The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers…
That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.
Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.
The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.
A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.
Kaspersky published the technical details of its research on Monday, which should help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.
Another opportunity to confirm which politicians and pundits are serious about protecting individual privacy and which consider kissing government spy-butts more important. Let’s see who lines up on which side in coming days discussing this latest revelation.
Meanwhile, our government will continue to tell us the biggest cyber-dangers are script-kiddies dwnloading movies and crooks raiding ATMs. Just ignore wholesale spying on everyone on the planet who owns a computer or a cellphone.
If the NSA gets their way, the Internet of Everything will have your refrigerator telling American spy agencies what you plan to have for lunch.
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before huge crowds on the National Mall in August 1963, the FBI took notice.
“We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security,” FBI domestic intelligence chief William Sullivan wrote in a memo two days later. A massive surveillance operation on King was quickly approved, and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover became increasingly fixated on proving that King had Communist ties, and discrediting him generally.
The surveillance failed to show that King was a Communist, but it did result in many tapes of extramarital sexual liaisons by King. So, the next year, Sullivan sent the following unsigned letter to King’s home. An unredacted version of it was only recently unearthed by Yale historian Beverly Gage, and published in the New York Times in November:
RTFA for all the racist and reactionary crap involved in this FBI project. Understand one thing – one thing the nicely-nicely journalists who published this in the NY Times and at Vox.com online will not say.
The miserable lowlife pricks who think like this have infected our government since before we won our independence. They have occasionally been shut down. They never left. Preserving creeps like this, saving them to get their taxpayer-funded pension, is part of what Good Old Boys Clubs are for. They’ve learned not to be as public about their racism, they don’t even use code words like the smarmy bigots in the Tea Party.
But, they’re still here. They still get their chances at character assassination every time someone decides security is a higher priority than democracy and transparency.
While many Americans were cozying up on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the National Security Agency was busy posting dozens of quarterly reports detailing incidents where it potentially violated U.S. laws through improper monitoring of U.S. citizens and foreigners…
Yes, they hoped no one would notice.
The NSA, like other American intelligence agencies, relies on a 1981 executive order that legalized the surveillance of foreigners living outside of the U.S. It uses that same executive order “to sweep up the international communications of countless Americans,” the American Civil Liberties Union writes.
…The NSA report’s executive summary reads, “After foreign intelligence or counterintelligence information is acquired, it must be analyzed to remove or mask certain protected categories of information, including U.S. person information, unless specific exceptions apply.”
“Data incorrectly acquired is almost always deleted,” it continues.
Bet that makes you feel secure.
Of course, it doesn’t happen quite like that. Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks revealed the NSA is monitoring more than 1 billion people globally. Its spying on Americans is expansive.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that has been dredging up documents since July 2013. These most recent documents are a series of quarterly reports turned over to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board. They date from late 2001 to mid-year 2013…
The heavily redacted reports detail many, many incidents where NSA agents pulled up the wrong information with the database. Each incident is followed by a statement that the data was either not accessed or the query and results were deleted.
Other reports cover agents being granted access to data without the proper training or using searches that were no longer meant to be in effect. Raw data was at times accidentally emailed or kept on an unsecured computer.
There is also at least one instance where an NSA employee purposefully sought out data that was both unnecessary and illegal. One document states a woman went through her husband’s phone contacts “without his knowledge to obtain names and phone numbers for targeting” over a period of 2-3 years…
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board published a report in January stating the case for ending phone records collection. But legislators have yet to pass any limits on the NSA’s power.
Anyone who believes Congress controlled by Republicans and Tea Bag Nutballs will clamp down on the NSA should know I have a seawater resort I’d like to sell them in La Bajada, New Mexico.
Not that the usual clot of Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and just plain cowards of both parties are likely to make any bipartisan changes in NSA or CIA or FBI practices.
Mitch McConnell’s new intern
Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.
So, they may as well help it along. Right?
Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel announced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “military-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing…
The Pentagon plans to monopolize imminent “transformational advances” in nanotechnology, robotics, and energy…
Pointing out that “sensitive personal information” can now be easily mined from online sources and social media, they call for policies on “Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to determine the Department’s ability to make use of information from social media in domestic contingencies”—in other words, to determine under what conditions the Pentagon can use private information on American citizens obtained via data-mining of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and so on.
Just in case the NSA missed anything.
Yet the most direct military application of such technologies, the Pentagon study concludes, will be in “Command-Control-Communications, Computers and Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (C4ISR)”—a field led by “world-class organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA).”
RTFA for lots more scary crap from the government sector responsible for bringing us everything from Agent Orange to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.
Let me say it once again. Either takeover the Democrats and install a backbone or go the 3rd Party route to twist their arms and inspire the courageous action needed to forestall this version of the future. Because you know we ain’t gonna have any robots big enough to fight back against theirs.
Another almost-invisible supporter of human rights in the CIA
The CIA’s post-9/11 embrace of torture was brutal and ineffective – and the agency repeatedly lied about its usefulness, a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee…concludes.
