I've come across a website and some information it contains that is absolutely fascinating, and at the same time, very disturbing.
I subscribe to a techie monthly newsletter (old habits are hard to break) called, "Crypto-gram". The guy who produces it is a security wiz. He and his company design the encryption algorithms we all use to protect our electronic data. His newsletter looks at all facets of security, from computers, to terrorism, to the government.
His latest issue had a piece about the 9/11 attacks. It seems that someone - unknown at this point - intercepted every single pager text message from the New York City and Washington, DC areas. Now, we're not talking about text messages we commonly exchange on our cell phones. These are text pagers primarily used by government officials and businesses.
He provided a link to Wikileaks.com that contained the text messages -
WikiLeaks released half a million US national text pager intercepts. The intercepts cover a 24 hour period surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.They have an index where they break down the messages into 5 minute increments. Still, each page has thousands of entries.
The messages were broadcasted "live" to the global community — sychronized to the time of day they were sent. The first message was from 3AM September 11, 2001, five hours before the first attack, and the last, 24 hours later.
Text pagers are usualy carried by persons operating in an official capacity. Messages in the archive range from Pentagon, FBI, FEMA and New York Police Department exchanges, to computers reporting faults at investment banks inside the World Trade Center
Fascinating stuff. The following messages are from about an hour after the first impact. I'm not going to edit anything, including names and phone numbers, as they are already in the public domain (and to make a later point). Some of the messages are cut short, probably due to the limitations of the individual pagers -
2001-09-11 09:55:01 Arch  B ALPHA 07-WANDA, THIS IS TRISHA. THE PENTAGON HAS BEEN HIT TOO. CALL ME.
2001-09-11 09:55:27 Metrocall  B ALPHA Hi Honey Did you hear about the terrorist hijacking etc? I'm totally freaked. My heart is in
2001-09-11 09:55:29 Metrocall  B ALPHA my throat. Just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you. Love you!!!!!
2001-09-11 09:55:33 Metrocall  D ALPHA [kmiller] Sharon just called, would like to hear your voice. Two planes cr ashed into the World Trade Center, they are closing airports all over US. km
9:55:48 Arch  D ALPHA kevin.helmich@my|my2way|dennis-- just wanted to make sure you're not in d.c. today. saw the pentagon in flames on the news. send a page to 877.870.0013 --Kevin
Likely Business Messages
2001-09-11 09:55:12 Arch  D ALPHA (5)02:ABS: EMMC INITIAL: THE NCC IN KANSAS CITY HAS ADVISED THAT THE SPRINT SWITCH COMPLEX AT 60 HUDSON ST. IN NEW YORK CITY IS BEING EVACUATED DUE TO THE IN
2001-09-11 09:55:18 Metrocall  D ALPHA Did you get my message about the world trade center. There was an explosion at the Pentagon too. Jake will be busy.
Likely government messages
2001-09-11 09:55:14 Arch  C ALPHA (1/1) NATIONAL GRND STOP IN EFFECT. ALL FLIGHTS IN THE AIR WILL LAND AT THE CLOSEST APRT AND CNL.
2001-09-11 09:55:19 Arch  A ALPHA a white jet was seen circling the white house and evacuees from the White House are panicking - and were told to run from the building.......
Someone who is quite twisted
2001-09-11 09:55:41 Metrocall  C ALPHA GO UP TO ROOF AND WATCH THE PENTAGON BURN. ALL AIR TRAVEL SUSPENDED.
I'm sure the historians are going to have a field day sifting through all of the messages, and trying to identify who owned the text pagers that were receiving the messages. Personally, reading through the messages is like taking an addictive drug - you want to stop, but you can't!
It is also VERY disturbing. Someone, somehow gathered or intercepted this information.
You absolutely, positively have got to assume that every single communication you make that uses any electronic device is being recorded. To think otherwise is simply foolish.
As one of the articles noted, this text information could be gathered using free software and a common PC. If you must have a totally private conversation, you had better do it face-to-face after sweeping the area for listening devices!
If you encrypt your electronic information, you are only providing a speed-bump to a motivated person that wants to see what you had to say. Still, encryption of your data or communications will provide some level of protection. Just don't bet your life (literally) on it.
Accept The Challenge
Consider the sensitivity of your communications and data. Most of us don't have a need for high-security messages. There is commercially available secure communication equipment for voice (not cheap) and email.
At the very minimum, though, personally sensitive information kept in your emergency packs should be encrypted.
If you have scanned this information - your passport, drivers license, insurance policies, mortgage documents, birth certificates, social security cards, bank records, retirement accounts and other similarly sensitive information - and placed it on a CD for rapid access, encrypt the information using any of the free, high-strength programs available on the Internet.
These programs will defeat the attempts of the casual viewer from gaining access to your information. If a government agency want to see it, chances are they'll be able to crack your encryption.
Free Encryption Software Listing
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