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Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 17 May 2017 - The San Bernardino American News

Publication of Your Privacy in 2017

On October 27, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposed new privacy rules on Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The new privacy rules were originally introduced to give consumers more options, transparency and security for personal data. On March 23, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn those privacy laws. In the past, ISPs were required to get your permission before they could sell your internet logs to third parties.

Many consumers assume this means your web browser history, which can be cleared locally at their machine. There is a lot more to it than just that.

When you visit a website such as on your computer at home, at work, a tablet, phablet, smart-phone, your web browser sends a request through your ISP (Verizon, AT&T, Charter, etc.). Next, your ISP checks against a domain name system (DNS). It is an international list ISPs have of all websites and their IP addresses. Everything on the internet has an Internet Protocol (IP) address, it works like matching a person to a phone number (i.e. uses a public IP address of and sends back data from Google's server through your ISP. Usually, that data comes through in what's called data packets. Data packets are chunks of the requested data. Code, text, images, audio, video, are the elements of data.

Data transfers are very much like a truck carrying your shipping request (on the super information highway) along with everyone else's requests (think speed, rush-hour, traffic problems, crashes). All that “shipping and receiving” transmission of requested data is stored in log files on your ISPs servers and linked to you, your account, your IP address.

Another example, think of it like puzzle pieces in different envelopes that are reassembled when they reach their destination, that destination being your computer or “device”.

If you delete your history in your web browser, there will still be data log files kept by your ISP at a minimum of two years back (mandatory by U.S. Federal Law in 2011 for later investigations) on servers and data center back-ups for a long time, in some cases, indefinitely.

Where you go, what you view and access is saved by ISPs. When you download and install an app, software, join a social media service, those who own them usually have a privacy warning, acknowledgment, policy, declaration saying, “By signing here, or by clicking here, you adhere or acknowledged we get to do what we want with it.” Paraphrasing aside, your personal data becomes someone else's and getting them to delete it or permanently wipe it, is difficult (and usually requires court orders for them to think about actually doing it but that doesn't stop where it's branched off to already).

If your phone service provider is providing you internet, they are your internet service provider (ISP), if you're using that in conjunction with your phone, you are being pinged by cell towers constantly (pinging helps to make sure you are in sync with new data coming in and going out to your device). If someone sends you a text, there is a ping cycle until that message is sent and confirmed as received, any apps you “allow” to use your phone, get those same rights too.

If you use and have your GPS (“Global Positioning Satellite” feature) there is a trail (or log) of where you go, what you do, that information up for sale too from your ISP (not to mention up for grabs by hackers if that stored data is stolen). It is not as clear and concise as it probably should be. In the end, this is about selling your data for money.

This could go beyond the simplistic from what color underpants you prefer or if you prefer diet soda over bottled water (or if someone in your family has a terminal disease, someone can buy your search logs and show you medical treatments ads while you're watching a music video online trying to not think about it).

Imagine someone running for political office. Your opposition has Super-PAC support who can buy your web history and use that in a hit campaign against you. Welcome to a new era of political trash ads.

If someone is a cheater and their ex can buy their internet history log and see if they have been where they said they've been, or with someone else. Hopefully someone didn't steal they phone and make matters worse! Far fetched perhaps but you never know.

There are ways to completely remove yourself from the internet. Some have done it, some trying, some do then “relapse”.

NBA star Stephen Curry cuts all ties to social media around the NBA playoffs to keep a clearer head. In fact he is a co-founder of a new social media platform called Slyce a new social media service for celebrities that helps filter out a lot of the social “noise”.

There are paid services to help remove you from the web, but they can't stop (or undo) everything. In some cases, you can write to individual websites or companies to demand account closure and to delete your data history, but it may take time, effort, either way, if the FBI is keeping records for two years and back, you'll never really be rid of it.

Your best option is, be more discreet and conscience of what you say and do online. There are now software programs can figure out what you mean by what you don't say (or by what you omit).

