of effort you’re prepared to take to protect your privacy, your sources’ anonymity and your data’s safety, should be commensurate to the likelihood of a real threat, be that hacking or spying.
    “The old-fashioned promises – I’m not going to reveal my source’s identity or give up my notes – are kind of empty if you’re not taking steps to protect your information digitally”, says Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, whose source, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, helped uncover the scope of the NSA’s and British GCHQ’s operations, to his interviewer Tony Loci. Loci herself, who covered American judicial system for AP, The Washington Post and USA Today, and was herself held in contempt of court for refusing to identify sources, would probably endorse that.
    So, what is it that needs to be done to ensure that a journalist’s sources and data are secure and well? Grosso modo, the tips can be described as falling within the following categories:
    1. Securing on-device applications and functions- This is known as reducing the “attack surface”, i.e. limiting the installed apps to the bare minimum, installing only from trusted sources, selecting apps that require minimal rights, keeping the system fully patched and updated, and having as many security controls (based on recent best-practices white papers) on the device.
    2. Isolating your devices and/or their environment– For example, the physical insulation of a computer for the purpose of checking files, or the use of prepaid mobile devices.
    3. Acting cautiously both in the digital and real world- This has a lot to do with common sense and a little less to do with software: For example, never write down the name of the source, certainly not on any app or on any document that’s stored on your computer – and most certainly not on anything stored on the cloud.

