Canadian Spy Agency Tracking Users Of Free WiFi At Airports, Hotels, Coffee Shops & Libraries

from the free-wifi dept

A few years ago, we wrote about why, for many years, whenever you were in a public place like an airport or a hotel, you'd often see an available WiFi option called Free Public WiFi -- though if you looked carefully, it was an ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network, rather than to a WiFi access point. It turns out that it was because of a stupid bug in Windows XP, which also explains why it's a lot less common these days. Of course, some people always would joke that it was really spy agencies trying to get you to connect to their WiFi. Except, that might not be that much of a joke. The latest reporting on Snowden documents from Glenn Greenwald, in association with some reporters from the CBC, reveals that the Canadian equivalent of the NSA, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been tracking people as they connect to WiFi networks in a variety of public places including airports, hotels, coffee shops and libraries. The main focus appears to be on airports, but then they use that data to create a map of information about where someone goes.

Just two months ago, the head of the CSEC, John Foster, insisted that the CSEC does not spy on anyone in Canada:
“I can’t comment in detail on the intelligence operations or capabilities of ourselves or our allies. What I can tell you is that CSEC, under its legislation, cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anyone in Canada, including visitors to Canada.”
And yet, as this report shows, they absolutely are collecting tons of data on Canadians and visitors to Canada. And not just a few. The document shows that in a test that "swept a modest size city," they collected information on over 300,000 people. Also, they can then use that information to track where a person goes, creating profiles over time. The document reveals that they're just testing this capability (which was created in coordination with the NSA), but it indicates the plan is for all of the "Five Eyes" countries to use a similar system -- though the reporters say they've been told the system is now fully operational, and not just in test mode.

It's not clear from the document exactly how the CSEC is able to get this data. The CBC report questions a few potential sources, such as key airports and Boingo (the company that supplies WiFi to many public hotspots) and both deny providing the information. The Boingo denial seems reasonable, since in the presentation it actually indicates that they have trouble getting information on users on Boingo's network.

The reporters spoke to multiple experts who all say that there's no possible way that this effort is legal under Canadian law. After all, as Foster himself stated above, the CSEC cannot target anyone on Canadian soil, but they clearly do. The article even quotes Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian who seems horrified by this revelation:
Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian says she is "blown away" by the revelations.

"It is really unbelievable that CSEC would engage in that kind of surveillance of Canadians. Of us.

"I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around… This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society."
For all the wonders of free WiFi, there's one more downside to keep in mind. If you're using it, you're almost certainly being tracked by a spy agency.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 9:36am

    Today's spying overreach excuse is brought to you by the word 'Targeted'

    Pretty obvious they've been sharing the NSA's excuse-book, and will almost certainly respond with the claim that if they don't specifically 'target' citizens of the country, but rather just grab everything, then that means they haven't been lying when they claimed that they weren't spying on canadian citizens.

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 9:46am

    you'd often see an available WiFi option called Free Public WiFi -- though if you looked carefully, it was an ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network, rather than to a WiFi access point. It turns out that it was because of a stupid bug in Windows XP

    Actually those were a conspiracy from the evil pirates by using pirate-boxes in such fashion so they will kill all creative work in the world while freeloading (or grifting, I'm not sure what these words mean to those people) on the works of others. And behind it all is the masters of evils Google. /herpderp

     

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  3.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 9:48am

    Re: Today's spying overreach excuse is brought to you by the word 'Targeted'

    Actually it is a targeted data collection. The target is set to "The Milky Way residents" at the moment (although expanding the range to the entire universe minus dark matter parts is being considered).

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:15am

    It appears the Canadian Government, is full of liars too.

     

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  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:15am

    "you're almost certainly being tracked by a spy agency." such as... Google!

