Surveillance

  • U.S. drone attacks kill at least 55 al-Qaeda militants in Yemen

    A series of U.S. drone strikes Sunday and Monday killed at least fifty-five al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. The operation focused on al-Qaeda operation basecamps in the rugged mountain of the central and southern provinces of Yemen. Yemeni government sources to say that the first series of attacks, carried out on Sunday, killed three prominent al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Qaeda made gains in Yemen during the chaos which accompanied the 2011 popular uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was driven from power a year later. In the last two years, the United States and the new Yemeni government have escalated the fight against the Islamist militants.

  • Adoption of battlefield surveillance system in urban settings raises privacy concerns

    More cities are adopting an aerial surveillance system first developed for the military. The surveillance cameras, fitted on a small plane, can record a 25-square-mile area for up to six hours, and cost less than the price of a police helicopter. The system also has the capability of watching 10,000 times the area that a police helicopter could watch. Privacy advocates are concerned. “There are an infinite number of surveillance technologies that would help solve crimes, but there are reasons that we don’t do those things, or shouldn’t be doing those things,” said one of them.

  • NYPD shuts down controversial Muslim surveillance program

    The New York Police Department has shut down its “Demographics Unit,” known for secretly infiltrating Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey with informers. The Muslim surveillance program, initiated under former NYPD commissioner, Raymond Kelly, is the subject of two federal lawsuits and has faced growing criticism from civil rights groups. NYPD acknowledged that in its 10-year existence, the surveillance program has not generated even a single lead.

  • Rep. Rogers: Edward Snowden helped by Russia, backs Russian expansionism

    Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, on Sunday repeated his claim that Edward Snowden had been helped by Russia. “No counter-terrorism official in the United States does not believe that Mr. Snowden … is not under the influence of Russian intelligence services. We believe he is, I certainly believe he is today,” Rogers said.

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  • NSA program captures, replays phone calls

    The NSA’s MYSTIC program, created in 2009, deploys a “retrospective retrieval” (RETRO) tool which allows agents to rewind and playback all phone conversations that have taken place in the past thirty days in an unnamed foreign country, according to Edward Snowden-leaked documents. The MYSTIC program differs from other NSA surveillance programs revealed by Snowden because it captures the content of phone conversations, not just calls’ metadata.

  • Facebook making snooping more difficult

    Facebook has joined its Silicon Valley competitors to improve cybersecurity following a recent report suggesting that the NSA may have posed as Facebook to infect targeted computers. Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, said Facebook was working to “make sure the system is robust enough that everyone should be coming in the front door with legal process and not getting information any other way.” He added that no one could pose as Facebook servers any more since the company made “https,” a secure method of accessing Web pages, standard last year.

  • U.S. lags behind other countries in commercial use of drones

    As the United States continues to explore regulations and safety guidelines for commercial UAVs, other countries have already adopted their use. Photographers, real estate agents, filmmakers, and news agencies in the United States want to use drones in their operations, but the FAA insists that rules addressing safety challenges associated with drones need to be in place before drones can share the sky with manned aircrafts.

  • MetaPhone: The sensitivity of telephone metadata

    Is telephone metadata sensitive? This is, at base, a factual dispute. Is it easy to draw sensitive inferences from phone metadata? How often do people conduct sensitive matters by phone, in a manner reflected by metadata? New research finds that phone metadata is unambiguously sensitive, even in a small population and over a short time window. The researchers were able to infer medical conditions, firearm ownership, and more, using solely phone metadata.

  • Collecting digital user data without compromising privacy

    The statistical evaluation of digital user data is of vital importance for analyzing trends. It can also undermine users’ privacy. Computer scientists have now developed a novel cryptographic method that makes it possible to collect data and protect the privacy of the user at the same time.

  • DHS drops plans for national license-plate database

    DHS has recalled its solicitation for bids by private companies to help the department create a national license-plate database which would allow unlimited access to information obtained from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers (LPRs). DHS wanted to use the database to track fugitive undocumented immigrants and others sought by law enforcement, but the database, which could have contained more than one billion records, raised privacy concerns and questions about the safeguards which would be used to protect innocent citizens.

  • Identifying, thwarting insider threats before they do damage

    Researchers argue that one way to identify and predict potential insider threats even before these individuals begin to do damage like stealing and leaking sensitive information, is by using Big Data to monitor changes in behavior patterns. Researchers at PARC, for example, found that individuals who exhibit sudden decrease in participation in group activity, whether in a game like World of Warcraft or corporate e-mail communications, are likely to withdraw from the organization. A withdrawal represents dissatisfaction with the organization, a common trait of individuals who are likely to engage in insider security breaches.

  • Snowden stole co-worker’s password to gain access to secret databanks: NSA

    One reason National Security Agency (NSA) former analyst Edward Snowden was able to gain such broad access to a wide variety of agency’s secret documents was that he copied a password from a co-worker who has since resigned. After Snowden was denied access to NSANet, the agency’s computer network which connects into many of the agency’s classified databases, he persuaded a co-worker, an NSA civilian employee, to use his – the co-worker’s — Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate to gain access. The NSA told Congress Snowden used what the agency describes as “digital deception”: the civilian NSA employee entered his password on Snowden’s computer, not realizing that Snowden was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information. Once he gained access to NSANet, Snowden released a “Web crawler” inside the system. The crawler automatically indexed the NSANet, and using the passwords Snowden held – one his, one or more those of co-workers – copied every document in its path.

  • German IT industry hopes to benefit from NSA leaks-inspired distrust of U.S. tech companies

    The German IT sector is hoping to benefit from trust lost in American technology firms in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks. The German government is looking to develop Internet security initiatives, with government departments vying with each other for a lead role. Both inside and outside the German government a proposal, known as “Schengen Routing,” is advanced which calls for data originated in Europe to be processed and stored within Europe. Critics warn that plans to create a European routing system could affect the openness of the Internet.

  • FAA vetoes Valentine flower-delivery drone

    Detroit-area florist Flower Delivery Express wanted to use drones to deliver flowers to customers on Valentine Day. The FAA rejected the request, dryly noting that “A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval.” The florist is not giving up yet, cryptically saying it is testing “other guarded secret methods” for flower delivery.

  • Unmanned aerial logistics system to bypass ground-based threats, challenges

    Rugged terrain and threats such as ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can make ground-based transportation to and from the front lines a dangerous challenge. Combat outposts require on average 100,000 pounds of material a week, and high elevation and impassable mountain roads often restrict access. Unmanned aerial logistics system would bypass ground-based threats and enable faster, more effective delivery of cargo and other essential services in hard-to-reach areas.