Category Archives: Mobile Phones

AURORAGOLD: How the NSA Hacks Cellphone Networks Worldwide

Ryan Gallagher writes for The Intercept:

map‘[…] According to documents contained in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on hundreds of companies and organizations internationally, including in countries closely allied to the United States, in an effort to find security weaknesses in cellphone technology that it can exploit for surveillance.

The documents also reveal how the NSA plans to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems so that they can be tapped into—a controversial tactic that security experts say could be exposing the general population to criminal hackers.

Codenamed AURORAGOLD, the covert operation has monitored the content of messages sent and received by more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential company planning papers that help the NSA hack into phone networks.’

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Theresa May and her worrying enthusiasm for so-called ‘not-spots’

Comedian David Mitchell wrote for The Guardian earlier this month:

Theresa May‘[…] Like Theresa May, many totalitarian governments have noticed how tricky it is to monitor millions. It’s even harder than keeping count of a flock of sheep, because not only do humans move around even more than livestock, some of them actively don’t want to be counted. Only terrorists and criminals, of course – Ms May is clearly convinced of that. So much so that she believes the undoubted convenience to customers of being able to use more than one phone network – this clear and beneficial correction to the market – should be sacrificed because it would play havoc with spies’ admin. It would make it harder to snoop on everyone.

But there are so many other things people do that make surveillance harder. We move house whenever we want, we travel wherever we like – at the drop of a hat, without telling anyone. What honest person needs to do that? Why not register our movements – submit them to a brief and streamlined vetting process – just to help the security services keep us safe? What’s the harm? Why the need for secrecy? Other than the security services’ secrecy of course – which is vital to national security and in all of our best interests. Why would anyone want to whisper unless they’d got something to hide? So let’s speak up loud and clear into our trustworthy guardians’ microphones.’

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Noam Chomsky: The Other Side of Technology

Phishing Expedition: Secret US Justice Department Spy Program Tracks Cellphone Users

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore reports for Newser:

The extent to which the US government spies on US soil continues to unfold. The latest revelation: Using Cessna aircraft over at least five metropolitan-area airports, the Justice Department oversees (albeit to an unknown extent) a program that indiscriminately accesses large amounts of cellphone data, including identifying information and people’s general locations, to search for suspects. The program cuts out the middleman—cellphone companies—a process law enforcement has described as slow and inaccurate. The Justice Department has neither confirmed nor denied the program, but people close to it tell the Wall Street Journal that this type of surveillance happens on a regular basis.’

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Europol warning on the risks related to the Internet of Everything

Pierluigi Paganini reported for Security Affairs last month:

IoEThe European Police Office (Europol) confirmed that difficulties to face the menaces of cybercrimes to the Internet of Everything (IoE).

The EU’s chief criminal intelligence agency made a disconcerting revelation, the threat of “online murder” is set to rise. It isn’t a science movie trailer, but the finding that cyber criminals increasingly targeting victims with internet technology that could cause injury and possible deathsby hacking critical safety equipment.

According to the European Police Office (Europol) the rapid diffusion of the paradigm of the ‘Internet of Everything’ (IoE) is stressing the dependency of human activities from a large number of devices always connected to the Internet and with significant computational capability.’

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White House Aims to Replace Website Passwords With Federal Authentication Scheme

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘The White House has announced today that a long-standing plan to roll out a federal “Internet ID” authentication scheme that would be used to log in to all websites across the Internet will move forward, and the service will launch in six to twelve months.

“We simply have to kill off the password,” insisted White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel. The initiative began in 2011, with an eye toward public-private plans, but seems now to be centering on wearable authentication bracelets that Americans would apparently get instead of passwords.’

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Verizon’s ‘Perma-Cookie’ Is a Privacy-Killing Machine

Robert McMillan reports for Wired:

‘Verizon Wireless has been subtly altering the web traffic of its wireless customers for the past two years, inserting a string of about 50 letters, numbers, and characters into data flowing between these customers and the websites they visit.

