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Paul Merrell

NSA Director Finally Admits Encryption Is Needed to Protect Public's Privacy - 0 views

  • NSA Director Finally Admits Encryption Is Needed to Protect Public’s Privacy The new stance denotes a growing awareness within the government that Americans are not comfortable with the State’s grip on their data. By Carey Wedler | AntiMedia | January 22, 2016 Share this article! https://mail.google.com/mail/?view=cm&fs=1&to&su=NSA%20Director%20Finally%20Admits%20Encryption%20Is%20Needed%20to%20Protect%20Public%E2%80%99s%20Privacy&body=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mintpress
  • Rogers cited the recent Office of Personnel Management hack of over 20 million users as a reason to increase encryption rather than scale it back. “What you saw at OPM, you’re going to see a whole lot more of,” he said, referring to the massive hack that compromised the personal data about 20 million people who obtained background checks. Rogers’ comments, while forward-thinking, signify an about face in his stance on encryption. In February 2015, he said he “shares [FBI] Director [James] Comey’s concern” about cell phone companies’ decision to add encryption features to their products. Comey has been one loudest critics of encryption. However, Rogers’ comments on Thursday now directly conflict with Comey’s stated position. The FBI director has publicly chastised encryption, as well as the companies that provide it. In 2014, he claimed Apple’s then-new encryption feature could lead the world to “a very dark place.” At a Department of Justice hearing in November, Comey testified that “Increasingly, the shadow that is ‘going dark’ is falling across more and more of our work.” Though he claimed, “We support encryption,” he insisted “we have a problem that encryption is crashing into public safety and we have to figure out, as people who care about both, to resolve it. So, I think the conversation’s in a healthier place.”
  • At the same hearing, Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to comment on whether they had proof the Paris attackers used encryption. Even so, Comey recently lobbied for tech companies to do away with end-to-end encryption. However, his crusade has fallen on unsympathetic ears, both from the private companies he seeks to control — and from the NSA. Prior to Rogers’ statements in support of encryption Thursday, former NSA chief Michael Hayden said, “I disagree with Jim Comey. I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America.” Still another former NSA chair has criticized calls for backdoor access to information. In October, Mike McConnell told a panel at an encryption summit that the United States is “better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption.” Former Department of Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff, has also spoken out against government being able to bypass encryption.
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  • Regardless of these individual defenses of encryption, the Intercept explained why these statements may be irrelevant: “Left unsaid is the fact that the FBI and NSA have the ability to circumvent encryption and get to the content too — by hacking. Hacking allows law enforcement to plant malicious code on someone’s computer in order to gain access to the photos, messages, and text before they were ever encrypted in the first place, and after they’ve been decrypted. The NSA has an entire team of advanced hackers, possibly as many as 600, camped out at Fort Meade.”
  • Rogers statements, of course, are not a full-fledged endorsement of privacy, nor can the NSA be expected to make it a priority. Even so, his new stance denotes a growing awareness within the government that Americans are not comfortable with the State’s grip on their data. “So spending time arguing about ‘hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it’ … that’s a waste of time to me,” Rogers said Thursday. “So what we’ve got to ask ourselves is, with that foundation, what’s the best way for us to deal with it? And how do we meet those very legitimate concerns from multiple perspectives?”
Paul Merrell

Testosterone Pit - Home - The Other Reason Why IBM Throws A Billion At Linux ... - 0 views

  • IBM announced today that it would throw another billion at Linux, the open-source operating system, to run its Power System servers. The first time it had thrown a billion at Linux was in 2001, when Linux was a crazy, untested, even ludicrous proposition for the corporate world. So the moolah back then didn’t go to Linux itself, which was free, but to related technologies across hardware, software, and service, including things like sales and advertising – and into IBM’s partnership with Red Hat which was developing its enterprise operating system, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. “It helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. IBM claims that the investment would “help clients capitalize on big data and cloud computing with modern systems built to handle the new wave of applications coming to the data center in the post-PC era.” Some of the moolah will be plowed into the Power Systems Linux Center in Montpellier, France, which opened today. IBM’s first Power Systems Linux Center opened in Beijing in May. IBM may be trying to make hay of the ongoing revelations that have shown that the NSA and other intelligence organizations in the US and elsewhere have roped in American tech companies of all stripes with huge contracts to perfect a seamless spy network. They even include physical aspects of surveillance, such as license plate scanners and cameras, which are everywhere [read.... Surveillance Society: If You Drive, You Get Tracked].
  • It would be an enormous competitive advantage for an IBM salesperson to walk into a government or corporate IT department and sell Big Data servers that don’t run on Windows, but on Linux. With the Windows 8 debacle now in public view, IBM salespeople don’t even have to mention it. In the hope of stemming the pernicious revenue decline their employer has been suffering from, they can politely and professionally hype the security benefits of IBM’s systems and mention in passing the comforting fact that some of it would be developed in the Power Systems Linux Centers in Montpellier and Beijing. Alas, Linux too is tarnished. The backdoors are there, though the code can be inspected, unlike Windows code. And then there is Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux), which was integrated into the Linux kernel in 2003. It provides a mechanism for supporting “access control” (a backdoor) and “security policies.” Who developed SELinux? Um, the NSA – which helpfully discloses some details on its own website (emphasis mine): The results of several previous research projects in this area have yielded a strong, flexible mandatory access control architecture called Flask. A reference implementation of this architecture was first integrated into a security-enhanced Linux® prototype system in order to demonstrate the value of flexible mandatory access controls and how such controls could be added to an operating system. The architecture has been subsequently mainstreamed into Linux and ported to several other systems, including the Solaris™ operating system, the FreeBSD® operating system, and the Darwin kernel, spawning a wide range of related work.
  • Then another boon for IBM. Experts at the German Federal Office for Security in Information Technology (BIS) determined that Windows 8 is dangerous for data security. It allows Microsoft to control the computer remotely through a “special surveillance chip,” the wonderfully named Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and a backdoor in the software – with keys likely accessible to the NSA and possibly other third parties, such as the Chinese. Risks: “Loss of control over the operating system and the hardware” [read.... LEAKED: German Government Warns Key Entities Not To Use Windows 8 – Links The NSA.
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  • Among a slew of American companies who contributed to the NSA’s “mainstreaming” efforts: Red Hat. And IBM? Like just about all of our American tech heroes, it looks at the NSA and other agencies in the Intelligence Community as “the Customer” with deep pockets, ever increasing budgets, and a thirst for technology and data. Which brings us back to Windows 8 and TPM. A decade ago, a group was established to develop and promote Trusted Computing that governs how operating systems and the “special surveillance chip” TPM work together. And it too has been cooperating with the NSA. The founding members of this Trusted Computing Group, as it’s called facetiously: AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, and Wave Systems. Oh, I almost forgot ... and IBM. And so IBM might not escape, despite its protestations and slick sales presentations, the suspicion by foreign companies and governments alike that its Linux servers too have been compromised – like the cloud products of other American tech companies. And now, they’re going to pay a steep price for their cooperation with the NSA. Read...  NSA Pricked The “Cloud” Bubble For US Tech Companies
Paul Merrell

