Posts Tagged ‘spying’
GCHQ – that’d be the British surveillance agency of spies – have been helped by the National Security Agency in swiping and intercepting webcam images from millions of internet users, which is a preposterous invasion of personal privacy.
According to files, which the Guardian are showing off at the moment, there was a surveillance program called ‘Optic Nerve’ which harvested images from Yahoo webcam chats and it didn’t matter if you were an intelligence target or not. These images were stored, including all the dirty stuff people had been doing.
More than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally have been spied on.
When the Guardian got in touch with Yahoo, they are reported to have “reacted furiously” and “denied any prior knowledge of the program” before accusing agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”. In addition to that, the documents detail that GCHQ struggled to keep the huge library of “sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff.”
One of the leaked documents says the program is like a digital police mugshot book: ”Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face. The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”
GCHQ insists all of its activities are necessary, proportionate, and in accordance with UK law. For more, visit the Guardian’s detailed coverage by clicking the link above.
The decision comes after Edward Snowden’s allegations about the National Security Agency’s rather underhand methods of collecting data. Microsoft’s Brad Smith said that the company were addressing customer concerns about the extent of NSA snooping.
Although no concrete plans have been made as yet, it means that non-US users can choose where their data is stored – for example, if you’re in the UK , you can have your information stored in a facility in Ireland, away from the prying eyes of the NSA.
Smith said: ‘People should have the ability to know whether their data is being subjected to to the laws and access of governments in some other country and should have the ability to make an informed choice about where their data resides.’
Yesterday, Microsoft assured a panel in Davos that they had never given information to government agencies and that any requests made to its data centres by governments had to be lawful.
Smith added: ‘We have never turned over to any government any information that belongs to another business, another government, or an NGO. It is not our right, no one elected us to simply turn over someone’s information.’
It’s the first time a large American corporation has openly acknowledged that the Edward Snowden leaks have created a crisis of confidence amongst non- American customers. Most other American tech companies have taken a unified stance and refused to store data outside the US.
Oooh, poisoned umbrellas at dawn…
Every country seems to have been stung by the National Security Agency tapping into our data and correspondences and now, some of the giants from the tech world have all teamed-up to say ‘enough is enough’ with what is ostensibly an anti-NSA coalition.
Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn and Yahoo head-up the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, which was announced late last night.
The group says: ”We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens, but this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.”
“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual, rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change.”
The aim is to limit the authority of governments to collect our information, protect our privacy and impose more legislative oversight and accountability of organisations like the NSA. The companies combined have taken technological, legal and PR steps to give customers the confidence that personal information is safe.
“The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” the coalition says; “We strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.”
Underscoring the group’s sentiment, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Larry Page and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wrote an open letter to Washington, D.C., in which they “urge the U.S. to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law.”
Apparently, there are only a handful of employees who knew about the program, which is known as Project Chess, and set up before Microsoft bought the company.
If these allegations prove to be true, that means Skype were eavesdropping long before the Prism scandal which kicked off recently.
Skype would not comment on the allegations.
Last year, Skype faced similar accusations when they moved details to Microsoft and at the time, the company said: “Our position has always been that when a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures, we respond where legally required and technically feasible.” However, if the New York Times findings are correct, Skype had already worked out how to co-operate with intelligence agencies before the Microsoft acquisition.
Then, Microsoft made the situation more sticky after they applied for a patent that would allow them to intercept VoIP calls. Researchers at the University of Mexico found that Microsoft already allowed third parties to intercept Skype, particularly in China where the government is allowed to look for censored words and phrases.
It isn’t looking good for Skype, especially given the amount of rivals that now exist.
Over in Glasgow, there’s a nightspot called The Shimmy Club and it has one unusual feature, away from the dancing, drinking and awful promotional photos they stick on Facebook; at the Shimmy, you can spy on girls while they’re in the toilet.
