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Some 30 percent of American adults say they have altered their digital behavior in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA spying revelations in order to hide information from the government. In Spring 2013, Snowden, a then NSA contractor working for Booz Allen Hamilton, remotely accessed the NSA’s Ft. Meade networks from a satellite office on Hawaii and stole a massive trove of secret documents detailing the U.S. signals intelligence agency’s extensive surveillance capabilities and spying operations. Nearly two years after the initial release, Snowden, now exiled in Russia, is still publishing new revelatory documents about the NSA and its partner’s activities. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey, seeking to determine the extent to which these revelations have changed the way people communicate and behave online as well as people’s approval of and opinions about surveillance. In all, 87 percent of respondents were aware of the NSA’s spying operations to some extent. Among those, 34 percent had actively changed their online behavior. That group accounted for 30 percent of the entire research sample, which consisted of 475 randomly selected adults. In nearly every scenario tested, younger adults were more likely to have disapproved of spying and made changes in light of the revelations. Men were more likely to have heard more about surveillance than woman and college graduates more likely than people with only a high school diploma or less. In general, the more informed the respondent was about government surveillance, the more likely that person was to either disapprove of spying or change online behavior because of it. Specifically, 17 percent of respondents changed the privacy settings on their social media accounts, 15 percent reported to use social media less often, 15 percent said they’ve avoided certain mobile applications and 13 percent have uninstalled apps. In addition, 14 percent claimed they speak more in person instead of communicating online or via phone and 13 percent have avoided using certain terms in online communications. Anecdotally, many respondents reported self-censoring themselves online to avoid communicating about or searching for information that could be deemed threatening, even when such searches were merely out of curiosity and such conversations were in jest. Numerically speaking, 18 percent claim to have changed the way they send emails, 17 percent reported changes in search behavior, 15 percent said they changed social networking tendencies and 15 percent say they are using their cell phones differently. A quarter of those who were aware of NSA surveillance reported having deployed more complicated passwords as a result. More than half of those surveyed, 57 percent to be exact, say it is “unacceptable” for the government to monitor the communications of U.S. citizens. Not surprisingly if you’ve been following the revelations, Americans are comfortable with their government targeting foreigners for surveillance, but not themselves. However, most respondents said they are losing confidence that the public interest is being served by surveillance programs. The public is evenly split about the capacity of the judicial system to balance privacy rights with intelligence needs. Specifically, 82 percent believe it is acceptable to monitor communications of suspected terrorists, 60 percent believe it is acceptable to monitor the communications of American leaders, another 60 percent think it is okay to monitor the communications of foreign leaders, 54 percent say it is acceptable to monitor communications from foreign citizens and only 40 percent fell it is okay for the government to monitor ordinary U.S. citizens. Respondents were more accepting of surveillance when they were asked about its use in specific scenarios such as monitoring people who have visited sites containing child pornography or anti-American sentiments, those who had communicated with”an imam who preached against infidels,” those who used search engines to research weapons and explosives, made unusual banking withdrawals, used encryption to hide files and people who follow others on social media who say hateful things about American leaders. Just 10 percent of respondents say they have used an alternative search engine that does not track search history. Only five percent have added privacy-enhancing browser plug-ins. Four percent have adopted mobile encryption for calls and text messages, three percent have used proxy servers can help them avoid surveillance, two percent have adopted email encryption programs such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), two percent have used anonymity software such as Tor and only one percent have used locally-networked communications such as FireChat. These low adoption rates may well relate to another finding stating that more than half of respondents believe it would be too difficult to increase their security and privacy online. 53 percent have not adopted or considered using a search engine that doesn’t keep track of a user’s search history and another 13 percent said they don’t even know about these tools. 46 percent have not adopted or considered using email encryption programs and another 31 percent said they didn’t know such things existed. 43 percent have not adopted or considered adding privacy-enhancing browser plug-ins while 31 percent did not know about these plug-ins. 41 percent haven’t adopted or considered using proxies with an additional 33 percent having no awareness of them. And 40 percent have not adopted or considered using anonymity software such as Tor while another 39 percent don’t even know about Tor. Source
The world's biggest SIM card manufacturer, Gemalto, revealed yesterday to have been hacked by the NSA and GCHQ, has taken a $470m hit in its stock price. Gemalto was caught unawares by the revelation that the US and UK intelligence agencies had compromised its systems, and stole potentially millions of SIM card keys used to encrypt phone calls around the world. Gemalto supplies SIMs to 450 networks on Earth, from AT&T to T-Mobile, and launched an investigation. Speculation that the Dutch manufacturer may be forced to recall chips, incurring huge costs, caused its share price to fall eight per cent in early trading before recovering a little to four per cent down on closing. Obtaining SIM card private keys allows intelligence agencies to decrypt intercepted calls without anyone knowing – not the users, the network operators nor the handset manufactures. Communications eavesdropped today, yesterday or five years ago can be decoded once a SIM's Ki key is obtained. The company issued a statement today in which it promised to get to the bottom of the hack: "Gemalto is especially vigilant against malicious hackers, and has detected, logged and mitigated many types of attempts over the years. At present we cannot prove a link between those past attempts and what was reported yesterday. “We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques.” Incensed Security watchers praised the company for its prompt and forthright response. But privacy and communications experts are incensed by the latest revelations about GCHQ/NSA warrantless mass surveillance. The World Wide Web Foundation has called for urgent steps to be taken to secure private calls and online communications. Its chief exec Anne Jellema commented: "The news that US and UK spy agencies hacked the network of a Dutch company to steal encryption keys for billions of SIM cards is truly shocking. "Possession of these keys would allow these agencies to access private calls, web browsing records and other online communications without any of the legal safeguards and processes in place to prevent abuses of power.” Jellema argued that the surveillance would undermine trust in mobile payments, among other concerns. “This is yet another worrying sign that these agencies think they are above the law. Apart from its blatant disregard for multiple human rights, this foolish move undermines the security and future of the global mobile payments industry." She noted that any security weakness or backdoors into a cryptographic system might also be exploited by third-party cybercriminals and called for an investigation into GCHQ including "a full and frank disclosure as to why they hacked a private company, and one headquartered in an ally country." Other security experts warned that other intelligence agencies may be up to the same tricks. Andrew Conway, research analyst at Cloudmark, said: “The ease with which the NSA and GCHQ were able to compromise all mobile communications is shocking. But there are other nation state actors with just as much determination and sophisticated hackers. In particular, China's Axiom Group has shown remarkable abilities to penetrate targets in the West.” Not just the NSA? He highlighted other worrying accounts of mobile companies being targeted: "Last year, mobile security company ESD revealed that they had detected a network of fake mobile phone towers intercepting communications near US military bases. It was assumed that whoever was responsible was just collecting metadata, because 3G and 4G communications are encrypted. Could it be that this was some foreign espionage agency with the ability to listen to US mobile phone calls? Or perhaps it was the NSA monitoring all civilian phone calls near military bases for possible terrorist activity? Regardless, it is clear that mobile communications have been badly compromised.” A complete revamp of mobile comm security may eventually be required, Conway concluded. "In the short term organizations requiring secure voice communications can consider deploying mobile devices with another layer of encryption, such as Blackphone or Cryptophone. In the long term, we need to do a better job of end-to-end encryption of all mobile and fixed line communications - which will include not relying on a single master key for all communications." Source