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Paul Merrell

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : The NSA Continues to Abuse Americans ... - 0 views

  • One of the few positive things in the ill-named USA FREEDOM Act, enacted in 2015 after the Snowden revelations on NSA domestic spying, is that it required the Director of National Intelligence to regularly report on its domestic surveillance activities. On Friday, the latest report was released on just how much our own government is spying on us. The news is not good at all if you value freedom over tyranny.According to the annual report, named the Statistical Transparency Report Regarding Use of National Security Authorities, the US government intercepted and stored information from more than a half-billion of our telephone calls and text messages in 2017. That is a 300 percent increase from 2016. All of these intercepts were “legal” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is ironic because FISA was enacted to curtail the Nixon-era abuse of surveillance on American citizens.Has the US government intercepted your phone calls and/or text messages? You don’t know, which is why the surveillance state is so evil. Instead of assuming your privacy is protected by the US Constitution, you must assume that the US government is listening in to your communications. The difference between these is the difference between freedom and tyranny. The ultimate triumph of totalitarian states was not to punish citizens for opposing its tyranny, but to successfully cause them to censor themselves before even expressing “subversive” thoughts.
Paul Merrell

Tripling Its Collection, NSA Sucked Up Over 530 Million US Phone Records in 2017 - 0 views

  • he National Security Agency (NSA) collected over 530 million phone records of Americans in 2017—that's three times the amount the spy agency sucked up in 2016. The figures were released Friday in an annual report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). It shows that the number of "call detail records" the agency collected from telecommunications providers during Trump's first year in office was 534 million, compared to 151 million the year prior. "The intelligence community's transparency has yet to extend to explaining dramatic increases in their collection," said Robyn Greene, policy counsel at the Open Technology Institute. The content of the calls itself is not collected but so-called "metadata," which, as Gizmodo notes, "is supposedly anonymous, but it can easily be used to identify an individual. The information can also be paired with other publicly available information from social media and other sources to paint a surprisingly detailed picture of a person's life." The report also revealed that the agency, using its controversial Section 702 authority, increased the number of foreign targets of warrantless surveillance. It was 129,080 in 2017 compared to 106,469 in 2016. As digital rights group EFF noted earlier this year, Under Section 702, the NSA collects billions of communications, including those belonging to innocent Americans who are not actually targeted. These communications are then placed in databases that other intelligence and law enforcement agencies can access—for purposes unrelated to national security—without a warrant or any judicial review. "Overall," Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, said to ZDNet, "the numbers show that the scale of warrantless surveillance is growing at a significant rate, but ODNI still won't tell Americans how much it affects them."
Paul Merrell

US spy lab hopes to geotag every outdoor photo on social media | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Imagine if someone could scan every image on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, then instantly determine where each was taken. The ability to combine this location data with information about who appears in those photos—and any social media contacts tied to them—would make it possible for government agencies to quickly track terrorist groups posting propaganda photos. (And, really, just about anyone else.) That's precisely the goal of Finder, a research program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's dedicated research organization. For many photos taken with smartphones (and with some consumer cameras), geolocation information is saved with the image by default. The location is stored in the Exif (Exchangable Image File Format) data of the photo itself unless geolocation services are turned off. If you have used Apple's iCloud photo store or Google Photos, you've probably created a rich map of your pattern of life through geotagged metadata. However, this location data is pruned off for privacy reasons when images are uploaded to some social media services, and privacy-conscious photographers (particularly those concerned about potential drone strikes) will purposely disable geotagging on their devices and social media accounts.
Paul Merrell

Forget About Siri and Alexa - When It Comes to Voice Identification, the "NSA Reigns Su... - 0 views

