The National Security Agency’s spying powers are vast, but there are ways to thwart the agency’s snooping: Browse anonymously with Tor: NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been photographed with a Tor sticker on his laptop. Tor lets you use the Internet without revealing your IP address or other identifying information. The distributed network works by bouncing your traffic among several randomly selected proxy computers before sending it on to its real destination. Websites will think you are coming from whichever node your traffic happened to bounce off of last, which might be on the other side of the world.
Tor is easy to use. You can download the Tor Browser Bundle, a version of the Firefox browser that automatically connects to the Tor network for anonymous Web browsing. There is also an online identity-masking program called disconnect.me, which operates like Tor but claims to have an extra layer of protection that allows users to log into their personal accounts and still remain anonymous online. Among Internet search engines, DuckDuckGo, which does not store IP addresses, says it has seen record growth recently. Keep your chats private with OTR: If you use a conventional instant messaging service such as those offered by Google, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, logs of your chats may be accessible to the NSA through the PRISM program. But a chat extension called OTR — for “off the record” — offers “end-to-end” encryption. The server sees only the encrypted version of your conversations, thwarting eavesdropping.
To use OTR, both you and the person you are chatting with need to use instant messaging software that supports it. For example, a Mac OS X application called Adium works with Google, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo’s chat networks, among others. Windows and Linux users can use Pidgin. OTR works as an extension to conventional instant messaging networks, seamlessly adding privacy to the IM networks you may already use. You can configure Adium or Pidgin so that if a person you are chatting with is also running an OTR-capable client, it will automatically encrypt the conversation. Make secure calls with Silent Circle: The conventional telephone network is vulnerable to government wiretapping. And many Internet-based telephony applications, including Skype, are thought to be vulnerable to interception as well.
But one, called Silent Circle, is believed to be impervious to wiretapping, even by the NSA. Like OTR, it offers end-to-end encryption, meaning that the company running the service never has access to your unencrypted calls and thus can’t turn them over to the feds. The client software is open-source, and Chris Soghoian, chief technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union, says it has been independently audited to ensure that it doesn’t contain any “back doors.” There is also Wickr, a startup that makes an app to allow people to secure and “shred” data sent on mobile devices. Make secure calls with Redphone: Redphone is another application that makes phone calls with end-to-end encryption. Interestingly, it was developed with financial support from U.S. taxpayers, courtesy of the Open Technology Fund.
The government hopes to support dissidents living under repressive regimes overseas. But the only way to build a communications application that people will trust is to make it impervious to snooping by any government, including in the U.S. So like Silent Circle, the Redphone client software is open-source and has been independently audited. Remove your cellphone battery to thwart tracking: The NSA phone records program initially revealed by British newspaper The Guardian not only collects information about what phone numbers you call but data about the location of the nearest cellphone tower. That gives the NSA the ability to determine your location every time you make a phone call — and maybe in between calls, too.
Unfortunately, there is no technical fix for this kind of surveillance. “The laws of physics will not let you hide your location from the phone company,” Soghoian said, since the phone company needs to know where you are in order to reach you when you receive a call. Encrypt your emails: Emails sent across the Web are like postcards. In some cases, they are readable by anyone standing between you and its recipient. That can include your web-mail company, your Internet service provider and whoever is tapped into the fiber-optic cable passing your message around the globe — not to mention a parallel set of observers on the recipient’s side of the world.
To beat the snoops, experts recommend encryption, which scrambles messages in transit and makes them unreadable to anyone trying to intercept them. Techniques vary, but a popular one is called PGP, short for “pretty good privacy.” PGP is effective enough that the U.S. government tried to block its export in the mid-1990s, arguing that it was so powerful it should be classed as a weapon. However, encryption can be clunky. And to work, both parties have to be using it. Sascha Meinrath, who heads a New America Foundation program helping users maintain secure and private communications in totalitarian countries, said the postal service cannot open mail without probable cause “and yet the government is saying that if that is an electronic communication they have a right to surveillance. The privacy of our correspondence is fundamental to our democracy.”
Cut up your credit cards: The Wall Street Journal says the NSA is monitoring American credit card records in addition to phone calls. So stick to cash, or, if you are more adventurous, use electronic currencies to move your money around. Credit cards are a mainstay of the world payment system, so washing your hands of plastic money is among the most difficult moves you can make. In any case, some cybercurrency systems offer only limited protection from government snooping, and many carry significant risks. The value of Bitcoin, one of the better-known forms of electronic cash, has oscillated wildly, while users of another popular online currency, Liberty Reserve, were left out of pocket after the company behind it was busted by international law enforcement.
