Internet Control

Epic Battle For Internet Control Has Begun

Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Government, Internet Control with 0 Comments
Epic Battle For Internet Control Has Begun

Bruce Schneier gives us a glimpse of the future of the internet, and shares some of the context we should keep in mind, and the insights we need to understand, as we prepare for it.

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The Data Hackers: Mining Your Information for Big Brother

The Data Hackers: Mining Your Information for Big Brother

We willingly hand over information to the big data companies and in return they facilitate our communications and provide us with diversions. Take Google, which offers free email, data storage, and phone calls to many of us, or Verizon, which charges for smartphones and home phones. We can withdraw from them anytime, just as we believe that we can delete our day-to-day social activities from Facebook or Twitter.

But there is a second kind of data company of which most people are unaware: high-tech outfits that simply help themselves to our information in order to allow U.S. government agencies to dig into our past and present. Some of this is legal, since most of us have signed away the rights to our own information on digital forms that few ever bother to read, but much of it is, to put the matter politely, questionable.

This second category is made up of professional surveillance companies. They generally work for or sell their products to the government — in other words, they are paid with our tax dollars — but we have no control over them.

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Noam Chomsky On the Era Of the Drone

Noam Chomsky On the Era Of the Drone

Noam Chomsky is the Institute Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. The most cited living source in the world, his theories have been extremely influential in the fields of analytic philosophy, psychology, modern language, and computer science. He has written over 100 books examining the media, US foreign policy, social issues, Latin American and European history, and more.

We met with Professor Chomsky in Cambridge in May to discuss the development of the drone era under president Obama.

Noam Chomsky: Just driving in this morning I was listening to NPR news. The program opened by announcing, very excitedly, that the drone industry is exploding so fast that colleges are trying to catch up and opening new programs in the engineering schools and so on, and teaching drone technology because that’s what students are dying to study because of the fantastic number of jobs going on.

And it’s true. If you look at the public reports, you can imagine what the secret reports are. It’s been known for a couple of years, but we learn more and more that drones, for one thing, are already being given to police departments for surveillance. And they are being designed for every possible purpose. I mean, theoretically, maybe practically, you could have a drone the size of a fly which could be buzzing around over there [points to window] listening to what we’re talking about. And I’d suspect that it won’t be too long before that becomes realistic.

And of course they are being used to assassinate. There’s a global assassination campaign going on which is pretty interesting when you look into how it’s done. I presume everyone’s read the front page of the New York Times story, which is more or less a leak from the White House, because they are apparently proud of how the global assassination campaign works. Basically President Obama and his national security advisor, John Brennan, now head of the CIA, get together in the morning. And Brennan’s apparently a former priest. They talk about St. Augustine and his theory of just war, and then they decide who is going to be killed today.

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Bruce Schneier: NSA Spying Is Making Us Less Safe

Bruce Schneier: NSA Spying Is Making Us Less Safe

Bruce Schneier: “The NSA’s actions are making us all less safe. They’re not just spying on the bad guys, they’re deliberately weakening Internet security for everyone—including the good guys. It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state.

“We’re not there yet, but already we’ve learned that both the DEA and the IRS use NSA surveillance data in prosecutions and then lie about it in court. Power without accountability or oversight is dangerous to society at a very fundamental level”

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The Dead Rhetoric of War – Chris Hedges

The Dead Rhetoric of War – Chris Hedges

The myth of war, as each generation discovers over the corpses of its young and the looting of its national treasury by war profiteers, is a lie. War is no longer able to divert Americans from the economic and political decay that is rapidly turning the nation into a corporate oligarchy, a nation where “the consent of the governed” is a cruel joke. War cannot hide what we have become. War has made us a nation that openly tortures and holds people indefinitely in our archipelago of offshore penal colonies. War has unleashed death squads—known as special operations forces—to assassinate our enemies around the globe, even American citizens. War has seen us terrorize whole populations, including populations with which we are not officially at war, with armed drones that circle night and day above mud-walled villages in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. War has shredded, in the name of national security, our most basic civil liberties. War has turned us into the most spied-upon, monitored, eavesdropped and photographed population in human history.

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‘Follow the Money’: NSA Monitors Financial World

‘Follow the Money’: NSA Monitors Financial World

Secret documents reveal that the main NSA financial database Tracfin, which collects the “Follow the Money” surveillance results on bank transfers, credit card transactions and money transfers, already had 180 million datasets by 2011. The corresponding figure in 2008 was merely 20 million. According to these documents, most Tracfin data is stored for five years.

“Follow the Money” is the name of the NSA branch that handles these matters. The name is reminiscent of the famous catchphrase by former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, the whistleblower known as “Deep Throat” who offered the information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters investigating the Watergate scandal in 1972.

The classified documents show that the intelligence agency has several means of accessing the internal data traffic of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a cooperative used by more than 8,000 banks worldwide for their international transactions. The NSA specifically targets other institutes on an individual basis. Furthermore, the agency apparently has in-depth knowledge of the internal processes of credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. What’s more, even new, alternative currencies, as well as presumably anonymous means of payment like the Internet currency Bitcoin, rank among the targets of the American spies.