  • These and other classified documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA has developed technology not just to record and transcribe private conversations but to automatically identify the speakers. Americans most regularly encounter this technology, known as speaker recognition, or speaker identification, when they wake up Amazon’s Alexa or call their bank. But a decade before voice commands like “Hello Siri” and “OK Google” became common household phrases, the NSA was using speaker recognition to monitor terrorists, politicians, drug lords, spies, and even agency employees. The technology works by analyzing the physical and behavioral features that make each person’s voice distinctive, such as the pitch, shape of the mouth, and length of the larynx. An algorithm then creates a dynamic computer model of the individual’s vocal characteristics. This is what’s popularly referred to as a “voiceprint.” The entire process — capturing a few spoken words, turning those words into a voiceprint, and comparing that representation to other “voiceprints” already stored in the database — can happen almost instantaneously. Although the NSA is known to rely on finger and face prints to identify targets, voiceprints, according to a 2008 agency document, are “where NSA reigns supreme.” It’s not difficult to see why. By intercepting and recording millions of overseas telephone conversations, video teleconferences, and internet calls — in addition to capturing, with or without warrants, the domestic conversations of Americans — the NSA has built an unrivaled collection of distinct voices. Documents from the Snowden archive reveal that analysts fed some of these recordings to speaker recognition algorithms that could connect individuals to their past utterances, even when they had used unknown phone numbers, secret code words, or multiple languages.
  • The classified documents, dating from 2004 to 2012, show the NSA refining increasingly sophisticated iterations of its speaker recognition technology. They confirm the uses of speaker recognition in counterterrorism operations and overseas drug busts. And they suggest that the agency planned to deploy the technology not just to retroactively identify spies like Pelton but to prevent whistleblowers like Snowden.
Paul Merrell

Challenge to data transfer tool used by Facebook will go to Europe's top court | TechCr... - 1 views

  • The five-week court hearing in what is a complex case delving into detail on US surveillance operations took place in February. The court issued its ruling today. The 153-page ruling starts by noting “this is an unusual case”, before going into a detailed discussion of the arguments and concluding that the DPC’s concerns about the validity of SCCs should be referred to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. Schrems is also the man responsible for bringing, in 2013, a legal challenge that ultimately struck down Safe Harbor — the legal mechanism that had oiled the pipe for EU-US personal data flows for fifteen years before the ECJ ruled it to be invalid in October 2015. Schrems’ argument had centered on U.S. government mass surveillance programs, as disclosed via the Snowden leaks, being incompatible with fundamental European privacy rights. After the ECJ struck down Safe Harbor he then sought to apply the same arguments against Facebook’s use of SCCs — returning to Ireland to make the complaint as that’s where the company has its European HQ. It’s worth noting that the European Commission has since replaced Safe Harbor with a new (and it claims more robust) data transfer mechanism, called the EU-US Privacy Shield — which is now, as Safe Harbor was, used by thousands of businesses. Although that too is facing legal challenges as critics continue to argue there is a core problem of incompatibility between two distinct legal regimes where EU privacy rights collide with US mass surveillance.
  • In a written statement on the ruling Schrems added: “I welcome the judgement by the Irish High Court. It is important that a neutral Court outside of the US has summarized the facts on US surveillance in a judgement, after diving through more than 45,000 pages of documents in a five week hearing.
  • Making a video statement outside court in Dublin today, Schrems said the Irish court had dismissed Facebook’s argument that the US government does not undertake any surveillance.
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  • Schrems’ Safe Harbor challenge also started in the Irish Court before being ultimately referred to the ECJ. So there’s more than a little legal deja vu here, especially given the latest development in the case. In its ruling on the SCC issue, the Irish Court noted that a US ombudsperson position created under Privacy Shield to handle EU citizens complaints about companies’ handling of their data is not enough to overcome what it described as “well founded concerns” raised by the DPC regarding the adequacy of the protections for EU citizens data.
  • On Facebook, he also said: “In simple terms, US law requires Facebook to help the NSA with mass surveillance and EU law prohibits just that. As Facebook is subject to both jurisdictions, they got themselves in a legal dilemma that they cannot possibly solve in the long run.”
  • While Schrems’ original complaint pertained to Facebook, the Irish DPC’s position means many more companies that use the mechanism could face disruption if SCCs are ultimately invalidated as a result of the legal challenge to their validity.
Paul Merrell

White House, Intel Chiefs Want To Make Digital Spying Law Permanent | HuffPost - 0 views

  • The White House and U.S. intelligence chiefs Wednesday backed making permanent a law that allows for the collection of digital communications of foreigners overseas, escalating a fight in Congress over privacy and security. The law, enshrined in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is due to expire on December 31 unless Congress votes to reauthorize it, but is considered vital by U.S. intelligence agencies. Privacy advocates have criticized the law though for allowing the incidental collection of data belonging to millions of Americans without a search warrant. The push to make the law permanent may lead to a contentious debate over renewal of Section 702 in Congress, where lawmakers in both parties are deeply divided over whether to adopt transparency and oversight reforms
  • Reuters reported in March that the Trump administration supported renewal of Section 702 without any changes, citing an unnamed White House official, but it was not clear at the time whether it wanted the law made permanent.
Paul Merrell

