Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Americans starting to realize their paranoid fantasies about government surveillance have come true -

Americans starting to realize their paranoid fantasies about government surveillance have come true - 

For more than a decade now, Americans have made peace with the uneasy knowledge that someone — government, business or both — might be watching.

We knew that the technology was there. We knew that the law might allow it. As we stood under a security camera at a street corner, connected with friends online or talked on a smart phone equipped with GPS, we knew, too, it was conceivable that we might be monitored.

Now, though, paranoid fantasies have come face to face with modern reality: The government IS collecting our phone records. The technological marvels of our age have opened the door to the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans’ calls.

Torn between our desires for privacy and protection, we’re now forced to decide what we really want.

“We are living in an age of surveillance,” said Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University’s School of Law in St. Louis who studies privacy law and civil liberties. “There’s much more watching and much more monitoring, and I think we have a series of important choices to make as a society — about how much watching we want.”

But the only way to make those choices meaningful, he and others said, is to lift the secrecy shrouding the watchers.

“I don’t think that people routinely accept the idea that government should be able to do what it wants to do,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “It’s not just about privacy. It’s about responsibility … and you only get to evaluate that when government is more public about its conduct.”

The NSA, officials acknowledged this week, has been collecting phone records of hundreds of millions of U.S. phone customers. In another program, it collects audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas who use any of the nine major Internet providers, including Microsoft, Google, Apple and Yahoo.

In interviews across the country in recent days, Americans said they were startled by the NSA’s actions. Abraham Ismail, a 25-year-old software designer taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi outside a Starbucks in Raleigh, N.C., said in retrospect, fears had prompted Americans to give up too much privacy.

“It shouldn’t be so just effortless,” he said, snapping his fingers for emphasis, “to pull people’s information and get court orders to be able to database every single call, email. I mean, it’s crazy.”

The clash between security and privacy is far from new. In 1878, it played out in a court battle over whether government officials could open letters sent through the mail. In 1967, lines were drawn over government wiretapping.


New Xbox by NSA partner Microsoft will watch you 24/7 -

New Xbox by NSA partner Microsoft will watch you 24/7 - 

Possible privacy violations by Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One have come under new scrutiny since it was revealed Thursday that the tech giant was a crucial partner in an expansive Internet surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency and involving Silicon Valley’s biggest players.

One of the console’s key features is the full integration of the Kinect, a motion sensing camera that allows users to play games, scroll through menus, and generally operate the Xbox just using hand gestures. Microsoft has touted the camera as the hallmark of a new era of interactivity in gaming.

What Microsoft has not promoted, however, is the fact that you will not be able to power on the console without first enabling the Kinect, designed to detect both heartbeats and eye movement. and positioning yourself in front of it.

Disturbingly, a recently published Microsoft patent reveals the Kinect has the capability to determine exactly when users are viewing ads broadcast by the Xbox through its eye movement tracking. Consistent ad viewers would be granted rewards, according to the patent.

Perhaps the feature most worryisome to privacy advocates is the requirement that the Xbox connect to the Internet at least once every 24 hours. Many critics have asserted that Microsoft will follow the lead of other Silicon Valley companies and use their console to gather data about its users, particularly through the Kinect, and collect it through the online connection users can’t avoid.

Microsoft has promised that customers will be able to “pause” the camera’s function, but have put off questions on the precise specifics of their privacy policies.


Food rationing to begin in oil rich Venezuela -

Food rationing to begin in oil rich Venezuela - 

It’s unbelievable that Venezuela has got to this extreme situation where the destruction of the productive apparatus, a sharp disinvestment and a hypercontrolled economy has made the most demand for products and services has to be met with imports.- VenEconomy

In a sign Venezuela’s food shortages could be worsening, restrictions on the sale of 20 basic items subject to price controls, including toilet paper and chicken, are set to begin next week in its most populous state, officials said Tuesday.

