Tag Archives: Intelligence

Largest single personal data hack ever? 360mn stolen account credentials found online

Largest single personal data hack ever 360mn stolen account credentials found online Largest single personal data hack ever? 360mn stolen account credentials found online

A cyber security firm has reported a “mind boggling” cache of stolen credentials which has been put up for sale on online black markets. A total of 360 million accounts were affected in a series of hacks, one of which seems to be the biggest in history.
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Alex Holden, chief information security officer of Hold Security LLC, said that the firm had uncovered the data over the past three weeks.

He said that 360 million personal account records were obtained in separate attacks, but one single attack seems to have obtained some 105 million records which could make it the biggest single data breach to date, Reuters reports. “The sheer volume is overwhelming,” said Holden in a statement on Tuesday.

“These mind boggling figures are not meant to scare you and they are a product of multiple breaches which we are independently investigating. This is a call to action,” he added.

Hold Security said that as well as 360 million credentials, hackers were also selling 1.25 billion email addresses, which may be of interest to spammers.

The huge treasure trove of personal details includes user names, which are most often email addresses, and passwords, which in most cases are unencrypted.

Hold Security uncovered a similar breach in October last year, but the tens of millions of records had encrypted passwords, which made them much more difficult for hackers to use.

“In October 2013, Hold Security identified the biggest ever public disclosure of 153 million stolen credentials from Adobe Systems Inc. One month later we identified another large breach of 42 million credentials from Cupid Media,”
 Hold Security said in statement.

Largest single personal data hack ever 360mn stolen account credentials found online 2 Largest single personal data hack ever? 360mn stolen account credentials found online

 

Holden said he believes that in many cases the latest theft has yet to be publically reported and that the companies that have been attacked are unaware of it. He added that he will notify the companies concerned as soon as his staff has identified them.

“We have staff working around the clock to identify the victims,”
 he said.

However, he did say that the email addresses in question are from major providers such as AOL Inc, Google Inc, Yahoo Inc, and Microsoft Corp, as well as “almost all” Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations.

Heather Bearfield, who runs cybersecurity for an accounting firm Marcum LLP, told Reuters that while she had no information about Hold Security’s findings, she believed that it was quite plausible as hackers can do more with stolen credentials than they can with stolen credit cards, as people often use the same login and password for many different accounts.

“They can get access to your actual bank account. That is huge. That is not necessarily recoverable funds,”she said.

The latest revelation by Hold Security comes just months after the US retailer Target announced that 110 million of their customers had their data stolen by hackers. Target and the credit and debit card companies concerned said that consumers do not bear much risk as funds are rapidly refunded in fraud losses.

Source: RT

Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss

Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication’ says outgoing NSA boss Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss

General Keith Alexander, the soon-to-be departed chief of the NSA, admitted Thursday in front of a congressional committee that the massive intelligence agency may be open to extracting less, or more targeted metadata from communication companies.
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Classified documents leaked last summer by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the intelligence agency currently compels at least three major telephone providers – Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T – to turn over call information on millions of Americans. Among that information, known as metadata, is the duration of the call, the time the call was made, who the phone call was to, and where it originated.

Snowden disclosed a trove of secret information about US intelligence activity to the press, but the collection of phone metadata has been perhaps the most controversial, in part because of its sheer breadth.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) was among those hoping to find more when, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he asked Alexander how the metadata is collected and stored.

Chairman, I think there are three options that you put on the table,” Alexander replied. “You mentioned the government holding it, the ISPs holding it. I think there is yet another option where we look at what data you actually need and only get that data.

Can we come up with a capability that just gets those that are predicated on a terrorist communication? I think you have those three options that I’ve put on the table,” he continued. “Those are three of the ones that I think need to be clearly discussed and the merits from both sides, they have pros and cons on the agility that you would have with the program.”

Alexander was referring to possible reforms to the NSA set forth by US intelligence and law enforcement leaders earlier this week. US President Obama, who has said he is open to reforming the surveillance programs after public scrutiny, tasked the attorney general and other administration officials to propose theories on how the phone metadata collection program could remain in use.