The company—one the country’s largest wireless carriers, providing cell phone service for about 123 million subscribers—calls this a Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH. It’s a kind of short-term serial number that advertisers can use to identify you on the web, and it’s the lynchpin of the company’s internet advertising program. But critics say that it’s also a reckless misuse of Verizon’s power as an internet service provider—something that could be used as a trump card to obviate established privacy tools such as private browsing sessions or “do not track” features.’

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False White House “Emergency Alert” Hijacks TVs of AT&T Customers

Rebecca Lindstrom reports for 11 Alive:

Emergency Alert‘AT&T U-verse customers in several states woke up Friday morning to find a federal emergency alert on TV. The problem is, there was no emergency and the alert somehow hijacked their TV’s, refusing to allow them to change the channel.

Alan Sams, who has his phone and internet service bundled through AT&T says he couldn’t use the internet or his phone either.

“I’m more concerned that somebody on the inside of AT&T has the capacity to deal with shutting off my communications and controlling my communications, even if it was for a short period of time,” said Sams.’

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UK police use loophole to hack phones and email

Dominic Kennedy reports for The Times:

‘Police are hacking into hundreds of people’s voicemails, text messages and emails without their knowledge, The Times has discovered.

Forces are using a loophole in surveillance laws that allows them to see stored messages without obtaining a warrant from the home secretary.

Civil liberties campaigners reacted with concern to the disclosure that police were snooping on personal messages so often, without any external monitoring and with few safeguards.

Surveillance laws protect the public from having live phone messages, texts and emails accessed by police unless a warrant is granted by the home secretary.’

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FBI Director: If Apple and Google Won’t Decrypt Phones, We’ll Force Them To

Jason Koebler reports for VICE Motherboard:

‘Everyone is stoked that the latest versions of iOS and Android will (finally) encrypt all the information on your smartphone by default. Except, of course, the FBI: Today, its director spent an hour attacking the companies and the very idea of encryption, even suggesting that Congress should pass a law banning the practice of default encryption.

It’s of course no secret that James Comey and the FBI hate the prospect of “going dark,” the idea that law enforcement simply doesn’t have the technical capability to track criminals (and the average person) because of all those goddamn apps, encryption, wifi network switching, and different carriers.

It’s a problem that the FBI has been dealing with for too long (in Comey’s eyes, at least). Today, Comey went ballistic on Apple and Google’s recent decision to make everything just a little more private.’

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Three of UK’s big four mobile phone networks providing customer data to police forces

James Ball reports for The Guardian:

‘Three of the UK’s four big mobile phone networks have made customers’ call records available at the click of a mouse to police forces through automated systems, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

EE, Vodafone and Three operate automated systems that hand over customer data “like a cash machine”,as one phone company employee described it.

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a transparency watchdog, said: “If companies are providing communications data to law enforcement on automatic pilot, it’s as good as giving police direct access [to individual phone bills].”

O2, by contrast, is the only major phone network requiring staff to review all police information requests, the company said.’

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New York Quickly Nixes Cellphone Tracking Devices in Phone Booths

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - New York Quickly Nixes Cellphone Tracking Devices in Phone Booths‘New York City quickly announced it would get rid of devices that could turn phone booths into cellphone trackers after the program was revealed this morning [Monday 6th].

A Buzzfeed investigation published today found that the city allowed 500 radio transmitters, called “beacons,” to be installed in pay phone booths, apparently thickly concentrated in lower and mid-Manhattan. A few hours later, the Mayor’s office said they would have them removed.

Though they could be woven into a location-aware advertising network, the beacons are there for maintenance notifications only and are not yet being used for commercial purposes, according to Titan, the firm that runs the advertising displays for thousands of city phone booths. There was no public announcement when the devices were installed.’

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Your iPhone is now encrypted. The FBI says it’ll help kidnappers. Who do you believe?

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

‘Much of the world has been enthralled by the new iPhone 6, but civil liberties advocates have been cheering, too: Along with iOS 8, Apple made some landmark privacy improvements to your devices, which Google matched with its Android platform only hours later. Your smartphone will soon be encrypted by default, and Apple or Google claim they will not be able open it for anyone – law enforcement, the FBI and possibly the NSA – even if they wanted to.

