Fourth Amendment

Sensible "Cyber War" Preparation, Or Just More Government Snooping?


Ryan Singel at Wired has a great, detailed article warning us of the growing dangers of the military-security complex and its hyping of "cyber war" to give government more control over monitoring the Internet, and private companies more money helping sell the government the means to do it. Read the whole thing, and here are some choice excerpts:

The biggest threat to the open internet is not Chinese government hackers or greedy anti-net-neutrality ISPs, it's Michael McConnell, the former director of national intelligence.

McConnell's not dangerous because he knows anything about SQL injection hacks, but because he knows about social engineering. He's the nice-seeming guy who's willing and able to use fear-mongering to manipulate the federal bureaucracy for his own ends, while coming off like a straight shooter to those who are not in the know.

And now McConnell is back in civilian life as a vice president at the secretive defense contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton. He's out in front of Congress and the media, peddling the same Cybaremaggedon! gloom.

And now he says we need to re-engineer the internet.

We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options — and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to re-engineer the Internet to make attribution, geo-location, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable. The technologies are already available from public and private sources and can be further developed if we have the will to build them into our systems and to work with our allies and trading partners so they will do the same.

Re-read that sentence. He's talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation if the U.S. government doesn't like what's written in an e-mail, what search terms were used, what movies were downloaded….

The NSA dreams of "living in the network," and that's what McConnell is calling for in his editorial/advertisement for his company. The NSA lost any credibility it had when it secretly violated American law and its most central tenet: "We don't spy on Americans."

Unfortunately, the private sector is ignoring that tenet and is helping the NSA and contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton worm their way into the innards of the net. Security companies make no fuss, since a scared populace and fear-induced federal spending means big bucks in bloated contracts.

See also this Wall Street Journal report on some specific Obama administration ideas along the lines of waging "cyberwar" by sticking the government's nose further into the Internet:

The Obama administration lifted the veil Tuesday on a highly-secretive set of policies to defend the U.S. from cyber attacks.

It was an open secret that the National Security Agency was bolstering a Homeland Security program to detect and respond to cyber attacks on government systems, but a summary of that program declassified Tuesday provides more details of NSA's role in a Homeland program known as Einstein.

The current version of the program is widely seen as providing meager protection against attack, but a new version being built will be more robust–largely because it's rooted in NSA technology. The program is designed to look for indicators of cyber attacks by digging into all Internet communications, including the contents of emails, according to the declassified summary.

Re-read that last sentence again, and it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that any protestations on the Obama administration's part that they have any respect for the 4th Amendment or privacy is utter bilge. I wrote on the government's growing snooping powers in ye Moderne Age at the American Conservative back in February.

NEXT: Hermit Kingdom Linux, Giant Juche Rabbits, and the Dear Leader's Hennessey Problem

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  1. Im in your computerz, watching your internetz

    1. Good Morning reason!

      1. Good morning afternoon, Suki!

  2. The real action in a few years will be in the realm of quantum physics, which enables *absolutely secure* communications.

    1. I haven’t seen serious (relatively speaking) effort from the U.S. Government side on the quantum cryptography front as much as I’ve seen a lot of concern that someone else will make some progress with it.

  3. Lawnmower Man’s in your head now.

  4. All your database are belong to us.

  5. Ill trust the Electronic Freedom Foundation on this issue and not the authoritarian Koch Family of aborto-freak propaganda artists known as ‘Reason’.

    1. artists known as ‘Reason’


    2. Wow, shriek doesn’t fear the NSA under Obama. Cue my total lack of surprise. As soon as the GOP takes over, though, then he’ll be shrieking.

      1. I despise the NSA as much as Eliot Spitzer did in 2008.

        Yet, I have no information critical to Wall Street felons.

        He scored some hot pussy though. The Bush Feds were very afraid of him.

        1. Spitzer has what to do with this?

          1. Spitzer was nabbed via FISA interceptions.

            The Bushpigs needed to silence him due to his knowledge of AIG CDS malevolence.

