Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Manning Leaks — No Real Harm (Database of Government Liars Anyone?)

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Secret Government Report: Chelsea Manning Leaks Caused No Real Harm by Jason Leopold.

From the post:

In the seven years since WikiLeaks published the largest leak of classified documents in history, the federal government has said they caused enormous damage to national security.

But a secret, 107-page report, prepared by a Department of Defense task force and newly obtained by BuzzFeed News, tells a starkly different story: It says the disclosures were largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.

Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Iraq-related military documents and State Department cables provided by the Army private Chelsea Manning, the report assessed “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq.”

The 107 page report, redacted, runs 35 pages. Thanks to BuzzFeed News for prying that much of a semblance of the truth out of the government.

It is further proof that US prosecutors and other federal government representatives lie to the courts, the press and the public, whenever its suits their purposes.

Anyone with transcripts from the original Manning hearings, should identify statements by prosecutors at variance with this report, noting the prosecutor’s name, rank and recording the page/line reference in the transcript.

That individual prosecutors and federal law enforcement witnesses lie is a commonly known fact. What I haven’t seen, is a central repository of all such liars and the lies they have told.

I mention a central repository because to say one or two prosecutors have lied or been called down by a judge grabs a headline, but showing a pattern over decades of lying by the state, that could move to an entirely different level.

Judges, even conservative ones (especially conservative ones?), don’t appreciate being lied to by anyone, including the state.

The state has chosen lying as its default mode of operation.

Let’s help them wear that banner.

Interested?

Key DoD Officials – September 1947 to June 2017

Monday, June 19th, 2017

While looking for a particular Department of Defense official, I stumbled on: Department of Defense Key Officials September 1947–June 2017.

Yes, almost seventy (70) years worth of key office holders at the DoD. It’s eighty (80) pages long, produced by the Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense.

One potential use, aside from giving historical military fiction a ring of authenticity, would be to use this as a starting set of entities to trace through the development of the military/industrial complex.

Everyone, including me, refers to the military/industrial complex as though it is a separate entity, over there somewhere.

But as everyone discovered with the Panama Papers, however tangled and corrupt even world-wide organizations can be, we have the technology to untangle those knots and to shine bright lights into obscure corners.

Interested?

DoD Audit Ready By End of September (Which September? Define “ready.”)

Monday, June 19th, 2017

For your Monday amusement: Pentagon Official: DoD will be audit ready by end of September by Eric White.

From the post:

In today’s Federal Newscast, the Defense Department’s Comptroller David Norquist said the department has been properly preparing for its deadline for audit readiness.

The Pentagon’s top financial official said DoD will meet its deadline to be “audit ready” by the end of September. DoD has been working toward the deadline for the better part of seven years, and as the department pointed out in its most recent audit readiness update, most federal agencies haven’t earned clean opinions until they’ve been under full-scale audits for several years. But newly-confirmed comptroller David Norquist said now’s the time to start. He said the department has already contracted with several outside accounting firms to perform the audits, both for the Defense Department’s various components and an overarching audit of the entire department.

I’m reminded of the alleged letter by the Duke of Wellington to Whitehall:

Gentlemen,

Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance.

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,

Wellington

The primary function of any military organization is suppression of the currently designated “enemy.”

Congress should direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to auditing the DoD.

Instead of chasing fictional terrorists, DHS staff would be chasing known to exist dollars and alleged expenses.

FOIA Success Prediction

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Will your FOIA request succeed? This new machine will tell you by Benjamin Mullin.

From the post:

Many journalists know the feeling: There could be a cache of documents that might confirm an important story. Your big scoop hinges on one question: Will the government official responsible for the records respond to your FOIA request?

Now, thanks to a new project from a data storage and analysis company, some of the guesswork has been taken out of that question.

Want to know the chances your public records request will get rejected? Plug it into FOIA Predictor, a probability analysis web application from Data.World, and it will provide an estimation of your success based on factors including word count, average sentence length and specificity.

Accuracy?

Best way to gauge that is experience with your FOIA requests.

Try starting at MuckRock.com.

Enjoy!

(Legal) Office of Personnel Management Data!

Friday, June 9th, 2017

We’re Sharing A Vast Trove Of Federal Payroll Records by Jeremy Singer-Vine.

From the post:

Today, BuzzFeed News is sharing an enormous dataset — one that sheds light on four decades of the United States’ federal payroll.

The dataset contains hundreds of millions of rows and stretches all the way back to 1973. It provides salary, title, and demographic details about millions of U.S. government employees, as well as their migrations into, out of, and through the federal bureaucracy. In many cases, the data also contains employees’ names.

We obtained the information — nearly 30 gigabytes of it — from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Now, we’re sharing it with the public. You can download it for free on the Internet Archive.

This is the first time, it seems, that such extensive federal payroll data is freely available online, in bulk. (The Asbury Park Press and FedsDataCenter.com both publish searchable databases. They’re great for browsing, but don’t let you download the data.)

We hope that policy wonks, sociologists, statisticians, fellow journalists — or anyone else, for that matter — find the data useful.

We obtained the information through two Freedom of Information Act requests to OPM. The first chunk of data, provided in response to a request filed in September 2014, covers late 1973 through mid-2014. The second, provided in response to a request filed in December 2015, covers late 2014 through late 2016. We have submitted a third request, pending with the agency, to update the data further.

Between our first and second requests, OPM announced it had suffered a massive computer hack. As a result, the agency told us, it would no longer release certain information, including the employee “pseudo identifier” that had previously disambiguated employees with common names.

What a great data release! Kudos and thanks to BuzzFeed News!

If you need the “pseudo identifiers” for the second or following releases and/or data for the employees withheld (generally the more interesting ones), consult data from the massive computer hack.

Or obtain the excluded data directly from the Office of Personnel Management without permission.

Enjoy!

Open Data = Loss of Bureaucratic Power

Friday, June 9th, 2017

James Comey’s leaked memos about meetings with President Trump illustrates one reason for the lack of progress on open data reported in FOIA This! The Depressing State of Open Data by Toby McIntosh.

