RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Mendoza reports: "Policy makers, privacy advocates and political leaders around the world have been outraged at the near weekly disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs."

Edward Snowden speaking to the South China Morning Post. (photo: South China Morning Post)
Edward Snowden speaking to the South China Morning Post. (photo: South China Morning Post)


Technical Resistance to NSA Spying Accelerates

By Martha Mendoza, Associated Press

13 October 13

 

rom Silicon Valley to the South Pacific, counterattacks to revelations of widespread National Security Agency surveillance are taking shape, from a surge of new encrypted email programs to technology that sprinkles the Internet with red flag terms to confuse would-be snoops.

Policy makers, privacy advocates and political leaders around the world have been outraged at the near weekly disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs.

"Until this summer, people didn't know anything about the NSA," said Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University co-director Amy Zegart. "Their own secrecy has come back to bite them."

Activists are fighting back with high-tech civil disobedience, entrepreneurs want to cash in on privacy concerns, Internet users want to keep snoops out of their computers and lawmakers want to establish stricter parameters.

Some of the tactics are more effective than others. For example, Flagger, a program that adds words like "blow up" and "pressure cooker" to web addresses that users visit, is probably more of a political statement than actually confounding intelligence agents.

Developer Jeff Lyon in Santa Clara, Calif., said he's delighted if it generates social awareness, and that 2,000 users have installed it to date. He said, "The goal here is to get a critical mass of people flooding the Internet with noise and make a statement of civil disobedience."

University of Auckland associate professor Gehan Gunasekara said he's received "overwhelming support" for his proposal to "lead the spooks in a merry dance," visiting radical websites, setting up multiple online identities and making up hypothetical "friends."

And "pretty soon everyone in New Zealand will have to be under surveillance," he said.

Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Parker Higgins in San Francisco has a more direct strategy: by using encrypted email and browsers, he creates more smoke screens for the NSA. "Encryption loses its' value as an indicator of possible malfeasance if everyone is using it," he said.

And there are now plenty of encryption programs, many new, and of varying quality.

"This whole field has been made exponentially more mainstream," said Cryptocat private instant messaging developer Nadim Kobeissi.

This week, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University released a smartphone app called SafeSlinger they say encrypts text messages so they cannot be read by cell carriers, Internet providers, employers "or anyone else."

CryptoParties are springing up around the world as well. They are small gatherings where hosts teach attendees, who bring their digital devices, how to download and use encrypted email and secure Internet browsers.

"Honestly, it doesn't matter who you are or what you are doing, if the NSA wants to find information, they will," said organizer Joshua Smith. "But we don't have to make it easy for them."

Apparently plenty agree, as encryption providers have seen a surge in interest.

Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, a free encryption service was being loaded about 600 times a day in the month before Snowden's revelations broke. Two months later, that had more than doubled to 1,380, according to a running tally maintained by programmer Kristian Fiskerstrand.

Andrew Lewman, executive director of TOR, short for The Onion Router, said they don't track downloads of their program that helps make online traffic anonymous by bouncing it through a convoluted network of routers to protect the privacy of their users.

But, he said, they have seen an uptick.

"Our web servers seem more busy than normal," he said.

Berlin-based email provider Posteo claims to have seen a 150 percent surge in paid subscribers due to the "Snowden effect."

Posteo demands no personal information, doesn't store metadata, ensures server-to-server encryption of messages and even allows customers to pay anonymously - cash in brown envelopes-style.

CEO Patrick Loehr, who responded to The Associated Press by encrypted email, said that subscriptions to the 1 euro ($1.36) per month program rose to 25,000 in the past four months. The company is hoping to offer an English-language service next year.

Federation of American Scientists secrecy expert Steven Aftergood said it is crucial now for policymakers to clearly define limits.

"Are we setting ourselves up for a total surveillance system that may be beyond the possibility of reversal once it is in place?" he asked. "We may be on a road where we don't want to go. I think people are correct to raise an alarm now and not when we're facing a fait accompli."

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who introduced a bipartisan package of proposals to reform the surveillance programs last month, told a Cato Institute gathering Thursday that key parts of the debate are unfolding now.

"It's going to take a groundswell of support from lots of Americans across the political spectrum," he said, "communicating that business as usual is no longer OK, and they won't buy the argument that liberty and security are mutually exclusive."


e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

We are going to return to our original fully-moderated format in the comments section.

The abusive complaints in the comment sections are just too far out of control at this point and have become a significant burden on our staff. As a result, our moderators will review all comments prior to publication. Comments will no longer go live immediately. Please be patient and check back.

To improve your chances of seeing your comment published, avoid confrontational or antagonistic methods of communication. Really that is the problem we are confronting.

We encourage all views. We discourage ad hominem disparagement.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+8 # ER444 2013-10-13 13:46
It is time to bring Edward Snowdon home and celebrate him as the hero that he is. Then he could openly do the important job that he is having to do from afar.
 
 
+3 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-10-14 01:31
Why would Edward Snowden want to come back to this hypocritically run, teabaggypants-a round-your-ankl es, Capitalistic empire which is burning up in flames? You know, the country where the media is owned by the likes of the Kochs and the Limpballs--sorr y for the crudity but it seems there is a lot of something-or-ot her-envy coming out of Washington DC these days.
 
 
+4 # jcdav 2013-10-13 20:55
Snowden has done this country a great service- WE the People needed to know what was being done to us...and by whom. It is now up to US- The people- to UNASS and stay on the backs of the lawmakers until we are certain that the domestic spying and prying is subject to real limits & oversight.
 
 
+2 # sheila Cee 2013-10-14 13:12
If…at some point in time…we are told that that NSA surveillance has been limited or shut down, how can we possibly believe them? After all, they have been doing it for so long and we had no inkling that it was being done.

Sad to say, but I think we are cooked. Or is it Koched?
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN