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Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Just Security - 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

Open Access Can't Wait. Pass FASTR Now. | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 1 views

  • When you pay for federally funded research, you should be allowed to read it. That’s the idea behind the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S.1701, H.R.3427), which was recently reintroduced in both houses of Congress. FASTR was first introduced in 2013, and while it has strong support in both parties, it has never gained enough momentum to pass. We need to change that. Let’s tell Congress that passing an open Access law should be a top priority.
  • Tell Congress: It’s time to move FASTR The proposal is pretty simple: Under FASTR, every federal agency that spends more than $100 million on grants for research would be required to adopt an open access policy. The bill gives each agency flexibility to implement an open access policy suited to the work it funds, so long as research is available to the public after an “embargo period” of a year or less. One of the major points of contention around FASTR is how long that embargo period should be. Last year, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved FASTR unanimously, but only after extending that embargo period from six months to 12, putting FASTR in line with the 2013 White House open access memo. That’s the version that was recently reintroduced in the Senate.  The House bill, by contrast, sets the embargo period at six months. EFF supports a shorter period. Part of what’s important about open access is that it democratizes knowledge: when research is available to the public, you don’t need expensive journal subscriptions or paid access to academic databases in order to read it. A citizen scientist can use and build on the same body of knowledge as someone with institutional connections. But in the fast-moving world of scientific research, 12 months is an eternity. A shorter embargo is far from a radical proposition, especially in 2017. The landscape for academic publishing is very different from what it was when FASTR was first introduced, thanks in larger part to nongovernmental funders who already enforce open access mandates. Major foundations like Ford, Gates, and Hewlett have adopted strong open access policies requiring that research be not only available to the public, but also licensed to allow republishing and reuse by anyone.
  • Just last year, the Gates Foundation made headlines when it dropped the embargo period from its policy entirely, requiring that research be published openly immediately. After a brief standoff, major publishers began to accommodate Gates’ requirements. As a result, we finally have public confirmation of what we’ve always known: open access mandates don’t put publishers out of business; they push them to modernize their business models. Imagine how a strong open access mandate for government-funded research—with a requirement that that research be licensed openly—could transform publishing. FASTR may not be that law, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, and it’s the best option on the table today. Let’s urge Congress to pass a version of FASTR with an embargo period of six months or less, and then use it as a foundation for stronger open access in the future.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Making open source software accessible to all | Opensource.com - 0 views

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    "As the user base of open source software continues to grow, developers have the responsibility of making their software accessible to all potential users, including people with disabilities. While programs designed specifically to provide accessibility exist in the development sphere of open source software, most applications have little to no native accessibility support."
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    "As the user base of open source software continues to grow, developers have the responsibility of making their software accessible to all potential users, including people with disabilities. While programs designed specifically to provide accessibility exist in the development sphere of open source software, most applications have little to no native accessibility support."
Paul Merrell

WASHINGTON: CIA admits it broke into Senate computers; senators call for spy chief's ouster | National Security & Defense | McClatchy DC - 0 views

