Monday, February 1, 2016

Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean They're Not After You

Did you know "black boxes" are mandatory on cars now?  Check out “Is Your Car Spying on You?” HERE
New Technologies Give Government Ample Means to Track Suspects, Study Finds

The NY Times  By DAVID E. SANGER  JAN. 31, 2016 

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and other Justice Department officials have said moves by technology firms to encrypt data have choked off critical ways to monitor suspects. Credit Kevin hagen for The New York Times 

WASHINGTON — For more than two years the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies have warned that encrypted communications are creating a “going dark” crisis that will keep them from tracking terrorists and kidnappers.

Now, a study in which current and former intelligence officials participated concludes that the warning is wildly overblown, and that a raft of new technologies — like television sets with microphones and web-connected cars — are creating ample opportunities for the government to track suspects, many of them worrying.

“ ‘Going dark’ does not aptly describe the long-term landscape for government surveillance,” concludes the study, to be published Monday by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.

The study argues that the phrase ignores the flood of new technologies “being packed with sensors and wireless connectivity” that are expected to become the subject of court orders and subpoenas, and are already the target of the National Security Agency as it places “implants” into networks around the world to monitor communications abroad.

The products, ranging from “toasters to bedsheets, light bulbs, cameras, toothbrushes, door locks, cars, watches and other wearables,” will give the government increasing opportunities to track suspects and in many cases reconstruct communications and meetings.

The study, titled, “Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate,” is among the sharpest counterpoints yet to the contentions of James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, and other Justice Department officials, mostly by arguing that they have defined the issue too narrowly.

Over the past year, they have repeatedly told Congress that the move by Apple to automatically encrypt data on its iPhone, and similar steps by Google and Microsoft, are choking off critical abilities to track suspects, even with a court order.

President Obama, however, concluded last fall that any effort to legislate a government “back door” into encrypted communications would probably create a pathway for hackers — including those working for foreign governments like Russia, China and Iran — to gain access as well, and create a precedent for authoritarian governments demanding similar access.

Most Republican candidates for president have demanded that technology companies create a way for investigators to unlock encrypted communications, and on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has taken a tough line on Silicon Valley companies, urging them to join the fight against the Islamic State.

Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, has led the charge on the other side. He recently told a group of White House officials seeking technology companies’ voluntary help to counter the Islamic State that the government’s efforts to get the keys to encrypted communications would be a boon for hackers and put legitimate business transactions, financial data and personal communications at greater risk.

The Harvard study, funded by the Hewlett Foundation, was unusual because it involved technical experts, civil libertarians and officials who are, or have been, on the forefront of counterterrorism. Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law School, who heads the foundation, noted Friday that until now “the policy debate has been impeded by gaps in trust — chasms, really — between academia, civil society, the private sector and the intelligence community” that have impeded the evolution of a “safe, open and resilient Internet.”

Among the chief authors of the report is Matthew G. Olsen, who was a director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Mr. Obama and a general counsel of the National Security Agency.

Two current senior officials of the N.S.A. — John DeLong, the head of the agency’s Commercial Solutions Center, and Anne Neuberger, the agency’s chief risk officer — are described in the report as “core members” of the group, but did not sign the report because they could not act on behalf of the agency or the United States government in endorsing its conclusions, government officials said.
“Encryption is a real problem, and the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies are right to raise it,” Mr. Olsen said Sunday. But he noted that in their testimony officials had not described the other technological breaks that are falling their way, nor had they highlighted cases in which they were able to exploit mistakes made by suspects in applying encryption to their messages.

Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard who convened the group, said in an interview that the goal was “to have a discussion among people with very different points of view” that would move “the state of the debate beyond its well-known bumper stickers. We managed to do that in part by thinking of a larger picture, specifically in the unexpected ways that surveillance might be attempted.”

He noted that in the current stalemate there was little discussion of the “ever-expanding ‘Internet of things,’ where telemetry from teakettles, televisions and light bulbs might prove surprisingly, and worryingly, amenable to subpoena from governments around the world.”

Those technologies are already being exploited: The government frequently seeks location data from devices like cellphones and EZ Passes to track suspects.

The study notes that such opportunities are expanding rapidly. A Samsung “smart” television contains a microphone meant to relay back to Samsung voice instructions to the TV — “I want to see the last three ‘Star Wars’ movies” — and a Hello, Barbie brought out by Mattel last year records children’s conversations with the doll, processes them over the Internet and sends back a response.

The history of technology shows that what is invented for convenience can soon become a target of surveillance. “Law enforcement or intelligence agencies may start to seek orders compelling Samsung, Google, Mattel, Nest or vendors of other networked devices to push an update or flip a digital switch to intercept the ambient communications of a target,” the report said.
These communications, too, may one day be encrypted. But Google’s business model depends on picking out key words from emails to tailor advertisements for specific users of Gmail, the popular email service. Apple users routinely back up the contents of their phones to iCloud — a service that is not encrypted and now is almost a routine target for investigators or intelligence agencies. So are the tracking and mapping systems for cars that rely on transmitted global positioning data.

“I think what this report shows is that the world today is like living in a big field that is more illuminated than ever before,” said Joseph Nye, a Harvard government professor and former head of the National Intelligence Council. “There will be dark spots — there always will be. But it’s easy to forget that there is far more data available to governments now than ever before.”

