NSA staff and private contractors have unfettered access to this information. I have a hard
time believing that not one of them has used that access to information for personal or political
gain. This system makes insider trading, industrial espionage, blackmail, and extortion an almost
inevitable outcome. --
The Guardian (from comments).
New round of debates about the dominance of military industrial complex and the level of control
it exert over civil society was caused by recent revelations about NSA activities in the USA.
Technology changes can really change the society. And not always in a beneficial for the society way.
There is such thing as "blowback" in technologies. We can view recent NSA activities revealed by Snowden
as a classic example of such blowback connected with the spread of Internet. And it is a mistake
to assume that such activities started with September 11 events and that Bush II was totally responsible
for converting the USA into national-security state. The technology was ready long before September
11 and what is available is always used by clandestine agencies. They tend to adopt technology
as soon as it is available, being in a pervert way "early adopters" of any communication technology.
And this happens not only in the USA although the USA as technological leader was the most profoundly
It might well be the Rubicon was crossed around JFK assassination time. On August 17, 1975 Senator
Frank Church stated on NBC's Meet the Press without
mentioning the name of the NSA (Church
Committee - Wikipedia ):
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government
has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through
the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or
potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned
around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability
to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no
place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the
technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to
impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort
to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within
the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there
to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess
this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that
abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
The creation and use of databases of personal information and the systematic records (archives) of
communications of citizens started simultaneously with NSA creation. The first targets were mail and
telegraph. Some of this experience came from specialists of Third Reich. At the height of the Cold War
in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the F.B.I. and Allen
Dulles at the C.I.A. aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,”
declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed
what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich. The agency hired one former
SS officer as a spy in the 1950s, for instance, even after concluding he was probably guilty of “minor
war crimes.” And in 1994, a lawyer with the C.I.A. pressured prosecutors to drop an investigation into
an ex-spy outside Boston implicated in the Nazis’ massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania,
according to a government official (In Cold War, U.S.
Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis - NYTimes.com).
Recording of all email envelopes (which was also done for snail mail) started long before email was
invented and became established practice since the WWII. It just a new name now -- collection of metadata.
Recording metadata of phone calls and often the calls themselves first started before WWII and technology
was polished on international calls, which for obvious reasons are of great interest to all governments.
We don't know then it was extended on domestic calls, this this was trivial extension of already
existing capacity and probably abuse was stated gradually as soon as power of computers allow that.
That means around 1958. Even in early 1960 three letter agencies were already semi-autonomous entities,
a state within the state. And as assassination on President Kennedy had shown they were audacious enough
to bypass Congress.
I think that the first attempt to create a comprehensive nation-wide intelligence network that monitors
sentiments of the citizens and hunt enemies of the state goes as far bask as Napoleon and his famous
minister of police Joseph Fouché.
Or may be it even goes as far back as to
Byzantine Empire with its first in history systematic network of spies. As for recording of mail
envelopes, we can even claim that this function for international mail (in a form of "black chambers")
is as old as states are. In the USA it started in full force in August 1919 when
J. Edgar Hoover became head
of the Bureau of Investigation's
new General Intelligence Division—also known as the Radical Division because its explicit
goal was to monitor and disrupt the work of domestic radicals.
Hoover and his chosen assistant, George Ruch monitored a variety of U.S. radicals with the intent
to punish, arrest, or deport them. Targets during this period included Marcus Garvey; Rose Pastor Stokes
and Cyril Briggs; Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman; and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter,
whom Hoover nicknamed as "the most dangerous man in the United States".
After 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the USA government got all the pre-conditions
necessary for installing a regime of aggressive total surveillance. Which actually was a hidden intent
and 9/11 was just a convenient pretext much like Tonkin incident in Vietnam war. And in this respect
Ed Snowden whatever is his motivation (which might be
not as simple as most people assume) did the right thin thing, when he with risk to his life informed
the US public and the world about those activities. You may approve those revelations you may disapprove
them (and they did damage the USA as a state), but keeping them secret from the US public is a crime.
NSA technically is a data collection agency. While it has legitimate function to monitor information
that is crossing the national border, we need to understand that the abuse of this function and extension
of it into domestic communications started nor after 9/11, but in 1950th. But the capacities to do this
type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing
power of computers and as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies
to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real state
within the state and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls
In other words expansionism is an immanent quality, the second nature of large bureaucracies, and
unless there is countervailing force it can be deadly for the society at large, as we observe in case
with three letter agencies, which tend to escape from civil control and form a state within a state.
In a way any state with powerful three-letter agencies stand with one leg in a tyranny, even if it class
itself a democracy. and that fact was already known to everybody in 1975. Actually just after president
Kennedy assassination, which, no matter which version of events you adopt, in all cases indirectly pointed
out that three letter agencies jumped out of control of civil government. As one Guardian reader commented
"The pernicious thing is that it is in the nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular
to expand beyond reason unless there is effective oversight. In the case of intelligence agencies it
has proven impossible to control them."
The nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular to expand beyond
reason unless there is effective oversight. In the case of intelligence agencies it has proven
impossible to control them.
But that also means that most of those efforts are highly politicized, inefficient waist of resources
as typical for large bureaucracies which are not so far technological but political bodies (see
a Political Coalition).
We can admire the immortal foresight of Secretary of State Henry Stimson's who closed the Cipher
Bureau in 1929. But this highly ethical, moral and courageous act deprived the U.S. of the capacity
to read foreign diplomatic cables as world-wide threats grew. So it was quickly reversed. In a
way technology dictates the level of government surveillance in the society and in Internet society
it looks like this level is permanently set on "high". That does not mean that we can't fight it. Yes,
we can ;-)
Total surveillance is not about terrorism. It's about population control. Terrorism is a false pretext
-- a smoke screen, if you like. Let's state clearly -- the main goal of total surveillance was the same
since it was introduced in Nazi Germany. it's the same as in former German Democratic Republic (with
its famous Stasi). In all cases it is to prevent any challenge to the ruling elite or in US-speak "regime
change". In other words total surveillance is part and parcel of the totalitarian state
even if it more reserved as for violence form called
State actors and well funded terrorist organization are a difficult nut to clack. that have access
to technology and know how. that means that NSA has great difficulties intercepting and decoding traffic
that is intended to be hidden. But for "open" traffic the situation is completely different. Here they
are king of the hill. Of cause correlation of open traffic can reveal some hidden information,
but this is a pretty expensive undertaking.
Concern about the NSA assault on our privacy is no paranoid fantasy. In the
words of an agency PowerPoint slide released by Snowden, the goal is to "collect it all", "process
it all" and "know it all". The massive surveillance program is a clear violation of the Forth
amendment prohibiting "unreasonable searches" of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" without
- Gene Epstein. "In defence of Snowden",
review of "No Place to Hide" Barrons, Jan 5, 2015, p 17
Now everybody understand that since probably 2003 or even earlier that that he/she is watched 24
by 7, or as Soviet dissidents called it "Placed under the dome". Some question that we need to ask ourselves
When the quantity of collected data turns into quality. At some point the amount of collected
information, no matter how trivial, allows things that are drastically different then simple monitoring
of traffic for suspicious elements. It essentially turn on STASI-style dossier mechanism on most
adult citizens of the USA (and not only USA). Accidentally STASI was created exactly the same year
as NSA, in 1950 and now they look more and more like identical twins). And with the level on Internet
communications many people have this filling of dossier to the "critical mass" of facts about the
person happens very quickly. In a way
You really already
live in a virtual prison watched 24 by 7. For example, just tracking metadata of all
the calls from your cell phone with GPS is almost equivalent hiring a private detective to watch
you. Add to this all your credit card records, emails and SMS and you can beat capability of
"gum shoes" by a wide margin. And this is only a start and note that I did not mention your "self-revelation"
activities on social sites. And if you add to this your web logs (which, by the way, record every
site you visited) and your posts on social, photo sharing and cloud storage sites (if you participate)
and ability to store collected information for, say, 20 years electronically, and STASI efforts in
human surveillance looks like an expensive and amateurish overkill. You can get then same or better
information on an individual for much less money/effort using modern technology alone, without any
gum shoes and higher informers.
Note that in this case there no need to look deep into your personal computer (other to collect
private keys in case you use encryption). You essentially volunteer most of the data by the fact
that you are using cell phone, credit card and email/social sites. In other words as
Scott McNealy noted in
is Dead – Get Over It
Logging person metadata proved to be an extremely powerful and at the same extremely cheap
way to spy on the person: it reveals the person lifestyle and views no less clearly then interception
of the content of emails and phone calls. Systematic, total analysis of metadata of cell phone
calls was first used against Iraq insurgents as knowledge of Arabic language is not a strong point
of US military or three letter agencies. And it was a success as it allows to narrow the set of suspects
quickly and cheaply (the USA controlled all cell networks in the country). But later this initial
success was extended and became a universal surveillance tool within the USA, which is more powerful
then in Iraq as you can also analyze the content of messages such as emails or instant messages.
And as you add to phone calls Internet communications logs and metadata such as emails and web logs
and top it with credit card transactions, any person is actually like a bug under extremely powerful
and very cheap microscope.
Now you should think twice about what are you sharing with others via your Web communications?
And not only about yourself but also about your family and friends. The sad truth is that just by
the fact of using all those modern gargets and social networks you are sharing a lot more personal
information then you think or intend to share... This self-exposure is actually a build-in feature
of all those toys. And taken as a whole for a considerable period of time your online activities
create a personal cloud of information about you. In other words NSA knows about you more then your
spouse. And as you can see from the picture below is not a good thing. Look at the picture attentively,
it really deserves your uninterrupted attention:
Even if we assume that data collection is passive and never used, it is like a ticking
bomb or "skeleton in the closet" and as such is a powerful method of control of population. Not
the different from what was used by KGB in the USSR or STASI in East Germany. And probably
more effective as quick dissipation of Occupy Wall Street crowds had shown us.
So it does not really matter much what the data are collected for and what if official justification
of such a collection. The mere fact of collection changes the situation to the worse, making opposition
to the system practically impossible. The net result is what is matter. And the net result definitely
resembles a move in the direction of a tyranny of the top 1%. US Senator Frank Church said in 1975:
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to
it that this agency [the National Security Agency] and all agencies that possess this technology
operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That
is the abyss from which there is no return.".
Today his words sound even more true then in 1975 when computers were still in their infancy and
mainframes dominated the computer landscape. With the proliferation of cheap electronic devices such
as PCs and laptops, tablets and cell phones this really became "the abyss from which there is
So the real, the key goal is not what is officially declared (Orwell style permanent war on terrorism).
It is control of population like in was in the USSR and Eastern Germany. In a way we are all Eastern
Germans now, but in a completely different sense then Kennedy meant when he proposed his famous
(Ich bin ein Berliner)
Convenience of access to information has a side effect that it makes collection of information about
you trivial and at the same time comprehensive. It is to keep the elite safe from common folks, not
all those lies about national security. It is all about the security of the elite.
The story of J. Edgar
Hoover suggests that "knowledge is power" and the top brass of intelligence agencies routinely
and consistently develops a pathological addiction to collecting "skeletons in the closet" for the
people in power. This is a part of more complex trend due to which intelligence agencies often
are called as "shadow government". Often such people actually derive pleasure from having power over
nation politicians due to knowing some secret and embarrassing information on them.It is
in this sense (and also die to capability to conduct clandestine operations) troika of NSA, CIA and
FBI represent real, although shadow government of the country. This is the danger Senator Church
warned us, but the horse probably left the barn at the time of assignation of President Kennedy.
Please note that none of presidents was able to fire
J. Edgar Hoover He died
in his position of the head of FBI. The ability to manipulate other, even very powerful people is
very tempting. As Kissinger used to say "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." A related questions
Whether NSA spied and "collected dirt" on members of Congress? Some information suggests
that they did:
Is executive branch interested in continuation of this practice? The answer is yes.
As Conor Friedersdorf noted on Feb 5, 2014 in
The Atlantic magazine "The phone dragnet gives the executive branch all the information
it needs to blackmail or discredit multiple legislators. It's a temptation to abuse."
Does NSA directly or indirectly has ties to the financial sector especially related to
the providing them with the information on the flow of funds of the foreign competitors ?
Times, Dec 18, 2013). As
"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the
common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do
not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic
Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political
power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they
may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the
They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time
of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead. "
..."If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power
ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States.”
It the situation irreversible? In other words did 1984 dystopia materialized in slightly
different, slightly more gentle form? Probably yes. Cutting funds to three letter agencies would
be a small step in right direction. But the main value of 9/11 for the US establishment was that
it made such moves impossible. Also the elite as a whole is not interesting in dismantling the tool
that serve its interests so well even if it has some side effects on the elite members themselves.
A related question is:
Is transformation of USA into USSA (United Secret Services of America) compete or just
started. The answer is that it is almost complete. This is another confirmation of
The Iron Law of Oligarchy
All-in-all it's a good time to smell the coffee and talk about the rise of a new mutation of totalitarism
(or may be even fascism -- as it is, essentially, the merger of corporate and state interests) in the
US after 9/11. That's exactly what this "Internet-inspired" flavor of total surveillance due to modern
technical capabilities means. There is also distinct shadow of STASI in all those activities. And some
countries got into similar trap before, so nothing is new under the sun. As Reinhold Niebuhr noted:
"Communism is a vivid object lesson in the monstrous consequences of moral complacency about
the relation of dubious means to supposedly good ends."
There is actually little difference between total surveillance as practiced by NSA and what was practiced
by three letters agencies of Eastern block dictatorships such as STASI and KGB. The key goal in both
cases is protection and preservation of power of existing elite against the will of common people. So
this is more about oppression of 99.9% from top 0.1% then surveillance per see.
UN Human Right Council Report (17 April 2013) innovations in technology not only have increased
the possibilities for communication and protections of free expression and opinion, enabling anonymity,
rapid information-sharing and cross-cultural dialogues. They also simultaneously increased opportunities
for State surveillance and interventions into individuals’ private communications facilitating to transformation
of the state into National Security State, a form of corporatism characterized
by continued and encompassing all forms of electronic communication electronic surveillance of all citizens.
We should view Snowden revelations in a larger context. Much of what he revealed about militarization
of cyberspace was already known at the time when
Stuxnet worms were discovered in 2011. He just dot the i's and cross the t's , so speak. As a result
of his revelations, as
National Interest noted:
An increasing number of adversaries and even allies are coming to believe that the United
States is militarizing cyberspace — and that impression of hubris and irresponsibility is beginning
to have a real-world impact.
...The Snowden leaks have brought Stuxnet, the U.S.-Israeli program allegedly used to attack Iranian
computer systems, back into public debate — and reminded us that the real damage of the Snowden
revelations will be international.
...the perception that the United States has become a danger to the global internet is a cause
for concern. In their understandable anger at the considerable damage Snowden has done (in the
near term at the very least) to the operations of NSA and their allies, U.S. security officials should
not lose sight of this fact.
Snowden’s claims build on the Stuxnet revelations. In doing so, they reinforce an impression
of overbearing U.S. cyberpower (military and commercial) being used irresponsibly. That is strikingly
at odds with the U.S. self-image as a standard bearer of internet freedom and “borderless” exchange,
but it is a view that resonates around the world.
In fact the USA policies are stimulating economic and political rivals around the globe to organize
and present unified front against this new and dangerous form of total surveillance. As well as
implement similar domestic systems. In other words a new arm race started.
As methods and infrastructure of those activities are now revealed, the genie is out of the bottle
and can't be put back -- the US now should expect the same or worse treatment from other nations.
Which can be no less inventive, or even more inventive the USA specialists in this area. And in
this new arm race economically weaker nations actually has some leverage. Blowback, a CIA term for
unintended consequences of foreign, military, or clandestine policies, can be similar to the blowback
of politically organizing Islamic radicals to fight Soviets in Afghanistan in the past.
Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, probably already
waits patiently for her meeting with the NSA brass.
Blowback can irreparably damage the ability of the United States to obtain crucial information
in foreign environments that are poorly understood in Washington. The cultural divide that exists
when operating away from home means that CIA and NSA frequently work overseas through a network of
liaison contacts. This in theory limits their activity, but it broadens their ability to collect
information that can only be plausibly obtained by a local organization with local capabilities.
Though nearly everyone also operates clandestinely outside the parameters of the established relationships
insofar as it is possible or expedient to do so, there is an awareness that being caught can
cause grave damage to the liaison relationship. Because being exposed is nearly always very
painful, such operations are normally limited to collection of critical information that the liaison
partner would be unwilling to reveal.
So while it might be comforting to claim that “everyone does it” at least some of the time,
and it may even be true that local spy agencies sometimes collaborated with NSA, the United States
has a great deal to lose by spying on its friends. This is particularly true as Washington,
uniquely, spies on everyone, all the time, even when there is no good reason for doing so.
Centralization of user activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn,
with email account mainly at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail along with many positive aspects has tremendous
negative side effects. The most significant is that it created a way too easy opportunity both for those
organizations as well as government agencies and large corporations to data mine email and Web communications
of millions of Americans critical about government (see
keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use those
services (and that includes a significant part of European population and Russia, who have Gmail, Facebook
or Yahoo accounts). The history of "total surveillance" suggests that it tends to be abused. It is also
huge, irreparable breach on trust in relation to allies. Closely resembles the situation in family when
wife or husband learn that the other hired detective to snoop on you.
The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the Soviet term for total surveillance was "to be
under the 'dome' ") and, especially, Stasi
(viewing the film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance")
are way too close. At the same time there is an important difference: while such regime does mean indirect
(and pretty effective) intimidation of dissidents, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data
are either few or non existent, which is a big difference with KGB or
Stasi practice. The latter aggressively
pursued those who got in their net trying either to convert them into informers or charge them with
the some suitable article of Criminal Code. In some cases that practice lead to suicides. So here we
can talk more properly talk about total surveillance an instrument of
Inverted Totalitarism, or totalitarism in velvet
We are talking about "passive total surveillance" and temporary (which might be several years or
your lifetime) storage of all intercepted data. But in a way, Senator McCartney was probably right about
"Communists sympathizers" and communist infiltration, he just was completely wrong about who they are
The famous The Police hit Every
Breath You Take should probably be the theme song for the NSA. As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us
in his famous speech:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence,
whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Snowden revelations are not something new. The only real revelation was how much of it was going
on domestically and gory details of such activities. Before 9/11 the NSA was basically prohibited from
operating domestically. Of course it violates those prohibitions, but there were no systematic internal,
all encompassing technical surveillance infrastructure in place. Now it is build and is deployed nation-wide.
And that's a big change, big difference. Due to "novel" interpretation of a few provisions in the Patriot
Act they created domestic dragnet which encompass most types of Internet communications. In addition
to intercepting more then 70% of Internet traffic they also enjoy direct access to major cloud providers.
Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by
its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression. And like in the USSR, it does
change people behavior on the Web. People start thinking about consequences and this page is one of
attempts to collect information that might help you to see "bigger picture".
The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is
that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered
in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after Snowden
The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution
is that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered
in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after
For example, no one in sound mind can now trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo,
Microsoft, etc. So attractiveness of Gmail, Hotmail and such are now different, then it was before.
And separation of mail accounts between "junk mail" account and important mail account is something
to think about. With the latter never in the cloud. In a way excessive using cloud services from a fashionable
trend now became kind of indication of a person stupidity.
In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication
of a person stupidity. There is no real justification of providing all your emails and address
book to strangers who can abuse this information without your knowledge.
At the same time it is stupid to dramatize the situation. Still, what is really striking is the grotesque
disproportionally of all this NSA surveillance "superdome" to the task of keeping the country safe from
foreign enemies (NSA statute is about watching foreign communications), begging obvious questions of
institutional sanity and competence. They turned all their super powerful collection mechanisms inside
the country and now they drink from a firehouse. That means that the results and possibilities of abuse
are pretty much predictable. Too many false positives create real danger of not to picking up weak signal.
So the other question is "Who the hell made these decisions?" That's a lot of taxpayers money and I
am not sure that they are well spend.
As for breach of privacy anyone with connected to Internet PC, the first thing to understand
that if somebody stores data in the cloud they should not expect any privacy, unless they encrypt them.
Expecting that your unencrypted data are private is a sign of personal stupidity, no more no less. If
somebody, who is keeping his address book in Google assumes that it remains private, that his own illusion.
That has nothing to do with the reality.
And it not that only NSA threatens our privacy. After all there are millions of PC users that have
computer(s) infected by spyware, which turns them into zombies, externally controlled monitoring devices.
And such software BTW can pick up and offload, or
encrypt for ransom all your data. I do not see much protest over this situation iether. Microsoft
greed and stupidity is one reason for this dismal situation, but essentially any OS is vulnerable if
enough money is invested in finding exploits. And NSA actually created a market for such exploits.
Now there are multiple "security firms" that do nothing then find "zero day" exploits and sell them
to the highest bidder (which is of course government agencies). Does not this reminds you 'war
In a way, any networked computer is an unsecure computer and should be treated as such.
See Privacy is
Dead – Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone that is outside some metal
box. That's two basic "laws of security" in the current environment.
But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but its interaction with self-profiling that
you provide via social sites. If you are too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar
site and engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity that simply means Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well in a humorous
form in the following
Amazon review of Orwell's
Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an
Now we know what would a perfect prototype of Bid Brother ;-). The song (Every
Breath You Take ) should probably be the theme song for the NSA. And not only NSA, but its counterparts
in other parts of the globe; I think, other things equal, citizens of some other countries would greatly
prefer NSA to their domestic counterparts.
Cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, chat-rooms: all allow the NSA and other similar agencies to
build a dossier, a detailed profile of a target and anyone associated with him/her. And the number of
people caught up in this dragnet can be huge. The NSA say it needs all this data to help prevent another
terrorist attack like 9/11. They lie. In order to find the needle in the haystack, they argue, they
need access to the whole haystack. But one interesting side effect is that now they are drinking from
the fire hose, so to speak.
Another interesting side-effect of the Snowden disclosures that the term ‘metadata’ became a common
word in English language. With the growing understanding that metadata includes enough personal information
to built a detailed profile of a person without even listening into content of communications. This
technology was invented in Iraq war for fighting insurgents (were phone companies were controlled by
US) and now is applied at home. In fact, by just using electronic communications, you are sharing a
lot more personal information than you think. It's a reflection of a fact that it is very cheap to collect
and analyses information about your electronic communications. The digital revolution which led to an
explosion in cell phone and internet use, also led to an explosion of snooping after you by the governments.
We need to distinguish "total collection" of data from "total analysis" (or creation of dossiers
on everybody as was practiced by STASI and friends). Raw data contain both "signal" and "noise". Analysis
or data mining of those raw data is the process of extraction of useful signal from the noise. Of course
we should be so naive that to assume that "signal" is related to purely terrorist activities. As recently
published documents had shown, the NSA interests are much wider ;-). In bald terms, it sets out its
“Leverage unique key corporate partnerships to gain access to high-capacity international fiber-optic
cables, switches and/or routes throughout the world.”
Along with major fiber-optic cables in the US, the NSA has access to data gathered by close intelligence
partners such as Britain’s GCHQ.
Sometimes it appear to me that like Uncle Sam got "red disease" and now is trying to imitate "total
surveillance" mantra of KGB, STASI and similar agencies on a new technological level. And the key lesson
from Soviet experience is fully applicable to the current situation in the USA: when government consider
everybody as a potential enemy you better watch your back. And having a cyberstooge following your every
step more closely that it was possible for STASI spooks and informers is something you need to react
to. Reading your address book, mail, list of books that you bought or borrowed from the library, analyzing
your circuit of friends is what STASI was really good at. And it might well be that some unemployed
specialists have found a new territory to apply their substantial talents.
The Snowden documents show that the NSA runs these surveillance programs through “partnerships” with
major US telecom and internet companies. That means that if you are customer of those major telecom
and Internet companies you are like a bug under the microscope.
It is important to understand that metadata of your communications will always be exposed (it other
words you are always walking "naked" on the Internet) because those new surveillance capabilities are
immanent properties of Internet protocols, as we known it. There is no way to encrypt connection metadata:
this is technically impossible unless you owns a vast private VPN network (some large corporations do),
but even in this case I have doubts. Even snail-mail metadata are collected (and from 50th to 80th letters
were opened and selectively copied by CIA). Diplomatic mail might still be secure, but that's about
Like with any new development there are countervailing trends that after Snowden revelation went
in overdrive and can seriously affect NSA capabilities.
One is switching to encrypting communication with most websites such as YouTube. That prevent simple
harvesting of video that you watched from HTTP logs (but does not prevent harvesting -- it can be done
using other methods)
The second is usage of software like Tor, although I think all connection to Tor sites are closely
monitored by NSA.
The third is usage of your own cashing DNS proxy to limit number of DNS requests you make.
I also think that all those development might give steganography a huge boost.
The other areas of technology that might get huge boost due to Snowden revelations is "Browsing imitating
internet robots" technology which permit to drown NSA collection devices in spam -- fake accesses to
web sites that is very difficult to distinguish from real browsing, but that make all statistical metrics
applied to your Web traffic useless. For example top visited pages became completely bogus.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
As Lord Acton(1834–1902) noted long before NSA started collecting all Internet communications
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". The history of "total surveillance"
suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution that conducts: such an institution
tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow power, the element of "deep state".
The first grave consequence of total surveillance is that it tends to be abused. The history
of "total surveillance" suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution
that conducts: such an institution tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow
power, the element of "deep state".
And the ability to intercept electronic communications gives those who are in charge of such collection
tremendous political power. Please remember that
J. Edgar Hoover was director
of FBI very long time partially because he dug a lot of dirt on politicians of his time including both
Kennedys. According to President
Harry S Truman, Hoover
transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters
and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods.
Essentially for half of the century he and his organization were out of control "state within the state"
and nobody could do anything about it. Only after his death some measures were taken.
It's not that expanding bureaucracy per se is a problem. I doubt that those in the bureaucracy of
those agencies do not think about larger consequences for societies of their attempts to expand their
sphere of influence. It is much worse: they definitely knew about possible consequences, but go "full
forward' anyway preferring job promotions and expansion of their influence. Like bureaucrats often do,
they betrayed their nations like nomenklatura betrayed the people of the USSR (with a similar
fig leaf of nice slogans about freedom as a smoke screen for pretty nefarious activities).
In case of NSA, this data on you, or particular political or social movement (for example "Occupy
Wall Street") can be mined at any time, and what is even worse can be used to destroy any new political
movement. And please remember that NSA is a just part of military-industrial complex, an entity that
has some interesting political characteristics related to the term "the acquisition of unwarranted
influence" . As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his famous farewell speech (which introduced
the term "military-industrial complex"):
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence,
whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
People seldom understand that all three letter agencies are not just part of military industrial complex,
but are the key parts. While ability of weapon manufactures to buy or just simply control Congress members
matters, three-letter agencies is where "unwarranted influence" fully materialize. By definition they
are out of control and as any bureaucracy they want to grow. That was clear to Senator Frank Church
who stated on August 17, 1975 NBC's
Meet the Press:
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States
government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that
go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at
enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be
turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the
capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would
be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the
technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to
impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to
combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within
the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there
to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess
this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that
abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
...let us be realistic and not fall for the usual story of this being a discrete event (all the
latest surveillance, that is).
This dates back to the founding of the Financial-Intelligence-Complex during and in the aftermath
of World War II, by the Wall Streeters for their super-rich bosses, the Rockefellers, Morgans, du
Ponts, Mellons, Harrimans (now Mortimers), etc.
The most important factor that needs to be taken into account is the total surveillance make organized
opposition to the regime impossible. So welcome to nicer, gentler, but no less totalitarian world of
1984 (aka "Back in USSR"). The key equation is very simple:
total surveillance = total control
That simple fact was well understood by various dictators and totalitarian regimes long ago, but
none of them has had even a tiny fraction of technical capabilities NSA has now. I think one
of the reason that Occupy movement completely dissipated so fast was that they were like
a bug under microscope of the government. And government want them to stop harassing Wall Street sharks
for their 2008 crisis misdeeds.
Another important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our
thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that all the content
we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces like
producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain sites, buying certain
An important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear
that our thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that
all the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw
from public spaces like producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing
certain sites, buying certain books, etc.
In other words understanding that you are watched on 24 x 7 basis modifies behavior and makes self-censorship
your second nature exactly the same way as in any totalitarian state, but without any physical coercion.
Here is one telling comment from
Secret to Prism program Even bigger data seizure
Indeed: The intentions and motivations of the agencies in question; the degree of oversight
and so on; is almost irrelevant. To a certain extent, I am content to believe that the intentions
of the perpetrators is good; and that the oversight and abuse prevention systems that they have
in place are strong.
However, none of that matters if people self-censor; if people worry, not about what the
government of today will find objectionable, but what the government of tomorrow will not like.
In effect, we end up censoring ourselves from a hypothetical worst-case future government.
We will concentrate on technical side of the this operation, trying to understand how much information
can be stored about a regular "Joe Doer" based on technical capabilities that are available. Let's assume
that we deal with mostly "passive surveillance": collection and storage of vast amount of Internet traffic
on special computers using either mirrored ports on the key routers or special access to key providers
of cloud services.
We can probably assume that several layers of storage of those data exist:
Running buffer (contains all data for all users, probably just for a couple of weeks or
a month). By definition it contains "everything". all you activity, be it email, web browsing, instant
messaging of ftp transfers.
Temporary storage (which might be several years, but probably is between five and ten
years). Some of this permanent storage cloud provider users create themselves. A good example is
their Send folder they maintain on cloud email provider. This temporary storage might also include
all your Web logs. Temporary storage of Weblogs are probably limited to metadata (proxy logs) and
few selected pages because of large volume.
Permanent, which is invoked if you got under active surveillance or belong to some kind
of radical group that is monitored. We can only guess what it involves and how much information is
stored in this case, but installation of some malware on your computer is not out of question. This
permanent storage includes but is not limited to
Your address book (several generations)
All you searches on major search engines
All your text email (not sure about graphic files)
Twits and SMS messages.
Phone conversations metadata.
Technology development creates new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance
mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities,
especially low cost of mass
surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the
Electronic police state
(Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A
crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation are continuous,
cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners, and those activities are seldom exposed.
Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" have several security
problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding
of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need
to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails.
You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered.
This is a huge saving of computational efforts ;-).
Metadata for your phone calls. This metadata is extremely revealing; investigators
mining it might be able to infer whether we have an illness or an addiction, what our religious
affiliations and political activities are, and so on.
Actual content (mp3 file or similar format) of all your Skype phone calls (the saying
is that "there is no free lunch" has now a new meaning here ). This is less important as getting
those calls transcribed is a difficult undertaking.
Metadata of pages that you assessed (visited websites). For a considerable period of
time (over a year) those data in a standard
HTTP log format are extremely revealing as for your political and social views, as well as
well as general interests. Sophisticated log analysis programs are available (so called proxy
log analyzers). This reveals all your downloads, software that you are using and many, many other
things. Essentially now you like a bug under the microscope.
Your purchases on major Internet sites (Amazon, eBay) and all purchases using major credit
cards. This is even more revealing then you web activity, as you put money were your interests
are. Buy books that interest you, and so on. Also extremely revealing as for your political and
social views, as well as well as general interests.
All the content you put on social sites such as Facebook. Here people usually reveal quite
a bit about themselves. As many people have presence simultaneously in Google, Facebook and
LinkedIn, total information includes your education, current qualification and possibly resume.
Address book and calendar on sides such Gmail, Hotmail or
It puts you essentially in a situation of a bug under microscope on Big Brother. And please understand
that modern storage capabilities are such that it is easy to store several years of at least some of
your communications, especially emails.
The same is true about your
phone calls metadata,
credit card transactions and your activities on major shopping sites such as Amazon, and eBay. But here
you can do almost nothing. Still I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. Phones are
traditional target of government three letter agencies (WSJ)
since the WWII. Smartphones with GPS in addition to land line metadata also provide your current geo
location. I do not think you can do much here.
I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. And paying cash in the store
in not something that you should try to avoid because credit card returns you 1% of the cost of
the purchase. This 1% is actually a privacy tax ;-)
Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by
its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression and it changes people behavior
on the Web. In this sense, Senator McCartney was probably right about "Communists sympathizers" and
"KGB infiltration", he just was completely wrong about who they are ;-).
The centralization of searches on Google (and to lesser extent on Bing) are also serious threats
to your privacy. Here diversification between three or more search engines might help a bit. Other then
that and generally limited your time behind the computer I do not think much can be done. Growth of
popularity of Duckduckgo suggests that people are
vary of Google monopolizing the search, but it is unclear how big are the advantages. You can also save
searches as many searches are recurrent and generally you can benefit from using your personal Web proxy
with private cashing DNS server. This way to can "shrink" your radar picture, but that's about it. Search
engines are now an integral part of our civilization whether we want it or not.
Collection of your searches for the last several years can pretty precisely outline sphere of your
interests. And again technical constrains on storage of data no longer exists: how we can talk about
privacy at the age of 3 TB harddrives for $99. There are approximately
of the US citizens and residents, so storing one gigabyte of information for each citizen requires just
400 petabytes. For comparison
In July 2012 it was revealed that
CERN amassed about 200 petabytes
of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions looking for the
In August 2012, Facebook's
Hadoop clusters include the largest single
HDFS cluster known, with more than
100 PB physical disk space in a single HDFS filesystem
By some estimates info storage capabilities of the US government are around 5 zeta bytes (5*1021)
The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the term was "to be under the "kolpak" (dome) ")
and, especially, Stasi (viewing the
film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance") are way
too close. And psychological effects of anticipating that you are under total surveillance are well
depicted in the final of the film The Conversation (1974)
directed by famous Francis Ford Coppola
At the same time there is an important difference: while both regimes creates implicit intimidation
and squash dissent, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data are either few or non existent.
Which is a big difference with KGB or
Stasi practice, which aggressively pursued those dissidents who got in their net, trying either
to convert them into informers, or prosecute them using the existing articles of Criminal Code. In some
cases that led to suicides. So here we can talk more about
Inverted Totalitarism, a velvet gloves mode
of suppressing of dissent.
Still it is now dramatically more clear then before that centralization of email accounts and user
activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, with email accounts mainly
at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail is far from being a positive development. Along with many positive
aspects has tremendous negative side effects. Essentially it turns users into spies on themselves in
a way that would be a dream by Stasi. The most significant is that it created an easy opportunities
to data mine email databases both for those organizations as well as various government agencies and,
possibly (in a limited way for special payment) by large corporations.
Those tendencies probably should be at least resisted, but we do not have means to reverse them.
Attempts to data mine email and Web communications of millions of Americans critical about government
control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use
those services (and that includes a significant part of European population and xUSSR area, who often
use Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo accounts) means that the country became a National Security State. With
all relevant consequences of such a transformation.
And interest in content of your "cloud based" email is not limited to the government:
A sweeping Wall Street Journal investigation in 2010 found that the biggest U.S.
websites have technologies tracking people who visit their pages, sometimes upwards of 100 tools
per site. One intrusive string of code even recorded users’ keystrokes and transmitted them
to a data-gathering firm for analysis.
“A digital dossier over time is built up about you by that site or third-party service or
data brokers,” says Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center’s Technology
Policy Program at George Mason University. “They collect these data profiles and utilize them to
sell you or market you better services or goods.”
This is what powers the free Internet we know and love; users pay nothing or next to nothing
for services — and give up pieces of personal information for advertisers in exchange. If you search
for a Mini Cooper on one website, you’re likely to see ads elsewhere for lightweight, fuel-efficient
cars. Companies robotically categorize users with descriptions such as “urban upscale” to “rural
NASCAR” to tailor the advertising experience, says Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute.
“They’ll use ZIP codes and census data to figure out what their lifestyle profile is.”
Most of the site you visit those days was found via search engine, often Google. But Google is interested
in more then search terms you use and sometimes plays with you a nasty trick: "Google may choose
That means that any time it wishes Google can spy on your Web activity:
"When Google uses a URL redirector, if you click on a URL from a search result, information
about the click is sent to Google."
Few people check the URL before clicking on Google search results, so in a way this is perfect spying
But there is another powerful spying tool in Google arsenal -- Google toolbar, and I am not sure
that all those trick were not reused in Google browser. Google Toolbar sends all user clicks to
Google, if advanced mode is enabled (and many people do enable it because they want to have spelling
correction available which, conveniently for Google, belongs to the set of advanced features).
This way you voluntarily subscribe to a 24x7 monitoring of your web activity using spyware that is installed
on your computer with your consent. For the same reason recent smartphones fashion looks greatly misguided.
It is better to use regular phone, then smartphone, and the last thing you probably want on your smartphone
is Android OS or iOS, or windows 8 OS. In some deep way unlocked Nokia 1280 looks now much more attractive
(and is way cheaper ;-).
Google Toolbar in advanced mode is another common snooping tool about your activities. It
send each URL you visit to Google and you can be sure that from Google several three letter agencies
get this information as well. After all Google has links to them from the very beginning:
As soon as they realize that they are watched, people start thinking about consequences and this
article is a pretty telling (albeit slightly paranoid ;-) illustration of the effect. The key mechanism
here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people preemptively
change their behavior, if they know or suspect that they got "under the dome" of government surveillance,
that all their emails are intercepted, all web site visits recorded, anything they buy on Amazon, etc
is registered in giant database outside of their control.
The angle under which will we try to cover the story is: the situation is such and such, now
what? What are the most appropriate actions and strategy of behavior of people who are concerned
about their privacy and no longer trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft,
etc ( and those who trust those providers should probably stop reading at this point). It is impossible
to close all those accounts. But some can and should be closed; for example POP3 mail can replace web
mail for all "important" mail; this way you avoid "cloud storage" of all your important correspondence.
It is impossible not to use search engines, but you can chose which search language to use. It is impractical
not to use smartphone and for Android phone you can't avoid registration -- that's the only way to get
updates from Google, but you can root the phone, remove some snooping components and use Firefox instead
of Chrome. But not it is clear that if mobile web browsing and checking email on your phone is not your
thing you are better off with a very simple phone such as Nokia 1280.
The first and the most obvious "change we can believe in" is that we need to change our attitude
toward cloud services and especially cloud services from large providers. Now the most reasonable assumption
is that most national cloud providers including major retailers are in bed with the government three
letter agencies. So you need to be careful what you browse for on Amazon, similarly to what you write
from Gmail and Hotmail.
In a way, excessive usage of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became kind of indication
of a person stupidity. It is important to understand that for anybody more or less competent with
computers (or willing to learn), anything Facebook or Gmail or Hotmail can offer, regular
small ISP account with Cpanel can offer with less risk for your privacy for, say, $5 a month or less.
