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The surveillance society is here, and what you can do to protect yourself

We live in a far less private world than we ever have. Want to know who is watching all your steps? Everyone.

Seraphim Hanisch

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George Orwell’s 1984 featured a dystopian England, and indeed, a world, of three superstates that all ran according to the same principles.  Eternal war, eternal ignorance, and eternal subservience, whether realized or not.  BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU was this book’s addition to the American lexicon for many, many people.

The means of surveillance were certainly in keeping with the author’s current knowledge of technology, for the television had just been developed, through wireless radio and microphone / recording systems were well developed.  It was easy for Orwell in 1948 to envision a surveillance society based on the media of his time, alone.

What he did not bet on was that it would not take an expressly socialist government, nor even a Communist one to create this sort of surveillance state.

How about using social media instead?  How about using the apps that are mainly toys for the smartphone user?  How about using a globally popular platform and asking for the permissions to be surveilled in plain sight, and in plain English?

Couldn’t possibly be true, could it?  We are a free people, and the right to privacy is ours, isn’t it?

Sure it is.  But have you ever seen these before?

  

These are the permissions screens for Google Play when one installs a new app on their Android device.  If you read carefully, you can see that these apps are asking for access to various functions on your phone.  But think:

  • Does it make sense for Spotify to have access to your Device ID, and your phone call information?
  • Does it make sense for Move to iOS to have access to your Short Messages (SMS) – I mean the texts that reside on your phone, itself?
  • Does it make sense for Facebook to have access to your contacts?
  • And the information about the permission READ_PHONE_STATE: Look at the details.  Did you know that some apps can do what this says – to access the phone features on your device, to determine phone number and device ID and to know who you are calling when you call them?

“I have a funny feeling that I am being watched.”

It looks like this saying has a lot of truth behind it in our smartphone and device-filled world.  While some permissions listed here DO make sense, there are rather significant questions about others.

Usually we do not consider these permission screens when we download an app, because we want to play the game or listen to the music.  Google Play offers an astounding array of services for no monetary cost, but they do get something out of the transaction.  Information.  Personal information. And we have seen and heard evidence that this ability to silently monitor what we do gives companies, individuals and maybe even governments – the ability to watch and listen, and maybe even influence our actions.

One story was that someone was in a meeting with friends, talking about travel destinations, and the person talked a lot about interest in visiting Thailand.  They did not remember ever using their device to investigate the possibility of going there, but within a couple days of the conversation, a message popped up on their device with a travel offer to Thailand.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

Or, maybe not. A similar story was reported by an Instagram user, shown at this link.

According to Andrey Meshkov, CTO and Founder of AdGuard, in his blog piece here, many apps available through Google Play have very poor compliance with what is also itself a very poorly defined security and privacy structure that is presently characteristic of Android.  (iOS is far better on privacy matters currently, due to comparatively limited capabilities within iOS – Android is far more sophisticated)

Now, to be sure, in legalese, Google does insist that privacy and security requirements exist and are strict, and on their page they specifically do say what apps are not allowed to do:

Your in-app disclosure:

  • Must be within the app itself, not only in the Play listing or a website;
  • Must be displayed in the normal usage of the app and not require the user to navigate into a menu or settings;
  • Must describe the type of data being collected;
  • Must explain how the data will be used;
  • Cannot only be placed in a privacy policy or terms of service; and
  • Cannot be included with other disclosures unrelated to personal or sensitive data collection.

Your app’s request for consent:

  • Must present the consent dialog in a clear and unambiguous way;
  • Must require affirmative user action (e.g. tap to accept, tick a check-box, a verbal command, etc.) in order to accept;
  • Must not begin personal or sensitive data collection prior to obtaining affirmative consent;
  • Must not consider navigation away from the disclosure (including tapping away or pressing the back or home button) as consent; and
  • Must not utilize auto-dismissing or expiring messages.

However, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this is not well-enforced, and that in fact, a great deal of personal information collection does take place, including actual SMS messages, phone call records, photo and video collecting, even audio recording, as well as IMSI, and IMEI information, and device location.

A deeper look at IMSI and IMEI – what are these?

The IMSI and IMEI are of great importance because these numbers are unique identifiers.  The IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) is the unique identification of every SIM card in existence.  It is generally 15 digits long, and contains two prefix headers and a subscriber ID.  It looks like this:

For an AT&T Subscriber,

IMSI: 310150123456789

MCC (Mobile Country Code) 310 USA

MNC (Mobile Network Code) 150  AT&T Mobility

MSIN (Mobile Subscription Identifcation Number) 123456789

This differs from the MSISDN, which is what we commonly refer to as the Phone Number.  MSISDN’s can be changed easily, and in fact this is offered as a service to end-users by any and all cellular carriers.  But IMSI numbers are unique and difficult to change without access to the core network of a given cellular provider.

The IMEI is the International Mobile Equipment Identity, and this number is unique to the phone or device itself.  It is also possible to change, but special tools are required, and it is designed with the intent to not be changed.

Together the IMSI and IMEI equal… you!  As cell and satellite networks constantly track any mobile device with these numbers, this means that unless you are in a place with no cell or satellite coverage, you are being tracked.  And that little “location” tag in the permissions can be exploited by anyone who wants to read that information.  The fact that the cell network keeps track of your location is basically good, especially if you are in an emergency.  However, badly or maliciously written apps can take advantage of this in very unwanted ways.