For £800-a-pop, you can hire two private function rooms which look into the ladies toilets through a spyglass mirror, like you see in police interrogation rooms. Oh, and there’s nothing in the ladies toilets telling patrons that they’re being watched. Basically, posh voyeurs can watch women in the toilet like they’re a trainee Chuck Berry.
A spokesman for the club, owned by the G1 Group, have said that they don’t allow male or mixed-sex groups to hire the rooms, despite the fact social networks are full of photographs showing quite the opposite. And, to add to this, it seems the club are deleting any negative comments they receive on Facebook. As you can see from the photo above, the ‘records and dancing’ watermark is visible on an image that shows a fella watching two women through what appears to be a two-way mirror.
One woman contacted a paper to say: “I find it absolutely outrageous that a club can get away with this, it is a complete invasion of privacy of the unsuspecting girls. Nowhere is it made clear that this is the case so when visiting the bathroom for the first time, there are women bending over the sink, pouting into the mirror to redo their lipstick, adjusting themselves whilst unknowingly being watched by people on the other side.”
Of course, Shimmy doesn’t offer the same service looking into the gents.
Gary Hall, of G1 Group, said it was “definitely not the case” that the women’s toilets were fitted with two-way mirrors, despite the fact that earlier in the week, you could book a ‘smoke and mirrors’ booth from the club themselves. Ironic that, when you visit the club’s website, one of the first things you see is an animation of the word ‘LAWLESS’.
A petition soon sprung up against the club too. While the club are denying the two-way mirrors, the video of the launch night possibly seems to show the spy-glass around 50 seconds in. Pretty damning all-in-all.
Mozilla has sent a cease-and-desist to a company that sells spyware to governments which, allegedly, disguises itself as Firefox.
This motion follows a report which identifies 36 countries (including the USA) hosting command and control servers for FinFisher, a surveillance software. The software is used to spy on dissidents.
Mozilla said that they have sent the cease and desist letter to the UK-based company that make it – Gamma – and are “demanding that these illegal practices stop immediately,” as Gamma’s software is “designed to trick people into thinking it’s Mozilla Firefox.”
The spyware “uses our brand and trademarks to lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion” and is “used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy,” Mozilla said, adding: “We believe Gamma’s spyware tries to give users the false impression that, as a program installed on their computer or mobile device, it’s related to Mozilla and Firefox, and is thus trustworthy both technically and in its content.”
It is claimed that there have been spyware attacks in Bahrain aimed at pro-democracy activists, as well as use of spyware to snoop on people during Malaysia’s upcoming General Elections. Other countries identified using the software are Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
Researchers have some alarming news. After looking at data from mobile phone networks, using just the location of radio masts, they’ve found that they can identify the vast majority of people from just four pieces of information.
Or one, if the imbecile is using FourSquare.
“If individual’s patterns are unique enough, outside information can be used to link the data back to an individual,” said the researchers who studied data collected over 15 months from 1.5million people, finding that “human mobility traces are highly unique”.
“A list of potentially sensitive professional and personal information that could be inferred about an individual knowing only his mobility trace was published recently by the Electronic Frontier Foundation,” the authors said. “These include the movements of a competitor sales force, attendance of a particular church or an individual’s presence in a motel or at an abortion clinic.”
With a third of the 25billion apps available in Apple’s App Store tracking your geographic location, there’s reason for concern.
“All together,” the paper continues, “the ubiquity of mobility datasets, the uniqueness of human traces, and the information that can be inferred from them highlight the importance of understanding the privacy bounds of human mobility.”
“Modern information technologies such as the internet and mobile phones, however, magnify the uniqueness of individuals, further enhancing the traditional challenges to privacy. Mobility data is among the most sensitive data currently being collected,” they said.
Is this the start of a big personal privacy scandal?
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like the idea of ANYONE looking at your emails (what have you got in there? Naked selfies?), then you’ll be pleased to hear that internet cad, Kim Dotcom, is bringing us all a Mega-style email, which is fully encrypted and basically snoop and government-proof.
