This week, WikiLeaks released a cluster of documents relating to the CIA and their methods of operation. The news media was especially enamored by the electronic eavesdropping portion of the documents.
Not to get off track here, but this is how we know the Obama administration didn’t spy on Donald Trump – no one in the current intelligence community calls it “wiretapping”, except Donald Trump and his Starsky & Hutch mentality.
So let me tell you about the real word of security and spying as it relates to electronic devices.
Be prepared for paranoia to set in.
Have a smartphone? The CIA, FBI, and NSA, can turn on your camera and your microphone.
Did you turn off the GPS tracking on your phone or laptop? Feel more secure now? You shouldn’t. It can be turned back on remotely also.
Do you have a password on your computer or smart device? Think it’s secure? It’s not. The intelligence community can get in with no problem. Here’s how it’s done:
Let’s say I want to crack your computer password. In the old days, there were computer programs that would just attack it with brute force. They would try every word, every combination of words, every combination of words and numbers, until they cracked it. It could take a while. They don’t do it this way anymore.
Today, they’ll simply look for you on social media. Have a Twitter account? Have a Facebook account? The NSA has programs that will grab every word on your profile, your friend’s profiles, and so on, looking for words and phrases that you might use as a password. People tend to use pet names, vacation spots, boyfriends, girlfriends, movie titles, as passwords. Not only do they search your friends list, they use facial recognition software to sift through your photos to identify even more people and profiles to search, all in the name of breaking your password. And with modern computing power, it doesn’t take long.
Most of the time, this isn’t even necessary. The NSA has cracked pretty much every piece of software and operating system on the planet, and can simply gain entry via a backdoor. Some software developers deliberately leave backdoors, and make them available to law enforcement. Or a hacker in the know.
Remember the San Bernardino terrorist attack? The FBI made a public display of requesting help from Apple so they could read the encrypted contents from one of the phones belonging to a suspect. The FBI didn’t need help. They had already gained entry to the phone and were reading the contents. By concocting a cover story that “they can’t break in”, they encourage others involved in the crime to continue using their phones. That’s how they find them.
And as far as getting on your network at home goes, bad hombres don’t even go through your computer anymore, they go through your DVD player, your DVR, your gaming console- anything that has access to the Internet.
Are you looking over your shoulder yet?
Every email you send is monitored. Every one. Massive programs search for keywords in your emails. Maybe words like terrorist, jihad, or who knows what. Your email then goes to a secondary level analysis to further determine if you are a threat. There’s many levels. Eventually, if there’s a concern, your email goes to a person who evaluates it. Then your doorbell rings.
The NSA has the most amazing servers, software, and storage areas in the world. A few years ago, they bought up more desert land to build additional server farms. They have SO much information collected that they need more room.
And while we’re on the subject of network security, there’s always been talk of allowing American citizens to vote via the web or email. Politicians will tell you it’s not safe- too easy to commit fraud. The simple fact of the matter is, voting could be made virtually hackproof. We submit court filings and our tax returns via the Internet, and there’s been no problems. Politicians don’t want online voting because it gives everyone a chance to vote. You can’t institute voter suppression if everyone has access.
So the next time you’re on the internet, sending an email, or sexting from your smartphone, say a quick “hello” to the people or machines who are reading and listening.