Predictably, the US government and police officials are in the midst of a misleading PR offensive to try to scare Americans into believing encrypted cellphones are somehow a bad thing, rather than a huge victory for everyone’s privacy and security in a post-Snowden era. Leading the charge is FBI director James Comey, who spoke to reporters late last week about the supposed “dangers” of giving iPhone and Android users more control over their phones. But as usual, it’s sometimes difficult to find the truth inside government statements unless you parse their language extremely carefully.’

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Protesters Beware: Don’t Get Stung By Stingrays

Dina Rascor writes for Occupy.com:

‘Stingray was one of the original surveillance devices made by the Harris Corporation and now is used as a generic term. In its active mode, a stingray device can overpower a normal cell tower transmitter by fooling your phone and up to 60,000 cell phones (and newer devices) around you into thinking it’s communicating with your cell provider at a local cell tower.

Instead, your phone is sending the signal that it sends to a local cell phone tower every seven to 15 seconds to the stingray device. The Stingray can then find out your IMSI (International Mobile Subscription Identity) and your ESN (Electronic Serial Number). Older Stingray models can use this information to find out your cell phone number which can be used to identify you, the individual. According to an article in ARS Technica, new models such as Triggerfish or software-upgraded Stingrays can actually listen in on your conversations in real time.’

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FBI: New Apple, Google phones too secure, could put users ‘beyond the law’

Jacob Axelrad reports for Christian Science Monitor:

‘The FBI director James Comey has expressed concern that Apple and Google are making phones that cannot be searched by the government.

Speaking to reporters in a briefing Thursday, Mr. Comey said he is worried that such phones could place users “beyond the law,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He added that he’s been in talks with the companies “to understand what they’re thinking and why they think it makes sense.”

Major tech companies recognize the marketing potential of selling products that make consumers feel their data is as secure as can be. Both Apple and Google have made recent announcements emphasizing their new products will make it more difficult for law enforcement to extract customers’ valued data.

But Comey’s remarks raise questions of what, exactly, the government wants.’

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Laos becomes latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls

Reuters reports:

‘Communist Laos has issued a decree outlawing online criticism of policies of the ruling party or government, state media reported, the latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls. According to legislation approved by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong last week, web users will face criminal action for spreading “false” information aimed at discrediting the government, the official KPL news agency said.

[…] The decree comes as cellphone and internet usage climbs in tandem with economic growth, a reduced poverty rate and greater electricity access in the country of 6.4 million people. The new laws bear similarities to those of its Communist neighbor Vietnam, which commands strong influence over Laos and has a near identical political system… Thailand has [also] closed hundreds of thousands of websites and jailed people who have used the internet to post critical comments about its monarchy under its 2007 Computer Crimes Act.’

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Snowden Leaks Didn’t Make Al Qaeda Change Tactics, Says Report

Mike Brunker reports for NBC News:

‘There is no evidence that Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying inspired Islamic terror groups to hide their electronic communications behind more sophisticated encryption software, according to a new analysis that challenges other recent research and assertions by U.S. officials about the impact of the leaks.

The analysis by Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups and mentions of encryption in jihadi social media forums to assess the impact of Snowden’s information. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.’

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Mysterious Fake Cellphone Towers Are Intercepting Calls All Over The US

Jack Dutton reports for Business Insider:

Cellphone tower‘Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week, according to a report in Popular Science. Rather than offering you cellphone service, the towers appear to be connecting to nearby phones, bypassing their encryption, and either tapping calls or reading texts.

[…] The towers were found in July, but the report implied that there may have been more out there. Although it is unclear who owns the towers, ESD found that several of them were located near U.S. military bases.’

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Social Networks Diminish Personal Well-Being, Researchers Say

Alexander Reed Kelly reports for Truthdig:

‘A two-year survey of 50,000 people determined that a lack of face-to-face contact in interactions online—especially on social networks like Facebook and Twitter—reduced feelings of personal well-being. Reduced well-being can be interpreted to mean reduced mental health.

