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Paul Merrell

Commentary: Don't be so sure Russia hacked the Clinton emails | Reuters - 0 views

  • By James Bamford Last summer, cyber investigators plowing through the thousands of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee uncovered a clue.A user named “Феликс Эдмундович” modified one of the documents using settings in the Russian language. Translated, his name was Felix Edmundovich, a pseudonym referring to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, the chief of the Soviet Union’s first secret-police organization, the Cheka.It was one more link in the chain of evidence pointing to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man ultimately behind the operation.During the Cold War, when Soviet intelligence was headquartered in Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow, Putin was a KGB officer assigned to the First Chief Directorate. Its responsibilities included “active measures,” a form of political warfare that included media manipulation, propaganda and disinformation. Soviet active measures, retired KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin told Army historian Thomas Boghart, aimed to discredit the United States and “conquer world public opinion.”As the Cold War has turned into the code war, Putin recently unveiled his new, greatly enlarged spy organization: the Ministry of State Security, taking the name from Joseph Stalin’s secret service. Putin also resurrected, according to James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, some of the KGB’s old active- measures tactics. On October 7, Clapper issued a statement: “The U.S. Intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” Notably, however, the FBI declined to join the chorus, according to reports by the New York Times and CNBC.A week later, Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that "we're sending a message" to Putin and "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact." When asked if the American public would know a message was sent, Biden replied, "Hope not." Meanwhile, the CIA was asked, according to an NBC report on October 14, “to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging ‘clandestine’ cyber operation designed to harass and ‘embarrass’ the Kremlin leadership.”But as both sides begin arming their cyberweapons, it is critical for the public to be confident that the evidence is really there, and to understand the potential consequences of a tit-for-tat cyberwar escalating into a real war. 
  • This is a prospect that has long worried Richard Clarke, the former White House cyber czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s highly likely that any war that began as a cyberwar,” Clarke told me last year, “would ultimately end up being a conventional war, where the United States was engaged with bombers and missiles.”The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction. Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment. After the Democratic committee discovered the potential hack last spring, it called in the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in May to analyze the problem.
  • CrowdStrike took just a month or so before it conclusively determined that Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Russian military intelligence organization, GRU, were behind it. Most of the other major cybersecurity firms quickly fell in line and agreed. By October, the intelligence community made it unanimous. That speed and certainty contrasts sharply with a previous suspected Russian hack in 2010, when the target was the Nasdaq stock market. According to an extensive investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014, the NSA and FBI made numerous mistakes over many months that stretched to nearly a year. “After months of work,” the article said, “there were still basic disagreements in different parts of government over who was behind the incident and why.”  There was no consensus­, with just a 70 percent certainty that the hack was a cybercrime. Months later, this determination was revised again: It was just a Russian attempt to spy on the exchange in order to design its own. The federal agents also considered the possibility that the Nasdaq snooping was not connected to the Kremlin. Instead, “someone in the FSB could have been running a for-profit operation on the side, or perhaps sold the malware to a criminal hacking group.” Again, that’s why it’s necessary to better understand the role of Guccifer 2.0 in releasing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails before launching any cyberweapons.
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  • t is strange that clues in the Nasdaq hack were very difficult to find ― as one would expect from a professional, state-sponsored cyber operation. Conversely, the sloppy, Inspector Clouseau-like nature of the Guccifer 2.0 operation, with someone hiding behind a silly Bolshevik cover name, and Russian language clues in the metadata, smacked more of either an amateur operation or a deliberate deception.Then there’s the Shadow Brokers, that mysterious person or group that surfaced in August with its farcical “auction” to profit from a stolen batch of extremely secret NSA hacking tools, in essence, cyberweapons. Where do they fit into the picture? They have a small armory of NSA cyberweapons, and they appeared just three weeks after the first DNC emails were leaked. On Monday, the Shadow Brokers released more information, including what they claimed is a list of hundreds of organizations that the NSA has targeted over more than a decade, complete with technical details. This offers further evidence that their information comes from a leaker inside the NSA rather than the Kremlin. The Shadow Brokers also discussed Obama’s threat of cyber retaliation against Russia. Yet they seemed most concerned that the CIA, rather than the NSA or Cyber Command, was given the assignment. This may be a possible indication of a connection to NSA’s elite group, Tailored Access Operations, considered by many the A-Team of hackers.“Why is DirtyGrandpa threating CIA cyberwar with Russia?” they wrote. “Why not threating with NSA or Cyber Command? CIA is cyber B-Team, yes? Where is cyber A-Team?” Because of legal and other factors, the NSA conducts cyber espionage, Cyber Command conducts cyberattacks in wartime, and the CIA conducts covert cyberattacks. 
  • The Shadow Brokers connection is important because Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, claimed to have received identical copies of the Shadow Brokers cyberweapons even before they announced their “auction.” Did he get them from the Shadow Brokers, from Guccifer, from Russia or from an inside leaker at the NSA?Despite the rushed, incomplete investigation and unanswered questions, the Obama administration has announced its decision to retaliate against Russia.  But a public warning about a secret attack makes little sense. If a major cyber crisis happens in Russia sometime in the future, such as a deadly power outage in frigid winter, the United States could be blamed even if it had nothing to do with it. That could then trigger a major retaliatory cyberattack against the U.S. cyber infrastructure, which would call for another reprisal attack ― potentially leading to Clarke’s fear of a cyberwar triggering a conventional war. President Barack Obama has also not taken a nuclear strike off the table as an appropriate response to a devastating cyberattack.
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    Article by James Bamford, the first NSA whistleblower and author of three books on the NSA.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Movie Companies Want to Destroy Massive Pirate Communities - TorrentFreak - 1 views