Beijing Strikes Back in US-China Tech Wars | The Diplomat - 0 views

  • China’s new draft anti-terror legislation has sent waves across the U.S. tech community. If there is a brewing tech war between U.S. and China over government surveillance backdoors and a preference for indigenous software, China’s new draft terror law makes it clear that Beijing is happy to give the United States a taste of its own medicine. The law has already drawn considerable criticism from international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for its purported attempts to legitimize wanton human rights violations in the name of counter-terrorism. Additionally, China has opted to implement its own definition of terrorism, placing  “any thought, speech, or activity that, by means of violence, sabotage, or threat, aims to generate social panic, influence national policy-making, create ethnic hatred, subvert state power, or split the state” under the umbrella of the overused T-word. The problematic human rights issues aside, the draft anti-terror law will have important implications for foreign tech firms within China. According to Reuters’ reporting on the draft anti-terror law, counter-terrorism precautions by the Chinese government would essentially require foreign firms to “hand over encryption keys and install security ‘backdoors’” into their software. Additionally, these firms would have to store critical data — certainly data on Chinese citizens and residents — on Chinese soil. The onerous implications of this law could have lead to an immediate freeze to the activities of several Western tech companies in China, the world’s second largest economy and a booming emerging market for new technologies.
  • On the surface, the most troublesome implication of this law is that in order to comply with this law, Western firms, including non-technical ventures such as financial institutions and manufacturers, will be forced to give up a great deal of security. In essence, corporate secrets, financial data — all critical data — would be insecure and available for access by Chinese regulators. The new law would also prohibit the use of secure virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around these requirements.
  • The U.S. diplomatic response to Beijing’s new draft law is perhaps best captured in the fact that a whopping four cabinet members in the Obama administration, including Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, wrote the Chinese government expressing “serious concern.” China, for its part, seemed unfazed by U.S. concerns. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the press that she hoped the United States would view the new anti-terror precautions in “in a calm and objective way.” Indeed, following Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the extent of the United States’ surveillance of private firms both within and outside the United States, Beijing likely views U.S. concerns as hypocritical. One U.S. industry source told Reuters that the new law was ”the equivalent of the Patriot Act on really, really strong steroids.”
Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Jus... - 0 views

  • Less than a week after the attacks in Paris — while the public and policymakers were still reeling, and the investigation had barely gotten off the ground — Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, released a policy paper calling for legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the first concrete proposal of this type since September 2014, when FBI Director James Comey reignited the “Crypto Wars” in response to Apple’s and Google’s decisions to use default encryption on their smartphones. Though Comey seized on Apple’s and Google’s decisions to encrypt their devices by default, his concerns are primarily related to end-to-end encryption, which protects communications that are in transit. Vance’s proposal, on the other hand, is only concerned with device encryption, which protects data stored on phones. It is still unclear whether encryption played any role in the Paris attacks, though we do know that the attackers were using unencrypted SMS text messages on the night of the attack, and that some of them were even known to intelligence agencies and had previously been under surveillance. But regardless of whether encryption was used at some point during the planning of the attacks, as I lay out below, prohibiting companies from selling encrypted devices would not prevent criminals or terrorists from being able to access unbreakable encryption. Vance’s primary complaint is that Apple’s and Google’s decisions to provide their customers with more secure devices through encryption interferes with criminal investigations. He claims encryption prevents law enforcement from accessing stored data like iMessages, photos and videos, Internet search histories, and third party app data. He makes several arguments to justify his proposal to build backdoors into encrypted smartphones, but none of them hold water.
  • Before addressing the major privacy, security, and implementation concerns that his proposal raises, it is worth noting that while an increase in use of fully encrypted devices could interfere with some law enforcement investigations, it will help prevent far more crimes — especially smartphone theft, and the consequent potential for identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 there were more than two million victims of smartphone theft, and nearly two-thirds of all smartphone users either took no steps to secure their phones or their data or failed to implement passcode access for their phones. Default encryption could reduce instances of theft because perpetrators would no longer be able to break into the phone to steal the data.
  • Vance argues that creating a weakness in encryption to allow law enforcement to access data stored on devices does not raise serious concerns for security and privacy, since in order to exploit the vulnerability one would need access to the actual device. He considers this an acceptable risk, claiming it would not be the same as creating a widespread vulnerability in encryption protecting communications in transit (like emails), and that it would be cheap and easy for companies to implement. But Vance seems to be underestimating the risks involved with his plan. It is increasingly important that smartphones and other devices are protected by the strongest encryption possible. Our devices and the apps on them contain astonishing amounts of personal information, so much that an unprecedented level of harm could be caused if a smartphone or device with an exploitable vulnerability is stolen, not least in the forms of identity fraud and credit card theft. We bank on our phones, and have access to credit card payments with services like Apple Pay. Our contact lists are stored on our phones, including phone numbers, emails, social media accounts, and addresses. Passwords are often stored on people’s phones. And phones and apps are often full of personal details about their lives, from food diaries to logs of favorite places to personal photographs. Symantec conducted a study, where the company spread 50 “lost” phones in public to see what people who picked up the phones would do with them. The company found that 95 percent of those people tried to access the phone, and while nearly 90 percent tried to access private information stored on the phone or in other private accounts such as banking services and email, only 50 percent attempted contacting the owner.
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  • Vance attempts to downplay this serious risk by asserting that anyone can use the “Find My Phone” or Android Device Manager services that allow owners to delete the data on their phones if stolen. However, this does not stand up to scrutiny. These services are effective only when an owner realizes their phone is missing and can take swift action on another computer or device. This delay ensures some period of vulnerability. Encryption, on the other hand, protects everyone immediately and always. Additionally, Vance argues that it is safer to build backdoors into encrypted devices than it is to do so for encrypted communications in transit. It is true that there is a difference in the threats posed by the two types of encryption backdoors that are being debated. However, some manner of widespread vulnerability will inevitably result from a backdoor to encrypted devices. Indeed, the NSA and GCHQ reportedly hacked into a database to obtain cell phone SIM card encryption keys in order defeat the security protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a hacker or a nation state actor, is very real. Even if companies go the extra mile and create a different means of access for every phone, such as a separate access key for each phone, significant vulnerabilities will be created. It would still be possible for a malicious actor to gain access to the database containing those keys, which would enable them to defeat the encryption on any smartphone they took possession of. Additionally, the cost of implementation and maintenance of such a complex system could be high.
  • Privacy is another concern that Vance dismisses too easily. Despite Vance’s arguments otherwise, building backdoors into device encryption undermines privacy. Our government does not impose a similar requirement in any other context. Police can enter homes with warrants, but there is no requirement that people record their conversations and interactions just in case they someday become useful in an investigation. The conversations that we once had through disposable letters and in-person conversations now happen over the Internet and on phones. Just because the medium has changed does not mean our right to privacy has.
  • In addition to his weak reasoning for why it would be feasible to create backdoors to encrypted devices without creating undue security risks or harming privacy, Vance makes several flawed policy-based arguments in favor of his proposal. He argues that criminals benefit from devices that are protected by strong encryption. That may be true, but strong encryption is also a critical tool used by billions of average people around the world every day to protect their transactions, communications, and private information. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists rely on encryption to protect their clients, patients, and sources. Government officials, from the President to the directors of the NSA and FBI, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cybersecurity and data security. There are far more innocent Americans who benefit from strong encryption than there are criminals who exploit it. Encryption is also essential to our economy. Device manufacturers could suffer major economic losses if they are prohibited from competing with foreign manufacturers who offer more secure devices. Encryption also protects major companies from corporate and nation-state espionage. As more daily business activities are done on smartphones and other devices, they may now hold highly proprietary or sensitive information. Those devices could be targeted even more than they are now if all that has to be done to access that information is to steal an employee’s smartphone and exploit a vulnerability the manufacturer was required to create.
  • Vance also suggests that the US would be justified in creating such a requirement since other Western nations are contemplating requiring encryption backdoors as well. Regardless of whether other countries are debating similar proposals, we cannot afford a race to the bottom on cybersecurity. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cybersecurity is the top threat to our national security. Strong encryption is our best defense against cyber threats, and following in the footsteps of other countries by weakening that critical tool would do incalculable harm. Furthermore, even if the US or other countries did implement such a proposal, criminals could gain access to devices with strong encryption through the black market. Thus, only innocent people would be negatively affected, and some of those innocent people might even become criminals simply by trying to protect their privacy by securing their data and devices. Finally, Vance argues that David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, supported the idea that court-ordered decryption doesn’t violate human rights, provided certain criteria are met, in his report on the topic. However, in the context of Vance’s proposal, this seems to conflate the concepts of court-ordered decryption and of government-mandated encryption backdoors. The Kaye report was unequivocal about the importance of encryption for free speech and human rights. The report concluded that:
  • States should promote strong encryption and anonymity. National laws should recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. … States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate. States should avoid all measures that weaken the security that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows. Additionally, the group of intelligence experts that was hand-picked by the President to issue a report and recommendations on surveillance and technology, concluded that: [R]egarding encryption, the U.S. Government should: (1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.
  • The clear consensus among human rights experts and several high-ranking intelligence experts, including the former directors of the NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and DHS, is that mandating encryption backdoors is dangerous. Unaddressed Concerns: Preventing Encrypted Devices from Entering the US and the Slippery Slope In addition to the significant faults in Vance’s arguments in favor of his proposal, he fails to address the question of how such a restriction would be effectively implemented. There is no effective mechanism for preventing code from becoming available for download online, even if it is illegal. One critical issue the Vance proposal fails to address is how the government would prevent, or even identify, encrypted smartphones when individuals bring them into the United States. DHS would have to train customs agents to search the contents of every person’s phone in order to identify whether it is encrypted, and then confiscate the phones that are. Legal and policy considerations aside, this kind of policy is, at the very least, impractical. Preventing strong encryption from entering the US is not like preventing guns or drugs from entering the country — encrypted phones aren’t immediately obvious as is contraband. Millions of people use encrypted devices, and tens of millions more devices are shipped to and sold in the US each year.
  • Finally, there is a real concern that if Vance’s proposal were accepted, it would be the first step down a slippery slope. Right now, his proposal only calls for access to smartphones and devices running mobile operating systems. While this policy in and of itself would cover a number of commonplace devices, it may eventually be expanded to cover laptop and desktop computers, as well as communications in transit. The expansion of this kind of policy is even more worrisome when taking into account the speed at which technology evolves and becomes widely adopted. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not even exist. Who is to say what technology will be commonplace in 10 or 20 years that is not even around today. There is a very real question about how far law enforcement will go to gain access to information. Things that once seemed like merely science fiction, such as wearable technology and artificial intelligence that could be implanted in and work with the human nervous system, are now available. If and when there comes a time when our “smart phone” is not really a device at all, but is rather an implant, surely we would not grant law enforcement access to our minds.
  • Policymakers should dismiss Vance’s proposal to prohibit the use of strong encryption to protect our smartphones and devices in order to ensure law enforcement access. Undermining encryption, regardless of whether it is protecting data in transit or at rest, would take us down a dangerous and harmful path. Instead, law enforcement and the intelligence community should be working to alter their skills and tactics in a fast-evolving technological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Paul Merrell

