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Saturday, June 21, 2014

NSA Playset: Hackers invited to become digital James Bonds

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The grandeur of the NSA’s global surveillance has enlightened ambitious hackers to create data mining gadgets just as good as the original brand. Their NSA Playset website contains valuable ideas to help a Handyhands Vulgaris become a Spyus Supremus.
The NSA’s unprecedented eavesdropping capabilities have been reached through a combination of monstrous internet data interception centers and installation of specially designed gadget and bugs in the right places. But are they really that special? After last year Germany’s Der Spiegel published a 48-page catalog of gadgets used by the NSA back in 2008, a group of hackers led by security researcher Dean Pierce decided to make an attempt to reconstruct these NSA spying gadgets using open-source hardware. A group of electronic enthusiasts dubbed the project “NSA Playset”. What they try to do is not just construction of devices for 007’s arsenal, but rather to protect the public from constant eavesdropping. Welcome to the home of the NSA Playset. In the coming months and beyond, we will release a series of dead simple, easy to use tools to enable the next generation of security researchers. We, the security community have learned a lot in the past couple decades, yet the general public is still ill equipped to deal with real threats that face them every day, and ill informed as to what is possible. Inspired by the NSA ANT catalog, we hope the NSA Playset will make cutting edge security tools more accessible, easier to understand, and harder to forget. Now you can play along with the NSA! “To someone who is not an expert in the field, the capabilities in the catalog might seem far-fetched or ultra-high tech,” a participant of the NSA Playset project, Michael Ossmann, told Mashable. “What we want to show is that these capabilities are very much achievable and practical. And by pointing out how easy they are to achieve, we hope that we can raise awareness of security threats in our computer system.” Very soon the hackers found out that the devil is not as black as he is painted and NSA tools are quite ordinary, though sophisticated, electronics and therefore could be reproduced. “There's nothing really unique in what the NSA is doing, they just have the dollars to make more sophisticated equipment,” another NSA Playset project member, Josh Datko, also known as the founder of Cryptotronix, an open source hardware company, told Mashable. “It's kind of surprisingly easy to recreate them,” he said. The group is trying to make their own versions of bugs that should be physically implanted into a desired computer to intercept signal and send it by air to spy’s receiver or give him a possibility to directly connect to computer’s memory using mobile platforms. In August, the NSA Playset enthusiasts are planning to showcase and discuss their creations with other security researchers at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas. Any researchers interested in collaboration with the NSA Playset are welcomed.

‘Take it to the Moon’: NASA plans to grab asteroid that just whizzed past Earth

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NASA is set to capture an asteroid, haul it near the moon and have astronauts visit. The prime candidate is now in sight: a small asteroid “the size of a delivery truck” that whizzed about 7,600 miles above Earth in 2011.
WATCH: Stunning Hubble time-lapse of stellar explosion “We might be able to put this asteroid in a garage,” Northern Arizona University astronomer Michael Mommert, who studied the rock, told AP. The asteroid is called 2011 MD. The plan is to capture it with a giant claw or a giant inflatable bag, and the “truck” asteroid would be “parked” above the moon, ready for the astronauts to explore. The second option being considered by NASA is sending a spacecraft to a much bigger asteroid, taking a boulder and bringing it to the moon for exploration. The decision between the two options is set to be made by the end of the year, Michele Gates, program director for the asteroid mission, told AP. There are currently three candidates for each option, and NASA isn’t obliged to choose the final target until a year before the launch, with the latter planned for 2019. Thursday’s press conference focused on 2011 MD due to the fact that it was examined by telescopes on Earth and the Spitzer Space Telescope three years ago. The observations demonstrated that it weighed around 100 tons, but is quite porous, with about two-thirds of empty space inside. The robotic cost of the mission would be about $1.2 billion, Gates said. However, there is no exact estimate of the astronaut part, which is set to include a giant rocket. Eventually, it is scheduled that 10 asteroids would be captured by the early 2020s, not all of them tiny.

N. Zealand 'reintegrated' into Five Eyes global spy network after 2-decade absence

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New Zealand was welcomed back to the Five Eyes network after a two-decade absence in 2009, it has been revealed. The spy organization has been criticized for intercepting massive amounts of data about ordinary people and keeping tabs on governments. READ MORE: New Zealand has direct access to US surveillance The office of the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirmed that New Zealand had been absent from the spy alliance for two decades, although it refrained from explaining the reason for its break from the Five Eyes. During New Zealander Prime Minister John Key’s visit to New York, DNI spokesman Brian Hale told Fairfax news agency that the “reintegration” happened in 2009 as it was believed it was "in the best interest of their nation and their group. The Five Eyes network was formed during WWII and includes the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. As part of the alliance, the Five Eyes shared intelligence gathered by their spy agencies to monitor the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc. However, leaked documents by spy-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the alliance’s mass indiscriminate monitoring of civilian communications across the globe. Snowden described the Five Eyes as an artifact of the post-WW2 era that has turned into “a supranational intelligence organization that doesn't answer to the laws of its own countries.”
When asked by press about New Zealand’s reintegration into the Five Eyes in 2009, Key said he was unaware of any such changes. "I don't think that's right, but I remember there were some vague things,” he told Fairfax. "My understanding of it is that even through the challenging times of the relationship post the anti-nuclear legislation, New Zealand continued to be an active member of Five Eyes." Snowden’s spy revelations triggered widespread skepticism of the New Zealand government’s collaboration with the US. A recent poll carried out by Stuff.co.nz showed that over 70 percent of New Zealanders believes the US was gathering information on them. In addition, over 60 percent of people asked do not believe the US should have the right to do so. READ MORE: Kim Dotcom’s new IP address…Internet Party, that is Key has dismissed the survey’s findings, arguing that "if a New Zealander was training with a terrorist group in a foreign environment” then most New Zealanders would support surveillance. Last year parliament expanded the powers of New Zealander spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), allowing it to support the New Zealand police, Defense Force and the Security Intelligence Service. The move proved very unpopular among New Zealanders, with elements of the opposition calling it a “death knell” for privacy rights. Key attributed the public alarm to “conspiracy” and “misinformation” orchestrated by the opposition and insisted the amendment was necessary to protect the country from multiple cyber-threats.

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