And your privacy definitely cost more then $60 a year.
In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication
of a person stupidity. For anybody more or less competent with computers (or willing to learn),
anything Facebook or Gmail can offer, regular ISP account with Cpanel can offer too with less
risk for your privacy.
At the same time it is also stupid to over-dramatize the situation and isolate yourself by abandoning
Internet communications and restricting usage of cell-phone. The reasonable hypothesis is that today’s
surveillance is a side effect of new technological developments and it is a new fact of life. It is
just a new level of information gathering, which has been going on since the Byzantine Empire. And it
is still limited by technological capabilities of sifting through mass of communications. But at the
same time, quantity does at one point turns into quality, so the danger is real and as such could providers
are suspect by definition. In no way they are new level of technological development. In sense they
are one step forward, two sets back.
Also being engages in foreign wars has an interesting side effect that technologies invented come
home and used against citizens (naked
capitalism). That's actually the origin of indiscriminant collection of metadata used now.
But at the same time we need to understand that there are millions of PC users that have computer(s)
infected by spyware, which can make your computer a zombie. And world did not perished due to that.
Still the key lesson is unmistakable: from now on, any networked computer is an unsecure computer
that can't be trusted really confidential information, unless it is isolated by firewall and proxy.
And if we assume that it is unsecured computer, them it should be treated it as such. The first step
is that all confidential data should be deleted and moved to removable storage. In case you need to
work with it as much as possible should be done on non-networked computers, limiting the exposure of
your data to bare minimum. And the less powerful computer you use for processing you confidential data,
the best; the less powerful OS you use, the best (what about using Windows 98 or DOS for those who can
still remember it ? ;-). From now on "retro-computing" movement now is inherently linked with the issues
of security and privacy and might get a new life.
This retro-computing idea might create a new life for abandoned computers that are in excess in almost
every family ;-) See
Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone, which should be as simple as
possible. Not all people really benefit from browsing the Web from their smartphones. If you are really
paranoid you can think storing you cell phone at home in a metal box ;-).
In other words there are two new "laws of computer security":
secure computer is non-networked computer
secure cell-phone is a cell-hone in a metal box or without a battery.
But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but voluntarily self-profiling that you provide
via social sites. If you are way too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar site and
engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity you put yourselves voluntarily
under surveillance. So not only
Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well
in a humorous form in the following
Amazon review of Orwell's
Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an
BTW just after Prism program was revealed in June 2013,
Nineteen Eighty-Four became a bestseller on Amazon. As of June 15, 2013 it was #87 in Fiction. If
you never have a chance to read it, please do it now. and again, if you think that this revelation of
Prism program is a big news, you probably are mistaken. Many people understood that as soon new technical
capabilities of surveillance are available they are instantly put to use. As John H. Summers noted in
his review (The
Deciders - New York Times) of John Mill "Power
...official secrecy steadily expanded its reach.
"For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency'
without a foreseeable end,"
Mills wrote in a sentence that remains as powerful and unsettling as it was 50 years ago.
"Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed
a paranoid reality all their own."
Facebook has nothing without people
silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing
The key problem with social sites is that many people voluntarily post excessive amount of personal
data about themselves, including keeping their photo archives online, etc. So while East Germany analog
of the Department of Homeland Security called Ministry for State Security (Stasi)
needed to recruit people to spy about you, now you yourself serves as a informer voluntarily providing
all the tracking information about your activities ;-).
Scientella, palo alto
...Facebook always had a very low opinion of peoples intelligence - and rightly so!
I can tell you Silicon Valley is scared. Facebook's very existence depends upon trusting young
persons, their celebrity wannabee parents and other inconsequential people being prepared to give
up their private information to Facebook.
Google, now that SOCIAL IS DEAD, at least has their day job also, of paid referral advertising
where someone can without divulging their "social" identity, and not linking their accounts, can
look for a product on line and see next to it some useful ads.
But Facebook has nothing without people silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing.
... ... ...
Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA
Cook, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al most certainly have lawyers and public relations hacks
that have taught them the role of "plausible deniability."
Just as in the government, eventually some low or mid-level flunkie will likely be hung out
to dry, when it becomes evident that the institution knew exactly what was going on and did nothing
to oppose it. To believe any of these companies care about their users as anything other than
cash cows is to believe in the tooth fairy.
The amount of personal data which users of site like Facebook put voluntarily on the Web is truly
astonishing. Now anybody using just Google search can get quit substantial information about anybody
who actively using social sites and post messages in discussion he/she particulates under his/her own
name instead of a nickname. Just try to see what is available about you and most probably your jaw would
This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon
(that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves. We
all should became more aware about the risks involved as well as real implications of the catch phase
Privacy is Dead
– Get Over It.
This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search,
and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing
If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern
American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.
Citizens of foreign countries have accounts at Facebook and mail accounts in Gmail, hotmail and Yahoo
mail are even in less enviable position then the US citizens. They are legitimate prey. No legal protection
for them exists, if they use those services. That means that they voluntarily open all the information
they posted about themselves to the US government in addition to their own government. And the net is
probably more wide then information leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggests. For any large
company, especially a telecom corporation, operating is the USA it might be dangerous to refuse to cooperate
Former Qwest CEO Joseph
Nacchio, convicted of insider trading in April 2007, alleged in appeal documents that the NSA
requested that Qwest participate in its wiretapping program more than six months before September
11, 2001. Nacchio recalls the meeting as occurring on February 27, 2001. Nacchio further claims that
the NSA cancelled a lucrative contract with Qwest as a result of Qwest's refusal to participate in
the wiretapping program.
Nacchio surrendered April 14, 2009 to a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania to begin
serving a six-year sentence for the insider trading conviction. The United States Supreme Court denied
bail pending appeal the same day.
It is not the case of some special evilness of the US government. It simply is more agile to understand
and capitalize on those new technical opportunities. It is also conveniently located at the center of
Internet universe with most traffic is flowing via US owned or controlled routers (67% or more). But
it goes without saying that several other national governments and a bunch of large corporations also
try to mine this new gold throve of private information on citizens. Probably with less sophistication
and having less financial resources.
In many cases corporations themselves are interested in partnership with the government. Here is
one telling comment:
jrs says on June 8, 2013
Yea in my experience that’s how “public/private partnerships” really work:
Companies DO need protection FROM the government. An ill-conceived piece of legislation
can put a perfectly decent out of business. Building ties with the government is protection.
Government represents a huge market and eventually becomes one of the top customers
for I think most businesses (of course the very fact that a government agency is a main
customer is often kept hush hush even within the company and something you are not supposed
to speak of as an employee even though you are aware of it)
Of course not every company proceeds to step 3 -- being basically an arm of the government
That means that not only Chinese citizens already operate on the Internet without any real sense
of privacy. Even if you live outside the USA the chances are high that you automatically profiled by
the USA instead of or in addition to your own government. Kind of
neoliberalism in overdrive mode: looks like we all
are already citizens of a global empire (Let's call it " Empire of Peace" ) with the capital in Washington.
It is reasonable to assume that a massive eavesdropping apparatus now tracks at least an "envelope"
of every electronic communication you made during your lifetime. No need for somebody reporting about
you like in "old" totalitarian state like East Germany with its analog of the Department of Homeland
Security called the Ministry for State Security (Stasi).
So in this new environment, you are like Russians used to say about dissidents who got under KGB surveillance
is always "under the dome". In this sense this is just an old vine in a new bottles. But the global
scope and lifetime storage of huge amount of personal information for each and every citizen is something
new and was made possible the first time in world history by new technologies.
It goes without saying that records about time, sender and receiver of all your phone calls, emails,
Amazon purchases, credit card transactions, and Web activities for the last decade are stored somewhere
in a database and not necessary only government computers. And that means that your social circle (the
set of people you associate with), books and films that you bought, your favorite websites, etc can
be easily deducted from those records.
That brings us to an important question about whether we as consumers should support such ventures
as Facebook and Google++ which profile you and after several years have a huge amount of pretty private
and pretty damaging information about you, information which can get into wrong hands.
The most constructive approach to NSA is to view is a large government bureaucracy that expanded
to the extent that quantity turned into quality.
bureaucracy is a political coalition with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing of its own
power, no matter what are official declarations. And if breaching your privacy helps they will do it.
Which is what Bush government did after 9/11. The question is how much bureaucratic bloat resulting
in classic dynamics of organizational self-aggrandizement and expansionism happened in NSA. We don't
know how much we got in exchange for undermining internet security and US constitution. But we do know
the intelligence establishment happily appropriated billions of dollars, had grown by thousand of employees
and got substantial "face lift" and additional power within the executive branch of government. To the
extent that something it looks like a shadow government. And now they will fight tooth-and nail to protect
the fruits of a decade long bureaucratic expansion. Now it is an Intelligence Church and like any religious
organization they do not need fact to support their doctrine and influence.
Typically there is an infighting and many factions within any large hierarchical organization, some
with and some without factual awareness of the rest. Basically any hierarchical institution corporate,
religious, military will abuse available resources for internal political infighting. And with NSA "big
data" push this is either happening or just waiting to happen. This is a danger of any warrantless wiretapping
program: it naturally convert itself into a saga of eroding checks and disappearing balance. And this
already happened in the past, so in a way it is just act two of the same drama (WhoWhatWhy):
revelations of intelligence abuses by the Nixon administration began to mount in the wake of
Watergate, NSA became the subject of Congressional ire in the form of the United States Senate Select
Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities—commonly
known as the “Church Committee” after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D-ID)—established on January
17, 1975. This ad-hoc investigative body found itself unearthing troves of classified records from
the FBI, NSA, CIA and Pentagon that detailed the murky pursuits of each during the first decades
of the Cold War. Under the mantle of defeating communism, internal documents confirmed the executive
branch’s use of said agencies in
some of the most fiendish acts of human imagination (including refined psychological torture
techniques), particularly by
the Central Intelligence Agency.
That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American
would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. Telephone conversations,
telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny,
if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence
community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no
way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government,
no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability
of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability
that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies
that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never
cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
The reforms that followed, as enshrined in the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act (FISA) of 1978, included the establishment of the
Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): a specially-designated panel of judges who are allowed
to review evidence before giving NSA a warrant to spy on Americans (only in the case of overseas
communication). Hardly a contentious check or balance, FISC
zero warrant requests between its inception in 1979 and 2000, only asking that two warrants
be “modified” out of an estimated 13,000.
In spite of FISC’s rubberstamping, following 9/11 the Bush administration began deliberately bypassing
the court, because even its minimal evidentiary standard was too high a burden of proof for the blanket
surveillance they wanted. So began the dragnet monitoring of the American public by
tapping the country’s major
electronic communication chokepoints in collusion with the nation’s largest telecommunications
Similarly we should naturally expect that the notion of "terrorist" is flexible and in certain cases
can be equal to "any opponent of regime". While I sympathize NYT readers reaction to this incident (see
below), I think it is somewhat naive. They forget that they are living
under neoliberal regime which like any rule of top
0.01% is afraid of and does not trust its own citizens. So massive surveillance program is a self-preservation
measure which allow to crush or subvert the opposition at early stages. This is the same situation as
existed with Soviet nomenklatura, with the only difference that Soviet nomenklatura was more modest
pushing the USSR as a beacon of progress and bright hope of all mankind ;-). As
Ron Paul noted:
Many of us are not so surprised.
Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it
would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather
aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide
government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least
four wars ago.
We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the
status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once
lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA
authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand
over our personal information to the government?
And while revealed sources of NSA
include Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and others major Internet players, that's probably
just a tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself a question, why Amazon and VISA and MasterCard are not on the
list? According to
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook,
Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows
officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and
live chats, the document says.
... ... ...
Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is
our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007. It was followed by Yahoo
in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally
Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers
due to come online.
Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications
... ... ...
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian,
underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos,
photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and
So while the document does not list Amazon, but I would keep fingers crossed.
To be aware about a situation you need to be able to formulate and answer key questions about it.
The first and the most important question is whether the government is engaged in
cyberstalking of law abiding
citizens. Unfortunately the answer is definite yes, as oligarchy needs total control of prols. As a
result National Security State rise to prominence as a dominant
social organization of neoliberal societies, the societies
which characterized by very high level of inequality.
But there are some additional, albeit less important questions. The answers to them determine utility
or futility of small changes of our own behavior in view of uncovered evidence. Among possible set of
such question I would list the following:
Is the only way to have reasonable privacy with computer is to be physically disconnected
with the network?
Is limiting the usage of large providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft and usage of small
ISP for your email and personal Web pages makes you any more secure? After all it is much easier
to collect data from large providers then from hundreds of smaller providers. At the same time your
data are allowing via big routers in major telecom companies no matter whether you are using large
or small ISP.
Should you switch from Webmail back top POP3 account and deliver at the least most important
mail to your PC instead of keeping it stored on the web servers ? Please note that FBI developed
the computer programs "Magic
Lantern" and CIPAV, which they
can remotely install on a computer system (for example, using Microsoft Windows updates program),
in order to monitor a person's computer activity. But here you probably need a court order to install
Is Facebook and similar social sites provides any real value to you and your family? Is
your visibility of the Web is more important to you then your privacy, because two are generally
incompatible. Is all this vanity fair activity worth possible negative consequences (including stalking
of minors by criminals) that you and your family can face?
Should some group of specialists, for example psychiatrists resort back to handwriting on
paper and/or now write client notes in code as an attempt to reassert some level of confidentiality?
Note the PGP is not a panacea; it can be safely used only on non-network connected computers due
to existence of programs like
which can retrieve private keys directly from your computer. But transferring files via "air link"
is very inconvenient.
There are also some minor questions about efficiency of "total surveillance approach". Among them:
More people die daily from (1) car accidents and (2) gang violence in one day then people who
died due to 9-11 accident. Should not billions or dollars spent by NSA be utilized by different agencies
for preventing death toll mentioned above?
Even if NSA algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false
positives. The question arise how many innocent people are monitored as the result of this externality.
The other part of understand the threat is understanding is what data are collected. The short answer
is all your phone records and Internet activity (RT
The National Security Agency is collecting information on the Internet habits of millions of innocent
Americans never suspected of criminal involvement, new NSA documents leaked by former intelligence
contractor Edward Snowden suggest.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Monday that
included in the trove of files supplied by the NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden reveal
that the US intelligence community obtains and keeps information on American citizens accumulated
off the Internet without ever issuing a search warrant or opening an investigation into that person.
The information is obtained using a program codenamed Marina, the documents suggest, and is kept
by the government for up to a full year without investigators ever having to explain why the subject
is being surveilled.
“Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the
Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection,” the Guardian’s
James Ball quotes from the documents.
According to a guide for intelligence analysts supplied by Mr. Snowden, “The Marina metadata
application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops
summaries of target.”
"This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create
various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development,” it continues.
Ball writes that the program collects “almost anything” a Web user does online, “from
browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity,
and even some account passwords.”
Only days earlier,
attributed to Snowden revealed that the NSA was using a massive collection of metadata to create
complex graphs of social connections for foreign intelligence purposes, although that program
had pulled in intelligence about Americans as well.
After the New York Times broke news of that program, a NSA spokesperson said that “All data
queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” As Snowden documents continue
to surface, however, it’s becoming clear that personal information pertaining to millions of US citizens
is routinely raked in by the NSA and other agencies as the intelligence community collects as much
data as possible.
In June, a top-secret document also attributed to Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting
the telephony metadata for millions of Americans from their telecom providers. The government has
defended this practice by saying that the metadata — rough information that does not include the
content of communications — is not protected by the US Constitution’s prohibition against unlawful
search and seizure.
“Metadata can be very revealing,” George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr
told the Times this week. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location
of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to.
It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”
According to the Guardian’s Ball, Internet metadata picked up by the NSA is routed to the Marina
database, which is kept separate from the servers where telephony metadata is stored.
Only moments after the Guardian wrote of its latest leak on Monday, Jesselyn Radack of the Government
Accountability Project read a statement before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties,
Justice and Home Affairs penned by none other than Snowden himself.
“When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see
occurring here in this body,” Snowden said.
Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after being charged with espionage in
the US, said through Raddack that “The cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge
to public hands has been persecution and exile.”
There are limits of this "powerful analytical software" as it currently used. As we mentioned above, even if NSA
algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false positives. After two
year investigation into the post 9/11 intelligence agencies, the Washington Post came to conclusion
that they are collecting more information than anyone can comprehend ("drinking from a firehose" or
"drowning is a sea of data"):
Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billions
e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into
70 separate databases"
First of all there is a classic problem of "signal vs. noise" (infoglut) in any large scale data
collection and presence of noise in the channel makes signal much more difficult to detect.
Analysts who make sense of document and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying
share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year -- a volume so large
that many are routinely ignored
The enormity of the database exacerbate the problem. That's why NSA is hunting for email on cloud
providers, where they are already filtered from spam, and processing required is much less then
for emails intercepted from the wire data. Still even with the direct access to user accounts, the volume of
data, especially graphic (pictures) and video data, is really huge and that stress the limits of processing
capabilities and storage.
Existence of Snowden saga when a single analyst was able to penetrate the system and extract considerable
amount information with impunity suggests that the whole Agency is mess, probably like is
typical for any large organization with a lot of incompetents or, worse, careerists and psychopaths at
the helm (see Toxic Managers). Which is typical for government agencies and large corporations.
Still the level of logs collection
and internal monitoring in NSA proved to be surprisingly weak, as there are indirect signs that the agency does not
even know what reports Snowden get into his hands. In any case we, unless this is a very clever inside
operation, we need to assume that Edward Snowden stole thousands of documents, abused his sysadmin position
in the NSA, and was never caught. Here is one relevant comment from
Oh NSA......that´s fine that you cannot find something......what did you tell us, the World
and the US Congress about the "intelligence" of Edward Snowden and the low access he had?
SNOWDEN SUSPECTED OF BYPASSING ELECTRONIC LOGS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials
leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's
sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs,
government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information
Snowden viewed or downloaded.
The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability
to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without
proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they
weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.
On the other hand government agencies were never good in making huge and complex software projects
work. And large software projects are a very difficult undertaking in any case. Even in industry 50%
of software projects fail, and anybody who works in the industry knows, that the more complex the project
is the higher are chances that it will be mismanaged and its functionality crippled due to architectural
defects ("a camel is a horse designed by a committee"). It is given that such project will be
over budget. Possibly several times over...
But if money is not a problem such system will eventually be completed ("with enough thrust pigs
can fly"). Still there’s no particular reason to think that corruption (major work was probably
outsourced) and incompetence (on higher management levels and, especially on architectural level as
in "camel is a horse designed by a committee") don't affect the design and functionality of
projects. Now when this activity come under fire some adjustments might be especially badly thought out
and potentially cripple the existing functionality.
As J. Kirk Wiebe, a NSA insider, noted
"The way the government was going about those digital data flows was poor formed, uninformed.
There seen to be more of a desire to contract out and capture money flow then there was a [desire}
to actually perform the mission".
See the interview of a trio of former National Security Agency whistle-blowers to USA TODAY ( J.
Kirk Wiebe remarks starts at 2:06 and the second half of it continues from 6:10):
In military organizations the problem is seldom with the talent (or lack of thereof) of individual
contributors. The problem is with the bureaucracy that is very effective in preventing people from exercising
their talents at the service of their country. Such system is deformed in such a way that it hamstrings
the men who are serving in it. As a results, more often then not the talents are squandered or misused
by patching holes created by incompetence of higher-up or or just pushed aside in the interdepartmental
In a way, incompetence can be defined as the inability to avoid mistakes which, in a "normal"
course of project development could and should be avoided. And that's the nature of military bureaucracy
with its multiple layer of command and compete lack of accountability on higher levels.
In addition, despite the respectable name of the organization many members of technical staff are
amateurs. They never managed to sharpen their technical skills, while at the same time acquiring the
skills necessary to survive the bureaucracy. Many do not have basic academic education and are self-taught
hackers and/or "grow on the job". Typically people at higher level of hierarchy, are simply not experts
in software engineering, but more like typical corporate "PowerPoint" warriors. They can be very shred
managers and accomplished political fighters, but that's it.
This is the same situation that exists in security departments of large multinationals, so we can
extrapolate from that. The word of Admiral Nelson "If the enemy would know what officer corps will confront
them, it will be trembling, like I am". Here is Bill Gross apt recollection of his service as naval
Tipping Point) that illustrate the problems:
A few years ago I wrote about the time that our ship (on my watch) was almost cut in half by an
auto-piloted tanker at midnight, but never have I divulged the day that the USS Diachenko came within
one degree of heeling over during a typhoon in the South China Sea. “Engage emergency ballast,” the
Captain roared at yours truly – the one and only chief engineer. Little did he know that Ensign Gross
had slept through his classes at Philadelphia’s damage control school and had no idea what he was
talking about. I could hardly find the oil dipstick on my car back in San Diego, let alone conceive
of emergency ballast procedures in 50 foot seas. And so…the ship rolled to starboard, the ship rolled
to port, the ship heeled at the extreme to 36 degrees (within 1 degree, as I later read in the ship’s
manual, of the ultimate tipping point). One hundred sailors at risk, because of one twenty-three-year-old
mechanically challenged officer, and a Captain who should have known better than to trust him.
Huge part of this work is outsourced to various contractors and this is where corruption really creeps
in. So the system might be not as powerful as many people automatically assume when they hear the abbreviation
of NSA. So in a way when news about such system reaches public it might serve not weakening but strengthening
of the capabilities of the system. Moreover, nobody would question the ability of such system to store
huge amount of raw or semi-processed data including all metadata for your transactions on the Internet.
Also while it is a large agency with a lot of top mathematic talent, NSA is not NASA and motivation
of the people (and probably quality of architectural thinking about software projects involved) is different
despite much better financing. While they do have high quality people, like most US agencies in general,
large bureaucracies usually are unable to utilize their talent. Mediocrities with sharp elbows, political
talent, as well as sociopaths typically rule the show.
That means two things:
The easy part of this is the "total surveillance of electronic communications" project: to
store the "envelope" of each phone message, email, credit card transaction, etc. Analyze and correlated
the set of this envelopes to discover daily activity patterns, their change over time, social circle,
etc. That collection will contain some junk, but generally completely gives up your social circle
and your interests. Such records are pretty compact so the lifespan of your communications stored
is at least five and probably for more then ten years. So assumption of a lifespan storage is the
most realistic one. You can introduce some noise into some of those collection channels (for example,
by using a robot visiting certain sites such as Sport Illustrated, and Washington Post will distort
the picture of your Internet activities) but it is much more difficult to introduce noise into phone
call records and emails.
Several other nations have access to the metadata for the USA originated phone calls (for
providers they serve) via outsourcers of phone billing, such as Israel's Amdocs, the largest phone-billing
services company in the world:
The difficult part is the analysis of the messages body. For example:
Automatic transcribing of phone messages is a very difficult problem. Even the slightest
noise is deadly as we can see from the experience with Dragon (let's say that NSA solved the problem
of adapting to a new voice which Dragon can't solve). Dragon 12 running of dual core 3.8GHz PC
demonstrates the difficulties very well. Even a small amount of noise kills the quality of automatic
Analysis of email body for certain keywords easily can be perform automatically, but to
understand the context of usage of "trigger" words is extremely difficult. This task is still
on the cutting edge of modern computer science. From the public document that exists (see
control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) I have impression that they
try to overreach (which is standard bureaucratic tendency in such cases). That means that such
an extraction might produces too many false positives, and needs to be manually correlated with
Recognition of faces from street and security cameras is even more difficult problem.
Data mining of blogs is difficult for a different reason: not only detecting who is
who requires getting IP from particular provider (this is an easy part), just the total volume
is enormous. Many people create dozens of messages a day. There is a special category of graphomans,
that specialize on participating in various forums and those are people who have high change to
trigger "blind" keyword search. The USA government can afford to have, say, several zetabytes
of storage capacity in NSA-controlled datacenters, but its capabilities are still limited. It
can't replicate all the Internet over time. Videos are especially problematic and are more difficult
to analyze then text or HTML, or XML documents. Even low quality voice (with reverberation for
example) is very difficult to analyze automatically.
Video streams are huge and probably impossible to store. In a way the fact that most
modern computer have face camera is not only creating problem for NSA, it actually create the
problem for Internet as a whole ;-). Indiscriminate interception and storage are out of question:
lovers of "here is what my dog is doing" clips are able to saturate all available storage in no
So even with huge amount of subcontractors that can chase mostly "big fish". Although one open question
is why with all those treasure trove of data organized crime is so hard to defeat. Having dataset like
this should generally expose all the members of any gang. Or, say, network of blue collar insider traders.
So in an indirect way the fact that organized crime not only exists and in some cities even flourish
can suggest one of two things:
NSA generally limits availability of those "integrated" data sets to terrorism networks, political
protest, foreign organizations and "suspicious nationals" activities. It is difficult and inefficient
"to cover the whole field" although spying after activities of a foreign corporation can be more
lucrative them spying after a member of terrorist networks ;-). Some sources mention the current
capabilities as around 100K-200K people who can be "electronically followed" simultaneously. It is
reasonably to expect high level of secrecy and that means that data are not shared unless absolutely
The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings
of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home-field
advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa
constraints restricted our home-field advantage" because Fisa required individual warrants and
confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US. "Fisa
was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them," the
presentation claimed. "
It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other
foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States.
There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all."
... ... ...
A senior administration official said in a statement: "The Guardian and Washington Post articles
refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the
"The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive
Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to
ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition,
retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.
Methods based on "beyond the envelope" analysis are not efficient against reasonably sophisticated
opponents, who understand the fact that the communication will be intercepted and possibly
(superficially) analyzed. In a typical "bullet-armor" competition, that opens new impetus for
"bad guys" inventing new and improving old steganography methods. As with interception of talk between
Soviet fighter pilots and their command posts had shown, usage of slang makes the voice data almost
inpenetratable. Another example would be calling Goldman Sacks "a vampire squid", which implies that
your counterpart read
Matt Taibby article or related financial blogs, or to call Facebook "lichiko" which implies knowing
Russian. Person without this context can't make a connection. With such substitutions you need a
huge amount of ( rapidly shifting ) cultural context to understand the meaning of even simple phases.
This context is missing on the other side of the pond. And even specialists can represent certain
problems. For example Jargon
File (and more) is needed to understand the talk of hackers. Fenia,
the language of the thieves is Russia was so distinct from ordinary Russian that it almost qualifies
as a separate language which makes it foreign for outsiders. The same it true about criminal subculture
in other countries (see
Police and criminal
Storage of actual data involves certain technical difficulties and first on all physical limitations
of available storage. We probably can talk about several thousand
Petabytes that government can
store. In comparison:
Google processed about
24 petabytes of data per day in 2009
AT&T transfers about
30 petabytes of data through its networks each day
The Internet Archive
contains about 10 petabytes in cultural material as of October 2012
In August 2011, IBM was reported to have built the largest storage array ever, with a capacity
of 120 petabytes
In July 2012 it was revealed that
CERN amassed about 200
petabytes of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions
In August 2012, Facebook's
Hadoop clusters include the largest single
HDFS cluster known, with more
than 100 PB physical disk space in a single HDFS filesystem
In May 2013, Microsoft
announce that as part of their migration of Hotmail accounts to the new Outlook.com email system,
they'd migrated over 150 Petabytes of user data in six weeks.
There is also a question of complexity of analysis:
We can assume that simple things are extracted correctly. But more complex things might be
not. There is no question that a map of your phone calls, your Amazon and eBay purchases, credit
card transactions and other straightforward things can be recreated "exactly". Also can be recreated
data that can tell approximately where you were and what you was doings on any particular day. The
map of your phone contacts (people who called you and people who you call) and your emails gives
a pretty good estimate of your social circle. With multiple data sources any individual posting
in blogs can be identified with 90% or better accuracy, no matter what nicknames he/she uses
and whether he/she avoids registration and provide truthful information during it. So in a way there
is no need to do something complex as simple methods provide treasure trove of data.
There are also “junk in, junk out” issues including spam in email, telemarketers calling
your land line, there are always "strange" sites you accidentally visit during your browsing. While
they can be filtered, signal can be filtered with them (why bad guys can not disguise themselves
as telemarketers or porno sites owners?) and then system became useless against bad guys. If not
that noise subtly corrupts the data, noise and data can be really undistinguishable. BTW closed source
security-related software will always be somewhat more problematical then open source, since algorithms
used may be far from perfect and are result more of a "trading horses" between power groups involved
in development, then honest scientific research. Open source software such as CPU emulators can be
used as steganography engine that requires particular processor on the other side for recreation
of the message. And you can chose some really exotic CPU like Knuth Mix.
Errors in algorithms and bugs in those programs can bite some people in a different way then branding
them as "terrorists". Such people have no way of knowing why all of a sudden, for example, they
are paying a more for insurance, why their credit score is so low no matter what they do, etc. In no
way government in the only one who are using the mass of data collected via Google / Facebook / Yahoo
/ Microsoft / Verizon / Optonline / AT&T / Comcast, etc. It also can lead to certain subtle types of
bias if not error. And there are always problems of intentional misuse of data sets having extremely
intimate knowledge about you.
Corporate corruption can lead to those data that are shared with the government can also be shared
for money with private actors. Inept use of this unconstitutionally obtained data is a threat to all
Then there can be cases when you can be targeted just because you are critical to the particular
area of government policy, for example the US foreign policy. This is "Back in the USSR" situation in
full swing, with its prosecution of dissidents. Labeling you as a "disloyal/suspicious element"
in one of government "terrorism tracking" databases can have drastic result to your career and you never
even realize whats happened. Kind of Internet era
Obama claims that the government is aware about this danger and tried not to overstep, but he is
an interested party in this discussion. In a way government is pushed in this area by the new technologies
that open tremendous opportunities for collecting data and making some correlations.
That's why even if you are doing nothing wrong, it is still important to know your enemy, as well
as avoid getting into some traps. One typical trap is excessive centralization of your email on social
sites, including using a single Webmail provider. It is much safer to have mail delivery to your computer
via POP3 and to use Thunderbird or other email client. If your computer is a laptop, you achieve, say,
80% of portability that Web-based email providers like Google Gmail offers. That does not mean that
you should close your Gmail or Yahoo account. More important is separating email accounts into "important"
and "everything else". "Junk mail" can be stored on Web-based email providers without any problems.
Personal emails is completely another matter.
Technology development create new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance
mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities,
especially low cost of mass
surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the
Electronic police state
(Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A
crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation are continuous,
cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners and those activities are seldom exposed.
Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" on third party servers
have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly"
of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex
job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails. You can access
Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. Your address
book is a bonus ;-). This is huge saving of computational efforts.
The globalist mafia is trying to destroy Trump. There might be the same part of intelligence
community which is still loyal to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Still Flynn discussing sanctions, which could have been a violation of an 18th century
law, the Logan Act, that bars unauthorized citizens from brokering deals with foreign governments
involved in disputes with the United States.
Keith Kellogg links with Oracle my be as asset to Trump team.
As far back as the passage of the Patriot Act after 9/11, civil libertarians worried about
the surveillance state, the Panopticon, the erosion of privacy rights and due process in the name
of national security.
Paranoid fantasies were floated that President George W. Bush was monitoring the library cards
of political dissidents. Civil libertarians hailed NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a hero, or at
least accepted him as a necessary evil, for exposing the extent of Internet surveillance under President
Will civil libertarians now speak up for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose
career has been destroyed with a barrage of leaked wiretaps? Does anyone care if those leaks were
accurate or legal?
Over the weekend, a few honest observers of the Flynn imbroglio
noted that none of the strategically leaked intercepts of his conversations with Russian Ambassador
Sergey Kislyak proved he actually did anything wrong .
The media fielded accusations that Flynn discussed lifting the Obama administration's sanctions
on Russia – a transgression that would have been a serious violation of pre-inauguration protocol
at best, and a prosecutable offense at worst. Flynn ostensibly sealed his fate by falsely assuring
Vice President Mike Pence he had no such discussions with Kislyak, prompting Pence to issue a robust
defense of Flynn that severely embarrassed Pence in retrospect.
On Tuesday, Eli Lake of
Bloomberg News joined the chorus of skeptics who said the hive of anonymous leakers infesting
the Trump administration never leaked anything that proved Flynn lied to Pence:
He says in his resignation letter that he did not deliberately leave out elements of his conversations
with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when he recounted them to Vice President Mike Pence. The New York
Times and Washington Post reported that the transcript of the phone call reviewed over the weekend
by the White House could be read different ways. One White House official with knowledge of the
conversations told me that the Russian ambassador raised the sanctions to Flynn and that Flynn
responded that the Trump team would be taking office in a few weeks and would review Russia policy
and sanctions . That's neither illegal nor improper.
Lake also noted that leaks of sensitive national security information, such as the transcripts
of Flynn's phone calls to Kislyak, are extremely rare. In their rush to collect a scalp from
the Trump administration, the media forgot to tell its readers how unusual and alarming the Flynn-quisition
It's very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S.
citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009
when Jeff Stein, then of CQ, reported on intercepted phone calls between a senior Aipac lobbyist
and Jane Harman, who at the time was a Democratic member of Congress.
Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government
secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored
by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of
anonymity. This is what police states do.
In the past it was considered scandalous for senior U.S. officials to even request the identities
of U.S. officials incidentally monitored by the government (normally they are redacted from intelligence
reports). John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was derailed in
2006 after the NSA confirmed he had made 10 such requests when he was Undersecretary of State
for Arms Control in George W. Bush's first term. The fact that the intercepts of Flynn's conversations
with Kislyak appear to have been widely distributed inside the government is a red flag.
While President Trump contemplated Flynn's fate on Monday evening, the
Wall Street Journal suggested: "How about asking if the spooks listening to Mr. Flynn
obeyed the law?" Among the questions the WSJ posed was whether intelligence agents secured proper
FISA court orders for the surveillance of Flynn.
That s the sort of question that convulsed the entire political spectrum, from liberals to libertarians,
after the Snowden revelations. Not long ago, both Democrats and Republicans were deeply concerned
about accountability and procedural integrity for the sprawling surveillance apparatus developed
by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Those are among the most serious concerns of the
Information Age, and they should not be cast aside in a mad dash to draw some partisan blood.
There are several theories as to exactly who brought Flynn down and why. Was it an internal White
House power struggle, the work of Obama administration holdovers, or the alligators of the "Deep
State" lunging to take a bite from the president who promised to "drain the swamp?"
Washington Free Beacon has sources who say Flynn's resignation is "the culmination of
a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald
Trump's national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran."
Flynn has prominently opposed that deal. According to the Free Beacon, this "small task
force of Obama loyalists" are ready to waylay anyone in the Trump administration who threatens the
Iran deal, their efforts coordinated by the sleazy Obama adviser who boasted of his ability to manipulate
the press by feeding them lies, Ben Rhodes.
Some observers are chucking at the folly of Michael Flynn daring to take on the intelligence community,
and paying the price for his reckless impudence. That is not funny – it is terrifying. In
fact, it is the nightmare of the rogue NSA come to life, the horror story that kept privacy advocates
tossing in their sheets for years.
Michael Flynn was appointed by the duly elected President of the United States. He certainly should
not have been insulated from criticism, but if he was brought down by entrenched, unelected agency
officials, it is nearly a coup – especially if, as Eli Lake worried on Twitter, Flynn's resignation
inspires further attacks with even higher-ranking targets:
Among the many things hideously wrong with this sentiment is that the American people know absolutely
nothing about the leakers who brought Flynn down, and might be lining up their next White House targets
at this very moment. We have no way to evaluate their motives or credibility. We didn't vote for
them, and we will have no opportunity to vote them out of office if we dissent from their agenda.
As mentioned above, we do not know if the material they are leaking is accurate .
Byron York of the Washington Examiner addressed the latter point by calling for full disclosure:
Important that entire transcript of Flynn-Kislyak conversation be released. Leakers have already
cherrypicked. Public needs to see it all.
That is no less important with Flynn's resignation in hand. We still need to know the full story
of his downfall. The American people deserve to know who is assaulting the government they voted
for in 2016. They deserve protection from the next attempt to manipulate our government with cherry
They also deserve some intellectual consistency from those who have long and loudly worried about
the emergence of a surveillance state, and from conservatives who claim to value the rule of law.
Unknown persons with a mysterious agenda just made strategic use of partial information from a surveillance
program of uncertain legality to take out a presidential adviser.
Whether it's an Obama shadow government staging a Beltway insurrection, or Deep State officials
protecting their turf, this is the nightmare scenario of the post-Snowden era or are we not having
that nightmare anymore, if we take partisan pleasure in the outcome?
Net neutrality has always been confined to the narrowest of meanings to a
point of being self-defeating by simply self-kettling ourselves into such
limited fights/expectations. I know you coastal and big city elites (that's
half snark) will never understand much more empathize or rally with us flyover
deplorables who are limited to 10 gigs a month no matter what provider we use,
no matter how much we pay. I recently read that most homes with fiber now
utilize over a thousand gigs a month that one HD movie can be much more
bandwidth than my entire monthly 70 bucks can buy.
Over twenty years ago the entire U.S. should have established high speed
affordable unlimited fiber to every home on the grid and that's where the
argument should be today. It covers the neutrality issue and so, so very much
more. And it is far more inclusive of many more people who would benefit in so
many ways. It's way past time to remove the internet highway system. Separate
the content providers, the monitors, data mining, from the public highway
system itself. That's where the beginning of neutrality should begin.
So yes, point out the most egregious hypocrites in the misleadership class,
but don't let them all win by keeping us divided and losing within the
extremely limited confines of their argument.
Among the many promises that Barry broke was the one to provide hi speed
internet. One grifter follows another!
We the people need to set some discrete goals and protest. Calling or
writing to the Congress critters will not work. We need to storm their
office on behalf each issue.
"Separate the content providers, the monitors, data mining, from the
public highway system itself. That's where the beginning of neutrality
That is the key point.
Trump would be an idiot if he allowed the likes of Google/UTube,
Facebook, big tech boys to be able to start rigging the content because his
campaign relied hugely on the Internet. A lot of his support by-passed the
traditional TV/Newspaper media. I heard that Twitter are apparantly using
ways and means to make his Twitter acccount only see hostile responses for
the first 100 or so responses. Have no idea if that's true but some of these
firms are getting very close to utility status.
Anti trust laws should be wheeled out. They are already on the books.
Companies such as Netflix are essentially subsidized by telecom
providers. So this is a model that somewhat reminds me of Uber.
