Melted my Mind during a Mind Meld!

For all dedicated and part time “Trekkies” both young and old it was a sad day this year to learn of the passing of Dr Spock, Leonard Simon Nimoy. Probably the most type cast actor in the history of television.
“Spocky” was capable of conducting a Vulcan mind meld. The Vulcan mind meld was a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.
Even the fictional character Dr McCoy quoted back in the day “Vulcan mind melds; utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn’t share his brain with someone else; would you? I certainly wouldn’t.”
The first real step was taken in 2013 when researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco, completed the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
Andrea Stocco – University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

This is not a standalone step but rather a progression in the decade’s long research into brain computer interface.
Implications from technological change on the battlefield have always driven innovation and invention.

During the American Civil War, field commanders did not realise the impact the new rifled musket and mini ball would have on tactics.

They persisted in using outdated tactics and the result was over 600,000 deaths and more than 80,000 amputations during its four deadly years.

The longer range had soldiers running into the face of at least three volleys rather than one and rarely coming to grips with the enemy.

The spinning bullet striking any arm or leg would split the bone and invariably require amputation.

Any visit to antique, second hand and curio shops throughout America reveals a multitude of artefacts and inventions used by civil war amputees in the years after the war.
It is not surprising then given the number of amputee veterans resulting from IED’s (improvised explosive devices) during the last decade of America’s military efforts that major funding has come from the U.S. Army Research Office and the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

The primary interest is brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain, are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical prosthesis helping paralysed patients regain some power of movement.
But brain to brain experimentation has some bioethicists raising concerns about the more controversial uses.

They have a particular concern with experimentation into brain-networking. This method involves the linking brains together to create a collective network of thought.
For example in recent experiments, Miguel Nicolelis and his colleagues at Duke University wired the brains of four rats and had the same signal delivered into their brains and when a computer monitor showed their thoughts were synchronised they were offered a reward.

They were able to manipulate the brain patterns of the rats so they shared a collective thought pattern.

The resulting manipulation enabled the minds of the rats to act as an information-processing chain.

In other words they were able to train one rat to produce a brain activity and pass this onto the second rat that in turn passed it onto the third.
Don’t buy any shares in a rat trap company I’m thinking.
They have also demonstrated this with monkeys which don’t bode well for my mates at the pub.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface (BMI), a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical applications,” Miguel A. Nicolelis – Director of the Centre for Neuro-engineering at Duke University

Will some futuristic marriage celebrant have a marriage mind meld ritual chip planted in the couples brains as part of the wedding service conducted on a holographic beach complete with virtual guests?

Forever after when your darling asks you “what are you thinking?” You will be truly screwed.
No more nothing, saying nothing will no longer do.

Related Articles:
Scientists achieve first human-to-human ‘mind meld’
Real-Life Mind Meld? Scientists Link Animal Brains
Scientists ‘mind-meld’ a rat and monkey
Researcher controls colleague’s motions in 1st human brain-to-brain interface
Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans

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With a Digital Sneeze I got a Wireless Virus!

In 2009 and in 2012 the Australian Science organisation CSIRO won landmark court case’s on the invention of Wi Fi technology. From its introduction Wi Fi security has been an issue ignored in the wake of the convenience of its features and potential. In early 2000 I recall reading that Queensland University students proved that Wi Fi could never be made totally secure. A gene out of its bottle is rarely put back in and in the case of technology it’s the risk reward ratio that kept the Wi Fi gene out of the bottle as it made device based mobile computing possible and now indispensable.