NSA Based Malware Used In Massive Cyber-Attack Hitting 74 Countries - 0 views

  • Apparent National Security Agency (NSA) malware has been used in a global cyber-attack, including on British hospitals, in what whistleblower Edward Snowden described as the repercussion of the NSA’s reckless decision to build the tools. “Despite warnings, @NSAGov built dangerous attack tools that could target Western software. Today we see the cost,” Snowden tweeted Friday. At least two hospitals in London were forced to shut down and stop admitting patients after being attacked by the malware, which operates by locking out the user, encrypting data, and demanding a ransom to release it. The attacks hit dozens of other hospitals, ambulance operators, and doctors’ offices as well.
  • The Blackpool Gazette in the northwest reported that medical staff had resorted to using pen and paper when phone and computer systems shut down. Elsewhere, journalist Ollie Cowan tweeted a photo of ambulances “backed up” at Southport Hospital as the staff attempted to cope with the crisis.
  • Other disruptions were reported in at least 74 countries, including Russia, Spain, Turkey, and Japan, and the number is “growing fast,” according to Kaspersky Lab chief Costin Raiu. Security architect Kevin Beau said it was spreading into the U.S. as well. The malware, which Microsoft tested briefly earlier this year, was leaked by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, which has been releasing NSA hacking tools online since last year, the New York Times reports. Times journalists Dan Bilefsky and Nicole Perlroth wrote: Microsoft rolled out a patch for the vulnerability in March, but hackers apparently took advantage of the fact that vulnerable targets—particularly hospitals—had yet to update their systems. The malware was circulated by email. Targets were sent an encrypted, compressed file that, once loaded, allowed the ransomware to infiltrate its targets. Reuters reported that the National Health Service (NHS), England’s public health system, was warned about possible hacking earlier in the day, but that by then it was already too late.
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  • A Twitter account with the handle @HackerFantastic, the co-founder of the cyber security company Hacker House, tweeted that the firm had “warned the NHS with Sky news about vulnerabilities they had last year, this was inevitable and bound to happen at some stage.” “In light of today’s attack, Congress needs to be asking @NSAgov if it knows of any other vulnerabilities in software used in our hospitals,” Snowden tweeted. “If @NSAGov had privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they *found* it, not when they lost it, this may not have happened.” Disclosing the vulnerability when it was found would have given hospitals years, not months, to update their systems and prepare for an attack, he added.
  • witter user @MalwareTechBlog added, “Something like this is incredibly significant, we’ve not seen P2P spreading on PC via exploits at this scale in nearly a decade.” Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) National Security Project, said, “It would be shocking if the NSA knew about this vulnerability but failed to disclose it to Microsoft until after it was stolen.” “These attacks underscore the fact that vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and criminals around the world,” Toomey said. “It is past time for Congress to enhance cybersecurity by passing a law that requires the government to disclose vulnerabilities to companies in a timely manner. Patching security holes immediately, not stockpiling them, is the best way to make everyone’s digital life safer.”
Paul Merrell

'Shadow Brokers' give away more NSA hacking tools - 0 views

  • The elusive Shadow Brokers didn't have much luck selling the NSA's hacking tools, so they're giving more of the software away -- to everyone. In a Medium post, the mysterious team supplied the password for an encrypted file containing many of the Equation Group surveillance tools swiped back in 2016. Supposedly, the group posted the content in "protest" at President Trump turning his back on the people who voted for him. The leaked data appears to check out, according to researchers, but some of it is a couple of decades old and focused on platforms like Linux. If anything, the leak might backfire. Edward Snowden notes that while the leak is "nowhere near" representing the NSA's complete tool set, there's enough that the NSA should "instantly identify" where and how the kit leaked. This doesn't mean the Shadow Brokers themselves are about to face capture. However, this may give the agency info it needs to both connect the dots (how much of a role did NSA contractor Harold Thomas Martin III play in the online leak, for instance?) and prevent a repeat incident.Does this open a can of worms? It's hard to say -- researchers are still combing over the data. If there are any hacks that can be made useful, though, this could be problematic for server operators worried about cybercrime. If nothing else, it shows that the Shadow Brokers didn't reveal their full hand.
Paul Merrell

MoA - The Khan Sheikoun Show - A New President Proudly Presented By Trump Productions - 0 views

