Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Telecom shield bill targets your liberty

Supposedly there's a big wrangle going on in Washington over curtailing some of the more obnoxious elements of the NSA wiretap law that was sneaked through at the last minute before recess.

But, says the New York Times, "Democratic leaders" see a deal on a measure to hold telecom firms immune from lawsuits for cooperating with government wiretap demands when another wiretap bill replaces the current one, which expires automatically in five months. (The most likely "leader" mentioned is John D. Rockefeller, head of the Senate intelligence committee.)

McConnell said that because of court rulings, the wiretap data flow had shrunk to a tiny stream by comparison with the time when the government had free rein to eavesdrop.

At the moment, telecom firms face lawsuits over their duty to protect customers from improper invasions of privacy by government officials. In the past, before the Times bared the NSA warrantless wiretap story, major telecom firms had for years turned a blind eye to spooks and FBI wiretappers operating out of telecom facilities. No touchy questions were asked about legalities. Now, however, these corporations are on their guard against eavesdropping that isn't legally justified.

So there's the real problem that's bothering McConnell, Rockefeller and the oligarchs. Easy backdoor spying on political or economic adversaries is being thwarted. The return of this unseemly practice is the aim of the telecom shield law. If telecoms can't be held accountable for ensuring that legal responsibilities are met concerning privacy and improper searches, then neither can the government and those who misuse it be restrained and held accountable.

Quantum developments peril communications

Nearly all encrypted data that moves over the internet or via secure electronic channels, such as your debit/credit card transactions, is based on a combined public key-private key system. The public key system uses numbers composed of very large primes, which, using classical computation, are considered extremely difficult to

However, researchers say they have proved that quantum factoring is feasible and are suggesting methods of making quantum computation practical. A paper by an Australian team, with some funding from the U.S. Office of Disruptive Technologies, said its experiment provided a "proof of the use of quantum entanglement for arithmetic calculations." The team, headed by Andrew White of the University of Queensland suggested checking for ways to craft quantum factoring algorithms that take advantage of the specific computer design used.


Another team, led by Chao-Yang Lu of China's University of Science and Technology, used four photonic qubits (units of quantum information) to factor the number 15.

Further research, the authors say, should be directed at coherent manipulations of more qubits, construction of complex multiqubit gates and quantum error correction."


A pay-to-read article on the topic may be found at New Scientist.

Though the number 15 is dwarfed by the primes used in electronic encryption, the race is on, and there's no telling how long it will be before someone is reading everyone else's stuff. Whoever does so first might become Emperor of Terra.

Well, what about a different encryption system? There's the rub. There doesn't seem to be a good alternative to the public key-private key method for electronic communications. It was a revolutionary development, and revolutionary developments can't be ordered up like a cup of coffee.

Market wobbles
The Fed's attempt to smooth out the market, and the economy, with a major rate cut follows classical regulatory policy. But it doesn't address current emergent problems: the fear of subprime effects; the unforeseen instabilities inherent in burgeoning quant computer trading; awareness that U.S. security officials are grasping for full access to virtually all private financial transactions; and the unsettling possibility that nearly all secure electronic communications are on the verge of being compromised; and that there is no back-up plan to uphold the modern financial communications infrastructure.

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