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NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander Thinks He’s on Star Trek (for real)

NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander Thinks He’s on Star Trek (for real)

It has been previously reported that the mentality of NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander is captured by his motto “Collect it All”. It’s a get-everything approach he pioneered first when aimed at an enemy population in the middle of a war zone in Iraq, one he has now imported onto US soil, aimed at the domestic population and everyone else.

But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief’s mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his “all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine”. The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a “cowboy” willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this – not just Alexander’s but much of Washington’s – is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS’ News Hour in a post entitled: “NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek’s Enterprise”. The room was christened as part of the “Information Dominance Center”…

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NSA’s Corruption of Cryptography and Its Methods of Coercion

NSA’s Corruption of Cryptography and Its Methods of Coercion

In the area of cyberdefense or offense (remember, this is an overlapping part of NSA’s mission with cryptography) the government envisions collecting information (because cryptography overlaps with this mission, this might be included in that secret data collection) without a network owner’s consent, conducting defensive measures with a network owner’s consent, or conducting defensive measures without a network owner’s consent (the latter is only supposed to happen in the US with the President’s authorization).

Thus far, the way the government envisions cooperating with private entities seems to parallel how, according to the Snowden leak, it deals with cryptography: it gets it through open cooperation, persuasive “cooperation,” stealing, and more intrusive access onto private networks (though it’s unclear whether the latter, in the cyrptography context, requires Presidential approval).

[…]

…So long as the President can invoke the inherent right to self defense to go thwart a cyberattack or (if that’s the authority used) take some keys, it gives private companies little protection.

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NSA’s Financial War on the World

NSA’s Financial War on the World

I suspect getting a meaningful understanding of the economy would require getting so far in the books of entities like JP Morgan, crisis-causer extraordinaire, that you’d finally see the kleptocrats object to the level of spying we’re doing. Effective spying on this front would require an all-out assault on the privacy of the world’s most powerful companies, and the US is probably not conducting that kind of spying (though NSA’s assault on encryption would allow just that).

[…]

But if we were collecting all this [global] financial data — ostensibly to have advance warning of the next global crisis we’ll do nothing to prevent — in the name of wielding financial weapons, crashing others’ economies for America’s relative benefit, it would seem to be just as or even more pernicious than stealing technology via our spying. Sure, our individual companies wouldn’t benefit, but all companies that still aligned with the US would. It’s one thing to steal a plane design to replicate at home; it’s another thing to play at crashing other economies not by competing better, but by using our spying advantage to do so.

Clapper may assert that it is not a secret that the IC collects all this information. But what is a secret is the degree to which we have offensively waged financial war. If we’re doing so, it makes the collection of such data, in the guise of trend analysis, far more ominous.

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Revealed: How US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Internet Privacy and Security

Revealed: How US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Internet Privacy and Security

US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments.

The agencies, the documents reveal, have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on what they see as one of the biggest threats to their ability to access huge swathes of internet traffic – “the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet”.

Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with “brute force”, and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.

Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software.

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NSA and Compromised Encryption: The Sword Cuts Both Ways

NSA and Compromised Encryption: The Sword Cuts Both Ways

…[T]he assault on encryption represents an end-run around adequate debate by well-informed representatives and the public as to whether the use of cyber weapons requiring compromised encryption systems is appropriate, let alone whether this double-edged sword should be contained in a way that it cannot be used inappropriately against citizens.

Congress has deliberated about the development and implementation of an internet kill switch, the use of which may or may not be legal under the Communications Act of 1934; each time the public has been enraged about the possibility that the government would have the ability to shut down communications altogether.

But NSA’s mucking about with encryption systems offers the opportunity to surreptitiously build a kill switch on any and all systems containing compromised encryption — and with NSA’s influence, the standards to which both computers, phones, and encryption systems are built ensure that nearly any and all devices, attached to a network or USB-enabled can be shut down once a cyber weapon has been deployed.

In other words, the NSA has likely built internet kill switch capability — and any debate in Congress against such capability has been futile.

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On the NSA

On the NSA

A few weeks ago I received a call from a reporter at ProPublica, asking me background questions about encryption. Right off the bat I knew this was going to be an odd conversation, since this gentleman seemed convinced that the NSA had vast capabilities to defeat encryption. And not in a ‘hey, d’ya think the NSA has vast capabilities to defeat encryption?’ kind of way. No, he’d already established the defeating. We were just haggling over the details.

Oddness aside it was a fun (if brief) set of conversations, mostly involving hypotheticals. If the NSA could do this, how might they do it? What would the impact be? I admit that at this point one of my biggest concerns was to avoid coming off like a crank. After all, if I got quoted sounding too much like an NSA conspiracy nut, my colleagues would laugh at me. Then I might not get invited to the cool security parties.

All of this is a long way of saying that I was totally unprepared for today’s [9/5/13] bombshell revelations describing the NSA’s efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it’s true on a scale I couldn’t even imagine. I’m no longer the crank. I wasn’t even close to cranky enough.

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How Advanced Is the NSA’s Cryptanalysis — And Can We Resist It?

How Advanced Is the NSA’s Cryptanalysis — And Can We Resist It?

The latest Snowden document is the US intelligence “black budget.” There’s a lot of information in the few pages the Washington Post decided to publish, including an introduction by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In it, he drops a tantalizing hint: “Also, we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic.”

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