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12.16.13

Links 16/12/2013: Applications and Instructionals

Posted in News Roundup at 5:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Links 16/12/2013: Valve, Steam, SteamOS, and Other News About Games

Posted in News Roundup at 5:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NSA Roundup: Latest News in a Nutshell

Posted in News Roundup at 5:06 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: December news about the NSA and its international partners

Tracking Devices (Also Known as Mobile Phones)

Embassies

  • NSA spies on Italians from roof of US Embassy in Rome, magazine reports

    The U.S. National Security Agency has been spying on Italian communications from installations on the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Rome and the country’s consulate in Milan and even mounted an operation to capture information from inside the Italian embassy in Washington, D.C., the Italian weekly magazine L’Espresso claimed Friday.

Obama

Canada

Drugs

  • The inept mind-control experiment that led to 20 years of CIA funding
  • If the NSA Could Hack Into Human Brains, Should It?

    Technology has changed the surveillance state in ways that the American public doesn’t yet understand, according to Joel F. Brenner, a former senior counsel at the NSA.

    “During the Cold War our enemies were few and we knew who they were. The technologies used by Soviet military and intelligence agencies were invented by those agencies,” he writes. “Today our adversaries are less awesomely powerful than the Soviet Union, but they are many and often hidden. That means we must find them before we can listen to them. Equally important, virtually every government on Earth, including our own, has abandoned the practice of relying on government-developed technologies. Instead they rely on commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, technologies. They do it because no government can compete with the head-spinning advances emerging from the private sector, and no government can afford to try.”

Antivirus

Analysis/Overview

  • Looking back at NSA revelations since the Snowden leaks
  • Investigating the 9/11 Attacks. The NSA’s “Lone Wolf Terrorists” Justification for Mass Spying Is Nonsense

    But we want to focus on another angle: the unspoken assumption by the NSA that we need mass surveillance because “lone wolf” terrorists don’t leave as many red flags as governments, so the NSA has to spy on everyone to find the needle in the haystack.

    But this is nonsense. The 9/11 hijackers were not lone wolves.

  • Read This If You Want To Understand Just How Far The NSA Has Gone, And The Political Mess Behind It
  • The NSA is out of control and must be stopped

    The National Security Agency is breaking trust in democracy by breaking trust in the internet. Every day, the NSA records the lives of millions of Americans and countless foreigners, collecting staggering amounts of information about who they know, where they’ve been, and what they’ve done. Its surveillance programs have been kept secret from the public they allegedly serve and protect. The agency operates the most sophisticated, effective, and secretive surveillance apparatus in history.

  • Reform corporate surveillance

    The FSF issued the following statement in response to the recent open letter on government surveillance published by AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo.

  • Spying has its limits
  • We cannot afford to be indifferent to internet spying

    We’ve seen less than 1% of the NSA documents Edward Snowden took with him from his employer, Booz Allen. The whistleblower had been employed to consolidate training documents used to brief NSA agents and contractors on the full range of NSA programmes and sources, which gave him access to the intimate (and sometimes boastful) details of the NSA’s capabilities.

    The disclosures will keep coming, and they will be worse. The journalists handling the Snowden trove have taken extraordinary care to redact them in order to preserve the legitimate law-enforcement capabilities of western spy agencies, and there are certainly programmes of even grander sweep and more sensitive details that will take more time-consuming verification and caution before they can be disclosed.

  • Six months after NSA story broke, Snowden looks even more patriotic

    Six months ago this week, the Guardian and Washington Post published the first stories based on leaks from Edward Snowden. Since then, in what has become a steady drumbeat of revelations about the about the US National Security Agency other nations’ spy agencies, we’ve learned how utterly hostile our governments have become to our most fundamental rights in the post 9/11 world – but we’ve also seen the first genuine push-back by some of the people who have the power to make a near-term difference.

  • State surveillance of personal data: what is the society we wish to protect?

    What in principle would justify the scope of the surveillance revealed by the Snowden leak? Would it be enough, for example, if it could be shown that a specific potential act of terrorism had been prevented by, and could only have been prevented by, the full breadth and depth of what we now have learned is the playing field of the security services?

  • The year the NSA hacked the world: A 2013 PRISM timeline (Part I)

    On 20 May 2013, a diminutive and bespectacled computer specialist employed as a contractor by the American National Security Agency (NSA) boarded a plane to Hong Kong. He’d taken a leave of absence from work on the pretext of receiving treatment for his newly-diagnosed epilepsy, and bought a last-minute plane ticket at the airport, with no advance booking.

