When 2013 began, the general public had no idea who Edward Joseph Snowden was, but by the end of the year, everyone knew his name. Snowden, a former CIA employee who spent time working with the NSA, decided to share highly classified information with several leading journalists, who then broke the news to the world.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Snowden’s astonishing revelations have changed the world as we know it, shedding damning light on intelligence agencies and systems all over the world and making countless people think long and hard about their own privacy, anonymity, and security.
“We had a cyber Pearl Harbor. His name was Edward Snowden.” – Ashton Carter, Former Secretary of Defense
Countless stories have been written, and debates have raged in the years since the leak began, and everyone has their view on Snowden and the mind-blowing information he shared with the world. His actions even led to the development of the USA Freedom Act, which was designed to limit the amount and type of data that could be monitored and recorded.
However, the fact of the matter, as Snowden’s leaks revealed, is that there’s a whole lot of spying and secret data-gathering going on behind-the-scenes of our lives. There’s still probably plenty that we don’t even know, but Snowden’s info helped to blow the whole thing open. Here are some breakdowns of some of the biggest and most important revelations he shared.
The NSA Can Demand Call Records And Data From Telephone Companies
This was actually one of the first major stories to come out in the wake of the Snowden leaks, but it’s still one of the most important. The initial story showed that Verizon, one of the biggest telephone companies around, was forced to provide the NSA with data and records for almost all of its customers.
Later on, we saw that Verizon wasn’t the only company involved in this sort of thing. Other major telephone companies like Sprint and AT&T were also handing over phone records and info to the intelligence agency without customers having any idea what was going on.
This revelation was enormous and generated significant debate at the time, with many of those debates still ongoing to this day. Then-President Barack Obama announced plans to overhaul the NSA’s data collection programs in what would eventually lead to the development of the USA Freedom Act.
Triggering A Wave Of Privacy Concerns
“When you give up your privacy, you give up your power.” – Thor Benson, Journalist
This first major leak from Snowden also had a big effect on public views about surveillance and privacy. Before then, many people had laughed off the thought of the NSA spying on their phone calls and taking their data behind their backs.
The whole notion seemed like something out of a conspiracy theory, but Snowden’s leaks proved that it was very real. From there, the public began to put more focus on protecting their mobile privacy in any way possible, as well as thinking more deeply about privacy and anonymity online through the increased use of VPNs.
The Power Of Smurfs
Sticking with the phone theme, Snowden’s leaks also taught us that the GCHQ, which is essentially the British version of the NSA, has the terrifying ability to actually control people’s phones, even when they’re switched off. To do this, they make use of a series of tools named after Smurfs, the little blue cartoon characters first created in an old Belgian comic series.
The Smurfs And What They Do
“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.’” – Philip K. Dick, Author
Snowden revealed that the GCHQ had a whole list of Smurf tools, each with its own use and purpose. Here are some examples:
- Dreamy Smurf – Has the ability to turn phones on or off remotely
- Nosey Smurf – Has the ability to make use of the phone’s microphone to listen to conversations and noise in the local area
- Tracker Smurf – Has the ability to precisely track your position
- Paranoid Smurf – Works to hide the activities of the other Smurfs to prevent detection
As we can see, the power of these ‘Smurfs’ is quite terrifying. Naturally, these tools and software programs are only designed to be used against criminals and suspected terrorists, but the very fact that such technology exists was enough to send a shiver down the spine of many members of the general public.
“The government doesn’t want any system of transmitting information to remain unbroken unless it’s under its own control.” – Isaac Asimov, Tales of the Black Widowers
By far, one of the scariest revelations for the American public was the existence of PRISM. PRISM was the code name given to an NSA program in which the agency could effectively demand data from major tech and internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple.
PRISM, it turned out, has been a major source of intelligence for NSA reports, and it was a terrifying thing for the general public to learn about. People did respond, however, through protests, debates, and demonstrations, as well as encouraging each another to start focusing more strongly on protecting privacy and anonymity online.
The sorts of content the NSA could collect included search histories, downloads, emails, and more. The focus of the program was to track potential terrorism suspects, but the system effectively allowed for the data of almost any internet user to be taken, making it a huge threat to people’s privacy.
The NSA Can Intercept Packages Before They Reach Your Home
An astonishing report published in the German newspaper ‘Der Spiegel’ revealed that the NSA has a whole list of scary surveillance systems and methods in place to keep their eyes everywhere and spy on people without them being any the wiser.
The report showed that the NSA was able to intercept package deliveries that were on their way to a person’s home. From there, intelligence agents could open up the packages and see what was inside, as well as adding their own espionage tools and software programs.
