Tag Archives: NSA

Obama: If You Trust Your Congress, Trust in the NSA Data Collection


On Friday afternoon, President Obama responded for the first time to the revelations of various National Security Agency data gathering programs—from recording all call records in and outside of the United States, to the PRISM program, which reportedly taps into the data streams of some of the largest data hosting companies in the country.

Here’s the gist: Although you, the citizens, have not heard of this, we have substantial oversight on these programs involving every branch of government. Legislators have been briefed (in regards to the telephone data, he said all members knew), and “if anybody in government wanted to go further than that top-line data … they would have to go back to a federal judge,” Obama said.

Basically, if you trust the system, you should trust us.

“In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok,” the president said. “But if you look at the details … I think we have struck a nice balance.”

The president also reassured that “no one is listening to your telephone calls” and that although he came into office with “a healthy skepticism about these programs,” he is reassured that they don’t overreach. “The modest encroachments on privacy that are involved … it was worth us doing,” he said.

Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/07/president-obama-nsa-response/

Why Insiders, Not Hackers, Are Biggest Threat to Cybersecurity


The NSA leaks perpetrated by Edward Snowden will easily go down as one of the biggest revelations of the year, if not the decade. But the episode also raises new questions about the risk that insiders pose to government and corporate cybersecurity, in spite of the attention lavished on foreign hackers.

Snowden’s case is unique in that it uncovered a previously unknown surveillance apparatus that’s massive in size and scope. It’s not unique, however, in the way the whistleblower did his deed. Two-thirds of all reported data breaches involve internal actors wittingly or unwittingly bringing sensitive information to outsiders, according to industry analysts.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” said Mike DuBose, a former Justice Department official who led the agency’s efforts on trade-secret theft. “But amidst all the concern and discussion over foreign hacking, what gets lost is the fact that the vast majority of serious breaches involving trade secrets or other proprietary or classified information are still being committed by insiders.”

DuBose is now the head of the Cyber Investigations unit at the risk-management firm Kroll Advisory Solutions. In February, his team authored a report warning that contractors, information-technology personnel and disgruntled employees—all descriptors that fit Snowden pretty well—pose a greater threat than hackers, “both in frequency and in damage caused.”

Not everyone agrees. Even though insiders generally play an outsized role across all reported data breaches, their role in confirmed data breaches is rather small, according to an annual study by Verizon. In 2012 specifically, internal actors accounted for 14% of confirmed data breaches. Of those, system administrators were responsible for 16%.

“Our findings consistently show,” the report read, “that external actors rule.”

However common they are, cases like Snowden’s show how devastating one insider can be. The extent of the damage depends on what’s being exfiltrated, and from where, and there aren’t many standards for calculating losses. Most companies estimate the value of their trade secrets based on how much money they sank into the research and development of that knowledge. But for the government, it’s the potential impact on security that takes precedence—and that turns the question into a matter of subjective debate.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that Chinese spies compromised the designs for some of the Pentagon’s most sensitive weapons systems, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship.

If true, the report could have major consequences for national security. But Snowden’s case is equally consequential, if for different reasons, and it bolsters DuBose’s point about the relevance of insiders. Snowden may have rightfully uncovered evidence of government overreach, but if a midlevel contractor can steal top-secret information about the NSA and give it to the public in a gesture of self-sacrifice, someone else could do the same and hand the intelligence to more nefarious actors.

Image via iStockphoto, kynny

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/10/insiders-hackers-cybersecurity/

WikiLeaks Rides the Snowden Train Back to Relevance City


As National Security Administration leaker Edward Snowden engages in an international game of cat-and-mouse with reporters and governments, WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange have swooped in to help. WikiLeaks’ legal team is helping Snowden apply for asylum in Ecuador, WikiLeaks says it paid for his flight from Hong Kong and Assange himself took part in a Monday morning media call cementing WikiLeaks as the in-between for Snowden and the outside world.

Despite Snowden’s choice to leak information to legacy media outlets instead of WikiLeaks, the organization is perfectly happy to support him. Why? WikiLeaks’ mission includes protecting all whistleblowers — but under the surface is another explanation. Helping Snowden quickly brings WikiLeaks back into the headlines for something other than Assange’s embarrassing year-long self-imprisonment in Ecuador’s London embassy.

Since Assange took refuge in the embassy, WikiLeaks hasn’t published anything on the level of Snowden’s material or its own earlier War Logs. For WikiLeaks, tying itself to one of the biggest international news stories of the summer is an easy return to relevance. For Assange, portraying himself as the Godfather of All Leakers pulls attention away from his own situation and allegations of egomania.

