FBI now has authority to access corporate computers without owners’ knowledge or consent


<–The only Feds I trust

The FBI has the authority right now to access privately owned computers without their owners’ knowledge or consent, and to delete software. It’s part of a government effort to contain the continuing attacks on corporate networks running Microsoft Exchange software, and it’s an unprecedented intrusion that’s raising legal questions about just how far the government can go.

On April 9, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas approved a search warrant allowing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out the operation.

The software the FBI is deleting is malicious code installed by hackers to take control of a victim’s computer. Hackers have used the code to access vast amounts of private email messages and to launch ransomware attacks. The authority the Justice Department relied on and the way the FBI carried out the operation set important precedents. They also raise questions about the power of courts to regulate cybersecurity without the consent of the owners of the targeted computers.

Have we reached one of those dream-state moments when lawyers and judges rollover, stick all four feet in the air and declare “oh, what a good boy am I!” … just for being obedient and unthinking?

Indianapolis gunman bought rifles even though shotgun previously confiscated by police

Brandon Hole’s mother called police last March and told them she feared her son might try to commit “death by cop”, Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said.

Officers arrested him and took away his shotgun, records quoted by the Indianapolis Star newspaper show … The FBI then interviewed him a month later but did not find evidence of a crime and did not identify Hole as following extremist ideology, Agent Keenan said…

He was subsequently able to buy two assault rifles in July and September … Hole used both assault rifles in the attack, police said.

Local police were aware of this wannabe killer. The FBI was aware of this wannabe killer. Apparently, not fitting perfectly into the catalog of popular crimes both policing outfits cared about … just left him adrift in the winds of anger, defiance and, preventable, deadly results.

FBI/NSA say they were surprised by the mob attack. That’s a lie.

The Capitol mob began organizing weeks ago for the violence that occurred on January 6, planning inside conspiracy theory and far-right online communities on platforms like Parler and Gab. Groups that typically live in the darker corners of the internet stepped into the spotlight when they took the Capitol and broadcast the breach around the web.

The disarray and violence in Washington on January 6 drew a big audience, too. More than 23 million people watched the event on cable news stations — it was the most-watched day in CNN’s 40-year history, averaging 5.22 million viewers — and millions more followed along online via livestreams. There were more than 4.6 million mentions of unrest at the Capitol between 12 am and 6:30 pm ET that day, according to Zignal Labs, a firm that tracks online misinformation. The number of mentions first spiked after Trump spoke at the “Save America” rally in front of the White House and then surged after the mob breached the Capitol…

While the tumult was stunning, it was not surprising. The groups that stormed Capitol Hill this week have long been active on platforms like Gab and 4chan, and more recently, they’ve adopted newer tools like the lightly moderated social media site Parler and the anonymous messaging service Telegram to organize. Some have continued to use mainstream platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube…

Although there may have been the occasional detail restricted to encrypted email or messaging, everything that used to be discussed at private or public meetings…now lives on the Web. So, even if the FBI/NSA now uses AI searches of the Web to snoop on everyone in this benighted land, whatever is turned up still has to pass verification by the snitches and plants inside all of these groups.

The FBI/NSA may have been modernized since the days when they mostly relied on actual FBI agents to report on the innards of discussion…from every political group ranging from civil rights activism to teachers unions, from the rare nutball anarchist commune to the largest issue-driven activist organizations in the country…they still rely on firsthand snooping. AI and human. A spike mike in the wall of a union hall or a bug at your ISP. You don’t need to be paranoid to presume Uncle Sugar is listening in.

None of this has anything to do with ethics, constitutionality or political niceties. It’s what they do. Scumbag thoroughness, at most, is only governed by budget line items.

Trump just loves having a real-time Spy in the Sky

Six members of a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit were sent to Washington earlier this month to help in aerial surveillance of protesters there, an operation now being investigated by the Air Force inspector general…members of Pennsylvania’s 148th Air Support Operations Squadron.

…The investigation was launched “following discussions with the secretary of defense about shared concerns,” after inquiries from lawmakers about whether the operation may have violated the civil liberties of protesters…

…Guard members provided ground support for the aerial surveillance.

Ann Stefanak, chief of Air Force media operations, confirmed…the investigation into the use of a National Guard RC-26 surveillance aircraft “in support of civil authorities.”

Meanwhile…

The Air Force inspector general is examining whether secretive National Guard surveillance aircraft improperly monitored demonstrators in Washington and Minneapolis…

“The Air Force’s action comes days after the Pentagon’s top intelligence policy official told Congress that the nation’s military intelligence agencies did not spy on American protesters during the wave of nationwide demonstrations.”

So, either the military or our politicians are lying snoops…or both!

Some neato flight-tracking in this additional article.

Apple Still Won’t Help the FBI Break Into iPhones. Good.

That’s the title of an Opinion Piece published in Bloomberg News.

There are two important lessons in this week’s announcement that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has finally succeeded in cracking two mobile phones belonging to Mohammed Alshamrani, the aviation student who killed three people last December at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida.

The first lesson is that cracking an encrypted device takes time and effort even when the federal government brings all its resources to bear. The second is that Apple still refuses to build tools to make hacking its mobile devices easier.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m happy about both.

RTFA. Stephen Carter makes a decent – albeit flawed – case for the first lesson. I’ll stick with his support for the second on principle.

