Business, Enterprise, Hardware, Technology Security

Editorial: Thoughts on NSA Spying on German Chancellor?s Mobile Phone

Photo source: dailydotcom

If a country?s national leader uses that country?s normal mobile phone network and talks state secrets "in the clear," NSA and a lot of other countries will be listening in.

How I learned about the limitations of mobile radio communications:
When I was a manufacturer?s rep selling to public safety 9-1-1 dispatch centers, we had several lines of encrypted radios for both the base station and the hand-held field units. Most of local law enforcement has that kind of radio which works on encrypted radio channel frequencies as well as ‘plain old voice’ channels.

When there is a bank robbery with hostages or a SWAT team is sent out because of a barricaded felon, some of their communications become encrypted. This is why you see those large trucks or large motor-homes used as law enforcement mobile command posts. Thereby, the encrypted radio communications are localized.
Go back and look at the flap when President Obama first was elected and he kept his Blackberry phone. Suddenly, for ?official communications? his old personal Blackberry was replaced by an official $3,350 specialty model.

The Sectéra Edge by General Dynamics, seen above, was a PDA/brickphone with both GSM and CDMA wireless capabilities introduced in 2008. It was developed under an $18 million NSA contract and was fully encrypted using at least 256-bit technology, and possibly 512 bit. There were techy types who even rumored it was 1024 bit encryption.

Breaking an encryption system amounts to first having the computer processing power. That kind of processing power in a workstation costs in the $20,000 to $50,000 price range. Having the ?right? software to do the job requires another $20,000 to $100,000. Plus, you need to have a knowledgeable operator. Then there is the time factor. Properly converting encrypted analog foreign language voices to ones-n-zeros digits and running it through the whole process of analysis is not as fast as they do it in ?Chuck? the comedy spy TV show would have you thinking it is done.

Here is a link on how encryption can be broken.
Our manufacturer?s rep sales were such that we didn’t chase those ultra-dark, three-letter, never use their name, agencies headquartered near the McLean, Virginia area.

When I started selling these kinds of handheld field radios in the late 1980s to the average law enforcement agency, 128 bit encryption was all they could afford to purchase. [Some locations are still working with that 1980s technology.] Now 256 bit encryption is the entry level for their specialty frequency field radios.
Back then it required adding a small encryption board onto the chassis of their field hand-held radios. Now that the processing power has exponentially increased in all kinds of hand-held devices, this sort of encryption stuff is now software based.

You can add 256 bit encryption software to the average 2012 or later Apple iOS or Android smartphone with just software. However, you can bet a deluxe meal at a fast-food drive-up window, using that sort of encryption stuff on your personal mobile phone will "flag it" at the mobile carriers network and you will IMMEDIATELY be put on somebody?s federal watch list and then your problems have only just begun.

Do not forget, all ‘cell phones’ are just dual channel, low-power, and hand-held radio units. ANYTHING that uses radio frequencies can be simply listened to by another radio unit.

The way NSA does much of their listening is at the fiber cable level of the World Wide Web – think about that name for a moment. The NSA has legal access to the undersea fiber trunks that feed the telco distribution systems of every country. Because, ALL the telco fiber eventually comes back to the USA. This is why the minor nations want the UN to take away the USA’s control of the Internet. Then they can really CONTROL their population?s information flow in-n-out of that country or region or combine with multiple nations to control a whole continent.

If a country?s national leader uses that country?s normal mobile phone network and talks state secrets "in the clear", the NSA and a lot of other countries have heard it. This is why there are laser-based communications systems that beam direct to space and come back down the same way by point-2-point laser. Dang tough to be in the right place to "listen to" that type of multi-billion dollar communications systems. This is the kind of communications systems that is used for secure nuclear missile launch facilities. However, those [secret] super secure sites still have people walking around using personal cell phones talking "in the clear" over normal cell network carriers about "stuff" they should obviously NOT be saying over unsecure devices.

Back in 2007, I wrote about the NSA "listening to" fiber at the San Francisco AT&T building on Folsom Street in Room 641A. Nobody blinked their eyes over it, because it was on a tech website site. We were not a highly respected, international newspaper, known to take on controversial stories.

Gleen Greenwald and Edward Snowden

Gleen Greenwald writing about Edward Snowden’s NSA information on the Guardian is a ‘perfect storm’ that combines lots of rumors, some facts, and counter-rumors and counter-facts. As they say in the news media biz: ‘that one has legs’. The story will never go away, no matter
what sort of legal threats the director of the NSA aims at journalist.

Now we are told the NSA listened to 70 million French phone calls, 65 million Spanish phone calls, and President Obama claimed he ?knew nothing about spying on friendly governments?. However, Fox News claims the president knew all about it. In contrast, USA Today reports the White House reaffirms the president ?knew nothing? .

The NSA has clearly been caught with their hands and feet in this honey pot and it is much worse than a Winnie the Pooh’s comment of, ?Oh bother".

If you wanna know how ‘un-knowledgeable’ the George W. Bush’s White House was about emails and cell phones, read David Gerwirtz’s book: "Where Have All the Emails Gone?: How something as seemingly benign as White House email can have freaky national security consequences."

The ?elephant in the room? now is: how are the various heads of state going to smooth this over, so they can ?smile for the cameras? while standing next to each other?