Category Archives: Surveillance Politics

Some Members of Congress Are Trying To Invoke “CRA” To Sell Your Data

Congress is trying to strip away your online privacy rights.

Internet service provider knows a lot about you: the webpages you visit, the things you purchase, the people you talk to, and more. Last year, the federal government updated rules to ensure that the companies that act as gatekeepers to the Internet can’t compromise your privacy to make a profit. Those rules are set to go into effect this year.

Now some members of Congress are trying to change that.

Using a little-known tool called a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, some lawmakers want to not only repeal your privacy protections but also effectively prohibit the FCC from creating similar rules in the future.

That could leave consumers without a federal agency to protect online privacy rights.

You need to let your representatives in Congress know that they can’t put ISPs’ demands ahead of their constituents’ privacy.

Please call your lawmakers today and tell them to oppose the CRA resolution to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules.

Posted on behalf of Electronic Frontier Foundation.

ENDS

The CIA Dark Triad – Windows, macOS & Linux

According to the WikiLeaks Vault 7 dump the CIA deploys malware that includes the capability to hack, remotely view and/or clone devices running the Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.

This seems to suggest that the agency has no problem bypassing encryption, proxies, VPN and that Tor anonymity is a myth.

This does not mean that each of the point solutions offering a product under each of the above headings have been compromised. Rather it means that the OS level hack capability of the CIA – as seen on iOS and Android – means that they can gain full control of the device and render any point solution counter measures moot.

Therefore they subvert the platform which by extension means that anything that is running on the platform is subverted.

Tablet, laptop, smart-phone, AV device – it seems they are all fair game and in that case so is everything that you do on them.

You have been warned.

You are being watched.

ENDS

“Bypassing” Encryption is the same as “Breaking” Encryption

According to the Vault 7 WikiLeaks data the CIA made phone malware that can read your private chats without breaking encryption.

Anyone with half a clue always knew that the best way to subvert encryption was to bypass encryption as we at TMG Corporate Services have always done. From our blog post Am I Being Surveilled? on 29th March 2016:

Still – the point is made I think – visual intercepts are economically viable even for local LE – it’s just an ultra low light wifi enabled pin-hole snake camera in the right spot. One above the driver and passenger seat belt brackets in a private vehicle is a good location (easy access to and plenty of space behind the plastic covering the B pillar to store the bits).

Five uninterrupted minutes and both are installed. Just wait for the target to take a Sunday drive and game on. Most people rest the handset on their lap while typing stationary in traffic or better still upright and in front or on top of the wheel when driving – using one hand – which gives a nice unobstructed keystroke by keystroke view of their typing activities.

Most successful hacks are low tech

Today I have seen a bunch of publications and experts trying to assure people that this is nothing to worry about. The purity of encryption is in tact. It is an academic point.

If you are in the business of handling sensitive data then don’t use your cell phone to transmit it. It’s that simple.

* In the hours since the documents were made available by WikiLeaks, a misconception was developed, making people believe the CIA “cracked” the encryption used by popular secure messaging software including Signal and WhatsApp.

WikiLeaks asserted that: “These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloakman by hacking the “smart” phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

This statement by WikiLeaks made most people think that the encryption used by end-to-end encrypted messaging clients such as Signal and WhatsApp has been broken. No, it hasn’t. Instead, the CIA has tools to gain access to entire phones, which would of course “bypass” encrypted messaging apps because it fails all other security systems virtually on the phone, granting total remote access to the agency.

The WikiLeaks documents do not show any attack particular against Signal or WhatsApp, but rather the agency hijacks the entire phone and listens in before the applications encrypt and transmit information.

It’s like you are sitting in a train next to the target and reading his 2-way text conversation on his phone or laptop while he’s still typing, this doesn’t mean that the security of the app the target is using has any issue.

In that case, it also doesn’t matter if the messages were encrypted in transit if you are already watching everything that happens on the device before any security measure comes into play.

