The CIA to use Home Appliances as Spies

Agency director says it will ‘transform’ surveillance


When people download a film from Netflix to a flat screen, or turn on web radio, they could be alerting unwanted watchers to exactly what they are doing and where they are.

David Petraeus, Director of the CIA.

Spies will no longer have to plant bugs in your home – the rise of ‘connected’ gadgets controlled by apps will mean that people ‘bug’ their own homes, says CIA director David Petraeus.

The CIA claims it will be able to ‘read’ these devices via the internet – and perhaps even via radio waves from outside the home.

Everything from remote controls to clock radios can now be controlled via apps – and chip company ARM recently unveiled low-powered, cheaper chips which will be used in everything from fridges and ovens to doorbells.

The resultant chorus of ‘connected’ gadgets will be able to be read like a book – and even remote-controlled, according to CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a recent report by Wired’s ‘Danger Room’ blog.

Petraeus says that web-connected gadgets will ‘transform’ the art of spying – allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.

‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ said Petraeus.

‘Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters –  all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.’

Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies which aim to add processors and web connections to previously  ‘dumb’ home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lighting systems.

This week, one of the world’s biggest chip companies, ARM, has unveiled a new processor built to work inside ‘connected’ white goods.

The ARM chips are smaller, lower-powered and far cheaper than previous processors – and designed to add the internet to almost every kind of electrical appliance.

It’s a concept described as the ‘internet of things’.

Futurists think that one day ‘connected’ devices will tell the internet where they are and what they are doing at all times – and will be mapped by computers as precisely as Google Maps charts the physical landscape now.

Privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned of how information such as geolocation data can be misused – but as more and more devices connect, it’s clear that opportunities for surveillance will multiply.


US Military to be under DARPA Surveillance

If there was any doubt the powers that be do not trust the US military men a women, this spying program must clear all doubts.

December 23, 2011

The Pentagon will soon be prying through the personal correspondence and computer files of US military personnel, thanks to a $9-million program that will put soldiers’ private emails under Uncle Sam’s microscope.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has awarded the grant to five institutions led by Georgia Tech to help develop a system of spying on solderis’ Internet and computer habits, a multi-million dollar investment that they say will serve as a preemptive measure to make sure “insider threats” can’t materialize in the military.

The Pentagon is calling the project “Proactive Discovery of Insider Threats Using Graph Analysis and Learning,” or “PRODIGAL,” and it will scour the e-mails, text messages and files transfers of solders’ “for unusual activity,” writes Georgia Tech, using “a suit of algorithms” that will be able to weed out any weirdness within the Department of Defense that could become a security threat.

A spokesman for DARPA deferred to answer to the Army Times how, exactly, they plan on conducting the surveillance over the correspondence.’s Danger Room writes, however, that every keystroke, log-in and file upload initiated over DoD networks will be under strict scrutiny in hopes of breaking up any more Bradley Mannings from making their way into the military.

Rep. Peter King (Rep-NY) said at a hearing earlier this month that “The Fort Hood attack was not an anomaly.” According to the congressman, the shooting spree carried out by Nidal Hasan in 2009 “was part of al-Qaeda’s two-decade success at infiltrating the US military for terrorism, an effort that is increasing in scope and threat.”

Given the Senate and House’s recent go-ahead with the National Defense Authorization Act, a legislation that will allow for the government to indefinitely detain and torture American citizens over suspected terrorist ties, a little cyber-sleuthing of soldiers seems like nothing at all.

For the tens of thousands of defense workers separated from their loved ones by a multitude of miles and battle fields, however, the move comes as one big burden from Big Brother, and a smack in the face sent to the very men and women who are defending a supposed freedom for everyone else in America. Operation Homefront, a program that offers aid to military familes during times of deployment, offer campaigns in which they provide soldiers with laptops so that they can stay in touch with loved ones. Earlier this month, they unloaded several computers on soldiers at Fort Riley thanks to a partnership with CDW Government LLC.

“We are grateful that through our continued partnership with Operation Homefront, we are able to honor the sacrifice of military families and help alleviate some of the stress they often feel when separated from their deployed family members,” Brigadier General John Howard (Ret.), CDW-G DoD business development manager, said in a statement at the time. “While email can never replace the presence of a parent or spouse at home, these laptops provide a vital connection to home when it is needed the most.”

“Although we can never take the sacrifice out of a deployment, we hope that the laptops will help improve the quality of life for our military personnel and their families,” added Amy Palmer, chief operating officer for Operation Homefront. “Without the means to afford computers, many soldiers and their families must wait to hear from one another, which can affect morale on and off the battlefield. However, with the help of CDW-G, many families of deployed soldiers can now communicate daily, easing concerns of worried loved ones.”

While PRODIGAL doesn’t stand to exactly put the Pentagon between the sender of the email and the recipient, it will cause soldiers to censor their thoughts with often the only people they can relate to.

In the past year, DARPA has announced other plans to pry into military personnel, including the Narrative Networks project to find out who is most susceptible to propaganda, and Power Dreaming, an initiative that will scan brainwave patterns of sleeping soldiers to try to determine what causes what dreams.

Internet Wiretapping Coming to a Server Near You

Federals want to spy on internet communications “to keep you safe”.  Internet Wiretapping to become common trend as military industrial complex expands power grab.  Not that they don’t do it already!

Charlie Savage

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations of the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters such as BlackBerry, social networking websites such as Facebook and software that allows direct “peer-to-peer” messaging such as Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The legislation, which the Obama administration plans to submit to Congress next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering technological innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

James Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

But law enforcement officials contend that imposing such a mandate is reasonable and necessary to prevent the erosion of their investigative powers.