  • Shadowbrokers, who got hands on the NSA's top hacking tool, is a original Trump fan and voter and pissed that Trump is turning to the neocons and away from Steve Bannon: Recommended (if only for style) https://medium.com/@shadowbrokerss/dont-forget-your-base-867d304a94b1 In protest he is releasing the NSA's arsenal: https://github.com/x0rz/EQGRP The password for the EQGRP-Auction-Files is CrDj”(;Va.*NdlnzB9M?@K2)#>deB7mN Edward Snowden tweeted just now: https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/850766326943690752 "NSA just lost control of its Top Secret arsenal of digital weapons; hackers leaked it."
Paul Merrell

Rand Paul Is Right: NSA Routinely Monitors Americans' Communications Without Warrants - 0 views

  • On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Sen. Rand Paul was asked about President Trump’s accusation that President Obama ordered the NSA to wiretap his calls. The Kentucky senator expressed skepticism about the mechanics of Trump’s specific charge, saying: “I doubt that Trump was a target directly of any kind of eavesdropping.” But he then made a broader and more crucial point about how the U.S. government spies on Americans’ communications — a point that is deliberately obscured and concealed by U.S. government defenders. Paul explained how the NSA routinely and deliberately spies on Americans’ communications — listens to their calls and reads their emails — without a judicial warrant of any kind: The way it works is, the FISA court, through Section 702, wiretaps foreigners and then [NSA] listens to Americans. It is a backdoor search of Americans. And because they have so much data, they can tap — type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls. And so they did this to President Obama. They — 1,227 times eavesdrops on President Obama’s phone calls. Then they mask him. But here is the problem. And General Hayden said this the other day. He said even low-level employees can unmask the caller. That is probably what happened to Flynn. They are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners. But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans.
  • Paul’s explanation is absolutely correct. That the NSA is empowered to spy on Americans’ communications without a warrant — in direct contravention of the core Fourth Amendment guarantee that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” — is the dirty little secret of the U.S. Surveillance State. As I documented at the height of the controversy over the Snowden reporting, top government officials — including President Obama — constantly deceived (and still deceive) the public by falsely telling them that their communications cannot be monitored without a warrant. Responding to the furor created over the first set of Snowden reports about domestic spying, Obama sought to reassure Americans by telling Charlie Rose: “What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls … by law and by rule, and unless they … go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause.” The right-wing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, echoed Obama, telling CNN the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls. If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law.” Those statements are categorically false. A key purpose of the new 2008 FISA law — which then-Senator Obama voted for during the 2008 general election after breaking his primary-race promise to filibuster it — was to legalize the once-controversial Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping program, which the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing in 2005. The crux of the Bush/Cheney controversy was that they ordered NSA to listen to Americans’ international telephone calls without warrants — which was illegal at the time — and the 2008 law purported to make that type of domestic warrantless spying legal.
Paul Merrell

'Manhunting Timeline' Further Suggests US Pressured Countries to Prosecute WikiLeaks Ed... - 0 views

