The Communications Security Establishment Canada, the NSA-like department north of the border, launched a trial program to monitor unsuspecting travelers using Wi-Fi in Canadian airports. The collected metadata provided Canadian authorities with a glimpse of user Internet browsing habits, friendships, political affiliation, and other private information.
The leaked document indicated the "federal intelligence agency was then able to track the travelers for a week or more as they - and their wireless devices - showed up in other Wi-Fi 'hot spots' in cities" throughout Canada and in some U.S. airports. More alarming, the Canadian authorities could track travelers within its own borders at hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, train stations, and other public locations while they remained in the country.
The disclosure came from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, after he accused mainly the NSA for wide-scale spying of U.S. citizens, foreign residents, and political leaders of other governments. Most of Snowden's spying revelations focused on the actions of the NSA, but Canada, England, and other nations also have used newer technologies to conduct surveillance.
A couple of days ago we reported that the NSA uses insecure mobile apps to grab users' data, with Angry Birds mentioned, now Rovio, the developer of the smash hit game, is coming to its defense.
Rovio said that it "does not share data, collaborate or collude with any government spy agencies". Rovio insisted "Our fans' trust is the most important thing for us and we take privacy extremely seriously. We do not collaborate, collude, or share data with spy agencies anywhere in the world".
Rovio is coming out and putting its foot down that it does not cooperate with spy agencies, and that if Angry Birds gets mentioned as one of these potential information vacuums, that it's only because it's such a large title. Rovio continued "The alleged surveillance may be conducted through third party advertising networks used by millions of commercial web sites and mobile applications across all industries. If advertising networks are indeed targeted, it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance".
During Edward Snowden's sit down with German TV station NDR, he had quite a few things to say. One of these was asking the question, "if I am a traitor, who did I betray?"
He says "I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues. If they see that as treason I think people really need to consider who do they think they're working for. The public is supposed to be their boss, not their enemy".
Anything you do electronically, whether you're buying bombs, or coffee, is tracked - for no reason other than the government wanting all data, 24/7. As he said "the public is supposed to be their [the government] boss, not their enemy".
The top two most common passwords in 2013 were "123456" and "Password," much to the dismay of security experts begging users to create more sophisticated passwords. The full list of passwords was compiled by SplashData and included stolen passwords that were posted online over the past 12 months.
The top five worst passwords:
Security experts also discourage using a password based on a website or application used, such as "adobe123" and "photoshop" - and many online services require passwords to be a certain length, include at least one capitalized letter, and a number or character. Furthermore, SplashData recommends using random words separate by a space or underscore, along with using different passwords for each online account.
Current cryptography encryption is still giving the National Security Agency (NSA) fits, providing Internet users with an extra layer of protection from government snooping, according to a well-known security researcher.
Bruce Schneier, author and security blogger, said the U.S. government is on a "quixotic mission" to collect as much information as possible, including online chats, instant messages, e-mails, and forum postings - and it's uncertain what current procedures are more secure. It's up to users to help develop an Internet that is secure for all users, rather than a system that is open and vulnerable from government snooping - and cyber criminals trying to compromise information.
The large amount of information collected by the NSA - against regular Internet users and foreign government leaders - has left people across the world angry.
The White House has announced that President Obama will on Friday, announce plans for NSA reform. Obama is expected to leverage a mix of executive orders and actions that will fundamentally change the way the NSA can gather information. One of the biggest actions that will be put into motion is the extension of privacy rights to non American citizens.
Other actions include the creation of a so-called "Privacy Advocate" which will argue on the peoples behalf in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which now only hears arguments for spying on behalf of the government. Obama is also expected to call for a complete restructuring of the phone-data program, and will state that data collected should be held by phone companies or a third party as to offer a barrier from unwarranted access to private files.
Personally, I caution everyone to remember that most of this is still smoke and mirrors, and true reform would involve ceasing any and all collection of information on American citizens without a court order. Furthermore, Obama would have never acted to reform these policies if it would not have been for Edward Snowden and his very loud whistle blowing. While this may seem like a small victory, more work will need to be done before the NSA can truly be given the title of "reformed."
The Target data breach that affected more than 70 million customers was caused by malware unknowingly installed on point-of-sale (POS) machines at the company's retail stores. It's unknown how the malware infected the cash registers, and was safely removed within hours of being discovered - but the damage was clearly done.
"Clearly we are accountable and we are responsible - but we are going to come out at the end of this a better company and we are going to make significant changes," said Gregg Steinhafel, Target CEO, during a recent interview with journalists.
Target, Neiman Marcus, and other companies need to become more proactive in their efforts to prevent attacks targeting in-store POS systems. Cyber criminal groups are constantly on the prowl for security vulnerabilities they can target while stealing information and POS malware is a tactic that yields a large amount of information before being detected.
Last month, US retail giant Target was hit with a data breach that saw 40 million customers' private data leaked. The retailer suffered through the threat, and still felt a backlash after it happened - which is expected. In the end, the amount of consumers' data leaked blew out to over 70 million.
