Category Archives: Cybersecurity

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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If This ‘Doesn’t Give You Chills I Don’t Know What Will’: McConnell Patriot Act Expansion Would Hand AG Barr Unprecedented Spy Powers

“These amendments would pretty much guarantee the ability of an incumbent administration to spy on its political opponents without consequence.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-13-2020

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Sen. Ron Wyden was joined by privacy advocates Wednesday in forcefully condemning a new proposed amendment to the PATRIOT Act put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that would greatly expand the U.S. attorney general’s surveillance powers under FISA.

McConnell’s amendment, which the Senate began debating Wednesday as lawmakers took up the reauthorization of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, would explicitly permit the FBI to collect records of Americans’ internet search and browsing histories without a warrant. It would also mandate that Attorney General William Barr, and his successors, conduct an annual review of the FBI’s submissions into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. Continue reading

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Big Brother in the Age of Coronavirus: 100+ Groups Warn Against Exploiting Pandemic to Permanently Expand Surveillance State

“These are extraordinary times, but human rights law still applies.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-2-2020

“Technology can play an important role in the global effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic; however, this does not give governments carte blanche to expand digital surveillance.” (Image: WITNESS/Twitter)

As the number of COVID-19 cases climbed toward a million worldwide on Thursday, over 100 human rights groups issued a joint statement warning that governments’ response to the coronavirus pandemic “must not be used as a cover to usher in a new era of greatly expanded systems of invasive digital surveillance.”

The groups acknowledge that the public health crisis “requires a coordinated and large-scale response” but urge governments “to show leadership in tackling the pandemic in a way that ensures that the use of digital technologies to track and monitor individuals and populations is carried out strictly in line with human rights.” Continue reading

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From border security to climate change, national emergency declarations raise hard questions about presidential power

Global Climate Strike NYC in New York, Sept. 20, 2019. Rainmaker Photo/MediaPunch /IPX via AP Photo

Daniel Farber, University of California, Berkeley

As wildfires, storms and other climate-driven disasters grow larger and more damaging, climate change is a major concern for many Democratic voters, who are in the midst of a primary fight that has come down to two major candidates: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Both candidates say climate change would be one of their top priorities as president – but there’s an important difference between their approaches.

Sanders has pledged to declare climate change a national emergency and use executive power to lead “a ten-year, nationwide mobilization” to remake the U.S. economy. Continue reading

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If You’re Close to the Scene of a Crime, Police Can Demand Google Hand Over Your Data

Google reverse location search warrants have privacy and civil liberties advocates concerned.

By Aaron Kesel. Published 3-6-2020 by The Mind Unleashed

The Gainesville Police Department suspected an innocent man was involved in a burglary so naturally they requested that Google give them all of his location data.

Google’s legal investigations support team wrote to Zachary McCoy telling him that local police were demanding information related to his Google account. Google replied and said it would release the data unless McCoy went to court and tried to block the request, NBC reported. Continue reading

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40 Privacy Groups Warn That Facial Recognition is Threatening Democracy

We must take action and guard what little privacy remains before it’s too late.

By Derrick Broze. Published 1-31-2020 by The Mind Unleashed

On Monday, forty organizations signed a letter calling on an independent government watchdog to recommend a ban on U.S. government use of facial recognition technology.

The letter was drafted by the digital privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and signed by organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Color of Change, Fight for the Future, Popular Resistance, and the Consumer Federation of America. The letter calls on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to “recommend to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security the suspension of facial recognition systems, pending further review.Continue reading

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Amazon and Ring Hit With Lawsuit After Camera Hacks Confirm Worst Fears of Privacy Advocates

“These devices are not safe,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-27-2019

Photo: Wikipedia

Home security company Ring and its parent corporation Amazon were hit with a lawsuit in federal court Thursday alleging that their cameras have been hacked on numerous occasions due to inadequate protections, confirming privacy advocates’ fears about the devices.

John Baker Orange of Alabama, the plaintiff in the case, said in the lawsuit (pdf) that his Ring security camera was recently hacked while his children were playing basketball outside of his home. Continue reading

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This Story on Cellphone Tracking ‘Is the Most Important Article You Should Read Today. Period.’

The New York Times published the first piece in its “One Nation, Tracked” investigation based on a data set with over 50 billion location pings.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-20-2019

The New York Times on Thursday published its first article in a new series about smartphone tracking. (Image: The New York Times/screenshot)

The New York Times‘ on Thursday sparked calls for congressional action by publishing the first article in its “One Nation, Tracked” series, an investigation into smartphone tracking based on a data set with over 50 billion location pings from the devices of more than 12 million people in the United States.

The data, from 2016 and 2017, “was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so,” explained reporters Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel. “The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers.” Continue reading

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With Little Fanfare, William Barr Formally Announces Orwellian Pre-Crime Program

A recent memorandum authored by Attorney General William Barr announced a new “pre-crime” program inspired by “War on Terror” tactics and is set to be implemented next year.

By Whitney Webb. Published 10-25-2019 by MintPress News

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera

Last Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a memorandum to all U.S. attorneys, law enforcement agencies and top ranking Justice Department officials announcing the imminent implementation of a new “national disruption and early engagement program” aimed at detecting potential mass shooters before they commit any crime.

Per the memorandum, Barr has “directed the Department [of Justice] and the FBI to lead an effort to refine our ability to identify, assess and engage potential mass shooters before they strike.” The Attorney General further described the coming initiative, slated to be implemented early next year, as “an efficient, effective and programmatic strategy to disrupt individuals who are mobilizing towards violence, by all lawful means.” More specific information about the program is set to follow the recent memorandum, according to Barr, though it is unclear if that forthcoming document will be made public. Continue reading

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