    2. Communicating with your source and
    safeguarding the sensitive data

    Let’s begin by listing what you can do when it comes to communicating with a source, and storing sensitive information obtained thereof:
    1. Beware of big names: Presume that large companies’ encryption systems and possibly even big name operating systems (proprietary software) have back doors that secret services in their country of origin (at least in the US and the UK) can access. Bruce Schneier, Security Expert, explains it here.
    2. Always encrypt everything: Security experts use simple math to make their point: as you raise the cost of decrypting your files (say, for intelligence agencies like the NSA), you automatically increase the degree of effort expended on following you. If you’re not Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, or Edward Snowden and if you weren’t involved in active surveillance around Trump Tower apartments, They may give up the effort even if your encrypted communications were stored. And should anyone decide to track you despite your efforts, it will be more of a headache if you use strong encryption like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and tools like PGP or openVPN, which are the strongest widely available encryption methods (VPN’s are used by the US government itself).But if you want bullet-proof security, you will need more than the AES encryption method. P.S. if you want to discover the year your information landed at the NSA’s hands, just have a peek here.
    3. Perform full disk encryption: This is done just in case someone gets their hands on your computer or phone. Full disk encryption can be done using FileVaultVeraCrypt or BitLocker. Putting a computer to “Sleep” (instead of Shutdown or Hibernate) may allow an attacker to bypass this defense. Here, Mika Lee gives a complete guide for encrypting your laptop.
    4. Avoid chatting with sources on the phone: All phone companies store data related to the caller and the receiver’s numbers, as well as the location of the devices at the time calls were made.  In the US and several other countries, they’re required by law to disclose information on registered calls in their possession.What can be done? You should use a secure call service, such as the one the Signal app – which was tested repeatedly for security – possesses. Although this may mean that both the source and the editor need to download the app as well, the process takes just a few minutes. Here is a guide on how to use it. Just for the hang of it, check out how many of your non-journalist friends are hanging out there.However you choose to communicate with your source, do not bring your mobile phone to sensitive meetings. Buy a disposable device and find a way to convey its number to the source in advance. The source needs to have a disposable safe device too. Authorities can track your movement through cellular network signals and it’s advised to make it harder on them to locate you retroactively in the exact same cafe where the source was sitting. If you fail to follow this rule, all local authorities will be required to do is ask (politely and legally) for the video filmed by the café’s security camera at the time of your meeting.
    5. Choose secure messengers: your calls (cellular ones and via landlines) can be monitored by law enforcement agencies and each SMS is like a postcard – all text is fully visible to those who may intercept it. Therefore, use Messengers that allow for secure end to end call: signal, which was already mentioned above, and Telegram are considered to be the safest (although Telegram as well as WhatsApp’s web apps were compromised once and then fixed). According to some experts, you can  also consider using SMSSecure, Threema and even Whatsapp.The Signal Protocol has been actually implemented into WhatsAppFacebook Messenger, and Google Allo, making conversations using them encrypted. However, unlike Signal and WhatsApp, Google Allo and Facebook Messenger do not encrypt by default, nor notify users that conversations are unencrypted – but offer end-to-end encryption in an optional mode. You should also keep in mind that Facebook messenger and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook.Adium and Pidgin are the most popular Mac and Windows instant messaging clients that support the OTR (Off the Record) encryption protocol and Tor – the web’s best encrypted browser, which we will get to in detail later (See how to enable Tor in Adium here and in Pidgin here). Naturally, you could also use the Tor Messenger itself, which is probably the safest of them all.Two final notes on texting: A cyber security expert I’ve discussed this with, says you should also have a working hypothesis that text is encrypted but the fact that these specific two individuals are talking, at this present time, might not go unnoticed.The second note is you should also remember to delete the messages in your phone (although this may not be enough to withstand a forensic check), just in case your device falls in the wrong hands, to avoid exposing them.
    6. Do not use organizational chats: Slack, Campfire, Skype and Google Hangouts should not be used for private conversations. They are easy to break in, and are exposed to disclosure requests for courts use, to resolve legal issues at the workplace. Therefore, it’s best to avoid them, not only when it comes to conversations with sources, but also conversations between colleagues, editors, etc., when you need to pass information received from your source, whose identity must be kept under cover. Many popular VoIP services like Jitsi have built-in chat features, and several of them are designed to offer most of Skype’s features, which make them a great replacement.
    7. In extreme cases, consider using a Blackphone: This phone, which strives to provide perfect protection for web surfing, calls, text messages and emails, is probably the best substitute for a regular phone if you are about to topple your government or getting ready to publish secret military files. An anti-bullet vest may also come in handy. Alternatively, try to do without a cell phone, Or opt for a cellular phone RFID signal-blocking bag. There’s always an option that even the Blackphone can be tracked using its IMEI (the mobile phone’s ID).
    8. Protecting Data on your computer: It’s very easy to break regular passwords, but it can take years to break passphrases – i.e., random combinations of words. We recommend trying secure password management tools like: LastPass and 1Password and KeePassX. You’ll need to remember only one password, versus too many Passwords. And still, when handling important services such as your email, do not rely on password managers: Just make sure you remember the password.In an interview to Alastair Reid in, Arjen Kamphuis, an information security expert, recommended that for encrypted hard drives, secure email, and unlocking laptops, one should choose a password of over 20 characters. Of course, the longer the password, the harder it is to crack – but the harder it is to remember too. That’s why he recommends the use of a passphrase. “It can be anything, like a line of your favorite poetry,” Kamphuis says, “maybe a line from something you wrote when you were nine that no one else will know about”.Reid reports this thought provoking calculation, using the Gibson Research Corporation’s password strength calculator: A password like “F53r2GZlYT97uWB0DDQGZn3j2e”, from a random password generator, seems very strong, and indeed it is, taking 1.29 hundred billion trillion centuries to exhaust all the combinations even when the software is making one hundred trillion guesses per second.Screenshots from, showing the difference in strength between a password and a passphraseThe phrase: “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, he points out, is so much easier to remember and is also more secure, taking the same software 1.24 hundred trillion centuries to exhaust all possibilities. Well, passphrase it will be.
    9. Two-factor authentication is also a very good idea. In a regular two-stage authentication you sign in with your password and receive a second code, often via a text message to your smartphone. You can use Yubikey, as well as hardware tokens to further secure sensitive files on your computer.  For more information, read the 7 golden rules for password security.
    10. Assign a computer for inspecting suspicious files/attachments: The easiest way to distribute malware and spyware is through installation via USB or through attachments and email links. It is recommended therefore you use one air-gapped computer to examine these threats under quarantine. With this computer, you can freely use a USB and download files from the Internet, but do not transfer the files to your regular computer or re-use that USB.
    11. How to buy your own secured computer: Security expert Arjen Kamphuis recommends purchasing a pre-2009 IBM ThinkPad X60 or X61. These are the only modern enough laptops with modern software systems, which enable replacing low level software. Another point to take into account is that you should not buy your computer online, as it may be intercepted during delivery. Kamphuis recommends buying it from a second-hand store for cash. He also points out that you should abolish all connectivity: Remove all Ethernet, modem, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities. Personally, I know security experts who wouldn’t trust such a computer.

