War for the Web
18 11.12

This week in Internets

A lot happened this week. We can’t recap all of it in detail but there are a few stories to pay attention to:

Most recently, Anonymous claims to have hacked a whole boatload of Israeli websites, including some government sites. They also claim to have deleted data from government databases. There’s no doubt that these sites and databases where backed up, so there was probably no lasting damage done, but none-the-less, I’m sure it served as an annoyance if not worse. Anonymous apparently did it in retaliation for Israeli attacks in Gaza. You can read more about it at Gizmodo and The Next Web. While it’s easy to get caught up in the fact that Anonymous is making a pretty definitive stand in support of Palestine, the more important factor in this story is how easy it was destroy some fairly important government data. If they can do it in Israel, which is probably more sophisticated than a lot of US government agencies, then what else is at risk?

Next up, we have General David Petraeus’s resignation as director of the CIA. Normally a scandal of this nature wouldn’t be something we’d be interested in, but this one is turning out to be pretty interesting. The whole affair between the big P and Paula Broadwell was investigated because Broadwell sent some threatening emails to a woman named Jill Kelley, who happened to be friendly with some FBI folks. Unfortunately for all involved, Broadwell was sleeping with Petraeus, and in investigating her, the FBI found out. The reason it interests us is because it appears that the FBI really abused some laws to investigate in the first place. Definitely check out this New York Times piece about keeping email safe, and also read up on Broadwell’s crimes and the fallout from the scandal (which is ongoing).

The takeaway is really that nothing we do online is safe from prying eyes, and that if someone like Petraeus can suffer the consequences of a few careless emails with a mistress, in the modern surveillance state, what chance do any of us stand? Anything you send in an email is easily accessible by governments and litigation six months after its sent, and with only a slightly larger, but still insignificant, legal challenge, immediately available. If it’s important, walk around a park and hand each other notes.

Lastly, Google released another transparency report, and it ain’t good. Every six months, the Internet search giant releases records of how many requests it has gotten, and acquiesced to, during the previous year. The numbers are small, but it’s important to note the trends. In the last six months, government information requests have increased by 50% over the same period in the previous year.

This isn’t a third world problem. Of the twenty thousand plus requests this past six months, over a third of them came from the United States government. Read more about it at Slate.



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