In Wi Fi’s earliest days I would observe many a poor uni student hunkered down in a shopping mall with a laptop, piggy backing the shopping malls Wi Fi to do their research for free. Now that’s just taken for granted and we expect open access Wi Fi wherever we go as a no charge customer service.
Some time ago a student showed me a device he bought at an electronics store.
“It scans for Wi Fi networks.” He said.
“Why do you need it?”
“I might want to see if I can get online from the wood shed down the bottom of my back yard.”
“Right …….. So how many unsecured Wi Fi networks did you find down your street then?”
“Five”
Wi Fi security is now under a new threat. A digital influenza is now possible. ‘Chameleon’ a codenamed virus designed by researchers at the University of Liverpool have developed an airborne Wi Fi virus.
Piggy backing Wi Fi waves this coded common cold spreads faster than Bali Belly from network to network. The denser the networks the faster it spreads.
It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack Wi Fi networks,” computer security expert Professor Alan Marshall said. “But we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly.
So those places offering open access networks, the shopping malls, the coffee shops, free hotspots and my TAFE campus could be dangerous places easily infiltrated.
Straining the distinction between research and Ukrainian hackers the team designed and simulated attacks that spread quickly between home and business avoiding detection and also finding and remembering unprotected networks. In a laboratory setting which must make it alright, they simulated successful attacks on Belfast and London. The team reported that “Chameleon” behaved just like a real airborne virus.

 

When “Chameleon” attacked an AP (Access Point) it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other Wi Fi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other Wi Fi APs that it could connect to and infect.”
Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security

 

Shopping malls could become areas of high digital pestilence, with the majority of AP’s in close proximity mostly within a 10-50 metre radius; a Wi Fi virus like “Chameleon” will propagate like the plague.
It slips past virus protection because virus protection software only looks at viruses on our devices not within the Wi Fi network itself. You might beat it with your home and business secured AP only to find yourself “nailed” at your favorite coffee shop or conference.

 

Wi Fi connections are increasingly a target for computer hackers because of well-documented security vulnerabilities, which make it difficult to detect and defend against a virus. It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack Wi Fi networks but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely.” Professor Marshall

 

Well thanks for that but, what about copy cats. I think the first computer virus was let loose by some early computer genius having a random academic moment wondering if he could give networked computers a form of digital cancer, contemplated some likely code and hit the enter key forgetting he was on a huge university network and thus gave birth to the first computer virus. He owned up and apologized but that gene was out of its bottle.

 
I really do wonder sometimes why we keep a laboratory sample of a virus or bacteria causing a horrific disease that took hundreds of years to eradicate just in case we might need it in the future. It’s a trust us scenario because we are scientists and you are just people who don’t know any better and you should leave it to us.
Are they going to do a perpetual computerized quarantine of “Chameleon” while they protect us from others that might invent a “Chameleon” knock off but who are not them? I would either look to putting virus protection on my smart phone or try going to a coffee shop to just have a cup of coffee with a friend and talk, a device free time. It’s fast becoming one of those life crisis issues requiring professional help and mental health coverage on your medical insurance plan.

 

Related Articles:
How CSIRO’s stars won the WiFi battle
Detection and analysis of the Chameleon WiFi access point virus
Adelaide CBD wi-fi network