  • An internal CIA investigation confirmed allegations that agency personnel improperly intruded into a protected database used by Senate Intelligence Committee staff to compile a scathing report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program, prompting bipartisan outrage and at least two calls for spy chief John Brennan to resign.“This is very, very serious, and I will tell you, as a member of the committee, someone who has great respect for the CIA, I am extremely disappointed in the actions of the agents of the CIA who carried out this breach of the committee’s computers,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the committee’s vice chairman.
  • The rare display of bipartisan fury followed a three-hour private briefing by Inspector General David Buckley. His investigation revealed that five CIA employees, two lawyers and three information technology specialists improperly accessed or “caused access” to a database that only committee staff were permitted to use.Buckley’s inquiry also determined that a CIA crimes report to the Justice Department alleging that the panel staff removed classified documents from a top-secret facility without authorization was based on “inaccurate information,” according to a summary of the findings prepared for the Senate and House intelligence committees and released by the CIA.In other conclusions, Buckley found that CIA security officers conducted keyword searches of the emails of staffers of the committee’s Democratic majority _ and reviewed some of them _ and that the three CIA information technology specialists showed “a lack of candor” in interviews with Buckley’s office.
  • The inspector general’s summary did not say who may have ordered the intrusion or when senior CIA officials learned of it.Following the briefing, some senators struggled to maintain their composure over what they saw as a violation of the constitutional separation of powers between an executive branch agency and its congressional overseers.“We’re the only people watching these organizations, and if we can’t rely on the information that we’re given as being accurate, then it makes a mockery of the entire oversight function,” said Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats.The findings confirmed charges by the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the database that by agreement was to be used by her staffers compiling the report on the harsh interrogation methods used by the agency on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons under the George W. Bush administration.The findings also contradicted Brennan’s denials of Feinstein’s allegations, prompting two panel members, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to demand that the spy chief resign.
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  • Another committee member, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and some civil rights groups called for a fuller investigation. The demands clashed with a desire by President Barack Obama, other lawmakers and the CIA to move beyond the controversy over the “enhanced interrogation program” after Feinstein releases her committee’s report, which could come as soon as next weekMany members demanded that Brennan explain his earlier denial that the CIA had accessed the Senate committee database.“Director Brennan should make a very public explanation and correction of what he said,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. He all but accused the Justice Department of a coverup by deciding not to pursue a criminal investigation into the CIA’s intrusion.
  • “I thought there might have been information that was produced after the department reached their conclusion,” he said. “What I understand, they have all of the information which the IG has.”He hinted that the scandal goes further than the individuals cited in Buckley’s report.“I think it’s very clear that CIA people knew exactly what they were doing and either knew or should’ve known,” said Levin, adding that he thought that Buckley’s findings should be referred to the Justice Department.A person with knowledge of the issue insisted that the CIA personnel who improperly accessed the database “acted in good faith,” believing that they were empowered to do so because they believed there had been a security violation.“There was no malicious intent. They acted in good faith believing they had the legal standing to do so,” said the knowledgeable person, who asked not to be further identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. “But it did not conform with the legal agreement reached with the Senate committee.”
  • Buckley’s findings clashed with denials by Brennan that he issued only hours after Feinstein’s blistering Senate speech.“As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s _ that’s just beyond the _ you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do,” he said in an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations.White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a strong defense of Brennan, crediting him with playing an “instrumental role” in the administration’s fight against terrorism, in launching Buckley’s investigation and in looking for ways to prevent such occurrences in the future.Earnest was asked at a news briefing whether there was a credibility issue for Brennan, given his forceful denial in March.“Not at all,” he replied, adding that Brennan had suggested the inspector general’s investigation in the first place. And, he added, Brennan had taken the further step of appointing the accountability board to review the situation and the conduct of those accused of acting improperly to “ensure that they are properly held accountable for that conduct.”
  • Feinstein called Brennan’s apology and his decision to submit Buckley’s findings to the accountability board “positive first steps.”“This IG report corrects the record and it is my understanding that a declassified report will be made available to the public shortly,” she said in a statement.“The investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate floor in March _ CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement we had reached, and I believe in violation of the constitutional separation of powers,” she said.It was not clear why Feinstein didn’t repeat her charges from March that the agency also may have broken the law and had sought to “thwart” her investigation into the CIA’s use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, sleep deprivation and other harsh interrogation methods _ tactics denounced by many experts as torture.
  • The allegations and the separate CIA charge that the committee staff removed classified documents from the secret CIA facility in Northern Virginia without authorization were referred to the Justice Department for investigation.The department earlier this month announced that it had found insufficient evidence on which to proceed with criminal probes into either matter “at this time.” Thursday, Justice Department officials declined comment.
  • In her speech, Feinstein asserted that her staff found the material _ known as the Panetta review, after former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who ordered it _ in the protected database and that the CIA discovered the staff had it by monitoring its computers in violation of the user agreement.The inspector general’s summary, which was prepared for the Senate and the House intelligence committees, didn’t identify the CIA personnel who had accessed the Senate’s protected database.Furthermore, it said, the CIA crimes report to the Justice Department alleging that panel staffers had removed classified materials without permission was grounded on inaccurate information. The report is believed to have been sent by the CIA’s then acting general counsel, Robert Eatinger, who was a legal adviser to the interrogation program.“The factual basis for the referral was not supported, as the author of the referral had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based,” said the summary, noting that the Justice Department decided not to pursue the issue.
  • Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the CIA announcement, saying that “an apology isn’t enough.”“The Justice Department must refer the (CIA) inspector general’s report to a federal prosecutor for a full investigation into any crimes by CIA personnel or contractors,” said Anders.
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    And no one but the lowest ranking staffer knew anything about it, not even the CIA lawyer who made the criminal referral to the Justice Dept., alleging that the Senate Intelligence Committee had accessed classified documents it wasn't authorized to access. So the Justice Dept. announces that there's insufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation. As though the CIA lawyer's allegations were not based on the unlawful surveillance of the Senate Intelligence Committee's network.  Can't we just get an official announcement that Attorney General Holder has decided that there shall be a cover-up? 
Paul Merrell

Web video accessibility from EmbedPlus on 2011-08-11 (w3c-wai-ig@w3.org from July to September 2011) - 0 views

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    For those who care about Web accessibility, here is an opportunity to provide feedback on some accessibility tools for one of the most widely-used web services. The message deserves wide distribution. The contact email address is on the linked page.  The linked tool set should also be of interest to those doing mashups or embedding YouTube videos in web pages. Hi all, I'm the co-developer a YouTube third-party tool called EmbedPlus. It enhances the standard YouTube player with many features that aren't inherently supported. We've been getting lots of feedback regarding the accessibility benefits of some of these features like movable zoom, slow motion, and even third-party annotations. As the tool continues to grow in popularity, the importance of its accessibility rises. I decided to do some research and found the WAI Interest group to be a major proponent of accessibility on the web. If anyone has time to take a look at EmbedPlus and share feedback that could help improve the tool, please do. Here's the link: http://www.embedplus.com/ Thank you in advance, Tay
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Thunderclap: Free Information from Space Outernet for Aug 11, 2014 - 0 views