    "Google is beta-testing a program that tracks users’ purchasing habits by registering brick-and-mortar store visits via smartphones,"

    http://www.businessinsider.com.au/google-testing-retail-tracking-program-2013-11

    Where Mike sez: "Any system that involves spying on the activities of users is going to be a non-starter. Creeping the hell out of people isn't a way of encouraging them to buy. It's a way of encouraging them to want nothing to do with you." -- So why doesn't that apply to The Google? (61 of 193)

    When you think surveillance or spying or snooping or censoring or pushing propaganda, think Google! (57 of 193)

    06:14:16[h-197-7]

     

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  6.  
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    jackn3, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:22am

    bi isn't an authoritative source. Now I see where your idiocy comes from.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:24am

    There is a definite trend in these leaks, spy agencies are finding it easier to spy on citizens of their own country. Might it be due to the fact t is obviously much easier to deploy and access technology in their own country?

     

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  8.  
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    pegr, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:25am

    Having a hard time getting worked up over this one

    They are likely just tracking wireless MAC addresses. It's something anyone could do, so I'm having a hard time being too concerned with it. If you voluntarily throw your MAC address in the air for everyone to see, that's your fault.

    Don't want your MAC address to be tracked? Change it.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:41am

    Why does it looks like if the NSA was behind everything?
    I mean they started doing this and they could force other countries to help them with these.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    jackn3, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re: Having a hard time getting worked up over this one

    Couldn't they just track your changed mac address?

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:50am

    CSEC? Isn't that the police force in mass effect?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:56am

    Re: Having a hard time getting worked up over this one

    I'm having a hard time being too concerned with it.

    The fact that an agency that should NOT be spying on its own countries citizens but is should be a cause for concern. It they can get away with this, what else are they doing, and what will they do in the future because they can get away with it?

     

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  13.  
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    sorrykb (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:05am

    CSEC's "under this legislation" = NSA's "under this program"

    What I can tell you is that CSEC, under its legislation, cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anyone in Canada, including visitors to Canada.


    The above statement must be the least untruthful answer John Foster could provide.

     

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  14.  
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    quawonk, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:07am

    Re:

    Which government isn't?

     

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  15.  
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    pegr, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Having a hard time getting worked up over this one

    Absolutely. So change it again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    If you're really serious, have it change automagically to a random value at every boot.

     

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  16.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:49am

    "I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around… This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society." -Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian
    Pshaw. If airports were really totalitarian, the fucking airlines would run on time.

    Also, it's common knowledge the "Five Eyes" members are all infected with STD (Surveillance Technology Disorder). Shoulda used a rubber, Canada.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    so yet another conservative government strikes at the people and at democracy! what is it with these people? as soon as they get elected into office, everything they supposedly stood for, everything they promised goes out the window quicker than an honest politician!

     

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  18.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Having a hard time getting worked up over this one

    Not only is it something anyone can do, a lot of retailers currently do it and have been for some time now.

     

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  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Having a hard time getting worked up over this one

    Not on every boot, but periodically. Oddly enough, this is exactly what the secure laptops my company provides do.

     

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  20.  
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    TheCoffice (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 1:53pm

    There's an app for that!

    So...congrats to Canada's intelligence community. They've discovered Foursquare, Banjo, StreamedIn, Badoo and all the endless supply of other apps that reveal your location if your mobile device is configured that way. Welcome to 2014.

    Is this an over-simplification or did I miss something in the story? It's not that difficult to record someone's position these days.

     

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  21.  
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    seriously, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 3:37pm

    Re:

    Conservative? Have you seen who's in charge of our lovely NSA?

     

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  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re:

    Obama is in charge on the NSA, and he's certainly no liberal. He's probably best described as a right-leaning centrist. In other words, he's more than a touch conservative.

     

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  23.  
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    CanadianByChoice, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 4:31pm

    But they DIDN'T lie

    Bulk colleciton isn't targeted. That statment did not say they didn't spy us, just that they don't target us.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 2:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What John Fenderson says. Can we please stop pretending that Dem = Liberal leftist? Yes, some of them are, but not all of them are. Meanwhile, the Reps are 50 Shades of Right and dragging everybody else rightwards because they all want to appear tough on crime and terrorists and the other bogeymen.

     

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  25.  
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    NSA = (Gestapo+Stasi+KGB)squared, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 5:47am

    Non-denial

    What I can tell you is that CSEC, under its legislation, cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anyone in Canada, including visitors to Canada.

    That's not even a denial. He's just repeating what the law says. It's like the murderer answering "I, under our legislation, cannot kill people", when asked if he killed the victim.

