• The many problems with the DEA's bulk phone records collection program

    Think mass surveillance is just the wheelhouse of agencies like the NSA? Think again. One of the biggest concerns to come from the revelations about the NSA’s bulk collection of the phone records of millions of innocent Americans was that law enforcement agencies might be doing the same thing. It turns out this concern was valid, as last week the government let slip for the first time that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had also been collecting the phone records of Americans in bulk since the 1990s.

  • Former head of MI6 calls for new surveillance pact between governments and ISPs

    The former head of British intelligence agency MI6, Sir John Sawers, has called for a new surveillance pact between Internet companies and U.S. and U.K. security services. Both groups could work together as they had in the past to prevent a repeat of terror events such as the recent Paris attacks, he said. American and British law enforcement and intelligence agencies are urging major Internet companies to provide backdoors or access to encrypted e-mails and other forms of Web communications. “I think one benefit of the last eighteen months’ debate [since Snowden’s leaks were made public] is that people now understand that is simply not possible [to keep the public secure without surveillance] and there has to be some form of ability to cover communications that are made through modern technology,” Sawers said.

  • No technological replacement exists for bulk data collection: Report

    No software-based technique can fully replace the bulk collection of signals intelligence, but methods can be developed more effectively to conduct targeted collection and to control the usage of collected data, says a new report from the National Research Council. Automated systems for isolating collected data, restricting queries that can be made against those data, and auditing usage of the data can help to enforce privacy protections and allay some civil liberty concerns, the unclassified report says.

  • Keeping citizens safe while respecting their right to privacy

    Surveillance is an increasingly common – and sometimes controversial – activity, designed fundamentally to protect public and property. The rapid increase in information gathered by surveillance cameras however has led to spiraling costs in terms of storage filtering and data checking, and has also led to concerns that innocent citizens are routinely being tracked. Using innovative new technology, EU-funded researchers have reconciled the need for robust surveillance with the right to privacy.

  • When the camera lies: our surveillance society needs a dose of integrity to be reliable

    Being watched is part of life today. Our governments and industry leaders hide their cameras inside domes of wine-dark opacity so we can’t see which way the camera is looking, or even if there is a camera in the dome at all. They’re shrouded in secrecy. But who is watching them and ensuring the data they collect as evidence against us is reliable? Surveillance evidence is increasingly being used in legal proceedings, but the surveillants – law enforcement, shop-keepers with a camera in their shops, people with smartphones, etc. — have control over their recordings, and if these are the only ones, the one-sided curation of the evidence undermines their integrity. There is thus a need to resolve the lack of integrity in our surveillance society. There are many paths to doing this, all of which lead to other options and issues that need to be considered. But unless we start establishing principles on these matters, we will be perpetuating a lack of integrity regarding surveillance technologies and their uses.

  • Terrorists develop tactics to evade U.S. drones

    The CIA’s use of Predator drones against Islamic militants in the Middle East began shortly after the 9/11 attacks and has increased dramatically during the Obama administration. As the number of drone strikes in Yemen increased, AQAP militants began to develop tactics to hide themselves from a drone’s sensors.

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  • DHS IG questions value of CBP’s border drone program

    DHS’s 8-years-old drone program, now consisting of nine drones operating in Arizona, Texas, and North Dakota, has been unsuccessful, according to a just-released DHS inspector general report. Customs and Border Patrol(CBP) expected 23,000 total flight hours per year, but it only logged about 5,100 in fiscal year 2013. The inspector general’s report notes that drones helped in less than 2 percent of apprehensions of illegal immigrants.CBP has used the dronesto cover just 170 miles of the U.S. border – and a 2014 GAO report noted that a fifth of CBP drone flights were conducted within the interior of the United States and beyond the 100-mile range of operations of CBP jurisdiction points.

