Category Archives: Geopolitics

InSecurityWatch: War, malware, hacks, China


And a whole lot more.

First up, hyperbolic ramp-up; from the London Telegraph:

Theresa May: Isil will become nuclear threat if we don’t stop them

  • Home Secretary Theresa May warns Isil could acquire “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could acquire nuclear weapons if they are allowed to consolidate their hold in Iraq and Syria, Theresa May has warned.

Isil could get hold of “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state,” the Home Secretary said, in a wide-ranging speech to the Conservative party conference.

The Home Secretary dramatically highlighted the threat to Britain from the terrorist group, which is operating “within a few hours flying time of our country”.

From BBC News, British bombs away:

RAF jets strike first IS targets in Iraq

RAF jets have attacked a “heavy weapon position” and an armed pick-up truck in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has said.

In the first attacks since Parliament approved military action on Friday, two “precision strikes” were launched and both were “successful”, the MoD said.

The attacks, by two Tornado jets, were part of an international effort against militant group Islamic State (IS).

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, bloviation north of the border:

Canadian military intervention in Iraq is ‘noble,’ Harper says

Stephen Harper is calling Canadian military intervention in Iraq a “noble” cause as his government prepares for an expected air combat mission in the region, saying this country must respond to a direct threat from the Islamic State extremists.

“These are necessary actions, they are noble actions,” Mr. Harper said during Question Period on Tuesday. “When we think that something is necessary and noble, we don’t sit back and say that only other people should do it. The Canadian way is that you do your part.”

He promised a decision on whether and how to extend the mission in the coming days.

Reuters goes against the grain:

Special Report: Islamic State uses grain to tighten grip in Iraq

The group now controls a large chunk of Iraq’s wheat supplies. The United Nations estimates land under IS control accounts for as much as 40 percent of Iraq’s annual production of wheat, one of the country’s most important food staples alongside barley and rice. The militants seem intent not just on grabbing more land but also on managing resources and governing in their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Wheat is one tool at their disposal. The group has begun using the grain to fill its pockets, to deprive opponents – especially members of the Christian and Yazidi minorities – of vital food supplies, and to win over fellow Sunni Muslims as it tightens its grip on captured territory. In Iraq’s northern breadbasket, much as it did in neighboring Syria, IS has kept state employees and wheat silo operators in place to help run its empire.

Such tactics are one reason IS poses a more complex threat than al Qaeda, the Islamist group from which it grew. For most of its existence, al Qaeda has focused on hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings. But Islamic State sees itself as both army and government.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a drone’s-eye view:

Once targeted, Global Hawk drone now hidden weapon in U.S. airstrikes

The squabbling between the Pentagon and Capitol Hill over whether to kill the biggest of the military’s drones – the Global Hawk – is finished for the moment, with the remotely piloted surveillance aircraft and its builder emerging as the victors.

Now there’s every indication that the rise of the Islamic State has offered the pilotless wonder a chance to show its stuff.

If only its intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance activities, conducted from as high as 11 miles off the ground and on flights of up to 32 hours, weren’t classified. Pentagon officials are tight-lipped about the drone’s role in recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

And next door, via the Guardian:

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

  • Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

CBC News covers spooky rhetoric:

Homegrown terrorism remains biggest threat, Jeh Johnson says

  • U.S. Homeland Security secretary arrived Monday for 2-day visit, keynote speech

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says homegrown terrorism by previously unknown individuals is the threat that worries him the most.

Johnson, in remarks to a business audience in Ottawa today, pointed to last year’s Boston Marathon bombings as an example of terrorist threats that are difficult to predict.

In his midday speech to the Canadian American Business Council, he also spoke about measures by the U.S. government to improve the flow of good across the border while maintaining security.

Canada counts security state costs, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Security could drive Pan Am costs higher, minister warns

The rising cost of next year’s Pan American Games may balloon even more because of security costs, the Ontario cabinet minister in charge of the file said Tuesday.

“How can I guarantee the cost of the Games when I don’t know what the threat level is going to be?” Culture Minister Michael Coteau told a legislative committee. “I will not put a price tag on the safety of Ontarians.”

The current total for the event is $2.57-billion, of which $239-million is set aside for security. The cost of security has already grown twice from its initial estimate of $113-million. The Games will be held next summer in Toronto, Hamilton and several surrounding suburbs.

Old Blighty takes an Orwellian turn, via the Associated Press:

UK government plans curbs on nonviolent extremism

Britain’s interior minister has proposed new powers to bar people with extremist views from appearing on television or publishing on social media even if they are not breaking any laws.

Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference of the governing Conservatives that if re-elected next year the party will introduce powers to disrupt people who “spread poisonous hatred” even within the law.

May said Tuesday that only a minority of extremists are violent, but there is “a thread that binds” nonviolent extremism to terrorism.

May says tougher powers are needed to stop young people becoming radicalized. She says at least 500 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq, mainly to fight with militant groups.

The Associated Press embarrasses:

Germany unable to meet NATO readiness target

Germany’s military is unable to meet its medium-term readiness target should NATO call on its members to mobilize against an attack, officials said Monday.

The revelation follows days of embarrassing reports about equipment failures that included German army instructors being stranded in Bulgaria en route to Iraq when their plane broke down, and delays in sending weapons to arm Kurdish fighters because of another transport problem.

In the latest incident, the military said one of two aging C-160 aircraft flying German aid to Ebola-affected West Africa has also been grounded on the island of Gran Canaria since the weekend, awaiting repairs.

Asked about a Der Spiegel report that Germany at this juncture wouldn’t be able to offer the appropriate number of military aircraft within 180 days of an attack on the NATO alliance, Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff confirmed that was the case.

New Europe drones on:

France, Germany to offer drones to monitor ceasefire in Ukraine

France and Germany offered to deploy drones as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s efforts to monitor Ukraine’s ceasefire, a government official said on Monday.

At a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Romain Nadal announced “France and Germany have proposed to provide drones aimed at monitoring the ceasefire’s implementation as requested by the OSCE.”

The drone deployment proposal was being discussed, he added without elaborating.

“The cease-fire is an important opportunity to find a lasting political solution to the conflict and which respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Nadal noted.

A cumulus, not the fog of war, via Aviation Week & Space Technology:

Pentagon’s ‘Combat Cloud’ Concept Taking Shape

  • Pentagon envisions “combat cloud” as force multiplier for shrinking fleet

The Pentagon has been bitten by the Steve Jobs bug.

The latest vision for data-sharing across ships, aircraft and satellites—a perpetually chased but unrealized plan—is now being dubbed the “combat cloud.” And a retired U.S. Air Force officer is leading a first-of-a-kind charge to bring stakeholders from each of the services, industry and academia together to shape the cloud and attain buy-in, despite the Pentagon’s spotty track record of gaining traction on similar efforts.

Today the Air Force’s very expensive, stealthy aircraft cannot talk to its -legacy systems, and without that crosstalk the effectiveness of those investments will be marginalized. While officers are scrambling to solve the so-called “fifth-to-fourth” problem, a larger dialogue has blossomed about the objective beyond simply connecting F-22s, B-2s and F-35s to the fleet. But will this dialogue produce an executable program to buy the technology that can make the vision—eventually, the cloud—real?

The goal, likely to take a decade or more to realize, is to form an overarching network of data, each platform a node contributing information to the cloud and downloading from it, even in the heat of battle. It would include fighters, intelligence aircraft, satellites, ships and helicopters.

German victim-blaming from the Guardian:

EU’s new digital commissioner calls celebrities in nude picture leak ‘stupid’

  • Germany’s Günther Oettinger says stars who put naked photos of themselves online could not count on his protection

Former EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, 61, is used to accusations that he is more digitally naïve than digitally native by now. But at a hearing in front of the European parliament, the EU’s next commissioner designate for digital economy and society raised some serious questions about his suitability.

During a three-hour grilling by MEPs in Brussels, Oettinger said it would not be his job to protect stars “stupid enough to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online” – seemingly unaware that the recent leak of celebrities’ nude photographs had come about as a result of a targeted hacking attack.

Oettinger said: “We can mitigate or even eliminate some risks. But like with any technology, you can’t exclude all risks.

Maledictions enabled, via Ars Technica:

Advertising firms struggle to kill malvertisements

  • One provider finds a vulnerable advertising tool that allowed attackers access

In late September, advertisements appearing on a host of popular news and entertainment sites began serving up malicious code, infecting some visitors’ computers with a backdoor program designed to gather information on their systems and install additional malicious code.

The attack affected visitors to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Hindustan Times, Internet music service Last.fm, and India-focused movie portal Bollywood Hungama, among other popular sites. At the center of the malware campaign: the compromise of San Francisco-based Internet advertising network Zedo, an advertising provider for the sites, whose network was then used to distribute malicious ads.

For ten days, the company investigated multiple malware reports, retracing the attacker’s digital footsteps to identify the malicious files and shut the backdoor to its systems.

A major hack counterattack from the Guardian:

Four hackers charged with stealing $100m in US army and Xbox technology

  • Indictment unsealed on Tuesday reveals Department of Justice charged four people in international computer hacking ring

Four men have been charged with breaking into the computer systems of Microsoft, the US army and leading games manufacturers on Tuesday, as part of an alleged international hacking ring that netted more than $100m in intellectual property, the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The four are alleged to have stolen Xbox technology, Apache helicopter training software and pre-release copies of games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, according to an unsealed indictment. Two of the hackers pleaded guilty earlier on Tuesday, the DoJ said.

After the jump, protesting the educational memory hole, a cartel photobomb in Mexico and a protest for the disappeared, More Pakistani religious murders, forging Indo/American military alliance, FBI-initiated anti-terror raids Down Under, a large collection of items for the ongoing Occupy protests in Hong Kong [international reactions, censorship and other Beijing reactions, specultation, and more], an unofficial peace feeler from Tokyo to Beijing, China’s search for an Indian Ocean base, a major Chinese stealthy air expansion, a hate speech rebuke in Tokyo, and sniffing for bombs in sewers. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Debt, death, hacks, disorder


Lot of ground to cover, with major disruptions in Hong Kong after the jump, plus much more.

