Sparks31 is Coming in June!

If you’re familiar with Sparks31 and his comms work, then you know there is no better communications training out there. His Grid Down Communications class is one of the most sought after courses in the country for patriots and survivalists, and with good reason. It’s a two day class that will challenge you and give you hands on training in communications for SHTF and grid down scenarios. You’ll learn about what radio equipment to buy and how to use it, as well as how to best set up for a grid down situation to use the minimum amount of power necessary. You’ll be looking at how to set up a listening station, how to take notes on the information you’re collecting, and how to set up a rig that can travel — and a LOT more.

In 2017, Sparks is only doing one Grid Down Communications class in the state of Washington all year — and TOWR is sponsoring it.  You will NOT want to miss this class, and signing up early means you’ll save money as well. The class is June 3-4, 2017, and if you sign up now you’ll get a discount of $150 off the full class price. You’ll want to do this, because our last class filled up quickly!

The class will be held in the Seattle area, and those who register will receive venue information and time.

DATE: June 3-4, 2017
LOCATION: Seattle area
EARLY BIRD: Now until March 31: $200
April 1 – May 31: $250
After June 1 and at the door: $350

You can sign up by emailing us at Get your seat reserved now!

Are Your Kids’ Toys Spying on Your Family?

Just when you think the surveillance state has reached the apex of creepiness, this happens. Consumer groups say that two toys made by Genesis Toys are spying on your kids–and that’s not all.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), along with the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy and Consumers Union have filed a complaint (PDF) with the Federal Trade Commission over the My Friend Cayla doll and the i-Que robot. EPIC and the other consumer watchdogs claim the “toys subject young children to ongoing surveillance” and violate privacy and consumer protection laws.

As if that’s not enough, it gets worse.

…the watchdogs allege that they upload the recordings to Nuance Communications, a voice technology company that has military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies as clients.

Remember Nuance? They were responsible for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the speech-to-text engine that quickly became the gold standard. What would they possibly want with a voiceprint of your kids? You guessed it.

The consumer groups allege that Nuance uses the recordings to improve the products it sells to military, government and law enforcement agencies. One particular product, Nuance Identifier, helps security officials search millions of recordings and identify criminals by the sound of their voices.

It always goes back to this, doesn’t it? Now watch the dancing by Nuance.

Richard Mack, Nuance’s vice president of corporate marketing and communications, said his company doesn’t sell or use the voice data it collects for marketing or advertising purposes.
“Upon learning of the consumer advocacy groups’ concerns through media, we validated that we have adhered to our policy with respect to the voice data collected through the toys referred to in the complaint,” Mack wrote in a blog post on the company’s website. “Nuance does not share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers.

Let’s parse that out.

“Doesn’t sell or use the voice data it collects for marketing or advertising purposes.”

Well, that’s a true statement. The government clients of Nuance have no interest in marketing or advertising, and Nuance never says they aren’t using the data for surveillance purposes. Keep in mind that one tactic of deception is to deny something that has not been accused, while not answering the actual accusation. That’s what they’re doing here. They do not address the actual thing they are accused of doing–namely, using the voice data of your kids (and you) to improve products they’re selling to the government, such as a database of voiceprints for ‘identifying criminals.’ They do not address the surveillance actions. They create a wholly new accusation (marketing and advertising) and deny that.

“Upon learning of the consumer advocacy groups’ concerns through media, we validated that we have adhered to our policy with respect to the voice data collected through the toys referred to in the complaint.”

They claim they learned about consumer advocacy groups’ concerns “through media,” and that they “validated that we have adhered to our policy” but take note: They have already told you, through omission, that they do use the voice data collected to improve surveillance products for the government and military. Therefore, we already know what their “policy” is, because they have told us. Now they clarify that further:

“with respect to the voice data collected through the toys referred to in the complaint.”

As opposed to…? The other voice data collected in other products (such as Dragon personal assistant for Android)? Such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking? This sentence is another omission. Let’s look at it in context again. They’re also by default admitting that there are other places where they do NOT adhere to their ‘policy.’

“we validated that we have adhered to our policy with respect to the voice data collected through the toys referred to in the complaint.” The word “with” signifies distance. The shortest sentence is generally the least sensitive and most likely to be true. He takes an incredibly large number of words to say, “No, we did not use the voice data for surveillance,” or “No, we did not give our voice data to the government.” In fact, look again. He never says that at all. He does say that they “share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers.” Before you look at that as a solid denial, let me point out one thing. What’s the definition of sharing? Even in a digital technology context, it means “to give specific users access to (online content), as by posting it on a social-media website or sending it as an email attachment.” He’s not sharing the content, he’s selling the content. Two different words, two different concepts. Again, he’s using very specific words and then trusting that the listener will interpret them to mean what he wants them to mean, instead of what the truth is.

