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How Tech Vendors Help Governments Spy On Their Citizens 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the let-me-count-the-ways dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Most Slashdotters — even those living in democratic countries — would probably be unsurprised to know that their governments are spying on them. But most people are not aware of how complicit security vendors, who publicly work to protect the public from such electronic eavesdropping, are complicit in such monitoring. All this and more is revealed in the latest Wikieaks document dump, the Spy Files."
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How Tech Vendors Help Governments Spy On Their Citizens

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  • Ok. analyze THIS. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unity100 (970058) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:20PM (#38244462) Homepage Journal
    Can you come up and say that wikileaks hasnt done anything useful now ?
    • by cobrausn (1915176) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:26PM (#38244552)
      Most people I know (all over the political spectrum) don't say they haven't done anything useful. Most think they could have done their job better and the organization could be more successful if it was more about transparency and whistleblowing and less about Assange and satisfying his ego.
      • Re:Ok. analyze THIS. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by countertrolling (1585477) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:32PM (#38244618) Journal

        ...Assange and satisfying his ego

        All that is mass media's (apparently successful) attempt to divert attention away from the leaks and to focus more on the "crimes" of the leakers.

        • by cobrausn (1915176)
          In this you are likely correct (to some extent). It doesn't help that he has the most punchable face known to man. I dare you to look at it for too long and not feel the urge to start hitting the screen. :-)
        • by ackthpt (218170)

          ...Assange and satisfying his ego

          All that is mass media's (apparently successful) attempt to divert attention away from the leaks and to focus more on the "crimes" of the leakers.

          Yeah. We'll probably, somewhere in the UK Phone Hacking Scandal© find they were feeding some bits to Mighty Evil Masters in government, somewhere.

        • by Kagura (843695)

          ...Assange and satisfying his ego

          All that is mass media's (apparently successful) attempt to divert attention away from the leaks and to focus more on the "crimes" of the leakers.

          What crimes? All I've seen on the Slashdot comments was a report saying that the government of Iraq requested information on a rumor they received stating that US forces bombed an Iraqi house to cover up a massacre by ground troops. There is no substantive evidence that this is what occurred, and the Iraqi government was requesting information on the rumor.

          So even if we ignore that disputed incident, what other crimes were recorded in the diplomatic cables and released by Wikileaks? I want to see them fo

          • Re:Ok. analyze THIS. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by haruchai (17472) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @12:49AM (#38247450)
            For starters, there is the "Collateral Murder" video they released - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0 [youtube.com] ; this was after Reuters, who lost 2 reporters in the shelling, were unsatisfied with the "investigation" that concluded it was a legal engagement of war and requested the video from the lead chopper, which was denied.
            • by Kagura (843695)
              That video is probably the worst Wikileaks example you could bring up! Let's talk about it.

              1) I think this was a good video to have released. This is a real leak, and something that probably should be in the open and not hidden, especially when you consider the details of the situation. However...
              2) It was an internationally legal military engagement, even without considering the greater context of the incident.
              3) Wikileaks released an edited version of this video as its MAIN release (making the unedit
              • Re:Ok. analyze THIS. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by haruchai (17472) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @12:08PM (#38250176)
                A "legal" international military engagement is not a license for live target practice by the armed forces of a purportedly civilized nation.
                The conversation between the pilots and the base clearly indicates that there are no US personnel within easy range of a small bunch of men, only 2 of which appear to be armed. The helicopter is itself in no danger from these men - who were clustered in a circle all facing inward when the firing began. That's a pretty weak battle formation -were they planning a mass suicide? The delay between the sound of the chopper's guns and the bullets' impacts is nearly 2 seconds, which, according to the postings I've seen by guys with combat experience puts the chopper a mile out ( which seems to be standard procedure ) and well out of range of AK-47s and even RPGs. But, while the first set of firing could potentially be excused as there were individuals with weapons, you would really have to burn any "objectivity" out of your eye to defend the firing on the van. I'd be curious to read your explanation as to how that bit of slaughter was warranted. Before you reply, might i trouble you to read http://www.hrweb.org/legal/geneva1.html#Article [hrweb.org] 15 ?
                • by Kagura (843695)

                  Article 15. At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.

                  Whenever circumstances permit, an armistice or a suspension of fire shall be arranged, or local arrangements made, to permit the removal, exchange and transport of the wounded left on the battlefield.

                  Likewise, local arrangements may be concluded between Parties to the conflict for the removal or exchange of wounded and sick from a besieged or encircled area, and for the passage of medical and religious personnel and equipment on their way to that area.