  • Right now, only 40% of humanity can connect to the Internet. Even less than that have access to truly free, uncensored Internet. What this represents is an enormous gap in access to information. While the Internet is an amazing communication tool, it is also the largest library ever constructed. It grants access to anything from books, videos, courseware, news, and weather, to open source farm equipment or instructions on how to treat infection or prevent HIV from spreading. #ImagineIf everyone could have that information for free?On August 11, 2014, Outernet will make that library available from space for free for the first time. Help us tell the world.#ImagineIf everyone had any information they wanted - what would that world look like? What new inventions would be created or diseases cured? What would people read about if their governments no longer deprived them of their right to free information? Soon, we won't have to imagine.
  • Right now, only 40% of humanity can connect to the Internet. Even less than that have access to truly free, uncensored Internet. What this represents is an enormous gap in access to information. While the Internet is an amazing communication tool, it is also the largest library ever constructed. It grants access to anything from books, videos, courseware, news, and weather, to open source farm equipment or instructions on how to treat infection or prevent HIV from spreading. #ImagineIf everyone could have that information for free?On August 11, 2014, Outernet will make that library available from space for free for the first time. Help us tell the world.#ImagineIf everyone had any information they wanted - what would that world look like? What new inventions would be created or diseases cured? What would people read about if their governments no longer deprived them of their right to free information? 
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    INFORMATION FOR THE WORLD FROM OUTER SPACE Unrestricted, globally accessible, broadcast data. Quality content from all over the Internet. Available to all of humanity. For free. Through satellite data broadcasting, Outernet is able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy, and offer a universally-accessible information service at no cost to global citizens. It's the modern version of shortwave radio, or BitTorrent from space.
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    ""#ImagineIf every human had a free library at home... Information equality begins TODAY: Outernet is LIVE from space! http://thndr.it/1pazaP3" "
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    ""#ImagineIf every human had a free library at home... Information equality begins TODAY: Outernet is LIVE from space! http://thndr.it/1pazaP3" "
Paul Merrell

NAS Report: A New Light in the Debate over Government Access to Encrypted Content - Lawfare - 0 views

  • The encryption debate dates back to Clinton administration proposals for the “clipper chip” and mandatory deposit of decryption keys. But that debate reached new prominence in connection with the FBI’s efforts to compel Apple to decrypt the phone of a dead terrorist in the San Bernardino case. A new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine tries to shed some light, and turn down the heat, in the debate over whether government agencies should be provided access to plaintext versions of encrypted communications and other data. FBI and other law enforcement officials, and some intelligence officials, have argued that in the face of widespread encryption provided by smart phones, messaging apps, and other devices and software, the internet is “going dark.” These officials warn that encryption is restricting their access to information needed for criminal and national security investigations, arguing that they need a reliable, timely and scalable way to access it. Critics have raised legal and practical objections that regulations to ensure government access would pose unacceptable risks to privacy and civil liberties and undermine computer security in the face of rising cyber threats, and may be less necessary given the wider availability of data and alternative means of obtaining access to encrypted data. As the encryption debate has become increasingly polarized with participants on all sides making sweeping, sometimes absolutist, assertions, the new National Academies’ report doesn’t purport to tell anyone what to do, but rather provides a primer on the relevant issues.
Paul Merrell

From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users' Online Identities - 1 views

  • HERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.” Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs. The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.
  • Amid a renewed push from the U.K. government for more surveillance powers, more than two dozen documents being disclosed today by The Intercept reveal for the first time several major strands of GCHQ’s existing electronic eavesdropping capabilities.
  • The surveillance is underpinned by an opaque legal regime that has authorized GCHQ to sift through huge archives of metadata about the private phone calls, emails and Internet browsing logs of Brits, Americans, and any other citizens — all without a court order or judicial warrant
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  • A huge volume of the Internet data GCHQ collects flows directly into a massive repository named Black Hole, which is at the core of the agency’s online spying operations, storing raw logs of intercepted material before it has been subject to analysis. Black Hole contains data collected by GCHQ as part of bulk “unselected” surveillance, meaning it is not focused on particular “selected” targets and instead includes troves of data indiscriminately swept up about ordinary people’s online activities. Between August 2007 and March 2009, GCHQ documents say that Black Hole was used to store more than 1.1 trillion “events” — a term the agency uses to refer to metadata records — with about 10 billion new entries added every day. As of March 2009, the largest slice of data Black Hole held — 41 percent — was about people’s Internet browsing histories. The rest included a combination of email and instant messenger records, details about search engine queries, information about social media activity, logs related to hacking operations, and data on people’s use of tools to browse the Internet anonymously.
  • Throughout this period, as smartphone sales started to boom, the frequency of people’s Internet use was steadily increasing. In tandem, British spies were working frantically to bolster their spying capabilities, with plans afoot to expand the size of Black Hole and other repositories to handle an avalanche of new data. By 2010, according to the documents, GCHQ was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day, and work was underway to double capacity to 100 billion. The agency was developing “unprecedented” techniques to perform what it called “population-scale” data mining, monitoring all communications across entire countries in an effort to detect patterns or behaviors deemed suspicious. It was creating what it said would be, by 2013, “the world’s biggest” surveillance engine “to run cyber operations and to access better, more valued data for customers to make a real world difference.”
  • A document from the GCHQ target analysis center (GTAC) shows the Black Hole repository’s structure.
  • The data is searched by GCHQ analysts in a hunt for behavior online that could be connected to terrorism or other criminal activity. But it has also served a broader and more controversial purpose — helping the agency hack into European companies’ computer networks. In the lead up to its secret mission targeting Netherlands-based Gemalto, the largest SIM card manufacturer in the world, GCHQ used MUTANT BROTH in an effort to identify the company’s employees so it could hack into their computers. The system helped the agency analyze intercepted Facebook cookies it believed were associated with Gemalto staff located at offices in France and Poland. GCHQ later successfully infiltrated Gemalto’s internal networks, stealing encryption keys produced by the company that protect the privacy of cell phone communications.
  • Similarly, MUTANT BROTH proved integral to GCHQ’s hack of Belgian telecommunications provider Belgacom. The agency entered IP addresses associated with Belgacom into MUTANT BROTH to uncover information about the company’s employees. Cookies associated with the IPs revealed the Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn accounts of three Belgacom engineers, whose computers were then targeted by the agency and infected with malware. The hacking operation resulted in GCHQ gaining deep access into the most sensitive parts of Belgacom’s internal systems, granting British spies the ability to intercept communications passing through the company’s networks.
  • In March, a U.K. parliamentary committee published the findings of an 18-month review of GCHQ’s operations and called for an overhaul of the laws that regulate the spying. The committee raised concerns about the agency gathering what it described as “bulk personal datasets” being held about “a wide range of people.” However, it censored the section of the report describing what these “datasets” contained, despite acknowledging that they “may be highly intrusive.” The Snowden documents shine light on some of the core GCHQ bulk data-gathering programs that the committee was likely referring to — pulling back the veil of secrecy that has shielded some of the agency’s most controversial surveillance operations from public scrutiny. KARMA POLICE and MUTANT BROTH are among the key bulk collection systems. But they do not operate in isolation — and the scope of GCHQ’s spying extends far beyond them.
  • The agency operates a bewildering array of other eavesdropping systems, each serving its own specific purpose and designated a unique code name, such as: SOCIAL ANTHROPOID, which is used to analyze metadata on emails, instant messenger chats, social media connections and conversations, plus “telephony” metadata about phone calls, cell phone locations, text and multimedia messages; MEMORY HOLE, which logs queries entered into search engines and associates each search with an IP address; MARBLED GECKO, which sifts through details about searches people have entered into Google Maps and Google Earth; and INFINITE MONKEYS, which analyzes data about the usage of online bulletin boards and forums. GCHQ has other programs that it uses to analyze the content of intercepted communications, such as the full written body of emails and the audio of phone calls. One of the most important content collection capabilities is TEMPORA, which mines vast amounts of emails, instant messages, voice calls and other communications and makes them accessible through a Google-style search tool named XKEYSCORE.
  • As of September 2012, TEMPORA was collecting “more than 40 billion pieces of content a day” and it was being used to spy on people across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, according to a top-secret memo outlining the scope of the program. The existence of TEMPORA was first revealed by The Guardian in June 2013. To analyze all of the communications it intercepts and to build a profile of the individuals it is monitoring, GCHQ uses a variety of different tools that can pull together all of the relevant information and make it accessible through a single interface. SAMUEL PEPYS is one such tool, built by the British spies to analyze both the content and metadata of emails, browsing sessions, and instant messages as they are being intercepted in real time. One screenshot of SAMUEL PEPYS in action shows the agency using it to monitor an individual in Sweden who visited a page about GCHQ on the U.S.-based anti-secrecy website Cryptome.
  • Partly due to the U.K.’s geographic location — situated between the United States and the western edge of continental Europe — a large amount of the world’s Internet traffic passes through its territory across international data cables. In 2010, GCHQ noted that what amounted to “25 percent of all Internet traffic” was transiting the U.K. through some 1,600 different cables. The agency said that it could “survey the majority of the 1,600” and “select the most valuable to switch into our processing systems.”
  • According to Joss Wright, a research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, tapping into the cables allows GCHQ to monitor a large portion of foreign communications. But the cables also transport masses of wholly domestic British emails and online chats, because when anyone in the U.K. sends an email or visits a website, their computer will routinely send and receive data from servers that are located overseas. “I could send a message from my computer here [in England] to my wife’s computer in the next room and on its way it could go through the U.S., France, and other countries,” Wright says. “That’s just the way the Internet is designed.” In other words, Wright adds, that means “a lot” of British data and communications transit across international cables daily, and are liable to be swept into GCHQ’s databases.
  • A map from a classified GCHQ presentation about intercepting communications from undersea cables. GCHQ is authorized to conduct dragnet surveillance of the international data cables through so-called external warrants that are signed off by a government minister. The external warrants permit the agency to monitor communications in foreign countries as well as British citizens’ international calls and emails — for example, a call from Islamabad to London. They prohibit GCHQ from reading or listening to the content of “internal” U.K. to U.K. emails and phone calls, which are supposed to be filtered out from GCHQ’s systems if they are inadvertently intercepted unless additional authorization is granted to scrutinize them. However, the same rules do not apply to metadata. A little-known loophole in the law allows GCHQ to use external warrants to collect and analyze bulk metadata about the emails, phone calls, and Internet browsing activities of British people, citizens of closely allied countries, and others, regardless of whether the data is derived from domestic U.K. to U.K. communications and browsing sessions or otherwise. In March, the existence of this loophole was quietly acknowledged by the U.K. parliamentary committee’s surveillance review, which stated in a section of its report that “special protection and additional safeguards” did not apply to metadata swept up using external warrants and that domestic British metadata could therefore be lawfully “returned as a result of searches” conducted by GCHQ.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, GCHQ appears to have readily exploited this obscure legal technicality. Secret policy guidance papers issued to the agency’s analysts instruct them that they can sift through huge troves of indiscriminately collected metadata records to spy on anyone regardless of their nationality. The guidance makes clear that there is no exemption or extra privacy protection for British people or citizens from countries that are members of the Five Eyes, a surveillance alliance that the U.K. is part of alongside the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. “If you are searching a purely Events only database such as MUTANT BROTH, the issue of location does not occur,” states one internal GCHQ policy document, which is marked with a “last modified” date of July 2012. The document adds that analysts are free to search the databases for British metadata “without further authorization” by inputing a U.K. “selector,” meaning a unique identifier such as a person’s email or IP address, username, or phone number. Authorization is “not needed for individuals in the U.K.,” another GCHQ document explains, because metadata has been judged “less intrusive than communications content.” All the spies are required to do to mine the metadata troves is write a short “justification” or “reason” for each search they conduct and then click a button on their computer screen.
  • Intelligence GCHQ collects on British persons of interest is shared with domestic security agency MI5, which usually takes the lead on spying operations within the U.K. MI5 conducts its own extensive domestic surveillance as part of a program called DIGINT (digital intelligence).
  • GCHQ’s documents suggest that it typically retains metadata for periods of between 30 days to six months. It stores the content of communications for a shorter period of time, varying between three to 30 days. The retention periods can be extended if deemed necessary for “cyber defense.” One secret policy paper dated from January 2010 lists the wide range of information the agency classes as metadata — including location data that could be used to track your movements, your email, instant messenger, and social networking “buddy lists,” logs showing who you have communicated with by phone or email, the passwords you use to access “communications services” (such as an email account), and information about websites you have viewed.
  • Records showing the full website addresses you have visited — for instance, www.gchq.gov.uk/what_we_do — are treated as content. But the first part of an address you have visited — for instance, www.gchq.gov.uk — is treated as metadata. In isolation, a single metadata record of a phone call, email, or website visit may not reveal much about a person’s private life, according to Ethan Zuckerman, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media. But if accumulated and analyzed over a period of weeks or months, these details would be “extremely personal,” he told The Intercept, because they could reveal a person’s movements, habits, religious beliefs, political views, relationships, and even sexual preferences. For Zuckerman, who has studied the social and political ramifications of surveillance, the most concerning aspect of large-scale government data collection is that it can be “corrosive towards democracy” — leading to a chilling effect on freedom of expression and communication. “Once we know there’s a reasonable chance that we are being watched in one fashion or another it’s hard for that not to have a ‘panopticon effect,’” he said, “where we think and behave differently based on the assumption that people may be watching and paying attention to what we are doing.”
  • When compared to surveillance rules in place in the U.S., GCHQ notes in one document that the U.K. has “a light oversight regime.” The more lax British spying regulations are reflected in secret internal rules that highlight greater restrictions on how NSA databases can be accessed. The NSA’s troves can be searched for data on British citizens, one document states, but they cannot be mined for information about Americans or other citizens from countries in the Five Eyes alliance. No such constraints are placed on GCHQ’s own databases, which can be sifted for records on the phone calls, emails, and Internet usage of Brits, Americans, and citizens from any other country. The scope of GCHQ’s surveillance powers explain in part why Snowden told The Guardian in June 2013 that U.K. surveillance is “worse than the U.S.” In an interview with Der Spiegel in July 2013, Snowden added that British Internet cables were “radioactive” and joked: “Even the Queen’s selfies to the pool boy get logged.”
  • In recent years, the biggest barrier to GCHQ’s mass collection of data does not appear to have come in the form of legal or policy restrictions. Rather, it is the increased use of encryption technology that protects the privacy of communications that has posed the biggest potential hindrance to the agency’s activities. “The spread of encryption … threatens our ability to do effective target discovery/development,” says a top-secret report co-authored by an official from the British agency and an NSA employee in 2011. “Pertinent metadata events will be locked within the encrypted channels and difficult, if not impossible, to prise out,” the report says, adding that the agencies were working on a plan that would “(hopefully) allow our Internet Exploitation strategy to prevail.”
Paul Merrell

