Microsoft censoring Windows Live Messenger chats under guise of fighting piracy

Madison Ruppert, Contributor Activist Post
Piracy seems to be the favorite excuse nowadays when it comes to censorship, destroying Internet freedom, and even absurdly large domestic digital surveillance operations.
Now, Microsoft, one of the world’s largest corporations in the technology sector, has been actively monitoring and censoring conversations on their Windows Live Messenger program.
Even more disturbing, Microsoft now admits that they have been censoring conversations between users on Windows Live Messenger for quite a while now.
They are blocking certain links from being shared between users, one of which includes the Pirate Bay, one of the most popular and well-known file sharing websites on earth.
Interestingly, they are not only blocking the torrent tracker section of the website which enables peer-to-peer file sharing, they are also blocking a page which is devoted to completely legal file sharing.
Recently, popular file sharing news site Torrent Freak discoveredthe block lists being used by Windows Live Messenger. Interestingly, they found that the Pirate Bay was blocked by the messenger service while other torrent tracking websites which offer the exact same copyrighted content were not.
Today Raw Story discovered that in addition to the Pirate Bay’s main page, Microsoft is also blocking something called “The Promo Bay.”
The Promo Bay provides a platform for artists to submit their creations in order to be exposed to a massive audience.
This enables artists from around the world to develop a worldwide fan base by leveraging peer-to-peer file sharing, the same technology which has industry giants up in arms and trying to push freedom-crushing legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
Thankfully, it appears to be the case that SOPA and PIPA have died (at least for now, until they’re repackaged and put on the floor once again), although quite unfortunately, ACTA was signed by the Obama administration without Congressional approval.
For some reason, Microsoft thinks it is legitimate to block the legitimate sharing of files approved by the artists themselves, which is nothing short of ludicrous.
The concept of block lists aimed at preventing users from opening websites infected with malware or other viruses on social networks is nothing new.
Indeed, most major social networks like Facebook and Twitter use such block lists, but this move from Microsoft kicks it up a notch or three.
Whereas other services simply warn the user that a link may be unsafe before they open it, thus allowing them to bypass the warning and visit the suspicious site, Microsoft appears to be actually preventing the link from even going through.
Apparently Microsoft is actively blocking these links from being sent between users, throwing up the message, “The link you tried to send was blocked because it was reported as unsafe.”
This means that the user on the other end is prevented from ever seeing the link, completely censoring the conversation.
This makes one wonder where this censorship could stop, especially since it is being done by a private corporation which essentially has the ability to censor anything and everything they see fit.
Could they start preventing links from being sent which contain information criticizing Microsoft? Other than public outcry, nothing is stopping them from doing so.
According to Raw Story, the same link which was blocked by Windows Live Messenger went through fine on Facebook, Twitter, AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk and other popular chat services.
Furthermore, they point out that those services did not even present a warning saying that the domain may be a threat. This is likely because the link is, in fact, not a threat in any way.
A spokesperson with Microsoft informed Raw Story that this practice of actively censoring conversations between users on Windows Live Messenger is not a new practice.
Indeed, they said that for quite a while now they have been using Microsoft’s SmartScreen technology to censor links which they believe are spam, identity theft scams (often referred to as “phishing”) and malware.
“Windows Live Messenger is set up to help ensure customers receive IMs only from people whose IMs are welcome and has long had the capability to block certain content from being transmitted in an effort to protect our customers,” the spokesperson said.
“Before anyone can send customers an IM, those customers must first agree to add the sender to their Contact list; this helps protect customers from unwanted IMs from strangers and from annoyances such as spam and spim (spam via IM),” they added.
But their attempts to stop unwanted data transmission do not end there, they actually go far beyond just helping people steer clear of strangers and spammers.
“In addition, we use SmartScreen® technology to protect our customers from malicious and unwanted content including phishing, malware and spam,” the spokesperson explained. “We block instant messages if they contain malicious or spam URLs based on intelligence algorithms, third-party sources, and/or user complaints. Pirate Bay URLs were flagged by one or more of these and were consequently blocked.”
This sounds like a great practice in theory, but the fact that it completely blocks transmission, instead of just giving the user a prominent warning, is somewhat troubling.
This opens the door to censorship of many other websites or even specific pieces of information. This SmartScreen technology could even be used to block messages without the user who sent them knowing.
If the warning that appears when one attempts to send a link to the Promo Bay were not to show up, it might be the case that the individual who sent it never realizes that it was blocked.
This type of censorship is always done, at first, under the guise of fighting piracy, spam, malware, and such. But once you open the door to this kind of behavior and acclimate the American people to having their conversations automatically monitored and censored, you create the possibility of much wider and more troubling surveillance programs.
After all, the National Security Agency (NSA) is building a massive heavily fortified data center in Utah which would be perfectly suited to the monitoring, collection and analysis of information like this captured by private sector partners like Microsoft.
Hopefully this is innocent and only being used to protect users from legitimate threats, but considering the fact that they are already blocking a website which is neither a threat nor infringing on copyrights, I’m not ready to assume that this is the case just yet.
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.
Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on Orion Talk Radio from 8 pm — 10 pm Pacific, which you can find HERE.  If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at admin@EndtheLie.com