Don’t keep your data in the U.S. or with American companies: U.S. businesses are subject to U.S. law, including the Patriot Act, whose interpretations are classified. Although the exact parameters of the PRISM data-mining program revealed by The Guardian and The Washington Post remain up for debate, what we do know is that a variety of law enforcement officials — not just at the NSA — can secretly demand your electronic records without a warrant through an instrument known as a National Security Letter. Such silent requests are made by the thousands every year.
Steer clear of malicious software: If they can’t track it, record it or intercept it, an increasing number of spies aren’t shy about hacking their way in to steal your data outright. Snowden warned The Guardian that his agency had been on a worldwide binge of cyberattacks. “We hack everyone everywhere,” he said. Former officials don’t appear to contradict him. Former NSA chief Michael Hayden described it as “commuting to where the information is stored and extracting the information from the adversaries’ network.” In a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Hayden boasted that “we are the best at doing it. Period.” Malicious software used by hackers can be extremely hard to spot. But installing an antivirus program, avoiding attachments, frequently changing passwords, dodging suspicious websites, creating a firewall and always making sure your software is up to date is a good start.
Let’s face it: Most of us don’t e-mail, tweet, text or post anything worthy of clandestine scrutiny. But having concerns about NSA cybersnooping doesn’t mean we must surrender all privacy — what’s left of it — in our day-to-day online activities. It’s easy to forget that we’re volunteering basic information about ourselves in return for free e-mail, social networking and other digital services. And let’s remember that third parties — from government agencies to cybercriminals — can get their hands on even more personal stuff if they’re actively trying. So, whether it’s due to a vague fear of Big Brother or a more specific desire to keep your bank information out of the hands of thieves, you might be considering ways to keep your communication more secure.
“So much that’s geo-political, so much cybercrime, so many struggles of various types are being played out in terms of information security today,” said Wade Williamson, a senior security analyst at Palo Alto Networks. “It’s not just that people decided to get interested in encryption all of a sudden.” Specifically, encryption has come up a lot in recent days. For one, NSA whistleblower (some would say “traitor”) Edward Snowden said Monday in an online question-and-answer session that e-mail encryption is an effective way of foiling government surveillance. “Encryption works,” he wrote. “Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”
Encryption is a method of securing your files, including e-mail, by encoding it so that the intended recipient can read it, but anyone who may intercept the message along the way cannot. An encryption tool turns your original message (called “plaintext”) into a garbled mess (or “ciphertext”) while it’s flying from Point A to Point B. The system gives the approved recipient a decryption tool which makes the text readable once it arrives at its destination. With all of the renewed interest in online privacy, we talked with Williamson about ways to help keep your data secure — before, during and after sending it.
First things first. There are ways to make your contact with every website you visit more secure. A “secure sockets layer” (SSL) provides a layer of security during everything from Web browsing to text messaging. Many major websites offer the option of using a secure connection all the time. Williamson and other security experts suggest doing this when given the option. If not — sometimes it can be as easy as tweaking “http” to “https” in your browser’s address bar. “By and large, you can just throw an ‘S’ into the URL and go to town,” Williamson said. There are also tools like HTTPS Everywhere, a free extension for Chrome and Firefox browsers, that encrypt your connection with most major websites.
Most major e-mail services, like Outlook and Gmail, offer some form of encryption. Check your e-mail’s security settings for options. But for people who are really worried about their e-mails being intercepted — and that’s always just an unsecured network and an eager hacker away — Williamson suggests buying encryption software. (Note: His company focuses on network security and does not sell encryption software to individuals). With many of the systems, customers will get digital “certificates” for themselves called private keys. Everyone with whom they want to share encrypted messages will receive public keys. Using such a system, only someone with one of a user’s public certificates could descramble a message’s content.
So, your data may be secure while it’s hurtling through cyberspace. But what if somebody breaks into your car, where you stupidly left your laptop, and makes off with it? That’s where disk encryption comes in. There’s some free disk encryption software floating around in the open-source community, but for most folks this, too, will cost some cash. In effect, disk encryption scrambles everything stored to your computer, requiring a password or other approved recovery tool to decode it. So, if your computer falls into the wrong hands, all won’t be lost. To summarize, there are lots of encryption and other security options out there. Some are quick, easy and free. Others are going to cost money for specialized software, hardware or both. To find a level of security you’re comfortable with, start by poking around with security settings on your browser, e-mail client and favorite websites. Then consider whether you want professional help to get to the next level.
