Posts Tagged ‘National Security Agency (NSA)’

Spying and the modern society: Why isn’t anyone talking about First Look’s alarming scoop about compromised cell-phone privacy?

February 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 26, 2015

At least once a month, I’ll read through recent posts on Kevin Drum’s blog at Mother Jones. When I did this the other day, I ran across something that I found extremely startling, especially because I hadn’t heard or seen it mentioned anywhere else.

Last week, Drum wrote about a lengthy investigation by First Look Media’s Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley. The duo, using documents provided by Edward Snowden, the infamous National Security Agency leaker, revealed that American and British spy agencies have compromised a significant number of the encryption keys that are supposed to protect the privacy of the communications of cell-phone users.

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The old in-and-out: Obama, Bush and the removal of American troops from Iraq

August 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 9, 2014

There’s a tendency on the right to blame President Barack Hussein Obama for, well, just about every ill under the sun.

The conservative narrative goes something like this: Obama was inaugurated, and then everything went to hell. I’m oversimplifying the right-wing zeitgeist here — but, I would contend, only slightly.

A cursory examination of the Obama administration provides plenty of fodder for the argument that the president — through indifference, incompetence, iniquity or some mixture thereof — is ruining America. Gas prices rose sharply after the first president from Kenya Hawaii (oops!) took office. So did unemployment as the economy cratered. The deficit — and, as a consequence, the national debt — ballooned dramatically. Americans learned that under Obama, the National Security Agency was collecting unprecedented amounts of information about the calls we make and the e-mails we send. There have allegations that the Internal Revenue Service has been abusing its power to harass conservative nonprofit groups. And an ambassador was killed in the line of duty for the first time in 33 years.

Some of these complaints don’t stand up to scrutiny. Gas prices have risen under Obama, but they’ve never quite reached their peak of about $4.10 a gallon under Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush. The economy has ramped back upward. (The reasons for the slow recovery may lie beyond Obama’s control, much as the recession can’t be entirely attributed to Bush.) Many of the NSA practices seem to have begun under Bush. Protestations of outraged right-wingers to the contrary, IRS scrutiny wasn’t strictly limited to conservative groups. And recently, Republicans on a Congressional committee concluded that the administration was not responsible for any wrongdoing or gross negligence related to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at a consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

One can certainly debate the various merits of Obama’s policies — although I doubt folks on the right will be able to bring themselves to say anything complimentary about health-care reform anytime soon, despite evidence that it’s workingObama’s military intervention in Libya was conducted in defiance of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, thereby leaving a permanent blot on the president’s record. (I object not to the intervention but to Obama’s refusal to obtain congressional permission for extended military efforts.) Obama’s embrace of the extrajudicial killing of American citizens is blatantly outrageous, and will forever stain his presidency. Moreover, the president’s failure to prosecute torture conducted under the auspices of his predecessor severely undermined his claim to any moral high ground.

Yet I write not to bury Obama nor to praise him. Instead, I want to consider one oft-repeated conservative complaint that has always baffled me: The allegation that Obama is responsible for the increasing chaos in Iraq.

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Computer CPR: How to respond to the Internet’s Heartbleed security hole

April 12, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 12, 2014

The other day, I spent about an hour updating several of my Internet passwords. The spur for this, in case you didn’t know — and if you didn’t, you really should — is Heartbleed, the gaping flaw in World Wide Web security protocols that may have given snoopers access to supposedly secure passwords and other information over the last two years.

It’s not yet been determined whether anyone actually exploited the vulnerability in the OpenSSL code, which perhaps half a million websites used. (Another article estimates that this code is used on perhaps two-thirds of Internet servers. SSL, by the way, stands for secure sockets layer.) Samantha Murphy Kelly reported Wednesday that there’s no indication that hackers were aware of the bug before it was announced at the beginning of the week, and on Friday, the National Security Agency denied that it had either known about or used the flaw.

Still, in the wake of these revelations, Internet users have been advised to change their passwords. There are a couple of wrinkles, however. One is that if a site you use has been compromised, a password change won’t make a web account more secure unless that website has patched the vulnerability.

There are workarounds, of course. On Thursday, Mashable compiled a table listing popular sites and whether or not a password change was advisable. Also, Internet denizens can go here and enter specific web addresses to see if those pages have been affected.

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