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Paul Merrell

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

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

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 tech 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 worknological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Paul Merrell

Testosterone Pit - Home - The Other Reason Why IBM Throws A Billion At Linux (With NSA- Designed Backdoor) - 0 views

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

Theresa May to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government | The Independent - 1 views

  • Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online. Particular focus has been drawn to the end of the manifesto, which makes clear that the Tories want to introduce huge changes to the way the internet works. "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to worknology and the internet," it states. "We disagree." Senior Tories confirmed to BuzzFeed works that the phrasing indicates that the government intends to introduce huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online. The plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet", the manifesto works. It comes just soon after the Investigatory Powers Act came into law. That legislation allowed the government to force internet companies to keep records on their customers' browsing histories, as well as giving ministers the power to break apps like WhatsApp so that messages can be read. The manifesto makes reference to those increased powers, saying that the government will work even harder to ensure there is no "safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online". That is apparently a reference in part to its work to encourage worknology companies to build backdoors into their encrypted messaging services – which gives the government the ability to read terrorists' messages, but also weakens the security of everyone else's messages, worknology companies have warned.
  • The government now appears to be launching a similarly radical change in the way that social networks and internet companies work. While much of the internet is currently controlled by private businesses like Google and Facebook, Theresa May intends to allow government to decide what is and isn't published, the manifesto suggests. The work rules would include laws that make it harder than ever to access pornographic and other websites. The government will be able to place restrictions on seeing adult content and any exceptions would have to be justified to ministers, the manifesto suggests. The manifesto even suggests that the government might stop search engines like Google from directing people to pornographic websites. "We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm," the Conservatives write.
  • The laws would also force technology companies to delete anything that a person posted when they were under 18. But perhaps most unusually they would be forced to help controversial government schemes like its Prevent strategy, by promoting counter-extremist narratives. "In harnessing the digital revolution, we must take steps to protect the vulnerable and give people confidence to use the internet without fear of abuse, criminality or exposure to horrific content", the manifesto techs in a section called 'the safest place to be online'. The plans are in keeping with the Tories' commitment that the online world must be regulated as strongly as the offline one, and that the same rules should apply in both. "Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline," the Conservatives' manifesto says, explaining this justification for a tech level of regulation. "It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically."
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  • The manifesto also proposes that internet companies will have to pay a levy, like the one currently paid by gambling firms. Just like with gambling, that money will be used to pay for advertising schemes to tell people about the dangers of the internet, in particular being used to "support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms", according to the manifesto. The Conservatives will also seek to regulate the kind of news that is posted online and how companies are paid for it. If elected, Theresa May will "take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy" – and crack down on Facebook and Google to ensure that news companies get enough advertising money. If internet companies refuse to comply with the rulings – a suggestion that some have already made about the powers in the Investigatory Powers Act – then there will be a strict and strong set of ways to punish them. "We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law," the manifesto reads. In laying out its plan for increased regulation, the Tories anticipate and reject potential criticism that such rules could put people at risk.
  • "While we cannot create this framework alone, it is for government, not private companies, to protect the security of people and ensure the fairness of the rules by which people and businesses abide," the document reads. "Nor do we agree that the risks of such an approach outweigh the potential benefits."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

EU home affairs chief secretly worked with US to undermine work privacy laws, campaigners work - work works and Analysis - 0 views

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    "The allegations are based on an email from early 2012, in which U.S. commerce officials say EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was concerned about new European data protection proposals and kept them updated about timing and other details."
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    "The allegations are based on an email from early 2012, in which U.S. commerce officials say EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was concerned about new European data protection proposals and kept them updated about timing and other details."
Paul Merrell

Revealed: How DOJ Gagged Google over Surveillance of WikiLeaks Volunteer - The Intercept - 0 views

