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  • Journalist Sues NSA For Keeping Keith Alexander's Financial History Secret

    Daniel_Stuckey writes Now the NSA has yet another dilemma on its hands: Investigative journalist Jason Leopold is suing the agency for denying him the release of financial disclosure statements attributable to its former director. According to a report by Bloomberg , prospective clients of Alexander's, namely large banks, will be billed $1 million a month for his cyber-consulting services. Recode.net quipped that for an extra million, Alexander would show them the back door (state-installed spyware mechanisms) that the NSA put in consumer routers.

    98 comments | 10 hours ago

  • Black Hat Researchers Actively Trying To Deanonymize Tor Users

    An anonymous reader writes: Last week, we discussed news that a presentation had been canceled for the upcoming Black Hat security conference that involved the Tor Project. The researchers involved hadn't made much of an effort to disclose the vulnerability, and the Tor Project was scrambling to implement a fix. Now, the project says it's likely these researchers were actively attacking Tor users and trying to deanonymize them. "On July 4 2014 we found a group of relays that we assume were trying to deanonymize users. They appear to have been targeting people who operate or access Tor hidden services. The attack involved modifying Tor protocol headers to do traffic confirmation attacks. ...We know the attack looked for users who fetched hidden service descriptors, but the attackers likely were not able to see any application-level traffic (e.g. what pages were loaded or even whether users visited the hidden service they looked up). The attack probably also tried to learn who published hidden service descriptors, which would allow the attackers to learn the location of that hidden service." They also provide a technical description of the attack, and the steps they're taking to block such attacks in the future.

    79 comments | yesterday

  • Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance

    An anonymous reader writes: Today Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill that would ban bulk collection of telephone records and internet data for U.S. citizens. This is a stronger version of the legislation that passed the U.S. House in May, and it has support from the executive branch as well. "The bill, called the USA Freedom Act, would prohibit the government from collecting all information from a particular service provider or a broad geographic area, such as a city or area code, according to a release from Leahy's office. It would expand government and company reporting to the public and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews NSA intelligence activities. Both House and Senate measures would keep information out of NSA computers, but the Senate bill would impose stricter limits on how much data the spy agency could seek."

    173 comments | 2 days ago

  • When Spies and Crime-Fighters Squabble Over How They Spy On You

    The Washington Post reports in a short article on the sometimes strange, sometimes strained relationship between spy agencies like the NSA and CIA and law enforcement (as well as judges and prosecutors) when it comes to evidence gathered using technology or techniques that the spy agencies would rather not disclose at all, never mind explain in detail. They may both be arms of the U.S. government, but the spy agencies and the law enforcers covet different outcomes. From the article: [S]sometimes it's not just the tool that is classified, but the existence itself of the capability — the idea that a certain type of communication can be wiretapped — that is secret. One former senior federal prosecutor said he knew of at least two instances where surveillance tools that the FBI criminal investigators wanted to use "got formally classified in a big hurry" to forestall the risk that the technique would be revealed in a criminal trial. "People on the national security side got incredibly wound up about it," said the former official, who like others interviewed on the issue spoke on condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity. "The bottom line is: Toys get taken away and put on a very, very high shelf. Only people in the intelligence community can use them." ... The DEA in particular was concerned that if it came up with a capability, the National Security Agency or CIA would rush to classify it, said a former Justice Department official.

    120 comments | 4 days ago

  • The NSA's New Partner In Spying: Saudi Arabia's Brutal State Police

    Advocatus Diaboli sends this news from The Intercept: The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world's most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency's plans "to provide direct analytic and technical support" to the Saudis on "internal security" matters. The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that "Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse," specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly "poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat" of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI's use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

    125 comments | 5 days ago

  • Dutch Court Says Government Can Receive Bulk Data from NSA

    jfruh (300774) writes Dutch law makes it illegal for the Dutch intelligence services to conduct mass data interception programs. But, according to a court in the Hague, it's perfectly all right for the Dutch government to request that data from the U.S.'s National Security Agency, and doing so doesn't violate any treaties or international law.