The most radical proposal, according to anonymous sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, would be to entirely abandon the collection of telephony metadata. Officials are also considering turning that vast datalog over to a government agency other than the NSA – either the FBI or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, perhaps.

Alexander’s testimony seemed to indicate that the scenario the administration is taking most seriously is leaving the trove metadata with the phone company, with the NSA only forcing the company to handover information about numbers thought to be involved in a web of terrorism.

It’s impossible to guess exactly what Alexander’s intentions are, though, because of the general’s reputation as a surveillance hawk. One unnamed intelligence source told the Washington Post in 2013 that Alexander organized the mass collection of Iraqi telecommunication information as a measure against terror attacks on US troops there. That official implied that Alexander had brought the same approach stateside.

Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, [Alexander’s] approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’” he said. “Collect it all, tag it, store it…And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

Alexander, the public face of the NSA, has kept that stance even in the face of public pressure and questions from lawmakers. He said in October that the NSA could scale back the eavesdropping on foreign leaders, but that the indiscriminate interception should continue, even if the data is turned over to a third party.

I would love to give this hornet’s nest to someone else, to say: ‘You get stung by this.’ But don’t drop it, because that’s our country, and if you drop it, the chance of that a terrorist attack gets through increases,” he said.

Previous reports indicated that the outgoing Alexander would relinquish his position as director by March or April 2014. Administration sources insisted that plans for his departure had been in the works before the Snowden leak, but the agency has been dogged by question and criticism for more than six months.

The true tragedy in all this is the way the press has articulated [the NSA] as the villains when what they are doing is protecting the country and [doing] what we have asked them to do,” Alexander said.

Source: RT

GCHQ and NSA intercepted Yahoo users’ private photographs

GCHQ and NSA intercepted Yahoo users private photographs GCHQ and NSA intercepted Yahoo users private photographs

British and American surveillance agencies teamed up to develop a system that collected millions of images from the webcams of unsuspecting and innocent internet users, new leaked documents reveal.
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This “Optic Nerve” program — administered by the UK’s GCHQ with the assistance of the National Security Agency — routinely intercepted and stored those webcam images in secret starting in 2008, according to documents disclosed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian on Thursday.

The program indiscriminately collected millions of images from people who used Yahoo’s webcam chat function, the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman and James Ball reported, “including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications.”

According to the journalists, the GCHQ relied on Optic Nerve to experiment with facial recognition programing to monitor existing targets and search for new persons of interest.

But the GCHQ didn’t stop at targeting solely suspected terrorists, the report continues, and instead collected intelligence by seemingly anyone unfortunate enough to log-in to Yahoo’s webcam chat feature, at least between 2008 and 2012.

“Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets,” reads a portion of the classified documentation published by the paper.

The GCHQ did not limit their surveillance to just those target, however. According to the leaked Snowden document, 1.8 million Yahoo users had their webcam images collected by the agency during just a six-month span shortly after Optic Nerve was first rolled out.

When reached for comment by the British paper, a representative for Yahoo said the GCHQ program as explained demonstrates a “whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy.”

Elsewhere in the leaked documentation, GCHQ agents admitted that a large portion of the imagery collected contained “undesirable nudity.”

“Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” one internal document cited by The Guardian reads.“Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”

And although the program was carried out by British spies, Ackerman and Ball acknowledged that millions of Americans may have had their own likeness — clothed or not — captured in the process.

“GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant,” they wrote.

But Vanee Vines, a spokesperson for the NSA, told the Guardian that the US spy agency “does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself.”

“A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights. Those procedures govern the acquisition, use, and retention of information about US persons,” Vines said.

In an op-ed published in The Guardian also on Thursday, acclaimed security expert and cryptographer Bruce Schneier said even safeguards in place to prevent these images being viewed by any GCHQ staffer should be questioned.

“[I]s it really okay for a computer to monitor you online, and for that data collection and analysis only to count as a potential privacy invasion when a person sees it? I say it’s not, and the latest Snowden leaks only make more clear how important this distinction is,” he wrote.

