For conducting surveillance and launching cyberattacks.

NYT: NSA 'secret technology' implants malware into 100,000 computers

By —— Bio and Archives--January 15, 2014

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Since many of you are just getting started on your day - no doubt checking news online, reading/sending e-mails and doing God knows what else that you do on the privacy (or so you think!) of your own laptop - here’s something to get your day kickstarted. From the New York Times:


The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

  While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

  The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.

  The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

The problem here is the same as it always is. If this sort of thing was really necessary to find off enemy attacks, you’d want authorities to have the tools necessary to protect the nation on the one hand, but you don’t like the implications of where else it can go - especially when you’re not too inclined to trust Obama.

Oh, by the way, no worries! Obama now assures us that he thinks it might be a good idea to put some limits on NSA surveillance, so you can rest easy knowing that the judgment of your president will be put to good use to protect your rights in the midst of the NSA’s mass malware invasion. Or at least, he will give a speech to that effect:

President Obama will issue new guidelines on Friday to curtail government surveillance, but will not embrace the most far-reaching proposals of his own advisers and will ask Congress to help decide some of the toughest issues, according to people briefed on his thinking.

  Mr. Obama plans to increase limits on access to bulk telephone data, call for privacy safeguards for foreigners and propose the creation of a public advocate to represent privacy concerns at a secret intelligence court. But he will not endorse leaving bulk data in the custody of telecommunications firms, nor will he require court permission for all so-called national security letters seeking business records.

  The emerging approach, described by current and former government officials who insisted on anonymity in advance of Mr. Obama’s widely anticipated speech, suggested a president trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies. The result seems to be a speech that leaves in place many current programs, but embraces the spirit of reform and keeps the door open to changes later.

Feel better? Obama’s not actually going to change anything, but he’s going to give a speech that “embraces the spirit of reform and keeps the door open to changes later.” Terrific!

Now lest we overreact to this, the NYT story doesn’t reveal any of this happening on the domestic front, and it’s old technology that didn’t start with Obama. I’ll be honest: This wouldn’t bother me if it was Bush and Cheney doing it because I trusted them, and I would want them to have the tools they need to prevent attacks. I am much less comfortable with it in the hands of the people who misuse the IRS to go after political enemies, and lie about terrorist attacks that do occur by trying to blame them on YouTube videos.

Some of you will congratulate yourselves for getting your libertarian on and being “consistent” in opposing it no matter who is in charge, but that’s not where I am or ever will be. If someone is using their computer to plan an attack, I want the good guys to be able to invade their computer to help stop it. I’m just not sure the Obama crew are really good enough guys to be trusted with tools like these.


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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain

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