Items tagged with spying

As the Guardian broke the news that that the NSA was harvesting nearly 200 million text messages per day (per its investigation in collaboration with the UK’s Channel 4 News into NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaked materials), President Obama said in a speech at the Justice Department that the U.S. government should not be in control of culled phone data. He also called on U.S. intelligence agencies to cease its foreign spying on friendly leaders and advocated for more privacy controls for citizens of those foreign nations whose phone data the U.S. collects. Generally, he wants... Read more...
Following news that tech giants Google, Facebook, and Yahoo were taking measures to shore up their encryption and other ways to thwart spying from the likes of the NSA, Microsoft is taking the same bull by the horns. The company announced that it will be expanding the encryption of its services, “reinforcing legal protections” of user data, and making its software code more transparent to customers. This encryption will cover myriad services including Outlook.com, Office 365, SkyDrive, and Windows Azure, and like the aforementioned tech companies, part of that will be 2048-bit digital... Read more...
A new report from the Dutch news site NRC Handelsblad (NRC for short) is claiming that the NSA has used its own malware to infect and compromise some 50,000 additional networks. The revelation apparently comes courtesy of the treasure trove of documents Snowden released, though the NSA has refused to confirm or deny its capabilities. According to the report, the techniques used to disseminate the malware across thousands of networks are similar to an already-leaked story concerning Belgian ISP Belgacom. The GCHQ and NSA are accused of loading malware into Belgacom's servers allowing them to spy... Read more...
The CIA is paying AT&T some $10 million a year for access to certain customer call data that includes international-to-international calls as well as some domestic-to-international calls, according to a New York Times report citing information from “government officials”. The CIA’s involvement is part of an overseas counterterrorism effort, and AT&T’s participation is voluntary. The way it works is that the CIA gives AT&T the phone numbers of foreign terrorism suspects, and then AT&T checks the numbers against its vast database (which includes calls handled... Read more...
Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt has never been one to hold back from uttering his true feelings, which is led to him making news with a recent comment regarding the ongoing NSA fallout. As the agency comes under continued fire for seemingly unchecked spying across all sorts of digital properties, Google has also been eyed as a potential culprit for being an enabler. Schmidt said: "It’s really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that’s true. The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue... Read more...
The issues of security and privacy should always be on our minds, but ever since the revelation of NSA spying played out this past summer, those issues have been forced to the forefront - impossible to avoid. In reality, that's a great thing... we should be concerned about our privacy and definitely about our security. No one likes being spied on, after all. Most people would never be comfortable with this reality, especially if it's the government behind it. Not long after Google announced its Glass project - wearable glasses that are in effect a computer - concerns began to grow about their effect... Read more...
One of the contentious issues that's swirled around the NSA since whistleblower Edward Snowden began leaking information on the organization's capabilities is exactly what it can -- or can't -- do. Snowden has stated that as a contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton, "I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email." The NSA has strongly denied these claims,  arguing that it had neither the technological capability to engage in such monitoring nor the authority to do so. The... Read more...
A new report (albeit from unnamed industry sources, not Edward Snowden) alleges that the government has used the broad powers granted it by the Patriot Act to demand broad information about a user's passwords, website security, and even encryption information from service providers. The benefits of having this type of information are enormous, as it theoretically allows the government to directly monitor an account as email is sent and received. Email is typically the central repository for website login data and username/password information at any number of sites; it's used as identity verification... Read more...
We've covered the NSA revelations and subsequent government petitions at some length, but here's a new twist to the story of the government's pervasive monitoring program -- a view of the activity from an ISP's perspective. According to Pete Ashdown, the CEO of XMission, a Utah ISP, the company received its first FISA warrant "request" in 2010. There's no way to challenge FISA warrants and no legal recourse -- so Ashdown had no choice but to install a server, one of the NSA's own machines, in their data center. The technical aspects of the situation are remarkably straightforward. The NSA sent... Read more...
Edward Snowden's leaks have shaken something loose in the IT industry. For years, companies have been afraid to talk about the requests and data sharing procedures the NSA and FBI have forced upon them as a result of the Patriot Act. Companies that went to court to fight these demands lost, and lost in silence, forbidden to even reveal that such requests were taking place. Now that the programs are common knowledge, multiple corporations have joined in to demand the right to tell us just how they participate in NSA requests. Today, a coalition of 63 companies, non-profits, and organizations issued... Read more...
Microsoft is smarting in the wake of the Guardian's discussion of how chummy it's gotten with the NSA over the past few years, and the company wants permission to clarify its relationship with the federal government. To that end, the company has sent a follow-up letter to the Attorney General's office, asking it to please address the petition it filed in court back on June 19. Redmond is undoubtedly smarting at the accolades being heaped on Yahoo and its repeated court battles on behalf of its users, and wants an opportunity to clear the air. The company's new letter to Eric Holder states: When... Read more...
For months, there've been questions regarding just how secure Skype's encryption was. After Microsoft bought the VOIP company it began moving to a more centralized node structure that made it easier to scale the product but at the cost of intrinsic security. Now, it seems such concerns were valid -- new leaked documents from The Guardian allege that the NSA has an effective backdoor to all of Microsoft's online products including Skype, Outlook, and SkyDrive. While The Guardian doesn't have any slides to show this time around, it suggests that Microsoft has gone beyond the minimal amount of grudging... Read more...
In the week since word of the NSA's Boundless Informant and Prism programs leaked online, there's been a great deal of concern over to what degree various companies cooperated with the NSA's requests. Some companies, like Google, have pointed to their repeated requests for greater transparency. Twitter, of course, is the major social app that isn't on Prism's list at all. And then, there's Microsoft. It's been notably quiet since the Prism leak, and while the PR team has had its hands full dealing with the fallout over the Xbone E3 debacle, there's certainly been bandwidth for a situation as serious... Read more...
In the wake of the Washington Post leaks, there's been a great deal of discussion over how, exactly, companies like Google share data with the government. The original report implied that the NSA has direct datacenter access and either grabs the information directly  from Google or was copying and analyzing traffic as it flowed through the tubes. Google has gone on the offensive in recent days to simultaneously clarify its own cooperation with the NSA and to push for greater transparency where access requests are concerned. It should be noted, in fairness to Google, that this greater transparency... Read more...
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