Source: RT

Apple security flaw could be a backdoor for the NSA

Apple security flaw could be a backdoor for the NSA Apple security flaw could be a backdoor for the NSA

Was the National Security Agency exploiting two just-discovered security flaws to hack into the iPhones and Apple computers of certain targets? Some skeptics are saying there is cause to be concerned about recent coincidences regarding the NSA and Apple.
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Within hours of one another over the weekend, Apple acknowledged that it had discovered critical vulnerabilities in both its iOS and OSX operating systems that, if exploited correctly, would put thought-to-be-secure communications into the hands of skilled hackers.

“An attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS,” the company announced.

Apple has since taken steps to supposedly patch up the flaw that affected mobile devices running its iOS operating system, such as iPhones, but has yet to unveil any fix for the OSX used by desktop and laptop computers. As experts investigated the issue through the weekend, though, many couldn’t help but consider the likelihood — no matter how modicum — that the United States’ secretive spy agency exploited those security flaws to conduct surveillance on targets.

On Saturday, Apple enthusiast and blogger John Gruber noted on his personal website that information contained within internal NSA documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden last year coincide closely with the release of the affected mobile operating system, iOS 6.

According to a NSA slideshow leaked by Mr. Snowden last June, the US government has since 2007 relied on a program named PRISM that enables the agency to collect data “directly from the servers” of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and others. The most recent addition to that list, however, was Apple, which the NSA said it was only able to exploit using PRISM since October 2012.

The affected operating system — iOS 6.0 — was released days earlier on September 24, 2012.

These facts, Gruber blogged, “prove nothing” and are “purely circumstantial.” Nevertheless, he wrote, “the shoe fits.”

With the iOS vulnerability being blamed on a single line of erroneous code, Gruber considered a number of possibilities to explain how that happened.

Conspiratorially, one could suppose the NSA planted the bug, through an employee mole, perhaps. Innocuously, the Occam’s Razor explanation would be that this was an inadvertent error on the part of an Apple engineer,” he wrote.

Once the bug was in place, the NSA wouldn’t even have needed to find it by manually reading the source code. All they would need are automated tests using spoofed certificates that they run against each new release of every OS. Apple releases iOS, the NSA’s automated spoofed certificate testing finds the vulnerability, and boom, Apple gets ‘added’ to PRISM.

Gruber said he sees five possible scenarios, or “levels of paranoia,” as he put it:

Nothing. The NSA was not aware of this vulnerability.
The NSA knew about it, but never exploited it.
The NSA knew about it, and exploited it.
NSA itself planted it surreptitiously.
Apple, complicit with the NSA, added it.

Of course, Guber added, there is always the possibility that “this is all a coincidence.” He certainly wasn’t the only one to consider it, though.

Again, all of this is circumstantial and speculative, and Apple has come out numerous times vehemently denying its involvement in any NSA program,” iDownloadblog’s Cody Lee wrote on Monday. “But the timing is rather odd, and it makes you wonder how such a serious bug went undiscovered for over a year.”

Indeed, Apple has since the start of the Snowden leaks adamantly fended off allegations concerning a possible collusion with the NSA. On December 31, 2013, the company even issued a statement insisting “Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone.”

We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them,” Apple said then — nearly two months after acknowledging the major security vulnerability discovered last week.

At the time, though, Apple was responding to another serious allegation that, if correct, gives much more credence to the latest accusations. The Dec. 31 statement was sent hours after security researcher Jacob Appelbaum presented previously unpublished NSA slides at a hacking conference in Germany, including some where the spy agency boasted about being able to infiltrate any iPhone owned by a targeted person.

The NSA, Appelbaum said, “literally claim that any time they target an iOS device, that it will succeed for implantation.”

“Either they have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products — meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems American companies product and sabotaging them — or Apple sabotages it themselves.”

Last year, RT reported that the NSA entered into a contract in 2012 with VUPEN, a French security company that sells so-called 0-day exploits to governments and agencies so that vulnerabilities and flaws can be abused before the affected product’s owner is even made aware. It’s likely just another major coincidence that fits the time frame eerily well, but that contract was signed only days before iOS 6 was released — and, coincidentally, days before the NSA boasted about being able to access Apple communications through its PRISM program.