Fabio Sabatini at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy and Francesco Sarracino at STATEC in Luxembourg reviewed answers from residents of 24,000 Italian households recorded annually by the Italian National Institute of Statistics. MIT Technology Review described the study, which drew data from 2010 and 2011, as especially important because it is “the first time that the role of online networks has been addressed in such a large and nationally representative sample.”

The conclusion is thus more reliable than previous studies that typically surveyed self-selecting undergraduate populations—a category of persons too narrow to allow researchers to extrapolate findings to the general population.’

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Are we more narcissistic than ever before?

W. Keith Campbell, co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic, writes for The Independent:

‘There was once a young man named Narcissus who was so vain that he fell in love with his own reflection in the water and died. In some versions of the mythological tale from Ancient Greece, Narcissus was transformed into a flower that today carries the name narcissus, or daffodil.

Like the flower, narcissism has continued to flourish in modern culture. “Selfie” was awarded word of the year in 2013 by the Oxford Dictionary. Capturing an image of oneself – once the purview of despondent artists – has become an international pastime. Even politicians rode the trend taking selfies at memorial services. Celebrities continued to be, well, celebrated as well. Miley Cyrus ended 2013 as the most searched person on Google, with Drake and Kim Kardashian coming in at the number two and three spots. Between them they have more “followers” than the population of an average country. And, as both Miley Cyrus’s career trajectory and research findings suggest, the importance of fame is more prominent than ever before.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen the Ice Bucket challenge thrive, but it has been revealed that less than half of people doing the challenge are actually donating. So, for some, is it really about awareness for ALS or self-promotion?’

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Julian Stallabrass: On Selfies

Julian Stallabrass, art historian and photographer, writes for the London Review of Books:

Some selfies‘A few dozen photographs were taken of me as a child. I remember lining up with my family on the beach as a wealthy uncle tried out a new photographic toy and, bright glare of sun off sand in our eyes, being told to stand completely still so as not to ruin the shot. Film and processing were quite pricey, and being photographed was an event. We were behaving just like everybody else, so there is nothing remarkable about the scene except that I remember it. Such an image world must seem fantastically ancient to those today who are used to being photographed – and taking photographs – every day or many times a day.

When the Danish prime minister took a ‘selfie’ at Nelson Mandela’s funeral alongside Obama and Cameron, there was a flurry of alarm in the press. Photographic narcissism, commentators suggested, is now everywhere, the constant mediation of the lens is disrupting experience and memory. Photography, unthinkingly and endlessly made and shared, pollutes awareness of the real world and suppresses memory of anything other than the moment when the image is captured.’

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Gadgets Turning Me Into an Idiot!

Andrew Vltchek writes for CounterPunch:

vintage photo of a salesmen selling a shirt‘[…] The way new-era-gadgets are designed is that after just 1-3 years they become obsolete: applications cannot be run or downloaded and everything becomes incompatible. Entire systems demand a periodical overhaul, but even overhauls have time limitation, at some point they cease to ‘be allowed’. And so, eventually, new equipment has to be purchased, and, that happens with increasing frequency.

We all know that this is how the ‘market’ works, that this is how ruthless, self-serving ‘entrepreneurship’ is shagging us. We are all bitching about it, but there seems to be nothing that can be done. We have simply become slaves of those vicious, greedy and twisted capitalist companies. We know that they only care about their profits and nothing about the advancement of society and humanity. They are clearly and determinedly robbing creative people, of both time and resources.’

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Study: Cellphone addiction ‘an increasingly realistic possibility’

Terry Goodrich reports for Medical Xpress:

‘Women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cellphones and men college students spend nearly eight, with excessive use posing potential risks for academic performance, according to a Baylor University study on cellphone activity published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

“That’s astounding,” said researcher James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “As  functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility.”