The Street Snooper’s

I had moved house. My Internet Service provider told me the transfer of my internet connection would take 24 hours. I was in shock. I had not been without an internet connection since somewhere in the 1990’s. I couldn’t help myself, it was instinct. I clicked on the internet link and as I did so I thought “You idiot its only hour one of this long 24 hour wait, you don’t have the internet yet.” But it scanned and connected. I was online. Well, well I thought looking around the neighbouring houses, one of you has an unsecured wireless network.  Will I or wont I, that was the question? I will but in 24 hours. I know, but I’m an internet addict so I was going to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission. After my connection was transferred I knocked on the neighbours door introduced myself and asked him if he was aware he had an unprotected wireless network. He said he was but it was unlimited and paid for by his company. “Do you know about computers?” he asked. “Perhaps you can help me with my laptop?” Hours later the gods had made me pay the price for piggy backing his internet connection for those 24 hours.
It was around the same time Google Street View had been launched and Google camera cars roamed the earth like digital Jurassic predators. Websites were launched showing dirty deeds revealed by passing Google cameras. A man coming out of a brothel, a back alley dope deal going down,  a newly married man’s car found parked outside the ex-girlfriends house.  Numerous news reports followed this collateral damage caused by Google camera cars. One story showing a drunk man collapsed on the nature strip outside his house got that newspaper into trouble. It turned out the man had just returned from a wake after the burial of his best friend. Quick apologies proceeded his threatened legal action. One town in Ireland flatly refused to let the camera car enter the village limits.
A smart town as it turned out as no one was aware that the camera cars were also collecting unsecured Wi-Fi data while collecting images for Streetview. A US judge has finally ruled that Google did break the law and it now faces a user driven class action. The lame excuse that the data was “mistakenly collected” and Google had no case to answer because such data was readily accessible to members of the public and thus not subject to wire-tapping laws has been dismissed by the Judge.
Even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbour’s unencrypted Wi-Fi network, members of the public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network.”  – Circuit judge Jay Bybee
I felt better about myself, if I had been a Yank I would be off the hook!
“The court made clear that federal privacy law applies to residential wi-fi networks and users should be protected when a company tries to capture data that travels between their laptop and their printer in their home.” – Marc Rotenburg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.
After its “inadvertent” collection of emails, user names, passwords, images and documents in over 30 countries and having already paid $7m (£4.4m) in US fines to settle a case involving 38 states in the US Google is looking at a lot more fines over this. Germany first exposed the issue and is one of the first countries to fine Google. It described the debacle as “one of the biggest known data protection violations in history”.
We will destroy the data say’s Google. We will educate our employees better. We will educate the consumers as well. There is an old Australian expression that goes: I believe you but millions wouldn’t.”
Don’t get me wrong I love Streetview. I have visited every house I’ve lived in for hours of nostalgic enjoyment. I find new places easily because I know what they look like. I love the creative ways people like Ze Frank’s “Childhood Walk” or Aaron Koblins “Wilderness Downtown” have used Streetview for different and interesting projects.

However I think the times are a changing and this is demonstrated by a quote today from the Los Angeles Times.
“With everything going on with the NSA, any privacy violation, inadvertent or not, is a sensitive thing for Google … This is one more piece of writing on the wall that the courts are going to take privacy concerns very seriously wherever they can.”

Related Articles:
Google faces Streetview wi-fi snooping action

Cyberwar is not New, it’s Now Against You!

The revelations of Edward Snowden just keep on keeping on. At a TED talk in 2011 Ralph Langner revealed the details of the Stuxnet computer worm. It was sophisticated and far beyond the capabilities of some gothic hacker cult in the back-end of the Ukraine. It could only have been developed by the government of an advanced country. The frightening fact Langer pointed out was that it is generic and could be used in the future against any advanced infrastructure needing instantaneous digital fail safe systems. Stuxnet had two payloads in its Iranian deployment. One introduced an intermittent error into the nuclear plants centrifuges to drive the engineers insane and forever delay the construction of their nuclear weapons. The other, in case all else fails, to cause the centrifuges to spin out of control, explode and take down the plant. One day it will be movie plot to look forward to. Exactly how was the Stuxnet worm placed onto the laptop or USB of an engineer working with the closed grey box systems inside the Iranian nuclear power plant?
On July the 9th of this year, Jacob Applebaum for the German daily Der Spiegel interviewed Snowden who stated that the US and Israel were behind the development and deployment of the stuxnet computer worm.

It is a long held tenet of warfare that the invention of a weapons system immediately starts the development of its counter. If no one invents a tank there is no need to invent an anti-tank gun. After the southern general “Stonewall” Jackson had 20 cavalry troopers ride in a circle across the face of a gap in the trees to fool one of the many incompetent union generals into reinforcing the wrong flank the union army started its first deployments of hot air balloons for observation.

World War II stimulated the fastest technological development in the modern era until the space race, the first and only relatively bloodless war so far. In the six years of WW2 we went from aircraft of wood, canvas and glue to the first jet. The German communication code, the enigma machine designed by Arthur Scherbius was broken early in the war by three Polish cryptologists Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski. They gave the method of breaking the code to the British for nothing. The British further refined code breaking in the top secret “Ultra” program at  Bletchley Park. This effectively negated Germany’s superiority in war fighting and generalship and Winston Churchill claimed after the war that it was the major contributing factor to the allied victory. This also shows that the concept of cyberwar is by no means new. If the enigma machine was anything it was an early computer even if it wasn’t on the internet.