                  I read the GC article you linked. Did you read it carefully, and apply it to the situation at hand? It says nothing about allowing an enemy to pick up their wounded in the middle of a battle. It talks about the assaulting personnel being required to search for and render aid to all wounded they find, "particularly after an engagement". Reading some parts of the GC literally in today's modern battlefield is difficult, and going by the spirit of the law [wikipedia.org] inherently introduces subjectivity to its interpretation

                  • by haruchai (17472)
                    Having a fairly strong viewpoint doesn't mean you're right, but it might mean that you've closed off your mind to further evidence.

                    Yes, I did read and apply it - "AT ALL TIMES, and particularly after an engagement, PARTIES to the conflict shall, WITHOUT DELAY, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled." It does NOT say that only t
                    • by Kagura (843695)

                      Yes, I did read and apply it - "AT ALL TIMES, and particularly after an engagement, PARTIES to the conflict shall, WITHOUT DELAY, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled." It does NOT say that only the winning side has the right save the wounded; no-one in the van was armed, their only concern was recovering the wounded man. Are soldiers incapable of judgment?

                      You're free to interpret it absolutely literally as it is written. But then leads the extremes where when you injure one person during a battle one or both sides have to stop shooting until the injured person is cared for. That situation is clearly a little ridiculous, but that is how we are supposed to do things if we interpret the GC literally. Since interpreting almost any document literally and using that to make decisions is a really dumb thing to do, I prefer to instead go by the spirit of the law and

                    • by Kagura (843695)
                      Did you not understand the sentence was contrasting the assumptions of the gunship chain of command with the actual, real facts after the incident? I don't want to be rude, but that is perfectly clear to native english speakers.

                      What weapons and what evidence? There were no weapons. It's established that what they later tried to make into an RPG was a camera, and it was recognizable as such.

                      They were armed with several AK-47s and one RPG-7, with at least one separate person holding a camera with a telephoto lens. Indeed, you'd be daft to go walking around an Iraqi neighborhood a few years ago without an armed escort. The fact that they were armed and walking around acti

                    • by haruchai (17472)
                      It's a bit disingenuous to suggest that I didn't read the statute and THEN ( okay, in the same message ) imply state that one cannot be literal about it. But, I'll leave aside any argument about "letter vs spirit" of the law or concerning the initial engagement and focus on the truly disturbing incident which even several Iraq combat veterans says was unjustified - the firing on the van. There a lot of bad things to say about the attitudes of the chopper gunners. One of them, possible 2, were just itchin
                    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                      by Anonymous Coward

                      As a former Marine who served in the first Gulf War, I am disgusted that anyone can defend this. We were NOT AT WAR in 2007. So I don't give a shit what you think about the rules of warfare. We were a peace keeping force at that time, which changes the circumstances significantly. It is clear from the recordings that the culture that had taken root within these units was corrosive and the leadership of those units needs to be held to account for it.

                      You can't blame this on the "fog of war". That is a bu

                    • Small but important note to your comment. It wasn't actually Wikileaks that released all of the cables. That was done by the Guardian newspaper which had been enlisted by Wikileaks precisely because they promised to filter the leaks.
                    • by khipu (2511498)

                      We have not been pure, and we have failed to uphold these virtues from day one.

                      The US has succeeded through practical compromises instead of idealism. You can see where idealism leads by looking at Europe and its wars, as government after government tried to impose its idealized vision of society onto the continent.

                      it does not change the fact that the actions shown in the videos are indefensible

                      If we deploy our military, some soldiers are going to violate laws and rape, torture, and murder. It's what hap

          • You didn't read about Anna Nicole Smith's [guardian.co.uk] take down of the Bahamian government? Obviously she was working for the CIA..

            But seriously, the weather... I was talking about the people who 'leaked' the documents.

      • by forkfail (228161) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:42PM (#38244772)

        It's those who would shut it down that made it about Assange. His name was basically unknown compared to WikiLeaks until the bogus sexual harassment character assassination thing hit.

        • It's those who would shut it down that made it about Assange. His name was basically unknown compared to WikiLeaks until the bogus sexual harassment character assassination thing hit.

          That's very true: I'd known of Wikileaks for years, but his name never really came up in relation to it, not in the regular media anyway. Once his crowd started hitting a little too close to home they took more direct measures. I'm surprised that one of the multi-billion-dollar outfits whose dirt he's been publishing hasn't had him killed yet, although they might be afraid of creating a martyr. The Wikileaks crowd is pretty damned hard to intimidate, it seems.

