Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spying is Everywhere

While it looks like the privacy conversation that Obama promised in the wake of the NSA spying scandals will be superseded by the absurd run up to a Syrian war (how convenient!), the revelations of corrupt NSA efforts just keep on coming. These are my favorites from the last few weeks:

1. Good to know that there isn't a national domestic spying program, and that safeguards are in place to protect us from it's misuse. Oh wait:
"National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said. The practice isn't frequent—one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade—but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT."
Because everyone knows that giving people secret powers with little to no oversight doesn't possibly incentivize misbehavior.

2. The NSA bugged not only the United Nations' New York headquarters, but also...
"...spied upon the European Union's legation in New York, and included "plans of the EU mission, its IT infrastructure and servers." In addition, the NSA monitored the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The documents also detail bugging programs in more than 80 embassies and consulates called "Special Collection Service." Der Spiegel writes of the program that the "surveillance is intensive and well organised and has little or nothing to do with warding off terrorists."
And big media wonders why we have problems getting international support these days.

3. More recently, we found out that the NSA has compromised many internet encryption standards in the interests of making it easier for them to spy on everyone:
"The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments.
The agencies, the documents reveal, have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on what they see as one of the biggest threats to their ability to access huge swathes of internet traffic – “the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet”.
Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with “brute force”, and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.
Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software."
This last one is the most worrying because if a "back door" exists, it will soon be discovered and utilized by malevolent forces - that is, people more malevolent than the NSA.

As if it wasn't clear, everything about the NSA leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. As we learn more and more about the NSA's unconstitutional, illegal, and cynical tactics, it makes me sad to know that all of these deeds are being performed in our name. How far our once idealistic nation has fallen. At least people are aware of the problem now, even if the solution appears to be as daunting as "rebuilding the internet." In the meantime, here are five ways that you can use to try and regain your privacy. Aside from, you know, going offline completely.

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