      ThinkPad X60. Don’t buy it online
    12. Educating your Sources: It’s possible that by the time the original and valuable information reaches you, it’s already too late. Your source may have made every possible mistake, leaving behind a trail of evidence. But beyond the need to secure the information once it’s in your hands, you should strive to teach your sources how to hide the information: store it securely and communicate safely via safe devices. Most people have no clue how to handle sensitive information, and in general what they’re up against the moment they get in touch with you.
    13. Use a designated secure system for receiving documents: Replace Dropbox or Google Drive and use something less popular but more secure. For example, SecureDrop is a designated system allowing you to receive files from anonymous sources and to safely scan and check them. Edward Snowden described Dropbox as “hostile to privacy” and recommended Spideroak instead. OnionShare is another free service that allows transferring files easily and anonymously.
    14. Don’t keep notes: neither on a laptop, nor calendars or contact lists on your cellphone or computer or in the cloud – do not keep record of your sources name, initials, phone number, email or user name in messengers. Just don’t.
    15. Visual tracking: On the way to sensitive meetings, avoid using public transportation and guide your source to do the same. You should also avoid meeting places such as modern malls, where video cameras are spread all over the place.
    16. Evading social media: Some people prefer to opt for radical anonymity. If for some reason, you need to vanish from the face of the earth without leaving a fully blown profile behind on every social media, totally delete your accounts. It’s different from ‘deactivating’ them, a state in which all your info is stored and can be re-activated.
    17. Make friends among hackers: This will help you avoid big mistakes, save time and headaches and keep you up to date on the technological arms race.
    18. Payment method: Pay for everything in cash, consider using Bitcoins – buy them anonymously (use this Business Insider guide for that purpose) – and, if you have somebody willing to accept them at the other end of the transaction, use Dash. A pre-paid credit card from an online store is also an option.
    19. Scribble wisely: If you jotted down information on a piece of paper, what they used to call a note in the Precambrian world, destroy it. And don’t forget even that wrinkled one at the bottom of your pocket. Yes, right next to that gum.

    3. How to become anonymous online

    Beyond securing the communications with your source, and protecting possible breaches of the sensitive data you get hold of, you should also avoid being tracked while browsing. Online habits can disclose or provide hints as to the story you’re working on, or worse, hint or disclose the identity of your source. Here are the golden rules for surfing the net safely and then, at the next chapter, for securing your email account:
    1. Private browsing mode: There are two basic ways to maintain anonymity while surfing the web. The first, most basic and popular, yet insufficient way is to browse the information in private mode, an option that most browsers allow. Your browsing history will not be saved, and basic tracking technologies, which advertisers use, such as HTTP cookies, will be prevented from creating your detailed profile. But this is more of a nice to have privacy: It basically hides your browsing history from family members who can access your computer. Your IP address can still be monitored and information regarding all the sites you visited is still exposed to your ISP.
    2. Use alternative browsers: browsers, such as DoobleComodo Dragon or SRWare Iron, which focus on user privacy, are limited in capabilities. You can achieve a similar degree of privacy offered by these browsers simply by deleting cookies – bits of code which have been downloaded to your system by websites you visit, that monitor your activity and sometimes even follow which content you consume; Another way to remain anonymous is by neutralizing your browser’s location settings, and installing various features aimed at achieving anonymity. To check whether you disabled all cookies effectively, you can use the app CCleaner, which also handles Flash cookies, but none of these browsers are fully encrypted. The only standard browser that ensures total privacy is the Tor browser. Tor is ugly and slow, but it will protect you and your sources. The next section will give a more detailed account of it.
    3.  TOR: This “notorious” browser, which was developed by the US Navy, allows you to operate in a hidden network, carry out private communications and set up web sites anonymously. Tor’s browser, which can be downloaded at, makes it very difficult to monitor your activities on the internet, or let governments or your ISP pinpoint your location. The only drawback is that it’s slow at times, a bit cumbersome – but that’s only because Tor routes you through three encrypted random relays around the world, before landing you at your destination site. You should also bear in mind that your neighbors may be shady characters.
      Another option related to Tor is to download Whonix, a secure operating system that is focused on privacy. It works as an access gate to Tor, and only allows connections with Tor sites and users. But the most popular Tor OS is Tails (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System). Tails can be booted from a USB stick or DVD, and it anonymizes all information. Edward Snowden is considered a fan of this software. Qubes is another OS that supports Whonix and is recommended by Snowden.
    4. Alternative search engines: Google, the most popular search engine, saves your search history in order to optimize the results. To stop this personalization you should click on: Search Tools > All Results > Verbatim. Or you sign into your Google account on, find a list of your previous searches and select the items you want to remove by clicking the ‘Remove Items’ button.