  • An entry in something the government calls a “Manhunting Timeline” suggests that the United States pressured officials of countries around the world to prosecute WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, in 2010. The file—marked unclassified, revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept—is dated August 2010. Under the headline, “United States, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Iceland” – it states: The United States on 10 August urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom and Germany, to consider filing criminal charges against Julian Assange, founder of the rogue WikiLeaks Internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan. The documents may have been provided to WikiLeaks by Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. The appeal exemplifies the start of an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange and the human network that supports WikiLeaks. Another document—a top-secret page from an internal wiki—indicates there has been discussion in the NSA with the Threat Operations Center Oversight and Compliance (NOC) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) on the legality of designating WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign actor” and whether this would make it permissible to conduct surveillance on Americans accessing the website. “Can we treat a foreign server who stores or potentially disseminates leaked or stolen data on its server as a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting with no defeats?” Examples: WikiLeaks, thepiratebay.org). The NOC/OGC answered, “Let me get back to you.” (The page does not indicate if anyone ever got back to the NSA. And “defeats” essentially means protections.)
  • GCHQ, the NSA’s counterpart in the UK, had a program called “ANTICRISIS GIRL,” which could engage in “targeted website monitoring.” This means data of hundreds of users accessing a website, like WikiLeaks, could be collected. The IP addresses of readers and supporters could be monitored. The agency could even target the publisher if it had a public dropbox or submission system. NSA and GCHQ could also target the foreign “branches” of the hacktivist group, Anonymous. An answer to another question from the wiki entry involves the question, “Is it okay to query against a foreign server known to be malicious even if there is a possibility that US persons could be using it as well? Example: thepiratebay.org.” The NOC/OGC responded, “Okay to go after foreign servers which US people use also (with no defeats). But try to minimize to ‘post’ only for example to filter out non-pertinent information.” WikiLeaks is not an example in this question, however, if it was designated as a “malicious foreign actor,” then the NSA would do queries of American users.
  • Michael Ratner, a lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represents WikiLeaks, said on “Democracy Now!”, this shows he has every reason to fear what would happen if he set foot outside of the embassy. The files show some of the extent to which the US and UK have tried to destroy WikiLeaks. CCR added in a statement, “These NSA documents should make people understand why Julian Assange was granted diplomatic asylum, why he must be given safe passage to Ecuador, and why he must keep himself out of the hands of the United States and apparently other countries as well. These revelations only corroborate the expectation that Julian Assange is on a US target list for prosecution under the archaic “Espionage Act,” for what is nothing more than publishing evidence of government misconduct.” “These documents demonstrate that the political persecution of WikiLeaks is very much alive,”Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish former judge who now represents the group, told The Intercept. “The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure.”
Paul Merrell

American and British Spy Agencies Targeted In-Flight Mobile Phone Use - 0 views

  • In the trove of documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a treasure. It begins with a riddle: “What do the President of Pakistan, a cigar smuggler, an arms dealer, a counterterrorism target, and a combatting proliferation target have in common? They all used their everyday GSM phone during a flight.” This riddle appeared in 2010 in SIDtoday, the internal newsletter of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, or SID, and it was classified “top secret.” It announced the emergence of a new field of espionage that had not yet been explored: the interception of data from phone calls made on board civil aircraft. In a separate internal document from a year earlier, the NSA reported that 50,000 people had already used their mobile phones in flight as of December 2008, a figure that rose to 100,000 by February 2009. The NSA attributed the increase to “more planes equipped with in-flight GSM capability, less fear that a plane will crash due to making/receiving a call, not as expensive as people thought.” The sky seemed to belong to the agency.
Paul Merrell

The New Snowden? NSA Contractor Arrested Over Alleged Theft Of Classified Data - 0 views

  • A contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) was arrested by the FBI following his alleged theft of “state secrets.” More specifically, the contractor, Harold Thomas Martin, is charged with stealing highly classified source codes developed to covertly hack the networks of foreign governments, according to several senior law enforcement and intelligence officials. The Justice Department has said that these stolen materials were “critical to national security.” Martin was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, the company responsible for most of the NSA’s most sensitive cyber-operations. Edward Snowden, the most well-known NSA whistleblower, also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton until he fled to Hong Kong in 2013 where he revealed a trove of documents exposing the massive scope of the NSA dragnet surveillance. That surveillance system was shown to have targeted untold numbers of innocent Americans. According to the New York Times, the theft “raises the embarrassing prospect” that an NSA insider managed to steal highly damaging secret information from the NSA for the second time in three years, not to mention the “Shadow Broker” hack this past August, which made classified NSA hacking tools available to the public.
  • Snowden himself took to Twitter to comment on the arrest. In a tweet, he said the news of Martin’s arrest “is huge” and asked, “Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports [that the] NSA sat on huge flaws in US products?” It is currently unknown if Martin was connected to those reports as well.
  • It also remains to be seen what Martin’s motivations were in removing classified data from the NSA. Though many suspect that he planned to follow in Snowden’s footsteps, the government will more likely argue that he had planned to commit espionage by selling state secrets to “adversaries.” According to the New York Times article on the arrest, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are named as examples of the “adversaries” who would have been targeted by the NSA codes that Martin is accused of stealing. However, Snowden revealed widespread US spying on foreign governments including several US allies such as France and Germany. This suggests that the stolen “source codes” were likely utilized on a much broader scale.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Money And Power: The Real Reason For The NSA Spying On Everyone | Techdirt - 1 views

  •  
    "from the money-money-money dept More than four years ago, we wrote about all the buzz that you were hearing about "cyberwar" was little more than an attempt to drum up FUD to get the government to throw billions of dollars at private contractors. "
Paul Merrell