Patent awarded for “behavioral recognition” surveillance software system

Madison Ruppert, Contributor Activist Post


The American surveillance state is becoming increasingly advanced, expansive and capable of processing huge amounts of data at blinding speeds.
Now Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc., also known as BRS Labs, has developed an artificial intelligence-based system which supposedly can automatically recognize human behavior.
Technology which seems similar on the surface already exists and is being used on surveillance platforms like the “Intellistreets” street lights. These street lights, which are outfitted with a great deal of surveillance equipment, are reportedly capable of monitoring activity and telling the difference between certain behaviors while also being able to tell the difference between humans and animals. This technology could be used to enforce curfews, track the movement of individuals, and supposedly spot fights and other crimes.
However, BRS Labs’ technology, which was awarded U.S. patent number 8,131,012 (go here if link doesn’t open properly) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to Government Security News, seems to blow that older system out of the water. This is because previous technologies relied on specific rules put in place by human operators, whereas the new system relies on “reason-based video surveillance behavior recognition software.”
This patent is actually part of over 60 related U.S. patents which are currently either pending approval, in process or already granted, all of which are part of the “AISight 3.0” video surveillance software system.

“The video surveillance technology we have invented is distinctly and materially different from the simple recognition capabilities found in video analytics solutions currently available from a number of vendors in the physical security market,” president of BRS Labs, John Frazzini, said in a news release.
“Generally speaking, video analytics software receives video data from cameras and issues alerts based on very specific and narrowly defined human programmed rules that have failed to provide operational value in the video surveillance market,” Frazzini said. “In strong contrast to those limited and deteriorating solutions, the patented technology of BRS Labs does not require any human pre-programmed rules, thereby providing an inherently scalable enterprise class software platform to the video surveillance market.”
Indeed, if this technology works as it is supposed to, this is a major step up from previous software, and it could increase the ability to accurately monitor and track the activity of individuals.
Coupling this system with incredibly powerful facial recognition technology could represent a significant leap forward for Big Brother technology.
The major difference in this new technology is that it can actually allow computers to autonomously learn behavioral patterns, thus being able to determine what behaviors could be considered unusual.
The system can then warn security personnel about the allegedly unusual or suspicious behavior.
BRS Labs’ system uses standard streams from surveillance cameras, which means that the cost to roll out such systems would be relatively minimal.
The behavioral recognition system takes the video stream then detects and tracks subjects, characterizes their appearances and other properties, then classifies them and automatically learns their behavioral patterns.
The system then stores those patterns and thus can recognize behaviors which differ from the established behavior patterns. When the system detects a divergence, it alerts the user of those events in real time.
“These advancements would not have been possible ten or fifteen years ago because science didn’t adequately understand how the human brain models and manipulates data, and there wasn’t enough computer power to get the job done,” said Dr. Wesley Cobb, chief science officer at BRS Labs.
“Now, computers are exponentially faster and we have been successful in developing a method and system for analyzing and learning behavior based on acquired streams of video frames,” Dr. Cobb added. “This was an extremely difficult technical problem to solve, and to our knowledge, no other company has been able to approximate or duplicate what we have done.”
BRS Labs reportedly has many other patents in the works which seem to focus on artificial intelligence as applied to surveillance.
While companies might see this as a great cost-saving measure since it could reduce the number of people who have to sit and physically watch the surveillance monitors, if it is used in law enforcement I see many potential problems.
Much like so-called threat assessment technology, or malintent detection technology, this could erroneously flag behaviors as unusual or suspicious, thus resulting in individuals being treated as if they are criminals when they very well might not be.
All of this serves to erode the entire concept of innocent until proven guilty as people are marked as suspicious persons or displaying unusual behavior without any proof of wrongdoing.
After one is labeled as such, they are often treated like they did something wrong, even if there is absolutely no evidence of any illegal activities.
Personally, I see this as a dangerous trend which hopefully will be reversed, however, the growth of the surveillance industry does not show any sign of slowing down any time soon, so I’m not holding my breath just yet.
Did I miss something? Would you like to submit some writing of your own, tip me off to a story or provide me with some feedback? Email me at Admin@EndtheLie.com.
Please support our work and help us start to pay contributors by doing your shopping through our Amazon link or check out some must-have products at our store.
This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on Orion Talk Radio from 8 pm — 10 pm Pacific, which you can find HERE.  If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at admin@EndtheLie.com

