The USA Patriot Act signed into law on October 26, 2001 after the events of 9/11. (32) This body of law gave unprecedented capacity for governmental agencies to significantly flex their capabilities in order to distinguish other potential terrorist threats.(33) This was accomplished by closely monitoring personal banking records, phone records, email messages, text messages, and many other forms of communication and commerce to correlate any possible causality for concern. This practice proved highly effective however the unintended consequences of this new found freedom has been its use against normal citizens in non-terrorist information gathering situations.
The original signing of the USA Patriot Act was done with the understanding that the government would only utilize these capabilities for hunting terrorist threats as at that time they posed a clear and present danger to the safety and security of the United States.
The controversial nature of the USA Patriot Act was argued by many as the stripping away of the civil liberties of United States citizens.(34) There is a strong element of truth to that
assertion which is why the U.S.A Patriot Act must be incrementally renewed by Congress every year and was given a four year extension in 2011 by President Obama.(35)
There have been a number of controversial invocations by law enforcement related to the USA Patriot act. The most notable was in 2007 when an audit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found the agency had improperly used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal private information about US Citizens. (36) Some instances were also found to be blatantly illegal.(37)
Since the approval of the USA Patriot Act many new digital threats and cyber warfare tactics have entered the public domain. The year 2014 is rapidly becoming known for hacking events of major retailers.(38) It started in the fall of 2013 with the retailer Target having their point of sale systems hacked. (39) This event snowballed into the hacking of other retail point of sale systems at Neiman Marcus, UPS, Goodwill, P.F. Chang’s, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Michaels, and the most recent being Home Depot.(40)
While the recent retail events are excellent case studies in of themselves. I am going to illuminate another sequence of hacking events that occurred in the spring and summer of 2011. These case studies illustrate the increasing power of digital threats and cyber warfare against individuals, government institutions, private corporations, and even Internet security companies themselves. In my next post I will now discuss those case studies in more detail.