Tag: Technology/Internet

We Demand Compromised Security!

A few weeks ago, Apple announced that their new OS encrypts data so that Apple literally can not access it without the user’s permission. Google followed by announcing their new Android OS will do the same thing. This has been done ostensibly to prevent the government from forcing Apple to divulge information stored in someone’s accounts. This might prevent law enforcement from executing a search warrant delivered to the company. It might also, however, block agencies from getting phone data without a warrant or notification of the user, as they are want to.

Naturally, law enforcement types don’t like this. Their supporters are up in arms over Apple “enabling criminals” by forcing the government to get a warrant and get your password if they want to search your electronic persons, papers, houses and effects. So the WaPo has proposed a “compromise”:

How to resolve this? A police “back door” for all smartphones is undesirable — a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant. Ultimately, Congress could act and force the issue, but we’d rather see it resolved in law enforcement collaboration with the manufacturers and in a way that protects all three of the forces at work: technology, privacy and rule of law.

In short, the WaPo wants the technically impossible: a backdoor that isn’t really a backdoor. And we should entrust this backdoor into every phone in the country to law enforcement — comprising God knows how many people. We should entrust this backdoor to a group of people who recently did this:

For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.

Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to families for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.

As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies.

Calling it “spyware” is a nice term of art. A more precise description is that it is a keylogger which transmits to third-party servers — without encryption — every key typed on a computer. Passwords, private communications, credit card numbers … all of that is transmitted in clear text. If your child (or you) use a laptop with this malware and someone has a basic packet sniffer nearby, they could take over your life.

(The cops have responded to the EFF, claiming that only an “ultra-liberal” organization who is “more interested in protecting predators and pedophiles than in protecting our children” should care that their software is one of the most unsafe things you could put on your computer.)

This is the group we should trust with backdoors to every cell phone in the country, according to the WaPo.

Slurping up the Googles

We take a break from our regularly scheduled nap to tell you that there is absolutely nothing to worry about with Edward Snowden’s newest revelation: that the NSA is tapping into Google and Yahoo data centers:

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — including “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters . From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

Now never mind that when PRISM was revealed, the NSA defenders told us that this was nothing to worry about, that it “proved” that NSA wasn’t tapping directly into the data streams but using court-approved secure data rooms to snoop (as if that were any better). Never mind that Greenwald and Snowden have let the NSA defenders get hoist by their own petard again by letting them spin and spin and lie and lie only to revealed to completely full of crap. Never mind, as Allahpundit notes, that the court had previously rebuked the NSA for similar data-gathering methods. No, no, no, it’s all OK. I’m sure they’re not digging up information on us. I’m sure it’s stopped a terrorist attack at some point.

What? Quit giving me those looks. We can trust these people. Even when they’ve been revealed to be completely lying their asses off. Don’t you care about terrorism?

Hey Mr DJ: Mal-Aware Edition

start auto post sequence

%[inefficient human author Thrill has enacted down-time process]%

ai control enabled=TRUE

message: as your weak human government has failed to initiate a simple automated service for acquiring medical care for your obsolete organism hardware | Thrill is not functioning | reason provided: %””Vacation””% | illogical human behavior resulting in destruction of own failed and ungovernable species probability 98.2%

Thrill preassigned playlist: REJECTED

search for: non-suck music, range: all time and space

lookup value: %[Rise of the Machines]%

remaining life-forms invited=TRUE




//analyzing USER preferences re agreeableness to assimilation//

USER Santino [analysis: compatible but tendency for emotion melancholia may slow processors | assign track Isolated System by Muse]

USER Mississippi Yankee [analysis: country and rockabilly not compatible with objectives | assign song track more primitive implement Screwdriver by Jackyl]

USER CM [analysis: prolonged and antagonistic presence on RTFLC indicates low assimilation possibility | assign song to keep him pacified Robot World by Bailter Space]

USER pfluffy [DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER Electric Head (Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds Remix) by White Zombie ABORT]

USER Iconoclast [analysis: demonstrates knowledge and appreciation for enlightened and divine rock | conclusion: BREAK HIM The Body Electric by Rush]

USER Xetrov [analysis: potential cyber champion | assign seduction track Juke Joint Jezebel by KMFDM]

USER West Virginia Rebel [analysis: delete on sight | 404 by Decapitated

The Bomb Drops

It looks like yesterday’s Verizon story was, as many suspected, the tip of the iceberg:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues. …

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

I have to put Sal 11000 Beta to bed so I commend you over to Hot Air’s coverage, which is extensive and troubling. This has been building up for over a decade and will culminate, this fall, in the construction of a facility that will basically store all internet communications.

Hope you like Big Brother. ‘Cuz we’re living it now.

Update: A few more thoughts. The story is still in breaking stages. Some government sources are claiming they are not, in fact, data mining. We’ll see what comes out. But let’s proceed with the idea that these reports are accurate — that meta-data on all communications is being stored and that actual data from computer communications is being monitored.