Hiding under the covers may not work anymore...
"A patient monitoring system includes a replaceable laminar sensor to be placed on a bed, the sensor including distributed force sensing elements providing output signals to processing apparatus including a near-bed processor and a central processor coupled to the near-bed processor by a wireless communication link. The processing apparatus applies spatial weighting to the sensor output signals to derive the force distribution across the sensor, and processes the force distribution over time to generate patient status information such as patient presence, position, agitation, seizure activity, respiration, and security. This information can be displayed at a central monitoring station, provided to a paging system to alert attending medical personnel, and used to update medical databases. The sensor may be manufactured from layers of olefin film and conductive ink to form capacitive sensing elements."  source

Discover other ways your bed can check up on you HERE
Why homes with a 6-metre driveway get cheaper insurance: From supermarket loyalty cards to Google maps - the secret data firms use to set your premiums

The Daily Mail  By Ruth Lythe for the Daily Mail Published: 18:54 EST, 9 September 2014

They're spying on you: Every time you go to a supermarket, pay a bill or drive your car, insurers are monitoring your habits, Money Mail can reveal

Insurers are harvesting data from credit files, supermarket reward cards and new computerised maps to make customers as profitable as possible, Money Mail can reveal.

Our investigation has discovered how every time you go to a supermarket, pay a bill or drive your car, insurers are monitoring your habits.

By collating the information held by hundreds of other firms, they ensure you aren’t more of a risk than they think. This frantic scrabble for your data has become crucial due to price-comparison websites forcing companies to offer cheaper deals.

Also, insurers are now barred from using your gender when working out what you should pay in premiums.

Historically, your sex, age, address, occupation, type of car and home you have and claims record have been vital details. And insurers have relied on your honesty to come up with a crude price for your premiums.

But now expensive computer programs can plough through millions of pieces of data in seconds to reveal links and discrepancies. And insurers have more information to play with than ever before from government departments, social media and marketing details compiled by other firms.

Here, we reveal what information insurers are using about you - and why.


A key bit of information being harvested is your credit record. So what does your ability to pay your phone bill on time, or how regularly you dip into the red, have to do with how safely you drive a car?

The theory is that wealthier customers who suffer a minor bump are more likely to cover the cost of repairs themselves, to protect their no-claims bonus. This means no payouts for insurers, so lower premiums.

And people who can’t look after their finances aren’t likely to spend money on their clapped-out banger, leading to risk of more insurance claims and higher premiums. This gives banks that sell insurance an upper hand, as they know exactly how you run your current account.

For example, Scottish Widows, part of the Lloyds Group, knocks up to a fifth off the car-cover premiums of Lloyds banking customers who stick within their overdraft limits.

At present, firms only use this information to decide car-insurance premiums. But industry insiders say it could soon be used for home cover, too. The theory is that people who are in debt may be more likely to make an exaggerated claim, costing the insurer more.


Stocking up on booze: There are fears supermarkets may be monitoring things such as how much alcohol you buy, to see if you might be a heavy drinker - and therefore a risk behind the wheel
Supermarket loyalty schemes such as Tesco’s Clubcard are also becoming more crucial for insurers. This is because as well as rewarding you with perks for every pound you spend in store, they keep a record of everything you buy. This gives insurers (and other firms that buy this information) vital clues about your habits.

Exactly how supermarkets use the information they gather is a closely guarded secret. There are fears they may be monitoring things such as how much alcohol you buy, to see if you might be a heavy drinker - and therefore a risk behind the wheel. The supermarkets deny this.

They say, at the moment, they monitor only how much you spend, not what you buy. Tesco says the information it gets through Clubcard allows customers to get up to a 40 per cent discount on its own-brand home and car insurance.


It has always been the case that if you live on a road that is prone to accidents, or on a flood plain, this could hike up your premiums. But the information insurers can get about your home is becoming much more detailed.

Aerial footage and Google Street View (which shows photos of the buildings in your street) can give insurers useful details, such as the length of your driveway. One major insurer believes the perfect length is six metres.

Much longer and your home is too far from the road, making it easier for thieves to break in without being spotted. Any shorter, and your home is likely to be so close to the pavement that any TVs and laptops on view indoors may prove a temptation for opportunistic burglars.

The distance you live from major road junctions is also important. If a thief can get onto the motorway quickly - allowing them to be miles away in minutes - then your home is more at risk.

New mapping data compiled by insurers also allows them to see just how much of a risk your home is at from flooding - it can even show what parts of your property are most likely to flood. If your porch is most at risk, home insurance premiums will be lower than if your lounge is most likely to be flooded.


Insurers lose around £2billion a year to fraud. A large proportion of this is due to customers who inflate claims and pretend injuries are more serious than they are. The insurers’ latest weapon to check on cheats is computer systems first used in nuclear power stations.

These used to compare information held on several different systems and give warnings of any discrepancies so that reactors didn’t overheat. Now they find details that don’t match up for insurers.

For example, if you apply for car insurance for two vehicles and say that both cars are parked off the road on your driveway (which would reduce your premiums), the computers can scour other systems to find out if this is possible.

They can see if your driveway - if you even have one - has enough room for two cars. And if you give your job as one description to one insurer, then alter it when you apply to another, they can spot this, too.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites have also become weapons in the fight against fraud. Say you suffered whiplash and then posted a picture of yourself playing tennis - you could easily be caught out.

Insurance fraud: Facebook and other social media websites have become weapons in the fight against fraud

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers says: ‘Insurers want to be clear and transparent with customers about the information they need and how they access it.

‘They will only be interested in information that helps them to accurately assess the risk, and they know the importance of keeping personal data secure.

‘Insurers are aware of data protection requirements and obligations, and would not look to do anything with data to breach these.’

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