Rumbled by the NSA

There’s a neat little video with some guy on YouTube that was posted just a few weeks ago. He loses his password for his Gmail account and decides to call the National Security Agency to see if they can help him out. The woman who picks up the phone says that the NA is only involved in ‘protecting US national security and producing foreign signals intelligence’ (which is the off-pat answer read straight from the NSA internet site) and that the NSA ‘doesn’t listen into conversations of American citizens or friends of the US government’. LOL. Yeah, right. But, what I find strange is that when I connect to the NSA internet site, my access is blocked almost immediately and I get the following answer: “An error occurred while processing your request”. I think I have been rumbled, haven’t I? But, I haven’t actually ever done anything (not yet, anyhow). Is this the Minority-Report, pre-crime prosecution and am I Mr. Cruise? I certainly have the feeling that I am guilty before being tried, drawn and quartered before I’ve actually been hung. It’s all in reverse, isn’t it.

NSA

NSA

It would appear that the embroiled story of the Edward Snowden whistleblowing scandal gets deeper and more mysterious every day. Yesterday, we reported that the FBI and the NSA had developed software that enabled them to access the telephone’s whereabouts, even when the device was turned off and apparently not emitting a signal, by introducing spyware into the device when the user updated the operating systems. Today, it turns out that the story gets worse. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why the US has any unemployment at all these days or better still, maybe Ben Bernanke’s prediction that unemployment will indeed fall to below 6% and even get to around 5.5% is going to come true since he is in-the-know! There must be so many people actually working for the NSA today on all of these new projects and Prism that there won’t be any unemployment at all in the country pretty soon.

Encrypted Passwords?

Encrypted Passwords?

There are two new revelations today that will either send you reeling or reeling off perhaps. Both are related to passwords. The first is that the NSA has free access to your passwords when you back up your account on Google’s ‘back up my data’ featured on Android. If you are using a Wi-Fi account, then the password for that account is not encrypted and available in plaintext when accessing and sending data. Back-up is turned on by default and information is stored on Google’s cloud in the event of the device being broken or stolen, for example. Oh! Imagine that, if your cell phone gets stolen, the NSA will think you are where you are not, which means you can freely do what you want and they won’t know!

Internet Passwords: NSA

Internet Passwords: NSA

The second revelation comes from CNET.com which has revealed that industry sources have confirmed that major internet users have been asked to hand over user passwords for accounts, which kind of invalidates the Google access to passwords via their cloud due to non-encryption. The NSA doesn’t need to intercept anything, it has just asked for the information. CNET reports that one industry source, who only agreed to speak on the proviso of anonymity, warned “I've certainly seen them ask for passwords. We push back”. The NSA has requested not only passwords, but also encryption algorithms and the ‘salt’ (the code string that makes the reversal of encryption almost impossible). Information on ‘secret questions’ that we all use to reset our passwords has also been requested.

The official line from Microsoft and from Google was that they declined to answer whether or not they had received such requests, adding that they had never handed over the information. Apparently, Apple, Facebook and AOL as well as Verizon and AT&T never even replied regarding the question as to whether or not they had either been asked to provide the information or if they had ever supplied it. Silence is golden certainly, but it also speaks a thousand words. FastMail, in true spin-doctor tactics stated ‘we cannot recall’ being asked to provide such data. Anyone that uses ‘I cannot recall’ is lying. Remember that John Poindexter used the phrase ‘I can’t recall’ 184 times over a five-day period when he testified during the Irangate scandal.

Surely, the NSA has heard of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, meaning that they would need to get a legal wiretap order to access the passwords of internet users. Surely the NSA realizes that by not doing so, they are breaching (along with the company that provided the passwords) the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

One funny quirk of fate is that the NSA website (and I can only access the Google-two line extract that appears in the list, since the site will not allow access) states that the National Security Agency will ‘change the world’. They sure are doing that right now. They are changing the way we communicate and the role of the state in our communications. They also mention ‘You should have a different password for each account that you have! Password Security – Who do you share your passwords with? Hopefully, only you and your parents know your private…’.

Uncle Sam: NSA

Uncle Sam: NSA

Rather a simple question and a simple answer pings right back at you. We don’t share our passwords with anyone else, not even the wife and certainly not the kids. ‘Hopefully’ only my parents’? No, not even my parents. Oh, you mean ‘uncle’ Sam! Yes, I guess good old Uncle Sam knows my passwords and codes. That’s because we do share them with the NSA, whether we like it or not! Any savvy internet user knows that! We’ve got wise and that was long ago! The NSA has rumbled all of us. But, the table-turner turned and they’ll be getting a taste of their own medicine.

Apparently, there are 70, 000 words that trigger the systems of the NSA and alert that we are potential terrorists or evil enemies of the state. This in itself is astonishing since the English language has roughly 750, 000 words, of which a good number are now obsolete and unused and the majority are related to technical fields and not used by any of us at all. But, according to research carried out by Dr. Louann Brizendine, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (University of California), a woman uses roughly 20, 000 words a day, while a man uses some 7, 000. Other studies show that men use as few as 2, 000 words a day and women just 8, 000. The chances are that you and I are all using at least one of the words on that list. They include the following:

  • Blueprints

  • Bomb

  • Death

  • Downfall

  • Fake

  • Financial District

  • Flight school

  • Golden Gate Bridge

  • Manhattan

  • Oppressive regime

  • Overthrow

  • Radicalized

  • Strike

It really doesn’t take a lot to get the attention of the NSA, and that’s before you start using obviously, overly-attractive words related to the really bad stuff.

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