We begin with the greatest bomb threast to global civilization, the debt bomb, via the Guardian:

Record world debt could trigger new financial crisis, Geneva report warns

  • Concerted effort required to tackle economic woes as slow growth and low inflation cause global debts to balloon

Global debts have reached a record high despite efforts by governments to reduce public and private borrowing, according to a report that warns the “poisonous combination” of spiralling debts and low growth could trigger another crisis.

Modest falls in household debt in the UK and the rest of Europe have been offset by a credit binge in Asia that has pushed global private and public debt to a new high in the past year, according to the 16th annual Geneva report.

The total burden of world debt, excluding the financial sector, has risen from 180% of global output in 2008 to 212% last year, according to the report.

From the New York Times, spy anxiety:

Spy Agencies Urge Caution on Phone Deal

An obscure federal contract for a company charged with routing millions of phone calls and text messages in the United States has prompted an unusual lobbying battle in which intelligence officials are arguing that the nation’s surveillance secrets could be at risk.

The contractor that wins the bid would essentially act as the air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system, which is run by private companies but is essentially overseen by the government.

And with a European-based company now favored for the job, some current and former intelligence officials — who normally stay out of the business of awarding federal contracts — say they are concerned that the government’s ability to trace reams of phone data used in terrorism and law enforcement investigations could be hindered.

On to the other bomb-athon, with The Hill leading the way:

Rogers: Intel officials warned Obama about ISIS ‘for over a year’

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the intelligence community had warned President Obama about the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for “over a year.”

“This was not an Intelligence Community failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat,” Rogers said in a statement Monday.

His statement comes after the president said that intelligence officers had underestimated ISIS in an interview that aired on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

RT covers an unfolding scenario:

ISIS+Al-Nusra Front? Islamists reportedly join forces, new threat against West issued

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front has issued a new threatening audio message featuring its leader warning the West “will pay the heaviest price” for its actions. The Syrian group is reportedly now joining up with the estranged Islamic State militants.

The leader of Syria’s most prominent terrorist group, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, in denouncing the US-led air strike campaign, has urged Westerners everywhere to do the same “by standing against the decisions of your rulers,” otherwise bloodshed would be brought to their soil.

“Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price,” Reuters cited him as saying. He threatened viewers that the fight would be brought “to the hearts of your homes.”

Der Spiegel covers reconsideration:

The Caliphate Next Door: Turkey Faces Up to its Islamic State Problem

  • For years, Ankara has been tolerating the rise of the extremist Islamic State. But now that the jihadists are conquering regions just across the border in northern Syria, concern is growing that Islamist terror could threaten Turkey too.

The country has been strangely reserved when it comes to dealing with the Islamic State. It is the neighboring country that is perhaps most threatened by the jihadist fighters, but it has refrained thus far from joining US President Barack Obama’s anti-terror coalition, even if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly hinted over the weekend that it might do so soon. When it comes to combatting the Islamic State and putting an end to the Syrian civil war, Turkey has a key role to play.

The government in Ankara had justified its hesitancy by pointing to the dozens of Turkish diplomats taken hostage by the Islamic State in Mosul. Now that they have been released, however, all eyes are on Turkey to see what responsibilities it might take on. On the way back to Turkey from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan told reporters that his country is now prepared to join the coalition. At the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday he added, in reference to the fight against the Islamic State: “We cannot stay out of this.”

From the US perspective, Turkey has often been a difficult partner. Still, after the civil war in Syria began, the two countries expanded cooperation, with American intelligence agencies operating centers in southern Turkey and delivering information about intercepted extremist communications to their Turkish counterparts in near real time.

News Corp Australia covers collateral damage:

Office fitout company ISIS Group Australia considers name change after staff abused as ‘terrorists’

A NATIONAL construction company could be forced to change its name of 25 years because staff members are being abused as “terrorists”.

ISIS Group Australia — an Australian company that has specialised in commercial office fit-outs and refurbishments since 1989 — has been forced to scale back signage on worksites and asked workers to not wear uniforms branded with the company name.

It comes as a Sydney family has been urged to change the name of their eight-year-old girl, whose name is Isis.

In recent weeks, site workers have been abused as “terrorists” by passers-by and angry messages have been left on the company’s office line.

Salon poses allegations:

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. manufactured militant threat as pretext to bomb Syria

  • In an extensive new report, The Intercept questions whether the much-hyped Khorasan Group actually exists

Until the Obama administration announced last week that it was launching air strikes in Syria to target the Islamic State (ISIS) and an al-Qaida affiliate called the Khorasan Group, most Americans had never heard of the latter organization.

That’s because the U.S. government invented the threat, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain charge. In an extensive new report, the journalists document a carefully orchestrated campaign by U.S. officials to depict an imminent threat of terror attacks by Khorasan against U.S. targets. Media outlets suddenly zeroed in on Khorasan, hyping the alleged threat the group could pose, Greenwald and Hussain write.

Claims that Khorasan planned to launch attacks on the U.S. came from anonymous officials who provided thin evidence that any such plans were at risk of being carried out. But, Greenwald and Hussain contend, “American media outlets – eager, as always, to justify Americans wars – spewed all of this with very little skepticism.”

Greenwald’s report is here.

Well-grounded boots from the Los Angeles Times:

U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after historic transfer of power

Afghanistan’s new government plans to sign a strategic agreement Tuesday with the United States that would allow for approximately 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country after the U.S.-led NATO coalition’s mandate expires in December.

U.S. officials say the extended troop presence is needed to continue training Afghanistan’s 350,000 soldiers and police, and to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

The pact – which outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign in his final months in office, fueling tensions with Washington – is expected to be signed by U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and a senior member of the Afghan government.

International Business Times casts a pall:

US Troops In Afghanistan Could Lose Combat Role, Face Bigger Risk From Taliban Attacks

Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as the new president of Afghanistan Monday, clearing the path for a bilateral security agreement that will allow nearly 10,000 U.S. military personnel to stay in the country beyond the end of 2014. The agreement will see U.S. military personnel deployed as  advisers to train and equip Afghan security forces, with U.S. special-operations personnel for anti-terrorism missions against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

While the new role puts an end to regular combat missions for the U.S. military, the reduced number of overall personnel may leave the force more exposed.

“In terms of the protection issues, this was a concern of the vice president who wanted the zero personnel option, but Obama disagreed,” said Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Vice President Biden’s “main concern was that as U.S. forces decrease, they will become more susceptible to being attacked.”

From the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, with the documents at the link:

New Documents Shed Light on One of the NSA’s Most Powerful Tools

Today, we’re releasing several key documents about Executive Order 12333 that we obtained from the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the ACLU filed (along with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School) just before the first revelations of Edward Snowden. The documents are from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and others agencies. They confirm that the order, although not the focus of the public debate, actually governs most of the NSA’s spying.

In some ways, this is not surprising. After all, it has been reported that some of the NSA’s biggest spying programs rely on the executive order, such as the NSA’s interception of internet traffic between Google’s and Yahoo!’s data centers abroad, the collection of millions of email and instant-message address books, the recording of the contents of every phone call made in at least two countries, and the mass cellphone location-tracking program. In other ways, however, it is surprising. Congress’s reform efforts have not addressed the executive order, and the bulk of the government’s disclosures in response to the Snowden revelations have conspicuously ignored the NSA’s extensive mandate under EO 12333.

The order, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, imposes the sole constraints on U.S. surveillance on foreign soil that targets foreigners. There’s been some speculation, too, that the government relies directly on the order — as opposed to its statutory authority — to conduct surveillance inside the United States.

More from The Intercept:

The Ghost of Ronald Reagan Authorizes Most NSA Spying

U.S. intelligence agents have broad authority to spy on U.S. companies as long as they are “believed to have some relationship with foreign organizations or persons” — a description that could conceivably apply to any company with foreign shareholders, subsidiaries, or even employees—according to newly released government documents published this morning by the ACLU.

The trove, which includes documents from the NSA, Department of Justice, and Defense Intelligence Agency, confirms long-standing suspicions that the bulk of U.S. foreign surveillance operations are governed not by acts of Congress, but by a 33-year-old executive order issued unilaterally by President Ronald Reagan.

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, and they detail the extent of the order — which is extraordinarily broad and until recently largely obscure — and which underpins expansive U.S. surveillance programs, like siphoning internet traffic from Google and Yahoo’s overseas data centers, recording every call in the Bahamas, and gathering billions of records on cellphone locations around the world.

Recruitment advancement from the Associated Press:

Israel’s shadowy Mossad looks to recruit online

It used to be that if you wanted to join one of the world’s most secretive espionage organizations you had to sneak into a foreign embassy, answer a cryptic newspaper ad or show up in a nondescript building in Tel Aviv to meet a shadowy recruiter. Now all it takes to apply for a job at Israel’s Mossad spy agency is a click of the mouse.

The typically hush-hush Mossad revamped its website last week to include a snazzy recruiting video and an online application option for those seeking employment. With versions in Hebrew, English, French, Russian, Arabic and Persian, the sleek site looks to revolutionize the way Israel’s legendary agency seeks out potential agents after generations of backdoor, cloak-and-dagger antics.

“We must continue to recruit the best people into our ranks so that the Mossad might continue to lead, defend and allow for the continued existence of the state of Israel,” Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo said in a statement announcing the launch. “The Mossad’s qualitative human capital is the secret of our success.”

