Category Archives: Mobile Phones

For the first time, federal judge tosses evidence obtained via stingray

Cyrus Farivar reports for Ars Technica:

On Thursday, a US federal judge in New York delivered a crucial rebuke to the government’s warrantless use of stingrays.

In a 14-page opinion, the judge ruled that the government could not use its stingray to locate a drug suspect, asleep in his apartment. As a result of the ruling, the judge suppressed the evidence found in the man’s bedroom—a kilogram of cocaine—likely effectively ending the case.

In March 2016, a state appeals court in Maryland reached a similar finding, but this is believed to be the first federal ruling of its kind.

“This is the first federal ruling I know of in which a judge squarely ruled that the Fourth Amendment requires police to get a warrant to use a stingray and suppressed evidence derived from warrantless use of the technology,” Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Ars.

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Cassetteboy vs The Snoopers’ Charter

If you’re not worried about the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snoopers’ Charter), you don’t know enough about it. Visit https://www.privacyinternational.org and join the campaign against new Government snooping powers. (Cassetteboy)

The Guardian’s Katharine Viner: ‘Social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful’

Jessica Davies reports for DigiDay:

Guardian News and Media’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner’s prognosis of news publishing in an algorithm- and platform-dominated world is bleak.

Viner addressed a room full of senior marketers yesterday in her keynote at advertiser trade body ISBA’s annual lunch in London. During her speech she reinforced just how much technology and the rise of platforms have changed publishing, and redirected advertising spend.

She referred to a recent Reuters report that revealed a trove of information on people’s current news-consumption habits and showed just how dominant Facebook has become as a platform on which people find news.

“Social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful in determining what we read and whether publishers make any money,” she said. “The idea of challenging the wide-open worldwide web has been replaced by platforms and publishers who maximize the amount of time you spend with them and find clever ways to stop you leaving. That may be great news for advertisers and the platforms themselves, but it’s a real concern for the news industry.”

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The Secret Lives of Screen-Addicted Teens

Jessica Contrera reports for The Week:

She slides into the car, and even before she buckles her seat belt, her phone is alight in her hands. A 13-year-old girl after a day of eighth grade. She says hello. Her au pair asks, “Ready to go?”

She doesn’t respond, her thumb on Instagram. A Barbara Walters meme is on the screen. She scrolls, and another meme appears. Then another meme, and she closes the app. She opens BuzzFeed. There’s a story about Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which she scrolls past to get to a story about Janet Jackson, then “28 Things You’ll Understand If You’re Both British and American.” She closes it. She opens Instagram. She opens the NBA app. She shuts the screen off. She turns it back on. She opens Spotify. Opens Fitbit. She has 7,427 steps. Opens Instagram again. Opens Snapchat. She watches a sparkly rainbow flow from her friend’s mouth. She watches a YouTube star make pouty faces at the camera. She watches a tutorial on nail art. She feels the bump of the driveway and looks up.

They’re home. Twelve minutes have passed.

Katherine Pommerening’s iPhone is the place where all of her friends are always hanging out. So it’s the place where she is, too. She’s on it after it rings to wake her up in the mornings. She’s on it at school, when she can sneak it. She’s on it while her 8-year-old sister, Lila, is building crafts out of beads. She sets it down to play basketball, to skateboard, to watch PG-13 comedies, and sometimes to eat dinner, but when she picks it back up, she might have 64 unread messages.

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Are We All Becoming Pavlov’s Dogs?

Larry Rosen Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today:

MIT Press[…] I do a lot of people watching and I have noticed that we are now spending more time with our faces staring at our phone than we spend with our faces looking around the world or looking directly at another person.

In a recent study colleagues and I asked 216 undergraduate students to use an app called Instant Quantified Self that tallied the number of times the student unlocked his/her phone during the day and how many minutes it remained unlocked. Strikingly, the average student (and our students are typically older, averaging about 25 years old instead of the usual 20-year-old college student) unlocked his/her phone roughly 60 times a day for about 4 minutes each time. In all, the phone was in use 4 hours! And this does not count time spent on a laptop, tablet, or any other device.

What are they doing on their phones? Mostly accessing social connections including text messaging, reading or posting on social media, dealing with email or any app that involves connecting with another human being.