Adguard conducted a test.  They devised a test app for Android that basically didn’t do anything.  However, that app was easily able to silently acquire:

  • Email addresses
  • IMEI
  • All your contacts
  • All your SMS messages
  • and the app was capable of gathering more information if programmed to do so.

And, it could send all that data wherever desired.

Andrey Meshkov admits that this is not necessarily or constantly used for illegal or hostile intent.  But he does point out that both Google Play and Android privacy protections are extremely poorly handled, and this could lead to unsavory folks getting access to your personal life, including text messages and knowledge of who you call.

This incidentally provides some background into the American investigation into the alleged collusion of Russian agencies with the Trump campaign.  While no evidence of such collusion exists, there have been quite astounding revelations about the internal collusion of the FBI and other intelligence agencies and “deep state” activity within the American Federal government, all purposed to take down Donald Trump or block him at every turn.

The recent news pieces regarding the 50,000 text messages sent between two romantically involved FBI agents that probably denigrated Trump in their pillow talk are examples of this sort of technology being used to track and observe what people say and do and think.

Meshkov advises anyone wanting to preserve their privacy to do these actions:

  1. Do not install apps from developers you don’t trust.
  2. Examine the apps’ permissions very carefully. After all, why would a wallpaper app or a selfies editor need to get access to your accounts information?

And of course, their own product, Adguard offers some control over this activity.  While this is not an advertisement for their company, discovering and dealing with these situations is what they do.  So, they further advise that if you are one of their users, use their filtering log to examine the apps’ network activity.

It is very interesting when Life imitates Art.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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Democrat dirty ‘MeToo’ flavored trick could succeed

Fear of the Left’s “virtue signaling” trick is a real test for the American people, and they are likely to fail without honest critical thought.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The developments of the last-minute sexual allegation against Judge Brett Kavanaugh that was brought up, ostensibly as a last-minute tactic, a dirty trick, to delay or block his confirmation vote to the US Supreme Court.

The issue here is not at all about the doings of a young high-school age man to a girl when she was seventeen, it is a test to see how well the “sexual harassment” card actually works against one of the top players hand-picked by President Trump.

There is absolutely no call to “virtue” at all. All a critical thinker has to do is to consider these points:

  • Consider what side of the aisle this came from: The Democrats. The champions of every perverse sexual desire one can imagine, but dead-set against men being men and women being women.
  • The timing of the release of the allegation: The Democrats deliberately used this as ammo against Kavanaugh. If there was such a concern about the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford (a feminist, as most of these feminists like to go by three names) and her suffering, this would have been broached years ago – after all, she was 17 when it allegedly happened and she is now 36 years older. If #MeToo was really about finding a way to live virtuously, this would have been addressed day zero of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
  • Consider the alignment of the people on the Democrat side AND the Republicans who are now beginning to voice the “need to wait”: Again this is not about any wrong doing being fixed. It is obvious sheer dirty trickery, and in classical liberal style, the “call to virtue” is only that which is politically expedient for the Democrats, the party of gay marriage, child pornography (check WikiLeaks email dump of Hillary Clinton’s advisor John Podesta for that one), spirit dinners (a nice name for what is ostensibly a satanic Black Mass – style ritual, also from Podesta’s group of friends)
  • Last and most important – how does this situation benefit Christine Blasey Ford? – If this is truly an issue that happened (which is apparently showing holes already), then how does taking the Judge down benefit her?
  • Further still, why has this woman allowed herself to be, frankly, used again, but this time by opportunistic politicians?

These points are just a suggested beginning. There are probably hundreds of other things to consider, such as why is this even an issue. A lot of boys made advances on girls in their teenage years, and a lot girls summarily fight them off and win. The snowflakes of the world are loath to admit this, but this is quite frankly a large part of growing up. Granted sometimes it goes too far and someone rapes someone else. That is a terrible thing. But it is also statistically extremely rare, and a randy teenager is hardly a rapist.

This type of “virtue signaling” as it has come to be known is the ultimate in hypocrisy, and it is completely devoid of contact with reality, yet the Congress is wavering on what to do. And why? Because the American male has been successfully cowed by feminist women. He has allowed this from trying to appease and honor such women, but for these women, who consider pregnancy a disease for which abortion is the cure, and who have been brainwashed to consider men the enemy, they greedily took all the power they could.

There is a lot to be said about this on many levels, but the point here is that this sort of manipulation is presently deployed for political reasons and no more. We saw this happen with Judge Roy Moore in January and it worked. And as soon as the Judge was out of the running, the charges magically vanished into the mist. It is being tried again now, and it may work.

This is beyond disgusting – it is actually frightening to consider that such a transparently political allegation may actually defeat a terrific candidate who has categorically and fully denied the allegation.

One one hand, if the nomination falls through, it’s no big deal. President Trump will likely pick Amy Barrett and that will shut down the feminists for a while and probably the whole #MeToo machine.

Unless they determine magically that Mrs. Barrett is a sexual predator. However her seven children are unlikely to support such a crazy idea.

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