    109 comments | about a week ago

  • Dropbox Head Responds To Snowden Claims About Privacy

    First time accepted submitter Carly Page writes When asked for its response to Edward Snowden's claims that "Dropbox is hostile to privacy", Dropbox told The INQUIRER that users concerned about privacy should add their own encryption. The firm warned however that if users do, not all of the service's features will work. Head of Product at Dropbox for Business Ilya Fushman says: "We have data encrypted on our servers. We think of encryption beyond that as a users choice. If you look at our third-party developer ecosystem you'll find many client-side encryption apps....It's hard to do things like rich document rendering if they're client-side encrypted. Search is also difficult, we can't index the content of files. Finally, we need users to understand that if they use client-side encryption and lose the password, we can't then help them recover those files."

    176 comments | about a week ago

  • Exodus Intelligence Details Zero-Day Vulnerabilities In Tails OS

    New submitter I Ate A Candle (3762149) writes Tails OS, the Tor-reliant privacy-focused operating system made famous by Edward Snowden, contains a number of zero-day vulnerabilities that could be used to take control of the OS and execute code remotely. At least that's according to zero-day exploit seller Exodus Intelligence, which counts DARPA amongst its customer base. The company plans to tell the Tails team about the issues "in due time", said Aaron Portnoy, co-founder and vice president of Exodus, but it isn't giving any information on a disclosure timeline. This means users of Tails are in danger of being de-anonymised. Even version 1.1, which hit public release today (22 July 2014), is affected. Snowden famously used Tails to manage the NSA files. The OS can be held on a USB stick and leaves no trace once removed from the drive. It uses the Tor network to avoid identification of the user, but such protections may be undone by the zero-day exploits Exodus holds.

    132 comments | about a week ago

  • No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months

    theodp (442580) writes So, what does Microsoft do for an encore after laying off 18,000 employees with a hilariously bad memo? Issue another bad memo — Changes to Microsoft Network and Building Access for External Staff — "to introduce a new policy [retroactive to July 1] that will better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information." How so? "The policy change affects [only] US-based external staff (including Agency Temporaries, Vendors and Business Guests)," Microsoft adds, "and limits their access to Microsoft buildings and the Microsoft corporate network to a period of 18 months, with a required six-month break before access may be granted again." Suppose Microsoft feels that's where the NSA went wrong with Edward Snowden? And if any soon-to-be-terminated Microsoft employees hope to latch on to a job with a Microsoft external vendor to keep their income flowing, they best think again. "Any Microsoft employee who separated from Microsoft on or after July 1, 2014," the kick-em-while-they're-down memo explains, "will be required to take a minimum 6-month break from access between the day the employee separates from Microsoft and the date when the former employee may begin an assignment as an External Staff performing services for Microsoft." Likely not just to prevent leaks, but also to prevent any contractors from being reclassified as employees.

    282 comments | about two weeks ago

  • UN Report Finds NSA Mass Surveillance Likely Violated Human Rights

    An anonymous reader writes A top United Nations human rights official released a report Wednesday that blasts the United States' mass surveillance programs for potentially violating human rights on a worldwide scale. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also praised whistleblower Edward Snowden and condemned U.S. efforts to prosecute him. "Those who disclose human rights violations should be protected," she said. "We need them." In particular, the surveillance programs violate Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    261 comments | about two weeks ago

  • German NSA Committee May Turn To Typewriters To Stop Leaks

    mpicpp (3454017) writes with news that Germany may be joining Russia in a paranoid switch from computers to typewriters for sensitive documents. From the article: Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the German parliament's National Security Agency investigative committee, now says he's considering expanding the use of manual typewriters to carry out his group's work. ... Sensburg said that the committee is taking its operational security very seriously. "In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it's even a non-electronic typewriter," he said. If Sensburg's suggestion takes flight, the country would be taking a page out of the Russian playbook. Last year, the agency in charge of securing communications from the Kremlin announced that it wanted to spend 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) to buy 20 electric typewriters as a way to avoid digital leaks.

    244 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek To Control the Internet

    Advocatus Diaboli writes The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, "amplif[y]" sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be "extremist." The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call. The tools were created by GCHQ's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG's use of "fake victim blog posts," "false flag operations," "honey traps" and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.

    117 comments | about two weeks ago

  • NSA Says Snowden Emails Exempt From Public Disclosure

    AHuxley (892839) writes "The Desk reports on a FOIA request covering "... all e-mails sent by Edward Snowden" and the NSA's refusal to release all documents. "The National Security Agency has acknowledged it retains a record of e-mail communications from former contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but says those records are exempt from public disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act. In a letter responding to a June 27 FOIA request from The Desk, the NSA’s chief FOIA officer Pamela Phillips wrote that while the agency has retained records related to Snowden’s employment as a contractor, they are being withheld from public examination because, among other things, releasing the records 'could interfere with law enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures.' Other records are being withheld because those documents were 'also found to be currently and properly classifiedand remains classified TOP SECRET, SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL.' The letter marks the first time the NSA has publicly acknowledged retaining communication and employment records related to Snowden’s time as a contractor."

