Cookie Monsters: Cyberwars and the NSA

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The problem with the world is most adults don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. They forget that when they were born, they knew nothing of politics, jobs, currency, the economy, nutrition, heartbreak, and all these other stories they get from living life and experiencing it through various media. The only thing you understand at birth is that you’re awake…cognizant…alive…You exist, and there’s a lot of strange shit happening that you neither understand nor can control…

 

I have scattered, but vivid memories of my childhood going back further than most. My junior year in high school, my English teacher told me to write about my earliest memory, so I turned in a 1500 satirical mini-novel describing my ascent from my father’s penis into my mother’s womb. While that was a joke, I’ve noticed my memory goes back a lot further than the people around me…I remember thoughts, dreams, and visions I had when I was a kid…

 

I grew up on military bases around the world; my parents both proudly served in the United States Army…in fact, the majority of my family and childhood friends are in some way associated with the government. We traveled a lot and moved here and there, so having a stable home life was somewhat of a necessity – unfortunately that wasn’t the case. It’s not my parents’ fault; a relationship built off nothing more than a sense of duty is destined for turbulence. There are only so many books, bibles, and military manuals an imaginative young boy can read before he has to turn the music up to drown out the insanity. Luckily, my Dad worked in military intelligence, and we had access to computer parts in the 80s.

 

Also see: Ethical Risk Management: Anonymous Reveals Its Face

 

Computers and video games fascinated me. Instead of being told what to do, I was finally given a level of control over my life. I found somewhere I could do anything: a computer screen…and by 2nd grade, I was being taught to use computers and typewriters in military schools. Since we were stationed in Europe at the time, I also was lucky enough to learn world history in a way most Americans can never understand. Because of my parents making the most of a bad situation, I was able to stand in so many historical places most people only ever seen on Google Earth and Wikipedia. The entire time I was just a kid, yearning for a home.

 

It wasn’t until I turned 18, and my mom kicked me out of the house a week later that I finally found that home I was looking for…the internet…For the last 14 years of my life, the internet has been my home.

 

The year I moved onto the internet was 1998. I started my Hotmail account before Microsoft bought it, and still have it to this day, although I rarely ever check it through Gmail or Outlook.com. I’ve had that email address longer than I’ve had my phone number, and that’s quickly approaching a decade as well. I’ve always kept my cozy little corner of a room that felt like the only part of my home that was truly mine safe, clean, secure, and maintained…I didn’t even own a computer yet. I only had a little piece of digital real estate I could access from anywhere – all I needed was a telephone line…

 

The Internet Has Changed…

 

Those days seem like so long ago now; the dawn of Napster, LimeWire, Gnutella, Java, Googles, Yahoo!s, and America online (not a typo) was a fun time if you had a basic understanding of computer filing systems. My friends and I would build our own power rigs and test them against each other by playing the most intense games we could find. We explored the dark corners of the interwebz, and the chat rooms once considered shameful until they evolved into social media sites. We watched the legislation from the entertainment industry, and closely followed and supported the Pirate movement.

 

We knew how everything worked on both the hardware and software side. A lot of my friends got jobs with government contractors, while I continue working as a freelancer. I work more on the science of SEO these days than I rage against the system. I don’t keep up with all the latest gadgets; I just pay attention to storage capacity and speed – nothing else matters. I learned a lot from those days, though. I discovered and explored the true power of the internet, crowdsourcing, Unix, telnet, torrents, and peeling back the layers of the web to dive into things dark and deep. It was an open-sourced technological Renaissance, and we lapped it up…

Also see: I Can’t Go Back to Cubicle Life…

 

Everything Changed After 9/11…

 

Suddenly a lot of the backlash against the internet seemed to die down, and Steve Jobs won everyone over by appeasing the entertainment industry. The tech sector began taking money from the banks. People were investing more in digital than analog, and the banks knew they couldn’t survive this (their system is still based on a mutation of the gold standard); when Google and Facebook and Amazon produce billionaires, those billions have to come from somewhere. The rich didn’t get any poorer, they knew how to manipulate the system to keep themselves going. They cheated, and in doing so created an inherent adversarial system in which the people and government are on different sides.

 

The focus became how the banks and governments destroyed our homes during the mortgage crisis. The government was clearly involved, so they put the mortgage crisis on hold, and held back on prosecuting the banks for as long as a Republic can before the populace naturally cleanses them through the voting process. Our government didn’t have the time or resources to dedicate to helping us save our houses, because they were too busy monitoring my home for terrorists. Everyone was so busy upgrading our phones and our systems for style, that we look at the desktop computer as a dinosaur, not realizing how powerful it is when used correctly.

 

Also see: How Force-Placed Insurance Leads to Foreclosure

 

Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald Changed Everything…

 

Digital monitoring became a stark reality for me a few months before the initial NSA leaks, on the weekend of the Boston bombing. I knew for sure I was being tailed by the Scientologists. I called a couple others out before finally calling my parents to explain the insanity going on. I’ve been able to describe my run-in with the “city police officers” on HuffPost Live since, but at the time, nobody fully understood the effects of what our government was doing, so my parents had no idea how to react.

 

Then Greenwald and Snowden started releasing documents showing proof of secret black-ops funding between governments and contractors. People started to wake up, and my involvement with Anonymous, Occupy, ThePirateBay, and Wikileaks was no longer some game to the general public. Suddenly the secret war I had been fighting online since the dawn of the internet was on the front of every media outlet in the country. I’m not one of those secret agents from the news (although I’ve had my run-ins with a few), I’m just an average guy like you, I just knew all this was going on earlier.

 

Da Interwebz R My Home…

 

I don’t think the powers that be truly understand people like me, but I can assure you that at 32 years old, I’m quite serious about my boundaries. The internet is my home, and the personal device I use to access the internet is my physical property which I own because I purchased it with my money, not a loan from the bank.

 

Whatever website or service I choose to rent space in (Netflix) or squat on (YouTube) has the expectation of privacy from both my landlord (i.e Google, Facebook, Twitter) and any other entity. It is my landlord’s responsibility to handle any security concerns and notify me of anyone attempting to access my digital property for which I own the digital rights or any other personal information about me. I was given privacy options, and I don’t recall seeing “except when a government or corporation wants to access it” anywhere on there. If you can point me to the “opt out” button, I’d be happy to check it…

 

But the internet doesn’t work this way…and it’s time we start asking ourselves why…how…and what we can do to stop it…

 

Also see: DFS Force-Placed Insurance Legislation Is a Joke

Brian penny versability whistleblower beanie headphonesBrian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance consultant, and troll. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company, Huffington PostMainstreetLifehack, and HardcoreDroid.

Versability

Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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