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    " Andy on June 2, 2016 C: 8 Breaking Social networks are increasingly being used to spread copyrighted content but rather than take down infringing items individually, entertainment companies would like to take a broader approach. Should copyright holders be allowed to wipe out communities with millions of members to protect copyright?"
Paul Merrell

EU okays 'renewed' data transfer deal, lets US firms move Europeans' private info overseas - RT News - 0 views

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

All Nations Lose with TPP's Expansion of Copyright Terms | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

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    "EFF has previously written about various troubling provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that is being negotiated under wraps. One other major concern is that TPP seeks to propagate the excessive copyright terms currently found in American copyright legislation, and will become yet another tool of the second enclosure movement: "the enclosure of the intangible commons of the mind.""
Gary Edwards

Meet OX Text, a collaborative, non-destructive alternative to Google Docs - Tech News and Analysis - 0 views

  • The German software-as-a-service firm Open-Xchange, which provides apps that telcos and other service providers can bundle with their connectivity or hosting products, is adding a cloud-based office productivity toolset called OX Documents to its OX App Suite lineup. Open-Xchange has around 70 million users through its contracts with roughly 80 providers such as 1&1 Internet and Strato. Its OX App Suite takes the form of a virtual desktop of sorts, that lets users centralize their email and file storage accounts and view all sorts of documents through a unified portal. However, as of an early April release it will also include OX Text, a non-destructive, collaborative document editor that rivals Google Docs, and that has an interesting heritage of its own.
  • The team that created the HTML5- and JavaScript-based OX Text includes some of the core developers behind OpenOffice, the free alternative to Microsoft Office that passed from Sun Microsystems to Oracle before morphing into LibreOffice. The German developers we’re talking about hived off the project before LibreOffice happened, and ended up getting hired by Open-Xchange. “To them it was a once in a lifetime event, because we allowed them to start from scratch,” Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna told me. “We said we wanted a fresh office productivity suite that runs inside the browser. In terms of the architecture and principles for the product, we wanted to make it fully round-trip capable, meaning whatever file format we run into needs to be retained.”
  • This is an extremely handy formatting and version control feature. Changes made to a document in OX Text get pushed through to Open-Xchange’s backend, where a changelog is maintained. “Power” Word features such as Smart Art or Charts, which are not necessarily supported by other productivity suites, are replaced with placeholders during editing and are there, as before, when the edited document is eventually downloaded. As the OX Text blurb says, “OX Text never damages your valuable work even if it does not understand it”.
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  • “[This avoids] the big disadvantage of anything other than Microsoft Office,” Laguna said. “If you use OpenOffice with a .docx file, the whole document is converted, creating artefacts, then you convert it back. That’s one of the major reasons not everyone is using OpenOffice, and the same is true for Google Apps.” OX Text will be available as an extension to OX App Suite, which also includes calendaring and other productivity tools. However, it will also come out as a standalone product under both commercial licenses – effectively support-based subscriptions for Open-Xchange’s service provider customers – and open-source licenses, namely the GNU General Public License 2 and Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License, which will allow free personal, non-commercial use. You can find a demo of App Suite, including the OX Text functionality, here, and there’s a video too:
Paul Merrell

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Approve Work On DRM For HTML 5.1 - Slashdot - 1 views