From the Guardian, the latest from The Most Transparent Administration in American History™:

US bid for secret Guantánamo force-feeding hearings prompts cover-up fears

  • The Guardian is among several news organisations planning to file a motion to challenge the administration’s secrecy reques

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to hold a highly anticipated court hearing on its painful force-feedings of Guantánamo Bay detainees almost entirely in secret, prompting suspicions of a cover-up.

Justice Department attorneys argued to district judge Gladys Kessler that allowing the hearings to be open to the public would jeopardize national security through the disclosure of classified information. Should Kessler agree, the first major legal battle over forced feeding in a federal court would be less transparent than the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee on hunger strike whose court challenge is slated to begin next week, said the government was using national security as an excuse to prevent the public from learning the extent of a practice that the judge in the case has considered brutal.

A spooky brew-ha-ha from the London Daily Mail:

Inside the CIA’s Starbucks: Coffee shop known as Store Number 1 bans names on cups and runs background checks on baristas

  • Cafe is deep inside the agency’s Langley, Virginia, forest compound
  • Is referred to as ‘Store Number 1′ on customers’ receipts
  • However agents working in the building call it the ‘Stealthy Starbucks’
  • Baristas are given security briefings on a regular basis
  • Staff are also escorted by agency ‘minders’ when they leave work
  • Double espressos and sugary Frappuccinos are said to be popular orders

From PCWorld, a cell for cell phone hacking?

CEO indicted for company’s alleged mobile spyware app

The CEO of a Pakistani company has been indicted in the U.S. for selling a product called StealthGenie that buyers could use to monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on other people’s mobile phones, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The indictment of Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, represents the first time the DOJ has brought a criminal case related to the marketing and sale of an alleged mobile spyware app, the DOJ said in a press release Monday.

Akbar is CEO of InvoCode, the company selling StealthGenie online. Akbar is among the creators of StealthGenie, which could intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices, the DOJ said.

On to the world of online insecurity, starting with this from Network World:

Malvertising campaign delivers digitally signed CryptoWall ransomware

The cybercriminals behind the CryptoWall ransomware threat have stepped up their game and are digitally signing new samples before using them in attacks in an attempt to bypass antivirus detection.

Researchers from network security firm Barracuda Networks found new CryptoWall samples that were digitally signed with a legitimate certificate obtained from DigiCert. The samples were distributed through drive-by download attacks launched from popular websites via malicious advertisements.

Several websites in the Alexa top 15,000 list were affected by this latest malvertising—malicious advertising—campaign including hindustantimes.com, the site of Indian daily newspaper Hindustan Times; Israeli sports news site one.co.il; and Web development community codingforums.com.

“In every case, malicious content arrived via the site’s use of the Zedo ad network,” the Barracuda researchers said in a blog post Sunday.

Serious insecurity from SecurityWeek:

What We Know About Shellshock So Far, and Why the Bash Bug Matters

Security researchers around the world have been working around the clock analyzing the recently disclosed flaw in Bash which can be exploited to execute code and hijack vulnerable devices. Attackers are already targeting the bug, which has been nicknamed Shellshock, and security experts warned organizations to prepare for more attacks and messy cleanup.

The investigation is still in the early stages and there are a many unanswered questions about how Shellshock can be abused. Opinions also vary wildly among experts as to its potential impact. What is known—and agreed upon—at this point, is that Shellshock is a very serious vulnerability because it allows remote code execution and gives the attacker full access to the system. Being able to get shell and execute any kind of program on the target system is a major coup for attackers

Bash “is widely used so attackers can use this vulnerability to remotely execute a huge variety of devices and web servers,” said Tod Beardsley, engineering manager at Rapid7.

The most obvious initial targets will be large hosting providers, “which are riddled with bash-enabled administrative functions, as well as innumerable PHP-based forums, blogs, stores,” suggested Daniel Ingevaldson, CTO of Easy Solutions.

From Network World, corporate surveillance anxieties:

Facebook’s new ad sales plan raises hackles in Germany

As Facebook began rolling out a global advertising network on Monday that will capitalize on all it knows from tracking users across the web, German consumer organizations immediately raised their voices in protest.

Called Atlas, the new ad network is supposed to allow advertisers to use Facebook’s detailed knowledge about its users to reach their desired customers across devices and target ads at them across apps and websites.

From The Verge, foiling 4Chan?:

George Clooney gave his wedding guests burner phones to prevent photo leaks

It’s a tricky security problem: how do you let your wedding guests take photos, but make sure none of the photos leak? If you’re George Clooney, you collect everyone’s phone and give each of them a burner phone just for the occasion, to be tossed away once the big day is over. It’s an expensive way around the problem, sure, but if you’re a movie star, it’s a small price to pay.

The bigger question, tossed around in security circles, is how all this actually worked. Supposedly, Clooney’s people had access to all of the photos taken with the burner phones, so they would know who took which photos and would be able to trace back any leaks that came out. Vogue had bought exclusive photography rights to the wedding (donating the fee to charity), so Clooney had reason to be protective of the photos. But as some in the security world have noted, it may not have been an airtight system.

Of course, from a security perspective, the race is hard to win anyway. If someone was really dead-set on leaking that million-dollar wedding photo to TMZ, they could have just smuggled in a camera of their own. If the burner phones worked — and Clooney’s photo embargo has held, so far — it may be more due to well-behaved guests than airtight infosec.

After the jump, Indian police bust self-snappers, Jerry Brown vetoes a bill to curb cop drone ops, 58 Mexican students “disappeared” and a politician gunned down in public, privatized security abuse in Germany, China censors online posts about the turmoil in Hong Kong and condemns the protests, Beijing warns would-be interveners, media savvy and Global solidarity rallies called, Beijing’s deepest fear, a significant move in the Game of Zones, a Chinese missile advance and a demonstration of force, and an ill-matched pair divorces. . . Continue reading

InsecurityWatch: War, spooks, hacks, drones


We begin with beating war drums from  the Guardian:

Top Republican calls for US ground war amid fresh strikes on Isis

  • New US-led wave of bombing raids target Islamic State oil supplies as John Boehner ramps up military rhetoric

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, on Sunday ramped up the political rhetoric over Syria and Iraq by saying American forces will need to be put on the ground in the battle against the Islamic State (Isis).

Boehner’s comment that at some point “boots have to be on the ground” marks a significant inflation in the terms of the debate over how to deal with Isis. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said US ground forces will not be used in the conflict, which on Sunday saw US-led strikes in Syria and the first British strikes in Iraq, though the Pentagon has ordered the dispatch of 1,600 US troops to Iraq for what it insists will be training and other support functions.

Speaking to ABC News, Boehner criticised Obama’s plan to degrade and ultimately destroy Isis. “If the goal is to destroy Isil as the president says it is,” he said, “I don’t believe the strategy he outlines will accomplish it. At the end of the day I think it’s going to take more than airstrikes to drive them out – at some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground, that’s the point.”

McClatchy Washington Bureau steps up the tempo:

U.S. combat role in Iraq not off table, Gen. Dempsey says

The nation’s top military commander refused Friday to back off his controversial stance in Senate testimony that he would recommend committing U.S. troops to combat in Iraq if he believed they were needed to help defeat Islamic State militants.

The steadfastness of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed a potential gap between President Barack Obama’s senior military and political advisers over whether there might once more be American “boots on the ground” in Iraq three years after the last American combat troops left.

In another sign of the expanding American mission in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the first U.S. military personnel had arrived in Saudi Arabia to lay the groundwork for training 5,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

Misunderstimation from the Washington Post:

Obama: United States underestimated rise of Islamic State

The United States has underestimated the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama said during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” in which he also acknowledged the Iraqi army’s inability to successfully tackle the threat.

According to excerpts, “60 Minutes” presenter Steve Kroft referred to comments by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, in which he said, “We overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi Army, to fight.”

“That’s true. That’s absolutely true,” Obama said. “Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

USA Today itemizes the bill:

ISIL fight already near $1 billion as strategy shifts

The air war in Syria and Iraq has already cost nearly $1 billion and ultimately could cost as much as $22 billion per year if a large ground force is deployed to the region, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The study, due to be released Monday, shows a range of costs based on sustained but low-intensity combat up to a force of 25,000 U.S. troops on the ground.

President Obama and the Pentagon have ruled out the the use of American boots on the ground, making the most expensive option the least likely. Yet as Todd Harrison, the lead author points out, war is “an unpredictable enterprise” and the ability to forecast its costs is limited.

And the Guardian covers the media war:

Isis’s online propaganda outpacing US counter-efforts, ex-officials warn

  • Batch of US initiatives seeking to undermine Isis’s sophisticated online image is unlikely to work on internet-affluent youths

Former US public diplomacy officials fear the sophisticated, social media borne propaganda of the Islamic State militant group (Isis) is outmatching American efforts at countering it.

Aimed less at Isis itself than at potential supporters, a bevy of US diplomatic and communications initiatives seek to undermine Isis’s portrayal of itself as an authentic, successful Islamic resistance. But even some who helped push the State Department into confronting extremists online fear that US counter-propaganda is amorphous, slipshod and unlikely to persuade internet-fluent youths to whom Isis attempts to appeal.

“I honestly don’t think the government should be in the position of directly engaging jihadis on Twitter. It’s a silly game,” said Shahed Amanullah, who last year left the State Department after helping establish programs to promote anti-extremist Muslim voices abroad.

The Independent covers spin:

Isis in Syria: Militant group al-Nusra claims US air strikes are a ‘war against Islam’

The Syrian terror group Jabhat al-Nusra has denounced US air strikes against Isis as “a war against Islam” and vowed to take revenge against the coalition of countries supporting military action in the region.

In an online statement on Saturday, al-Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri called on jihadists around the world to strike against the global alliance opposing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

He said: “These states have committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world”

Deutsche Welle covers a possible casualty:

Khorasan leader believed dead after airstrikes

US-led airstrikes are believed to have killed a leader of an al Qaeda splinter group. The Khorasan group was believed to have been plotting imminent attacks against the West, according to defense officials.