Another option, Virtual Private Networks (VPN) which cost additional money but can help mask what you do online (to an extent), but they tend to slow down what you're doing even more. There are web proxies that can help mask what you do to an extent (basically you end up coming in from a different IP address) but most are limited in functionality and some web proxies are shady. You should do some background research before you put too much faith in one you are unfamiliar with. Due to the fact this was a Senate bill, it still must go back to the House of Representatives and then to President Trump sign. If it passes the House (which many assume it will) and President Trump signs the bill, it will go into effect November 4, 2017.

Since Citizens United v the FEC, where US Supreme Court ruled corporations have rights as people for campaign spending (so to speak) and we now have Super-PACs in the US (who do not have to disclose who they really or if their money source is even based in the US, possibly allowing foreigners to influence US elections), and they are out there, where people can contribute money to campaigns without revealing their identity, we don’t know who’s going to be buying our data and personal information with this FCC change in November. For all we know, it could be foreign owned companies. Since there is no mention able oversight with the FCC changes in 2017, how far back (or how specific) can these internet logs be? We don't know. Hopefully legislators insist on clarification of such things before it passes and or gets out of control.

Many websites are adding Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Web browsers are already warning consumers about non-SSL websites (or if something is fishy about the SSL certificate). SSL certificates will also help reduce hacking issues as the source website must provide real authenticating data. In some cases an EV (Extended Validation) SSL certificate which requires proof of a DBA, LLC, or Corporation paperwork filed in the appropriate jurisdiction has to be shared with the web host and or domain name registrar. If a website is phony, it can't have a genuine SSL certificate much less an SSL EV certificate. It makes it harder for criminals to spoof IP addresses and domain names.

When you type in and it loads, Google forces SSL, which encrypts your connection. However, Google still collects data on what you do, themselves. A lot of people are using other search engines such as which has grown in popularity exponentially and promises not to track you as many other search engines do (and Duck Duck Go uses SSL).

If you go to and type in the web link that shows up is which means you go from one encrypted site to another so your ISP can only see you went to and then to that is it. They cannot see what you do once you are on as the data transmitted is now encrypted. SSL helps hide specific details that your ISP would otherwise know.

People will soon be aware of SSL (and the lack thereof) and the public will expect web sites to implement SSL. To better protect yourself, your family, your business and your interests, anything “delicate in subject matter”, make sure you see HTTPS in the address bar. If a website does not have SSL, it will show HTTP in the web browser address. If you don't see HTTPS in the address, you can try editing and adding an 'S' yourself, if your web browser gives warnings about the website, avoid it.

In the end, by the current US Senate giving up the consumer to the highest bidder, people who are already set on limiting their online exposure may eventually lead to more shady tactics, pushing the public to go darker (which isn't good, creating this frame of mind for society), to become more secretive to try and preserve their privacy. We're seeing a huge uprising in hacking activity in the world. Ransom-ware hitting hospitals and schools, the most vulnerable, our sick and our children and these as such demand ransom pay-offs in Bitcoins instead of common currency because it is hard to trace through the dark web (another article in itself). Remember, our nation spends massive budgets on spying on its citizens. SSL will become a necessity.

Again, SSL (some may refer to it as TLS “Transport Security Layer”, it is essentially the same idea), encrypts data being sent from your computer to the website you are visiting making it nearly impossible for your ISP and others to see what you are viewing, doing or otherwise.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and many other social media use SSL, but obviously, if you don’t control your privacy settings in those applications (learn how to do this before you post and share things), you may be forfeiting the benefit of SSL. For example, in Facebook, if you’re posting something you want to be seen only by friends, you don’t post it publicly. If you post on twitter, usually it is posted publicly. Just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner, he found out the hard way.

By using websites that don’t have SSL, you are really letting the cat out of the bag. When you arrived at, that is all your ISP can see, that you came here, after that, everything you clicked on, they can’t see exactly what you are looking at, reading, browsing, all they can see is you came to visit this website at a certain date and time.

If the House of Representatives pass this bill, which looks to be a given, ISPs will be able to sell your historical log information, data with it and sell it to third parties. This information may include your IP address, websites you visit and other sensitive data.

