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Apr 092012
Overview of Camp Williams site before the construction works began. UDC will be located on the west side of the highway, on what was previously an airfield (Image from www.publicintelligence.net)
by Samantha Lowell

Overview of Camp Williams site before the construction works began. UDC will be located on the west side of the highway, on what was previously an airfield (Image from www.publicintelligence.net)

Despite the Obama Administration’s 2008 election pledge to crack down on Bush era warrantless spying and wiretapping in the post-911 era, the NSA’s efforts remain unchecked and . If anything, the agency has expended its efforts, creating a massive warehouse of information and a supercomputer outside of Bluffdale, Utah. Expected to be completed in 2013, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.

The new facility will warehouse the world’s single largest collection of data  -much of it as yet unencrypted from suspected terrorists and criminals. The NSA was created after Word War 2 to be an arm of the defense Department, its main purpose to avert another Pearl Harbor by looking for signs of a threat internally.

Since then, however, its record was mixed and it seemed to be destined to fall off the political map, gradually losing importance until September 11, 2012.

In the wake of 9-11, the Bush administration vested the NSA with almost unlimited funding and virtually unchecked power to spy on Americans deemed to be potential risks to national security, bypassing the legal requirement for a warrant. Despite lingering concerns for the constitutionality of such laws, the practice continues unabated today. However, despite apparent breakthroughs in technology, the NSA doesn’t seem to be spying indiscriminately spy on every American. Sources indicate that certain “threshholds” or danger triggers, such as affiliation or nationality or suspect political activities seem to trigger NSA scrutiny; however, when it does deem someone worth scrutiny, the agency’s reach is almost limitless, able to tap into the most sensitive personal and financial information no more legal check than what is described as an automated, expedited warrant process-which seems little more than a legal rubber stamp.

Despite its near seemingly unchecked power to spy on Americans’ most sensitive information-and with theaid of AT&T and Verizon wireless-it has had a decidedly bleak record of success, so much so that some question the continued existence of the agency at all: The NSA was caught off guard by the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally was even blindsided by the 9/11 attacks themselves. The NSA also missed the near-disastrous recent attempted attack by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010.

Despite this, the Bluffdale facility remains under construction and the NSA’s funding and activities remain unchecked thus far. But the mammoth Bluffdale center will have a far more important and secretive role besides that of data storage center: It will be the nation’s new forefront in the cyberwars, which focusses on breaking codes. According to a source once connected with the NSA, this is crucial as much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted.

More troubling, according to another official, the NSA made an huge, unspecified breakthrough in its ability to break encryption systems. This could allow the agency to target not only sophisticated codes used to protect government and financial communications, but also codes used by the average citizen to protect his or her email.

Additionally, civil libertarians are applying continued pressure on the President to deliver on his promise to curb the NSA. The FISA Amendments Act — which passed with the support of then-Senator Obama — generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court to approve terror –based domestic electronic surveillance requests by the NSA or other agencies .

In 2011, a federal appeals court reinstated an ACLU lawsuit seeking to end warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. The case lingers in federal court, pending an expected federal assertion that the lawsuit would expose national security secrets. In February 2012, the Department of Justice asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Civil libertarians and legal scholars watch the case with interest, though many doubt that the suit will survive the Obama administration’s assertion of needed secrecy. In addition to the legal challenge, the NSA must still overcome the hurdle of strong encryption before it can gain untrammeled government access to private digital data.

Additionally, it remains to be seen if the NSA’s planned supercomputer is even up to the task. Monitoring at the speeds and volumes required would require a quantum breakthrough in computer technology. Many legitimately fear that the NSA’s power is a clear and present danger to American democracy, but it also serves to remember the lessons of history. There are clear parallels between the NSA and the Nixon era wiretapping, the unavoidable temptations to abuse power, and the ultimate outcome of those Watergate era abuses.

