Army admits restricting soldiers’ access to NSA coverage

Army admits restricting soldiers’ access to NSA coverage

Netcom spokesperson tells the Monterey Herald that the Defense Department routinely takes preventative “network hygiene” measures to prevent unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

C/Net News
by Steven Musil
June 27, 2013


Army admits restricting soldiers' access to NSA coverage
Army admits restricting soldiers’ access to NSA coverage


The U.S. Army has apparently opted to restrict Army personnel access to The Guardian’s Web site after the newspaper broke stories about the National Security Agency’s confidential surveillance activities.

The Army is filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks,” Gordon Van Vleet, a spokesman for the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, told the Monterey Herald. Netcom is charged with operating and defending the Army’s computer networks.

Van Vleet told the Herald that the Department of Defense routinely takes preventative “network hygiene” measures to prevent unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security,” he wrote, “however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information.”

Despite earlier reports that the restrictions were limited to the Presidio in Monterey, Van Vleet confirmed that the censorship was “Armywide.” Presidio sources told the Herald that the base’s information assurance security officer had informed employees that The Guardian’s site had been blocked and any accidental download of classified information would result in “labor intensive” hard drive cleansing.

CNET has contacted Netcom for comment and additional information and will update this report when we learn more.

A pair of articles published earlier this month by The Guardian and Washington Post alleged that several Internet companies, including Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook, provided the NSA with “direct access” to their servers through a so-calledGoogle, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook, program. Subsequent reporting by CNET revealed that this was not the case, and the Washington Post backtracked from its original story on PRISM.

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Over 1 million American Android users have downloaded adware

Over 1 million American Android users have downloaded adware

That’s the claim from security firm Lookout, which claims that 6.5 percent of the free applications in the Google Play marketplace contain adware.

C/NET News
by Don Reisinger
June 26, 2013


A look at adware's breakdown. (Credit: Lookout)
A look at adware’s breakdown.
(Credit: Lookout)


Adware has become a somewhat concerning issue on Android, a new study from security firm Lookout has discovered.

According to the security company, over the last year alone, over 1 million American Android users have unknowingly downloaded adware. What’s worse, 6.5 percent of the free applications available in the Google Play marketplace now contain adware of some sort.

Adware isn’t exactly the easiest topic to define, since there’s a gray area between what’s proper ad practice and what’s not.

However, Lookout says that there are a few key hallmarks that turn seemingly innocuous ads into adware:

  • The app displays advertising that’s “outside of the normal experience;
  • The ad “harvests unusual personally identifiable information; or
  • The ad “performs unexpected actions as a response to ad clicks.

Adware has long been a concern for computer users. But with mobile device usage skyrocketing, advertisers — and adware creators — are focusing their attention on Android. Even worse, a report from Juniper Networks released earlier this week shows that mobile malware is up 614 percent in the last year, and 92 percent of all detected threats are running on Google’s operating system

To illustrate the impact adware is having on Android, Lookout provided some statistics on where Android users are most likely to find the annoyance. Lookout says that 26 percent of the free Personalization apps in Google Play contain adware. On the gaming side, 9 percent of the free programs have adware. Interestingly, social apps are least likely to contain adware, with Lookout finding just 2 percent of those free programs bundling adware.

“Questionable mobile advertising practices, such as adware, can get in the way of user privacy and experience, doing things like capturing personal information (i.e., email, location, address list, etc.) without proper notification and modifying phone settings and desktops without consent,” Lookout said in a blog post on Wednesday. “While the majority of mobile ads are A-OK, as the industry grows, it needs to protect user privacy and excellent user experience.”


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Can Wi-Fi let you see people through walls?

Can Wi-Fi let you see people through walls?

It isn’t exactly Superman-like X-ray vision, but cheap, low-power Wi-Fi technology is gaining more attention as a remote sensing tool.

C/Net News
by Tim Hornyak
June 27, 2013


Wi-Fi can give us all Superman-like vision, according to boffins at MIT. (Credit: Screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)
Wi-Fi can give us all Superman-like vision, according to boffins at MIT.
(Credit: Screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)


Do you really wish you had X-ray vision? Sure, it would be fun to see what your neighbors are doing behind those walls — until you see something you wish you hadn’t.

Regardless, researchers at MIT have developed a sensing technology that uses low-power Wi-Fi to detect moving people. It follows other wall-penetrating sensor tech using radar and heavy equipment.

The Wi-Vi system by Dina Katabi and Fadel Adib sends out a low-power Wi-Fi signal and tracks its reflections to sense people moving around, even if they’re in closed rooms or behind walls.

Part of a Wi-Fi signal transmitted at a wall will penetrate it and reflect off people on the other side. The MIT system ignores all the other reflects, such as from objects, to focus on those from moving people only. It can determine the number of moving people in the room and their relative locations.


The system sends out two nearly identical signals, but one is the inverse of the other, and thus they cancel each other out.

“So, if the person moves behind the wall, all reflections from static objects are cancelled out, and the only thing registered by the device is the moving human,” Adib, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was quoted as saying in a release.

The Wi-Vi receiver uses changes in the signal reflection time to calculate where a moving person is behind a wall. It can also detect gestures such as arm waving and could be used to control home lighting or appliances in another room. It could also let people communicate with the outside using hand signals alone.

