Facebook Expands To Spy On The Workforce

Apparently Facebook is trying to be a better spy.  They’re integrating common workplace apps such as Microsoft Sharepoint and many other commonly used digital tools in the workplace.  This is a strategic move so they could sell this data to the highest bidder in order for another IT company to get an advantage over the competition.  With this new level of spying Facebook gets an idea of what tools people prefer since they already know more than we do about ourselves.  As with people data, data based on their work habits is extremely valuable as it filters up to knowing how their workplace functions.

I admit this was written nearly entirely with sarcasm but I’m really not joking.

Your Car, TV, Phone, Computer and Other Devices Spy On You

Years ago this would be called a “conspiracy theory” but now that the CIA’s “Vault 7” hacking tools have been released this is an established truth.  What’s more scary is the revelation applies to pretty much all computing devices and all OS’s.   The CIA has found exploits and used backdoors into the various devices.  I suspect the backdoors and some vulnerabilities were forcefully injected by the US government.  To make it more scary we have the NSA’s PRISM and this combined with the CIA dump is alarming because those entities combined with other governments surely have a lot more than what has been revealed.  It is not a stretch but rather insane to believe you are not likely being watched and listened to.  We haven’t even covered well funded, private hacking groups.

There are two issues here.  The first one is companies who willingly create vulnerabilities and backdoors at the request of governments and private groups.  The second issue is compounded by the first one where on top of that many products and companies also spy on their customers and also share that data with third party companies and governments at will without any disclosure or regulation.

It’s more than just following where you’ve gone and listening and watching you, the new smart vehicles can be hacked and likely have government mandated malware or backdoors.  Imagine if a government doesn’t like someone and they suddenly have a tragic accident.  There is absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t be the case and perhaps one day we may learn of cases of bizarre traffic accidents that were not really accidents at all.

On an interesting note the “Marble Framework” was released which is essentially an anti-forensic tool to make it difficult for malware and virus experts to attribute the code to the CIA or the US government.  The framework would essentially make it look like enemies of the US such as China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea were responsible for cyberattacks and malware that the US itself had created.

With all this it sounds hopeless but it is not, Edward Snowden famously stated “do not give up on encryption” as clearly not everything is hackable and compromised, there are steps we can take to prevent ourselves from being hacked by the government.  Edward Snowden’s comments and actions are of particular use, the fact that he still says to use encryption means there are ways to be secure.  We should also remember that he used the Tails distribution for communication and used OpenPGP, so it appears at least in the recent past, this was a secure and unbreakable way of communicating.

“What last year’s revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default,” he said. — Edward Snowden

How can you protect yourself?  There are steps we can take but avoiding the usage of free, insecure services to communicate such as gmail,facebook,whatsapp and also avoiding products that spy on us.  Try to get an older TV or if you get a newer one rip it open and disable the microphone, wifi etc.  If you drive a vehicle consider again seeing if it is possible to disable some of the spying features on it or drive an older vehicle without technology that logs and calls home.  It’s time to get armed and follow certain procedures, avoid certain products and make it as a difficult as possible to be spied on.  Although the programs and hacking methods, groups like the CIA possess are incredible, not all are guaranteed to be successful especially on those who do not run default or standard settings.

Did Facebook, Zuckerberg and Big Data Elect Trump?

New revelations about SCL and CA (Cambridge Analytica) have revealed that they may have even altered the Brexit Vote.  In fact an article quotes the CEO of Camridge Analytica as bragging that they got Trump elected using dirty and undetectable tricks.

If any of these is true it is safe to assume that Cambridge Analytica is not alone, and they have likely influenced more than just the US election.  What’s more, there could be other companies that Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and other US based social platforms used data from whether knowingly or unknowingly.  This has been the big evil that I’ve warned about for years, that these free social platforms are analyzing and mining your data for bad purposes.  Apparently there are no limits to the violation of your privacy, proven social experiments conducted by Facebook and likely the others etc..  It’s all in their TOS essentially.  It’s well known that using any of those platforms including Gmail is the same as typing your most personal thoughts and messages to the bots and analysts at the big social media companies and government minders.

Going back to all of this, I thought we were told that it was the Russians who elected Trump (without any evidence ever being provided mind you)?   Now it comes out that private companies based in the West have been influencing elections and I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.  The bigger question is who are the clients of Cambridge Analytica?  I don’t think we have to look far considering the relationship to the UK government and Royal Family.

 

Why Deleting Facebook Is Futile Unless…..

I’ve had this conversion with a lot of people over the years and what I’ve found is that the majority of people are complacent about privacy and security.  In a way it is good that some have woken up to what Facebook is and has been doing but this idea of some floated around that “I will trust Facebook until it gave me reason not to”.  This is a completely flawed idea in my opinion.  Facebook was never trustworthy and its TOS always gave it a right to violate your privacy, harvest your data for both government and marketing purposes etc… In fact Google, Gmail, Hotmail, Telegram, Whatsapp and the list goes on are free for a reason.  One, they make money by spying on you and they also provide a great backdoor to the NSA to spy on you (hopefully everyone now understand the PRISM spying network).