Joint - Dear Colleague Letter: Electronic Book Readers - 0 views

  • U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
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    June 29, 2010 Dear College or University President: We write to express concern on the part of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that colleges and universities are using electronic book readers that are not accessible to students who are blind or have low vision and to seek your help in ensuring that this emerging technology is used in classroom settings in a manner that is permissible under federal law. A serious problem with some of these devices is that they lack an accessible text-to-speech function. Requiring use of an emerging technology in a classroom environment when the technology is inaccessible to an entire population of individuals with disabilities - individuals with visual disabilities - is discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) unless those individuals are provided accommodations or modifications that permit them to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner. ... The Department of Justice recently entered into settlement agreements with colleges and universities that used the Kindle DX, an inaccessible, electronic book reader, in the classroom as part of a pilot study with Amazon.com, Inc. In summary, the universities agreed not to purchase, require, or recommend use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless or until the device is fully accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision, or the universities provide reasonable accommodation or modification so that a student can acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use. The texts of these agreements may be viewed on the Department of Justice's ADA Web site, www.ada.gov. (To find these settlements on www.ada.gov, search for "Kindle.") Consisten
Paul Merrell

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) Version 1.0 - 0 views

  • Accessibility of Web content to people with disabilities requires semantic information about widgets, structures, and behaviors, in order to allow Assistive Technologies to make appropriate transformations. This specification provides an ontology of roles, states, and properties that set out an abstract model for Accessible interfaces and can be used to improve the Accessibility and interoperability of Web Content and Applications. This information can be mapped to Accessibility frameworks that use this information to provide alternative Access solutions. Similarly, this information can be used to change the rendering of content dynamically using different style sheet properties. The result is an interoperable method for associating behaviors with document-level markup. This document is part of the WAI-ARIA suite described in the ARIA Overview.
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    New working draft from W3C. See also details of the call for comment: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-ig/2008JulSep/0034
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

U.S. Congress must act on government hacking, reject Rule 41 - Access Now - 0 views

