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Posts Tagged ‘domestic spying

NSA and GCHQ target apps like Angry Birds to steal user data

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Darth NSA bird

The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.

The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger…

Depending on what profile information a user had supplied, the documents suggested, the agency would be able to collect almost every key detail of a user’s life: including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status – options included “single”, “married”, “divorced”, “swinger” and more – income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.

The agencies also made use of their mobile interception capabilities to collect location information in bulk, from Google and other mapping apps. One basic effort by GCHQ and the NSA was to build a database geolocating every mobile phone mast in the world – meaning that just by taking tower ID from a handset, location information could be gleaned…

The NSA said its phone interception techniques are only used against valid targets blah, blah, blah.

GCHQ declined to comment on any of its specific programs, but stressed blah, blah, blah.

Official liars both sides of the pond assure us the protocols in place don’t violate anyone’s rights or privacy. Their patented bobblehead judges have examined the potential for abuse and found nothing to threaten our liberty.

Phew. I need a new pair of Wellies just to stand around in that much bullshit – even offered in irony.

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Written by Ed Campbell

January 28, 2014 at 8:00 am

Tech firms tell the Feds to reform surveillance practices

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amazon drone + nsa drone

Eight leading American technology firms have called on the United States President and Congress – and their counterparts around the world — to rein in government surveillance.

Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Apple, AOL, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter said in an open letter on Sunday that they were all encrypting their systems and “pushing back on government requests” for customer data “to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.” However, the firms said, they need President Obama and Congress to “take the lead on reformHar.

• Governments should avoid bulk data collection of internet communications, instead limiting surveillance to targeted situations.

• There should be a clear legal framework for surveillance by intelligence agencies, with independent oversight courts that allow an “adversarial process” – i.e. there’s someone around to raise the arguments against surveillance in any given case.

• Governments should “allow companies to publish the number and nature of demand for user information.”

• Governments should “permit the transfer of data and should not inhibit access by companies or individuals to lawfully available information that is stored outside of the country.”

• There should be an international framework for lawful data requests across borders, with governments working together to avoid any jurisdictional conflicts…

Crucially, these are also all consumer-facing American companies, and as such they could face a backlash as people outside the U.S. slowly develop homegrown alternatives, fearing the security implications of using American tech. Early warning signs may already be starting to appear behind the scenes – telecommunications equipment-maker Cisco said in November that it expected a significant drop in revenues due to a fall in international demand.

“Why should we trust you anymore than we trust your government?”

There is also a measure of discussion about who is missing from this gathering of tech giants, e.g., Amazon. Aside from any other consideration, it’s likely that will be laid-off to that nice shiny new contract they signed to provide cloud services to the CIA. D’ya think?

Written by Ed Campbell

December 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Geeks fightback against NSA spies with super encryption

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America’s Mecca for Fascist technology

Google, Facebook and Yahoo! are fighting back against the National Security Agency by using harder-to-crack code to shield their networks and online customer data from unauthorized U.S. spying.

The companies, burned by disclosures they’ve cooperated with U.S. surveillance programs, are protecting user e-mail and social-media posts with strengthened encryption that the U.S. government says won’t be easily broken until 2030…

Companies are fighting back primarily by using increasingly complex encryption, which scrambles data using a mathematical formula that can be decoded only with a special digital key. The idea is to protect sensitive information like e-mails, Internet searches and digital calls…

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has determined that known computing power won’t be able to break 2048-bit encryption until at least 2030…

“The NSA is one of the largest, most powerful, well-funded intelligence agencies in the world,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl said in a phone interview. “While the government has been misusing its legal authorities to require a set of data at the front door, the NSA has been sneaking in the back door to grab all the data…”

Encrypting data can, at the least, make it harder for the NSA to gain unauthorized access to information, forcing the agency to pick targets or come out of the shadows and go before a court to obtain it legally, Opsahl said.

The other thing companies can do is lobby Congress to change the law to restrict what the NSA is able to do, according to Harvard’s Bruce Schneier.

“There is a technology component, but primarily this is a political problem,” Schneier said.

Like most every social problem in our lives, today – this is a political problem. Congress and the White House vacillate between do-nothing know-nothings on the Right and spineless do-nothings in the supposedly Liberal middle. Obama was elected to change foreign policy, end military complicity and bring our troops home, lead a constitutional fight to restore democracy and privacy to our nation. He failed. In the fight for privacy he didn’t even try – rolling over for the NSA and Homeland Insincerety.