There were times where some would debate about the length and depth of spying by major free services but this is no longer in debate.  If you are using these freebie services and just delete Facebook alone you haven’t done enough.

Here are some steps to secure yourself and your privacy:

Delete Everything!

Seriously stop using these free chat and e-mail services and tell your friends and family that you won’t communicate via those mediums.

Secure Your E-mail

Use your very own, owned e-mail server with encryption including GnuPG to encrypt e-mails in both transit and storage.  There are providers who can get you a VPS or full Dedicated Server for this purpose.  You will probably find that your e-mail stops going missing, is fast and more reliable to boot!

Stop Using US Based Massive Cloud Servers

This could be in the form of an Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba VPS instance but you can expect that those services will not be keeping your data private and most likely have been obliged to allow backdoor access to your server and data.

Another type of user would again be those who “store data in the Microsoft, Google or Apple Cloud”.  Stop using those services if you value your privacy.

Secure Your Chat

Everyone likes instant chat but did you ever wonder why all the traditional chat services like ICQ and MSN Messenger shutdown?  My belief is that being forced to chat on your phone makes it easier to both identify and track you but also to spy on you.  Once again top offenders are Telegram, Whatsapp and any similar ones.

To secure your chat you should run your own encrypted chat server.

These are just a few common sense things you can do to make it much more difficult to have your rights and privacy violated.  Personal and intimate moments shouldn’t be uploaded to the Cloud for corporate and government agencies to peruse!]

In general try to think in a security minded way perhaps as you would your house.  Would you feel secure at home if you knew your living quarters was shared with multiple people or that it was being spied on constantly.   Think about steps you would take to protect your house or property from intruders and spies.  Your digital house works the same way, so be sure to keep the keys and access in your control and not that of a third party which can’t be trusted.

The NSA is spying on cryptocurrency including Bitcoin – Edward Snowden

Unsurprisingly Edward Snowden recently revealed to the world that the NSA is tracking cryptocurrency users including Bitcoin.  What makes it worse, but also not surprising is that they tricked users to install security software they wrote that actually feeds all of their private data, cryptokeys, back to the NSA directly.  It is soon going to be an absolutely necessity to increase your own security and to start using better, more secure coins that cannot be so easily tracked.  This is the equivalent of the government following you around and poking around your wallet and watching each transaction you do even with cash.  There’s no privacy anymore and ironically cryptocurrency is part of this reason, or shall we say at least, the majority of insecure, public, permissionless blockchain based currencies.    This could send the value of currencies like XMR/Monero skyrocketing as a Bitcoin alternative.  While Monero is in my opinion better in almost everyway to Bitcoin, it is still not the perfect coin as it does have some issues including the use of PoW and of course the whole public, permissionless issue, speed issues etc..

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Business Decision to Fight the FBI/Court Order

Mr. Cook has clearly made a strategic decision to be one of the first and few tech companies to challenge a court order of this magnitude, and if anyone can do it, it would be Apple.

Now to be clear there is a very serious matter in this case, and it is a tricky rope for investigators and business to get it right.  A crime has been committed and the authorities have presumably presented credible evidence and there is a court order, however the order is essentially unlimited access to all Apple devices.  The business (Apple) has two choices, co-operate or deal with the consequences of not doing so, in Apple’s case there is little financial consequence to not co-operate.  The opposite case could be made that Apple recognizes that if the public finds out that they complied that their encryption is as good as useless, their analysts probably put a price tag on the customer backlash and likely predicted a huge drop in AAPL shares.  Aside from the business case, it looks like now that the issue of privacy has come knocking on his doorstep, he has no choice but to take a bold and very public stand.

This is not a typical court order but is in effect a blanket and mass surveillance project.  Apple is basically being asked to make an app and backdoor to bypass their encryption, or at least disable the 10-try mechanism so they can try traditional bruteforce password methods.  Tim Cook stated very clearly that the ramifications would go far beyond this one case and validated his concerns by mentioning there would be little control over oversight over such a mechanism if Apple complied, which could mean the backdoor could be abused without due cause, as has been the case in the past with other surveillance.

One wonders if Apple has pondered its next move because it is unlikely that Apple can indefinitely delay or win the fight in the end.  They are legally under US jurisdiction and must win their challenge or comply.  Failing that Apple’s only option would be to move overseas/off-shore and this would be a huge blow for the US economy, tech sector and other companies may follow suit, such as McAfee’s weighing in on the issue and offer to crack the iPhone.

My philosophy has always been the US is a great place to do business with huge potential, but I always advise people to understand that any traffic transiting the US and especially data stored there is subject to US laws and regulations.

It will be interesting to watch where this goes, I have a feeling that most are cheering for Apple and Tim Cook at the moment and it is really no wonder with what is at stake.