    A real denial would've been something like: "What I can tell you is that CSEC hasn't targeted and isn't targeting Canadians..."

     

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  26.  
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    Seegras (profile), Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "right leaning centrist"? Uhm, no. Not even that. I'd call that "authoritarian" and "prohibitionist". Oh, and far to the right also:
    http://politicalcompass.org/uselection2012

    Not that Canada looks better ("better" as seen from my libertarian point of view):
    http://politicalcompass.org/canada2011
    or the UK:
    http://politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010
    or the EU:
    http://politicalcompass.org/euchart

    Yes, dear audience, we're witnessing the new rise of fascism.

     

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  27.  
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    Elance wimax, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 7:13am

    free wi fi

    Getting free wifi is really good for normal people and for no hacker it is like jackpot so better be safe if you have wi fi make it secure.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Michael Heroux, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:21pm

    CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT

    CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT -

    PRIVACY COMMISSIONER OF CANADA - JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OF CANADA

    Michael Heroux said michaelheroux1967@gmail.com

    The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada finally got back to us after ignoring us for quite some time now. When we first contacted her office they wanted more specific information from us to prove to them that the 30-08 warrants Judge Richard Mosley issued were actually for us. We know they have the security clearance to find out and we know they know the warrants were for us but they keep saying prove it. We sent them the names of the first 2 agents they sent to investigate us in 2008 and they didn't even acknowledge the agents in any way. They didn't comment on the agents, they didn't ask questions about the agents or nothing. They are just ignoring anything we tell them even though they keep asking for more information. The first 2 agents they sent to investigate us in 2008 were our daughters. Our 2 daughters came back home to live with us in 2008 and told us they were working for Canadian Intelligence. They told us the agent that they were working for wanted them to set us up. It has got us worried. We don't know whether Canadian Intelligence is playing some sort of sick game with us but a stranger approached us out of the blue last year and told us our daughters have been murdered. We have not heard from our 2 daughters since they were sent back home to investigate us for Canadian Intelligence. All The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada is saying to us is prove it. They want us to name names of the Intelligence agents we met in 2008-2009 but they won't offer us any protection against further assasination attempts against my wife and kids and I even though they know about the previous attempts. We are still being monitored as I write this and we have reason to believe they are using foreign spies from their international coalition. The last thing The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada did was refer us to the recommendations that she made to Parliament on our behalf. The same thing is going on with The Justice Department Of Canada, all they want from us is more information from us to prove the 30-08 warrants were for us but even though they know about our daughters working as agents for Canadian Intelligence and they know about the poisonings and assasination attempts against us and they know the 30-08 warrants were for us all they are saying now is they don't have control over the 30-08 warrant information we are looking for against us and they are saying Canadian Intelligence has the information we are looking for. Both agencies have security clearance and they know everything but they are playing dumb but they still want us to name names about the agents we met between 2008-2009 and neither of them are willing to offer us protection against further assasination attemtps against us.
    After our daughters left our home when they were done investigating us in 2008 many agents were contacting us in the beginning of 2009 offering us large sums of money if we left Canada for a while. We knew they were trying to get us to leave Canada but not until Judge Richard Mosley decision did we realize why. They were offering us luxury vacations in the sun and basically anything we wanted just to leave Canda for a while. Now we realize it was just a ploy to get their International Coalition involved, we probably would never have been heard from again. They also wanted us to bring our kids along. The good agents were warning us that our life was in danger and they were telling us to move back to British Columbia for our own safety. The local police force would escort us home late at night when we left the downtown area and we always wondered why we were so special. We decided to listen to the good agents and move back to British Columbia for our safety. Just as we were getting ready to move a few agents approached us and offered us $250,000 dollars if we stay in Ontario. We couldn't believe it. But we left anyways. Thanks for reading.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Michael Heroux, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:23pm

    CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT

    CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT -

    PRIVACY COMMISSIONER OF CANADA - JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OF CANADA

    Michael Heroux said michaelheroux1967@gmail.com

    The Justice Department Of Canada finally got back to us after ignoring us for over a month. They are now saying they won't give us our information they have on us to look over, and they told us they will not answer anymore of our requests and to get The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada to investigate why they won't give us our information. We have contacted The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada numerous times since November 30 2013, the same day the former Privacy Commissioner Of Canada stepped down. We want them to investigate why the The Justice Department Of Canada won't give us our information, but The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada won't help us get our information. They keep telling us they need concrete proof for them to investigate to get our information. It doesn't make sence to us. Since we were told to move back to British Columbia in 2009 from Windsor Ontario for our own safety, we have been kicked out of numerous apartments because of the agents harassment and we have been kicked out of Victoria B.C. and Kamloops B.C. by the police and they are now trying to kick us out of Vancouver British Columbia. They now have 2 apartments around us. They have one beside us and they have one above us. They use both apartments and they are working in shifts. They monitor us from the the above apartment and when the one agent is above us monitoring us the other agent is sleeping in the apartment beside us. Approximately every 12 hours they switch, the one upstairs will move to the lower apartment and rest and the one that is rested will take his place. It has been that way now for over 5 years. We know the agent above us is doing the monitoring because when we start talking about them they will start stomping on the ceiling until we stop talking about them. They will also stomp on the ceiling when we are posting online about them, they will try to block our postings by messing around with our internet and they will start stomping. That is the only time they stomp on the ceiling. They don't like us talking about them or posting about them. The first assasination attempt against us was in January 2013 when we went to find our one daughter that was working for them to investigate us in 2008. We went back to Windsor Ontario to find her and we were there for a month looking for her but we couldn't find her. Just before we came back to British Columbia they sent a gunman to murder my family and I. It was later that year in 2013 that a stranger approached us and told us our daughters had been murdered. We are not sure what to do now. We are on Government disability and we cannot afford a lawyer to represent us and the Government won't give us our information for a lawsuit against them. They won't let us post on certain forums anymore, not even Craigslist, they keep blocking our posts on there now. In 2008 an agent told us that the Canadian Craigslist servers were controled by the Harper Government. We were told they made a deal with Criag and that Buckmaster guy otherwise they would block them from Canada. Sounds strange to me. They won't let us post on The Globe And Mail website anymore either. Thanks for reading.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Michael Heroux, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:24pm

    CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT

    CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT -

    PRIVACY COMMISSIONER OF CANADA - JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OF CANADA

    Michael Heroux said michaelheroux1967@gmail.com

    I don't know why people are not talking more about why the watchdog of CSIS stepped down. Everyone is saying he stepped down because of a conflict of interest over the pipeline even though he was cleared of any ethics violations. My wife and I have filed a privacy complaint with the Privacy Commissioners Office Of Canada to investigate the RCMP CSIS and CSEC. I find it strange the day I contacted their office for the first time in my life with my application November 29 2013 P.S.T. which was the next day November 30 2013 E.S.T. The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada stepped down. She was supposed to retire in 2 days after 10 years of service but she stepped down 2 days early because of our case. We read 5 different news articles on November 30 2013 saying she stepped down and when we went back to read those articles 5 news agencies deleted their story about her stepping down early. The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada sent us a letter and tried to tell us that we contacted her on November 19 2013 just before the bill was given to her but that was false, we never contacted her until November 26 2013 and then we contacted her again November 28 2013, and that day she decided against BILL C-13 because of the abuse and assasination attempts against my family and I. Also I find it strange the same day I revealed online my full complaint against the RCMP CSIS and CSEC the CSIS watchdog stepped down. Something that we also think is strange is when we contacted the Justice Department Of Canada looking for information they announced 2 days later they are appealing the decision from Judge Mosley and then they wanted to know why we wanted the information and where and what time we were going to use the information before they give it to us. Something else we find funny is we don't have to enable our browser history anymore. We can clear our cache and our browser history and cookies and all and it is being cached somewhere else downstream from our ISP or maybe upstream somewhere. We think it is probably being cached by the spy in the adjacent suite. Thanks for reading.

