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Privacy & Rights Posts - Page 1

NSA boss now wants 'front door' access to your PC

The NSA has virtually got unrestricted access to most users data, but that doesn't stop the US spy agency from wanting more. NSA chief Michael Rogers has now called for a "front door" encryption key that would provide the NSA with access to your data, but the key would be broken into multiple parts so that no one agency or person could easily get in.

 

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This method would theoretically stop thieves from getting in and taking your data, but it would let government officials access your data at any time, if they have 'permission'. The White House is considering the move, along with others like letting courts order the creation of mirror accounts, so that US agencies can access any and all messages as they arrive, or so that they can back up the data as it's unencrypted. President Obama is considering these new policies, where he should receive a report by the end of the month, with the possibility of a new policy revealed shortly after.

 

Rogers' solution isn't a one key fits all scenario, with fellow institutions like the National Institute of Standards and Technology against the idea. They note that any door that is introduced would arrive with security holes, even if a split key is created. US agencies like the FBI and NSA don't like widespread encryption because it works so well, but it only works as long as there are key holders that won't just provide the key when asked, or requested.

Google is indexing files from some private network-connected HDDs

An investigation that CSO Online conducted has found that if you do not have your network-connected HDDs configured correctly, your files could be ending up in the wrong hands.

 

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Their report stated that some personal cloud devices with external HDDs connected to routers with FTP enabled have been indexed by Google, which has seen personal files found on the Internet, and on search results. This includes very personal data such as emails, journal entries, passports, tax records, financial statements, mortgage documents, passwords, private photos and more.

 

The organization was able to map a family's personal and financial history all the way back to 2009 just by searching their name as their data was archived on a Western Digital HDD that they had connected through a Linksys WRT1900AC router. But when the family was warned about this, it was too late. The family noted: "I simply could not figure out how someone got the [card] info minutes after I'd activate them. My system was clean and secured more than the average person," said one member of the family. Now I know. [It's not] difficult when my backups were public and being indexed on Google".

Continue reading 'Google is indexing files from some private network-connected HDDs' (full post)

Potential US president Rand Paul unveils his "NSA spy cam blocker"

Senator Rand Paul has announced that he is intending to run for the position of the President of the United States in 2016, but the video of his announcement has been removed from YouTube because it contained a song that had a copyright claim filed on it.

 

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Between now and then, Rand supporters can get behind the Senator with the usual yard signs, bumper stickers and more, but he has something that has never been seen before: an "NSA spy cam blocker". The NSA spy cam blocker is a $15 device with a huge "RAND" logo on it, with the listing on it explaining it as "That little front-facing camera on your laptop or tablet can be a window for the world to see you-whether you know it or not!"

 

The NSA spy cam blocker is 1.5mm thick, and is "made with high-grade plastic" and is designed for anything with a front-facing camera on it such as a laptop, smart TV and Xbox Kinect. It sports a plastic slider that will block the camera from working on your laptop for example, and then when you need it back, you slide the NSA spy cam blocker to the right to use your webcam once again.

The NSA considered killing its mass surveillance program in early 2013

In what feels like a parody to write, the Associated Press is reporting that the National Security Agency was discussing internally, to kill its phone surveillance program all the way back in early 2013.

 

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Some NSA officials were concerned that the mass surveillance program was not only expensive, but it was ineffective. These officials said that it wasn't "central" to catching terrorist plots, nor was it effective at securing most cellphone calls. These same officials were worried of the fallout if the public ever found out about the program, something NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed not long after the internal discussions about scrapping the program began.

 

There were "top managers" that saw the internal proposal, while the NSA director at the time, General Keith Alexander, reportedly not seeing it. Alexander believed in spying on US citizens' phone records, while President Obama's proposed reforms would've required legal changes "that haven't been forthcoming" reports Engadget.

Wikipedia is suing the NSA over its mass surveillance of the Internet

We all know that the NSA has stepped over some pretty serious privacy boundaries, but now Wikipedia is suing the US spy agency over the constitutionality of its mass surveillance program.

 

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Wikipedia has slapped the NSA with a lawsuit with the Justice Department, claiming that its mass surveillance regine threatens the freedom of speech under the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment's protection against the unreasonable search and seizures. Executive Director of the Wikipedia Foundation, Lila Tretikov, explains: "By tapping the backbone of the Internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy. Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information. By violating our users' privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people's ability to create and understand knowledge".

 

Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales, along with Tretikov, argued in a op-ed in The New York Times on Tuesday that "pervasive surveillance" of Wikipedia's hundreds of millions of users had a scary effect that "stifles freedom of expression and the free exchange of knowledge". The duo continued, writing: "Whenever someone overseas views or edits a Wikipedia page, it's likely that the N.S.A. is tracking that activity-including the content of what was read or typed, as well as other information that can be linked to the person's physical location and possible identity. These activities are sensitive and private: They can reveal everything from a person's political and religious beliefs to sexual orientation and medical conditions".

 

The lawsuit is going after the NSA's collection of Internet communications through its Upstream initiative, something that allows the US spy agency to inject itself directly into fiber cables, which gives it near infinite spying powers to US citizens, and the world. The lawsuit that Wikipedia has filed is specifically claiming that the NSA's use of Upstream exceeds the authority it was provided under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress amended back in 2008.

