Category Archives: Cybersecurity

Calls to ‘Stop the Deal’ as US Military Contractor Moves to Buy NSO Group

“NSO Group should not be rewarded for its facilitation of human rights violations and dangerous business practices with a lucrative offer from a U.S. defense contractor,” said one campaigner.

By Kenny Stancil  Published 6-14-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: NSO Group/Facebook

Digital rights advocates sounded the alarm on Tuesday following reports that U.S. military contractor L3Harris Tech plans to acquire NSO Group, a private Israeli firm widely condemned for selling surveillance technology to repressive governments across the globe.

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has been used to crack down on dissidents and journalists, worsening “human rights abuses around the world, from Palestine to El Salvador to Poland,” advocacy group Access Now said in a statement urging U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to “stop the deal.” Continue reading

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Privacy Advocates Celebrate ‘Big Win’ Against Facial Recognition Giant

“This settlement demonstrates that strong privacy laws can provide real protections against abuse,” an ACLU attorney said of a deal with Clearview AI.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 5-9-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: Pixabay

A historic settlement filed in court on Monday highlighted the power of Illinois’ strong privacy law and will result in new nationwide restrictions on a controversial technology company infamous for selling access to the largest known database of facial images.

The deal permanently banning Clearview AI from providing most private entities with free or paid access to its database stems from a lawsuit that the ACLU and partners f in 2020, arguing that the company violated Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Continue reading

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‘Bombshell’: Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an “in-plain-sight national security threat,” one expert warned that “a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 12-3-2021 by Common Dreams

Photo: Unsplash

Multiple news outlets revealed Friday that Apple notified at least 11 U.S. State Department officials that their iPhones were recently hacked by an unknown party or parties with spyware developed by the private Israeli firm NSO Group.

The “bombshell,” first reported by Reuters, comes after Apple sued NSO Group last month in an effort to protect iPhone users from its Pegasus spyware, which the Israeli company claims to only sell to government law enforcement and intelligence agencies and was the focus of a major reporting project earlier this year. Continue reading

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School surveillance of students via laptops may do more harm than good

School laptop surveillance systems monitor students even when they’re not in school.
Jacques Julien/Getty Images

Nir Kshetri, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

Ever since the start of the pandemic, more and more public school students are using laptops, tablets or similar devices issued by their schools.

The percentage of teachers who reported their schools had provided their students with such devices doubled from 43% before the pandemic to 86% during the pandemic, a September 2021 report shows.

In one sense, it might be tempting to celebrate how schools are doing more to keep their students digitally connected during the pandemic. The problem is, schools are not just providing kids with computers to keep up with their schoolwork. Instead – in a trend that could easily be described as Orwellian – the vast majority of schools are also using those devices to keep tabs on what students are doing in their personal lives. Continue reading

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The disturbing rise of the corporate mercenaries

It’s not too late to rein in these unaccountable armed giants, but we need to act fast

By Felip Daza and Nora Miralles  Published 8-6-2021 by openDemocracy

Pre=deployment training at Tier 1 Group. Photo: T1G/Facebook

When the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government in 2018, it caused an international scandal. Now, it turns out that his killers were trained in the US. In June, The New York Times reported that four Saudis involved in the killing had received paramilitary training from Tier 1 Group, a private security company based in Arkansas.

This was no renegade operation, however. Tier 1 Group, whose training had approval from the US State Department, is part of a burgeoning global industry. Corporate mercenaries – or, more properly, private security and military companies – are increasingly taking over functions that were once carried out by states, with grave implications for human rights and democracy worldwide. It’s big business, too: Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity fund that owns Tier 1 Group, also owns a string of arms manufacturers. In April 2010, Cerberus merged with DynCorp International, one of the world’s largest corporate mercenary companies. Continue reading

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Rights Advocates Alarmed by US Spy Agency’s Purchase of Warrantless Phone Location Data

“Congress must end this lawless practice and require the government to get a warrant for our location data, regardless of its source.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-22-2021

Image: Free Press

Digital rights advocates reacted with alarm to a report published Friday detailing how Defense Intelligence Agency analysts in recent years bought databases of U.S. smartphone location data without first obtaining warrants.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is part of the Department of Defense and is tasked with informing military and civilian policymakers about the activities and intentions of foreign governments and nonstate actors. Continue reading

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Director of National Intelligence Admits Government Used Section 215 to Track Browsing History

After initially denying the practice, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe admitted the government engaged in activity “that could be characterized” as tracking website visits.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-3-2020

Protesters march in a demonstration demanding an end to government mass surveillance in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2013. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

The Trump administration recently used one of the most controversial surveillance provisions in U.S. history to record an unidentified person or group’s visit to an unspecified website, the New York Times revealed Thursday.

The Times reports Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on November 6 to inform him that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had not been used to collect internet search terms, and that none of the 61 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders issued in 2019 involved “web browsing” records. Continue reading

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Espionage and repression in the Middle East courtesy of the West

Western companies are providing surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

By Jon Hoffman.  Published 5-13-2020 by openDemocracy

Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain

Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.

New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading

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American Weapons Manufacturers Are Thriving Even as the US Economy Suffers

Washington has made it a priority to radically overhaul the military in double time, designating weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during the pandemic.

By Alan Macleod.  Published 5-13-2020 by MintPress News

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Brad Fallin)

The economy has crashed. A nationwide pandemic that has (officially) claimed some 84,000 Americans has also resulted in an estimated 36 million filing for unemployment insurance and millions frequenting food banks for the first time. Yet business is booming for one unlikely industry; weapons manufacturers are busier than ever and are even advertising for tens of thousands of more workers.

Northrop Grumman announced that it was planning to hire up to 10,000 more employees this year. Airlines are being hit particularly hard, as the number of people flying on commercial planes has cratered. Raytheon, who supplies parts to civilian aircraft manufacturers, has lost a great deal of business. Yet it is still advertising 2,000 new jobs in the military wing of its business. Boeing, who endured a torrid 2019, with multiple high-profile crashes of its 737 MAX-8 airliner, is preparing to lay off ten percent of its staff as airlines predict a long and sustained drop in air travel. Nevertheless, it is looking to add hundreds of new workers in its defense, intelligence, and cybersecurity departments. Continue reading

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