British researchers have also been investigating how to use Wi-Fi for surveillance and urban warfare, but the MIT system could be used in applications such as search and rescue, law enforcement, or personal security.

“If you are walking at night and you have the feeling that someone is following you, then you could use it to check if there is someone behind the fence or behind a corner,” said Katabi, a professor in the department.

Or the NSA could use it to see how badly you dance in front of your mirror.

The research (PDF) will be shown at the Sigcomm conference in Hong Kong in August. Check out a brief demo in the vid below.

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EFF Sues FBI For Access to Facial-Recognition Records

EFF Sues FBI For Access to Facial-Recognition Records

Lawsuit Seeks Transparency Before Implementation of a ‘Bigger, Faster and Better’ Biometrics System

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
June 26, 2013


Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)


San Francisco –

As the FBI is rushing to build a “bigger, faster and better” biometrics database, it’s also dragging its feet in releasing information related to the program’s impact on the American public. In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI to produce records to satisfy three outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests that EFF submitted one year ago to shine light on the program and its face-recognition components.

Since early 2011, EFF has been closely following the FBI’s work to build out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database, which would replace and expand upon the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The new program will include multiple biometric identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos, and voice data, and that information will be shared with other agencies at the local, state, federal and international levels. The face recognition component is set to launch in 2014.

“NGI will result in a massive expansion of government data collection for both criminal and noncriminal purposes,” says EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch, who testified before the U.S. Senate on the privacy implications of facial recognition technology in July of last year. “Biometrics programs present critical threats to civil liberties and privacy. Face-recognition technology is among the most alarming new developments, because Americans cannot easily take precautions against the covert, remote, and mass capture of their images.”

In the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, EFF is asking a judge to enforce EFF’s FOIA requests, which were sent to the FBI in June and July of last year. The information sought includes agreements and discussions between the FBI and various state agencies regarding the face-recognition program; records addressing the reliability of face-recognition technology; and documentation of the FBI’s plan to merge civilian and criminal records in a single repository. EFF is also seeking disclosure of the total number of face-recognition capable records currently in the FBI’s database, as well as the proposed number at deployment.

NGI will have an unprecedented impact on Americans’ privacy interests, and yet the FBI has not updated its Privacy Impact Assessment since 2008, well before it built the system and signed agreements with several states for an early roll-out of the program.

“Before the federal government decides to expand its surveillance powers, there needs to be a public debate,” Lynch says. “But there can be no public debate until the details of the program are presented to the public.”

For the full complaint:


Jennifer Lynch
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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FBI’s Robert Mueller: Feds need broader surveillance powers

FBI’s Robert Mueller: Feds need broader surveillance powers

by Tony Romm
June 20, 2013

Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the need is real.  (Jay Westcott/POLITICO)
Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the need is real. (Jay Westcott/POLITICO)


FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers — some already skeptical of government surveillance — that the feds may need additional powers to track down criminals who hide their activities online.

Buried in his prepared testimony Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mueller reaffirmed the Obama administration’s long-held view that there’s a “growing gap between law enforcement’s legal authority to conduct electronic surveillance, and its ability to conduct such surveillance.”

“The rapid pace of advances in mobile and other communication technologies continues to present a significant challenge for conducting court-approved electronic surveillance of criminals and terrorists,” Mueller noted.

“Because of this gap, law enforcement is increasingly unable to gain timely access to the information to which it is lawfully authorized and that it needs to protect public safety, bring criminals to justice and keep America safe,” added the FBI director, acknowledging there still exists a need to balance security and privacy.

(PHOTOS: Pols, pundits weigh in on NSA report)

The FBI and Justice Department for years have explored remedies to its so-called going dark problem — instances in which suspects communicate using Internet services that aren’t so easily subject to court-ordered wiretaps.

At one point, reports this year suggested law enforcement agencies even had bandied about a proposal that could fine large Internet companies that don’t build their services in a way to aid those investigations. The White House, however, said at the time it had not signed off on any new plan.

The efforts to expand federal law known as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act hit fresh resistance in May, after news broke that the DOJ had sought phone records for some Associated Press journalists. Civil-liberties groups, privacy-minded lawmakers and top Internet companies expressed unease with any plan to expand federal wiretapping powers.

Now the controversy over surveillance at the NSA — a driving topic at the Wednesday hearing — may only further complicate matters, or so privacy hawks hope.

The FBI needs “to provide better reasons and more information about why they need this, when technologists and academics across the board are consistently saying and have shown … the whole ‘going dark’ messaging is incorrect in the golden age of surveillance,” said Mark Jaycox, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He described the FBI’s pursuit of additional surveillance authority as “breathtaking.”

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate committees that would oversee such a debate didn’t comment for this story.

Mueller, though, told the Senate Judiciary Committee the need is real — and he urged lawmakers to help ensure “law enforcement capabilities keep pace with new threats and new technology, while at the same time protecting individual privacy rights and civil rights.”

“It is only by working together — within the law enforcement and intelligence communities, with our private sector partners and with members of Congress — that we will find a long-term solution to this growing problem,” Mueller noted in his prepared testimony.

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