Pavlov paired food with a bell; we seem to be pairing our human connection with our phone. We may not salivate but our brain is certainly responding to those internal and external alerts.

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With the Snoopers’ Charter, Our Digital Security Is Under Attack in the Name of Total Surveillance

Silkie Carlo writes for The Huffington Post:

There’s a reason most of us lock our phones with a passcode. We know they’ve become a window into our private lives, much more revealing than a rifle through our diaries or bedside drawers. They contain our contacts, banking details, confidential work emails and personal messages – highly valuable in the wrong hands.

So if a stranger approached you in the street and asked to see your browsing history or text messages, you’d naturally recoil. And that’s exactly how people responded when Liberty sent Olivia Lee out to do just that. Even Home Office staff couldn’t see why she should get to hoover up everybody’s communications data.

But under the Investigatory Powers Bill, the latest resurrection of the Snoopers’ Charter, we won’t get a choice.

The Bill seeks to legalise the disturbing mass surveillance powers exposed by Edward Snowden, and add even more intrusive ones for good measure. It will all but end the ability of ordinary people to correspond in private – even with doctors, lawyers or journalists. And the Government thinks people don’t care enough to raise their voices and stop it becoming law.

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Cassetteboy vs The Snoopers’ Charter

The one and only Casetteboy recently made a Snoopers Charter video for Privacy International: “If you’re not worried about the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snoopers’ Charter), you don’t know enough about it.” Learn more by visiting https://www.privacyinternational.org  (Casetteboy)

Imperial Ambitions: The Future of Mark Zuckerberg’s Empire

From The Economist:

Not since the era of imperial Rome has the “thumbs-up” sign been such a potent and public symbol of power. A mere 12 years after it was founded, Facebook is a great empire with a vast population, immense wealth, a charismatic leader, and mind-boggling reach and influence. The world’s largest social network has 1.6 billion users, a billion of whom use it every day for an average of over 20 minutes each. In the Western world, Facebook accounts for the largest share of the most popular activity (social networking) on the most widely used computing devices (smartphones); its various apps account for 30% of mobile internet use by Americans. And it is the sixth-most-valuable public company on Earth, worth some $325 billion.

Even so, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 31-year-old founder and chief executive, has even greater ambitions (see article). He has plans to connect the digitally unconnected in poor countries by beaming internet signals from solar-powered drones, and is making big bets on artificial intelligence (AI), “chatbots” and virtual reality (VR). This bid for dominance will bring him into increasing conflict with the other great empires of the technology world, and Google in particular. The ensuing battle will shape the digital future for everyone.

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Glenn Greenwald: FBI vs. Apple Fight Tied to U.S. Effort to Access the Communications of Everyone Everywhere

Amy Goodman talked to Glenn Greenwald, journalist and co-founder of The Intercept, prior to the the Justice Department announcement that it has succeeded in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and dropped its case against Apple, ending a high-stakes legal battle but leaving a broader debate over encryption unresolved. (Democracy Now!)

Will FBI Take a Bite Out of Apple? Interview with Former CIA Agent Barry Eisler

Amy Goodman talks to former CIA agent and author Barry Eisler about the battle between the FBI and Apple around the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. (Democracy Now!)

Apple’s Lawyer: If We Lose Fight With FBI, It Will Lead to a ‘Police State’

David Goldman and Laurie Segall report for KRON 4:

Apple’s attorney painted a scary picture if Apple loses its fight with the FBI.

In an interview with CNNMoney’s Laurie Segall on Friday, Ted Olson warned of a government with “limitless” powers that could “listen to your conversations.”

Olson said the demands would mount.

“You can imagine every different law enforcement official telling Apple we want a new product to get into something,” Olson said. “Even a state judge could order Apple to build something.

There’s no stopping point. That would lead to a police state.”

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The Real Reason Apple Is Fighting the FBI

Julian Sanchez writes for Time:

The first thing to understand about Apple’s latest fight with the FBI—over a court order to help unlock the deceased San Bernardino shooter’s phone—is that it has very little to do with the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.

It’s not even, really, the latest round of the Crypto Wars—the long running debate about how law enforcement and intelligence agencies can adapt to the growing ubiquity of uncrackable encryption tools.

