Items tagged with spying

A report has surfaced that claims the United States government plans to permanently stop its civilian drone program. The reason cited by the report is that the drones used are at least partly made in China, and the United States government fears potential Chinese spying. Currently, the US Department of the Interior has about 1,000 drones that it is reportedly considering ending the use of because the risk of spying is too high. The first rumblings of the government's plan surfaced in a report by the Financial Times that cited two people briefed about the plans. The sources claim that Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt hasn't yet signed an official policy, but is planning to pull the drone... Read more...
Chinese tech giant Huawei and the U.S. government aren’t exactly on friendly terms these days. The U.S. has long claimed that Huawei represents a security risk to governmental agencies and consumers alike, while at the same time torpedoing the company’s efforts to expand its presence Stateside with wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon. Huawei recently fought back, suing the U.S. government over what it calls an unjust and unconstitutional ban. "This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming U.S. consumers,” said Huawei in its filing. “We look forward to the court's verdict, and trust... Read more...
There was once a time when the thought of someone vying for anonymity online may have seemed a little silly. Some may have even accused those folks of being conspiracy theorists or perhaps a card-carrying member of the "Tinfoil Hat" brigade. However, time and the march of technology sure has a way of changing opinions, especially when it comes to security and privacy. Today, it's a well-established fact that governments, and others, snoop on citizens. It doesn't matter if you think you're the most uninteresting person on the planet; you're likely being spied on, even if just incidentally, for marketing purposes, though hackers and cyber criminals are very much also on the rise as well. If you... Read more...
The growing consensus is that the U.S. government is overstepping its bounds and trampling on people's right to privacy. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the government's vast spying program, and while that was an eye opener for the country (and world) at large, the full extent of its efforts are still coming to light. The most recent example is the email scanner Yahoo built under the direction of the NSA and FBI.Developed in secret, the email scanner was found to be a sophisticated hacking tool, or rootkit, as some experts have classified it. The email scanner gave the U.S. government the ability to spy on millions of Yahoo Mail users without their knowledge or consent.... Read more...
Is this real life or an Orwellian nightmare? You might want to think twice before purchasing a MyFriend Cayla or i-Que Robot. The smart toys have been accused of sending information to the Massachusetts-based company Nuance Communication. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), and Consumers Union filed a complaint against Genesis Toys and Nuance Communication with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this morning. The MyFriend Cayla and the i-Que Robot used voice recognition to listen to the children who play with them. The toys connect via Bluetooth to a mobile app. The app records conversations... Read more...
There are steps you can take to reclaim your privacy, such as putting a piece of black tape over your laptop's webcam, but unless you're willing to disconnect completely, total privacy might be a myth. Case in point, researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University recently demonstrated how easy it is to hack a system so that the headphones record sound like a microphone. The proof-of-concept computer code at work is called "Speake(a)r" and what it does is repurpose the speakers inside headphones to record audio. It does this by capturing vibrations in the air and converting them into electromagnetic signals that can be clearly heard from across a room. It even works when the headphones are plugged... Read more...
If you follow WikiLeaks on Twitter, you may have noticed a series of cryptic tweets consisting of strings of numbers and letters. These are hashes or keys of sorts, some of which are calling "dead man's keys." Regardless, they appear to be related to another WikiLeak post on Twitter claiming its co-founder, Julian Assange, is without Internet access after his connection was "intentionally severed by a state party." That action has reportedly activated WikiLeaks' "appropriate contingency plans" in response. Julian Assange's internet link has been intentionally severed by a state party. We have activated the appropriate contingency plans. — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 17, 2016 The announcement... Read more...
You know a story is going to be good when it involves Facebook, its creator Mark Zuckerberg, and the word "privacy". It used to be that Google was considered the biggest, baddest people data-fetcher, but over time, that crown has been passed to Facebook, a service that doesn't even need to try to get information from people, as those people willingly cough it up themselves. For a multitude of reasons, the lack of privacy on Facebook should be concerning to many, especially when you consider that Mark Zuckerberg can't seem to get enough privacy for himself. As we reported just the other day, Facebook-owned Instagram recently achieved half a billion users. To celebrate, Zuckerberg took to... Read more...
Last week, we learned about the company teaming up with others, such as Microsoft and Yahoo, to make SMTP 'Strict Transport Security' a reality, a protocol that would make it even harder for malicious users to gain access to our email. In a new blog post, the company draws our attention to SMTP STS as well as a couple of other recent (and not so recent) ways the company has improved our security. On Safer Internet Day, which happened a month-and-a-half ago, the company introduced a new Gmail feature that highlights when email is received or being sent to a domain that doesn't offer encryption. You'll see this as a broken lock inside a compose window or... Read more...
Could your smartphone be listening in on your life? If you download mobile apps without much care for their permissions requests, you might not ever know. The privacy threat is so significant though, that the Federal Trade Commission has stepped in and warned us to be aware of it. On Thursday, the FTC sent a letter to a dozen app developers warning them against their use of "audio beacons", which listen in on the environment and pick up hidden noise signals from TV shows. This is made possible with technology from an Indian company named Silverpush, and in effect it lets the app figure out what you're watching, because it has the ability to listen in at will. The app would also be able to tell... Read more...