From Former DOJ Official on Comey Leak: ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ Among Bureaucrats:


On “Fox & Friends” today, J. Christian Adams said the leak of the memos by Comey was in line with “standard operating procedure” among Beltway bureaucrats.

“[They] were using the media, using confidential information to advance attacks on the President of the United States. That’s what they do,” said Adams, adding he saw it go on at DOJ.

Access to information is one locus of bureaucratic power, which makes the story in FOIA This! The Depressing State of Open Data a non-surprise:

In our latest look at FOIA around the world, we examine the state of open data sets. According to the new report by the World Wide Web Foundation, the news is not good.

“The number of global truly open datasets remains at a standstill,” according to the group’s researchers, who say that only seven percent of government data is fully open.

The findings come in the fourth edition of the Open Data Barometer, an annual assessment which was enlarged this year to include 1,725 datasets from 15 different sectors across 115 countries. The report summarizes:

Only seven governments include a statement on open data by default in their current policies. Furthermore, we found that only 7 percent of the data is fully open, only one of every two datasets is machine readable and only one in four datasets has an open license. While more data has become available in a machine-readable format and under an open license since the first edition of the Barometer, the number of global truly open datasets remains at a standstill.

Based on the detailed country-by-country rankings, the report says some countries continue to be leaders on open data, a few have stepped up their game, but some have slipped backwards.

With open data efforts at a standstill and/or sliding backwards, waiting for bureaucrats to voluntarily relinquish power is a non-starter.

There are other options.

Need I mention the Office of Personnel Management hack? The highly touted but apparently fundamentally vulnerable NSA?

If you need a list of cyber-vulnerable U.S. government agencies, see: A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies.

You can:

  • wait for bureaucrats to abase themselves,
  • post how government “…ought to be transparent and accountable…”
  • echo opinions of others on calling for open data,

or, help yourself to government collected, generated, or produced data.

Which one do you think is more effective?

Theresa May (UK) Out Dumbs Donald Trump (USA)

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Theresa May (UK) has made a dumber proposal than Donald Trump (USA), at least this week. But it is only Monday.

The Independent reports Theresa May is calling for regulation of the internet, after a van and knife on London Bridge.

From the story:


“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” Ms May said.

“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”

She warned there was “a new trend in the threat we face” and that while the three recent terror attacks in the UK were not linked by “common networks”, they were “bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamic extremism”.

Completely unhinged.

Do take the threats of regulation seriously.

Search for and publish 0Days upon discovery. Computers are breached may belong to governments attempting to regulate the internet. Any diminishing of their capabilities and/or secrecy, is a win for everyone.

Crowd-Funding Public Access to NSA Tools!

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Awesome! (with a caveat below)

Shadow Brokers Response Team is creating open & transparent crowd-funded analysis of leaked NSA tools.

The group calling itself the Shadow Brokers have released several caches of exploits to date. These caches and releases have had a detrimental outcome on the Internet at large, one leak especially resulted in the now in-famous WannaCry ransomware worm – others have been used by criminal crackers to illegally access infrastructure. Many have been analysing the data to determine its authenticity and impact on infrastructure, as a community it has been expressed that the harm caused by exploits could have been mitigated against had the Shadow Brokers been paid for their disclosures.

The leaks of information seen so far have included weaponized reliable exploits for the following platforms:

  • Cisco
  • Juniper
  • Solaris
  • Microsoft Windows
  • Linux

The Shadow Brokers have announced they are offering a “monthly dump” service which requires a subscription of 100 ZCASH coins. Currently this is around £17688.29 but could change due to the fleeting nature of cryptocurrency. By paying the Shadow Brokers the cash they asked for we hope to pool resources and avert any future WannaCry type incidents. This patreon is a chance for those who may not have large budgets (SME, startups and individuals) in the ethical hacking and whitehat community to pool resources and buy a subscription for the new monthly released data.

The goal here is to raise sufficient funds from interested parties to purchase a subscription to the new data leak. We are attempting to perform the following task:

  • Raise funds to purchase 100 ZCASH coins
  • Purchase 100 ZCASH coins from a reputable exchange
  • Transfer 100 ZCASH coins to ShadowBrokers with email address
  • Access the data from the ShadowBrokers and distribute to backers
  • Perform analysis on data leak and ascertain risk / perform disclosures

The Shadow Brokers have implied that the leak could be any of the following items of interest:

  • web browser, router, handset exploits and tools
  • newer material from NSA ops disk including Windows 10 exploits
  • misc compromised network data (SWIFT or Nuclear programmes)
  • … (emphasis in original)

An almost excellent plan that with enough contributors, reduces the risk to any one person to a manageable level.

Two-hundred and fifty contributors at $100 each, makes the $25,000 goal. That’s quite doable.

My only caveat is the “…whitehat ethical hacker…” language for sharing the release. Buying a share in the release should be just that, buying a share. What participants do or don’t do with their share is not a concern.

Kroger clerks don’t ask me if I am going to use flour to bake bread for the police and/or terrorists.

Besides, the alleged NSA tools weren’t created by “…whitehat ethical hackers….” Yes? No government has a claim on others to save them from their own folly.

Any competing crowd-funded subscriptions to the Shadow Brokers release?

Hacking Fingerprints (Yours, Mine, Theirs)

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Neural networks just hacked your fingerprints by Thomas McMullan.

From the post:

Fingerprints are supposed to be unique markers of a person’s identity. Detectives look for fingerprints in crime scenes. Your phone’s fingerprint sensor means only you can unlock the screen. The truth, however, is that fingerprints might not be as secure as you think – at least not in an age of machine learning.

A team of researchers has demonstrated that, with the help of neural networks, a “masterprint” can be used to fool verification systems. A masterprint, like a master key, is a fingerprint that can be open many different doors. In the case of fingerprint identification, it does this by tricking a computer into thinking the print could belong to a number of different people.

“Our method is able to design a MasterPrint that a commercial fingerprint system matches to 22% of all users in a strict security setting, and 75% of all users at a looser security setting,” the researchers ­– Philip Bontrager, Julian Togelius and Nasir Memon – claim in a paper.

The tweet that brought this post to my attention didn’t seem to take this as good news.

But it is, very good news!

Think about it for a moment. Who is most likely to have “strict security settings?”

