March 19, 2012

 

Feds Spying on You through your Appliances

March 19, 2012. Washington. According to the current Director of the CIA, David Petraeus, America’s spy agency is further ahead of the technology curve than many are aware. Right out of a Hollywood movie script, the CIA and its corporate partners are making no secret of the powerful new methods and options they have to spy on people. Each year, more and more average appliances, tools and toys plug into the internet, many doing it without their owners knowledge. Little do most people know, your appliances aren’t just logging maintenance records. They’re dialing right into the CIA and reporting on you.

CIA Director David Petraeus

In a brief article from Wired.com last week, the tech website reported that CIA Director David Petraeus has been making public comments about the agency’s latest acquisition. Yes, apparently it really is just like in the movies. When a small technology company makes a certain breakthrough that the CIA believes it could use, the mysterious, taxpayer-funded spy agency simply buys it. It would seem that in some cases, the company is brought completely in-house and covered with a veil of secrecy. In other instances, the company continues to operate as it had, only now it is a CIA front company.



In the particular instance Petraeus proudly refers to the CIA’s take-over of a company called Cleversafe. The technology company provides cloud-based data storage services. After the CIA and other intelligence agencies were hacked by the group Anonymous, they've been panicking about the security of their employees.

What exactly is the CIA?

The Central Intelligence Agency has a unique relationship with the United States. Launched originally by the US federal government, the spy agency has become something of a country of its own. Taxpayers have long financed the CIA, although they are never told exactly how much money it costs them. That’s the benefit of being a top secret spy agency. Over recent decades, rumors have circulated the globe accusing the CIA of becoming nothing more than an international rogue organization, beholden to no one. And that’s where the many CIA front companies come into play.

CIA officials have bragged in the past that while they insist they need taxpayer funding, they could also self-sustain themselves financially if they had to. Some argue that is already the case as a result of both legal and illegal operations. Drug trafficking and counterfeiting the world’s currencies have always been the top two accusations. While operating seemingly legitimate and profitable businesses is a cornerstone of the agency's legal means of creating its own massive wealth. One of those legal money-making entities is In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel

Believe it or not, In-Q-Tel is a venture capital firm. It is also a division of the CIA. The spy agency’s investment firm is charged with using the CIA’s mountainous wealth to purchase clever start-up companies that could prove to be either useful to the CIA, profitable, or both. According to the Wired.com article, CIA Director Petraeus is quoted as calling some of these firms and their capabilities an “internet of things”.

Cleversafe

If it’s clever, the CIA wants it. That was the case with the cloud-based data storage company Cleversafe. Without the ability to give away too much detail, representatives proudly claim they have an un-hackable data storage process that not only the CIA can use, but all US government spy agencies. With $20 billion in taxpayer dollars to create the secure cloud storage network, the CIA stands to make a fortune by taking over the company Cleversafe.



The key to Cleversafe’s secure storage is generally termed ‘information dispersal’. Basically, it consists of slicing up data into tiny pieces and storing them in different locations. When needed, only Cleversafe can reassemble them again for use.

Some technology critics suggest the CIA is using company’s like Cleversafe to not only store their own data, but spy on people as well. They allege the CIA and other spy agencies are already harvesting personal details about people in the US and abroad using their everyday appliances, tools and toys. Remarks from the Wired.com article say the most commonly-used items the CIA and other spy agencies like the FBI, NSA and DHS use to spy on people are their cell phones and PlayStations. Other items include cars, air conditioners, dish washers, stereos, video games and cameras. The list concluded with saying the US spy agencies even know when you dim your living room light switch.

CIA Director Petraeus explained further saying, “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing. The latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

Petraeus went on to insist that these newest methods of spying on the American people, and the rest of the world, “change our notion of secrecy.” He then suggested the country would be forced to rethink its “notions of identity and secrecy.” Director David Petraeus appears to have a solid grip on the possibilities the internet and modern technology open up to the CIA.

Your neighbor on Farmville is a CIA plant

The CIA Director went on to anxiously describe the new cyber-CIA. These agents will do nothing but live on the internet using various aliases and identities, infiltrating every social circle from the bowling league to the Girl Scouts. The Wired article paraphrases Petraeus writing, ‘That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish’.



Indeed, that’s exactly the way federal agents stumbled onto the cyber hacker group Anonymous. A number of its members were arrested earlier this month when agents sat in an internet chat room collecting information and evidence. Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Anonymous Cell gets Careless, Infiltrated, Busted’ for more information.

CIA actually on the defensive

CIA Director Petraeus hinted at another reason the CIA was going to great lengths to create new cyber identities for its agents. Rebel hacker groups like Anonymous, LulzSec and AntiSec have repeatedly cracked the secret identities of agents from a number of spy agencies in America and other countries, including the CIA. That’s not only embarrassing for the Agency, it could be deadly for their employees.

Fearing attacks on agents and other employees and operatives in their personal lives, Petraeus concedes, “Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come. Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.” In other words, it’s not just a new identity starting today. Agents need to somehow be able to plant their fake life’s history on the internet, in the past, just as it would be if it was their true identity.

Not just the CIA, but your local department store

It’s not just the FBI and CIA that are spying on Americans in their homes. Not even a year ago, the number one home furniture company in America had employees arrested for spying on customers in their homes. With over 1,800 stores, Aaron’s furniture isn’t just one rogue owner. The company was caught selling and renting computers to its customers, then remotely activating the cameras on them once they were set-up in the customers’ homes and using them to spy on people. Aaron’s employees were eventually caught when employees of one store in Casper, WY showed pictures it took of a couple in their homes to the couple, proving that the computer worked and the couple was even using it.

The abuse is apparently widespread. Aaron’s stores, and probably many others, secretly equip computers they sell with a widely-used product. According to the Whiteout Press article ‘Corporation caught Spying in Homes’, “An investigation determined that Aaron's routinely equips its rental computers with PC Rental Agent to remotely monitor the devices. The PC Rental Agent, a product of Pennsylvania-based DesignerWare LLC, is capable of logging key stokes, taking screenshots, and snapping webcam pictures.” DesignerWare and Aaron’s are both being sued by the Casper, WY couple.

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