But this also doesn’t mean that this makes the issue lighter, as noted by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, “This incorrectly implies CIA hacked these apps/encryption. But the docs show iOS/Android are what got hacked—a much bigger problem.”

* From The Hacker News

ENDS

“All uR devICE r belong 2 US”, Vault 7, Weeping Angel, the CIA & Your Samsung TV

CIA malware and hacking tools are built by EDG (Engineering Development Group), a software development group within CCI (Center for Cyber Intelligence), a department belonging to the CIA’s DDI (Directorate for Digital Innovation). The DDI is one of the five major directorates of the CIA.

The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS.

The EDG is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.

The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is it’s most emblematic realization.

After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on.

In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

ENDS

Extracted entirely from Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed

Mass Surveillance & The Oxford Comma Analogy

Acknowledgments, Contributions & References: This blog post was written in collaboration with and using contributions from Mr. Dean Webb (find Dean’s profile on PeerLyst). The clever and insightful bits are all Dean, the space fillers and punctuation are mine – except the “Oxford Comma” analogy, which even though it is lifted from @Grammarly on Twitter, is mine – and I like it (a lot). Enjoy.

Who Do We Like, Who Do We Dislike (Today)

Wearable tech is on its way, for surveillance during times when one is away from the vidscreen. But we need this stuff in order to protect against Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia. We will always be at war with Eurasia until 20 January, at noon. Then we will always have been at war with Eastasia. And then we will need all this stuff to protect against Eastasia.

On a more serious note, anonymity has been dead for quite some time. As an example, about 10 years ago Dean Webb was running a web forum for students involved in an academic competition.

He and other teachers had volunteered to be admins for the board. They had a student that began to harass others on the board and post some highly inappropriate material. They banned his account, and he would connect again with another account.

So, Dean took down the IP addresses he’d used for his accounts and did a quick lookup on their ownership. They were at a certain university, so he contacted that university with the information and the times of access and they were able to determine which student was involved.

He was told to stop posting, or face discipline at the university. That got him to stop.

Simple Methods, Complex Implications

The point is, that IP address and timestamp for most people is going to be what gets them in the end. They don’t know what a VPN is from a hole in the ground, let alone what a TOR node is.

At best, most of them will use a browser in anonymous / incognito mode, without realising that cookies are still retained and updated, credit card transactions remain on the record, and ISPs will still retain IP address information with timestamps.

It could be argued that a Layer 2 hijacking of someone else’s line is the way to go anonymously, but that involves a physical alteration of someone’s gear, and that means physical evidence, which is very difficult to erase completely.

Even if anonymity is not completely dead (mostly dead, perhaps?), it is certainly outside the reach of most people because they lack general IT knowledge about the basics of the Internet.

I (Graham) was met with the following comment when I posted a tweet some time before Xmas 2016 about Identity Theft:

“despite the hysteria the theft of most peoples personal information is / will be inconsequential”

The use of the word “inconsequential” by the commenter on my post reminded me of the hilarious Doctor Evil therapy session monologue in the Austin Powers movie when Doctor Evil stated, when asked about his life, that “the details of my life are quite inconsequential”. But 60 seconds of monologue later it was quite clear that they were far from “inconsequential” – it is a matter of perspective as to what is and what is not. That is the problem. And that is the potential worry.

Threat Awareness & Counter Measures

The vast majority of people and their browsing habits are innocuous. The point though that the comment misses and which is the point that Dean makes in his comments about the average John Q. Citizen’s awareness of the threats and the countermeasures available is that the public in general has moved their private communications on to a platform where they do not understand the implications of the ability of externals to eavesdrop or to store and reference data at a future point.

There was a blog post I (Graham) made some time ago about the risk of “profiling” and of “false positives” and the threat that they posed especially with respect to miscarriages of justice. (See “The Sword of Islam” story below)

The point is not whether “the theft of most peoples personal information is / will be inconsequential” or the storage of most peoples browsing history or contacts with other parties is / will be inconsequential or not – the point is that it can be made to look very different to what was actually happening originally.