That way, they could effectively find packages that were going into suspects’ homes, add bugs and traces to the items inside, and monitor what the suspect was using the equipment for and what was going on behind closed doors.
The ANT Catalog
Der Spiegel’s report went on to highlight some of the tools that could be used, comparing the list to a ‘mail-order catalog.’ The tools were all grouped under the acronym ANT, which stands for Advanced Network Technology. Each tool has its own codename and product listing in the ‘catalog,’ which describes its functions and uses.
ANT Tool Examples:
- SURLYSPAWN – Able to log keystrokes on a computer and transmit them wirelessly, even when the computer isn’t connected to the internet
- CANDYGRAM – Able to imitate a GSM cell phone tower to monitor cell communications
- FIREWALK – Designed to look just like a regular RJ45 internet socket, this tool can inject and monitor device data via radio waves
- MONKEYCALENDAR – Able to transmit a cell phone’s geolocation via a secret text message
- COTTONMOUTH – Designed to look like USB and Ethernet connectors, these tools can hack into computers and provide remote access
Again, just like the Smurf tools used by the GCHQ in the United Kingdom, these code named espionage tools and pieces of equipment were very scary to learn about for many people as they proved that NSA agents had access to gear that could make surveillance incredibly easy for them and almost entirely undetectable for their targets.
The NSA Can Even Hack Tech Giants
An article in The Washington Post stated that the NSA had actually hacked into data centers of major tech giants Google and Yahoo in order to monitor communications and traffic at these centers.
This was a particularly scary revelation for members of the general public as it proved that there were almost no limits to what the NSA’s spy tools were capable of. If even the biggest internet companies on the planet could be hacked with such apparent ease, was anyone really safe?
It was also shocking for people to see that the NSA was prepared to use its wealth of hacking tools against big American companies. Google and Yahoo both released statements to deny any awareness of the surveillance and express their shock and dismay, with Yahoo even taking action to encrypt its connections.
The former CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Meyer, stated that Yahoo would not provide the NSA with any access to its data centers and never had in the past. This helped to reassure many members of the public and general internet users, but a lot of people still worried that big companies were making shady deals behind their backs.
Britain’s NSA Spies On Fiber Optic Connections All Over The Globe
The GCHQ, Britain’s NSA equivalent, was also revealed to use various surveillance tools to hack into fiber optic cables and connections all over the globe. This is all done under the code name ‘Tempora,’ which is a surveillance system that has been running since 2011.
This system essentially involved the GCHQ placing interceptors on several hundred fiber optic cables going in and out of the United Kingdom. These interceptors could seize data directly from the cables, with intelligence agents then closely observing and analyzing that data for anything that they might deem interesting or worthy of further investigation.
According to Snowden’s leaks, the information gathered by GCHQ via Tempora could also be shared with the NSA, with hundreds of thousands of NSA contractors being able to look at this data.
The NSA Collects Contact Lists
“There has never been a time in human history where so many people routinely carry recording and surveillance devices.” – Steven Magee, Author
Part of the NSA’s surveillance and anti-terrorism measures also include the collection of countless email and contact lists from internet and smartphone users. Snowden’s leaks showed that up to 250 million of these contact lists could be taken each year.
It’s important to note that this system was only used overseas and aimed at non-US citizens, but the fact of the matter is that when literally hundreds of thousands of these lists are being collected all over the globe, and a lot of Americans also happen to be traveling in foreign places, it’s inevitable that their data is also going to be at risk.
Boundless Informant Proved That The NSA Spied On Americans
Boundless Informant (or BOUNDLESSINFORMANT) is the code name given to a big data analysis tool used by the NSA. This tool basically tracks all of the metadata collected by the NSA around the world and makes a kind of ‘heatmap’ of that data to show where it came from and which countries are targeted most frequently.
The tool showed that billions of pieces of information were being collected every single month, and it also showed that several billion pieces were being taken from citizens of the United States. This was despite the fact that the NSA had specifically stated to Congress that it did not gather data on millions of American citizens and didn’t even have the capacity to do so.
XKeyScore Allows The NSA To Track Anyone’s Online Activity
“You could read anyone’s email in the world, anybody you’ve got an email address for. Any website: You can watch traffic to and from it. Any computer that an individual sits at: You can watch it. Any laptop that you’re tracking: you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one-stop-shop for access to the NSA’s information.”
That’s how Edward Snowden describes the power of XKeyScore, which is perhaps the most powerful NSA internet espionage tool of them all. Also known as XKS, this computer system is designed to search through and analyze internet data from users all over the globe, and huge amounts of that data are being collected each and every day.
