Intelligence Director James Clapper Warmly Welcomes The Internet Of Things To The NSA's Haystacks

from the my-god...-it's-full-of-data dept

The NSA isn't too concerned about the use of encryption. Unlike the FBI, which continues to claim the sky is falling darkening thanks to the spread of math, the NSA is relatively comfortable with the march of technology in this direction.

For one thing, the NSA has made progress towards cracking some forms of encryption. On top of that, it maintains a unit that does nothing but stick implants into hardware that allows it to bypass protection schemes used by its targets.

There's no "going dark" fear at the NSA. The Director of National Intelligence -- James Clapper -- has just issued a "Worldwide Threat Assessment" and nowhere in it will you find an extensive discussion about encryption's supposed deleterious effect on national security. There is one small paragraph that notes it's likely a part of terrorists' efforts to hide their communications, but not the element that concerns his office the most.

Terrorists will almost certainly continue to benefit in 2016 from a new generation of recruits proficient in information technology, social media, and online research. Some terrorists will look to use these technologies to increase the speed of their communications, the availability of their propaganda, and ability to collaborate with new partners. They will easily take advantage of widely available, free encryption technology, mobile-messaging applications, the dark web, and virtual environments to pursue their objectives.
There are far too many options for those who'd like to keep the NSA out of their business, according to the report. There's no sense in decrying a single aspect of it -- especially one that also provides substantial security benefits to non-terrorists.

But the Internet giveth just as certainly as it taketh away. Echoing the sentiments of the recent report debunking the "going dark" fears of James Comey, certain legislators and a handful of smaller law enforcement agencies, Clapper points out that the Internet of Things will provide intelligence services with plenty of data to fill in their surveillance holes. (h/t Emptywheel)
Internet of Things (IoT). “Smart” devices incorporated into the electric grid, vehicles—including autonomous vehicles—and household appliances are improving efficiency, energy conservation, and convenience. However, security industry analysts have demonstrated that many of these new systems can threaten data privacy, data integrity, or continuity of services. In the future, intelligence services might use the IoT for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.
The tea kettle that talks to the thermostat that shares a signal with the fridge that exposes your emails to the wardriving criminal who just obtained your Wi-Fi password from the doorbell will all be sources of useful data for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Considering much of the industry has opted to ship smart things with dumbass defaults most users will never change, the Internet of Eminently Crackable Things will be the informants government agencies always wished they had -- ones that can tell when suspects are home, what they're doing and opening up otherwise secured networks for easy intrusion.

Also worth noting is the highly dubious use of the future tense when referring to the surveillance of targets via their Smart Things. It's hard to believe the NSA isn't already on top of this. It's not as though it would need to alter its permission slips. Section 702 gives it the power to snake info from the internet from basically anywhere in the world and the government is busy arguing that people "know" their connected devices share tons of identification/location info with "the world," so there's really no expectation of privacy that might limit surveillance via smart objects.

While overseas terrorists may not be purchasing Nest thermostats in bulk at the moment, the march towards the interconnectedness of everything means it's likely one object or another will provide another surveillance vector for intelligence agencies in the near future.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    me@me.net, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 8:52am

    logical response

    Learn How:
    Build your own
    Lock it down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 8:56am

    Bright side for NSA

    NSA isn't afraid of going Dark because they been hiding in Congress asshole and are able to see the light. Not a single official got in trouble or lost their job after breaking the law and their oath.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 8:59am

    The NSA has become fascinated by the ability to collect data, without really knowing how to use it to do its assigned job. This is making it increasingly ineffective as it drowns its analysts under all the data that they can collect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 9:11am

    Re:

    The NSA is destroying itself with its own greed?

    You say that as if it were a bad thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 10th, 2016 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    It's an addiction. The ineffectiveness can be hid under cases produced via fishing expeditions. Considering how they care not with any civil rights at all we'll see plenty of innocent people thrown under the bus to justify their budget.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 10th, 2016 @ 9:21am

    I like my things dumb. I mean, we are striving to save every single minute of our time by automating a bunch of things (a tea kettle, really) and we are forgetting to live. Who ever brewed their own tea/coffee know that brewing is part of the experience.