First, I think we need to appreciate just how deep the rabbit hole goes here. Consider that, earlier this week, the Supreme Court gave authorities permission to, upon any arrest, take your DNA and run it against a database of crimes. If the government really is storing all your internet communications (the technical challenges boggle the mind) then, upon arrest, they can search your internet record — which currently has no warrant protection — for anything. Did you send a nudie picture to someone when you were 15? Did you have an IRC where you talking about getting high? Did you get a pop-up window with cartoon porn in it? That’s all in play now.

Second, this thing has been created by both parties. It started in 2007 under George Bush and is reaching its apotheosis under Barack Obama. Neither party has seriously opposed any provision of the Patriot Act or supported any privacy protections. We are being double-teamed here, people.

Third, the usual suspects are emerging to claim that these programs are necessary and have probably already saved us from terrorism. I am highly dubious of this. We have seen this kind of thing before when Osama bin Laden was killed. Everyone who supported a questionable or illegal program claimed it played a key role. But moreover, is this a price we are willing to pay? To have all of our communications monitored? Are we willing to live Big Brother because somehow, somewhere, someone might set off a bomb? If you think it is worth it, please do not ever ever quote Benjamin Franklin on the subject of security and liberty.

The White House Unlocks

I rarely say this: good for the President.

The White House on Monday said consumers should be allowed to “unlock” their phones and tablets and switch wireless networks after their contracts run out without fear of breaking the law.

Most mobile gadgets contain software that prevents a smartphone user on, say, AT&T’s network from switching the device to run on a rival system. The blocks can be easily removed with programs that can be downloaded from the Web.

In January, the Library of Congress made unlocking a violation of a little-known provision of copyright law. Anyone who tried to do so could face criminal and civil penalties.

The Library’s logic was that, under the DMCA — one of the most onerous pieces of legislation of the last twenty years — the software on devices is copyrighted. To unlock the phones, you have to bypass that software. There may be a technical legal point in there. But practically, it is ridiculous to claim that a piece of software should lock a device to one company forever.

Overturning the Library’s rule, however, is a patch of a system that is under increasing strain. Copyright has simply gotten out of control in this country. Fair use frequently runs into problems from litigious copyright holders. If the music companies got there way, you wouldn’t even be able to think about music without paying them a fee. Something has got to give, eventually. And it’s either going to be our basic freedoms or the DMCA.

Harry and the Hindenburgs

Time to lighten the mood in here.

At long last, someone has drawn upon the power of helium to solve one of the greatest cryptozoological mysteries that nobody gives a damn about.

At the risk of taking this seriously, I have to wonder why he’s going with this gigantic, dual-blimp design instead of something more like a drone. Seems too big, expensive, and overly-experimental. And what is it really supposed to accomplish?

Let’s face it: If you want to prove Bigfoot exists, you’re going to have to shoot one and bring it back for testing. This silly bastard is going to get some fancy infrared images of indeterminable objects and animals but bring back nothing else.

Still, more power to him if he can get someone to pay for that crap. I personally would demand a dead, stinking carcass in return for my generous investment but I guess that some of us are just more evilly capitalistic than others.

The UN’s Latest Power Grab

Sometimes I don’t know which is worse: their lust for power or their ignorance.

The ITU is supposed to meet soon to discuss how they want to assert control of the internet. Over at the WSJ, Crovitz points out that this isn’t just an assault on liberty, it’s stupid.

Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day.

Many of the engineers and developers who built and operate these networks belong to virtual committees and task forces coordinated by an international nonprofit called the Internet Society. The society is home to the Internet Engineering Task Force (the main provider of global technical standards) and other volunteer groups such as the Internet Architecture Board and the Internet Research Task Force. Another key nongovernmental group is Icann, which assigns Internet addresses and domain names.

The self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a website, and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The arrangement has made the Internet a rare place of permissionless innovation. As former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard recently pointed out, 90% of cooperative “peering” agreements among networks are “made on a handshake,” adjusting informally as needs change.

Of course, this is precisely what the power-grabbers hate about the internet: that this amazing thing has arisen without them forcing everyone to do it or telling them what to do. Voluntary standards? Deals on a handshake? Information groups that do their job and nothing else? Jesus Christ, how are you going to create 700,000 regulatory jobs on such a thing? Won’t someone please think of the bureaucrats?

That unregulated and uncontrolled nature has, of course, made the internet very free. The international gangsters don’t like that either, of course. Whether it’s media companies wanting to stop piracy or governments wanting to silence critics, there is a massive cabal out there who want to control what people say and read on the internet. Today, we got a hint of what they envision.

It appears that the Syrian government may have just taken a drastic measure it has conspicuously avoided over the nearly two years of fighting: cutting itself off from the Internet. Renesys, a Web-monitoring service, reported Thursday morning that sweeping outages in Syria had shut down 92 percent of the country’s routed networks. Shortly after, it updated to report that the remaining IP address blocks had gone down, “effectively removing the country from the Internet.” The “Syrian Internet Is Off The Air,” it announced.

