Reports suggest that since Microsoft purchased Skype, the online video chat company, it has shifted its answer when asked whether it could conduct wiretaps.
Skype has been known in the past to go on record saying it could not conduct wiretaps due to its “peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques,” which has effectively frustrated law enforcements who have wanted to use the service for their benefit.
However, since its May 2011 Microsoft purchase, the language Skype uses to answer questions about whether its technology is used for wiretaps has changed.
Microsoft has switched some of the peer-to-peer network technology to work on its dedicated Linux servers instead, making it easier to “wiretap” conversations.
With a peer-to-peer network, each user is a “node” that helps to connect other users, while some users are “supernodes” that hold more responsibility for traffic. Some of the “supernodes” have been switched to the Linux servers instead.
Some hackers claim that Microsoft is re-engineering these supernodes to make it easier for law enforcement to monitor calls.
“It is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack, and it is made all the easier because Microsoft—who owns Skype and knows the keys used for the service’s encryption—is helping,” Tim Verry of ExtremeTech wrote in a story earlier in July.
Mark Gillett, Skype’s Corporate VP of Product Engineering & Operations, told Verry that the changes were made to “improve the Skype user experience.”
“We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community,” he told Verry.
However, a December 2009 Microsoft patent application describes “recording agents” that legally intercept VoIP phone calls. The patent application is said by Slashdot to be one of Microsoft’s more elaborate and detailed patent papers.
“The document provides Microsoft’s idea about the nature, positioning and feature set of recording agents that silently record the communication between two or more parties,” Slashdot shows in a post. This patent was granted to Microsoft a month after Skype was purchased, in June 2011.
Ryan Gallagher of Slate wrote that when he tried asking Microsoft whether it could facilitate wiretap requests, it would not confirm or deny the question, saying that Skype “co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible.”
Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.
They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.
“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”
Economics have been one driving force, with growingincome inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.
But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change.
Young Israeli organizers repeatedly turned out gigantic crowds insisting that their political leaders, regardless of party, had been so thoroughly captured by security concerns, ultra-Orthodox groups and other special interests that they could no longer respond to the country’s middle class.
In the world’s largest democracy, Anna Hazare, an activist, starved himself publicly for 12 days until the Indian Parliament capitulated to some of his central demands on a proposed anticorruption measure to hold public officials accountable. “We elect the people’s representatives so they can solve our problems,” said Sarita Singh, 25, among the thousands who gathered each day at Ramlila Maidan, where monsoon rains turned the grounds to mud but protesters waved Indian flags and sang patriotic songs.
“But that is not actually happening. Corruption is ruling our country.”
Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.
In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year, toppling longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protesters have created their own political space online that is chilly, sometimes openly hostile, toward traditional institutions of the elite.
The critical mass of wiki and mapping tools, video and social networking sites, the communal news wire of Twitter and the ease of donations afforded by sites like PayPal makes coalitions of like-minded individuals instantly viable.
“You’re looking at a generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are used to self-organizing,” said Yochai Benkler, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “They believe life can be more participatory, more decentralized, less dependent on the traditional models of organization, either in the state or the big company. Those were the dominant ways of doing things in the industrial economy, and they aren’t anymore.”
Yonatan Levi, 26, called the tent cities that sprang up in Israel “a beautiful anarchy.” There were leaderless discussion circles like Internet chat rooms, governed, he said, by “emoticon” hand gestures like crossed forearms to signal disagreement with the latest speaker, hands held up and wiggling in the air for agreement — the same hand signs used in public assemblies in Spain. There were free lessons and food, based on the Internet conviction that everything should be available without charge.
Someone had to step in, Mr. Levi said, because “the political system has abandoned its citizens.”
The rising disillusionment comes 20 years after what was celebrated as democratic capitalism’s final victory over communism and dictatorship.
In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, a consensus emerged that liberal economics combined with democratic institutions represented the only path forward. That consensus, championed by scholars like Francis Fukuyama in his book “The End of History and the Last Man,” has been shaken if not broken by a seemingly endless succession of crises — the Asian financial collapse of 1997, the Internet bubble that burst in 2000, the subprime crisis of 2007-8 and the continuing European and American debt crisis — and the seeming inability of policy makers to deal with them or cushion their people from the shocks.
Frustrated voters are not agitating for a dictator to take over. But they say they do not know where to turn at a time when political choices of the cold war era seem hollow. “Even when capitalism fell into its worst crisis since the 1920s there was no viable alternative vision,” said the British left-wing author Owen Jones.