American Surveillance Now Threatens American Business - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • What does it look like when a society loses its sense of privacy? <div><a href="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/jump?iu=%2F4624%2FTheAtlanticOnline%2Fchannel_technology&t=src%3Dblog%26by%3Drobinson-meyer%26title%3Damerican-surveillance-now-threatens-american-business%26pos%3Din-article&sz=300x250&c=285899172&tile=1" title=""><img style="border:none;" src="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ad?iu=%2F4624%2FTheAtlanticOnline%2Fchannel_technology&t=src%3Dblog%26by%3Drobinson-meyer%26title%3Damerican-surveillance-now-threatens-american-business%26pos%3Din-article&sz=300x250&c=285899172&tile=1" alt="" /></a></div>In the almost 18 months since the Snowden files first received coverage, writers and critics have had to guess at the answer. Does a certain trend, consumer complaint, or popular product epitomize some larger shift? Is trust in tech companies eroding—or is a subset just especially vocal about it? Polling would make those answers clear, but polling so far has been… confused. A new study, conducted by the Pew Internet Project last January and released last week, helps make the average American’s view of his or her privacy a little clearer. And their confidence in their own privacy is ... low. The study's findings—and the statistics it reports—stagger. Vast majorities of Americans are uncomfortable with how the government uses their data, how private companies use and distribute their data, and what the government does to regulate those companies. No summary can equal a recounting of the findings. Americans are displeased with government surveillance en masse:   
  • A new study finds that a vast majority of Americans trust neither the government nor tech companies with their personal data.
  • According to the study, 70 percent of Americans are “at least somewhat concerned” with the government secretly obtaining information they post to social networking sites. Eighty percent of respondents agreed that “Americans should be concerned” with government surveillance of telephones and the web. They are also uncomfortable with how private corporations use their data: Ninety-one percent of Americans believe that “consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies,” according to the study. Eighty percent of Americans who use social networks “say they are concerned about third parties like advertisers or businesses accessing the data they share on these sites.” And even though they’re squeamish about the government’s use of data, they want it to regulate tech companies and data brokers more strictly: 64 percent wanted the government to do more to regulate private data collection. Since June 2013, American politicians and corporate leaders have fretted over how much the leaks would cost U.S. businesses abroad.
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  • What does it look like when a society loses its sense of privacy? <div><a href="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/jump?iu=%2F4624%2FTheAtlanticOnline%2Fchannel_technology&t=src%3Dblog%26by%3Drobinson-meyer%26title%3Damerican-surveillance-now-threatens-american-business%26pos%3Din-article&sz=300x250&c=285899172&tile=1" title=""><img style="border:none;" src="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ad?iu=%2F4624%2FTheAtlanticOnline%2Fchannel_technology&t=src%3Dblog%26by%3Drobinson-meyer%26title%3Damerican-surveillance-now-threatens-american-business%26pos%3Din-article&sz=300x250&c=285899172&tile=1" alt="" /></a></div>In the almost 18 months since the Snowden files first received coverage, writers and critics have had to guess at the answer. Does a certain trend, consumer complaint, or popular product epitomize some larger shift? Is trust in tech companies eroding—or is a subset just especially vocal about it? Polling would make those answers clear, but polling so far has been… confused. A new study, conducted by the Pew Internet Project last January and released last week, helps make the average American’s view of his or her privacy a little clearer. And their confidence in their own privacy is ... low. The study's findings—and the statistics it reports—stagger. Vast majorities of Americans are uncomfortable with how the government uses their data, how private companies use and distribute their data, and what the government does to regulate those companies. No summary can equal a recounting of the findings. Americans are displeased with government surveillance en masse:   
  • “It’s clear the global community of Internet users doesn’t like to be caught up in the American surveillance dragnet,” Senator Ron Wyden said last month. At the same event, Google chairman Eric Schmidt agreed with him. “What occurred was a loss of trust between America and other countries,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It's making it very difficult for American firms to do business.” But never mind the world. Americans don’t trust American social networks. More than half of the poll’s respondents said that social networks were “not at all secure. Only 40 percent of Americans believe email or texting is at least “somewhat” secure. Indeed, Americans trusted most of all communication technologies where some protections has been enshrined into the law (though the report didn’t ask about snail mail). That is: Talking on the telephone, whether on a landline or cell phone, is the only kind of communication that a majority of adults believe to be “very secure” or “somewhat secure.”
  • (That may seem a bit incongruous, because making a telephone call is one area where you can be almost sure you are being surveilled: The government has requisitioned mass call records from phone companies since 2001. But Americans appear, when discussing security, to differentiate between the contents of the call and data about it.) Last month, Ramsey Homsany, the general counsel of Dropbox, said that one big thing could take down the California tech scene. “We have built this incredible economic engine in this region of the country,” said Homsany in the Los Angeles Times, “and [mistrust] is the one thing that starts to rot it from the inside out.” According to this poll, the mistrust has already begun corroding—and is already, in fact, well advanced. We’ve always assumed that the great hurt to American business will come globally—that citizens of other nations will stop using tech companies’s services. But the new Pew data shows that Americans suspect American businesses just as much. And while, unlike citizens of other nations, they may not have other places to turn, they may stop putting sensitive or delicate information online.
Paul Merrell