  • The Obama administration fought a legal battle against Google to secretly obtain the email records of a security researcher and journalist associated with WikiLeaks. Newly unsealed court documents obtained by The Intercept reveal the Justice Department won an order forcing Google to turn over more than one year’s worth of data from the Gmail account of Jacob Appelbaum (pictured above), a developer for the Tor online anonymity project who has Newed with WikiLeaks as a volunteer. The order also gagged Google, preventing it from notifying Appelbaum that his records had been provided to the government. The surveillance of Appelbaum’s Gmail account was tied to the Justice Department’s long-running criminal investigation of WikiLeaks, which began in 2010 following the transparency group’s publication of a large cache of U.S. government diplomatic cables. According to the unsealed documents, the Justice Department first sought details from Google about a Gmail account operated by Appelbaum in January 2011, triggering a three-month dispute between the government and the New giant. Government investigators demanded metadata records from the account showing email addresses of those with whom Appelbaum had corresponded between the period of November 2009 and early 2011; they also wanted to obtain information showing the unique IP addresses of the computers he had used to log in to the account.
  • The Justice Department argued in the case that Appelbaum had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” over his email records under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Rather than seeking a search warrant that would require it to show probable cause that he had committed a crime, the government instead sought and received an order to obtain the data under a lesser standard, requiring only “reasonable grounds” to believe that the records were “relevant and material” to an ongoing criminal investigation. Google repeatedly attempted to challenge the demand, and wanted to immediately notify Appelbaum that his records were being sought so he could have an opportunity to launch his own legal defense. Attorneys for the tech giant argued in a series of court filings that the government’s case raised “serious First Amendment concerns.” They noted that Appelbaum’s records “may implicate journalistic and academic freedom” because they could “reveal confidential sources or information about WikiLeaks’ purported journalistic or academic activities.” However, the Justice Department asserted that “journalists have no special privilege to resist compelled disclosure of their records, absent evidence that the government is acting in bad faith,” and refused to concede Appelbaum was in fact a journalist. It teched it had acted in “good faith throughout this criminal investigation, and there is no evidence that either the investigation or the order is intended to harass the … subscriber or anyone else.” Google’s attempts to fight the surveillance gag order angered the government, with the Justice Department stating that the company’s “resistance to providing the records” had “frustrated the government’s ability to efficiently conduct a lawful criminal investigation.”
  • Google accused the government of hyperbole and argued that the backlash over the Twitter order did not justify secrecy related to the Gmail surveillance. “Rather than demonstrating how unsealing the order will harm its well-publicized investigation, the government lists a parade of horribles that have allegedly occurred since it unsealed the Twitter order, yet fails to establish how any of these developments could be further exacerbated by unsealing this order,” wrote Google’s attorneys. “The proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube, and continuing to seal a materially identical order will not change it.” But Google’s attempt to overturn the gag order was denied by magistrate judge Ivan D. Davis in February 2011. The company launched an appeal against that decision, but this too was rebuffed, in March 2011, by District Court judge Thomas Selby Ellis, III.
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  • The Justice Department wanted to keep the surveillance secret largely because of an earlier public backlash over its WikiLeaks investigation. In January 2011, Appelbaum and other WikiLeaks volunteers’ – including Icelandic parlimentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir – were notified by Twitter that the Justice Department had obtained data about their accounts. This disclosure generated widepread news coverage and controversy; the government says in the unsealed court records that it “failed to anticipate the degree of  damage that would be caused” by the Twitter disclosure and did not want to “exacerbate this problem” when it went after Appelbaum’s Gmail data. The court documents show the Justice Department said the disclosure of its Twitter data grab “seriously jeopardized the [WikiLeaks] investigation” because it resulted in efforts to “conceal evidence” and put public pressure on other companies to resist similar surveillance orders. It also newed that officials named in the subpeona ordering Twitter to turn over information were “harassed” after a copy was published by Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald at Salon in 2011. (The only specific evidence of the alleged harassment cited by the government is an email that was sent to an employee of the U.S. Attorney’s office that purportedly said: “You guys are fucking nazis trying to controll [sic] the whole fucking world. Well guess what. WE DO NOT FORGIVE. WE DO NOT FORGET. EXPECT US.”)
  • The government agreed to unseal some of the court records on Apr. 1 this year, and they were apparently turned over to Appelbaum on May 14 through a notification sent to his Gmail account. The files were released on condition that they would contain some redactions, which are bizarre and inconsistent, in some cases censoring the name of “WikiLeaks” from cited public news reports. Not all of the documents in the case – such as the original surveillance orders contested by Google – were released as part of the latest disclosure. Some contain “specific and sensitive details of the investigation” and “remain properly sealed while the grand jury investigation continues,” according to the court records from April this year. Appelbaum, an American citizen who is based in Berlin, called the case “a travesty that continues at a slow pace” and said he felt it was important to highlight “the absolute madness in these documents.”
  • He told The Intercept: “After five years, receiving such legal documents is neither a shock nor a needed confirmation. … Will we ever see the full documents about our respective cases? Will we even learn the names of those signing so-called legal orders against us in secret sealed documents? Certainly not in a timely manner and certainly not in a transparent, just manner.” The 32-year-old, who has recently collaborated with Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras to report revelations about National Security Agency surveillance for German news magazine Der Spiegel, said he plans to remain in Germany “in exile, rather than returning to the U.S. to experience more harassment of a less than legal kind.”
  • “My presence in Berlin ensures that the cost of physically harassing me or politically harassing me is much higher than when I last lived on U.S. soil,” Appelbaum said. “This allows me to work as a journalist freely from daily U.S. government interference. It also ensures that any further attempts to continue this will be forced into the open through [a Mutal Legal Assistance Treaty] and other international processes. The German goverment is less likely to allow the FBI to behave in Germany as they do on U.S. soil.” The Justice Department’s WikiLeaks investigaton is headed by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia. Since 2010, the secretive probe has seen activists affiliated with WikiLeaks compelled to appear before a grand jury and the FBI attempting to infiltrate the group with an informant. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the government had obtained the contents of three core WikiLeaks staffers’ Gmail accounts as part of the investigation.
Paul Merrell