The same is true for Google (especially YouTube part of it) and
Facebook. When somebody tries to download 4.7Gb movie that affects
other people on the same subnet,
On the other hand if, for example, popular blogs are forced to pay
per gigabyte of consumed bandwidth, that is as close to censorship as
we can get. 1000 gigabytes per month that is consumed by a medium site
even at $1 per gigabyte is $1000 per month rent. And guess who will be
able to afford it.
There are a lot complex nuances here. For example, everybody who
use wireless at home are not in the same group as who are using
landlines (fiber or cable) even if they live in metropolitan areas.
They are closer to flyover country residents.
Also as soon as something is not metered some sophisticated forms
of abuse emerge. For example, some corporations are abusing public
networks by switching to "home office" model which dramatically cuts
the required office and parking space. Several corporations built
their new headquarters with the assumption that only half of employees
are present at any given day (so called hotel model). When employees
view some clueless corporate video conference via VPN that affects
their neighborhood the same way as heavy Netflix users. Excessive
WebEx videoconferences have a similar effect.
Go back to Bill Clinton's administration when Verizon was a fledgling
company and the government gave massive subsidies to the Telecoms to do exactly
what Eureka Springs notes: bring fast, reliable internet service across the
country. Fast forward to today - those companies took all the subsidies, didn't
build out shit for network capacity, and now spend all their money lobbying to
give themselves more power and limit net neutrality.
If there were a microcosm for this whole problem, this is it. Dems give big
subsidies to corporate players, dont track the work/take for granted that they
"did something" and then get caught flat footed. Now we are all left to battle
it out for the scraps. Exactly where we were 20 years ago.
Watching the Oroville Dam, juxtaposing with all this "infrastructure
spending" talk - everyone should be weary b/c we've been here before with
Guess what happened to Southern Pacific Railroad Company, who benefited
greatly from this government intervention? Later, they turned into Sprint (
I really wish I could get more worked up about Net Neutrality, but I can't.
I'm deeply concerned about the high prices and lack of availability in much of
the country, but I find that much of the debate boils down to conflict between
Silicon Valley and the Telcos about who controls the internet. Content
providers (Facebook, Google, Netflix) want to use the network effects to
manipulate public opinion in their favored version of Net Neutrality, which
seems to involve universal unmetered broadband, which ISPs must build out to
meet demand, shifting costs from the providers to the ISPs, while profits go
the other way. Meanwhile the ISPs do the tricks described in the post and
overchange customers for poor service. I have little sympathy for either group.
My general belief is that broadband should be cheap, universal, regulated,
and, yes, metered. The latter would encourage high volume users and content
providers to change their behavior and technology to use bandwidth more
efficiently, which would reduce the size of the infrastructure needed over the
long-term. I would also include search neutrality at the same time, but for
some reason that doesn't have the same level of support among the technology
"... Use a linux system Kirk, no need for firewalls, Firefox with duckduckgo search, set options to clear after every session, Adblocker, it's not Tor, but the best open option. ..."
"... I am using DuckDuckGo.Com for search (and looking at YaCy) ..."
"... I also use Firefox for my browser, with AdBlockplus, Flasblock, EFF's Privacy Badger, and a password management app called LastPass (which gives me unique, 16-character, random passwords for each of my sites). ..."
"... Another thing to suggest is to use a private e-mail. ..."
"... I long ago gave up yahoo and g-mail(never had one) ..."
Readers of the Washington Post received some alarming news yesterday when the paper published
a story alleging that those pesky "Russian hackers" were up to their no good tricks
again and had managed to "penetrate the U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont."
Not surprised. I wonder if ZH users are also under cyber attack. Today I noticed that my desktop
browser (Firefox and Chrome) deny me access to any ZH link or pages. I get the "URL does not exist".
Have to use Tor browser to get to ZH.
Anyone know what's going on, and what the RX is? Thanks.
Good R x , however I would use the firewall -- best to not tempt fate. There are rootkits
That said, it is stable and quite usable.
I am using DuckDuckGo.Com for search (and looking at YaCy), also using TutaNova.Com
encrypted email, looking at Frendica to replace Facebook, using
http://Gab.ai as a Twitter replacement, Thunderbird
(replace Outlook) with Enigmail for encryption and email signing.
I also use Firefox for my browser, with AdBlockplus, Flasblock, EFF's Privacy Badger, and
a password management app called LastPass (which gives me unique, 16-character, random passwords
for each of my sites).
The open, free, reliable solutions are out there.
Side note: Enable two-factor login for all your accounts, you won't regret it.
"... President Obama will go down in history as the man who helped entrench history's largest and most powerful surveillance state ..."
"... Obama didn't just fall short of progressive hopes - he went in the opposite direction ..."
"... he broke a campaign promise and voted for a bill expanding government surveillance and granting immunity to telecommunications companies who helped Bush spy on Americans. ..."
"... Upon becoming president, the already vast surveillance powers of the United States have expanded . By 2010, the NSA was collecting 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, and other types of communications. By 2012, XKeyscore - which sweeps up "everything a user typically does on the internet" - was storing as much as forty-one billion records in thirty days. This gargantuan volume of data has the ironic effect of making it harder to detect security threats. ..."
"... The use of secret laws - hidden from public eyes and often related to surveillance activities - shot up under Obama. The administration tried (and failed) to force Apple to insert security flaws in its phones, to give law enforcement a potential "back door" around encryption. ..."
"... But this would not have happened - and the scope of US surveillance would have stayed secret - had it not been for the disclosures by Edward Snowden, whom Obama criticized and refused to pardon in the waning days of his administration, even as he claimed to " welcome " a debate on surveillance. ..."
President Obama will go down in history as the man who helped entrench history's largest and most
powerful surveillance state, providing it with a liberal legitimacy that left it largely immune from
criticism during his two terms. As President Trump takes the reins of that surveillance state's power
in whatever terrifying ways he chooses, we should remember that it was Obama who paved the way for
Obama has often been painted as a disappointing president, one who reached for the stars but ultimately,
whether due to Republican obstructionism or the disappointing realities of governing, fell short.
In the area of state surveillance, however, Obama didn't just fall short of progressive hopes - he
went in the opposite direction.
Obama built his career opposing the Patriot Act and Bush-era secrecy. He made this opposition
a centerpiece of his presidential campaign,
promising "no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more national security
letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime . . . No more ignoring the law when it
The first sign of his waning commitment came three months after a
Times op-ed declared him potentially the first civil libertarian president, when
he broke a campaign promise and
voted for a bill expanding
government surveillance and
granting immunity to telecommunications companies who helped Bush spy on Americans.
Upon becoming president, the already vast surveillance powers of the United States have
expanded . By 2010, the NSA was collecting
1.7 billion emails, phone calls, and other types of communications. By 2012, XKeyscore
- which sweeps up "everything a user typically does on the internet" - was storing as much as
forty-one billion records in thirty days. This gargantuan volume of data has the ironic
making it harder to detect security threats.
The use of
secret laws - hidden from public eyes and often related to surveillance activities -
shot up under Obama.
The administration tried (and failed) to force Apple to
security flaws in its phones, to give law enforcement a potential "back door" around encryption.
It extended controversial Patriot Act provisions year after year. Less than a week before Donald
Trump, a man he has called "unfit" for office, took power, Obama
expanded the NSA's power to share its data with other agencies. Meanwhile, the FBI is
paying Best Buy employees to snoop through your computer.
Where there have been privacy wins on Obama's watch, they have largely been inadvertent. The NSA
much smaller proportion of Americans' phone records today than it did eleven years ago
because cell phone use has exploded. Furthermore, the USA Freedom Act passed in 2015,
ending bulk collection of US phone records ( only of phone records, it must
be said), something Obama tried to claim as part of his legacy in his farewell speech.
But this would not have happened - and the scope of US surveillance would have stayed secret -
had it not been for the disclosures by Edward Snowden, whom Obama
criticized and refused to pardon in the waning days of his administration, even as he claimed
welcome " a debate on surveillance.
All of this happened under a liberal former constitutional law professor. The question must be
asked: What will follow under Trump?
The mainstream hysteria over Russia has led to dubious or
downright false stories that have deepened the New Cold War
, January 16, 2017
In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had
interfered with the US election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered
a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian
hacking into US power infrastructure.
DHS had initiated the now-discredited tale of
a hacked computer at the Burlington, Vermont Electricity Department by sending the
utility's managers misleading and alarming information, then leaked a story they
certainly knew to be false and continued to put out a misleading line to the media.
Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story
of Russian hacking of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011.
The story of how DHS twice circulated false stories of Russian efforts to sabotage
US "critical infrastructure" is a cautionary tale of how senior leaders in a
bureaucracy-on-the-make take advantage of every major political development to
advance its own interests, with scant regard for the truth.
The DHS had carried out a major public campaign to focus on an alleged Russian
threat to US power infrastructure in early 2016. The campaign took advantage of a US
accusation of a Russian cyber-attack against the Ukrainian power infrastructure in
December 2015 to promote one of the agency's major functions - guarding against
cyber-attacks on America's infrastructure.
Beginning in late March 2016, DHS and FBI conducted a series of 12 unclassified
briefings for electric power infrastructure companies in eight cities titled,
"Ukraine Cyber Attack: implications for US stakeholders." The DHS declared publicly,
"These events represent one of the first known physical impacts to critical
infrastructure which resulted from cyber-attack."
That statement conveniently avoided mentioning that the first cases of such
destruction of national infrastructure from cyber-attacks were not against the United
States, but were inflicted on Iran by the Obama administration and Israel in 2009 and
Beginning in October 2016, the DHS emerged as one of the two most important
players – along with the CIA-in the political drama over the alleged Russian effort
to tilt the 2016 election toward Donald Trump. Then on Dec. 29, DHS and FBI
distributed a "Joint Analysis Report" to US power utilities across the country with
what it claimed were "indicators" of a Russian intelligence effort to penetrate and
compromise US computer networks, including networks related to the presidential
election, that it called "GRIZZLY STEPPE."
The report clearly conveyed to the utilities that the "tools and infrastructure"
it said had been used by Russian intelligence agencies to affect the election were a
direct threat to them as well. However, according to Robert M. Lee, the founder and
CEO of the cyber-security company Dragos, who had developed one of the earliest US
government programs for defense against cyber-attacks on US infrastructure systems,
the report was certain to mislead the recipients.
"Anyone who uses it would think they were being impacted by Russian operations,"
said Lee. "We ran through the indicators in the report and found that a high
percentage were false positives."
Lee and his staff found only two of a long list of malware files that could be
linked to Russian hackers without more specific data about timing. Similarly a large
proportion of IP addresses listed could be linked to "GRIZZLY STEPPE" only for
certain specific dates, which were not provided.
The Intercept discovered, in fact, that 42 percent of the 876 IP addresses listed
in the report as having been used by Russian hackers were exit nodes for the Tor
Project, a system that allows bloggers, journalists and others – including some
military entities – to keep their Internet communications private.
Lee said the DHS staff that worked on the technical information in the report is
highly competent, but the document was rendered useless when officials classified and
deleted some key parts of the report and added other material that shouldn't have
been in it. He believes the DHS issued the report "for a political purpose," which
was to "show that the DHS is protecting you."
Planting the Story, Keeping it Alive
Upon receiving the DHS-FBI report the Burlington Electric Company network security
team immediately ran searches of its computer logs using the lists of IP addresses it
had been provided. When one of IP addresses cited in the report as an indicator of
Russian hacking was found on the logs, the utility immediately called DHS to inform
it as it had been instructed to do by DHS.
In fact, the IP address on the Burlington Electric Company's computer was simply
the Yahoo e-mail server, according to Lee, so it could not have been a legitimate
indicator of an attempted cyber-intrusion. That should have been the end of the
story. But the utility did not track down the IP address before reporting it to DHS.
It did, however, expect DHS to treat the matter confidentially until it had
thoroughly investigated and resolved the issue.
"DHS wasn't supposed to release the details," said Lee. "Everybody was supposed to
keep their mouth shut."
Instead, a DHS official called The Washington Post and passed on word that one of
the indicators of Russian hacking of the DNC had been found on the Burlington
utility's computer network. The Post failed to follow the most basic rule of
journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking with the Burlington
Electric Department first. The result was the Post's sensational Dec. 30 story under
the headline "Russian hackers penetrated US electricity grid through a utility in
Vermont, US officials say."
DHS official evidently had allowed the Post to infer that the Russians hack had
penetrated the grid without actually saying so. The Post story said the Russians "had
not actively used the code to disrupt operations of the utility, according to
officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter,"
but then added, and that "the penetration of the nation's electrical grid is
significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability."
The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question
was connected to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim
that the electricity grid had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story
that the utility had been the victim of a Russian hack for another three days before
admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed.
The day after the story was published, the DHS leadership continued to imply,
without saying so explicitly, that the Burlington utility had been hacked by
Russians. Assistant Secretary for Pubic Affairs J. Todd Breasseale gave CNN a
statement that the "indicators" from the malicious software found on the computer at
Burlington Electric were a "match" for those on the DNC computers.
As soon as DHS checked the IP address, however, it knew that it was a Yahoo cloud
server and therefore not an indicator that the same team that allegedly hacked the
DNC had gotten into the Burlington utility's laptop. DHS also learned from the
utility that the laptop in question had been infected by malware called "neutrino,"
which had never been used in "GRIZZLY STEPPE."
Only days later did the DHS reveal those crucial facts to the Post. And the DHS
was still defending its joint report to the Post, according to Lee, who got part of
the story from Post sources. The DHS official was arguing that it had "led to a
discovery," he said. "The second is, 'See, this is encouraging people to run
Original DHS False Hacking Story
The false Burlington Electric hack scare is reminiscent of an earlier story of
Russian hacking of a utility for which the DHS was responsible as well. In November
2011, it reported an "intrusion" into a Springfield, Illinois water district computer
that similarly turned out to be a fabrication.
Like the Burlington fiasco, the false report was preceded by a DHS claim that US
infrastructure systems were already under attack. In October 2011, acting DHS deputy
undersecretary Greg Schaffer was quoted by The Washington Post as warning that "our
adversaries" are "knocking on the doors of these systems." And Schaffer added, "In
some cases, there have been intrusions." He did not specify when, where or by whom,
and no such prior intrusions have ever been documented.
On Nov. 8, 2011, a water pump belonging to the Curran-Gardner township water
district near Springfield, Illinois, burned out after sputtering several times in
previous months. The repair team brought in to fix it found a Russian IP address on
its log from five months earlier. That IP address was actually from a cell phone call
from the contractor who had set up the control system for the pump and who was
vacationing in Russia with his family, so his name was in the log by the address.
Without investigating the IP address itself, the utility reported the IP address
and the breakdown of the water pump to the Environmental Protection Agency, which in
turn passed it on to the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, also
called a fusion center composed of Illinois State Police and representatives from the
FBI, DHS and other government agencies.
On Nov. 10 – just two days after the initial report to EPA – the fusion center
produced a report titled "Public Water District Cyber Intrusion" suggesting a Russian
hacker had stolen the identity of someone authorized to use the computer and had
hacked into the control system causing the water pump to fail.
The contractor whose name was on the log next to the IP address later told Wired
magazine that one phone call to him would have laid the matter to rest. But the DHS,
which was the lead in putting the report out, had not bothered to make even that one
obvious phone call before opining that it must have been a Russian hack.
The fusion center "intelligence report," circulated by DHS Office of Intelligence
and Research, was picked up by a cyber-security blogger, who called The Washington
Post and read the item to a reporter. Thus the Post published the first sensational
story of a Russian hack into a US infrastructure on Nov. 18, 2011.
After the real story came out, DHS disclaimed responsibility for the report,
saying that it was the fusion center's responsibility. But a Senate subcommittee
in a report a year later that even after the initial report had been
discredited, DHS had not issued any retraction or correction to the report, nor had
it notified the recipients about the truth.
DHS officials responsible for the false report told Senate investigators such
reports weren't intended to be "finished intelligence," implying that the bar for
accuracy of the information didn't have to be very high. They even claimed that
report was a "success" because it had done what "what it's supposed to do – generate
Both the Burlington and Curran-Gardner episodes underline a central reality of the
political game of national security in the New Cold War era: major bureaucratic
players like DHS have a huge political stake in public perceptions of a Russian
threat, and whenever the opportunity arises to do so, they will exploit it.
DHS security honchos want to justify their existence. There is not greater danger to national
security then careerists in position of security professionals. Lying and exaggerating the
treats to get this dollars is is what many security professionals do for living. They are
"... In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the US election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into US power infrastructure. ..."
"... Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story of Russian hacking of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011. ..."
"... Beginning in late March 2016, DHS and FBI conducted a series of 12 unclassified briefings for electric power infrastructure companies in eight cities titled, "Ukraine Cyber Attack: implications for US stakeholders." The DHS declared publicly, "These events represent one of the first known physical impacts to critical infrastructure which resulted from cyber-attack." ..."
"... That statement conveniently avoided mentioning that the first cases of such destruction of national infrastructure from cyber-attacks were not against the United States, but were inflicted on Iran by the Obama administration and Israel in 2009 and 2012. ..."
"... Beginning in October 2016, the DHS emerged as one of the two most important players – along with the CIA-in the political drama over the alleged Russian effort to tilt the 2016 election toward Donald Trump. Then on Dec. 29, DHS and FBI distributed a "Joint Analysis Report" to US power utilities across the country with what it claimed were "indicators" of a Russian intelligence effort to penetrate and compromise US computer networks, including networks related to the presidential election, that it called "GRIZZLY STEPPE." ..."
"... according to Robert M. Lee, the founder and CEO of the cyber-security company Dragos, who had developed one of the earliest US government programs for defense against cyber-attacks on US infrastructure systems, the report was certain to mislead the recipients. ..."
"... "Anyone who uses it would think they were being impacted by Russian operations," said Lee. "We ran through the indicators in the report and found that a high percentage were false positives." ..."
"... The Intercept discovered, in fact, that 42 percent of the 876 IP addresses listed in the report as having been used by Russian hackers were exit nodes for the Tor Project, a system that allows bloggers, journalists and others – including some military entities – to keep their Internet communications private. ..."
"... Instead, a DHS official called The Washington Post and passed on word that one of the indicators of Russian hacking of the DNC had been found on the Burlington utility's computer network. The Post failed to follow the most basic rule of journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking with the Burlington Electric Department first. The result was the Post's sensational Dec. 30 story under the headline "Russian hackers penetrated US electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, US officials say." ..."
"... DHS official evidently had allowed the Post to infer that the Russians hack had penetrated the grid without actually saying so. The Post story said the Russians "had not actively used the code to disrupt operations of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter," but then added, and that "the penetration of the nation's electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability." ..."
"... The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question was connected to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim that the electricity grid had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story that the utility had been the victim of a Russian hack for another three days before admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed. ..."
"... Only days later did the DHS reveal those crucial facts to the Post. And the DHS was still defending its joint report to the Post, according to Lee, who got part of the story from Post sources. The DHS official was arguing that it had "led to a discovery," he said. "The second is, 'See, this is encouraging people to run indicators.'" ..."
"... The false Burlington Electric hack scare is reminiscent of an earlier story of Russian hacking of a utility for which the DHS was responsible as well. In November 2011, it reported an "intrusion" into a Springfield, Illinois water district computer that similarly turned out to be a fabrication. ..."
"... The contractor whose name was on the log next to the IP address later told Wired magazine that one phone call to him would have laid the matter to rest. But the DHS, which was the lead in putting the report out, had not bothered to make even that one obvious phone call before opining that it must have been a Russian hack. ..."
The mainstream hysteria over Russia has led to dubious or downright false stories that have
deepened the New Cold War
In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with
the US election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria
by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into US power infrastructure.
DHS had initiated the now-discredited tale of a hacked computer at the Burlington, Vermont Electricity
Department by sending the utility's managers misleading and alarming information, then leaked a story
they certainly knew to be false and continued to put out a misleading line to the media.
Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story of Russian hacking
of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011.
The story of how DHS twice circulated false stories of Russian efforts to sabotage US "critical
infrastructure" is a cautionary tale of how senior leaders in a bureaucracy-on-the-make take advantage
of every major political development to advance its own interests, with scant regard for the truth.
The DHS had carried out a major public campaign to focus on an alleged Russian threat to US power
infrastructure in early 2016. The campaign took advantage of a US accusation of a Russian cyber-attack
against the Ukrainian power infrastructure in December 2015 to promote one of the agency's major
functions - guarding against cyber-attacks on America's infrastructure.
Beginning in late March 2016, DHS and FBI conducted a series of 12 unclassified briefings for
electric power infrastructure companies in eight cities titled, "Ukraine Cyber Attack: implications
for US stakeholders." The DHS declared publicly, "These events represent one of the first known physical
impacts to critical infrastructure which resulted from cyber-attack."
That statement conveniently avoided mentioning that the first cases of such destruction of national
infrastructure from cyber-attacks were not against the United States, but were inflicted on Iran
by the Obama administration and Israel in 2009 and 2012.
Beginning in October 2016, the DHS emerged as one of the two most important players – along with
the CIA-in the political drama over the alleged Russian effort to tilt the 2016 election toward Donald
Trump. Then on Dec. 29, DHS and FBI distributed a "Joint Analysis Report" to US power utilities across
the country with what it claimed were "indicators" of a Russian intelligence effort to penetrate
and compromise US computer networks, including networks related to the presidential election, that
it called "GRIZZLY STEPPE."
The report clearly conveyed to the utilities that the "tools and infrastructure" it said had been
used by Russian intelligence agencies to affect the election were a direct threat to them as well.
However, according to Robert M. Lee, the founder and CEO of the cyber-security company Dragos, who
had developed one of the earliest US government programs for defense against cyber-attacks on US
infrastructure systems, the report was certain to mislead the recipients.
"Anyone who uses it would think they were being impacted by Russian operations," said Lee. "We
ran through the indicators in the report and found that a high percentage were false positives."
Lee and his staff found only two of a long list of malware files that could be linked to Russian
hackers without more specific data about timing. Similarly a large proportion of IP addresses listed
could be linked to "GRIZZLY STEPPE" only for certain specific dates, which were not provided.
The Intercept discovered, in fact, that 42 percent of the 876 IP addresses listed in the report
as having been used by Russian hackers were exit nodes for the Tor Project, a system that allows
bloggers, journalists and others – including some military entities – to keep their Internet communications
Lee said the DHS staff that worked on the technical information in the report is highly competent,
but the document was rendered useless when officials classified and deleted some key parts of the
report and added other material that shouldn't have been in it. He believes the DHS issued the report
"for a political purpose," which was to "show that the DHS is protecting you."
Planting the Story, Keeping it Alive
Upon receiving the DHS-FBI report the Burlington Electric Company network security team immediately
ran searches of its computer logs using the lists of IP addresses it had been provided. When one
of IP addresses cited in the report as an indicator of Russian hacking was found on the logs, the
utility immediately called DHS to inform it as it had been instructed to do by DHS.
In fact, the IP address on the Burlington Electric Company's computer was simply the Yahoo e-mail
server, according to Lee, so it could not have been a legitimate indicator of an attempted cyber-intrusion.
That should have been the end of the story. But the utility did not track down the IP address before
reporting it to DHS. It did, however, expect DHS to treat the matter confidentially until it had
thoroughly investigated and resolved the issue.
"DHS wasn't supposed to release the details," said Lee. "Everybody was supposed to keep their
Instead, a DHS official called The Washington Post and passed on word that one of the indicators
of Russian hacking of the DNC had been found on the Burlington utility's computer network. The Post
failed to follow the most basic rule of journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking
with the Burlington Electric Department first. The result was the Post's sensational Dec. 30 story
under the headline "Russian hackers penetrated US electricity grid through a utility in Vermont,
US officials say."
DHS official evidently had allowed the Post to infer that the Russians hack had penetrated the
grid without actually saying so. The Post story said the Russians "had not actively used the code
to disrupt operations of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity
in order to discuss a security matter," but then added, and that "the penetration of the nation's
electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability."
The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question was connected
to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim that the electricity grid
had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story that the utility had been the victim of
a Russian hack for another three days before admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed.
The day after the story was published, the DHS leadership continued to imply, without saying so
explicitly, that the Burlington utility had been hacked by Russians. Assistant Secretary for Pubic
Affairs J. Todd Breasseale gave CNN a statement that the "indicators" from the malicious software
found on the computer at Burlington Electric were a "match" for those on the DNC computers.
As soon as DHS checked the IP address, however, it knew that it was a Yahoo cloud server and therefore
not an indicator that the same team that allegedly hacked the DNC had gotten into the Burlington
utility's laptop. DHS also learned from the utility that the laptop in question had been infected
by malware called "neutrino," which had never been used in "GRIZZLY STEPPE."
Only days later did the DHS reveal those crucial facts to the Post. And the DHS was still defending
its joint report to the Post, according to Lee, who got part of the story from Post sources. The
DHS official was arguing that it had "led to a discovery," he said. "The second is, 'See, this is
encouraging people to run indicators.'"
Original DHS False Hacking Story
The false Burlington Electric hack scare is reminiscent of an earlier story of Russian hacking
of a utility for which the DHS was responsible as well. In November 2011, it reported an "intrusion"
into a Springfield, Illinois water district computer that similarly turned out to be a fabrication.
Like the Burlington fiasco, the false report was preceded by a DHS claim that US infrastructure
systems were already under attack. In October 2011, acting DHS deputy undersecretary Greg Schaffer
was quoted by The Washington Post as warning that "our adversaries" are "knocking on the doors of
these systems." And Schaffer added, "In some cases, there have been intrusions." He did not specify
when, where or by whom, and no such prior intrusions have ever been documented.
On Nov. 8, 2011, a water pump belonging to the Curran-Gardner township water district near Springfield,
Illinois, burned out after sputtering several times in previous months. The repair team brought in
to fix it found a Russian IP address on its log from five months earlier. That IP address was actually
from a cell phone call from the contractor who had set up the control system for the pump and who
was vacationing in Russia with his family, so his name was in the log by the address.
Without investigating the IP address itself, the utility reported the IP address and the breakdown
of the water pump to the Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn passed it on to the Illinois
Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, also called a fusion center composed of Illinois State
Police and representatives from the FBI, DHS and other government agencies.
On Nov. 10 – just two days after the initial report to EPA – the fusion center produced a report
titled "Public Water District Cyber Intrusion" suggesting a Russian hacker had stolen the identity
of someone authorized to use the computer and had hacked into the control system causing the water
pump to fail.
The contractor whose name was on the log next to the IP address later told Wired magazine
that one phone call to him would have laid the matter to rest. But the DHS, which was the lead in
putting the report out, had not bothered to make even that one obvious phone call before opining
that it must have been a Russian hack.
The fusion center "intelligence report," circulated by DHS Office of Intelligence and Research,
was picked up by a cyber-security blogger, who called The Washington Post and read the item to a
reporter. Thus the Post published the first sensational story of a Russian hack into a US infrastructure
on Nov. 18, 2011.
After the real story came out, DHS disclaimed responsibility for the report, saying that it was
the fusion center's responsibility. But a Senate subcommittee investigation
a report a year later that even after the initial report had been discredited, DHS had not issued
any retraction or correction to the report, nor had it notified the recipients about the truth.
DHS officials responsible for the false report told Senate investigators such reports weren't
intended to be "finished intelligence," implying that the bar for accuracy of the information didn't
have to be very high. They even claimed that report was a "success" because it had done what "what
it's supposed to do – generate interest."
Both the Burlington and Curran-Gardner episodes underline a central reality of the political game
of national security in the New Cold War era: major bureaucratic players like DHS have a huge political
stake in public perceptions of a Russian threat, and whenever the opportunity arises to do so, they
will exploit it.
"... William Binney,another NSA whistleblower and hero, stated on his Truthdig interview with Sheer (who talked and repeated himself way too much, not leaving much time for Binney to talk) that Snowden knew from watching what happened to the five of them (among them,Thomas Drake/currently pensionless and an apple store worker ) and that Snowden did it the only way it could be done and did the leak well by gathering so much information up there was no chance of plausible deniability. ..."
"... First they gaslight you. "There is no surveillance. You have no evidence." ..."
"... As soon as there's evidence, they downplay it. "Everyone knew there was surveillance. This is nothing new!" ..."
"... Snowden's leaks were crucial and necessary. State surveillance had been normalized long before him. He only told us it had happened. What happens next is a battle that is still being fought, despite the best efforts of people who weasel about "ambivalence". ..."
"... Exposing the workings of the deep state is necessary if we are to ever reclaim democracy, if in fact we ever had it. ..."
"... Greenwald isn't defending the Russians– he is asking for evidence so we don't have to rely on the intelligence community. ..."
William Binney,another NSA whistleblower and hero, stated
on his Truthdig interview with Sheer (who talked and repeated
himself way too much, not leaving much time for Binney to talk)
that Snowden knew from watching what happened to the five of
them (among them,Thomas Drake/currently pensionless and an apple
store worker ) and that Snowden did it the only way it could
be done and did the leak well by gathering so much information
up there was no chance of plausible deniability.
Your "ambivalence" is one of the favorite tactics of people in
CTR, who start off all their comments with "I love Bernie, but ".
Here's how it works:
1. First they gaslight you. "There is no surveillance. You have
2. As soon as there's evidence, they downplay it. "Everyone knew
there was surveillance. This is nothing new!"
Snowden's leaks were crucial and necessary. State surveillance
had been normalized long before him. He only told us it had
happened. What happens next is a battle that is still being fought,
despite the best efforts of people who weasel about "ambivalence".
SantaFe you said "his career was literally made by a document dump from
guy who increasungly appears to be much more nefarious". Glenn Greenwald's
"career" was made long before Snowden appeared on the scene. That's why
Snowden chose him to release the documents to. He has long been known as a
journalist who speaks truth to power. And what do you mean by this; " He is
quickly losing credibility among many who admired him." ? Yourself? I see no
reason why Greenwald should be losing credibility. Primarily what he is
doing is in this particular instance is questioning the veracity of the
documents being used against Trump and the means by which they are being
"released". That is one of Greenwald's greatest strengths. He plays no
favorites. As far as the WSJ article on Snowden, I assume you are referring
to the now discredited op-ed (not an article) piece by Epstein? This self
serving op-ed was clearly written by Epstein to promote his recent book and
the "points" he made about Snowden have been discredited by many sources.
Speak for yourself. Greenwald isn't defending the Russians– he is asking
for evidence so we don't have to rely on the intelligence community. And
while Assange appears motivated by animus against Clinton, I have yet to see
anything about Snowden that would make me distrust him more than the press.
What I do see are a lot of centrist liberals acting like Joseph McCarthy.
And even with Assange, wikileaks has been invaluable. The mainstream
press largely gored its most interesting revelations - for instance, the
Clinton camp privately acknowledged that the Saudi government supports ISIS.
We hear much more shooting the messenger stories about dissenters than we
hear stories about the message.
"Days before far-right President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in, President Barack Obama has expanded
all intelligence agencies' access to private communications obtained via warrentless spying.
An executive order allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to share data collected via its global
surveillance dragnet with all other U.S. intelligence agencies, without redacting untargeted American
citizens' private information.
"... The message was accompanied by a parting gift...an apparently complete NSA backdoor kit targeting the Windows operating system. The kit is comprised of 61 malicious Windows executables, only one of which was previously known to antivirus vendors... ..."
mysterious hacking group has been bedeviling the U.S. intelligence community for months, releasing a
tranche of secret National Security Agency hacking tools to the public while offering to sell even more
for the right price. Now with barely a week to go before Donald Trump's inauguration, the self-styled
"Shadow Brokers" on Thursday announced that they were packing it in.
"So long, farewell peoples. TheShadowBrokers is going dark, making exit," the group wrote on its
The message was accompanied by a parting gift...an apparently complete NSA backdoor
kit targeting the Windows operating system. The kit is comprised of 61 malicious Windows executables,
only one of which was previously known to antivirus vendors...
... ... ...
The Shadow Brokers emerged in August with the announcement that they'd stolen the hacking tools used
by a sophisticated computer-intrusion operation known as the Equation Group, and were putting them up
for sale to the highest bidder. It was a remarkable claim, because the Equation Group is generally understood
to be part of the NSA's elite Tailored Access Operations program and is virtually never detected, much
... ... ...
Released along with the announcement was a huge cache of specialized malware, including dozens of
backdoor programs and 10 exploits, two of them targeting previously unknown security holes in Cisco
routers-a basic building block of the internet. While Cisco and other companies scrambled for a fix,
security experts pored over the Shadow Brokers tranche like it was the Rosetta Stone. "It was the first
time, as threat-intelligence professionals, that we've had access to what appears to be a relatively
complete toolkit of a nation-state attacker," says Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec. "It
was excitement in some circles, dismay in other circles, and panic and a rush to patch if you're running
"... By Michael Arria, an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editor. Follow @MichaelArria on Twitter. Originally published at Alternet ..."
"... The lawsuit was filed by a former product manager who claims that the alleged program violates California labor law. The same person filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against Google and its sister firm Nest this June. The NLRB complaint alleged that the employee was terminated after making a social media post that was critical of the company. The allegation also contends that the companies illegally monitored workers' electronic devices to prevent them from airing criticisms of Google. ..."
"... Google could be fined up to $100 for each of the 12 alleged violations in the suit, multiplied by 65,000 employees. If an allegedly unlawful policy lasted for more than one pay period, the fine doubles to $200 per pay period, per employee, for up to a year. If 'Doe' prevails on every allegation in the lawsuit, the maximum fine would be $3.8 billion, with about $14,600 going to each Google employee. ..."
"... Company with business model based entirely around mass surveillance enforces a "transparency" (just another word for it) culture among its employees? Who could've knew I'm really interested how the lawsuit works out. ..."
From a legal standpoint, the arguments that Google is making in its defense in an employee lawsuit
are lame. Of course, it could be saving its real case for the court. Oddly, the summary below omits
a key issue as to why Google's surveillance and secrecy policies are problematic. From the underlying
story at Information:
The lawsuit alleges that Google warns employees to not put into writing concerns about potential
illegal activity within Google, even to the company's own attorneys, because the disclosures could
fall into the hands of regulators and law enforcement. It also alleges that confidentiality provisions
include a prohibition on employees writing "a novel about someone working at a tech company in
Silicon Valley," without Google signing off on the final draft.
Among other things, this makes it impossible for Google to have any sort of internal whistleblower
program, even when most are strictly cosmetic. Most corporate governance experts deem them to be
necessary as a liability shield for management. Moreover, these agreements also violate the SEC's
whistleblower rules, which bar companies from hindering employees contacting agency officials regarding
suspected abuses. Google's top brass appear convinced that their internal code of omerta plus their
connections means that they can dispense with that sort of thing.
Google's internal non-disclosure agreements apparently didn't contain standard "outs," the most
important being that the signer can disclose information when compelled to by judicial decree, as
long as they inform the company first and give them the opportunity to contest the order.
I hope California readers will tell me about the reputation of the firm suing Google.
The claim looks to be spare (a good sign) and well argued. Even though the usual rule of thumb
with employee suits is that the big companies have a huge advantage by being able to hire better
counsel, Google looks to have overreached to such a remarkable degree that the employee may well
prevail. It would also help if outside parties take interest and provide amicus briefs on behalf
of the plaintiff.
By Michael Arria, an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editor. Follow @MichaelArria
on Twitter. Originally published at
Tech news site the Information reports that a former Google employee is suing the company, claiming
it maintained an internal spying program that encouraged workers to rat each other out.
The lawsuit was filed by a former product manager who claims that the alleged program violates
California labor law. The same person filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against Google
and its sister firm Nest this June. The NLRB complaint
alleged that the employee was terminated after making a social media post that was critical of
the company. The allegation also contends that the companies illegally monitored workers' electronic
devices to prevent them from airing criticisms of Google.
The lawsuit points out that employees should be able to discuss workplace conditions without fearing
Google has called the lawsuit "baseless." The Information piece quotes a statement from the company:
We're very committed to an open internal culture, which means we frequently share with employees
details of product launches and confidential business information. Transparency is a huge part
of our culture. Our employee confidentiality requirements are designed to protect proprietary
business information, while not preventing employees from disclosing information about terms and
conditions of employment, or workplace concerns.
If the lawsuit ends up being successful, it could be extremely expensive for Google. The Information
report breaks down the math:
Google could be fined up to $100 for each of the 12 alleged violations in the suit, multiplied
by 65,000 employees. If an allegedly unlawful policy lasted for more than one pay period, the
fine doubles to $200 per pay period, per employee, for up to a year. If 'Doe' prevails on every
allegation in the lawsuit, the maximum fine would be $3.8 billion, with about $14,600 going to
each Google employee.
Read the entire article at the Information's
Company with business model based entirely around mass surveillance enforces a "transparency"
(just another word for it) culture among its employees? Who could've knew I'm really interested
how the lawsuit works out.
... About that press
conference. Here are some of the things we learned:
■ The reason he hasn't shown up to answer questions from
reporters since July is "inaccurate news."
■ The Russians don't have any secret tapes of him behaving
badly in a hotel room because every time he goes to hotels
abroad, he warns everybody: "Be very careful, because in your
hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you're gonna probably
have cameras." Of everything Trump said during the press
conference, this was perhaps the most convincing.
What can to prevent a Geek Squad
employee from planting compromising material on one's computer out of pure greed, or
if the FBI wants is out to get someone? How do you prove that the image or file or
whatever wasn't planted?
January 10, 2017
Yves here. There is an additional layer to this ugly picture. I have
whistleblowers as contacts, and one is particularly technology savvy. He has
long been above-board in how he conducts his personal and business affairs. His
big worry has been that it is not hard to plant information on devices.
Did you know that Best Buy's central computer repair facility - their
so-called "Geek Squad" - contains at least three employees who are also regular
informers for the FBI? And that these employees routinely search through
computers and other devices that Best Buy customers send in for repair? And
when they find something they think the FBI would be interested in, they turn
over the information for rewards of up to $500?
That's a sideline business you probably didn't imagine existed - outside of
the old Soviet Union or communist East Germany.
I want to look briefly at two aspects of this - first, the story itself
(it's chilling) and second, its
The Story - Best Buy Repair Techs Routinely Inform on Their Computer
Repair Customers to the FBI
Let's look first at the story via the
in Orange County,
California. Note, as you read, the use of phrases like "FBI informant" and
"paid FBI informant." We'll also look at other versions of this story. In all
versions, Best Buy repair employees routinely search customers' computers for
information they can sell to the FBI, and get paid if the FBI wants the info.
In the FBI-centered versions, the Best Buy employees act on their own and
get paid as "honest citizens," as it were, merely offering tips, even though
this practice seems to be routine. For the FBI, the fact that the same
employees frequently offer tips for which they get paid doesn't make them "paid
informers" in the sense that a regular street snitch regularly sells tips to
For the Best Buy customer in question, that's a distinction without a
difference. But you'll see that distinction made in articles about this
incident, depending on whose side the writer seems to favor.
