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The Melbourne Apartment that spies on activists

“An inconspicuous Melbourne apartment block is home to a monitoring service that keeps watch on environment groups at the request of the federal government.

The National Open Source Intelligence Centre, a private intelligence company, works under contract for the Australian Federal Police and Federal Attorney-General’s Department to monitor activist websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter to provide warning and analysis of protest activity.

It aims to provide law enforcement agencies and other private clients with internet monitoring and analysis directed at groups engaged in “radical activism, criminal (terrorist) activity or unlawful behaviour.”

Services provided by NOSIC include “issue monitoring,” “tactical intelligence,” “threat analysis” and “trend analysis and forecasting focus on emerging patterns and trends in activism.”

NOSIC has been engaged on contract by the AFP and the Attorney-General’s Department since at least 2003. From 2006 to 2008, it was paid $184,800.

In addition to its ongoing work for the federal agencies and state police, NOSIC also provides services relating to specific events…”

Australian spies in global deal to tap undersea cables

“The nation’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with British, American and Singaporean intelligence agencies to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe and carry much of Australia’s international phone and internet traffic.

Secret information disclosed by United States intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that the British Government Communications Headquarters is collecting all data transmitted to and from the United Kingdom and Northern Europe via the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable that runs from Japan, via Singapore, Djibouti, Suez and the Straits of Gibraltar to Northern Germany.

Australia is connected to SEA-ME-WE-3 by a link from Singapore to Perth, and GCHQ’s bulk interception includes much of Australia’s telecommunications and internet traffic with Europe.

Australian intelligence sources have also told Fairfax Media that Singaporean intelligence co-operates with Australia in accessing and sharing communications carried by the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable which lands at Tuas on the western side of Singapore Island.

Access to this major international telecommunications channel via Singapore’s government-owned operator SingTel and the country’s Defence Ministry has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years.

It also underpinned the former Howard government’s approval of SingTel’s takeover of Australia’s second largest telecommunications company, Optus, in 2001.

Commissioned in 2000, the 39,000 kilometre long SEA-ME-WE-3 cable is owned by an international consortium that includes British Telecom, SingTel Optus, Telstra and other telecommunications companies across Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Telstra has an 80 per cent stake in the southern segment that covers the 5000 kilometres between Singapore and Western Australia.

The Australian Signals Directorate also accesses the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable traffic from the cable’s landing in Perth.

Australian intelligence expert and Australian National University professor Des Ball said that intelligence collection from fibre optic cables had become “extremely important” since the late 1990s because such communications channels now carry more than 95 per cent of long distance international telecommunications traffic.”

NSW Police and FinFisher spyware

“The New South Wales police have used sophisticated hacking software to monitor the phones and computers of Australians, according to documents published by WikiLeaks.

In a new cache published on Monday NSW police are listed as a client of Gamma International, a German company that develops powerful spyware to remotely monitor computer use.

The documents show that NSW police have used several of the company’s spy programs for a number of investigations at a cost of more than $2m.

The software – known as FinSpy – allows widespread access to computer records, including extracting files from hard drives, grabbing images of computer screens, full Skype monitoring, logging keystrokes and monitoring email and chat communications.

“When FinSpy is installed on a computer system it can be remotely controlled and accessed as soon as it is connected to the internet/network, no matter where in the world the target system is based,” earlier documentation published by WikiLeaks said.”

New datacentre for Australian spook agencies

“The Australian government has been building a state-of-the art, secret data storage facility just outside Canberra to enable intelligence agencies to deal with a ‘’data deluge’’ siphoned from the internet and global telecommunications networks.

The high-security facility nearing completion at the HMAS Harman communications base will support the operations of Australia’s signals intelligence agency, the top-secret Defence Signals Directorate.