BUDAPEST, Hungary | DMN — Hungarian prosecutors have charged a 98-year-old man, Laszlo Csatary, with participation in Nazi war crimes. He is under arrest in Hungary, accused of assisting in the murder of 15,700 Jews during World War II. He denies the allegations. In 1944 he was serving in the Nazi police in Kosice, now in Slovakia. The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center says Mr Csatary oversaw deportations of Jews to the Auschwitz death camp.
The indictment accuses Mr Csatary of torturing and murdering Jews – partly as a culprit, partly as an accomplice. It says he was the chief of an internment camp for Jews in Kosice, and that he beat them with his bare hands and a dog whip. “With his actions, Laszlo Csatary… deliberately provided help to the unlawful executions and torture committed against Jews deported to concentration camps… from Kosice,” the prosecutors’ statement said. His trial is expected to start within three months. Mr Csatary insists that he was merely an intermediary between Hungarian and German officials in Kosice and that he was not involved in war crimes.
Kosice – called Kassa at the time – was the site of the first Jewish ghetto established on Hungarian territory, following the German occupation of the country in 1944. In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court condemned Mr Csatary to death, in absentia, for torturing Jews. Mr Csatary fled to Canada after the war, where he worked as an art dealer in Montreal and Toronto. He disappeared in 1997 after being stripped of his Canadian citizenship. He was in 2012 named by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as its most wanted suspect. He was tracked down in Budapest by reporters from the UK’s Sun newspaper in July 2012, with help from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He was put under house arrest. He has also been charged in Slovakia.
· In 1948, Csatary was convicted in absentia in Czechoslovakia for war crimes and sentenced to death
· He escaped to Canada and lived under an assumed identity working as an art dealer
· He fled Canada when he was discovered in 1997 while the Canadian government was building a case for his deportation
· He was discovered in Budapest almost a year ago after SWC Chief Nazi Hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff received a tip through ‘Operation Last Chance’
· Dr. Zuroff submitted information on his whereabouts and crimes to the Hungarian prosecutors in September 2011
· Last week Zuroff provided the chief prosecutor in Budapest new details on Csatary’s crimes and victims
· There is no commitment that the case on the aging accused Nazi will be expedited
In a statement, the prosecutors said Csatary had regularly hit Jewish prisoners with a dog-whip in 1944 when he was a police commander overseeing a detention camp in Kosice, which was then part of Hungary and is now in Slovakia. Around 12,000 Jews were deported from Kosice to various concentration camps, mostly to Auschwitz. “With his actions, Laszlo Csatary … deliberately provided help to the unlawful executions and torture committed against Jews deported to concentration camps … from Kosice,” the prosecutors’ statement said.
DENVER, Colorado | DMN — A tornado at Denver International Airport was confirmed by radar at 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday, the National Weather Service confirmed. A tornado warning was issued for northeastern Denver County and western Adams County, but expired at 2:45 p.m. DIA passengers took shelter in restrooms, stairwells and other interior areas, but they later were given the all-clear and began streaming back into the main terminal areas, airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said. Montgomery said there were no reports of damage or injuries.
Airport officials had confirmed a funnel cloud east of DIA, he said. No planes took off or landed during the tornado warning, but Montgomery said he wasn’t sure whether planes were diverted to other airports. Kate O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Frontier Airlines, said all passengers who were already on planes were off loaded and taken to shelters in the terminal. O’Malley said there are no reports of any Frontier flights that were diverted because of the storm. Frontier employees at the general offices and call centers also evacuated during the storm warning.
Tornado sirens went off in the northeast metro area at 2:15 p.m. “Take cover now!” the weather service warned. “Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.” Earlier the National Weather Service had warned of a chance of severe weather Tuesday afternoon along the Front Range. The greatest chance for moisture this afternoon is east of a line stretching from Greeley to DIA, the weather service said, “where severe storms will be possible with golf-ball size hail and damaging winds.” A tornado is possible.
Farther west the weather service expects brief heavy rain with small hail and wind gusts up to 50 mph. The forecast for Denver is a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon, dropping to a 20 percent chance overnight. On Wednesday the forecast for Denver is for sunny skies and a high temperature of 93 degrees.
