Mar 18 2014
Mar 18 2014
New disclosures from Edward Snowden show the NSA is massively expanding its computer hacking worldwide. Software that automatically hacks into computers – known as malware “implants” – had previously been kept to just a few hundred targets. But the news website The Intercept reports that the NSA is spreading the software to millions of computers under an automated system codenamed “Turbine.” The Intercept has also revealed the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. We are joined by The Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher.
How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware
By Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process.
The classified files – provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware “implants.” The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.
The covert infrastructure that supports the hacking efforts operates from the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, and from eavesdropping bases in the United Kingdom and Japan. GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, appears to have played an integral role in helping to develop the implants tactic.
In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.
Mark Zuckerberg calls Obama after NSA report
By Alex Byers, Politico
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called President Barack Obama Wednesday night to complain about U.S. government actions that are undermining trust in the Internet, after a report that described how the National Security Agency posed as a Facebook server to inject malicious software into targets’ computers.
“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “The U.S. government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.” [..]
Zuckerberg did not make direct reference to the report in The Intercept. But he said he expressed frustration to the president about the “damage the government is creating for all of our future.” He added, “Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”
The NSA has denied doing any of this which flies in the face facts revealed in it’s own secret documents. Ryan Gallagher discusses those documents
A particular short excerpt from one of the classified documents, however, has taken on new significance due to the NSA’s statement. The excerpt is worth drawing attention to here because of the clarity of the language it uses about the Facebook tactic and the light it shines on the NSA’s denial. Referencing the NSA’s Quantum malware initiative, the document, dated April 2011, explains how the NSA “pretends” to be Facebook servers to deploy its surveillance “implants” on target’s computers:
It is difficult to square the NSA secretly saying that it “pretends to be the Facebook server” while publicly claiming that it “does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites.” Is the agency making a devious and unstated distinction in its denial between “websites” and “servers”? Was it deliberate that the agency used the present tense “does not” in its denial as opposed to the past tense “did not”? Has the Facebook QUANTUMHAND technique been shut down since our report? Either way, the language used in the NSA’s public statement seems highly misleading – which is why several tech writers have rightly treated it with skepticism.
The same is true of the NSA’s denial that it has not “infected millions of computers around the world with malware” as part of its hacking efforts. Our report never actually accused the NSA of having achieved that milestone. Again, we reported exactly what the NSA’s own documents say: that the NSA is working to “aggressively scale” its computer hacking missions and has built a system called TURBINE that it explicitly states will “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants).”
Mar 18 2014
“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.
Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt
New York Times Editorial Board: A Broken Military Justice System
On Monday, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair avoided prosecution on sexual assault charges that could have brought him a life sentence. In an agreement with the prosecutor, General Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including mistreating his accuser, an Army captain and his former mistress.
The deal followed a stunning ruling by a military judge last week suggesting that by holding out for more severe punishment, and by rejecting an earlier plea deal, the senior Army officer overseeing the prosecution might have been improperly influenced by political considerations in bringing the most severe charges against the general because of a desire to show new resolve in the military against sexual misconduct. The prosecution had also been badly shaken by revelations that the general’s accuser may have lied under oath.
The episode offers a textbook example of justice gone awry, providing yet another reason to overhaul the existing military justice system, which gives commanding officers with built-in conflicts of interest – rather than trained and independent military prosecutors outside the chain of command – the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. In the Sinclair matter, the commanding officer appears to have ignored his colleagues’ reservations in an effort to look tough on sexual assaults and avoid criticism at a moment when the military is under pressure to address its sexual assault crisis.
Sure, the new budget from the left won’t pass. But DC’s double standard anoints false kings
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released its budget last week. As usual, it was almost completely ignored by the major media outlets. As a result, we know very little about the actual ideas in the budget, but we know a lot about the media. [..]
Which brings us to the sad reality that the CPC budget was almost completely ignored in the media. The reporters and editors and the major news outlets undoubtedly justify ignoring the budget proposal by the apparent reality that it has no prayer of being passed into law. While this is true, there have been numerous budgets and budget items from the right that have no chance of being passed into law that have gotten considerable attention from the media.
Days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, he pledged to have his administration create an “unprecedented level of openness in government.” Then-chief of staff, Jack Lew, later contended the administration was the “most transparent administration ever.” At a rally in 2010, Obama told the public, “We have put in place the toughest ethics laws and toughest transparency rules of any administration in history.” But this slogan suggesting the Obama administration is the “most transparent” ever has been nothing but a marketing ploy, the product of an administration that Advertising Age recognized as “marketer of the year” in 2008.