Your average cubicle dweller/home owner or …, large corporation or government entity?

What is more, if you, as a cubicle dweller are ever accosted for a breach of security, leaking fingerprint protected files, etc., what better defense than known spoofing of fingerprints?

Not that you would be guilty of such an offense but its always nice to have a credible defense in addition to being innocent!

For further details:

DeepMasterPrint: Generating Fingerprints for Presentation Attacks by Philip Bontrager, Julian Togelius, Nasir Memon.

Abstract:

We present two related methods for creating MasterPrints, synthetic fingerprints that a fingerprint verification system identifies as many different people. Both methods start with training a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) on a set of real fingerprint images. The generator network is then used to search for images that can be recognized as multiple individuals. The first method uses evolutionary optimization in the space of latent variables, and the second uses gradient-based search. Our method is able to design a MasterPrint that a commercial fingerprint system matches to 22% of all users in a strict security setting, and 75% of all users at a looser security setting.

Defeating fingerprints as “conclusive proof” of presence is an important step towards freedom for us all.

China Draws Wrong Lesson from WannaCry Ransomware

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Chinese state media says US should take some blame for cyberattack

From the post:


China’s cyber authorities have repeatedly pushed for what they call a more “equitable” balance in global cyber governance, criticizing U.S. dominance.

The China Daily pointed to the U.S. ban on Chinese telecommunication provider Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, saying the curbs were hypocritical given the NSA leak.

Beijing has previously said the proliferation of fake news on U.S. social media sites, which are largely banned in China, is a reason to tighten global cyber governance.

The newspaper said that the role of the U.S. security apparatus in the attack should “instill greater urgency” in China’s mission to replace foreign technology with its own.

The state-run People’s Daily compared the cyber attack to the terrorist hacking depicted in the U.S. film “Die Hard 4”, warning that China’s role in global trade and internet connectivity opened it to increased risks from overseas.

China is certainly correct to demand a place at the table for China and other world powers in global cyber governance.

But China is drawing the wrong lesson from the WannaCry ransomeware attacks if that is used as a motivation for closed source Chinese software to replace “foreign” technology.

NSA staffers may well be working for Microsoft and/or Oracle, embedding NSA produced code in their products. With closed source code, it isn’t possible to verify the absence of such code or to prevent its introduction.

Sadly, the same is true if closed source code is written by Chinese programmers, some of who may have agendas, domestic or foreign, of their own.

The only defense to rogue code is to invest in open source projects. Not everyone will read every line of code but being available for being read, is a deterrent to obvious subversion of an applications security.

China should have “greater urgency” to abandon closed source software, but investing in domestic closed source only replicates the mistake of investing in foreign closed source software.

Opensource projects cover every office, business and scientific need.

Chinese government support for Chinese participation in existing and new opensource projects can make these projects competitors to closed and potential spyware products.

The U.S. made the closed source mistake for critical cyber infrastructure. China should not make the same mistake.

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget.

In the best pay-to-play tradition, the Government Printing Office (GPO) has these volumes for sale:

America First: A Budget Blueprint To Make America Great Again By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00719-9 ISBN: 9780160937620. Price: $10.00.

Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 (Paperback Book) By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00723-7 ISBN: 9780160939228. Price: $38.00.

Appendix, Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget GPO Stock # 041-001-00720-2 ISBN: 9780160939334. Price: $79.00.

Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 (CD-ROM) By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget GPO Stock # 041-001-00722-9 ISBN: 9780160939358. Price: $29.00.

Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, FY 2018 By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00721-1 ISBN: 9780160939341. Price: $56.00.

Major Savings and Reforms: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2018 By: Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. GPO Stock # 041-001-00724-5 ISBN: 9780160939457. Price: $35.00.

If someone doesn’t beat me to it (very likely), I will be either uploading the CD-ROM and/or pointing you to a location with the contents of the CD-ROM.

As citizens, whether you voted or not, you should have the opportunity to verify news accounts, charges and counter-charges with regard to the budget.

Open Source Data Jeopardizing Cleared Personnel:… (School Yearbooks?)

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Open Source Data Jeopardizing Cleared Personnel: Intelligence Operations Outsmarted by Technology by Alexander H. Georgiades.

Abstract:

The availability and accessibility of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) combined with the information from data breaches has affected cleared personnel in the United States Intelligence Community (IC) and Department of Defense (DoD) who conduct and support intelligence operations. This information when used in conjunction with biometric detection technology at border crossings has greatly improved the likelihood of cleared personnel from the United States Government (USG) of being identified and targeted by adversaries. The shift from traditional Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) used by cleared personnel (either operating in an overt or covert status) during the Cold War when biometric technology was not an obstacle, has caught the United States government intelligence services off-guard when conducting sensitive missions Outside of the Continental United States (OCONUS).

The consequences of not maintaining updated software and hardware standards have already affected U.S. intelligence operations and exposed cleared personnel. The computer breach at the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM), where millions of sensitive records from cleared personnel in the private and public sectors is the most recent example. This unprecedented loss of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) has been the unfortunate wakeup call needed for decision makers in the United States government to reevaluate how they handle, collect, store, and protect the information of cleared personnel in this digital age.

The analysis of competing hypothesis and other predictive analytical methods will be used to evaluate the data available to adversaries who target cleared personnel and the intelligence operations they support. Case studies, news articles, books, government, and industry reports will be used as supporting evidence to illustrate how the growth in biometric detection technology use in conjunction with the availability of OSINT and material from data breaches adversely affect intelligence operations.

The amount of information available to adversaries is at an unprecedented level. Open source forums provide detailed information about cleared personnel and government TTPs that can be used by adversaries to unravel intelligence operations, target cleared personnel, and jeopardize USG equities (such as sources and methods) in the field. The cleared workforce must learn from mistakes of complacency and poor tradecraft in the past to develop new methodologies to neutralize the effectiveness of adversaries who use OSINT and biometric technology to their advantage.

Social media use by cleared employees who reveal too much operational information about themselves or the projects they work on is one of the gateways that can be easily closed to adversaries. Cleared personnel must be mandated to limit the amount of information they publish online. By closing the door to social media and preventing the personal and professional lives of the cleared workforce from being used to target them, adversaries would not be as effective in jeopardizing or exposing intelligence operations overseas. Increased Operational Security (OPSEC) procedures must also be mandated to protect the programs and operations these cleared personnel work on, with an emphasis on covert officers who use false personas when operating overseas.

