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.

Van hits high school band members at start of Alabama Mardi Gras parade

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 11:51 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 12:10 PM

            Van hits high school band members at start of Alabama Mardi Gras parade

A van plowed into a group gathered at the start of a Mardi Gras parade Tuesday in Alabama, injuring at least 11 people and prompting officials to cancel the day's celebrations, according to multiple reports.

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Footage from the parade route in Gulf Shores on Tuesday morning showed multiple people being checked and treated for injuries on the street.

According to WALA, a vehicle hit several Gulf Shores High School band members who were lined up to march in the Fat Tuesday parade.

WKRG reported that 11 band members were injured. Three of them were in critical condition immediately after the accident.

"A teenage band had just started to march down the parade route when they were struck from behind," Gulf Shores spokesman Grant Brown told WKRG. "The vehicle was a part of the parade."

The accident was reported at 10 a.m. CST as the parade was set to kick off. Just minutes after the scheduled start time, city officials took to social media to warn revelers that the parade would be delayed.

The parade was ultimately canceled "due to an injury at the start of the lineup," according to Gulf Shores officials.

Girl who got new heart at 18 months fights again for life after organ rejection

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 11:03 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 11:03 AM

            Girl who got new heart at 18 months fights again for life after organ rejection

An Arizona girl who received a heart transplant at 18 months old is fighting again for her life after her body began rejecting the donor organ.

Jordan Drake, 5, complained of stomach pains last week, so her mother, Esther Gonzalez, took her to the hospital, according to 3TV in Phoenix. Doctors treating her found that her heart function was so poor that her life was in danger.

Jordan is now at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, hooked up to a machine that is performing her heart and lung function for her. Her poor heart function was also causing problems with her kidneys and liver. 

Gonzalez told 3TV on Sunday that Jordan’s vital signs had shown some improvement, but that she still had a long road ahead.

“She's been really touch and go for a few days and on the fence, not knowing what would happen,” Gonzalez said. “Just today, I was actually at church just in the past hour, her numbers have improved so much. She's doing great. We're going in the right direction.”

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A post Tuesday morning on Jordan's Facebook page, Jordan's Heart, indicated that her heart function was continuing to improve. 

Jordan's heart looks DRAMATICALLY better! She even keeps trying to wake up!! The doctors and nurses said that we have a...

Posted by Jordan's Heart on Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Jordan’s mother with her medical expenses. As of Tuesday morning, the page had raised more than $4,800 of its $10,000 goal.

Jordan was born with a congenital heart defect that required a valve replacement, according to Jordan’s Heart. While the replacement surgery was initially a success, blood clots that formed around the mechanical valve led to seizures and a stroke.

The toddler recovered from the stroke, but further complications led to bleeding on her brain and, ultimately, a heart aneurysm that required a transplant. The June 2013 transplant was a success, and she was healthy until last week.

Happy third heart birthday Jordan!! I'll post a few pics soon from our private family celebration. Jordan is still in perfect health and doing better than ever! We are so thankful for her life!

Posted by Jordan's Heart on Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jordan’s story made national headlines last year after she met the mother of the 7-month-old boy whose heart she received. Jordan’s life was one of three saved by the donation of Lukas Clark’s organs.

Lukas’ mother, Heather Clark, wept last January when she held a stethoscope to Jordan’s chest and heard her son’s beating heart once again. Jordan also gave Clark a special gift -- a Build-A-Bear stuffed bear covered with hearts and with a recording of Lukas’ heartbeat inside.

The two families formed a special bond following that meeting. Clark posted a prayer request on Facebook after learning of Jordan's declining health, saying that "Lukas isn't ready for a new friend yet."

Please keep Jordan in your prayers!!! She's not doing so well. Her heart is rejecting and she's having issues with her kidneys. Lukas isn't ready for a new friend yet. Keep fighting baby girl!!!

Posted by Justice For Lukas Scot Clark on Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lukas died June 21, 2013, three days after he stopped breathing while in the care of a babysitter. The San Bernardino Sun reported that charges were filed against the babysitter’s boyfriend, Ryan Garcia, after law enforcement officials determined the boy had been abused.

Garcia, 25, of Ontario, California, is charged with murder and felony child abuse, the Sun reported. He remains in the San Bernardino County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond while awaiting trial. 

Thieves using new trick to lure victims at gas stations

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 3:39 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 3:39 AM

            Thieves using new trick to lure victims at gas stations

Criminals are using decoys to rip off unsuspecting people at gas stations.

“It’s a new twist to an old crime,” Fairburn, Georgia, police Sgt. Mario Jones said.

The crime was caught on tape when three people threw a handbag out the window of a silver Lexus at a South Fulton County gas station and waited for their victim to take notice.

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“When he picked it up to take it inside the store here, that's when the crooks moved in,” Jones said.

Surveillance video captured the 54-year-old man as he stepped away from his car to take the purse inside. Within seconds, a man can be seen jumping from the back of the Lexus and into the victim’s car, stealing a wallet and iPhone.

Harold Byrd told that he rents his basement apartment to the victim in the video.

“He thought he was being a good Samaritan by taking this handbag to a store clerk, thinking someone had dropped it at the gas station off Senoia Road. But the store’s surveillance video shows something different,” Byrd said.

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The Lexus also was stolen, and police believe the handbag tossed from the window was taken the same way just an hour before, Jones said.

“They got his pocketbook, all his information, my address on it. I worry about that. I’m 82 years old,” Byrd said.

Jones said this could become a new trend.

Byrd told us he won’t rest easy until the suspects are caught.

Anyone who may know the suspects are urged to call police. 

Live updates: President Trump's speech before Congress

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 7:40 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 8:39 AM

            Live updates: President Trump's speech before Congress

President Donald Trump will speak before a joint session of Congress Tuesday, where he is expected to lay out his vision for the coming four years.

In an interview broadcast Tuesday, Trump said he will “speak from the heart” during the speech, talking about immigration, the military, the economy and his proposed budget.  The White House said the president has been gathering ideas for his speech from “listening sessions” he's been holding with various business leaders and other groups, the Associated Press reported.

Democrats, many of whom boycotted the president’s inauguration, are planning to attend Tuesday night, and some have invited undocumented immigrants to be their guests for the speech.

Family members of people killed by undocumented aliens will be the guests of the president, and will sit with first lady Melania Trump during the speech.

Check back here at 8:30 p.m. ET for live coverage of President Trump’s first speech before congress.

Live updates