Security researcher discovers glaring problem with patient data system, FBI stages armed dawn raid

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Justin Shafer was roused from his bed this week by thunderous knocking at his North Richland Hills, Texas home, and when he opened the door, found himself staring down the barrel of a 'big green' assault weapon, wielded by one of the 12-15 armed FBI agents on his lawn. Read the rest

Someone just snuck warrantless email access into the Senate's secret intelligence bill

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Every year, the Senate passes a secret bill (that is, a bill whose text is a secret during its debate) that re-authorizes intelligence agencies' surveillance powers; this year, someone (possibly chairman Richard Burr, R-NC and/or Tom Cotton, R-AR) has snuck in an amendment that would give the FBI the power to demand warrantless access to Americans' email and browsing history, using National Security Letters, a controversial, widely used secret police order. Read the rest

FBI is investigating copyright trolls Prenda Law for fraud

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For more than four years, we've been writing about Prenda Law, a prolific copyright troll (that is, a company that sends dire legal threats and demands for money to people they accuse of copyright infringement, based on the flimsiest of evidence), whose conduct is so breathtakingly illegal that it feels like satire or performance art (but it's not). Read the rest

The FBI planted bugs in Oakland courthouse without a warrant

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The FBI isn't in the mood to discuss why it installed hidden microphones and cameras in and around Alameda County’s Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. It had been conducting secret surveillance for 10 months, even though they didn't have a court order.

From the East Bay Express:

At the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, the FBI planted hidden microphones inside light fixtures on the courthouse’s exterior steps to capture the conversations of people attending the foreclosure auctions. Cameras and microphones were installed in parked Alameda County vehicles next to the courthouse. The FBI even hid a microphone in the AC Transit bus stop on Fallon Street, and dropped a bugged backpack next to a statue inside the courthouse, according to a letter sent by US Justice Department attorney Kate Patchen to Marr's attorneys on March 15. The surveillance was ongoing from March 2010 to January 2011. ...

[D]efense attorneys in the San Mateo case said they believe the federal agents committed felonies when they planted the bugs.

Facing this challenge, government prosecutors in San Mateo have moved to withdraw the recordings as evidence at trial, but the defense has called this move an attempt by the FBI to "cut its losses and sweep its criminal conduct under the rug."

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FBI has been harassing a Tor developer since 2015, won't tell her or her lawyer why

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Since November 2015, FBI agents have been trying to get Tor developer Isis Agora Lovecruft to meet with them, but they won't tell her or her lawyer why. Read the rest

Florida man arrested in FBI sting over “weapon of mass destruction” synagogue bombing plans

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A man in Florida was arrested last week for planning to use “a weapon of mass destruction” at a synagogue near Miami, federal authorities said today. The ill-fated words that James Gonzalo Medina reportedly uttered to the undercover FBI agent who sold him a fake explosive device, words which will likely seal the suspect's fate: “I’m ready, bro!”

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FBI has no plans to share how it hacked into that iPhone with Apple or anyone else

iPhone parts in a NY repair store, February 17, 2016.  REUTERS

Bless their cold, spyin' hearts. The FBI suddenly cares about the rights of technology developers.

On Wednesday, the official word came from the federal agency that it will not be disclosing what vulnerability it exploited to force its way in to the San Bernardino attacker's iPhone, because -- can you hear the gentle clutching of pearls?-- “it did not own the rights to the technical method a contractor used to open an Apple iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and therefore could not submit details of the mechanism for an interagency government review,” as Reuters puts it.

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FBI admits to giving flawed testimony for decades

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An "elite FBI forensic unit" admitted that for two decades, nearly every examiner "gave flawed testimony" (aka lied) about hair sample evidence in criminal trials. And geepers, they sure feel bad about all those people who were executed in prison because of it.

Washington Post:

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett said the results reveal a “mass disaster” inside the criminal justice system.

Remember this the next time the FBI asks for an encryption backdoor and promises not to abuse it.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com Read the rest

Microsoft sues US government for the right to tell you when the feds are reading your email

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“We appreciate that there are times when secrecy around a government warrant is needed,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post Thursday. “But based on the many secrecy orders we have received, we question whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly demand secrecy. To the contrary, it appears that the issuance of secrecy orders has become too routine.”

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FBI paid 'gray hat' hackers to defeat iPhone security in San Bernardino terrorism case

Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook died on Dec. 2, 2015, in a gun battle with authorities several hours after their assault on a gathering of Farook's colleagues in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 people dead.

The FBI accessed the contents of a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone after receiving help from professional hackers who “discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw,” the Washington Post was first to report today.

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FBI signals it has new iPhone-unlocking powers, and plans to use them: Xeni on KCRW's 'Press Play'

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On today's edition of the KCRW daily news program Press Play, I speak with host Madeleine Brand about what we know, as of today, about any new capabilities the FBI may have acquired in its quest to bypass the security features on Apple iOS devices in various investigations.

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FBI may have dropped one iPhone case against Apple, but the battle is far from over

NYPD officer across the street from Apple's 5th Ave. store, NYC, March 11, 2016. REUTERS
The Justice Department says that security features on a San Bernardino attacker's iPhone were bypassed by an ‘outside party’, making that one important government case against Apple moot. But many other similar cases, including other cases involving Apple, are going forward. The war on your phone's security is just beginning.

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FBI may not need Apple's help with that iPhone after all, nevermind, maybe

NYPD officer across the street from Apple's 5th Ave. store, NYC, March 11, 2016. REUTERS

In a surprising turn of events, the U.S. government on Monday paused its battle with Apple over an iPhone, and what may be its greater goal of mandating “backdoors” in consumer encryption. On Monday afternoon, the Justice Department told a judge it needs a couple weeks to try 'new' ways of accessing whatever may be on the device, without Apple's help--and with an assist from unnamed experts from outside the agency.

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LGBTQ people and Apple vs FBI

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Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "Everyone is focused on the high profile fight between Apple and the FBI, which is a good thing, because the outcome of this case will affect all of us." Read the rest

Apple engineers quietly discuss refusing to create the FBI's backdoor

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If you're one of the few engineers at Apple qualified to code up the backdoor that the FBI is seeking in its court order, and if your employer loses its case, and if you think you have a solemn duty as a security engineer to only produce code that makes users more secure, not less, what do you do? Read the rest

Hack-attacks with stolen certs tell you the future of FBI vs Apple

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Since 2014, Suckfly, a hacker group apparently based in Chengdu, China, has used at least 9 signing certs to make their malware indistinguishable from official updates from the vendor. Read the rest

Apple, basically: 'If it pleases the court, tell FBI to go fuck themselves'

NYPD officer across the street from Apple's 5th Ave. store, NYC, March 11, 2016. REUTERS

The intensifying legal battle between Apple and the Government of the United States of America is blowing my mind. The legal briefs coming out of Cupertino are awesome reading for those of us who care about silly stuff like freedom and liberty and iPhones. Here are some of the excerpts everyone was talking about on Twitter today.

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