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    "Washington D.C. - Access Now today calls upon the U.S. Congress to reject a new rule that will expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) hacking operations. The call comes as the Supreme Court of the United States reported a change in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, specifically Rule 41, to Congress. The change enables the FBI to hack into computers regardless of where they are located, and to hack into the computers belonging to the victims of botnet operations. Access Now strongly opposes the update to Rule 41."
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    "Washington D.C. - Access Now today calls upon the U.S. Congress to reject a new rule that will expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) hacking operations. The call comes as the Supreme Court of the United States reported a change in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, specifically Rule 41, to Congress. The change enables the FBI to hack into computers regardless of where they are located, and to hack into the computers belonging to the victims of botnet operations. Access Now strongly opposes the update to Rule 41."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Get a sneak peek review of soon-to-be-release Drupal 8 | opensource.com - 0 views

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    "When it was released in 2011, Drupal 7 was the most accessible open source content management system (CMS) available. I expect that this will be true until the release of Drupal 8. Web accessibility requires constant vigilance and will be something that will always need attention in any piece of software striving to meet the Web Content accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 guidelines."
Paul Merrell

Security Experts Oppose Government Access to Encrypted Communication - The New York Times - 0 views

  • An elite group of security technologists has concluded that the American and British governments cannot demand special access to encrypted communications without putting the world’s most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger.A new paper from the group, made up of 14 of the world’s pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists, is a formidable salvo in a skirmish between intelligence and law enforcement leaders, and technologists and privacy advocates. After Edward J. Snowden’s revelations — with security breaches and awareness of nation-state surveillance at a record high and data moving online at breakneck speeds — encryption has emerged as a major issue in the debate over privacy rights.
  • That has put Silicon Valley at the center of a tug of war. Technology companies including Apple, Microsoft and Google have been moving to encrypt more of their corporate and customer data after learning that the National Security Agency and its counterparts were siphoning off digital communications and hacking into corporate data centers.
  • Yet law enforcement and intelligence agency leaders argue that such efforts thwart their ability to monitor kidnappers, terrorists and other adversaries. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to ban encrypted messages altogether. In the United States, Michael S. Rogers, the director of the N.S.A., proposed that technology companies be required to create a digital key to unlock encrypted data, but to divide the key into pieces and secure it so that no one person or government agency could use it alone.The encryption debate has left both sides bitterly divided and in fighting mode. The group of cryptographers deliberately issued its report a day before James B. Comey Jr., the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Sally Quillian Yates, the deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the concerns that they and other government agencies have that encryption technologies will prevent them from effectively doing their jobs.
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  • The new paper is the first in-depth technical analysis of government proposals by leading cryptographers and security thinkers, including Whitfield Diffie, a pioneer of public key cryptography, and Ronald L. Rivest, the “R” in the widely used RSA public cryptography algorithm. In the report, the group said any effort to give the government “exceptional access” to encrypted communications was technically unfeasible and would leave confidential data and critical infrastructure like banks and the power grid at risk. Handing governments a key to encrypted communications would also require an extraordinary degree of trust. With government agency breaches now the norm — most recently at the United States Office of Personnel Management, the State Department and the White House — the security specialists said authorities could not be trusted to keep such keys safe from hackers and criminals. They added that if the United States and Britain mandated backdoor keys to communications, China and other governments in foreign markets would be spurred to do the same.
  • “Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend,” the report said. “The costs would be substantial, the damage to innovation severe and the consequences to economic growth hard to predict. The costs to the developed countries’ soft power and to our moral authority would also be considerable.”
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    Our system of government does not expect that every criminal will be apprehended and convicted. There are numerous values our society believes are more important. Some examples: [i] a presumption of innocence unless guilt is established beyond any reasonable doubt; [ii] the requirement that government officials convince a neutral magistrate that they have probable cause to believe that a search or seizure will produce evidence of a crime; [iii] many communications cannot be compelled to be disclosed and used in evidence, such as attorney-client communications, spousal communications, and priest-penitent communications; and [iv] etc. Moral of my story: the government needs a much stronger reason to justify interception of communications than saying, "some crooks will escape prosecution if we can't do that." We have a right to whisper to each other, concealing our communicatons from all others. Why does the right to whisper privately disappear if our whisperings are done electronically? The Supreme Court took its first step on a very slippery slope when it permitted wiretapping in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L. Ed. 944 (1928). https://goo.gl/LaZGHt It's been a long slide ever since. It's past time to revisit Olmstead and recognize that American citizens have the absolute right to communicate privately. "The President … recognizes that U.S. citizens and institutions should have a reasonable expectation of privacy from foreign or domestic intercept when using the public telephone system." - Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Advisor, National Security Decision Memorandum 338 (1 September 1976) (Nixon administration), http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsdm-ford/nsdm-338.pdf   
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Copying and Sharing in Self Defense - 2 views

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    Alexandre Oliva Based on the widely-recognized and seldom-disrespected human rights to enjoy and memorize works of art one can access, and to grant and accept access to them, this article claims legitimate rights to preserve access to works, to convert works to different formats and media, to download and to upload works on the Internet, and to receive and to share works in P2P networks. The full enjoyment of these human rights amounts to self defense against the constant attacks to them.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Standards Body Whines That People Who Want Free Access To The Law Probably Also Want 'Free Sex' | Techdirt - 2 views

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    "from the bad-ansi,-bad dept You would think that "the law" is obviously part of the public domain. It seems particularly crazy to think that any part of the law itself might be covered by copyright, or (worse) locked up behind some sort of paywall where you cannot read it. Carl Malamud has spent many years working to make sure the law is freely accessible... and he's been sued a bunch of times and is still in the middle of many lawsuits, including one from the State of Georgia for publishing its official annotated code (the state claims the annotations are covered by copyright)."
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    "from the bad-ansi,-bad dept You would think that "the law" is obviously part of the public domain. It seems particularly crazy to think that any part of the law itself might be covered by copyright, or (worse) locked up behind some sort of paywall where you cannot read it. Carl Malamud has spent many years working to make sure the law is freely accessible... and he's been sued a bunch of times and is still in the middle of many lawsuits, including one from the State of Georgia for publishing its official annotated code (the state claims the annotations are covered by copyright)."
Paul Merrell