Though pressure from below – that means you and me – we shoved half the Blue Dog Democrats out the door and replaced them with Progressives or at least Constitutionalists who will stand up for traditional rights. Pressure needs to be maintained on Congress which will likely return a significant number of populist Tea Party phonies from gerrymandered districts. Pressure needs to be increased on Democrats who have the ethical sturdiness of Jello.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Obama’s “independent” panel to review security snoops – are all insiders tied to security snoops

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georgewobama

The review of US surveillance programs which Barack Obama promised would be conducted by an “independent” and “outside” panel of experts looks set to consist of four Washington insiders with close ties to the security establishment.

The president announced the creation of the group of experts two weeks ago, in an attempt to stem the rising tide of anger over National Security Agency surveillance techniques disclosed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Obama trumpeted what he said would be a “high-level group of outside experts” tasked with assessing all of the government’s “intelligence and communication technologies”.

However a report by ABC News, which has not been denied by the administration, said the panel would consist of Michael Morell, a recent acting head of the CIA, and three former White House advisers…

In addition to Morell, who was deputy director of the CIA until just three months ago, the panel is believed to consist of former White House officials Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire.

None responded to requests for comment, however sources close to Sunstein and Swire said they understood them to have been selected. A formal White House announcement is expected soon.

So much for White House-level Truth in Advertising. This kind of kiss-ass behavior would have been roundly condemned if he pulled this crap in the first months of his first-term. Now, it’s just more of the same old, same old.

RTFA for the details. There are no thrills and chills from qualitative leaps into protecting citizens’ constitutional rights.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Obama expands snooping on American citizens

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The U.S. government is expanding a cybersecurity program that scans Internet traffic headed into and out of defense contractors to include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure.

As a result, more private sector employees than ever before, including those at big banks, utilities and key transportation companies, will have their emails and Web surfing scanned as a precaution against cyber attacks.

Now you understand why the White House and Congress have been planting scare stories throughout the tame media recently.

Under last month’s White House executive order on cybersecurity, the scans will be driven by classified information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies – including data from the National Security Agency (NSA) – on new or especially serious espionage threats and other hacking attempts. U.S. spy chiefs said on March 12 that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as the top threat to the country.

The Department of Homeland Security will gather the secret data and pass it to a small group of telecommunication companies and cybersecurity providers that have employees holding security clearances, government and industry officials said. Those companies will then offer to process email and other Internet transmissions for critical infrastructure customers that choose to participate in the program.

By using DHS as the middleman, the Obama administration hopes to bring the formidable overseas intelligence-gathering of the NSA closer to ordinary U.S. residents without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates who have long been leery of the spy agency’s eavesdropping…

Yes, that’s what it actually says: “without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates…”

But as fears grow of a destructive cyber attack on core, non-military assets, and more sweeping security legislation remained stalled, the Obama administration opted to widen the program.

Last month’s presidential order calls for commercial providers of “enhanced cybersecurity services” to extend their offerings to critical infrastructure companies. What constitutes critical infrastructure is still being refined, but it would include utilities, banks and transportation such as trains and highways.

The issue of scanning everything headed to a utility or a bank still has civil liberties implications, even if each company is a voluntary participant.

Another one of those days when someone has to explain to me the difference between Republicans and Democrats on questions of civil liberties. This ain’t George W Bush using his War on Terror to snoop on Americans. This is Barack Obama using his War on Terror to snoop on Americans.

Gee. Not a lot of difference between those last two sentences — is there?

Written by Ed Campbell

March 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Pentagon “legitimizes” domestic spying by handing info to local police!

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The Pentagon, which closed its Talon intelligence database nearly a year ago amid concerns about domestic spying, will soon begin testing an unclassified alternative for tracking possible threats to U.S. military bases.

The system, an FBI-operated program called eGuardian, would for the first time sever the Defense Department’s collection of data on suspicious activity from U.S. intelligence operations by placing the information in an unclassified database for law enforcement agencies, officials said…

Talon, a classified database maintained by a defense counterintelligence office that the Pentagon disbanded on Tuesday, was designed to gather pieces of information about suspicious activity near U.S. defense facilities. Analysts could then examine the data for evidence of potential threats.

But in 2005, the database was found to have inappropriately retained information on U.S. antiwar protesters even after they were ruled out as threats. That caused an outcry in Congress and among civil liberties advocates about the dangers of military spying on U.S. citizens.

The concept is still good” said a Pentagon spokesman. “Connecting the dots of the bits and pieces of possible information is a good thing. It just shouldn’t be in a counterintelligence database”.

So, you change the name, yoyo the order in which information on citizens is shared and “voila” data-mining American citizens is now legitimate.

The sleazy history of governments spying on the general populace doesn’t get squeaky clean just because it’s practiced in a country with a history of openness. The openness has been going away for decades.

National security and executive privilege replaced your right to know, long go.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 6, 2008 at 8:00 am

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