The FCC passes Net Neutrality, the strongest set of rules yet

Great news everyone! The FCC has just approved the strongest set of net neutrality rules that have ever been placed onto paper in the United States.

 

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The new rules haven't been seen by anyone outside of the US government or the FCC, so we don't know what the details of these documents state apart from the fact that the FCC now considers, and looks at the Internet as a public utility in the same vein the government looks at power and water. It gives the FCC the keys to the Internet kingdom.

 

The FCC has signed on a new Net Neutrality set of rules, but we can't say it's great because we haven't read the details of the paper. No one has. Wouldn't you like to read the new set of rules that give the FCC the power of owning the Internet as a utility? I know I would.

NSA director says 'backdoors' into tech companies doesn't harm privacy

It was only last week that it was revealed that the National Security Agency hacked into Gemalto, the largest SIM card maker in the world, which broke just after we wrote about the NSA reportedly having access to backdoors in Western Digital and Seagate firmware.

 

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The NSA is back in the news once again, with its director, Mike Rogers, wanting to see calmer action in regards to the government's plans to keep its backdoors operating smoothly. Rogers said that maintaining these "backdoors" would not be harmful to citizens' privacy, would not "fatally compromise encryption and would not ruin international markets for US technology products", reports The Guardian. Rogers said: "If you look at the topology of that attack from North Korea against Sony Pictures Entertainment, it literally bounced all over the world before it got to California. Infrastructure located on multiple continents, in multiple different geographic regions".

 

Rogers wasn't too clear on how legal or technological protections could be installed so that the various government agencies wouldn't take advantage of having all of this data. The White House is working directly with tech giants like Apple, Yahoo and Google on their encryption for the government to access their mobile data, cloud computing and more.

Continue reading 'NSA director says 'backdoors' into tech companies doesn't harm privacy' (full post)

Creepy: Next-gen Barbie doll listens in on your kids' conversations

Well, this is something that is kind of cool and utterly scary at the same time. Mattel has announced Hello Barbie, a next-gen version of its infamous fashion doll that will feature Wi-Fi connectivity and an always-listening feature.

 

 

Hello Barbie will record your kids' conversations where it sends it to researchers, securing it in their 'secure' database, where researchers will analyze the conversations with your child. Mattel says that this will enable the new Hello Barbie to become more complex over time, where it offers two-way dialogue, speech recognition, and more.

 

The dollmaker says that this will allow Hello Barbie to form a "unique relationship" with children, as Hello Barbie will be able to tell jokes, listen, learn and adapt to situations. Because of its Wi-Fi Internet capabilities, it will also be capable of being updated with new software constantly, too. But as for an always-listening Barbie doll in kids bedrooms? I don't know if I like the idea of that.

Continue reading 'Creepy: Next-gen Barbie doll listens in on your kids' conversations' (full post)

US police have deployed radar that peers into homes

Troubling news is coming to light. Under a cloak of secrecy over 50 U.S. law enforcement have deployed radars that allow them to see through walls. These agencies include the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, and the project began over two years ago. These radars run afoul of a Supreme Court ruling that bans the use of high-tech sensors probing the inside of someone's home without a warrant, which helps to explain the total silence on the new radars.

 

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The sensors are effective out to 50 feet and can detect human movement via radio waves. They are so sensitive they can even pick up human breathing. The new technology came to light during a December federal appeals trial of a parole absconder in Denver. During the trial officials revealed they used the device to locate the man, and the presiding judges sounded off that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."

 

The devices are manufactured by L-3 Communications under the Range-R product family. Each device costs $6,000 and over 200 devices have been sold to US law enforcement agencies. The radar displays if there is movement on the other side of the wall, and displays how far away the movement is. The Range-R doesn't actually show the inside of the building, but there are other models that do. There are similar radar devices that feature 3-D displays of the location of people in a building, and the Justice Department is already funding development systems that can map entire buildings and locate people, so they surely have no qualms with deploying these devices.

Continue reading 'US police have deployed radar that peers into homes' (full post)

NSA releases documents stating it spied on Americans on Christmas Eve

The NSA responded to an ACLU FOIA request by releasing a bunch of documents to the public, but waited until the cover of Christmas Eve when everyone was busy with their families, admitting it had spied on normal, ordinary American citizens.

 

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Considering the NSA has stood before Congress, claiming more than once that it was not abusing its very broad intelligence gathering operations and technologies, but now we know, for a fact, they did, and probably still are. The reports state "The heavily-redacted reports include examples of data on Americans being e-mailed to unauthorized recipients, stored in unsecured computers and retained after it was supposed to be destroyed, according to the documents. They were posted on the NSA's website at around 1:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve."

 

In a case back in 2012, an NSA analyst "searched her spouse's personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting," but don't worry, the NSA analyst in question "has been advised to cease her activities." Then there's this: "In 2012, an analyst conducted surveillance "on a U.S. organization in a raw traffic database without formal authorization because the analyst incorrectly believed that he was authorized to query due to a potential threat," according to the fourth-quarter report from 2012. The surveillance yielded nothing."

Continue reading 'NSA releases documents stating it spied on Americans on Christmas Eve' (full post)

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