New York company says it can beam free OUTERNET Wi-fi to every person on Earth | Mail Online - 0 views

  • An ambitious project known as Outernet is aiming to launch hundreds of miniature satellites into low Earth orbit by June 2015Each satellite will broadcast the Internet to phones and computers giving billions of people across the globe free online accessCitizens of countries like China and North Korea that have censored online activity could be given free and unrestricted cyberspace'There's really nothing that is technically impossible to this'
  • You might think you have to pay through the nose at the moment to access the Internet.But one ambitious organisation called the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) is planning to turn the age of online computing on its head by giving free web access to every person on Earth.Known as Outernet, MDIF plans to launch hundreds of satellites into orbit by 2015.And they say the project could provide unrestricted Internet access to countries where their web access is censored, including China and North Korea.
  • Using something known as datacasting technology, which involves sending data over wide radio waves, the New York-based company says they'll be able to broadcast the Internet around the world.The group is hoping to raise tens of millions of dollars in donations to get the project on the road.
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  • The company's plan is to launch hundreds of low-cost miniature satellites, known as cubesats, into low Earth orbit.Here, each satellite will receive data from a network of ground stations across the globe.
  • THE OUTERNET PROJECT TIMELINEBy June of this year the Outernet project aims to begin deploying prototype satellites to test their technologyIn September 2014 they will make a request to NASA to test their technology on the International Space StationBy early 2015 they intend to begin manufacturing and launching their satellitesAnd in June 2015 the company says they will begin broadcasting the Outernet from space
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Let's stand together to promote open access worldwide. | EFF Action Center - 0 views

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    "Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student, currently faces up to eight years in prison for doing something thousands of researchers do every day: posting research results online for those who would not otherwise have a way to access them."
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    "Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student, currently faces up to eight years in prison for doing something thousands of researchers do every day: posting research results online for those who would not otherwise have a way to access them."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

US government's reported number of wiretaps don't add up | Ars Technica - 0 views

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    "The government published its latest Wiretap Report on July 1. The headline finding was that encryption wasn't foiling federal and state law enforcement officials, despite a growing chorus of people suggesting that we're all gonna die unless the tech sector builds backdoor access into their products to enable government access."
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    "The government published its latest Wiretap Report on July 1. The headline finding was that encryption wasn't foiling federal and state law enforcement officials, despite a growing chorus of people suggesting that we're all gonna die unless the tech sector builds backdoor access into their products to enable government access."
Paul Merrell

Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance | Business | The Guardian - 0 views

  • Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond.The company has broken its silence on government surveillance in order to push back against the increasingly widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens, and will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on Friday. At 40,000 words, it is the most comprehensive survey yet of how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their people.The company said wires had been connected directly to its network and those of other telecoms groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer. Privacy campaigners said the revelations were a "nightmare scenario" that confirmed their worst fears on the extent of snooping.
  • Vodafone's group privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, said: "These pipes exist, the direct access model exists."We are making a call to end direct access as a means of government agencies obtaining people's communication data. Without an official warrant, there is no external visibility. If we receive a demand we can push back against the agency. The fact that a government has to issue a piece of paper is an important constraint on how powers are used."Vodafone is calling for all direct-access pipes to be disconnected, and for the laws that make them legal to be amended. It says governments should "discourage agencies and authorities from seeking direct access to an operator's communications infrastructure without a lawful mandate".
  • In America, Verizon and AT&T have published data, but only on their domestic operations. Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Telstra in Australia have also broken ground at home. Vodafone is the first to produce a global survey.
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  • Peter Micek, policy counsel at the campaign group Access, said: "In a sector that has historically been quiet about how it facilitates government Access to user data, Vodafone has for the first time shone a bright light on the challenges of a global telecom giant, giving users a greater understanding of the demands governments make of telcos. Vodafone's report also highlights how few governments issue any transparency reports, with little to no information about the number of wiretaps, cell site tower dumps, and other invasive surveillance practices."
  • Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, joined Google, Reddit, Mozilla and other tech firms and privacy groups on Thursday to call for a strengthening of privacy rights online in a "Reset the net" campaign.Twelve months after revelations about the scale of the US government's surveillance programs were first published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, Snowden said: "One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives – no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be. Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same."
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    The Vodafone disclosures will undoubtedly have a very large ripple effect. Note carefully that this is the first major telephone service in the world to break ranks with the others and come out swinging at secret government voyeur agencies. Will others follow. If you follow the links to the Vodafone report, you'll find a very handy big PDF providing an overview of the relevant laws in each of the customer nations. There's a cute Guardian table that shows the aggregate number of warrants for interception of content via Vodafone for each of those nations, broken down by content type. That table has white-on-black cells noting where disclosure of those types of surveillance statistics are prohibited by law. So it is far from a complete picture, but it's a heck of a good start.  But several of those customer nations are members of the E.U., where digital privacy rights are enshrined as human rights under an EU-wide treaty. So expect some heat to roll downhill on those nations from the European treaty organizations, particularly the European Court of Human Rights, staffed with civil libertarian judges, from which there is no appeal.     
Paul Merrell

