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back to article Not just telcos, THOUSANDS of companies share data with US spies

The slides leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden named nine companies that allegedly share data with US intelligence agencies, but according to a new report, the actual number of firms that collaborate with US spies may be much larger. Try thousands of them. Citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg reports that information …

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Industrial Espionage

While this all sucks, I think the most alarming part is that the Feds count on McAfee to provide warnings and assessments about threats. They might as well just invite the [current 'bad' guy] over for a data collection summit and just give them what they want.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Industrial Espionage

Better to go with one of the non-US security companies me thinks, like Trend or Kaspersky, although I think the Japanese Trend) are likely to be a better option than the Russians (kaspersky)....

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Re: Industrial Espionage

"[...] the Feds count on McAfee to provide warnings and assessments about threats."

...according to McAfee's marketing department. In reality, McAfee's role might be a less favourable one.

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Unhappy

Truly shocking and frightening revelations these days... While many people (conspiracy theorists they were called; who's laughing now) suspected this, it's still hard to grasp that this really takes place, and has been for years.

And on the other hand you've got governments telling big players something about the difference of moral and legal when it comes to paying taxes. Hypocrisy all the way, and the entire electorate is being treated like a bunch of fools. Democracy turned upside down.

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Anonymous Coward

This particular revelation is neither shocking, nor frightening

This is normal industrial espionage practices used by all large countries. That is what we pay our taxes for. If the spooks stuck to that I would have gladly given each of them a medal and a bonus.

The spooks leverage what they get to get the country economy ahead and the industry replies in kind. The relationship firmly sits on technological, economical, etc grounds and there is nothing new to it. Every company above a certain size has been engaged in it since the days of Roman Empire. Nothing new here, move along. There is little illegal to it as it does not violate every single privacy law under the sun.

This is markedly different from offering your customers data and traffic to spooks to mine on fishing expeditions as well as the dubious transatlantic rub-your-rub-mine relationship.

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This is way beyond traditional espionage

In traditional espionage you had your country defending you against external foes.

The only people surveyed suspects.

You did not have your country investigating your every move.

Now we're all suspects, we're all surveyed.

And the worst part, most of our data is not in our country -- it is in a foreign country -- the USA, a country whose courts tell businesses they cannot ask for search warrants when the security services ask for the private files of non-US residents, even when those requests are not for individual accounts.

And the data we provide in crash reports -- that data ends up back at the NSA to be used as clues into how to spy on Canadian, UK, ... governments, residents and companies.

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Unstable system

Democracies and their economies are usually quite stable, because the rules reflect an open consensus and such a consensus rarely changes overnight. Somehow the US decided to change the rules and set up a big bureaucracy doing their job in secrecy. I don't think this is stable. Even if the US citizens decide that they are happy with the situation, it might badly damage their IT industry. How can people trust American companies now? Where do you see the future for Apple, Google, and Microsoft in the Chinese market, or even in Europe?

I for one am tempted to drop my Google phone because I don't feel comfortable with that information black-hole.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unstable system

Not just Apple, Google, and Microsoft. I suspect you'll have trouble finding an ISP who isn't compromised.

Your choices may be to either change the system, leave the country or accept that you have no privacy.

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404
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Re: Unstable system

Not happy, not happy at all.

Issue is all the American surface dwellers - more concerned with Kim Kardashian and such than anything else. Breaks my heart but there it is, Americans have become very soft.

:(

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Re: Unstable system

Assuming you live in the USA, if you leave the country then the USA won't need a search warrant to access the contents of any messages or data they can get their hands on there.

Hotmail, gmail, amazon and IBM clouds, iCloud, you name it.

And they won't need a warrant to try to break into your foreign computer.