  • State of Deception

    Wyden told me, “The answer was obviously misleading, false.” Feinstein said, “I was startled by the answer.” In Washington, Snowden’s subsequent leaks created the most intense debate about the tradeoffs between national security and individual liberty since the attacks of September 11th. The debate will likely continue. According to Feinstein, Snowden took “millions of pages” of documents. Only a small fraction have become public. Under directions that the White House issued in June, Clapper declassified hundreds of pages of additional N.S.A. documents about the domestic-surveillance programs, and these have only begun to be examined by the press. They present a portrait of an intelligence agency that has struggled but often failed to comply with court-imposed rules established to monitor its most sensitive activities. The N.S.A. is generally authorized to collect any foreign intelligence it wants—including conversations from the cell phone of Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel—but domestic surveillance is governed by strict laws.

  • Snowden Leaks Notwithstanding, It’s Business as Usual at the NSA Museum
  • Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the Never-Ending End of Privacy
  • Orwellian Obama

    Apologists for National Security Agency (NSA) espionage argue “national security!” But leaked NSA files show Washington spying to gain an advantage in economic negotiations and to keep a close eye not so much on terrorists as on political opponents and rivals.

  • NSA Whistleblower

    When the U.S. government figured that out, prosecutors came down hard, indicting him on multiple national security charges, including espionage, which, if convicted, could have earned him as much as 35 years in prison.

    But Thomas Drake stood his ground. The U.S. government’s case collapsed on the eve of his trial.

    In the process, he inspired Edward Snowden to follow his conscience, even if it meant breaking the law.

    Today, Thomas Drake is quick to point out that over-reaching government surveillance isn’t a U.S. problem alone. That countries such as Canada … with its Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), is following Washington’s lead.

    Mr. Snowden’s leaks have revealed that Canada allowed the U.S. to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the G8 and G20 summits in 2010 … spying that was closely coordinated with CSEC. And there are allegations that CSEC conducted industrial espionage in Brazil by targeting the country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy last year.

Petitions/Actions

Sympathy

Sweden

  • It’s Becoming Clear That The NSA’s Nightmare Has Just Begun

    Second, on Thursday Swedish television reported that Sweden’s signals intelligence agency, the FRA, has been a key partner for the United States in spying on Russia and its leadership. A previous report said that Sweden is also a key partner of the GCHQ.

  • Swedes Shame the NSA With Gingerbread Data Center Spy Movie

    It’s probably the single most enjoyable comment on the year’s NSA spying scandal. And it’s certainly the strangest.

  • The UK government is working in a Snowden-free bubble

    Anyone who took the time to read the UK government’s latest update on its cybersecurity strategy could be forgiven for thinking that a man called Edward Snowden never existed.

    Most people who are even slightly plugged in to the world around them would agree, however, that we live in decidedly more interesting times for internet security and privacy than the document would have us believe. Not a day seems to have gone by since the summer without a new revelation of activities by the NSA or GCHQ that have gone just a little further than what most people find acceptable.

  • Who is behind the “people’s Intelligence apparatus”? On the Swedish collaboration with US spying

    I believe that there are some alternative answers to Sundberg’s quest, and that those are found 1) partly in main political parties of the Swedish establishment, and 2) partly in the economic-military establishment; 3) also the assisting role played by the Swedish state-owned media and MSM monopolies is paramount.

  • The Snowden Documents and Sweden with English subtitles

    After six months reporters Fredrik Laurin, Sven Bergman and Joachim Dyfvermark made contact with Glenn Greenwald who holds the documents that Edward Snowden leaked from American signal intelligence organization NSA. They made this report.

  • Sweden aids NSA-led hacking ops: report

Hungary

Bitcoin

Change

  • IETF Group Proposes Making Tor Anonymity an Internet Standard

    There continue to be many people around the globe who want to be able to use the web and messaging systems anonymously, despite the fact that some people want to end Internet anonymity altogether. Typically, the anonymous crowd turns to common tools that can keep their tracks private, and one of the most common tools of all is Tor, an open source tool used all around the world.

  • Edward Snowden to give evidence to EU parliament, says MEP

    British Conservatives oppose video appearance by NSA whistleblower, which Green MEP says could happen this year

  • EU parliament votes to invite Snowden to testify over NSA spying

    The European Parliament has voted to formally invite former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden to provide official court testimony on NSA spying, in the face of overwhelming concern from conservative MEPs.