The leader of the al Qaeda splinter group Khorasan, which US officials say was plotting imminent attacks against the West, is believed to have been killed, the SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) monitoring service announced on Sunday.

A twitter account managed by an al Qaeda member said that the Kuwait-born Muhsin al-Fadhli, a high-level al Qaeda operative and former close associate of Osama bin Laden, had been killed in coalition airstrikes conducted on September 23 in Syia.

SITE said a series of tweets expressed condolences for the deaths of Fadhli and Abu Youssef al-Turki, another Khorasan leader. The monitoring group said the tweets also bemoaned conditions in Syria, where the US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against “Islamic State” militants.

Defense One looks at munitions:

How American Precision Weapons Opened the Door to an Arab Coalition

President Obama’s insistence that Arab states join in on U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq serves a political purpose for Washington and the region. But that Arab states were able to play a key role in the strikes at all is owed to years of purchases of made-in-America, high-tech, precision-guided bombs.

The U.S. military has gone to great lengths to detail the precision of the air strikes conducted against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

But outside the Middle East, NATO leaders long have expressed concern that the alliance lacked sufficient stockpiles of these types of guided weapons and could limit a countries’ participation in long-term air strike campaign. “We do not have enough precision-strike munitions to carry on a concentrated campaign, at length, helping all of our allies to be there with us,” said Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO supreme allied commander Europe and head of US European Command, last week. “We need to think through where we are on precision munitions.”

Bloomberg mulls blowback:

Asians Chase Apocalypse in Syria, to Tick Like Time Bombs Back Home

As nations around the world grapple with the threat of Islamic State, the Southeast Asians fighting in the Middle East pose a risk in several ways, security analysts say. They could return and breathe new life into militant groups in a region with a history of extremism and occasional large-scale terror attacks, and they could radicalize friends and family at home via social media, aided by slick Islamic State promotional videos.

“It is not IS per se that might pose a danger to the region but rather its extreme militant ideology as well as the skills, battleground experience and international networks that Southeast Asian jihadists got from Syria and Iraq,” said Navhat Nuraniyah, an associate research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who looks at terrorism and radicalization.

“If even a small minority of them do return, they will be highly respected by existing local groups,” she said. “If they do intend to continue their mission they will have no problem finding recruits and support.”

Yet another drone strike from the Guardian:

US drone strike kills four suspected militants in Pakistan

  • Two Arab militants and two local allies killed in tribal region along border with Afghanistan, officials say

A US drone strike killed four suspected militants on Sunday in a north-western tribal region in Pakistan along the Afghan border, intelligence officials and Taliban fighters said.

Those killed included two Arab militants and two of their local allies in a compound in the town of Wana in South Waziristan, the two officials and three Taliban fighters said.

All of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to journalists. Authorities don’t allow journalists into Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have long been a safe haven for local and al-Qaida linked foreign militants.

German journalist Udo Ulfkotte has some startling allegations, via RT:

‘Bought Journalism’: German bestseller reveals CIA pay Western media for spin & bias

Program note:

The media is a key tool in the battle for hearts and minds. But a new bestseller by a German author reveals some details on journalism that would be considered too outlandish, even in a spy novel. RT’s Peter Oliver reports.

South China Morning Post covers old school spooking:

Arms-smuggling Taiwanese duo snared in FBI sting plead guilty

  • Pair claimed to be acting on behalf of Beijing official when they tried to send hi-tech military gear to mainland; HK ‘mastermind’ awaits trial

Two Taiwanese accomplices of an alleged Hong Kong smuggling mastermind face decades in US prisons after being caught trying to export high-grade military technology to mainland China.

The pair claimed to be acting on behalf of a senior Beijing official when they were snared in an FBI sting, FBI reports and legal documents seen by the Sunday Morning Post show.

Charlie Shen Hui-sheng, 47, and Alice Chang Huan-ling, 43, pleaded guilty in a New Jersey court on Monday to both the arms charge and their involvement in a drug-smuggling operation led by Hongkonger Kow Soon-ah. Kow was extradited to the United States from the Philippines in 2012 and faces 14 drug and contraband charges that could see him jailed for life.

From the Canadian Press, reasonable grounds for suspicion:

Spy watchdog’s past oil ties spark concerns in civil liberties complaint case

A civil liberties group is objecting to Canada’s spy watchdog assigning Yves Fortier to investigate alleged spying on environmental activists, citing a conflict due to his former petroleum industry ties.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s lawyer has written to the Security Intelligence Review Committee asking that Fortier “recuse himself from any participation” in the matter since he once sat on the board of TransCanada Pipelines — the company behind the Keystone XL project.

Fortier, one of three review committee members, was recently appointed to lead an investigation into the association’s complaint that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service gathered and shared information about activists opposed to Canada’s energy policies.

After the jump, Internet founder sounds the alarm, a Snowden-inspired push, a Down Under online sting nets a biggie, a rare win for U.S. reporters, Hong Kong turmoil continues [with injuries], Beijing’s opposition, Beijing sends a verbal blast at Tokyo, North Korea sends at verbal blast at Washington, and the vanishing Kim. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, cops, hacks, more


First up, from the Los Angeles Times, piling on:

Britain, Belgium and Denmark to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq

The British Parliament voted Friday to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq against the extremist group Islamic State.

The motion approved by a vote of 524 to 43 does not allow Britain’s air force to also conduct operations in neighboring Syria, where the militants have seized large swaths of territory.

Prime Minister David Cameron made the case for military intervention to lawmakers, who were recalled to London during a recess for Friday’s vote.

More from the London Telegraph:

British air strikes on Iraq in hours after MPs vote for action

  • Bombing is backed by 524 to 43 MPs after David Cameron said the “psychopathic terrorists” must be destroyed

Air Strikes could begin within hours after MPs backed Government plans for a bombing campaign against “psycopathic” Isis terrorists in Iraq.

Six Tornados supported by a Voyager refuelling tanker have been at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in mid-August and could be ready to begin air strikes within hours.

Sources said the Tornados could quickly be fitted with Paveway IV guided bombs or Brimstone missiles to carry out strikes on Isil vehicles and convoys.

Another body for the huddle from  CBC News:

Stephen Harper says Canada won’t ‘stand on the sidelines’ of ISIS fight

  • PM calls Islamic State a ‘direct threat to the security of this country’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will not sit idly while Islamic State militants in the Middle East threaten to slaughter thousands of innocent people.

“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch. We do our part,” Harper said following a meeting with European Union leaders on Parliament Hill Friday.

“That’s always how this country has handled its international responsibilities, and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

TheLocal.no adds another:

Norway commits military staff in fight against Isis

Norway’s government officially ruled to let five Norwegian officers be included in the US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, on Friday.

The five officers of the Norwegian military will be made available “for relevant headquarters planning and leading the international effort against ISIS in Iraq” for no more than twelve months, informed the Department of Defence.
Minister of Defence Ina Eriksen Søreide said to NTB: “It is important to show that the global society stands together in the fight against international terrorism, and that serious violations on human rights will not be tolerated. The government has decided that Norway will contribute with five officers, who will take part in the military planning and be able to contribute to a stronger basis for decision-making for an evaluation of possible further Norwegian military contributions.”

The Norwegian officers will first be sent to Tampa, Florida to begin their tasks as soon as possible.

RT has numbers for another:

Denmark to send F-16 jets to aid anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq

Denmark is to dispatch seven F-16 fighter jets to Iraq to aid in the struggle against Islamic State militants, Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced Friday.

The US filed a request with Denmark on Thursday to contribute to the international air campaign against Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, or ISIL) in Iraq. Thorning-Schmidt said that the F-16s would be limited to flying in Iraq and would not be targeting any areas in neighboring Syria.

“I am very pleased that there now is a broad coalition, including countries in the region who want to… contribute,” she told a press conference. “The terror organization ISIS cannot be defeated with military means alone.”

Reuters has one reaction:

Wary of air strikes, Islamic State insurgents change tactics

Islamic State militants are changing tactics in the face of U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq, ditching conspicuous convoys in favor of motorcycles and planting their black flags on civilian homes, tribal sources and eyewitnesses say.

They reported fewer militant checkpoints to weed out “apostates” and less cell phone use since the air strikes intensified and more U.S. allies pledged to join the campaign that began in August, saying the militants had also split up to limit casualties.

A tribal sheikh from a village south of Kirkuk said Islamic State elements “abandoned one of their biggest headquarters in the village” when they heard the air strike campaign was likely to target their area.

Reuters has another:

U.S.-led strikes pressure al Qaeda’s Syria group to join with Islamic State

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, is facing mounting pressure from its own members to reconcile with its rival Islamic State and confront a common enemy after U.S.-led air strikes hit both groups this week.

But that move would require pledging loyalty to Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, which would effectively put an end to the Nusra Front, fighters in the group say.

Nusra, long one of the most effective forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was weakened this year by battles with Islamic State, an al Qaeda splinter group that routinely employs ruthless methods such as beheadings and mass executions.

And possibly another from the China Post:

IS jihadists execute female rights activist in Iraq’s Mosul

The jihadists who rule Iraq’s northern city of Mosul have executed a female rights activist who criticized the Islamic State (IS) group on social media, several sources said Thursday.

According to rights groups and residents, Samira Saleh al-Nuaimi was executed on Monday. A source at Mosul morgue confirmed to AFP that her body was brought in earlier this week.

“I have also had contact with the morgue and sadly I can confirm that she is dead,” Hana Edward, a prominent Iraqi rights activist who knew Nuaimi, told AFP.

From TheLocal.fr, alerting:

France slaps travel warnings on 40 countries

Following the beheading of a French hostage, authorities have expanded to 40 countries the list of places where French visitors should use “utmost vigilance”. Some on the list may surprise you.

