Finally! SpyFiles 3 Summary (and money, DIY NSA)

It only took a bloody month… but someone’s had a go at deciphering the Spyfiles 3 leaks into something reasonably easy to digest.

Key points…

Voice recognition for mass surveillance is, unlike some of you thought when I mentioned it earlier this year… not just completely feasible, but actively being integrated into commercial-grade eavesdropping products.

So much for switching phones to throw ’em off the trail. As soon as you open your lips they know what line you’re on. Same goes for VOIP calls… it’s all in the same system.

Authorities and who knows who else are also making serious efforts at targeting people who work from Internet cafes and public wifi. The “Quicktrail” is an all-in-one “figure out what they’re doing and gather the evidence” device. It’s evidently designed for deployment by surveillance teams, when they spot the target (you) walking into Starbux and popping open their laptop or connecting their personal tracking device to the WiFi.

It identifies your device even if you remember to change the MAC, by looking at the machine name and “several other parameters.” Since it allows “central management of field operations,” presumably it can also be hidden in a nearby junction box or surveillance van if a given target likes to frequent a particular network.

Break out the Pringles can?

Most impressive, I suppose, is mTrail, a device that does fully passive off-the-air interception of your GSM calls. That is, it looks at the data going over the air, records it, and decrypts it offline… with NO IMSI catcher tricks or protocol jiggery needed to extract the keys.

It just straight-up breaks the crypto.

Money: OK, so I realized something. Anyone understand double-entry accounting, raise your hand. (Thought so.)

In a nutshell, double-entry allows you work with the time-independent nature of economic value. Money in the future is still valuable, and double-entry takes that into account.

Now, as many people have noticed, when you combine this property with fractional reserve lending (if you’re a bank, you can lend out all but say 10% of the money people deposit with you), you get something interesting… you print money!

Specifically, by using double-entry, you transform the future value of a collected debt into present value, and hand out that present value in the form of a loan… which itself has future value, etc.

Until you’ve leant out 1/10% = 10x as much as your deposits. Or, created $9 for every $1 deposited with you.

But wait! You’re not actually the one creating the money. You, as the bank, are merely performing the time-domain transformation. The value is actually being produced by the people that borrowed from you. You, the banker, are simply giving them some of the value now that they’re going to produce in the future.

Where’s the value of this realization?

Well, about a year before the financial apocalypse known as 2008, a story took place that I like to tell. I was talking with a friend of mine who’d just returned from an absurdly lucrative job on Wall Street with one of the eponymous Big Banks.

This man was gushing about how they’d produced billions with statistical arbitrage, in essence using advanced math to print money.

But, I asked, where does this money come from? Well, something something trade here sell there and MATH, was all I remember of his reply.

Hey, wait a minute. Money doesn’t just come from thin air. Where does it COME FROM, who’s paying in all these dollars you’re taking out?

To this he didn’t have a good answer, though I think the crash a year later illustrated the point nicely. Yet I think my revelation about double entry can help shed some light on the question.

Specifically, bankers’ money-generating transformations must take money from the future and bring it to the present. In other words, you must produce more in the future as a result. But weren’t you going to do that production anyway?

Well, sort of. You wanted to get on an economic hamster wheel and generate some joules, the bank simply added some bearings and an axle so the thing could spin.

Call it the human-social version of Tesla’s AC induction motor, inspired in his case by Goethe’s Faust:

“The sun shudders and shimmers, having survived the day, and moves on to stir new life, Oh, that no wings there to lift me from the ground to reach, to follow.”

Or, more clearly, this rather more modern rendition by the group of architecture students known as Pink Floyd:

“So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.” (Time)

In short, this principle of the time-transformation of money acts as a social accelerator — allowing and then forcing people to produce more and more and more value as bigger loans fuel more growth which fuel bigger loans.

The engine of economic progress? I suppose. One of the more interesting applications has been its application to the third world. First through the ever-controversial IMF and World Bank, later through microlending and microcredit. Again, same deal — time transformations of value fueling (in theory) faster and faster growth.

(You can make a very good argument, therefore, that the entire world economy is a giant pyramid scheme.)

Of course, just as a magnetic field around an inductor, the flow of value in an economy has a sort of inertia. People get used to making money a certain way, set up business relationships, etc. They try to keep the value flowing the way it’s always done.

Therefore, as a lender who keeps receiving money from people generating work, you also benefit yourself — creating value-inertia of people supplying you with value, even after they don’t necessarily need to keep borrowing.

There’s also one more effect. One of the biggest hurdles to actually succeeding in life is believing that you can do it. Seriously, ask any entrepreneur. The mental barriers are usually far bigger than any others. And, though I’m not entirely sure about the ethics of this whole business otherwise, this sort of world wide pyramid-scheme hamster wheel business seems to be pretty good at persuading people they really can channel their personal energy into something halfway productive. It’s not like they have much of a choice!

I wonder what it would do to the system if there turned out to be a way to do the reverse — decouple input from economic value, and create arbirarily large economic value from a small input. Fine art meets big banking, anyone?

DIY NSA: Artist bugs a forest path, releases recordings of passerby holding (sometimes quite personal) conversations on the internet.

“ComTrail is an integrated product suite for centralized interception and monitoring of voice and data networks. It is equipped with an advanced analysis engine for pro-active analysis of thousands of connections and is integrated with various tools, such as Link Analysis, Voice Recognition and Target Location.

ComTrail is deployed within a service provider network and its monitoring function correlates voice and data intercepts across diverse networks to provide a comprehensive intelligence picture. ComTrail supports the capture, record and replay of a variety of Voice and IP communications in pretty much any type of communication, including – but not limited to- Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, BlackBerry, ICQ and GSM voice calls.

Additionally, ComTrail intercepts data from any type of network -whether Wireless, packet data, Wire line or VoIP networks- and can decode hundreds of protocols and P2P applications, including HTTP, Instant Messengers, Web-mails, VoIP Calls and MMS.[…]

Some of the biggest IP monitoring challenges that law enforcement agencies face include cases when targets operate from public Internet networks and/or use encryption.

QuickTrail is a device which is designed to gather intelligence from public Internet networks, when a target is operating from a cyber cafe, a hotel, a university campus or a free Wi-Fi zone. In particular, QuickTrail is equipped with multiple monitoring tools and techniques that can help intercept almost any wired, Wi-Fi or hybrid Internet network so that a target communication can be monitored. QuickTrail can be deployed within fractions of seconds to intercept, reconstruct, replay and analyze email, chat, VoIP and other Internet activities of a target. This device supports real time monitoring and wiretapping of Ethernet LANs.

According to ClearTrail’s brochure, QuickTrail is a “all-in-one” device which can intercept secured communications, know passwords with c-Jack attack, alert on activities of a target, support active and passive interception of Wi-Fi and wired LAN and capture, reconstruct and replay. It is noteworthy that QuickTrail can identify a target machine on the basis of an IP address, MAC ID, machine name, activity status and several other parameters. In addition, QuickTrail supports protocol decoding, including HTTP, SMTP, POP3 and HTTPS. This device also enables the remote and central management of field operations at geographically different locations.[…]

mTrail offers active and passive ‘off-the-air’ interception of GSM 900/1800/1900 Mhz phone calls and data to meet law enforcement surveillance and investigation requirements. The mTrail passive interception system works in the stealth mode so that there is no dependence on the network operator and so that the target is unaware of the interception of its communications.”

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