For the past three years, a highly encrypted computer worm called Conficker has been spreading rapidly around the world. As many as 12 million computers have been infected with the self-updating worm, a type of malware that can get inside computers and operate without their permission.
“What Conficker does is penetrate the core of the [operating system] of the computer and essentially turn over control of your computer to a remote controller,” writer Mark Bowden tellsFresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “[That person] could then utilize all of these computers, including yours, that are connected. … And you have effectively the largest, most powerful computer in the world.”
The gigantic networked system created by the Conficker worm is what’s known as a “botnet.” The Conficker botnet is powerful enough to take over computer networks that control banking, telephones, security systems, air traffic control and even the Internet itself, says Bowden. His new book, Worm: The First Digital World War, details how Conficker was discovered, how it works, and the ongoing programming battle to bring down the Conficker worm, which he says could have widespread consequences if used nefariously.
“If you were to launch with a botnet that has 10 million computers in it — launch a denial of service attack — you could launch a large enough attack that it would not just overwhelm the target of the attack, but the root servers of the Internet itself, and could crash the entire Internet,” he says. “What frightens security folks, and increasingly government and Pentagon officials, is that a botnet of that size could also be used as a weapon.”
When Russia launched its attack on Georgia in 2008, Russian officials also took down communication lines and the Internet within Georgia. Egypt also took down its own country’s Internet service during the uprisings last spring.
“It’s the equivalent of shutting down the train system during the Civil War, where the Union troops and the Confederate troops used trains to shuttle arms and ammunition and supplies all over their area of control,” says Bowden. “And if you could shut their trains down, you cripple their ability to function. Similarly, you could do that today by taking down the Internet.”
The Conficker worm can also be used to steal things like your passwords and codes for any accounts you use online. Officials in Ukraine recently arrested a group of people who were leasing a portion of the Conficker worm’s computers to drain millions of dollars from bank accounts in the United States.
“It raises the question of whether creating or maintaining a botnet is a criminal activity, because if I break into a safe at the bank using a Black & Decker drill, is Black & Decker culpable for the way I use the tool?” he says. “That’s one of the tools you could use the botnet for. With a botnet of 25,000 computers, you could break the security codes for Amazon.com, you could raid people’s accounts, you could get Social Security numbers and data — there’s almost no commercial security system in place that couldn’t be breached by a supercomputer of tens of thousands.”
After Conficker was discovered in 2008 at Stanford, it prompted computer security experts from around the world to get together to try to stop the bot. The volunteer group of experts, which called itself the Conficker Working Group, also tried to get the government involved with their efforts. But they soon discovered that the government didn’t have a very good understanding of what the worm could do.
“[They] began reaching out to the NSA [National Security Agency] and [the Pentagon] to see if they would be willing to loan their computers [to help them], and what [they] discovered was that no one in the government understood what was happening,” says Bowden. “There was a very low level of cyberintelligence, even at agencies that ought to have been very seriously involved, who were responsible for protecting the country, its electrical grid, its telecommunications. These agencies lacked the sophistication not only to deal with Conficker, but even to understand what Conficker was.”
At some point in early 2009, the Conficker Working Group learned that the Conficker worm could wreak havoc on April 1, 2009 — a date when the computers infected by Conficker would receive instructions from their remote-controlled operator.
7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now (PICTURES)
The Huffington PostChristine Friar First Posted: 8/3/11 09:06 AM ET Updated: 8/3/11 09:06 AM ET
t’s Wednesday which means we’re here with seven more websites to distract and entertain you. We know you’re probably worried about the alleged cyber-spies and the Mubarak trial, but no one’s going to blame you if you take a minute or twenty for yourself this afternoon.
Is Google Messing with Your Mind? Search Alters Memory Patterns
Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 14 July 2011 Time: 02:00 PM ET
Search engines are making people more likely to rely on computers to “remember” things for them, computers and online search engines have become a kind of external memory system that can be accessed at will — and that human memory is adapting to it.
CREDIT: Simon Cataudo
Whether the Internet is making us smarter or stupider may be up for debate, but new research shows that search engines are changing the way we learn and remember things.
People are using the Internet as an external “expert” to be accessed at will. This phenomenon, called transactive memory, isn’t new; it’s been around as long as humans have communicated. We’ve always relied on experts within our group (which used to be other humans) and, with the invention of the printing press, stored information in books. In those cases, we had to remember only who or what held the information.