    European conservatives seemed reluctant to pay full attention to the possibility of the hearing on Wednesday. The European People’s Party (EPP), which is a conglomerate of center-right parties, had displayed a great deal of concern over the possibility of inviting Snowden for a hearing, suggesting that he could potentially throw the transatlantic trade agreement with the US into disarra

  • Who is monitoring the covert operations of the world’s spy agencies?

    Mission drift: our intelligence agencies are in danger of straying from their core purpose.

Australia

  • More whistleblowers emerge in Australia’s Timor spying scandal

    The Australian government’s moves to suppress further exposures of its surveillance operations suffered a blow yesterday when it was revealed that three more whistleblowers have given statements to the East Timorese government about the illegal installation of bugging devices in the walls of Dili’s cabinet offices. The bugging involved Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agents posing as aid workers helping renovate Timorese government buildings.

  • Australian police to roll out ‘NSA-type’ surveillance tech by next year

    The Deep Packet Inspection technology is expected to go for a trial in February followed by a complete roll out in April

France

Legality

  • Op-Ed: Enough debate — Is NSA spying constitutional or not?

    Privacy is not negotiable. What I am sending and who I am sending it to is not the government’s business unless they have evidence that I am doing something illegal. The debate is over. The government’s lies have been exposed and the people have found that they do not like what it is doing. We’ve talked long enough. Now we need action.

Misc.

Virtual Worlds

Awards and Recognition

  • Pell Center names NSA spying program as 2013 Story of the Year

    The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University has named the unfolding saga of digital spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) as the 2013 “Story of the Year.”

  • Edward Snowden voted Guardian person of the year 2013
  • Shooting the Messenger

    There is a deeply misguided attempt to sacrifice Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond on the altar of the security and surveillance state to justify the leaks made by Edward Snowden. It is argued that Snowden, in exposing the National Security Agency’s global spying operation, judiciously and carefully leaked his information through the media, whereas WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Hammond provided troves of raw material to the public with no editing and little redaction and assessment. Thus, Snowden is somehow legitimate while WikiLeaks, Assange, Manning and Hammond are not.

    “I have never understood it,” said Michael Ratner, who is the U.S. lawyer for WikiLeaks and Assange and who I spoke with Saturday in New York City. “Why is Snowden looked at by some as the white hat while Manning, Hammond, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as black hats? One explanation is that much of the mainstream media has tried to pin a dumping charge on the latter group, as if somehow giving the public and journalists open access to the raw documents is irresponsible and not journalism. It sounds to me like the so-called Fourth Estate protecting its jobs and ‘legitimacy.’ There is a need for both. All of us should see the raw documents. We also need journalists to write about them. Raw documents open to the world give journalists in other countries the chance to examine them in their own context and write from their perspectives. We are still seeing many stories based on the WikiLeaks documents. We should not have it any other way. Perhaps another factor may be that Snowden’s revelations concern the surveillance of us. The WikiLeaks/Assange/Manning disclosures tell us more about our war crimes against others. And many Americans do not seem to care about that.”

  • Hacktivists on Trial

    Prosecutors are warping the law to throw activist hackers like Aaron Swartz behind bars for years.

Branding

  • New US spy satellite features world-devouring octopus

    President Obama is out to put the public’s mind at ease about new revelations on intelligence-gathering, but the Office for the Director of National Intelligence can’t quite seem to get with the program of calming everyone down.

    Over the weekend, the ODNI was pumping up the launch of a new surveillance satellite launched by the National Reconnaissance Office. The satellite was launched late Thursday night, and ODNI’s Twitter feed posted photos and video of the launch over the following days.

Arizona

Cookies

Nigeria

Recruitment

  • NSA wooing students to work for US intelligence
  • The NSA Is Recruiting Teens

    The National Security Agency is hiring its spies early and recruiting teens as young as 15 for internships.

    Students who answer ads seeking aspiring journalists have the chance to work as paid interns for the NSA in Fort Meade, Md.

    The agency currently employs 500 young interns on staff, and according to an NSA spokeswoman in Newser, up to 95% of interns who want to stay on with the agency after their internships are able to do so.