The terrorist alarm bells will be going off inside American officials heads right now.
Talking to the Guardian, Dotcom said: “We’re going to extend this to secure email which is fully encrypted so that you won’t have to worry that a government or internet service provider will be looking at your email.”
What do you make of all this? Are you happy with what you’ve already got, or do you fancy a super-secure email address that no-one will be able to see, expect you?
It looks like the UK government, in their infinite wisdom, are planning on monitoring ALL of the UK’s internet use, with MI5 spooks installing ‘black box’ spy devices.
That’s nice isn’t it? They’re probably doing it so they can save us all from the bogeyman.
Spies are claiming that they’re only interested in ‘communications data’, which basically means that they’re ONLY interested in absolutely everything we’re saying to each other.
A report by MPs says that MI5 will use technology known as Deep Packet Inspection, and that will take data from places like Skype, Facebook and Twitter and those who visit encrypted porno sites.
Naturally, the Tories are all for it, but the whole thing has been delayed after the LibDems resisted the bill.
MI5 chief Jonathan Evans told the committee: “Access to communications data of one sort or another is very important indeed. It’s part of the backbone of the way in which we would approach investigations. I think I would be accurate in saying there are no significant investigations that we undertake across the service that don’t use communications data because of its ability to tell you the who and the when and the where of your target’s activities.”
Funny how the government are against totalitarian regimes like North Korea, but are more than happy to take tips from them and look to be hopeful of building a filter, which would collect data from your mobile, email, search history and everything else.
“It is important for the agencies that there is some means of accessing communications data from uncooperative overseas communications service providers,’ the report said.
Here’s a weird thing. Microsoft have been granted a patent on a system that uses cameras built into TVs, PCs, and smartphones and whatever else, in a bid to act as a “consumer detector,” or in plain English, something to decipher whether you’ve paid for your content or not.
Something that’s going to spy on you basically.
“A fee can be charged for each viewer of the content for each view,” Patent US20120278904 reads. “Viewers may be uniquely identified and a count of the viewers determined, with the licensee then charged for each viewer accessing the content. Age and identity restrictions can be applied in this embodiment as well.”
Cameras won’t be the only thing spying on you, as Microsoft assumes there’ll be “one of a number of suitable technologies.” It talks about gesture controllers and games consoles being used to spy on you as well. Kinect boxes will be able to use “facial recognition techniques,” and analyse audio input and so on.
You can only hope that this is all rendered redundant when the family cat sits itself directly in front of these scanning devices and greets it by sticking its hole right up in the grill.
Of course, regarding digital rights management, this is something of a smart move. However, there’s a gigantic privacy issue and naturally, it’ll only be a matter of time before we all learn how to sidestep it. The biggest problem will be Microsoft being able to convince the public this is something they should actively buy into.
Chances are, they’ll be getting told to piss off in no uncertain terms.
Jimmy Wales, the man who gave us Wikipedia, is not at all happy about the Draft Communications Bill, which is basically the government’s plan to monitor and store all digital communications. Or, as it is colloquially know, the ‘Snooper’s Charter’.
Should the Snooper’s Charter become law, Wales has promised to encrypt all connections between Wikipedia servers and the UK. The Wikipedia founder told a joint committee tasked with scrutinising this bill before it ends up being debated by those backward mouth-breather in the House of Commons.
If you’ve missed the news on it, this bill proposes to record and store all communications data, while ignoring content, so that police and Government Communications Headquarters can look at who is talking to who online, without a warrant.
Home secretary, Theresa May, has defended the Bill, arguing that it will protect UK citizens. Not to mention costing the taxpayer loads of money. However, Jimmy Wales doesn’t give two figs about what Theresa May thinks (quite right too) and told the select committee that the plans are “technologically incompetent”.
“It is not the sort of thing I’d expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the Internet industry,” said Wales.