The flaw? He thinks the cost of resources required to hack into anyone’s phone is prohibitive and, therefore, self-limiting. We have government agencies that gleefully waste billion$ on anachronistic military devices, pet projects for totally anal politicians, self-congratulatory research on regulations premised upon moving this nation in just about any direction but forward. Don’t count on wasting money as a problem.

Dr Anthony Fauci on the New Rules of Living

…If [people], if they’re worried about the immune system and the relationship to COVID-19, and namely what’s going on right now, I would just click on the CDC website, cdc.gov, and then from there, you go to coronavirus.gov. And they could tell you all about the things that are relevant. Like why some people, like the elderly, and certain people who have underlying conditions that weaken their immune system, why they not only get infected the way everybody does, but they really have a poor outcome because their body is not able to fight off the virus very well. If you look at what’s going on in our own country and globally, generally, the people who really, really get into trouble are people who have underlying conditions…

…How confident are you that face masks, cloth masks like a bandanna, are enough when I go out to the grocery store?

It is certainly better than not having it on. Is it 100% protective against a droplet that someone might sneeze or cough, or even some aerosol? Of course not. However, in reality, if you can stay six feet from someone, at all times, the virus very, very unlikely would travel that far to you. But in the real world that we live in, when you go to a pharmacy or you go to a grocery store, the chances of you always being six feet from someone are just unlikely, which is the reason why the recommendation of, although it isn’t perfect, wear something that is a cloth…

Google and Apple are saying they’re going to develop technology to trace this via mobile phone. Do you think that’s a good idea?

…One of the sticky, sticky issues about that is that there is a lot of pushback in this country to get someone or some organization — to have by GPS somebody know where you were and when you were there. Even though from a purely public health standpoint, that makes sense. You know, you could look at somebody’s cell phone, and say, “You were next to these 25 people over the last 24 hours.” Boy, I gotta tell you the civil liberties-type pushback on that would be considerable. Even though from a pure public health standpoint, it absolutely makes sense.

There are many more questions, well-asked and answered, in the article. Definitely a worthwhile read.

Just to address the last question I included in this post…the Apple/Google contact tracking software won’t tell you or anyone else who those 25 people were you stood next to. The anonymizing process tells you that you were near a certain number of folks who exhibit symptoms, probably where. More detailed information would only be passed along to public health agencies IF those individuals opt in to allow that.

I understand the questions about civil liberties many folks will have. Once I became an activist against racism and bigotry, the whole range of progressive issues guaranteed I would be subject to scrutiny from the Big Brother factions in our government. I would have given this greater consideration…and still have chosen public health and safety as the greater good. But, I haven’t had to worry about that since about 1960. :-]

This app will invade anyone’s privacy and the FBI loves it

Clearview AI, a small startup that was mostly unknown until a story from The New York Times called it the app to “end privacy as we know it,” lets strangers figure out your identity through the quick snap of a single photo.

Hundreds of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are already using this facial recognition technology, despite bans on the tech in cities like San Francisco.

The app uses over three billion images to find a match. These photos were sourced from social media sites and even apps like Venmo…

These fears and disavowals of facial recognition tech come just months after two senators introduced a bipartisan bill to limit how the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency could use it.

“Facial recognition technology can be a powerful tool for law enforcement officials,” Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, said in a statement at the time. “But its very power also makes it ripe for abuse.”

Poisonally – and not too seriously – I have to think it might be useful for average Americans to experience what every insurgent activist has experienced for decades in the United States. Every decent-sized police department has a Red Squad that includes photo-recording every insurgent activist on their patch. At a minimum.

First time I recall being aware of some flavor of gumshoe snapping my photo was at a civil rights demonstration in New England prepping for the March on Washington the following year – in 1963. I don’t doubt that this went on earlier in my life as I woke up to folks rallying together against injustice. The swarm of tech and snoops has never diminished since. If you believe it has, I have a Bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

Pentagon says they’re worried about consumer DNA testing


Lisa Ferdinando/DOD

The Pentagon is advising troops that there are security risks, to include mass surveillance and potential tracking, associated with using consumer DNA kits. The products have become popular in recent years with people looking to discover potential medical issues or uncover information about ancestry and even find unknown relatives…

“These DTC [direct-to-consumer] genetic tests are largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo reads.

“Moreover, there is increased concern in the scientific community that outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic data for questionable purposes, including mass surveillance and the ability to track individuals without their authorization or awareness,” the memo states.

Humbug! Yes, we all should be concerned about privacy and access to personal information. Automatic call for anyone spending any time on the Web. Anyone applaud the Pentagon for worrying about citizens becoming security risks from DNA testing? Drivel!

As much as geeks drive concern over privacy and corporate use of that info – it should take a century or two for non-government snoops to catch up to the files in possession of the FBI, NSA and the rest of the vegetable soup tracking ordinary citizens under the umbrella of security. Cripes, last time I was involved with challenges to federal snoops, the active file went back to my first sit-in over sixty years ago.

Military warned about extremist violence at screenings of “JOKER” – no one warning civilians

❝ The U.S. military has warned service members about the potential for a mass shooter at screenings of the Warner Bros. film Joker, which has sparked wide concerns from, among others, the families of those killed during the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado…

In a September 18th email, service members were instructed to remain aware of their surroundings and “identify two escape routes” when entering theaters. In the event of a shooting…“Run if you can,” the safety notice said. “If you’re stuck, hide (also known as ‘sheltering in place’), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.”

RTFA for details, background – a copy of the Army email – and discussion of the Great American Pastime of mass murder.