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First POST: Sim Pickings

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 20 2015

Sim Pickings

  • NSA and GCHQ stole the encryption keys used to scramble global cellphone communications for billions of phones, report Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley in a blockbuster report for The Intercept. This gave the spy agencies "the ability to intercept and decrypt communications without alerting the wireless network provider, the foreign government or the individual user that they have been targeted," Scahill and Begley write.

  • "The only effective way for individuals to protect themselves from [this type of] theft-enabled surveillance is to use secure communications software, rather than relying on SIM card-based security," they add.

    Secure software includes email and other apps that use Transport Layer Security (TLS), the mechanism underlying the secure HTTPS web protocol. The email clients included with Android phones and iPhones support TLS, as do large email providers like Yahoo and Google. Apps like TextSecure and Silent Text are secure alternatives to SMS messages, while Signal, RedPhone and Silent Phone encrypt voice communications. Governments still may be able to intercept communications, but reading or listening to them would require hacking a specific handset, obtaining internal data from an email provider, or installing a bug in a room to record the conversations.

  • Vogue's Sara Corbett profiles Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks editor who helped Edward Snowden escape Hong Kong and gain asylum in Russia.

  • With the FCC on the verge of a big shift in how it classifies and regulates internet service, the Boston Globe's Jessica Meyers profiles Tiffiniy Cheng and Evan Greer of Fight for the Future and explains the group's key role. As Tim Wu of Columbia University notes in the story, FFTF and a few related groups "were the game…All of the Silicon Valley lobbyists sat on their hands and thought net neutrality this time around was a lost cause.”

  • "What we're doing is not hashtag activism, this is actually community organizing. I've never seen hashtags change my community." That's one activist, affiliated with Hands Up United, speaking in the course of a long Washington Post feature story on the new wave of black community organizing, written by Marc Fisher, Sandhya Somashekhar and Wesley Lowery.

  • Oregon's new Gov. Kate Brown is opening up public records requests in unprecedented ways, notes Alex Howard, as part of an effort to restore public trust in the wake of scandal plaguing her predecessor, John Kitzhaber.

  • Civic drones? That's what Somerville, MA is using to survey municipal buildings for excessive snow buildup, reports Steve Annear for the Boston Globe.