“We’re talking about lawfully authorized intercepts,” said Valerie Caproni, general counsel for the FBI. “We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security.”

Keeping up with technology

Investigators have been concerned for years that changing communications technology could damage their ability to conduct surveillance. In recent months, officials from the FBI, the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House and other agencies have been meeting to develop a proposed solution.

There is not yet agreement on important elements, such as how to word statutory language defining who counts as a communications service provider, according to several officials familiar with the deliberations.

But they want it to apply broadly, including to companies that operate from servers abroad, such as Research In Motion, the Canadian maker of BlackBerry devices. In recent months, that company has come into conflict with the governments of Dubai and India over their inability to conduct surveillance of messages sent via its encrypted service.

In the United States, phone and broadband networks are already required to have interception capabilities, under a 1994 law called the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act. It aimed to ensure that government surveillance abilities would remain intact during the evolution from a copper-wire phone system to digital networks and cell phones.

Often, investigators can intercept communications at a switch operated by the network company. But sometimes — like when the target uses a service that encrypts messages between his computer and its servers — they must instead serve the order on a service provider to get unscrambled versions.

Like phone companies, communication service providers are subject to wiretap orders. But the 1994 law does not apply to them. While some maintain interception capacities, others wait until they are served with orders to try to develop them. That can cause big delays, which the new regulations would seek to forestall.

Project Vigilant Spying on Internet Providers

Updated with IDG’s confirmation from Adrian Lamo, changes in wording to address Vigilant staff’s volunteer status.


A semi-secret government contractor that calls itself Project Vigilant surfaced at the Defcon security conference Sunday with a series of revelations: that it monitors the traffic of 12 regional Internet service providers, hands much of that information to federal agencies, and encouraged one of its “volunteers,” researcher Adrian Lamo, to inform the federal government about the alleged source of a controversial video of civilian deaths in Iraq leaked to whistle-blower site Wikileaks in April.

Chet Uber, the director of Fort Pierce, Fl.-based Project Vigilant, says that he personally asked Lamo to meet with federal authorities to out the source of a video published by Wikileaks showing a U.S. Apache helicopter killing several civilians and two journalists in a suburb of Baghdad, a clip that Wikileaks labeled “Collateral Murder.” Lamo, who Uber said worked as an “adversary characterization” analyst for Project Vigilant, had struck up an online friendship with Bradley Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who currently faces criminal charges for releasing the classified video.

In June, Uber said he learned from Lamo’s father that the young researcher had identified Manning as the video’s source, and pressured him to meet with federal agencies to name Manning as Wikileaks’ whistleblower. He then arranged a meeting with employees of “three letter” agencies and Lamo, who Uber said had mixed feelings about informing on Manning.

“I’m the one who called the U.S. government,” Uber said. “All the people who say that Adrian is a narc, he did a patriotic thing. He sees all kinds of hacks, and he was seriously worried about people dying.”

Uber says that Lamo later called him from the meeting, regretting his decision to inform on Manning. “I’m in a meeting with five guys and I don’t want to do this,” Uber says Lamo told him at the time. Uber says he responded, “You don’t have any choice, you’ve got to do this.”

“I said, ‘They’re not going to throw you in jail,'” Uber said. “‘Give them everything you have.'”

Wikileaks didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. IDG reporter Robert McMillan confirmed Uber’s relationship with Lamo, who told McMillan that “Mr. Uber was, among a few others, an instrumental voice in helping me come to my ultimate decision.”

Uber’s Wikileaks revelation is one of the first public statements from the semi-secret Project Vigilant. He says the 600-person “volunteer” organization functions as a government contractor bridging public and private sector security efforts. Its mission: to use a variety of intelligence-gathering efforts to help the government attribute hacking incidents. “Bad actors do bad things and you have to prove that they did them,” says Uber. “Attribution is the hardest problem in computer security.”

According to Uber, one of Project Vigilant’s manifold methods for gathering intelligence includes collecting information from a dozen regional U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs). Uber declined to name those ISPs, but said that because the companies included a provision allowing them to share users’ Internet activities with third parties in their end user license agreements (EULAs), Vigilant was able to legally gather data from those Internet carriers and use it to craft reports for federal agencies. A Vigilant press release says that the organization tracks more than 250 million IP addresses a day and can “develop portfolios on any name, screen name or IP address.”

“We don’t do anything illegal,” says Uber. “If an ISP has a EULA to let us monitor traffic, we can work with them. If they don’t, we can’t.”

And whether that massive data gathering violates privacy? The organization says it never looks at personally identifying information, though just how it defines that information isn’t clear, nor is how it scrubs its data mining for sensitive details.

ISP monitoring is just one form of intelligence that Vigilant employs, says Uber. It also gathers a variety of open source intelligence and employs numerous agents around the world. In Iran, for instance, Uber says Vigilant created an anonymous Internet proxy service that allowed it to receive information from local dissidents prior to last year’s election, including early information indicating that the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was skewed by fraud.

Uber, who formerly founded a private sector group called Infragard that worked closely with the FBI, compares the organization’s techniques with Ghostnet, the Chinese cyber espionage campaign revealed last year that planted spyware on computers of many governments and NGOs. “We’ve developed a network for obfuscation that allows us to view bad actors,” he says.

Uber says he’s speaking publicly about Vigilant at Defcon because he wants to recruit the conference’s breed of young, skilled hackers. By July 2011, the organization hopes to have more than 1,300 new employees.

The organization already has a few big names on its roster. According to a San Francisco Examiner article last month, its volunteer staff includes former NSA official Ira Winkler and Suzanne Gorman, former security chief for the New York Stock Exchange.