Items tagged with NSA

Much has been made of the NSA’s domestic spying program and how the agency has culled data from major Internet companies, and rightly so, but Apple CEO Tim Cook says that his company is having none of it. In an interview with ABC News, Cook was emphatic. “Much of what has been said isn’t true,” Cook told David Muir. “There is no back door. The government doesn’t have access to our servers. They would have to cart us out in a box for that — and that just will not happen. We feel that, strongly about it.” It’s great that Apple is firm about its feelings, but feelings only go so far when the NSA is firm, itself. Further, even taking Cook’s... Read more...
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 to dial down the NSA’s widely-sweeping surveillance, and the New York Times noted that his advisors... Read more...
Facebook is facing a lawsuit from two users who allege that the company's "private" messaging is anything of the sort. We've seen a number of these cases over the years, going all the way back to Google's ad-crawling for Gmail, and it's generally known that if you use a service, company's are going to attempt to monetize your input. In Facebook's case, that includes all the things you post, the things you don't post, and apparently, even your private messages. Over the past few years, Facebook has been caught handing over user information to advertisers (including names and user IDs, despite promises to anonymize the information). According to the complaint, however, FB has been caught "clicking"... Read more...
A fresh set of allegations and disclosures by der Spiegel claim that the NSA operates a Tailored Access Operations program designed to dig into spy targets conventionally perceived as "ungettable" for the purpose of extending the institutions global reach. The program has targeted individuals, companies, government institutions, and infrastructure, with tentacles that allegedly reach into nearly every facet of modern life. One facet of the program that's gotten quite a bit of attention is the NSA's ability to intercept packages shipped to targets, insert malware and other monitoring programs, and then ship the hardware to its intended destination. Der Spiegel reports that this interdiction gives... Read more...
RSA decided to publicly address recent reports alleging it inked a $10 million contract with the National Security Agency (NSA) to use what's considered a flawed and broken encryption standard called elliptic curve cryptography. In an attempt to set the record straight, the RSA stated in a blog post that it's all a bunch of hogwash, so to speak. "Recent press coverage has asserted that RSA entered into a 'secret contract' with the NSA to incorporate a known flawed random number generator into its BSAFE encryption libraries. We categorically deny these allegations," RSA stated in a blog post. RSA went on to admit that it's worked with the NSA as a vendor and active member of the security community,... Read more...
According to a new report, the NSA once paid the RSA Security $10M to implement a flawed security standard as the default protocol in its products. This new information builds on allegations from September that claimed the RSA had deployed a flawed, broken cryptographic standard. The new allegations, like much of what we've learned about the modern National Security Agency, comes from the files one-time Booz Allen contractor Edward Snowden began releasing this spring. If true, the blowback could destroy the RSA's credibility in the cryptographic world. The practical fallout from this news is likely to be relatively small. The standard in question is called Dual_EC_DRBG. It was first put forward... Read more...
We've seen a lot of strange information come out of the Snowden leaks, much of it deeply worrying. We've learned that the government allegedly has enormous siphoning capability, and sucks up data from the Internet at will, gains access to the entire database of cell phone metadata on everyone in the United States, and has even infiltrated the linkages between Google and Yahoo datacenters. Today, we found out that the government has spread that campaign of spying...to Azeroth. Taurrorism. Get it? I'll be here all week, folks According to The Guardian, the GCHQ (British NSA) and our own organization deployed agents to swarm through virtual worlds, attempted to recruit informants out of friendly... 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 key lengths. In terms of legal actions, Microsoft will notify business and government users is there’s... 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 on the traffic running across the network without permission or legal authority to do so. The bulk... Read more...
When the NSA forced several major tech companies including Facebook, Google, and Yahoo to cough up data on their users, one got the sense that it was a situation of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The first round of that battle went to the NSA because it had (some shadily-acquired) court documents that forced compliance, but these are companies with leaders that are not accustomed to being told what to do. (If anyone is going to spy on Facebook users, by god it’s going to be Facebook itself.) Further, the companies are concerned that the NSA is also hacking their network transmissions, including tapping fiber optic cables and breaking encryption. Unsurprisingly, the companies... 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 by its network and not merely those of its own customers) and pulls up records that can help identify... Read more...
Like many other tech companies, Apple is publishing a data request transparency report so its users will have a better sense of the number of inquiries law enforcement makes about the company’s users and their data, and like those other companies, Apple is somewhat hamstrung, bound by law to keep details about many of the requests confidential. “At the time of this report, the U.S. government does not allow Apple to disclose, except in broad ranges, the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as emails, was disclosed,” reads the report. Apple is clear that it’s against this practice, calling it a gag order.... 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 its mission and potentially violate people’s privacy, it’s not OK. The Snowden revelations... Read more...