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Unhappy

Re: Unstable system

I think you have to start assuming that all networking and communications kit made in the USA is compromised - servers, routers, operating systems, the whole lot - if you are using anything made in the US, even AV software on your PC at home, then the chances are that it has got a back-door built into it for the NSA. Of course, the various manufacturers will protest that "their" gear is not compromised but this incident simply reinforces that point that they are legally required to lie about the NSA access features that they may have built into the devices and software.

The Americans were protesting a while back that the Chinese should not be allowed to own US technology companies because of the "back-doors" that might we built into the gear - perhaps the NSA were more afraid that the Chinese would discover the backdoors that the NSA had already built into the kit?

Writing this, it all sounds like tin-hat paranoia but sadly this just illustrates the corrosive damage that secrecy does to any civilized society.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unstable system

Democracies and their economies are usually quite stable, because the rules reflect an open consensus and such a consensus rarely changes overnight. Somehow the US decided to change the rules and set up a big bureaucracy doing their job in secrecy

Yup, "democracy" has become more of a marketing word in the US, like "freedom". When what happens in government doesn't reflect the laws or the wishes of the majority, you're no longer talking about a true democracy. They even tried to kill that idea in Switzerland by blackmailing that government into laws that had to be kept hidden from the population to gain approval - which, eventually (and fortunately) were stopped.

Every time a lawmaker comes to using words like "emergency" and the eternal lie "temporary" you KNOW they are trying to get you to agree to something that cannot handle close scrutiny. They are flags that there is more to the proposal than you see. Every time a lawmaker is trying to hide something from those who elected them without a decent time span in which that information will become visible, you know they have something to hide. A truly democratic government does no try to extricate itself from scrutiny unless they have something to hide.

Keep asking questions - now more than ever.

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Re: Unstable system

"I for one am tempted to drop my Google phone because I don't feel comfortable with that information black-hole."

Did you now know that Google vacuums as much data from you as possible, before buying that phone?

If you knew, then you apparently don't mind.

Then, you probably agreed to their license and usage terms.....

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Childcatcher

Re: Unstable system

Democracies and their economies are usually quite stable... the US decided to...set up a big bureaucracy...

Actually, if history is anything to go by, democracies and their associated freedoms are somewhat less stable than you make out while bureaucracies tend to be more enduring (please don't shoot the messenger). This makes democracies things that require constant care and participation in order to remain healthy and to grow. Bureaucracies, on the other hand, can only be beneficial when subjected to constant scrutiny and an occasional pruning.

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Vic
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Re: Unstable system

> the eternal lie "temporary"

The Romans had the right idea about temporary powers.

In times of crisis, they would choose a dictator. Said dictator had *absolute* power, including life or death.

The position lasted 6 months, after which the dictator would be tried for everything he had done.

Vic.

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Meh

I didn't feel, despite the accusations....

that I was being paranoid.

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Re: I didn't feel, despite the accusations....

Me neither. I've always maintained that it's not paranoia if they are -demonstrably and provably- out to get you.

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Unhappy

Re: I didn't feel, despite the accusations.... To clarify...

Trust has to be earned. There is not an institution, organisation or commercial enterprise anywhere in existance on this planet that has earned my complete trust. In my lifetime a handful of people have earned my trust, a couple of them betrayed that trust.

When one loves someone and one believes that that person loves you back, yet they can fuck you over in a heartbeat, how the fuck can anyone with emotion and intelligence trust a faceless entity?

Some do consider me paranoid, I just shrug my shoulders and expect to be dead before society evolves into something where I need to take arms to protect my loved ones.... Fortunately for me. Not so for my child.

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Devil

@moiety Re: I didn't feel, despite the accusations....

No one is out to get you. They are after maintaining the status quo. If you think different you are a threat. If you're a threat then you are in danger. Safety comes from bending over.... or at least appearing to ;-)

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Re: @moiety I didn't feel, despite the accusations....

Just coz they're out to get everyone doesn't make it any better...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @moiety I didn't feel, despite the accusations....

"Fortunately for me. Not so for my child."