    231 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Chinese State Media Declares iPhone a Threat To National Security

    MojoKid writes: "When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden came forth last year with U.S. government spying secrets, it didn't take long to realize that some of the information revealed could bring on serious repercussions — not just for the U.S. government, but also for U.S.-based companies. The latest to feel the hit? None other than Apple, and in a region the company has been working hard to increase market share: China. China, via state media, has today declared that Apple's iPhone is a threat to national security — all because of its thorough tracking capabilities. It has the ability to keep track of user locations, and to the country, this could potentially reveal "state secrets" somehow. It's being noted that the iPhone will continue to track the user to some extent even if the overall feature is disabled. China's iPhone ousting comes hot on the heels of Russia's industry and trade deeming AMD and Intel processors to be untrustworthy. The nation will instead be building its own ARM-based "Baikal" processor.

    143 comments | about three weeks ago

  • William Binney: NSA Records and Stores 80% of All US Audio Calls

    stephendavion sends a report at The Guardian about remarks from whistleblower William Binney, who left the NSA after its move toward overreaching surveillance following the September 11th attacks. Binney says, "At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the U.S. The NSA lies about what it stores." He added, "The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control, but I’m a little optimistic with some recent Supreme Court decisions, such as law enforcement mostly now needing a warrant before searching a smartphone." One of Binney's biggest concerns about government-led surveillance is its lack of oversight: "The FISA court has only the government’s point of view. There are no other views for the judges to consider. There have been at least 15-20 trillion constitutional violations for U.S. domestic audiences and you can double that globally."

    278 comments | about three weeks ago

  • After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart

    The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."

    219 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

    Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans — including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers — under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies. From the article: "The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called 'FISA recap.' Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also 'are or may be' engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens. ... The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press. Some have even climbed the ranks of the U.S. national security and foreign policy establishments."

    223 comments | about three weeks ago

  • The Billionaire Mathematician

    An anonymous reader writes Dr. James Simons received his doctorate at the age of 23. He was breaking codes for the NSA at 26, and was put in charge of Stony Brook University's math department at 30. He received the Veblen Prize in Geometry in 1976. Today, he's a multi-billionaire, using his fortune to set up educational foundations for math and science. "His passion, however, is basic research — the risky, freewheeling type. He recently financed new telescopes in the Chilean Andes that will look for faint ripples of light from the Big Bang, the theorized birth of the universe. The afternoon of the interview, he planned to speak to Stanford physicists eager to detect the axion, a ghostly particle thought to permeate the cosmos but long stuck in theoretical limbo. Their endeavor 'could be very exciting,' he said, his mood palpable, like that of a kid in a candy store." Dr. Simons is quick to say this his persistence, more than his intelligence, is key to his success: "I wasn't the fastest guy in the world. I wouldn't have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach."

    96 comments | about three weeks ago

  • New Snowden Leak: of 160000 Intercepted Messages, Only 10% From Official Targets

    An anonymous reader writes in with the latest news about NSA spying from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or "minimized," more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans' privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S. residents."

    201 comments | about three weeks ago

  • New Russian Law To Forbid Storing Russians' Data Outside the Country

    TechWeek Europe reports that on Friday Russia's parliament passed a law "which bans online businesses from storing personal data of Russian citizens on servers located abroad[.] ... According to ITAR-TAAS, the changes to existing legislation will come into effect in September 2016, and apply to email services, social networks and search engines, including the likes of Facebook and Google. Domain names or net addresses not complying with regulations will be put on a blacklist maintained by Roskomnadzor (the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications), the organisation which already has the powers to take down websites suspected of copyright infringement without a court order. In the case of non-compliance, Roskomnadzor will be able to impose 'sanctions,' and even instruct local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cut off access to the offending resource." According to the article, the "measure is widely seen as a response to reports about the intrusive surveillance practices of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s GCHQ. Edward Snowden, who revealed sensitive data about the operations of both, is currently residing in Russia, with his asylum application up for a review in a couple of months." The writer points out that this would mean many web sites would be legally unavailable altogether to Russian users.

    206 comments | about a month ago

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