As further proof of this, take a look at his previous statement. They do not use the voice data for marketing or advertising purposes. Now take a look at one of the dolls’ features:

“My Friend Cayla is pre-programmed with dozens of phrases that reference Disneyworld and Disney movies,” the complaint reads. “For example, Cayla tells children that her favorite movie is Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ and her favorite song is ‘Let it Go,’ from Disney’s ‘Frozen.’ Cayla also tells children she loves going to Disneyland and wants to go to Epcot in Disneyworld.”

Is he lying? Not at all. The doll is absolutely a marketing and advertising tool, but they are not using the voice data for that particular function. Therefore, he is giving a truthful statement—but he is not telling the whole truth. He is still being deceptive, and the loser in this game is always, will always, be you and your family’s privacy.

The surveillance state is real. It is in your home, it is in your kids’ toys. If you buy your kids Christmas presents, think before purchasing something that interacts with your child. You may be buying way more than you bargained for.

The Argument Against Patriot Rallies

It’s almost amusing to watch the same people who argued in favor of mass surveillance (for safety reasons of course), suddenly argue against it because Trump is President-elect. Slate opened their recent article with the statement “Donald Trump has shown he’ll stop at nothing to humiliate and intimidate his critics,” blissfully gliding over the part where the intelligence community has actually been used to identify, track and even punish people it deemed politically undesirable (they mentioned it back in January, but believed it was only against ‘people of color’).

Now EFF has come out with a list of digital security tips for protestors. While EFF’s been against mass surveillance since Day 1, their article contains a very clear warning that people seem unwilling to wrap their heads around–especially those in the patriot movement who love to go to rallies.

Many protesters may not be aware of the unfortunate fact that exercising their First Amendment rights may open themselves up to certain risks. Those engaging in peaceful protest may be subject to search or arrest, have their movements and associations mapped, or otherwise become targets of surveillance and repression.

With this statement, EFF is literally voicing something that we all know is unconstitutional. This is not how it’s supposed to be. Going to a protest or rally (a peaceful one, not the idiotic, violent events going on now) should not be cause for anything to happen to you. The fact that EFF can say this so plainly, as a matter of fact, should bother you to your core. It should leave you with no doubt that you do not live in a free country. Let me say that again in an even clearer way:

You do not have freedom of speech, and you do not have freedom to protest. To anyone who says differently, I point to the 70+ years of proven government action against those with ‘dissenting’ political views. The viewpoint targeted has changed depending on the administration and the decade, but the result is the same: 1) identify group, 2) engage in propaganda efforts to ‘prove’ to the populace that they are a menace because of their beliefs, 3) maybe toss up a false flag or two to drive home the point, 4) infiltrate and entrap, 5)  ad nauseum. Just because they haven’t actually hauled YOU away yet doesn’t mean a thing. You need to understand that right now, YOU, as a believer in freedom and limited government, are the target. I don’t care who the President-elect is, I don’t care what his promises are, I don’t care how much you think the tide is turning. I don’t even care how many rallies you’ve gone to or organized that went just fine. It only takes a single second for it to all go wrong.

If that still doesn’t convince you, consider this: The JTTF is actively investigating people in the patriot movement. Think about what JTTF stands for: Joint Terrorism Task Force. A unit made up of people from every level of law enforcement, tasked with finding terrorists, is what’s investigating the movement you are claiming membership in. Do the math. If you need an idea of what JTTF does, take a gander:

Police collected names, home addresses, personal descriptions, and other information on individuals, including writing down license plates of vehicles used by those attending peaceful protests. This appeared to be in violation of a city policy prohibiting the collection of intelligence “unless such information directly relates to criminal conduct or activity and there is reasonable suspicion that the subject of the information may be involved in criminal conduct or activity.”

Some of the targets were designated in the records as “criminal extremists” despite being clearly nonviolent. The records also showed that an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force collected information and created files “on the activities of peaceful protesters who have no connection to terrorism or any other criminal activity,” according to the ACLU.

You might be thinking “so what—they can come and get me if they’re feeling froggy,” but you’d be missing the point; actually, you’d be missing several of them.