The Associated Press conducted its annual review of government data related to the Freedom of Information Act. It found that the “government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.”
While the AP could not tell if the public was simply requesting more sensitive information than the previous year, the administration claimed a record number of “national security” exemptions. A record number of times the administration also withheld information and cited a “deliberative process” exemption, claiming it dealt with “decision-making behind the scenes” so could not be released.
E. J. Dionne, Jr.: No Hope Politics
Listlessness is bad politics. Defensiveness is poor strategy. And resignation is never inspiring.
You can feel elements of all three descending around President Obama as he fends off attack after attack from his conservative foes who vary the subject depending on the day, the circumstance and the opportunity.
Obama and his party are in danger of allowing the Republicans to set the terms of the 2014 elections, just as they did four years ago. The fog of nasty and depressing advertising threatens to reduce the electorate to a hard core of older, conservative voters eager to hand the president a blistering defeat.
American politics has been shaken by two recent events that hurt first the Republicans and then the Democrats. Republicans have recovered from their blow. Democrats have not.
The game is rigged: We elected Obama to hold the 1 percent accountable. So why are they still running everything?
The big news after President Obama’s State of the Union address in January was that he didn’t really talk about the issues of inequality that everyone expected him to talk about. Instead, he shifted the “conversation,” as we call it, toward the subject of opportunity. He shied away from the extremely disturbing fact that when you work these days only your boss prospers, and brought us back to the infinitely less disturbing fact that sometimes poor people do get ahead despite it all. In a clever oratorical maneuver, Obama illustrated this comforting idea by referencing the success stories of both himself-“the son of a single mom”-and his arch-foe, Republican House Speaker John Boehner-“the son of a barkeep.” He spoke of building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” a phrase that has become a trademark for his administration. [..]
If you’re in the right mood, you might well agree with him. In the distant past, “opportunity” used to be something of a liberal buzzword, a way of selling welfare-state inventions of every description. The reason was simple: true equality of opportunity is not possible without achieving, well, greater equality, period. If we’re really serious about opportunity-if we’re going to ensure that every poor kid has a chance in life that is the equal of every rich kid-it’s going to require a gigantic investment in public schools, in housing, in food stamps, in infrastructure, in public projects of every description. It will necessarily mean taking on the broader problem of the One Percent along the way.
Purchases of American products generally come with a sales tax, and often an excise tax, and possibly state and local add-on taxes. A consumer can avoid all this by limiting purchases to food and prescription drugs, or by shopping online. There’s one more way-by visiting a nearby financial exchange and buying a million dollars worth of derivatives.
There is currently no U.S. tax on the purchase of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments. The rest of us pay up to a 10 percent sales tax on the necessities of daily life. A tiny financial transaction tax of perhaps a tenth of a percent on the trading of financial securities would begin to correct this inequity, while generating billions of dollars of revenue.
There are at least five good reasons why our country is ready for such a financial transaction tax (FTT).
Mar 18 2014
Someone who assists another 1) who has committed a felony, 2) after the person has committed the felony, 3) with knowledge that the person committed the felony, and 4) with the intent to help the person avoid arrest or punishment. An accessory after the fact may be held liable for, inter alia, obstruction of justice.
Mar 18 2014
This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
March 18 is the 77th day of the year (78th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 288 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1766, the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act
After four months of widespread protest in America, the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act, a taxation measure enacted to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. However, the same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Acts, asserting that the British government had free and total legislative power over the colonies.
The Stamp Act of 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London and carrying an embossed revenue stamp. These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, newspapers and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America after the British victory in the Seven Years’ War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense.
The Stamp Act met great resistance in the colonies. The colonies sent no representatives to Parliament, and therefore had no influence over what taxes were raised, how they were levied, or how they would be spent. Many colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent, consent that only the colonial legislatures could grant. Colonial assemblies sent petitions and protests. The Stamp Act Congress held in New York City, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the King. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Georgia. Protests and demonstrations initiated by the Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses became involved. Very soon all stamp tax distributors were intimidated into resigning their commissions, and the tax was never effectively collected.
Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial economic problems exacerbated by the tax, also pressured Parliament. The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 as a matter of expedience, but Parliament affirmed its power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” by also passing the Declaratory Act. This incident increased the colonists’ concerns about the intent of the British Parliament that helped the growing movement that became the American Revolution.