A lot of people (for too long) have responded to threats against online privacy with, “I have nothing to hide.” or things like, “Hey, I’m not doing anything illegal so...” That’s beside the point. These are corporations, in some cases individuals (they can even be foreigners). This new shift in FCC Privacy Rules shows true intentions at heart and as citizens, we should be aware and take steps to protect ourselves. In the end, nobody can guard our own privacy except ourselves. It's not fun, not easy but a necessary in a world of exploitation and evil.

About the writer: Aaron Conaway is an IT consultant and web developer who has worked in the web industry for over fifteen years, has been on TV numerous times answering questions about technology and consumer security, hidden dangers in social media and common sense ways to protect your business, yourself and your children on the internet. His latest endeavor is an online start-up business that focuses on building SSL based websites.


Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Washington reacts to Trump’s disclosure of classified information

The White House and lawmakers reacted May 15 to Washington Post revelations that President Trump disclosed classified information during a meeting with Russian officials.

[Lawmakers express shock and concern about Trump disclosure of classified information]

The revelation comes as the president faces rising legal and political pressure on multiple Russia-related fronts. Last week, he fired FBI Director James B. Comey in the midst of a bureau investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Trump’s subsequent admission that his decision was driven by “this Russia thing” was seen by critics as attempted obstruction of justice.

One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

McMaster reiterated his statement in a subsequent appearance at the White House on Monday and described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.

McMaster: Trump 'did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known'

In their statements, White House officials emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods, rather than addressing whether he had disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources.

The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment.

But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.

[On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds]

“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

What Trump’s classified revelations to Russian officials mean for allies

Washington Post national security reporter Greg Miller explains what President Trump’s potential disclosures to Russian officials means going forward. (The Washington Post)

The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

“Everyone knows this stream is very sensitive, and the idea of sharing it at this level of granularity with the Russians is troubling,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.

[Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment in Moscow]

Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.

“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said.

A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”

At a more fundamental level, the information wasn’t the United States’ to provide to others. Under the rules of espionage, governments — and even individual agencies — are given significant control over whether and how the information they gather is disseminated, even after it has been shared. Violating that practice undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.

The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.

Trump also described measures the United States has taken or is contemplating to counter the threat, including military operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as other steps to tighten security, officials said.

The officials would not discuss details of those measures, but the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed that it is considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices from carry-on bags on flights between Europe and the United States. The United States and Britain imposed a similar ban in March affecting travelers passing through airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries.

Trump cast the countermeasures in wistful terms. “Can you believe the world we live in today?” he said, according to one official. “Isn’t it crazy?”

Lavrov and Kislyak were also accompanied by aides.

A Russian photographer took photos of part of the session that were released by the Russian state-owned Tass news agency. No U.S. news organization was allowed to attend any part of the meeting.

Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests View Graphic

Senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout. Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.

One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.

White House officials defended Trump. “This story is false,” said Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy. “The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

But officials could not explain why staff members nevertheless felt it necessary to alert the CIA and the NSA.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would rather comment on the revelations in the Post story after “I know a little bit more about it,” but added: “Obviously, they are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening. And the shame of it is, there’s a really good national security team in place.”

Corker also said, “The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think makes — it creates a worrisome environment.”

Trump has repeatedly gone off-script in his dealings with high-ranking foreign officials, most notably in his contentious introductory conversation with the Australian prime minister earlier this year. He has also faced criticism for seemingly lax attention to security at his Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago, where he appeared to field preliminary reports of a North Korea missile launch in full view of casual diners.

U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points — and often ignores those.

“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

Lavrov’s reaction to the Trump disclosures was muted, officials said, calling for the United States to work more closely with Moscow on fighting terrorism.

Kislyak has figured prominently in damaging stories about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign just 24 days into the job over his contacts with Kislyak and his misleading statements about them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from matters related to the FBI’s Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had met and spoke with Kislyak, despite denying any contact with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing.

“I’m sure Kislyak was able to fire off a good cable back to the Kremlin with all the details” he gleaned from Trump, said the former U.S. official who handled intelligence on Russia.

The White House readout of the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak made no mention of the discussion of a terrorist threat.

“Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria,” the summary said. The president also “raised Ukraine” and “emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia.”

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