            1. Mmmm, that’s some tasty conspiracy theory there, shriek.

            2. If they needed him silenced, why isn’t he taking a dirt nap?

          2. Since when does the FBI care about whores and johns?

              1. Ha!

          3. Spitzer was head insurance commissioner for NY. He was the regulatory agent for AIG.

            Regulations mean something in the real world.

            In make-believe Libertarian world where anarchists beat off in their mothers basement that rule is pretty much silent.

            1. It’s a CONSPIRACY, man!

            2. Nope. In my own basement.

              1. Throw it in the garbage. We have enough shit in the drinking water.

    3. Socialist pig.

      1. I guess shrike doesn’t have a problem with the Patriot Act renewal, then… because Obama approved it.

  6. And people call me paranoid, pfft.

  7. This is partly why “net neutrality” is in fact a facade for government involvement into the internet. By a government mandate as to how your network will be built, this is akin to a guarantee that the government will be able to tap it.

    Net neutrality is being sold as guaranteed access for “the people” which of course also means guaranteed access for the government.

    And this irony has not escaped the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

    So while we look forward to evaluating Chairman Genachowski’s proposed net neutrality regulations, the first step must be a clear rejection of any suggestion that those regulations can be based on “ancillary jurisdiction.” Otherwise, “net neutrality” might very well come to be remembered as the Trojan Horse that allowed the FCC take over the Internet.…..nd-promise

    I think the EFF is being far too generous on this issue. Net Neutrality isn’t an FCC trojan horse, it’s a trojan horse for the entire Federal Government domestic spying security apparatus.

    1. EFF has got its head in its ass on net neutrality. They obviously see the desire of the govt to intrude. They know the govt keeps no promises when it comes to new powers. So why do they continue to press for regulation?

      Could it be that they mis-stepped and now can’t back down? Pride is a killer.

      1. Thats why Techonolgy Liberation Front is a better source for tech liberty

        1. Piss off! We are the Liberation Front of Technology.

          1. You dont have to be mean

            1. Go write “Obama Go Home” on the White House wall before you speak to us again.

              1. Obama goes in the house.

            2. LibertyBill: Watch some Monty Python

              1. There’s a penguin on the telly!

          2. Apparently too esoteric, Brian JT.

  8. …any protestations on the Obama administration’s part that they have any respect for the 4th Amendment or privacy is utter bilge.

    This is total nonsense. I wholly support President Obama in all his efforts to keep us safe and encourage all my fellow citizens to do the same. If the NSA feels it is necessary to read people’s emails or blog comments to weed out those who would work to undermine the U.S. Government, then who are we to question?

    1. I love your sarcasm.

      1. I can assure you, and anyone else, that no one at this ip address knows what you’re talking about.

  9. True freedom requires freedom from privacy.

    If you must keep something secret, you are actually in a prison.

    1. I’m afraid we’re not all willing to be crucified for our beliefs.

      Some of us actually think that we would have more impact on society by staying out of the gulags.

  10. Re-read that sentence. He’s talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers for retaliation if the U.S. government doesn’t like what’s written in an e-mail, what search terms were used, what movies were downloaded….

    I am a bit rusty but I think I can find a workaround. Still have one of those “I love your computer” stickers around here someplace.

  11. Just as we need a Secretary of Peace to counterbalance the so-called Secretary of “Defense,” it’s not too soon to think of creating a new Secretary of No Snoopin’, and I Mean It.

  12. I’m currently working on a paper about anonymity and strong network attribution.

    I have seen some these issues from both sides of the privacy and national security fence, and I too worry greatly about how this will be handled by our “do something” political establishment.

    I must however take issue with Mr. Doherty on one point. He writes:
    “Re-read that sentence. He’s talking about changing the internet to make *everything* anyone does …” (my emphasis)

    Most of the Government folks from whom I’ve heard in this context are very quick to state that they want things like strong attribution specifically for interactions with their systems and for their users, as opposed to anything else. Frankly, I’d like that, in that I’m constantly appalled about the lack of security (of all forms) in online services which I’m essentially compelled to use. Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles is now charging fees if one _doesn’t_ use their web site to perform certain transactions. For some Federal agencies there’s no other way to do what one needs to. The FCC is a good example. I can live with this, though I do worry about disenfranchisement of people who choose not to use a computer or mobile phone.