    We should be looking for having more free time to spend yes. But we are doing it wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Richard Kulawiec, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 9:50am

    The Internet of Things

    A better name would be "The Internet of Insecure Things". I can't name an IoT product without massive security and privacy issues -- and those are just the ones that we know about. So far. The headlong rush to develop and deploy these devices is rapidly turning a bad dream into a never-ending nightmare.

    And those responsible are using every possible mechanism at their disposal to prevent researchers from discovering and disclosing these problems. They're willing to deliberately endanger their own customers in order to protect their profits.

    Write it down: the IoT is going to get people killed -- probably sooner rather than later. And I hate predicting that, because it's horrible: but the writing is already on the wall in big, bold 72-point type.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re:

    While the NSA may be failing in its originally assigned task, (who knows what it current objectives are), its database poses an extreme danger should a religious bigot ever seize power. Select all households that do not buy pork would select at least two religious groups, with a few vegetarians thrown in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 10:20am

    Call me a luddite

    I work in the technology sector and I refuse to buy any smart devices beyond my phone. I will wait until the IoT has been secured, which judging from the current state of things, will be a long, long time. Besides, a nifty thermostat will not add even one iota to my happiness.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 10:30am

    Biggest threat that Clapper wants to watch - Americans

    What a surprise - Clapper calls out homegrown terrorists (HVEs) as the biggest threat to the homeland. I suppose he'll want more power to spy on those dangerous Americans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 10:52am

    Re: The Internet of Things

    Agreed.

    Does anybody remember Furbies?

    Remember how various security services and private businesses went nuts when they found out about the audio recording/playback abilities they had?

    So the CIA (among others) had a fit about Furbies but now they're going to allow IoT? WTF?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Kagzaz, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 11:28am

    How Long

    How long before we can stop pretending that this is not to find terrorists but to spy on the general population? Don't want to sound like I wear a tinfoil hat but if someone really wanted to go dark they and the NSA knows they would never use that kind of tech, especially if it is easily breached.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    ECA (profile), Feb 10th, 2016 @ 11:52am

    Even in..

    Even in a content society there will always be those Discontent/mentally disabled/those that dont see the picture..

    What acerbates this is the Alienation of those that are supposed to be taking CARE of things, fixing things, in control of our society...

    If you feel like a Mushroom, look around and see if you can understand why...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 12:58pm

    Q: Brennen, Clapper and Hayden are all playing Russian roulette with six live rounds chamber, who wins?

    A: The US Constitution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 1:57pm

    Clap on.
    Clap off.
    The Clapper.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 10th, 2016 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re:

    No, it isn't destroying itself, it's just failing its mission, but continuing to violate our privacy and spend our tax money. So basically the worst possible outcome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 10th, 2016 @ 7:34pm

    Yet

    Also worth noting is the highly dubious use of the future tense when referring to the surveillance of targets via their Smart Things.

    There might not be enough of these products installed to make it worth attacking them in more than an experimental way yet. And the NSA is more about collecting all the information from everywhere and sorting through it later, rather than finding a dangerous person and surveilling the crap out of them. The CIA and FBI might be more interested in using these attack vectors now, since they seem more likely to target a specific person for surveillance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2016 @ 8:50pm

    Of course, we kind of already knew IoT would be a basis for surveillance as soon as those now notorious for that became involved (Google).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 5:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Indeed. If it was destroying itself it would end up being defunded and closed down, but that's not happening. Too many piggies have their snouts in the security/surveillance trough to let that happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, Feb 11th, 2016 @ 5:37am

    Re: Re: The Internet of Things

    The CIA went nuts against Furbies? I'd have thought that was one of their Black Ops projects, or something. Well I never...!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    klaus (profile), Feb 11th, 2016 @ 8:18am

    Re: The Internet of Things

    There are already insulin pumps connected to the internet. That thought truly scares me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Blowhard, Feb 12th, 2016 @ 5:20am

    I like my things stupid

    There's nothing smart in my house except maybe the pets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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