Fancy having a complete stranger coming up to you and greeting you like they know you, noticing that your hair isn’t as long as it used to be and that it’s nice you got that terrible cyst removed from your nose?
Well, that’s what will be happening in airports as British Airways are using Google Images to develop passenger dossiers for checking you out as you totter through the gate.
How shudderingly awful.
This program is called “Know Me” and it’s the new intelligence tool that’ll look at your stupid face online so staff can approach you and look at your face like they’ve been staring at it all their horrible life.
Jo Boswell, head of customer analysis at BA, says: “We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers. This is just the start — the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”
Ray Wang, tired of people laughing at his surname and principal analyst at Constellation Research said in response: “Before you put a program together like “Know Me” it’s only right to ask passengers for permission first.”
“Otherwise it’s borderline creepy.”
Google are all set to warn internet users that there’s a chance they’re being targeted by state-sponsored hackers! All Gmail users are going to be notified if Google believe they’re under attack from state forces.
This statement comes on the back of Russian opposition bloggers claiming that they were being targeted by Kremlin-sponsored attackers in the lead-up to Vladimir Putin’s completely fair re-election in May.
“We are constantly on the lookout for malicious activity on our systems, in particular attempts by third parties to log into users’ accounts unauthorised,” said Google’s vice-president of security engineering, Eric Grosse. ”When we have specific intelligence – either directly from users or from our own monitoring efforts – we show clear warning signs and put in place extra roadblocks to thwart these bad actors.”
“Today, we’re taking that a step further for a subset of our users, who we believe may be the target of state-sponsored attacks,” Grosse continued, adding: “We believe it is our duty to be proactive in notifying users about attacks or potential attacks so that they can take action to protect their information. And we will continue to update these notifications based on the latest information.”
So who are Google looking at? Well, all eyes are currently on China, Russia and several Middle East autocracies. Of course, everyone is denying everything. Worth pointing that out, legally speaking.
How much do you like being spied on? Not at all? Well, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the government are planning on forcing all landline, mobile phone companies and broadband providers to store all their data for a year, to be made available to security services under a new scheme.
For the first time, the security services will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook. This is all in the name of fighting terrorists, obviously.
So what does this mean? Well, direct messages between subscribers on Twitter and Facebook would be stored, as well as messages sent between players using their consoles online.
What’s worrying about this, apart from the obvious intrusion, is how well the powers-that-be will look after it. Databases have gone walkies in the past and, without doubt, hackers will be on this like a shot. The government won’t be holding this info themselves, but rather, asking BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 (and others) to keep the records themselves.
Ironically enough, despite the recent furore over phone-tapping from newspapers, officials will now be allowed to make use of the practice, as well as monitor emails and text-messages.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organisation, said: “This would be a systematic effort to spy on all of our digital communications. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a big pledge to roll back the surveillance state. No state in history has been able to gather the level of information proposed – it’s a way of collecting everything about who we talk to just in case something turns up.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public. As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as Parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the Government’s approach to civil liberties.”
We’re all lying about ourselves online and getting into trouble because of it with our partners, who are spying on us. Shameful.September 7th, 2011 • 7 Comments By Andy Dawson
Modern Britain – a land bereft of trust, where man and wife sneak about like secret agents, prying into each other’s emails and social network accounts. At least that’s the picture that’s been painted by the results of a new survey on the subject.
One in five women who took part admitted that they have had a craft butchers at their partner’s private online messagey stuff without their knowledge. Men seem to be altogether more easy-going and/or less suspicious, with just one in ten having a sneak peek.
Further to that, 15 per cent of women said that the stuff that they had found then led to arguments with their partner, compared to seven per cent of men in the survey, which was carried out by Norton. They said it all meant that Britons were happy to be economical with the truth about themselves while online, with 34 per cent admitting to lying or creating a false identity while tap-tapping away on their computers.
So then Bitterwallet commenters – are you REALLY who you say you are? Or all you all jobless 52-year-olds, living in the spare bedroom of your ailing parents’ houses….?