As wars wind down, small-town police inherit armored vehicles

As wars wind down, small-town police inherit armored vehicles

Robert Shellmyer was relieved to see last week at his hometown’s 175th anniversary celebration that the local police department’s new prized possession was not driving alongside the tractors and floats in the parade.

 

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That’s because a 45,000-pound, explosion-resistant vehicle from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might spoil the mood.

Shellmyer, a 78-year-old city councilman for the small town of Washington, Iowa, was the sole local politician to vote against the department of 12 police officers getting the free MRAP — short for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle — from the Defense Department three months ago. Washington is one of hundreds of towns and cities to get a recycled MRAP from the Pentagon over the past year and a half.

“Here’s the thing,” Shellmyer says. “Washington, Iowa, has 8,000 people. We have an MRAP now. We have a SWAT team. We have [police] dogs, and we have a SWAT team transportation vehicle that’s not armored.”

The city councilman began to think: “Goodness, this is overkill.”

More at:

http://news.yahoo.com/as-wars-wind-down–small-town-cops-inherit-armored-vehicles-233505138.html

Syria jihadists now using Humvees seized in Iraq

Syria jihadists now using Humvees seized in Iraq

Beirut (AFP) – Jihadists fighting in Syria’s war put to use for the first time on Sunday American-made Humvees that they seized during a lightning offensive in Iraq this month, a monitor said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, used the armoured vehicles to capture the villages of Eksar and Maalal in Aleppo province, which borders Turkey, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It came after heavy fighting against the Islamic Front and its Al-Qaeda-affiliated ally, the Al-Nusra Front, said the Observatory, a Britain-based group that gets its information from a network of sources on the ground.

More at:

http://news.yahoo.com/syria-jihadists-now-using-humvees-seized-iraq-174644871.html?soc_src=copy

 

Yahoo webcam images from millions of users intercepted by GCHQ

Yahoo webcam images from millions of users intercepted by GCHQ

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy“.

GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The documents also chronicle GCHQ’s sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place.

NSA ragout 4                    

 

Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ’s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

One document even likened the program’s “bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events” to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.

“Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face,” it reads. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”

The agency did make efforts to limit analysts’ ability to see webcam images, restricting bulk searches to metadata only.

However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets, potentially dragging in large numbers of innocent people. One document tells agency staff they were allowed to display “webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target”.

Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ’s huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA’s XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo’s webcam traffic.

Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets”.

NSA ragout 3                    

 

Programs like Optic Nerve, which collect information in bulk from largely anonymous user IDs, are unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens. Unlike the NSA, GCHQ is not required by UK law to “minimize”, or remove, domestic citizens’ information from its databases. However, additional legal authorisations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.

There are no such legal safeguards for searches on people believed to be in the US or the other allied “Five Eyes” nations – Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

GCHQ insists all of its activities are necessary, proportionate, and in accordance with UK law.

The documents also show that GCHQ trialled automatic searches based on facial recognition technology, for people resembling existing GCHQ targets: “[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target’s ID”.

The undated document, from GCHQ’s internal wiki information site, noted this capability was “now closed … but shortly to return!”

The privacy risks of mass collection from video sources have long been known to the NSA and GCHQ, as a research document from the mid-2000s noted: “One of the greatest hindrances to exploiting video data is the fact that the vast majority of videos received have no intelligence value whatsoever, such as pornography, commercials, movie clips and family home movies.”

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: “Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”

The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains “undesirable nudity”. Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography.

NSA ragout 1                    

 

GCHQ did not make any specific attempts to prevent the collection or storage of explicit images, the documents suggest, but did eventually compromise by excluding images in which software had not detected any faces from search results – a bid to prevent many of the lewd shots being seen by analysts.

The system was not perfect at stopping those images reaching the eyes of GCHQ staff, though. An internal guide cautioned prospective Optic Nerve users that “there is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them”.

It further notes that “under GCHQ’s offensive material policy, the dissemination of offensive material is a disciplinary offence”.

Yahoo vows to encrypt all its users’ personal data

Yahoo vows to encrypt all its users’ personal data

SAN FRANCISCO    (AP) — Yahoo is expanding its efforts to protect its users’ online activities from prying eyes by encrypting all the communications and other information flowing into the Internet company’s data centers around the world.

The commitment announced Monday by Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer follows a recent Washington Post report that the National Security Agency has been hacking into the communications lines of the data centers run by Yahoo and Google Inc. to intercept information about what people do and say online.

