Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer

Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013 @ 8:51 AM
Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 @ 8:51 AM

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As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year, securities filings show.

The earlier disclosures of RSA's entanglement with the NSA already had shocked some in the close-knit world of computer security experts. The company had a long history of championing privacy and security, and it played a leading role in blocking a 1990s effort by the NSA to require a special chip to enable spying on a wide range of computer and communications products.

RSA, now a subsidiary of computer storage giant EMC Corp, urged customers to stop using the NSA formula after the Snowden disclosures revealed its weakness.

RSA and EMC declined to answer questions for this story, but RSA said in a statement: "RSA always acts in the best interest of its customers and under no circumstances does RSA design or enable any back doors in our products. Decisions about the features and functionality of RSA products are our own."

The NSA declined to comment.

The RSA deal shows one way the NSA carried out what Snowden's documents describe as a key strategy for enhancing surveillance: the systematic erosion of security tools. NSA documents released in recent months called for using "commercial relationships" to advance that goal, but did not name any security companies as collaborators.

The NSA came under attack this week in a landmark report from a White House panel appointed to review U.S. surveillance policy. The panel noted that "encryption is an essential basis for trust on the Internet," and called for a halt to any NSA efforts to undermine it.

Most of the dozen current and former RSA employees interviewed said that the company erred in agreeing to such a contract, and many cited RSA's corporate evolution away from pure cryptography products as one of the reasons it occurred.

But several said that RSA also was misled by government officials, who portrayed the formula as a secure technological advance.

"They did not show their true hand," one person briefed on the deal said of the NSA, asserting that government officials did not let on that they knew how to break the encryption.

The 14 most dangerous sunscreens for kids, according to experts

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 12:02 PM

Whether you and the kids are on the beach, in the backyard or just strolling around under the scorching sun, not using sunscreen under those harmful rays could increase risk of sunburn, potentially doubling your little one’s risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

» RELATED: Study finds 73 percent of sunscreens don’t even work — how to find one that does 

But according to a new study, nearly three quarters of products on the market don’t even work.

For their 11th annual sunscreen guide, researchers at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group evaluated the UV-ray protections, toxic ingredients and other health hazards in approximately 900 sunscreens, 500 SPF-labeled moisturizers and more than 100 lip products.

The group found 73 percent of the 880 tested sunscreens either contained “worrisome” ingredients or didn’t work as well as advertised.

» RELATED: Mom warns other parents after baby burned by sunscreen 

Of the products examined that were marketed toward children (using terms like “baby,” “kids,” “pediatric,” etc.), 46 items scored between 7 and 10, with 10 being the worst score on the 1-10 scale.

>> Read more trending news 

The products on the list had multiple strikes against them, EWG researchers said. Many contained toxic ingredients oxybenzone (a hormone disruptor) and retinyl palmitate (a form of Vitamin D with the potential to increase skin cancer risk).

Several also had SPFs above 50 — high SPFs contain more sun-filtering chemicals than others and can lead to other types of sun damage.

» RELATED: 6 mistakes people commonly make when applying sunscreen 

Five aerosol sprays on the list, which scientists have long argued negatively impact sensitive lungs and don’t offer coated protection, also earned a strike against them.

Here are the 14 worst sunscreens marketed for children, according to EWG:

  1. Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100 (10)
  2. Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100 (10)
  3. Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70 (7)
  4. Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70 (7)
  5. Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70 (7)
  6. Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+ (7)
  7. Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55 (7)
  8. Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55 (7)
  9. Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70 (7)
  10. CVS Health Children’s Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55 (7)
  11. Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70 (7)
  12. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+ (10)
  13. Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+ (7)
  14. Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55 (7)

More about each product listed and its calculated score at

To read more about and its platform to battle chemicals in everyday products, the food you consume and the water you drink, click here.

Royals release photo of Princess Charlotte before her 2nd birthday

Published: Monday, May 01, 2017 @ 6:49 AM

Princess Charlotte is about to turn 2, and the royal family is marking the occasion by releasing a new photo of the little princess.

Taken by her mother, Katherine the Duchess of Cambridge, the photograph was taken at their home in Norfolk last month, The Telegraph reported.