A spokesman for President Nicolas Maduro’s government said it is incorrect to call the plan rationing because it is meant to fight smuggling of price-controlled food across the border into Colombia. He said there are no plans to extend the program nationally.

Details of how the system in Zulia state will work are still being worked out, said Blagdimir Labrador, the state governor’s chief of staff.

But Zulia will issue computer chip cards beginning next week that will limit consumer purchases of products including rice, flour, cooking oil, sugar and powdered milk, he said. The quantities each family will be allowed to buy, on a daily or weekly basis, have not yet been determined, he said.

The system will register purchases remotely on computer servers ‘‘so the same person can’t go to a different store on the same day and purchase the same product,’’ Labrador said.

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Spying on Americans before 9/11: NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999 -

Spying on Americans before 9/11: NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999 - 

Government Built Spy-Access Into Most Popular Consumer Program Before 9/11

In researching the stunning pervasiveness of spying by the government (it’s much more wide spread than you’ve heard even now), we ran across the fact that the FBI wants software programmers to install a backdoor in all software.

Digging a little further, we found a 1999 article by leading European computer publication Heise which noted that the NSA had already built a backdoor into all Windows software:

A careless mistake by Microsoft programmers has revealed that special access codes prepared by the US National Security Agency have been secretly built into Windows. The NSA access system is built into every version of the Windows operating system now in use, except early releases of Windows 95 (and its predecessors). The discovery comes close on the heels of the revelations earlier this year that another US software giant, Lotus, had built an NSA “help information” trapdoor into its Notes system, and that security functions on other software systems had been deliberately crippled.

The first discovery of the new NSA access system was made two years ago by British researcher Dr Nicko van Someren [an expert in computer security]. But it was only a few weeks ago when a second researcher rediscovered the access system. With it, he found the evidence linking it to NSA.


Two weeks ago, a US security company came up with conclusive evidence that the second key belongs to NSA. Like Dr van Someren, Andrew Fernandez, chief scientist with Cryptonym of Morrisville, North Carolina, had been probing the presence and significance of the two keys. Then he checked the latest Service Pack release for Windows NT4, Service Pack 5. He found that Microsoft’s developers had failed to remove or “strip” the debugging symbols used to test this software before they released it. Inside the code were the labels for the two keys. One was called “KEY”. The other was called “NSAKEY”.

Fernandes reported his re-discovery of the two CAPI keys, and their secret meaning, to “Advances in Cryptology, Crypto’99″ conference held in Santa Barbara. According to those present at the conference, Windows developers attending the conference did not deny that the “NSA” key was built into their software. But they refused to talk about what the key did, or why it had been put there without users’ knowledge.

A third key?!

But according to two witnesses attending the conference, even Microsoft’s top crypto programmers were astonished to learn that the version of ADVAPI.DLL shipping with Windows 2000 contains not two, but three keys. Brian LaMachia, head of CAPI development at Microsoft was “stunned” to learn of these discoveries, by outsiders. The latest discovery by Dr van Someren is based on advanced search methods which test and report on the “entropy” of programming code.

Within the Microsoft organisation, access to Windows source code is said to be highly compartmentalized, making it easy for modifications to be inserted without the knowledge of even the respective product managers.

Researchers are divided about whether the NSA key could be intended to let US government users of Windows run classified cryptosystems on their machines or whether it is intended to open up anyone’s and everyone’s Windows computer to intelligence gathering techniques deployed by NSA’s burgeoning corps of “information warriors”.

According to Fernandez of Cryptonym, the result of having the secret key inside your Windows operating system “is that it is tremendously easier for the NSA to load unauthorized security services on all copies of Microsoft Windows, and once these security services are loaded, they can effectively compromise your entire operating system“. The NSA key is contained inside all versions of Windows from Windows 95 OSR2 onwards.


“How is an IT manager to feel when they learn that in every copy of Windows sold, Microsoft has a ‘back door’ for NSA – making it orders of magnitude easier for the US government to access your computer?” he asked.

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