The NSA Leak Is Real, Snowden Documents Confirm - 0 views

  • On Monday, a hacking group calling itself the “ShadowBrokers” announced an auction for what it claimed were “cyber weapons” made by the NSA. Based on never-before-published documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept can confirm that the arsenal contains authentic NSA software, part of a powerful constellation of tools used to covertly infect computers worldwide. The provenance of the code has been a matter of heated debate this week among cybersecurity experts, and while it remains unclear how the software leaked, one thing is now beyond speculation: The malware is covered with the NSA’s virtual fingerprints and clearly originates from the agency. The evidence that ties the ShadowBrokers dump to the NSA comes in an agency manual for implanting malware, classified top secret, provided by Snowden, and not previously available to the public. The draft manual instructs NSA operators to track their use of one malware program using a specific 16-character string, “ace02468bdf13579.” That exact same string appears throughout the ShadowBrokers leak in code associated with the same program, SECONDDATE.
Paul Merrell

NSA's use of software flaws to hack foreign targets posed risks to cybersecurity - The ... - 0 views

  • To penetrate the computers of foreign targets, the National Security Agency relies on software flaws that have gone undetected in the pipes of the Internet. For years, security experts have pressed the agency to disclose these bugs so they can be fixed, but the agency hackers have often been reluctant. Now with the mysterious release of a cache of NSA hacking tools over the weekend, the agency has lost an offensive advantage, experts say, and potentially placed at risk the security of countless large companies and government agencies worldwide. Several of the tools exploited flaws in commercial firewalls that remain unpatched, and they are out on the Internet for all to see. Anyone from a basement hacker to a sophisticated foreign spy agency has access to them now, and until the flaws are fixed, many computer systems may be in jeopardy. The revelation of the NSA cache, which dates to 2013 and has not been confirmed by the agency, also highlights the administration’s little-known process for figuring out which software errors to disclose and which to keep secret.
Paul Merrell

EU okays 'renewed' data transfer deal, lets US firms move Europeans' private info overs... - 0 views

  • The EU has accepted a new version of the so-called Private Shield law that would allow US companies to transfer Europeans’ private data to servers across the ocean. The EU struck down the previously-reached agreement over US surveillance concerns.
  • The majority of EU members voted in support of the Privacy Shield pact with the US that had been designed to replace its predecessor, the Safe Harbor system, which the highest EU court ruled “invalid” in October 2015 following Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass US surveillance.
  • The newly-adopted agreement will come into force starting Tuesday.The deal, which is said to be aimed at protecting European citizens’ private data, defines the rules of how the sharing of information should be handled. It gives legal ground for tech companies such as Google, Facebook and MasterCard to move Europeans’ personal data to US servers bypassing an EU ban on moving personal information out from the 28-nation bloc. The agreement covers everything from private data about employees to detailed records of what people do online.“For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurance that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms and has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance of European citizens' data,” the statement said.
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  • The new deal now grants greater guarantees to European customers and provides “accessible and affordable redress mechanisms” in case any disputes concerning US spying arise. An ombudsman will also be created within the US State Department to review complaints filed by EU citizens.
  • Privacy Shield, however, has also faced sharp criticism. Concerns about extensive US spying activity were raised in Europe after whistleblower Edward Snowden released a trove of controversial material on Washington’s surveillance practices.Digital rights group Privacy International (PI) said the newly-adopted pact had been drawn up on a "flawed premise" and “remains full of holes and hence offers limited protection to personal data”. 
Paul Merrell