    I’d see Satan throwing snowballs before I supported a strong attribution regime for “everything” on the Internet. Not only is it a disturbing potential facilitator of tyranny, but it’s also an expensive misuse of resources. Fortunately, there are factors inherently working against that.

    If you look at the history of the difficulty in having certain leading network router vendors actually provide and support fast cryptography in their products you’ll quickly see how the motive to move bits quickly trumped pretty much every other consideration.

    I do expect that simpleton demagogues won’t draw these distinctions, and will howl about national security.

    There are some nationally-critical Internet security problems out there, but tracing everything won’t fix all of them.

    People have to make distinctions. This is where a knowledge of history and repeated invocations of pseudonyms such as “Publius” may save us from ill-conceived, haphazardly written legislation. If we’re loud enough.

    It will be important to find a way to cast as un-American anything that would prohibit we the citizenry from being able to perform the 21st-century equivalent of anonymous pamphleteering.

    1. I really don’t think we have too much to worry about, really. The highly decentralized nature of the internet’s physical connections make attempting to implement what they’re talking about basically impossible.

      1. Exactly. But they will create thousands of taxpayer funded new jobs trying.

  13. More Goverment Snooping. If EVER their was a time to be anonymous online, this is it.


    1. “If EVER their was a time to be anonymous online, this is it.”

      But how will we know who we’re insulting?

      1. I’ll take the hit.

      1. They’re

    2. Can a brother get a “LOL”, Jess? Even just a little one? lol?

      Come on, li’l buddy…it’ll get better.

  14. OK, I’ll say it again – as long as you’re not doing anything wrong, you have NOTHING to worry about.

    Just like the Branch Davidians.

    Sheesh – “Reasonoids” – more like “Paranoids”

    1. Trusting soul, aren’t you?

      1. If it’s from the gummint, it HAS to be good. Mmm, mmm, mmm!

        1. Slurp!

  15. Speaking of intertubes and searching here’s an interesting NYT magazine article about the net vigilantes.…

  16. If you elect this guy to any position of power involving education you deserve what you get.…..1409/METRO

    Seriously? Do people in Detroit really wonder why their city is a shithole and will most likely remain so for decades to come?

  17. Yeah buddy, gotta love Big Brother Snooping. Use a good anonymity service for anything you do online now days!


  18. But the Weekly has found, in a five-month investigation, that principals and school district leaders have all but given up dismissing such teachers. In the past decade, LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district’s 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance ? and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000.

    Hier via Pethokoukis (Reuters)

    Happy Saturday.

    This makes all those stories about California education cut protests much more interesting.

  19. “In the incredibly toxic atmosphere that is Washington D.C., with the destruction of our elected leaders having become a blood sport, especially in talk radio and on the Internet, there is also no doubt that an ethics investigation would tear my family and my staff apart,” the New York lawmaker said in a note posted on the Internet,


    Massa announced earlier this week that he would not seek re-election because of health reasons. News reports said he was under an ethics investigation for alleged sexual harassment against a male staffer.


    “Those mean old Republicans. I just want to be loved. And help people, you know?”


    1. so many of them are in the closet?

    2. I feel for ya, Massa.

      1. he feels for ya, Andy.

        1. leave me dick out of it

    3. Massa’s departure means that Pelosi now only needs 216 votes to pass the Senate health care bill. Massa was one of the Dems who voted “no” on the previous House health care vote.

      Not so funny anymore, is it?

      1. Even funnier.

  20. It becomes clearer and clearer that our gubbment would have shut down the DARPA project back in the 70’s that led to the Internet if they had realized what they were unleashing.

    When they invent mind reading technology you can rest assured that our leaders all have black thoughts about our ability to get info unfiltered.

    1. Just thinking about mind reading technology, how great would it be to watch a presidential debate with the candidates hooked up to a reverse teleprompter.

      Instead of telling them what to say, it would scan their brain housing group and let us know what they really think.

  21. This sounds like “Cash for Clunkers” for offshore proxy-IP providers. Those folks will be doing brisk business if this goes any further.

    I’m guessing the available bandwidth on the TOR network will tick upwards as well.

