NSA Watchlists, Whistleblowers, and Encryption

Dear Brian,
What would it be like to be on the NSA’s watch list?

The NSA doesn’t have a watch list. The NSA collects and archives all data from all people it possibly can.

It’s the other government agencies that access the NSA’s archives that you need to be careful of. This means the FBI, CIA, military, Border Patrol, courts, etc.

The NSA can theoretically see just about anything connected to the Internet. The trick is not to give law enforcement reason to look at your file.

Dear Brian,
Why isn’t Snowden considered a whistleblower?

The only people trying to call Snowden anything other than a whistleblower are those in the government and those that believe them.

This is common.

When I blew the whistle on Bank of America, the bank tried to smear my name and call me anything but a whistleblower. If it’s my word against yours, of course you’re going to try to make me seem like the villain and you the hero.

Dear Brian,
I’m launching a social networking website like Facebook, twitter and Instagram. How do I get people to support?

We’re so inundated with social networks these days.

When I was a kid, we had chat rooms where you could chat and socialize with other people. My friends and I loved jumping into chat rooms.

These days it’s all forums and social networks, where you often have to set up an account and identify yourself in order to use it.

I constantly hear people say they’re going to create the next Facebook or the Instagram of whatever, and I’m never interested in any of those. Here’s a list of 11 social media sites that aren’t Facebook: 11 Sites Like Facebook: Other Social Networking Sites

Here are 9 alternatives to Instagram: 9 Awesome Alternatives to Instagram

Here are 5 alternatives to Twitter: Top 5 Twitter Alternatives You Must Try

Each of the three websites you mentioned are completely different, so you can’t possibly be launching a site like all 3. That you mentioned all 3 shows me you lack focus and aren’t capable of launching a social network I’d have any interest in ever using.

You have to give people a reason to login and use your site. You have to monetize your user base. You have to gain traffic like any other website. Have you ever built any website and attracted any users? Have you ever monetized anything?

The biggest red flag when listening to anyone pitch their idea is when it lacks focus. You’re not launching anything close to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so please try again.

Dear Brian,
Was Frank Abignale the first hacker?

No – 1903 was when the first hack recorded on Wikipedia occurred, and even this was centuries late: Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker’s 1903 lulz

Computer hacking existed long before personal computers existed, and hacking was a thing well before computers were invented. Frank Abagnale was a con-man and involved himself in fraud, embezzlement, forgery, and other financial crimes. He’s more of a social engineer, which is a form of hacking, but he wasn’t the type of computer hacker popularized in the media.

Dear Brian, Why are so many people sharing the same prime when implementing Diffie-Hellman key exchange?

This article How is NSA breaking so much crypto? mentions that

Breaking a single, common 1024-bit prime would allow NSA to passively decrypt connections to two-thirds of VPNs and a quarter of all SSH servers globally. Breaking a second 1024-bit prime would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to nearly 20% of the top million HTTPS websites.

Why is it the case that so many services are using precisely the same primes in implementing Diffie-Hellman key exchange? Isn’t that against the whole point of key based crypto in the first place?
A) The NSA doesn’t need to break any encryption because they can listen in on the source through backdoors in your OS and other software you’re using.

B) Even if they could break the encryption, it would take a lot of processing power to decrypt everyone’s messages, so it would only be used as needed.

C) The NSA is nothing more than a data collection/analysis agency. It’s agencies like Border Patrol that are actually using the NSA systems to monitor people, because they’re the ones that know who/what/when/where/why to monitor.

D) Lockpickers know how to pick locks, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still lock your door. The reason is because you don’t want breaking into your home to be convenient for a thief. Also if they did break in, it would likely leave evidence, especially if you knew what to look for.

That being said, Diffie Hellman isn’t the only key exchange – there’s also RSA, which has it’s own flaws.

Brian Penny Bathroom SelfieBrian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in High Times, Fast Company, Huffington Post, The Street, and Hardcore Droid.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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