We begin today’s tales form the dark side with another Snowden revelation via Ars Technica:
Encrypted or not, Skype communications prove “vital” to NSA surveillance
- Newly published memo leaked by Edward Snowden details the value of Skype data.
Last year, Ars documented how Skype encryption posed little challenge to Microsoft abuse filters that scanned instant messages for potentially abusive Web links. Within hours of newly created, never-before-visited URLs being transmitted over the service, the scanners were able to pluck them out of a cryptographically protected stream and test if they were malicious. Now comes word that the National Security Agency is also able to work around Skype crypto—so much so that analysts have deemed the Microsoft-owned service “vital” to a key surveillance regimen known as PRISM.
Ars catches Microsoft accessing links we sent in our test messages.
“PRISM has a new collection capability: Skype stored communications,” a previously confidential NSA memo from 2013 declared. “Skype stored communications will contain unique data which is not collected via normal real-time surveillance collection.” The data includes buddy lists, credit card information, call records, user account data, and “other material” that is of value to the NSA’s special source operations.
The memo, which was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and released Tuesday by Glenn Greenwald to coincide with the publication of his book No Place to Hide, said the FBI’s Electronic Communications Surveillance Unit had approved “over 30 selectors to be sent to Skype for collection.”
CNBC tracks the hack:
Hackers go after Google users in advanced phishing attack
Hackers are targeting Google users’ passwords in a new advanced phishing scheme that is difficult to detect and block, security experts at the firm Bitdefender said on Tuesday.
The attack began a couple of days ago and has managed to spread fast, said Bianca Stanescu, a security specialist at the firm.
“We haven’t spotted this type of phishing attack. It’s enhanced, usually the security solutions block the webpage for malicious activity before users open it, but this time security solutions receive the encoded content and they can’t really block it.”
And today’s drone coverage begins with a video report from France 24:
Drones: A military revolution
Drones: unmanned, discreet and economical planes, are the secret weapons of approximately 30 armies around the world. But these small remote-controlled aircraft are also criticized for the significant collateral damage they can cause on the ground. Our reporters in the United States bring you an exclusive report filmed on a US Army base in New Mexico.
When it comes to reporting on the use of drones by the United States, one can only scratch the surface, because of the secretive nature of the American drone programme. Only a relatively small part of it is public, and its deadliest component remains a secret.
According to the US military, drones don’t even exist. The term “drones”, that is. The planes are officially called “RPAs” by all US officials, except, notably, US President Barack Obama. RPA stands for remotely piloted aircraft. By using this term, the military wants to underscore that these machines are actually piloted by humans, and aren’t just robots.
Next, drones Down Under with United Press International:
Safe use of drones in Australian airspace to be studied
Northrop Grumman Australia and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University have joined to study the requirements for the safe use of unmanned aerial systems in the country.
Requirements for operating unmanned aircraft in Australia are to be studied by Northrop Grumman and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.
Northrop Grumman Australia said the collaborative project is to develop solutions for the safe operation of the aircraft, particularly of large-sized UAVs.
“As a producer of large-scale unmanned aircraft systems, our goal is not only to provide the aircraft, but also to understand fully the Australian government’s needs to certify them for operation,” said Ian Irving, chief executive for Northrop Grumman Australia. “We’re extremely excited to work with RMIT University because of their leadership in the development of innovative approaches to civil and military airspace regulatory reform and air vehicle certification.”
And from Mashable, consulting with drones:
Consulting Firm Plans to Offer ‘Drone as a Service’ Option
On May 12, a strategic consulting firm called 32 Advisors announced the creation of a drone subsidiary it calls Measure. Rather than build or sell drones, the new company will offer what it calls “Drone as a Service.” Think Rent-a-Drone: Companies that believe they might have use for a drone — but don’t have the money, expertise, or interest to buy, run, and maintain their own drone or drone fleet — would hire Measure to do it for them.
Chief Executive Officer Brandon Torres Declet is a former legislative aide and lobbyist specializing in homeland security issues. Here’s what he says about it:
We have a lot of manufacturers trying to sell everything to everybody, and as a company we thought, look, there’s a space here to provide both advisory services for companies — let’s say in agriculture or oil and gas — to develop missions, to develop requirements and to develop the best drones they should use for those particular missions. And then to provide a “Drone as a Service” platform, a turnkey solution. So if an oil and gas company tells us, “Look, we have to fly our pipeline every two weeks,” we’ll provide the drone, the operator, the sensor or other payload, and fly it for them.
And the New York Times scrubs the Wayback Machine:
Google Must Honor Requests to Delete Some Links, E.U. Court Says
The highest court in the European Union decided on Tuesday that Google must grant users of its search engine a right to delete links about themselves in some cases, including links to legal records.
The decision by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg is a blow for Google, which has sought to avoid the obligation to remove links when requested by European users of its service.
By ruling that an Internet company like Google must comply with European privacy laws when operating in the European Union — a consumer market of about 550 million people — the court is indicating that such companies must operate in a fundamentally different way than they do in the United States.
A more rational European move from MintPress News:
European Court Scraps EU Data Collection Law
An EU law requiring telecom companies to store their customers’ metadata for up to two years has been ruled “invalid” by the EU Court of Justice.
The Court of Justice of the European Union concluded last month that the EU law forcing telecommunication companies to retain customer data for up to two years is illegal.
In a press release issued after the ruling in April, the European judges said the Data Retention Directive “interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data,” and as such, the court considers the directive “invalid.”