  • "Danny O'Brien from the EFF has a weblog post about how the Encrypted Media Extension (EME) proposal will continue to be part of HTML Work Group's bailiwick and may make it into a future HTML revision." From O'Brien's post: "A Web where you cannot cut and paste text; where your browser can't 'Save As...' an image; where the 'allowed' uses of saved files are monitored beyond the browser; where JavaScript is sealed away in opaque tombs; and maybe even where we can no longer effectively 'View Source' on some sites, is a very different Web from the one we have today. It's a Web where user agents—browsers—must navigate a nest of enforced duties every time they visit a page. It's a place where the next Tim Berners-Lee or Mozilla, if they were building a new browser from scratch, couldn't just look up the details of all the 'Web' technologies. They'd have to negotiate and sign compliance agreements with a raft of DRM providers just to be fully standards-compliant and interoperable."
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    From the Dept. of YouGottaBeKiddingMe. 
Paul Merrell

PATRIOT Act spying programs on death watch - Seung Min Kim and Kate Tummarello - POLITICO - 0 views

  • With only days left to act and Rand Paul threatening a filibuster, Senate Republicans remain deeply divided over the future of the PATRIOT Act and have no clear path to keep key government spying authorities from expiring at the end of the month. Crucial parts of the PATRIOT Act, including a provision authorizing the government’s controversial bulk collection of American phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, are due to lapse May 31. That means Congress has barely a week to figure out a fix before before lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day recess at the end of the next week. Story Continued Below The prospects of a deal look grim: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday night proposed just a two-month extension of expiring PATRIOT Act provisions to give the two sides more time to negotiate, but even that was immediately dismissed by critics of the program.
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    A must-read. The major danger is that the the Senate could pass the USA Freedom Act, which has already been passed by the House. Passage of that Act, despite its name, would be bad news for civil liberties.  Now is the time to let your Congress critters know that you want them to fight to the Patriot Act provisions expire on May 31, without any replacement legislation.  Keep in mind that Section 502 does not apply just to telephone metadata. It authorizes the FBI to gather without notice to their victims "any tangible thing", specifically including as examples "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 breadth of the section is illustrated by telephone metadata not even being mentioned in the section.  NSA going after your medical records souand far fetched? Former NSA technical director William Binney says they're already doing it: "Binney alludes to even more extreme intelligence practices that are not yet public knowledge, including the collection of Americans' medical data, the collection and use of client-attorney conversations, and law enforcement agencies' "direct access," without oversight, to NSA databases." https://consortiumnews.com/2015/03/05/seeing-the-stasi-through-nsa-eyes/ So please, contact your Congress critters right now and tell them to sunset the Patriot Act NOW. This will be decided in the next few days so the sooner you contact them the better. 
Paul Merrell