ASHLAND, Ohio | DMN — A mentally disabled woman and her daughter were held in an Ohio apartment for two years, forced to perform manual labor and threatened with dogs and snakes to keep them compliant, federal authorities said Tuesday. The people accused of holding the woman and child captive in the Ashland, Ohio, apartment collected the woman’s government benefits and beat her in order to get painkillers for themselves, federal prosecutors announced. The suspects — 26-year-old Jordie Callahan, 31-year-old Jessica Hunt and 33-year-old Daniel Brown — are charged with forced labor, with Callahan facing an additional count of witness tampering, the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland said in a statement detailing the allegations.
The apartment was home to “numerous” pit bulls and reptiles, including pythons and a venomous coral snake, which the woman’s captors used to keep her in line, prosecutors said. They said her situation was discovered in October when the woman, identified only as “S.E.,” was arrested for trying to steal a candy bar and asked to be taken to jail. Ashland is about 60 miles south of Cleveland, where three women were rescued in May from the home of a man police said had held them captive for about a decade. In this case, the woman federal prosecutors identified as the victim had originally been arrested on a state child-welfare charge as part of the case, Ashland Police Chief David Marcelli told CNN.
“The officers that took that complaint detected that there was other issues aside from the shoplifting,” Marcelli said. He said officers had had “numerous involvements” with the people involved, “and in the course of interviewing her, they discovered the rest of these facts slowly.” According to prosecutors, Callahan showed police a mobile-phone video of S.E. beating her child. S.E. told police that she had been told to do so by Callahan and Hunt and that Callahan threatened to show police the video if she “messed up” or went to authorities. Once the full picture emerged, Ashland police called in the FBI, “and shortly after, the suspects were indicted,” Marcelli said. S.E.’s daughter is now in the custody of state child-welfare officials, he said.
The suspects began keeping S.E. and her child in a state of virtual slavery starting in May 2011, prosecutors said. “Callahan and Hunt recruited S.E. and her child to live with them in their two-bedroom apartment in Ashland,” along with Hunt’s four sons and their collection of pets. They kept tabs on her with a baby monitor, with Hunt taking the woman’s government benefit cards. “Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to clean the house, do laundry, walk to the store to do their shopping and care for their numerous pit bulls and reptiles,” the prosecution statement said. Her child was kept in the apartment when she was sent to the store, they said.
DAVIE, Florida | DMN — A surveillance video reveals the shocking moment a special needs teacher grabbed an autistic child by his hair before throwing him to the ground. The Florida teacher, David Baier, lost his job at the school where the alleged abuse took place, and faces four counts of child cruelty. ‘I wanted what was best for my son, and I trusted these people,’ the 12-year-old boy’s mother, known only as Wendy, said. The incident happened at a summer camp field trip organized by Davie Preparatory School, for children with emotional and behavioral problems, on July 27 last year.
Prosecutors claim Baier was captured forcibly throwing the autistic student to the floor, before pulling him by his hair and forcing him to stand. ‘I was going to say if you do that again I’m going to slam you,’ Baier can be heard saying on the security footage, shown by 7News. The child was being disciplined after reportedly earlier stomping on Baier’s foot. He had been ordered to stand, but had crouched down by the chair. The student can be heard crying: ‘No, no, no,’ as Baier walks over to him in a classroom, and grabs him by the hair. ‘Now stand up and stay standing or I’m going to have to do something worse,’ the teacher can be heard telling the child, whose identity has been protected.
As the child whimpers and rubs his head, Baier can be heard telling him: ‘I didn’t think it was going to feel good.’ When he asked the student why he had misbehaved earlier, the boy accused Baier of being pushy. Moments later Baier grabbed the autistic student by his neck and threw him to the ground. His mother, Wendy, was distressed by the ‘thought of somebody doing this to my son and hurting him and putting him through that and not caring,’ she told CBS Miami. Although the child was not physically hurt, Wendy decided to press charges after her son returned from school and told her: ‘Mommy, he pulled my hair, and he threw me and it hurt.’
Captain Dale Engle, of Davie Police Department, said more than a dozen complaints about the school had been received from parents since Baier’s arrest. ‘I understand that some of these teachers are forced to use some type of physical force to restrain these children,’ Captain Engle said. ‘But based on what I saw on the video, it was well in excess of what any acceptable force would be,’ he told the Sun Sentinel in April. After the family reported the alleged abuse, Baier was fired from the Alternative Education Foundation Preparatory School. He was bonded out of jail in August last year and is currently awaiting trial. Neither Baier or his attorney were available for comment.