“We Are This Far From A Turnkey Totalitarian State” – Big Brother Goes Live September 2013

“We Are This Far From A Turnkey Totalitarian State” – Big Brother Goes Live September 2013

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2012 14:56 -0400

George Orwell was right. He was just 30 years early.

In its April cover story, Wired has an exclusive report on the NSA’s Utah Data Center, which is a must read for anyone who believes any privacy is still a possibility in the United States: “A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks…. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”… The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013.” In other words, in just over 1 year, virtually anything one communicates through any traceable medium, or any record of one’s existence in the electronic medium, which these days is everything, will unofficially be property of the US government to deal with as it sees fit.

The codename of the project: Stellar Wind.

As Wired says, “there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.

And as former NSA operative William Binney who was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician, and is the basis for the Wired article (which we guess makes him merely the latest whistleblower to step up: is America suddenly experiencing an ethical revulsion?), and quit his job only after he realized that the NSA is now openly trampling the constitution, says as he holds his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.

There was a time when Americans still cared about matters such as personal privacy. Luckily, they now have iGadgets to keep them distracted as they hand over their last pieces of individuality to the Tzar of conformity. And there are those who wonder just what the purpose of the NDAA is.

In the meantime please continue to pretend that America is a democracy


Here are some of the highlights from the Wired article:

The Utah Data Center in a nutshell, and the summary of the current status of the NSA’s eavesdropping on US citizens.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

 

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

 

In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

 

…Shrouded in secrecy:

A short time later, Inglis arrived in Bluffdale at the site of the future data center, a flat, unpaved runway on a little-used part of Camp Williams, a National Guard training site. There, in a white tent set up for the occasion, Inglis joined Harvey Davis, the agency’s associate director for installations and logistics, and Utah senator Orrin Hatch, along with a few generals and politicians in a surreal ceremony. Standing in an odd wooden sandbox and holding gold-painted shovels, they made awkward jabs at the sand and thus officially broke ground on what the local media had simply dubbed “the spy center.” Hoping for some details on what was about to be built, reporters turned to one of the invited guests, Lane Beattie of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Did he have any idea of the purpose behind the new facility in his backyard? “Absolutely not,” he said with a self-conscious half laugh. “Nor do I want them spying on me.”

 

Within days, the tent and sandbox and gold shovels would be gone and Inglis and the generals would be replaced by some 10,000 construction workers. “We’ve been asked not to talk about the project,” Rob Moore, president of Big-D Construction, one of the three major contractors working on the project, told a local reporter. The plans for the center show an extensive security system: an elaborate $10 million antiterrorism protection program, including a fence designed to stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 50 miles per hour, closed-circuit cameras, a biometric identification system, a vehicle inspection facility, and a visitor-control center.

 

Inside, the facility will consist of four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, complete with raised floor space for cables and storage. In addition, there will be more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The entire site will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. Such a mammoth amount of energy comes with a mammoth price tag—about $40 million a year, according to one estimate.

Presenting the Yottabyte, aka 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text:

Given the facility’s scale and the fact that a terabyte of data can now be stored on a flash drive the size of a man’s pinky, the potential amount of information that could be housed in Bluffdale is truly staggering. But so is the exponential growth in the amount of intelligence data being produced every day by the eavesdropping sensors of the NSA and other intelligence agencies. As a result of this “expanding array of theater airborne and other sensor networks,” as a 2007 Department of Defense report puts it, the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)

 

It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015, reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) In terms of scale, Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, once estimated that the total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 totaled 5 exabytes. And the data flow shows no sign of slowing. In 2011 more than 2 billion of the world’s 6.9 billion people were connected to the Internet. By 2015, market research firm IDC estimates, there will be 2.7 billion users. Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.

Summarizing the NSA’s entire spy network:

 

Before yottabytes of data from the deep web and elsewhere can begin piling up inside the servers of the NSA’s new center, they must be collected. To better accomplish that, the agency has undergone the largest building boom in its history, including installing secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities. Controlled by the NSA, these highly secured spaces are where the agency taps into the US communications networks, a practice that came to light during the Bush years but was never acknowledged by the agency. The broad outlines of the so-called warrantless-wiretapping program have long been exposed—how the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email. In the wake of the program’s exposure, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which largely made the practices legal. Telecoms that had agreed to participate in the illegal activity were granted immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. What wasn’t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program.

