Archive for the ‘Fear your government’ Category

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Eyes on you

February 24, 2017

I came across this via Atlas Obscura. Res ipsa loquitur.

david_cerny_trifot_1

“Trifot” is a kinetic sculpture by Czech installation artist David Černý, who is known for his whimsical, provocative works like the babies crawling up Žižkov Tower and a bus doing push ups. This sculpture, installed outside the Czech Photo Centre gallery, offers a decidedly dark perspective on surveillance and privacy.

The 40-foot-tall statue is modeled on vintage cameras with eyeballs in place of lenses. The bulging eyes swivel about independently, watching passersby, who might be shocked to find themselves broadcast onto one of six monitors in the area.

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Just shut up and president (2)

January 28, 2017

David Harsyani writes a good column about how those who are supposed to serve the public prefer to lecture it instead. Get ’em, David!

Stop Telling Us How to Be Patriotic

Politicians have no business directing or defining patriotism, especially when their rhetoric sounds like 1950s-era Soviet sloganeering.

It was creepy when former President Barack Obama declared his first Inauguration Day as “National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation” and called upon us to find “common purpose of remaking this nation for our new century.” And it’s creepy when President Donald Trump declares his Inauguration Day as “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,” one in which “a new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart.”

This kind of self-aggrandizement is what you see under cults of personality, not American republicanism. Far be it from me to lecture anyone on how to love their country, but if your devotion to America is contingent upon the party or the person in office, you’re probably not doing it quite like the Founding Fathers envisioned. […]

We just survived eight years of a messianic presidency with a finger-wagging, patriotism-appropriating administration lecturing us on how to be proper Americans. If you didn’t support the administration’s point of view, then-Vice President Joe Biden might accuse you of “betting against America.” […]

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Thanks, Obama

January 26, 2017

You know, I managed to avoid using this title for a post all through Obama’s term in office. But he finally roused me to use it.

In short, what gets collected in Utah doesn’t stay in Utah anymore.

Here’s Judge Andrew Napolitano writing at Reason about a recent order by former Attorney General Lynch. (My emphasis.)

President Obama’s Parting Shot at Personal Freedom
To make things more convenient for the government, the Obama administration makes it easier for agencies to spy on citizens.

On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency — America’s 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus — to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did.

Here is the back story. […]

This is the New York Times article Mr. Napolitano links in his post. (I assume it was the basis for his post. My emphasis again.)

N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications

WASHINGTON — In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people. […]

At the risk of saying this too many times, let me repeat that you should never expect privacy (or anonymity) when using electronic messaging – e-mail, text, voice, and (probably) internet chat as well.

That’s not just a projection based the news items above; it’s based on stories I’ve heard from people. Your past can come back to haunt you. You probably don’t want to happen when you’re up against an over-eager prosecutor.

Protect your privacy.

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The beams in our eyes

December 26, 2016

Saying “The Russians hacked the election” is really lame in my view. It’s the kind of statement intended to get a knee-jerk reaction from the implication that Russians hacked the voting process. I don’t know of any reputable claims of that happening and I don’t believe it did.

Since the Democrats don’t disavow the content of their hacked e-mails, their claim that they were injured by the release of those messages basically shows that they were hoist by their own petard. "Oops… we didn’t want that to go public."

FWIW, the Wall Street Journal reports that Russian hackers tried to get into the Republicans’ systems too.

So John Podesta was hacked. The election was not.

Or see this tweet for an even pithier (and more amusing) summary.

Personally, I thought that Jonathon Gruber’s comments about how the PPACA was passed would be enough to keep anyone from voting for Secretary Clinton.


But all that said, a separate and more important point is that the U.S. isn’t blameless in this regard. This article from the Independent Institute’s The Beacon recounts ways the U.S. has interfered in the elections or governments of other countries.

Russia’s Election Hacks Are Child’s Play

The FBI and CIA are in agreement that Russia in some way interfered in the U.S. election. What is known so far is that Russian hackers were able to access the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Hackers also breached the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

According to sources, the Russian government sought to hinder the Clinton campaign and work to assist Trump in winning the presidency. […]

People seem floored by these revelations. How could Russia interfere in the workings of the U.S. political process? How dare they try to manipulate the outcome of a presidential election?!

I’m reminded of a Biblical passage.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own?

Those barking loudly over Russia’s involvement with the U.S. political process would do well to take a look at the history of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government has a long history, some two hundred years long, of interfering in the politics of other countries—and we’re not just talking emails. […]

1898—In the aftermath of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. government invaded the Philippines, reneging on a deal with Philippine rebels to help the nation win independence and overthrowing the country’s new government.

1903—The U.S. government helped Panama secede from Colombia. […]

1953—The U.S. government launched operations to overthrow the government in Guatemala. […]

1958-1960—CIA engineered at least three coups in Laos.