With France carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and one of its nationals beheaded at the hands of jihadists, French authorities have added new countries to a warning list for its citizens.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expanded the list from 31 to 40 countries on Thursday, warning French people to use their “utmost vigilance” if they visit these places.

Discouragement from Homeland Security News Wire:

New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz said on Tuesday. Boston was chosen “for the strength of our existing relationships, community engagement and community oriented policing programs,” Ortiz added.

Reuters has numbers:

Nine Japanese said to have joined Islamic State

Nine Japanese nationals have joined Islamic State, Japan’s former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, quoted a senior Israeli government official as saying, but the government’s top spokesman said on Friday it had not confirmed the information.

Tamogami, now a senior official of a tiny new political party, said on his blog that Nissim Ben Shitrit, the director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, told him this month that nine Japanese had taken part in Islamic State.

Asked about the possible participation of Japanese citizens in the militant group, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference, “The government has not confirmed such information.”

The Mainichi debunks:

FBI: About 12 Americans fighting in Syria, not 100

The U.S. believes there are about 12 Americans fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria, not more than 100, as has been cited for months.

That’s not to say there is no concern about these other 88 or so Americans who officials say have been killed, arrested, traveled or attempted to travel to join the fight. But the U.S. only knows of about 12 who are currently in Syria fighting, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.

The 100 figure, however, had taken on an urban legend status over the past few months as the Obama administration made its case to the American public for military action in Iraq and Syria. It’s unclear what significance the discrepancy has as far as Americans’ support for the U.S. military action, which so far has been strong.

And from the London Daily Mail, adding fool to the fire:

Hero company CEO, who works part time as a cop, shot Muslim convert employee, 30, as he BEHEADED female co-worker and stabbed another after trying to convince colleagues to join Islam

  • Alton Nolen, 30, had just been fired when he drove up to Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma and ‘attacked the first two people he saw’
  • He beheaded Colleen Hufford, 54, and stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, before Mark Vaughan, an off-duty officer and the company’s former owner, shot him
  • Nolen and Johnson are both being treated in hospital
  • Co-workers revealed that Nolen, who has an extensive rap sheet, had recently converted to Islam and had tried to get them to convert as well
  • He has a Jesus tattoo on his chest and a Muslim greeting inked on his abdomen, court records show
  • In 2010, after he eluded cops and sparked a massive overnight manhunt, he was ordered to take an anger management course
  • 911 call reveals the chaos inside the entrance to the building after the suspect entered and attacked at random before he was gunned down
  • FBI now investigating whether conversion to Islam linked to attack

Süddeutsche Zeitung has a blast from the hitherto secret past

The Aborted Origins Of The First Hunt For Osama Bin Laden

Some of the drones the United States used to hunt for Osama bin Laden were once piloted out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany, apparently without the knowledge of officials in Berlin.

It was known that the data for all drone attacks flowed through Ramstein, but according to both internal documents and U.S. officers, the drone pilots themselves were located there for at least part of the time (pictured: ground control station in New Mexico).

In the summer of 2000, (more than a year before the Sep. 11 attacks) a team from the U.S. Air Force 32nd Expeditionary Air Intelligence Squadron in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate began a remote-controlled drone hunt for Osama bin Laden. At the time, the CIA and the National Security Council were developing various plans to capture or kill bin Laden. The idea of armed drones was discussed, although at the time this was thoroughly new ground and the military was skeptical of their use.

TheLocal.dk covers a military hack attack:

Danish defence secrets obtained by foreign spies

Denmark’s largest weapons company and up to four other defence targets were successfully hacked over a period of four years, and signs point to China.

The Danish defence industry was the target of successful hacks by a foreign state, mostly likely China, DR reports. The news comes just days after DR revealed that sensitive Danish business information was obtained by state-sponsored hackers in 2012.

The defence hack was targeted at the Danish contributions to the American F35 Joint Strike Fighter jet programme.

Deutsche Welle ponders a visit:

Could Snowden come to Berlin?

  • German opposition members appealed to the country’s highest court to allow former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden to testify at a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin

A German parliamentary inquiry looking into US National Security Agency (NSA) spying in Germany initially decided it would not invite whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked the documents revelaing the US intelligence agency’s massive spy programs, to testify in Berlin.

The Green and Left opposition parties on Friday requested that the German Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal institution, to rule on whether Snowden should testify in front of the inquiry committee in Berlin to provide a “global overview of the technical conditions of mass surveillance,” according to Greens lawmaker Konstantin von Notz.

Although the German government appears not to want to risk harming its relationship with the US by allowing Snowden to speak in Berlin, inquiry committee members from Germany’s governing parties have said they also want to hear from Snowden. They, however, want to do it via video link or in Russia, where Snowden currently lives in exile, rather than in the German capital.

From the Birmingham News, a very, very curious story:

Huntsville schools say call from NSA led to monitoring students online

A secret program to monitor students’ online activities began quietly in Huntsville schools, following a phone call from the NSA, school officials say.

Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system began monitoring social media sites 18 months ago, after the National Security Agency tipped the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook.

The NSA, a U.S. agency responsible for foreign intelligence, this week said it has no record of a call to Huntsville and does not make calls to school systems.

Regardless of how the program started, Huntsville City Schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence.

After the jump, apology rejected in Ferguson, military arrests in Mexico, Argentine tax cheats pursued by drones, Shellshock implacability, a horrendous online vulnerability revealed, Down Under spook spoofing Pakistan expands its nuclear horizons, censoring soaps in Thailand, An Internet purge in China, Hong Kong protests end in clash and Hillary’s chickens come home to roost, illustrative imprisonment in China, a Sino/Indian border spat,  Nazi-ness in Japan, and an attack of liberal newspaper. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hysteria, hacks, pols


Today’s collection of headlines from the realm of threats and secrets, bombs and bugs, begins with a bit of déjà vu all over again from the Guardian:

US aims to wipe out Isis funding with air strikes on oil wells in Syria

  • Groups control an oil field for a few weeks until another leader seizes it while the engineers who serviced the wells have fled

The latest US air strikes in Syria targeted oil facilities controlled by Islamic State (Isis) in a deliberate attempt to wipe out a lucrative source of income for the rapidly expanding jihadist group.

US central command said 13 air strikes were launched against refineries in the east of the country. They included at least four oil installations and three oil fields around the town of Mayadeen. Also hit were targets near Al Hasakah, Abu Kamail and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates river.

The US said that these “small-scale refineries” provided fuel for Isis’s military operations as well as money to finance “continued attacks throughout Iraq and Syria”. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 14 Islamic state militants were killed in Wednesday’s attacks. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in Hasakah province also died. The Observatory said that they were probably the wives and children of the militants.

From the Independent, a man with a point to make:

Iraq and Syria crisis: Iran’s President Rouhani accuses West of turning Middle East into ‘haven for terrorists’

President Hassan Rouhani delivered a searing indictment of western governments in a speech in New York saying they were responsible for sowing the seeds of the outbreak of extremism that has brought turmoil to the Middle East and demanded that they “acknowledge their errors” and apologise.

“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one,” Mr. Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly. “Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westemism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism.”

“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,’ President Rouhani declared. “Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.”

And for anyone interested, here are his full remarks, via RT:

‘Certain states helped create Islamist extremism’ – Iran’s Rouhani to UN Gen Assembly

Program notes:

The rise of violent extremism around the world is the fault of “certain states” and “intelligence agencies” that have helped to create it and are failing to withstand it, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an address to the UN General Assembly

BBC News responds:

French hostage beheading: France to boost Syria rebels

France has announced it will tighten security around transport and public places following the killing of a French hostage by jihadists in Algeria.

It will also boost its support for Syrian opposition forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The move was announced by the office of President Francois Hollande after a high-level emergency meeting.

Militants allied to IS killed French tourist Herve Gourdel after demanding that France halt air strikes on IS.

Allegations, via the Associated Press:

Iraqi PM: Plot to attack US, Paris Subways

Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captive Islamic State militants told his intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris.

A senior Obama administration official said no one in the U.S. government is aware of such a plot, adding that the claim was never brought up in meetings with Iraqi officials this week in New York. President Barack Obama met with al-Abadi Wednesday.

The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Consequent disparagement from BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: US ‘no evidence’ of subway plots

US officials have no indication of a plot by Islamic State militants to attack underground rail systems in the US and Paris.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his intelligence officials had uncovered plans for such an attack. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, he said the details he received looked credible.

But senior US sources have said they have no knowledge of a plot on any subway systems.

From BBC News, warming up the jets:

Islamic State air strikes in Iraq ‘would be legal’ – No 10

The Iraqi government’s request for support in its fight with Islamic State means UK air strikes in the country would be legal, Number 10 has said.

A summary of the government’s position said the call “provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces”.

On Friday MPs will debate a motion backing strikes against IS militants in Iraq – but not in Syria.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers recruits:

1,000 fighters from Asia join IS group: US commander

About 1,000 volunteers from the Asia-Pacific region have sought to join the Islamic State group, a senior military officer said on Thursday (Sep 25).

Admiral Samuel Locklear, who oversees American forces across Asia as head of Pacific Command, gave the estimate a day after the United States pushed for a resolution committing major powers to block the movement of foreign militants to Iraq and Syria.

“It certainly is an issue that we’re paying very close attention to today,” Locklear told a press conference in Washington. There’s probably been about 1,000 potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region, based on kind of our overall assessment. That number could get larger as we go forward, but certainly that’s about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time,” the admiral said.

From Kyodo News, Abe antes up:

Abe pledges $50 mil. in humanitarian aid to stem Islamic State crisis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $50 million in emergency aid for the Islamic State-induced humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.

World leaders have gathered in New York at a crucial time when the international community is grappling with three major issues — the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL, the Ukraine crisis and the outbreak of the Ebola virus striking West Africa.