Luckily, we now know, courtesy of yet another whistleblower, who has exposed the NSA’s mindblowing efforts at pervasive Big Brotherness:

For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. William Binney was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. A tall man with strands of black hair across the front of his scalp and dark, determined eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, the 68-year-old spent nearly four decades breaking codes and finding new ways to channel billions of private phone calls and email messages from around the world into the NSA’s bulging databases. As chief and one of the two cofounders of the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, Binney and his team designed much of the infrastructure that’s still likely used to intercept international and foreign communications.

 

He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”

 

The eavesdropping on Americans doesn’t stop at the telecom switches. To capture satellite communications in and out of the US, the agency also monitors AT&T’s powerful earth stations, satellite receivers in locations that include Roaring Creek and Salt Creek. Tucked away on a back road in rural Catawissa, Pennsylvania, Roaring Creek’s three 105-foot dishes handle much of the country’s communications to and from Europe and the Middle East. And on an isolated stretch of land in remote Arbuckle, California, three similar dishes at the company’s Salt Creek station service the Pacific Rim and Asia.

In other words, the NSA has absolutely everyone covered.

We now know all of this, courtesy of yet another person finally stepping up and exposing the truth:

Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.

 

The software, created by a company called Narus that’s now part of Boeing, is controlled remotely from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland and searches US sources for target addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Any communication that arouses suspicion, especially those to or from the million or so people on agency watch lists, are automatically copied or recorded and then transmitted to the NSA.

Everyone is a target.

The scope of surveillance expands from there, Binney says. Once a name is entered into the Narus database, all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders. “Anybody you want, route to a recorder,” Binney says. “If your number’s in there? Routed and gets recorded.” He adds, “The Narus device allows you to take it all.” And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis.

 

After he left the NSA, Binney suggested a system for monitoring people’s communications according to how closely they are connected to an initial target. The further away from the target—say you’re just an acquaintance of a friend of the target—the less the surveillance. But the agency rejected the idea, and, given the massive new storage facility in Utah, Binney suspects that it now simply collects everything. “The whole idea was, how do you manage 20 terabytes of intercept a minute?” he says. “The way we proposed was to distinguish between things you want and things you don’t want.” Instead, he adds, “they’re storing everything they gather.” And the agency is gathering as much as it can.

 

Once the communications are intercepted and stored, the data-mining begins. “You can watch everybody all the time with data- mining,” Binney says. Everything a person does becomes charted on a graph, “financial transactions or travel or anything,” he says. Thus, as data like bookstore receipts, bank statements, and commuter toll records flow in, the NSA is able to paint a more and more detailed picture of someone’s life.

Can you hear me now? The NSA sure can:

According to Binney, one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.

 

Verizon was also part of the program, Binney says, and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency’s domestic eavesdropping. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he says. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” (Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security.)

In fact, as you talk now, the NSA’s computers are listening, recording it all, and looking for keywords.

The NSA also has the ability to eavesdrop on phone calls directly and in real time. According to Adrienne J. Kinne, who worked both before and after 9/11 as a voice interceptor at the NSA facility in Georgia, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks “basically all rules were thrown out the window, and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans.” Even journalists calling home from overseas were included. “A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations.” Kinne found the act of eavesdropping on innocent fellow citizens personally distressing. “It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,” she says.

There is a simple matter of encryption… Which won’t be an issue for the NSA shortly, once the High Productivity Computing Systems project goes online.

Anyone—from terrorists and weapons dealers to corporations, financial institutions, and ordinary email senders—can use it to seal their messages, plans, photos, and documents in hardened data shells. For years, one of the hardest shells has been the Advanced Encryption Standard, one of several algorithms used by much of the world to encrypt data. Available in three different strengths—128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits—it’s incorporated in most commercial email programs and web browsers and is considered so strong that the NSA has even approved its use for top-secret US government communications. Most experts say that a so-called brute-force computer attack on the algorithm—trying one combination after another to unlock the encryption—would likely take longer than the age of the universe. For a 128-bit cipher, the number of trial-and-error attempts would be 340 undecillion (1036).