      DuckDuckGo. A search engine that doesn’t store your info

      But to avoid being monitored entirely, it’s preferable to use a search engine such asDuckDuckGoIf you find it difficult to give up Google, download Searchlinkfix to at least keep away URL Trackers.
    5. Direct treatment of “short-term” computer memory: Another way to neutralize options for monitoring your surfing is by deleting the DNS (domain name system) cache. Deletion is done using simple commands in the operating system. Rebooting the router – which sometimes has a DNS cache – or rebooting the computer can also reboot both their respective DNS cache, if the router has one.
    6. Try to avoid HTML Web Storage: Web Storage is built into HTML5, and unlike cookies, the stored information is impossible to monitor or selectively remove. Web storage is enabled by default, so if you’re using Internet Explorer or Firefox, simply turn it off. You can also use the add-on Better Privacy for Firefox to remove the stored information automatically. The Click and Clean extension will do the same job for Google Chrome.
    7. Use a VPN:  As I mentioned already, your ISP can monitor the sites you surf, and anyone who wants to eavesdrop on you, can also intercept your communications. To protect all incoming and outgoing communications, it’s important to make use of a VPN (For a complete explanation, click here). VPN encrypts all your communications, so that even the ISP or the secret services, or just hackers hovering around your favorite coffee shop’s Wi-Fi, won’t be able to know who you sent an email to, which service you used, etc.The use of a VPN is very common among people who, for example, wish to see the complete Netflix movies catalog outside of the United States, but not every VPN is suitable for journalists. A VPN for journalists won’t necessarily be the fastest one or have the best support, but it has to be trusted not to keep VPN logs – that is, it cannot determine who you are, what sites you’ve visited and so on.A safe VPN is bound to be provided by a company who’s not located at one of the “14 Eyes” countries, where intelligence networks are allowed to collect and share information with one another; firstly and foremost, in the USA. So VPN companies located in the territory of the former Soviet Union countries have an advantage. Their courts do not easily hand out orders to retrieve information collected by local companies, be it regarding their citizens or foreign nationals. Here you’ll find a list of 5 VPN services that stand out regarding privacy and all are located outside the “14 Eyes” countries.wBy the way, even if governments are out on the hunt for Traffic that is sheltered by a VPN, you can still use stealth VPNs like TorGuard, to confront the challenge, whether it is active government censorship or just spying you’re dealing with. Tor and VPN’s give you the perfect protection when someone is trying to retrieve your browsing history in order to profile you.
    8. Repair DNS leaks: Using a VPN does not protect you completely, because that DNS Traffic may hint at your identity. will allow you to detect such leakage. If the test shows that DNS is of your VPN, you can relax, but if it shows that the DNS is of your ISP, you are not anonymized. In this case you, check out what you can do here.
    9. Virtual Machines: This nifty little trick is actually a second (virtual) computer, which operates as an app in your operating system. You can download files or open links in a similar way to the isolated computer I recommended earlier, so that your computer is less exposed to malware or spyware of any kind. Virtualization software, like VirtualBox should be opened using a secure operating system. File downloading is done with the virtual machine Internet connection shut down; after using the file, you’ll need to delete it – and depending on your adversary, perhaps delete it along with the machine.

      HideMyAss proxy server. I’ll hide yours, if you’ll hide mine

    10. Proxy server: As in the case of virtual machines, here too the activity moves to another “area” and allows you to keep safe from spying and other attacks. Actually, the proxy servers substitute your IP address with theirs, which can mislead people into thinking you’re in a different country, for instance. (open source) and JonDonym all provide a similar service. Some experts say that these should be used with a VPN and/or Tor for higher levels of security. But then, some experts I’ve talked to claim that if you bother using Tor, you’re as secured as one can be anyway.
    11. Three more types of extensions that can increase your level of security: To verify that the Internet protocol where you operate is https secure, you can install an extension called HTTPS Everywhere , made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF), one of the organizations that funds the Tor Project. This extension is recommended by many cyber experts; it will ensure that websites you visit use the secure protocol, which is definitely not an insurance policy against anything, but better than the unencrypted protocol.The second type of extension controls the data that javaScript is revealing to websites (in order to improve your browsing experience). Two popular options here are ScriptSafe  and NoScript.Another extension is the Ghostery browser. This extension will reveal who is following you among 2,000 companies, and will allow you to block unwanted ones. It’s sweet, but you probably won’t be blocking the NSA this way. Privacy badger, a project by the EFF, also works similarly.

