Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Target's Customer Data Theft and the NSA

Is the NSA Aiding and Abetting Cyber Criminals?

Prior to June 2013 various intelligence analysts had surmised that the National Security Agency had, under the auspices of the President's Surveillance Program, gained worldwide entry into personal, government and corporate electronic systems. NSA documents, illicitly obtained by Edward Snowden and published by reputable newspapers, confirmed these suspicions.

U.S. investigative panels determined shortly after the Snowden exposures that the NSA's sweeping surveillance programs should be terminated because the agency's actions violate constitutional protections and have no demonstrable value. The findings by the PCLOB and the president's task team concerning NSA's cryptanalysis capabilities are under executive, congressional and judicial review. In response to these judgments, President Obama is proposing a revision of the bulk data collection methodology. Privacy matters but there are other NSA endeavors that deserve scrutiny.

In the past few months approximately two hundred million American consumers have learned that cyber criminals in 2013 had stolen their PII , and credit/debit card records. The unidentified perpetrators surreptitiously obtained access to Target , Neiman Marcus , Adobe , Michaels [suspected], Sally Beauty and White Lodging payment transactions data. Both Target and Michaels have experienced prior invasions.

Most of the 2013 e-commerce breaches were discovered and publicized by Brian Krebs. Mr. Krebs' latest revelation concerns the California DMV attack. If Mr. Krebs is able to detect fraudulent activity, the NSA should be able to do likewise. Government computer networks have had NSA installed defense systems since 2008.

US merchants and banks have not pursued advanced consumer protection technology because of costs. As it stands, Americans have no personal or financial security.

Documents supplied by Edward Snowden reveal that Congress appropriated $10.8 billion for NSA black operation pursuits in 2013, and included something extra for the agency to search for potential whistleblowers. Overall the 16-member intelligence consortium received $52.6 billion in the defense bill.

In the Snowden cache of government papers are details explaining the Bull Run Project . This top secret NSA initiative was conceived and implemented to defeat all encryption guards including Tor .

It is distressing that this U.S. designed stealth technology is employed by thieves to loot bank accounts and establish false identities. The penetrators are either imitating NSA back-door entry practices or are purchasing these products from the NSA catalogue.

Should Americans trust the status quo and those who govern? That question should be answered by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and defender of spy agencies' operations. Ms. Feinstein told Congress on March 11, 2014 that the CIA had illegally entered her staff's computers and extracted research regarding government-sponsored torture practices.

No comments: