It has been said that one person's conspiracy theory is another's truth, depending on your interpretation of reality. Well, thanks to the rapid advances in technology - and a post-constitutional federal government, things that were once widely thought to be beyond the scope of reason are no longer so.
Take, for instance, recent reports that a special unit of the National Security Agency, called the Tailored Access Operations unit, has "burrowed into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry -- including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell," Germany's Der Spiegel has reported.
But that's not all. As the magazine has further reported, the NSA is also capable of hacking your iPhone and other communication devices.
The way in which the NSA accomplishes this little spy technique is through software called "Dropout Jeep," which the agency describes thusly: "DROPOUT JEEP is a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted."
The manner in which the NSA gets to "own" your iPhone is described in a chart republished by ZeroHedge here.
Jason Applebaum, who spoke of these new revelations recently at the 30th Chaos Communications Congress, also made some ominous observations about the NSA capabilities:
Do you think Apple helped them build that? I don't know. I hope Apple will clarify that. Here's the problem: I don't really believe that Apple didn't help them, I can't really prove it but [the NSA] literally claim that anytime they target an iOS device that it will succeed for implantation. Either they have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning that they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves. Not sure which one it is. I'd like to believe that since Apple didn't join the PRISM program until after Steve Jobs died, that maybe it's just that they write s--tty software. We know that's true.
As to the NSA's special TAO unit, Spiegel describes how it can penetrate "erected" walls, using the NSA's ANT division's 50-page catalog of "backdoor penetration" techniques:
These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives -- from computing centers to individual computers, from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA's specialists seem already to have gotten past them.
This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets' data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000.
What about a company built on privacy?
And, of course, as taxpayers, you are funding this constant constitutional usurpation of your privacy. Worse, it appears that some American companies might actually be involved as well.
The damage that has been done already is irreversible, but as ZeroHedge suggests, perhaps there is a company - maybe Blackberry, which has been "left for dead" - which could re-capture the market by touting absolute privacy:
How ironic would it be if Blackberry, left for dead by virtually everyone, began marketing its products as the only smartphone that does not allow the NSA access to one's data (and did so accordingly). Since pretty much everything else it has tried has failed, we don't see the downside to this hail mary attempt to strike back at Big Brother and maybe make some money, by doing the right thing for once.
It's a nice thought. We'll see how it plays out. In the meantime, be careful what you say and who you talk to, especially online.