Like a misquoted partial comment in a newspaper article – actions taken out of context can look very different.

The Oxford Comma Analogy

Recently I posted a tweet about the Oxford comma and it does indirectly inform the point that I am trying to make here:

Excerpt begins from Grammarly

“Unless you’re writing for a particular publication or drafting an essay for school, whether or not you use the Oxford comma is generally up to you. However, omitting it can sometimes cause some strange misunderstandings.

“I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.”

Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as stating that you love your parents, and your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty. Here’s the same sentence with the Oxford comma:

“I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.”

Those who oppose the Oxford comma argue that rephrasing an already unclear sentence can solve the same problems that using the Oxford comma does. For example:

“I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.”

could be rewritten as:

“I love Lady Gaga, Humpty Dumpty and my parents.”

Excerpt Ends

The analogy serves to demonstrate one of the main concerns of mass surveillance and mass retention of user data. People are now being profiled and tracked and their behaviours stored and analysed and they do not know why or by whom or for what purpose – they barely understand how to use a browser.

In the wrong hands that potentially makes them cannon fodder. Accuse me of being alarmist and dramatic – fair enough – so did everyone four years ago when I wrote about mass immigration as a weapon, the rise of radical Islam and the dangers of the USA supporting a sectarian Shi’a government in Baghdad, the marginalisation of Sunnis and the Ba’ath party, the randomness of the Arab Spring, the threat of Libya turning into a terrorist haven and so on.

The point is people ignore these developments at their peril but you may as well be talking to a concrete block. You can make all the compelling philosophical points that you like to someone but if they do not have the capacity to understand them then you are wasting your time.

And most of our politicians fall into that category.

Mass Profiling, Mass Surveillance Will Be Inconsequential Until It Isn’t

Dean once met a man named Saifal Islam. He has a devil of a time getting on an airplane because a terror group has the same name – “Sword of Islam”.

He is constantly explaining that the man (him) isn’t the group (them) and that he’s had his name longer than they’ve had theirs. That, yes, the group (them) should be banned from getting on airplanes, but that, no, the man (him) should be allowed on the plane.

Hell of a false positive, and that’s not the only one. Mismatches on felon voting lists, warrants served to the wrong address for no-knock police invasions, people told that they can’t renew driver’s licenses because they’re dead, the list goes on.

Be happy in the knowledge though that your data is apparently “inconsequential” and this privacy debate and the growing intrusion on your personal life is all “hysterical” alarmism.

You can use that statement when you are in the dock defending your very own hysterical “false positive” – no charge.

The next post will be “KarmaWare & Thieves of Thoughts” again in collaboration with Mr. Dean Webb.

ENDS

Orwell 4.0: The Stealth Advance of Kinematic Fingerprinting & Emotion Detection for Mass Manipulation

I increasingly find myself developing a “Luddite” mindset where unregulated VRSNs are concerned. Digital footprinting is becoming passé. The core toolset of mass surveillance is beginning a fundamental shift whose focus is less about observation than it is about manipulation. I like to call it “Orwell 4.0”.

The “interpretative” and retrospective analysis of fibre optic intercepts, metadata, watchwords and data mining for pattern matches in legacy (cubed), “delayed” time or real time data to establish probabilities of certain types of subject behaviours is being augmented by Kinematic Fingerprinting, Biophysical Activity (and the sub-field of Thought Recognition), Emotion Detection, and Behavioural Biometrics.

[Data collection / mining apps in use by Alphabet Agencies have been well covered on this blog and include XKeyscore;  PRISM; ECHELON; Carnivore; DISHFIRE; STONEGHOST; Tempora; Frenchelon; Fairview; MYSTIC; DCSN; Boundless; Informant; BULLRUN; PINWALE; Stingray; SORM; DANCINGOASIS; SPINNERET; MOONLIGHTPATH; INCENSER; AZUREPHOENIX] 

A sort of post-Orwellian “Big Bro” application of subliminal advertising is emerging but this way round the subliminal message is not directed at the product preferences of a consumer but rather the individuals social, economic and political affiliations, opinions and reactions.

