We warned you: smart TVs are watching you

WikiLeaks recently published CIA documents detailing the agency’s array of hacking tools – including the ability, developed in partnership with MI5, to hack smart TVs in order to subvert them into covert listening devices.

The leaks also revealed ongoing projects such as the development of hacking technologies for car software, raising questions as to the risks of fatal outcomes.

Few of the security and intelligence agencies’ practices are more disturbingly Orwellian than the subversion of TVs to covertly spy on households.

 

In this short discussion on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 programme, I explain why hacking TVs is a bad idea, why you need to be concerned about it, and what Liberty is doing to fight the UK’s own capabilities to hack citizens en masse. Also in the discussion are computer security expert Robert Shifreen, and the BBC’s Security Correspondent Gordon Corera.

The full programme is available here (expires 7 April 2017): BBC Radio 2

 

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How the UK Government can hack your personal data

Originally published by Mashable, 18th February 2017

By Gianluca Mezzofiore

 

From the moment you set foot on British soil, your personal data could easily be accessed, or even hacked, by the government.

New invasive legislation has been dubbed by critics as one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.

The Snoopers’ Charter — aka the Investigatory Powers Act — was passed into law at the end of last year. It arguably removes your right to online privacy.

In short, it forces internet companies to keep bulk records of all the websites you visit for up to a year and allows the UK government to coerce tech companies to hand over your web history with a retention notice and remove encryption, upon request.

If you think all of this sounds rather alarming, it’s because it is.

So what happens if you’re an unsuspecting visitor blissfully unaware of mass surveillance in the UK? Here’s a provisional guide:

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A Law That Treats All Citizens As Suspects

This is a video interview with Euronews, published on 27th January 2017, discussing how the Investigatory Powers Act (‘Snooper’s Charter’) affects us, and the onset of Liberty’s legal challenge to the mass surveillance powers.

Full video here: The UK’s new surveillance powers treat all citizens as suspects

 

 

 

Join Our Legal Challenge Against Our Authoritarian Surveillance Regime

By Silkie Carlo

Originally published on The Huffington Post, 10 January 2017

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Since the Snoopers’ Charter – or Investigatory Powers Act – passed in November, everything you’ve done online, every phone call you’ve made, every text message you’ve sent, every place you’ve been with your phone has been stored in a database by order of the British Government. And it’s been made accessible to everyone from the taxman to the Department for Work and Pensions – as well as other governments, like that of the United States.

Under the new law, authorities have also been granted powers to hack thousands of devices at once – without any reason for suspicion – simply to make sure they can keep listening in on everything you do, all the time.

All this surveillance is supposed to keep us safe from terrorists who want to attack our democracy – but what could be more undemocratic, more dangerous, and more defeatist than treating all British citizens like suspects and tearing apart the freedoms that define us?

These are digital stop and search powers with unprecedented secrecy and sophistication – on steroids. The potential for discrimination, persecution and abuse is unthinkable.

President-elect Trump has already committed to using his arsenal of mass surveillance powers against all Muslims and anti-racism activists. What might the UK Government of today or moreover, tomorrow, do with such totalitarian-style powers?

We have long expected to be able to correspond, meet, telephone one another, read newspapers, enjoy radio and films, join political parties, explore faiths, visit libraries, travel, demonstrate, seek medical advice, take and share photographs, and express ourselves freely and without the watchful eye of the state. But with our daily lives increasingly digitised, pervasive surveillance under the Snoopers’ Charter rips those freedoms away and reshapes British values for the future, almost beyond recognition.

Ironically, the Snoopers’ Charter not only attacks our democratic values, but jeopardises our cybersecurity. The Government can now force tech companies like Apple to remove encryption and weaken the security of their own products in total secrecy. This means easy mass surveillance for the State, but an increased risk of criminal hacking for us.

Meanwhile, internet providers are now forced to create records of our every online move – what websites we visit on our computers, what apps we use on our phones – and store them, ready for the State to access. TalkTalk wasn’t even able to protect its customers’ credit card details from hacking last year.

So whose hands will your internet history end up in, exactly? If you thought the Ashley Madison hack was bad, I fear you’ve seen nothing yet.