The coming merge of human and machine intelligence - 0 views

  • Now, as the Internet revolution unfolds, we are seeing not merely an extension of mind but a unity of mind and machine, two networks coming together as one. Our smaller brains are in a quest to bypass nature's intent and grow larger by proxy. It is not a stretch of the imagination to believe we will one day have all of the world's information embedded in our minds via the Internet.
  • BCI stands for brain-computer interface, and Jan is one of only a few people on earth using this technology, through two implanted chips attached directly to the neurons in her brain. The first human brain implant was conceived of by John Donoghue, a neuroscientist at Brown University, and implanted in a paralyzed man in 2004. These dime-sized computer chips use a technology called BrainGate that directly connects the mind to computers and the Internet. Having served as chairman of the BrainGate company, I have personally witnessed just how profound this innovation is. BrainGate is an invention that allows people to control electrical devices with nothing but their thoughts. The BrainGate chip is implanted in the brain and attached to connectors outside of the skull, which are hooked up to computers that, in Jan Scheuermann's case, are linked to a robotic arm. As a result, Scheuermann can feed herself chocolate by controlling the robotic arm with nothing but her thoughts.
  • Mind meld But imagine the ways in which the world will change when any of us, disabled or not, can connect our minds to computers.
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  • Back in 2004, Google's founders told Playboy magazine that one day we'd have direct access to the Internet through brain implants, with "the entirety of the world's information as just one of our thoughts." A decade later, the road map is taking shape. While it may be years before implants like BrainGate are safe enough to be commonplace—they require brain surgery, after all—there are a host of brainwave sensors in development for use outside of the skull that will be transformational for all of us: caps for measuring driver alertness, headbands for monitoring sleep, helmets for controlling video games. This could lead to wearable EEGs, implantable nanochips or even technology that can listen to our brain signals using the electromagnetic waves that pervade the air we breathe. Just as human intelligence is expanding in the direction of the Internet, the Internet itself promises to get smarter and smarter. In fact, it could prove to be the basis of the machine intelligence that scientists have been racing toward since the 1950s.
  • Neurons may be good analogs for transistors and maybe even computer chips, but they're not good building blocks of intelligence. The neural network is fundamental. The BrainGate technology works because the chip attaches not to a single neuron, but to a network of neurons. Reading the signals of a single neuron would tell us very little; it certainly wouldn't allow BrainGate patients to move a robotic arm or a computer cursor. Scientists may never be able to reverse engineer the neuron, but they are increasingly able to interpret the communication of the network. It is for this reason that the Internet is a better candidate for intelligence than are computers. Computers are perfect calculators composed of perfect transistors; they are like neurons as we once envisioned them. But the Internet has all the quirkiness of the brain: it can work in parallel, it can communicate across broad distances, and it makes mistakes. Even though the Internet is at an early stage in its evolution, it can leverage the brain that nature has given us. The convergence of computer networks and neural networks is the key to creating real intelligence from artificial machines. It took millions of years for humans to gain intelligence, but with the human mind as a guide, it may only take a century to create Internet intelligence.
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    Of course once the human brain is interfaced with the internet, then we will be able to do the Vulcan mind-meld thing. And NSA will be busily crawling the Internet for fresh brain dumps to their data center, which then encompasses the entire former state of Utah. Conventional warfare is a thing of the past as the cyberwar commands of great powers battle for control of the billions of minds making up BrainNet, the internet's successor.  Meanwhile, a hackers' Reaper malware trawls BrainNet for bank account numbers and paswords that it forwards for automated harvesting of personal funds. "Ah, Houston ... we have a problem ..."  
Paul Merrell

Why the Sony hack is unlikely to be the work of North Korea. | Marc's Security Ramblings - 0 views

  • Everyone seems to be eager to pin the blame for the Sony hack on North Korea. However, I think it’s unlikely. Here’s why:1. The broken English looks deliberately bad and doesn’t exhibit any of the classic comprehension mistakes you actually expect to see in “Konglish”. i.e it reads to me like an English speaker pretending to be bad at writing English. 2. The fact that the code was written on a PC with Korean locale & language actually makes it less likely to be North Korea. Not least because they don’t speak traditional “Korean” in North Korea, they speak their own dialect and traditional Korean is forbidden. This is one of the key things that has made communication with North Korean refugees difficult. I would find the presence of Chinese far more plausible.
  • 3. It’s clear from the hard-coded paths and passwords in the malware that whoever wrote it had extensive knowledge of Sony’s internal architecture and access to key passwords. While it’s plausible that an attacker could have built up this knowledge over time and then used it to make the malware, Occam’s razor suggests the simpler explanation of an insider. It also fits with the pure revenge tact that this started out as. 4. Whoever did this is in it for revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts? With the competitive intelligence in their business documents? From simple theft, to the sale of intellectual property, or even extortion – the attackers had many ways to become rich. Yet, instead, they chose to dump the data, rendering it useless. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that a “Nation State” which lives by propaganda would be so willing to just throw away such an unprecedented level of access to the beating heart of Hollywood itself.
  • 5. The attackers only latched onto “The Interview” after the media did – the film was never mentioned by GOP right at the start of their campaign. It was only after a few people started speculating in the media that this and the communication from DPRK “might be linked” that suddenly it became linked. I think the attackers both saw this as an opportunity for “lulz” and as a way to misdirect everyone into thinking it was a nation state. After all, if everyone believes it’s a nation state, then the criminal investigation will likely die.
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  • 6. Whoever is doing this is VERY net and social media savvy. That, and the sophistication of the operation, do not match with the profile of DPRK up until now. Grugq did an excellent analysis of this aspect his findings are here – http://0paste.com/6875#md 7. Finally, blaming North Korea is the easy way out for a number of folks, including the security vendors and Sony management who are under the microscope for this. Let’s face it – most of today’s so-called “cutting edge” security defenses are either so specific, or so brittle, that they really don’t offer much meaningful protection against a sophisticated attacker or group of attackers.
  • 8. It probably also suits a number of political agendas to have something that justifies sabre-rattling at North Korea, which is why I’m not that surprised to see politicians starting to point their fingers at the DPRK also. 9. It’s clear from the leaked data that Sony has a culture which doesn’t take security very seriously. From plaintext password files, to using “password” as the password in business critical certificates, through to just the shear volume of aging unclassified yet highly sensitive data left out in the open. This isn’t a simple slip-up or a “weak link in the chain” – this is a serious organization-wide failure to implement anything like a reasonable security architecture.
  • The reality is, as things stand, Sony has little choice but to burn everything down and start again. Every password, every key, every certificate is tainted now and that’s a terrifying place for an organization to find itself. This hack should be used as the definitive lesson in why security matters and just how bad things can get if you don’t take it seriously. 10. Who do I think is behind this? My money is on a disgruntled (possibly ex) employee of Sony.
  • EDIT: This appears (at least in part) to be substantiated by a conversation the Verge had with one of the alleged hackers – http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/25/7281097/sony-pictures-hackers-say-they-want-equality-worked-with-staff-to-break-in Finally for an EXCELLENT blow by blow analysis of the breach and the events that followed, read the following post by my friends from Risk Based Security – https://www.riskbasedsecurity.com/2014/12/a-breakdown-and-analysis-of-the-december-2014-sony-hack EDIT: Also make sure you read my good friend Krypt3ia’s post on the hack – http://krypt3ia.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/sony-hack-winners-and-losers/
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    Seems that the FBI overlooked a few clues before it told Obama to go ahead and declare war against North Korea. 
Paul Merrell

Yahoo to begin offering PGP encryption support in Yahoo Mail service | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos announced today at Black Hat 2014 that starting in the fall of this year, the purple-hued company will begin giving users the option of seamlessly wrapping their e-mails in PGP encryption. According to Kashmir Hill at Forbes, the encryption capability will be offered through a modified version of the same End-to-End browser plug-in that Google uses for PGP in Gmail. The announcement was tweeted by Yan Zhu, who has reportedly been hired by Yahoo to adapt End-to-End for use with Yahoo Mail. Zhu formerly worked as an engineer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that has consistently been outspoken in its call for the widespread use of encryption throughout the Web and the Internet in general.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

How to Install and Run Android Apps in a Linux OS - Softpedia - 1 views

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    "Users only need to have Google Chrome installed Google has extended the support for its ARC Welder app and now Linux users can also run Android apps (APKs) right in their browser, with just the help of a downloadable Chrome app."
Paul Merrell

Victory for Users: Librarian of Congress Renews and Expands Protections for Fair Uses | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The new rules for exemptions to copyright's DRM-circumvention laws were issued today, and the Librarian of Congress has granted much of what EFF asked for over the course of months of extensive briefs and hearings. The exemptions we requested—ripping DVDs and Blurays for making fair use remixes and analysis; preserving video games and running multiplayer servers after publishers have abandoned them; jailbreaking cell phones, tablets, and other portable computing devices to run third party software; and security research and modification and repairs on cars—have each been accepted, subject to some important caveats.
  • The exemptions are needed thanks to a fundamentally flawed law that forbids users from breaking DRM, even if the purpose is a clearly lawful fair use. As software has become ubiquitous, so has DRM.  Users often have to circumvent that DRM to make full use of their devices, from DVDs to games to smartphones and cars. The law allows users to request exemptions for such lawful uses—but it doesn’t make it easy. Exemptions are granted through an elaborate rulemaking process that takes place every three years and places a heavy burden on EFF and the many other requesters who take part. Every exemption must be argued anew, even if it was previously granted, and even if there is no opposition. The exemptions that emerge are limited in scope. What is worse, they only apply to end users—the people who are actually doing the ripping, tinkering, jailbreaking, or research—and not to the people who make the tools that facilitate those lawful activities. The section of the law that creates these restrictions—the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's Section 1201—is fundamentally flawed, has resulted in myriad unintended consequences, and is long past due for reform or removal altogether from the statute books. Still, as long as its rulemaking process exists, we're pleased to have secured the following exemptions.
  • The new rules are long and complicated, and we'll be posting more details about each as we get a chance to analyze them. In the meantime, we hope each of these exemptions enable more exciting fair uses that educate, entertain, improve the underlying technology, and keep us safer. A better long-terms solution, though, is to eliminate the need for this onerous rulemaking process. We encourage lawmakers to support efforts like the Unlocking Technology Act, which would limit the scope of Section 1201 to copyright infringements—not fair uses. And as the White House looks for the next Librarian of Congress, who is ultimately responsible for issuing the exemptions, we hope to get a candidate who acts—as a librarian should—in the interest of the public's access to information.
Paul Merrell