We're Halfway to Encrypting the Entire Web | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The movement to encrypt the web has reached a milestone. As of earlier this month, approximately half of Internet traffic is now protected by HTTPS. In other words, we are halfway to a web safer from the eavesdropping, content hijacking, cookie stealing, and censorship that HTTPS can protect against. Mozilla recently reported that the average volume of encrypted web traffic on Firefox now surpasses the average unencrypted volume
  • Google Chrome’s figures on HTTPS usage are consistent with that finding, showing that over 50% of of all pages loaded are protected by HTTPS across different operating systems.
  • This milestone is a combination of HTTPS implementation victories: from tech giants and large content providers, from small websites, and from users themselves.
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  • Starting in 2010, EFF members have pushed tech companies to follow crypto best practices. We applauded when Facebook and Twitter implemented HTTPS by default, and when Wikipedia and several other popular sites later followed suit. Google has also put pressure on the tech community by using HTTPS as a signal in search ranking algorithms and, starting this year, showing security warnings in Chrome when users load HTTP sites that request passwords or credit card numbers. EFF’s Encrypt the Web Report also played a big role in tracking and encouraging specific practices. Recently other organizations have followed suit with more sophisticated tracking projects. For example, Secure the News and Pulse track HTTPS progress among news media sites and U.S. government sites, respectively.
  • But securing large, popular websites is only one part of a much bigger battle. Encrypting the entire web requires HTTPS implementation to be accessible to independent, smaller websites. Let’s Encrypt and Certbot have changed the game here, making what was once an expensive, technically demanding process into an easy and affordable task for webmasters across a range of resource and skill levels. Let’s Encrypt is a Certificate Authority (CA) run by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and founded by EFF, Mozilla, and the University of Michigan, with Cisco and Akamai as founding sponsors. As a CA, Let’s Encrypt issues and maintains digital certificates that help web users and their browsers know they’re actually talking to the site they intended to. CAs are crucial to secure, HTTPS-encrypted communication, as these certificates verify the association between an HTTPS site and a cryptographic public key. Through EFF’s Certbot tool, webmasters can get a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt and automatically configure their server to use it. Since we announced that Let’s Encrypt was the web’s largest certificate authority last October, it has exploded from 12 million certs to over 28 million. Most of Let’s Encrypt’s growth has come from giving previously unencrypted sites their first-ever certificates. A large share of these leaps in HTTPS adoption are also thanks to major hosting companies and platforms--like WordPress.com, Squarespace, and dozens of others--integrating Let’s Encrypt and providing HTTPS to their users and customers.
  • Unfortunately, you can only use HTTPS on websites that support it--and about half of all web traffic is still with sites that don’t. However, when sites partially support HTTPS, users can step in with the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension. A collaboration between EFF and the Tor Project, HTTPS Everywhere makes your browser use HTTPS wherever possible. Some websites offer inconsistent support for HTTPS, use unencrypted HTTP as a default, or link from secure HTTPS pages to unencrypted HTTP pages. HTTPS Everywhere fixes these problems by rewriting requests to these sites to HTTPS, automatically activating encryption and HTTPS protection that might otherwise slip through the cracks.
  • Our goal is a universally encrypted web that makes a tool like HTTPS Everywhere redundant. Until then, we have more work to do. Protect your own browsing and websites with HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot, and spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. Together, we can encrypt the entire web.
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    HTTPS connections don't work for you if you don't use them. If you're not using HTTPS Everywhere in your browser, you should be; it's your privacy that is at stake. And every encrypted communication you make adds to the backlog of encrypted data that NSA and other internet voyeurs must process as encrypted traffic; because cracking encrypted messages is computer resource intensive, the voyeurs do not have the resources to crack more than a tiny fraction. HTTPS is a free extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. You can get it here. https://www.eff.org/HTTPS-everywhere
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Tech giants throw money at OpenSSL in response to Heartbleed | ITworld - 1 views

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    "Crucial open-source projects including OpenSSL will get at least $5.4 million in funding over three years. By Jared Newman, PC World | Security, openssl May 30, 2014, 10:40 AM - OpenSSL is getting funded for two full-time developers and a security audit in an attempt to prevent another devastating bug like Heartbleed. The money is coming from the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII), a group of tech companies that came together last month in response to Heartbleed. At the time, CII said that each company would contribute at least $100,000 per year to crucial open-source projects over at least a three-year span, but the group didn't say how it would distribute the funds."
Paul Merrell

FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on National Security Letters - The Inter... - 0 views

  • Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter. FBI agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national security purposes. The FBI at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day. The letters look like this:
  • Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:
  • That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well. More than a year ago, President Obama announced that he was ordering the Justice Department to terminate gag orders “within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.” And on Feb. 3, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a handful of baby steps resulting from its “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance [its] privacy and civil liberty protections” one of the most concrete was — finally — to cap the gag orders: In response to the President’s new direction, the FBI will now presumptively terminate National Security Letter nondisclosure orders at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close. Continued nondisclosures orders beyond this period are permitted only if a Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant Director determines that the statutory standards for nondisclosure continue to be satisfied and that the case agent has justified, in writing, why continued nondisclosure is appropriate.
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  • Despite the use of the word “now” in that first sentence, however, the FBI has yet to do any such thing. It has not announced any such change, nor explained how it will implement it, or when. Media inquiries were greeted with stalling and, finally, a no comment — ostensibly on advice of legal counsel. “There is pending litigation that deals with a lot of the same questions you’re asking, out of the Ninth Circuit,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told me. “So for now, we’ll just have to decline to comment.” FBI lawyers are working on a court filing for that case, and “it will address” the new policy, he said. He would not say when to expect it.
  • There is indeed a significant case currently before the federal appeals court in San Francisco. Oral arguments were in October. A decision could come any time. But in that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is representing two unnamed communications companies that received NSLs, is calling for the entire NSL statute to be thrown out as unconstitutional — not for a tweak to the gag. And it has a March 2013 district court ruling in its favor. “The gag is a prior restraint under the First Amendment, and prior restraints have to meet an extremely high burden,” said Andrew Crocker, a legal fellow at EFF. That means going to court and meeting the burden of proof — not just signing a letter. Or as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez put it, “To have such a low bar for denying persons or companies the right to speak about government orders they have been served with is anathema. And it is not very good for accountability.”
  • In a separate case, a wide range of media companies (including First Look Media, the non-profit digital media venture that produces The Intercept) are supporting a lawsuit filed by Twitter, demanding the right to say specifically how many NSLs it has received. But simply releasing companies from a gag doesn’t assure the kind of accountability that privacy advocates are saying is required by the Constitution. “What the public has to remember is a NSL is asking for your information, but it’s not asking it from you,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “The vast majority of these things go to the very large telecommunications and financial companies who have a large stake in maintaining a good relationship with the government because they’re heavily regulated entities.”
  • So, German said, “the number of NSLs that would be exposed as a result of the release of the gag order is probably very few. The person whose records are being obtained is the one who should receive some notification.” A time limit on gags going forward also raises the question of whether past gag orders will now be withdrawn. “Obviously there are at this point literally hundreds of thousands of National Security Letters that are more than three years old,” said Sanchez. Individual review is therefore unlikely, but there ought to be some recourse, he said. And the further back you go, “it becomes increasingly implausible that a significant percentage of those are going to entail some dire national security risk.” The NSL program has a troubled history. The absolute secrecy of the program and resulting lack of accountability led to systemic abuse as documented by repeated inspector-general investigations, including improperly authorized NSLs, factual misstatements in the NSLs, improper requests under NSL statutes, requests for information based on First Amendment protected activity, “after-the-fact” blanket NSLs to “cover” illegal requests, and hundreds of NSLs for “community of interest” or “calling circle” information without any determination that the telephone numbers were relevant to authorized national security investigations.
  • Obama’s own hand-selected “Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” recommended in December 2013 that NSLs should only be issued after judicial review — just like warrants — and that any gag should end within 180 days barring judicial re-approval. But FBI director James Comey objected to the idea, calling NSLs “a very important tool that is essential to the work we do.” His argument evidently prevailed with Obama.
  • NSLs have managed to stay largely under the American public’s radar. But, Crocker says, “pretty much every time I bring it up and give the thumbnail, people are shocked. Then you go into how many are issued every year, and they go crazy.” Want to send me your old NSL and see if we can set a new precedent? Here’s how to reach me. And here’s how to leak to me.
Paul Merrell

