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September, 2013


The list of shame

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Over the last years, Wikileaks has collected and published a set of files detailing the companies involved in implementing and assisting mass surveillance. The “Spy Files” includes mostly public product sheets, sales brochures and company catalogues. Below is the list of all the company names mentioned in all the Wikileaks Spy Files.

There’s a lot of interesting reading there. From not so well known hardware companies across the world, to big names like HP, Ericsson, and Siemens. Some of them are selling “investigation platforms” for law enforcement, while others offer products for covert operations. There’s data sheets on network taps like those from NetOptics, and network traffic surveillance and retention from Packet Forensics, to give some examples. There’s marketing material, like Ernst & Young 2011 brochure with the title Biometrics: time to evangelise the benefits. (They want biometric identification pretty much everywhere: From border control to benefit payments, and Internet access).

In other words, these are the companies which implement the police and surveillance state. Employees from these companies do the dirty-work of the NSAs and GCHQs around the world. If you are working for or with one of these, now is a very good time to consider your stance on democracy, human rights, and privacy. If your set of values does not align with that of your company, it might be time to do something about that. “I was just doing my job and following orders” is not an excuse which will hold up in court when judgement comes.

ADS UKTI Defence & Security Organisation
AGT International
AI Solve
ATIS Systems GmbH
Atis Uher
Berkeley Varitronics Systems
Cambridge Consultants
Cassidian (EADS)
CCT Cecratech
Delta SPA
Digital Barriers
Dreamlab Gamma
EBS Electronic
Enterprise Europe Network
Ernst & Young
Evidence Talks Ltd.
Expert System
FCO Services
Forensic Telecommunications Services
Freightwatch Security Net
Glimmerglass Networks
HiddenTechnology Systems International Ltd.
HP Defence and Security
Human Recognition Systems
i2 Group
Innov Telek IZT
IPS Intelligence
Kapow Software
NETWORK Instruments
NICE Systems
Nokia Siemens Networks
Packet Forensics
Pine Digital Security
PV labs
QCC Interscan
Roke Manor Research
Scan & Target
Septier Communication Ltd.
Silicom Dreamlab
Speech Technology Center
Spektor Forensic Intelligence
Telesoft Technologies
Utimaco Safeware AG
Visual Analytics Inc
VUPEN Security

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NSA’s Social Graph

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NSA is creating a social graph of everybody. That is the latest NSA story based on Snowden’s documents. “The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data”

On Slashdot, user jbn-o has an insightful comment, regarding Eben Moglen’s warnings about exactly this scenario:

“I was talking to a senior government official of this government about that outcome and he said well you know we’ve come to realize that we need a robust social graph of the United States. That’s how we’re going to connect new information to old information. I said let’s just talk about the constitutional implications of this for a moment. You’re talking about taking us from the society we have always known, which we quaintly refer to as a free society, to a society in which the United States government keeps a list of everybody every American knows.” —Eben Moglen, “Innovation Under Austerity”

Eben Moglen gave a talk where he warned us about a conversation he had with an American government official who wanted a “robust social graph” of Americans. And again at Moglen’s re:publica talk as Nicole Brydson reminds us. Of course, I’d prefer to point to a copy of this talk in a format friendly to free software, but I don’t know of one.

Moglen reminds us in his talks about how right Richard Stallman (RMS) is, and how we need to do the work of sharing what RMS teaches to others. RMS was right (as per usual) we need software freedom more than ever. Social action based on an ethical grounding (not mere technical convenience or speedy development) is exactly what this situation calls for. I hope everyone will take the time to read or listen to Moglen’s insightful talks and take them seriously. They’re deeply engrossing and filled with interesting history, so much so that they reward repeated listening and social action.

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30 years of GNU

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It’s been 30 years since Richard Stallman announced his project to create a free alternative to Unix. The world has changed a lot since then, the Internet had changed and grown enormously, and Free Software has become a success that not even Stallman might have dared to dream of. Of course, some things didn’t work out quite the way Stallman had intended: The GNU Hurd kernel is still just a curiosity, and most likely will never see widespread adoption. Instead, Linus Torvalds came along with his kernel, and licensed it under Stallman’s GPL, thus making it free for everybody to use, distribute and contribute to. Today the GNU tools and core utilities, and the Linux kernel is used by millions of people every day. Whole businesses, like Google and Amazon, are built around these Free systems. It’d be hard to imagine the world today without Linux and GNU.