The study notes that approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone, and some indicated they get agitated when it is not in sight, said Roberts, lead author of the article “The Invisible Addiction: Cellphone Activities and Addiction among Male and Female College Students.”‘

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Plugged-In Over Preppy: Teenagers Favor Tech Over Clothes

Elizabeth A Harris And Rachel Abrams write for The New York Times:

‘For some teenagers, wearing last season’s jeans will always be unthinkable.But a growing number consider texting on a dated smartphone even worse. For teenage apparel retailers, that screen-obsessed teenager poses a big threat in the still-important back-to-school sales season.

Muscle shirts and strategically ripped jeans no longer provide an assured spot for retailers like Hollister and American Eagle Outfitters in the marketplace of what’s cool at an American high school. The social cachet these days involves waving the latest in hand-held technology.’

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What Happens When You Take Kids’ Gadgets Away

Melissa Dahl writes for New York Magazine:

‘To be a modern American, child or adult, is to spend a third of your day staring at a screen. Children ages 8 to 18 spend an incredible seven and a half hours a day — outside of school — using some sort of electronic media, and adults are slightly worse, racking up an additional half-hour of screen time. It’s not yet clear what impact this is having on face-to-face communication, and that’s especially true for the kids who are growing up glued to an iPad. So one team of researchers decided to try to find out, and they took a creative approach. Instead of measuring what happened to kids who used these devices, they measured what happened to kids whose gadgets were taken away.’

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How Cops and Hackers Could Abuse California’s New Phone Kill-Switch Law

Kim Zetter writes for Wired:

kill-switch‘Beginning next year, if you buy a cell phone in California that gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a built-in ability to remotely deactivate the phone under a new “kill switch” feature being mandated by California law—but the feature will make it easier for police and others to disable the phone as well, raising concerns among civil liberties groups about possible abuse.

The law, which takes effect next July, requires all phones sold in California to come pre-equipped with a software “kill switch” that allows owners to essentially render them useless if they’re lost or stolen. Although the law, SB 962, applies only to California, it undoubtedly will affect other states, which often follow the Golden State’s lead. It also seems unlikely phone manufacturers would exclude the feature from phones sold elsewhere. And although the legislation allows users to opt out of the feature after they buy the phone, few likely will do so.’

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For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe

Craig Timberg reports for The Washington Post:

‘Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.’

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Total Information Awareness in Singapore

Shane Harris writes for Foreign Policy:

‘In October 2002, Peter Ho, the permanent secretary of defense for the tiny island city-state of Singapore, paid a visit to the offices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department’s R&D outfit best known for developing the M16 rifle, stealth aircraft technology, and the Internet. Ho didn’t want to talk about military hardware. Rather, he had made the daylong plane trip to meet with retired Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, one of DARPA’s then-senior program directors and a former national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Ho had heard that Poindexter was running a novel experiment to harness enormous amounts of electronic information and analyze it for patterns of suspicious activity — mainly potential terrorist attacks.

The two men met in Poindexter’s small office in Virginia, and on a whiteboard, Poindexter sketched out for Ho the core concepts of his imagined system, which Poindexter called Total Information Awareness (TIA). It would gather up all manner of electronic records — emails, phone logs, Internet searches, airline reservations, hotel bookings, credit card transactions, medical reports — and then, based on predetermined scenarios of possible terrorist plots, look for the digital “signatures” or footprints that would-be attackers might have left in the data space. The idea was to spot the bad guys in the planning stages and to alert law enforcement and intelligence officials to intervene.’

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Mass U.S. Surveillance Targeting Journalists and Lawyers Seen As Threat to American Democracy

‘In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that “large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work.” The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense. We speak to Alex Sinha, author of the report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” and to national security reporter Jeremy Scahill.’ (Democracy Now!)

Blackmail Insurance Sale & The Germ Code

‘In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss reputational apartheid and delusion insurance as we all become blackmailable. In the second half, Max interviews microbiologist, Jason Tetro, author of The Germ Code, about what germs can teach us about the modern economy and about the similarities between Las Vegas and C.Dificile.’ (Keiser Report)