Archive for the ‘News You Need to Know’ Category
A lot of information regarding the National Security Agency (NSA) has come to light in the last few weeks but none of the information we’ve seen so far as been as disturbing as this:
The National Security Agency (NSA) has used sensitive data on network threats and other classified information as a carrot to gain unprecedented access to information from thousands of companies in technology, telecommunications, financial, and manufacturing companies, according to a report by Michael Riley of Bloomberg. And that data includes information on “zero-day” security threats from Microsoft and other software companies, according to anonymous sources familiar with the data-swapping program.
In the security industry this is what we would call bad news. Having early access to otherwise unknown zero-day exploits would give the NSA an window of opportunity to attack systems before the owner’s knew a problem existed. Effectively, the NSA could do anything from take down a network controlled by Microsoft systems to installing back doors into networks controlled by Microsoft systems. Beyond receiving information regarding zero-day exploits the NSA may have even more influence over Micorsoft.
This information, combined with the information that Microsoft was the first company to sign onto the PRISM system, makes me wonder how much influence the NSA has over that company. Could the NSA convince Microsoft to hold back patches that fix exploits that the NSA is currently using to attack systems?
I’m also curious how many other companies are giving this type of preferential treatment to the NSA. Is Apple giving the NSA information regarding exploits? Are the lead developers of Linux? Things could become very interesting in the next couple of weeks.
Now that we know the identify of the person who leaked the National Security Agency’s (NSA) PowerPoint presentation on their surveillance operations the only question that remains is, what will happen to him? Hong Kong was likely the best option out of a series of bad options for Mr. Snowden to flee to but, being a country that signed an extradition treaty with the United States, it’s not a viable long-term solution.
Where could Mr. Snowden possibly run? As it turns out, he may be able to find asylum in Iceland:
On Sunday evening Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, issued a statement of support for Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton staffer who identified himself to the Guardian newspaper as the source of a series of top secret documents outlining the NSA’s massive surveillance of foreigners and Americans.
“Whereas IMMI is based in Iceland, and has worked on protections of privacy, furtherance of government transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers, we feel it is our duty to offer to assist and advise Mr. Snowden to the greatest of our ability,” their statement reads. “We are already working on detailing the legal protocols required to apply for asylum, and will over the course of the week be seeking a meeting with the newly appointed interior minister of Iceland, Mrs. Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to discuss whether an asylum request can be processed in a swift manner, should such an application be made.”
A couple of years ago Iceland passed laws to protect investigative journalists from other states. Normally I would be very skeptical about such laws but WikiLeaks was involved in the drafting and Iceland told the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to go fuck itself when it was investigating WikiLeaks so the island’s actions do backup its claims. Couple its journalist protection laws with its willingness to persecute corrupt bankers and you have a place that sounds like a great destination to expatriate to.
As far as I’m concerned the United States is a lost cause. The only salvation this police state has is a reset, which can only be accomplished by a complete collapse. After a collapse the nation could be rebuilt into a beacon of liberty but I believe that time is a long ways off and, frankly, I don’t want to be here when the worst of the economic and state collapse hit. I’ve been looking for nations to flee to and Iceland is sounding pretty nice. You have to love a nation that elects a self-proclaimed anarchic clown as the mayor of its capital city.
During my early days of libertarianism I, like most young libertarians, developed a distaste for the public sector while I pointed to the great things accomplished by the private sector. Now that I’m older and, I hope, wiser I’ve learned that the divide between the private and public sectors is nonexistent. Every major corporation in this country has been co-opted into the state’s machinery. The biggest technology companies have granted the National Security Agency (NSA) access to their customers’ data. That access comes with a downside though. The NSA has a limited number of agents so combing through all the collected data, even after automating the process greatly, isn’t feasible. This leaves the NSA with a major problem but, luckily for them, the private sector is always willing to help:
Amid the torrent of stories about the shocking new revelations about the National Security Agency, few have bothered to ask a central question. Who’s actually doing the work of analyzing all the data, metadata and personal information pouring into the agency from Verizon and nine key Internet service providers for its ever-expanding surveillance of American citizens?