The ISIL is “a serious threat to international order,” Abe said. “What is important now is preventing extremism from taking root while also responding swiftly to the region’s humanitarian crises.”

VICE News covers consequences:

Australia’s New Anti-Terror Campaign Backfires Against Its Own Citizens

This summer, as Australian domestic politics hit a tumultuous peak amid mass protests on the government’s draconian federal budget reforms, a complex conflict in far-flung lands threw a lifeline to the country’s leadership.

The Islamic State has posed a real and terrifying threat for thousands since the group began its violent offensive across Syria and Iraq. For Australia’s wildly conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who has stumbled, winked, and nodded from one scandal to another, the crisis abroad has also presented a chance to redeem his drop in popularity at home.

At a key moment when the PM, elected in November 2013, was at risk of becoming mired in dissatisfaction over his unpopular social policies — including regressive stances on health, higher education, and climate change — the government’s new anti-terror campaign has tranquilized the public’s animosity. But the proposed raft of reforms presented with it has also opened the doors to increased anti-Muslim sentiment and threatens Australians’ right to free speech, movement, and fair prosecution.

“Tony Abbott is fully aware that potential threat plus strong leadership equals good poll outcomes,” Clive Williams, a former Australian military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism lecturer, told VICE News.

TheLocal.no covers noble aspirations:

‘Norway can stop drone war’: UN advisor

Norway has been urged by one of the UN’s top human rights advisors to challenge the US-led coalition for an end to the drone war, branding it ‘dangerous’ and ‘a violation of international law.’

Professor Christof Heyns asked Norway on Thursday to challenge its allies on the US’s use of armed drones which Heyns states violates international law and will, in the long run, make the world become a more dangerous place, reported NTB.

Heyns, who normally investigates and reports to the UN on extra-judicial and illegal executions, said: “The world listens to the voice of Norway for it is often the voice of reason.”

The professor thinks Norway should bring the case to a human rights council of the UN and the general assembly.

Drone ground rules advance, with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Drones for moviemaking win FAA approval

The government granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming, an important step toward greater use of the technology by commercial operators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.

Dozens of other industries are lined up to follow Hollywood’s lead. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, had banned commercial drone operations with the exception of a lone oil company in Alaska.

The FAA permits come with limitations, including that the unmanned aircraft be used only in a restricted area, that they be flown under 400 feet in altitude and that flights last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Nighttime flights are prohibited, and reality television shows or other unscripted events won’t qualify for the permits.

From the London Daily Mail, utterly abominable bankster kill-switchcraft:

Driver nearly crashes when her car suddenly shut down on a busy interstate because auto lender hit remote kill switch when she missed a payment

  • T. Candice Smith had to have her car pushed out of on-coming traffic
  • Starter Interrupt Devices allow auto lenders to ‘shut down borrower’s cars at any moment’
  • The devices emit flashing lights, beeping noises and then shuts down the car and prevents it from starting
  • These devices have been installed in more than two million vehicles

T. Candice Smith, 31, and her friend were driving down a three-lane Las Vegas interstate in 2012 when her steering wheel began to lock up. The car’s engine stopped and Smith’s friend had to push the car to the side of the highway to avoid being hit.

Smith told the New York Times that the car’s shutdown wasn’t due to a mechanical failure — it was her auto lender.

Smith’s story is similar to that of many people who have borrowed from auto lenders that utilize what are called ‘Starter Interrupt Devices.’

From the Independent, another lethally trigger-happy cop:

‘Disturbing’ footage shows US officer asking to see man’s driving licence and then shooting him as he tries to fetch it

Shocking video footage has emerged of the moment a US patrol officer asked to see a man’s driving licence and then shot him as he reached inside his car to get it.

In a case described as “disturbing” by South Carolina police, state trooper Sean Groubert, 31, pulled driver Levar Edward Jones over at a petrol station in Colombia for allegedly not wearing his seatbelt while driving.

Footage captured by the dashboard of a patrol vehicle shows Groubert pulling up in front of Mr Jones’ car and asking to see his licence.

When the 35-year-old reaches into his car to fetch it, Groubert suddenly shouts: “Get out of the car!” and then “get on the ground!” while firing four shots at him. At least one of the bullets hit Mr Jones in the hip, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.

Here’s the video via The State in Columbia — and we suspect you can guess the respective skin colors of the shooter and his victim:

Sept 4 Groubert traffic stop

Program note:

Sept. 4, 2014 traffic stop by Trooper Sean Groubert of a motorist for a seat belt violation. The motorist was shot during the traffic stop.

And an update form USA Today:

Ex-S.C. trooper who shot unarmed man faces charges

A former South Carolina state trooper who shot an unarmed man was charged Wednesday with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Sean Groubert, 31, was booked at the Richland County Detention Center. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The charges were brought by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which reviewed the findings of an investigation into the incident conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division.

The New York Times covers a rare thing, an apology:

Ferguson Police Chief Offers Apology to Michael Brown’s Family

The police chief of Ferguson, Mo., issued a rare public apology on Thursday, for the death of Michael Brown, addressing the Brown family directly in a short video posted online.

“I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” the police chief, Thomas Jackson, said, wearing a polo shirt and standing in front of an American flag.

“I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Chief Jackson said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

Another case of lethal misconduct by people with badges from the Guardian:

Mentally ill North Carolina inmate held in solitary confinement dies of thirst

  • Medical Examiner’s Office said Anthony Michael Kerr died of severe dehydration in March of this year

A North Carolina inmate with mental illness who had been held in solitary confinement died of thirst, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.

Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, was found unresponsive in the back of a van on 12 March after being driven roughly three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety subsequently fired a captain and four nurses at Alexander. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned.

At the time, Public Safety Secretary Frank L Perry pledged an “an aggressive, yet thorough internal investigation” into Kerr’s death. However, nearly nine months later the agency has not made public any results of that probe.

From CCTV America, a mighty fine notion:

Denver police to record public interactions

Program note:

It’s a high-tech tool that could lessen tensions between the police officers and the citizens they’re paid to protect.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani cop turns religious executioner:

Policeman kills blasphemy accused in Adiala jail

A policeman shot two men in jail on Thursday, killing one accused of blasphemy and wounding another condemned to death on the same charge, lawyers and an activist said.

Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was killed and 70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness, was wounded in the attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad.

In recent weeks, Bhatti had received death threats in prison from both inmates and guards, his family told a human rights group Life for All. He was being held in the same cell as Asghar.

From the Independent, and go they come with apple pie?:

Louisiana high school attempts to raise money raffling guns

An American high school band has attempted to raise money by raffling off guns, in a state which claimed the sixth highest number of firearm murders in the United States just three years ago.

Students at Ovey Comeaux High School, in Lafayette, Louisiana, attempted to sell 52 guns after successful similar fundraisers were held at two schools in neighbouring parishes.

Prolonging the fun, students planned to raffle off a gun every week for the next year, and had already sold an estimated 50 tickets at $50 each – totalling $2,600.

After the jump, cartel petrocrimes in Mexico, blood on the Mexican newsroom floor, an Italian presidential mob trial courtroom appearance, Potemkin nuclear ignorance enshrined, declining NSA Yahooing, FBI cybernanxiety, Shellshock the cybermegavirus, ISIS or isn’t it in China, Hong Kong Occupy activists challenge Beijing, a deadly attack in northwestern China, Abe does a semantic remilitarization two-step, Tokyo moves toward an Aussie military alliance, a push for China to beef up special forces, and a provocative Russian visit. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, hacks, cops, troubles


First up, The Ministry of Hope™ and Change™ pronounces, via the Guardian:

Obama vows to destroy Isis’s ‘brand of evil’ as Iraq requests help from Britain

  • Isis fighters ‘should leave the battlefield while they can’
  • UK parliament to vote on Friday to approve air strikes in Iraq
  • David Cameron issues rallying call against Isis at UN

Western leaders vowed to lead a global coalition to destroy the Islamic State extremist movement on Wednesday, as President Obama warned the militants to “leave the battlefield while they can” and British prime minister David Cameron recalled parliament for a Friday vote on UK air strikes in Iraq.

The quickening pace of the military campaign against Isis dominated proceedings at the United Nations general assembly in New York, where Obama issued a call to arms against what he called Isis’s “network of death”.

“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” Obama said, urging fighters for the Islamic State group to flee Syria and Iraq while they still had a chance.

In case you missed it, here’s Obama’s full UN address via The White House:

President Obama Closes the U.N. Security Council Summit

Program note:

On September 24, 2014, President Obama delivered closing remarks at the U.N. Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters.

From the New York Times, more madness:

French Hostage in Algeria Is Beheaded in New Video

A French tourist captured in North Africa by a group aligned with the Islamic State is seen beheaded in a video circulated on Wednesday, according to SITE Intelligence, which tracks jihadist groups.

The Frenchman — Hervé Gourdel, a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from Nice — was abducted in Algeria on Sunday by the terrorist group, known as Jund al-Khilafah. Mr. Gourdel had arrived only a day before on a trip to go hiking in Algeria’s northern mountains.

The terrorist group issued a statement after his abduction, saying that it was following the guidance of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and has called on its sympathizers to strike Westerners — especially the French — wherever they can.

In the statement, the Algerian group had demanded that President François Hollande of France cease his country’s intervention in Syria within 24 hours or face seeing Mr. Gourdel killed.

TheLocal.dk covers additions to the ranks:

More Scandinavians joining Isis

The number of Europeans fighting for the Islamic State has increased dramatically in the past month with fears that Danes, Swedes and Norwegians are among them.

The EU’s counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove has said that around 3,000 people from across Europe are now working alongside Islamic State (Isis) fighters, compared with about 2,000 just a few months ago.

Gilles de Kerchove told news agency AFP that at least eleven European countries including Denmark have seen citizens travel to Iraq and Syria.