  1. Subject to search and arrest means exactly that. Getting searched means they go through every single inch of your house, your garage, your shed, your desk, etc. Maybe you don’t care about your own info. What about the list of group members you have? The list of frequencies your group uses? The list of critical information you made as a part of your OPSEC setup? How many people are put in danger if you get searched? If you’re not thinking in those terms, quite frankly, someone in your group should throat punch you.
  2. And what about the arrest part? As I’ve mentioned about a hundred times, if you get arrested, three things happen:
    • You’re out of the fight
    • You’re now in THEIR world, forced to play by THEIR rules, and subject to all manner of physical, emotional and mental torment from guards and other inmates alike.
    • You’re now forced to use whatever resources you have for your defense, plus now you’re asking for others to donate THEIR hard-earned resources they need for their families. Good job. If there is any possible way for you to NOT get arrested, you need to consider doing that.
  3. Having your associations and movements mapped is not a good thing either. Sure, we’re all being surveilled. But you don’t want the extra special attention of targeted surveillance. What do your associations and movements have in common? Yup…they both mean putting others in danger. If they’re tracking where you go and who you associate with, specifically, then everyone who works with you or associates with you is now fair game.
  4. One more thing…are you willing to bet your life that none of them, if approached, would flip on you? Are you willing to wager your kids growing up with their parent in prison?

This isn’t saying that civil disobedience is always a bad thing. I’ve done it. There are plenty of pictures of me doing it. Lots of us have, probably including you. I’m saying before you do it publicly, do the risk assessment. Game out the possibles. If you don’t have the resources to fight any charges, if your kids are still little and need their parents, if you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, you might want to rethink your desire to go be loud and proud.

There are a hundred things you can do that are arguably far more effective in the bigger picture than planting your face all over their surveillance. Of course, that would also require you to not care if you get ‘credit’ for it. It would require you to be okay with certain folks calling into question your “commitment” because you’re not “standing.” I know how that goes, because I used to be one of the folks calling out those who didn’t go to rallies. I was absolutely, completely wrong, and I say that as clearly as I can.

If you want to go to rallies, I understand that, and I respect that. It’s theoretically your right to do so, even if that right isn’t truly respected by government. If you do choose that route, however, take the necessary precautions. Have money set aside for your bail and defense so you aren’t dependent on others if you get nailed. Have a plan for how your family will be cared for. And in the meantime, learn to protect yourself. Follow the list of steps to take to secure your information as much as you can. Practice need to know.

And don’t be like I was. If people don’t want to go to your rally, let them be. You have no idea what they’re already involved in; they might just be doing far more than you are. If they’re doing it right, you’ll never know.

TOWR Security Brief: 2 Nov 2016

It’s been a bit since we posted a Security Brief, so there’s a fair amount to go over. Let’s get started!

Tor has released a user manual! If you find errors or bugs, they’ve requested that you let them know on their bug tracker.

For those of you who are using Facebook to “check in” at the Standing Rock pipeline protest, you’re not fooling anyone. While not everything in this article is correct, if you’ve paid attention to what’s going on in the surveillance state at all, you already know this. Besides, why show solidarity for a conflict that’s been so thoroughly debunked?

If you’re a Linux geek, you might want to check out Snort if you don’t already know about it. Even if you think it’s a bit above your level, learning is good.

If you’re an Android user, you might be interested in this guide on how to harden your system…well, as much as possible, that is.

From Slashdot: Google has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow it to associate web tracking, which is supposed to remain anonymous, with personally identifiable user data. This completely reneges its promise to keep a wall between ad tracking and personally identifiable user data, further eroding one’s anonymity on the internet.

Just when you thought Facebook couldn’t get any creepier…it does.

Here’s a pretty interesting article about how human nature means truth no longer matters. Yeah, it’s from the NY Times, but read it anyway.

And for a final bonus, here are two from MDT that you should read immediately.

If you haven’t registered for our comms class this weekend or our Privacy webinar later this month, email us at and we’ll get you in! You’ll definitely want to take the comms class if you want to keep up in Sparks31’s amazing two-day hands on class in the spring.


Undercover Agent and Informant Manual

A little light reading. Say thank you to the State of New York and, who made the linked download possible. (You don’t need to sign in or sign up to download, but if you’re worried about it you should still use Tor/VPN/standard tradecraft.)

In order to defend against a tactic, you need to understand how the tactic is done. Pay special attention to Rule #9 of informant handling, because it’s a list of “signs of duplicity” they look for when handling an informant. I’m sure you can figure out which items would be helpful for you and which would not.

The same things they look for in an informant are the things you should be using to pick out who already is one, or who is most susceptible to being flipped. Look for people who have “beef” with others; that will be an avenue they use to drive wedges. Look for people who are easily flattered—often when opening a conversation, agents will compliment their subject and attempt to break the ice or get the subject to let their guard down. Think through the members of your group: if approached, how cooperative/confrontational would they be?

Look for disparities: Does the subject work at a low paying job but have a nice house, cars, etc.? Do they claim to have a master’s degree but speak like they’re fresh out of the trailer park? Do they claim to have military experience their skills don’t back up? Do they claim to be from somewhere but can’t answer questions about the area?

The document above is for New York State, but it was written by someone with 25 years of undercover with federal agencies. Take, read, apply what you need.

And don’t forget Rule #1: Don’t play stupid games with stupid people…or smart people pretending to be stupid.