Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny
Big Brother is Watching You. Now Big Brother is soon to be able to be Listening to You as well, via your cell phone.
As America approaches the Land of the UN-Free.
Thanking the insidious fascist element in politics and government.
The Washington Post - The cellphone encryption technology used most widely across the world can be easily defeated by the National Security Agency, an internal document shows, giving the agency the means to decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves every day.
While the military and law enforcement agencies long have been able to hack into individual cellphones, the NSA’s capability appears to be far more sweeping because of the agency’s global signals collection operation. The agency’s ability to crack encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.
U.S. law prohibits the NSA from collecting the content of conversations between Americans without a court order. But experts say that if the NSA has developed the capacity to easily decode encrypted cellphone conversations, then other nations likely can do the same through their own intelligence services, potentially to Americans’ calls, as well.
Encryption experts have complained for years that the most commonly used technology, known as A5/1, is vulnerable and have urged providers to upgrade to newer systems that are much harder to crack. Most companies worldwide have not done so, even as controversy has intensified in recent months over NSA collection of cellphone traffic, including of such world leaders as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The extent of the NSA’s collection of cellphone signals and its use of tools to decode encryption are not clear from a top-secret document provided by former contractor Edward Snowden. But it states that the agency “can process encrypted A5/1” even when the agency has not acquired an encryption key, which unscrambles communications so that they are readable.
The NSA has repeatedly stressed that its data collection efforts are aimed at overseas targets, whose legal protections are much lower than U.S. citizens’. When questioned for this story, the agency issued a statement, saying: “Throughout history nations have used encryption to protect their secrets, and today terrorists, cyber criminals, human traffickers and others also use technology to hide their activities. The Intelligence Community tries to counter that in order to understand the intent of foreign adversaries and prevent them from bringing harm to Americans and allies.”
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported in October that a listening station atop the U.S. Embassy in Berlin allowed the NSA to spy on Merkel’s cellphone calls. It also reported that the NSA’s Special Collection Service runs similar operations from 80 U.S. embassies and other government facilities worldwide. These revelations — and especially reports about eavesdropping on the calls of friendly foreign leaders — have caused serious diplomatic fallouts for the Obama administration.
Collecting cellphone signals has become such a common tactic for intelligence, military and law enforcement work worldwide that several companies market devices specifically for that purpose.
Some are capable of mimicking cell towers to trick individual phones into directing all communications to the interception devices in a way that automatically defeats encryption. USA Today reported Monday that at least 25 police departments in the United States own such devices, the most popular of which go by the brand name Harris StingRay. Experts say they are in widespread use by governments overseas, as well.
Even more common, however, are what experts call “passive” collection devices, in which cell signals are secretly gathered by antennas that do not mimic cellphone towers or connect directly with individual phones. These systems collect signals that are then decoded in order for the content of the calls or texts to be understood by analysts.
Even with strong encryption, the protection exists only from a phone to the cell tower, after which point the communications are decrypted for transmission on a company’s internal data network. Interception is possible on those internal links, as The Washington Post reported last week. Leading technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, have announced plans in recent months to encrypt the links between their data centers to better protect their users from government surveillance and criminal hackers.
While the larger focus of this article is actually to do with increased surveillance opportunities to spy on companies and nations the question for me is... Can we really trust OUR government to respect OUR privacy and NOT LISTEN IN ON our personal conversations. I am a skeptic and the affliction seems to only be growing stronger. I for one decidedly DO NOT trust our government.
Update December 17,2013
From the The New York Times opinion pages. Spot on and a word of warning for ALL Americans concerned with privacy rights.
For the first time since the revelation of the National Security Agency’s vast dragnet of all Americans’ telephone records, a federal court has ruled that such surveillance is “significantly likely” to be unconstitutional.
In a scathing 68-page opinion peppered with exclamations of incredulity, United States District Judge Richard Leon, of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, found that the seven-year-old phone-data collection program — which was established under the Patriot Act and has been repeatedly reauthorized by a secret intelligence court — “almost certainly” violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.
Reaching into the 18th century from the 21st, the judge wrote that James Madison “would be aghast” at the degree of privacy invasion the data sweep represents.
The ruling by Judge Leon, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, was remarkable for many reasons, but mainly because there were real people sitting in open court challenging the government’s lawyers over the program’s constitutionality.
The plaintiffs, led by Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist, sued the government after the program came to light. A similar suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union is in a federal court in New York.
Judge Leon’s opinion took issue with the government’s reliance on a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland, which upheld the police’s warrantless capture of phone numbers dialed from the home of a robbery suspect on grounds that the suspect had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the numbers he dialed.
But the N.S.A.’s phone-surveillance program is “a far cry” from what the court considered in 1979, Judge Leon wrote.[Continue Reading]
Great news for all concerned with privacy rights. Government indeed has a reasonable and proper role in our lives. Such role includes, but is not limited to, insuring the enforcement of laws that insure a citizens right to safety as well as the right to the civil right to privacy.
I am heartened by the news that it is conservatives that are taking this action in court. What concerns me, given recent prior realities is this; Is this going to be a long term all inclusive effort or is it simply targeted to short term goals that are intended to have a positive impaction the republican party in the near term. Only time wil tell, and time i something us humans have a limited supply of.