Study: Surveillance will cost US tech sector more than $35B by 2016 | TheHill - 0 views

  • A new study says that the U.S. tech industry is likely to lose more than $35 billion from foreign customers by 2016 because of concerns over government surveillance.“In short, foreign customers are shunning U.S. companies,” the authors of a new study from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation write.ADVERTISEMENT“The U.S. government’s failure to reform many of the NSA’s surveillance programs has damaged the competitiveness of the U.S. tech sector and cost it a portion of the global market share,” they said.The think tank’s report found that the cost to the tech sector associated with ongoing concerns over surveillance programs run out of the U.S. was likely to “far exceed” $35 billion by 2016, an earlier estimate set by the group.
  • The group said that lawmakers must enact additional reforms to surveillance policy if they wish to help the tech sector regain the trust of foreign customers. That includes opposing “backdoors,” which allow law enforcement to access otherwise encrypted data, and signing off on trade agreements, including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, that “ban digital protectionism.”The study’s authors found that the revelations about broad U.S. surveillance programs acted as a justification for foreign policymakers to enact protectionist policies aimed at aiding their own domestic technology sectors.Foreign companies have also used the information about U.S. surveillance programs to their advantage.“Some European companies have begun to highlight where their digital services are hosted as an alternative to U.S. companies,” the authors write.
  • American companies, they found, have lost contracts to foreign competitors over fears about mass surveillance.Earlier this month, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, a bill that reformed the three Patriot Act provisions that authorized the bulk, warrantless collection of Americans’ phone records. The bill was widely supported by technology companies, including giants like Apple and Google.
Gary Edwards

Out in the Open: Hackers Build a Skype That's Not Controlled by Microsoft | Enterprise ... - 0 views

shared by Gary Edwards on 04 Sep 14 - No Cached
  • The main thing the Tox team is trying to do, besides provide encryption, is create a tool that requires no central servers whatsoever—not even ones that you would host yourself. It relies on the same technology that BitTorrent uses to provide direct connections between users, so there’s no central hub to snoop on or take down.
  • Tox is trying to roll both peer-to-peer and voice calling into one.
  • Actually, it’s going a bit further than that. Tox is actually just a protocol for encrypted peer-to-peer data transmission.
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  • Tox is just a tunnel to another node that’s encrypted and secure,” says David Lohle, a spokesperson for the project. “What you want to send over that pipe is up to your imagination.”
  • For example, one developer is building an e-mail replacement with the protocol, and Lohle says someone else is building an open source alternative to BitTorrent Sync.
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    "The web forum 4chan is known mostly as a place to share juvenile and, to put it mildly, politically incorrect images. But it's also the birthplace of one of the latest attempts to subvert the NSA's mass surveillance program. When whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that full extent of the NSA's activities last year, members of the site's tech forum started talking about the need for a more secure alternative to Skype. Soon, they'd opened a chat room to discuss the project and created an account on the code hosting and collaboration site GitHub and began uploading code. Eventually, they settled on the name Tox, and you can already download prototypes of the surprisingly easy-to-use tool. The tool is part of a widespread effort to create secure online communication tools that are controlled not only by any one company, but by the world at large-a continued reaction to the Snowden revelations. This includes everything from instant messaging tools to email services. It's too early to count on Tox to protect you from eavesdroppers and spies. Like so many other new tools, it's still in the early stages of development and has yet to receive the scrutiny that other security tools, such as the instant messaging encryption plugin Off The Record has. But it endeavors to carve a unique niche within the secure communications ecosystem."
Paul Merrell

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft - The Intercept - 0 views

  • European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday. The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys. The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.” “Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal. Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”
  • “If the average IT whizzkid breaks into a company system, he’ll end up behind bars,” In ’t Veld added in a tweet Friday. The EU itself is barred from undertaking such investigations, leaving individual countries responsible for looking into cases that impact their national security matters. “We even get letters from the U.K. government saying we shouldn’t deal with these issues because it’s their own issue of national security,” Albrecht said. Still, lawmakers in the Netherlands are seeking investigations. Gerard Schouw, a Dutch member of parliament, also with the D66 party, has called on Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of the interior, to answer questions before parliament. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament will debate Schouw’s request. Additionally, European legal experts tell The Intercept, public prosecutors in EU member states that are both party to the Cybercrime Convention, which prohibits computer hacking, and home to Gemalto subsidiaries could pursue investigations into the breach of the company’s systems.
  • According to secret documents from 2010 and 2011, a joint NSA-GCHQ unit penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and infiltrated the private communications of its employees in order to steal encryption keys, embedded on tiny SIM cards, which are used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the world. Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. The company’s clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers. “[We] believe we have their entire network,” GCHQ boasted in a leaked slide, referring to the Gemalto heist.
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  • While Gemalto was indeed another casualty in Western governments’ sweeping effort to gather as much global intelligence advantage as possible, the leaked documents make clear that the company was specifically targeted. According to the materials published Thursday, GCHQ used a specific codename — DAPINO GAMMA — to refer to the operations against Gemalto. The spies also actively penetrated the email and social media accounts of Gemalto employees across the world in an effort to steal the company’s encryption keys. Evidence of the Gemalto breach rattled the digital security community. “Almost everyone in the world carries cell phones and this is an unprecedented mass attack on the privacy of citizens worldwide,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit that advocates for digital privacy and free online expression. “While there is certainly value in targeted surveillance of cell phone communications, this coordinated subversion of the trusted technical security infrastructure of cell phones means the US and British governments now have easy access to our mobile communications.”
  • For Gemalto, evidence that their vaunted security systems and the privacy of customers had been compromised by the world’s top spy agencies made an immediate financial impact. The company’s shares took a dive on the Paris bourse Friday, falling $500 million. In the U.S., Gemalto’s shares fell as much 10 percent Friday morning. They had recovered somewhat — down 4 percent — by the close of trading on the Euronext stock exchange. Analysts at Dutch financial services company Rabobank speculated in a research note that Gemalto could be forced to recall “a large number” of SIM cards. The French daily L’Express noted today that Gemalto board member Alex Mandl was a founding trustee of the CIA-funded venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Mandl resigned from In-Q-Tel’s board in 2002, when he was appointed CEO of Gemplus, which later merged with another company to become Gemalto. But the CIA connection still dogged Mandl, with the French press regularly insinuating that American spies could infiltrate the company. In 2003, a group of French lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to create a commission to investigate Gemplus’s ties to the CIA and its implications for the security of SIM cards. Mandl, an Austrian-American businessman who was once a top executive at AT&T, has denied that he had any relationship with the CIA beyond In-Q-Tel. In 2002, he said he did not even have a security clearance.
  • AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon could not be reached for comment Friday. Sprint declined to comment. Vodafone, the world’s second largest telecom provider by subscribers and a customer of Gemalto, said in a statement, “[W]e have no further details of these allegations which are industrywide in nature and are not focused on any one mobile operator. We will support industry bodies and Gemalto in their investigations.” Deutsche Telekom AG, a German company, said it has changed encryption algorithms in its Gemalto SIM cards. “We currently have no knowledge that this additional protection mechanism has been compromised,” the company said in a statement. “However, we cannot rule out this completely.”
  • Update: Asked about the SIM card heist, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not expect the news would hurt relations with the tech industry: “It’s hard for me to imagine that there are a lot of technology executives that are out there that are in a position of saying that they hope that people who wish harm to this country will be able to use their technology to do so. So, I do think in fact that there are opportunities for the private sector and the federal government to coordinate and to cooperate on these efforts, both to keep the country safe, but also to protect our civil liberties.”
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    Watch for massive class action product defect litigation to be filed against the phone companies.and mobile device manufacturers.  In most U.S. jurisdictions, proof that the vendors/manufacturers  knew of the product defect is not required, only proof of the defect. Also, this is a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to get out of a pricey cellphone contract, since providing a compromised cellphone is a material breach of warranty, whether explicit or implied..   
Paul Merrell