    4. Securing your email

    How should you protect your e-mail? The problem with maintaining the confidentiality of emails is even tougher: Google and Microsoft will most likely just give out your emails to government agencies if and when required to do so. What should you do?
    1. Safe extensions: The simplest option, assuming you use common Web mail services such as Yahoo and Google, is to install the browser plugin Mailvelope, and make sure that the person on the receiving end does too. This extension simply encrypts (and decrypts) the e-mail. A similar but limited extension to Gmail called SecureGmail will perform a similar job. Emails that go through this extension are encrypted, and can’t be decrypted by Google. Another possibility is “Encrypted Communication”, which is a simple to use Firefox extension. For that you will need a password that the recipient has access to – but remember to never transmit the password by email.
    2. Secure email providers: Hushmail is an example of an email service that provides better security than the more common networks you use, but it may be forced to hand over emails to the US government under a court order, and it does log IP addresses. Another email service with similar features and security levels is Kolab Now, which prides itself amongst other things with storing data exclusively in Switzerland.
    3. Disposable Email Addresses (DEA’s): This is an email created ad hoc for a specific purpose, which is completely anonymous and is deleted immediately after use. This solution, commonly used when signing up for various services in order to avoid spam, is also a great solution for maintaining anonymity. However I wouldn’t advise journalists to communicate with their sources over it, because security is not its strongest trait. There are dozens of such temporary emails, but the British Guardian, for example, recommended Guerrilla Mail and Mailinator.Using Guerrilla Mail in the Tor Browser ensures that not even they can connect your IP with your email address. Likewise, if you use email encryption software, such as GnuPG, on Tor, you’re all set and secure. So, let’s talk a bit about email encryption.
    4. Encrypting your mail:  Wired got this recommendation from Micah Lee, a privacy-focused technologist who worked with the EFF and First Look Media (here is an interview Lee held with Edward Snowden): Encrypting messages with webmail can be tough. It often requires the user to copy and paste messages into text windows and then use PGP to scramble and unscramble them (PGP – Pretty Good Privacy – is an encryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication). That is why Lee suggests a different email setup, using a privacy-focused email host like, the Mozilla email app Thunderbird, the encryption plugin Enigmail, and another plugin called TorBirdy that routes its messages through Tor.As Reid pointed out in his interview with Kamphuis on, Greenwald almost lost the NSA story because he initially ignored Snowden’s instructions on email encryption. In other words, if you want a story that will go down in history it makes sense to be secure. Kamphuis agrees that PGP can be trusted. As he and Reid explain, with PGP encryption, you have a public key, like your public phone number, and a private key. The public key can go on Twitter biographies, business cards, websites and wherever else your work is publicized, but the private key must be stored securely, as with any other sensitive information. Then, when a source wants to send information, they will use your public key to encrypt their email, that only your private key can unlock.Kamphuis recommended the GNU Privacy Guard, an open-source version of PGP, that is simple to set up and has an active support community. For encrypting files, data and hard drives, he suggested consulting his free eBook, “Information security for journalists”, published with Silkie Carlo and released through the CIJ, which fully explains the process.If you do choose to encrypt the message itself regardless of your mail provider’s identity, using zip with a password is a good idea, and 7ZIP is a recommended tool for accomplishing that.
    5. Back to basics: Yes, I know that this is back to email security 101 – but please try to avoid phishing. Watch the “from” field in your email for little misspellings; someone else can pose as somebody you know.And one last word on email encryption: One of the real problems to bear in mind is that even after encrypting them, not everything is encrypted. The email addresses of the sender and recipient, the subject line and the time and date when the email was sent, are all out on the open. Attachments and the message itself are the only data that is encrypted.

     5. Final words

    These are perhaps the most radical pieces of advice I ran through, when preparing this eBook.
    As Micah Lee put it when interviewed on privacy on WIRED: “If your computer gets hacked, the game is over. Creating a virtual sandbox around your online communications is a good way to keep the rest of your system protected. Tor is awesome and can make you anonymous. But if your endpoint gets compromised, your anonymity is compromised too. If you really need to be anonymous, you also need to be really secure”.
    And Journalist Tony Loci puts it in even harsher words in an article published in an eBook about the future of cross border investigative journalism for the Nieman foundation at Harvard: “Some journalists, computer scientists and privacy advocates are so alarmed that they recommend reporters go old school… and rely on in-person interviews and snail mail”.
    I hope I have helped people in the trade, and others, gather some information that will clarify what needs and can be done to ensure your and your source’s security in these hectic times.

    6. List of Sources for This Book

    • Security for journalists: How to keep your sources and your information safe
    •  Securing data, sources and yourself
    • Surveillance and Security: Are reporters and news organizations doing enough to protect sources?
    • Muckraking Goes Global: The Future of Cross-Border Investigative Journalism
    • The Ultimate Guide for Online Privacy
    • What Is a DNS Cache?
    • How to Anonymize Everything You Do Online
    • 19 ways to stay anonymous and protect your online privacy
    • Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy
    • Information security for journalists: staying secure online
    • NSA targets the privacy-conscious
    • Obama DOJ formally accuses journalist in leak case of committing crimes
    • Your WhatsApp secrets are safe now. But Big Brother is still watching you…
    • Obama Pursuing Leakers Sends Warning to Whistle-Blowers
    • 6 encryption mistakes that lead to data breaches

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