    My wife and I are the two people Justice Richard Mosley was refering to when he ruled CSIS was end running the law. We have been following this decision very closely, we are being spied on right here in Canada. My wife and I and our 3 children have been abused by the RCMP CSIS CSEC and other police forces in Ontario and British Columbia for over 5 years now. I have a mental disability and the police started harassing my family and I when I started using Craigslist 5 years ago, what can I say, we're swingers. My wife slept with a few of them while I watched. We are not terrorist. It sounds strange but I have been poisoned and my wife has been poisoned for speaking out publicly about the abuse. We have also been assaulted numerous times in the last 5 years. They are listening to us in our bedroom and living room because they let us know by telling us what we are talking about in the privacy of our home. We contacted the BC Human Rights and Civil Rights office last year because the police were trying to run me and my family over on the streets, but they never got back to us. We got a lawyer a couple years ago and the lawyer was able to get them to lay off for a bit. They sent a gunman to murder us last year, we managed to evade him. It also sounds strange but we have a spy monitoring us right now in the adjacent suite to us and they have been there for 15 months now. Since Judge Mosleys decision they quit harassing us but they are still messing around with our internet and phone communications. Thank God for Judge Mosley, I think he saved our lives. We think the reason they are still watching over us is because of what Judge Mosley refered to as "invasive survailence techniques" used against the people who had those warrents issued on them. They don't want us to tell anyone about the techniques used against us for the last 5 years. Pretty sophisticated alien technology if I do say so myself. Pretty cool actually but we don't plan on telling anyone. We are patriotic Canadians and we hate terrorist like everyone else but we don't want to see people abused. Caught up in the fish net so to speak. They have tried to set us up numerous times for arrest over the last 5 years to get their hands on us and make us look like the bad guy's but we have managed to evade those attempts also.

    My wife and I are concerned because Canada Post is being scaled back and it has got us worried. We use open source software for our operating system. In the last 5 years our privacy has been majorly violated. We are most concerned about our communications being sanitized. We no longer have control over who we can make contact with through electronic means. We can only contact people in person for representation so most people not within our city are off limits to us. We realize we are being followed and are being listened to in the privacy of our own home and our home has been entered numerous times when we are not home by intelligence but our means of communications are being sanitized. 5 years ago we noticed rootkits being installed on our operating systems and I was able to set up honey pots and found they were being installed by the military. Since, we switched to virtual machines from static medium verified with sha512sums (DEBIAN KNOPPIX) to get a malware free system each boot. The only website we use is Craigslist and we have met RCMP agents through Craigslist who wanted us to work for them to help them entrap people from terrorist to gangsters. We believe they were just looking for patsies though. I used to work for the RCMP over 20 years ago to infiltrate criminals and make arrests but I quit working for them because they wanted me to set people up that weren't even breaking the law. For the last 5 years we have used Gmail and we have had numerous internet suppliers and numerous Gmail accounts and we have noticed people we have been emailing and people emailing us have not been getting the emails even though Gmail says they have been sent. We use an SSL connection so our communications are encrypted. The same thing applies to our text messages, we have used Rogers for internet, text and phone for the last 5 years. We have noticed our posting on certains forums are not showing up or they are being deleted as we are writing them right before our eyes or our browsers are being closed as we are writing stuff. Our computers are being shut down and our cell phones are being shut down as we are trying to correspond with people. We have realized that people have been contacting us through our email and our cell phones claiming to be people we know like family members for instance but we know they are imposters. We have tried contacting Human and Civil Rights advocates through electronic means but have had no replies. We have even tried to contact legal representation through electronic means but have never heard anything back over the years. It sounds strange but a gunman was sent to kill us early last year but we managed to evade him. Shortly after that someone tried hiring a hitman through the SILK ROAD website to kill us. At first when the website was taken down by the FBI the owner said the hit was for a father of 3 from Vancouver but later he admitted it was for the whole family of 5, a husband, wife and 3 children. We have been poisoned numerous times in the last 5 years and I have numerous painful swollen lumps throughout my body. Strangers have come up to us on the streets and have told us I have cancer. I went to the emergency room last year because my brain was swelling in my head and my eyes were bulging and I was having severe headaches and the doctor didn't want to treat me and sent me home. Thanks for reading.

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Vic, Sep 28th, 2014 @ 2:10am

    spybubbleiphone

    This article it is very useful indeed thank you very much for your article.

     

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


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