>> Read more trending news

It was released on the royal family’s official Twitter site, Kensington Palace.

Princess Charlotte has rarely been photographed at public appearances. One of the most recent was a Christmas Day outing to church near her grandparents’, Carole and Michael Middleton, home in the village of Bucklebury, The Telegraph reported.

More photos of Charlotte may be seen in the coming months.

She’s going to be a bridesmaid for her aunt, Pippa Middleton, at her May 20 wedding. Prince George will also have a role as a page boy. William and Katherine will be in attendance.

Prince William opens up about Princess Diana's death in emotional interview

Published: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 @ 3:44 AM

It’s taken two decades for Prince William to process his mother’s death, and now that he has, he is talking openly about Princess Diana and the effect her death had on his life.

He said he wishes she could have been around to meet his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and watch his two children grow up.

>> Pippa Middleton ties the knot with James Matthews in 'almost royal' wedding

Prince William offered up his rawest emotions yet on the topic of his mother’s death in a cover story for GQ. He said his grieving process after Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in 1997, when he was 15, was different from other people’s because “everyone [knew] the story.”

>> Prince William and Kate celebrate 6th anniversary

Alastair Campbell, author and former communications chief for Tony Blair, conducted what turned into an emotional interview.

“It has taken me almost 20 years to get to that stage,” Prince Williams said. “I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw. And also, it is not like most people’s grief because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her.”

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He added: “I would like to have had her advice. I would love her to have met Catherine and to have seen the children grow up. It makes me sad that she won’t, that they will never know her.”

Prince William, 34, talked about the strength he derives from his own close-knit family: his wife; his young son, George; and his daughter, Charlotte. He also said he strives to raise his kids as normally as possible, not “behind palace walls.”

>> Royals release photo of Princess Charlotte before her 2nd birthday

“I could not do my job without the stability of the family,” he said. “Stability at home is so important to me. I want to bring up my children in a happy, stable, secure world, and that is so important to both of us as parents.”

He added: "I want George to grow up in a real, living environment. I don’t want him growing up behind palace walls; he has to be out there. I will fight for them to have a normal life.”

The shock of Diana’s death remains real, Prince William said.

“The shock is the biggest thing, and I still feel it 20 years later about my mother,” he said. “People think shock can’t last that long, but it does. It’s such an unbelievably big moment in your life, and it never leaves you. You just learn to deal with it.”

Tennessee mother heartbroken after finding 6-month-old son’s casket floating in water

Published: Monday, May 29, 2017 @ 11:55 PM

A family in Tennesse had to bury a 6-month-old boy, (Ashton Mackey, pictured) again after they said his casket was floating in water above his burial plot.
Alicia Mackey

A Memphis family was left in complete disbelief when they visited the grave of their loved one, a 6-month-old who was buried May 20. 

The family of Ashton Mackey wanted to spend Memorial Day remembering the child whose life was abruptly ended after becoming extremely ill.

>> Read more trending news

When they arrived at New Park Cemetery Monday, what the family found was something a parent never wants to see after laying their child to rest. 

Ashton's mother, Alicia Mackey, said she found her son's casket floating in water, out of the ground. 

“I get (to the cemetery) and (the casket is) floating on top of what he’s supposed to be buried in. I couldn't believe it," she said. 

Related: PHOTOS: Mom heartbroken after finding 6-month-old son's casket floating in water 

Mackey said she has no idea how or why the casket ended up above ground. She tried to get answers from the cemetery, but a sign on the front door said they would be closed in observance of the holiday.

 “I'm not going to be able to sleep. I already have nightmares. I don't sleep. This is sad. I need to see him back like he was, up under there,” Mackey said.  

Nine days ago, the family said their goodbyes when they buried Ashton.

On Monday, the family ended up burying him again, taking dry dirt from a nearby field to cover the casket.

“I do not want to see this happen to no one else. Not even my enemy,” Mackey said. 

The cemetery also could not be reached as it was closed for Memorial Day.

Shelby Country Health Department, which is in control of the cemeteries in the area, could not be reached because of the Memorial Day holiday.