Well, on Sunday we got part of the answer: Booz Allen Hamilton. In a stunning development in the NSA saga, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald revealed that the source for his blockbuster stories on the NSA is Edward Snowden, “a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.” Snowden, it turns out, has been working at NSA for the last four years as a contract employee, including stints for Booz and the computer-services firm Dell.
A piece of this recent surveillance fiasco that’s often overlooked is that Edward Snowdan was able to acquire the information he leaked while employed for an NSA contractor. Booz Allen Hamilton, as a contractor, is just as much apart of the state as the NSA itself. Shit like this happens everyday and it makes finding the line between the private and public sectors impossible.
Needless to say, I no longer point to the private sector as an example of greatness. Now I point to the “black” and “grey” markets, which work outside of the state’s authority. Agorists businesses, ones being run in a manner that directly opposes the state, hold a very special place in my heart.
When the news of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) widespread surveillance operations broke many people were wondering who leaked the information. As it turns out the person who leaked the information decided to come forward (which means he’ll probably be dead soon):
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Some people will call for Mr. Snowden’s head while others, those who actually oppose government snooping, will see him as a hero. Sadly members of the United States government have already begun demanding Snowden be extradited from his hideout in Hong Kong to the United States so he can be disappeared, err, tried:
There was no immediate reaction from the White House but Peter King, the chairman of the House homeland security subcommittee, called for Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong. Snowden flew there 10 days ago to disclose top-secret documents and to give interviews to the Guardian.
“If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,” King, a New York Republican, said in a written statement. “The United States must make it clear that no country should be granting this individual asylum. This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence.”
You have to love the double standard Mr. King is espousing. The NSA was caught spying on American citizens, an act that Congress was briefed on and approved, and King is after Snowden’s head for committing a heinous act. Apparently Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the United States but makes an exception for political targets, which means Snowden may be able to fight his extradition for some time.
Mr. Snowden should be treated as a hero for leaking details of the NSA’s spying operations. So long as the state refuses to recognized the people’s privacy the people should refuse to recognized the state’s privacy.
As if spying on our telephone conversations wasn’t bad enough another disturbing fact was revealed about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) vast spying operations. Although we all suspected that the NSA had access to the databases of the largest technology companies in Silicon Valley we now have proof:
A top-secret surveillance program gives the National Security Agency surreptitious access to customer information held by Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Google, Facebook, and other Internet companies, according to a pair of new reports.
The program, code-named PRISM, reportedly allows NSA analysts to peruse exabytes of confidential user data held by Silicon Valley firms by typing in search terms. PRISM reports have been used in 1,477 items in President Obama’s daily briefing last year, according to an internal presentation to the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate obtained by the Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers.
This afternoon’s disclosure of PRISM follows another report yesterday that revealed the existence of another top-secret NSA program that vacuums up records of millions of phone calls made inside the United States.
What does this mean? A lot. Effectively the NSA has access to every e-mail sent to or from Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google’s services. It also means that the NSA has access to everything you’ve posted on Facebook including comments, pictures, and private messages regardless of your privacy settings. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google searches are also obtainable by the NSA. In other words, anything you’ve ever send to or accessed from the servers of the involved technology companies is at the fingertips of the NSA.
Concern about this very thing is what lead me to move all of my needed online services to my personal server. My e-mail, calendaring, address booking, Virtual Private Network (VPN), and websites are all hosted on a server physically located in my dwelling. Hosting all of your own services can be a pain in the butt at times but it’s the only way to have any reasonable assurance that your confidential information remains confidential. I recommend everybody buy a domain name and move their online services away from major technology companies and onto their own services. If you’re not sure how to do that then it’s time to learn and I will gladly help anybody want asks for it.