Countermeasures to new technology can also involve reusing old technology in a new way. The most amazing example is the British army’s use of the skills of one Jasper Maskelyne in the battles of North Africa. Maskelyne was the last of a long line of famous European magician’s and illusionists. Using his skills he was able to create the illusion of the city of Alexandria in the middle of an empty desert that the Germans proceeded to bomb the crap out of while the real city remained relatively untouched. With canvas and wood he created a shell game that made tanks look like trucks and trucks look like tanks to create a dummy army that helped win the battle of El Alamein.

In the conflict in Vietnam the US deployed electronic probes by air along the Ho Chi Minh trail, disguised as bamboo plants to detect the movement of people. When discovered the North Vietnamese soldiers urinated on them sending many a freaked out US airman running to his officer screaming that thousands upon thousands of drug crazed, suicide squads of hardcore North Vietnamese soldiers were moving south. In reality it was Nigel Nog after a hard night on rice wine pissing on the probe happily chuckling “Take that Yankee dog.”  Another example of the powers of piss.

The deployment of clouds of silver foil named chaff over the cities of Germany in WW2 confused radar systems to the numbers and direction of allied bomber streams as they laid waste to Germany. In a sophisticated redesign the US army in the first Iraq war in 1990 deployed the BLU-114/B “Soft-Bomb” which dispersed clouds of fine carbon filaments over electrical switching stations that shorted out 70% of Iraq’s power in the first hours of the war.

Although I am drawing a fine line with the definition: Cyber warfare is Internet-based conflict involving politically motivated attacks on information and information systems. My examples provide a timeline of attack methods that used to be conducted against enemy armies. However now including private organisations and individuals and is becoming increasingly personal. Just as behavioural tracking was once confined to building buyer profiles for particular demographics to now becoming pointed and personal and directed specifically to your individual online profile.

A new survey carried out by Lieberman Software Corporation at Black Hat USA 2013 asked 200 senior IT security professionals a series of questions with a conservative 58 per cent admitting they think we’re losing the battle against state-sponsored attacks with 74 per cent already believing their corporate network has been the victim of an attack from a state-sponsored hacker out of another country with 96 per cent thinking that hacking will worsen over time.
“The threat of state-sponsored attacks is extremely serious for government and commercial entities.  The probing of IT infrastructures in both environments is occurring 24/7, with attacks being launched on a regular basis,” said Philip Lieberman, president and CEO of Lieberman Software.

Just last week reports that the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-Assad hacking group used a cleverly constructed phishing email and by sneaking through the unsecured backdoor of a reseller were able to alter the DNS records for the New York Times, Twitter, and the Huffington Post and take them offline.
“Social-engineering and most specifically phishing is one of the largest attack surfaces we face in the security industry. Hacking through websites and breaching perimeters takes way too much time and usually not worth the effort. Sending a targeted email to a company almost guarantees you access to whatever you want and we aren’t capable of handling these types of attacks right now,” said Dave Kennedy the founder of TrustedSec.

Well we as individuals better develop that capability if others cant. We also should be proactive in helping with the security of the small business’s and organisations we work for. Maybe a power to the people development of a toolkit of counter measures has to begin at a grassroots level to protect the principles of online freedom first introduced by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation in 1990. The co-founder John Perry Barlow’s quote: “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.” seems to becoming increasingly apt.

Maybe we all need to start holding CryptoParty‘s in our neighbourhoods.

Related Articles:

The Complete Hackers Handbook

A study just conducted by Google reveals we are no better with passwords now than we were 30 years ago.
In 1985 I was running an Apple Training Centre for a Computerland franchise. Back then we had Thursday “Latenight Shopping”. Instead of closing at 5 o’clock like every other day, retailers were allowed to stay open until 9 o’clock at night every Thursday. You have to remember that this was when nothing was allowed to open on Sunday. I’m not kidding, nothing except a designated Chemist shop in case you were dying, otherwise the main street of your town was a transactional dead zone. No body to take your money. It’s had to believe now I know.