Obama administration opts not to force firms to decrypt data - for now - The Washington... - 1 views

  • After months of deliberation, the Obama administration has made a long-awaited decision on the thorny issue of how to deal with encrypted communications: It will not — for now — call for legislation requiring companies to decode messages for law enforcement. Rather, the administration will continue trying to persuade companies that have moved to encrypt their customers’ data to create a way for the government to still peer into people’s data when needed for criminal or terrorism investigations. “The administration has decided not to seek a legislative remedy now, but it makes sense to continue the conversations with industry,” FBI Director James B. Comey said at a Senate hearing Thursday of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • The decision, which essentially maintains the status quo, underscores the bind the administration is in — balancing competing pressures to help law enforcement and protect consumer privacy. The FBI says it is facing an increasing challenge posed by the encryption of communications of criminals, terrorists and spies. A growing number of companies have begun to offer encryption in which the only people who can read a message, for instance, are the person who sent it and the person who received it. Or, in the case of a device, only the device owner has access to the data. In such cases, the companies themselves lack “backdoors” or keys to decrypt the data for government investigators, even when served with search warrants or intercept orders.
  • The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting Oct. 1. “As the president has said, the United States will work to ensure that malicious actors can be held to account — without weakening our commitment to strong encryption,” National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said. “As part of those efforts, we are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services.” But privacy advocates are concerned that the administration’s definition of strong encryption also could include a system in which a company holds a decryption key or can retrieve unencrypted communications from its servers for law enforcement. “The government should not erode the security of our devices or applications, pressure companies to keep and allow government access to our data, mandate implementation of vulnerabilities or backdoors into products, or have disproportionate access to the keys to private data,” said Savecrypto.org, a coalition of industry and privacy groups that has launched a campaign to petition the Obama administration.
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  • To Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager for Access, one of the groups signing the petition, the status quo isn’t good enough. “It’s really crucial that even if the government is not pursuing legislation, it’s also not pursuing policies that will weaken security through other methods,” she said. The FBI and Justice Department have been talking with tech companies for months. On Thursday, Comey said the conversations have been “increasingly productive.” He added: “People have stripped out a lot of the venom.” He said the tech executives “are all people who care about the safety of America and also care about privacy and civil liberties.” Comey said the issue afflicts not just federal law enforcement but also state and local agencies investigating child kidnappings and car crashes — “cops and sheriffs . . . [who are] increasingly encountering devices they can’t open with a search warrant.”
  • One senior administration official said the administration thinks it’s making enough progress with companies that seeking legislation now is unnecessary. “We feel optimistic,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “We don’t think it’s a lost cause at this point.” Legislation, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), is not a realistic option given the current political climate. He said he made a recent trip to Silicon Valley to talk to Twitter, Facebook and Google. “They quite uniformly are opposed to any mandate or pressure — and more than that, they don’t want to be asked to come up with a solution,” Schiff said. Law enforcement officials know that legislation is a tough sell now. But, one senior official stressed, “it’s still going to be in the mix.” On the other side of the debate, technology, diplomatic and commerce agencies were pressing for an outright statement by Obama to disavow a legislative mandate on companies. But their position did not prevail.
  • Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said absent any new laws, either in the United States or abroad, “companies are in the driver’s seat.” He said that if another country tried to require companies to retain an ability to decrypt communications, “I suspect many tech companies would try to pull out.”
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    # ! upcoming Elections...
Paul Merrell

Tech firms and privacy groups press for curbs on NSA surveillance powers - The Washingt... - 0 views

  • The nation’s top technology firms and a coalition of privacy groups are urging Congress to place curbs on government surveillance in the face of a fast-approaching deadline for legislative action. A set of key Patriot Act surveillance authorities expire June 1, but the effective date is May 21 — the last day before Congress breaks for a Memorial Day recess. In a letter to be sent Wednesday to the Obama administration and senior lawmakers, the coalition vowed to oppose any legislation that, among other things, does not ban the “bulk collection” of Americans’ phone records and other data.
  • We know that there are some in Congress who think that they can get away with reauthorizing the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without any reforms at all,” said Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, a privacy group that organized the effort. “This letter draws a line in the sand that makes clear that the privacy community and the Internet industry do not intend to let that happen without a fight.” At issue is the bulk collection of Americans’ data by intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. The NSA’s daily gathering of millions of records logging phone call times, lengths and other “metadata” stirred controversy when it was revealed in June 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The records are placed in a database that can, with a judge’s permission, be searched for links to foreign terrorists.They do not include the content of conversations.
  • That program, placed under federal surveillance court oversight in 2006, was authorized by the court in secret under Section 215 of the Patriot Act — one of the expiring provisions. The public outcry that ensued after the program was disclosed forced President Obama in January 2014 to call for an end to the NSA’s storage of the data. He also appealed to Congress to find a way to preserve the agency’s access to the data for counterterrorism information.
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  • Despite growing opposition in some quarters to ending the NSA’s program, a “clean” authorization — one that would enable its continuation without any changes — is unlikely, lawmakers from both parties say. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading opponent of the NSA’s program in its current format, said he would be “surprised if there are 60 votes” in the Senate for that. In the House, where there is bipartisan support for reining in surveillance, it’s a longer shot still. “It’s a toxic vote back in your district to reauthorize the Patriot Act, if you don’t get some reforms” with it, said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). The House last fall passed the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the NSA program, but the Senate failed to advance its own version.The House and Senate judiciary committees are working to come up with new bipartisan legislation to be introduced soon.
  • The tech firms and privacy groups’ demands are a baseline, they say. Besides ending bulk collection, they want companies to have the right to be more transparent in reporting on national security requests and greater declassification of opinions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  • Some legal experts have pointed to a little-noticed clause in the Patriot Act that would appear to allow bulk collection to continue even if the authority is not renewed. Administration officials have conceded privately that a legal case probably could be made for that, but politically it would be a tough sell. On Tuesday, a White House spokesman indicated the administration would not seek to exploit that clause. “If Section 215 sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program,” National Security Council spokesman Edward Price said in a statement first reported by Reuters. Price added that allowing Section 215 to expire would result in the loss of a “critical national security tool” used in investigations that do not involve the bulk collection of data. “That is why we have underscored the imperative of Congressional action in the coming weeks, and we welcome the opportunity to work with lawmakers on such legislation,” he said.
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    I omitted some stuff about opposition to sunsetting the provisions. They  seem to forget, as does Obama, that the proponents of the FISA Court's expansive reading of section 215 have not yet come up with a single instance where 215-derived data caught a single terrorist or prevented a single act of terrorism. Which means that if that data is of some use, it ain't in fighting terrorism, the purpose of the section.  Patriot Act § 215 is codified as 50 USCS § 1861, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/1861 That section authorizes the FBI to obtain an iorder from the FISA Court "requiring the production of *any tangible things* (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)."  Specific examples (a non-exclusive list) include: the production of library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, book customer lists, firearms sales records, tax return records, educational records, or medical records containing information that would identify a person." The Court can order that the recipient of the order tell no one of its receipt of the order or its response to it.   In other words, this is about way more than your telephone metadata. Do you trust the NSA with your medical records? 
Gary Edwards

Apple and Facebook Flash Forward to Computer Memory of the Future | Enterprise | WIRED - 1 views