Journalism

China/Distractions/Deflections

UK

Android/Gmail

New Zealand

IBM

Reform

Amnesty Claims/CBS

Very Recent

NSA Confirms Remote Computer Bricking by BIOS (or UEFI) as a Real Strategy

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Security at 3:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UEFI Forum operated by companies in bed with the NSA

UEFI logo with monopoly

Summary: NSA officials say that bricking a large number of PCs by tinkering with the boot process not just an imaginary plot

THE back doors in Windows are more than evident now, but Linux developers have just rewritten the random number generator, meaning perhaps that the NSA subverted the security of Linux by reducing entropy (e.g. via Red Hat staff, which is making requests for inclusion of NSA code in the core). This is troubling. As Phoronix put it (this debate has been going on for months now), “While /dev/random was made faster and more random in Linux 3.13, in light of the NSA controversies and that Intel/VIA hardware encryption and random generators may not even be trustworthy, there’s been a rework in how reseeding happens for the Linux kernel’s random component.”

We previously pointed out that using back doors the NSA can completely brick hardware, especially if it uses UEFI. Surely that’s a good reason to boycott UEFI, no?

Anyway, as part of a CBS puff piece (or propaganda piece where NSA gets the carte blanche and critics do not exist), there was an attempt to brick PCs using BIOS (causing irreversible destruction by sending packets). As the British press put it: “Senior National Security Agency (NSA) officials have told US news magazine program “60 Minutes” that a foreign nation tried to infect computers with a BIOS-based virus that would have enabled them to be remotely destroyed.”

We already know, based on a lot of evidence, that the NSA is in every way worse than other such agencies; in fact, there is nothing China or Russia, for example, can be accused of that the NSA/CIA cannot be accused of (not anymore anyway). The accusations from the NSA seem to be directed at China (popular scapegoat for NSA hypocrites as it is the biggest computer manufacturer), but given what we have seen when it comes to chip development at the design level (e.g. backdoor by useless encryption at hardware level), it is the US, especially criminal companies like Intel, that we should be concerned about. The government of the US has been compelling and at times bribing companies for back doors (the bribes come through the CIA though, not the NSA). Google is reportedly moving further away from Intel [1, 2], but will it also abandon the second processor in mobile devices (the Trojan horse that turns mobile phones into non-stop listening devices)?

For those who fail to grasp how criminal and void of ethics the NSA has become, in the next post we shall summarise some of the latest news. Don’t believe for a second the popular myth/fiction that China is worse when it comes to surveillance.

Fee Shifting (or Patent Trolls Busting) Not the Solution to Patent Problem, Scope of Patenting the Real Issue

Posted in Apple, Patents, Samsung at 2:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Corporations are still defining the problem with patents — wrongly — and then tackle the wrong problem so as to benefit themselves

Julie Samuels, who works for the EFF on behalf of billionaire Mr. Cuban (who invested in a patent troll, Vringo), continues to miss the point when it comes to patents. She focuses on trolls/fees rather than on software patents. “Today,” she writes, “EFF—along with Engine, the App Developers Alliance, and Public Knowledge—filed a brief asking the Supreme “Court to retain some sanity in the law and tighten up the rules around fee shifting. Fee shifting, sometimes called “loser pays,” is already in the Patent Act. While the statute currently says that “the court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party,” the Federal Circuit has created a standard that makes this law essentially meaningless—fees are granted in but the smallest fraction of cases.””

Well, Apple is said to have “spent over $60 million on U.S. lawyers against Samsung”, which probably means that Samsung had to pay a similar amount. Apple has sued some other companies, notably HTC (which is how Apple’s litigious war on Android began). Reuters says that “Apple Inc has paid its leading outside law firm approximately $60 million to wage patent litigation against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in a California federal court, according to Apple legal documents filed late on Thursday.”

Also, according to this other report, “On Thursday, a Korean court ruled that Apple did not violate three Samsung patents related to messaging services. The Seoul Central District Court rejected Samsung’s request that Apple should pay 100 million won ($95,000) in damages, as well as a ban on sales of older iPhones and iPads.”

This shows that scope and patents themselves — not fees — are the problem. Apple’s patents are beyond ridiculous and they relate to software. Samsung’s patents, by contrast, are often hardware patents because Samsung is a hardware company (Apple is a branding company that integrates components from suppliers such as Samsung).