Just over a month ago a Swedish terrorism expert – Magnus Ranstorp – estimated that between 300 and 350 Scandinavians had links to Isis.

A Swiss miss from TheLocal.ch:

Iraqis in Switzerland suspected of ‘attack plan’

Three Iraqis arrested in Switzerland in March are suspected of having planned an attack in the name of the Isis group, Swiss media reported on Wednesday.

The daily newspaper Tages Anzeiger said that Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service had been tipped off by a western counterpart which intercepted the men’s phone calls.

Switzerland’s national prosecutor’s office has confirmed the arrests but declined to give further details.

The newspaper said that the Swiss were informed that the three men were believed to have formed a pro-Isis cell.

South China Morning Post covers anxiety in Beijing:

China to boost counterterrorism measures amid fears of attacks from returning IS fighters

Beijing is expected to step up counterterrorism measures, analysts say, amid fears that militants will return from Syria and Iraq to launch attacks in China.

Like many of the countries that have seen their nationals fighting for Islamic State, China is wary of the threat posed by militants who have fled to the Middle East to join the brutal jihadist group.

However, experts said it was unlikely China would join the United States-led military campaign against Islamic State. The US and Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time yesterday.

Gauging the number of Chinese militants who have taken part in IS activities was difficult, as most of them had left the country by crossing the country’s vast western border illegally and some might have joined while they were already abroad, said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

From Agence France-Presse, estimates of volunteers:

BLOG ISIS

Indonesian ISIS woes from the Jakarta Globe:

Islamic State Support in Indonesia Seen Posing Threat to Foreigners

Foreigners could again become the target of militant attacks in Indonesia as extremists there pledge loyalty to the Islamic State group, a thinktank warned on Wednesday.

In a report, the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) also warned that Indonesian and Malaysian fighters who have joined IS in Syria appear to have formed a military unit there, likely strengthening militant networks in Southeast Asia.

After a series of attacks on foreigners in the last decade, Indonesian extremists have in recent years directed their violence at domestic “enemies of Islam”, mostly police. There have been no attacks against foreigners since the 2009 twin hotel bombings in Jakarta which killed seven people.

From Reuters, Obaman angst:

‘Too many Israelis’ ready to give up on peace, Obama laments

U.S. President Barack Obama lamented on Wednesday that “too many Israelis” were ready to abandon Middle East peace efforts and urged them to reflect on the matter, saying the status quo with the Palestinians was unsustainable.

As part of a broader speech to the United Nations Assembly, Obama appeared to gently chide close U.S. ally Israel against giving up on peace a week before he hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

While Obama used his address primarily to rally support in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, he also recommitted to the pursuit of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians despite what he called a “bleak” landscape. U.S.- brokered negotiations collapsed in April.

From the Associated Press, well-deserved:

Snowden Honored With ‘Alternative Nobel’

Edward Snowden was among the winners Wednesday of a Swedish human rights award, sometimes referred to as the “alternative Nobel,” for his disclosures of top secret surveillance programs.

The decision to honor the former National Security Agency contractor with the Right Livelihood Award appeared to cause a diplomatic headache for Sweden’s Foreign Ministry, which withdrew the prize jury’s permission to use its media room for the announcement.

Snowden split the honorary portion of the award with Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, which has published a series of articles on government surveillance based on documents leaked by Snowden.

The 1.5 million kronor ($210,000) cash portion of the award was shared by Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission and U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben.

Contemplating a hang-up with Global Times:

Taiwan mulls selective ban on Xiaomi phones

  • Reported privacy breach a common problem of Android phones: experts

The security breach concerns surrounding Beijing-based Xiaomi Inc are common with mobile phones running Google’s Android system, experts said Wednesday, after Taiwan authority revealed it was considering whether to ban the use of Xiaomi phones by its public servants.

“It is just a mobile phone. People should not attach too much importance to it. At the same time, I believe Xiaomi is wildly popular among compatriots across the Taiwan Straits,” Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular press conference in Beijing Wednesday when he was asked to comment on the information security issues concerning Xiaomi in recent months.

Taiwan authority is now discussing whether to prevent public servants from using Xiaomi phones and a decision could be taken in three months, Taiwan-based Economic Daily News reported Wednesday.

The latest in hackery from The Verge:

Worse than Heartbleed? Today’s Bash bug could be breaking security for years

Linux users got a nasty surprise today, as a security team at Red Hat uncovered a subtle but dangerous bug in the Bash shell, one of the most versatile and widely used utilities in Linux. It’s being called the Bash bug, or Shellshock. When accessed properly, the bug allows for an attacker’s code to be executed as soon as the shell is invoked, leaving the door open for a wide variety of attacks. Worse yet, it appears the bug has been present in enterprise Linux software for a long time, so patching every instance may be easier said than done. Red Hat and Fedora have already released patches for the bug.

Errata Security’s Robert David Graham has already compared the bug to Heartbleed, for its broad and potentially longterm effect on system security. “An enormous percentage of software interacts with the shell in some fashion,” Graham wrote in a blog post. “We’ll never be able to catalogue all the software out there that is vulnerable to the bash bug.” Reached by The Verge, Berkeley ICSI researcher Nicholas Weaver agreed with the pessimism, saying, “It’s subtle, ugly, and will be with us for years.”

The Japan Times covers another breach:

Data on up to 750,000 JAL mileage club members may have leaked

Japan Airlines Co. said Wednesday that personal information on up to 750,000 JAL mileage club members may have leaked after someone gained unauthorized access to the company’s computer system

The data include members’ names, addresses, birthdays and email addresses, the company said, adding that it has not confirmed the leak of passwords or credit card numbers.

A program to extract customer data and send them to a server in Hong Kong was planted on 23 personal computers at JAL. Seven of the 23 computers are believed to have actually sent data.

And from the Guardian, nihilism:

The Emma Watson nude pictures hoax shames our ‘news’ culture

  • The global news agenda is now regularly held hostage by small bands of loud but tech-savvy idiots. We can do better than this

The internet is eating itself. This week’s cycle of backlash and counter-backlash has swirled around Emma Watson and a string of apparent threats of public humiliation made against her after she addressed the UN on feminism and gender equality.

Shortly after Watson spoke, a site supposedly created by users of the now-notorious 4chan message board appeared, threatening to publish naked photos of the actress. The threats prompted a huge response of support for Watson and the #HeForShe campaign, alongside an absolute flurry of coverage in virtually every online outlet in the world.

The problem is that it’s not at all clear that the threats, which didn’t make a great deal of sense, were ever real. By Wednesday, a supposed PR firm had stepped up to claim responsibility for the threats against Watson, as part of an effort to take down 4chan. All the signs suggest that that PR firm itself was a hoax promulgated by an outfit known to engage in poor-taste stunts to get surges of traffic and advertising revenue.

While Salon covers corporate stifling:

Report: Apple was told of holes in iCloud security six months ago

  • However, there is no clear connection between the holes and the hacking of celebrity nude photos

A report, published on Wednesday, by the Daily Dot, reveals that Apple was told about an security flaw in iCloud back in March of 2014.

The Daily Dot obtained leaked emails between Apple and Ibrahim Balic, a software developer based in London, showing that Balic found and reported a security hole in iCloud. The Daily Dot reports that a team of security experts reviewed the emails.

The security of Apple’s iCloud came under fire after celebrity nude photos were hacked and disseminated, apparently from users’ iCloud accounts. However, it is still unclear if this security flaw played a part in the “celebgate” nude photo hack. As of now, no clear lines can be drawn.

Cyberamnesia in the FBI from Nextgov:

FBI Can’t Find Files After Spending $550M to Digitize Them

FBI special agents and technicians say the agency’s first-ever, decade-in-the-making computerized case system has slowed their investigations and work, according to an internal audit.

The computer application, called Sentinel, was flipped on in 2012 to make cases easier to search, both for clues and possible links to other ongoing investigations. Previously, FBI personnel had shared information, approved documents and updated files by circulating piles of paper.

But most special agents “reported that the increase in the administrative burden” spent filling out database fields to improve search results, “leaves less time for investigative activities,” states an inspector general report released Wednesday.

From the New York Times, and we guess curriculum bans discussion of the original Tea Party?:

In Colorado, a Student Counterprotest to an Anti-Protest Curriculum

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

After the jump, cop corruption behind bars in L.A., Clintonian journalism stalking, the color of statehouse corruption, putting faces with badges in Hungary, another way of stifling the press in the U.S., turning the tables on the Fourth Estate in Mexico, a deadly Mexican security problem, a lighter drone story from Germany plus two deadlier headlines from Pakistan, Chinese ships join with Iranians in an exercise in the hot zone, plus a nuclear war warning. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hacks, drones, zones


From The Intercept, making the connections:

Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate

The U.S. today began bombing targets inside Syria, in concert with its lovely and inspiring group of five allied regimes: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan.

That means that Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama—after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq.

The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling indeed: Empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason (indeed, recall that Obama bombed Libya even after Congress explicitly voted against authorization to use force, and very few people seemed to mind that abject act of lawlessness; constitutional constraints are not for warriors and emperors).

A headline from Bloomberg makes a similar point:

Who Still Thinks Obama’s a Pacifist Hippie?

The Los Angeles Times with pals:

5 Arab nations support U.S. in strikes inside Syria

The White House ordered air attacks on Islamic State militants in eastern Syria within 72 hours after five Arab allies agreed to participate in the attacks, the Pentagon’s top officer said Tuesday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the Arab governments only gave assurances they would join the operation over the last three days, prompting President Obama to give the order to commence the operation.

“The coalition came together quickly,” Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Europe. “Once the coalition came together, that was the condition the president was most interested in.”

The White House withheld approval for strikes in Syria until Arab allies joined the attacks in hopes of showing that major Sunni regimes in the region were uniting against the Sunni extremist group after months of indecision, officials said.