If you can’t pull yourself away from third-party services then you need to encrypt everything. I’ve written a few tutorials that explain how to encrypt e-mail using OpenPGP. As of this writing the tutorial for OS X is completed, the first part of the Windows tutorial is completed, the first part of the Linux tutorial will be posted later today, and the tutorial explaining how to use Thunderbird and Enigmail to send and receive encrypted e-mails will be posted in the near future. When the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was being debated in Congress I wrote a short guide that explained a few technologies that could be used to avoid the state’s prying eyes, learn how to use them (I will write detailed guides at some point).
To quote a famous phrase, shit just got real.
Bradley Manning collected a great deal of classified government information and released it to Wikileaks. In so doing he effectively stripped some of the state’s privacy and is now standing trial for his actions (although his trial is almost certainly for show not to determine guilt). As I said, I support Manning’s actions because the state is waging a war against our privacy. As time goes on we’re learning more and more about how extensive this war really is. Yesterday it was revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA), on of the most vicious combatants in this war, has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans:
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
Although we’ve known that the NSA has been spying on our phone calls for some time but the release of this court order gives us a better idea of how extensive its spying is. Once again I’ll iterate that a government that doesn’t trust the general population enough to respect their privacy should not be given the privilege of privacy itself. So long as the state continues to violate our privacy it is right to violate its privacy. I will also point out that extensive spying operations such as this are prime examples of why all communications should be encrypted, which is why I started the Encrypt Everything series. Increasing the number of people who use cryptographic tools to prevent prying eyes from seeing their communications will render large scale spying operations, such as those being performed by the state, far less effective.
People often argue about the cause of violence in our world. Some people blame guns, others blame a lack of law enforcement powers, and some even blame capitalism. I think one of the biggest causes of violence in our world is the relatively low cost of performing violence, at least in most developed nations. A situation in Canada exemplifies this:
After Briar MacLean stepped up to defend his classmate against a knife-wielding bully, his mother, Leah O’Donnell, was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics.” Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.
Briar MacLean was sitting in class during a study period Tuesday, the teacher was on the other side of the room and, as Grade 7 bullies are wont to do, one kid started harassing another.
“I was in between two desks and he was poking and prodding the guy,” Briar, 13, said at the kitchen table of his Calgary home Friday.
“He put him in a headlock, and I saw that.”
He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.”
The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away.
Would you be surprised to hear that Mr. MacLean was awarded for his efforts that may have saved the life of a fellow student? Sadly, in our modern society, we are surprised by such things because that’s not usually the case. In fact that wasn’t the case here either:
“I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said.
That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.
Mike Ridewood for National Post
“They phoned me and said, ‘Briar was involved in an incident today,’” she said. “That he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.”
Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.
“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”
The most messed up thing about this situation isn’t the fact that a kid did the right thing and stopped a violent thug before he was able to harm somebody, it isn’t even the fact that his good deed was punished, it’s the fact that his good deed being punished isn’t surprising.
As I said, one of the biggest causes of violence in our society is likely the low cost of performing violent act. The cost is artificially low because when somebody does step in to defend a fellow human being they are punished.
When the principal said heroics aren’t condoned she sent a very clear message: violence will be tolerated. A student coming across a violent act is less inclined to involve themselves if they know their involvement will lead to their punishment. Knowing this, violent students will be more likely to commit acts of violence because they know the chances of somebody intervening, at least until their act is completed, is lower. I’ve noted that the state lowers the cost of committing violent acts by putting road blocks between individuals and the ability to defend themselves. Punishing good deeds discourages good deeds and a society lacking good deeds is almost certain to crumble under the weight of violence and thievery.