If you thought that United States intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the country were incredibly adamant about spying on its citizens (going to extreme lengths to do so), you haven’t seen anything yet. Across the pond, the Campaigners Privacy International filed a formal complaint against the UK’s GCHQ, levying claims that the agency’s efforts to hack the devices of ordinary citizens was unlawful. However, not only did the GCHQ acknowledge that it was involved in a widespread hacking campaign (reversing previous denials on the matter), but the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) actually condoned the actions, which it calls Computer Network Exploitation (CNE), and deemed them lawful.... Read more...
The term "IoT" has been floating around for a while and many who care about privacy have been put on high alert. "Internet of Things" devices can help make our lives better. They can allow us to change the temperature with our smartphones or even unlock doors. They could help us track vital stats during a workout. They can optimize the use of our solar power. All great things... but... they can also act as a proxy that allows governments to peer into our lives. Again, this threat is nothing new, but what makes its reality just a bit clearer is that someone in power in the spying industry has commented on it. That someone would be U.S. Intelligence Director James Clapper, a man... Read more...
The NSA’s practice of collecting the phone records of Americans is illegal, a Federal appeals court ruled today. The new decision in the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) effectively kills the NSA’s position that its data collection practice was authorized by section 215 of the Patriot Act. Overturning an earlier opinion, the Federal appeals court wrote that “the bulk telephone metadata program is not authorized by section 215 (of the Patriot Act).” The decision doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the government’s data collection program, however. In its opinion, the Federal court points out that the program is merely not authorized by the Patriot Act and suggests that... Read more...
It was revealed several months ago that the U.S. Marshal Service secretly uses spy planes equipped with devices that mimic cell towers to scan for and harvest cellphone information on a mass scale. Now it's being reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a key role in helping the Justice Department develop the technology that's capable of scanning data from thousands of cellphones at a time.Let's back up a moment. As originally reported by a number of news outlets, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was clueless of the spy program that the Department of Justice (DoJ) won't even admit exists, at least not formally. However, the DoJ did defend the legality of the program... Read more...
Symantec made the unsettling announcement today that it has discovered sophisticated malware that has been operating successfully on and off since 2008. Named Regin, the malware launches in a series of stages and is designed to avoid detection at each stage. Symantec hasn’t identified the organization that created Regin, but says that its sophistication, its targets, and the amount of time that would be needed to create it suggest that a nation state is responsible. Image Credit: SymantecRegin’s first stage is a Trojan. Once launched, the malware goes through several stages, each of which is encrypted. The payload is delivered in the fifth stage. Once complete, the malware can be used for spying... Read more...
We already know that Uncle Sam is keeping tabs on us, or at least those of us who might trigger a red flag for one reason or another. The question is, to what degree? We might never know the full answer to that, though we can parse together bits and pieces to get an idea. For example, Google's latest transparency report reveals that government requests for user data have risen 150 percent over the past five years. This is the tenth time Google has updated its transparency report, and in the latest version, Google shares the number of government demands for user information in criminal investigations during the first half of 2014. It also covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence... Read more...
The Edward Snowden revelations have faded a bit from public view in light of other, more recent political activities, but a new report regarding the NSA and Yahoo has people talking about it once more. Reportedly, the United States government threatened to fine Yahoo a quarter of a million dollars <i>per day</i> in 2008 "if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications." Yahoo's stance was that doing so would violate the U.S. constitution, but that didn't stop the feds from pressuring with such staggering fines to comply with its PRISM program. Unsealed documents -- around 1,500 pages worth -- show that Yahoo actually went through great lengths to resist... Read more...
Big trouble in China? We're not sure, though reports are surfacing that Chinese government officials have been making unannounced visits to Microsoft's offices in China. Microsoft is keeping mum on the visits, and so is China's State Administration for Industry & Commerce, which Chinese media reports had made visits to Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. According to Reuters, China has been keeping a close eye on Microsoft and its technologies every since former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a massive and ongoing spying effort. It's been rough Microsoft in China during the past few months. Back in May, central... Read more...
So it’s not just us then. While we seethe over NSA spying allegations here in the U.S., ISPs across the pond who believe they were spied upon by the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks are taking action. According to BBC News, seven Internet providers, in conjunction with Privacy International, have filed a lawsuit against GCHQ. "These widespread attacks on providers and collectives undermine the trust we all place on the internet and greatly endangers the world's most powerful tool for democracy and free expression," Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, told the outlet. GCHQ The allegations are severe and include assertions that... Read more...
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: "I want law enforcement to do its job in an effective way pursuant to the rule of law. If we can’t... 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 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1881a) using a United States... 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 in a similar (but distinct) activity from the one it's actually accused of actually perpetrating.... Read more...
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