Monday, December 30, 2013

Reasons to retreat into the wilderness and start subsistence farming

Back in June I wrote a post, Conspiracy theories, truth and rhetoric, about the epistemological role of conspiracy theories and commented that it warrants not being dismissive of disdained views because new evidence so often, and so disturbingly, ends up confirming some aspect of the conspiracist's ridiculous theory. Andrea Peterson seems to agree in
2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right from the Washington Post. Her article mostly focuses only on technology but is still a useful summary of the unpleasant surprises confirming the paranoia of the conspiracists.
Most people involved in the tech scene have at least one friend who has been warning everyone they know about protecting their digital trail for years — and have watched that friend get accused of being a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. But 2013 is the year that proved your "paranoid" friend right.

It's now a matter of public record that the NSA collects and stores the calling records of domestic phone calls, tracks the location of millions of mobile devices worldwide, infiltrates the data links between the data centers of tech companies used by millions of Americans, piggybacks onto commercial tracking mechanisms, collected potentially sensitive online metadata for years and actively worked to undermine the privacy and security measures that underpin the Internet. And considering the purported size of the Snowden cache, that could be the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.

And while the NSA story alone undoubtedly gives the "paranoid" plenty of reasons to say "I told you so," a slew of other reports from this year gave them even more reasons to retreat into the wilderness and start subsistence farming.
And a quick scan of the news headlines this morning adds this gem from Der Spiegel, Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit. The article notes that very traditional spying techniques live on with great effectiveness.
Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called "load stations," agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.

These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the "most productive operations" conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks "around the world."
It's almost as if you suddenly realize that you can't be too paranoid or too ridiculous.

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