Items tagged with spying

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...
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 Internet companies aren’t necessarily the “good guys” looking out for us and... Read more...
The numbers from Pinterest’s data request transparency report are either impressive or laughable, depending on your point of view. Although the tech industry is rising up in force in reaction against the NSA’s spying tactics and forceful and shadowy means of “requesting” data from major Internet companies with FISA, it appears that Pinterest users have little to worry about. The total number of user accounts that agencies requested data from? Thirteen. Thirteen user accounts, and those requests consisted of seven warrants and five subpoenas. All of the requests came from U.S. agencies, with all but one coming from local or state agencies. On three of those occasions, however,... Read more...
The United States Government has filed a lawsuit against Sprint Communications requesting triple damages to the tune of $63M. Sprint's crime? Overcharging the NSA, FBI, and various other government agencies for the cost of spying on millions of Americans and turning their data over to the government. This is another "unintended consequence" of the Snowden revelations last year, though likely not one anyone anticipated. In the past, the government would've had no choice but to conduct this kind of action behind the tightest of closed doors, lest secrets leak that would reveal to the American people exactly how monitored our telecommunications are. Now, in the wake of the Snowden leaks, there's... Read more...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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 on privacy. With the ability to record video, the risks are obvious. It's been argued that people... 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 authority question may be up for discussion, but new leaks from The Guardian today have blown gaping... 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 when resetting mobile passwords or as part of the security process when accessing a secured site... 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 over a server (Ashdown was only allowed to take technical notes on how the unit was to be deployed).... 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 a letter requesting the right to communicate the following: The number of government requests for... 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 the Department and FBI denied our requests to share more information, we went to the Foreign Intelligence... 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 cooperation mandated by law. The company has reportedly helped the NSA "understand" certain alias... 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 as the idea that MS is facilitating the NSA's access to its user databases. Worse, the company... 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 push lines up with the company's pre-Snowden statements. In recent months, Google has filed... Read more...
Yesterday, we talked about PRISM, the NSA's tool for spying on all foreign Internet traffic routed through the United States. Today, we've got news a fresh leak and another troubling aspect of the NSA's spying capabilities. The newly revealed program, dubbed Boundless Informant, is an analysis tool that creates heat maps of where NSA information comes from and who provides it. PRISM, in other words, provides the raw data -- Boundless Informant analyzes that data and breaks it down by source, volume, and capability. According to Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian, Boundless Informant collected roughly three billion pieces of information in a 30 day window during March, 2013. According to the declassified... Read more...
There have been two major leaks this past week that we want to talk about. First, news that Verizon turns over all phone call metadata -- the numbers called, dialed, and the duration of the phone call in question -- to the NSA. Second, news that the NSA has agreements with major tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, that require those companies to turn over information. Every firm named in these slides has come out and said it does not reveal information about US citizens without an appropriate court order. The NSA has released a statement confirming this, saying: "It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located... Read more...
Prev 1 2 3 Next