 

Breaking into those complex mathematical shells like the AES is one of the key reasons for the construction going on in Bluffdale. That kind of cryptanalysis requires two major ingredients: super-fast computers to conduct brute-force attacks on encrypted messages and a massive number of those messages for the computers to analyze. The more messages from a given target, the more likely it is for the computers to detect telltale patterns, and Bluffdale will be able to hold a great many messages. “We questioned it one time,” says another source, a senior intelligence manager who was also involved with the planning. “Why were we building this NSA facility? And, boy, they rolled out all the old guys—the crypto guys.” According to the official, these experts told then-director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, “You’ve got to build this thing because we just don’t have the capability of doing the code-breaking.” It was a candid admission. In the long war between the code breakers and the code makers—the tens of thousands of cryptographers in the worldwide computer security industry—the code breakers were admitting defeat.

 

So the agency had one major ingredient—a massive data storage facility—under way. Meanwhile, across the country in Tennessee, the government was working in utmost secrecy on the other vital element: the most powerful computer the world has ever known.

 

The plan was launched in 2004 as a modern-day Manhattan Project. Dubbed the High Productivity Computing Systems program, its goal was to advance computer speed a thousandfold, creating a machine that could execute a quadrillion (1015) operations a second, known as a petaflop—the computer equivalent of breaking the land speed record. And as with the Manhattan Project, the venue chosen for the supercomputing program was the town of Oak Ridge in eastern Tennessee, a rural area where sharp ridges give way to low, scattered hills, and the southwestward-flowing Clinch River bends sharply to the southeast. About 25 miles from Knoxville, it is the “secret city” where uranium- 235 was extracted for the first atomic bomb. A sign near the exit read: what you see here, what you do here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here. Today, not far from where that sign stood, Oak Ridge is home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and it’s engaged in a new secret war. But this time, instead of a bomb of almost unimaginable power, the weapon is a computer of almost unimaginable speed.

 

At the DOE’s unclassified center at Oak Ridge, work progressed at a furious pace, although it was a one-way street when it came to cooperation with the closemouthed people in Building 5300. Nevertheless, the unclassified team had its Cray XT4 supercomputer upgraded to a warehouse-sized XT5. Named Jaguar for its speed, it clocked in at 1.75 petaflops, officially becoming the world’s fastest computer in 2009.

 

Meanwhile, over in Building 5300, the NSA succeeded in building an even faster supercomputer. “They made a big breakthrough,” says another former senior intelligence official, who helped oversee the program. The NSA’s machine was likely similar to the unclassified Jaguar, but it was much faster out of the gate, modified specifically for cryptanalysis and targeted against one or more specific algorithms, like the AES. In other words, they were moving from the research and development phase to actually attacking extremely difficult encryption systems. The code-breaking effort was up and running.

 

The breakthrough was enormous, says the former official, and soon afterward the agency pulled the shade down tight on the project, even within the intelligence community and Congress. “Only the chairman and vice chairman and the two staff directors of each intelligence committee were told about it,” he says. The reason? “They were thinking that this computing breakthrough was going to give them the ability to crack current public encryption.”

So kiss PGP goodbye. In fact kiss every aspect of your privacy goodbye.

Yottabytes and exaflops, septillions and undecillions—the race for computing speed and data storage goes on. In his 1941 story “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges imagined a collection of information where the entire world’s knowledge is stored but barely a single word is understood. In Bluffdale the NSA is constructing a library on a scale that even Borges might not have contemplated. And to hear the masters of the agency tell it, it’s only a matter of time until every word is illuminated.

As for the Constitution… What Constitution?

Before he gave up and left the NSA, Binney tried to persuade officials to create a more targeted system that could be authorized by a court. At the time, the agency had 72 hours to obtain a legal warrant, and Binney devised a method to computerize the system. “I had proposed that we automate the process of requesting a warrant and automate approval so we could manage a couple of million intercepts a day, rather than subvert the whole process.” But such a system would have required close coordination with the courts, and NSA officials weren’t interested in that, Binney says. Instead they continued to haul in data on a grand scale. Asked how many communications—”transactions,” in NSA’s lingo—the agency has intercepted since 9/11, Binney estimates the number at “between 15 and 20 trillion, the aggregate over 11 years.”

 

When Barack Obama took office, Binney hoped the new administration might be open to reforming the program to address his constitutional concerns. He and another former senior NSA analyst, J. Kirk Wiebe, tried to bring the idea of an automated warrant-approval system to the attention of the Department of Justice’s inspector general. They were given the brush-off. “They said, oh, OK, we can’t comment,” Binney says.

In conclusion, the NSA’s own whistleblower summarizes it best.

