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by msmolly

Over Easy: Tech Notes for Friday

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Teléfono de cordel (1882)

Let’s chat!

Last Friday, Apple quietly pushed out an update for its iOS mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod) to fix a major security flaw known as “gotofail” that could allow hackers, even those with low-level skills, to retrieve and control our sensitive information. Apparently it went unnoticed for 18 months! The flaw is in the way iOS 7 validates the SSL (secure socket layer) certificates intended to protect websites, and could allow an attacker on the same network as a victim to eavesdrop on all the victim’s activity. On Tuesday Apple finally released an update that fixes the gotofail flaw for Mac computers. Find out if you are vulnerable at the gotofailweb page, which will automatically assess your device and (in the case of Macs) which apps may be vulnerable. The Safari browser, of course, is one.

Bitcoin-coinsBitcoins, which exist in electronic form, depend on a network of computers that solve complex mathematical problems to verify and record every transaction. Investors deposit their bitcoins in digital “wallets” at various exchanges. Bitcoin deposits have no government-backed insurance as bank accounts do. Instead, customers have the same legal remedies as anyone who entrusts property to an institution that fails to protected it adequately.

Mt. Gox was the largest exchange, but it and other exchanges halted withdrawals after a series of cyber attacks. Customers were unable to access their accounts. Read How Mt. Gox went down. Mt. Gox also is being investigated by Federal prosecutors.

Minor update on Aereo this week: Broadcasters Warn Supremes Of The Innumerable Non-Existent Horrors That Will Befall Everyone If Aereo Wins.

…broadcasters have long argued that if they’re not given what they want they’re sure to go out of business, even if the evidence never actually supports that. Their latest incarnation of that has been in heavy rotation during their battle against live TV streaming service Aereo, with broadcasters arguing that if Aereo is allowed to survive, they’ll pull all of their broadcast channels from over the air and move them to paid cable tiers.

I say they should go right ahead and do that. The publicly-owned airwaves these broadcasters are using could certainly be put to better use. I’ll bet the broadcasters will love the anger of sports fans and the politicians who’ll side with those fans to gain political brownie points. Heh.

Here’s what they’re saying:

The petitioners are appealing the denial of an injunction at the 2nd Circuit and are hoping to undercut Aereo’s own position that what it does is private in nature. The TV broadcasters reject Aereo’s conclusion that cloud computing and other novel technologies could be at stake, but they do raise dire warnings about what might happen should the Supreme Court rule in Aereo’s favor. As the brief states, ‘Indeed, if that is the world in which broadcasters must live, then they may be forced to reconsider whether they can afford to continue making the same quantity and quality of programming available to the public for free in the first place.’

Finally, we see that the UK’s GCHQ, the NSA’s collaborator in the out-of-control surveillance state, has been intercepting Yahoo webcam images from millions of users.

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

All in the name of keeping us safe™ I’m sure!

by msmolly

Over Easy: …one more thing

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Flickr - law keven - Watching you...watching me....

Watching you…watching me…

I vowed to myself that this week I was going to post about something other than surveillance, but this one is too good not to write about!

A Data Broker Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain

The Acxiom Corporation, a marketing technology company that has amassed details on the household makeup, financial means, shopping preferences and leisure pursuits of a majority of adults in the United States, is trying something new. According to the NYT, Acxiom is the “quiet giant” of consumer database marketing. It knows who you are. It knows where you live. It knows what you do.

Few consumers have ever heard of Acxiom. But analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers — and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data “transactions” a year. Company executives have said its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States.

But now Acxiom, one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information, is embarking on a novel public relations strategy: openness. On Wednesday, September 4, Acxiom unveiled a free Web site where we can all see, edit, or suppress the information the company has collected about us.

The data on the site, called, includes biographical facts, like education level, marital status and number of children in a household; homeownership status, including mortgage amount and property size; vehicle details, like the make, model and year; and economic data, like whether a household member is an active investor with a portfolio greater than $150,000. Also available will be the consumer’s recent purchase categories, like plus-size clothing or sports products; and household interests like golf, dogs, text-messaging, cholesterol-related products or charities.

From the About the Data website,

Ever wonder what kind of information determines the ads you see or the offers you receive? You’ve come to the right place. About The Data brings you answers to questions about the data that fuels marketing and helps ensure you see offers on things that mean the most to you and your family.

More from the website:
Why is data about me important to companies?
How do companies get data about me and what do they do with it?
What types of data do companies use about me?

Now, if you’re curious, you can look at the data they have about you, and you have an option to edit it, or opt out of their collecting altogether. They say the penalty for opting out is that the ads you see will no longer be targeted to your personal interests or lifestyle. To look at your data, you first enter information about yourself, a Captcha code, and agree to terms of use.

To make sure we are accessing information about the correct person, we ask for some personal information, which we then compare to our Authentication system. We do this for your protection so that we can verify that we are only giving access to Acxiom’s digital Marketing Data about you.

I took a look at my own data, and here’s what I found.

  • “Characteristic Data” showed that I’m married (I’ve been divorced since 1990), 1 child “present,” 14 years old, a surname that’s Scottish/Irish (I still use my ex husband’s last name), no political party. My children are in their 40s (no 14 year old!) and don’t live with me.
  • “Home Data” was reasonably accurate. Most of that is available from public records, and they use home value and property size ranges, not specifics. But there was no mortgage amount shown.
  • “Vehicle Data” was not found. Interesting, because I own a registered, licensed automobile, the same one for about 5 years.
  • “Economic Data” showed regular American Express credit card use (I have only one credit card, and it isn’t an American Express card), regular online purchasing (that’s true), but the other info in that category wasn’t accurate, including household income.
  • “Shopping Data” also was inaccurate. It way understated my purchasing, both in dollars (only $408!) and in frequency (3 purchases in 24 months). It says I’m a mail order responder and a mail order buyer, and it does seem to show basic categories of my purchases reasonably correctly.
  • “Household Interests Data” lists categories accurately, except I don’t have or purchase collectible antiques, nor do I own a pet.

I didn’t see any information about my…

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