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

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

Zuckerberg set up fraudulent scheme to 'weaponise' data, court case alleges | Technology | The Guardian - 1 views

  • Mark Zuckerberg faces allegations that he developed a “malicious and fraudulent scheme” to exploit vast amounts of private data to earn Facebook billions and force rivals out of business. A company suing Facebook in a California court claims the social network’s chief executive “weaponised” the ability to access data from any user’s network of friends – the feature at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme. Facebook rejects all claims, and has made a motion to have the case dismissed using a free speech defence.
  • It claims the first amendment protects its right to make “editorial decisions” as it sees fit. Zuckerberg and other senior executives have asserted that Facebook is a platform not a publisher, most recently in testimony to Congress.
  • Heather Whitney, a legal scholar who has written about social media companies for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said, in her opinion, this exposed a potential tension for Facebook. “Facebook’s claims in court that it is an editor for first amendment purposes and thus free to censor and alter the content available on its site is in tension with their, especially recent, claims before the public and US Congress to be neutral platforms.” The company that has filed the case, a former startup called Six4Three, is now trying to stop Facebook from having the case thrown out and has submitted legal arguments that draw on thousands of emails, the details of which are currently redacted. Facebook has until next Tuesday to file a motion requesting that the evidence remains sealed, otherwise the documents will be made public.
Paul Merrell

The De-Americanization of Internet Freedom - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Why did the internet freedom agenda fail? Goldsmith’s essay tees up, but does not fully explore, a range of explanatory hypotheses. The most straightforward have to do with unrealistic expectations and unintended consequences. The idea that a minimally regulated internet would usher in an era of global peace, prosperity, and mutual understanding, Goldsmith tells us, was always a fantasy. As a project of democracy and human rights promotion, the internet freedom agenda was premised on a wildly overoptimistic view about the capacity of information flows, on their own, to empower oppressed groups and effect social change. Embracing this market-utopian view led the United States to underinvest in cybersecurity, social media oversight, and any number of other regulatory tools. In suggesting this interpretation of where U.S. policymakers and their civil society partners went wrong, Goldsmith’s essay complements recent critiques of the neoliberal strains in the broader human rights and transparency movements. Perhaps, however, the internet freedom agenda has faltered not because it was so naïve and unrealistic, but because it was so effective at achieving its realist goals. The seeds of this alternative account can be found in Goldsmith’s concession that the commercial non-regulation principle helped companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon grab “huge market share globally.” The internet became an increasingly valuable cash cow for U.S. firms and an increasingly potent instrument of U.S. soft power over the past two decades; foreign governments, in due course, felt compelled to fight back. If the internet freedom agenda is understood as fundamentally a national economic project, rather than an international political or moral crusade, then we might say that its remarkable early success created the conditions for its eventual failure. Goldsmith’s essay also points to a third set of possible explanations for the collapse of the internet freedom agenda, involving its internal contradictions. Magaziner’s notion of a completely deregulated marketplace, if taken seriously, is incoherent. As Goldsmith and Tim Wu have discussed elsewhere, it takes quite a bit of regulation for any market, including markets related to the internet, to exist and to work. And indeed, even as Magaziner proposed “complete deregulation” of the internet, he simultaneously called for new legal protections against computer fraud and copyright infringement, which were soon followed by extensive U.S. efforts to penetrate foreign networks and to militarize cyberspace. Such internal dissonance was bound to invite charges of opportunism, and to render the American agenda unstable.
Paul Merrell

Will Trump Sanction China's Use of Facial Recognition Software? - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Chinese human rights practices are in the news again. The White House is reportedly weighing sanctions against Chinese officials and companies that are engaged in or facilitating the mass surveillance and detention of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  Over the past several months, it has become increasingly clear that the Chinese government is conducting widespread efforts to “re-educate” its largely-Muslim Uighur population in XUAR and impose strict controls over that population’s movements and actions, including through the extensive use of facial recognition software (FRS). And now the Trump Administration, which to date has not focused on other states’ human rights practices, seems to have concluded that China’s actions are worthy of condemnation. Though the administration should not be overly sanguine about the effectiveness of making it harder for a few companies to provide FRS to the Chinese government, there is value in putting down a marker that using FRS this way is not acceptable.
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    But it's somehow okay for the U.S. to do the same with its own population?
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.”
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