February 23, 2020

Archives for December 2013

Software backdoors and the White House NSA panel report

Yesterday the five-member panel appointed by the President to review “Intelligence and Communications Technologies” issued its report. The report is serious and substantial, and makes 46 specific recommendations for change. I expect to have a lot to say about the report and its aftermath, but for today I want to focus on one small aspect: what the report says about the possibility that the NSA inserted backdoors into software products.
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Judge Leon explains why the NSA uses everyone's metadata

There are many interesting things to discuss in Judge Leon’s opinion from yesterday, finding the NSA’s phone metadata program likely unconstitutional. In this post, I’ll focus on an interesting bit of computer science in the judge’s ruling, and I’ll explain why the judge’s computer science argument is actually more powerful than he realized.
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How to protect yourself against NSA tracking

Jonathan Mayer and I have a new piece in Slate about how the NSA piggybacks on the web tracking activities of advertisers and other services. Essentially, the trackers tag computers and smartphones with unique tracking IDs that are attached to web requests, and the NSA uses those tracking IDs to follow users. I wrote last week about how tracking companies can protect their users by switching to HTTPS, the standard encrypted web protocol.

Unless and until the trackers turn on HTTPS, it’s down to us as users to protect ourselves from NSA tracking. The one and only way to do this is to prevent the sending of tracking IDs by your browser or phone. Let’s talk about how to do that.
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