[Dr. Mark A.] Rettenmaier is a prominent Orange County physician and
surgeon who had no idea that a Nov. 1, 2011, trip to a Mission Viejo Best
Buy would jeopardize his freedom and eventually raise concerns about, at a
minimum, FBI competency or, at worst, corruption. Unable to boot his HP
Pavilion desktop computer, he sought the assistance of the store's Geek
Squad. At the time, nobody knew
the company's repair technicians
routinely searched customers' devices for files that could earn them $500
windfalls as FBI informants
. This case produced that national
According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal,
, reported he accidentally [sic] located on Rettenmaier's
computer an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands
and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck."
Westphal notified his boss, Justin Meade,
also an FBI informant
alerted colleague Randall Ratliff,
another FBI informant
at Best Buy,
as well as the FBI. Claiming the image met the definition of child
pornography and was tied to a series of illicit pictures known as the
"Jenny" shots, agent Tracey Riley seized the hard drive.
The story goes on to detail rights violations committed by the FBI on its
own, such as these:
Setting aside the issue of whether the search of Rettenmaier's computer
an illegal search by private individuals acting as government
, the FBI undertook a series of dishonest measures in hopes of
building a case, according to James D. Riddet, Rettenmaier's San
Clemente-based defense attorney. Riddet says
agents conducted two
additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants
trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search
, then tried to
cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding
To convict someone of child-pornography charges, the government must
prove the suspect knowingly possessed the image. But in Rettenmaier's case,
the alleged "Jenny" image was found on unallocated "trash" space, meaning it
could only be retrieved by "carving" with costly, highly sophisticated
forensics tools. In other words, it's arguable a computer's owner wouldn't
know of its existence. (For example, malware can secretly implant files.)
Worse for the FBI, a federal appellate court unequivocally declared in
February 2011 (
USA v. Andrew Flyer
) that pictures found on
unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it is
impossible to determine when, why or who downloaded them.
The doctor's lawyer, of course, is contesting all of this, and the article's
main point is that these discoveries have the FBI on the defensive. From the
article's lead paragraph:
[A]n unusual child-pornography-possession case has placed officials on
the defensive for nearly 26 months. Questions linger about law-enforcement
honesty, unconstitutional searches, underhanded use of informants and
twisted logic. Given that a judge recently ruled against government demands
to derail a defense lawyer's dogged inquiry into the mess,
of America v. Mark A. Rettenmaier
is likely to produce additional
courthouse embarrassments in 2017.
I want to ignore the wrangling between the court, the FBI and the attorneys
for this piece and focus on the practices of Best Buy's employees and the
government's defense of those practices. After discussing attempts to
manipulate the court by withholding information in order to get authorization
for a raid, the author notes:
Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Anthony Brown believes the "Jenny" image
shouldn't be suppressed because it's only
"wild speculation" that the
Geek Squad performed searches at FBI instigation
. To him, the defense is
pushing a "flawed" theory
slyly shifting focus to innocent FBI agents
he maintains that Rettenmaier-who is smart enough to have taught medicine at
USC and UCLA-was dumb enough to seek Best Buy recovery of all of his
computer files after knowingly storing child porn there.
Reading this, it's easy to see that the issue of what constitutes a "paid
informant" is being obscured. After all, what counts as "FBI instigation"? If
someone pays you regularly for something that she never directly asks for, is
that "innocent" behavior or caused behavior ("instigation")?
Yes, Best Buy Did This Regularly
The article answers the questions above:
But the biggest issue remains whether Geek Squad technicians acted as
secret law-enforcement agents and, thus, violated Fourth Amendment
prohibitions against warrantless government searches. Riddet [the
defendant's lawyer] claims
records show "FBI and Best Buy made sure that
during the period from 2007 to the present, there was always at least one
supervisor who was an active informant."
He also said, "
appears to be able to access data at [Best Buy's main repair facility in
Brooks, Kentucky] whenever they want
." Calling the relationship between
the agency and the Geek Squad relevant to pretrial motions, [Judge] Carney
approved Riddet's request to question agents under oath.
The writer goes on to discuss the ins and outs of this particular case. But
consider just what's above:
Best Buy routinely takes in customer computers for repair.
Those computers are, at least frequently, sent to a Best Buy's national
repair facility in Kentucky.
Multiple people at that facility appear to be regular FBI informants.
From 2007 on, at least one supervisor on duty at any times was "an
active informant" for the FBI.
And finally, from the article's lead:
Informing like for the FBI pays at least $500 each incident.
The LA Times handles this question similarly in
when the case first broke (my emphasis):
An employee at Best Buy's nationwide computer repair center served as a
who for years tipped off agents to illicit material found on customers' hard
drives, according to the lawyer for a Newport Beach doctor facing child
pornography charges as a result of information from the employee.
Federal authorities deny they directed the man
to actively look
for illegal activity. But the attorney alleges the FBI essentially used the
employee to perform warrantless searches on electronics that passed through
the massive maintenance facility outside Louisville, Ky., where technicians
known as Geek Squad agents work on devices from across the country.
The Geek Squad
had to use specialized technical tools to recover the
because they were either damaged or had been deleted, according
to court papers.
This contrasts with the Best Buy assertion that "Geek Squad technician John
"Trey" Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he
image] on Rettenmaier's computer".
The Times thinks this case could turn into a constitutional issue,
regardless of whether the doctor is guilty or innocent. (For the record, I'll
note that the later (perhaps illegal as well) search of the doctor's other
devices turned up what is asserted to be more incriminating pictures, mere
possession of which is a "sex crime" in the U.S.)
- This is an eager prosecutorial society; we really are a
punishing bunch, we Americans. We've never left the world of Hawthorne's
. So we give our police great latitude, allowing them to
shoot and kill almost anyone for almost any reason, so long as the stated
reason is in the form "I was afraid for my safety." Our prosecutors have great
latitude in putting as many of our fellows in prison as possible. Our judges
routinely clear their court calendars using plea-bargained guilty verdicts
This is the American judicial system, and it looks nothing like
, which is mainly propaganda.
And we, the spectators, are happy as clams to see the guilty (and the
innocent) tortured and punished - witness our entertainment and the many
popular programs that vilify the unworthy, from
and her ilk,
knockoffs, to all of those
(extremely popular, by the way) on MSNBC. We love to see the "wicked" get it,
in media and in life, much more so than people in many other first-world
countries do. Witness our incarceration rate, the
in the world
Thus we give our "law enforcement" personnel - cops of all stripes,
prosecutors, courts of all stripes (including the secret ones) - great latitude
in finding people to punish and then making them truly miserable for as long as
possible. We have been like this as a society for some time, all done with most
- With a Democrat in the White House, we're inclined to
think this setup is mainly well-managed (even when it obviously isn't). Thus it
has our blessing, more or less - or at least it has the blessing of middle
class and working class white people - the bulk of people who vote.
- We therefore fail to ask the most obvious questions.
For example, about this Best Buy case, we ought to be asking this:
How common is the practice of paid FBI informants spying on fellow
citizens in the ordinary performance of their jobs?
Are other computer repair companies and facilities similarly infected
(infiltrated) by government agents?
Are other businesses also infiltrated to this degree?
Are "sex crimes" the only activity paid FBI informers watch for?
Is political activity subject to this kind of spying?
How much will this practice widen under AG Beauregard Sessions and
Much to think about. I don't see the practice ending soon. I do see this as
the tip of what could be a very large iceberg.
January 10, 2017 at 5:44 am
Some professionals are required by law or professional ethics to report
wrong doing by others. So this isn't new. You should expect, at least in some
cases, that anything you do online or offline is public knowledge and can be
used against you in a court of law (or by a blackmailer) by both good and bad
actors. You may or may not have a right to privacy, but in actual practice, it
is primarily the needle in the haystack that protects you it isn't easy to
uncover bad behavior in the midst of countless pointless information.
I know a private businessman who repairs computers. Even he has formal
paperwork to cover both himself (while working on your computer) and to cover
his customer, in regards to what junk you have on your hard drive. He doesn't
want to be an accessory to a crime by a customer. And the customer needs
reassurance that he isn't trolling the customers data (more profitable to
borrow financial info, not porn).
Sorry, but computer repair techs who are secretly on the payroll of the
FBI and this apparently being normal and routine (ensuring that at least one
supervisor was always an informant) is absolutely shocking and extreme. As
are routine computer searches by personnel acting on behalf of the FBI
without a warrant - searches that extend into unallocated areas of the hard
drive requiring special software - this was not an accidental or inadvertent
discovery, it was a purposeful fishing expedition.
To pooh pooh the severity of the surveillance does no one any favors. We
may not have privacy in practice but de jure we have something called the
Fourth Amendment. Behavior like this from our institutions does nothing but
confirm RT's line that the United States is a surveillance state of
historically unprecedented levels. Sadly the same people who pretend to
champion the Bill of Rights in other contexts (such as gun rights) don't
care a snapped twig about all our other rights that are routinely and with
malice dismantled by the government acting under the cover of private
While I sympathize with your quaint notion of civil rights that was
pretty much cancelled by the NDAA of 2012, and the carte blanche given by
the secret court of warrants. A legal fig leaf perhaps. If you want
better civil rights, you have to abolish the secret court of warrants,
and any other Star Chamber. Also get rid of the NDAA and the Patriot Act
The FBI and CIA are, and have always been, in competition and that
leads to an always expanding need to tabulate everything and examine
anything. Ultimately those who seek safety, lose liberty. RT is
completely correct (when they want to be) about the US. Of course, even
France 24 has its own agenda too.
"searches that extend into unallocated areas of the hard drive
requiring special software"
This is BS. Stop repeating it. It's a very weak case, and only serves
to make people feel secure in their insecurity.
When you are looking at a hard drive you look at the whole hard drive.
You have to. Just because windoze and apple don't let you see this,
doesn't mean it doesn't happen every second of everyday in the
If you are going to try to legislate that *anyone* can only look at
"allocated" data, then, well, you can't turn a computer on. The entire
boot sector isn't "allocated" (in the way that you are using the term),
and you'd need *special software* to read it (an OS, or a disk utility)
I'm not in favor of what BB is doing, but this is completely believable. He
sent the drive to be analyzed (recovery of lost files). They analyzed it and
found his deleted files.
This is pretty basic computer stuff.
The Geek Squad had to use specialized technical tools to recover the photos
because they were either damaged or had been deleted, according to court
This contrasts with the Best Buy assertion that "Geek Squad technician John
"Trey" Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he accidentallylocated [the image]
on Rettenmaier's computer"."
I've done it before with my own drives that have failed. You find all of the
files that were "deleted" but not overwritten.
This is why you NEVER, EVER get rid of a hard drive without physically
destroying it first. You might not be able to access the failed drive to write
over the old data anymore (drive failure). Lots of times, you can still access
the drive to READ it.
"Rettenmaier's hard drive was shipped to Geek Squad City in Brooks,
Ky., a suburb of Louisville.
"Prosecutors said that the Geek Squad technician who searched the
unallocated space was merely trying to recover all the data Rettenmaier
had asked to be restored. Riddet argued that the technician was going
beyond the regular search to deleted material to find evidence the FBI
It seems as if the people working for BB in Louiville were data
recovery people. You can't really be surprised that A) they recovered
data or B) that the FBI might be interested in knowing people who work
there - they were paying them.
Speaking of privacy, I believe that all those numbers appended to
the end of the WAPO link you posted lead straight back to your
computer and the chain of links you used to find it.
Sometimes you can strip them out and get to the link without them.
Other times you cannot. Anyone savvy enough to explain an easy formula
anonymize the link by removing all or part of those numbers?
H.P.? Serves him right for buying Hewlett Packard shit and for
trusting Best Buy.
Thanks to Carly Fiorina, ALL H.P. products have become absolute
The way to get back at Best Buy is to use them as a free rental service;
i.e. Buy a product you want to use for a little while, keep the receipt
and then return it within the allowed period and get your money back.
Any corporation that allows the nonsense profiled in this article
deserves the corporate death penalty.
If you have an old hard drive you can do the following to disable it
Drill multiple holes, at least half an inch in diameter, all the way
through the casing and the disk of the hard drive so you can look through
the holes. You will need a vice and high quality drill bits. Don't do
this unless you are familiar with tools and take safety precautions. Your
hand is worth more than your privacy.
Make as least several holes, and make sure they are not opposite each
other on the disc. This will cause it to blow up when it's spinning at x
Pour glue into the holes and tip the casing on its edge so the glue flows
inside the hard drive casing.
Not only that there can be stuff hiding in un-allocated space – it can be
sucked into allocated space when new stuff is created when sloppy – or
performance fetishistic – programmers do not zero out memory on allocation.
So, you create a new file / document / image and now inside the binary
blob that contains your data, other stuff now lurks.
Tuff Titties if you send a picture of your dog in Christmas Dress to
Granny and the "padding" added to align the image data with physical sectors
on the hard disk suck in a "Jenny thumbnail" that Firefox cached for you
when some pr0n site did a popup.
Once on the net, STASI's robots will sniff that out because "padding
space" is EXACTLY one of the channels that "Evul Terrierists" would use to
hide nefarious plots – Prosecutions will follow, because they have blown
billions on this surveillance machine so they always need cases to prove the
worth of the "investment".
In the US, "Progress" is commonly measured in "Effort Spent" so it does
not matter that the charges will eventually be dismissed.
I often buy used business computers through vendors like Arrow Value
Recovery. I do this to save money, because nothing radically good has come
up for some years now making a 2 year old computer perfectly good especially
at 1/3 of the new-price and also for environmental reasons.
I never keep the original hard drive that come with the computer, I
replace it with a new SSD and reinstall from original media. Why?
Because even though the drive has been initialized by the vendor of the
used PC, there may be stuff lurking in there that I don't want to maybe take
through customs or airport security! Or maybe known things I don't want
running on the inside of my firewall. Lenovo is kinda in-famous for that,
others haven't been outed yet, one must assume.
You seem to discount what the article says when you say:
> They analyzed it and found his deleted files.
It is quite a jump to identify this as his or even necessarily as a
deleted file given this:
But in Rettenmaier's case, the alleged "Jenny" image was found on
unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by
"carving" with costly, highly sophisticated forensics tools. In other
words, it's arguable a computer's owner wouldn't know of its existence.
(For example, malware can secretly implant files.)
To the best of my limited understanding deleted files go to Windows
"Trash" in Windows space, not to unallocated space. If someone could explain
how lost files could move out of the Windows partition to unallocated space,
or clarify how else the term "unallocated" might be interpreted here I would
Files in "Trash" aren't really deleted until the trash (or Recycling
Bin, or whatever) is emptied. But even then the data isn't really gone.
The 1s and 0s that make up the "Jenny" image or your 1040 or the torrid
letter to your mistress are still there.
The operating system just erases the pointer or bookmark that tells it
"this is a file" and marks the space as unallocated, meaning it can now
store other stuff there. But until it does so any program that can read
the data directly – not through the operating system – can still find and
view the contents of those files.
At $500 a pop, an hourly Geek Squad worker has plenty of incentive to
make up whatever is needed to keep the FBI happy. Think they have too much
integrity or there's too much oversight of their actions? What about the
multiple incidents where these same technicians charge for services that
aren't warranted or weren't performed or save off copies of their customers'
nude photos and share them with the entire internet?
Great article. Thanks, Yves.
Perhaps it was a little too early in the morn for me to read it, however. I
remain stunned (which is rare following this past election season).
At $500 a pop, it seems the temptation would be huge for the Geeks to plant
things on your computer to get a 'reward' from the FBI.
This 'private spy' practice is wrong on so many levels.
I've never used the Geek Squad & now I certainly never would.
Apparently, they are just one more enemy to avoid. Wowsers. I'll be forwarding
this article to friends. Best Buy is now Big Brother.
You'd have more incentive since your hourly wage, from what is probably a
part time job or "part time" i.e. just few enough hours to deny you full
time is pretty meager. At $500 a tip, you can be sure that at least the
temptation is there to give the Feds what they want.
Great article. I would love to know whether or not the Apple Stores do this,
especially since Macs are largely not self repairable, even at the most basic
level. i.e. Went into get a cracked screen/battery fixed, ended up with a
I took a friend into an apple store a couple days ago because she was
having problems getting in/passed her own password. Within minutes they
literally put her entire hd in the cloud and then told her after the fact. I
lost it when they asked if I wanted the same.
A family member of mine frequently has problems with a windows based
laptop and best buy geeks just accesses her entire computer remotely. I've
never understood why someone would allow such a thing. Can't wait to send
her this article/link.
I don't know but assume the worst considering the value to so many
and the difficulty of truly erasing files from ones own hd. The apple
store "cloud" was a room full of large servers just behind the
counter. They don't ask, or charge for that 'service' so once again,
we must be the product.
And as for the police state and the courts . could we find a mafia
more intrusive, less trustworthy? As I keep thinking, why oh why
aren't computers and phones the very expanded definition of papers and
I'm wondering just how big the data file capacity of the Utah
federal server farm really is. It is "common knowledge" that the,
say, military regularly hides the true capabilities of it's
machinery on the basis of combat efficiency. "Keep 'em guessing" is
the idea. This gives one a potential edge if real conflict should
occur. Logically, the same should apply to federal cyber
capabilities. So, how much of the nation's cyber traffic can be
stored and analyzed? All of it? The mind boggles.
Here, the quality of algorithmic sorting functions is key. Sloppy
searches will yield excesses of false positive prosecutions. It
would be easy for "revenge" prosecutions and "silencing" actions to
be inserted and hidden this way. Thus, the "powers" actually have a
disincentive to perfect their sorting algorithms. Bad days ahead.
Once data is out of your hands you have to assume it's public.
For example: you tell Apple to delete your data. How do they do it?
The same way your computer does it, their system deletes the pointer
to that data (file) from an "index" of the data (files) disk. In other
words it does
delete the data from the disk, it only
tells itself to ignore it in the future. If someone comes along later,
and wants to scan the disk and recover deleted files they can do just
what the Geek guy did.
Quick answer: No, once files are in the iCloud they are effectively
It's "standard protocol" for any professional level computer tech
to image the drive before they do anything else. In case they do
something that wipes out the rest of the data while working on it.
What they do with that image, and how they store it, is the tricky
It's much easier and quicker to "image" a hard drive, than to
securely delete a hard drive.
How long does it take to fill up a 500 GB hard drive? It's going to
take at least that long, and probably several multiples of that time,
to securely delete that drive by OVERWRITING the drives.
I think DOD level "wiping" calls for 20 overwrites.
Drives do 2 things- Read or write. There is no "delete".
Even the spooks in the plane over China a few years ago were forced
to use axes to "delete" the data, before the Chinese got to it. It's
They also, on that level, weren't deleting the data. When trying to
defend against a state level attack, all you're doing is increasing
the time that it will take them to recover the data, or most of the
Old Jake, other NC readers may have similar concerns about data
security, and your other comments seem to indicate some familiarity
with computers. What would you advise people to do post-Apple or
Back things up on a dedicated, local drive. A true backup is not
kept in the same physical location as the computer is. Keep it in a
different building, in case of fire, or disaster.
If you're not backing your files up, don't have that drive
plugged in. Don't have it in the same place.
Don't ever "throw out" any computer, or anything with a hard
drive or storage. Don't assume that because you can't access it, no
Destroy it, or keep it forever. Those are the only two "safe"
"but i know someone who recycles computer equipment"
You mean they sell it? That's what "recycling" is in the tech
industry. I'd be very wary of anyone willing to "take a drive" off
my hands for me. They aren't going to securely delete it, they're
going to sell it for a few bucks to someone else. They certainly
aren't going to take the time to securely "wipe" the drive. That
takes hours, and lots of power. For a few dollars they are going to
get on the sale?
There are people who offer "shredding" (grinding the drive into
pieces with a big machine) or secure disk disposal. This costs
money. Yes, you will have to pay to get rid of it safely, and then
trust that whomever you pay actually does what they say they are
going to do.
"why do I have to pay to get rid of it? I have very good taste,
and spent a ton of money on that computer. It's worth something"
Never use "cloud based" backups, unless you are OK with the
files being up on the internet. YOU ARE PUTTING THEM ON THE
INTERNET. Cloud based backups are a great place for hackers to
target, lots of stuff there.
if you keep backups, you shouldn't have to ever bring your
computer in with anything on it. If you are in a situation where
you MUST leave the hard drive in the machine to get it serviced,
securely delete (overwrite the drive) and then restore the computer
to the zero day state of when you took it out of the box. This may
require another computer.
If you are in a situation where the drive is cooked(drive
failure), keep the drive, buy a new one, and restore from backups
to the new drive.
This is getting much harder. Getting install disks is very tough
these days. Disk imaging programs are better, but they are also
prone to hardware compatibility issues.
Before you use the computer, make sure you have a good backup
first. This means actually deleting and re-writing the disk from
backups. You don't know if it will work until you try. You don't
want to find out it doesn't work when you are scrambling to get
90% of "computer problems" are disk and/or OS related issues.
Done right, this can save a ton of time, and risk.
I'm 99% positive that apple is probably worse. Apple and time machine are
"cloud" based. No need for the FBI, or paid agents of the FBI, to look at
the physical drive to see your files. All they have to do is look at the
cloud, which may be done with or without apple's help or permission.
Not that apple has any problem cooperating with authoritarian govs-
All of us who work or have worked in consumer-oriented technical service are
well aware that it's an unscalable business. Unless something else is going on
that favors an organization. This doesn't surprise me one bit.
Computerologists and digitologists and coderologists assume that every
American is ( or should be) a computerologist or a digitologist or a
coderologist. Most of us are no such thing. Most of us are various levels
of analog holdovers, helpless and afraid . . . victims of a world we
So what looks like a tempest in a teapot to you might look like
botulism in the beans to many.
In the aughts, the Geek Squad in CA copied our credit card, which we had
used to charge a repair to a laptop, to purchase a trip for two to
Italy took months to get the charge reversed, as they also hacked all our
personal info as well, making it appear that we had indeed booked the trip ..
Well, I'll NEVER use those turds. I haven't actually bought a computer since
1998. Since that time I buy parts and construct my own PC, buy software and
install (or re-install) that, and if there's any problems I do the
fixing/replacing. Now I know to NEVER get lazy and let those asshats do the
work for me.
SDD's. They are harder to delete, in some respects. Some very knowledgeable
people have claimed that it's 1) impossible to wipe an SSD, and 2) it's
impossible to truly encrypt them because of the way the that the flash
controllers interface with the computer. I'm not so sure that it's a flaw.
Yves, thanks for posting this – I thought I couldn't be shocked anymore, but
I had no idea this was happening. What's to prevent a Geek Squad employee from
planting compromising material on one's computer, if the FBI wants is out to
get someone? Nothing is ever really deleted, but how do you prove something
wasn't planted? I'm sending this around to my relatives, because they use GS
Actually, doesn't it make PERFECT SENSE that a large chain retail
appliance store with an in-house repair team branded as "geeks" would be
EXACTLY the new Stasi? It's sort of perfect.
It's literally the TV show
, only in the real world, the
CIA is bad, so Chuck is bad, and Buy More is bad. Which really shouldn't be
surprising, if you think about it for two seconds.
On a somewhat related note, the CIA really wants its Russian War, doesn't
it? I can't believe mainstream publications are publishing "golden showers"
allegations about the incoming President. This can't work, can it? And if it
doesn't, won't Trump shut them down the second his hand lifts off the Bible
on Inauguration Day? I'm starting to have a lot of respect for Donald Trump
on a personal level. I mean, I guess he never anticipated facing this degree
of meretricious, toxic nonsense when he got into the race, but he seems to
have been forewarned about today's attack.
"... I'd wager that most people know that cell phones can track their location, hoover up their personal info, record their conversations, etc, etc but that doesn't stop most people from owning one anyway. The populace has been convinced that owning the device that constantly spies on them is a necessity. ..."
"... I've often wondered whether the relatively high difficulty in buying a smartphone with less than two cameras has something to do with the SIGINT Enabling Project. ..."
I'd wager that most people know that cell phones can track their
location, hoover up their personal info, record their conversations, etc,
etc but that doesn't stop most people from owning one anyway. The
populace has been convinced that owning the device that constantly spies
on them is a necessity.
Don't think learning that Echo is doing the same thing would deter
most people from using it. 'Convenience' and all
Fortunately, I can barely hear the person I'm talking to through my
smartphone, so I am not optimistic that it can actually hear me from
someplace else in the house, especially compared to someone's Echo I
have experience with. But point taken.
The microphoneS (often there is an extra mic to cancel ambient
noise) in a phone are exquisitely sensitive. The losses you're
hearing are those from crushing that comparatively high-fidelity
signal into a few thousand bits per second for transmission to/from
the base station.
I've often wondered whether the relatively high difficulty
in buying a smartphone with less than two cameras has something to
do with the SIGINT Enabling Project.
Wonder if Mr. B gave Mr. T and all the other attendees an Echo at Mr.
T's tech summit. ATT and all the other big telcom players all said,
scout's honor, they don't listen in on their customer's phone calls, so
no worries because Fortune 500 companies are such ethical people. That
may even be technically true because the 3 letter agencies and their
minions (human or otherwise) are doing the actual listening. So if you
are too lazy to go to Amazon.com to delete your idle chit chat, I can
sell you a cloth to wipe it with (maybe I'll even list it on Amazon's
on Wednesday December 14, 2016 @05:00AM
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Edward Snowden via Periscope
about the wide world of technology. The NSA
the data that many online companies continue to collect about their users
creating a 'quantified world' -- and more opportunities for government
surveillance," reports TechCrunch. Snowden said, "If you are being tracked,
this is something you should agree to, this is something you should understand,
this is something you should be aware of and can change at any time."
Snowden acknowledged that there's a distinction between
collecting the content of your communication (i.e., what you said during a
phone call) and the metadata (information like who you called and how long it
lasted). For some, surveillance that just collects metadata might seem less
alarming, but in Snowden's view, "That metadata is in many cases much more
dangerous and much more intrusive, because it can be understood at scale." He
added that we currently face unprecedented perils because of all the data
that's now available -- in the past, there was no way for the government to get
a list of all the magazines you'd read, or every book you'd checked out from
the library. "[In the past,] your beliefs, your future, your hopes, your dreams
belonged to you," Snowden said. "Increasingly, these things belong to
companies, and these companies can share them however they want, without a lot
of oversight." He wasn't arguing that companies shouldn't collect user data at
all, but rather that "the people who need to be in control of that are the
users." "This is the central problem of the future, is how do we return control
of our identities to the people themselves?" Snowden said.
Posted by EditorDavid
on Sunday December 11, 2016 @11:34AM
morale at the National Security Agency is causing some of the agency's most
to leave in favor of private sector jobs
, former NSA Director Keith
Alexander told a room full of journalism students, professors and cybersecurity
executives Tuesday. The retired general and other insiders say a combination of
economic and social factors including negative press coverage -- have played a
part... "I am honestly surprised that some of these people in cyber companies
make up to seven figures. That's five times what the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff makes. Right? And these are people that are 32 years old. Do
the math. [The NSA] has great competition," he said.
The rate at which these cyber-tacticians are exiting public service has
increased over the last several years and has gotten considerably worse over
the last 12 months, multiple former NSA officials and D.C. area-based
cybersecurity employers have told CyberScoop in recent weeks... In large part,
Alexander blamed the press for propagating an image of the NSA that causes
people to believe they are being spied on at all times by the U.S. government
regardless of their independent actions.
"What really bothers me is that the people of NSA, these folks who take paltry
government salaries to protect this nation, are made to look like they are
doing something wrong," the former NSA Director added. "They are doing exactly
what our nation has asked them to do to protect us. They are the heroes."
Posted by msmash
on Tuesday December 06, 2016 @11:00AM
Security experts consider the aging FTP and Telnet protocols unsafe, and HP has
decided to clamp down on access to networked printers through the remote-access
. From a report on PCWorld:
Some of HP's new business printers
will, by default, be closed to remote access via protocols like FTP and Telnet.
However, customers can activate remote printing access through those protocols
if needed. "HP has started the process of closing older, less-maintained
interfaces including ports, protocols and cipher suites" identified by the U.S.
National Institute of Standards and Technology as less than secure, the company
said in a statement. In addition, HP also announced firmware updates to
existing business printers with improved password and encryption settings, so
hackers can't easily break into the devices.
on Tuesday December 06, 2016 @08:25PM
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer:
For the past two
months, a new exploit kit has been
serving malicious code hidden in the pixels of banner ads via a malvertising
that has been active on several high profile websites.
Discovered by security researchers from ESET
, this new exploit kit is named
Stegano, from the word
, which is a technique of hiding content inside other files.
In this particular scenario, malvertising campaign operators hid malicious code
inside PNG images used for banner ads. The crooks took a PNG image and altered
the transparency value of several pixels. They then packed the modified image
as an ad, for which they bought ad displays on several high-profile websites.
Since a large number of advertising networks allow advertisers to deliver
parse the image, extract the pixel transparency values, and using a
mathematical formula, convert those values into a character. Since images have
millions of pixels, crooks had all the space they needed to pack malicious code
inside a PNG photo. When extracted, this malicious code would redirect the user
to an intermediary ULR, called gate, where the host server would filter users.
This server would only accept connections from Internet Explorer users. The
reason is that the gate would exploit the CVE-2016-0162 vulnerability that
allowed the crooks to determine if the connection came from a real user or a
reverse analysis system employed by security researchers. Additionally, this IE
exploit also allowed the gate server to detect the presence of antivirus
software. In this case, the server would drop the connection just to avoid
exposing its infrastructure and trigger a warning that would alert both the
user and the security firm. If the gate server deemed the target valuable, then
it would redirect the user to the final stage, which was the exploit kit
itself, hosted on another URL. The Stegano exploit kit would use three Adobe
Flash vulnerabilities (CVE-2015-8651, CVE-2016-1019 or CVE-2016-4117) to attack
the user's PC, and forcibly download and launch into execution various strains
Posted by msmash
on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @12:20PM
Many network security cameras made by Sony could be taken over by hackers and
infected with botnet malware if their firmware is not updated to the latest
version. Researchers from SEC Consult have
found two backdoor accounts that exist in 80 models of professional Sony
, mainly used by companies and government agencies given
their high price, PCWorld reports. From the article:
One set of hard-coded
credentials is in the Web interface and allows a remote attacker to send
requests that would enable the Telnet service on the camera, the SEC Consult
researchers said in an advisory Tuesday. The second hard-coded password is for
the root account that could be used to take full control of the camera over
Telnet. The researchers established that the password is static based on its
cryptographic hash and, while they haven't actually cracked it, they believe
it's only a matter of time until someone does. Sony released a patch to the
affected camera models last week.
Posted by msmash
on Thursday December 08, 2016 @11:45AM
Yahoo says it has fixed a severe security vulnerability in its email service
allowed an attacker to read a victim's email inbox
. From a report on ZDNet:
The cross-site scripting (XSS) attack only required a victim to view an email
in Yahoo Mail. The internet giant paid out $10,000 to security researcher Jouko
Pynnonen for privately disclosing the flaw through the HackerOne bug bounty, In
a write-up, Pynnonen said that the flaw was similar to last year's Yahoo Mail
bug, which similarly let an attacker compromise a user's account. Yahoo filters
HTML messages to ensure that malicious code won't make it through into the
user's browser, but the researcher found that the filters didn't catch all of
the malicious data attributes.
on Friday December 09, 2016 @05:00AM
quotes a report
from On the Wire:
Malware gangs, like sad wedding bands bands, love to play
the hits. And one of the hits they keep running back over and over is the Zeus
banking Trojan, which has been in use for many years in a number of different
forms. Researchers have
unearthed a new piece of malware called Floki Bot that is based on the
venerable Zeus source code
and is being used to infect point-of-sale
systems, among other targets. Flashpoint
conducted the analysis
of Floki Bot with Cisco's Talos research team, and
the two organizations said that the author behind the bot maintains a presence
on a number of different underground forums, some of which are in Russian or
other non-native languages for him. Kremez said that attackers sometimes will
participate in foreign language forums as a way to expand their knowledge.
Along with its PoS infection capability, Floki Bot also has a feature that
allows it to use the Tor network to communicate.
"During our analysis of
Floki Bot, Talos identified modifications that had been made to the dropper
mechanism present in the leaked Zeus source code in an attempt to make Floki
Bot more difficult to detect. Talos also observed the introduction of new code
that allows Floki Bot to make use of the Tor network. However, this
functionality does not appear to be active for the time being," Cisco's Talos
said in its analysis
A patch was pushed to the mainline Linux kernel December 2, four days after it
was privately disclosed. Pettersson has developed a proof-of-concept exploit
specifically for Ubuntu distributions, but told Threatpost his attack could be
ported to other distros with some changes. The vulnerability is a race
condition that was discovered in the
implementation in the
Linux kernel, and Pettersson said that a local attacker could exploit the bug
to gain kernel code execution from unprivileged processes. He said the bug
cannot be exploited remotely.
"Basically it's a bait-and-switch," the researcher told Threatpost. "The bug
allows you to trick the kernel into thinking it is working with one kind of
object, while you actually switched it to another kind of object before it
Posted by EditorDavid
on Sunday December 11, 2016 @01:34PM
"By convincing a user to visit a specially crafted web site, a remote attacker
may execute arbitrary commands with root privileges on affected routers," warns
a new vulnerability notice
from Carnegie Mellon University's CERT. Slashdot reader
Ledger's story about certain models of Netgear's routers:
126.96.36.199_1.1.93 (and possibly earlier) for the R7000 and version 188.8.131.52_1.0.4
(and possibly earlier) for the R6400 are
known to contain the arbitrary command injection vulnerability
. CERT cited
"community reports" that indicate the R8000, firmware version 184.108.40.206_1.1.2, is
also vulnerable... The flaw was found in new firmware that runs the Netgear
R7000 and R6400 routers. Other models and firmware versions may also be
affected, including the R8000 router, CMU CERT warned.
With no work around to the flaw, CERT recommended that Netgear customers
disable their wifi router until a software patch from the company that
addressed the hole was available... A search of the public internet using the
Shodan search engine finds around 8,000 R6450 and R7000 devices that can be
reached directly from the Internet and that would be vulnerable to takeover
attacks. The vast majority of those are located in the United States.
Proof-of-concept exploit code was released by a Twitter user who, according to
the article, said "he informed Netgear of the flaw more than four months ago,
but did not hear back from the company since then."
on Wednesday December 14, 2016 @07:45PM
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer:
Malicious ads are
serving exploit code to infect routers
, instead of browsers, in order to
insert ads in every site users are visiting. Unlike previous malvertising
campaigns that targeted users of old Flash or Internet Explorer versions, this
campaign focused on Chrome users, on both desktop and mobile devices. The
malicious ads included in this malvertising campaign contain exploit code for
166 router models, which allow attackers to take over the device and insert ads
on websites that didn't feature ads, or replace original ads with the
attackers' own. Researchers
haven't yet managed to determine an exact list of affected router models
but some of the brands targeted by the attackers include Linksys, Netgear,
D-Link, Comtrend, Pirelli, and Zyxel. Because the attack is carried out via the
user's browser, using strong router passwords or disabling the administration
interface is not enough. The only way users can stay safe is if they update
their router's firmware to the most recent versions, which most likely includes
protection against the vulnerabilities used by this campaign.
"campaign" is called DNSChanger EK and works when attackers buy ads on
WebRTC request to a Mozilla STUN server to determine the user's local IP
address," according to BleepingComputer. "Based on this local IP address, the
malicious code can determine if the user is on a local network managed by a
small home router, and continue the attack. If this check fails, the attackers
just show a random legitimate ad and move on. For the victims the crooks deem
valuable, the attack chain continues. These users receive a tainted ad which
redirects them to the DNSChanger EK home, where the actual exploitation begins.
The next step is for the attackers to send an image file to the user's browser,
which contains an AES (encryption algorithm) key embedded inside the photo
using the technique of steganography. The malicious ad uses this AES key to
decrypt further traffic it receives from the DNSChanger exploit kit. Crooks
encrypt their operations to avoid the prying eyes of security researchers."
on Wednesday December 14, 2016 @08:25PM
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
The Shadow Brokers --
a hacker or group of hackers that stole computer exploits from the National
Security Agency -- has been quiet for some time. After their auction and
crowd-funded approach for selling the exploits met a lukewarm reception, the
group seemingly stopped posting new messages in October. But a newly uncovered
website, which includes a file apparently signed with The Shadow Brokers'
cryptographic key, suggests the group is
trying to sell hacking tools directly to buyers one by one
, and a cache of
files appears to include more information on specific exploits. On Wednesday,
someone calling themselves Boceffus Cleetus
published a Medium post
called "Are the Shadow Brokers selling NSA tools on
ZeroNet?" Cleetus, who has
an American flag with
as their profile picture, also tweeted the post from a Twitter
account created this month. The site includes a long list of supposed items for
sale, with names like ENVOYTOMATO, EGGBASKET, and YELLOWSPIRIT. Each is sorted
into a type, such as "implant," "trojan," and "exploit," and comes with a price
tag between 1 and 100 bitcoins ($780 -- $78,000). Customers can purchase the
whole lot for 1000 bitcoins ($780,000). The site also lets visitors download a
selection of screenshots and files related to each item. Along with those is a
file signed with a PGP key with an identical fingerprint to that linked to the
original Shadow Brokers dump of exploits from August. This newly uncovered file
was apparently signed on 1 September; a different date to any of The Shadow
previously signed messages
Posted by EditorDavid
on Saturday December 17, 2016 @10:34AM
The Department of Homeland Security's CERT issued a warning last week that
not using some models of NetGear routers, and the list expanded
this week to include 11 different models. Netgear's now updated their web page,
announcing eight "beta" fixes, along with three more "production" fixes.
company said the new [beta] firmware has not been fully tested and "
not work for all users
." The company offered it as a "temporary solution"
to address the security hole. "Netgear is working on a production firmware
version that fixes this command injection vulnerability and will release it as
quickly as possible," the company said in a post to its online knowledgebase
The move follows publication of a warning from experts at Carnegie Mellon on
December 9 detailing a serious "arbitrary command injection" vulnerability in
the latest version of firmware used by a number of Netgear wireless routers.
The security hole could allow a remote attacker to take control of the router
by convincing a user to visit a malicious web site... The vulnerability was
discovered by an individual...who says
he contacted Netgear about the flaw four months ago
, and went public with
information on it after the company failed to address the issue on its own.