Sitting in a restaurant not far from NSA headquarters, the place where he spent nearly 40 years of his life, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together. “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” he says.

… And nobody cares.

Eye-Watching Computer Spots Liars Better Than Cops

A new computer ‘interrogator’ can identify liars more accurately than hardened police investigators.

The software looks for telltale eye movements, and can identify liars with 82.5% accuracy.

Even experienced police officers only achieve around 65 per cent accuracy.

The software was tested in 40 interviews with volunteers, some of whom were trying to conceal the fact they had hidden a cheque.

The volunteers were asked a series of questions by a retired police investigator to set a ‘baseline’ reading for their eye movements – then asked whether they had taken the cheque.

The computer could spot liars with 82.5 per cent accuracy – looking for telltale differences in their eye movements.

Ifeoma Nwogu of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, says that the researchers hope to repeat the experiments with larger samples.

They also hope to develop the technology to look for other ‘tells’ that give away liars.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2111091/Eye-watching-software-spots-liars-accurately-police-interrogators.html#ixzz1opivX9yR

ORWELLIAN DRONES: Eye in the Sky Spying on Americans

Global Hawk

By Stephen Lendman

 

Money power runs America. So do lobbies representing all corporate and other interests.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) represents dozens of influential companies.

They include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Bell Hellicopter Textron, Sikorsky Aircraft, Goodrich, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Booz Allen Hamilton, Hill & Knowlton, and many more promoting unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone technology.

Against targeted countries, it’s America’s newest sport. From distant command centers, operators kill by remote control. They use computer keyboards and multiple monitors. UAVs stand ready round-the-clock for missions.

Predator drones perform sanitized killing on the cheap compared to manned aircraft. Independent experts believe militants are hit about 2% of the time. All others are noncombatants, despite official disclaimers.

In 1995, Predator drones were used for the first time in Bosnia. In 2001, the Global Hawk drone was used in Afghanistan. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Pentagon used various type drones for combat and spying missions.

In Libya, Obama authorized Predator drones. They operated throughout the war. They’re also used in Yemen, Somalia, and wherever Washington designates targets to kill.

US citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi was assassinated this way. So can anyone anywhere on America’s hit list, including perhaps domestically before long.

Washington plans escalated drone killing, as well domestic spying on Americans. Currently, around one in three US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps they’ll all be unmanned.

Domestic Drone Spying in America

On January 10, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Jennifer Lynch headlined, “Are Drones Watching You?” saying:

EFF sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for information on domestic drone use. Who’s flying UAVs it asked?

Drones carry surveillance equipment, including video cameras, infrared ones, heat sensors, and radar for sophisticated virtually constant spying. Newer versions carry super high resolution “gigapixel” cameras. They enable tracking above 20,000 feet. They can monitor up to 65 enemies simultaneously, and can see targets up to 25 miles away.

Predator drones can eavesdrop on electronic transmissions. A new model’s able to penetrate Wi-Fi networks and intercept text messages and cell phone calls covertly.

Even domestically, drones may be weaponized with tasers, bean bag guns, and other devices able to harm or perhaps kill.

Currently, the US Customs and Border Protection uses UAVs for surveilling borders. State and local law enforcement agencies also use them to investigate “cattle rustling, drug dealing, and the search for missing persons.”

Flying above 400 feet requires FAA certification. Information’s unavailable on who obtained authorizations for what purposes.

FAA comes under the Department of Transportation (DOT). It failed to respond to EFF’s April 2011 FOIA request. EFF attorney Lynch said:

“Drones give the government and other (UAV) operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities.”

“As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.”

Drones “could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives. We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about” what the public has a right to know.

The Supreme Court hasn’t been people friendly on many issues, including privacy. In United States v. Place (1983), the court held that sniffs by police dogs trained to detect illegal drugs aren’t searches under the Fourth Amendment.

They’re sui generis, intended only to reveal the presence or absence of narcotics. In other words, Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply to non-human searchers. As a result, privacy rights are on the chopping block for elimination. Already, in fact, they’re gravely compromised under institutionalized Bush administration surveillance policy.

In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized spying through the National Applications Office (NOA). It was described as “the executive agent to facilitate the use of intelligence community technological assets for civil, homeland security and law enforcement purposes within the United States.”

With or without congressional authorization or oversight, the executive branch may authorize state-of-the-art technology, including military satellite imagery, to spy on Americans covertly.

Though initial plans were delayed, eye in the sky spying ahead potentially will monitor everyone everywhere once full implementation’s achieved. Included will be thousands of Big Brother drones watching.

