Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

(from news.yahoo.com)

The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said. (http://reut.rs/1L5knm0)

The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment.

Kaspersky published the technical details of its research on Monday, which should help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.

(keep reading at news.yahoo.com)

Equation Group on Kaspersky.com

bitcoin: moving money FAR better

(from reddit.com)

Earlier today, after being inspired by /u/Daurgothoth I uploaded a Bitcoin Vs. Western Union Ad mocking WU’s questionable use of grammar whilst comparing their prices to bitcoin. It ended up on top of /r/bitcoin and, multiple @westernunion tweets later, I was quite surprised to find my original upload has been mysteriously ‘disappeared’.

I can only assume this was due to a complaint from WU that the ad infringes their trademark/copyright. Only problem being – it doesn’t. The ad clearly falls under the rulings on Comparative Advertising.

So, as I imagine the furious WU PR department scrambling into damage limitation mode, resorting to spurious copyright takedowns as their only means to suppress from the public the embarrassing truth that bitcoin poses to their archaic business model… I can’t help but reflect on how far we’ve come in the last year.

It is clear bitcoin is no longer at the ‘first they laughed’ stage and WU have moved into full on ‘fight’ mode – a year ago WU wouldn’t have even blinked.

Yet, there’s only so much fighting the truth you can do before you eventually self-destruct; especially when you’re fighting an ‘enemy’ that is a decentralised movement of people with no board of directors, leaders, or obvious targets (beyond the odd redditor) to be bullied.

I guess it’s bitcoiners that can do the laughing now.

EDIT: Some 4 hours or so after contacting imgur and requesting a copy of any applicable DMCA takedown notices, it appears the hard image link has just been reinstated (although the gallery/comment page is still down).

Cypherpunks, Bitcoin & the Myth of Satoshi Nakamoto

(from cybersalon.org)

As a movement, Cypherpunk is more nuanced, more serious and more focused than Cyberpunk. Like all good punk movements, Cypherpunk is radical by design and fanatical in its end goal of disrupting the status-quo. If we couldn’t see Cypherpunk clearly before it was because books like Cryptonomicon were not as accessible as the pulpy and instantly attractive Neuromancer.
Cypherpunk is concerned solely with hidden meaning, secrets and power that can be wielded out of sight from governments and spooks. It is embodied by discrete arrays of public/private key pairs. It is a science that values discretion and privacy above all else, and as such it champions our most closely held secrets and beliefs.
Cyberpunk by contrast was typified by Jaron Lanier’s clunky Virtual Reality: pixelated polygon aesthetics from the 1990s and William Gibson’s dystopian sprawl culture, but until now, we couldn’t really understand Cypherpunk’s issues as a culture, because we couldn’t imagine what Google would to do us or to our businesses. We didn’t know what ‘big data’ was, or how social networks would assimilate our friends, acquaintances and close family members into one amorphous communicative membrane. Neither could we envision how peer-to-peer networks might threaten Hollywood and Wall Street.
When Neuromancer was originally published in 1982 we couldn’t even get our heads around what a web browser was. Cyberpunk in the 1990s was all techno music and wild hair, squat parties and bad video art. Cypherpunk, by contrast was RSA, PGP and the NSA. Now, it’s BTC, GCHQ, PRISM, SHA-256, TEMPORA and RAGTIME-P (Stellar Wind). It’s a world full of acronyms and codes, impenetrable to all but the most cynical, distrustful, and political of minds.
In literature, those who are lost to history are occasionally referred to as ‘ciphers’. It’s a peculiar use of the word because it implies that the person is a lost word or code in the logos, not understood in their time. The root of the word is from the Arabic ‘sifr’ meaning zero, empty; so Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin is the historical “cipher-punk” par excellence.
This meaning of ‘cipher’ does not apply to our historical luminaries. Rather than benefiting from an absolute right to privacy, luminaries belong uncomfortably to the public domain where they suffer an element of transparency. This is a crucial point to understand because the Cypherpunks do not wish fame, exposure or recognition. Their philosophy can be summed up simply by Assange’s essential maxim: ‘Privacy for the weak, transparency for the powerful’.

(keep reading at cybersalon.org)