The information bridges that were created after September 11, 2001 to increase collaboration must be reevaluated to determine if the relaxation of classified information safeguards and storage of sensitive information is now becoming detrimental to USG intelligence operations and cleared personnel.

As you know, I have little sympathy for the Intelligence Community (IC), creators of the fishbowl in which we commonly reside. Members of the IC sharing that fate, has a ring of justice to it.

This thesis offers a general overview of the problem and should be good to spark ideas of open source intelligence that can be used to corroborate or contradict other sources of intelligence.

By way of example, educational records are easy enough to edit and convincing to anyone not aware they have been edited.

On the other hand, original and digitized year books or similar contemporary resources, are not so easily manipulated.

As I say that, tracking every child from first grade through the end of their academic career, is eminently doable, with the main obstacle being acquisition of the original yearbooks.

Cross-referencing other large collections of photos and the project starts to sound useful to any number of governments, especially those worried about operatives from Western countries.

Are you worried about Western operatives?

Memo To File (Maybe Bad OpSec)

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

What an FBI memo like Comey’s on Trump looks like by Josh Gerstein.

From the post:

The existence of memos that former FBI Director James Comey reportedly prepared detailing his conversations with President Donald Trump about the bureau’s Russia investigation is far from shocking to FBI veterans, who say documenting such contacts in highly sensitive investigations is par for the course.

“A conversation with a subject of an investigation is evidentiary, no matter what is discussed,” said former FBI official Tom Fuentes, who stressed that he doesn’t know what the president’s status is with respect to the ongoing probe of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. “Any conversation with Trump is going to be noteworthy….If you drop dead of a heart attack, your successor is going to want to know what was going on, so you would record that whether it’s to aid your future memory or for a successor two or three years down the line.”

Comey documented Trump’s request to curtail the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election the day after former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned, according to a New York Times report subsequently confirmed by a source to POLITICO. The White House has denied the president made any such request.

A “memo to file” isn’t complicated and especially if done on a routine basis, has high value as evidence. Gerstein includes a link to an actual “memo to file.” (see his post)

I mention this because a practice of “memo to file,” much like Nixon’s Watergate tapes, can prove to be a two-edged sword.

Like calendars, travel logs, expense records, etc., a series of “memo(s) to file” may not agree with your current memory of events. The “record” will be presumed to be more reliable than your present memory.

Just a warning to make sure the record you preserve is the one you want quoted back to yourself in the future.

Don’t Blame NSA For Ransomware Attack!

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Stop Blaming NSA For The Ransomware Attack by Patrick Tucker.

Most days I think the NSA should be blamed for everything from global warming to biscuits that fail to rise.

But for leaked cyber weapons? No blame whatsoever.

Why? The answer lies in the NSA processing of vulnerabilities.

From the post:


“You’ve heard my deputy director say that in excess of 80-something percent of the vulnerabilities are actually disclosed—responsibly disclosed —to the vendors so that they can then actually patch and remediate for that,” Curtis Dukes, NSA’s former deputy national manager for national security systems, said at an American Enterprise Institute event in October. “So I do believe it’s a thoughtful process that we have here in the U.S.”

Dukes said the impetus to conceal an exploit vanishes when it is used by a criminal gang, adversarial nation, or some other malefactor.

We may choose to restrict a vulnerability for offensive purposes, like breaking into an adversary’s network, he said. But that doesn’t mean we’re not also constantly looking for signs whether another nation-state or criminal network has actually found that same vulnerability and now are using it. As soon as we see any indications of that, then that decision immediately flips, and we move to disseminate and remediate.

You may think that is a “thoughtful process” but that’s not why I suggest the NSA should be held blameless.

Look at the numbers on vulnerabilities:

80% disclosed by the NSA for remediation.

20% concealed by the NSA.

Complete NSA disclosure means the 20% now concealed, vanishes for everyone.

That damages everyone seeking government transparency.

Don’t wave your arms in the air crying “ransomware! ransomeware! Help me! Help me!,” or “Blame the NSA! “Blame the NSA.”

Use FOIA requests, leaks and cyber vulnerabilities to peel governments of their secrecy, like lettuce, one leaf at a time.

Bigoted Use of Stingray Technology vs. Other Ills

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Racial Disparities in Police ‘Stingray’ Surveillance, Mapped by George Joseph.

From the post:

Louise Goldsberry, a Florida nurse, was washing dishes when she looked outside her window and saw a man pointing a gun at her face. Goldsberry screamed, dropped to the floor, and crawled to her bedroom to get her revolver. A standoff ensued with the gunman—who turned out to be an agent with the U.S. Marshals’ fugitive division.

Goldsberry, who had no connection to a suspect that police were looking for, eventually surrendered and was later released. Police claimed that they raided her apartment because they had a “tip” about the apartment complex. But, according to Slate, the reason the “tip” was so broad was because the police had obtained only the approximate location of the suspect’s phone—using a “Stingray” phone tracker, a little-understood surveillance device that has quietly spread from the world of national security into that of domestic law enforcement.

Goldsberry’s story illustrates a potential harm of Stingrays not often considered: increased police contact for people who get caught in the wide dragnets of these interceptions. To get a sense of the scope of this surveillance, CityLab mapped police data from three major cities across the U.S., and found that this burden is not shared equally.

How not equally?

Baltimore, Maryland.

The map at Joseph’s post is interactive, along with maps for Tallahassee, Florida and Milwaukee, Minnesota.

I oppose government surveillance overall but am curious, is Stingray usage a concern of technology/privacy advocates or is there a broader base for opposing it?

Consider the following facts gathered by Bill Quigley:

Were you shocked at the disruption in Baltimore? What is more shocking is daily life in Baltimore, a city of 622,000 which is 63 percent African American. Here are ten numbers that tell some of the story.

One. Blacks in Baltimore are more than 5.6 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites even though marijuana use among the races is similar. In fact, Baltimore county has the fifth highest arrest rate for marijuana possessions in the USA.