After examining 20 case studies, the report found that torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information,” said committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, in a statement summarizing the findings. She called the torture program “a stain on our values and on our history”…
The torture that the CIA carried out was even more extreme than what it portrayed to congressional overseers and the George W Bush administration, the committee found. It went beyond techniques already made public through a decade of leaks and lawsuits…
Contractor psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen played a critical role in establishing the torture program in 2002. A company they formed to contract their services to the CIA was worth more than $180m, and by the time of the contract’s 2009 cancellation, they had received $81m in payouts.
So much for “do no harm!”
The committee’s findings, which the CIA largely rejects, are the result of a four-year, $40m investigation that plunged relations between the spy agency and the Senate committee charged with overseeing it to a historic low.
The investigation that led to the report, and the question of how much of the document would be released and when, has pitted chairwoman Feinstein and her committee allies against the CIA and its White House backers. For 10 months, with the blessing of President Barack Obama, the agency has fought to conceal vast amounts of the report from the public, with an entreaty to Feinstein from secretary of state John Kerry occurring as recently as Friday.
CIA director John Brennan, an Obama confidante, conceded in a Tuesday statement that the program “had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes” owing from what he described as unpreparedness for a massive interrogation and detentions program…
Obama banned CIA torture upon taking office, but the continuing lack of legal consequences for agency torturers has led human rights campaigners to view the Senate report as their last hope for official recognition and accountability for torture.
Though the committee released hundreds of pages of declassified excerpts from the report on Tuesday, the majority of the 6,000-plus page classified version remains secret, disappointing human rights groups that have long pushed for broader transparency…
Republican members of the intelligence committee questioned the report in their own 100-page document. They wrote blah, blah, blah and blah.
Read the whole report summary over here.
James Clapper, director of (sic) national intelligence, is leading the ranks of apologists with what is becoming the party line of liberals who are patting themselves on the back because the report finally came out. “Only the heroic United States with our great history, blah, blah, blah, would do this, blah, blah, blah.”
It took over a decade of effort by hundreds of individuals dedicated to preserving our Constitution and what few standards remain in American politics to force our government to come out with this report. Our politicians spend more time hiding the corruption of standards of decency than, say, any criminal prosecutor in St, Louis county or New York City.
Trying to elicit praise for admitting we broke everything from international treaties to our own federal laws by torturing detainees is something thugs like Dick Cheney may demand from his creepy followers. Criminal practices are not praiseworthy even when finally admitting you committed the crimes.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden received several standing ovations in the Swedish parliament after being given the Right Livelihood award for his revelations of the scale of state surveillance.
Snowden, who is in exile in Russia, addressed the parliament by video from Moscow. In a symbolic gesture, his family and supporters said no one picked up the award on his behalf in the hope that one day he might be free to travel to Sweden to receive it in person.
His father, Lon, who was in the chamber for what was an emotional ceremony, said: “I am thankful for the support of the Right Livelihood award and the Swedish parliament. The award will remain here in expectation that some time – sooner or later – he will come to Stockholm to accept the award.”
Snowden is wanted by the US on charges under the Espionage Act. His chances of a deal with the US justice department that would allow him to return home are slim and he may end up spending the rest of his days in Russia.
His supporters hope that a west European country such as Sweden might grant him asylum. Members of the Green party called for him to be given sanctuary in Sweden…
The awards jury, in its citation, said Snowden was being honoured “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights”.
Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian also was a recipient. He was celebrated for “building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenge of exposing corporate and government malpractices”.
I don’t think the Swedes invited anyone from the White House.
Summary of Findings
Privacy evokes a constellation of concepts for Americans—some of them tied to traditional notions of civil liberties and some of them driven by concerns about the surveillance of digital communications and the coming era of “big data.” While Americans’ associations with the topic of privacy are varied, the majority of adults in a new survey by the Pew Research Center feel that their privacy is being challenged along such core dimensions as the security of their personal information and their ability to retain confidentiality.
When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they hear the word “privacy,” there are patterns to their answers. As the above word cloud illustrates, they give important weight to the idea that privacy applies to personal material—their space, their “stuff,” their solitude, and, importantly, their “rights.” Beyond the frequency of individual words, when responses are grouped into themes, the largest block of answers ties to concepts of security, safety, and protection. For many others, notions of secrecy and keeping things “hidden” are top of mind when thinking about privacy.
More than a year after contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents about widespread government surveillance by the NSA, the cascade of news stories about the revelations continue to register widely among the public. Some 43% of adults have heard “a lot” about “the government collecting information about telephone calls, emails, and other online communications as part of efforts to monitor terrorist activity,” and another 44% have heard “a little.” Just 5% of adults in our panel said they have heard “nothing at all” about these programs.
Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information. That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.
RTFA for details and conclusions.
The folks at Pew recently asked me why I use their studies, surveys and analysis. Prime – from my perspective – is integrity. They consider the standards inherent in our Constitution inviolable. A group of ideals advanced not only for their time; but, for today. And they would wish, I believe, to carry the standards forward into the future we must all fight for.
I admit to being blasé about the questions we confront in this study. I haven’t had the privacy Pew strives to address as a standard since the very first days I stood up against oppression and racism in this the land of my birth.
