Scary Happenings on Your Internet and Electronics

A snippet from a reply from one of my Senators asking about the NSA…

“As you may know, under one of the programs, the NSA has for seven years collected on a daily basis information related to Americans’ telephone calls.  This information includes the telephone numbers called, along with the date, time, and duration of calls.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) – a special federal court created in 1978 to review the government’s applications for surveillance orders – has allowed the collection of this metadata under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.  Section 215 amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 to allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apply to the FISC for an order to collect a broad array of business records and other tangible things relevant to an authorized investigation.  Previously, the authority was limited to the collection of only records from certain businesses, such as hotels and car rental agencies, and the FBI had to provide facts tying the records to a specific person.”

A Russian group of programmers are planning to sell commercially a root kit that will capture and forward anyones banking information, if they can get the software on their computer. You can be the first in your neighborhood to have this software for about ~ $2,500.00 US.

Some companies who offered encrypted email are shutting down due to fear of government scrutiny. They don’t want to take the hit for illegal activity being tied to their product. They ‘claim’ a concern for their customers, and perhaps a little fear of government scrutiny around themselves too?

The Tor network bust of a few weeks ago that netted a hundred plus people receiving and transmitting child porn, upset large numbers of people who deal in things less than legal. It also upset people who were led to believe tor was the utlimate internet privacy tool.

The infamous Pirate Bay frustrated because some governments have blocked them, have created their own browser so individuals may bypass government restrictions and get on with what they want to do, rather than what is permissible.

NSA and Internet

NSA and others are logging your electronic life

Some Internet Service Providers have agreed to email you, or flash you a screen a message if they detect you downloading copyrighted information illegally. “In case you are not aware”, is the reason given. To determine if you are downloading copyrighted information all your internet usage will need to be monitored.

Certain Televisions can spy on you per one newsworthy article on a techie website. The software running the television is very vulnerable to being hacked over the net. If there happens to be a camera or microphone attached to the television, well, you may be streaming media (your personal life) to people you do not know. Imagine seeing yourself in a compromising situation that took place in your front room in a youtube video?

An East Coast couple had a visit by several men in suits and badges after some rather innocent web searching by family members after the Boston Bombing. It appears one can look up anything on the web, however they can’t do it in conjunction with other sensitive topics. Sort of like the ‘three strike’ rule in baseball. Too much curiosity wakes the cat.

Besides the obvious, “What’s next, are we going to have cameras and microphones in our living room spying on us?” Do we already? At least the Internet is already taking action. One of the things I love about technology is changes happen fast. No need to be reactive when you can be proactive.

Here is what a little casual browsing turned up today:

Mozilla corporation is working on an ad blocking browser. If I understand correctly is it is blocking advertising streamed with secure web pages, because of the security issue it opens up. The issue stems from insecure content being delivered on a secure connection. Lots of opportunity for bad things to happen.

Advertisers are in an uproar, claiming their web site material will now be ‘stolen’. Hmmm, how do you steal information posted freely on the web? Some websites are threatening to go subscription only.

I say, good luck making a living with that business model. If the ads didn’t dance across the page, or block all access to content, I don’t think we would be at this point.

Since there is legislation either in the works or passed making the sender of copyrighted materials a felony offense, Usenet has gone to encrypted postings. At least by those that have a clue.

Operating systems on a flash drive or CD are gaining even more attention. If you cannot trust your computer has not been compromised – an unprotected Windows XP machine lasts less than 20 minutes on the net before being taken over – systems on a removable cd or flash drive are the way to go. They are read only, and cannot unless you allow it store any information. This means there can be no root kit, virus, or malware cookie sending your bank account information home to Daddy.

Encrypted phone calls will make a splash on the scene soon, if you haven’t heard about it already. Encrypted messaging is already here for those that want it. Each of us will have to decide how badly we want to talk with someone. Enough to match their encryption methods, or not talk at all over electronic medium?

Electronic security has always been a game of catch up. No matter how fast any Government, service provider, or other group is, they will never be ahead of the curve when it comes to halting illegal activities on the internet. No matter how quick they are, the internet as a whole is quicker.

Some people are resorting to triple encryption, just because they can. An email message, text message, or document is processed through three different encryption programs. In other words they are encrypting a document that that was created, encrypted, encrypted again, and finally encrypted a third time using different encryption techniques. Lot of work to say get a carton of milk on the way home from work.

Other people are sending out texts and emails containing trigger words, and I can guess you know what those are. Emails that have no purpose other than to trigger the NSA’s software into action, especially if they are sent with light encryption

Which brings me to my main point. Is the internet in jeopardy of shutting down? Unless you are comfortable with every key stroke being logged, worrying about your bank accounts and your very private information being sent to another computer, having your browsing habits logged and analyzed, your friends and family watched,it may be.

Is the internet going to end up as a nameless, faceless place, where the only web traffic is encrypted, and the only web sites still up, talk about gardening, and cooking and other acceptable topics while the NSA studies each word in an article?

Will all your web travels and searches be logged and monitored? How about the privacy of your own computer, laptop or tablet? Will it keep your private matters private, or will it contain a backdoor where all your actions can and will be monitored?

These are real questions and real concerns. Let your officials know how you feel about all of this. Apathy and nameless fear got us this far. If left unchecked, the world of computers and the internet, may go the way of the home phone, boom box, and so many other things we thought would be around forever.

Where does state security and individual privacy divide? Should everyone be investigated around the clock because they might be something they are not advertising? Where is the line on personal privacy? Will it extend from the search for possible terrorist activity to tax fraud, income tax evasion, searching for any and all illegal activity?

In the mean time, maybe there is no need to worry about backing up your documents, perhaps the NSA already has a copies you can download under the, “Freedom of Information Act”? Write your representatives, and let them know how you feel about his. If you don’t tell them what you think, big business and the government will.