Just how deep does the NSA rabbit hole go? The Washington Post reports that the NSA is “gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” This enables the agency to track an individual user throughout the day, virtually mapping out every location that the cellphone owner has visited. According to the NSA, the location tracking is an incidental side effect of data collection, although U.S. officials have deemed the practice lawful as the data could assist in the development of the country’s intelligence regarding foreign threats. More →
Microsoft is done playing nice with the National Security Agency. ITProPortal reports that Microsoft has now labeled the United States government an “advanced persistent threat” to its customers’ security, a designation that the company normally uses only “for foreign state-sponsored cyber terrorists.” Microsoft’s decision to label its own government a persistent threat comes as the company is working to beef up end-to-end encryption for all of its data center Internet traffic following revelations that the NSA has found a way to hack into major tech companies’ data centers. Both Google and Yahoo similarly moved to encrypt their data center traffic after learning of the NSA’s escapades.
Stanford researchers are trying to act like the NSA in order to learn about the NSA. Researchers Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler created MetaPhone, an Android app which collects a phone’s metadata and compares it to basic information on Facebook. After learning that the NSA collects phone metadata from Verizon such as calling and texting logs, the researchers wanted to test how revealing this metadata is. “Some defenders of the NSA’s bulk collection programs have taken the position that metadata is not revealing,” Jonathan Mayer told MIT Technology Review. “We want to provide empirical evidence on the issue.… Our hypothesis is that phone metadata is packed with meaning.” More →
BlackBerry’s handset sales have been an absolute horror show this year but the company may get an unexpected boost going forward thanks to an unlikely source. Writing over at FirstPost, Ivor Soans notes that many governments around the world are still hopping mad about revelations on the National Security Agency’s vast data collection practices and thus may take a second look at BlackBerry devices and services as their only truly secure option that American spies can’t hack into. More →
A document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden apparently reveals that the NSA has been keeping track of online sexual activity for certain targets that can potentially “radicalize” others through public speeches, videos and articles in which they express their views against America. In addition to keeping tabs on porn habits, the NSA has also been tracking their lifestyle and money spending, including the use of money from donations for personal expenses for these individuals, The Huffington Post reports. More →
The National Security Agency may have to work a little harder to hack into Microsoft’s data centers in the near future. Unnamed sources tell The Washington Post that Microsoft “is moving toward a major new effort to encrypt its Internet traffic after concluding that the National Security Agency may have broken into its global communications systems.” Microsoft’s decision to encrypt its data center traffic comes after Google, Facebook and Yahoo made similar moves after news broke that the NSA has found a way to hack into their data centers. The Post’s sources say that high-level Microsoft executives are meeting this week to decide what encryption measures the company will take and how quickly they’ll be deployed.
The NSA-related cover surveillance operations are further detailed in a report by Dutch publication NRC that claims that more than 50,000 computers worldwide have been infected with NSA-operated malware. The software, hidden in computer networks belonging to organizations such as mobile operators across the globe, can remain dormant for years and be activated at will for personal data collection. The publication says it had access to documents provided by NSA employee turned whistleblower Edward Snowden that prove the agency’s complex hacking operation. More →
While having a right to privacy sounds nice, the Internet’s co-creator thinks that it’s also unrealistic to expect your behavior to stay private if you engage in social networking and post through social media. Adweek’s Katy Bachman reports that during a panel at a Federal Trade Commission workshop on privacy in the age of wearable computers, tech industry legend Vint Cerf said that new technology means that “it will be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy” and that “privacy may be an anomaly.” More →
In addition to Yahoo Mail, Yahoo will add extra layers of personal data protection to all its services in the coming months in an effort to safeguard the privacy of its customers, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced in a blog post. Mayer reminded users that Yahoo Mail will get HTTPS (SSL – Secure Sockets Layer) encryption with a 2048-bit key by January 8th, 2014 and revealed that all other Yahoo services will get the same treatment by the end of March 2014. More →
Although Google has said that it’s deployed end-to-end encryption between its data centers to keep out the prying eyes of the National Security Agency, it doesn’t seem as though Microsoft has done any such thing just yet. Wired reports that Microsoft executive Dorothee Belz said this week that Microsoft’s “server-to-server transportation is generally not encrypted,” which is why the company is “currently reviewing our security system.” This is a concern because documents leaked by Edward Snowden recently showed how the NSA was able to hack into Google and Yahoo’s data centers to breaking into their main communications links between their private clouds and the public Internet. If Microsoft hasn’t yet implemented the server-to-server encryption that Google has implemented, this means its private data servers are wide open to NSA hacking.
Like many companies out there, Apple has become frustrated by the restrictions that the United States government has placed on what it can disclose about the types of customer information that it hands over to law enforcement officials. The company took a proactive step toward greater disclosure on Wednesday when it released a document that showed how many law enforcement requests it has received in every country except the United States and how many of those requests have resulted in customer information being handed over. More →
You get the feeling that major tech companies want the National Security Agency reined in almost as much as digital rights activists do, if only because the NSA’s snooping may be hurting their bottom lines. The Hill reports that Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other big-name tech companies this week endorsed proposed bipartisan legislation that would place new restrictions on the NSA’s data collection powers, including ending the NSA’s bulk phone metadata collection program, beefing up barriers against targeting Americans for surveillance and requiring the government to delete any data inadvertently scooped up from Americans who aren’t related to investigations during data mining operations. More →
Secure email service Lavabit closed up shop earlier this year after the United States government forced it to hand over its users’ private data. But now the Lavabit team is working together with the team from Silent Circle to form the Darkmail Alliance, a new group that’s developing a new standard to help keep email away from the prying eyes of both hackers and government intelligence agencies. In an interview with The Guardian, Silent Circle cofounder Mike Janke explains that current email protocols are fundamentally broken and are in desperate need of a fix. More →