          Who knows ... if HIllary Clinton gets her way

          • ...and instead vote for ... ummm....

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by marcroelofs (797176)
              .. Ron Paul
              • I sometimes wish that he makes it to be the Rep candidate and then gets elected. So we can finally see how that "self-healing properties" of economy really work out.

                It's gonna be some horrible years, but maybe we can at least start building after that idea gets cleaned up.

                • by sten ben (1652107)

                  I sometimes wish that he makes it to be the Rep candidate and then gets elected. So we can finally see how that "self-healing properties" of economy really work out.

                  It's gonna be some horrible years, but maybe we can at least start building after that idea gets cleaned up.

                  Hasn't the Bush's already shown that? I mean, the richest 400 people in the USA has the net worth of the poorest 150 000 000. I have a hard time seeing it was like that before Reagan/Bush/Bush.

                  Re: sig; In Corporate America money owns you.

                  • It's sad when communist jokes start to apply to the so called free world...

                    And yes, I always thought that Reagan/Bush/Bush should have sufficed to show people how well the economy can fix itself and how well it can take care of itself, and how much better we're off if we just keep our governments from meddling with it.

                    But I guess people first need a full blown crash to see it.

                    Then again, maybe even that won't be enough. I'm sure they'll find an excuse just why that didn't work out and how far too much gover

      • by reiisi (1211052) on Friday December 02, 2011 @08:30PM (#38246030) Homepage

        I think it takes a certain amount of confidence in one's own point of view to go blowing whistles.

        To do what Assange has done takes quite a bit more of it.

        Ego is not the primary problem, even if the people who think they have something to hide want to distract us by pointing at the ego.

      • Most think they could have done their job better and the organization could be more successful if it was more about transparency and whistleblowing and less about Assange and satisfying his ego.

        How is it about Assange satisfying his ego? Those allegations only seemed to arise after Wikileaks began to piss off the US government. Around the same time Assange was falsely accused of rape. Around the same time anyone with any connection to Wikileaks was being detained at the US border.

        Funny how before the US government leaks, everyone thought Wikileaks was about transparency, and then afterwards everyone suddenly began talking about Assange and his ego.

    • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:34PM (#38244668)
      Oh come on, the fact your government has all your phone calls on file and knows every website you've ever visited is so shockingly predictable it doesn't even need to be leaked.
    • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:40PM (#38244746) Homepage Journal
      It has certainly demonstrated the apathy of the public after such leaks...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm Top-post whoring because all of the comments in this discussion are political, being pro/anti-Assange.

      One technical problem I want to point out is that Wikileaks describes FOXIT as one of the offending companies. I thought, "Oh no, my PDF reader is sending all of my data to big brother! Even though the link on the site is spelled "FOXIT," the link should be spelled "Fox-IT [fox-it.com], and it didn't help that the link at the time didn't even work.

      Short version: don't confuse Foxit with FOX-IT!

      -- Ethanol-fueled

    • Re:Ok. analyze THIS. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kagura (843695) on Friday December 02, 2011 @09:13PM (#38246410)

      Can you come up and say that wikileaks hasnt done anything useful now ?

      Are you kidding? These are a bunch of company brochures and a few publicly released reports from 160 intelligence contractors. Where is the leak? It's convenient that they put these all in one place for us, but these were already readily available. Wikileaks is now leaking public documents to the public.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:29PM (#38244588) Homepage Journal

    Initiate several processes on your desktop to just go about the web looking at random sites, following links, etc. You don't even need to load all content from pages, just do it like Lynx would and scan for HREF tags. Enough people do this and the government's storage will become overbudened. Probably could do this with a minimal effort to code.

    Now, doesn't that just sound like all kinds of fun?!?

    • Initiate several processes on your desktop to just go about the web looking at random sites, following links, etc. You don't even need to load all content from pages, just do it like Lynx would and scan for HREF tags. Enough people do this and the government's storage will become overbudened. Probably could do this with a minimal effort to code.

      Now, doesn't that just sound like all kinds of fun?!?

      It would make for an interesting botnet, wouldn't it? Just run a process on fifty or sixty million machines whose only task is to crawl the Web. Wouldn't even need to use a noticeable amount of bandwidth or CPU time. Just sit in the background hitting sites.

      You could call it "TrackTHIS!".

      • Or, are those bots with really stupid sounding names leaving their calling cards on my personal web server logs and accessing stuff in contradiction to my bots tags the work of these "spy" companies?

        Incompetence all around.

