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Software Updates May Be Hacking Attempts

November 24, 2011 by  

Software Updates May Be Hacking Attempts

Over the past year, the growing computer surveillance industry has made great strides in creating software that may encourage computer users to unknowingly install surveillance viruses on their personal machines.

Gamma International UK Ltd., a surveillance company, recently touted its ability to send messages to individuals claiming that an update is needed to software on their computers mimicking messages from Apple, Adobe and other software providers, according to The Wall Street Journal. When users download the update, their computer is infected with surveillance software; the sender of the software is then able to track everything that is done on the machine.

The news outlet reports that Gamma’s products are not unique, but part of a growing trend in surveillance technology used by governments — and sometimes criminals — to obtain computer users’ information. The providers of the hacking software say that it is a necessary tool in the fight against terror.

The article says that many privacy experts believe that the software is being heavily marketed to low-level law enforcement agencies. The experts say that is cause for concern. As more people obtain the hacking software, the opportunity for abuse grows.

“The use of this technology represents a huge encroachment on civil rights and could only be justified during the most serious national security investigations,” said Eric King, of the U.K. nonprofit Privacy International.

The Journal has begun a new series of special reports called “The Surveillance Catalog” that documents a number of growing trends in the cybersurveillance industry.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Larry Pierson

    This can also be construed as theft. The software consumes resources on the computer, such as disk space, memory space, processing time, power consumption that is taken from the consumer, and of course, bits consumed from an allotment each consumer has for uploading and downloading before they get charged extra by their ISP.

    • wandamurline

      Look at the airports with TSA and what they do which is unconstitutional, now this. It would seem that the everyday person should have some right to privacy especially in their own home. We must get rid of this administration in 2012….if they are left intact, we will no longer be America the land of the free. Vote in 2012 like your life depends on it, because it literally does. If you don’t believe me, take a trip back into the late 30′s with the rise of Hitler and how Austria “elected” to be governed by him….of yes, and what happened when they did.

    • Bruce

      Larry,

      Not quite as you really don’t own your computer, you will find that in your IP user agrement.
      It’s also clearly noted under the US Inc. / DC laws, when you hooked up to the internet, the US Inc. owns your computer.
      Only if you never go on line are you safe from any Trojan Horse issues or bots of any kind etc..
      But even then your computer is still owned by the US Inc. Just due to your paying for it, WE all all SLAVES as such WE can own nothing its all an illusion.

      You are not free, you have ZERO Protection and the Constitution nor Bill of Rights applies to any American.

      Just for the record to all of you, “you are living under Martial law right now, again read the Patriot Act.”

  • CP

    According to the Patriot Act, the fact that this software is available means that the bad guys already have it and are using it, so the good guys can feel free to use it as they wish. That line of thinking is the same one that says they can check any store you visit and “request” a list of your purchases, and the store is NOT allowed to pass on the information that they had to provide that list. The same is true for libraries, or any other place you MIGHT get information or supplies to create something that could be used against the US.

  • Billy

    Buy the disc, don’t download nothing through the internet,firewalls nothing.
    If your wireless it’s even worse go to Ebay and buy the disc.
    Billy and judy

    • wandamurline

      What is the name of the disc. It would seem that someone could write a program that scrambles their information or kills their add on…they could make millions.

  • Paul Morris

    This is by no means a “NEW problem”. Everything in the digital world is so highly traceable there is really no need for special software on an individual computer. The global network is so wide open; anyone can eavesdrop on information traveling thru it by simply knowing a few indiscrete pieces of information about the target. Even the highly encrypted data paths are not safe from discovery because they are after all based on mathematical algorithms which can ultimately be decrypted. Transmitted data is routinely held in some cached memory device for possible retransmission. These data can be easily pushed to permanent storage facilities for later interpretation and investigation.
    All of your online digital transactions are logged somewhere. Your email, your purchases, your twitter, facebook and all of your web site access is all traceable thru your ISP and their providers. The tools to do those traces are already in the hands of those you probably don’t want having them.
    Technology has created a major breach in our rights to privacy. If we don’t start looking for better ways to secure our digital world, privacy will be a thing of the past

  • Cliffystones

    The easiest thing people can do, they seldom take the time for.

    When you get that shiny new computer home from the store, before you connect it to the Internet do this. Set up USER ACCOUNTS!!!! The main problem I’ve seen is that people in there zeal to try out their new toy, jump right on the web in “administrator mode” and never bother to set up user accounts. This leaves their Windows based PC open to all sorts of stuff.

    You should make back up discs of your original configuration, as most new computers no longer include them in the box.

    I have personally switched to using an operating system called Linux Mint. I boot my laptop to Linux Mint 99.9% of the time. Both mine and my kid’s PCs run Linux Mint. I’ve never had a problem with viruses, spyware and the like that Windows suffers from. I’m writing this reply in Linux Mint right now with no worries about all of the Microsoft nonsense.

    • One-Angel

      Thank you for sharing, Cliffystones. The best I have to offer is to attach a router as it has its own IP address to cover the IP address on the home computer (this was recommended to me in a computer security class) as well as TrackMeNot at:

      http://cs.nuy.edu/trackmenot/

      It’s supposed to work in a like manner to virus protection software by blocking and neutralizing surveillance attempts. If you check this out, please let us all know what you think. Thank you.

      • One-Angel

        OOPS! SO SORRY! Typing error in link above. It’s

        http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/

      • Matt Newell

        It will keep out wild things, but if you let them in you are toast. Easiest way to save yourself is to NEVER download anything from the net.

    • John in CA

      I went to Ubuntu Linux the day XP came out, and never looked back. I was tired of being a patch of the month club member. Now that Ubuntu has switched to the Unity desktop, I’ve gone over to Mint as well. Being an old Amiga fan, I just downloaded the ISO’s for Amiga’s Vision Linux (yes, Commodore still exists, and will be shipping machines again soon). It looks fantastic, we’ll see.

      Our choice of OS and all the security efforts we make may be moot, though. If I were a high level official who wanted a discreet way to access private citizens’ data on demand, I would simply arrange a meeting with the CEO’s of major OS and common software vendors. It would be made clear that their interactions with various regulatory agencies would become much less troublesome as long as they made it a practice to include a “back door” in their products. If I can think of it, it is safe (and perhaps, necessary) to assume that governments have already done it.

      I can think of one possible example. My mother used an e-mail client called Incredimail at one time, which is still very popular with non-technical users. When XP came out, the new Incredimail version was incompatible with ’98, so she had to switch to Outlook Express. Immediately after her friends who used Incredimail upgraded, we started losing system files every time they sent her an e-mail. All I could do was wipe the drive and reinstall Windows. I could only assume that Incredimail was packaging some sort of malware in outgoing messages. I never was able to find out what it was, and the problem did not end until I went to Linux.

      It was impossible to find out who owned Incredimail until recently. Turns out it’s Perion, a Tel Aviv based digital communications company. I don’t know if they do any work for the Mossad, but where there is smoke….

  • Peggy

    So we should not update any of our programs? Even Adobe which sends updates quite often and if you don’t update you have problems reading some things? Skype (I just did that today)? I don’t know what to do.

  • Joe H.

    I wonder if this could be connected with our government in the district of criminals??? woldn’t suprise me a bit!!

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