Two. Over $5.7 million has been paid out by Baltimore since 2011 in over 100 police brutality lawsuits. Victims of severe police brutality were mostly people of color and included a pregnant woman, a 65 year old church deacon, children, and an 87 year old grandmother.

Three. White babies born in Baltimore have six more years of life expectancy than African American babies in the city.

Four. African Americans in Baltimore are eight times more likely to die from complications of HIV/AIDS than whites and twice as likely to die from diabetes related causes as whites.

Five. Unemployment is 8.4 percent city wide. Most estimates place the unemployment in the African American community at double that of the white community. The national rate of unemployment for whites is 4.7 percent, for blacks it is 10.1.

Six.African American babies in Baltimore are nine times more likely to die before age one than white infants in the city.

Seven. There is a twenty year difference in life expectancy between those who live in the most affluent neighborhood in Baltimore versus those who live six miles away in the most impoverished.

Eight. 148,000 people, or 23.8 percent of the people in Baltimore, live below the official poverty level.

Nine. 56.4 percent of Baltimore students graduate from high school. The national rate is about 80 percent.

Ten. 92 percent of marijuana possession arrests in Baltimore were of African Americans, one of the highest racial disparities in the USA.

(The “Shocking” Statistics of Racial Disparity in Baltimore)

Which of those facts would you change before tackling the problem of racially motivated use of Stingray technology?

I see several that I would rate much higher than the vagaries of Stingray surveillance.

You?

Effective versus Democratic Action

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

OpenMedia is hosting an online petition: Save our Security — Strong Encryption Keeps Us Safe to:

Leaked docs reveal the UK Home Office’s secret plan to gain real-time access to our text messages and online communications AND force companies like WhatsApp to break the security on its own software.1 This reckless plan will make all of us more vulnerable to attacks like the recent ransomware assault against the NHS.2

If enough people speak out right now and flood the consultation before May 19, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd will realise she’s gone too far.

Tell Home Secretary Amber Rudd: Encryption keeps us safe. Do not weaken everyone’s security by creating backdoors that hackers and malicious actors can exploit.
… (emphasis in original, footnotes omitted)

+1! on securing your privacy, but -1! on democratic action.

Assume the consultation is “flooded” and Home Secretary Amber Rudd says:

Hearing the outcry of our citizens, we repent of our plan for near real time monitoring of your conversations….

I’m sorry, why would you trust Home Secretary Amber Rudd or any other member of government, when they make such a statement?

They hide the plans for monitoring your communications in near real time, as OpenMedia makes abundantly clear.

What convinces you Home Secretary Rudd and her familiars won’t hide government monitoring of your communications?

A record of trustworthy behavior in the past?

You can flood the consultation if you like but effective actions include:

  • Anyone with access to government information should leak that information whenever possible.
  • Anyone employed by government should use weak passwords, follow links in suspected phishing emails and otherwise practice bad cybersecurity.
  • If you don’t work for a government or have access to government information, copy, repost, forward, and otherwise spread any leaked government information you encounter.
  • If you have technical skills, devote some portion of your work week to obtaining information a government prefers to keep secret.

The only trustworthy government is a transparent government.

Executive Order on Cybersecurity [“No Snide Remark Seems Adequate”]

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure

You do remember this Dilbert cartoon from May 23, 1989?

Laptops Banned To Drive Alcohol Consumption

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Clive Irving writes in U.S. to Ban Laptops in All Cabins of Flights From Europe:


The Department of Homeland Security will ban laptops in the cabins of all flights from Europe to the United States, European security officials told The Daily Beast. The announcement is expected Thursday.

Irving does a good job of illustrating the increased risk from the laptop ban, but misses the real motivation behind the ban. Yes, yes, DHS says it:

…continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe.

“Threat environment” my ass!

Remember the UK has been reduced to claiming people with knives are terrorists.

Armed police carrying out a counterterrorism operation Thursday swooped in on a man they said was carrying knives in a bag near Britain’s Parliament and arrested him on suspicion of planning terrorist acts.

A European security official familiar with the individual said the suspect was known to British security agencies and was thought to have been inspired by the Islamic State group.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters, said the discovery of knives suggested an attack might have been close to fruition. Authorities haven’t released the man’s name.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the 27-year-old suspect was stopped and detained “as part of an ongoing operation” by the force’s counterterrorism unit.

“…swooped in on a man they said was carrying knives in a bag…”

That sounds more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a terrorist attack or potential one.

Shake the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tree really hard, by leakers or FOIA requests and I’m betting the following will fall out:

Alcoholic Drink Consumption On Europe to US Flights

  • Underage and kill-joys: 0
  • Parent with one child: 3
  • Parent with two children: 5
  • Business flyer with no laptop: 1 per hour of flight time

Once this data began to circulate among airline companies, the fate of laptops was sealed.

Increase alcohol sales are the primary goal of the laptop ban.

PS: If you think I am being cavalier about the risk from terrorism, consider that 963 people were killed by police officers in 2016. Versus 54 people in “terrorist” attacks, all by US citizens.

Congressional Fact Laundering

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

How a Fake Cyber Statistic Raced Through Washington by Joseph Marks.

The statistic you are about to read is false:


The statistic, typically attributed to the National Cyber Security Alliance, is that 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack will go out of business within six months.

It appears in a House bill that won unanimous support from that chamber’s Science Committee this week, cited as evidence the federal government must devote more resources to helping small businesses shore up their cybersecurity. It’s also in a companion Senate bill that sailed through the Commerce Committee in April.

Both bills require the government’s cyber standards agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to devote more of its limited resources to creating cybersecurity guidance for small businesses.

Federal Trade Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen cited the figure in testimony before the House Small Business Committee in March, as did Charles Romine, director of NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., ranking member on the Senate Small Business Committee, cited the figure in a letter to Amazon asking the internet commerce giant what it was doing to improve cybersecurity for its third-party sellers.

Reminder: The 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack will go out of business within six months statement is FALSE.

The bulk of the article is an amusing romp through various parties attempting to deny they were the source of the false information and/or that the presence of false information had any impact on the legislation.

