Some unsurprising news
Jan 20th, 2017 by Ken Hagler

Already on pro­ba­tion, Syman­tec issues more ille­git HTTPS cer­tifi­cates [Ars Tech­ni­ca]

As some­one who worked for Syman­tec for six­teen years, I am com­plete­ly unsur­prised by this. Syman­tec liked to boast of being a secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny, but that’s nev­er been any­thing but an adver­tis­ing slo­gan. They’ve nev­er real­ly made any seri­ous effort to be remote­ly secure.

People used to go the other way
May 18th, 2016 by Ken Hagler

Developer Of Anonymous Tor Software Dodges FBI, Leaves US. An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: FBI agents are currently trying to subpoena one of Tor's core software developers to testify in a criminal hacking investigation, CNNMoney has learned. But the developer, who goes by the name Isis Agora Lovecruft, fears that federal agents will coerce her to undermine the Tor system -- and expose Tor users around the world to potential spying. That's why, when FBI agents approached her and her family over Thanksgiving break last year, she immediately packed her suitcase and left the United States for Germany. "I was worried they'd ask me to do something that hurts innocent people -- and prevent me from telling people it's happening," she said in an exclusive interview with CNNMoney. Earlier in the month, Tech Dirt reported the Department of Homeland Security wants to subpoena the site over the identity of a hyperbolic commenter. [Slashdot]

It's depressing that I can now say that I'm old enough to remember when people defected to the US.

Wishful thinking doesn’t work
Nov 20th, 2014 by Ken Hagler

Sen­ate Votes to Main­tain the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Sur­veil­lance State. Last night the U.S. Sen­ate could not muster the 60 votes that would have allowed debate and a vote on the USA FREEDOM Act to pro­ceed. For most pri­va­cy and lib­er­ty advo­cates, the USA FREEDOM Act was a first step toward rein­ing in the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency’s (NSA) per­va­sive spy­ing on inno­cent Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. [Hit & Run]

I’m a bit puz­zled as to why peo­ple think this would have made a dif­fer­ence. Con­gress already vot­ed against the NSA’s mass sur­veil­lance back in 2003 when it was called Total Infor­ma­tion Aware­ness. Are we sup­posed to believe that if this act had passed, the NSA would sud­den­ly say, “Well, gosh, this time they real­ly meant it, I guess we’d bet­ter stop?”

The only way to stop the NSA is to destroy the NSA.

Yet another government attack on the rule of law
May 11th, 2014 by Ken Hagler

It’s Even Worse: Oper­a­tion Choke Point Threat­ens Both Guns and Com­mon Decen­cy. Yes, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, it appears, wants to put pres­sure on cor­po­ra­tions to force gun-related busi­ness­es out of U.S. bank­ing and pay­ment sys­tems. That means no bank accounts. It may mean no busi­ness loans. No abil­i­ty to process cred­it and deb­it card pay­ments. Severe­ly reduced abil­i­ty to order parts or inven­to­ry, rent or buy shop space or man­u­fac­tur­ing space, pay bills, pay employ­ees, or exe­cute the thou­sand oth­er things busi­ness­es must do every­day to con­tin­ue run­ning. In short, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is tar­get­ing entire indus­tries for destruc­tion.

Oper­a­tion Choke Point aims to put a choke hold around the necks of per­fect­ly inno­cent busi­ness­es, busi­ness own­ers, employ­ees — and cus­tomers. [Jews For the Preser­va­tion of Firearms Own­er­ship]

Promising technologies
Apr 29th, 2014 by Ken Hagler

Recent­ly there have been a cou­ple of sto­ries about promis­ing pro-liberty tech­nolo­gies: Dark­Mar­ket, for enabling free mar­ket trans­ac­tions, and Dark Wal­let, for pre­serv­ing finan­cial pri­va­cy.

Cause and Effect
Oct 16th, 2013 by Ken Hagler

Swartz-Designed Whistle­blow­er Tool “Secure­Drop” Launched. An anony­mous read­er writes in with news about a new tool for whistleblowers/ “The ‘strongest-ever’ whistle­blow­ing tool for sources to speak anony­mous­ly with jour­nal­ists, part­ly devel­oped by the late Red­dit co-founder Aaron Swartz, has been launched by the Free­dom of The Press Foun­da­tion. Before his sui­cide in Jan­u­ary 2013, Swartz had been work­ing on a tool for sources to anony­mous­ly sub­mit doc­u­ments to jour­nal­ists online, with­out using trace­able email and in a way that could be eas­i­ly cat­a­logued by news organ­i­sa­tions. Called Secure­Drop, the tool can be installed on any news organisation’s web­site as a ‘Con­tact Us’ form page. But where these pages usu­al­ly require a name and email address, the encrypt­ed Secure­Drop sys­tem is com­plete­ly anony­mous, assign­ing the whistle­blow­er two unique iden­ti­fiers — one seen by the jour­nal­ist, and one seen by the whistle­blow­er. These iden­ti­ties stay the same, so a con­ver­sa­tion can be had with­out names being shared or known.” [Search Slash­dot]

I had no idea that Aaron Swartz had been work­ing on such a tool until this sto­ry came out. It cer­tain­ly explains why the Evil Empire was so deter­mined to hound him to death.