I advertised a kid’s computer class hoping to capitalise on the fact that Mum didn’t want the kids under her feet while she did her late night shopping. I charged $10 and we mostly played educational games like “Rockys Boots.” This is still pre internet times but personal computer to computer connections had just become possible with software like “PC Anywhere” an ancient piece of code not to be confused with today’s Symantec software, and a pre modem contraption called an acoustic coupler. It had a couple of suction caps for your phone and was used to connect to Bulletin boards. I had one way down in the back corner of my training centre classroom.

Early one morning before school some of the smarter kids came in and asked if they could try something and went up to that back corner, consulted a book and messed with the acoustic coupler. They came back in the afternoon back up to the back corner to engage in recognisable suspicious activity. Teachers develop a sixth sense for mischief, either a quick glimpse over a shoulder, a slinking body language movement or whispering with quicksilver eyes. My Grandfather would clip me under the ear whenever I walked past him and in answer to my indignant adolescent “What was that for?” outrage he would say: “Son you are either just going into trouble or just coming out of it.”

In the morning they had loaded software that would ring every telephone number within our area code and before a flag fall charge, interrogate the number to see if it was attached to a computer and if so record that number. Now back in the afternoon with the “Complete Hackers Handbook” open they were attempting to access the three or four phone numbers uncovered. Remember this was 1985. Momentarily confiscating the Handbook it revealed adults are dumb with passwords. It will be written down and hidden in the immediate vicinity of the PC. A “stickit” note on the computer, under the blotter or stuck to the bottom of the desk drawer. It will be something they can remember. It will not be their car registration number. An adult it said can own a car for twenty years and still not remember the registration number. The handbook went on to identify the most likely passwords a person will use.

It is now 28 years later and the Google study has revealed the list to be exactly the same:

  •     Pet’s name
  •     Significant dates (like a wedding anniversary)
  •     Date of birth of a close relative
  •     Child’s name
  •     Other family member’s name
  •     Place of birth
  •     Favorite holiday
  •     Something related to favorite football team
  •     Current partner’s name
  •     The word “password”

If hackers crack into a database with your password stored, there is nothing you can do, you are hacked, you are owned. A password shouldn’t be a recognisable word in the dictionary. Password cracking programs use dictionary checking. I used to train sheepdogs. I loved it and was good at it. I was speaking to a student who had trained guard dogs for the military. He loaned me the training manual. The command word for attack was incomprehensible. I asked about this. He said: You can’t have a recognisable word otherwise that word might come up and your dog will tear your friends throat out during casual conversation. I felt a fool for asking. Of course it’s obvious.

First, don’t make it easy on hackers by choosing a common password. Splashdata uses security breaches to gather ‘most popular passwords’ lists each year. The word ‘password’, number sequences, and other simplistic phrases or numbers fill the top spots. Also, don’t use your name, a password related to another one you might have on a different site, or a login name.” – Kerry Davis

Experts recommend using at least 15 characters, upper-case letters, nonsensical words with special characters and numbers inside them, known as alphanumerics.
74% of Internet users use the same password across multiple websites, so if a hacker gets your password, they now have access to all your accounts. Reusing passwords for email, banking, and social media accounts can lead to identity theft and financial loss.” McAfee’s Robert Siciliano

The older you get the more likely you are to write your passwords down in a book. My suggestion is fake it. Make it look like a badly kept diary you know no one will ever read. Just like the old spies make it a code.
J
anuary 15th, I made out with Julie Jones in the car park after the year 10 farewell dance 1987. Using the first character we have: J1ImowJJitcpaty1fd1987
Let’s see how it rates on Intel’s Password Grader.

The result: CONGRATULATIONS! It would take about 376697693540 years to crack your password.
The other great thing about this method is you never forget what a fantastic night you had with Julie.
Damn now I have to change my password.
Damn I will have to hide my diary.