If this worries you, you’re not alone. Since the Snoopers’ Charter was passed by Parliament in November, over 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for its repeal. The Government dismissed those who signed, refusing to debate the Act further.

But the Government cannot dismiss human rights. And the Government cannot dismiss 200,000 people with human rights law on their side.

Just before Christmas, Liberty and Tom Watson MP won a legal challenge against the Government’s previous surveillance law at the EU Court of Justice.

The Court declared that the mass hoarding of our communication logs and internet histories is unnecessary and “cannot be considered to be justified, within a democratic society” – rendering the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act unlawful. The Court also ruled that allowing the police to authorise their own access to our personal information, and to do so without any suspicion of a serious crime, was a breach of rights.

This was a massive victory for our civil liberties in the digital age.

The Snoopers’ Charter re-introduced the same powers that have just been declared illegal – and added new, even more intrusive, ones. But creating a new law for 2017 cannot let the Government circumvent the human rights law that protects us.

So today Liberty has launched The People vs the Snoopers’ Charter – a legal challenge against this authoritarian surveillance regime, backed by the ordinary people subjected to its gaze.

Liberty will be representing the many thousands of people who are determined to stand up for civil liberties. We’ll be challenging new powers to hack our devices en masse, to listen in on millions of innocent people’s communications, collect our phone records, and watch our every move online.

This is a rare chance to be part of a movement that defines our freedoms – not just today, but for the future. Liberty has defended human rights and civil liberties for 80 years, but we must all work together to keep defending them in the digital realm. This could be the beginning of the end for mass surveillance in the UK, The most authoritarian law ever passed in this country will be defeated by the people.

FACING DATA DELUGE, SECRET U.K. SPYING REPORT WARNED OF INTELLIGENCE FAILURE

Originally published on The Intercept, June 2016

By Ryan Gallagher.

A SECRET REPORT WARNED that British spies may have put lives at risk because their surveillance systems were sweeping up more data than could be analyzed, leading them to miss clues to possible security threats.

The concern was sent to top British government officials in an explosive classified document, which outlined methods being developed by the United Kingdom’s domestic intelligence agency to covertly monitor internet communications.

The Security Service, also known as MI5, had become the “principal collector and exploiter” of digital communications within the U.K., the eight-page report noted, but the agency’s surveillance capabilities had “grown significantly over the last few years.”

MI5 “can currently collect (whether itself or through partners …) significantly more than it is able to exploit fully,” the report warned. “This creates a real risk of ‘intelligence failure’ i.e. from the Service being unable to access potentially life-saving intelligence from data that it has already collected.”

draft copy of the report, obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, is marked with the classification “U.K. Secret” and dated February 12, 2010. It was prepared by British spy agency officials to brief the government’s Cabinet Office and Treasury Department about the U.K.’s surveillance capabilities.

Notably, three years after the report was authored, two Islamic extremists killed and attempted to decapitate a British soldier, Lee Rigby, on a London street. An investigation into the incident found that the two perpetrators were well-known to MI5, but the agency had missed significant warning signs about the men, including records of phone calls one of them had made to an al Qaeda-affiliated radical in Yemen, and an online message in which the same individual had discussed in graphic detail his intention to murder a soldier.

The new revelations raise questions about whether problems sifting through the troves of data collected by British spies may have been a factor in the failure to prevent the Rigby killing. But they are also of broader relevance to an ongoing debate in the U.K. about surveillance. In recent months, the British government has been trying to pass a new law, the Investigatory Powers Bill, which would grant MI5 and other agencies access to more data.

Silkie Carlo, a policy officer at the London-based human rights group Liberty, told The Intercept that the details contained in the secret report highlighted the need for a comprehensive independent review of the proposed new surveillance powers.

“Intelligence whistleblowers have warned that the agencies are drowning in data — and now we have it confirmed from the heart of the U.K. government,” Carlo said. “If our agencies have risked missing ‘life-saving intelligence’ by collecting ‘significantly’ more data than they can analyze, how can they justify casting the net yet wider in the toxic Investigatory Powers Bill?”

The British government’s Home Office, which handles media requests related to MI5, declined to comment for this story.

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