Aug 152011
Krypton Radio Special Report
Krypton Radio Newswire

In the wake of Linden Lab’s nearly silent rollout of Facebook style profile pages two weeks ago for users of its online service Second Life, a new social network service seems to have come to the fore.

It’s actually been around for some time.  Linkedprim.com is a Facebook-style social networking site for users of Second Life.  Clearly deriving its name from the professional networking service LinkedIn.com, it has been in operation since July of 2009, so it appears to have been created about a year after the ill-fated  “Avatars United” social networking site launched in March 2008 by Sweden-based “Enemy Unknown”, then bought by Linden Lab and closed in October 2010..

LinkedPrim.com seems to be a more simple concept than Avatars United was, focusing exclusively on users of the Second Life online service – but it has some of  the same privacy issues that Avatars United had.  There is a validation process – if you go to a specific location within Second Life, you can identify to the system that you’re who you say you are.  However, it is very easy to spoof anybody’s name, and the unwary can easily be fooled into friending somebody they don’t actually know and sharing personal information with them.  There are several cases of identity fraud on the site already, and there are bound to be more if the service continues operation.

That said, it does appear that the operators of the site have at least given some thought to the notion of privacy, in that detailed real world contact information is not collected.

Story Update

However, there are more areas of concern: first, entire service appears to be owned and operated by somebody we could initially identify only  as “Brota”  – (Brota Kornfeld almost immediately posted to this article to let us know who he was and that they take this observations regarding safety of their site with some seriousness).  Clicking on “Brota’s” profile in the service’s announcement posts only returns you to your own profile page, not “Brota’s”. There is no company name, nor even an “About” page identifying who the owners or operators of the service are.  It isn’t until one searches a WHOIS database that one discovers that the site’s domain name is registered to:

Jorgensen, Janus contact@contrastimage.org
Contrast Media
Hjertingparken 294
Esbjerg V, 6710

We had originally thought this meant that the site runs on servers in Denmark, but that’s just the location of the person making the original registration of the domain. The fact is that the servers are in the United States, and they are, in fact, subject to United States privacy laws as Linden Lab’s Second Life is. Still, there is a section in one’s personal profile setup where you are encouraged to enter vital statistics about yourself, such as your real life age, the city, state and country you live in, your current relationship status, and your real life web site.  Granted, it does not actually ask for your name, but this information is often enough for the dedicated internet troll to use it for stalking purposes.  Krypton Radio advises caution in the use of this feature.

Social networking sites can be useful and engaging, but we hope our readers will use a little common sense with respect to social media services and give careful consideration to their safe and proper use.

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Aug 092011
article by L. Christopher Bird
Harry Potter series author author J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter series author author J.K. Rowling

Pottermore is an upcoming interactive website by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and sponsored by Sony.  The site promises a new reading experience centered around the seven Harry Potter novels with additional content written by Rowling fleshing out background information and settings as well as user-generated content expanding the story of Harry Potter.

There was much excitement when it was announced that Pottermore would be holding a contest for early registration at the free website. Over 7 days starting on July 31st, and ending August 7 a clue was posted on the Pottermore site which lead to a registration page for approximately 143,000 users per day for a total of one million registrations by the contest’s end. Registrations will be open to everyone starting October, 2011.

Enthusiasm for the site has been overwhelming and many people are anxious to see the site before the October open registration and a market for free Pottermore accounts have been selling on ebay and other sites for as much as $100.  Selling of the early registration accounts from the contest is against the terms of service, and Pottermore may cancel any accounts found to have been sold on secondary markets.

The enthusiasm for Pottermore has opened the floodgates for malicious schemes usually centered on the premise of granting early access to the site. Sites claiming to be selling or giving away Pottermore accounts are being used to gather personal information and deliver malware. There are Youtube videos which claim to be instructional on how to sign up for a Pottermore beta account which if followed will just lead you to one of these early-registration scams.

