What's worse than one more ridiculous "you might be a terrorist if" list? 25 of them such as the Communities Against Terrorism flyers designed by the FBI and the DOJ to promote suspicious activity reporting. Several of the flyers advise store owners to consider people who want privacy to be potentially engaged in terrorist activity and report them. In fact many of dangerously suspicious activities are simply wisdom and best practices for anyone concerned about security or privacy. "The flyers are not released publicly, though several have been published in the past by news media and various law enforcement agencies around the country," and are posted on Public Intelligence.
As I state every single time I do one of these You Might Be a Terrorist IF lists, none of us want terrorist scum running around in the USA. But VPN, Tor, PGP . . . anybody? Seems like wisdom, no? Instead it's an indicator you might be a terrorist. Really? Wow, this is out of control!
You may not use internet cafes or if you do, then you most assuredly should not do any serious surfing to financial or other important sites where you put in your login credentials. If you like security and privacy, you potential terrorist you, then this FBI warning might be a red screaming alert. Shoulder surfing is when someone walks up behind you, or is sitting nearby and watching your computer screen. It's a low-tech to no-tech hack and it seems reasonable for a person to object to shoulder surfers. However, if you are using a computer at an internet cafe [PDF], the FBI says to consider people suspicious and report them if they "are overly concerned about privacy, attempts to shield the screen from view of others." Also cyber cafe surfers "should" be considered suspicious and potential terrorists if they use "encryption or use of software to hide encrypted data in digital photos, etc."
All of the "Activities on Computer" that may indicate terrorism seem fairly innocent. You are also a potential terrorist if, while using an internet cafe computer, you log into Comcast, AOL or "other residential based internet provider." Other suspicious activities on internet cafe computers include the "use of anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address." Use Skype? Then you are suspicious, the same as if you use another VOIP or talk on a microphone to your PC gaming buddies. New to programming and need a cheat sheet? Not good if the net cafe owner is clueless about programming languages and believes checking a code sheets falls into the FBI warning about "suspicious or coded writings, use of code word sheets, cryptic ledgers, etc."
Here's a screenshot of what the FBI warns as suspicious people and activities at internet cafe:
Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Internet Café
All 25 Communities Against Terrorism flyers are worth checking out, but another of the most alarming warnings is in regard to shoppers in an electronic store [PDF]. People "should" be considered "suspicious" if a shopper "fills a 'shopping list' of components lacking knowledge about specifications and uses." How a store owner will determine a purchaser's knowledge or lack thereof about components is unknown. Perhaps pop quiz time at the cash register? But again, if you ask questions about "voice or data encryption, VOIP, satellite phones, voice privacy," or show an "unusual interest" in privacy or security by using "anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address," then you are a potential terrorist.
In the market for GPS and perhaps intend to purchase a soldering tool too? Maybe it's time to do your shopping online like at eBay or Craigslist because it is also an indicator that you might be a terrorist if you purchase an "unusual combination of" components. How does picking up batteries or flashlight bulbs at the same time make you a potential terrorist? Such items are common for emergency preparedness kits. Below is a screenshot of the FBI Communities Against Terrorism flyer for electronic stores.
Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Electronic Stores
Don't worry, photographers, the FBI didn't forget how dangerous you are even though the ACLU says you have every right to photograph that cop. Photography may not be a crime, yet, and photographers are not terrorists, but it's still laid out to the general public to look like using that camera makes you potentially engaged in terrorist activities.
Public Intelligence has posted all 25 FBI “Communities Against Terrorism” Suspicious Activity Reporting Flyers: Airport Service Providers, Beauty/Drug Suppliers, Bulk Fuel Distributors, Construction Sites, Dive/Boat Shops, Electronics Stores, Farm Supply Stores, Financial Institutions, General Aviation, General Public, Hobby Shops, Home Improvement, Hotels/Motels, Internet Cafes, Shopping Malls, Martial Arts/Paintball, Mass Transportation, Military Surplus, Peroxide Explosives, Recognizing Sleepers, Rental Cars, Rental Properties, Rental Trucks, Storage Facilities and Tattoo Shops.
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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