On the way to my first sit-in in the civil rights movement, crammed into a VW Kombi owned by the college student driving our very mixed bag of black and white, town and gown, to Virginia – hoping to survive sharing a Coke at some drugstore soda fountain – we were spotted and tailed by the Virginia State Police the instant we crossed their border. Which meant local coppers, FBI, had recorded our departure from New Haven and passed the word along.
Before the 1950’s were out I had my first confrontation with FBI agents who waited outside the factory where I worked. I was the chairman of the union’s COPE committee. The Committee On Political Education – which mostly concentrated on issues and platform questions in local and national elections.
Nothing much to say about it. A standard intimidation tactic back then. It never matters what they say they want to talk to you about. They usually try to sound like they’re really concerned about helping you. Which is a crock. The point they’re making is that they know who you are and what you say.
I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine and walked away. That all happened before I made it to 1963. Ain’t much changed since as far as privacy in my life is concerned. Laws change. Politicians change a very little. Establishment, government lies about protecting the people haven’t changed a jot.
With their thousands of software engineers, huge resources and myriad databases, the Googles, Amazons and Facebooks may seem to inhabit an alternative IT universe.
But what the big web services firms are doing today with data volumes and data types will soon be the common experience for many businesses, according to Neo Technology CEO Emil Eifrem…
“If you’re interested in seeing the future of how data-oriented architectures are likely to evolve, the future is already here — just unevenly distributed,” Eifrem said.
“What that means is if you look at some of the big web services — the Googles and the Amazons of the world — they are already today dealing with the volume and shape of data that everyone else will be working on in five years from now…”
And our government – courtesy of their pat 3-letter agencies – is even bigger.
“When you receive an email in your Gmail account, that’s going to be chopped up into various forms and stored as a simple log over here in maybe the equivalent of a document database. But then over here all the contacts and the keywords are going to be stored in a graph database. Then they have really awesome systems for keeping all that data in sync,” he said.
“It’s not perfect and it’s a lot of hard work. But it’s the reality that we’re all going to face and a lot of people are already facing it today.”
Eifrem said companies are already past the point where a single database is capable of managing all data workloads — and it’s misleading for any vendor to suggest it has the answer to all an enterprise’s database problems…
“If you don’t go to the pains of choosing that technology and getting that thousand times improvement, then someone else in your vertical will. They’re just going to build a much better product and glean so much better insights that they’re going to outperform you…
“Every single dataset today or tomorrow is going to be big. So the role of the data architect in the future is going to be to look at my big dataset and then identify parts of it that are shaped as tables and say, ‘That fits really well in my trusted old relational database from Oracle or IBM or whatever,'” Eifrem said.
RTFA and keep this fact in the front of your brain: the dataset being discussed is you.
Eifrem sells products which perform best at slicing and dicing all the information available about your life and how you live — to sell you something and make a profit. That’s not what Uncle Sugar does with the same or similar software.
The government we confront – through Congress, through a compliant Supreme Court, led by whoever is in the White House from the Age of Reagan forward – compiles every speck of information on you, me and the dog to assure themselves that we’re going to stay in line. Or be kept in line. Some geeks will revolt! Some will accept a paycheck – and cooperate
Regardless of how often and how loudly they lie, the two qualities our government fears the most are transparency and democracy.
Edward Snowden speaks to a European Council parliamentary hearing
U.S. technology companies have a lot to fear from the fallout over the widespread spying by the National Security Agency. Corporate customers ripping out their products from data centers around the world isn’t one of them.
The real threat? Projects just getting off the ground. A $185-million submarine data cable that Brazil is building to Europe – which the country says can be built without U.S. technologies – offers one example, which we reported on today.
The cable illustrates a bigger problem facing Silicon Valley and the rest of the U.S. tech industry: Emerging markets are spending more on information technology and taking a bigger share of the global market, as growth rates from developed countries are slowing down.
If the Brazil-to-Europe cable is built as planned, and U.S. tech firms are passed over in favor of European, Asian or local suppliers, it would be a sign that when it comes to international tech projects, the Snowden Effect will be as widespread as the NSA’s surveillance.
The dummies in Congress continue to maintain the Cold War mentality which has ballooned since 9/11. On one hand you have the wholesale handover of American privacy into the disdainful care of the NSA and FBI. They couldn’t care less about our rights.
On the other hand, you have populist politicians who attack furriners – especially China – as the Red Menace which sleeps in the closet opposite your bed – while terrorists sleep underneath. So, Huawei – which built the broadband infrastructure for France and a chunk of the UK, as examples – is banned from doing business in the United States. Does anyone think that constitutes a negative in the eyes of nations already put off by US militarism, snoops and profiteers? If Uncle Sugar is afraid of this company they must be doing something right.
Huawei may or may not get a piece of the Brazilian project; but, Cisco doesn’t stand a chance.
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”
The federal government does.
Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up…
“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”
On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances…”
RTFA. Contemptible policies made all the worse by their spread throughout our government. The NSA and FBI meet the same lowlife standard. Not that they’re copycats. They’re just behaving like the rest of the phony/law enforcement/foreign legion scumbags in our government. Regal, self-serving hypocrites.
Like so many police agencies in American government, they’re above the law.