Following an eight-year stint as the man in charge of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Army General Keith Alexander has decided to step down effective next March or April. So will his civilian deputy, John "Chris" Inglis, who is planning to retire by the end of the year. The NSA came under heavy media and public scrutiny after former contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the agency's extensive spying campaign, which entails intercepting all forms of digital media like email and instant messages. However, the NSA claims Alexander's departure is completely unrelated. "This has nothing to do with media leaks, the decision for his retirement was made prior; an agreement was made with... Read more...
This summer, company founder Ladar Levison shut down his secure email service, Lavabit, rather than comply with data requests from the NSA. There is a widespread assumption that Lavabit was the email service used by whistleblower Edward Snowden, so any requests that Lavabit received were perhaps more targeted than most. One issue with Levison’s decision to shutter Lavabit was that he did so without notifying his users, and they were therefore unable to retrieve their own data and contacts, but Levison says he has reinstated the service for a 72-hour window in which his former users can get back in and grab what they need. The window is open now and will remain open until Thursday, October... Read more...
Payback? Perhaps. With the National Security Agency in the wrong kind of spotlight of late, this is probably sweet for many to read. What's being described as "chronic electrical surges" at an NSA data-storage facility have "hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery and delayed the center's opening for a year." Yes, a full year. In what has to be one of the most bizarre stories to come out of this whole NSA saga, there have reportedly been ten meltdowns in just the past 13 months at the Utah center, with arc fault failures causing all sorts of havok for engineers. The actual cause of the continued issue remains unsolved, with an NSA spokesperson suggesting that "the failures that occurred... Read more...
Given the revelations of the NSA’s data-gathering program coupled with the fact that if you use essentially any Internet services your data is out there and capable of being mined, more users than ever are looking for ways to thwart the prying eyes of power that be. One solution, called openPDS, has been developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Human Dynamics group and ID3, and it’s designed to allow users to “collect, store, and give fine-grained access to their data all while protecting their privacy”. The concept is to give users a Personal Data Store (PDS) where all of their data resides, which ostensibly gives the user greater control over what data is shared and where... Read more...
The average Internet user probably has no idea what "Tor" is. If you're one of those users, you've probably had no good reason to even investigate what it is, what it does, or how it hides. But if you're the NSA, you're acutely aware of Tor, and a new report suggests that both the NSA and GCHQ have had their sights on Tor. In simple terms, Tor is a network that protects anonymity of those who use it. What's interesting about Tor is that the software behind it is mostly funded by the U.S. government; despite all that, the U.S. National Security Agency has had no success in "developing attacks against people using Tor." This is all part of the Edward Snowden fallout, and the latest batch of intel... Read more...
Microsoft's onetime Chief Privacy Advisor, Caspar Bowden, has come out with a vote of no-confidence in the company's long-term privacy measures and ability or interest to secure user data in the wake of the NSA's PRISM program. From 2002 - 2011, Bowden was in charge of privacy at Microsoft, and oversaw the company's efforts in that area in more than 40 countries, but claims to have been unaware of the PRISM program's existence while he worked at the company. In the two years since leaving Microsoft, Bowden has ceased carrying a cell phone and become a staunch open source user, claiming that he no longer trusts a program unless he can see the source.   "The public now has to think about the... Read more...
During an interview at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center this past weekend, antivirus software founder John McAfee touted a new invention that he's planning to launch as soon as possible. It's called D-Central, and based on that name alone, and the fact that it's goal is to enhance your privacy, it's probably easy to surmise that it's simply a creative way to say "decentralize". A hardware product, little is known about D-Central at this point, but given its goals, it's easy to speculate on its final design. It's likely to plug into your ISP's router and perhaps act as a router or switch itself, automatically decentralizing all (or maybe just some) of your traffic so as to make it untraceable... Read more...
Information about the NSA's data gathering efforts continues, with newly-released information of the agency's efforts on the social networking front. It's already been revealed that the NSA gathers information from many different sources, but this latest information gives us a clear idea as to the extent that this data can be used and interpreted. For example, it's being said that entire maps have been created from social networking data that ties the person to a number of different sources: Their friends, locations, time of activity, traveling companions and so forth. With the unparalleled access to certain information that the NSA has had, we can imagine that these charts would be more elaborate... Read more...
If there’s anything positive to take away from this summer’s NSA spying scandal, it might be the increased transparency of major tech companies, as Microsoft has its latest Law Enforcement Requests report for the first 6 months of 2013. Of course, a downside is that these companies still aren’t allowed to report requests from the FISA shadow court, so we have no way of knowing what agencies like the NSA are culling from Microsoft’s vast user base. But for what it’s worth, here are the numbers, sans FISA data: Microsoft received 37,196 requests in the first half of this year, which potentially impacted a total of 66,539 user accounts; those figures include Skype.... Read more...
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