Below is the message which started it all. And today Stallman is looking forward, explaining why free software is more important than ever. His main theme and message has not changed much over the years: The freedom to run, study, distribute and modify computer programs is vital to a democracy which relies on technology and computers to function. Without these freedoms, we get exactly the kind of crippled products Stallman warns about: Sony removing features from its products over-night; Amazon deleting books you have bought; mobile phones and computers which only accept software from certain authorities (e.g. iPhone, gaming consoles).

However, the dangers of proprietary software and lock-in are even more sever: NSA has been shown to require back-doors and security holes to be implemented in proprietary software like Microsoft Windows so that they more easily can spy on their targets. Furthermore, centralization and lock-in to services like Facebook and others has led them to be prime targets for dragnet surveillance. This is part of why Free software is more important than before.

Free Unix!

Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete
Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu’s Not Unix), and
give it away free to everyone who can use it. Contributions of time,
money, programs and equipment are greatly needed.

To begin with, GNU will be a kernel plus all the utilities needed to
write and run C programs: editor, shell, C compiler, linker,
assembler, and a few other things. After this we will add a text
formatter, a YACC, an Empire game, a spreadsheet, and hundreds of
other things. We hope to supply, eventually, everything useful that
normally comes with a Unix system, and anything else useful, including
on-line and hardcopy documentation.

GNU will be able to run Unix programs, but will not be identical
to Unix. We will make all improvements that are convenient, based
on our experience with other operating systems. In particular,
we plan to have longer filenames, file version numbers, a crashproof
file system, filename completion perhaps, terminal-independent
display support, and eventually a Lisp-based window system through
which several Lisp programs and ordinary Unix programs can share a screen.
Both C and Lisp will be available as system programming languages.
We will have network software based on MIT’s chaosnet protocol,
far superior to UUCP. We may also have something compatible
with UUCP.

Who Am I?

I am Richard Stallman, inventor of the original much-imitated EMACS
editor, now at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. I have worked
extensively on compilers, editors, debuggers, command interpreters, the
Incompatible Timesharing System and the Lisp Machine operating system.
I pioneered terminal-independent display support in ITS. In addition I
have implemented one crashproof file system and two window systems for
Lisp machines.

Why I Must Write GNU

I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program I
must share it with other people who like it. I cannot in good
conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license

So that I can continue to use computers without violating my principles,
I have decided to put together a sufficient body of free software so that
I will be able to get along without any software that is not free.

How You Can Contribute

I am asking computer manufacturers for donations of machines and money.
I’m asking individuals for donations of programs and work.

One computer manufacturer has already offered to provide a machine. But
we could use more. One consequence you can expect if you donate
machines is that GNU will run on them at an early date. The machine had
better be able to operate in a residential area, and not require
sophisticated cooling or power.

Individual programmers can contribute by writing a compatible duplicate
of some Unix utility and giving it to me. For most projects, such
part-time distributed work would be very hard to coordinate; the
independently-written parts would not work together. But for the
particular task of replacing Unix, this problem is absent. Most
interface specifications are fixed by Unix compatibility. If each
contribution works with the rest of Unix, it will probably work
with the rest of GNU.

If I get donations of money, I may be able to hire a few people full or
part time. The salary won’t be high, but I’m looking for people for
whom knowing they are helping humanity is as important as money. I view
this as a way of enabling dedicated people to devote their full energies to
working on GNU by sparing them the need to make a living in another way.

For more information, contact me.
Arpanet mail:


US Snail:
Richard Stallman
166 Prospect St
Cambridge, MA 02139

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Latest NSA round-up

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Glenn Greenwald has the latest round-up of various NSA surveillance related stories around the world this week. From the British GCHQ spying on Belgium’s largest telecom, Belgacom, to Obama working hard to keep the controversial programs away from judicial and public scrutiny. And much more.

Also interesting is a new coalition of civil liberties organizations and other interest groups called “Stop Watching Us”. On October 26th they are planning a rally in Washington, D.C. It takes time, but somebody are waking up.

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Replicant on Galaxy Nexus

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After nearly two years on a custom built Android OS, it was time to upgrade. I now have the latest (4.0.4) Replication build for Galaxy Nexus running.

Before installing, I went through a few extra flashes, just to make sure everything would go smoothly. I started out with putting back the original factory images, provided by Google. Download, unpack, and run the included script That was up and running within a minute or two.