What’s more, all of that data can then be shared with other intelligence agencies as part of the ‘Five Eyes‘ and ‘Fourteen Eyes’ alliances, so agencies like the GCHQ in the United Kingdom or the Defense Intelligence Headquarters of Japan could also get access to information on a person’s browsing habits, search history, and general internet usage.
Fighting Back Against Internet Surveillance
With so many harrowing revelations coming out of the Snowden leaks, especially in regard to internet surveillance through systems like XKeyScore, many people want to take action to be safer online and keep their data private.
That’s why statistics are showing a big leap in the number of people making use of virtual private networks (VPNs). VPN providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN are essentially able to encrypt your internet connections and hide your presence online, meaning that even if attempts were made to track your activity, they wouldn’t be successful.
Other VPNs Worth Checking Out:
Pros And Cons Of Using A VPN
|Hide your online presence and encrypt your connections for total anonymity||Monthly/Annual subscription fees|
|Stay safe from hackers and malicious software.||Connection speeds can sometimes vary, depending on the VPN you choose|
|Access region-locked or restricted content and services like Netflix|
|Enjoy total security when traveling.|
The NSA Spies On Global Leaders
We’ve seen that giant tech companies like Google and Apple aren’t safe from the NSA’s spy tools, and the same can be said for world leaders like presidents and prime ministers. Many documents from Snowden’s files have revealed that the NSA has targeted over 120 different global leaders over the years, spying on their communications and actually listening in on their phone conversations.
Examples Of Leaders Who Have Been Hacked:
The likes of former Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and current German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all been victims of the NSA’s surveillance. The NSA was even able to spy on meetings between multiple world leaders at the likes of the G8 and G20 summits.
The Knock-On Effect
This sort of surveillance doesn’t directly affect the average member of the general public, but the revelations have already led to rising tensions between the United States and several other countries around the world. For example, when Snowden revealed that the NSA had been spying on China, the relationship between the two countries was dealt a big blow.
The NSA Actively Works Against Internet Encryption
Again, we can see another scary revelation for internet users all over the world as Snowden’s leaks also revealed that the NSA had teams of agents tasked with breaking down widely-used encryption and security measures used online.
A document from the GCHQ stated: “For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies… Vast amounts of encrypted internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable”.
This NSA program was nicknamed Bullrun and made use of different hacking tools like brute-force attacks in order to break through standard encryption systems like HTTPS and SSL, which are used all over the internet for systems like online banking and purchases.
The NSA Has Its Own ‘Special Forces’ Team Of Hackers
As well as having a myriad of remarkably powerful hacking tools and systems at its disposal, the NSA can also call on the services of the “Tailored Access Operations” team. Abbreviated to TAO, this team is made up of elite hackers who can make use of various tools (like those seen in the ANT catalog, above) in order to hack into computers with astonishing ease.
With an arsenal of hacking systems and devices to choose from, the TAO team is able to break into computers regardless of whether they’re online or offline. From there, they can monitor location, internet activity, keystrokes, communications, and more, as well as infecting the device with Trojan horses and other forms of malware.
Intelligence Agencies Can Even Spy On You Through Angry Birds
It might sound too crazy to be true, but the reports and leaks have also stated that intelligence agencies like the NSA or the British GCHQ can actually make use of flaws in the designs of certain apps, including popular mobile games like Angry Birds, to spy on smartphone users. These apps are nicknamed ‘leaky apps,’ and there are millions of examples out there.
Just by opening a simple game, the sort of thing that millions of people are doing every single day while riding the train to work or taking a quick coffee break, you could be providing intelligence agencies with personal data like your age, sex, name, email address, and even your current location.
How Does It Happen?
These information ‘leaks’ are all down to the fact that many apps often demand access to some of your personal information in order to provide additional functionality like social media integration and the ability to share your high scores or play with friends. These apps aren’t being made by security experts, so they can come with a few little holes for intelligence agencies or malicious hackers to exploit.
The extent to which intelligence agencies can use apps to obtain information about a user isn’t fully clear, but it is believed that as well as basic info and current location, agents could also use apps to learn about your political alignment, sexual orientation, income, marital status, education level, and more!
Leaky App Examples:
- Google Maps
Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks to Accept Dogecoin Payments
American basketball team Dallas Mavericks will now accept payments for tickets and merchandise in Dogecoin via the leading cryptocurrency payment processor, BitPay.