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        It would make for an interesting botnet, wouldn't it? Just run a process on fifty or sixty million machines whose only task is to crawl the Web. Wouldn't even need to use a noticeable amount of bandwidth or CPU time. Just sit in the background hitting sites.

        You could call it "TrackTHIS!".

        Or, you could call it Google.

      • I still think jokingly attributing everything that goes wrong to the CIA would be more fun and effective.

        If you're an atheist they are your bogeyman

        Internet goes down, CIA. File get's corrupted, CIA. Windows crashes, CIA. Boss loses an email, CIA.

        Would make it WAY harder to algorithmically track subversives.

        Plus it's kind of fun!
        Written from Canada :)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I want to start something called the 'Random Data Exchange', wherein every signup gets emailed a batch of 30-40kbytes of completely random data (/dev/random would do to start, but there's better) from some other subscriber, reasonably randomly chosen, once every couple of days, with the email subject, "Random Data Exchange 034FDEC2" where the subject line is the first few bytes of the MD5 hash of the pile of random data.

      The idea being that it's random data. Everyone gets some. Well-encrypted data is indis

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you use Firefox, this comes to mind: http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Or even this one, with the added benefit of contributing to the network: http://yacy.net/en/

    • Sounds something like...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaffing_and_winnowing [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Most people are not aware of how complicit security vendors, who publicly work to protect the public from such electronic eavesdropping, are complicit in such monitoring.

    Really? I'd be more surprised to learn that complicit security vendors were not, in fact, complicit in this or similar activities.

    The president of the tautology club is not the president of the tautology club.

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:45PM (#38244832)

    Every government, including the American one, has limited resources. Every government, especially the American one, has bureaucratic constraints. Think of the slowest, dumbest Fortune 500 company you can, and then think of the slowest, dumbest PHB within that corporation, and then multiply that by 1000. That's the caliber of people who work for governments. It's the nature of the beast: create a system where ass-kissing, not merit, determine career progress, and then divorce that entirely from a mitigating profit motive, and you have government.

    These are the people who are buying the services/products of these surveillance companies. These are the people who don't read the user manuals of the products/services that these companies sell. These are the people who boss around the "technical" staff who are tasked with reading the user manuals but who frankly don't get paid enough to put up with this shit.

    That is the reality of the surveillance net.

    Now, consider that these days you, me, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there has access to virtually the same tech the governments and their corporate enablers do. Consider that even the cost factor for said tech is racing to zero. That is, the governments and companies are not using some secretly acquired alien technology that uses physics that the rest of the world doesn't grasp yet. You and I can understand the same physical laws and technology that the governments and the corporations in their employ do. And we do.

    So why don't we turn it all around and crowd-source surveillance of them? Why not minutely track the exact location of every Congressman sneaking off to boink a 20 year old intern? Why not put Jamie Dimon's cell phone conversations on a streaming service, available to anyone in the world to listen to? Why not put them under the same microscope that they want to put us under?

    After all, if the technological balance of power is at or near parity, then the deciding factor becomes how many people can you get to make sense of the data; and there are vastly more of us than there are of them to do that.

    Let's once and for all shatter this venomous illusion of authority and competence that governments and corporations have cultivated and exploited for millenia. Let's excise the incalculable damage they have done to human advancement and win a better world for ourselves.

    I for one am so very tired of the stunted one they have forced on us.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:54PM (#38244978)

      Now, consider that these days you, me, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there has access to virtually the same tech the governments and their corporate enablers do. Consider that even the cost factor for said tech is racing to zero. That is, the governments and companies are not using some secretly acquired alien technology that uses physics that the rest of the world doesn't grasp yet. You and I can understand the same physical laws and technology that the governments and the corporations in their employ do. And we do.

      Unlike the government, we don't have the ability to force ISPs and such to cooperate with us by coercion. "Give us your logs or you're going to prison" carries a lot more weight than "Give us your logs or I'll complain about you on Slashdot".

      • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Friday December 02, 2011 @06:58PM (#38245018)
        You could threaten to mod him down, if he's a karma whore he'll flip out.
      • c'mon...i would venture a guess that there is a couple people on here who have access or could get said ISP's logs. but really who has the time to go through human feces?
        • by KlomDark (6370)

          Ever heard of a free little bit of code called 'grep'?

          Grep - So You No Longer Have To Go Thru Human Feces! (tm) ;)

        • by reiisi (1211052)

          This is why it keeps getting worse.

          None of want to get our own hands dirty trying to fix it.

          • by tqk (413719)

            This is why it keeps getting worse. None of [us] want to get our own hands dirty trying to fix it.

