Last week, Internet security expert Morgan Marquis-Boire warned about the threat of state sponsored surveillance and malware at a human rights conference. Marquis-Boire described how, among other tactics, oppressive regimes like Syria's create websites mimicking Facebook to lure in dissidents. Once a dissident has typed in his email address and password, the government can infiltrate his real account, deliver malware, spy, and blackmail him, his family, his friends, and his entire network.
Members of our own government may wiretap us, fly surveillance drones over our houses, and even spy on each other, but certainly, they would not use the exact same tactics as murderous despots in war-torn countries.
Of course they would. This week, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher at The Intercept released another batch of classified files from whistle-blower Edward Snowden's seemingly bottomless pit of National Security Agency (NSA) spookiness:
In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target's computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer's microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.
The "groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed [could] infect potentially millions of computers worldwide," according to The Intercept. Read the full details here.
NSA officials denied Greenwald's claims, according to USA Today, calling them "inaccurate."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was not pleased to find out that the NSA has been doing the web version of wearing a Halloween mask with his likeness while breaking into people's houses. So, yesterday Zuckerberg did what we all do when we're angry: he posted a fuming status about it on Facebook, writing that he's "so confused and frustrated by… the behavior of the US government," demanded that it "be the champion for the internet, not a threat." Zuckerberg did something else most of us can't do, too. He called President Obama, but still came away with the sense that "it will take a very long time for true full reform."