I chose not to have kids, and this was one of the reasons (the other one being 7bn is enough for this planet, surely?).

Also, if I have to go 'rogue' and become a terrorist freedom fighter then they won't be able to hold my kids to ransom

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They are NOT maintaining the status quo.

Guantanmo Bay, extraordinary renditions, renouncing the few Geneva Contentions they'd signed, lethal drone strikes ordered on the basis of metadata -- to be maintaining the status quo those would all have to be decades old practices.

This isn't about maintaining the status quo, unless the starting point whose status quo your maintaining was East Germany or Stalinist USSR.

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Meh

Re: I didn't feel, despite the accusations....

I had one of my fellow engineers tell me I was paranoid on the Microsoft security situation, only to find out I wasn't nearly paranoid enough after finding out they disclose the internally found security vulnerabilities to the NSA, and then leave them open for a while for intelligence gathering to occur. I hate it when reality proves the tinfoil hat types correct...

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FAO The Register Team

How does all this affect the right to protect your sources by the way?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: FAO The Register Team

I've been asked to study for the last two years how to allow free & democratic communication in oppressive regimes. After looking at the way the massive and focused data-grab us been organized, my initial paper of hundreds of clever ways to communicate has been archived. I can't find any communication system that I trust with private information. Well, there's the vague possibility that a weekend in Germany, where there's still a remnant of some Data Privacy, could allow old-fashioned unfettered comms, otherwise journalism isn't an employment channel that I would suggest to today's youth. Protect , Sources? Sorry I don't mean to be disrespectful but those are now ancient concepts. Someone has become Spectrum Dominant in the new technologies. All (open sourced) documents until last week pointed to FBI/TrideaWorks as the push team - but with a single FISA court document released recently it seems that although it's the FBI that requests - it's the NSA named as receiver of our Data? Was this explicitly made clear in all the governmental MoU's that were passed without parliamentary scrutiny, effectively by fax, a decade ago?

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It is like wife beating

It is like wife beating.

Sure you could beat your wife.

But you agree not to.

You agree not to physically or mentally beat, torture or imprison those weaker than yourself, even though you can.

Even 100 years ago our privacy always depended on government agreeing that there were certain things it would not do, even though it could do them.

What we have here is someone else's government, a government that admits no obligation to uphold "inalienable human rights" for any non-American (as if we're non-human), and that has quietly broken its agreement not to do things it could.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: FAO The Register Team

I can't find any communication system that I trust with private information.

Because you're looking at this from a purely technical angle, which is not sustainable. You start with a country where Data Protection still means something despite attacks by the US to get their way there too - that leaves you Switzerland and Canada. Next, you seek a provider who has no links into the US, because they can otherwise be blackmailed into collaboration ("work with us or you can close shop" - that's how they got to the banks). Then, and ONLY then do you check that the offer itself is technically sound.

Those solutions exist. They are not cheap exactly because the legal element is hard work, but they do exist.

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Re: FAO The Register Team

You're bonkers if you believe Canada is a safe harbor. They are the our largest trade partner and the vast majority of their communications come into the US anyway. Add to that the fact a bunch of the 9/11 terrorists entered the US from Canada and you can be assured the Canadians are in bed with the US too. It's for our mutual national security you know...

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FAIL

Re: FAO The Register Team

> the fact a bunch of the 9/11 terrorists entered the US from Canada

That is actually a myth that has been long-since been debunked. However you're right about Canada being anything but a safe harbour.

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Thumb Up

Re: FAO The Register Team

"That is actually a myth that has been long-since been debunked."

Wow, you are correct. Apparently a lot of people don't know that either. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had to file a press release correcting her previous 2009 statements after the Canadian Ambasaador to the U.S. corrected her in the press. The subject, with the same mistaken elements, has also been brought up as recently as this week regarding the immigration overhaul bill currently under debate.

Learn something new all the time. Thanks for the info.

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Holmes

Is this where I get to mention?

That cloud thing again?