The second part, that false information had no impact on the legislation seems plausible to me. Legislation rarely has any relationship to information true or false so I can understand why false information doesn’t trouble those cited.

Congressional hearing documents could simply repeat the standard Lorem Ipsum:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

It has as much of a relationship to any legislation Congress passes as the carefully published committee hearings.

There is an upside to Joseph’s story:


The size and expertise of congressional staffs who write and vet legislation have also steadily diminished over time as have the staffs of congressional services such as the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service designed to provide Congress with authoritative data.

“Basically, [congressional staffers] have less expertise available to them, are more reliant on what other people tell them and it’s much easier for erroneous information to get into the political system,” said Daniel Schuman, a former House and Senate staffer who also worked for the Congressional Research Service and is now policy director for Demand Progress, a left-leaning internet rights and open government organization.

It’s what I call “fact laundering.” It’s like money laundering but legal.

You load your member of Congress up with fake facts, which they cite (without naming you), which are spread by other people (with no checking), cited by other members of congress and agencies, and in just weeks, you have gone from a false fact to a congressional fact.

An added bonus, even when denied, a congressional fact can become stronger.

Facts on demand as it were.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jason Gearman Signals DAPL Opponents

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Sheriff’s Capt. Jason Gearman adopted one of my suggestions from Protecting DAPL From Breaches (Maps and Hunting Safety) and has signaled DAPL opponents of increased law enforcement patrols in Buena Vista County, Iowa and Minnehaha County, South Dakota.

Express your appreciation to Capt. Jason Gearman for keeping DAPL opponents and sheriff’s deputies safely apart. Not all law enforcement personnel are pipeline stooges.

For more details see: New Vandalism on DAPL.

EU Censorship Emboldens Torpid UK Parliament Members

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Social media companies “shamefully far” from tackling illegal and dangerous content

From the webpage:

The Home Affairs Committee has strongly criticised social media companies for failing to take down and take sufficiently seriously illegal content – saying they are “shamefully far” from taking sufficient action to tackle hate and dangerous content on their sites.

The Committee recommends the Government should assess whether failure to remove illegal material is in itself a crime and, if not, how the law should be strengthened. They recommend that the Government also consult on a system of escalating sanctions to include meaningful fines for social media companies which fail to remove illegal content within a strict timeframe.
… (emphasis in original)

I can only guess the recent EU censorship spasm, EU’s Unfunded Hear/See No Evil Policy, has made the UK parliament bold. Or at least bolder than usual.

what leaves me puzzled though, is that “hate crimes,” are by definition crimes. Yes? And even the UK laws against hate crimes, police officials to enforce those laws and courts in which to try those suspected of hate crimes and prisons in the event they are convicted. Yes?

If all that’s true, then for social media, really media in general, you need only one rule:

If what you see, hear and/or read disturbs you, look, listen and/or read something else.

It’s really that simple. No costs to social media companies, no extra personnel to second guess what some number of UK parliament members find to be “hate and dangerous content,” no steady decay of the right to speak without government pre-approval, etc.

As far as what other people prefer to see, hear and/or read, well, that’s really none of your business.

Practical Suggestions For Improving Transparency

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

A crowd wail about Presidents Obama, Trump, opacity, lack of transparency, loss of democracy, freedom of the press, the imminent death of civilization, etc., isn’t going to improve transparency.

I have two practical suggestions for improving transparency.

First suggestion: Always re-post, tweet, share stories with links to leaked materials. If the story you read doesn’t have such a link, seek out one that does to re-post, tweet, share.

Some stories of leaks include a URL to the leaked material, like Hacker leaks Orange is the New Black new season after ransom demands ignored by Sean Gallagher, or NSA-leaking Shadow Brokers just dumped its most damaging release yet by Dan Goodin, both of Ars Technica

Some stories of the same leaks do not include a URL to the leaked material,The Netflix ‘Orange is the New Black’ Leak Shows TV Piracy Is So 2012 (which does have the best strategy for fighting piracy I have ever read) or, Shadow Brokers leak trove of NSA hacking tools.

Second suggestion: If you encounter leaked materials, post, tweet and share them as widely as possible. (Translations are always needed.)

Improving transparency requires only internet access and the initiative to do so.

Are you game?

4.5 Billion Forced To Boycott ‘Hack the Air Force’ (You Should Too)

Friday, April 28th, 2017

I mentioned in How Do Hackers Live on $53.57? (‘Hack the Air Force’) that only hackers in Australia, Cananda, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States can participate in ‘Hack the Air Force.’

For a rough count of those excluded, let’s limit hackers to being between the ages of 15 and 64. The World Bank puts that as 66% of the total population as of 2015.

OK, the World Population Clock gives a world population as of 28 April 2017 as 7,500,889,628.

Consulting the table for population by country, we find: Australia (25M), Cananda (37M), New Zealand (5M), the United Kingdom (66M) and United States (326M), for a total of 459 million.

Rounding the world’s population to 7,501,000,000, 66% of that population is 4,950,660,000 potential hackers world-wide, and from Australia, Cananda, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States, 283,140,000 potential hackers.

Hmmm,

Worldwide 4,950,660,000
AF Rules 283,140,000
Excluded 4,667,520,000

Not everyone between the ages of 15 and 64 is a hacker but raw numbers indicate a weakness in the US Air Force approach.

If ‘Hack the Air Force’ attracts any participants at all (participation is a bad idea, damages the cybersecurity labor market), those participants will be very similar to those who wrote the insecure systems for the Air Force.

The few participants will find undiscovered weaknesses. But the weaknesses they find will be those anyone similar to them would find. A lack of diversity in security testing is as serious a flaw as standard root passwords.

If you need evidence for the need for diversity in security testing, consider any of the bugs that are found post-appearance of any major software release. One assume that Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, etc., don’t deliberately ignore major security flaws. Yet the headlines are filled with news of such flaws.

My explanation is that different people look for vulnerabilities differently and hence discover different vulnerabilities.

What’s yours?

As far as the ‘Hack the Air Force’ contest, my counsel is to boycott it along with all those forcibly excluded from participating.

The extreme lack of diversity in the hacking pool is a guarantee that post-contest, the public web systems of the US Air Force will remain insecure.