Where does this sit with the Federal Communications Commission findings over forty years ago that declared subliminal advertising “contrary to the public interest” because it involved “intentional deception” of the public.

It seems “intentional deception” is about to go mainstream with the support of the likes of Zuckerberg but now with a far more sinister raison d’être.

Are You In A Virtual Police State?

A pretty loose and old list of factors that can help to determine where a nation lies on The Electronic Police State standings does serve to demonstrate the arrival of these new “tools” (by their complete absence in the list):

  1. Daily Documents Requirement of state-issued identity documents and registration;
  2. Border Issues Inspections at borders, searching computers, demanding decryption of data;
  3. Financial Tracking State’s ability to search and record all financial transactions: Checks, credit card use, wires, etc;
  4. Gag Orders Criminal – penalties if you tell someone the state is searching their records;
  5. Anti-Crypto Laws Outlawing or restricting cryptography;
  6. Constitutional Protection – A lack of constitutional protections for the individual, or the overriding of such protections;
  7. Data Storage Ability – The ability of the state to store the data they gather;
  8. Data Search Ability – The ability to search the data they gather;
  9. ISP Data Retention States forcing Internet Service Providers to save detailed records of all their customers’ Internet usage;
  10. Telephone Data Retention States forcing telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers’ telephone usage;
  11. Cell Phone Records States forcing cellular telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers’ usage;
  12. Medical records States demanding records from all medical service providers and retaining the same;
  13. Enforcement Ability The state’s ability to use overwhelming force (exemplified by SWAT Teams) to seize anyone they want, whenever they want;
  14. Habeus Corpus Lack of habeus corpus – the right not to be held in jail without prompt due process. Or, the overriding of such protections;
  15. Police-Intel Barrier The lack of a barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations. Or, the overriding of such barriers;
  16. Covert Hacking State operatives removing – or adding! – digital evidence to/from private computers covertly. Covert hacking can make anyone appear as any kind of criminal desired;
  17. Loose Warrants Warrants issued without careful examination of police statements and other justifications by a truly independent judge.

The NextGen Counter Measures Are Proactive Before The “Thought” Emerges

The background to these “new” tools are broadly discussed in Developing Next-Generation Countermeasures for Homeland Security Threat Prevention (Advances in Information Security, Privacy, and Ethics) (Publisher: IGI Global; 1 edition (August 30, 2016) Language: English ISBN-10: 1522507035 ISBN-13: 978-1522507031) by Maurice Dawson an Assistant Professor of Information Systems (Cyber Security) at the College of Business Administration at University of Missouri- St. Louis. Read the e-book abstract.

The author examines the concept of IoT to design the “novel” (his words) security architectures for multiple platforms for surveillance purposes.

The traditional tools of mass surveillance lack one very frightening feature that the emerging tech delivers in abundance – interference, conditioning and “attitude” programming – this blog post was inspired by an article in The Intercept titled “THE DARK SIDE OF VR: Virtual Reality Allows the Most Detailed, Intimate Digital Surveillance Yet“.

Traditional mass surveillance will ultimately be relegated to a support role by the emerging tech of augmented and virtual reality with the assistance of covert biometric data acquisition, facial and gait recognition data also extracted covertly from “innocuous” social media posts and AR/VR interactions on VRSN’s.

[which is not a new field in Perception and PsychoPhysics see Person Identification from Biological Motion – Structural and Kinematic but the ability to “collect” this data in a more sophisticated and reliable way (in the form of 3D visualization via AR, VR & AI) makes it all the more useful for less progressive purposes]

And of course the “carrot & stick” tools that will look to alter subjects attitudes and opinions by harvesting emotional responses (using retina-tracking for example) and “cleansing” these attitudes and opinions to what is the “preferred” [state] response / opinion / attitude / reaction (or more likely lack of reaction).