Source: RT

Bush cyberczar: NSA created ‘the potential for a police state’

richard clarke Bush cyberczar: NSA created ‘the potential for a police state’

The former cyber advisor under President George W. Bush had some harsh words for the United States National Security Agency during an address in California on Monday: “get out of the business of fucking with encryption standards.”
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That was the recommendation that famed cyberczar Richard Clarke made while speaking earlier this week at the at the Cloud Security Alliance summit in San Francisco.

Clarke, 63, served as a counterterrorism advisor for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and later assisted his successor, Mr. Bush, as the special advisor on cybersecurity for that administration through 2003. Most recently, though, Clarke was assigned to a five-person panel assembled by Pres. Obama late last year that was tasked with assessing the NSA’s operations in the midst of ongoing and ever-damaging leaks disclosed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. In December, that group suggested 46 changes for the Obama administration to consider in order rein in the secretive spy agency.

Speaking during Monday’s conference, however, Clarke opened up about some of the more personal suggestions he has for the NSA, and even some insight about what the future may have in store for the agency if they continue to collect intelligence from seemingly all corners of the Earth.

“In terms of collecting intelligence, they are very good. Far better than you could imagine,” Clarke said.“But they have created, with the growth of technologies, the potential for a police state.”

“If you’re not specific, an agency that bugs phones is going to bug phones,” he added, according to the Tech Target blog, Search Security“The NSA is an organization that’s like a hammer, and everything looks like a nail.”

Even if the NSA scales back such hacking operations in the future as Pres. Obama suggested and limits who the US targets and how, Clarke said during Monday’s address that another type of interference favored by the agency — influencing and intentionally degrading encryption standards — need to be scraped.

Since June, those Snowden leaks have exposed an array of previously covert NSA operations, including programs that put the emails of foreign leaders and phone data pertaining to millions of Americans into the hands of the US government. According to Clarke, though, the NSA’s handling of encryption standards — as exposed by Snowden — has serious repercussions.

In September, leaked documents courtesy of Mr. Snowden showed the NSA has invested millions of dollars to be able to decrypt “large amounts” of supposedly secure data, an operation that spies at Britain’s GCHQ called “an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies.” Then in December, further Snowden documents showed that RSA, a private company considered a staple of the computer security industry, had secretly entered into a $10 million contract with the NSA to create a government-friendly “backdoor” in its products.

Because of the NSA’s efforts, Clarke said during Monday’s event, “the trust in encryption has been greatly eroded.”

“The encryption standards need to be trusted,” he said, according to Infosecurity Magazine“The US government has to get out of the business of fucking around with encryption standards.”

“We need to rebuild the trust in encryption; we need to have the US government forced some way into ensuring this happens,” he said.

When Clarke and four other Obama-appointed experts weighed in on the NSA’s programs for the report released in December, the group said they were “unaware of any vulnerability created by the US government in generally available commercial software that puts users at risk of criminal hackers or foreign governments decrypting their data. Moreover, it appears that in the vast majority of generally used, commercially available encryption software, there is no vulnerability, or ‘backdoor,’ that makes it possible for the US government or anyone else to achieve unauthorized access.”

As part of the group’s recommendations, they advised that the NSA “not engineer vulnerabilities into the encryption algorithms that guard global commerce” and “not demand changes in any product by any vendor for the purpose of undermining the security or integrity of the product, or to ease NSA’s clandestine collection of information by users of the product.”

Source: RT

Homeland Security seeking to develop massive license plate database

homeland security to activate national license plate recognition database Homeland Security seeking to develop massive license plate database

The US Department of Homeland Security is hoping to find a private company that is technologically capable of providing a system that will track license plates across the nation, according to a new report.
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A government proposal noticed by various media outlets including The Washington Post on Tuesday shows that DHS is trying to gain the ability to sift through large amounts of data collected from roadside surveillance cameras and law enforcement license plate readers.