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Anonymous Coward

Helps explain Congress' 90% disapproval rate....Out of Touch?

"That's what makes this issue of oversight so challenging," Jacob Olcott of Good Harbor Security Risk Management told Bloomberg. "You have a situation where the technology and technical policy is far outpacing the background and expertise of most elected members of Congress or their staffs

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Coat

Moving my servers out of the US.

I for one am concerned about recent revelations and am therefore planning to move my cloud hosted servers out. Haven't decided where to yet.

Moving them to the UK or EU, might not make the data safe, but right now, the US is at the bottom of the list!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Moving my servers out of the US.

Germany is the only slim hope for your Data at Rest, but your Data in Transit will pass through the USA

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Re: Moving my servers out of the US.

I wouldn't put too much faith in the Swiss...they've already rolled over for bank data; which was the one thing they were famous for protecting.

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Unhappy

"given documents granting him or her immunity from all civil prosecutions.. information sharing."

So is is illegal if it was anyone else who they were sharing the data with.

And remember FISA makes a bigshow of demonstrating that it's only foreigners who are to be spied on?

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Re: "given documents granting him or her immunity..."

Obviously what is legal or not is rather flexible where the state is concerned. Bit like it is illegal to murder someone, but it is perfectly fine for state (at least in US, in some of the states) to murd^H^H^H^Hexecute a person.

The law not being same for everyone makes a bit of a mockery of the law.

Also curious that doesn't offering information voluntarily, without requiring the warrant that should be required, open the companies to lawsuit (at least to civil one by their customers, if not a criminal one).

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My apologies to everyone I thought was a paranoid fool.

My apologies to everyone I thought was a paranoid fool.

I do use Kaspersky KIS as my antivirus.

But what else can we do to evade the possibility of US intelligence stealing business secrets and providing them to US-based competitors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My apologies to everyone I thought was a paranoid fool.

Ii was one of many that was posting right here that the OS might be the vector through which NSA and their friends we're using for surveillance . To everyone that reads this post , we now have proof that the OS and it's security problems is such a vector. From that point to where Microsoft and others plant in willingly vectors through which this can be done by the agencies seem almost natural if not a fact.

One of our many concerns now , for everyone , not just You and I , but for the greater numbers which have not the talents we do , call it tech " savvyness " , is how to get out of this hellhole by prevention at the source.

Virus and trojan , " av software " as per such , we know now , gives us a false sense of security , those companies send all known vectors to the agencies first for their use. So we can forget that as a means of insuring us against the spooks . Vulns are left open willingly by MS for them to use There's not much left. Linux . Yeah .. for some perhaps but it's not for everyone. Comms are monitored through our connection systems , so it's pretty much too late on that front.

For any really private communications , i suggest using the good old dial up with a phone modem and super strong encryption in a direct client to client session. Wanna send Joe a file ? Encrypt the shit out of it , use dial up between computers .That will leave a trace in the telco system but the content will be gone. The rest .. it's too late to do anything about it . The web is dead as far as personal secure comms are concerned. Noone in it's right mind will ever feel safe and free from spying or hacking. Back to microdots glued at the back of a stamp ? That or millions marching on our Capitals and throwing out the governments for they are the Enemy of the People. That seems like a way better alternative , but replace them with what ? More of the same politicians that are stabbing us in the back ?

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Re: My apologies to everyone I thought was a paranoid fool.

Use security software with links to the shadier end of the Russian government ?

