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US Cyber Spies Unmasks Identities of Citizens who in Contact with Foreign Intelligence Targets

Alex Joel, a DNI official, said it was likely that the higher number of U.S. persons unmasked last year was inflated by names of victims of malicious cyber activity

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cyber spies, identities
FILE - A man types on a computer keyboard in this illustration, Feb. 28, 2013. VOA

U.S. cyber spies last year unmasked the identities of nearly 17,000 U.S. citizens or residents who were in contact with foreign intelligence targets, a sharp increase from previous years attributed partly to hacking and other malicious cyber activity, according to a U.S. government report released on Tuesday.

The unmasking of American citizens’ identities swept up in U.S. electronic espionage became a sensitive issue after U.S. government spying on communications traffic expanded sharply following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and started sweeping up Americans’ data.

The report by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) said that in 2018 cyber spies at the National Security Agency (NSA) unmasked the identities of 16,721 “U.S. persons,” compared to 9,529 unmaskings in 2017 and 9,217 between September 2015 and August 2016.

cyber spies, identities
U.S. person used by spy agencies includes actual individuals, email addresses and internet protocol (IP) addresses. Pixabay

According to U.S. intelligence rules, when the NSA intercepts messages in which one or more participants are U.S. citizens or residents, the agency is supposed to black out American names. But the names can be unmasked upon request of intelligence officers and higher-ranking government officials, including presidential appointees.

Alex Joel, a DNI official, said it was likely that the higher number of U.S. persons unmasked last year was inflated by names of victims of malicious cyber activity. Another official said the definition of U.S. person used by spy agencies includes actual individuals, email addresses and internet protocol (IP) addresses.

The expanded collection of data that affected Americans was exposed by whistleblowers like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, prompting politicians and the public to demand greater accountability.

cyber spies, identities
The report says that the number of “non-US persons” targeted by the U.S. for foreign intelligence surveillance rose to 164,770 in calendar year 2018 compared to 129,080 the year before. Pixabay

Annual reports on the extent of NSA and other government electronic surveillance were one notable reform. NSA’s operations historically were so secretive that agency employees joked its initials stood for “No Such Agency.”

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Not long after President Donald Trump took office, Devin Nunes, the Republican who then chaired the House Intelligence Committee, touched off a political flap by claiming intercepted messages involving members of Trump’s transition team had been unmasked at the direction of top Obama administration officials.

The report says that the number of “non-US persons” targeted by the U.S. for foreign intelligence surveillance rose to 164,770 in calendar year 2018 compared to 129,080 the year before. The report adds that not a single FBI investigation was opened on U.S. persons based on NSA surveillance in either 2017 or 2018. (VOA)

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Here’s How Kids Learn Hacking Through Their Behaviour

Researchers have identified characteristics and gender-specific behaviours in kids that could lead them to become juvenile hackers

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kids, students, hacking, behaviour
But the opportunities for using tech as a tool to identify people who are in modern slavery and to assist them are far greater and they outweigh the threat. Pixabay

Is your kid obsessed with video games and hanging out with questionable friends? Researchers have identified characteristics and gender-specific behaviours in kids that could lead them to become juvenile hackers.

The study found that kids who had mobile phone access early on were more likely to hack — especially if they lived in larger cities. The researchers also explained the stark differences between boys and girls when it came to hacking.

“We found that predictors of juvenile delinquency, like low self-control are big factors for computer hacking for both boys and girls,” said study lead author Thomas Holt from Michigan State University in the US.

“But for girls, peer associations mattered more. If she has friends who shoplift or engage in petty forms of crime, she’s more likely to be influenced to hack as well. For boys, we found that time spent watching TV or playing computer games were associated with hacking,” Holt added.

For the study published in the journal Crime & Delinquency, the research team assessed responses from 50,000 teens from around the world to determine predictors of hacking.

kids, students, hacking, behaviour
For boys and girls, simply having opportunities to hack were significant in starting such behaviour.
Pixabay

The study found that spending time with peers was more likely to influence delinquent behaviour for those living in smaller cities.

Besides, having their own bedroom, their own computer or the freedom of doing what they want on the Internet without parental supervision.

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The researchers also revealed a connection between pirating movies and music and hacking.

“The initial attempts might not be serious, but without supervision and low self-control, it’s likely they got a taste for what they might be able to accomplish by taking their hacking abilities further,” Holt said. (IANS)