Posted by EditorDavid
on Saturday December 17, 2016 @06:34PM
"Following a failed takedown attempt, changes made to the Mirai malware variant
responsible for building one of today's biggest botnets of IoT devices will
make it incredibly harder for authorities and security firms to shut it down,"
reports Bleeping Computer. An anonymous reader writes:
Level3 and others"
have been very close to taking down one of the biggest Mirai botnets around,
the same one that attempted to
knock the Internet offline in Liberia
, and also hijacked 900,000 routers
German ISP Deutsche Telekom
.The botnet narrowly escaped due to the fact
that its maintainer, a hacker known as BestBuy, had implemented a
domain-generation algorithm to generate random domain names where he hosted his
Currently, to avoid further takedown attempts from similar security firms,
started moving the botnet's command and control servers to Tor
. "It's all
good now. We don't need to pay thousands to ISPs and hosting. All we need is
one strong server," the hacker said. "Try to shut down .onion 'domains' over
Tor," he boasted, knowing that nobody can.
Posted by EditorDavid
on Sunday December 18, 2016 @02:34PM
Less than four weeks after Microsoft formally
acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion
, there's been a database breach. An
anonymous reader writes:
LinkedIn is sending emails to 9.5 million users of
Lynda.com, its online learning subsidiary,
warning the users of a database breach by "an unauthorized third party"
The affected database included contact information for at least some of the
users. An email to customers says "while we have no evidence that your specific
account was accessed or that any data has been made publicly available, we
wanted to notify you as a precautionary measure." Ironically, the breach comes
less than a month after Russia
blocked access to LinkedIn over privacy concerns
LinkedIn has also reset the passwords for 55,000 Lynda.com accounts (though
apparently many of its users don't have accounts with passwords).
Posted by EditorDavid
on Sunday December 18, 2016 @04:44PM
This week the FBI arrested a 26-year-old southern California man for launching
a DDoS attack against online chat service Chatango at the end of 2014 and in
early 2015 -- part of a new crackdown on the customers of "DDoS-for-hire"
services. An anonymous reader writes:
Sean Krishanmakoto Sharma, a computer
science graduate student at USC, is now
facing up to 10 years in prison
and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
describe a service called Xtreme Stresser as "basically a
Linux botnet DDoS tool," and allege that Sharma rented it for an attack on
Chatango, an online chat service. "Sharma is now free on a $100,000 bail,"
reports Bleeping Computer, adding "As part of his bail release agreement,
Sharma is banned from accessing certain sites such as HackForums and tools such
"Sharma's arrest is part of
a bigger operation against DDoS-for-Hire services, called Operation Tarpit
the article points out. "Coordinated by Europol, Operation Tarpit took place
between December 5 and December 9, and concluded with the arrest of 34 users of
DDoS-for-hire services across the globe, in countries such as Australia,
Belgium, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal,
Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States." It grew out
of an earlier investigation into a U.K.-based DDoS-for-hire service which had
400 customers who ultimately launched 603,499 DDoS attacks on 224,548 targets.
Most of the other suspects arrested were under the age of 20.
on Thursday December 22, 2016 @06:25PM
quotes a report from
A hacking group linked to the Russian government and high-profile
cyber attacks against Democrats during the U.S. presidential election likely
malware implant on Android devices to track and target Ukrainian artillery
from late 2014 through 2016, according to a
released Thursday. The malware was able to retrieve
communications and some locational data from infected devices, intelligence
that would have likely been used to strike against the artillery in support of
pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, the report from cyber
security firm CrowdStrike found. The hacking group, known commonly as Fancy
Bear or APT 28, is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to work primarily on
behalf of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency. The implant leveraged
a legitimate Android application developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to
process targeting data more quickly, CrowdStrike said. Its deployment "extends
Russian cyber capabilities to the front lines of the battlefield," the report
said, and "could have facilitated anticipatory awareness of Ukrainian artillery
force troop movement, thus providing Russian forces with useful strategic
on Thursday November 24, 2016 @08:00AM
As if we don't already have enough devices that can listen in on our
conversations, security researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University have
created malware that will turn your headphones into microphones
slyly record your conversations. TechCrunch reports:
turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the
quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In
short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking
up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip
output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you
can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can
still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either. The embedded chip does not
allow users to properly prevent this hack which means your earbuds or nice cans
could start picking up conversations instantly. In fact, even if you disable
your microphone, a computer with a RealTek chip could still be hacked and
exploited without your knowledge. The sound quality, as shown by this chart, is
pretty much the same for a dedicated microphone and headphones.
published a video
on YouTube demonstrating how this malware works.
Posted by msmash
on Thursday November 24, 2016 @10:04AM
Hackers gained access to sensitive information, including Social Security
134,386 current and former U.S. sailors, the U.S. Navy has said
It said a laptop used by a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services
employee working on a U.S. Navy contract was hacked. Hewlett Packard informed
the Navy of the breach on Oct. 27 and the affected sailors will be notified in
the coming weeks, the Navy said. "The Navy takes this incident extremely
seriously - this is a matter of trust for our sailors," Chief of Naval
Personnel Vice Admiral Robert Burke said in a statement.
on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @09:05PM
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
The attacker who
infected servers and desktop computers
at the San Francisco Metropolitan
Transit Agency (SFMTA) with ransomware on November 25 apparently
gained access to the agency's network by way of a known vulnerability in an
Oracle WebLogic server
. That vulnerability is similar to the one used to
hack a Maryland hospital network's systems in April and infect multiple
hospitals with crypto-ransomware. And evidence suggests that SFMTA wasn't
specifically targeted by the attackers; the agency just came up as a target of
opportunity through a vulnerability scan. In an e-mail to Ars, SFMTA
spokesperson Paul Rose said that on November 25, "we became aware of a
potential security issue with our computer systems, including e-mail." The
ransomware "encrypted some systems mainly affecting computer workstations," he
said, "as well as access to various systems. However, the SFMTA network was not
breached from the outside, nor did hackers gain entry through our firewalls.
Muni operations and safety were not affected. Our customer payment systems were
not hacked. Also, despite media reports, no data was accessed from any of our
servers." That description of the ransomware attack is not consistent with some
of the evidence of previous ransomware attacks by those behind the SFMTA
incident -- which Rose said primarily affected about 900 desktop computers
throughout the agency. Based on communications uncovered from the ransomware
operator behind the Muni attack published by
security reporter Brian Krebs
, an SFMTA Web-facing server was likely
compromised by what is referred to as a "deserialization" attack after it was
identified by a vulnerability scan. A security researcher told Krebs that he
had been able to gain access to the mailbox used in the malware attack on the
Russian e-mail and search provider Yandex by guessing its owner's security
question, and he provided details from the mailbox and another linked mailbox
on Yandex. Based on details found in e-mails for the accounts, the attacker ran
a server loaded with open source vulnerability scanning tools to identify and
compromise servers to use in spreading the ransomware,
known as HDDCryptor and Mamba
, within multiple organizations' networks.
Posted by msmash
on Friday December 02, 2016 @12:20PM
Russia said on Friday it had uncovered a plot by foreign spy agencies to sow
chaos in Russia's banking system via a
coordinated wave of cyber attacks and fake social media reports about banks
. From a report on Reuters:
Russia's domestic intelligence
agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that the servers to be used in
the alleged cyber attack were located in the Netherlands and registered to a
Ukrainian web hosting company called BlazingFast. The attack, which was to
target major national and provincial banks in several Russian cities, was meant
to start on Dec. 5, the FSB said in a statement. "It was planned that the cyber
attack would be accompanied by a mass send-out of SMS messages and publications
in social media of a provocative nature regarding a crisis in the Russian
banking system, bankruptcies and license withdrawals," it said. "The FSB is
carrying out the necessary measures to neutralize threats to Russia's economic
and information security."
Posted by EditorDavid
on Sunday December 04, 2016 @02:39PM
After being let go over a series of "personal issues" with his employer, things
got worse for 26-year-old network administrator Dariusz J. Prugar, who will now
have to spend two years in prison for hacking the ISP where he'd worked. An
anonymous reader writes:
used his old credentials to log into the ISP's network and "take back" some of
and software he wrote... "Seeking to hide his tracks, Prugar
used an automated script that deleted various logs," reports Bleeping Computer.
"As a side effect of removing some of these files, the ISP's systems crashed,
affecting over 500 businesses and over 5,000 residential customers."
When the former ISP couldn't fix the issue, they asked Prugar to help. "During
negotiations, instead of requesting money as payment, Prugar insisted that he'd
be paid using the rights to the software and scripts he wrote while at the
company, software which was now malfunctioning, a week after he left." This
tipped off the company, who detected foul play, contacted the FBI and rebuilt
its entire network.
Posted by EditorDavid
on Sunday December 04, 2016 @07:39AM
quotes The Independent:
Criminals can work out the card number, expiration date, and security code for
a Visa debit or credit card
in as little as six seconds using guesswork
, researchers have found...
Fraudsters use a so-called Distributed Guessing Attack to get around security
features put in place to stop online fraud, and this may have been the method
the recent Tesco Bank hack
According to a study published in the academic journal IEEE Security & Privacy,
fraudsters could use computers to systematically
variations of security data at hundreds of websites simultaneously
seconds, by a process of elimination, the criminals could verify the correct
card number, expiration date and the three-digit security number on the back of
One of the researchers explained this attack combines two weaknesses into one
powerful attack. "Firstly, current online payment systems do not detect
multiple invalid payment requests from different websites... Secondly,
different websites ask for different variations in the card data fields to
validate an online purchase. This means it's quite easy to build up the
information and piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle."
"... this will probably be in tomorrow's washington post. "how putin sabotaged the election by hacking yahoo mail". and "proton" and "putin" are 2 syllable words beginning with "p", which is dispositive according to experts who don't want to be indentified. ..."
"... [Neo]Liberals have gone truly insane, I made the mistake of trying to slog through the comments the main "putin did it" piece on huffpo out of curiosity. Big mistake, liberals come across as right wing nutters in the comments, I never knew they were so very patriotic, they never really expressed it before. ..."
"... Be sure and delete everything from your Yahoo account BEFORE you push the big red button. They intentionally wait 90 days to delete the account in order that ECPA protections expire and content can just be handed over to the fuzz. ..."
"... It's a good thing for Obama that torturing logic and evasive droning are not criminal acts. ..."
"... "Relations with Russia have declined over the past several years" I reflexively did a Google search. Yep, Victoria Nuland is still employed. ..."
"... With all the concern expressed about Russian meddling in our election process why are we forgetting the direct quid pro quo foreign meddling evidenced in the Hillary emails related to the seldom mentioned Clinton Foundation or the more likely meddling by local election officials? Why have the claims of Russian hacking received such widespread coverage in the Press? ..."
"... I watched it too and agree with your take on it. For all the build up about this press conference and how I thought we were going to engage in direct combat with Russia for these hacks (or so they say it is Russia, I still wonder about that), he did not add any fuel to this fire. ..."
"... The whole thing was silly – the buildup to this press conference and then how Obama handled the hacking. A waste of time really. I don't sense something is going on behind the scenes but it is weird that the news has been all about this Russian hacking. He did not get into the questions about the Electoral College either and he made it seem like Trump indeed is the next President. I mean it seems like the MSM was making too much about this issue but then nothing happened. ..."
this will probably be in tomorrow's washington post. "how putin sabotaged the election
by hacking yahoo mail". and "proton" and "putin" are 2 syllable words beginning with "p",
which is dispositive according to experts who don't want to be indentified.
[Neo]Liberals have gone truly insane, I made the mistake of trying to slog through the
comments the main "putin did it" piece on huffpo out of curiosity. Big mistake, liberals come
across as right wing nutters in the comments, I never knew they were so very patriotic, they never
really expressed it before.
Be sure and delete everything from your Yahoo account BEFORE you push the big red button. They
intentionally wait 90 days to delete the account in order that ECPA protections expire and content
can just be handed over to the fuzz.
I don't think I've looked at my yahoo account in 8-10 years and I didn't use their email; just
had an address. I don't remember my user name or password. I did get an email from them (to my
not-yahoo address) advising of the breach.
I was amazed as I watched a local am news show in Pittsburgh recommend adding your cell phone
number in addition to changing your password. Yeah, that's a great idea, maybe my ss# would provide
even more security.
I use yahoo email. Why should I move? As I understood the breach it was primarily a breach
of the personal information used to establish the account. I've already changed my password -
did it a couple of days after the breach was reported. I had a security clearance with DoD which
requires disclosure of a lot more personal information than yahoo had. The DoD data has been breached
twice from two separate servers.
As far as reading my emails - they may prove useful for phishing but that's about all. I'm
not sure what might be needed for phishing beyond a name and email address - easily obtained from
many sources I have no control over.
So - what am I vulnerable to by remaining at yahoo that I'm not already exposed to on a more
Are you referring to Obama's press conference? If so, I am glad he didn't make a big deal out
of the Russian hacking allegations - as in it didn't sound like he planned a retaliation for the
fictional event and its fictional consequences. He rose slightly in stature in my eyes - he's
almost as tall as a short flea.
With all the concern expressed about Russian meddling in our election process why are we forgetting
the direct quid pro quo foreign meddling evidenced in the Hillary emails related to the seldom
mentioned Clinton Foundation or the more likely meddling by local election officials? Why have
the claims of Russian hacking received such widespread coverage in the Press?
Why is a lameduck
messing with the Chinese in the South China sea? What is the point of all the "fake" news hogwash?
Is it related to Obama's expression of concern about the safety of the Internet? I can't shake
the feeling that something is going on below the surface of these murky waters.
I watched it too and agree with your take on it. For all the build up about this press conference
and how I thought we were going to engage in direct combat with Russia for these hacks (or so
they say it is Russia, I still wonder about that), he did not add any fuel to this fire.
respond at one point to a reporter that the hacks from Russia were to the DNC and Podesta but
funny how he didn't say HRC emails. Be it as it may, I think what was behind it was HRC really
trying to impress all her contributors that Russia really did do her in, see Obama said so, since
she must be in hot water over all the money she has collected from foreign governments for pay
to play and her donors.
The whole thing was silly – the buildup to this press conference and then
how Obama handled the hacking. A waste of time really. I don't sense something is going on behind
the scenes but it is weird that the news has been all about this Russian hacking. He did not get
into the questions about the Electoral College either and he made it seem like Trump indeed is
the next President. I mean it seems like the MSM was making too much about this issue but then
Unfortunately the nightly news is focusing on Obama says Russia hacked the DNC and had it in
for Clinton!!! He warned them to stay out of the vote! There will be consequences! Russia demands
the evidence and then a story about the evidence. (This one might have a few smarter people going
"huh, that's it?!?!")
I do like the some private some public on that consequences and retaliation thing. You either
have to laugh or throw up about the faux I've got this and the real self-righteousness. Especially
since it is supposedly to remind people we can do it to you. Is there anyone left outside of America
who doesn't think they already do do it to anyone Uncle Sam doesn't want in office and even some
they do? Mind you I'm not sure how many harried people watching the news are actually going to
laugh at that one because they don't know how how much we meddle.
Given that the Donald Trump victory already made Yahoo less attractive for
Verizon, the latest billion-account-hack at Yahoo could let Verizon dump their
buy-out and still collect a
$145 million break-up fee .
Yahoo's stock plunged
over 6 percent after the company
admitted its customer data had been hacked again, with at least 1 billion
accounts exposed in 2014. The horribly bad news for Yahoo followed an equally bad
news report in September that
500 million e-mail account were hacked in 2013. Yahoo unfortunately now has
the distinction of suffering both of the history's largest client hacks.
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER
Verizon's top lawyer told reporters after the first Yahoo hack that the
disclosure constituted a "
potential material adverse event
" that would
allow for the mobile powerhouse to pull out of the $4.83 billion deal they
announced on July 25, 2016.
Less than 24 hours after Yahoo
even larger hack of client accounts by a "state-sponsored actor," Bloomberg
that Verizon is "
exploring a price cut or possible exit
" from its
proposed Yahoo acquisition.
reported that Google and other Silicon Valley companies were huge corporate
winners when Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other two Democrat political appointees
on the FCC voted on a party-line vote in mid-February 2015 for a new regulatory
structure called '
' Although Wheeler claimed, "
bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of
lawful content and services
," they were a huge economic disaster for
Verizon's high-speed broadband business model.
Verizon responded last year by paying
$4.4 billion to buy AOL in order to pick up popular news sites, large
advertising business, and more than 2 million Internet dial-up subscribers. Buying
Yahoo was expected to give the former telephone company to achieve "scale" by
controlling a second web content pioneer.
After President and CEO Marissa Mayer began organizing an auction in March,
Yahoo stock doubled from $26 a share to $51 by September. But she announced on
Wednesday the new hack, Yahoo's stock has been plunging to $38.40 in after-market
The buyer normally has to pay a break-up fee if an acquisition fails. But Yahoo
chose to run its own
auction that "
communicated with a total of 51 parties to evaluate their
interest in a potential transaction
." Then between February and April 2016, a
"short list" of "
32 parties signed confidentiality agreements with Yahoo
including 10 strategic parties and 22 financial sponsors.
13D proxy statement filed with the SEC was mostly boilerplate disclosure, but
it seemed that something must have been a potential problem at Yahoo for the
company to offer a $145 million termination fee to Verizon if the deal did not
Yahoo on Wednesday issued a statement saying personal information from more
than a billion user accounts was stolen in 2014. The news followed the company's
announcement in September that hackers had stolen personal data from at least half
a billion accounts in 2013. Yahoo said it believes the two thefts were by
Yahoo admitted that both hacks were so extensive that they included users'
names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, scrambled passwords and
security questions and answers. But Yahoo stated, "
Payment card data and bank
account information are not stored in the system the company believes was affected
Yahoo said they have invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers in
user accounts. They are in the process of notifying potentially affected users and
is requiring them to change their passwords.
Yahoo was already facing nearly two dozen class-action lawsuits over the first
breach and the company's failure to report it on a timely basis. A federal 3 judge
panel last week consolidated 5 of the suits into a mass tort in the San Jose U.S.
Undoubtedly, there will be a huge number of user lawsuits filed against Yahoo
in the next few weeks.
Yahoo has discovered a 3-year-old security breach that enabled a hacker to compromise more than 1
billion user accounts, breaking the company's own humiliating record for the biggest security breach
The digital heist disclosed Wednesday occurred in August 2013, more than a year before a separate
hack that Yahoo announced nearly three months ago . That breach affected at least 500 million users,
which had been the most far-reaching hack until the latest revelation.
Yahoo has more than a billion monthly active users, although some have multiple accounts and others
have none at all. An unknown number of accounts were affected by both hacks.
In both attacks, the stolen information included names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates
and security questions and answers. The company says it believes bank-account information and payment-card
data were not affected.
"... the world's largest private surveillance operation ..."
"... Ha! I wish I'd thought of that line! I just laughed out loud on the train and my fellow commuter drones are shuffling and wondering to themselves if I'm on day release from an institution. ..."
"... Of course, the joke's on us, because that's exactly what they (Google) are with all the right friends in high places to boot ..."
"... Something that has been occurring lately with Chrome makes me think that Google is truly watching. A lot of sites (RT et al) are having the https// crossed out in red implying that the connection is no longer secure. ..."
Something that has been occurring lately with Chrome makes me think that Google is truly
watching. A lot of sites (RT et al) are having the https// crossed out in red implying that the
connection is no longer secure.
Probably TOR but I would caution
this is far from foolproof and may even incur The Panopticon's more intrusive surveillance attention.
I value my privacy as much as anyone but I don't use TOR or similar simply because if they
are not a guaranteed solution, what's the point? And besides, why should I have to? It's just
another tax on my time and resources.
"... A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and intimate, and it will have broader implications. ..."
"... Mr. Hentoff sees the surveillance state as a threat to free speech, too ..."
"... An entrenched surveillance state will change and distort the balance that allows free government to function successfully. ..."
"... "When you have this amount of privacy invasion put into these huge data banks, who knows what will come out?" ..."
"... Asked about those attempts, he mentions the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Red Scare of the 1920s and the McCarthy era. Those times and incidents, he says, were more than specific scandals or news stories, they were attempts to change our nature as a people. ..."
"... What of those who say they don't care what the federal government does as long as it keeps us safe? The threat of terrorism is real, Mr. Hentoff acknowledges. Al Qaeda is still here, its networks are growing. But you have to be careful about who's running U.S. intelligence and U.S. security, and they have to be fully versed in and obey constitutional guarantees. ..."
"... Mr. Hentoff notes that J. Edgar Hoover didn't have all this technology. "He would be so envious of what NSA can do." ..."
...Among the pertinent definitions of privacy from the Oxford English Dictionary: "freedom from
disturbance or intrusion," "intended only for the use of a particular person or persons," belonging
to "the property of a particular person." Also: "confidential, not to be disclosed to others." Among
others, the OED quotes the playwright Arthur Miller, describing the McCarthy era: "Conscience was
no longer a private matter but one of state administration."
Privacy is connected to personhood. It has to do with intimate things-the innards of your head
and heart, the workings of your mind-and the boundary between those things and the world outside.
A loss of the expectation of privacy in communications is a loss of something personal and
intimate, and it will have broader implications. That is the view of Nat Hentoff, the great
journalist and civil libertarian. He is 88 now and on fire on the issue of privacy. "The media has
awakened," he told me. "Congress has awakened, to some extent." Both are beginning to realize "that
there are particular constitutional liberty rights that [Americans] have that distinguish them from
all other people, and one of them is privacy."
Mr. Hentoff sees excessive government surveillance as violative of the Fourth Amendment, which
protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires that warrants be issued only "upon probable cause
. . . particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
But Mr. Hentoff sees the surveillance state as a threat to free speech, too. About a
year ago he went up to Harvard to speak to a class. He asked, he recalled: "How many of you realize
the connection between what's happening with the Fourth Amendment with the First Amendment?" He told
the students that if citizens don't have basic privacies-firm protections against the search and
seizure of your private communications, for instance-they will be left feeling "threatened." This
will make citizens increasingly concerned "about what they say, and they do, and they think." It
will have the effect of constricting freedom of expression. Americans will become careful about what
they say that can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, and then too careful about what they say that
can be understood. The inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.
All of a sudden, the room became quiet. "These were bright kids, interested, concerned, but they
hadn't made an obvious connection about who we are as a people." We are "free citizens in a self-governing
Mr. Hentoff once asked Justice William Brennan "a schoolboy's question": What is the most important
amendment to the Constitution? "Brennan said the First Amendment, because all the other ones come
from that. If you don't have free speech you have to be afraid, you lack a vital part of what it
is to be a human being who is free to be who you want to be." Your own growth as a person will in
time be constricted, because we come to know ourselves by our thoughts.
He wonders if Americans know who they are compared to what the Constitution says they are.
Mr. Hentoff's second point: An entrenched surveillance state will change and distort the balance
that allows free government to function successfully. Broad and intrusive surveillance will,
definitively, put government in charge. But a republic only works, Mr. Hentoff notes, if public officials
know that they-and the government itself-answer to the citizens. It doesn't work, and is distorted,
if the citizens must answer to the government. And that will happen more and more if the government
knows-and you know-that the government has something, or some things, on you. "The bad thing is you
no longer have the one thing we're supposed to have as Americans living in a self-governing republic,"
Mr. Hentoff said. "The people we elect are not your bosses, they are responsible to us." They must
answer to us. But if they increasingly control our privacy, "suddenly they're in charge if they know
what you're thinking."
This is a shift in the democratic dynamic. "If we don't have free speech then what can we do if
the people who govern us have no respect for us, may indeed make life difficult for us, and in fact
If massive surveillance continues and grows, could it change the national character? "Yes, because
it will change free speech."
What of those who say, "I have nothing to fear, I don't do anything wrong"? Mr. Hentoff suggests
that's a false sense of security.
"When you have this amount of privacy invasion put into these huge data banks, who knows
what will come out?"
Or can be made to come out through misunderstanding the data, or finagling, or mischief of one
sort or another.
"People say, 'Well I've done nothing wrong so why should I worry?' But that's too easy a way
to get out of what is in our history-constant attempts to try to change who we are as Americans."
Asked about those attempts, he mentions the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Red Scare
of the 1920s and the McCarthy era. Those times and incidents, he says, were more than specific scandals
or news stories, they were attempts to change our nature as a people.
What of those who say they don't care what the federal government does as long as it keeps
us safe? The threat of terrorism is real, Mr. Hentoff acknowledges. Al Qaeda is still here, its networks
are growing. But you have to be careful about who's running U.S. intelligence and U.S. security,
and they have to be fully versed in and obey constitutional guarantees.
"There has to be somebody supervising them who knows what's right. . . . Terrorism is not going
to go away. But we need someone in charge of the whole apparatus who has read the Constitution."
Advances in technology constantly up the ability of what government can do. Its technological
expertise will only become deeper and broader.
"They think they're getting to how you think. The technology is such that with the masses of
databases, then privacy will get even weaker."
Mr. Hentoff notes that J. Edgar Hoover didn't have all this technology. "He would be so envious
of what NSA can do."
"... Far from being seen as the guardian of a free and open online medium, the US has been painted as an oppressor, cynically using its privileged position to spy on foreign nationals. The result, warn analysts, could well be an acceleration of a process that has been under way for some time as other countries ringfence their networks to protect their citizens' data and limit the flow of information. ..."
"... At the most obvious level, the secret data-collection efforts being conducted by the US National Security Agency threaten to give would-be censors of the internet in authoritarian countries rhetorical cover as they put their own stamp on their local networks. ..."
"... But the distrust of the US that the disclosures are generating in the democratic world, including in Europe , are also likely to have an impact. From the operation of a nation's telecoms infrastructure to the regulation of the emerging cloud computing industry, changes in the architecture of networks as countries seek more control look set to cause a sea change in the broader internet. ..."
Far from being seen as the guardian of a free and open online medium, the US has been painted as
an oppressor, cynically using its privileged position to spy on foreign nationals. The result, warn
analysts, could well be an acceleration of a process that has been under way for some time as other
countries ringfence their networks to protect their citizens' data and limit the flow of information.
"It is difficult to imagine the internet not becoming more compartmentalised and Balkanised," says
Rebecca MacKinnon, an expert on online censorship. "Ten years from now, we will look back on the
free and open internet" with nostalgia, she adds.
At the most obvious level, the secret data-collection efforts being conducted by the US National
Security Agency threaten to give would-be censors of the
internet in authoritarian countries rhetorical cover as they put their own stamp on their local
But the distrust of the US that the disclosures are generating in the democratic world,
in Europe, are also likely to have an impact. From the operation of a nation's telecoms infrastructure
to the regulation of the emerging cloud computing industry, changes in the architecture of networks
as countries seek more control look set to cause a sea change in the broader internet.
Two weeks ago, the Guardian began publishing a series of eye-opening revelations about the National
Security Agency and its surveillance
efforts both in the United States
and overseas. These stories raised long-moribund and often-ignored questions about the pervasiveness
of government surveillance and the extent to which privacy rights are being violated by this secret
and seemingly unaccountable security apparatus.
However, over the past two weeks, we've begun to get a clearer understanding of the story and
the implications of what has been published – informed in part by a new-found (if forced upon them)
transparency from the intelligence community. So here's one columnist's effort to sort the wheat
from the chaff and offer a few answers to the big questions that have been raised.
These revelations are a big deal, right?
To fully answer this question, it's important to clarify the revelations that have sparked such
controversy. The Guardian (along with the Washington Post) has broken a number of stories, each of
which tells us very different things about what is happening inside the US government around matters
of surveillance and cyber operations. Some are relatively mundane, others more controversial.
The story that has shaped press coverage and received the most attention was the first one – namely,
the publication of a judicial order from the
Fisa court to Verizon that
indicated the US is "hoovering" up millions of phone records (so-called "metadata") into a giant
NSA database. When it broke, the
story was quickly portrayed as a frightening tale of government overreach and violation of privacy
rights. After all, such metadata – though it contains no actual content – can be used rather easily
as a stepping-stone to more intrusive forms of surveillance.
But what is the true extent of the story here: is this picture of government Big Brotherism correct
or is this massive government surveillance actually quite benign?
First of all, such a collection of data is not, in and of itself, illegal. The
was clearly acting within the constraints of federal law and received judicial approval for this
broad request for data. That doesn't necessarily mean that the law is good or that the
government's interpretation of that law is not too broad, but unlike the Bush "warrantless wiretapping"
stories of several years ago, the US government is here acting within the law.
The real question that should concern us is one raised by the
TV writer David Simon in a widely cited blogpost looking at the issues raised by the Guardian's
"Is government accessing the data for the legitimate public safety needs of the society, or
are they accessing it in ways that abuse individual liberties and violate personal privacy – and
in a manner that is unsupervised."
We know, for example, that the NSA is required to abide by laws that prevent the international
targeting of American citizens (you can
read more about that
here). So, while metadata about phone calls made can be used to discover information about the
individuals making the calls, there are "minimization" rules, procedures and laws that guide the
use of such data and prevent possible abuse and misuse of protected data.
Sure, the potential for abuse exists – but so, too, does the potential for the lawful use of metadata
in a way that protects the privacy of individual Americans – and also assists the US government in
pursuit of potential terrorist suspects. Of course, without information on the specific procedures
used by the NSA to minimize the collection of protected data, it is impossible to know that no laws
are being broken or no abuse is occurring.
In that sense, we have to take the government's word for it. And that is especially problematic
when you consider the Fisa court decisions authorizing this snooping are secret and the congressional
intelligence committees tasked with conducting oversight tend to be toothless.
But assumptions of bad faith and violations of privacy by the US government are just that assumptions.
When President Obama says that the NSA is not violating privacy rights because it would be against
the law, we can't simply disregard such statements as self-serving. Moreover, when one considers
the privacy violations that Americans willingly submit to at airports, what personal data they give
to the government in their tax returns, and what is regularly posted voluntarily on Facebook, sent
via email and searched for online, highly-regulated data-mining by the NSA seems relatively tame.
One of the key questions that have emerged over this story is the motivation of the leaker in
question, Edward Snowden. In
his initial public interview, with Glenn Greenwald on 9 June, Snowden explained his actions,
in part, thus:
"I'm willing to sacrifice because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy
privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance
machine they're secretly building."
Now, while one can argue that Snowden's actions do not involve personal sacrifice, whether they
are heroic is a much higher bar to cross. First of all, it's far from clear that the US government
is destroying privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world.
Snowden may sincere about being "valiant for truth", but he wouldn't be the first person to believe
himself such and yet be wrong.
Second, one can make the case that there is a public interest in knowing that the US is collecting
reams of phone records, but where is the public interest – and indeed, to Snowden's own justification,
the violation of privacy – in leaking a presidential directive on cyber operations or leaking that
the US is spying on the Russian president?
The latter is both not a crime it's actually what the NSA was established to do! In his
recent online chat hosted by the Guardian, Snowden suggested that the US should not be spying
on any country with whom it's not formally at war. That is, at best, a dubious assertion, and one
that is at odds with years of spycraft.
On the presidential directive on cyber operations, the damning evidence that Snowden revealed
was that President Obama has asked his advisers to create a list of potential targets for cyber operations
– but such planning efforts are rather routine contingency operations. For example, if the
US military drew up war
plans in case conflict ever occurred between the US and North Korea – and that included offensive
operations – would that be considered untoward or perhaps illegitimate military planning?
This does not mean, however, that Snowden is a traitor. Leaking classified data is a serious offense,
but treason is something else altogether.
The problem for Snowden is that he has now also
leaked classified information about ongoing US intelligence-gathering efforts to foreign governments,
including China and Russia. That may be crossing a line, which means that the jury is still out on
what label we should use to describe Snowden.
Shouldn't Snowden be protected as a whistleblower?
This question of leakers v whistleblowers has frequently been conflated in the public reporting
about the NSA leak (and many others). But this is a crucial error. As Tara Lee, a lawyer at the law
firm DLA Piper, with expertise in defense industry and national security litigation said to me there
is an important distinction between leakers and whistleblowers, "One reports a crime; and one
commits a crime."
Traditionally (and often technically), whistleblowing refers to specific actions that are taken
to bring to attention illegal behavior, fraud, waste, abuse etc. Moreover, the US government provides
federal employees and contractors with the protection to blow the whistle on wrongdoing. In the case
of Snowden, he could have gone to the inspector general at the Department of Justice or relevant
From all accounts, it appears that he did not go down this path. Of course, since the material
he was releasing was approved by the Fisa court and had the sign-off of the intelligence committee,
he had good reason to believe that he would have not received the most receptive hearing for his
Nevertheless, that does not give him carte blanche to leak to the press – and certainly doesn't
give him carte blanche to leak information on activities that he personally finds objectionable but
are clearly legal. Indeed, according to the
Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA), whistleblowers can make complaints over matter of what
the law calls "urgent concern", which includes "a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of
law or executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operations of an
intelligence activity involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinion
concerning public policy matters [my italics]."
In other words, simply believing that a law or government action is wrong does not give one the
right to leak information; and in the eyes of the law, it is not considered whistleblowing. Even
if one accepts the view that the leaked Verizon order fell within the bounds of being in the "public
interest", it's a harder case to make for the presidential directive on cyber operations or the eavesdropping
on foreign leaders.
The same problem is evident in the incorrect description of
Bradley Manning as
a whistleblower. When you leak hundreds of thousands of documents – not all of which you reviewed
and most of which contain the mundane and not illegal diplomatic behavior of the US government –
you're leaking. Both Manning and now Snowden have taken it upon themselves to decide what
should be in the public domain; quite simply, they don't have the right to do that. If every government
employee decided actions that offended their sense of morality should be leaked, the government would
never be able to keep any secrets at all and, frankly, would be unable to operate effectively.
So, like Manning, Snowden is almost certainly not a whistleblower, but rather a leaker. And that
would mean that he, like Manning, is liable to prosecution for leaking classified material.
Are Democrats hypocrites
over the NSA's activities?
A couple of days ago, my Guardian colleague, Glenn Greenwald made the following assertion:
"The most vehement defenders of NSA surveillance
have been, by far, Democratic (especially Obama-loyal) pundits. One of the most significant
aspects of the Obama legacy has been the transformation of Democrats from pretend-opponents of
the Bush "war on terror" and national security state into their biggest proponents."
This is regular line of argument from Glenn, but it's one that, for a variety of reasons, I believe
is not fair. (I don't say this because I'm an Obama partisan – though I may be called one for writing
First, the lion's share of criticism of these recent revelations has come, overwhelmingly, from
Democrats and, indeed, from many of the same people, including Greenwald, who were up in arms when
the so-called warrantless wiretapping program was revealed in 2006. The reality is that outside a
minority of activists, it's not clear that many Americans – Democrats orRepublicans –
get all that excited about these types of stories. (Not that this is necessarily a good thing.)
Second, opposition to the Bush program was two-fold: first, it was illegal and was conducted with
no judicial or congressional oversight; second, Bush's surveillance policies did not occur in a vacuum
– they were part of a pattern of law-breaking, disastrous policy decisions and Manichean rhetoric
over the "war on terror". So, if you opposed the manner in which Bush waged war on the "axis of evil",
it's not surprising that you would oppose its specific elements. In the same way, if you now support
how President Obama conducts counter-terrorism efforts, it's not surprising that you'd be more inclined
to view specific anti-terror policies as more benign.
Critics will, of course, argue – and rightly so – that we are a country of laws first. In which
case it shouldn't matter who is the president, but rather what the laws are that govern his or her
conduct. Back in the world of political reality, though, that's not how most Americans think of their
government. Their perceptions are defined in large measure by how the current president conducts
himself, so there is nothing at all surprising about Republicans having greater confidence in a Republican
president and Democrats having greater confidence in a Democratic one, when asked about specific
Beyond that, simply having greater confidence in President Obama than President Bush to wield
the awesome powers granted the commander-in-chief to conduct foreign policy is not partisanship.
It's common sense.
George Bush was, undoubtedly,
one of the two or three worst foreign policy presidents in American history (and arguably, our worst
president, period). He and Dick Cheney habitually broke the law, including but not limited to the
abuse of NSA surveillance. President Obama is far from perfect: he made the terrible decision to
surge in Afghanistan, and
he's fought two wars of dubious legality in Libya and Pakistan, but he's very far from the sheer
awfulness of the Bush/Cheney years.
Unless you believe the US should have no NSA, and conduct no intelligence-gathering in the fight
against terrorism, you have to choose a president to manage that agency. And there is nothing hypocritical
or partisan about believing that one president is better than another to handle those responsibilities.
Has NSA surveillance prevented terrorist attacks, as claimed?
In congressional testimony this week, officials from the Department of Justice and the
NSA argued that surveillance efforts stopped "potential terrorist events over 50 times since
9/11". Having spent far too many years listening to public officials describe terrifying terror plots
that fell apart under greater scrutiny, this assertion sets off for me a set of red flags (even though
it may be true).
I have no doubt that NSA surveillance has contributed to national security investigations, but
whether it's as extensive or as vital as the claims of government officials is more doubtful. To
be honest, I'm not sure it matters. Part of the reason the US government conducts NSA surveillance
in the first place is not necessarily to stop every potential attack (though that would be nice),
but to deter potential terrorists from acting in the first place.
Critics of the program like to argue that "of course, terrorists know their phones are being tapped
and emails are being read", but that's kind of the point. If they know this, it forces them to choose
more inefficient means of communicating, and perhaps to put aside potential attacks for fear of being
We also know that not every terrorist has the skills of a Jason Bourne. In fact, many appear to
be not terribly bright, which means that even if they know about the NSA's enormous dragnet, it doesn't
mean they won't occasionally screw up and get caught.
Yet, this gets to a larger issue that is raised by the NSA revelations.
When is enough counter-terrorism enough?
Over the past 12 years, the US has developed what can best be described as a dysfunctional relationship
with terrorism. We've become obsessed with it and with a zero-tolerance approach to stopping it.
While the former is obviously an important goal, it has led the US to take steps that not only undermine
our values (such as torture), but also make us weaker (the invasion of
Iraq, the surge in Afghanistan,
To be sure, this is not true of every anti-terror program of the past dozen years. For example,
the US does a better job of sharing intelligence among government agencies, and of screening those
who are entering the country. And military efforts in the early days of the "war on terror" clearly
did enormous damage to al-Qaida's capabilities.
In general, though, when one considers the relatively low risk of terrorist attacks – and the
formidable defenses of the United States – the US response to terrorism has been one of hysterical
over-reaction. Indeed, the balance we so often hear about when it comes to protecting privacy while
also ensuring security is only one part of the equation. The other is how do we balance the need
to stop terrorists (who certainly aspire to attack the United States) and the need to prevent anti-terrorism
from driving our foreign policy to a disproportionate degree. While the NSA revelations might not
be proof that we've gone too far in one direction, there's not doubt that, for much of the past 12
years, terrorism has distorted and marred our foreign policy.
