Items tagged with NSA

In a lot of ways, the public is resigned to the fact that almost nothing is truly "private." We're given identification numbers from birth, nearly everything about us is volunteered online, and even our mobile devices have GPS modules in them. In a lot of ways, those things are worth the hassle, and worth giving up some level of privacy. But secret, unlawful data collection could turn into a larger deal in the future, at least according to Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith. Per Smith, we could be looking at a "bleak" future if the privacy of citizens isn't elevated in importance. To quote:... Read more...
Even when the government conducts secret activities, those ventures have to be funded, and a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives last night took a swipe at the NSA’s domestic spying practices by cutting some of its funding. According to Ars Technica, Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Thomas Massie (R-KY) authored an amendment to a defense appropriations bill that “none of the funds made available by this Act may be used by an officer or employee of the United States to query a collection of foreign intelligence information acquired under section... Read more...
Ever since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, the federal government has pursued an aggressive set of data collection policies and surveillance practices. Edward Snowden's leaks last year may have raised public awareness of many of these events, but simply being aware of practices doesn't do a thing to stop them. Recent court decisions, however, could be a sign that the wall of secrecy the NSA has constructed to veil its actions is cracking -- with profound long-term implications. First, earlier this week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in United States v. Davis that cell phone users... Read more...
When it comes to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, opinions vary, with some people viewing him a traitor to the U.S. and others viewing him as a hero for shining a light on the shadowy practices of the government. Former vice president Al Gore is on record with his take on Snowden, and although he wouldn’t specifically say that he’s a whistleblower, he did make it clear that he didn’t believe Snowden was a traitor. “What he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the US constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed,”... Read more...
Facebook rolled out a new mobile feature that uses your device’s microphone to “hear” a song you’re listening to or a TV show you’re watching so you can append that item to a status post. Predictably, a lot of people believe that this is a feature designed for snooping and are not happy that it exists. They’re so unhappy, in fact, that they’ve created an online petition to get Facebook to remove the feature from the Facebook app. To date, there are over 580,000 signatures. “Facebook just announced a new feature to its app, which will let it listen... Read more...
Last week, the ACLU was scheduled to meet with local police in Sarasota Florida to discuss the use of cell phone interception towers, dubbed stingrays, that are an increasingly common feature of federal and local investigations. A stingray is a fake cell phone tower that law enforcement can configure to temporarily replace the real towers a device would normally connect to. In an astonishing turn of events, the US Marshals Service has acted to prevent the meeting from taking place -- seizing all of the relevant records and claiming that they're the property of the Marshals (and by extension, the... Read more...
One of the most troubling facts that came out of Edward Snowden's disclosures last year was the degree to which the government has relied on National Security Letters to compel companies to reveal information about their clients without producing a warrant. Many NSLs were accompanied by non-disclosure orders that forbade the receiving company from revealing to the accused that their information had been demanded. Microsoft had previously gone to court over such tactics and today, the details of the company's strategic victory became public for the first time. Last year, the FBI demanded information... Read more...
From Apple to Yahoo, tech companies have a great deal of our data in their hands, and thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know that the government wants as much of it as possible--and has been too successful in that regard. In some cases, there’s just nothing much a company can do when the NSA comes knocking with a warrant, but there is a spectrum of cooperation, protection, and advocacy that various companies employ. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has created a list of many tech companies and charted out a star rating system with six categories: -Requires a warrant for content... Read more...
Earlier this week, Apple released an updated set of legal guidelines spelling out exactly what it can and cannot access on your iDevice, what material it will turn over to the police, and under which circumstances it will surrender it. What's particularly interesting is the split response we've seen from different corners of the Internet. Everything Apple does tends to generate attention, but this particular set of announcements is getting a great deal of press -- and two very different narratives have emerged over what it means. Some readers and authors have reacted rather poorly to news that... Read more...
As Seth covered earlier today, Bloomberg has accused the NSA of benefiting from the Heartbleed OpenSSL bug. The NSA denies this in fairly strong terms. I'd like to draw attention to a different facet of the topic -- first, by discussing the semantics of the NSA's denial and then the wider impact of how that denial is perceived and what it means for the tech community as a whole. The NSA's Denial is Surprisingly Straightforward For the past year, the NSA's responses to the Snowden leaks have followed the same strategy: Either the organization claims that its activities are legal or it denies engaging... Read more...
The news of two truly horrible security breaches broke this year; one was the NSA’s shadowy data grabbing and surveillance program, and the other was the Heartbleed bug that left about two-thirds of the Internet utterly exposed to any bad actor. According to a Bloomberg report, these two stories have merged, as “two people familiar with the matter” have told the outlet that the NSA has known about the Heartbleed bug for at least two years and has regularly exploited it to gather intelligence. In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence... Read more...
As both the general public and CEOs of Internet companies seethe in the wake of NSA spying allegations, some researchers at MIT are working on a tool called Mylar that they claim would essentially spy-proof web applications. The pain point, according to the team, is the server. Every web application relies on servers for processing and storing data, but there are people with (legitimate) keys to that data as well as hackers and government snoopers. “Mylar protects data confidentiality even when an attacker gets full access to servers,” reads the researchers’ website. “Mylar... Read more...
For all the ire the NSA’s spying practices have fomented among users and Internet companies alike, the revelations are prompting some positive changes. For Gmail users, those changes are coming in the form of better encryption on Google’s part. Although it’s been the default option since 2010, Google says that Gmail will completely run over HTTPS when you send or check mail. Further, every single Gmail message will be encrypted internally. “This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail's servers, but also as they move between Google's... Read more...
Google has had enough of government surveillance. The search giant has been encrypting web searches in China to more effectively circumvent the government’s sensors, and that encrypting is rolling out globally, too. Within months, all Google searches made over a modern browser will be encrypted. Make no mistake, this encryption is a not-so-subtle one-finger salute to the NSA, too. We’ve said before that when the scope of the NSA’s spying program came to light and its demands for customer data from Internet agencies became heavy-handed and shadowy, the agency poked the bear. Although... Read more...
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