“I have personal sympathy with Mr. Snowden, having been through a similar experience, but the WikiLeaks organization more broadly exists to defend the practical rights of whistleblowers to bring their information to the public,” Assange said during a conference call Monday.

Assange’s analogy to Snowden doesn’t hold up: Assange is a publisher, not a leaker, and he has not been formally charged with a crime by any government. Snowden, meanwhile, is on the run from charges of espionage and other crimes — in the WikiLeaks story, he is more properly compared with Bradley Manning than Assange.

WikiLeaks also has financial incentive to defend Snowden: The organization has just a few days before a banking blockade comes back into effect. Affiliating with Snowden gives the leaker’s supporters a place to put their money where their mouth is. This recent tweet came in the midst of a flurry of Snowden and NSA-related messages:

Why do you think WikiLeaks has come to the aid of Snowden? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai contributed to this report.

Image via Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/24/wikileaks-edward-snowden/

The Edward Snowden Movie Already Exists


Now, thanks to a small film company in Hong Kong, you can watch one of the summer’s biggest news stories unfold on the big screen.

In just four days, J. Shot — in association with Fallout Media and Immortal Peach — put together a five-minute film depicting Edward Snowden’s first days in Hong Kong, culminating in his revealing interview with The Guardian. The film, called Verax, appears in its entirety below. However, if you don’t have five minutes to spare, here’s all the analysis of the short movie you’ll ever need.

The Credits

Snowden movie credits
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

The movie opens with the kind of intense bass and synth soundscape that Chris Nolan dreams of. The visuals here are presumably supposed to evoke data floating around the Internet. But they much more closely evoke exploding electronic jellyfish.

The first words we see, after the names of the people and production companies involved, are “Based on the Events of Edward Snowden.” Because Edward Snowden is most definitely a happening.

The Hong Kong CIA Meeting

After a sweep of the Hong Kong scenery, we enter a CIA office. The thumping synths haven’t yet stopped playing, so we are quickly greeted with the most intense cup of coffee in movie history.

Snowden movie coffee
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

From here, we get the first real dialogue and scene-setting action. Welcome to your ordinary morning meeting gone wrong:

Snowden movie meeting
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

The first line of the movie, “Alright, let’s get started,” is just a cool first line for a movie. This is where one of the CIA workers informs the others that an NSA contractor from Hawaii has landed, without reporting his travel plans in advanced. “S***, that’s not good,” replies a CIA worker with reasonably astute intuition.

The scene then devolves into a reading of Snowden’s resume — including “Booz Hamilton,” because the CIA hates that Allen guy.

Our First Sight of Snowden

Snowden movie typing
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

…pretty much looks like a blogger. Although this blogger’s soundtrack is set to DRAMA.

Hong Kong’s South China Sentinel

Here we get a taste of the journalistic investigation surrounding the Snowden affair. This scene even includes one very unimpressed editor:

Snowden movie editor
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

“Stop chasing nonsense, OK?” the editor tells a staffer who was in communication with Snowden in the most convincing “I’m a newsman” impression that he can muster.

Edward Snowden Is Bored

Can a five-minute film have a quick montage? Of course it can have a quick montage. Here’s what Edward Snowden is up to while waiting for his big moment:

Snowden movie chair
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

Snowden does “I’m in isolation” pushups:

Snowden movie pushups
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

Snowden, whiz that he likely is, solves a Rubik’s Cube:

Snowden movie cube
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

Hong Kong Police HQ

Here we get into some of the conflict that Hong Kong’s government is facing with Snowden hanging around. “Don’t we have a rendition treaty with the United States?” a police employee asks. Cue close-up police commander:

Snowden movie cop
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

Edward Snowden Is Still Bored

Snowden movie twiddling thumbs
Image courtesy of Fallout Media


In one of the last shots of the film, we catch a full glimpse of the actor playing Edward Snowden. And oh man does he look a lot like Edward Snowden.

Snowden movie portrait
Image courtesy of Fallout Media

The movie closes with a voice-over of Edward Snowden’s interview with The Guardian. The first days of his story are now complete.

Really though, it’s hard to think anyone could do better than this collective did in just four days of filming. And no doubt others will throw millions of dollars at this plot within a few years to try. But even with four days and about a $540 budget, this is going to be a stiff baseline to top. No matter how hard Jerry Bruckheimer/Oliver Stone/Michael Bay try.

Image courtesy of Fallout Media

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/01/edward-snowden-movie/