If you’re already hyperventilating over a report published this weekend offering new details on National Security Administration spying, an enlightening presentation by the report’s co-author might put you out cold.
Security researcher Jacob Appelbaum elaborated on what he’s learned about NSA spying tactics and tools during a lecture at the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg.
Appelbaum co-wrote a Der Spiegel report published Sunday that sheds light on what the NSA can access, including your iPhone, your newly purchased laptop computer, and most major security architecture.
But in his lecture, Appelbaum dropped this nugget: The NSA can tap into your wireless signal from up to eight miles away.
As proof, Appelbaum offered up a top secret NSA document detailing the capabilities of “Nightstand,” a wireless exploitation and injection tool that can — undetected — deliver spyware via your wireless card. The document is from 2008, so it’s possible the capabilities have been expanded since then.
Even creepier, Appelbaum said he’s talked to NSA sources who told him the devices have been used on drones, but he’s not yet come across documents to back that up.
“That’s a really interesting thing because it tells us that they understand that common wireless cards, probably running Microsoft Windows — which is an American company — that they know about vulnerabilities yet they keep them a secret to use them,” Appelbaum said. “This is part of a constant theme of sabotaging and undermining American companies and American ingenuity. As an American, though generally not a nationalist, I find this disgusting, especially as someone who writes free software and would like my tax dollars to be spent on improving these things.”
Though it seems Appelbaum’s chief complaint with NSA spying is that it’s tyrannical, he said the government’s interest in leaving security weaknesses open for exploit has “retarded the process by which we would secure the internet,” making systems and their users vulnerable to attack.
You can watch Appelbaum’s whole presentation here:
Troops Within Our Homes?
We have extensively documented that the U.S. government is trampling virtually every single Constitutional right set forth in the Bill of Rights.
One of the few rights which we thought the government still respects is the the 3rd Amendment, which prohibits the government forcing people to house troops:
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
But security expert Jacob Appelbaum notes that the NSA may be digitally violating the 3rd Amendment.
By way of background, this week Appelbaum was the main force behind an expose in Spiegel – and gave a must-watch talk – on the NSA’s systemic offensive programs to commandeer computers and computer systems, phone connections and phone systems, and communications networks of all types.
Appelbaum shows that the NSA has literally taken over our computer and our phones, physically intercepting laptop shipments and installing bugware before themselves shipping the laptop on to the consumer, installing special hardware that overcomes all privacy attempts, including “air gaps” (i.e. keep a computer unplugged from the Internet). Appelbaum also notes that spyware can suck up a lot of system resources on a computer or smartphone.
And he says this is the digital equivalent of soldiers being stationed in our houses against our will:
The parallel might not be as far-fetched as it may seem at first …
The NSA itself says that it’s in the middle of a massive cyber war. As such, malware, physical spying devices and offensive internet workarounds are literally the main troops in the NSA’s offensive cyber army.
Quartering meant that Colonial Americans had:
– No control over when the British troops came and went
– No say in what resources they consumed
– And no privacy even in their own castles
Similarly, mass NSA spying means that modern day Americans have:
– No control over when military presence comes or goes from our computer and phones (NSA is part of the Department of Defense)
– No say in what resources the spies suck up (remember, Applebaum says that spying can use a lot of resources and harm performance)
– And no privacy even in the deepest inner sanctuary of our electronic home base
Colonial Americans lost the quiet use and enjoyment of their homes. Modern Americans are losing the quiet use and enjoyment of our digital homes because the NSA is stationing digital “troops” inside our computers and phones.
Just as the Colonists’ homes were no longer theirs … our computers and phones are no longer ours.
Yesterday, we broke the story that during the 30th Chaos Communication Congress, it was revealed that according to the NSA (the slide in question) virtually every Apple product can be “backdoored”, and that the presenter of the discovery Jacob Applebaum openly asked Apple if it was just its “shitty software” that provided the NSA with this privacy invading loophole, or if it was Apple secretly working in collaboration with the NSA that permitted this betrayal of the iconic company’s customers.
Moments ago the WSJ reported that according to Apple, it was just the “shitty software”, as the company denied ever working with the NSA.
Somehow we doubt this will be the end of this particular story, especially since this is an implicit admission that Apple does, indeed, have “backdoors” in its products. Whether invited or not.
Perhaps as a follow up, Apple can also confirm that none of its products permit illegal backdoor access for the NSA or anyone else, especially now that the “implantation” mechanism has been made clear to the entire world?
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