Prior to the announcement, it already supported payments in cryptocurrencies, including BTC, BCH, ETH, USDC, GUSD, PAX, and BUSD. Its billionaire owner and Shark Tank star, Mark Cuban, cited the ‘very important’ reason behind the newest addition.
All Bark And Some Bite
Meme-inspired Dogecoin is finally getting some utility to go with the massive hype of recent. The digital asset, which features the face of the Shiba Inu dog from the “Doge” meme on its logo, has been added to the list of payment options on Dallas Mavericks’ online shop.
As a result, the team’s fan base, Mavs Fans for Life (MFFLs), can now purchase game tickets and merch using dogecoin.
According to the Dallas Mavericks, the decision is purely consumer-centric and is targeted at leveraging cryptocurrencies to “expand business sales opportunity, reduce high fees and increase payment transparency and efficiency.” Mavs’ billionaire owner and bitcoin skeptic-turned proponent Mark Cuban revealed the ‘earth shattering’ reason for accepting dogecoin payments.
“The Mavericks have decided to accept Dogecoin as payment for Mavs tickets and merchandise for one very important, earth shattering reason, because we can! Because we can, we have chosen to do so. We have chosen to do so because sometimes in business you have to do things that are fun, engaging and hopefully generate a lot of PR. So we will take Dogecoin, today, tomorrow and possibly forever more. For those of you who would like to learn more about Dogecoin we strongly encourage you to talk to your teenagers who are on TikTok and ask them about it. They will be able to explain it all to you,”
While institutions are just getting caught up in the bitcoin frenzy, Dallas Mavericks is one of the early institutional adopters. The Dallas-based NBA hotshot started accepting bitcoin payments nearly two years ago and has continued to align itself with newer developments in the digital space.
Fun Over Intrinsic Value?
Mark Cuban’s reason for accepting dogecoin payments is based on the digital assets’ central theme – fun. He told Forbes last month:
“Dogecoin is less than a dime. You can buy $1 worth or $10 worth and have fun watching it all day”
He further stated that the digital currency has no intrinsic value, adding that he bought some for his son for educational purposes.
His earlier comments have led to strong suggestions that he is solely interested in reaping off the PR surrounding dogecoin of late.
Bitcoin Over Gold, Cuban Tells Schiff
Mark Cuban was quick to rebuff anti-bitcoin remarks made by the gold proponent and Chairman of SchiffGold, Peter Schiff, this week. The agelong precious metal advocate took a jab at wall street bitcoiners, tweeting that he never knew smart investors could be “dumb enough to buy bitcoin.”
In response, Cuban correctly pointed out that while a technology-backed store of values like crypto are dynamic and can transition into advanced applications, gold is simply static.
Let me help Peter. Gold is hyped as much as Crypto. Do we really need gold jewelry? Gold can make you a ring. BTC/Eth are technologies that can make you a banker, allow friction free exchange of value and are extensible into an unlimited range of biz and personal applications https://t.co/pJPdEAl5gq
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 2, 2021
Binance Coin, Neo, Enjin Price Analysis: 05 March
Binance Coin was heading towards $205 after Bitcoin fell below $49k on the price charts. Neo also moved below a strong level of support, with bearish momentum likely to push the price to as low as $32 over the next few days. Finally, Enjin pictured buyers’ exhaustion after making remarkable gains over the past week.
Binance Coin [BNB]
The bounce from $210 to $270 towards the beginning of March was not a recovery as sellers asserted themselves around the $270-mark and took control of the market. Since then, they have pushed BNB below the $230-retracement level. The $200-$205 zone is the next area of interest where the market’s bulls could take a stand.
The Awesome Oscillator pictured bearish momentum on the rise as it crossed over into bearish territory on the 4-hour chart. The OBV also noted steady selling pressure over the past few days.
A bearish retest of $230 can be used to enter a scalp short position, with take-profit at $205 and a stop-loss of $236 or $240 to give a little more breathing room.
As the Volume Profile Visible Range showed, while the Point of Control at $37.13 (red) has been a level that bulls have tried to defend over the past week, it appeared to have been ceded to bearish pressure in recent hours. The MACD formed a bearish crossover and dove under zero on the charts.
The 38.2% retracement level and the 50% retracement level at $35 and $32, respectively, are levels that can witness NEO bounce. However, as the VPVR highlighted, the $30.5-$32 zone will be the next area of notable trading activity and the area where NEO is more likely to find strong support, than at $35.
In hindsight, it is quite simple to spot bullish exhaustion, but quite hard to be certain of it in real-time. The candlewick up to $1.51 for ENJ was followed by a strong momentum bearish candle, and this development confirmed that ENJ bulls have run out of steam, at least in the short-term.