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    Great story that is at the center of a new cloud computing platform. I met David Flynn back when he was first demonstrating the Realmsys flash card. Extraordinary stuff. He was using the technology to open a secure Linux computing window on an operating Windows XP system. The card opened up a secure data socket, connecting to any Internet Server or Data Server, and running applications on that data - while running Windows and Windows apps in the background. Incredible mesh of Linux, streaming data, and legacy Windows apps. Everytime I find these tech pieces explaining Fusion-io though, I can't help but think that David Flynn is one of the most decent, kind and truly deserving of success people that I have ever met. excerpt: "Apple is spending mountains of money on a new breed of hardware device from a company called Fusion-io. As a public company, Fusion-io is required to disclose information about customers that account for an usually large portion of its revenue, and with its latest annual report, the Salt Lake City outfit reveals that in 2012, at least 25 percent of its revenue - $89.8 million - came from Apple. That's just one figure, from just one company. But it serves as a sign post, showing you where the modern data center is headed. 'There's now a blurring between the storage world and the memory world. People have been enlightened by Fusion-io.' - Gary Gentry Inside a data center like the one Apple operates in Maiden, North Carolina, you'll find thousands of computer servers. Fusion-io makes a slim card that slots inside these machines, and it's packed with hundreds of gigabytes of flash memory, the same stuff that holds all the software and the data on your smartphone. You can think of this card as a much-needed replacement for the good old-fashioned hard disk that typically sits inside a server. Much like a hard disk, it stores information. But it doesn't have any moving parts, which means it's generally more reliable. It c
Paul Merrell

China Pressures U.S. Companies to Buckle on Strong Encryption and Surveillance - 0 views

  • Before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits President Obama, he and Chinese executives have some business in Seattle: pressing U.S. tech companies, hungry for the Chinese market, to comply with the country’s new stringent and suppressive Internet policies. The New York Times reported last week that Chinese authorities sent a letter to some U.S. tech firms seeking a promise they would not harm China’s national security. That might require such things as forcing users to register with their real names, storing Chinese citizens’ data locally where the government can access it, and building government “back doors” into encrypted communication products for better surveillance. China’s new national security law calls for systems that are “secure and controllable”, which industry groups told the Times in July means companies will have to hand over encryption keys or even source code to their products. Among the big names joining Xi at Wednesday’s U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum: Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft.
  • The meeting comes as U.S. law enforcement officials have been pressuring companies to give them a way to access encrypted communications. The technology community has responded by pointing out that any sort of hole for law enforcement weakens the entire system to attack from outside bad actors—such as China, which has been tied to many instances of state-sponsored hacking into U.S systems. In fact, one argument privacy advocates have repeatedly made is that back doors for law enforcement would set a dangerous precedent when countries like China want the same kind of access to pursue their own domestic political goals. But here, potentially, the situation has been reversed, with China using its massive economic leverage to demand that sort of access right now. Human rights groups are urging U.S. companies not to give in.
Paul Merrell

ISPs say the "massive cost" of Snooper's Charter will push up UK broadband bills | Ars ... - 0 views

  • How much extra will you have to pay for the privilege of being spied on?
  • UK ISPs have warned MPs that the costs of implementing the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snooper's Charter) will be much greater than the £175 million the UK government has allotted for the task, and that broadband bills will need to rise as a result. Representatives from ISPs and software companies told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that the legislation greatly underestimates the "sheer quantity" of data generated by Internet users these days. They also pointed out that distinguishing content from metadata is a far harder task than the government seems to assume. Matthew Hare, the chief executive of ISP Gigaclear, said with "a typical 1 gigabit connection to someone's home, over 50 terabytes of data per year [are] passing over it. If you say that a proportion of that is going to be the communications data—the record of who you communicate with, when you communicate or what you communicate—there would be the most massive and enormous amount of data that in future an access provider would be expected to keep. The indiscriminate collection of mass data across effectively every user of the Internet in this country is going to have a massive cost."
  • Moreover, the larger the cache of stored data, the more worthwhile it will be for criminals and state-backed actors to gain access and download that highly-revealing personal information for fraud and blackmail. John Shaw, the vice president of product management at British security firm Sophos, told the MPs: "There would be a huge amount of very sensitive personal data that could be used by bad guys.
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  • The ISPs also challenged the government's breezy assumption that separating the data from the (equally revealing) metadata would be simple, not least because an Internet connection is typically being used for multiple services simultaneously, with data packets mixed together in a completely contingent way. Hare described a typical usage scenario for a teenager on their computer at home, where they are playing a game communicating with their friends using Steam; they are broadcasting the game using Twitch; and they may also be making a voice call at the same time too. "All those applications are running simultaneously," Hare said. "They are different applications using different servers with different services and different protocols. They are all running concurrently on that one machine." Even accessing a Web page is much more complicated than the government seems to believe, Hare pointed out. "As a webpage is loading, you will see that that webpage is made up of tens, or many tens, of individual sessions that have been created across the Internet just to load a single webpage. Bluntly, if you want to find out what someone is doing you need to be tracking all of that data all the time."
  • Hare raised another major issue. "If I was a software business ... I would be very worried that my customers would not buy my software any more if it had anything to do with security at all. I would be worried that a backdoor was built into the software by the [Investigatory Powers] Bill that would allow the UK government to find out what information was on that system at any point they wanted in the future." As Ars reported last week, the ability to demand that backdoors are added to systems, and a legal requirement not to reveal that fact under any circumstances, are two of the most contentious aspects of the new Investigatory Powers Bill. The latest comments from industry experts add to concerns that the latest version of the Snooper's Charter would inflict great harm on civil liberties in the UK, and also make security research well-nigh impossible here. To those fears can now be added undermining the UK software industry, as well as forcing the UK public to pay for the privilege of having their ISP carry out suspicionless surveillance.
Paul Merrell

Leaked docs show spyware used to snoop on US computers | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Software created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica. It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.
  • The leaked files—which were posted online by hackers—are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma's software to spy on dissidents, journalists, and activist groups. The documents, leaked last Saturday, could not be readily verified, but experts told ProPublica they believed them to be genuine. "I think it's highly unlikely that it's a fake," said Morgan Marquis-Bore, a security researcher who while at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto had analyzed Gamma Group's software and who authored an article about the leak on Thursday. The documents confirm many details that have already been reported about Gamma, such as that its tools were used to spy on Bahraini activists. Some documents in the trove contain metadata tied to e-mail addresses of several Gamma employees. Bill Marczak, another Gamma Group expert at the Citizen Lab, said that several dates in the documents correspond to publicly known events—such as the day that a particular Bahraini activist was hacked.
  • The leaked files contain more than 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material, including software code, internal memos, strategy reports, and user guides on how to use Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure Web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets' computers and cell phones. A price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million. The documents reveal that Gamma uses technology from a French company called Vupen Security that sells so-called computer "exploits." Exploits include techniques called "zero days" for "popular software like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and many more." Zero days are exploits that have not yet been detected by the software maker and therefore are not blocked.
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  • Many of Gamma's product brochures have previously been published by the Wall Street Journal and Wikileaks, but the latest trove shows how the products are getting more sophisticated. In one document, engineers at Gamma tested a product called FinSpy, which inserts malware onto a user's machine, and found that it could not be blocked by most antivirus software. Documents also reveal that Gamma had been working to bypass encryption tools including a mobile phone encryption app, Silent Circle, and were able to bypass the protection given by hard-drive encryption products TrueCrypt and Microsoft's Bitlocker.
  • The documents also describe a "country-wide" surveillance product called FinFly ISP which promises customers the ability to intercept Internet traffic and masquerade as ordinary websites in order to install malware on a target's computer. The most recent date-stamp found in the documents is August 2, coincidung with the first tweet by a parody Twitter account, @GammaGroupPR, which first announced the hack and may be run by the hacker or hackers responsible for the leak. On Reddit, a user called PhineasFisher claimed responsibility for the leak. "Two years ago their software was found being widely used by governments in the middle east, especially Bahrain, to hack and spy on the computers and phones of journalists and dissidents," the user wrote. The name on the @GammaGroupPR Twitter account is also "Phineas Fisher." GammaGroup, the surveillance company whose documents were released, is no stranger to the spotlight. The security firm F-Secure first reported the purchase of FinFisher software by the Egyptian State Security agency in 2011. In 2012, Bloomberg News and The Citizen Lab showed how the company's malware was used to target activists in Bahrain. In 2013, the software company Mozilla sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company after a report by The Citizen Lab showed that a spyware-infected version of the Firefox browser manufactured by Gamma was being used to spy on Malaysian activists.
Paul Merrell

