NSA: backdoors and changes ahead


By Rebekah Williams

Backdoors into Apple, Samsung, Cisco and Dell cause increasing concern in both the public and tech sector 

Six months after Edward Snowden shocked the country by leaking top-secret documents from the National Security Agency (NSA), increasing information has been uncovered revealing further government hacking.

The NSA, headquartered in Fort Meade, Md., is the nation’s top cryptologic organization, responsible for exploitation and analysis of foreign analytics. It exists to protect America and the American people.

The NSA’s official website lists their mission as “to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.”

However, their actions as of late have led to considerable debate.

Forming a 50-page catalog of information, a division of the NSA, called ANT, is essentially selling to its employees the technology necessary to tap into any of their targets.

These electronic break-in tools, or “backdoors,” as they are called, range in price anywhere from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There is even one package up for sale consisting of a 50 pack worth of USB plugs, which are capable of transmitting data by way of undetected radio. Its going rate is over $1 million.

New documents have been found showing that the NSA is capable of infiltrating the hardware of companies including Cisco, Samsung and Dell.

According to security researcher Jacob Applebaum and the German news magazine Der Spiegel, recently leaked documents have shown that the NSA has the capabilities to access practically every communication sent from an iPhone.

According to these documents, the NSA is claiming a 100 percent success rate in implanting the Apple devices with their spyware.

Apple rebuts any involvement.

Apple told the British paper The Telegraph they have “never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of [their] products, including iPhone.”

In fact, they deny even knowing about the government snooping, saying, “We have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products.”

The NSA is treading the thin line between protecting our country and invading our privacy. Many are raising the question of our Fourth Amendment rights.

People are rightfully concerned by this high-tech privacy invasion.

In the last decade, phone usage has vastly increased. People are now much more likely to share personal information regarding financial situations, marital problems, sexual orientation and embarrassing secrets over the phone. This poses concerns for ordinary Americans, because data about your location, purchase history and personal conversations all become part of a governmental record.

Concerns over mass collection of phone metadata are being brought to United States Federal Court through the case Klayman v. Obama.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of Washington issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the NSA from collecting further data on two individuals.

“Indeed, I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment by those in power,’ would be aghast,” Leon wrote.

However, government lawyers are arguing that citizens should not have an expectation of privacy from telephone usage. The signals transmitted by telephone belong to the system of electrical signals, not the citizen, they argue.

Of course, the NSA generally is not interested in spying into the lives of the average American citizen, nor does the government care much about every embarrassing secret shared via technology. It could be assumed that the main purpose of this specialized spy ware is to identify and prevent threats made on the United States.

However, recent reports from ex-NSA employees insist that the NSA’s extensive phone monitoring program has only stopped one “terrorist threat” since the program’s expansion.

Many believe that is not sufficient enough reason for a country to dig into the lives of its people.

Debate still exists over whether Snowden, TIME Magazine’s runner-up for person of the year, is a hero or an American traitor.

While he exposed the faux pas of the government’s invasions into citizen’s privacy, he also divulged top-secret government secrets to some of our country’s worst enemies.

Regardless of his intent, all can be sure that the whistle Snowden blew continues to be heard.

The impact of Snowden’s actions are still being felt today. Last week President Barack Obama announced that he would be giving a public notification of the changes he will require the NSA to make. Early reports indicate he will ask the spy agency to tone back spying on foreign leaders as well as to stop storing the phone records of millions of Americans.

As Snowden told the Washington Post in Decemeber, “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”


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