Category Archives: Cybersecurity

What Facebook’s New Political Ad System Misses

Facebook announced a new system to make political ads more transparent. It’s got holes.

By Jeremy B. MerrillAriana Tobin, and Madeleine Varner. Published 5-24-2018 by ProPublica.

Screenshot: Bloomberg

Facebook’s long-awaited change in how it handles political advertisements is only a first step toward addressing a problem intrinsic to a social network built on the viral sharing of user posts.

The company’s approach, a searchable database of political ads and their sponsors, depends on the company’s ability to sort through huge quantities of ads and identify which ones are political. Facebook is betting that a combination of voluntary disclosure and review by both people and automated systems will close a vulnerability that was famously exploited by Russian meddlers in the 2016 election.

The company is doubling down on tactics that so far have not prevented the proliferation of hate-filled posts or ads that use Facebook’s capability to target ads particular groups. Continue reading

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Cops Are Now Using Dead People’s Fingers to Unlock iPhones

By The Anti-Media. Published 3-27-2018

Screenshot: YouTube

According to Forbes, which spoke with sources close to local and federal investigations, it’s becoming standard operating procedure for cops to use dead people’s fingerprints to unlock their Apple iPhones.

FBI forensic specialist Bob Moledor detailed for Forbes the first known instance of law enforcement making such an attempt, during an investigation into the motives of an attacker killed by Ohio police back in 2016. Continue reading

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Uproar After Congress Sneaks Attack on Digital Privacy Rights Into Omnibus Spending Bill

Attaching it to massive spending deal, lawmakers rush through controversial bill that allows law enforcement to hand over personal data without a warrant

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-22-2018

Critics of the CLOUD Act ” are rightfully pointing out that it jettisons current human rights protections in favor of vague standards that could gut individual rights.” (Photo: Electoric Frontier Foundation)

Buried in the 2,232-page omnibus spending bill that the U.S. House passed Thursday is a piece of legislation that digital privacy advocates warn “expands American and foreign law enforcement’s ability to target and access people’s data across international borders.”

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data or CLOUD Act (S. 2383 and H.R. 4943) would add an official provision for U.S. law enforcement to access “the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information” for people all across the globe, regardless of where they live and what that nation’s privacy laws dictate. It would also create a “backdoor” into Americans’ data, enabling the U.S. government to bypass its citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights to access and even use their data. Continue reading

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‘Insidious’ and ‘Dangerous’: Digital Privacy Groups Issue Urgent Warning Over CLOUD Act

Critics say the bill, which could be pushed through Congress this week, would enable U.S. authorities to skirt Fourth Amendment rights to collect Americans’ data and use it against them

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-19-2018

Critics warns that proposed federal legislation “would let police access our data without having to comply with the Fourth Amendment.” (Photo: Fight for the Future/Twitter)

Civil libertarians and digital rights advocates are alarmed about an “insidious” and “dangerous” piece of federal legislation that the ACLU warns “threatens activists abroad, individuals here in the U.S., and would empower Attorney General Sessions in new disturbing ways.”

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data or CLOUD Act (S. 2383 and H.R. 4943), as David Ruiz at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains, would establish a “new backdoor for cross-border data [that] mirrors another backdoor under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, an invasive NSA surveillance authority for foreign intelligence gathering” recently reauthorized by Congress. Continue reading

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Geek Squad’s Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought

 

By Aaron Mackey. Published 3-5-2018 by Electronic Freedom Foundation

After the prosecution of a California doctor revealed the FBI’s ties to a Best Buy Geek Squad computer repair facility in Kentucky, new documents released to EFF show that the relationship goes back years. The records also confirm that the FBI has paid Geek Squad employees as informants.

EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit last year to learn more about how the FBI uses Geek Squad employees to flag illegal material when people pay Best Buy to repair their computers. The relationship potentially circumvents computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights. Continue reading

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Trump, Congress and the case for Treason

What happens when a sitting president kicks the legs of Democracy’s stool?