            No, it's just that fixing stuff isn't that simple. If you don't do it right, it's a waste of time (and maybe worse). Do it right, and the problem never returns. Think like a geek: analyze the problem, design a solution, implement the design, test it to see if it actually fixes anything and works, ...

            Nathan Hale might've had the right point of view, but he was a pathetic failure as spies go (ask the CIA). Guy Fawkes might have had a brilliant flash of insight, yet the British Parliament still stands and

      • by KlomDark (6370)

        This spells out why black hat hackers occasionally create good on this planet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What you miss is that Government has a monopoly on force, is owned by the puppeteers that also own the propaganda machine (mainstream media)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This might work ... to a point. But unfortunately governments and corporations have a HECK of a lot more money to spend on this sort of thing than I do. It's a losing battle.

    • This may very well be one of the best posts I've ever read on the internet. Phoenix666, there is a nerd out there with a mancrush on you.
    • You sir, might want to read this: http://douglassocialcredit.com/resources/resources/social_credit_by_ch_douglas.pdf [douglassocialcredit.com] Heinlein did...
    • Well first you'd need an effective deterrent or punishment for malfeasance. Currently governments do all sorts of unsavory things and get away with them, even when the public knows!

      Worse still are the evil's that companies get away with. Though rarely proximate in scale their motivation of "profit" makes their acts equally heinous.

      Since the major media uses sound bites, which aren't long enough to really get people enraged ("oh I'm sure that's out of context", "they know something I don't", "it's not t
  • ...and in other news the earth is not flat.

    Assume everything you do is tracked/available, because it is. Someone once told me "If they want to fire you, they can always find something" and i've seen it happen to people. Just dont do anything to make them wanna fire/investigate you and you will be fine. Lets just review one case in the news currently. PSU. If the feds didnt catch Sandusky (cause you know there had to be phone calls with the boys, emails, and im sure his "history" trail on his computer wasnt
  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday December 02, 2011 @07:05PM (#38245094) Homepage Journal
    dont you find it weird that governments are spying on their own citizens MORE than they spy on the enemy ? and even do it more effectively ?
    • by eudas (192703)

      it's easier to get your own citizens to remain complacent about being spied on than the enemy agents.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday December 02, 2011 @07:42PM (#38245524)

      I'm pretty sure they're convinced that they're spying on their enemy.

    • Re:And by the way (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LVSlushdat (854194) on Friday December 02, 2011 @07:42PM (#38245532)

      dont you find it weird that governments are spying on their own citizens MORE than they spy on the enemy ? and even do it more effectively ?

      Don't you realize WE are now enemies of the government? When DOJ/FBI puts out pamphlets saying that loners/Constitutionalists/Teapartiers are terrorists, you KNOW we are now considered the enemy of this current regime...

      • ...you KNOW we are now considered the enemy of this current regime...

        You don't think you were enemies of the previous one as well? Wow. You've drunk the KoolAid, my friend.

    • dont you find it weird that governments are spying on their own citizens MORE than they spy on the enemy ? and even do it more effectively ?

      Not really. Because, when you get right down to it, the only real enemy of government officials are their own citizens who might fight to displace them.

      • by tqk (413719)

        dont you find it weird that governments are spying on their own citizens MORE than they spy on the enemy?

        Not really. Because, when you get right down to it, the only real enemy of government officials are their own citizens who might fight to displace them.

        Try harder. NAZI Germany wasn't taken offline by the German people.

        Yeah, yeah, Godwin. Bleh.

    • Nothing weird about that. When governments are working for the benefit of the top 1%, it is natural for them to be more afraid of the 99% of their citizens who are getting the short end of the stick. It is a perverse version of "governments should fear their people."
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday December 02, 2011 @07:29PM (#38245352) Homepage

    Oh! Oh! People doing things without permission!

    What the hell do you think that "regulation" of the security industry is going to do except guarantee that the only companies allowed into it are ones that are willing to cooperate with the intelligence agencies of the goverments doing the regulating?

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday December 02, 2011 @08:52PM (#38246246)

    ... of corporate control of the government. In reality, its a two way street. Corporations want a privileged position in our society. And we think that money is the only payment the politicians get? Its like the Godfather. Ask him for a favor and some day, he'll expect something of you in return.

  • I've been called a "tinfoil hatter" for describing government snooping setups I've seen with my own eyes I've even been called crazy for claiming that the US government is spying even though it's been covered extensively in the New York Times.

    • by neonKow (1239288)

      Oh shucks, you crazy tinfoil hatter, you. No one is spying on you. Now go back to using the internets some more.

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