But what wasn't expected, is Reuters now reporting that it looks like at least three other major US retailers suffered data breaches "using similar techniques" that hit Target. Reuters hasn't unveiled the names of these businesses, but did state they are "well-known US retailers" that do business in shopping malls.
Target has since announced its sales have possibly dropped around 2.5% versus the year previous due to the breach, so you can't be surprised if these other companies are holding their cards close to their chest.
Skype user information was not at risk after the Syrian Electronic Army hacker group compromised Skype social media accounts. Microsoft-owned Skype was targeted following leaks from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, claiming the software company freely gave access so the government could easily snoop on users.
Microsoft confirmed the targeted cyber attack, but said "credentials were quickly reset" before any harm could be done. These types of data breaches are becoming more common, with companies and cyber criminals understanding how important stolen personal information can be.
According to security researcher Jason Appelbaum, and German news magazine Der Spiegel, the NSA has the ability to spy on virtually every iPhone, and users' digital communication sent from said iPhone.
The NSA reportedly has a program called DROPOUTJEEP, which allows the US spy agency to intercept most things - including SMS messages, contact lists, the physical location of the iPhone (and its user) through cell phone data, and even the ability to access the iPhone's microphone, and camera. Leaked documents have helped put the picture together, with the NSA claiming a 100% success rate when it comes to getting spyware into iOS-based devices.
Then comes the scary part: that the NSA requires physical access to the device, which the US spy agency reportedly reroutes shipments of iPhone's purchased online, but it is also working on a remote version, which is even worse. Appelbaum says: "Either [the NSA] have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves."
He finishes with something quite scary: "Do you think Apple helped them with that? I hope Apple will clarify that."
Despite fallout from former IT specialist Edward Snowden, it appears more U.S. voters are interested in security over privacy-related issues. Seventy-five percent of users are worried about personal information theft over 54 percent of those users worried about browsing history being tracked.
"By wide margins this survey clearly shows that ID theft has touched the majority of consumers in some way, and that hacking is more worrisome to consumers than tracking, and that voters want the government to more aggressively go after cyber criminals," said Ed Black, CCIA President and CEO, in a statement. "Safeguarding users online must become a higher priority for companies and also for the regulators and policymakers charged with protecting consumers."
Even though security is more thought about by U.S. citizens, privacy concerns have caused a major backlash against the National Security Agency (NSA), other US federal branches, and a handful of major corporations.
Spain takes its privacy laws pretty serious, and Google has just found out just how serious they consider violations. Today Reuters is reporting that Google has been issued a fine of $1.23 million after it was found guilt of breaking Spain's data protection laws.
The fine of $1.23 million is the maximum possible under Spanish law, and this is not the first time that Google has had to pay for a breach of privacy this year. Last month Dutch lawmakers accused Google of breaking the same law in their country.
"Inspections have shown that Google compiles personal information through close to one hundred services and products it offers in Spain, without providing in many cases the adequate information about the data that is being gathered, why it is gathered and without obtaining the consent of the owners," said the Spanish Agency for Data Protection.
New documents have surfaced from Edward Snowden that shows just how far the NSA is willing to go to spy on everyone. The US spy agency along with Brittans GCHQ had agents inside both the World of Warcraft and Secondlife to keep an eye on "targets" who may be using the MMOs to communicate.
The documents state that the NSA thought that the "Unregulated" online gaming worlds would "almost certainly be used as a venue for terrorist laundering and will, with certainty, be used for terrorist propaganda and recruitment." The documents did not state if any arrest were made, or if any terror plots were unveiled as a result of the infiltration.
One takedown did result from the spying, but instead of a terrorist organization, a ring of credit card thieves were arrested and their website was shutdown. The spying grew to so many agents that the NSA had to create a "deconflict group" to make sure they were not spying on each other.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to you, especially if you read TweakTown, as we try to cover the Edward Snowden leaks as they break. Well, the latest news is being reported by The Washington Post, and its a doozy.
The NSA is reportedly taking in users' cellphone data, on a global level, not just within the United States. This equates to around 5 billion records everyday, but don't worry, the NSA says it doesn't have the proper tools to check every single record. Because, you know - we should believe them, right? Well, one of the programs is named Co-Traveler, which allows the US spy agency to determine "behaviorally relevant relationships" based on data from signals intelligence activity designators located around the world. One of which, is named "Stormbrew".
Co-Traveler can locate targets purely from cellphone users moving in a group, even if they're unknown threats. Multiple meetups, with the geolocational data, is enough for the NSA's "Co-Traveler" system to notice a pattern.
We know that the NSA's PRISM system scoops up unimaginable amounts of data, so a couple of researchers created an Android app to see just how much metadata is collected from a smartphone, which was compared to basic information on Facebook.