One of the major criticisms of the United States healthcare system is the exorbitant costs associated with almost every medical procedure. Proponents of letting the free market solve healthcare problems often mistaken the United States healthcare system for a free market healthcare system. This mistaken belief leads them to defend the American healthcare system. When asked to justify the extremely high costs of healthcare in the United States these people often claim such costs are necessary to provide quality technology. These people forget to mention that cheaper alternatives are actively suppressed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) whose high certification costs ensure cheaper alternatives never get approval. Thankfully this isn’t the case in every country. Even in a supposedly communist country such as China cheaper alternatives to expensive medical technology aren’t strictly prohibited:
When a devastating accident with a homemade fishing bomb destroyed both of Sun Jifa’s hands, the farmer from Jilin province in Northern China couldn’t afford the expensive prosthetics provided by the hospital. Faced with a family to take care of and rudimentary prostheses that made it impossible to do farm work, Sun began an eight-year quest to design and build his own bionic arms using whatever materials he had available. After a series of prototypes built from pulleys, wires, and scrap metal, Sun settled on a final design that proved so successful that amputees in neighboring towns have been clamoring to buy them. In this video from New Tang Dynasty Television, Sun reveals that he’s already sold 1,000 of the arms at around $490 US apiece, turning his personal catastrophe into a prosperous family business.
The primary reason healthcare costs so much in the United States is due to protectionism. Politically connected corporations are protected by small competitors through state-created barriers to entry such as FDA approval requirements. When such restrictions are absent small competitors can offer alternatives to expensive technologies.
Being above the law must be nice. While you and I are prohibited from breaking the state’s decrees the state, in its continuing mission to enforce its decrees, is free to break them. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has decided arming violent Mexican drug cartels and creating terrorists wasn’t bad enough so they moved to hosting child pornography:
Following a lengthy investigation, Nebraska-based agents raided the large child pornography service in November hoping to catch users who shared thousands of images showing children being raped, displayed and abused.
The Bureau ran the service for two weeks while attempting to identify more than 5,000 customers, according to a Seattle FBI agent’s statements to the court. Court records indicate the site continued to distribute child pornography online while under FBI control; the Seattle-based special agent, a specialist in online crimes against children, detailed the investigation earlier this month in a statement to the court.
If the FBI raided the service why did they need to continuing hosting the material? The raid should have resulted in the acquisition of financial records and log files which could have been used to pursue the service’s customers. Instead the FBI opted to break the very law it claims to uphold. What people often forget is that laws are for you and me not for the state. When the state breaks its own laws it’s for the great good, when you or I break its laws we’re monsters that must be put into a cage or murdered.
If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about… until you do. Remaining anonymous, especially in the lawyer loving police state that is America, is crucial if you’re taking direct action to challenge the state. Last Friday the federal government begun its arrests of people involved with the Liberty Reserve:
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors unsealed the indictment of seven men alleged to be involved with Liberty Reserve, one of the world’s most notorious digital currencies. (Liberty Reserve was the preferred payment choice of a booter site used to attack Ars in March of 2013.)
Federal authorities seized LibertyReserve.com and four other related domain names, effectively shutting down the site. The site’s founder, Arthur Budovsky Belanchuk (who apparently renounced his US citizenship in 2011 to become a Costa Rican citizen), was arrested last Friday in Costa Rica.
In a 27-page indictment (PDF), the defendants are charged with money laundering and conspiracy to operate unlicensed money transmitting business. They are ordered to surrender “all property, real and personal” including: “at least $6 billion” and tens of millions of dollars more allegedly contained within bank accounts across Costa Rica, Cyprus, Russia, Hong Kong, Morocco, China, Spain, Latvia, and Australia.
The federal government has a long history of attacking anybody who attempts to challenge the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on currency. The Washington Post asks if Bitcon may be the next target of the state’s aggression. Bitcoin, however, will be much harder to strike against. Why? Because the creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, isn’t a real person. Satoshi Nakamoto was a pseudonym for the real developer(s). Since the person or persons responsible for Bitcoin can’t be identified the state has nobody to lash out against.
Many people believe they have nothing to hide. I’m sure Mr. Belanchuk believed he had nothing to worry about when he founded Liberty Reserve. There are not statue of limitations when one has affronted the state. While your actions may not be illegal today there is no guarantee that the state won’t move against you tomorrow. Yet the state is not omnipotent, it can only strike against those it can identify. So long as you remain anonymous, as the real person(s) behind the screen name Satoshi Nakamoto did, you are safe from the state’s wrath.