Yahoo had previously promised to encrypt its email service by early January. Now, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company plans to have all data encrypted by the end of March to make it more difficult for unauthorized parties to decipher the information.

Google began to encrypt its Gmail service in 2010 and has since introduced the security measure on many other services. The Mountain View, Calif., company has promised to encrypt the links to its data centers, too. A Google engineer said that task had been completed in a post on his Google Plus account earlier this month, but the company hasn’t yet confirmed all the encryption work is done.

Other documents leaked to various media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year have revealed that Yahoo, Google and several other prominent technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc., have been feeding the U.S. government some information about their international users under a court-monitored program called PRISM. The companies maintain they have only surrendered data about a very small number of users, and have only cooperated when legally required.

The NSA says its online surveillance programs have played an instrumental role in thwarting terrorism.

The increased use of encryption technology is aimed at stymieing government surveillance that may be occurring without the companies’ knowledge. Even when it’s encrypted, online data can still be heisted, but the information looks like gibberish without the decoding keys.

“I want to reiterate what we have said in the past: Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote in a Monday post on the company’s Tumblr blog.

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NSA harvesting hundreds of millions of personal email contact lists – report

NSA harvesting hundreds of millions of personal email contact lists – report

The National Security Agency is logging hundreds of millions of email and instant messaging contacts belonging to Americans and others around the world, according to a report based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The data harvesting program, first reported by The Washington  Post Monday, collects address books from email and instant  messaging service in an apparent attempt to map social circles  across the globe. Online communication services frequently expose  an individual’s contact list when that person signs onto their  account, sends a message, or connects a remote device – such as a  cell phone – to a computer.

An internal NSA PowerPoint presentation indicated that the NSA’s  Special Source Operations collected 444,743 email lists from  Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from  Gmail, and another 22,881 from other services. The documents note  that those numbers show what the NSA collects in one day, meaning  the intelligence agency could collect more than 250 million lists  each year.

The NSA is capable of collecting approximately 500,000 so-called  buddy lists from live-chat services and the “in-box”   displays from web-based email services, according to the Post.

Two NSA sources told the Post the intelligence agency uses the  data to identify international connections and then find smaller,  more nefarious connections between suspected criminals. The  collection relies on secret deals with foreign telecommunication  companies, with NSA agents monitoring internet traffic outside  the US.

The sources refused to estimate how many Americans are snared in  the dragnet but did admit it could number in the tens of  millions. An unnamed official was careful to mention the  collection comes from “all over the world,” and “None  of those are on US territory.”

Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of  National Intelligence, said the NSA “is focused on discovering  and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence  targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers. We  are not interested in personal information about ordinary  Americans.”

How the NSA might use Hotmail, Yahoo or other cookies to identify Tor users

How the NSA might use Hotmail, Yahoo or other cookies to identify Tor users

One of the more intriguing revelations in the most recent leak of NSA documents is the prospect that the spy agency is using browser cookies from Yahoo, Hotmail or the Google-owned DoubleClick ad network to decloak users of the Tor anonymity service.

One slide from a June 2012 presentation titled “Tor Stinks” carried the heading “Analytics: Cookie Leakage” followed by the words “DoubleclickID seen on Tor and nonTor IPs.” The somewhat cryptic slide led to rampant speculation on Twitter and elsewhere that the NSA and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), are able to bypass Tor protections by somehow manipulating the cookies Google uses to track people who have viewed DoubleClick ads. Principal volunteers with the Tor Project believe such a scenario is “plausible,” but only in limited cases. Before explaining why, it helps to discuss how such an attack might work.

As documented elsewhere in the “Tor Stinks” presentation, the spy agencies sometimes use secret servers that are located on the Internet backbone to redirect some targets to another set of secret servers that impersonate the websites the targets intended to visit. Given their privileged location, the secret backbone nodes, dubbed “Quantum,” are able to respond to the requests faster than the intended server, allowing them to win a “race condition.” Government spies can’t track cookies within the Tor network, because traffic is encrypted during its circuitous route through three different relays. But if the spies can watch the Internet backbone, they may be able to grab or manipulate cookies once the data exits Tor and heads toward its final destination.

A slide later in the deck refers to something called “QUANTUMCOOKIE,” which purportedly “forces clients to divulge stored cookies.” There are multiple ways to interpret such a vague bullet point. One of the more plausible is that the Quantum backbone servers can be used to serve cookies not just from DoubleClick or Google, but from Yahoo, Hotmail, or any other widely used Internet service.