Written by Carol Benedict

President Donald Trump delivered his 2018 State of the Union address on January 20, 2018. Since that time, the consequences and ramifications put forth in that speech are still being discussed after having set new precedents to the tone, nature and policies spelled out to the American people.

Congress has always held the tradition that when the sitting president delivers these speeches, the opposing party withholds applause and ovations for most the speech, and only the most basic and inarguable points receive unanimous approval. Like all traditions in Washington since Trump’s inauguration, this too has now changed.

Agreeing with a critic who called the actions of the democrats “treasonous” and “un-American” for not applauding policies they disagree with, Trump has taken a step into an entirely new territory that should have caused alarm bells to go for all.

“You’re up there, you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild—they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country. And you have the other side, even on positive news—really positive news, like that—they were like death and un-American. Un-American,” the president said. “Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

The White House quickly defended Trump’s words, saying it was meant as a joke. When the President of the United States makes a JOKE of calling for the DEATHS of the opposing party’s members of Congress, we have entered a perception and introduction to authoritarian rule and dictatorship. Opposing the president is not punishable by death in the US, and to suggest otherwise demonstrates total ignorance or self-absorption. In fact, the 1st Amendment to the Constitution provides for the right of every American to not only disagree with the government or even the President, but to also assemble together to make their grievances known. Most people know this concept as “protest” or “dissent.”

In service to our country, we have put together a short refresher course about the history of Treason charges in the US since World War II. Let’s begin with what the law states as the punishment for Treason.

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

One person convicted of treason was Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese-American sentenced to death in 1952 for tormenting American prisoners of war during World War II. Even such a clear-cut case created qualms; Kawakita was commuted to a life sentence and was eventually deported to Japan and barred from ever entering the United States again.

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of committing espionage for the Soviet Union. They were accused of transmitting nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union; at that time the United States was the only country with nuclear weapons. They were also accused of providing top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the USSR. Espionage is considered a treasonable act.

Treason is a serious, non-jokable charge with very unfunny consequences. But don’t overlook this as just another benign statement from an overly-vociferous president. What he is actually demanding here is a One Party System that does not allow dissent or protest, that prevents a press from publishing negative articles and results in job losses of federal employees who oppose his authority.

His latest claim is that if he does not get his way on immigration, he will shut down the government. This holds the American people hostage and in economic jeopardy and is questionably illegal.

The irony in all of this is that for all intents and purposes, this president has walked up to the line of committing Treason himself, and is so close in reality that only legal experts can parse out if or why he has not actually committed that crime. In psychology, this is called “Projectionalism;” to accuse others of what you are carry inside yourself.

Since taking office, Trump has assembled quite a laundry list of things he has done for the benefit of the Russian government.

* Shortly after his inauguration, Russian officials were invited to an Oval Office meeting, in which Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov secrets that compromised the coordination of intelligence gathering with Israeli operatives, jeopardizing Israeli and the U.S. ability to track down terrorists and proliferates.
* Following the events in the Ukraine in 2014 and Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Congress imposed sanctions against Russia and individual operatives of the Russian government. Since taking office, Trump has refused to take actions to impose these sanctions, despite the fact the law requires him to do so.
* The recent meeting in the United States dealing with cybersecurity and counterterrorism between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the heads of Russia’s intelligence agencies, one of which is included in the above mentioned sanctions and not allowed travel to the US.
* The Gasleys, a tanker carrying Russian LPG, docked in Boston and unloaded its cargo recently. Russia’s gas and oil industry is currently under sanctions, or is supposed to be at any rate.
* The Nunes memo and the Republican efforts to discredit the FBI and other intelligence services as a way to slow or stop Robert Mueller’s investigation has weakened the trust between Congress and the intelligence community, and has shown sources that their identities may not be protected.
* On April 7, 2017, the Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against Shayrat airbase in Syria. The US launched 58 cruise missiles at the base, yet the base was operational within two days of the attack. Why? Because Trump had warned the Russians about the attack, so most of the planes, etc. had been moved before the missiles were even launched.