Skype proves me right on security
Jul 11th, 2013 by Ken Hagler

NSA taps Skype chats, new­ly pub­lished Snow­den leaks con­firm.

Skype audio and video chats, wide­ly regard­ed as resis­tant to inter­cep­tion thanks to encryp­tion, can be wire­tapped by Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies, accord­ing to a new report in The Guardian. The report appears to con­tra­dict claims by Microsoft that they have not pro­vid­ed the con­tents of Skype com­mu­ni­ca­tions to the gov­ern­ment.

In a sto­ry pub­lished Thurs­day, based on doc­u­ments leaked by for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency con­trac­tor Edward Snow­den, The Guardian offers some detail about exten­sive coöper­a­tion between the FBI, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, and Microsoft to enable gov­ern­ment access to user com­mu­ni­ca­tions via the intel­li­gence tool known as PRISM. That coöper­a­tion includ­ed, accord­ing to the leaked NSA doc­u­ments, enabling access to e-mails and chats, the Sky­Drive cloud stor­age ser­vice, and Skype audio and video calls.

The Guardian hasn’t pub­lished the doc­u­ments on which this sto­ry is based, but has instead quot­ed from them.

[Ars Tech­ni­ca]

This is com­plete­ly unsur­pris­ing. I’ve been warn­ing about Skype’s inse­cu­ri­ty since 2005.

US Stasi gets original Stasi’s stamp of approval
Jun 28th, 2013 by Ken Hagler

NSA’s Sur­veil­lance Oper­a­tions the Envy of For­mer Stasi Com­man­der. In East Ger­many, the Min­istry
for State Secu­ri­ty (known as the Stasi) became one of the most
aggres­sive domes­tic sur­veil­lance agen­cies in world his­to­ry, act­ing
as “the shield and the sword” of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist régime.
Despite (or because of) its his­to­ry, many for­mer mem­bers and
infor­mants would pre­fer to 
defend the orga­ni­za­tion and their roles in it
to com­ing to
terms with its hor­rif­ic nature. On the twen­ti­eth anniver­sary of the
fall of the Berlin Wall (in 2009), East Germany’s last leader told
for­mer East Ger­man bor­der guards he regret­ted fail­ing to save the
coun­try.  But now, some for­mer mem­bers of the Stasi can look
to Amer­i­ca for inspi­ra­tion that the spir­it of their work is mov­ing
for­ward. From a 
McClatchy news­pa­pers inter­view
with Wolf­gang Schmidt, a for­mer
Stas­si depart­ment head:

Peer­ing out over the city [Berlin] that lived in fear
when the com­mu­nist par­ty ruled it, he pon­dered the mag­ni­tude of
domes­tic spy­ing in the Unit­ed States under the Oba­ma
admin­is­tra­tion. A smile spread across his face.

You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” he
said, recall­ing the days when he was a lieu­tenant colonel in the
defunct com­mu­nist country’s secret police, the Stasi.

In those days, his depart­ment was lim­it­ed to tap­ping 40 phones at a
time, he recalled. Decide to spy on a new vic­tim and an old one had
to be dropped, because of a lack of equip­ment. He finds
breath­tak­ing the idea that the U.S. gov­ern­ment receives dai­ly
reports on the cell­phone usage of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans and can
mon­i­tor the Inter­net traf­fic of mil­lions more.

So much infor­ma­tion, on so many peo­ple,” he said.

But even Schmidt sees the design flaw in the NSA’s plan:

 “It is the height of naïveté to think that once
col­lect­ed this infor­ma­tion won’t be used,” he said. “This is the
nature of secret gov­ern­ment orga­ni­za­tions. The only way to pro­tect
the people’s pri­va­cy is not to allow the gov­ern­ment to col­lect
their infor­ma­tion in the first place.”

James Clap­per might respond that 
the NSA isn’t “col­lect­ing”
that infor­ma­tion because the
direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence doesn’t con­sid­er the gath­ered
data “col­lect­ed” until it’s offi­cial­ly used, a seman­tic maneu­ver
any neo-Orwellian would con­sid­er dou­ble­plus­good.

This is how a soci­ety destroys itself,” one Ger­man activist who
was tar­get­ed by the Stasi told McClatchy, refer­ring to the NSA’s
sur­veil­lance oper­a­tions as “bull­shit.” [Rea­son]

Open Source vs. tyranny
Jun 25th, 2013 by Ken Hagler

The IRS vs. Open Source. simon­stl writes “The IRS wasn’t after just the Tea Par­ty, Pro­gres­sives, or Med­ical Mar­i­jua­na: Open Source Soft­ware was a reg­u­lar on IRS watch lists from 2010 to 2012. Did they think it was a for-profit scam, or did they just not under­stand the approach? [Slash­dot]

I’m guess­ing it’s option c: there’s no way to hide back­doors for the NSA in open-source soft­ware.

Quote of the Day
Jun 23rd, 2013 by Ken Hagler

Good thing the USA won the Cold War, oth­er­wise we might be liv­ing in a world of mass sur­veil­lance and per­se­cu­tion of dis­si­dents.

Teju Cole

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