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Some of the Wikileaks-fueled swirl of stories about the TrapWire program appear to have been overhyped, as my colleague Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in her excellent roundup of the story yesterday. Others writing about the program have followed suit . But let’s not overcompensate for the hype and get too world-weary and cynical here; while many questions remain about this program, it does raise some very significant issues. And it does deserve a high level of attention and concern.
These days every news cycle brings us more thoroughly disturbing reasons to be concerned about pervasive digital monitoring in the United States. This week things got extra interesting with the revelation of an enormous, shadowy surveillance company with deep ties to the CIA: Trapwire exploded on the surveillance scene like a bat out of hell. And people are justifiably freaked out about it. But people are also publishing a lot of information that seems to have appeared out of the ether, grounded in no documentation whatsoever. There is no need to speculate or conjure surveillance bogeymen where they do not exist.
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort. Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency. F.D.A. officials defended the surveillance operation, saying that the computer monitoring was limited to the five scientists suspected of leaking confidential information about the safety and design of medical devices.
In the past month—thanks to reporting from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg , as well as WikiLeaks and its media partners—a little sunlight has finally exposed a large but shadowy industry: Western technology companies selling mass spying software to governments. The amazing and dangerous capabilities of these tools are described in hundreds of marketing documents that were recently leaked to the media organizations. The Wall Street Journal laid out many of the tools in detail, explaining how they can be used to spy on millions of the world’s citizens, most of whom are completely innocent. It’s also easy to see how tools can be used to track and repress those working for human rights and fundamental freedoms:
By JENNIFER VALENTINO-DEVRIES , JULIA ANGWIN and STEVE STECKLOW Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal open a rare window into a new global market for the off-the-shelf surveillance technology that has arisen in the decade since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The techniques described in the trove of 200-plus marketing documents, spanning 36 companies, include hacking tools that enable governments to break into people's computers and cellphones, and " massive intercept " gear that can gather all Internet communications in a country. The papers were obtained from attendees of a secretive surveillance conference held near Washington, D.C., last month. Intelligence agencies in the U.S. and abroad have long conducted their own surveillance.
The latest round of documents published by Wikileaks offers a rare glimpse into the world of surveillance products. The collection—which Wikileaks calls the Spy Files—includes confidential brochures and slide presentations that companies use to market intrusive surveillance tools to governments and law enforcement agencies. A report that Wikileaks published alongside the documents raises concern about the growing use of mass surveillance tools that indiscriminately monitor and analyze entire populations. The group also points out that some of the products described in the documents are sold to authoritarian regimes, which use them to hunt and track political dissidents. The details revealed by Wikileaks echo a recent report by The Wall Street Journal ( WSJ ) that discussed the surveillance industry.
Most of the technology used in such intrusions are not developed by the governments themselves. They are made by private companies which are specializing in providing exploits, infection proxies and backdoors to governments. For more background, see our blog posts: • Egypt, FinFisher Intrusion Tools and Ethics • Possible Governmental Backdoor Found ("Case R2D2") • More Info on German State Backdoor Where do governments buy this stuff from?
CRYSTAL CITY, Virginia -- The dingy hotel corridor was populated with suits, milling about and radiating airs of defensive hostility. They moved in close-knit groups, rounding a stranger or a rival group conspicuously, the way cats do. They spoke in whispers.
When Iranian journalist Ahmad Jalali Farahani was arrested back in 2009, he was confronted with the contents of his private mails. Even though he had created the email account using a different name the Iranian security forces were fully aware. He was imprisoned and subjected to torture.
Download PDF version Read The New York Times article associated with this report. The following individuals contributed to this report: Morgan Marquis-Boire (lead technical research) and Jakub Dalek (lead technical research), Sarah McKune (lead legal research), Matthew Carrieri , Masashi Crete-Nishihata , Ron Deibert , Saad Omar Khan , Helmi Noman , John Scott-Railton , and Greg Wiseman . Summary of Key Findings Blue Coat Devices capable of filtering, censorship, and surveillance are being used around the world.
In a luxury Washington, DC, hotel last month, governments from around the world gathered to discuss surveillance technology they would rather you did not know about. The annual Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) World Americas conference is a mecca for representatives from intelligence agencies and law enforcement. But to the media or members of the public, it is strictly off limits. Gone are the days when mere telephone wiretaps satisfied authorities' intelligence needs. Behind the cloak of secrecy at the ISS World conference, tips are shared about the latest advanced "lawful interception" methods used to spy on citizens – computer hacking , covert bugging and GPS tracking. Smartphones, email, instant message services and free chat services such as Skype have revolutionised communication.
By Alex Johnston Epoch Times Staff Created: December 14, 2011 Last Updated: December 14, 2011 Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej waves from his wheelchair in Bangkok on his 84th birthday Dec. 5, 2011. (Pairoj/AFP/Getty Images) Thailand has approved a $13 million budget to tap into websites with content related to lese majesty (an offense that violates the dignity of a ruler), or information that is critical or insulting to the country’s monarchy, reported the Bangkok Post. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said his committee has been tasked with purchasing equipment that would “be used to obtain communications network data” that could be used as evidence, the Post said. He was also tasked with blocking websites that are critical of the king.
Occupy Wall Street's 'occucopter' – who's watching whom? | Noel Sharkey and Sarah Knuckey | Comment is freeTim Pool's 'occucopter' is a response to the police eviction of Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park, New York. Photograph: Keystone USA-ZUMA/Rex Features The police may soon be watching you in your garden picking your vegetables or your bottom.
<img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-33998" title="image002" src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/12/image002-660x402.jpg" alt="" width="660" height="402" /> MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — An embattled phone-monitoring software maker said Friday that its wares, secretly installed on some 150 million phones, have the capacity to log web usage, and to chronicle where and when and to what numbers calls and text messages were sent and received. The Carrier IQ executives, speaking at their nondescript headquarters in a residential neighborhood in the heart of Silicon Valley, told Wired that the data they vacuum to their servers from handsets is vast — as the software also monitors app deployment, battery life, phone CPU output and data and cell-site connectivity, among other things. But, they said, they are not logging every keystroke as a prominent critic suggested.
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