Moreover, words in the State of the Union address called for extending presidential powers and other non-restrictive measures which, in effect, abolish the Rule of Law for the President and his Administration’s activities.

America is now teetering on the balance between being ruled, not governed; in complete spineless fear, the GOP clenches their power at the cost of democracy and nation, shredding the ideals of the Constitution as fast as this administration has shed regulations protecting the American people, environment, public lands and diverse society.

At the fulcrum, we wait for something – anything – to prevent further decay of the country once known as a shining example of democracy.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an independent researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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Citing Poor Care for Mental Health in US Prisons, UK Court Refuses Extradition Request

For a second time in six years, the U.K. has declined to send an accused hacker to the U.S. out of concern for his safety in the care of the Department of Justice

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 4-6-2018 

Lauri Love. Photo: HackRead

An accused hacker will not be extradited to the United States after a British appeals court ruled that detaining the man in U.S. prisons would be harmful to his health and safety.

Lauri Love, who is accused to stealing information from U.S. military agencies and private companies in 2012 and 2013, had argued that his medical and mental health conditions—including severe depression and Asperger’s syndrome—would likely be mistreated in the U.S. prison system, putting him at risk for suicide. Continue reading

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Extreme Digital Vetting of Visitors to the U.S. Moves Forward Under a New Name

ICE officials have invited tech companies, including Microsoft, to develop algorithms that will track visa holders’ social media activity.

By George Joseph. Published by ProPublica 11-22-2017

The door of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicle.. Photo: ICE

The Department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement is taking new steps in its plans for monitoring the social media accounts of applicants and holders of U.S. visas. At a tech industry conference last Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, ICE officials explained to software providers what they are seeking: algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the United States and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk.

The comments provide the first clear blueprint for ICE’s proposed augmentation of its visa-vetting program. The initial announcement of the plans this summer, viewed as part of President Donald Trump’s calls for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, stoked a public outcry from immigrants and civil liberties advocates. They argued that such a plan would discriminate against Muslim visitors and potentially place a huge number of individuals under watch. Continue reading

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Senate Votes to Give Trump Vast Domestic Spying Powers “No President Should Have”

“Instead of instituting much needed reforms, lawmakers voted to give the Trump administration broad powers to spy on Americans and foreigners at home and abroad without a warrant.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-18-2018

Photo: YouTube

Defenders of civil liberties and privacy advocates expressed their discontent on Thursday after the U.S. Senate passed a bill that reauthorizes and expands the ability of the goverment to spy on the digital communications without a warrant.

With a final vote of 65-34 vote in favor, the passage of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017—now headed to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature—will extend for six years a provision known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which allows for call the “unconstitutional spying” on emails, text messages, and other digital communications of both Americans and foreign nationals without a warrant. Continue reading

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Taking Short Break From Denouncing Trump Authoritarianism, House Dems Join With GOP to ‘Violate the Privacy Rights of Everyone in United States’

“Democratic leadership in the House—who say that Trump is currently abusing his power to go after his political enemies—just helped him pass dangerous domestic surveillance powers.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-11-2018

“It seems rather odd, to put that mildly,” wrote journalist Glenn Greenwald, “to simultaneously insist that Trump is a traitorous agent or enslaved tool of an adversarial foreign power to whom he reports back, and then vote to give Trump extremely invasive, largely unchecked domestic spying power.” (Image: EFF)

Despite spending much of the last twelve months denouncing the legitimate threat posed by President Donald Trump’s penchant for authoritarian policies and behavior, 65 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday joined with 191 Republicans in passing a bill that advocates of civil liberties warn will lead to the wholesale violation ‘of privacy rights for everyone in the United States.’

While the final vote on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 (or S.139)—which included renewal of the controversial Section 702 which allows government agencies to spy on the emails, text messages, and other electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant—was 256 to 164 in favor of passage, the partisan breakdown revealed that Republicans in the majority needed a great deal of Democratic support in order to have it pass. Continue reading

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