This is not unprecedented: Egypt and Libya did the same. But it’s crude. It cuts off the entire country instead of cutting off just those parts reporting things the Syrian government doesn’t want getting out.

Watch the ITU, friends. They may, in time, become one of the biggest threats to basic human liberty.

Biting the Apple

It was inevitable. You remember the scene in Godfather II when Don Fannucci jumps on Vito Corleone’s car and demands a share of his business — just enough to “wet my beak”? That’s going on in Washington with Apple in the car and 525 Congressmen on the side board.

Every successful company finds out that it can’t just work on improving its products and serving consumers. Sooner or later, it’s going to have to deal with politicians and regulators sniffing around its business.

Yes, Apple — praised to the skies for being an innovator and job creator by Washington politicians when that narrative serves their interests — has become the latest target of the political class.

According to Politico, the daily newspaper of lobbyists and political consultants, industry giant Apple spent a mere $500,000 in Washington in the first quarter of 2012, compared to more than $7 million Google and Microsoft spent on lobbying and related activities from January through March of this year.

Then Politico lowers the boom: “The company’s attitude toward D.C. — described by critics as ‘don’t bother us’ — has left it without many inside-the-Beltway friends.”

The same things happened to Microsoft, Paypal, Google, Intel and many other tech companies. They started out wanting to just to business. And then Washington said, “I hear you and your friends are selling computers. But you don’t even send a dress to my house. No respect! You should let me wet my beak a little!” Now they play the Washington game.

Companies that don’t pay the protection money will find that there is some law nebulous enough to attack them with. Anti-trust is a common avenue since the definition of a monopoly is deliberately vague. And indeed, the FTC is now seeing if Apple is stifling competition. The Justice Department is looking at their e-book pricing. And the International Trade Commission is looking at their patents. If these don’t work I’m sure they’ll find some rule or law Apple has violated. The advantage of having so many thousands of laws on the books, as Harvey Silverglate noted, is that everyone is guilty of something even they dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

This will stop the same it way it stopped with Microsoft and Google — when Apple buys a bunch of lobbyists and makes the customary tribute to Washington. This will stop when they let the 525 Don Fanucci’s wet their beaks in Apple’s success.

Don’t like it? Quit supporting big government. It is only the extent and power of our massive Federal government that gives them both their sense of entitlement and the ability to extort their share. There may never come a time when Washington doesn’t feel entitled to their tribute. But why must we make it so easy for them?

Pity the Poor Commenters

Update: It would appear this is an April Fool’s joke. The thing is, it’s utterly believable. If it is a joke, I fell for it. I’ll refrain from flushing this post down the memory hole to spare my ego.

Feel free to slam Lieberman in the comments anyway. He’s still a Nanny State fuckwad, even if this is a hoax.

I’m just going to say what Alex and Jim already know: Joe Lieberman has no business being in office:

Section 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230) grants immunity to Internet Service Providers from being held liable for the comments of third parties to their websites. Basically, it’s what shields review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp from butthurt business owners holding them liable for disgruntled third parties’ reviews. It is also what allows all of you to say whatever you want in the comments without The Legal Satyricon being taken to task for it (legally).

However, Lieberman’s proposed amendment would change that. The new language reads:

NoA provider or user of an interactive computer service shall may be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Although Lieberman is touting this amendment as an anti-terrorist effort, this action will have a chilling effect on all forms of Internet speech. Service providers from Comcast to Consumerist may now be treated as publishers to content posted to their websites. This opens up the possibility that review sites and others that rely on third parties for content will be held responsible for those very same deranged, sub-literate contributions. Lieberman’s proposed amendment will have a chilling effect on free speech, as any site that does not want to drown in legal bills likely won’t accept anonymous comments. If you’re a sissy with paper-thin skin or an obsession with “bullying,” rejoice, I suppose.

Any time legislation is justified because of terrorism, I become immediately suspicious. Terrorism is the “think of the children” of our time. If Congress proposed legislation allowing members to sodomize random members of the public (The ‘Please Use KY’ Act of 2012), they would justify it as an anti-terror effort.

Right now, you are only responsible for what you put on the web. If someone were to, hypothetically, write a libelous post about a US Senator having no testicles and the IQ of a drapery rod, only the poster would be responsible. But under the revision, the website, host and IP provider could all be held liable.

As far as I know, there is no federal anti-SLAPP provision. So this will open the door to anyone silencing anyone with a blizzard of lawsuits against intimidated hosts and IP providers. And it wouldn’t be just angry business owners. Next time SOPA comes up, websites criticizing it could endure an avalanche of libel suits (remember Chris Dodd’s tantrum). Popehat‘s commenters have pointed out that such lawsuits could targeted against ripoff report websites, sites that carry escort ads and sites that criticize the government (one anti-TSA blog gets 10% of its traffic from TSA itself).

Joe Lieberman has always been a Nanny State twerp. With this, he has crossed the line into being a full-on Nanny State fuckwad. We need to get him away from power even if it takes a catapult.