Next, I tried CyanogenMod’s build for Galaxy Nexus, including the ClockworkMod Recovery boot image. I used the touch image found here, and simply flashed with:
fastboot flash recovery recovery-clockwork-touch-

I used the from here, and followed the installation procedure using the recovery image seen here. The only difference was that I had to boot the phone fully to have access through adb. Pushing the zip file while in recovery mode did not seem to work. Besides that, everything went smooth. It’s probably worth noting that the camera still works with the CM 10.1.2 build.

So far, so good. Now for the Replicant images. I downloaded the 4.0 0004 build. The instructions suggests the Heimdall recovery image for installation, but I tried to flash through fastboot instead. Thus the install went something like this, while the phone was on the bootloader screen (not in recovery mode).

sudo fastboot erase boot
sudo fastboot erase userdata
sudo fastboot flash boot boot.img
sudo fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
sudo fastboot flash system system.img
sudo fastboot flash userdata userdata.img
sudo fastboot reboot

That worked fine. Replicant booted, and it all looks good. Note that the recovery image which came with the Replicant build was an older version of the ClockworkMod, without touch. So, following the CM install steps above, I could have skipped that. But it doesn’t make a big difference.

The only problem with the Replicant image is that it does not contain a free version of the firmware drivers for things like WiFi and camera, and thus they don’t ship the proprietary binary blobs either. Now, that might be what you want, however, I choice to include the wifi binaries. I copied the ones from the CyanogenMod build. It went something like this:

First remount /system writeable
adb shell
mount -o rw,remount -t ext4 /dev/block/platform/omap/omap_hsmmc.0/by-name/system /system

Back on the terminal on the host computer, I extracted the firmware files, and copied them over. And then a reboot.
unzip -x system/vendor/firmware/*
adb push system/vendor/firmware /system/vendor/firmware

The last bit was to reinstall the various packages and configurations. For .apk files, they can easily be installed with adb. Then the configuration can be copied over. Just make sure the copied files get the same owner and group as its application. For some applications, like httpmon, this was easy. However, for K-9 it got a bit messy since the chown and chgrp commands are somewhat lacking. The later can operate recursively, but you still need to use both.

adb install Gibberbot-37.apk
adb install httpmon-27.apk
adb push org.jtb.httpmon /data/data/org.jtb.httpmon

The Replicant distribution comes with the FOSS app market F-Droid pre-installed, so that’s convenient. That market includes applications like Firefox K-9 Mail, Gibberbot, APV PDF Viewer, httpmon, Orbot, Orweb. (It turned out that Firefox for ARM6 had to be downloaded from here).

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The mind of a megalomaniac: NSA chief Keith Alexander

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Glenn Greenwald recently had a nice story in the Guardian which showed how completely out of touch with society and reality NSA’s surveillance operation has become. NSA chief Keith Alexander have built a command centre and war room modelled after Star Trek’s Enterprise bridge. The pictures below are from the Guardian article.

To add insult to injury, the room was dubbed “Information Dominance Center”. The arrogance of it all is astonishing. Add to that Alexander’s motto “Collect it All”, and it goes to show how totally out of control this whole operation and agency has spun. The revelations over the last months have made it crystal clear that he nor is organization can be trusted, and this small story just hammers home the point even further.

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NSA survailance violations – a brief summary

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A summary of the latest news and NSA revelations.

Thanks to Snowden, we now know the NSA:

  • Had James Clapper lie under oath to us – on camera – to Congress to hide the domestic spying programs Occured in March, revealed in June.
  • Warrantlessly accesses records of every phone call that routes through the US thousands of times a day JuneSeptember
  • Steals your private data from every major web company (Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, et al) via PRISMJune and pays them millions for it August
  • Pays major US telecommunications providers (AT&T, Verizon, et al) between $278,000,000-$394,000,000 annually to provide secret access to all US fiber and cellular networks (in violation of the 4th amendment). August
  • Intentionally weakened the encryption standards we rely on, put backdoors into critical software, and break the crypto on our private communications September
  • NSA employees use these powers to spy on their US citizen lovers via “LOVEINT”, and only get caught if they self-confess. Though this is a felony, none were ever been charged with a crime. August
  • Lied to us again just ten days ago, claiming they never perform economic espionage (whoops!) before a new leak revealed that they do all the time. September
  • Made over fifteen thousand false certifications to the secret FISA court, leading a judge to rule they “frequently and systemically violated” court orders in a manner “directly contrary to the sworn attestations of several executive branch officials,” that 90% of their searches were unlawful, and that they “repeatedly misled the court.” September September
  • Has programs that collect data on US Supreme Court Justices and elected officials, and they secretly provide it to Israel regulated only by an honor system. September


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