Our government watches and listens to most everything we do: at least, to most every email, text, and electronic communication, and to every conversation we have by telephone or computer, and it knows where we are most of the time. If the idea of freedom contemplates privacy, then freedom is gone, and the idea that we are a free people is mere illusion.
On December 1, 2011, WikiLeaks released 287 files which it has dubbed "The Spy Files" (click here) detailing some incredible investigative work done by the website Privacy International over the last year involving the manufacture and sale by about 160 companies of services and software to primarily national intelligence agencies with the capacity to render individual privacy and nearly all communications subject to government eavesdropping, censorship, manipulation, editing, tracking and targeting. The commercial software, security, and surveillance companies are incorporated in 25 different countries and most will sell to any regime or private corporation willing to meet their price. According to Julian Assange, the Spy Files were released for the purpose of "documenting the relationships among intelligence agencies and monitoring software developers whose products have been deployed surreptitiously but very, very widely in smart phones and computers." click here
Assange is widely being credited with the revelations in the Spy Files due to the fact he led a panel discussion on espionage and digital security on December 1 in London in which he basically stated that virtually all governments "spy on their own citizens and on foreigners using surreptitious spyware on computers, cell phones, GPS devices and other modern electronic devices." click here Steven Murdoch, University of Cambridge, added that intelligence agencies spy on all individual citizens not because of their involvement in crime or terrorism, but because the intelligence agencies believe the information gathered may prove useful sometime in the future. The implication is, of course, that the information might someday be used for blackmail, although Murdoch does not go so far in his allegations.
It probably comes as no surprise to most progressives that the Spy Files reveal the American NSA and CIA at the front of the line to purchase the most sophisticated surveillance available. Even now, the NSA is building a 1.5 billion dollar facility in Utah just for the purpose of storing such data forever.
Although Assange is getting most of the credit for these revelations, the real hero here is the website Privacy International (click here) and the investigative reporter, Eric King, and his sponsor, the human rights group, Reprieve International, that successfully posed as legitimate international buyers of this sophisticated software for a year in developing their report, "Big Brother Incorporated." According to the panel discussion, the reporters were very surprised how easy it was to gain access to private briefings, confidential reports, technical specifications, and information on other buyers.
The services offered and the capabilities of the software involved are truly mind-blowing. Vendors have websites and offer international meet and greets. The Hacking Team and Gamma Group are examples. One service offered is tapping into high capacity optical fiber networks at submarine cable landing stations. The same service is offered for tapping into land based Internet gateways. In both of these situations, the software used can isolate a single information flow, send it to a land based decryption center for further analysis, and then store it for later use. Additionally, other programs take control of cell phones, even when they are in standby mode, eavesdrop on conversations, take photos of the user and his or her surroundings through the cell phone's camera, record every keystroke of the key pad, monitor email used on the phone, read all text messages, change text messages so the recipient receives a different message from the one the sender sent, use voice recognition to identify the parties to a conversation, and use GPS to locate and, possibly, target a particular phone. In this latter case, when the software developer, Rich Zimmerman, for the GPS locater learned that individuals were targeted by their phone's GPS signal for a missile strike, he is said to have reacted in amazement that the CIA was killing people with his software "that doesn't work." WikiLeaks
Finally, but not least, some of these companies now, according to The Register, "offer to target and break specific international commercial communications satellites, including Thuraya (covering the Middle East), (click here) (take a moment just to watch this website, then consider the power to buy the tools to hack the satellite) Iridium satellite phones, and Marlink's VSAT. Commercial satellite intercept was previously the almost exclusive turf of GCHQ and NSA's Echelon satellite interception network." click here
Whatever can be said about cell phones can be equally said about computers. Moreover, the spyware sold to governments or corporations for intrusion into computers cannot be discovered by commercial security software like Norton Utilities, McAfee, or similar products, and it successfully defeats system restores. Whatever can be accomplished on a cell phone can also be accomplished on a computer, except that normally a computer holds much more sensitive files than a cell phone. If you are connected to the Internet, just presume you are infected because, if Assange and his panel are correct, you almost certainly are.