Tag Archives: National Security Agency

N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images

N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images

The New York Times
by
May 31, 2014

 

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

Read the full article at… Direct Link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/nsa-collecting-millions-of-faces-from-web-images.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=0

Google finishes 2,048-bit security upgrade for Web privacy

Google finishes 2,048-bit security upgrade for Web privacy

Prodded by “concerns about overbroad government surveillance,” Google beat an end-of-year deadline to retire Web certificates with less secure 1,024-bit encryption keys.

 

C/NET News
by Stephen Shankland
November 19, 2013

 

A 2,048-bit encryption key in binary is equivalent to a 617-digit number using decimal digits -- not an easy number to guess if you don't know it. (Credit: Wolfram Alpha)
A 2,048-bit encryption key in binary is equivalent to a 617-digit number using decimal digits — not an easy number to guess if you don’t know it.
(Credit: Wolfram Alpha)

 

Never again are you going to get a Google Web site whose security certificate is protected with comparatively weak 1,024-bit encryption.

The Net giant has secured all its certificates with 2,048-bit RSA encryption keys or better, Google security engineer Dan Dulay said in a blog post Monday. Certificates are used to set up encrypted communications between a Web server and Web browser.

That means two things. First, traffic will be harder to decrypt since 1,024-bit keys aren’t in use at Google anymore. Second, retiring the 1,024-bit keys means the computing industry can retire the technology altogether by declaring such keys untrustworthy.

Google has been aggressively moving to stronger encryption because of U.S. government surveillance by the National Security Agency. According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the agency gathered bulk data off Internet taps, including unencrypted data sent between company data centers on its own network, and actively worked to undermine encryption.

Google said it beat its internal end-of-year deadline for the 2,048-bit move. It’s also moved to encrypt its internal data transfer between data centers, a move that Yahoo also is making.

In other words, the Net’s technology giants are working actively to make surveillance, authorized or not, significantly harder.

 

Clicking on Chrome's green lock icon in the address bar lets you see details of the encryption used for a secure connection. (Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)
Clicking on Chrome’s green lock icon in the address bar lets you see details of the encryption used for a secure connection.
(Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

“Worry in Silicon Valley/Puget Sound: furor over NSA will cost billions cuz foreign customers fear US companies can’t guarantee security,” tweeted Strobe Talbott, president of analyst firm Brookings Institution, referring to the geographic regions where tech powers such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, LinkedIn, and Amazon are located.

There’s a lot of work to be done yet, though. Google also supports a standard called “forward secrecy,” which uses different keys for different sessions so that decrypting a single message doesn’t mean previous messages can likewise be decrypted using the same key. But many other Net giants don’t support forward secrecy — though that’s changing, too

 

Related stories

*   Battle brews as tech companies attempt to fend off NSA hacking

 

Direct Link:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57612905-83/google-finishes-2048-bit-security-upgrade-for-web-privacy/

Obama administration tight-lipped on NSA surveillance of allies

Obama administration tight-lipped on NSA surveillance of allies

 

CBS News
by Rebecca Kaplan
October 28, 2013

 

The U.S. Embassy, right, sits near Germany's legislative buildings in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the leaders of U.S.-allied nations who have complained in recent days over reports of U.S. spying. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images / October 28, 2013)
The U.S. Embassy, right, sits near Germany’s legislative buildings in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the leaders of U.S.-allied nations who have complained in recent days over reports of U.S. spying. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images / October 28, 2013)

 

The White House is under fire to explain exactly how much President Obama knows about U.S. surveillance programs in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article that suggested the National Security Agency (NSA) had been monitoring the phones of 35 world leaders until an internal Obama administration review discovered and ended the program.

The White House has avoided confirming or denying whether the report is true, instead choosing to reiterate that they are not currently and will not monitor the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who raised the issue in a phone call with Mr. Obama last week.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of how the president is briefed on different intelligence operations,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes in an interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, regarding whether Mr. Obama knew about the monitoring. “What I will say is that he sets priorities as a commander in chief…he is briefed on a regular basis and the fact of the matter is what he’s focused on in the intelligence are threats. What is the state of counterterrorism around the world?”

 

 

 

Rhodes echoed White House spokesman Jay Carney’s briefing earlier Monday, stressing that the administration is in the process of reviewing its intelligence collection. One of the reason Rhodes declined to discuss whether Merkel’s phone was monitored was because the administration wants to deal with the larger question of how information is gathered and what constraints are placed on the collection, “not on an ad hoc basis,” he said.

“If we got into the business of briefing out every aspect of our intelligence operations we couldn’t operate with the necessary secrecy that intelligence gathering depends upon,” Rhodes said. “At the same time we can be more transparent about how we gather information.”

CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate said the president should know about surveillance programs at that level, and that it would be the responsibility of the Director of National Intelligence – currently James Clapper – to ensure that Mr. Obama knows the scope of what the intelligence community is doing.

Zarate also noted that Mr. Obama pledged to review Bush-era intelligence operations when he entered office, “so in some ways if the president didn’t know, shame on him, and shame on him and his leadership for not asking the question, but also it may not be believable [that he didn’t know] given the intensity and scope of this type of surveillance.”

“At the end of the day the administration is responsible for the programs and authorizes these programs so the president has to answer for them,” Zarate said.

The NSA, led by Keith Alexander, told CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former deputy director of national intelligence, that the president was never briefed in 2010 on any surveillance of Merkel.

 

NSA spying on foreign leaders: What did the President know about, and when?

“The way this works is the president gets the president’s daily briefing,” Miller said. “What you get in there is a lot of really good information that is meant to give American policy makers, starting with the president, what they call ‘decision advantage’ – which way are other people leaning, what are they thinking, what turmoil is going on inside their government, we call that the intelligence business.”

But the revelations about the surveillance is already straining U.S. relationships. “If you get the feeling that your closest allies spying on you, then that’s difficult to talk to such an ally in an open way anymore. And I think we have to make a clear distinction between fight together terrorism and not spying on friends,” said Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament who had a closed-door session with House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Monday morning. Brok added that if the German people – some of whom lived under the East German police state during the Cold War — feel like the U.S. was spying on all of them, “people do not love America anymore…that is a very damaging thing.”

“We’re not spying on everybody in Europe,” Rhodes said. “That’s a dramatic overstating of the situation.”

Brok said Germany will seek a “no-spying” pledge like the so-called “Five Eyes” agreement in which the U.S. and four other countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – share intelligence but do not spy on one another. Rhodes said broadly that the U.S. is open to discussion with its European allies about how to better coordinate intelligence gathering. He also noted that there are already longstanding intelligence relationships that exist, and that U.S. intelligence has helped to foil terrorist plots in a number of European countries.

The frustration is reaching members of Congress as well. On Monday afternoon, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for a total review of all intelligence programs and said that the Senate had been inadequately informed of surveillance activities.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies–including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany–let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.”

 

Direct Link:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57609690/obama-administration-tight-lipped-on-nsa-surveillance-of-allies/