Related Links:

 

The Terminal Starring Edward Snowden

In the movie “Terminal”, Tom Hanks plays a man who becomes trapped in a New York City airport terminal when he is denied entry into the United States and at the same time cannot return to his native country due to a revolution. Whistleblower Edward Snowden has been living life in a transit lounge in a case of life imitating art for many weeks now after bravely putting all on the line. Every year about 25 million passengers enter Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and somewhere in there is our Edward. I hope someone has provided him with an Aussie “swag” made by RM Williams, camouflaged of course. Somewhere in the airports 1.6 kilometre long transit corridor with its VIP lounges, hotel rooms, duty-free shops and fast food joints, behind a door is Edward. He comes out to see who he wants to see then melts back into the terminal. Even the red headed, long legged Russian spy Anna Chapman who wants to marry him can’t find him.
How long will he have to stay in the transit zone? What is he eating there and where does he sleep? Has anyone seen him at all? Strange,” – Olga Prokopenko.
It has been a polarizing time. It’s been a wikileaks sequel.  It may even threaten the Obama, Putin upcoming fest of useless words. Even Iceland wants to give Edward a home. Some MP’s from the Icelandic Pirate Party demand he be given immediate citizenship. A Bolivian Presidents plane was diverted because Snowden might have been aboard.

Every week it seems more revelations have emerged about the invasive surveillance of law abiding citizens by their own governments, without their knowledge and consent for their own good, obviously.  Snowden revealed details of this domestic surveillance in particular the PRISM project. PRISM is a tool used by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect private electronic data belonging to users of major internet services like Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and others. Most of these large internet companies have been scrambling to distance themselves from the PRISM program. They have announced after all these years of complicity and cooperation with the NSA, a letter calling on the NSA, and the U.S. government in particular, to disclose more information about NSA’s PRISM activities and further calls on the government to reveal more data on when it asks for information from these firms and others. The letter also asks that: The U.S. government puts a renewed focus on being transparent and “respectful of civil liberties and human rights.” I wonder what enlightened spin doctor on the 47th floor came up with that brilliant idea for damage control?

Like domino’s many western democracies have since admitted similar practices or direct cooperation with the US surveillance programs.
Australia’s Telstra agreed more than a decade ago to store huge volumes of electronic communications it carried between Asia and America for potential surveillance by United States intelligence agencies. Under the previously secret agreement, the telco was required to route all communications involving a US point of contact through a secure storage facility on US soil that was staffed exclusively by US citizens carrying a top-level security clearance. The data Telstra stored for the US government includes the actual content of emails, online messages and phone calls.
The US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation also demanded that Telstra “provide technical or other assistance to facilitate … electronic surveillance“. – Linton Besser

During July, “Restore the Fourth” rallies in more than 100 US cities protested the government’s surveillance programs, focusing on electronic privacy. It’s not clear if public outrage will result in reform, but thanks to the dramatic actions of a young intelligence contractor, we now at least have the opportunity to discuss what the US government has been hiding from the public in the name of national security. – T.C. Sottek and Josh Kopstein

 

Meanwhile in some Mormon desert hellhole called Bluffdale:
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, is the blandly named Utah Data Centre being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyse, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion centre should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration.” – James Bamford

The joke that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever it seems along with the lip service to current protests while construction on the world’s largest spy centre continues unabated. I wonder if anyone has told Edward Snowden the story of Australia’s Edward Kelly?