Last month, President Obama gave a seminal speech at the National Defense University, in which
he essentially declared the "war on terror" over. With troops coming home from Afghanistan, and drone
strikes on the decline, that certainly seems to be the case. But as the national freakout over the
Boston Marathon bombing – and the extraordinary over-reaction of a city-wide lockdown for one wounded
terrorist on the loose – remind us, we still have a ways to go.
Moreover, since no politician wants to find him- or herself in a situation after a terrorist attack
when the criticism "why didn't you do more?" can be aired, that political imperative of zero tolerance
will drive our counterterrorism policies. At some point, that needs to end.
In fact, nine years ago, our current secretary of state, John Kerry, made this exact point; it's
worth reviewing his words:
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives,
but they're a nuisance I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end
illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on
the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that
you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''
What the NSA revelations should spark is not just a debate on surveillance, but on the way we
think about terrorism and the steps that we should be willing to take both to stop it and ensure
that it does not control us. We're not there yet.
Re: How many Billions / Trillions are spent on these services?
The wonderful thing about living in a "Keynesian" perpetually increasing debt paradise is you
NEVER have to say you can't afford anything. (Well, unless you want to say it, but if you do it's
just political bullshit).
So, to answer your question... A "Keynesian" never asks how much, just how much do you want.
"When one considers the privacy violations that Americans willingly submit to at airports,
what personal data they give to the government in their tax returns, and what is regularly posted
voluntarily on Facebook, sent via email and searched for online, highly-regulated data-mining
by the NSA seems relatively tame."
Dear Sir: Please post your email addresses, bank accounts, and passwords. We'd like to look
"When one considers the privacy violations that Americans willingly submit to at airports,
what personal data they give to the government in their tax returns, and what is regularly
posted voluntarily on Facebook, sent via email and searched for online [...]"
Wow! I don't really care about my personal email. I do care about all political activists,
journalists, lawyers etc. That a journalist would support Stasi style surveillance state is astonishing.
I wish I had the time to go through this article and demolish it sentence by sentence as it
so richly deserves, but at the moment I don't. Instead, might I suggest to the author that he
go to the guardian archive, read every single story about this in chronological order and then
read every damn link posted in the comment threads on the three most recent stories.
Most especially the links in the comment threads. If after that, he cannot see why we "civil
libertarian freaks" are not just outraged, but frightened, he frankly lacks both historical knowledge
and any ability to analyze the facts that are staring him in the face. I can't believe I am going
to have to say this again but here goes: YOU do not get to give away my contitutional rights,
I don't give a shit how much you trust Obama compared to dubya. The Bill of Rights states in
clear, unambiguous language what the Federal government may NOT do do its citizens no matter WHO
"Russian security firm says iPhone secretly logs all your phone calls"
By Mike Wehner...Nov 17, 2016...10:36 AM
"A Russian security firm is casting doubt on just how big of an ally Apple is when it comes to
consumer privacy. In a new report, the company alleges that Apple's iCloud retains the entire call
history of every iPhone for as long as four months, making it an easy target for law enforcement
The firm, Elcomsoft, discovered that as long as a user has iCloud enabled, their call history
is synced and stored. The log includes phone numbers, dates and durations of the calls, and even
missed calls, but the log doesn't stop there; FaceTime call logs, as well as calls from apps that
utilize the "Call History" feature, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, are also stored.
There is also apparently no way to actually disable the feature without disabling iCloud entirely,
as there is no toggle for call syncing.
"We offer call history syncing as a convenience to our customers so that they can return calls
from any of their devices," an Apple spokesperson told The Intercept via email."Device data is encrypted
with a user's passcode, and access to iCloud data including backups requires the user's Apple ID
and password. Apple recommends all customers select strong passwords and use two-factor authentication."
But security from unauthorized eyes isn't what users should be worrying about, according to former
FBI agent and computer forensics expert Robert Osgood. "Absolutely this is an advantage [for law
enforcement]," Osgood told The Intercept. ""Four months is a long time [to retain call logs]. It's
generally 30 or 60 days for telecom providers, because they don't want to keep more [records] than
they absolutely have to."
If the name Elcomsoft sounds familiar, it's because the company's phone-cracking software was
used by many of the hackers involved in 2014's massive celebrity nudes leak. Elcomsoft's "Phone Breaker"
software claims the ability to crack iCloud backups, as well as backup files from Microsoft OneDrive
"... "Top US intelligence official: I submitted my resignation" As of January 20th or so. When he was going to be gone anyway. Just had to get his name in the news one more time. ..."
"... Clapper has been like a difficult to eradicate sexually transmitted disease in the intelligence community. Unfortunately, I suspect he may have already infected others who will remain and pass it around. ..."
Clapper has been like a difficult to eradicate sexually transmitted disease in the intelligence
community. Unfortunately, I suspect he may have already infected others who will remain and pass
"... What if the disk is passworded? What about that not all systems are exclusively for business/corporate use (see also BYOD) and therefore may be tuned to varying security postures owing to other factors? ..."
"... Physical access ≠ game over. Physical access + unguarded time + experience + tooling = game over. One used to could safely leave someone alone with their computer while one went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Now this tooling has made the time and experience components a bit less relevant to successful, quick pwnage with few or no tracks. Neato! ..."
The "Poison Tap" is not really that big of deal. It's usually trivially easy
to break into any computer that you can physically access. You can boot from a
CD or USB drive, for instance, or even just steal the hard drive. Security on USB
needs to be improved, but this is not even close to being the end of the world.
If you have the time with the physical machine anyway.
I could see kids having fun with this though. Going into a box store that has computers on display,
getting access (even better if they have a web cam on it). Upload porn or shocking material and showing
the customers and watching/recording the reactions and putting it on youtube.
Or more nefarious, the same thing but for casing a store (limited vantage from the web cam .but
may better than nothing).
Etc. lots you could do and more importantly not a lot of skill required. Lower bar for entry for
hacking mischief and a low cost.
LarryB, and how long will that take you? And will you have the computer back
together by the time they see you? And will logs suggest anything funny happened
around that time? What if the disk is passworded? What about that not all systems
are exclusively for business/corporate use (see also BYOD) and therefore may
be tuned to varying security postures owing to other factors?
Physical access ≠ game over. Physical access + unguarded time + experience + tooling = game over.
One used to could safely leave someone alone with their computer while one went to the kitchen for
a glass of water. Now this tooling has made the time and experience components a bit less relevant
to successful, quick pwnage with few or no tracks. Neato!
A widespread problem
In the last few years, the Federal Trade Commission has sued more than dozen
debt relief companies. "They simply lie to consumers," says the FTC's Alice Hrdy.
FTC ad IRS investigators have also found some counseling services that claim to be
non-profit when they are actually a for-profit company. The non-profit pitch can make
a potential client feel confident about signing up for the service. "They're preying
on the consumer's trust," Hrdy says.
Some of the bad apples in this industry mislead people about their charges. "They
either say there are no fees involved or just a small fee," Hrdy explains. Sometimes,
they don't mention fees at all.
Bruce, who lives near Seattle, signed up with a company that promised to lower his
interest rates. He was told to send them a check for $265.
"It was my clear understanding that money was going to pay off my credit card
bills," Bruce told me. It turned out to be a "referral fee" to find him a company
that would supposedly help him.
"It was a nasty experience," Bruce says. "They basically stole my money."
Warning: Debt settlement programs
Some companies now claim they can negotiate a one-time settlement with all
of your creditors that will reduce your principal by as much as 50 to 70 percent. By
doing this, they say, your monthly payments will drop dramatically.
"That is virtually impossible under any circumstances," says Travis Plunkett,
Legislative Director of the Consumer Federation of America. That's why CFA warns
consumers not to use debt settlement programs. "They are promising something they
can't deliver," Plunkett says.
Credit counselors - a better option
Charles Helms, president of Consumer Counseling Northwest, sees a lot of
people who have been burned by these phony debt relief programs. "It's horrible," he
says. Because most of them have a large up-front fee, they'll take anyone who can
"Their goal is to get you to sign up, not to successfully complete the program,"
Helms says. "So here's someone who is financially damaged to begin with and then
these companies just go out and take the last of their resources and kill any hope
they have of getting out of that situation."
With a legitimate credit counselor, there is no right answer for everyone. They
sit down with you and give you a free and objective assessment of your financial
situation. At Credit Counseling Northwest, they saw 6,000 people last year and found
that debt management was the right option for only 19 percent of them. The rest were
given a plan to work things out on their own.
With a customized consolidated payment plan you should be able to pay off your
credit card debt in 3 to 5 years. You write the counseling agency one check each
month and they pay all your creditors.
Do your homework
Facing mounting bills can be frightening, but getting debt relief is not a
decision that should be based on hearing a radio commercial or getting a sales call.
You want to find an organization that will design a debt relief plan specifically for
Shop around. Compare a couple of services and get a feel for how they operate. The
credit counselor should spend at least 20 to 30 minutes with you in order to get a
complete picture of your finances. If they don't do that, you're not really getting
Ask a lot of questions and get those answers in writing. Find out about the fees.
The Consumer Federation of America says you shouldn't pay more than $50 for the
set-up fee and no more than a $25 monthly maintenance fee. If the agency is vague or
reluctant to talk about fees, go someplace else.
Don't rely on names or the claim of a non-profit status. Check them out with the
Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection office.
By doing your homework you should be able to find a service that doesn't
over-charge or over-promise. Here's a good place to start:
Foundation for Credit Counseling
. They'll help you find a certified counselor
This neocon propagandists (or more correctly neocon provocateur) got all major facts wrong. And
who unleashed Flame and
Stuxnet I would like to ask him.
Was it Russians? And who invented the concept of "color revolution" in which influencing of election
was the major part of strategy ? And which nation instituted the program of covert access to email boxes
of all major webmail providers? He should study the history of malware and the USA covert operations
before writing this propagandist/provocateur opus to look a little bit more credible...
"... Email, a main conduit of communication for two decades, now appears so vulnerable that the nation seems to be wondering whether its bursting inboxes can ever be safe. ..."
The 2016 presidential race will be remembered for many ugly moments, but the most lasting historical
marker may be one that neither voters nor American intelligence agencies saw coming: It is the first
time that a foreign power has unleashed cyberweapons to disrupt, or perhaps influence, a United States
And there is a foreboding sense that, in elections to come, there is no turning back.
The steady drumbeat of allegations of Russian troublemaking - leaks from stolen emails and probes
of election-system defenses - has continued through the campaign's last days. These intrusions, current
and former administration officials agree, will embolden other American adversaries, which have been
given a vivid demonstration that, when used with some subtlety, their growing digital arsenals can
be particularly damaging in the frenzy of a democratic election.
"Most of the biggest stories of this election cycle have had a cybercomponent to them - or the
use of information warfare techniques that the Russians, in particular, honed over decades," said
David Rothkopf, the chief executive and editor of Foreign Policy, who has written two histories of
the National Security Council. "From stolen emails, to WikiLeaks, to the hacking of the N.S.A.'s
tools, and even the debate about how much of this the Russians are responsible for, it's dominated
in a way that we haven't seen in any prior election."
The magnitude of this shift has gone largely unrecognized in the cacophony of a campaign dominated
by charges of groping and pay-for-play access. Yet the lessons have ranged from the intensely personal
to the geostrategic.
Email, a main conduit of communication for two decades, now appears so vulnerable that the
nation seems to be wondering whether its bursting inboxes can ever be safe. Election systems,
the underpinning of democracy, seem to be at such risk that it is unimaginable that the United States
will go into another national election without treating them as "critical infrastructure."
But President Obama has been oddly quiet on these issues. He delivered a private warning to President
Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during their final face-to-face encounter two months ago, aides say.
Still, Mr. Obama has barely spoken publicly about the implications of foreign meddling in the election.
His instincts, those who have worked with him on cyberissues say, are to deal with the problem by
developing new norms of international behavior or authorizing covert action rather than direct confrontation.
After a series of debates in the Situation Room, Mr. Obama and his aides concluded that any public
retaliation should be postponed until after the election - to avoid the appearance that politics
influenced his decision and to avoid provoking Russian counterstrikes while voting is underway. It
remains unclear whether Mr. Obama will act after Tuesday, as his aides hint, or leave the decision
about a "proportional response" to his successor.
Cybersleuths, historians and strategists will debate for years whether Russia's actions reflected
a grand campaign of interference or mere opportunism on the part of Mr. Putin. While the administration
has warned for years about the possibility of catastrophic attacks, what has happened in the past
six months has been far more subtle.
Russia has used the techniques - what they call "hybrid war," mixing new technologies with old-fashioned
propaganda, misinformation and disruption - for years in former Soviet states and elsewhere in Europe.
The only surprise was that Mr. Putin, as he intensified confrontations with Washington as part of
a nationalist campaign to solidify his own power amid a deteriorating economy, was willing to take
them to American shores.
The most common theory is that while the Russian leader would prefer the election of Donald J.
Trump - in part because Mr. Trump has suggested that NATO is irrelevant and that the United States
should pull its troops back to American shores - his primary motive is to undercut what he views
as a smug American sense of superiority about its democratic processes.
Madeleine K. Albright, a former secretary of state who is vigorously supporting Hillary Clinton,
wrote recently that Mr. Putin's goal was "to create doubt about the validity of the U.S. election
results, and to make us seem hypocritical when we question the conduct of elections in other countries."
If so, this is a very different use of power than what the Obama administration has long prepared
the nation for.
Four years ago, Leon E. Panetta, the defense secretary at the time, warned of an impending "cyber
Pearl Harbor" in which enemies could "contaminate the water supply in major cities or shut down the
power grid across large parts of the country," perhaps in conjunction with a conventional attack.
"Russia expects Washington to provide an explanation after a report claimed that Pentagon cyber-offensive
specialists have hacked into Russia's power grids, telecommunications networks, and the Kremlin's
command systems for a possible sabotage."
Presenting...the Clinton IT Department! This has not been an especially ennobling election.
Or a rewarding one. Or even entertaining. Pretty much everything about 2016 has been boorish and
grotesque. But finally it is time to laugh.
This has not been an especially ennobling election. Or a rewarding one. Or even entertaining.
Pretty much everything about 2016 has been boorish and grotesque. But finally it is time to laugh.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Clinton IT department.
Over the weekend we finally found out how Clinton campaign honcho John Podesta's emails were hacked.
But first a couple disclaimers:
1) Yes, it's unpleasant to munch on the fruit of the poisoned tree. But this isn't a court of
law and you can't just ignore information that's dragged into the public domain.
2) We're all vulnerable to hackers. Even if you're a security nut who uses VPNs and special email
encryption protocols, you can be hacked. The only real security is the anonymity of the herd. Once
a hacker targets you, specifically, you're toast.
I'm a pretty tech-savvy guy and if the Chinese decided to hack my emails tonight, you'd have everything
I've ever written posted to Wikileaks before the sun was up tomorrow.
But that is … not John Podesta's situation.
What happened was this: On March 19, Podesta got what looked--kind of, sort of--like an email
from Google's Gmail team. The email claimed that someone from the Ukraine had tried to hack into
Podesta's Gmail account and that he needed to change his password immediately.
This is what's called a "phishing" scam, where hackers send legitimate-looking emails that, when
you click on the links inside them, actually take you someplace dangerous. In Podesta's case, there
was a link that the email told him to click in order to change his password.
This was not an especially good bit of phishing.
Go have a look yourself. The email calls Podesta by his first name. It uses bit.ly as a link
shortener. Heck, the subject line is the preposterous "*someone has your password*". Why would Google
say "someone has your password?" They wouldn't. They'd say that there had been log-in attempts that
failed two-step authentication, maybe. Or that the account had been compromised, perhaps. If you've
spent any time using email over the last decade, you know exactly how these account security emails
And what's more, you know that you never click on the link in the email. If you get a notice from
your email provider or your bank or anyone who holds sensitive information of yours saying that your
account has been compromised, you leave the email, open your web browser, type in the URL of the
website, and then manually open your account information. Again, let me emphasize: You never click
on the link in the email!
But what makes this story so priceless isn't that John Podesta got fooled by an fourth-rate phishing
scam. After all, he's just the guy who's going to be running Hillary Clinton's administration. What
does he know about tech? And Podesta, to his credit, knew what he didn't know: He emailed the Clinton
IT help desk and said, Hey, is this email legit?
And the Clinton tech team's response was: Hell yes!
No, really. Here's what they said: One member of the team responded to Podesta by saying "The
gmail one is REAL." Another answered by saying "This is a legitimate email. John needs to change
his password immediately."
It's like the Clinton IT department is run by 90-year-old grandmothers. I half-expect the next
Wikileaks dump to have an email from one Clinton techie to another asking for help setting their
As the other guy likes to say, "only the best people."
Briefly, it seems Podesta received an email "You need to change your password", asked for professional
advice from his staff if it was legit, was told "Yes, you DO need to change your password", but
then clicked on the link in the original email, which was sent him with malicious intent, as he
suspected at first and then was inappropriately reassured about - rather than on the link sent
him by the IT staffer.
Result - the "phishing" email got his password info, and the world now
gets to see all his emails.
Personally, my hope is that Huma and HRC will be pardoned for all their crimes, by Obama, before
he leaves office.
Then I hope that Huma's divorce will go through, and that once Hillary is sworn
in she will at last be courageous enough to divorce Bill (who actually performed the Huma-Anthony
Weiner nuptials - you don't have to make these things up).
Then it could happen that the first
same-sex marriage will be performed in the White House, probably by the minister of DC's Foundry
United Methodist Church, which has a policy of LBGQT equality. Or maybe Hillary, cautious and
middle-of-the-road as usual, will go to Foundry UMC sanctuary for the ceremony, recognizing that
some Americans' sensibilities would be offended by having the rite in the White House.
As Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan wrote, "Love is all there is, it makes the world go round, love
and only love, it can't be denied. No matter what you think about it, you just can't live without
it, take a tip from one who's tried."
"... An important thing about that Time article regarding the Sony Hack is that it is almost two years old. Important because I'm still having to tell people that despite what the President and the government said North Korea didn't hack Sony because of a really bad movie, but that insiders did it for reasons that were never part of the media blitz about it. And believe me, considering that Clinton is lying through her teeth beyond even the government about this, I point this out a lot. ..."
"... Something that jumped out at me in December 2014 was a blog post by David E Martin. His blog post more or less laid out the whole game plan–and in so doing, I suspect he thwarted the planned story line. It was amazing to read that the whole plot had actually been presented to Congress years before. ..."
"... I'm inferring his intention in writing the post was to spill enough beans to prevent a catastrophic false flag event, as that is why he wrote his book "Coup d'Twelve" . (He spoke about this on numerous radio interviews at the time, and as also discussed it in person.) ..."
"... Never let an opportunity for a bit of Russian bashing go to waste it seems. Is there anything at all in the history of the entire world that the Russians aren't responsible for? ..."
An important thing about that Time article regarding the Sony Hack is that it is almost two
years old. Important because I'm still having to tell people that despite what the President and
the government said North Korea didn't hack Sony because of a really bad movie, but that insiders
did it for reasons that were never part of the media blitz about it. And believe me, considering
that Clinton is lying through her teeth beyond even the government about this, I point this out
Something that jumped out at me in December 2014 was a blog post by David E Martin. His
blog post more or less laid out the whole game plan–and in so doing, I suspect he thwarted
the planned story line. It was amazing to read that the whole plot had actually been presented
to Congress years before.
I'm inferring his intention in writing the post was to spill enough beans to prevent a catastrophic
false flag event, as that is why he wrote his book
"Coup d'Twelve" . (He spoke about this on numerous radio interviews at the time, and as also
discussed it in person.)
New evidence appears to show how hackers earlier this year stole more than 50,000 emails
of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, an audacious electronic attack blamed on Russia's government
and one that has resulted in embarrassing political disclosures about Democrats in the final
weeks before the U.S. presidential election.
The hackers sent John Podesta an official-looking email on Saturday, March 19, that appeared
to come from Google. It warned that someone in Ukraine had obtained Podesta's personal Gmail
password and tried unsuccessfully to log in, and it directed him to a website where he should
"change your password immediately."
Podesta's chief of staff, Sara Latham, forwarded the email to the operations help desk of
Clinton's campaign, where staffer Charles Delavan in Brooklyn, New York, wrote back 25 minutes
later, "This is a legitimate email. John needs to change his password immediately."
And if the ploy was that low-grade, that means that the Russki superbrains in the KGB didn't
have to be behind it. Dear Lord.
This really is a hubris followed by nemesis thing, isn't it? And how sad it is, how tragic,
that it was Brooklyn that brought Podesta down. Somehow I think Delavan is going to have
a hard time getting a job in politics again, but he did the country a great service.
Social engineering wins again. This was something I learned about long ago when Black Box Voting.org
started (approx. 2004). It was one of the many vulnerabilities in various points of election systems,
both with paper and paperless. Very easy to get officials to reveal passwords that allowed access–that's
in addition to the corruption situations. (Or rather, the social engineering angle would be just
one of the tools used by insiders.)
All their arguments does not stand even entry level programmer scrutiny. Especially silly are "Russian
keyboard and timestamps" argument. As if, say Israelis or, say, Estonians, or any other country with
sizable Russian speaking population can't use those to direct investigation at the wrong track ;-).
If I were a Russian hacker trying to penetrate into DNC servers I would use only NSA toolkit and
libraries that I can find on black market. First on all they are reasonably good. the second that help
to direct people to in a wrong direction. and if knew Spanish or English or French reasonably well I
would use them exclusively. If not I would pay for translation of set of variables into those languages
and "forget" to delete symbol table in one of the module giving raw meat to idiots like those.
Actually you can find a lot of such people even in London, Paris, Madrid and NYC, and some of them
really do not like the US neoliberal administration with its unending wars of expansion of neoliberal
empire :-) But still they are considered to be "security expert". When you hear now the word "security
expert", please substitute it for "security charlatan" for better comprehensions -- that's almost always
the case about people posing as security experts for MSM. The only reliable exception are whistleblowers
-- those people sacrifices their lucrative carriers for telling the truth, so they can usually be trusted.
They might exaggerate things on the negative side, though. I personally highly respect William Binney.
The "regular" security expects especially from tiny, struggling security companies in reality they
are low paid propagandists amplifying the set of prepared talking point. The arguments are usually pretty
childish. BTW, after the USA/Israeli operation against Iran using Stixnet and Flame in Middle East,
complex Trojans are just commonplace and are actually available to more or less qualified hacker, or
even a unqualified person with some money and desire to take risks.
I especially like the phrase "beyond a reasonable doubt that the hack was in fact an operation of
the Russian state." Is not this a slander, or what ? Only two cagagiry of peopel: impetcils and paid
presstitutes has think about complex hacking operation origin "beyond reasonable doubt")
How do we really know that the
breaches of the Democratic National Committee were conducted by organizations working on behalf
of the Russian state? With the CIA considering a major counterstrike against the superpower,
as NBC has reported , it's worthwhile for the public to measure how confident we can be that
Putin's government actually deserves retribution.
"When you're investigating a cybersecurity breach, no one knows whether you're a Russian hacker
or a Chinese hacker pretending to be a Russian hacker or even a U.S. hacker pretending to be a Chinese
hacker pretending to be a Russian hacker," reporter Jordan Robertson says during the third episode
a solid new podcast from Bloomberg, called "Decrypted." In the new episode, he and fellow reporter
break down the facts that put security experts beyond a reasonable doubt that the hack was
in fact an operation of the Russian state.
Here are the key points:
Familiar techniques. Crowdstrike
came in first, once DNC IT teams suspected breaches and recognized the techniques of the two
groups it calls Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. Others refer to them as APT 28 and 29, where APT stands
for " Advanced
Persistent Threat ." Crowdstrike's co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch broke down his reasoning
on its blog , writing, "We've had lots of experience with both of these actors attempting
to target our customers in the past and know them well. In fact, our team considers them some
of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist
groups we encounter on a daily basis."
Redundancy is Russian. The Crowdstrike post explains that the fact that two organizations
were inside and apparently not working together is consistent with Russian operations. " While
you would virtually never see Western intelligence agencies going after the same target without
de-confliction for fear of compromising each other's operations, in Russia this is not an uncommon
scenario," Alperovitch writes.
Such nice code. Bloomberg turns to an ex-cop at one of the companies that Crowdstrike recruited
to check its work, Mike Buratowski at
Fidelis . His company put the code
discovered on DNC servers into a virtual environment to test it. "You look at the complexity of
what the malware was able to do. The fact that it had the ability to, basically, terminate itself
and wipe its tracks, hide its tracks. You know, that's not stuff you see in commoditized malware,
really," Buratowski said. In other words, this wasn't the kind of malware a cybercriminal could
buy on the black market. It was bespoke stuff made by teams of pros. Buratowski later calls the
code "elegant." Motherboard gives examples of
emails used , which showed careful attention to detail. Too good, he contends, for one person
or a small team to build.
Russian keyboards and timestamps. Investigators found evidence in the code that it had been
written on a Russian style keyboard and
found timestamps across multiple pieces of code consistent with the Russian workday.
Motive. This was an extremely complex hack that took a lot of time and effort. Again, the
Crowdstrike post helps here. It discusses evidence that the spies returned to the scene of the
crime repeatedly to change out code to avoid detection. Buratowski refers to it as an entity with
more operational discipline than an individual or a loose group could sustain. Which begs the
question: who but a nation-state would have sufficient motive to work that hard? Further, the
same groups were linked both to the hacks on
John Podesta and
Colin Powell , which suggests a multi-front initiative. That goes beyond what a hacker collective
might do for bragging rights or lulz.
Information war. The DNC emails dropped the day before the party's national convention. "Releasing
the emails the evening before the convention started? Now you're looking at it like: that really
smacks of an information operation," Buratowski says.
Official attribution from the US government . Washington sees evidence of breaches all the
time. It seldom points the finger at specific states, the Decrypted team argues. The fact that
it has is powerful. "There are ways the government can really know what's going on," Robertson
said, "in a way that no private cybersecurity could ever match."
From there, the podcast asks: what does this hack mean for the U.S. election. They come to basically
the same conclusions that
the Observer did in September : voting systems are very safe-voter rolls are less so, but nation-states
probably want to discredit our system more than they want to change outcomes.
How sure can we be? Buratowski says, "Barring seeing someone at a keyboard or a confession, you're
relying on that circumstantial evidence." So, we can never really know for sure. In fact, even Crowdstrike's
attribution is based on prior experience, which assumes that they have attributed other hacks correctly
in the past. Former congressional staffer Richard Diamond
in USA Today argues that the hacks can be explained by bad passwords, but he also neglects
to counter Crowdstrike's descriptions of the sophisticated code placed inside the servers. From Bloomberg's
version of events, how the hackers got in was really the least interesting part of their investigation.
So what does it all mean? It's natural for political junkies to wonder if there might be further
disclosures coming before Election Day, but - if this is an information operation-it might be even
more disruptive to hold documents until after the election in order to throw doubt on our final choice.
Either way, further disclosures will probably come.
"... I find the whole hysteria over Russian hacking very one-sided. If the US takes it upon itself, out of sincere concern, to help out "moderates" in overthrowing a repressive, evil government in Syria, Libya and Iraq, maybe the same thing happening to the US itself is not that weird? Here is a tyrannical government with little regard for its demotivated and demoralized citizens who can not on their own displace it. This government threatens nuclear war and kills an unjustified number of its own citizens. Its public infrastructure is in ruins and oligarchy is everywhere. In the past the US has set the example for dealing with such troubled states; its time the doctor took his own medicine. ..."
"... Ahhhh, but that exactly where the "exceptional" clause kicks in. You see, America is justified in intervening in other countries' business because we see further, with a clearer gaze and a purer heart, than any other country in the world. Mired as they are in ignorance or inertia, no other country is qualified to judge us, and any mistakes that we make only occur because of the depths of our love for others and our passion for freedom. ..."
"... America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse that the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War. ~John le Carre ..."
"... It is terrifying to watch Clinton rave about adopting a more "muscular, aggressive" approach to foreign affairs - with little or no push back from the national media, either party or even many citizens. Hell, they are applause lines at her rallies. ..."
"... If 15 years of endless wars, trillions of dollars of wasted money, hundreds of thousands of casualties on all sides and metastasizing terrorist threat with no end in sight doesn't give one a little pause before advocating more of the same, then we might have a problem. ..."
"... Hillary said twice during the debates that "America is great because America is good." Translation: We can do whatever we damn well please because we can. Lord, help us all. I'm so sick of hearing this and our endless criminal wars. ..."
I find the whole hysteria over Russian hacking very one-sided. If the US takes it upon itself,
out of sincere concern, to help out "moderates" in overthrowing a repressive, evil government
in Syria, Libya and Iraq, maybe the same thing happening to the US itself is not that weird?
Here is a tyrannical government with little regard for its demotivated and demoralized citizens
who can not on their own displace it. This government threatens nuclear war and kills an unjustified
number of its own citizens. Its public infrastructure is in ruins and oligarchy is everywhere.
In the past the US has set the example for dealing with such troubled states; its time the
doctor took his own medicine.
The "evidence" for Russian hacking is so suspect that anyone who repeats the story instantly
stamps themselves as either a con or a mark. It's depressing to see media corruption so blatantly
displayed. Now I know what 2003 must have felt like (I was too young to have much of an opinion
The "17 intelligence agencies" claim is complete Clinton bullshit. I'm kind of amazed that
journalists are now stating this as fact. I could say I'm shocked but nothing the presstitutes
do surprises me anymore. They are busy preening for their future White House access. It kind
of makes me want to get drunk and vote for the orange haired guy.
Just finished trying to "re-educate" my husband after he listened to [and apparently believed]
a report in the CBS Evening News on the "Russian hacking of Clinton's e-mails." They reported
it as complete "fact," without even a perfunctory "alleged."
Too difficult to do this correction one person at a time, while the networks have such massive
It *is* highly asymmetric warfare. And as is normal when working the insurgent side, the
trick isn't to try to win by a large number of winning individual engagements, but rather of
delegitimatizing the side with the resource advantage in a broader, cultural way. Delegitimize
the mainstream media actively. If you win the culture war, you win the political war too just
as a bonus. Tell the truth, unapologetically. That's as bad-ass as it gets.
This is sound advice. Problem is, how to delegitimate media generally? Actual insurgents
avoid direct confrontations with superior occupying power and opt for a variety of other strategies
of attack, including: IED's, flash attacks, suicide bombings, disruption of civilian life,
etc. What are some equivalent, concrete (and legal) strategies for disrupting the order of
imposed media? The use of social media seems to be one option, and maybe the most successful.
Yet this tends to reach only certain segments of population who are unlikely to watch CNN or
read the Post in any case. How can one harm the media powers where it hurts them most, by reaching
and disrupting their actual consumers, who tend to be older, establishment-minded, white, etc…?
How to delegitimize the media? They are doing that themselves. In spades. Listen to the
people around you, they are getting wise to it. Just point it out to anyone who'll listen.
It isn't the bombs and attacks that win an insurgency, none of that stuff works if the cause
isn't widely understood and shared. The victory is won–to recycle a cliché–in the hearts and
minds of the ordinary people. Naked Capitalism is a big ammo depot and we are the grunts and
the munitions are ideas. And as I alluded to above, the power of truth. Truth will kick ass
and take names if you let it.
"Truth will kick ass and take names if you let it."
Thanks for the spirit-raising exhortation Kurt!! Many Americans are walking around with
heads like over-inflated cognitive dissonance balloons. If you listen closely, you can hear
these balloons popping off all the time, resulting in yet another person able to confront reality.
Ahhhh, but that exactly where the "exceptional" clause kicks in. You see, America is justified
in intervening in other countries' business because we see further, with a clearer gaze and
a purer heart, than any other country in the world. Mired as they are in ignorance or inertia,
no other country is qualified to judge us, and any mistakes that we make only occur because
of the depths of our love for others and our passion for freedom.
America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this the worst I can remember:
worse than McCarthyism, worse that the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous
than the Vietnam War. ~John le Carre
historical madness/hysterical madness … take your pick.
It is terrifying to watch Clinton rave about adopting a more "muscular, aggressive" approach
to foreign affairs - with little or no push back from the national media, either party or even
many citizens. Hell, they are applause lines at her rallies.
If 15 years of endless wars, trillions of dollars of wasted money, hundreds of thousands
of casualties on all sides and metastasizing terrorist threat with no end in sight doesn't
give one a little pause before advocating more of the same, then we might have a problem.
Hillary said twice during the debates that "America is great because America is good." Translation:
We can do whatever we damn well please because we can. Lord, help us all. I'm so sick of hearing
this and our endless criminal wars.
Not mentioned in the News of the Wired snips: the Dyn DDOS was the latest using a megascale IOT
botnet. Coming soon to a Smart Toaster|Thermostat|Fridge|WasherDryer|EggTimer|PencilSharpener|Dishwasher|GarbageCompacter|BabyMonitor
I suspect various enforcement agencies are using those cameras for something else, like mass
video surveillance, and having just lost a lot of TLS vulnerabilities, are motivated to keep their
sources' name out of the news (as befits TS/SI NOFORN projects), though steering the industry's
and the commercial market economy's Confidence Fairy out of an imminent uncontrolled landing would
suffice to explain the quiet.
For people who understand what that means it is mind-blowing, the processors in your parking
garage gate or your nursery's NannyCam being used in a giant global concerto of digital disruption.
Smells like the NSA in a desperate attempt to disrupt the flows from Wiki, they already gave the
Clinton camp their best spyware (FoxAcid) and this would be par for the course given the level
of lawbreaking and dirty tricks.
"... Well-crafted spear-phishing emails can be incredibly hard to spot, but if you ever end up on a website asking you for a password, you should be skeptical. Check the URL and make sure you're at a legitimate login page before typing in your password, or navigate to the login page directly. ..."
Here are some easy ways the Clinton team could have avoided getting hacked and might
prevent it in the future.
There is probably no one more acutely aware of the importance of good cybersecurity right now
than Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, whose emails have been laid bare by
WikiLeaks, are being mined for news by journalists (including at The Intercept), and are
available for anyone with internet access to read.
So as a public service to Podesta and everyone else on Clinton's staff, here are some email
security tips that could have saved you from getting hacked, and might help you in the future.
Use a strong password
There's a method for coming up with passwords that are mathematically unfeasible for anyone
to ever guess by brute force, but that are still possible for you to memorize. I've written
about it before, in detail, including an explanation of the math behind it.
But in short: You start with a long list of words and then randomly select one (by rolling
dice), then another, and so on, until you end up with something like: "slinging gusty bunny
chill gift." Using this method, called Diceware, there is a one in 28 quintillion (that is, 28
with 18 zeros at the end) chance of guessing this exact password.
For online services that prevent attackers from making very many guesses - including Gmail - a
five-word Diceware password is much stronger than you'll ever need. To make it super easy, use
this wordlist from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
.... ... ...
Use a unique password for each application
The same day that WikiLeaks published Podesta's email, his Twitter account got hacked as
well. How do you think that happened? I have a guess: He reused a password that was exposed in
his email, and someone tried it on his Twitter account.
... ... ...
Turn on two-factor authentication
Last year, when I asked National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden what ordinary
people could do to improve their computer security, one of the first pieces of advice he gave
was to use two-factor authentication. If Podesta had enabled it on his Gmail account, you
probably wouldn't be reading his email today.
Google calls it "2-Step Verification" and has an excellent website explaining why you need it,
how it works, and how it protects you. In short: When you log in to your account, after you
type in your password you'll need one more piece of information before Google will allow you
to proceed. Depending on how you set it up you might receive this uniquely generated
information in a text message, a voice call, or a mobile app, or you could plug in a special
security key into your USB port.
Once you start using it, hackers who manage to trick you into giving up your password still
won't be able to log in to your account - at least not without successfully executing a
separate attack against your phone or physically stealing your security key.
Watch out for phishers
... ... ...
Well-crafted spear-phishing emails can be incredibly hard to spot, but if you ever end
up on a website asking you for a password, you should be skeptical. Check the URL and make
sure you're at a legitimate login page before typing in your password, or navigate to the
login page directly.
Encrypt your email
.... ... ...
To get started, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Surveillance Self-Defense guide
for using email encryption for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. If enough people in your
organization use encrypted email, consider using our newly released tool GPG Sync to make it
"... Stated Binney: "Now what he (Mueller) is talking about is going into the NSA database, which is shown of course in the (Edward) Snowden material released, which shows a direct access into the NSA database by the FBI and the CIA. Which there is no oversight of by the way. So that means that NSA and a number of agencies in the U.S. government also have those emails." ..."
"... "Yes," he responded. "That would be my point. They have them all and the FBI can get them right there." ..."
"... And the other point is that Hillary, according to an article published by the Observer in March of this year, has a problem with NSA because she compromised Gamma material. Now that is the most sensitive material at NSA. And so there were a number of NSA officials complaining to the press or to the people who wrote the article that she did that. She lifted the material that was in her emails directly out of Gamma reporting. That is a direct compromise of the most sensitive material at the NSA. So she's got a real problem there. So there are many people who have problems with what she has done in the past. So I don't necessarily look at the Russians as the only one(s) who got into those emails. ..."
"... GAMMA compartment, which is an NSA handling caveat that is applied to extraordinarily sensitive information (for instance, decrypted conversations between top foreign leadership, as this was). ..."
Binney also proclaimed that the NSA has all of Clinton's deleted emails, and the FBI could gain access
to them if they so wished. No need for Trump to ask the Russians for those emails, he can
just call on the FBI or NSA to hand them over.
testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2011 by then-FBI Director Robert
S. Mueller in which Meuller spoke of the FBI's ability to access various secretive databases "to
track down known and suspected terrorists."
Stated Binney: "Now what he (Mueller) is talking about is going into the
NSA database, which is shown of course in the (Edward) Snowden material released, which shows
a direct access into the NSA database by the FBI and the CIA. Which there is no oversight of by
the way. So that means that NSA and a number of agencies in the U.S. government also have those
"So if the FBI really wanted them they can go into that database and get them right
now," he stated of Clinton's emails as well as DNC emails.
Asked point blank if he believed the NSA has copies of "all" of Clinton's emails, including
the deleted correspondence, Binney replied in the affirmative.
"Yes," he responded. "That would be my point. They have them all and the FBI can
get them right there."
Binney surmised that the hack of the DNC could have been coordinated by someone inside the
U.S. intelligence community angry over Clinton's compromise of national security data with her
And the other point is that Hillary, according to an
published by the Observer in March of this year, has a problem with NSA because she compromised
Gamma material. Now that is the most sensitive material at NSA. And so there were a number of
NSA officials complaining to the press or to the people who wrote the article that she did that.