Protocols of the Hackers of Zion? « LobeLog - 0 views

  • When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday afternoon, he boasted about Israel’s “robust hi-tech and cyber industries.” According to The Jerusalem Post, “Netanyahu also noted that ‘Israel was making great efforts to diversify the markets with which it is trading in the technological field.'” Just how diversified and developed Israeli hi-tech innovation has become was revealed the very next morning, when the Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Labs, which claims more than 400 million users internationally, announced that sophisticated spyware with the hallmarks of Israeli origin (although no country was explicitly identified) had targeted three European hotels that had been venues for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, one of the first news sources to break the story, reported that Kaspersky itself had been hacked by malware whose code was remarkably similar to that of a virus attributed to Israel. Code-named “Duqu” because it used the letters DQ in the names of the files it created, the malware had first been detected in 2011. On Thursday, Symantec, another cyber-security firm, announced it too had discovered Duqu 2 on its global network, striking undisclosed telecommunication sites in Europe, North Africa, Hong Kong, and  Southeast Asia. It said that Duqu 2 is much more difficult to detect that its predecessor because it lives exclusively in the memory of the computers it infects, rather than writing files to a drive or disk. The original Duqu shared coding with — and was written on the same platform as — Stuxnet, the computer worm  that partially disabled enrichment centrifuges in Iranian nuclear power plants, according to a 2012 report in The New York Times. Intelligence and military experts said that Stuxnet was first tested at Dimona, a nuclear-reactor complex in the Negev desert that houses Israel’s own clandestine nuclear weapons program. While Stuxnet is widely believed to have been a joint Israeli-U.S. operation, Israel seems to have developed and implemented Duqu on its own.
  • Coding of the spyware that targeted two Swiss hotels and one in Vienna—both sites where talks were held between the P5+1 and Iran—so closely resembled that of Duqu that Kaspersky has dubbed it “Duqu 2.” A Kaspersky report contends that the new and improved Duqu would have been almost impossible to create without access to the original Duqu code. Duqu 2’s one hundred “modules” enabled the cyber attackers to commandeer infected computers, compress video feeds  (including those from hotel surveillance cameras), monitor and disrupt telephone service and Wi-Fi, and steal electronic files. The hackers’ penetration of computers used by the front desk would have allowed them to determine the room numbers of negotiators and delegation members. Duqu 2 also gave the hackers the ability to operate two-way microphones in the hotels’ elevators and control their alarm systems.
Paul Merrell

China's quantum satellite enables first totally secure long-range messages - 2 views

  • In the middle of the night, invisible to anyone but special telescopes in two Chinese observatories, satellite Micius sends particles of light to Earth to establish the world’s most secure communication link. Named after the ancient Chinese philosopher also known as Mozi, Micius is the world’s first quantum communications satellite and has, for several years, been at the forefront of quantum encryption. Scientists have now reported using this technology to reach a major milestone: long-range secure communication you could trust even without trusting the satellite it runs through. Launched in 2016, Micius has already produced a number of breakthroughs under its operating team led by Pan Jian-Wei, China’s “Father of Quantum”. The satellite serves as the source of pairs of entangled photons, twinned light particles whose properties remain intertwined no matter how far apart they are. If you manipulate one of the photons, the other will be similarly affected at the very same moment.
  • It is this property that lies in the heart of the most secure forms of quantum cryptography, the entanglement-based quantum key distribution. If you use one of the entangled particles to create a key for encoding messages, only the person with the other particle can decode them.
  • Secure long-distance links such as this one will be the foundation of the quantum internet, the future global network with added security powered by laws of quantum mechanics, unmatched by classical cryptographic methods. The launch of Micius and the records set by the scientists and engineers building quantum communication systems with its help have been compared to the effect Sputnik had on the space race in the 20th century. In a similar way, the quantum race has political and military implications that are hard to ignore.
Paul Merrell

The punk rock internet - how DIY ​​rebels ​are working to ​replace the tech g... - 0 views

  • What they are doing could be seen as the online world’s equivalent of punk rock: a scattered revolt against an industry that many now think has grown greedy, intrusive and arrogant – as well as governments whose surveillance programmes have fuelled the same anxieties. As concerns grow about an online realm dominated by a few huge corporations, everyone involved shares one common goal: a comprehensively decentralised internet.
  • In the last few months, they have started working with people in the Belgian city of Ghent – or, in Flemish, Gent – where the authorities own their own internet domain, complete with .gent web addresses. Using the blueprint of Heartbeat, they want to create a new kind of internet they call the indienet – in which people control their data, are not tracked and each own an equal space online. This would be a radical alternative to what we have now: giant “supernodes” that have made a few men in northern California unimaginable amounts of money thanks to the ocean of lucrative personal information billions of people hand over in exchange for their services.
  • His alternative is what he calls the Safe network: the acronym stands for “Safe Access for Everyone”. In this model, rather than being stored on distant servers, people’s data – files, documents, social-media interactions – will be broken into fragments, encrypted and scattered around other people’s computers and smartphones, meaning that hacking and data theft will become impossible. Thanks to a system of self-authentication in which a Safe user’s encrypted information would only be put back together and unlocked on their own devices, there will be no centrally held passwords. No one will leave data trails, so there will be nothing for big online companies to harvest. The financial lubricant, Irvine says, will be a cryptocurrency called Safecoin: users will pay to store data on the network, and also be rewarded for storing other people’s (encrypted) information on their devices. Software developers, meanwhile, will be rewarded with Safecoin according to the popularity of their apps. There is a community of around 7,000 interested people already working on services that will work on the Safe network, including alternatives to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
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  • Once MaidSafe is up and running, there will be very little any government or authority can do about it: “We can’t stop the network if we start it. If anyone turned round and said: ‘You need to stop that,’ we couldn’t. We’d have to go round to people’s houses and switch off their computers. That’s part of the whole thing. The network is like a cyber-brain; almost a lifeform in itself. And once you start it, that’s it.” Before my trip to Scotland, I tell him, I spent whole futile days signing up to some of the decentralised social networks that already exist – Steemit, Diaspora, Mastadon – and trying to approximate the kind of experience I can easily get on, say, Twitter or Facebook.
  • And herein lie two potential breakthroughs. One, according to some cryptocurrency enthusiasts, is a means of securing and protecting people’s identities that doesn’t rely on remotely stored passwords. The other is a hope that we can leave behind intermediaries such as Uber and eBay, and allow buyers and sellers to deal directly with each other. Blockstack, a startup based in New York, aims to bring blockchain technology to the masses. Like MaidSafe, its creators aim to build a new internet, and a 13,000-strong crowd of developers are already working on apps that either run on the platform Blockstack has created, or use its features. OpenBazaar is an eBay-esque service, up and running since November last year, which promises “the world’s most private, secure, and liberating online marketplace”. Casa aims to be an decentralised alternative to Airbnb; Guild is a would-be blogging service that bigs up its libertarian ethos and boasts that its founders will have “no power to remove blogs they don’t approve of or agree with”.
  • An initial version of Blockstack is already up and running. Even if data is stored on conventional drives, servers and clouds, thanks to its blockchain-based “private key” system each Blockstack user controls the kind of personal information we currently blithely hand over to Big Tech, and has the unique power to unlock it. “That’s something that’s extremely powerful – and not just because you know your data is more secure because you’re not giving it to a company,” he says. “A hacker would have to hack a million people if they wanted access to their data.”
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