  • Speedy, agile UAVs for troops in urban missions

    DARPA aims to give small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) advanced perception and autonomy rapidly to search buildings or other cluttered environments without teleoperation. The program aims to develop and demonstrate autonomous UAVs small enough to fit through an open window and able to fly at speeds up to twenty meters per second (45 miles per hour) — while navigating within complex indoor spaces independent of communication with outside operators or sensors and without reliance on GPS waypoints.

  • Public support for torture declines as people learn the explicit details of torture techniques

    Does the American public condone torture when the goal is to prevent terrorist attacks? News headlines reporting the results of a Pew Research Center poll released on 9 December indicate more than half of Americans do. That finding, however, is not necessarily valid, says Tufts University’s Richard Eichenberg, who argues that the poll is flawed because it is based on a faulty premise. A more accurate picture of the nation’s attitude can be found in responses to polls conducted by Pew, Gallup, and other news organizations and analyzed in a 2010 report. These surveys explained in graphic detail what interrogation techniques were being judged. So while response to more general questions on the use of torture may continue to produce mixed reactions, Eichenberg says public support for torture will decline as more people become aware of the explicit details of torture techniques contained in the Senate report.

  • FAA would allow four private companies to operate drones in U.S. airspace

    The Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) announced the other day that it would allow four private companies to operate drones in U.S. airspace. The drones will be used to survey land, inspect remote oil rigs, perform agricultural and environmental research, monitor construction projects, and collect geographical data. The FAA has banned most drone flights as they pose a risk to the safety of manned aircrafts, and in some cases to privacy. The drone industry says that if drones are integrated into U.S. civilian airspace, the domestic economic impact would surpass $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2025, while creating more than 100,000 high-paying jobs.

  • University of Maryland opens new drone test facility

    The University of Maryland has recently opened a new drone test site on the Eastern Shore which will allow researchers and students to help in the safe development of drones for use in U.S. airspace. The university will partner with companies to develop projects in a safe space. Already there are plans to use drones to monitor fish populations in the nearby Chesapeake Bay, examine power lines in the southern part of the state, and perform jobs which are considered “dirty, dull [or] dangerous,” in the words of the head of the facility.

  • DOJ’s new cyber unit to provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance

    The Justice Department is creating a cybersecurity unit within its Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) to provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance investigations.The unit will also work with Congress on cybersecurity legislation and focus on cybercrime prevention.

  • Smaller lidars could be mounted on UAVs for underwater scans

    Bathymetric lidars — devices which employ powerful lasers to scan beneath the water’s surface — are used today primarily to map coastal waters. At nearly 600 pounds, the systems are large and heavy, and they require costly, piloted aircraft to carry them. Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) researchers have designed a new approach that could lead to bathymetric lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems. The new technology would let modest-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry bathymetric lidars, lowering costs substantially. These advanced capabilities could support a range of military uses such as anti-mine and anti-submarine intelligence and nautical charting, as well as civilian mapping tasks. In addition, the new lidar could probe forested areas to detect objects under thick canopies.

  • Satellites help assess risk of epidemics

    Changes in the environment, global trade, and travel are all factors in the ever-increasing numbers and movement of pests. Identifying and predicting the distribution of existing local species as well as the spread of new exotic ones are essential in assessing the risk of potential epidemics. Researchers have developed Vecmap — an all-encompassing software and services package including a smartphone app for field studies with a time and location information system, all linked to an online database. The database pools satellite information with results from field research, and satnav adds location information. The new approach greatly reduces the complexity of tracking species compared to traditional methods.

  • A malware more sophisticated than Stuxnet discovered

    Security experts at Symantechave discovered the world’s most sophisticated computer malware, Regin. Thought to have been created by a Western intelligence agency, and in many respects more advanced than Stuxnet — which was developed by the U.S. and Israeli government in 2010 to hack the Iranian nuclear program — Regin has targeted Russian, Saudi Arabian, Mexican, Irish, and Iranian Internet service providers and telecoms companies. “Nothing else comes close to this … nothing else we look at compares,” said one security expert.