Moreover, it’s not in the interest of the cybersecurity defense community to encourage practices that damage the chances cybersecurity defense will become a viable occupation.

PS: Appeals to patriotism are amusing. The Air Force spent $billions constructing insecure systems. The people who built and maintain these insecure systems were/are paid a living wage. Having bought damaged goods, repeatedly and likely from the same people, what basis does the Air Force have to seek free advice and labor on its problems?

Facebook Used To Spread Propaganda (The other use of Facebook would be?)

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Facebook admits: governments exploited us to spread propaganda by Olivia Solon.

From the post:

Facebook has publicly acknowledged that its platform has been exploited by governments seeking to manipulate public opinion in other countries – including during the presidential elections in the US and France – and pledged to clamp down on such “information operations”.

In a white paper authored by the company’s security team and published on Thursday, the company detailed well-funded and subtle techniques used by nations and other organizations to spread misleading information and falsehoods for geopolitical goals. These efforts go well beyond “fake news”, the company said, and include content seeding, targeted data collection and fake accounts that are used to amplify one particular view, sow distrust in political institutions and spread confusion.

“We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people,” said the company.

It’s a good white paper and you can intuit a lot from it, but leaks on the details of Facebook counter-measures have commercial value.

Careful media advisers will start farming Facebook users now for the US mid-term elections in 2018. One of the “tells” (a behavior that discloses, unintentionally, a player’s intent) of a “fake” account is recent establishment with many similar accounts.

Such accounts need to be managed so that their “identity” fits the statistical average for similar accounts. They should not all suddenly like a particular post or account, for example.

The doctrines of subject identity in topic maps, can be used to avoid subject recognition as well as to insure it. Just the other side of the same coin.

Coloring US Hacker Bigotry (Test Your Geographic Ignorance)

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

I failed to mention in How Do Hackers Live on $53.57? (‘Hack the Air Force’) that ‘Hack the Air Force’ is limited to hackers in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (blue on the following map).

The dreaded North Korean hackers, the omnipresent Russian hackers (of Clinton fame), government associated Chinese hackers, not to mention the financially savvy East European hackers, and many others, are left out of this contest (red on the map).

The US Air Force is “fishing in the shallow end of the cybersecurity talent pool.”

I say this is “a partial cure for geographic ignorance,” because I started with the BlankMap-World4.svg map and proceeded in Gimp to fill in the outlines with appropriate colors.

There are faster map creation methods but going one by one, impressed upon me the need to improve my geographic knowledge!

How To Avoid Lying to Government Agents (Memorize)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents by Solomon L. Wisenberg.

Great post but Wisenberg buries his best advice twelve paragraphs into the story. (Starts with: “Is there an intelligent alternative to lying….”)

Memorize this sentence:

I will not answer any questions without first consulting an attorney.

That’s it. Short, sweet and to the point. Make no statements at all other than that one. No “I have nothing to hide,” etc.

It’s like name, rank, serial number you see in the old war movies. Don’t say anything other than that sentence.

For every statement a government agent makes, simply repeat that sentence. Remember, you can’t lie if you don’t say anything other than that sentence.

See Wisenberg’s post for the details but the highlighted sentence is the only one you need.

How Do Hackers Live on $53.57? (‘Hack the Air Force’)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

I ask because once you get past the glowing generalities of USAF Launches ‘Hack the Air Force’:

Let the friendly hacking fly: The US Air Force will allow vetted white hat hackers and other computer security specialists root out vulnerabilities in some of its main public websites.

You find:


Reina Staley, chief of staff for the Defense Digital Service, notes that white-hat hacking and crowdsourced security initiatives are often used used by small businesses and large companies to beef up their security. Payouts for Hack the Air Force will be made based on the severity of the exploit discovered, and there will be only one payout per exploit.

Staley notes that the DoD’s Hack the Pentagon initiative, which was launched in April 2016 by the Defense Digital Service, was the federal government’s first bug bounty program. More than 1,400 hackers registered to participate, and DoD paid $75,000 in bounties.

“In the past, we contracted to a security research firm and they found less than 20 unique vulnerabilities,” Staley explains. “For Hack the Pentagon, the 1,400 hackers found 138 unique vulnerabilities, most of them previously unknown.”

Kim says Hack the Air Force is all about being more proactive in finding security flaws and fixing them quickly. “While the money is a draw, we’re also finding that people want to participate in the program for patriotic reasons as well. People want to see the Internet and Armed Forces networks become safer,” he says.

Let’s see, $75,000 split between 1,400 hackers, that’s $53.57 per hacker, on average. Some got more than average, some got nothing at all.

‘Hack the Air Force’ damages the defensive cybersecurity labor market by driving down the compensation for cybersecurity skills. Skills that take time, hard work, talent to develop, but the Air Force devalues them with chump change.

I fully agree with anyone who says government, DoD or Air Force cybersecurity sucks.

However, the Air Force chose to spend money on valets, chauffeurs for its generals, fighter jets that randomly burst into flames, etc., just as they chose to neglect cybersecurity.

Not my decision, not my problem.

Want an effective solution?

First step, “…use the free market Luke!” Create an Air Force contact point where hackers can anonymously submit notices of vulnerabilities. Institute a reliable and responsive process that offers compensation (market-based compensation) for those finds. Compensation paid in bitcoins.

Bearing in mind that paying market rate and adhering to market reasonable responsiveness will be critical to success of such a portal. Yes, in a “huffy” voice, “you are the US Air Force,” but hackers will have something you need and cannot supply yourself. Live with it.

Second step, create a very “lite” contracting process when you need short-term cybersecurity audits or services. That means abandoning the layers of reports and graft of primes, sub-primes and sub-sub-primes, with all the feather nesting of contract officers, etc., along the way. Oh, drug tests as well. You want results, not squeaky clean but so-so hackers.

Third step, disclose vulnerabilities in other armed services, both domestic and foreign. Time spent hacking them is time not spent hacking you. Yes?

Until the Air Force stops damaging the defensive cybersecurity labor market, boycott the ‘Hack the Air Force’ at HackerOne and all similar efforts.

Is This Public Sector Corruption Map Knowingly False?