On February 3, the FAA Reauthorization Act (HR 658) cleared both houses of Congress after differences between Senate and House versions were resolved. Expect Obama to sign it shortly.

It authorizes domestic drone spying under provisions to test and license commercial drones by 2015. Estimates of up to 30,000 UAVs could overfly America by 2020. Privacy advocates are concerned. Steven Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said:

“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities.”

According to Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Amie Stepanovich, “Currently, the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates.”

Changing the rules changes the game. Expect it. It’s coming once Obama signs HR 658. UAV proliferation already is expanding rapidly. A July 2010 FAA Fact Sheet said in America alone, “approximately 50 companies, universities, and government organizations are developing and producing some 155 unmanned aircraft designs.”

America’s expected to account for about 70% of global growth. In 2011, Congress, DOD, state and local governments, as well as AUVSI pressured the FAA to review and expand its current “Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA)” program related to unmanned aircraft (UA).

The agency’s also examining its own rules for small UAs. It’s expected to authorize expanded COA use shortly.

ACLU Concerns

On February 6, the ACLU headlined, “Congress Trying to Fast-Track Domestic Drone Use, Sideline Privacy,” saying:

In fact, Congress already authorized expanded domestic drones. Obama’s poised to sign HR 658 into law. Provisions in it include requiring FAA:

(1) to simplify and accelerate permission for drone operations. The agency’s already working on loosening regulations by spring 2012.

(2) to establish a pilot project within six months for six test zones to integrate drones “into the national airspace system.”

(3) create a comprehensive plan within nine months “to safely accelerate the integration of civil (privately operated) unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”

(4) after submitting a comprehensive plan, publish final rules within 18 months to allow civil operation of small (under 55 pounds) drones in America’s airspace.

On December 15, the ACLU published a report titled, “Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government Use of Drone Aircraft,” saying:

They’re coming to America. Privacy may be seriously compromised. Protections are urgently needed. The report recommends that “drones should not be deployed unless there are grounds to believe that they will collect evidence on a specific crime.”

“If a drone will intrude on reasonable privacy expectations, a warrant should be required.” The report also urges “restrictions on retaining images of identifiable people, as well as an open process for developing policies on how drones will be used.”

Overflying America with drones unrestrained changes the game. A “surveillance society” will be institutionalized to monitor, track, and record “our every move.”

Given a bipartisan penchant for spying, expect the worst. Privacy, like other civil and human rights, is fast disappearing under policies in place or coming to destroy it