For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent. The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.
  • The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.
  • It is unclear which governments have acquired these tracking systems, but one industry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive trade information, said that dozens of countries have bought or leased such technology in recent years. This rapid spread underscores how the burgeoning, multibillion-dollar surveillance industry makes advanced spying technology available worldwide. “Any tin-pot dictator with enough money to buy the system could spy on people anywhere in the world,” said Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a London-based activist group that warns about the abuse of surveillance technology. “This is a huge problem.”
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  • Security experts say hackers, sophisticated criminal gangs and nations under sanctions also could use this tracking technology, which operates in a legal gray area. It is illegal in many countries to track people without their consent or a court order, but there is no clear international legal standard for secretly tracking people in other countries, nor is there a global entity with the authority to police potential abuses.
  • tracking systems that access carrier location databases are unusual in their ability to allow virtually any government to track people across borders, with any type of cellular phone, across a wide range of carriers — without the carriers even knowing. These systems also can be used in tandem with other technologies that, when the general location of a person is already known, can intercept calls and Internet traffic, activate microphones, and access contact lists, photos and other documents. Companies that make and sell surveillance technology seek to limit public information about their systems’ capabilities and client lists, typically marketing their technology directly to law enforcement and intelligence services through international conferences that are closed to journalists and other members of the public.
  • Yet marketing documents obtained by The Washington Post show that companies are offering powerful systems that are designed to evade detection while plotting movements of surveillance targets on computerized maps. The documents claim system success rates of more than 70 percent. A 24-page marketing brochure for SkyLock, a cellular tracking system sold by Verint, a maker of analytics systems based in Melville, N.Y., carries the subtitle “Locate. Track. Manipulate.” The document, dated January 2013 and labeled “Commercially Confidential,” says the system offers government agencies “a cost-effective, new approach to obtaining global location information concerning known targets.”
  • (Privacy International has collected several marketing brochures on cellular surveillance systems, including one that refers briefly to SkyLock, and posted them on its Web site. The 24-page SkyLock brochure and other material was independently provided to The Post by people concerned that such systems are being abused.)
  • Verint, which also has substantial operations in Israel, declined to comment for this story. It says in the marketing brochure that it does not use SkyLock against U.S. or Israeli phones, which could violate national laws. But several similar systems, marketed in recent years by companies based in Switzerland, Ukraine and elsewhere, likely are free of such limitations.
  • The tracking technology takes advantage of the lax security of SS7, a global network that cellular carriers use to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and Internet data. The system was built decades ago, when only a few large carriers controlled the bulk of global phone traffic. Now thousands of companies use SS7 to provide services to billions of phones and other mobile devices, security experts say. All of these companies have access to the network and can send queries to other companies on the SS7 system, making the entire network more vulnerable to exploitation. Any one of these companies could share its access with others, including makers of surveillance systems.
  • Companies that market SS7 tracking systems recommend using them in tandem with “IMSI catchers,” increasingly common surveillance devices that use cellular signals collected directly from the air to intercept calls and Internet traffic, send fake texts, install spyware on a phone, and determine precise locations. IMSI catchers — also known by one popular trade name, StingRay — can home in on somebody a mile or two away but are useless if a target’s general location is not known. SS7 tracking systems solve that problem by locating the general area of a target so that IMSI catchers can be deployed effectively. (The term “IMSI” refers to a unique identifying code on a cellular phone.)
  • Verint can install SkyLock on the networks of cellular carriers if they are cooperative — something that telecommunications experts say is common in countries where carriers have close relationships with their national governments. Verint also has its own “worldwide SS7 hubs” that “are spread in various locations around the world,” says the brochure. It does not list prices for the services, though it says that Verint charges more for the ability to track targets in many far-flung countries, as opposed to only a few nearby ones. Among the most appealing features of the system, the brochure says, is its ability to sidestep the cellular operators that sometimes protect their users’ personal information by refusing government requests or insisting on formal court orders before releasing information.
  • Another company, Defentek, markets a similar system called Infiltrator Global Real-Time Tracking System on its Web site, claiming to “locate and track any phone number in the world.” The site adds: “It is a strategic solution that infiltrates and is undetected and unknown by the network, carrier, or the target.”
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    The Verint company has very close ties to the Iraeli government. Its former parent company Comverse, was heavily subsidized by Israel and the bulk of its manufacturing and code development was done in Israel. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comverse_Technology "In December 2001, a Fox News report raised the concern that wiretapping equipment provided by Comverse Infosys to the U.S. government for electronic eavesdropping may have been vulnerable, as these systems allegedly had a back door through which the wiretaps could be intercepted by unauthorized parties.[55] Fox News reporter Carl Cameron said there was no reason to believe the Israeli government was implicated, but that "a classified top-secret investigation is underway".[55] A March 2002 story by Le Monde recapped the Fox report and concluded: "Comverse is suspected of having introduced into its systems of the 'catch gates' in order to 'intercept, record and store' these wire-taps. This hardware would render the 'listener' himself 'listened to'."[56] Fox News did not pursue the allegations, and in the years since, there have been no legal or commercial actions of any type taken against Comverse by the FBI or any other branch of the US Government related to data access and security issues. While no real evidence has been presented against Comverse or Verint, the allegations have become a favorite topic of conspiracy theorists.[57] By 2005, the company had $959 million in sales and employed over 5,000 people, of whom about half were located in Israel.[16]" Verint is also the company that got the Dept. of Homeland Security contract to provide and install an electronic and video surveillance system across the entire U.S. border with Mexico.  One need not be much of a conspiracy theorist to have concerns about Verint's likely interactions and data sharing with the NSA and its Israeli equivalent, Unit 8200. 
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