Privately labelled by one Defence official as ‘’the new black vault’’, the data centre is one of the few visible manifestations of Australia’s deep involvement in mass surveillance and intelligence collection operations such as the US National Security Agency’s PRISM program revealed last week by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Fairfax Media has confirmed Australian intelligence agencies receive what Defence intelligence officials describe as ‘’huge volumes’’ of ‘’immensely valuable’’ information derived from PRISM and other US signals intelligence collection programs.

Australian agencies assist the US to target foreign nationals and Australian citizens who are of security and intelligence interest to both countries.”

Telstra’s data vacuum

“Australia’s leading telecommunications company, Telstra, has installed highly advanced surveillance systems to “vacuum” the telephone calls, texts, social media messages and internet metadata of millions of Australians so that information can be filtered and given to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The Australian government’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is using the same technology to harvest data flows carried by undersea fibre-optic cables in and out of Australia.

Confidential documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal the secret technology used to trawl Australians’ telecommunications and internet data for analysis by ASIO, the ASD and law enforcement agencies.

All Australian telecommunications and internet service providers by law must maintain interception and data-collection capabilities for government.

The leaked documents reveal that a little-known Melbourne-based company is a key provider of the secret monitoring technology.

Newgen Systems, owned and managed by local telecommunications engineer Robert Perin, is the sole Australian supplier for Gigamon, a large Silicon Valley-based information technology firm that specialises in what it terms “network traffic visibility solutions’’.

Gigamon’s hardware enables telecommunications and IT network administrators to track, inspect and analyse all data flows undetected without affecting the performance of networks.

A key application of the technology is interception of telecommunications and internet data.”

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

Another surveillance app for parents

“When Matthew Whisker picks his children up from their north shore childcare centre he doesn’t automatically have to ask how their day went – he already knows.

The Neutral Bay father has an app which alerts him to the daily activities and achievements of his children Harry, 11 months, and Lulu, five, almost immediately via his smart phone.

The app is being trialled in three Sydney centres operated by Only About Children, with plans to roll it out more widely later this year. Victoria’s Woodland Education has developed a similar app which also alerts parents to the real-time minutiae and milestones of their children’s lives, including what they had for lunch and if they soiled their nappies.

But experts have questioned whether young children need to have their lives documented in such detail and how it might affect normal interactions between parents, kids and carers.

Only About Children’s chief operations officer, Kathryn Hutchins, said the group, which has 31 centres in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, developed the app in response to parental demand.

‘‘We want to capture the moments working parents may want to see but don’t have the opportunity to because they are at work,’’ she said. ‘‘For example, if your child is just learning to walk, there will be a photo that shows that activity.’’

Educators carry a small handset tablet, photographing the children and writing short descriptions of what they are doing before uploading the content. The parent then gets a push notification, alerting them to the status update.”

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

Google: “Essentially we’d like to make the technology disappear”

“Google has big hopes for its Glass head-mounted computer, chief among them a desire to make the unit smaller and more comfortable to wear.

Those were just a couple of the goals for a polished version of the device laid out Tuesday by Babak Parviz, the creator of Glass, who is also the director of Google’s “X” special projects division.

“Essentially we’d like to make the technology disappear,” he said during a conference on wearable technology in San Francisco.

“It should be non-intrusive” and as comfortable to wear as regular glasses or a wristwatch, he said.

Shrinking the unit would require advances in optics and photonics, he said. More computing power is also needed to make the device faster at answering people’s questions on the fly, Parviz said.

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

Sousveillance project shows, “Technology is making people lose empathy for homeless.”

“A project involving GoPro cameras and people living on the streets of San Francisco has suggested technology is making people feel less compassionate towards the homeless.”

“I notice every day that people are losing their compassion and their empathy not just for homeless people but for society in general.”

“I feel technology has changed so much where people are emailing and don’t talk face-to-face anymore, people are losing social skills…and their compassion.

“I feel like it’s a lot easier to be, the best way to put it is, be cold, or have less feelings when you’re typing something, than when you’re looking someone in the eye…”

Glorifying the power of the ‘connected’ self

“Keeping track of your emails and staying on top of your calendar might be hard enough, but for American software developer Chris Dancy, life doesn’t feel complete without several hundred data sets about his life being fed to him simultaneously at all times.