Rather, it’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments. It’s also the public face of a conflict that will undoubtedly be continued in secret—and is likely already well underway.

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MI5 ‘secretly collected phone data’ for decade

BBC News reports:

Woman on phoneMI5 has secretly been collecting vast amounts of data about UK phone calls to search for terrorist connections.

The programme has been running for 10 years under a law described as “vague” by the government’s terror watchdog.

It emerged as Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled a draft bill governing spying on communications by the authorities.

If it becomes law, the internet activity of everyone in Britain will be held for a year by service providers.

Police and intelligence officers will then be able to see the names of sites suspected criminals have visited, without a warrant.

Mrs May told MPs the proposed powers were needed to fight crime and terrorism but civil liberties campaigners warned it represented to a “breathtaking” attack on the internet security of everyone living in the UK.

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The Iran I Saw

Christopher Schroeder, author of Startup Rising, writes for Politico:

[…] This is a tale of two Irans. This is, specifically, the tale of the other Iran.

The tale we hear most often focuses on natural resources like oil as their greatest asset or nuclear power as their greatest threat—a narrative frozen in time, stretching back decades with remembered pain on both sides. For many Americans, the reference point for Iran is still centered on the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran over 35 years ago; for others, it has focused on Iranian support for destabilizing regional actors against our interests and costing lives.

At the same time, of course, Iranians have their own version of this tale: Many remember well U.S. support for a coup of their elected leadership, our support for a dictatorial regime and later encouragement of a war in Iraq that cost nearly a half-million Iranian lives.

Politics, power, mistrust: This is one version of how the media frames discussion of Iran. It’s very real, and it has much caution and evidence to support it.

But there’s another tale, one I saw repeatedly in my trip there last month. It was my second visit within the year, travelling with a group of senior global business executives to explore this remarkable and controversial nation.’

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How we sold our souls – and more – to the internet giants

Bruce Schneier recently published an excerpt from his book Data and Goliath at the Guardian:

barbie‘[…] Surveillance is the business model of the internet for two primary reasons: people like free and people like convenient. The truth is, though, that people aren’t given much of a choice. It’s either surveillance or nothing and the surveillance is conveniently invisible so you don’t have to think about it. And it’s all possible because laws have failed to keep up with changes in business practices.

In general, privacy is something people tend to undervalue until they don’t have it anymore. Arguments such as “I have nothing to hide” are common, but aren’t really true. People living under constant surveillance quickly realise that privacy isn’t about having something to hide. It’s about individuality and personal autonomy. It’s about being able to decide who to reveal yourself to and under what terms. It’s about being free to be an individual and not having to constantly justify yourself to some overseer.

This tendency to undervalue privacy is exacerbated by companies deliberately making sure that privacy is not salient to users. When you log on to Facebook, you don’t think about how much personal information you’re revealing to the company; you chat with your friends. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t think about how you’re going to allow a bunch of companies to track you throughout the day; you just put your cell phone in your pocket.

But by accepting surveillance-based business models, we hand over even more power to the powerful. Google controls two-thirds of the US search market. Almost three-quarters of all internet users have Facebook accounts. Amazon controls about 30% of the US book market, and 70% of the ebook market. Comcast owns about 25% of the US broadband market. These companies have enormous power and control over us simply because of their economic position.’

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GCHQ, intelligence officers and police given immunity from hacking laws, tribunal told

Owen Bowcott reports for The Guardian:

GCHQ staff, intelligence officers and police have been given immunity from prosecution for hacking into computers, laptops and mobile phones under legislative changes that were never fully debated by parliament, a tribunal has been told.

The unnoticed rewriting of a key clause of the Computer Misuse Act has exempted law enforcement officials from the prohibition on breaking into other people’s laptops, databases, mobile phones or digital systems. It came into force in May.

The amended clause 10, entitled somewhat misleadingly “Savings”, is designed to prevent officers from committing a crime when they remotely access computers of suspected criminals. It is not known what category of offences are covered.

The act is primarily deployed to provide legal cover for domestic investigations. It is thought that individual warrants are not being obtained to justify each inquiry. Different legislation – section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act, nicknamed the “James Bond clause” – is believed to permit activities abroad that would otherwise be illegal.’

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How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text

Dan Froomkin reports for The Intercept:

Most people realize that emails and other digital communications they once considered private can now become part of their permanent record.