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

The The New York Times, , Google and Facebook would all report no.

Knowingly false?

It uses the definition of “corruption” in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n, 134 S. Ct. 1434 (2014).

Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority:


Moreover, while preventing corruption or its appearance is a legitimate objective, Congress may target only a specific type of corruption—“quid pro quo” corruption. As Buckley explained, Congress may permissibly seek to rein in “large contributions [that] are given to secure a political quid pro quo from current and potential office holders.” 424 U. S., at 26. In addition to “actual quid pro quo arrangements,” Congress may permissibly limit “the appearance of corruption stemming from public awareness of the opportunities for abuse inherent in a regime of large individual financial contributions” to particular candidates. Id., at 27; see also Citizens United, 558 U. S., at 359 (“When Buckley identified a sufficiently important governmental interest in preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption, that interest was limited to quid pro quo corruption”).

Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may
garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties. Id., at 359; see McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n, 540 U.S. 93, 297 (2003) (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). And because the Government’s interest in preventing the
appearance of corruption is equally confined to the appearance of quid pro quo corruption, the Government may not seek to limit the appearance of mere influence or access. See Citizens United, 558 U. S., at 360.
… (page 20)

But with the same “facts,” if your definition of “quid pro quo” included campaign contributions, then this map is obviously false.

In fact, Christopher Robertson, D. Alex Winkelman, Kelly Bergstrand, and Darren Modzelewski, in The Appearance and the Reality of Quid Pro Quo Corruption: An Empirical Investigation Journal of Legal Analysis (2016) 8 (2): 375-438. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jla/law006, conduct an empirical investigation into how jurors could view campaign contributions as “quid pro quo.”

Abstract:

The Supreme Court says that campaign finance regulations are unconstitutional unless they target “quid pro quo” corruption or its appearance. To test those appearances, we fielded two studies. First, in a highly realistic simulation, three grand juries deliberated on charges that a campaign spender bribed a Congressperson. Second, 1271 representative online respondents considered whether to convict, with five variables manipulated randomly. In both studies, jurors found quid pro quo corruption for behaviors they believed to be common. This research suggests that Supreme Court decisions were wrongly decided, and that Congress and the states have greater authority to regulate campaign finance. Prosecutions for bribery raise serious problems for the First Amendment, due process, and separation of powers. Safe harbors may be a solution.

Using Robertson, et al., “quid pro quo,” or even a more reasonable definition of “corruption:”

Transparency International defines corruption broadly as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. (What is Public Sector Corruption?)

a re-colorization of the map shows a different reading of corruption in the United States:

Do you think the original map (top) is going to appear with warnings it depends on how you define corruption?

Or with a note saying a definition was chosen to conceal corruption of the US government?

I didn’t think so either.

PS: The U.S. has less minor corruption than many countries. The practice of and benefits from corruption are limited to the extremely wealthy.

Scotland Yard Outsources Violation of Your Privacy

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Whistleblower uncovers London police hacking of journalists and protestors by Trevor Johnson.

From the post:

The existence of a secretive unit within London’s Metropolitan Police that uses hacking to illegally access the emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists has been revealed. At least two of the journalists work for the Guardian.

Green Party representative in the British House of Lords, Jenny Jones, exposed the unit’s existence in an opinion piece in the Guardian. The facts she revealed are based on a letter written to her by a whistleblower.

The letter reveals that through the hacking, Scotland Yard has illegally accessed the email accounts of activists for many years, and this was possible due to help from “counterparts in India.” The letter alleged that the Metropolitan Police had asked police in India to obtain passwords on their behalf—a job that the Indian police subcontracted out to groups of hackers in India.

The Indian hackers sent back the passwords obtained, which were then used illegally by the unit within the Met to gather information from the emails of those targeted.

Trevor covers a number of other points, additional questions that should be asked, the lack of media coverage over this latest outrage, etc., all of which merit your attention.

From my perspective, these abuses by the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard), are examples of the terrorism bogeyman furthering government designs against quarrelsome but otherwise ordinary citizens.

Quarrelsome but otherwise ordinary citizens are far safer and easier to spy upon than seeking out actual wrongdoers. And spying justifies part of Scotland Yard’s budget, since everyone “knows” a lack of actionable intelligence means terrorists are hiding successfully, not the more obvious lack of terrorists to be found.

As described in Trevor’s post, Scotland Yard, like all other creatures of government, thrives in shadows. Shadows where its decisions are beyond discussion and reproach.

In choosing between supporting government spawned creatures that live in the shadows and working to dispel the shadows that foster them, remember they are not, were not and never will be “…on you side.”

They have a side, but it most assuredly is not yours.

Shortfall in Peer Respect and Accomplishment

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

I didn’t expect UK government confirmation of my post: Shortfall in Cypbersecurity Talent or Compensation? so quickly!

I argued against the groundless claims of a shortage of cybersecurity talent in the face of escalating cybercrime and hacking statistics.

If there were a shortage of cybersecurity talent, cybercrime should be going down. But it’s not.

The National Crime Agency reports:

The National Crime Agency has today published research into how and why some young people become involved in cyber crime.

The report, which is based on debriefs with offenders and those on the fringes of criminality, explores why young people assessed as unlikely to commit more traditional crimes get involved in cyber crime.

The report emphasises that financial gain is not necessarily a priority for young offenders. Instead, the sense of accomplishment at completing a challenge, and proving oneself to peers in order to increase online reputations are the main motivations for those involved in cyber criminality.

Government agencies, like the FBI for example, are full of lifers who take their breaks at precisely 14:15 PM, have their favorite parking spots, play endless office politics, masters of passive-aggression, who make government and/or corporate work too painful to contemplate for young cybersecurity talent.

In short, a lack of meaningful peer respect and a sense of accomplishment is defeating both government and private hiring of cybersecurity talent.

Read Pathways Into Cyber Crime and evaluate how the potential young hires in there would react to your staff meetings and organizational structure.

That bad? Wow, you are worse off than I thought.

So, are you going to keep with your certificate-driven, cubicle-based, Dilbert-like cybersecurity effort?

How’s that working out for you?

You will have to take risks to find better solutions but you are losing already. Enough to chance a different approach?