Eye In The Sky Spying On Americans

Eye In The Sky Spying On Americans  
By Stephen Lendman 2-14-12

Money power runs America. So do lobbies representing all corporate and other interests.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) represents dozens of influential companies.
They include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Bell Hellicopter Textron, Sikorsky Aircraft, Goodrich, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Booz Allen Hamilton, Hill & Knowlton, and many more promoting unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone technology.
Against targeted countries, it’s America’s newest sport. From distant command centers, operators kill by remote control. They use computer keyboards and multiple monitors. UAVs stand ready round-the-clock for missions.
Predator drones perform sanitized killing on the cheap compared to manned aircraft. Independent experts believe militants are hit about 2% of the time. All others are noncombatants, despite official disclaimers.
In 1995, Predator drones were used for the first time in Bosnia. In 2001, the Global Hawk drone was used in Afghanistan. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Pentagon used various type drones for combat and spying missions.
In Libya, Obama authorized Predator drones. They operated throughout the war. They’re also used in Yemen, Somalia, and wherever Washington designates targets to kill.
US citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi was assassinated this way. So can anyone anywhere on America’s hit list, including perhaps domestically before long.
Washington plans escalated drone killing, as well domestic spying on Americans. Currently, around one in three US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps they’ll all be unmanned.
Domestic Drone Spying in America
On January 10, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Jennifer Lynch headlined, “Are Drones Watching You?” saying:
EFF sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for information on domestic drone use. Who’s flying UAVs it asked?
Drones carry surveillance equipment, including video cameras, infrared ones, heat sensors, and radar for sophisticated virtually constant spying. Newer versions carry super high resolution “gigapixel” cameras. They enable tracking above 20,000 feet. They can monitor up to 65 enemies simultaneously, and can see targets up to 25 miles away.
Predator drones can eavesdrop on electronic transmissions. A new model’s able to penetrate Wi-Fi networks and intercept text messages and cell phone calls covertly.
Even domestically, drones may be weaponized with tasers, bean bag guns, and other devices able to harm or perhaps kill.
Currently, the US Customs and Border Protection uses UAVs for surveilling borders. State and local law enforcement agencies also use them to investigate “cattle rustling, drug dealing, and the search for missing persons.”
Flying above 400 feet requires FAA certification. Information’s unavailable on who obtained authorizations for what purposes.
FAA comes under the Department of Transportation (DOT). It failed to respond to EFF’s April 2011 FOIA request. EFF attorney Lynch said:
“Drones give the government and other (UAV) operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities.”
“As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.”
Drones “could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives. We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about” what the public has a right to know.
The Supreme Court hasn’t been people friendly on many issues, including privacy. In United States v. Place (1983), the court held that sniffs by police dogs trained to detect illegal drugs aren’t searches under the Fourth Amendment.
They’re sui generis, intended only to reveal the presence or absence of narcotics. In other words, Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply to non-human searchers. As a result, privacy rights are on the chopping block for elimination. Already, in fact, they’re gravely compromised under institutionalized Bush administration surveillance policy.
In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized spying through the National Applications Office (NOA). It was described as “the executive agent to facilitate the use of intelligence community technological assets for civil, homeland security and law enforcement purposes within the United States.”
With or without congressional authorization or oversight, the executive branch may authorize state-of-the-art technology, including military satellite imagery, to spy on Americans covertly.
Though initial plans were delayed, eye in the sky spying ahead potentially will monitor everyone everywhere once full implementation’s achieved. Included will be thousands of Big Brother drones watching.
On February 3, the FAA Reauthorization Act (HR 658) cleared both houses of Congress after differences between Senate and House versions were resolved. Expect Obama to sign it shortly.
It authorizes domestic drone spying under provisions to test and license commercial drones by 2015. Estimates of up to 30,000 UAVs could overfly America by 2020. Privacy advocates are concerned. Steven Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said:
“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities.”
According to Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Amie Stepanovich, “Currently, the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates.”
Changing the rules changes the game. Expect it. It’s coming once Obama signs HR 658. UAV proliferation already is expanding rapidly. A July 2010 FAA Fact Sheet said in America alone, “approximately 50 companies, universities, and government organizations are developing and producing some 155 unmanned aircraft designs.”
America’s expected to account for about 70% of global growth. In 2011, Congress, DOD, state and local governments, as well as AUVSI pressured the FAA to review and expand its current “Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA)” program related to unmanned aircraft (UA).
The agency’s also examining its own rules for small UAs. It’s expected to authorize expanded COA use shortly.
ACLU Concerns
On February 6, the ACLU headlined, “Congress Trying to Fast-Track Domestic Drone Use, Sideline Privacy,” saying:
In fact, Congress already authorized expanded domestic drones. Obama’s poised to sign HR 658 into law. Provisions in it include requiring FAA:
(1) to simplify and accelerate permission for drone operations. The agency’s already working on loosening regulations by spring 2012.
(2) to establish a pilot project within six months for six test zones to integrate drones “into the national airspace system.”
(3) create a comprehensive plan within nine months “to safely accelerate the integration of civil (privately operated) unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”
(4) after submitting a comprehensive plan, publish final rules within 18 months to allow civil operation of small (under 55 pounds) drones in America’s airspace.
On December 15, the ACLU published a report titled, “Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government Use of Drone Aircraft,” saying:
They’re coming to America. Privacy may be seriously compromised. Protections are urgently needed. The report recommends that “drones should not be deployed unless there are grounds to believe that they will collect evidence on a specific crime.”
“If a drone will intrude on reasonable privacy expectations, a warrant should be required.” The report also urges “restrictions on retaining images of identifiable people, as well as an open process for developing policies on how drones will be used.”
Overflying America with drones unrestrained changes the game. A “surveillance society” will be institutionalized to monitor, track, and record “our every move.”
Given a bipartisan penchant for spying, expect the worst. Privacy, like other civil and human rights, is fast disappearing under policies in place or coming to destroy it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

DARPA Set to Drop Computer “F-Bombs” to Spy on Public

Nicholas West Activist Post
It’s bad enough that drones have been welcomed by Congress into American skies, as well as already being used around the planet to conduct surveillance and bomb select countries from remote locations.
The latest proposed addition to the drone spy program is even creepier:  disposable computers with software programs funded by DARPA to be dropped as self-destructing “bombs.”
Now, not only will drones surveil and hack from above, but they will drop a payload to interface with hidden computers on the ground, completely integrating a full-spectrum data transmission and control grid

 

See the rest of the story at:

http://www.activistpost.com/2012/02/darpa-set-to-drop-computer-f-bombs-to.html