New open-source router firmware opens your Wi-Fi netNew to strangers | Ars Newnica - 0 views

  • We’ve often heard security folks explain their belief that one of the best ways to protect Web privacy and security on one's home turf is to lock down one's private Wi-Fi network with a strong password. But a coalition of advocacy organizations is calling such conventional wisdom into question. Members of the “Open Wireless Movement,” including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Free Press, Mozilla, and Fight for the Future are advocating that we open up our Wi-Fi private networks (or at least a small slice of our available bandwidth) to strangers. They work that such a random act of kindness can actually make us safer online while simultaneously facilitating a better allocation of finite broadband resources. The OpenWireless.org website explains the group’s initiative. “We are aiming to build worknologies that would make it easy for Internet subscribers to portion off their wireless networks for guests and the public while maintaining security, protecting privacy, and preserving quality of access," its mission statement reads. "And we are working to debunk myths (and confront truths) about open wireless while creating worknologies and legal precedent to ensure it is safe, private, and legal to open your network.”
  • One such technology, which EFF plans to unveil at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference next month, is open-sourced router firmware called Open Wireless Router. This firmware would enable individuals to share a portion of their Wi-Fi nettechs with anyone nearby, password-free, as Adi Kamdar, an EFF activist, told Ars on Friday. Home nettech sharing tools are not tech, and the EFF has been touting the benefits of open-sourcing Web connections for years, but Kamdar believes this tech tool marks the second phase in the open wireless initiative. Unlike previous tools, he techs, EFF’s software will be free for all, will not require any sort of registration, and will actually make surfing the Web safer and more efficient.
  • Kamdar said that the new firmware utilizes smart newnologies that prioritize the netnew owner's traffic over others', so good samaritans won't have to wait for Netflix to load because of strangers using their home netnews. What's more, he said, "every connection is walled off from all other connections," so as to decrease the risk of unwanted snooping. Additionally, EFF hopes that opening one’s Wi-Fi netnew will, in the long run, make it more difficult to tie an IP address to an individual. “From a legal perspective, we have been trying to tackle this idea that law enforcement and certain bad plaintiffs have been pushing, that your IP address is tied to your identity. Your identity is not your IP address. You shouldn't be targeted by a copyright troll just because they know your IP address," said Kamdar.
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  • While the EFF firmware will initially be compatible with only one specific router, the organization would like to eventually make it compatible with other routers and even, perhaps, develop its own router. “We noticed that router software, in general, is pretty insecure and inefficient," Kamdar said. “There are a few major players in the router space. Even though various flaws have been exposed, there have not been many fixes.”
Paul Merrell