As of this date there are no legitimate ways to gain early access to the Pottermore site other than the million contest winners, and one should be wary of any claims to the contrary.  Pottermore will be open to everyone in October, and the site wll be free. You can submit your email address at the official site http://www.pottermore.com to be notified when registration is open. All other sites claiming to represent Pottermore should be treated as suspect.

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About the Author

L. Christopher Bird is a seasoned internet programmer and popular media aficionado.  Also an accomplished writer, his work most recently appears in Kizuna: Fiction for Japan (a charity anthology) , a collection of short stories available on Amazon.com.  Proceeds from the sales of the book benefit victims of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan that took place in March of 2011.
Jul 272011
Krypton Radio Special Report

Krypton Radio Special Report

Krypton Radio Newswire
Linden Lab pushes Second Life into something closer to a Web 2.0 social media platform with its new Facebook-like extension - which unfortunately lets anyone post anything to your profile by default.

Linden Lab pushes Second Life into something closer to a Web 2.0 social media platform with its new Facebook-like extension - which unfortunately lets anyone post anything to your profile by default.

San Francisco based Linden Lab (LL), creators of the virtual world Second Life (SL), have taken the next step in what appears to be their overall plans to merge SL with the social media craze that has been sweeping the internet for many years now. The public profiles of SL users have now been changed to work more like the well known Facebook wall, allowing other users to post comments on the profiles of anyone who has it turned on, and it’s turned on by default. Originally a users profile could only be seen by another user while logged-in and in-world, but as Linden Lab pushed its next-gen Viewer project, it moved the profiles to website based.

Called the Feed, SL users will be able to post to a Facebook style wall connected to the public profile of a Second Life customer. This can also be connected to a Twitter account which will allow people outside of SL to follow friends and family in-world. This started an uproar amongst many SL users, who did not want their SL based information being shared with search engines for anyone to find. Second Life rose to fame in its early years as being the place on the net where you could make your wildest fantasies come true in the 3D Landscape, and do so anonymously. Originally this helped draw customers by the thousands, but as the years wore on LL started seeing a decline amongst its user base, mainly having to do with dissatisfaction over LL’s customer service,  constant technical issues, and what appeared to be a general lack of interest in listening to its consumer base on the issues that the customers felt mattered most.

After what seemed like many years of feet dragging by LL, a massive lay-off of company staff ensued and general reorganization took place in 2010. The new smaller and focused teams of staff have helped in pushing out updates and upgrades to the Second Life platform on an almost weekly basis, but the overall experience has worsened for some. Linden Lab has for well over a year now been trying to move SL away from the image it portrayed as being an isolated world that only role-players and uber-geeks seemed to be aware of. Taking SL to the Facebook generation and allowing people to connect their SL accounts to services such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Some have hailed this move as a good step for SL to come out of its shell and join the social media lifestyle that many enjoy, opening the virtual world to people who may have never been aware of it before. Potentially earning many new customers in the process, but an equal amount of users have blasted the move as another way to allow people to stalk and harass other customers of the service; LL has installed the limited ability to turn off the sharing feature, but as many customers worry, not all new users of the service may realize that these features exist and will have trouble turning them off. This is particularly troubling for those SL customers who have to deal with other customers who stalk and harass them constantly, a fear is that a stalker may harass a SL user by vandalizing that person’s SL-Profile/Feed/Wall with obscene comments.

To adjust your privacy settings, log into your profile via https://my.secondlife.com/    Go to Settings, then Privacy, and you can set your Feed setting to Nobody. This will prevent anyone from using your Feed/Wall, and your other settings can only be set to a minimum of friends if you want to hide it from the general public. Also, the web-profiles work independently of your client, no matter what version you use. Using an older client will not disable this, you will still need to log into your web-profile in order to change your settings.

Through various blog posts and individual employees willing to talk, Linden Lab continues to claim that it takes all feedback from its customers seriously and is indeed listening. Is this just standard Public Relations hype, or is LL really listening? Only time will tell!


Stay tuned to Krypton Radio for further updates!