She lifted the material that was in her emails directly out of Gamma reporting. That is a direct
compromise of the most sensitive material at the NSA. So she's got a real problem there. So there
are many people who have problems with what she has done in the past. So I don't necessarily look
at the Russians as the only one(s) who got into those emails.
The Observer defined the GAMMA classification:
GAMMA compartment, which is an NSA handling caveat that is applied to extraordinarily sensitive
information (for instance, decrypted conversations between top foreign leadership, as this was).
Over a year before Edward Snowden shocked the world in the summer of 2013 with revelations
that have since changed everything from domestic to foreign US policy but most of all, provided
everyone a glimpse into just what the NSA truly does on a daily basis, a former NSA staffer, and
now famous whistleblower, William Binney, gave excruciating detail to Wired magazine about all
that Snowden would substantiate the following summer.
Binney was an architect of the NSA's surveillance program. He became a famed whistleblower
when he resigned on October 31, 2001, after spending more than 30 years with the agency. He referenced
testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2011 by then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller
in which Meuller spoke of the FBI's ability to access various secretive databases "to track down
known and suspected terrorists."
You cats haven't had end to end encryption for more than 5 years and while not at all
difficult to accomplish, the resistance to using such code has amazed all in the ITSEC
community not feeding at the .gov trough. All your ISP's have been carrying NSA gear within
their infrastructure for how long now? Juniper's back door in their gear wasn't to push
firmware updates. The whole system has been left open for a number of reasons, none of which
would be capitalism, free markets or satisfied consumers.
Kirk2NCC1701 -> junction
•Oct 8, 2016 2:59 PM
Well, if you use Yahoo, Outlook or Google mail, then you're the Village Idiot, if you use
those free services for anything other than harmless, boring stuff. You know, Yoga and Cooking
recipes -- like Hillary.
IF you're serious about email privacy, use an email service that is OUTSIDE the US.
As you know, I use Hushmail.me for my Kirk2NCC1701 handle and ZH friends. Hushmail is in
Canada and after speaking with them in person, I am confident that they take their customer's
Privacy seriously, especially for their paying customers. Now, I may have used a Yahoo
alt-persona account, but only for "Trumping". I also may have used Google and Outlook for
"vanilla" stuff, and I may have used other offshore emails for "secure" purposes where lawful
business and personal privacy matters were involved (but No illegal activities, as I'm not an
"illegal" type. Devious, curious, inquiring, opinionated? Hell yes. Illegal? No.)
Been using Pidgeon and Forked stick for years for private stuff.....
as for my Gmail account, I don't give a shit.....
Parrotile -> Kirk2NCC1701
•Oct 8, 2016 8:46 PM
I very rarely need to send anything particularly confidential. My employers expect me to
use the systems they provide for all "Medical in Confidence" stuff, and so since that
requirement is part of my Contract, they are entirely liable for any failures, not me.
EMail - Outlook. It works and again nothing of "interest" is ever sent. If I DO need to
send information that's "Sensitive", I have one of these: -
Word that Yahoo! last year, at the urging of the National Security Agency, secretly developed
a program that monitored the mail of all 280 million of its customers and turned over to the NSA
all mail from those who used any of the agency's thousands of keywords, shows that the US has become
a total police state in terms of trying to monitor every person in the country (and outside too).
With the courts, especially at the appellate and Supreme Court level, rolling over and supporting
this massive evisceration of basic freedoms, including the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of
speech and the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure and invasion of privacy,
perhaps the best way for us to fight back is to overload the spy system. How to do this? Just copy
and paste random fragments of the following list (a bit dated, but useable), provided courtesy of
the publication Business Insider, and include them in every communication - email, social media,
etc. - that you send out.
The secret Yahoo! assault (reported on here by Alfredo Lopez in
yesterday's article ),
works by searching users' emails for keywords on an NSA list of suspected words that might be used
by alleged terrorists or anti-government activists, and then those suspect communications are forwarded
to the NSA, where humans eventually have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Too much chaff (and
they surely have too much chaff anyhow!) and they will be buried with work and unable to read anything.
In fact, critics of the government's metastasizing universal surveillance program, including former
FBI agents and other experts, have long criticized the effort to turn the US into a replica of East
Germany with its Stazi secret police, cannot work and is actually counter-productive, because with
spy agencies' limited manpower looking at all the false leads provided by keyword monitoring, they
are bound to miss the real dangerous messages. In fact, this was also the argument used against the
FBI's program of monitoring mosques and suspecting every Muslim American who expressed criticism
of the US. Most are just people saying what a lot of us say: that the US wars in the Middle East
are wrong or even criminal, but they are just citizens or immigrants exercising their free speech
when they do this, not terrorists, and spying on them is and has been a huge waste or time and resources.
Software Could've Given NSA Much More Access Than Just Emails
Former employees of Yahoo have corroborated this week's stories about the company scanning all
emails coming into their servers on behalf of the NSA, saying that the "email scanner" software was
actually made and installed by the US government .
The employees, including at least one on Yahoo's own internal security team, reported finding
the software on the
server and believing they were begin hacked, before executives informed them the government had done
it. They described the software as a broader "rootkit" that could give the NSA access to much more
than just emails.
Yahoo itself has been mostly mum on the matter, issuing a statement claiming the initial reports
were "misleading" but not elaborating at all. The NSA denied the claim outright, though they have
been repeatedly caught lying about similar programs in the past.
Izabella Kaminska joined FT Alphaville in October
2008. Before that she worked as a producer at CNBC, a natural gas reporter at Platts and an associate
editor of BP's internal magazine.
If your email provider suffered a security breach would you:
a) prefer to be informed about it as soon as possible so as to take evasive action?
b) prefer not to be informed until years later, by which time any evasive actions may have
On the basis you chose the first option and a security breach happened, would you:
a) appreciate the warning and the password reset nudge, dismiss the incident to a Smeg happens
scenario and continue using the service provider because at least they're vigilant about security?
b) Recoil in disgust at the very idea your email provider's security systems were lax enough
to allow this to happen and immediately defect to a rival provider?
On the basis you would have chosen the first option and then the first option again (and then
a security breach happened), how would you then react if your email provider determined that a) it
was better to keep you in the dark about it and b) this was because they anticipated you would defect?
To wit, here's a nice insight from Nicole Perlroth and Vindu Goel
at the New York Times for the legacy loyal yahoo email users still out there (h/t @melaniehannah):
Mr. Stamos, who departed Yahoo for Facebook last year, declined to comment. But during his
tenure, Ms. Mayer also rejected the most basic security measure of all: an automatic reset of
all user passwords, a step security experts consider standard after a breach. Employees say the
move was rejected by Ms. Mayer's team for fear that even something as simple as a password change
would drive Yahoo's shrinking email users to other services.
Two points on the back of that.
As a yahoo email user, I can testify to the fact that being continuously told by friends and family
that: "Hey there, I think your email may have been hacked" is incentive enough to defect to an alternative
Second, when I tried to download our complete email history so as to shutter the account formally,
we found that this was in fact impossible unless we had the time and temperament to forward up to
20 years worth of email individually to a new account.
To date I am yet to get a reply from the Yahoo service team with respect to how I might get my
hands on my own data in a more practical manner.
Speaking of frictions, here's another relevant snippet from the article:
The "Paranoids," the internal name for Yahoo's security team, often clashed with other parts
of the business over security costs. And their requests were often overridden because
of concerns that the inconvenience of added protection would make people stop using the company's
All of which suggests the crux of Mayer's Yahoo strategy was focused on maximising the security/access
paradox to her own benefit. Namely, maximising access to the detriment of user security if it helped
to bolster Yahoo's user numbers, but minimising user access to their own data if it helped to maximise
the security of yahoo's own stock valuation.
The choice between security and ease of access is a difficult one, and shouldn't be trivialized.
Password policies are a good example - overly loose, and hackers will be able to guess users'
passwords; overly strict (e.g., requiring a password change every month), and users will resort
to passwords on sticky notes stuck to their monitors. If you make things too difficult for users,
they will find ways to ease the burden, and some of those ways will actually make security significantly
That's not to say that Yahoo made the right decision, but it is to say that it isn't as easy as
assuming that more security is always better.
Oooh, you had a Yahoo email account? You've just lost a big chunk of credibility.
I mean I have a Yahoo account (as well as a Netscape account and a Hotmail, sorry, whatever they
call it) plus one or two others. Every time a new email provider has popped up I check their tech
credentials and migrate to the provider that seems to hire the best techies. They get the sensitive
mail. I keep the old accounts and use them for spam-associated registrations and whatnot.
Presently Google and Proton are my principal providers. Anyone who carried on with Yahoo for sensitive
mail has nobody to blame other than him/herself.
@izabellakaminska - setup up your yahoo account
and your new email account on an email client like mac mail or microsoft outlook- make sure they
are both setup as an IMAP account. Wait for all the yahoo email to download and then simply select
all messages and drag them across to your new account.
Thank you, this is a great suggestion. I've been trying to figure out how to backup my
Yahoo! account - I only use it for signing up for things where I might get spam, but still wanted
an easy way to back it up. I already used an e-mail client to get e-mails for one of my other accounts,
I don't know why it never occurred to me to do the same for Yahoo!.
"... Another goal of course is to track even further every single purchase - what, and where, and when. And then sell the consumption data to the insurers perhaps… a packet of cigs per day? Or too many bottles of booze? ..."
Swapping standing in line at the check-out for the line at the exit. And when there is an issue
then the greeter calls in the check-out police thereby pissing off the customer. Brilliant.
While Apple fanboys are willing to work for their iPhone's company for free by doing their
own check-out I doubt that is likely for people going to Sam's Club. As well many customers, even
if they have a smartphone, will not enjoy using up their data plan as they try to check and process
the details online.
All these smartphone apps have one major goal, besides collecting credit fees. Reduce store
overhead by getting customers to do more of the work while eliminating employees. The winners
are not the customers or people looking for a way to make ends meet.
Another goal of course is to track even further every single purchase - what, and where,
and when. And then sell the consumption data to the insurers perhaps… a packet of cigs per day?
Or too many bottles of booze?
Of course they are already doing that with the store "fidelity cards", but the mobile apps
will be more precise and less optional.
"... A U.S. investigation into a leak of hacking tools used by the National Security Agency is focusing on a theory that one of its operatives carelessly left them available on a remote computer ..."
"... The tools, which enable hackers to exploit software flaws in computer and communications systems from vendors such as Cisco Systems and Fortinet Inc, were dumped onto public websites last month by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers. ..."
"... But officials heading the FBI-led investigation now discount both of those scenarios, the people said in separate interviews. NSA officials have told investigators that an employee or contractor made the mistake about three years ago during an operation that used the tools, the people said. ..."
"... That person acknowledged the error shortly afterward, they said. But the NSA did not inform the companies of the danger when it first discovered the exposure of the tools, the sources said. Since the public release of the tools, the companies involved have issued patches in the systems to protect them. ..."
"... Because the sensors did not detect foreign spies or criminals using the tools on U.S. or allied targets, the NSA did not feel obligated to immediately warn the U.S. manufacturers, an official and one other person familiar with the matter said. ..."
A U.S. investigation into a leak of hacking tools used by the National Security Agency is focusing
on a theory that one of its operatives carelessly left them available on a remote computer and
Russian hackers found them, four people with direct knowledge of the probe told Reuters.
tools, which enable hackers to exploit software flaws in computer and communications systems from
vendors such as Cisco Systems and Fortinet Inc, were dumped onto public websites last month by a
group calling itself Shadow Brokers.
The public release of the tools coincided with U.S. officials saying they had concluded that Russia
or its proxies were responsible for hacking political party organizations in the run-up to the Nov.
8 presidential election. On Thursday, lawmakers accused Russia of being responsible
... ... ...
But officials heading the FBI-led investigation now discount both of those scenarios, the
people said in separate interviews. NSA officials have told investigators that an employee or contractor
made the mistake about three years ago during an operation that used the tools, the people said.
That person acknowledged the error shortly afterward, they said. But the NSA did not inform the
companies of the danger when it first discovered the exposure of the tools, the sources said. Since
the public release of the tools, the companies involved have issued patches in the systems to protect
Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the former NSA person, who has since departed
the agency for other reasons, left the tools exposed deliberately. Another possibility, two of the
sources said, is that more than one person at the headquarters or a remote location made similar
mistakes or compounded each other's missteps.
Representatives of the NSA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the office of the Director of
National Intelligence all declined to comment.
After the discovery, the NSA tuned its sensors to detect use of any of the tools by other parties,
especially foreign adversaries with strong cyber espionage operations, such as China and Russia.
That could have helped identify rival powers' hacking targets, potentially leading them to be defended
better. It might also have allowed U.S officials to see deeper into rival hacking operations while
enabling the NSA itself to continue using the tools for its own operations.
Because the sensors did not detect foreign spies or criminals using the tools on U.S. or allied
targets, the NSA did not feel obligated to immediately warn the U.S. manufacturers, an official and
one other person familiar with the matter said.
In this case, as in more commonplace discoveries of security flaws, U.S. officials weigh what intelligence
they could gather by keeping the flaws secret against the risk to U.S. companies and individuals
if adversaries find the same flaws.
Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International, told The Intercept
that the " manuals released today offer the most up-to-date view on the
operation of" Stingrays and similar cellular surveillance devices, with
powerful capabilities that threaten civil liberties, communications infrastructure,
and potentially national security. He noted that the documents show the
"Stingray II" device can impersonate four cellular communications towers
at once, monitoring up to four cellular provider networks simultaneously,
and with an add-on can operate on so-called 2G, 3G, and 4G networks simultaneously.
"... Submitted by Sophie McAdam via TrueActivist.com, ..."
"... He disclosed that government spies can legally hack into any citizen's phone to listen in to what's happening in the room, view files, messages and photos, pinpoint exactly where a person is (to a much more sophisticated level than a normal GPS system), and monitor a person's every move and every conversation, even when the phone is turned off. ..."
"... "Nosey Smurf": lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on users, even if the phone itself is turned off ..."
"... Snowden says: "They want to own your phone instead of you." It sounds very much like he means we are being purposefully encouraged to buy our own tracking devices. That kinda saved the government some money, didn't it? ..."
"... It's one more reason to conclude that smartphones suck. And as much as we convince ourselves how cool they are, it's hard to deny their invention has resulted in a tendency for humans to behave like zombies , encouraged child labor, made us more lonely than ever, turned some of us into narcissistic selfie – addicts , and prevented us from communicating with those who really matter (the ones in the same room at the same time). Now, Snowden has given us yet another reason to believe that smartphones might be the dumbest thing we could have ever inflicted on ourselves. ..."
In an interview with the BBC's 'Panorama' which aired in Britain last week,
Edward Snowden spoke in detail about the spying capabilities of the UK intelligence
agency GCHQ. He disclosed that government spies can legally hack
into any citizen's phone to listen in to what's happening in the room, view
files, messages and photos, pinpoint exactly where a person is (to a much more
sophisticated level than a normal GPS system), and monitor a person's every
move and every conversation, even when the phone is turned off. These technologies are named after Smurfs, those little
blue cartoon characters who had a recent Hollywood makeover. But despite the
cute name, these technologies are very disturbing; each one is built to spy
on you in a different way:
"Dreamy Smurf": lets the phone be powered on and off
"Nosey Smurf": lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on
users, even if the phone itself is turned off
"Tracker Smurf":a geo-location tool which allows [GCHQ]
to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical
triangulation of cellphone towers.
"Paranoid Smurf": hides the fact that it has taken
control of the phone. The tool will stop people from recognizing that the
phone has been tampered with if it is taken in for a service, for instance.
Snowden says: "They want to own your phone instead of you." It sounds
very much like he means we are being purposefully encouraged to buy our own
tracking devices. That kinda saved the government some money, didn't it?
His revelations should worry anyone who cares about human rights, especially
in an era where the threat of terrorism is used to justify all sorts of governmental
crimes against civil liberties. We have willingly given up our freedoms in the
name of security; as a result we have
neither. We seem to have forgotten that to live as a free person is a basic
human right: we are essentially free beings. We are born naked and without certification;
we do not belong to any government nor monarchy nor individual, we don't even
belong to any nation or culture or religion- these are all social constructs.
We belong only to the universe that created us, or whatever your equivalent
belief. It is therefore a natural human right not to be not be under secret
surveillance by your own government, those corruptible liars who are supposedly
elected by and therefore accountable to the people.
The danger for law-abiding citizens who say they have nothing to fear because
they are not terrorists, beware: many peaceful British protesters have been
arrested under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act since its introduction in
Snowden's disclosure confirms just how far the attack on civil liberties
has gone since
9/11 and the London bombings. Both events have allowed governments the legal
right to essentially wage war on their own people, through the Patriot Act in
the USA and the Prevention Of Terrorism
Act in the UK. In Britain, as in the USA,
activism seem to have morphed into one entity, while nobody really knows
who the real
terrorists are any more. A sad but absolutely realistic fact of life in
2015: if you went to a peaceful protest at weekend and got detained, you're
hacked right now.
It's one more reason to conclude that smartphones suck. And as much as
we convince ourselves how cool they are, it's hard to deny their invention has
resulted in a tendency for humans to behave like
zombies, encouraged child labor, made us more
lonely than ever, turned some of us into
and prevented us from
communicating with those who really
matter (the ones in the same room at the same time). Now, Snowden has given
us yet another reason to believe that
smartphones might be the dumbest thing we could have ever inflicted on ourselves.
on Tuesday September 06, 2016 @02:00PM
Sean Gallagher, writing for ArsTechnica:
major site breach from four years ago has
resurfaced. Today, LeakedSource revealed that it had
received a copy of a February 2012 dump of the user
database of Rambler.ru
, a Russian search, news,
and e-mail portal site that closely mirrors the
functionality of Yahoo. The dump included usernames,
passwords, and ICQ instant messaging accounts for
over 98 million users. And while previous breaches
uncovered by LeakedSource this year had at least
some encryption of passwords, the Rambler.ru
database stored user passwords in plain text --
meaning that whoever breached the database instantly
had access to the e-mail accounts of all of
Rambler.ru's users. The breach is the latest in a
series of "mega-breaches" that LeakedSource says it
is processing for release. Rambler isn't the only
Russian site that has been caught storing
unencrpyted passwords by hackers. In June, a hacker
offered for sale the entire user database of the
Russian-language social networking site VK.com
(formerly VKontakte) from a breach that took place
in late 2012 or early 2013; that database also
included unencrypted user passwords, as ZDNet's Zach
on Monday September 12, 2016 @04:00PM
The Intercept has today published
200-page documents revealing details about Harris
Corp's Stingray surveillance device
, which has
been one of the closely guarded secrets in law
enforcement for more than 15 years. The firm, in
collaboration with police clients across the U.S.
have "fought" to keep information about the mobile
phone-monitoring boxes from the public against which
they are used. The publication reports that the
surveillance equipment carries a price tag in the
"low six figures." From the report:
Bernardino Sheriff's Department alone has snooped
via Stingray, sans warrant, over 300 times. Richard
Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International,
told The Intercept that the "manuals released today
most up-to-date view on the operation of
Stingrays and similar cellular surveillance devices,
with powerful capabilities that threaten civil
liberties, communications infrastructure, and
potentially national security. He noted that the
documents show the "Stingray II" device can
impersonate four cellular communications towers at
once, monitoring up to four cellular provider
networks simultaneously, and with an add-on can
operate on so-called 2G, 3G, and 4G networks
I just found this via Hacker News… perhaps it was in yesterday's links and I missed it. Truly
scary in the Orwellian sense and yet another reason not to use a smartphone. Chilling read.
SAN FRANCISCO - Want to invisibly spy on 10 iPhone owners without their knowledge? Gather their
every keystroke, sound, message and location? That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup
fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like
- just check out the company's price list.
The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture
all the activity on a smartphone, like a user's location and personal contacts. These tools can
even turn the phone into a secret recording device.
Since its founding six years ago, the NSO Group has kept a low profile. But last month, security
researchers caught its spyware trying to gain access to the iPhone of a human rights activist
in the United Arab Emirates. They also discovered a second target, a Mexican journalist who wrote
about corruption in the Mexican government.
Now, internal NSO Group emails, contracts and commercial proposals obtained by The New York
Times offer insight into how companies in this secretive digital surveillance industry operate.
The emails and documents were provided by two people who have had dealings with the NSO Group
but would not be named for fear of reprisals.
I could be wrong, but the promos for Sixty Minutes on the local news make it seem they might
be about this subject. Either way it is another scare you about what your cell phone can do story,
possibly justified this time.
An anecdote which I cannot support with links or other evidence:
A friend of mine used to work for a (non USA) security intelligence service. I was bouncing
ideas off him for a book I'm working on, specifically ideas about how monitoring/electronics/spying
can be used to measure and manipulate societies. He was useful for telling if my ideas (for a
Science Fiction novel) were plausible without ever getting into details. Always very careful to
keep his replies in the "white" world of what any computer security person would know, without
delving into anything classified.
One day we were way out in the back blocks, and I laid out one scenario for him to see if it
would be plausible. All he did was small cryptically, and point at a cell phone lying on a table
10 meters away. He wouldn't say a word on the subject.
It wasn't his cellphone, and we were in a relatively remote region with no cell phone coverage.
It told me that my book idea was far too plausible. It also told me that every cellphone is
likely recording everything all the time, for later upload when back in signal range. (Or at least
there was the inescapable possibility that the cell phones were doing so, and that he had to assume
foreign (or domestic?) agencies could be following him through monitoring of cell phones of friends
It was a clarifying moment for me.
Every cellphone has a monumental amount of storage space (especially for audio files). Almost
every cellphone only has a software "switch" for turning it off, not a hardware interlock where
you can be sure off is off. So how can you ever really be sure it is "off"? Answer- you can't
Sobering thought. Especially when you consider the Bluffdale facility in the USA.
There are dozens of digital spying companies that can
track everything a target does on a smartphone.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO - Want to invisibly spy on 10
owners without their knowledge? Gather their every keystroke, sound,
message and location? That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an
Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like -
just check out the company's price list.
The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that
sell surveillance tools
that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a
user's location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a
secret recording device.
Since its founding six years ago, the NSO Group has kept a low profile. But last
month, security researchers
caught its spyware trying to gain access
to the iPhone of a human rights activist
in the United Arab Emirates. They also discovered a second target, a Mexican
journalist who wrote about corruption in the Mexican government.
Now, internal NSO Group emails, contracts and commercial proposals obtained by The
New York Times offer insight into how companies in this secretive digital
surveillance industry operate. The emails and documents were provided by two people
who have had dealings with the NSO Group but would not be named for fear of
The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target
does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law
enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is
necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group's corporate
mission statement is "Make the world a safe place."
Ten people familiar with the company's sales, who refused to be identified, said that
the NSO Group has a strict internal vetting process to determine who it will sell to.
An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential
customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global
bodies. And to date, these people all said, NSO has yet to be denied an export
But critics note that the company's spyware has also been used to track journalists
and human rights activists.
"There's no check on this," said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at
the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. "Once NSO's systems are
sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they're
trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more
The NSO Group's capabilities are in higher demand now that companies like Apple,
Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems,
in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects.
The NSO Group's spyware finds ways around encryption by baiting targets to click
unwittingly on texts containing malicious links or by exploiting previously
undiscovered software flaws. It was taking advantage of
three such flaws in Apple software
- since fixed - when it was discovered by
researchers last month.
The cyberarms industry typified by the NSO Group operates in a legal gray area, and
it is often left to the companies to decide how far they are willing to dig into a
target's personal life and what governments they will do business with. Israel has
strict export controls for digital weaponry, but the country has never barred the
sale of NSO Group technology.
Since it is privately held, not much is known about the NSO Group's finances, but its
business is clearly growing. Two years ago, the NSO Group sold a controlling stake in
its business to Francisco Partners, a
firm based in San Francisco, for $120 million. Nearly a year
later, Francisco Partners was exploring a sale of the company for 10 times that
amount, according to two people approached by the firm but forbidden to speak about
The company's internal documents detail pitches to countries throughout Europe and
multimillion-dollar contracts with Mexico, which paid the NSO Group more than $15
million for three projects over three years, according to internal NSO Group emails
dated in 2013.
"Our intelligence systems are subject to Mexico's relevant legislation and have legal
authorization," Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican embassy in Washington,
said in an emailed statement. "They are not used against journalists or activists.
All contracts with the federal government are done in accordance with the law."
Zamir Dahbash, an NSO Group spokesman, said that the sale of its spyware was
restricted to authorized governments and that it was used solely for criminal and
terrorist investigations. He declined to comment on whether the company would cease
selling to the U.A.E. and Mexico after last week's disclosures.
For the last six years, the NSO Group's main product, a tracking system called
Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range
of smartphones - including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems -
without leaving a trace.
Among the Pegasus system's capabilities, NSO Group contracts assert, are the
abilities to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant
messages and GPS locations. One capability that the NSO Group calls "room tap" can
gather sounds in and around the room, using the phone's own microphone.
Pegasus can use the camera to take snapshots or screen grabs. It can deny the phone
access to certain websites and applications, and it can grab search histories or
anything viewed with the phone's web browser. And all of the data can be sent back to
the agency's server in real time.
In its commercial proposals, the NSO Group asserts that its tracking software and
hardware can install itself in any number of ways, including "over the air stealth
installation," tailored text messages and emails, through public Wi-Fi hot spots
rigged to secretly install NSO Group software, or the old-fashioned way, by spies in
Much like a traditional software company, the NSO Group prices its surveillance tools
by the number of targets, starting with a flat $500,000 installation fee. To spy on
10 iPhone users, NSO charges government agencies $650,000; $650,000 for 10 Android
users; $500,000 for five BlackBerry users; or $300,000 for five Symbian users - on
top of the setup fee, according to one commercial proposal.
You can pay for more targets. One hundred additional targets will cost $800,000, 50
extra targets cost $500,000, 20 extra will cost $250,000 and 10 extra costs $150,000,
according to an NSO Group commercial proposal. There is an annual system maintenance
fee of 17 percent of the total price every year thereafter.
What that gets you, NSO Group documents say, is "unlimited access to a target's
mobile devices." In short, the company says: You can "remotely and covertly collect
information about your target's relationships, location, phone calls, plans and
activities - whenever and wherever they are."
And, its proposal adds, "It leaves no traces whatsoever."
"... Some "American" companies and public research institutions are surely victims of espionage, but for the most part private industry has brought this on itself by building offshore offices and *actively* directing their workers to transfer the knowledge and "train their replacements", so that they can do the work instead of US workers who are let go (or not again hired) because their skills are now "irrelevant". ..."
"... In "defense" or "national interest" related work, for the most part citizens of or even people originating from countries that are considered military or geopolitical adversaries are excluded from participation. This makes it much harder to infiltrate people in the US, as long as it is not offshored. But then the US govt and its contractors will pay higher rates for the product/service than US consumers who will have to do "more with less" (money). ..."
"... Oh, China (public and private entities) surely engages in those things it is accused of, but this is by far outweighed by US business captains shoving the "free" know-how and innovation down their throats to enable the short term "cost savings" (which will in short order be compensated for by declining aggregate demand when the formerly well paid local staff can only buy the cheapest stuff, and retail adjusts and mostly orders the cheapest). ..."
"... Likewise most "everybody else" also. I have a good number of colleagues from China and other Asian countries. Many of them take pride in coming up with their own solutions instead of copying stuff, like people everywhere. ..."
"... A German language article where this and other cases are mentioned: http://www.zeit.de/1998/28/199828.spionage.neu_.xml Nobody is squeaky clean in this game. ..."
"... At the time I was working in a tech company there, and new security protocols were instituted, like not sending certain confidential information by email or fax. There was even an anecdote (unverified) of how a foreign service (not US in that case) was allegedly intercepting business documents/negotiations that were conducted by fax, and making the information available to "their" own companies bidding for the same project. Whether true or not, that's what the management was concerned about. ..."
" If spying is the world's second oldest profession, the government of China has given it a
new, modern-day twist, enlisting an army of spies not to steal military secrets but the trade
secrets and intellectual property of American companies. It's being called "the great brain robbery
The Justice Department says that the scale of China's corporate espionage is so vast it constitutes
a national security emergency, with China targeting virtually every sector of the U.S. economy,
and costing American companies hundreds of billions of dollars in losses -- and more than two
John Carlin: They're targeting our private companies. And it's not a fair fight. A private
company can't compete against the resources of the second largest economy in the world."
John Carlin: This is a serious threat to our national security. I mean, our economy depends on
the ability to innovate. And if there's a dedicated nation state who's using its intelligence
apparatus to steal day in and day out what we're trying to develop, that poses a serious threat
to our country.
Lesley Stahl: What is their ultimate goal, the Chinese government's ultimate goal?
John Carlin: They want to develop certain segments of industry and instead of trying to out-innovate,
out-research, out-develop, they're choosing to do it through theft.
All you have to do, he says, is look at the economic plans published periodically by the Chinese
Politburo. They are, according to this recent report by the technology research firm INVNT/IP,
in effect, blueprints of what industries and what companies will be targeted for theft."
Some "American" companies and public research institutions are surely victims of espionage,
but for the most part private industry has brought this on itself by building offshore offices
and *actively* directing their workers to transfer the knowledge and "train their replacements",
so that they can do the work instead of US workers who are let go (or not again hired) because
their skills are now "irrelevant".
Likewise if a manufacturer outsources to an offshore supplier, they have to divulge some of
their secret sauce and technical skill to their "partner" if they want the product to meet specs
and quality metrics.
In "defense" or "national interest" related work, for the most part citizens of or even
people originating from countries that are considered military or geopolitical adversaries are
excluded from participation. This makes it much harder to infiltrate people in the US, as long
as it is not offshored. But then the US govt and its contractors will pay higher rates for the
product/service than US consumers who will have to do "more with less" (money).
Oh, China (public and private entities) surely engages in those things it is accused of, but
this is by far outweighed by US business captains shoving the "free" know-how and innovation down
their throats to enable the short term "cost savings" (which will in short order be compensated
for by declining aggregate demand when the formerly well paid local staff can only buy the cheapest
stuff, and retail adjusts and mostly orders the cheapest).
Likewise most "everybody else" also. I have a good number of colleagues from China and other
Asian countries. Many of them take pride in coming up with their own solutions instead of copying
stuff, like people everywhere.
"Stealing" of ideas is practiced everywhere. I know an anecdote from a "Western" company where
a high level engineering manager suggested inviting another academic/research group on the pretext
of exploring a collaboration, only to get enough of an idea of their approach, and then dump them.
Several of the present staff balked at this and it didn't go anywhere. But it was instructive.
(1) How is it done (because we don't know)
(2) Which approach has been proven to work (out of many that we would have to try)
The focus in discussing the topic is often on (1), and it is certainly an important aspect,
perhaps the most important one if the adversary is in bootstrapping mode.
However once you are at a certain level, (2) becomes more important - the solution space is
simply too large, and knowing what has already worked elsewhere can cut through a lot of failed
experiments (including finding a better solution of course).
(2) also relates somewhat to "best practices" - don't try to innovate and create yet another
proprietary thing that only the people who created it understand, do what everybody else is doing,
then you can hire more people who "already know it", or if "others" improve or build on the existing
solution, that immediately applies to your version as well.
The downside is that your solution is not "differentiated". But if it is cheaper it doesn't
where US electronic surveillance was allegedly involved in a business dispute. In this case
there is no explicit claim about technology theft, but two companies were accusing each other
of patent violations, and espionage techniques were used to "obtain evidence".
BTW note the date - this kind of stuff was going on in the 90's. It is not a recent invention.
BTW this here was mentioned, you may have heard of it, in any case it was a big deal in Germany
where the US had several operational bases:
At the time I was working in a tech company there, and new security protocols were instituted,
like not sending certain confidential information by email or fax. There was even an anecdote
(unverified) of how a foreign service (not US in that case) was allegedly intercepting business
documents/negotiations that were conducted by fax, and making the information available to "their"
own companies bidding for the same project. Whether true or not, that's what the management was
"... The evidence that ties the ShadowBrokers dump to the NSA comes in an agency manual for implanting malware, classified top secret, provided by Snowden, and not previously available to the public. The draft manual instructs NSA operators to track their use of one malware program using a specific 16-character string, "ace02468bdf13579." That exact same string appears throughout the ShadowBrokers leak in code associated with the same program, SECONDDATE. ..."
On Monday, a hacking group calling itself the "ShadowBrokers" announced an auction
for what it claimed were "cyber weapons" made by the NSA. Based on never-before-published
documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept
can confirm that the arsenal contains authentic NSA software, part of a powerful
constellation of tools used to covertly infect computers worldwide.
of the code has been a matter of heated debate this week among cybersecurity
experts, and while it remains unclear how the software leaked, one thing is
now beyond speculation: The malware is covered with the NSA's virtual fingerprints
and clearly originates from the agency.
The evidence that ties the ShadowBrokers dump to the NSA comes in an
agency manual for implanting malware, classified top secret, provided by Snowden,
and not previously available to the public. The draft manual instructs NSA operators
to track their use of one malware program using a specific 16-character string,
"ace02468bdf13579." That exact same string appears throughout the ShadowBrokers
leak in code associated with the same program, SECONDDATE.
SECONDDATE plays a specialized role inside a complex global system built
by the U.S. government to infect and monitor what one document
estimated to be millions of computers around the world. Its release by ShadowBrokers,
alongside dozens of other malicious tools, marks the first time any full copies
of the NSA's offensive software have been available to the public, providing
a glimpse at how an elaborate system outlined in the Snowden documents looks
when deployed in the real world, as well as concrete evidence that NSA hackers
don't always have the last word when it comes to computer exploitation.
But malicious software of this sophistication doesn't just pose a threat
to foreign governments, Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green
told The Intercept:
The danger of these exploits is that they can be used to target anyone
who is using a vulnerable router. This is the equivalent of leaving lockpicking
tools lying around a high school cafeteria. It's worse, in fact, because
many of these exploits are not available through any other means, so they're
just now coming to the attention of the firewall and router manufacturers
that need to fix them, as well as the customers that are vulnerable.
So the risk is twofold: first, that the person or persons who stole this
information might have used them against us. If this is indeed Russia, then
one assumes that they probably have their own exploits, but there's no need
to give them any more. And now that the exploits have been released, we
run the risk that ordinary criminals will use them against corporate targets.
The NSA did not respond to questions concerning ShadowBrokers, the Snowden
documents, or its malware.
A Memorable SECONDDATE
The offensive tools released by ShadowBrokers are organized under a litany
of code names such as POLARSNEEZE and ELIGIBLE BOMBSHELL, and their exact purpose
is still being assessed. But we do know more about one of the weapons: SECONDDATE.
SECONDDATE is a tool designed to intercept web requests and redirect browsers
on target computers to an NSA web server. That server, in turn, is designed
to infect them with malware. SECONDDATE's existence was
first reported by The Intercept in 2014, as part of a look at a
global computer exploitation effort code-named TURBINE. The malware server,
known as FOXACID, has also been
described in previously released Snowden documents.
Other documents released by The Intercept today not only tie SECONDDATE
to the ShadowBrokers leak but also provide new detail on how it fits into the
NSA's broader surveillance and infection network. They also show how SECONDDATE
has been used, including to spy on Pakistan and a computer system in Lebanon.
The top-secret manual that authenticates the SECONDDATE found in the wild
as the same one used within the NSA is a 31-page document titled "FOXACID
SOP for Operational Management" and marked as a draft. It dates to no earlier
than 2010. A section within the manual describes administrative tools for tracking
how victims are funneled into FOXACID, including a set of tags used to catalogue
servers. When such a tag is created in relation to a SECONDDATE-related infection,
the document says, a certain distinctive identifier must be used:
The same SECONDDATE MSGID string appears in 14 different files throughout
the ShadowBrokers leak, including in a file titled SecondDate-3021.exe. Viewed
through a code-editing program (screenshot below), the NSA's secret number can
be found hiding in plain sight:
All told, throughout many of the folders contained in the ShadowBrokers'
package (screenshot below), there are 47 files with SECONDDATE-related names,
including different versions of the raw code required to execute a SECONDDATE
attack, instructions for how to use it, and other related files.
After viewing the code, Green told The Intercept the MSGID string's
occurrence in both an NSA training document and this week's leak is "unlikely
to be a coincidence." Computer security researcher Matt Suiche, founder of UAE-based
cybersecurity startup Comae Technologies, who has been particularly vocal in
his analysis of the ShadowBrokers this week, told The Intercept "there
is no way" the MSGID string's appearance in both places is a coincidence.
Where SECONDDATE Fits In
This overview jibes with previously unpublished classified files provided
by Snowden that illustrate how SECONDDATE is a component of BADDECISION, a broader
NSA infiltration tool. SECONDDATE helps the NSA pull off a "man in the middle"
attack against users on a wireless network, tricking them into thinking they're
talking to a safe website when in reality they've been sent a malicious payload
from an NSA server.
According to one December 2010 PowerPoint presentation titled "Introduction
to BADDECISION," that tool is also designed to send users of a wireless
network, sometimes referred to as an 802.11 network, to FOXACID malware servers.
Or, as the presentation puts it, BADDECISION is an "802.11 CNE [computer network
exploitation] tool that uses a true man-in-the-middle attack and a frame injection
technique to redirect a target client to a FOXACID server." As another
top-secret slide puts it, the attack homes in on "the greatest vulnerability
to your computer: your web browser."
One slide points out that the attack works on users with an encrypted wireless
connection to the internet.
That trick, it seems, often involves BADDECISION and SECONDDATE, with the
latter described as a "component" for the former. A series of diagrams in the
"Introduction to BADDECISION" presentation show how an NSA operator "uses SECONDDATE
to inject a redirection payload at [a] Target Client," invisibly hijacking a
user's web browser as the user attempts to visit a benign website (in the example
given, it's CNN.com). Executed correctly, the file explains, a "Target Client
continues normal webpage browsing, completely unaware," lands on a malware-filled
NSA server, and becomes infected with as much of that malware as possible -
or as the presentation puts it, the user will be left "WHACKED!" In the other
top-secret presentations, it's put plainly: "How
do we redirect the target to the FOXACID server without being noticed"?
Simple: "Use NIGHTSTAND or BADDECISION."
The sheer number of interlocking tools available to crack a computer is dizzying.