The Stochastic RSI dove into the oversold territory while the RSI also began to drop lower from extremely overbought values, registering a value of 69 for the most recent, closed trading session.
The next level of support for ENJ was the 23.6% retracement at $1.07.
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Decentralized Companies Are the New Norm and It’s the DAO Revolution That’s Making It Possible
The way people work has continuously evolved over the past couple of decades, thanks to increased penetration of the internet and advancements in communication tools that continue to make remote work possible. However, only recently, after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, did many organizations realize the viability of remote working as employees continued to work from home amid lockdowns imposed by respective governments.
The crypto industry is not new to remote working as most projects are developed and run by multifunctional teams whose members are scattered across geographies. Interestingly, these decentralized teams complement cryptocurrency technology, whose core attribute is all about decentralizing information.
The leading crypto exchange operator, Coinbase, recently became a decentralized company. The company decided to decentralize itself after operating for a while as a remote-first business that encouraged employees to work from anywhere in the world. According to Brian Armstrong — CEO and founder of Coinbase, the decision to become a decentralized company was influenced by the success of its remote-first approach during the COVID-19 pandemic. It made them realize that an overwhelming 94% of the workforce believed that working remotely was beneficial. It gave them autonomy, flexibility, and the ability to focus while enjoying personal time. The employee-friendly work policy has, in turn, helped the company attract some of the top talents from all over the globe. Overall, it is said to have increased engagement, belonging, learning, and creativity among the team members.
When it comes to decentralized businesses with a global workforce, traditional ownership structures and a top-down approach to governance may not be the efficient option. By empowering people at different levels to participate in the decision-making process, businesses can become more versatile and adapt to changing scenarios on the ground. DAOs, short for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, are created to democratize the entire process. In 2016, a company called the DAO was launched on the Ethereum blockchain. The company’s life was short-lived following security issues that resulted in a hack, forcing its suspension and a hard fork of the blockchain. However, the short stint of this new application of blockchain technology successfully proved the DAO concept, leading to further developments.
DAOs are programs that are designed to enable organizations to function without having a hierarchical management structure. Instead, it allows the community of stakeholders in a project or a business to take part in various roles necessary to ensure the entity’s smooth functioning and growth. In return, they receive rewards in recognition of their contributions to the ecosystem.
DAOs Evolving with Web 3.0
In the evolutionary journey of the internet, the next step is referred to as Web 3.0. It is all about the decentralization of tech infrastructure, relying extensively on collaborative actions where anyone can contribute or consume information without restrictions by a third party. Businesses staying relevant in this age will need a new organizational structure to communicate and manage decentralized collaborations. This evolution will be made possible by integrating fully-functional DAOs. However, most of today’s DAOs are limited to voting shell structure, which leaves room for lots of improvements in the segment.
The availability of full-function DAOs will make it easier for businesses planning to go the Coinbase way to create and manage a decentralized company. It is just a matter of time before technical limitations concerning complexity and scalability of smart contracts governing DAOs and associated high gas costs are overcome to drive the adoption of decentralized collaboration and governance.
The Metis DAO Way – The Future of Collaborative Organizations
Solving the issues hindering widespread adoption of DAOs is Metis – a layer 2 solution based on Ethereum blockchain. By using a combination of Optimistic Governance and a suite of microservice tools, Metis brings in scalability, affordability, and accessibility to easy-to-use DAO infrastructure.
Creating a decentralized company on the Metis DAO platform is a simple 3-step process. A DAO on the Metis platform allows collaboration between users through an embedded trust mechanism utilizing staking bonds to ensure all participants’ accountability. Further, for transparency and auditability, Metis implements a decentralized business credentials system that evaluates collaboration history to assign Reputation Power which is directly linked to eligible incentives.
As a layer 2 solution, Metis will be handling all transactions on the tailored Optimistic Rollup side chain that aggregates multiple transactions into a single roll-up block whose hash will be committed to the Ethereum blockchain by a smart contract. By doing so, the number of entries to the blockchain is drastically reduced, lowering the gas fees necessary to maintain the DAO. Further, it will include many governance and management embedded templates on layer2, including task management, knowledge management, event management, chatroom, forum and many more functionalities, accessible over a simplified, user-friendly web interface.
Metis is all set to become the go-to platform for creating Decentralized Autonomous Companies/Corporations with all its features for the new Web 3.0. In the coming days, Metis will be organizing a token airdrop and public sale, offering an opportunity for the community to become part of the new movement.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
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