The justification given on the document in question is that the database will be able to identify and track immigrants who entered the United States illegally and are on the run from authorities. The method could easily create such a vast network of information, though, that American citizens suspected of no wrongdoing could easily be snagged in the dragnet and unknowingly have their information shared between police agencies.

Homeland Security seeking to develop massive license plate database Homeland Security seeking to develop massive license plate database

A spokeswoman for the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which falls under DHS authority, said the information would only be used in a way that it would not put civil liberties at risk.

It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government,” Gillian Christensen told the Post, adding that the huge sum of data “could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals.”

ICE first issued a solicitation last week asking for bids from contractors willing to build the database. Hypothetically, police officers would use a police camera or even their own smartphone to snap a photo of an individual’s license plate and compare those numbers with a so-called “hot list” of plates already stored in the national register. Police would be permitted to access the network 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Perhaps not surprisingly, as reverberations from the National Security Agency surveillance leak continue to be felt around the world, civil liberties advocates are not sold on the new idea.

Ultimately, you’re creating a national database of location information,” Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Post on Tuesday. “When all that data is compiled and aggregated you can track somebody as they go through their life.”

Prospective luddites considering relocation to the wilderness should consider, though, that police already use a system similar to the one proposed. Local authorities have teamed up with commercial services to gather license plate data for a number of reasons, with traffic safety perhaps the most common. Police looking into suspected criminal meetings, for instance, have compared the information obtained by their own eyes to much smaller lists.

The technology in use today basically replaces an old analog function – your eyeballs,” said Chris Metaxas, the chief executive of DRN, one of the largest databases of license plate information in the country. “It’s the same thing as a guy holding his head out the window, looking down the block and writing license plate numbers down and comparing them against a list. The technology just makes things better and more productive.”

Source: RT

‘Reckless & unlawful’: Assange calls for probe into NSA ‘manhunt’ on WikiLeaks

Assange NSA manhunt wikileaks ‘Reckless & unlawful’: Assange calls for probe into NSA ‘manhunt’ on WikiLeaks

Julian Assange has called on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate NSA spying on WikiLeaks. Secret documents have revealed how the NSA spied on WikiLeaks and its followers, seeking to classify it as “a malicious foreign actor.”
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In its latest release of US government documents, WikiLeaks has accused the National Security Agency of tracking its members and followers. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called the NSA’s espionage program “reckless and illegal” and has demanded Washington open an investigation into the claims.

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said in a statement on WikiLeaks’ website. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.” 

The NSA went to great lengths in an attempt to justify its surveillance. According to 2011 documents leaked by Edward Snowden to The Intercept, the agency was considering classifying WikiLeaks as a“malicious foreign actor” which would have given the NSA more extensive surveillance powers. Moreover, Julian Assange was put on a so-called “manhunting” target list along with suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists.

The government entry into the “Manhunting Timeline” in 2010 describes the program as part of “an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange, and the human network that supports WikiLeaks.”

The documents also note that the NSA considered classifying the torrent website Pirate Bay as a“malicious foreign actor.” The documents are inconclusive as to whether the site was finally classified as such, but classification would have meant the NSA gathered information on anyone – including American citizens – communicating with the organization for any reason.

The NSA was not alone in its sweeping espionage on the whistleblowing organization. It also enlisted its allies in the Five Eyes spying network (UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada) as well as other nations. In documents dating back from August 2010, the US urged 10 other countries with forces in Afghanistan to consider pressing criminal charges against Julian Assange - “founder of the rogue WikiLeaks internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan.”

 

 

The documents show the UK’s spy agency, the GCHQ played a significant role in monitoring the visitors to the WikiLeaks site. A leaked PowerPoint presentation details a program – created by Britain’s GCHQ and distributed amongst the Five Eyes in 2012 – that was especially designed to keep an eye on the site’s visitors. 

As part of the program – dubbed “Anti-crisis girl” in the documents – the GCHQ hauled in massive amounts of data from phone networks, internet cables and satellites.‘No respect for the rule of law’
The new revelations prompted immediate reaction from Julian Assange who decried both the NSA and the GCHQ for acting with total impunity. 