FOXACID manual, government hackers are told an NSA hacker ought to be familiar
with using SECONDDATE along with similar man-in-the-middle wi-fi attacks code-named
MAGIC SQUIRREL and MAGICBEAN. A top-secret
presentation on FOXACID lists further ways to redirect targets to the malware
To position themselves within range of a vulnerable wireless network, NSA
operators can use a mobile antenna system running software code-named BLINDDATE,
depicted in the field in what appears to be Kabul. The software can even be
attached to a drone. BLINDDATE in turn can run BADDECISION, which allows for
a SECONDDATE attack:
Elsewhere in these files, there are at least two documented cases of SECONDDATE
being used to successfully infect computers overseas: An April 2013
presentation boasts of successful attacks against computer systems in both
Pakistan and Lebanon. In the first, NSA hackers used SECONDDATE to breach "targets
in Pakistan's National Telecommunications Corporation's (NTC) VIP Division,"
which contained documents pertaining to "the backbone of Pakistan's Green Line
communications network" used by "civilian and military leadership."
SECONDDATE is just one method that the NSA uses to get its target's browser
pointed at a FOXACID server. Other methods include sending spam that attempts
to exploit bugs in popular web-based email providers or entices targets to click
on malicious links that lead to a FOXACID server. One
document, a newsletter for the NSA's Special Source Operations division,
describes how NSA software other than SECONDDATE was used to repeatedly direct
targets in Pakistan to FOXACID malware web servers, eventually infecting the
A Potentially Mundane Hack
Snowden, who worked for NSA contractors Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton, has
offered some context and a relatively mundane possible explanation for the leak:
that the NSA headquarters was not hacked, but rather one of the computers the
agency uses to plan and execute attacks was compromised. In a
series of tweets, he pointed out that the NSA often lurks on systems that
are supposed to be controlled by others, and it's possible someone at the agency
took control of a server and failed to clean up after themselves. A regime,
hacker group, or intelligence agency could have seized the files and the opportunity
to embarrass the agency.
"... The NSA identified Peña's cellphone and those of his associates using advanced software that can filter out specific phones from the swarm around the candidate. These lines were then targeted. The technology, one NSA analyst noted, "might find a needle in a haystack." The analyst described it as "a repeatable and efficient" process. ..."
"... Another NSA operation, begun in May 2010 and codenamed FLATLIQUID, targeted Pena's predecessor, President Felipe Calderon. The NSA, the documents revealed, was able "to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon's public email account." ..."
"... At the same time, members of a highly secret joint NSA/CIA organization, called the Special Collection Service, are based in the U.S. embassy in Mexico City and other U.S. embassies around the world. It targets local government communications, as well as foreign embassies nearby. For Mexico, additional eavesdropping, and much of the analysis, is conducted by NSA Texas, a large listening post in San Antonio that focuses on the Caribbean, Central America and South America. ..."
"... Unlike the Defense Department's Pentagon, the headquarters of the cyberspies fills an entire secret city. Located in Fort Meade, Maryland, halfway between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland, NSA's headquarters consists of scores of heavily guarded buildings. The site even boasts its own police force and post office. ..."
"... One top-secret operation, code-named TreasureMap, is designed to have a "capability for building a near real-time interactive map of the global Internet. … Any device, anywhere, all the time." Another operation, codenamed Turbine, involves secretly placing "millions of implants" - malware - in computer systems worldwide for either spying or cyberattacks. ..."
"... Yet there can never be a useful discussion on the topic if the Obama administration continues to point fingers at other countries without admitting that Washington is engaged heavily in cyberspying and cyberwarfare. ..."
"... The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America ..."
National attention is focused on Russian eavesdroppers' possible targeting of U.S. presidential candidates
and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Yet, leaked top-secret National Security Agency
documents show that the Obama administration has long been involved in major bugging operations against
the election campaigns -- and the presidents -- of even its closest allies.
The United States is,
by far, the world's
nation when it comes to cyberspying and cyberwarfare. The National Security Agency has been eavesdropping
on foreign cities, politicians, elections and entire countries since it first turned on its receivers
in 1952. Just as other countries, including Russia, attempt to do to the United States. What is new
is a country leaking the intercepts back to the public of the target nation through a middleperson.
There is a strange irony in this. Russia, if it is actually involved in the hacking of the computers
of the Democratic National Committee, could be attempting to influence a U.S. election by leaking
to the American public the falsehoods of its leaders. This is a tactic Washington used against the
Soviet Union and other countries during the Cold War.
In the 1950s, for example, President Harry S Truman created the Campaign of Truth to reveal to
the Russian people the "Big Lies" of their government. Washington had often discovered these lies
through eavesdropping and other espionage.
Today, the United States has morphed from a Cold War, and in some cases a hot war, into a cyberwar,
with computer coding replacing bullets and bombs. Yet the American public manages to be "shocked,
shocked" that a foreign country would attempt to conduct cyberespionage on the United States.
NSA operations have, for example, recently delved into elections in Mexico, targeting its
last presidential campaign. According to a top-secret PowerPoint presentation leaked by former NSA
contract employee Edward Snowden, the operation involved a "surge effort against one of Mexico's
leading presidential candidates, Enrique Peña Nieto, and nine of his close associates." Peña won
that election and is now Mexico's president.
The NSA identified Peña's cellphone and those of his associates using advanced software that can
filter out specific phones from the swarm around the candidate. These lines were then targeted. The
technology, one NSA analyst noted, "might find a needle in a haystack." The analyst described it
as "a repeatable and efficient" process.
Another NSA operation, begun in May 2010 and codenamed FLATLIQUID, targeted Pena's predecessor,
President Felipe Calderon. The NSA, the documents revealed, was able "to gain first-ever access to
President Felipe Calderon's public email account."
At the same time, members of a highly secret joint NSA/CIA organization, called the Special Collection
Service, are based in the U.S. embassy in Mexico City and other U.S. embassies around the world.
It targets local government communications, as well as foreign embassies nearby. For Mexico, additional
eavesdropping, and much of the analysis, is conducted by NSA Texas, a large listening post in San
Antonio that focuses on the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
Unlike the Defense Department's Pentagon, the headquarters of the cyberspies fills an entire secret
city. Located in Fort Meade, Maryland, halfway between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland, NSA's
headquarters consists of scores of heavily guarded buildings. The site even boasts its own police
force and post office.
And it is about to grow considerably bigger, now that the NSA cyberspies have merged with the
cyberwarriors of U.S. Cyber Command, which controls its own Cyber Army, Cyber Navy, Cyber Air Force
and Cyber Marine Corps, all armed with state-of-the-art cyberweapons. In charge of it all is a four-star
admiral, Michael S. Rogers.
Now under construction inside NSA's secret city, Cyber Command's new $3.2- billion headquarters
is to include 14 buildings, 11 parking garages and an enormous cyberbrain - a 600,000-square-foot,
$896.5-million supercomputer facility that will eat up an enormous amount of power, about 60 megawatts.
This is enough electricity to power a city of more than 40,000 homes.
In 2014, for a cover story in Wired and a PBS documentary, I spent three days in Moscow
with Snowden, whose last NSA job was as a contract cyberwarrior. I was also granted rare access to
his archive of documents. "Cyber Command itself has always been branded in a sort of misleading way
from its very inception," Snowden told me. "It's an attack agency. … It's all about computer-network
attack and computer-network exploitation at Cyber Command."
The idea is to turn the Internet from a worldwide web of information into a global battlefield
for war. "The next major conflict will start in cyberspace," says one of the secret NSA documents.
One key phrase within Cyber Command documents is "Information Dominance."
The Cyber Navy, for example, calls itself the Information Dominance Corps. The Cyber Army is providing
frontline troops with the option of requesting "cyberfire support" from Cyber Command, in much the
same way it requests air and artillery support. And the Cyber Air Force is pledged to "dominate cyberspace"
just as "today we dominate air and space."
Among the tools at their disposal is one called Passionatepolka, designed to "remotely brick network
cards." "Bricking" a computer means destroying it – turning it into a brick.
One such situation took place in war-torn Syria in 2012, according to Snowden, when the NSA attempted
to remotely and secretly install an "exploit," or bug, into the computer system of a major Internet
provider. This was expected to provide access to email and other Internet traffic across much of
Syria. But something went wrong. Instead, the computers were bricked. It
took down the Internet across the country for a period of time.
While Cyber Command executes attacks, the National Security Agency seems more interested in tracking
virtually everyone connected to the Internet, according to the documents.
One top-secret operation, code-named TreasureMap, is designed to have a "capability for building
a near real-time interactive map of the global Internet. … Any device, anywhere, all the time." Another
operation, codenamed Turbine, involves secretly placing "millions of implants" - malware - in computer
systems worldwide for either spying or cyberattacks.
Yet, even as the U.S. government continues building robust eavesdropping and attack systems, it
looks like there has been far less focus on security at home. One benefit of the cyber-theft of the
Democratic National Committee emails might be that it helps open a public dialogue about the dangerous
potential of cyberwarfare. This is long overdue. The
possible security problems for the U.S. presidential election in November are already being discussed.
Yet there can never be a useful discussion on the topic if the Obama administration continues
to point fingers at other countries without admitting that Washington is engaged heavily in cyberspying
In fact, the United States is the only country ever to launch an actual cyberwar -- when the Obama
administration used a cyberattack to destroy thousands of centrifuges, used for nuclear enrichment,
in Iran. This was an illegal act of war, according to the Defense Department's own definition.
Given the news reports that many more DNC emails are waiting to be leaked as the presidential
election draws closer, there will likely be many more reminders of the need for a public dialogue
on cybersecurity and cyberwarfare before November.
(James Bamford is the author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the
Eavesdropping on America. He is a columnist for Foreign Policy magazine.)
After posting a 64 character hex code
that is believed to be an encryption key, the internet worries that the famed
whistleblower may have been killed or captured resulting in the triggering of a dead
man's switch and potentially the release of many more US national secrets.
A dead man's switch is a message set up to be automatically sent if the holder
of an account does not perform a regular check-in. The whistleblower has acknowledged
that he has distributed encrypted files to journalists and associates that have not
yet been released so in Snowden's case, the dead man's switch could be an encryption
key for those files.
As of this time, Edward Snowden's Twitter account has gone silent for over 24
hours which is far from unprecedented for the whistleblower but is curious at a time
when public concern has been raised over his well-being. The 64 hex characters in the
code do appear to rule out the initial theory that Edward Snowden, like so many
of us, simply butt dialed his phone, but instead is a clearly a secure hash algorithm
that can serve as a signature for a data file or as a password.
The timing shortly after the "It's Time" tweet also have caused concern for some
such as a user named stordoff who believes that the nascent
Twitter post "was intended to set something in motion." The user postulates that it
is an encrypted message, a signal, or a password.
Snowden's initial data release in 2013 exposed what many had feared about the NSA
for years, that the agency had gone rogue and undertaken a massive scheme of domestic
surveillance. However, it is also known that the information released was only part
of the document cache he had acquired from government servers.
It has been reported that additional government data was distributed in encrypted
files to trusted journalists who were told to not release the information unless they
received a signal urging them to – information that the whistleblower determined was
too sensitive for release at the time.
The possibility also exists that Snowden has decided that after three years
in hiding that additional information needed to be released to the public independent
of some physical harm to himself, but the whistleblower's fans and privacy advocates
across the world will continue to sit on the edge of their seats in worry until and
unless he tweets to confirm that he is safe.
A very important, informative interview. Outlines complexity of challenges of modern society and
the real power of "alphabet agencies" in the modern societies (not only in the USA) pretty
vividly. You need to listen to it several times to understand better the current environment.
Very sloppy security was the immanent feature both of Hillary "bathroom" server and DNC emails hacks.
So there probably were multiple parties that has access to those data not a single one (anti Russian
hysteria presumes that the only party are Russian and that's silly; what about China, Iran and
Russian government would not use a "known attack" as they would immediately be traced back.
Anything, any communications that goes over the network are totally. 100% exposed to NSA data
collection infrastructure. Clinton email messages are not exception. NSA does have
information on them, including all envelopes (the body of the message might be encrypted and that's
slightly complicate the matter, but there is no signs that Clinton of DNC used encryption of them)
NSA has the technical capabilities to trace the data back and they most probably have most if not
all of deleted mail. The "total surveillance", the total data mailing used by NSA definitely includes
the mail envelopes which makes possible to enumerate all the missing mails.
"... The National Security Agency (NSA) has "all" of Hillary Clinton's deleted emails and the FBI could gain access to them if they so desired, William Binney, a former highly placed NSA official, declared in a radio interview broadcast on Sunday. ..."
"... Binney referenced testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2011 by then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller in which Meuller spoke of the FBI's ability to access various secretive databases "to track down known and suspected terrorists." ..."
"... "Now what he (Mueller) is talking about is going into the NSA database, which is shown of course in the (Edward) Snowden material released, which shows a direct access into the NSA database by the FBI and the CIA. Which there is no oversight of by the way. So that means that NSA and a number of agencies in the U.S. government also have those emails." ..."
"... Listen to the full interview here: ... ..."
"... And the other point is that Hillary, according to an article published by the Observer ..."
The National Security Agency (NSA) has "all" of Hillary Clinton's deleted emails and the FBI
could gain access to them if they so desired, William Binney, a former highly placed NSA official,
declared in a radio interview broadcast on Sunday.
Speaking as an analyst, Binney raised the possibility that the hack of the Democratic National
Committee's server was done not by Russia but by a disgruntled U.S. intelligence worker concerned
about Clinton's compromise of national security secrets via her personal email use.
Binney was an architect of the NSA's surveillance program. He became a famed whistleblower when
he resigned on October 31, 2001, after spending more than 30 years with the agency.
He was speaking on this reporter's Sunday radio program, "Aaron
Klein Investigative Radio," broadcast on New York's AM 970 The Answer and Philadelphia's NewsTalk
testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2011 by then-FBI Director Robert S.
Mueller in which Meuller spoke of the FBI's ability to access various secretive databases "to track
down known and suspected terrorists."
"Now what he (Mueller) is talking about is going into the NSA database, which is shown
of course in the (Edward) Snowden material released, which shows a direct access into the NSA
database by the FBI and the CIA. Which there is no oversight of by the way. So that means that
NSA and a number of agencies in the U.S. government also have those emails."
"So if the FBI really wanted them they can go into that database and get them right now," he stated
of Clinton's emails as well as DNC emails.
Asked point blank if he believed the NSA has copies of "all" of Clinton's emails, including the
deleted correspondence, Binney replied in the affirmative.
"Yes," he responded. "That would be my point. They have them all and the FBI can get them right
Listen to the full interview here: ...
Binney surmised that the hack of the DNC could have been coordinated by someone inside the U.S.
intelligence community angry over Clinton's compromise of national security data with her email use.
And the other point is that Hillary, according to an
by the Observer in March of this year, has a problem with NSA because she compromised Gamma
material. Now that is the most sensitive material at NSA. And so there were a number of NSA
officials complaining to the press or to the people who wrote the article that she did that. She
lifted the material that was in her emails directly out of Gamma reporting. That is a direct compromise
of the most sensitive material at the NSA. So she's got a real problem there. So there are many
people who have problems with what she has done in the past. So I don't necessarily look at the Russians
as the only one(s) who got into those emails.
The Observer defined the GAMMA classification:
GAMMA compartment, which is an NSA handling caveat that is applied to extraordinarily sensitive
information (for instance, decrypted conversations between top foreign leadership, as this was).
The location stamps on just a handful of Twitter posts can help even low-tech stalkers find you,
The notion of online privacy has been greatly diminished in recent years, and just this week two
new studies confirm what to many minds is already a dismal picture.
First, a study
reported on Monday by Stanford University found that smartphone metadata-information about calls
and text messages, such as time and length-can reveal a surprising amount of personal detail.
To investigate their topic, the researchers built an Android app and used it to retrieve the metadata
about previous calls and text messages-the numbers, times, and lengths of communications-from more
than 800 volunteers' smartphone logs. In total, participants provided records of more than 250,000
calls and 1.2 million texts.
The researchers then used a combination of automated and manual processes to understand just what's
being revealed. What they found was that it's possible to infer a lot more than you might think.
A person who places multiple calls to a cardiologist, a local drug store, and a cardiac arrhythmia
monitoring device hotline likely suffers from cardiac arrhythmia, for example. Based on frequent
calls to a local firearms dealer that prominently advertises AR semiautomatic rifles and to the customer
support hotline of a major manufacturer that produces them, it's logical to conclude that another
likely owns such a weapon.
The researchers set out to fill what they consider knowledge gaps within the National Security
Agency's current phone metadata program. Currently, U.S. law gives more privacy protections to call
content and makes it easier for government agencies to obtain metadata, in part because policymakers
assume that it shouldn't be possible to infer specific sensitive details about people based on metadata
This study, reported in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests otherwise. Preliminary versions of the work have already
played a role in federal surveillance policy debates and have been cited in litigation filings and
letters to legislators in both the U.S. and abroad.
It takes as few as eight tweets to locate someone
Researchers at MIT and Oxford University, meanwhile, have
shown that the
location stamps on just a handful of Twitter posts can be enough to let even a low-tech snooper find
out where you live and work.
Though Twitter's location-reporting service is off by default, many Twitter users choose
to activate it. Now, it looks like even as few as eight tweets over the course of a single
day can give stalkers what they need to track you down.
The researchers used real tweets from Twitter users in the Boston area; users consented to the
use of their data and also confirmed their home and work addresses, their commuting routes, and the
locations of various leisure destinations from which they had tweeted.
The time and location data associated with the tweets were then presented to a group of 45 study
participants, who were asked to try to deduce whether the tweets had originated at the Twitter users'
homes, workplaces, leisure destinations or commute locations.
Bottom line: They had little trouble figuring it out. Equipped with map-based representations,
participants correctly identified Twitter users' homes roughly 65 percent of the time and their workplaces
at closer to 70 percent.
Part of a more general project at MIT's Internet Policy Research Initiative, the
paper was presented last
week at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
"Many people have this idea that only machine-learning techniques can discover interesting patterns
in location data, and they feel secure that not everyone has the technical knowledge to do that,"
said Ilaria Liccardi, a research scientist at MIT's Internet Policy Research Initiative and first
author on the paper. "What we wanted to show is that when you send location data as a secondary piece
of information, it is extremely simple for people with very little technical knowledge to find out
where you work or live."
Twitter said it does not comment on third-party research, but directed users to
online information about its optional location
"... But the panic is also a clear indication, and perhaps as important, another message, not just to Clinton but to Team Dem, that the Administration can't, or won't but is making it seem like can't, do what it takes to save Hillary's bacon. ..."
"... The fact that there is an independent effort, completely outside the Administration's control, pursuing the server mess, also makes it riskier for the DoJ to do nothing if Judicial Watch exposes damning documents. ..."
"... The Democrats don't have any dirt on Trump the Republicans didn't have. Trump is a referendum on the establishment. The establishment can't attack him, and any attacks too similar to the very publicized establishment attacks will be dismissed. ..."
"... Maybe not Mittens and Bill Kristol at this point, the GOP elites will show loyalty because anything less will risk their own position. The base will remove GOP elites over certain sins. The Teabaggers cleaned the GOP caucus of TARP voters. ..."
"... "Trump is a referendum on the establishment." ..."
"... That's the best one-sentence explanation for his success that I've seen. ..."
"... That is certainly the narrative Trump wants. What I find the height of black, despairing comedy is that anyone believes it. In addition to being completely untrustworthy and self-centered, Trump has little to gain by overthrowing the status quo, and has given many signs that he will continue business as usual, only with a slightly different crew of low-rent elites in charge at the top. ..."
"... No matter what he says, Trump is not leading some sort of revolution to abolish the Empire and replace it with something else, much less something better. He just wants a shortcut to being Emperor. ..."
"... I'm under the impression that if not for the Benghazi investigation, the home server would not have been discovered. However, maybe someone else can confirm that I'm correct. Which, if you think about it, does not actually make sense. The NSA should have known all along. Why on earth she supposed that she could get around the NSA is simply… words fail me. ..."
"... My tin foil hat has always told me Clintonistas may not have worked overly hard for Kerry in 2004, even offering bad advice. Every Winner and Loser column from after the election listed on clear winner, the front runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton. Clinton Inc was operating out of crummy digs in Harlem because they couldn't raise money, but the money poured in after the Kerry loss. ..."
"... My only fear re: how Clinton could win in November would be if she and Bill had the juice to help throw 2000 and 2004 to keep the path clear for her. Unless she can steal in the General, she isn't going to be President. That would also explain Obama's focus on caucuses in 2008 - he went after her soft, less stealable underbelly. (I realize there are also less CT explanations for this.) ..."
"... "Maintaining a homebrew server could be written off as a policy violation, rather than a criminal matter. " ..."
"... Given the last 15 years of brutal, if selective, prosecutions for mishandling materials less sensitive than some of the material on Clinton's servers, I don't think many people will buy that. ..."
"... The elephant in the room is not the private server per se, but the use of it to circumvent any exposure to FOIA requests. The pay-for-play activities of the Secretary with regard to the Foundation can certainly be inferred, and if proven are grounds for an indictment leading to prosecution for treason, and the incarceration (if not the death penalty) for the entire Clinton family. The tons of circumstantial evidence regarding the timing of payments and the goodies granted, would be sufficient for a Grand Jury indictment; the "smell' test is overwhelming. ..."
"... People seem to forget that Clinton served on the Committee on Armed Services from 2003 to 2009 and on the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities … you know, the Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over Department of Defense policies and programs to counter emerging threats, information warfare and special operations programs. ..."
"... I too would want to keep my PRIVATE and PERSONAL emails and other communications private … if she'd been above board and simply had a private email for non-official communications and kept the official State Dept stuff on the official account, there would be nothing here. ..."
"... Sanders will lose his clout and things go back to normal. ..."
"... private server ..."
"... a personal email account was allowed ..."
"... It seems that Mills claimed that HRC's use of the private email was not kept secret and lots of Admin officials knew about it. (Note that people had to make a special request to be able to use her email.) But Obama claimed he only learned of it "like the rest of you, in the news reports". So Obama and Hillary never emailed each other while she was SoS? ..."
"... They never were chummy esp. after all the heat of the campaign: "You're likeable enough, Hillary". ..."
"... It was reported last January that there were eighteen emails between Clinton and Obama that State was not going to release for security reasons. So yes, they did email each other. It would be interesting to know what security instructions Obama received regarding using his email. Did anyone ever caution him to check the sender's email address as a caution against phishing? Her email address was clintonemail dot com. Even a technical neophyte has to know that means either she or some other entity was hosting the site; and, if a separate entity, did that entity have security clearance for handling those emails? Obama knew darn well that she was using an unsecure system. He is equally guilty of enabling her risk-taking. ..."
"... Now that Elizabeth Warren is being a good girl and playing footsie with Schumer, I can see them thinking putting her in as VP would work well enough. I don't think so (in my neck of the progressive woods, there seems to be a general understanding that she sold out), but more importantly, I can't imagine Hillary stepping away only to see Liz moved in. ..."
"... Their smartest real play would be to let Bernie have the nom and bide their time, hoping they can work in the background with Republicans to taint and undermine him. But I suspect that they're exactly smart enough to know that probably wouldn't work. ..."
"... my rich friends (lifetime republicans included) will vote for hillary, my poor friends won't. ..."
"... Clinton voters are the small amount type. She has only "won," even in the states she did did "win," by massively suppressing the vote. She hasn't even held onto her own voters from 2008, even in conservative states. Her "big wins" in the South were with much smaller numbers of votes cast. There are people who genuinely want to vote for her. They were not enough to win the Democratic primary without massive suppression AND theft. ..."
"... The problem for Hillary is there is no indication the email scandal narrative will ever improve to the point of improving her untrustworthy numbers. The best she can hope for is the FBI stating it will not recommend an indictment which will merely confirm the public's correct perception that the power elite are treated better than the rank and file. Hillary cannot unring the Inspector General's conclusion she circumvented FOIA and federal record keeping laws. She cannot undue the fact she maintained thousands of classified records, along with 22 top secret documents on the private server. She cannot change the fact she hid her use of the private server from the public and only disclosed it when caught by the Senate Committee investigating Benghazi. Everyone who pays attention to the facts is disgusted by her misconduct in this matter. ..."
"... I think her problem is that, in routing official traffic through a private mail server, she's tried to avoid records of her work (as a public official!) ever becoming available to the public. It looks, at the very least, like she's trying to hide something and it's a demonstration of breathtaking contempt for the very people whose votes she's now asking for. ..."
"... If he shagged under the legal age limit girls, traveled on a jet which was used in slave trade of underage girls, etc; then it isn't just his business, it's a criminal matter. If Mrs. Clinton enabled, and/or aided and abetted, then she could be facing criminal charges. ..."
"... The interesting thing is Jeffery Epstein has hidden cameras on both his plane and all over the US Virgin Island private pedophile reserve he ran for politicians and high level government officials. The overseas press is reporting he blackmailed his way out of Federal Charges. Was Bill part of that blackmail? ..."
"... Bill is a sexual predator. His affair with Jennifer Flower was consensual. But starting from when he was Governor, there is a long list of credible allegations of him engaging in sexual harassment (extremely aggressive come-ons with women he had just met, often women who were state employees or Dem consultatnts), including a rape allegation by Juanita Brodderick. We've even had a reader in comments say that when Bill Clinton visited a friend, he asked their college aged daughter when he was alone with her if she wanted to ride in his car and give him a blow job. DC contacts confirm the city is rife with stories like that. ..."
"... If there were an equal ..."
"... As strange a thing as this is to say, I find myself wishing that more journalists had experience in IT security. I do have such experience, and from what I can see most people really don't appreciate just how totally, ludicrously irresponsible it is for that server to exist. Talk of it having been "secured" by some lone IT contractor is ridiculous on its face. I wouldn't run a homebrew email server, and I am basically not worth hacking – very much unlike the US Secretary of State. ..."
"... Seriously, think about it. The Secretary of State had a private email server which seems to have been widely known about within the State Department and other people in government who had dealings with Hillary Clinton. There's really no question as to if that thing was hacked – you can absolutely bet your ass ..."
"... That's what's really galling to me – even by Hillary's own stated standards, what she did with her email is orders of magnitude worse than what Snowden did. But it's Hillary Clinton, so it gets handwaved by the Democrats' long practice at assuming a Clinton scandal is overblown nonsense. ..."
"... That's why people like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, Joe Wilson, and so forth are persecuted by the government while people like Clinton (and Petraeus, Novack, Libby, Bush, Cheney, Obama, Biden, etc.) are protected. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of events. Just as one example, here's the 'ole Gray Lady serving as dutiful stenographer for Nancy Pelosi herself, the Democratic Speaker from San Francisco, supposedly one of the most liberal parts of the entire country, explaining that the law doesn't apply to people in power. ..."
"... I've worked in IT and software development for years and agree that her provision of that server doesn't meet the most basic requirements for security. Also, I work for a rather large company with a sizable federal contract and, if you haven't contracted with the government, you can only imagine the levels of security they impose upon their vendors. Two-factor authentication, encryption at rest, kernel hardening and on and on. Not only do you HAVE to do these things if you want to do business with the government, they bring in teams of their IT people to audit you. And it is not perfunctory in any way. They take InfoSec very, very seriously. ..."
"... Yesterday in the WSJ was this op-ed which made many of the same points that were made here, as well as discusses the fallout if Clinton loses the California primary. I also think that the Dems are not only just worried about the nomination now. The IG's report clears a path for hearings by the Republicans against Clinton after the election. ..."
"... I agree. Sanders has nothing to gain and a lot to lose by "making nice" with the Dem establishment. Why make nice with them? They are the problem, not the solution. That's a mainstay of Sanders' campaign. ..."
"... The Clinton fanaticism isn't about Sanders. They believe they need Clinton. An active DoJ might be a threat. A few have backwards ideas about politics. Some simply did the believe Sanders when he said Hillary was weak, but with a Gabbard in play, many Democrats can kiss their ambitions good bye if Sanders wins. ..."
"... I've said it elsewhere: Sanders is unacceptable to the DNC because a Sanders win would render the DNC networks, influence and fundraising abilities irrelevant overnight. The DNC would no longer be gatekeepers. You can win without them. Thus, Team D does not fear a Sanders defeat, and they can live with President Trump. In fact, that would represent an unprecedented fundraising opportunity. But from the Team D perspective, a Sanders victory must be prevented at all costs. ..."
"... How the hell could Sanders "make friends" with members of the Democratic Party elite? He is blowing up their revolving-door-greasing funding model. Running as effectively as he has with almost no lobbyist money? No major corporate donors to speak of? What can he offer them, except unpleasant changes that negatively impact their careers? ..."
"... "The implications of all of this are that Hillary Clinton did not want her emails subjected to the Freedom of Information Act or subpoenas from Congress. And that's why she set up a home-brew server" ..."
"... But this is definitely putting a lot of spin on the ball, because the other half of the story is the reason WHY she wanted to avoid FOIA and Congressional scrutiny. The answer is: so that between her and Bill she could sell her office to the highest bidders, which the FBI is quite prepared to prove, or if denied that chance, to "leak like crazy" ..."
"... Caution: this course of action carries a high risk of nominating Bernie ..."
"... And that bring up another point for all you "feminist" Clintonistas. Wasn't the whole point of the "first woman in the White House" thing to show that women can do it alone? That they don't need men carrying them around all the time to be successful? Well what's up with your candidate? I have never (in my 65 years) ever seen anyone (woman or man) need more help from other people (mostly men) to gain the success they seek. At every single turn in this campaign we have Ms. Clinton needing someone else, someone MORE, falling on their sword for her. Because left on her own, against a freaking socialist, for Christ's sakes, all she has been able to do is F@ck up. A FIFTY POINT LEAD, gone. Wasted. Nothing to show. And this is what you want as feminism's representative in the White House? Shame on you. ..."
"... Most of the DLC establishment could find it easy enough to "live" with a Trump Presidency. Just like Lil Marco Rubio, they'll easily bend their knees to kiss Trump's heiney and make deals with him. What's it to them, after all? ..."
"... In that scenario Hillary wins the nomination and loses the election, Obama pardons her to head off (in his telling) partisan persecution and looks noble (to the credulous) standing up for her, clearing the way to elbow in on the Clinton network for the-haven't you heard?-Obama Foundation. And the grift goes on. ..."
"... stopped ..."
"... Because the email thing, and the speeches thing, and the neo-liberalism thing, whatever. Bernstein's "leaking" makes clear that as far back as February Obama's guys in the trenches said – hey, we just saw the Bear funds blow up, and this thing is going to end badly one way or the other. We don't know exactly how bad, but bad. Which is bad for us… ..."
"... Yves – Time hss proved you wise. Japanafication is exactly what has been unfolding. And according to Forbes and the Fed, 48% of the population having less than a grand in savings means the US is near third world. One can buy Pop Tarts in third world countries also. ..."
"... The real danger is geopolitics. And this bitch that thinks she is queen has no issues literally seeing 1/3 of the global population dying to escape her crimes. Think of what a rapist does to a rape victim many times. Strangle that woman so she doesnt indict you. Yeah, it is that bad. But there are some form of tech that will end any world war quickly. Stuff of science fiction. America's competitors should think twice, or such may dissapear. Literally. ..."
"... However – and this must have been Clinton's worst nightmare x 10 - unbeknownest to CESC and Platte River, the backup server accidentally synced with another off-site server belonging to Datto for two years before anyone realized it. ..."
"... wasn't ..."
"... to the cloud was taking place ..."
"... So one Democratically connected organization signed onto this separate justice system for the politically connected. Possibly the concern Obama has for his unfunded $1Billion Presidential Library will force him to burnish his legacy by NOT rescuing HRC with some dubious legal maneuver. It is somewhat ironic that Nixon was brought down by a private electronic system (his tape recording system) while Clinton may be brought down by her own private electronic email system. ..."
"... Regardless my experience with talking to Hillary supporters is that no amount of scandal of outright criminal lawbreaking affects their views about Hillary. They revert to "she's been scrutinized and tested for decades by her enemies and she's survived." They are people on the margins who will be affected. How many are the Dem establishment? It's going to take a whopper to get them to tank Hillary IMO. ..."
"... There is a detail that is being universally missed both in the MSM and alternative press: it is a virtual certainty that the NSA has a copy of every email sent or received by that server. ..."
"... Don't forget the mayhem when the FSB (who else) posted Nuland's little chat with Pyatt over an insecure line. Let no one forget that HRC is strongly connected to the neocon project to undermine Russia's return to strength. ..."
"... Just ask yourself: What would Vladimir Putin do? ..."
"... $1 Billion Library ..."
"... I too think bernie will pull it out, the other choices are terrible. I'm looking for aspirational latinos to flock to bernie in california and it'll be a rout that can't be ignored. I hope that's what happens. ..."
"... Clintonsomething – "The Campaign Years" ..."
"... I'm not sure the media's current focus on Hillary's email server is warranted. There are definitely indications that she violated email policies, but there don't seem to be specifics about what these actions were trying to hide. I think her very questionable family ties to corporate money are a more meaningful topic in determining her suitability for the U.S. presidency ..."
"... The Clinton Machine (in other words the political operation of the Bill and Hillary, and potentially Chelsea) has always operated on the basis the money and connections will fix everything. It has, after all, gotten them this far. However, as a core operational mode, it also accumulates cynicism and tends to value loyalty over performance, leading to degradation over time. ..."
"... Seems to me that except in a relatively few corners and local settings, and now very frankly via our mostly collective embrace of the Neo geist, "America" has always and only been about "screwing the other guy." ..."
"... I don't believe "foaming one more runway" (read: having your DOJ, FBI appear helpless) wouldn't bother this administration. A Loyalist are those unengaged (or too engaged) whom choose willingly to believe the disastrous economic and political experiment, that attempted to organize human behavior around the dictates of the global marketplace, has been a splendid success…or worse, blindly, my tribal leader is in accordance with all that is good. ..."
"... Haiti. Look at film of the Clintons in Haiti to see how they work. & Haiti is one place where also the elites own the deeds. Haiti Is America, only sooner. ..."
"... For what it's worth, Jonathan Turley suggests Hillary still has friends in high places in his discussion of former Clinton IT advisor, Bryan Pagliano, who is taking the fifth amendment in deposition on email scandal, ..."
"... Those e-mails don't alarm me anywhere near as much as the $200,000 plus speaking fees from Wall St. NO speech by anyone is worth anywhere near such an amount. These were clearly bribes, there's simply no other way of looking at it. I have no interest in seeing the transcripts of those speeches because the money counts far more than the content, and speaks for itself. No way would I vote for someone so clearly in the pocket of the oligarchy. ..."
But the panic is also a clear indication, and perhaps as important, another message, not just
to Clinton but to Team Dem, that the Administration can't, or won't but is making it seem like can't,
do what it takes to save Hillary's bacon.
And I suspect it really is "can't". The FBI has enough autonomy that if they find real dirt on
the Clintons, they will leak like crazy if the DoJ does not pursue the case in a serious way. That
would make the Administration complicit, and Obama does not want his final months in office tainted
by his Administration touching the Clinton tar baby any more than it has to. In addition, the Judicial
Watch cases are proceeding, and the judge, having had the Clinton side deal with him repeatedly in
bad faith, is not going to cut it any slack. The fact that there is an independent effort, completely
outside the Administration's control, pursuing the server mess, also makes it riskier for the DoJ
to do nothing if Judicial Watch exposes damning documents.
The last time I featured former Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein on these pages, it was to showcase
delivery of messages he received from the White House , to the effect that the "White House"
thought Clinton was blowing it with her Wall Street speeches stance, and because of that, the "White
House" was freaking out (to put it colloquially) - at least as Bernstein tells it.
Here's part of what Bernstein - a Clinton supporter - said last February (my transcript and emphasis;
video at the link):
Bernstein: There is a huge story going on. I've spent part of this weekend talking
to people in the White House. They are horrified at how Hillary Clinton is blowing up her own
And they're worried that the Democrats could blow - they are horrified that the whole business
of the transcripts, accepting the money - that she could blow the Democrats' chance for White
House. They want her to win. Obama wants her to win.
But Sanders has shown how vulnerable she is. These ethical lapses have tied the White House
up in knots. They don't know what to do. They're beside themselves. And now, you've got a situation
with these transcripts a little like Richard Nixon and his tapes that he stonewalled on and didn't
... ... ...
In that context , listen to the current "White House" message about the Clinton campaign
via Bernstein and video at the top (my
Bernstein: The implications of all of this [the email server issue] are that Hillary
Clinton did not want her emails subjected to the Freedom of Information Act or subpoenas from
Congress. And that's why she set up a home-brew server.
I think we all know that. People around her will tell you that in private if you really get
them behind a closed door.
I was in Washington this week, I spoke to a number of top Democratic officials and they're
terrified, including people at the White House, that her campaign is in free fall because of this
distrust factor. Indeed, Trump has a similar problem, but she's the one whose numbers are going
And the great hope in the White House, as well as the Democratic leadership and people who
support her, is that she can just get to this convention, get the nomination - which they're
no longer 100% sure of - and get President Obama out there to help her, he's got a lot of
credibility, it's an election that's partly about his legacy .
But she needs all the help she can get because right now her campaign is in huge trouble…
... ... ...
Two takeaways - one is that top Democrats know how precarious Clinton's position is . They're
not fooled any more than you are. That's worth noticing. And second, the White House and Bernstein
are not blaming Sanders . Whoever crafted this message for us is blaming the Clinton campaign
only, and by extension, Clinton herself.
Hmm. Does make one wonder.
If "they" are so worried about Hillary flubbing her "inevitable" nomination as presidential candidate,
and "they" are apparently not so worried about Hillary loosing to Trump in the run for president
later, one does wonder about the possibility of "they" having some good quality dirt on Trump
(or a backdoor to the voting machines).
Really Good Quality Dirt!
It is a *big* issue to mishandle classified information – normal people will be prosecuted
and may go to jail even by coincidence; like a selfie in front of equipment they didn't know was
classified and which was not labelled as such. Then on top of that comes the sleaze-factor with
avoiding the FOIA requirements, destruction of evidence (which means that certainly Hillary was
up to *something* crooked, because why else bother with all the work? it's very *easy* to hand
over a verified duplicate of a hard disk compared to everything Hillary tried to not do this!)
and of course the blatant incompetence + arrogance shown by Hillary by running a private business,
a crooked one at that, from work?!
A street level dope dealer can manage to compartmentalize their real business from the one
they report to the IRS. But not Hillary.
The Democrats don't have any dirt on Trump the Republicans didn't have. Trump is a referendum
on the establishment. The establishment can't attack him, and any attacks too similar to the very
publicized establishment attacks will be dismissed.
The simple problem is Republican voters selected him over the GOP establishment. All the Republicans
will line up because Trump is now their rightful leader. Maybe not Mittens and Bill Kristol
at this point, the GOP elites will show loyalty because anything less will risk their own position.
The base will remove GOP elites over cert