But even as they increasingly use apps that understand what they say, most people don’t realize that the words they speak are not so private anymore, either.

Top-secret documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that can be easily searched and stored.

The documents show NSA analysts celebrating the development of what they called “Google for Voice” nearly a decade ago.

Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community’s “holy grail,” the Snowden documentsdescribe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and “extract” the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest.’

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Pentagon Personnel Now Talking on ‘NSA-Proof’ Smartphones

Aliya Sternstein reports for NextGov:

The Defense Department has rolled out supersecret smartphones for work and maybe play, made by anti-government-surveillance firm Silent Circle, according to company officials.

Silent Circle, founded by a former Navy Seal and the inventor of privacy-minded PGP encryption, is known for decrying federal efforts to bug smartphones. And for its spy-resistant “blackphone.”

Apparently, troops don’t like busybodies either. As part of limited trials, U.S. military personnel are using the device, encrypted with secret code down to its hardware, to communicate “for both unclassified and classified” work, Silent Circle Chairman Mike Janke told Nextgov.’

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Data and Goliath: Bruce Schneier on the Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

‘Leading security and privacy researcher Bruce Schneier talks about about the golden age of surveillance and his new book, “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.” The book chronicles how governments and corporation have built an unprecedented surveillance state. While the leaks of Edward Snowden have shed light on the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, less attention has been paid to other forms of everyday surveillance — license plate readers, facial recognition software, GPS tracking, cellphone metadata and data mining.’ (Democracy Now!)

iSpy: The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple’s Secrets

Jeremy Scahill and Josh Beglet report for The Intercept:

‘Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.’

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Could GCHQ soon have access to India’s phone network?

The coming online privacy revolution

Jamie Bartlett has an extract featured from his new book, ‘Orwell vs The Terrorists’ over at Index on Censorship:

Extract from Orwell vs the Terrorists by Jamie Bartlett.Motivated by an honourable desire to protect online freedom and privacy, hundreds of computer scientists and internet specialists are working on ingenious ways of keeping online secrets, preventing censorship, and fighting against centralised control. A veritable army motivated by a desire for privacy and freedom, trying to wrestle back control for ordinary people. This is where the long-term effects will be felt.

Soon there will be a new generation of easy-to-use, auto-encryption internet services. Services such as MailPile, and Dark Mail – email services where everything is automatically encrypted. Then there’s the Blackphone – a smart phone that encrypts and hides everything you’re doing. There are dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of new bits of software and hardware like this that cover your tracks, being developed as you read this – and mainly by activists motivated not by profit, but by privacy. Within a decade or so I think they will be slick and secure, and you won’t need to be a computer specialist to work out how they work. We’ll all be using them.’

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iPhone has secret software that can be remotely activated to spy on people, says Snowden

Andrew Griffin reports for The Independent:

The iPhone has secret spyware that lets governments watch users without their knowledge, according to Edward Snowden. The NSA whistleblower doesn’t use a phone because of the secret software, which Snowden’s lawyer says can be remotely activated to watch the user.

“Edward never uses an iPhone, he’s got a simple phone,” Anatoly Kucherena told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “The iPhone has special software that can activate itself without the owner having to press a button and gather information about him, that’s why on security grounds he refused to have this phone.”

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Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Daniel J. Levitin has an excerpt from his latest book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, featured in The Guardian: 

Daniel J Levitan‘Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.

Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. They’re more powerful and do more things than the most advanced computer at IBM corporate headquarters 30 years ago. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter, cosy and secure in our domicile, we write our shopping lists on smartphones while we are listening to that wonderfully informative podcast on urban beekeeping.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.’

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Snooping FBI Plane ‘Sucking Up Everyone’s Cellphones’

Security Flaw Exposed In Use Of Fingerprint Passwords

FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places

David Kravets reports for Arstechnica:

‘The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking the position that court warrants are not required when deploying cell-site simulators in public places. Nicknamed “stingrays,” the devices are decoy cell towers that capture locations and identities of mobile phone users and can intercept calls and texts.

The FBI made its position known during private briefings with staff members of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In response, the two lawmakers wrote Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson, maintaining they were “concerned about whether the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have adequately considered the privacy interests” of Americans.’

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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