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I Got Done by an Insect Drone

I watched a chilling documentary long ago about British troops in Ireland. It followed a young soldier starting his tour of duty with an army company. He was stationed in a fortified barracks on the cross roads of four streets. Each platoon of soldiers were responsible for a street. The soldiers had to familiarise themselves with every resident in the street they patrolled. They had to be able to recognise them on sight as well as their regular visitors. Every morning surveillance footage from hidden cameras everywhere were monitored for any suspicious nightly movements, cross referenced to determine all movement to and from that street and to other streets. Young clean skins were considered the greatest danger. Uncle Sean a known IRA sympathizer might have a young 18 year old first cousin with no previous form that he could recruit to the cause. He would use him as a driver to avoid police harassment and as a messenger under the army’s radar, a clean skin. The way the army attempted to discourage these young men was to have all new soldiers study the young men’s mug shots so that the first time that soldier went out to patrol their street they could verbal that young man as they went past. “We know you, young Hamish and we know all about your uncle Sean and one day we will have you in the Maze Prison for the rest of your life.” They made these nasty little threats to attempt to pre-empt any aid the young man might give his uncle. “I can’t Uncle Sean they already know me, a soldier I’ve never seen before threatened me just the other day on the street.” As you watched these soldiers patrol the street you saw their movement training centred around using passing civilians as human shields from potential snipers across the street. Something not lost on the residents and guaranteed to feed the hatred. The British army’s techniques in Ireland were then considered state of the art in surveillance and counter terrorism.

One very big problem emerges however when one society does this to another which the British learned the hard way. The IRA decided to give the British a taste of their own medicine. You do this to us on our streets then we will sow some fear on yours, so the bombs started to go off on the streets of London. So where do you think the hidden cameras and monitoring techniques were then deployed? You got it, on the streets of their own cities. They began to spy on their own people for their own safety. Sound familiar! So petty crim Freddy gets spotted doing an “off the back of the truck” sale in the car park at the back of the pub. Nigel gets picked up doing a “dodgy deal done dirt cheap” down some dark alley. Not that we condone petty crime but if you have ever had to live on the low end of life you will know that looking the other way is a well established survival technique if you are poor, disadvantaged and unemployed. Take it away and you get a compliant, colourless and fearful society. Just ask any German who lived through the forties.

The major military spending in the American air force under president Obama’s watch has been the drone program. Much controversy has been attached to this program of remote killing. From the border violations of friendly nations to the collateral damage of civilians, mistaken targets and targeting gone wrong all has been condoned as a necessary evil in the war on terror. The video game cries of victory following the muted black and white video explosions seen in clips on YouTube from soldiers who seem to have no guilt in self documenting the death they deal has been seen by us all. I don’t know about you but it sure as shit shocks me.
Well true to history, reports have emerged this week of the FBI deploying drones for domestic surveillance in the skies over their own people. Off course this is in a “very, very minimal way” FBI Director Robert Mueller stated in senate testimony last Wednesday.
It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident when you need the capability,” Mr Mueller said. “It is very narrowly focused on particularised cases and particularised needs.” I feel OK now, that statement has me feeling all warm and fuzzy.
The Department of Homeland Security has been using drones for some time along the US Mexican border. It makes the movie Sleep Dealer a 2008 futuristic science fiction film directed by Alex Rivera hauntingly relevant of times to come. Apparently the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ‘‘have purchased drones and are exploring their use in law enforcement.’’ In march of this year on the Senate floor, legislative action allowing the President power to order a drone strike against a ‘‘non combatant’’ American inside the United States was blocked at the last minute.

Drone technology itself is developing rapidly. Reports of the development of stealth drones, miniature drones and airship drones are being released regularly. I have listed some of these in the Related Articles below for your interest. Private sector “Droning” is also becoming an issue from security companies to self-help home surveillance to just pure nuisance surveillance. Now any idiot with a $300 quadcopter with a GoPro camera attached controlled by an app on their IPad can become a suburban pain in the arse. Everything from “perving” on a bird (girl) basking buck naked in her back yard to hovering in the flight path of an approaching passenger jet is being reported. I read one account of some “nutter” in England who wanted to see how high his quadcopter could go only to have it snatched away by upper atmospheric winds to finally fall to earth somewhere in Switzerland. He had the Police turn up on his doorstep charging him for attempting to spy on another sovereign nation.

This all sounds a bit “thin edge of the wedge” to me. Creeping, incremental small print legislation late at night and behind closed door committee room voting and before we know it we will have insect drones hovering everywhere for our own good. A bit paranoid you think? Maybe, but I predict sales of sling shots will double.

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