“The NSA and its UK accomplices show no respect for the rule of law,”
 he said in a statement on WikiLeaks’ site. “But there is a cost to conducting illicit actions against a media organization.”

WikiLeaks’ lawyer Judge Baltasar Garzon is now preparing an appropriate response to the new information and the organization has pledged that those responsible will be brought to justice. Garzon said the new documents are a testament to the fact the repression facing WikiLeaks is still very much alive. 

“The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure,” he told the Intercept. 

Both the NSA and the GCHQ have so far refrained on commenting on the new claims from WikiLeaks.

Clapper admits NSA should have been ‘transparent from the outset’ on surveillance

james clapper nsa Clapper admits NSA should have been ‘transparent from the outset’ on surveillance

The Director of National Intelligence has admitted that, in hindsight, the US intelligence community would have been smarter to disclose some details about how telephone records belonging to millions of Americans have been collected for years.
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Perhaps more than any other Obama administration official, James Clapper has been the target of the most criticism, sarcasm, and outright fury since Edward Snowden leaked a trove of classified National Security Agency documents. He has staunchly defended the government’s interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act, under which it argues that secret collection of phone data is legal.

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper appears to have admitted that many of the problems currently plaguing intelligence community are self-inflicted and could have been avoided.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Clapper said Monday. “Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 – which is the genesis of the 215 program – and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards…We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”

The director went on to say that the Snowden leaks has been a painful learning experience, adding that the ongoing public debate about security vs. privacy would not be going on had the government been forthright with the American people after the terrorist attacks on September 11.

What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

Clapper was a prominent target of critics of domestic surveillance and the press at large because of his claim at a congressional hearing months before the Snowden leak that the government does not collect information on millions of Americans. The response to that question, posed by longtime NSA opponent Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), has led legislators and privacy advocates calling on Obama to fire Clapper and reform the surveillance apparatus.

Since his embarrassing misstep was first revealed Clapper has made public scores of documents and opinions written by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has consistently authorized the phone collection program. He told The Daily Beast those pages are proof that Section 215 is not an unchecked imposition on Americans’ civil liberties.

For me it was not some massive assault on civil liberties and privacy because of what we actually do and the safeguards that are put on this,” he said. “To guard against perhaps these days a low probability but a very (high) impact thing if it happens…I buy fire insurance ever since I retired, the wife and I bought a house out here and we buy fire insurance every years. Never had a fire. But I am not gonna quit buying my fire insurance, same kind of thing.”

Clapper’s admission Monday that national security officials would have been better served to be more open about domestic snooping was welcomed by his usual critics. Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project who also serves as legal counsel to Edward Snowden, said the director’s comments are fair.

If Clapper is suggesting that the American people should have been consulted before the NSA engaged in a mass phone call tracking program, I empathetically agree,” he told the Daily Beast. “Whether we would have consented to that at the time will never be known, we are now having a debate in Congress and in the courts that we should have had then.”

As for why Clapper told a congressional hearing that the NSA was not collecting data on Americans, the intel chief says he “misunderstood” the question.

Source: RT

Sen Rand Paul sues President Obama over NSA call surveillance

rand paul suit nsa Sen Rand Paul sues President Obama over NSA call surveillance

US Senator Rand Paul has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration and the National Security Agency seeking to halt the NSA’s vast data-surveillance program.
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Paul, a Kentucky Republican and toast of the tea party movement, promised a “historic” fight against the NSA when he announced the suit had been filed Wednesday at a press conference. He was joined by Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general, and Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of the tea party-affiliated FreedomWorks. Bruce Fein, a Reagan administration attorney, is one of the lawyers on the case.

The suit challenges the constitutionality of the NSA program that collects metadata on US citizens’ phone calls.

There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records are being taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant, and without individualization,” Paul said.

I’m not against the NSA, I’m not against spying, I’m not against looking at phone records,” he went on. “I just want you to go to a judge, have an individual’s name and [get] a warrant. That’s what the Fourth Amendment says.”

Paul began telling the press about the lawsuit weeks ago. This, along with a 13-hour filibuster on drone activity inside the US delivered in March 2013, has fueled expectations that Paul will be among the Republican presidential candidates in 2016.