LONDON, United Kingdom | DMN — Mass interception of entire populations is not only a reality, it is a secret new industry spanning 25 countries It sounds like something out of Hollywood, but as of today, mass interception systems, built by Western intelligence contractors, including for ’political opponents’ are a reality. Today WikiLeaks began releasing a database of hundreds of documents from as many as 160 intelligence contractors in the mass surveillance industry. Working with Bugged Planet and Privacy International, as well as media organizations form six countries – ARD in Germany, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK, The Hindu in India, L’Espresso in Italy, OWNI in France and the Washington Post in the U.S. Wikileaks is shining a light on this secret industry that has boomed since September 11, 2001 and is worth billions of dollars per year. WikiLeaks has released 287 documents today, but the Spy Files project is ongoing and further information will be released this week and into next year.
International surveillance companies are based in the more technologically sophisticated countries, and they sell their technology on to every country of the world. This industry is, in practice, unregulated. Intelligence agencies, military forces and police authorities are able to silently, and on mass, and secretly intercept calls and take over computers without the help or knowledge of the telecommunication providers. Users’ physical location can be tracked if they are carrying a mobile phone, even if it is only on stand by. But the WikiLeaks Spy Files are more than just about ’good Western countries’ exporting to ’bad developing world countries’. Western companies are also selling a vast range of mass surveillance equipment to Western intelligence agencies. In traditional spy stories, intelligence agencies like MI5 bug the phone of one or two people of interest. In the last ten years systems for indiscriminate, mass surveillance have become the norm. Intelligence companies such as VASTech secretly sell equipment to permanently record the phone calls of entire nations. Others record the location of every mobile phone in a city, down to 50 meters. Systems to infect every Facebook user, or smart-phone owner of an entire population group are on the intelligence market.
Selling Surveillance to Dictators
When citizens overthrew the dictatorships in Egypt and Libya this year, they uncovered listening rooms where devices from Gamma corporation of the UK, Amesys of France, VASTech of South Africa and ZTE Corp of China monitored their every move online and on the phone. Surveillance companies like SS8 in the U.S., Hacking Team in Italy and Vupen in France manufacture viruses (Trojans) that hijack individual computers and phones (including iPhones, Blackberries and Androids), take over the device, record its every use, movement, and even the sights and sounds of the room it is in. Other companies like Phoenexia in the Czech Republic collaborate with the military to create speech analysis tools. They identify individuals by gender, age and stress levels and track them based on ‘voiceprints’. Blue Coat in the U.S. and Ipoque in Germany sell tools to governments in countries like China and Iran to prevent dissidents from organizing online.
Trovicor, previously a subsidiary of Nokia Siemens Networks, supplied the Bahraini government with interception technologies that tracked human rights activist Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar. He was shown details of personal mobile phone conversations from before he was interrogated and beaten in the winter of 2010-2011.
How Mass Surveillance Contractors Share Your Data with the State
In January 2011, the National Security Agency broke ground on a $1.5 billion facility in the Utah desert that is designed to store terabytes of domestic and foreign intelligence data forever and process it for years to come. Telecommunication companies are forthcoming when it comes to disclosing client information to the authorities – no matter the country. Headlines during August’s unrest in the UK exposed how Research in Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry, offered to help the government identify their clients. RIM has been in similar negotiations to share BlackBerry Messenger data with the governments of India, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Weaponizing Data Kills Innocent People
There are commercial firms that now sell special software that analyze this data and turn it into powerful tools that can be used by military and intelligence agencies. For example, in military bases across the U.S., Air Force pilots use a video link and joystick to fly Predator drones to conduct surveillance over the Middle East and Central Asia. This data is available to Central Intelligence Agency officials who use it to fire Hellfire missiles on targets. The CIA officials have bought software that allows them to match phone signals and voice prints instantly and pinpoint the specific identity and location of individuals. Intelligence Integration Systems, Inc., based in Massachusetts – sells a “location-based analytics” software called Geospatial Toolkit for this purpose. Another Massachusetts company named Netezza, which bought a copy of the software, allegedly reverse engineered the code and sold a hacked version to the Central Intelligence Agency for use in remotely piloted drone aircraft.
IISI, which says that the software could be wrong by a distance of up to 40 feet, sued Netezza to prevent the use of this software. Company founder Rich Zimmerman stated in court that his “reaction was one of stun, amazement that they (CIA) want to kill people with my software that doesn’t work.”
Across the world, mass surveillance contractors are helping intelligence agencies spy on individuals and ‘communities of interest’ on an industrial scale. The Wikileaks Spy Files reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.
How to use the Spy Files
To search inside those files, click one of the link on the left pane of this page, to get the list of documents by type, company date or tag. To search all these companies on a world map use the following tool from Owni