The two Stanford researchers, Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler, created MetaPhone, using it to see how revealing the metadata was. Mayer told MIT Technology Review: "Some defenders of the NSA's bulk collection programs have taken the position that metadata is not revealing. We want to provide empirical evidence on the issue.... Our hypothesis is that phone metadata is packed with meaning."
You can grab MetaPhone yourself, a free app from the Google Play Store, with the app capable of collecting call and text logs, and asks for basic information from Facebook. Early research points to the fact that the metadata definitely includes some juicy data on you, with early results showing that phone metadata can predict whether someone is in a relationship with around 60% accuracy.
Google is a step ahead of Yahoo here, where it has upgraded all of its SSL certificates to 2048-bit, but now Yahoo is pushing ahead with some hopefully NSA-proof encryption to its information.
Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, has reiterated the fact that Yahoo has never handed over information from its datacenters to the NSA, or any other government agency for that matter. The CEO said there is nothing more important than users' data and privacy, and that the company is extending the SSL encryption with a 2048-bit key for Yahoo Mail, and all Yahoo products.
The 2048-bit goodness should encrypt all Yahoo datacenter information by the end of Q1 2014, so around 4 months from now. From here, it will offer users an option to encrypt all of their data in and out of Yahoo by the end of March next year. The company will also work close with their international Mail partners to make sure that co-branded accounts are also 2048-bit protected.
Just how many documents did Edward Snowden take from the NSA? Well, earlier estimates had this pegged at around 50,000... but it looks like the whistleblower took close to 200,000 documents.
This is coming directly from NSA General, Keith Alexander, who wished "there was a way to prevent" further leaks, and that information was being out out "in a way that does maximum damage to the NSA and [the United States]." This should mean that Snowden has enough information on him to keep him alive, or at least an asset to Russia.
We've seen what has happened to previous whistleblowers, like Bradley Manning and Michael Hastings, but it looks like Snowden has his fair share of information to keep him safe, for now.
According to some documents supplied to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden, Google and Yahoo data centers across the world are intercepted directly by the NSA and GCHQ. The program is known as "Muscular" and can tap into the main communications link that connect Google and Yahoo data centers.
A documented dating back to January 9, 2013 says that the NSA captured millions of records from the search giants each and every day, sending them to NSA data warehouses. Within a 30-day period, over 180 million records were collected, all of which included metadata, text communications, audio and video, too.
The Washington Post did say that the NSA doesn't keep everything, which should help you sleep at night (so much sarcasm intended). Both search giants maintain multiple data centers around the world for redundancy reasons, with data shared between the data centers all the time. Google has said that it was not aware of the NSA activity, with a Yahoo spokesperson saying that it has strict controls in place to protect the security of their data centers, and that it has not given the NSA or anyone else access to their data centers.
A new report from The Washington Post is suggesting that the NSA has been harvesting hundreds of thousands of email addresses from contact list, online address books, and even instant messaging services. The report is based off of top-secret documents that were provided by senior intelligence officials as well as PRISM whistle blower Edward Snowden.
The report goes on to say that the NSA's Special Source Operations division acquired over 440,000 email address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, and 33,697 from Gmail. Those numbers were derived from an internal NSA powerpoint presentation and are said to represent just a single days worth of email collecting activity.
The Washington Post speculates that the NSA now has a sizeable database of most of the email addresses that exist on the internet today. What the agency plans on doing with these address books is anyones guess. Personally I feel that this is not that big of a deal as many of us openly post our email address online for all to see anyway. On the other hand, I feel that by collecting, storing, and building a database, the NSA is violating some form of my privacy rights.
There are hundreds of millions of people out there who use Facebook on the daily, who think that their profiles are safe because they know the passwords to their account, and others don't - and these people need to read this news, now.
The social network founded by Mark Zuckerberg has just forced a not-so-friendly anti-privacy rule, that stops you from being able to hide your profile from searches. Although, Facebook did say it was going to do this a year ago, so here we are. Last December, an option called "Who cal look up your Timeline by name" was removed for people who weren't using it.
But those who opted in for the feature continued on with it, until now. The social network has said that the small number of people still using the privacy setting will see reminders of its impending removal within the next couple of weeks.
We saw video of Edward Snowden earlier on, but now we have Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak chiming in regarding the NSA whistleblower. Wozniak spoke with RT's Oksana Boyko, where he said that he hopes to have the courage to make the same kind of sacrifice for his country if needed.
During an exclusive interview with RT on "Worlds Apart," Wozniak said "I believe he's a hero. I believe he is coming directly from his heart and he feels some goodness, he wants to be truthful to the American people." The Apple co-founder said he doesn't have the same cache of information Snowden does to expose the government's evilness toward its citizens, but said if "there was anything in my life that I could do equivalent to [Snowden's] sacrifice - I would do it."
I think it's great to have someone like Wozniak step forward and call Snowden a hero, and I'm even more impressed that he stated he'd love to do a Snowden equivalent event for his country. Now if we could just get a majority of the government and corporations to actually do this, the world might be a better place.