  22. You guys have flatter yourselves with your sense of self-importance. Obama’s NSA really doesn’t care about your emails or your blog postings — not just because you’re electorally impotent, but also because he’s making sure that the warrantless wiretapping powers, which were “rammed through” (to use a popular Reason phrase) by your friends in the GOP Congress, will only be used in the fight against terror. If anything you should be happy that the previous administration which concerned itself with disrupting pornography as law enforcement priority #1, has exited stage left.

    1. Obama’s gang could have cut parts of the PATRIOT Act, but they didn’t.

      But if you think they WANT to get rid of the snooping, you’re only half-right – they want to snoop on Libertaians, Ron Paul supporters, and other supposedly dangerous terrorists:…..t-20Feb09-

      One of many such reports equating tax protesters with white-supremacist nutjobs. But you’re okay with that, right?

    2. Even the ACLU got something right for a change:…

    3. I too trust our new more personable overlord. May his benevolent reign last forever.

    4. “”Obama’s NSA really doesn’t care about your emails or your blog postings –“”

      That’s exactly what they care about.

  23. And you know what, if there are any work arounds anybody with bad intentions and the capacity to act on them is certainly going to find them while the rest of us will be having our emails read and our surfing habits scrutinized and certainly any power the government has will be applied, not thwarting “terrorists”, but nabbing folks for sex solicitation and selling certain proscribes substances. But that’s the way all of this government monitoring stuff always works. Those we really need to be afraid of will barely be inconvenienced while the rest of us have one more nail driven into the coffin of any sense of living in a free society. Sorry if this is stupid and incoherent. It’s early and I’m beat.

    1. That’s essentially what I was thinking. This will do fuck-all to get the people who are actually dangerous. I will do a shitload to allow bureaucrats to spy on individuals who are doing nothing to endanger the lives of others.

  24. This push comes at the same time as the ITU (the UN telecommunications standards body) is trying to seize a large amount of IPv6 addresses from IANA.

    Assigning IPs by country instead of by network (like phone numbers) would make monitoring, geolocation, and filtering a lot easier to accomplish.

    1. Oh give the ITU as much as they want, it’s not like there’s a dearth. (If you don’t have a sense of how mind-bogglingly huge the IPv6 address space is, look here.)

      It remains to be seen just how much top-down authority the ITU has a priori in terms of how things are built.

      The ITU does some good things, and the rest are ignored. Then people tend to rewrite the ‘standard’ to match what users/vendors really do.

      The more interesting landgrab is the suggestion that the reclaimed legacy IPv4 blocks should go to any one entity.

      1. It’s not clear whether the ITU wants to be an alternative RIR, or whether it wants to take over IANA’s job.

        What is clear is that the ITU functions in a way which is completely anathema to the way internet governance has been functioning since the deregulation of it in 1988.

        The ITU is top down; the only voting members are governments.

        The IANA, and the RIR’s (ARIN, RIPE, etc) function in a bottom up manner; the members (meaning everyone who has address space assigned to them) vote on policy matters directly.

        Furthermore, IP’s are not like phone numbers; they are not partitioned by country, and they are allocated by need, not according to political power.

        NANOG had a lengthy discussion of the proposal, archived here:…..05805.html

  25. The program mentioned in the second part, the National Cyber Protective System (NCPS AKA Einstein) is focused only on protecting US Government Assets. It exists at the perimeter of USG networks and scans all traffic in or out, which is consistent with all warning banners you find on those systems. Potentially it may be directed to look in certain directions based on information garnered from the NSA, but the applicable systems are USG, not the the general Internet.

  26. There seems to be a rule that the less you actually know about the internet, the stronger and firmer your opinion is. Unfortunately, the biggest ignoramus is the government, which has forgotten that the internet evolved from a defense department project which was originally highly secure.

    Did you know that for more than 10 years, there has been a protocol on the internet which could allow anyone to validate an email address? There was so much screaming and hollering from the usual suspects that it was made optional (at the host end), which in practice means that it is broken.

  27. I think the EFF is being far too generous on this issue. Net Neutrality isn’t an FCC trojan horse, it’s a trojan horse for the entire Federal Government domestic spying security apparatus.

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