by Mike Masnick
April 5, 2013
So this is interesting. Yesterday, CNET had a story revealing a “leaked” Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) memo suggesting that messages sent via Apple’s own iMessage system were untappable and were “frustrating” law enforcement. Here’s a snippet from that article:
Encryption used in Apple’s iMessage chat service has stymied attempts by federal drug enforcement agents to eavesdrop on suspects’ conversations, an internal government document reveals.
An internal Drug Enforcement Administration document seen by CNET discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that because of the use of encryption, “it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices” even with a court order approved by a federal judge.
CNET posted an image of the letter:
That leads Sanchez to wonder if there might be some sort of ulterior motive behind the “leaking” of this document, done in a way to falsely imply that iMessages are actually impervious to government snooping. He comes up with two plausible theories: (1) that this is part of the feds’ longstanding effort to convince lawmakers to make it mandatory that all communications systems have backdoors for wiretapping and (2) that it’s an attempt to convince criminals that iMessages are safe, so they start using them falsely believing their messages are protected.
Which brings us to the question of why, exactly, this sensitive law enforcement document leaked to a news outlet in the first place. It would be very strange, after all, for a cop to deliberately pass along information that could help drug dealers shield their communications from police. One reason might be to create support for the Justice Department’s longstanding campaign for legislation to require Internet providers to create backdoors ensuring police can read encrypted communications—even though in this case, the backdoor would appear to already exist.
The CNET article itself discusses this so-called “Going Dark” initiative. But another possible motive is to spread the very false impression that the article creates: That iMessages are somehow more difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to intercept. Criminals might then switch to using the iMessage service, which is no more immune to interception in reality, and actually provides police with far more useful data than traditional text messages can. If that’s what happened here, you have to admire the leaker’s ingenuity—but I’m inclined to think people are entitled to accurate information about the real level of security their communication enjoy.
While both scenarios are plausible, both seem fairly cynical as well. I’d like to think that law enforcement is above attempting such tricks, but unfortunately that might just be naive these days.
Christian Science Monitor
April 5, 2013
Using Facebook on your phone? Soon, the company will make it much easier, but, some say, at a steep cost to your privacy.
That’s the tradeoff as the social media giant announces on Thursday that it is launching a branded smartphone that will reportedly operate on software called Facebook Home. Unlike the current Facebook app that allows users to access the site, the new Facebook phone will further integrate the software into features such as text messaging, photo uploading, and more.
As more consumers transition their online habits from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets, advertisers are following. The phone allows Facebook to tap into the lucrative US mobile advertising market that is expected to be worth $7.29 billion by the end of 2013, according to eMarketer.
April 5, 2013
The personal effects of a cyberattack are the invasion of privacy, and associated embarrassment or shame, that a person endures when their personal data is improperly accessed, disclosed, or tampered with. While the nation as a whole does not suffer from the event, the affected individual may feel that the harm is devastating. Such losses are real but not quantifiable.
The economic effects of a cyberattack can range widely, from minor acts of fraud, to breaches of corporate computer systems that threaten the company’s survival, to the large costs associated with expensive cybersecurity systems. In economic terms, the worst-case scenario would be a cyberattack that triggers or accelerates a liquidity crisis among systemically important financial institutions, potentially catalyzing a financial crisis like that of 2008. This has not happened yet, and there is no publicly available evidence that it is about to happen, but the possibility cannot be ruled out.
To date, cyberattacks have rarely resulted in physical damage to people or tangible assets. The principal exception was the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s centrifuge program, which destroyed a few thousand centrifuges. There is no question that offensive information operations will be a feature of future major conflicts between major states.
But how bad could the worst case be? Given the extremity of the possibilities, the answers to this question are more likely to come from Hollywood than CFR. Indeed, technology gone wrong has been one of the great themes of science fiction, starting perhaps with Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. For a more recent depiction of a truly worst-case cyberattack, see James Cameron’s 1984 film The Terminator and its dystopian sequels.
Monday, April 01, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) During his tenure as head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover used the power of his office and his agency to intimidate and harass political dissenters, silence activists and to collect secret files on scores of political opponents and U.S. citizens in general. Hoover died in 1972 but it looks like he has been succeeded by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the Justice Department, which includes the FBI.
In a secret decree granted without debate or approval from Congress, Holder recently granted the National Counterterrorism Center a wide range of new powers to keep dossiers and secret files on U.S. citizens, even if they aren’t suspected of committing a crime, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The paper said that earlier this year, Holder granted the center the ability to copy entire government databases that held information on such intimate details like flight records, lists of casino employees, Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and other personal data for up to five years, even if there was never any suspicion that persons in those databases committed any crimes.
Monday, April 01, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) As mainstream political and media figures head-fake the country with near wall-to-wall coverage of whether men and women should be allowed to marry each other, the U.S. government is planning to snoop through more and more of your private email, using the “threat of cyber terrorism” as its excuse.
Reports in recent days say the additional snooping will come in the form of an expanded cyber security program designed to scan Internet traffic heading into and out of defense contractors; the scanning will “include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure,” NBC News reported.
That means that more private sector employees than at any previous time – including employees of utilities, big banks, key transportation companies and others – will have emails and web browsing scanned, as a cyber security precaution.
Congress isn’t to blame for this latest assault on privacy. This one comes in the form of an executive order on cyber security issued by President Obama in February. Under the order, scans will be driven by classified information provided by the U.S. intelligence community – including data from the National Security Agency – on new or serious espionage threats and hacking attempts. In mid-March, the heads of U.S. spy agencies said cyber attacks have replaced terrorism as the nation’s top threat.
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