On Wednesday’s Fresh Air, journalist Ben Elgin talks about a Bloomberg News series, “Wired for Repression,” which details how Western companies are selling surveillance technology to regimes that then use the information obtained from those technologies to torture protesters and dissidents, Elgin tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.
Some of the surveillance technology installed allows governments to monitor all movements and mobile communication made by protesters, many of whom communicate by text messages and cellphone calls.
“Some of these regimes are utilizing very sophisticated text message analysis systems,” Elgin says. “So basically [they can read] all text messages sent. And text messages are far more ubiquitous in places like Iran and Syria than Internet access. All text messages being sent are being archived and stored in an enormous archive system. And authorities can then come in later and search — by recipient, by sender, by content. … And all these text messages will come back.”
According to The Wall Street Journal the the “lawful intercept” industry is a $5 billion business, developed mainly in Western nations such as the United States but sold all over the world with few restrictions. The list of attendees for this year’s The Wiretappers Ball, held in October at the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel, included more than 35 federal agencies. Journalists and members of the public were excluded.
The FinFisher program, created by a British company, Gamma International logs every keystroke and everything being said, and can activate the webcam or the computer’s microphone without the target knowing about it. The Wall Street Journal reported, in an article last month, explained the program was camouflaged as a fake iTunes update. Apple said it is now blocking FinFisher’s on iTunes, as of Nov. 14, after years of exposure.
DigiTask, offers a suitcase-sized device capable of monitoring the Web traffic of users at public WiFi hotspots such as cafes, airports and hotel lobbies.
The Commerce Department regulates exports of surveillance technology, but its ability to restrict the trade is limited. Intermediaries sometimes redirect sales to foreign governments.
The Commerce Department is conducting a survey of US carriers, asking for a detailed accounting of network equipment as well as security-related incidents. The survey comes weeks after a powerful House intelligence committee launched an investigation into whether the increased presence of Huawei and ZTE in the U.S. infrastructure market will provide “the Chinese government an opportunity for greater foreign espionage.”
It’s a joint effort with Bugged Planet, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and Privacy International, and media partners including the Washington Post, the Hindu, the Italian paper L’Espresso and the French news outlet OWNI.
Tor is free software and an open network that claims to defend you against network surveillance.
Related Dailywireless articles include Carrier IQ Controversy Continues, Carrier IQ Questioned, How Your Location & Preferences are Recorded, Behavioral Targeting: Kill/Capture, Google Vs The Feds, Inside the Libyan Uprising, Internet Traffic: 18 Minute Gap?, Communications Law: Net Neutrality & Surveillance and Spy Squirrels Captured.