The bottom line is, in order to address the core problem we need to restore the debate’s focus on software patents, not size of litigant (e.g. troll) or the fees. Here is Linux Foundation staff (front for corporations) writing about Samsung and Apple in the context of FRAND (which to a lesser degree relates to fees, not patent scope). Updegrove writes: “Ever since Apple set off the mobile platform wars by suing Samsung for what Steve Jobs believed were egregious borrowings of patented Apple smartphone innovations, the courts have been busy processing the disputes. One of the most effective weapons the combatants made use of has been the so-called “standards essential patent” (SEP). And the armament of SEPS is very large, because each mobile device which implements many hundreds of standards. For example, if a company owns a SEP necessary to include a camera, wireless function or other key feature, the owner of the SEP can its price to license it, or even refuse to license it at all.

“That is, of course, unless the SEP owner was part of the standards setting organization (SSO) that developed the standard in question, and had made a commitment to license that SEP on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.”

Since huge corporations hijacked the debate about patents (and now fund the lawyers at the EFF to do the same) we have sort of lost hope when it comes to fixing the US patent system. Corporations do whatever the heck they want there. No wonder Professor Lessig, a copyright pioneer, sort of abandoned his copyright reforming efforts and now works hard to tackle political corruption in his country. Patents, like copyrights, have become a political problem. It’s all about money and those who have the money set the rules. The EFF spoke about software patents a year ago; it no longer speaks about it. Follow the money.

In Operating Systems Market, Microsoft is Going Nowhere Fast

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 2:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Analysis generally agrees that Microsoft is in serious trouble as Android continues to emerge as the de facto platform and not even zero-cost Windows will counter that

TODAY at PC World/Curry’s (UK) there were many people handling Android devices and hardly anyone around Windows devices (these shelves are unattended). The Vista 8 fiasco rendered Windows rather unwanted and unloved.

Microsoft’s Windows strategy is going nowhere and a belated writeup about Steve Ballmer leaving (leaving the software Mafia amid investigation of Microsoft’s practice of bribing governments) blames him for not moving along with the emerging trends. All Microsoft could do was use zero-cost tactics (e.g. in netbooks) and allegedly bribery too (negative cost). Now Microsoft considers giving Windows RT/Phone for free, showing its sheer antitrust hypocrisy. As USA Today put it, Microsoft is ‘Scroogling’ itself with attacks on Google. As the author points out: “That title belongs to Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign, which aims to turn the tide of public opinion against Google in the style of classic Washington DC attack politics.”

Charlie Demerjian, whom Microsoft offered to bribe in exchange for positive coverage of Vista (which he had strongly condemned), says that “Tablet OSes killed Windows 8 and Microsoft with it” [1]. “I said it before,” wrote Sosumi in our IRC channels (citing Demerjian), “scrap Metro and the NSA and while at it, also scrap the mobile aspirations and focus on making NT a great OS and on bringing the office tools to android, gnu/linux, etc… or they’ll eventually go under, which at this point isn’t bad either… one thing about surface tablets not selling is that major retailers are selling them at heavily discounted prices just to get rid of them” (true based on what I saw today at the store, where despite seemingly subsidised hardware customers remain apathetic towards Windows).

Bribery is not a sustainable strategy. It’s expensive, never mind illegal. In his latest GNU/Linux-bashing article (no link), Microsoft Jack boasts negative pricing as though it’s acceptable.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Tablet OSes killed Windows 8 and Microsoft with it

    Windows has failed, PCs are dead, and the misery that is Windows 8 is to blame but why? There is one possibility that occurred to us that no SemiAccurate writer has seen posited yet, tablet OSes.

    Lets go over a little history for those new to the game or who read sites that are afraid to lose ads if they point out the emperor has no clothes. That for the record would be most computer related sites, Microsoft spends a lot and that has direct influence on content. Go back and look at the wonderful reviews of Windows 8 especially how the big analyst houses had rosy forecasts, and how everyone with an ounce of common sense saw two trains speeding towards one another. You might want to go back and look at how a site promoted Windows 8 around launch and then retracted it when such abject BS was no longer tenable. Keep it in mind when you read their reviews and analyses, most sites nowadays are directly bought and paid for. Things like CNet’s Best of CES come to mind here.

    From before day one SemiAccurate was critical of Windows 8 and Surface, we were the first to point out how serious ‘partner’ enmity was over that disaster was. Windows 8 can not compete in the tablet world for technical reasons, and will never be able to bridge the gap. Partners are in an even worse position, Windows tablets are financially untenable and they know it. With Windows 8, Microsoft has failed. When the numbers came out, they matched our predictions almost to the unit.

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