[As one chief data scientist at an unnamed Silicon Valley company told Harvard business professor Shoshanna Zuboff: “The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. … We can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad.”] – The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism; 05.03.2016, von SHOSHANA ZUBOFF.]

A research team* at one of my Alma Mater’s Dublin City University wrote a paper in 2014 that postulated that with AR, VR and AI in VRSN’s that subjects and their world view could be tweaked or changed.

The paper discussed how the field of VR is rapidly converging with the social media environment. The paper titled “The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Social Networks: Threats to Privacy and Autonomy” is summarized by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health in an abstract as follows:

[“The rapid evolution of information, communication and entertainment technologies will transform the lives of citizens and ultimately transform society. This paper focuses on ethical issues associated with the likely convergence of virtual realities (VR) and social networks (SNs), hereafter VRSNs. We examine a scenario in which a significant segment of the world’s population has a presence in a VRSN. Given the pace of technological development and the popularity of these new forms of social interaction, this scenario is plausible. However, it brings with it ethical problems. Two central ethical issues are addressed: those of privacy and those of autonomy. VRSNs pose threats to both privacy and autonomy. The threats to privacy can be broadly categorized as threats to informational privacy, threats to physical privacy, and threats to associational privacy. Each of these threats is further subdivided. The threats to autonomy can be broadly categorized as threats to freedom, to knowledge and to authenticity. Again, these three threats are divided into subcategories. Having categorized the main threats posed by VRSNs, a number of recommendations are provided so that policy-makers, developers, and users can make the best possible use of VRSNs.”]

Using VRSN Scenarios for Thought Manipulation & Conditioning

VRSN scenario manipulations are well suited to programming behaviour as well as altering opinion in the “target” or what we used to call the “user”. The “user” tag is no longer accurate in my opinion because the function of the “user” is to extract value from the experience. The “user” in now the “interactor”. In the new scenarios the value extraction (or injection) is enjoyed by the “publisher” or “controller”. [For publisher substitute “government”, “alphabet agency” or “despot”] – the emergent field of surveillance politics and mass manipulation.

The preferred “interactor” attitude and ultimate acceptance/agreement with ideas, opinions, reactions and points of view can be engineered by programming avatar responses to concepts in the form of gestures and facial expressions in response to these stimuli (simple applications being “happy”, “sad”, “neutral”, “angry” avatar responses).

When exposed to subject matter the VRSN can gauge the “interactors” opinions in broad terms using the analysis of the “interactors” emotional responses via eye-tracking or emotion capture and send the avatar the preferred reaction in line with the preferred opinion that the “controller” wishes the “interactor” to hold – if the kinematic fingerprinting suggests that the “interactor” does not hold the “correct” opinion.

The reality is that VRSN’s actual knowledge of the “interactors” affiliations increases exponentially over time as do the metrics which show the successful alteration / cleansing of these “opinions” over time and the A/B testing of experimental methods to produce that result in a “target”.

In an apparent contradiction the VRSN sort of goes back to the “old world” school of line of sight observation of a surveillance “target” (replacing digital footprints) but with one major difference – the observation is paired with “alteration” capabilities – all delivered while you enjoy your leisure time playing in your VRSN. Brave new virtual world.

The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Social Networks: Threats to Privacy and Autonomy Authors:

*Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. Fiachra.obrolchain@dcu.ie. *Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. tim.jacquemard@dcu.ie. *Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Dublin, Ireland. david.monaghan@insight-centre.org. *Insight Centre for Data Analytics, Dublin, Ireland. noel.oconnor@insight-centre.org. *Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. pnovitzky@gmail.com. *Institute of Ethics, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. bert.gordijn@dcu.ie.

The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Social Networks: Threats to Privacy and Autonomy References