1966—Kwame Nkrumah was the Prime Minister of Ghana when the country gained independence from the British. The U.S. government was not fond of his socialist, anti-imperialist views. As such, the U.S. government, via the CIA, worked to oust him in a coup in 1966.

(Note: the above is woefully incomplete. For a couple more list of U.S. efforts to interfere in other countries’ governance, see here and here.) […]

And this article doesn’t mention either the U.S. involvement in the Iranian coup of 1953 (which succeeded) or the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 (which failed).


Update 1/1/17::

A little humor about the DNC hacking from IowaHawk, who was on a roll last Friday (the 30th).

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You’re on your own. Act accordingly.

December 16, 2016

This post originally appeared October 5th, 2016. (My emphasis.)

surveillance, whistleblowing, and security engineering

[Update (12/14/16): Reuters has specified that the rootkit was implemented as a Linux kernel module. Wow.]

Yesterday morning, Reuters dropped a news story revealing that Yahoo installed a backdoor on their own infrastructure in 2015 in compliance with a secret order from either the FBI or the NSA. While we all know that the US government routinely asks tech companies for surveillance help, a couple aspects of the Yahoo story stand out:

1. The backdoor was installed in such a way that it was intercepting and querying all Yahoo Mail users’ emails, not just emails of investigation targets.

2. The program was implemented so carelessly that it could have allowed hackers to read all incoming Yahoo mail. Of course this also means FBI/NSA could have been reading all incoming Yahoo mail.

3. Yahoo execs deliberately bypassed review from the security team when installing the backdoor. In fact, when members of the security team found it within weeks of its installation, they immediately assumed it had been installed by malicious hackers, rather than Yahoo’s own mail team. (This says something about what the backdoor code may have looked like.)

4. Yahoo apparently made no effort to challenge this overly-broad surveillance order which needlessly put hundreds of millions of users at risk.

At the time this was happening, I was on the Yahoo Security team leading development on the End-to-End project. According to the Reuters report, the mail backdoor was installed at almost the exact same time that Alex Stamos and I announced the open-source launch of a Chrome extension for easy-to-use end-to-end encryption in Yahoo Mail at SXSW 2015. Ironically, if only we had been able to actually ship E2E, we would have given users a way to protect themselves from the exact backdoor scenario that they ended up in! […]

Most of all, keep pushing for end-to-end encryption.

H.T. Paul B

Since you can’t generally verify your e-mail provider’s security, you can’t trust their security. The only alternative is to provide your own security.

And the bigger lesson is that the U.S. government is relentless in its secret surveillance.

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Feliz Navidad, Venezuela

December 11, 2016

Ho, ho, ho… The socialist destruction of Venezuelan society grinds on.

The BBC reports:

Venezuela seizes Christmas toys to distribute to poor

Venezuelan authorities have arrested two toy company executives and seized almost four million toys, which they say they will distribute to the poor.

Officials accused the company of hoarding toys and hiking prices in the run-up to Christmas.
Last week, the government issued an order to retailers to reduce prices on a range of goods by 30%.

Business owners say the order is a populist political move, and pushing them towards bankruptcy.

Venezuela’s consumer protection agency, Sundde, said toy distributor Kreisel had stockpiled the goods and was reselling them at a margin of up to 50,000%.

“Our children are sacred, we will not let them rob you of Christmas,” it said in a tweet, along with photos and video of thousands of boxes of toys.

[One tweet in Spanish omitted here.]

[…]

Via InternationalLiberty


During this last year, the Venezuelan government and its opposition have been in talks mediated by the Vatican. The topics ranged from politics to allowing humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. Here’s a report from the Caracas Chronicles about the humanitarian aid.

The government steals medicine donated by the Catholic church
The Humanitarian Channel Today

Remember the "Humanitarian Channel" the government and the opposition had agreed to set up in Vatican-mediated talks? That’s right, the one that was meant to be administered by Caritas, the Catholic Church’s global charity. That one.

How’s that been going?

Well, funny you should ask…

[Five tweets in Spanish omitted here.]

In short, the government’s tax inspectorate, Seniat, openly announces that they’re impounding church-donated medicines at port because they lack requisite customs paperwork. The shipment was declared "legally abandoned" and then "adjudicated" to the government-run Social Security administration.

You’d think that would make for some awkwardness at the next set of talks, right?

Joke’s on you: the government’s not going to talks anymore, sucker!


Left image caption: I hate you all…
Text: The ‘Grinch’ of Maduro and Diosdado robbed the Venezuelans of Christmas. The saddest in the 21st century

(Who’s Diosdado? The Frank Underwood of Venezuela.)

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What he said (11)

December 9, 2016

John Stossel wrote an op-ed and closed it with this:

I don’t want a “strong leader.” I want a president of this constitutional republic to preside over limited government and leave us free to lead our own lives.

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