The Independent notes an irony:

Syria air strikes: America’s attacks on Isis may help Bashar al-Assad keep his regime alive

  • But the Syrian leader will be watching with concern as the US’s use of air power spreads to include more targets outside its original stated aim

The moment America expanded its anti-Isis war into Syria, President Bashar al-Assad gained more military and political support than any other Arab leader can boast. With US bombs and missiles exploding across eastern and northern Syria, Assad can now count on America, Russia, China, Iran, the Hezbollah militia, Jordan and a host of wealthy Gulf countries to keep his regime alive. If ever that creaking old Arab proverb – that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” – contained any wisdom, Assad has proved it true.

In his Damascus home, the Syrian leader can reflect that the most powerful nation on earth – which only last year wished to bomb him into oblivion – is now trying to bomb his most ferocious enemies into the very same oblivion. Sunni Saudis whose “charity” donations have funded the equally Sunni “Islamic State” now find their government supposedly helping the US to destroy it. As Shia Iran and its Hezbollah protégés battle the Sunni executioners and throat-slashers on the ground, US bom

More from the Associated Press:

Assad backs efforts to fight terrorism

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday he supports any international effort against terrorism, apparently trying to position his government on the side of the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State group. Damascus said the U.S. informed it beforehand that the strikes were coming.

Assad’s remarks came hours after the opening salvo in what the United States has warned will be a lengthy campaign aiming to defeat the extremists who have seized control of a huge swath of territory spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

One Syrian activist group reported that dozens of Islamic State group fighters were killed in the pre-dawn strikes, but the numbers could not be independently confirmed. Several activists also reported at least 10 civilians killed as well.

Still more from RT:

Airstrikes alone won’t help US to fight ISIS – Syrian FM to RT Arabic

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem says he is “confident” that those airstrikes will not be “effective, if there is no coordination of actions on the ground and if no ground military operations are carried out.”

“The US is mocking the whole world when they say that they are going to coordinate their actions not with the Syrian government, but with the moderate Syrian opposition. This is funny. What moderate opposition are you talking about?” Moualem told RT Arabic. “This moderate opposition is killing Syrians just like al-Nusra or ISIS.”

If the US wants to have positive results in their “fight with terrorism” they should “immediately” change their approach, he said.

TheLocal.at piles on:

Austria joins US-led coalition against Isis

Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has announced that Austria is now part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State (Isis) militants.

Kurz said that Austria’s participation will be political, but not military and that as a neutral country it will provide mainly humanitarian assistance to persecuted religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.

As does Nikkei Asian Review:

Japan, US affirm cooperation in fight against Islamic militants

Japan’s foreign minister on Tuesday expressed support for U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, offering humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing the Sunni militants who have terrorized the region.

In a meeting here with Fumio Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explained the airstrikes conducted jointly with European and Arab nations and plans going forward.

In response, the Japanese foreign minister pledged Japan’s cooperation, noting that he understands that the action was taken to prevent the situation from worsening. Kishida said he hopes “the latest action will lead to a weakening and the eventual defeat of the Islamic State, which poses a serious threat.”

While News Corp Australia sounds the latest alarm:

Terror threat from al-Qaeda veterans in Khorasan eclipses that of the Islamic State, US intelligence officials say

As the world reacts with horror to the Islamic State, the United States raised an alert over an “unholy mix” of militants specifically targeting the West.

As al-Qaeda fragments after the death of its leader Osama bin Laden, one of its many offshoots in the Middle East has named itself Khorasan. It asserts the sole reason for its existence is to attack the United States and Europe.

The White House believes them. The US military launched air strikes in Syria on Tuesday, targeting the Khorasan group.

From United Press International, if they told you what it was for they’d have to. . .:

Invertix wins place on Army intelligence services contract

  • Army taps Invertix for global intelligence support.

U.S. Army has selected Invertix Corporation to provide it with global intelligence support services.

Invertix, a subsidiary of Altamira Technologies Corporation, said it is one of a number of large businesses on the indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract, which is for the Army Intelligence and Security Command.

The contract’s estimated period of performance is through September of 2019. Its ceiling value for all recipients is more than $5 billion.

The Wire takes one small step for mankind:

U.S. Will Ban Deadly Landmines (Outside of Korea)

The U.S. announced on Tuesday that it will halt its use of anti-personnel landmines with one major exception – their ongoing deployment on the Korean peninsula.

Officials had said in June that in accordance with the 1999 Ottawa Convention, the U.S. would stop producing or acquiring “anti-personnel munitions,” and they characterized Tuesday’s announcement as another step in that process.

As part of the change, the U.S. also will not assist or encourage other nations in the deployment of deadly landmines and would destroy all landmines “not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”

Xinhua catches the bug:

Suspected NSA listening post discovered in Vienna

A series of photos of what is believed to be an NSA-operated listening post on top of a skyscraper in the Austrian capital of Vienna have been circulated by Austrian media Tuesday.

The IZD Tower building is situated next to the Vienna International Centre that hosts the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), with media reports speculating the suspected listening hut atop the building, which at first glance appears to be a maintenance hut, is used to receive signals from bugs installed at the UN premises.

Erich Moechel from radio station FM4 reported that the hut has an air conditioning unit, suspicious in that this is unusual for a maintenance hut, and may indicate that either the hut is manned, or there are electronics situated inside that need protection from excessive heat during the summer months.

Details from TheLocal.at:

ORF journalist Erich Möchel believes he has identified the listening station – located on top of the 140 metre high IZD tower in Vienna’s 22nd district – not far from the UN headquarters.

A series of photos that were leaked to the journalist show a hut on the roof that is enclosed by solid steel bars and monitored by ten cameras. It cannot be seen from the street.

Möchel writes that it looks like “a maintenance building” but speculates that there may be equipment in the hut that can monitor mobile networks.

He adds that together with the US Embassy in Vienna’s 9th district and the ‘NSA villa’ in Pötzleinsdorf which is also assumed to be a listening post, the NSA could be spying on the whole city – as far as Schwechat.

The US embassy declined to comment on the allegations, as did the Interior Ministry.

While Assange was played on the big screen by Benedict Cumberbatch, a star of a different type has been picked to play NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. From the Guardian:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone’s NSA whistleblower movie

  • Dark Knight Rises star to take central role in one of two duelling versions of account of National Security Agency files leak, adapted from Guardian journalist’s book

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has agreed to take the lead role in Oliver Stone’s forthcoming biopic of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reports Variety.

Negotiations on the deal have not yet begun, but both men are keen on making it happen. Production on The Snowden Files, titled after the book by Guardian journalist Luke Harding, is due to begin late this year or in the early part of 2015.

The film, which Stone is writing and directing, now looks likely to be based on two books, Harding’s account – full title The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man – and Time of the Octopus by Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena. Stone recently picked up the screen rights to the latter tome after optioning Harding’s book in June.

And whilst on that personage portrayed by Cumerbatch, News Corp Australia assuages Assange:

Swedish prosecutors say it is ‘far-fetched’ to think WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be extradited to the US

SWEDISH prosecutors say it is “far-fetched” to think that fugitive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could be extradited to the United States if he returned to Sweden.

It was the first time that Swedish prosecutors, who want to question the 43-year-old Australian on allegations of rape and sexual molestation, commented on the likelihood that he could be sent to the US.

Assange refuses to return to Sweden and has been holed up since 2012 in London in the embassy of Ecuador, which granted him political asylum the same year.

More from TheLocal.se:

Swedish prosecutors made their statement in a written reply to arguments made by Assange’s lawyers, who have appealed a decision by a Swedish court in July this year to uphold the arrest warrant against him.

The Court of Appeal in Stockholm is expected to announce its decision within the next week.

If it scraps the European arrest warrant against Assange, it could mean that he would be able to leave the Ecuadoran embassy.

The arrest warrant was issued to enable Swedish prosecutors to question Assange about charges brought against him by two women in their 30s. Assange denies the accusations.

And to complete the circle, uniting the interests of both, via RT:

A state within a state at an alarming rate: Assange says NSA just keeps on growing

In his book ‘Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet,’ Assange says that opponents of WikiLeaks aim to try to distract attention from actual revelations, rather than trying to provide answers to the questions posed.

“If we go back and look at what the US military is: Robert Gates and General McMullan said our publications were hypothetical and maybe they would cause harm. Our publications documented their involvement at a case-by-case level in the deaths of more than 20,000 people in Afghanistan and more than 108,000 people in Iraq. Those are the mistakes that we are talking about. Not only is this the dissolution of two societies, but also the deaths of over 100,000 people. So when you want to distract from this, you just make the same accusation to the person that is making the accusation against you. In 2013, in the trial of Chelsea Manning – who was subsequently sentenced to 35 years for giving information to the media and only for giving information to the media – the US government said that under the oath they could not find a single person who had been harmed, not a single person.”

Despite Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s widespread spying, both domestically and abroad, the Australian does not think things will get better in the near future. Instead, he says things are getting worse – with the creation of a state within a state.

“There now six million people in the United States with security clearances. That is more than the population of Norway, New Zealand, or Scotland. That is in effect a state within a state. Why is it a state within a state? Because people that have security clearances have extra laws that they are meant to obey. That is extremely alarming [at the] moment, if we go back to 2010, just back to when it was 2.5 million. So there has been more than a doubling in the size of the National Security State within the US in just 4-5 years.”

After the jump, freakout over Google and Apple encyption, do your Like corporate datapervs? [and with drones?], hacks at Stanford, hacking away in Europe, the latest iHack, Google kicks the Koch habit, another moronic celebrity hacking threat and an overreaching legal effort to stem such things, an Argentine security threat, an expanded Pakistani nuclear arsenal, super-secrecy Down Under, the latest player in the Game of Zones and moves by another player, and more. . . Continue reading