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Re: You don' t have rights

"The root cause is the Zionist establishment monopoly defense contracting business"

You are Adolf Hitler and I claim my Godwin award

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Mushroom

la-la-land

'Zionist establishment monopoly defense contracting business'? Really? Boeing are Zionists? Grumman are Zionists? Colt are Zionists? Bofors are Zionists? BAE are Zionists? Are you sure about this? Bofors in particular has a well-earned rep of selling to anyone who can pay; in 1939-45 they supplied, directly or by license, weapons to:

The British Empire and Commonwealth

The French Republic

The Third Reich

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

The Empire of Japan

The Kingdom of Italy

The United States of America

The United States of Mexico

The United States of Brazil

The Republic of China

The Republic of the Philippines

and probably a few more that I can't recall. They also supplied both sides in the first three Arab-Israeli wars... I find it quite difficult to consider them to by 'Zionist'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: la-la-land

Not all Zionists are Jewish

Not all Jews are Zionists

Mixing the two suggests you are a Hasbara troll.

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Re: la-la-land

Not all Zionists are Jewish.

Not all Jews are Zionists.

Yet blaming Zionism when the American Government do something bad still waves a big black-and-red antisemitic flag in the fetid wind blowing out of your ears.

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Re: la-la-land

I quite fail to see how someone who arms both Israelis and Arabs can possibly be considered Zionist. Israel has F-15s; so does Saudia. Israel has F-16s; so does Egypt. Israel does _not_ have M-1 tanks (Abrams!) but the Saudis and the Egyptians do.

And, oh, your total inability to actually address the point is noted.

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Meh

Inevitable problem ?

Wasn't there a certain inevitability about all this? I'm not excusing any cover up but we all knew from the very beginning that an increasingly digitally connected world would mean more and more of our holiday snaps, emails, rants and other digital missives would remain where we put them, on internet facing servers etc. Further to that we all seem happy with increasing amounts of our 'personal' data being trawled / shared by all manner of commercial establishments etc. Therefore I am not very surprised myself to find that security agencies want to take a peek at it all as well. We, perhaps blindly, make the choice to entangle our lives digitally, therefore that's now the best place to find out who we are and what we are up to. Because things in the real world can happen so fast, aided by light-speed communication, I can't see that relying on steaming open letters and hear-say would be a very good information channel when tracking down potential criminals or terrorists etc. Both the good guys and the bad guys increasingly rely on and use the internet and other accepted forms of digital communication.

The real shame is the lack of clarity and truth on the part of governments that this is indeed the case. Over the years there has been no end of sound advice aimed at children to keep themselves and their personal information safe from miscreants, so did we somehow feel that being adult meant that it was all right for us to ignore similar advice. Not really, perhaps, but it gets in the way when you which to digitally connect to the big wide world.

Inevitably I suspect that those security agencies involved will no doubt have realised that at some point details of their underhand peeking would come out and I have no doubt that they will have planned for this. In such a 'connected' world it would be difficult to image that any such activity, especially if it entailed employing out-sourced personnel, would remain secret for long. More so, perhaps, with the growing number of people prepared to blow whistles who are making the headlines.

Are not these revelations then a good thing, to be welcomed, and do they not mean that at last we are starting to talk about our connected, digital, lives and what they mean to us all as individuals, security agencies, groups and miscreants. We therefore also have to accept that the lack of inherent security in all things digital will mean that others can gain access to our little bits of data as they fly down the wires and across the disk platters.

Many I suspect would boil down what I have said above into the phrase 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear', and that is kind of where I am going, but, I remain convinced that the most important thing to come out of this is the chance to discuss where we go from here. What forms of oversight, control and independent analysis do we want to see governing this kind of surveillance, because it's not going to go away very soon is it.

The internet is a reflection of all things good and bad about being human, but, it also has the potential to break down cultural barriers that have kept us apart, as a unit, for millennia. I welcome that 'sharing' of experience and knowledge, even if it comes at a somewhat detrimental price to our overall digital liberty.

We may certainly argue that we need to wrest back control of our personal devices and stop-up the back doors of data flow that track all most everything we use those devices for, but, whilst we continue to use digital data traffic the ease with which that traffic can be monitored must be accepted.

So let's see if we can find an acceptable solution to this inevitable problem shall we, after all, the speed of such digital communication also enhances the speed with which whistles can be blown.

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