Shaking My Head - Medium - 0 views

  • Last month, at the request of the Department of Justice, the Courts approved changes to the obscure Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which governs search and seizure. By the nature of this obscure bureaucratic process, these rules become law unless Congress rejects the changes before December 1, 2016.Today I, along with my colleagues Senators Paul from Kentucky, Baldwin from Wisconsin, and Daines and Tester from Montana, am introducing the Stopping Mass Hacking (SMH) Act (bill, summary), a bill to protect millions of law-abiding Americans from a massive expansion of government hacking and surveillance. Join the conversation with #SMHact.
  • For law enforcement to conduct a remote electronic search, they generally need to plant malware in — i.e. hack — a device. These rule changes will allow the government to search millions of computers with the warrant of a single judge. To me, that’s clearly a policy change that’s outside the scope of an “administrative change,” and it is something that Congress should consider. An agency with the record of the Justice Department shouldn’t be able to wave its arms and grant itself entirely new powers.
  • These changes say that if law enforcement doesn’t know where an electronic device is located, a magistrate judge will now have the the authority to issue a warrant to remotely search the device, anywhere in the world. While it may be appropriate to address the issue of allowing a remote electronic search for a device at an unknown location, Congress needs to consider what protections must be in place to protect Americans’ digital security and privacy. This is a new and uncertain area of law, so there needs to be full and careful debate. The ACLU has a thorough discussion of the Fourth Amendment ramifications and the technological questions at issue with these kinds of searches.The second part of the change to Rule 41 would give a magistrate judge the authority to issue a single warrant that would authorize the search of an unlimited number — potentially thousands or millions — of devices, located anywhere in the world. These changes would dramatically expand the government’s hacking and surveillance authority. The American public should understand that these changes won’t just affect criminals: computer security experts and civil liberties advocates say the amendments would also dramatically expand the government’s ability to hack the electronic devices of law-abiding Americans if their devices were affected by a computer attack. Devices will be subject to search if their owners were victims of a botnet attack — so the government will be treating victims of hacking the same way they treat the perpetrators.
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  • As the Center on Democracy and Technology has noted, there are approximately 500 million computers that fall under this rule. The public doesn’t know nearly enough about how law enforcement executes these hacks, and what risks these types of searches will pose. By compromising the computer’s system, the search might leave it open to other attackers or damage the computer they are searching.Don’t take it from me that this will impact your security, read more from security researchers Steven Bellovin, Matt Blaze and Susan Landau.Finally, these changes to Rule 41 would also give some types of electronic searches different, weaker notification requirements than physical searches. Under this new Rule, they are only required to make “reasonable efforts” to notify people that their computers were searched. This raises the possibility of the FBI hacking into a cyber attack victim’s computer and not telling them about it until afterward, if at all.
Paul Merrell

In Hearing on Internet Surveillance, Nobody Knows How Many Americans Impacted in Data C... - 0 views

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held an open hearing today on the FISA Amendments Act, the law that ostensibly authorizes the digital surveillance of hundreds of millions of people both in the United States and around the world. Section 702 of the law, scheduled to expire next year, is designed to allow U.S. intelligence services to collect signals intelligence on foreign targets related to our national security interests. However—thanks to the leaks of many whistleblowers including Edward Snowden, the work of investigative journalists, and statements by public officials—we now know that the FISA Amendments Act has been used to sweep up data on hundreds of millions of people who have no connection to a terrorist investigation, including countless Americans. What do we mean by “countless”? As became increasingly clear in the hearing today, the exact number of Americans impacted by this surveillance is unknown. Senator Franken asked the panel of witnesses, “Is it possible for the government to provide an exact count of how many United States persons have been swept up in Section 702 surveillance? And if not the exact count, then what about an estimate?”
  • Elizabeth Goitein, the Brennan Center director whose articulate and thought-provoking testimony was the highlight of the hearing, noted that at this time an exact number would be difficult to provide. However, she asserted that an estimate should be possible for most if not all of the government’s surveillance programs. None of the other panel participants—which included David Medine and Rachel Brand of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as well as Matthew Olsen of IronNet Cybersecurity and attorney Kenneth Wainstein—offered an estimate. Today’s hearing reaffirmed that it is not only the American people who are left in the dark about how many people or accounts are impacted by the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of the Internet. Even vital oversight committees in Congress like the Senate Judiciary Committee are left to speculate about just how far-reaching this surveillance is. It's part of the reason why we urged the House Judiciary Committee to demand that the Intelligence Community provide the public with a number. 
  • The lack of information makes rigorous oversight of the programs all but impossible. As Senator Franken put it in the hearing today, “When the public lacks even a rough sense of the scope of the government’s surveillance program, they have no way of knowing if the government is striking the right balance, whether we are safeguarding our national security without trampling on our citizens’ fundamental privacy rights. But the public can’t know if we succeed in striking that balance if they don’t even have the most basic information about our major surveillance programs."  Senator Patrick Leahy also questioned the panel about the “minimization procedures” associated with this type of surveillance, the privacy safeguard that is intended to ensure that irrelevant data and data on American citizens is swiftly deleted. Senator Leahy asked the panel: “Do you believe the current minimization procedures ensure that data about innocent Americans is deleted? Is that enough?”  David Medine, who recently announced his pending retirement from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, answered unequivocally:
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  • Senator Leahy, they don’t. The minimization procedures call for the deletion of innocent Americans’ information upon discovery to determine whether it has any foreign intelligence value. But what the board’s report found is that in fact information is never deleted. It sits in the databases for 5 years, or sometimes longer. And so the minimization doesn’t really address the privacy concerns of incidentally collected communications—again, where there’s been no warrant at all in the process… In the United States, we simply can’t read people’s emails and listen to their phone calls without court approval, and the same should be true when the government shifts its attention to Americans under this program. One of the most startling exchanges from the hearing today came toward the end of the session, when Senator Dianne Feinstein—who also sits on the Intelligence Committee—seemed taken aback by Ms. Goitein’s mention of “backdoor searches.” 
  • Feinstein: Wow, wow. What do you call it? What’s a backdoor search? Goitein: Backdoor search is when the FBI or any other agency targets a U.S. person for a search of data that was collected under Section 702, which is supposed to be targeted against foreigners overseas. Feinstein: Regardless of the minimization that was properly carried out. Goitein: Well the data is searched in its unminimized form. So the FBI gets raw data, the NSA, the CIA get raw data. And they search that raw data using U.S. person identifiers. That’s what I’m referring to as backdoor searches. It’s deeply concerning that any member of Congress, much less a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, might not be aware of the problem surrounding backdoor searches. In April 2014, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged the searches of this data, which Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall termed “the ‘back-door search’ loophole in section 702.” The public was so incensed that the House of Representatives passed an amendment to that year's defense appropriations bill effectively banning the warrantless backdoor searches. Nonetheless, in the hearing today it seemed like Senator Feinstein might not recognize or appreciate the serious implications of allowing U.S. law enforcement agencies to query the raw data collected through these Internet surveillance programs. Hopefully today’s testimony helped convince the Senator that there is more to this topic than what she’s hearing in jargon-filled classified security briefings.
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    The 4th Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and *particularly describing the place to be searched, and the* persons or *things to be seized."* So much for the particularized description of the place to be searched and the thngs to be seized.  Fah! Who needs a Constitution, anyway .... 
Paul Merrell