Today, Dancy is “travelling light”, only wearing seven devices: above his eyes sits the unmistakable horizontal bar of a Google Glass headset, which records everything he sees, while around his neck hangs a Memoto narrative camera, which takes a picture every 30 seconds for good measure. On one wrist is a Pebble watch, which sends him alerts from his two smartphones, while around the other is a Fitbit Flex, tracking his movement and sleep patterns 24 hours a day. And then there’s the stuff you can’t see: a Blue HR heart rate monitor strapped to his chest, a BodyMedia fitness tracker around his upper arm and, lurking beneath his waistband, a Lumoback posture sensor – “which vibrates when I slouch,” he beams.

“Right now I feel pretty naked,” he says, “because I can’t control the room.” Back at home in Denver, Colorado, all the data from these devices feeds directly into his ambient environment, which automatically adjusts according to his mood and needs.

“The house knows my behaviours,” he says. “If I get really stressed out and don’t sleep well, when I wake up the light is a certain colour, the room a particular temperature, and certain music plays. My entire life is preconditioned based on all this information that I collect in real time.”

“All this stuff […] needs to be in my clothing. Why can’t your shoes have haptic sensors in them, so if you’re walking you don’t need GPS – your shoe just vibrates left or right? I think this low-friction, ambient feedback is really the future, but for now we have to strap all this stuff on and look silly.”

Dancy is perhaps the most extreme exponent [of] a community dedicated to tracking and archiving every aspect of their known existence. But might others also be watching them too?

“That’s a very real concern,” says John Weir, director of the Wearable Technology Show. “You can quantify yourself as much as you want, but a lot of that is fed back on the web, and a lot of the companies now hold immense amounts of data on their customers. Particularly with medical applications, where people will hopefully be feeding stuff back to their doctors, the ownership of data and privacy is going to become a big issue.”

Dancy shares these concerns, but is more optimistic about the beneficial power of mastering our data, as long as we stop giving it away. “We don’t have a sharing problem, we have a data intimacy problem,” he says. “It’s urgent that people look at the data they are creating and giving away – so much of it can be used to make our lives better, rather than lining the pockets of mega corporations.”

In reality, few have the software skills to ensure their personal data is not being harvested against their will, so maybe it’s for the best that most wearable tech still makes you look like an extra from Star Trek. For some, that’s a useful deterrent from ever wearing it.”

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

NSA Project TURBINE

“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 implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.

When TURBINE implants exfiltrate data from infected computer systems, the TURMOIL sensors automatically identify the data and return it to the NSA for analysis. And when targets are communicating, the TURMOIL system can be used to send alerts or “tips” to TURBINE, enabling the initiation of a malware attack.

The NSA identifies surveillance targets based on a series of data “selectors” as they flow across Internet cables. These selectors, according to internal documents, can include email addresses, IP addresses, or the unique “cookies” containing a username or other identifying information that are sent to a user’s computer by websites such as Google, Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, and Twitter.

Other selectors the NSA uses can be gleaned from unique Google advertising cookies that track browsing habits, unique encryption key fingerprints that can be traced to a specific user, and computer IDs that are sent across the Internet when a Windows computer crashes or updates.

What’s more, the TURBINE system operates with the knowledge and support of other governments, some of which have participated in the malware attacks.

Classification markings on the Snowden documents indicate that NSA has shared many of its files on the use of implants with its counterparts in the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance – the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.”

Don’t expect privacy when sending to Gmail

People sending email to any of Google’s 425 million Gmail users have no “reasonable expectation” that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing.

Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a “stunning admission.” It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals.

“Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director. “People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy, don’t use Gmail.”

Google set out its case last month in an attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of breaking wire tap laws when it scans emails sent from non-Google accounts in order to target ads to Gmail users.

That suit, filed in May, claims Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages”. It quotes Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman: “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”