Today we ask the question for every phone user in America: can a single warrant allow the government to collect all your records, all the time?” Paul said in a statement Wednesday. “I don’t think so.”

The Obama administration has consistently maintained the data collection program, first unveiled last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, is legal. The 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have reauthorized the data collection program every 90 days since 2006. In 1979 the US Supreme Court ruled that metadata – including the time of a call, its duration, and numbers dialed – is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

We remain confident that the program is legal, as at least 15 judges have previously found,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said Wednesday in response to Senator Paul’s announcement.

In December federal Judge Richard Leon ruled that the surveillance program is likely unconstitutional, deeming the technology “almost Orwellian.”

I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

 

Source: RT

DARPA developing ultimate web search engine to police the internet

darpa internet search engine DARPA developing ultimate web search engine to police the internet

​The Pentagon’s research arm that fosters futuristic technology for the military will soon begin working to surpass current abilities of commercial web search engines. Yet, once it masters the “deep Web,” the agency doesn’t say much about what comes next.

Continue reading «DARPA developing ultimate web search engine to police the internet»

The Defense Advanced Research (DARPA) said its “Memex” project will be able to search the far corners of internet content that is unattainable by modern, mainstream search engines, offering DARPA“technological superiority in the area of content indexing and Web search on the Internet.”

DARPA said earlier this month in its solicitation announcement for Memex proposals that the system will initially be used to counter human trafficking, which often thrives in web forums, chat rooms, job postings, hidden services and other websites.

To root out trafficking operations within the invisible corners of the web, commonly referred to as the“deep web,” Memex (a melding of “memory” and “index”“will address the inherent shortcomings of centralized search by developing technology for domain-specific indexing of Web content and domain-specific search capabilities.”

With Memex, DARPA hopes to achieve the ability for decentralized, automated, topic-precise searches that can leverage image recognition and natural language technology.

DARPA has asked researchers to develop advanced web-crawler software to reach sites and resources that have sophisticated crawler defenses. Memex operators would then be able to access the indexed domain-relevant content with much greater precision and ease than is currently possible.

Memex, DARPA says, will be first employed against human trafficking, which, “especially for the commercial sex trade, is a line of business with significant Web presence to attract customers and is relevant to many types of military, law enforcement, and intelligence investigations.”

DARPA says that dark places online where trafficking occurs enables “a growing industry of modern slavery” that can be stopped with Memex capabilities.

“An index curated for the counter trafficking domain, including labor and sex trafficking, along with configurable interfaces for search and analysis will enable a new opportunity for military, law enforcement, legal, and intelligence actions to be taken against trafficking enterprises,” DARPA’s solicitation announcement reads.

Yet while DARPA mentions the usefulness of such technology for law enforcement and investigative purposes regarding human trafficking – basically, crimes few are opposed to stopping – it does not address the myriad other uses Memex would offer the US military, government intelligence operations, or police actions.

Amid the recent disclosures of government spying via the National Security Agency’s operations, the topic of complete surveillance over the entirety of the web is a sore subject. Thus, DARPA says it is“specifically not interested in proposals for the following: attributing anonymous services deanonymizing or attributing identity to servers or IP addresses, or gaining access to information which is not intended to be publicly available.”

How DARPA would catch traffickers without “deanonymizing” someone, though, the agency does not explain. Nor does it address just how far it wants to out anyone hiding in the deep web for legitimate reasons, whether they are journalists, whistleblowers, activists, and the like.

The Memex project takes its name from a 1945 article in The Atlantic titled “As We May Think,” by Dr. Vannevar Bush, head of the White House Office of Scientific Research and Development. Bush envisioned a “device” that could be used for finding and categorizing the world’s information, acting as a supplement for the human brain.

“In a nutshell, Bush wanted to mimic how the human brain thinks, learns, and remembers information,”writes Motherboard. “Which is exactly what artificial intelligence researchers at the DoD and in Silicon Valley are trying to do now, to glean better insights from the unruly army of big data being collected by web giants and the military alike.”

The Memex project is expected to run over the next three years, with proposals due in April.

Source: RT