Lawmakers warn of 'radical' move by NSA to share information | TheHill - 0 views

  • A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is expressing alarm at reported changes at the National Security Agency that would allow the intelligence service’s information to be used for policing efforts in the United States.“If media accounts are true, this radical policy shift by the NSA would be unconstitutional, and dangerous,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Blake FarentholdBlake FarentholdLawmakers warn of 'radical' move by NSA to share information Overnight Tech: Netflix scores win over Postal Service Lawmakers go green for St. Patrick's Day MORE (R-Texas) wrote in a letter to the spy agency this week. “The proposed shift in the relationship between our intelligence agencies and the American people should not be done in secret.ADVERTISEMENT“NSA’s mission has never been, and should never be, domestic policing or domestic spying.”The NSA has yet to publicly announce the change, but The New York Times reported last month that the administration was poised to expand the agency's ability to share information that it picks up about people’s communications with other intelligence agencies.The modification would open the door for the NSA to give the FBI and other federal agencies uncensored communications of foreigners and Americans picked up incidentally — but without a warrant — during sweeps.  
  • Robert Litt, the general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the Times that it was finalizing a 21-page draft of procedures to allow the expanded sharing.  Separately, the Guardian reported earlier this month that the FBI had quietly changed its internal privacy rules to allow direct access to the NSA’s massive storehouse of communication data picked up on Internet service providers and websites.The revelations unnerved civil liberties advocates, who encouraged lawmakers to demand answers of the spy agency.“Under a policy like this, information collected by the NSA would be available to a host of federal agencies that may use it to investigate and prosecute domestic crimes,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel and the American Civil Liberties Union. “Making such a change without authorization from Congress or the opportunity for debate would ignore public demands for greater transparency and oversight over intelligence activities.”In their letter this week, Lieu and Farenthold warned that the NSA’s changes would undermine Congress and unconstitutionally violate people’s privacy rights.   
  • “The executive branch would be violating the separation of powers by unilaterally transferring warrantless data collected under the NSA’s extraordinary authority to domestic agencies, which do not have such authority,” they wrote.“Domestic law enforcement agencies — which need a warrant supported by probable cause to search or seize — cannot do an end run around the Fourth Amendment by searching warrantless information collected by the NSA.”
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