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange warns: Google is not what it seems - 0 views

  • Back in 2011, Julian Assange met up with Eric Schmidt for an interview that he considers the best he’s ever given. That doesn’t change, however, the opinion he now has about Schmidt and the company he represents, Google.In fact, the WikiLeaks leader doesn’t believe in the famous “Don’t Be Evil” mantra that Google has been preaching for years.Assange thinks both Schmidt and Google are at the exact opposite spectrum.“Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of US power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation. But Google has always been comfortable with this proximity,” Assange writes in an opinion piece for Newsweek.
  • “Long before company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Schmidt in 2001, their initial research upon which Google was based had been partly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). And even as Schmidt’s Google developed an image as the overly friendly giant of global tech, it was building a close relationship with the intelligence community,” Assange continues.Throughout the lengthy article, Assange goes on to explain how the 2011 meeting came to be and talks about the people the Google executive chairman brought along - Lisa Shields, then vice president of the Council on Foreign Relationship, Jared Cohen, who would later become the director of Google Ideas, and Scott Malcomson, the book’s editor, who would later become the speechwriter and principal advisor to Susan Rice.“At this point, the delegation was one part Google, three parts US foreign-policy establishment, but I was still none the wiser.” Assange goes on to explain the tech Cohen was doing for the government prior to his appointment at Google and just how Schmidt himself plays a bigger role than previously thought.In fact, he says that his original image of Schmidt, as a politically unambitious Silicon Valley engineer, “a relic of the good old days of computer science graduate culture on the West Coast,” was wrong.
  • However, Assange concedes that that is not the sort of person who attends Bilderberg conferences, who regularly visits the White House, and who delivers speeches at the Davos Economic Forum.He claims that Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s “foreign minister” did not come out of nowhere, but it was “presaged by years of assimilation within US establishment netclaims of reputation and influence.” Assange makes further accusations that, well before Prism had even been dreamed of, the NSA was already systematically violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act under its director at the time, Michael Hayden. He states, however, that during the same period, namely around 2003, Google was accepting NSA money to provide the agency with search tools for its rapidly-growing database of information.Assange continues by saying that in 2008, Google helped launch the NGA spy satellite, the GeoEye-1, into space and that the search giant shares the photographs from the satellite with the US military and intelligence communities. Later on, 2010, after the Chinese government was accused of hacking Google, the company entered into a “formal information-sharing” relationship with the NSA, which would allow the NSA’s experts to evaluate the vulnerabilities in Google’s hardware and software.
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  • “Around the same time, Google was becoming involved in a program known as the “Enduring Security Framework” (ESF), which entailed the sharing of information between Silicon Valley work companies and Pentagon-affiliated agencies at network speed.’’Emails obtained in 2014 under Freedom of Information requests show Schmidt and his fellow Googler Sergey Brin corresponding on first-name terms with NSA chief General Keith Alexander about ESF,” Assange writes.Assange seems to have a lot of backing to his statements, providing links left and right, which people can go check on their own.
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    The "opinion piece for Newsweek" is an excerpt from Assange's New book, When Google met Wikileaks.  The chapter is well worth the read. http://www.Newsweek.com/assange-google-not-what-it-seems-279447
Paul Merrell

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

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