The Data Retention Directive requires Internet service providers and telephone companies to store metadata — the details of digital communications, including the phone numbers of both a caller and a recipient, the date and duration of a call, the location where a call was placed, as well as email addresses, but not the actual content of a conversation — for a period of up to two years. This storage, according to the law, allows “for the prevention, investigation, detection, and prosecution of criminal offences [sic],” particularly organized crime and terrorism.
Sky News takes action in Old Blighty:
The first legal challenge against alleged GCHQ snooping on UK smartphones has been filed.
The challenge alleges that the Government Communications Headquarters listening post has infected “potentially millions” of computers and smartphones around the world with malicious software, which could be used to extract photos and text messages, switch on the phone’s microphone or camera, track locations and listen in to calls.
Privacy International, a UK-based charity, brought the case to demand “an end to the unlawful hacking being carried out by GCHQ which, in partnership with the NSA”.
More from The Intercept:
British Spies Face Legal Action Over Secret Hacking Programs
Privacy International argues in its 21-page legal complaint that the hacking tactics are more intrusive than more traditional eavesdropping methods, and that, if left unchecked, they could amount to “one of the most intrusive forms of surveillance any government has conducted”:
In allowing GCHQ to extract a huge amount of information (current and historical), much of which an individual may never have chosen to share with anybody, and to turn a user’s own devices against him by coopting them as instruments of video and audio surveillance, it is at least as intrusive as searching a person’s house and installing bugs so as to enable continued monitoring. In fact, it is more intrusive, because of the amount of information now generated and stored by computers and mobile devices nowadays, the speed, ease and surreptitiousness with which surveillance can be conducted, and because it allows the ongoing surveillance to continue wherever the affected person may be.
The case is the latest in a string of actions against GCHQ in the United Kingdom following the Snowden disclosures. But it is the first to focus specifically on the legality of hacking techniques used to infiltrate computers and spy on communications. It has been lodged with the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special judicial body that handles complaints about the conduct of spy agencies.
The Independent advocates:
Create independent oversight committee for spy agencies, says former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove
An independent committee should be created to oversee the work of Britain’s spy agencies in the wake of damaging revelations from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, according to the former head of MI6.
Sir Richard Dearlove told the Reuters news agency that while he did not believe that the UK’s spies had acted illegally, the heated public debate around Snowden’s actions meant that there was now a greater need for transparency and assurances that they were not misusing their powers.
“Snowden has damaged the West’s capability with his revelations,” Sir Richard said. “But I also think what he has done is increase the knowledge and understanding of what the Government’s capabilities are in these areas.
“There is probably a need to create some sort of committee which is independently appointed – isn’t from the judiciary, isn’t made up of politicians – that acts as a guarantor in terms of assuring the public that these powers are not being abused.”
While Spiegel casts doubt:
NSA Probe: Can Snowden Be Questioned in Germany?
A special investigative committee in Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, is currently probing allegations first published in SPIEGEL that the United States’ National Security Agency intelligence apparatus spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and also on the communications data of millions of German citizens. The allegations have become the source of significant tensions between Germany and the United States.
One of the central questions facing the committee is whether and how it will question former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose archive has been the source of numerous investigative reports about the intelligence agency’s activities.
The German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel is adamantly opposed to having Snowden testify in Germany. In a classified position paper provided to the committee — that was leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other media in late April — the government argued that if Snowden testified in Germany, it would endanger the “welfare of the state.” It added that his questioning in Germany would “run contrary to important political interests of the Federal Republic,” and that if the former intelligence worker were allowed to travel to Germany, the US secret services “would at least temporarily” limit cooperation with their German counterparts. Indeed, according to SPIEGEL reporting, Merkel pledged to US President Barack Obama the NSA whistleblower would not be brought to Germany.
And from RT America, another crackdown:
US spy chief cracks down on whistleblowers
Open-information activists are calling a new rule being implemented by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence a “gag order” on public debate. The rule in question prohibits employees of the office from publically discussing or writing about leaked information. Activists believe this will prevent employees from speaking out on perceived wrongdoing by the intelligence community, forcing them to repeat official positions given by government officials. As many note, these official positions and the truth are often very different. RT’s Lindsay France discusses the controversial new policy with Kathleen McClellan, the national security and human rights counsel for the Government Accountability Project.
From the Associated Press, security south of the border:
Mexico sets security plan for violent border state
After a recent surge of bloodshed, Mexico’s top security official said Tuesday that military commanders will lead what he called a new security strategy in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.
But Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong’s description sounded more like a doubling down on the current approach rather than a new plan. He said the government will continue working to dismantle cartels, block smuggling routes for people, weapons and drugs, and vet local police for corruption. He gave no numbers for troop or federal police reinforcements.
At least 76 people have been killed in drug-related violence since the start of April in Tamaulipas from cartel infighting and clashes between gunmen and security forces.
MintPress News mulls Skynet controls:
UN Weighs Laws For Future ‘Killer Robots’
Campaigners say the ruling effectively backs individual privacy rights over the freedom of information.
Diplomats urged the adoption of new international laws Tuesday that could govern the use of “killer robots” if the technology becomes reality someday.
At the first United Nations meeting devoted to the subject, representatives began trying to define the limits and responsibilities of so-called lethal autonomous weapons systems that could go beyond human-directed drones.
The tone of the four-day gathering was set by Michael Moeller, acting head of the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva, who urged the delegates to take “bold action” by adopting pre-emptive new laws to ensure there is always a person directing the weapons.
After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including the latest outrageous umbrage from Pyongyang. . . Continue reading