Much ground to cover in today’s Tales from the Dark Side, so we’ll start with imperial dreams from Nextgov:
Former NSA Director: Big Data Is the Future
According to Gen. Keith Alexander, who retired in March after eight years as the director of the NSA, the world will produce some 3.5 zettabytes of information in 2014 – enough to fill the hard drives of 3.5 billion high-end desktop computers.
“We’re living in the age of big data and we have to figure out how to harness it,” said Alexander, speaking at the American Council for Technology – Industry Advisory Council’s (ACTIAC’s) Management of Change conference on Monday.
“That’s what the future is going to be about,” Alexander said. “Think about 3.5 zettabyes of data. Big data is absolutely vital. The changes that will come to our nation in science, technology, biomedical and health care will be phenomenal.”
And from the Guardian, as tensions heat up in the Asian Game of Zones, Washington takes the moment to hoist Beijing on the same petard that Snowden hoisted Washington with:
US accusations of Chinese hacking point to eight-year spying campaign
- Department of Justice indictment confirms existence of projects such as ‘Titan Rain’ and pattern of attacks against US firms
The US Department of Justice indictment against a number of alleged Chinese military hackers goes back a long way, to 2006, and raises the question: why did it take them so long to take action?
In February 2013, a US security company called Mandiant released a report which said the Chinese army had launched hundreds of cyber-attacks against western companies and defence groups. It said that the attacks emanated from a building that housed a group called Unit 61398 –the same number that appears in the DOJ indictment.
If the DOJ indictments are correct, then Mandiant’s report appears to have been accurate in its description of what was happening. But that’s worrying, too: it described a decade-long series of attacks on US infrastructure, gave precise details, and even the location of the building from which it reckoned the attacks were being made.
The response from the Los Angeles Times:
China blasts ‘absurd’ U.S. charges of cyber-espionage
Chinese government officials on Monday strongly rebuked the U.S. over its claims of cyber-spying by five Chinese military officers, saying the Justice Department indictment was based on “fabricated facts” and would jeopardize U.S.-China relations.
“The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cyber theft of trade secrets,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said in a statement. “The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd.”
The Chinese government demanded that the U.S. indictment, unsealed Monday, be withdrawn. Chinese officials also said they would suspend activities of the China-U.S. Cyber Working Group, created last year to address allegations of hacking.
Details from the Associated Press:
Cyberspying case: charges at a glance
THE CHARGES: The indictment’s 31 counts include economic espionage, theft of trade secrets and aggravated identity theft. The federal grand jury indictment was filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where most of the companies that are said to have been targeted are located. The indictment accuses the officials of hacking into the computers of companies and a union to gain access to trade secrets and private communications.
THE ACCUSED: The indictment charges five officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. They are Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui.
THE ALLEGED TARGETS: Westinghouse Electric Co., U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, United States Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies Inc., Alcoa Inc. and the United Steelworkers labor union.
Sky News covers consequences:
US And China Spy Row: Diplomatic Fallout ‘Huge’
The US is for the first time accusing a nation of state-sponsored economic espionage or as they called it 21st century burglary.
The United States government is, for the first time ever, accusing another nation of state-sponsored economic espionage or as they called it “21st century burglary”.
The diplomatic fallout will be huge.
The officials from the Department of Justice not only singled out individuals from Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but they named the unit within the PLA which they say has been doing the hacking: Unit 61398.
It is not the first time the unit 61398 has been in the frame.
Still more from the New York Times:
U.S. Treads Fine Line in Fighting Chinese Espionage
By indicting members of the People’s Liberation Army’s most famous cyberwarfare operation, called Unit 61398 but known among hackers by the moniker “Comment Crew,” the Obama administration is now using the legal system to make a case it has previously confined to classified briefings: that the Chinese military leadership is behind an enormous organized campaign to steal American intellectual property and designs for its own profit.
For two years now, President Obama and his aides have declared that when the United States spies on China, its goals are sharply different from those of the Chinese who engage in espionage. In public speeches and private conversations with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, Mr. Obama has argued that it is far more pernicious to use the intelligence instruments of the state for commercial competitive advantage. The United States may do all it can to learn about China’s nuclear arsenal, or about Beijing’s intentions in its territorial disputes with Japan, but it does not, the administration says, steal from China Telecom to help A.T.&T.
The United States spies regularly for economic advantage when the goal is to support trade negotiations; it tapped the Japanese negotiator’s car in the 1990s, when the United States was trying to reach an accord on auto imports. It is also widely believed to be using intelligence in support of major trade negotiations now underway with European and Asian trading partners. But in the view of a succession of Democratic and Republican administrations, that is considered fair game.
Companies can also be targets. Documents revealed by Mr. Snowden have revealed that the American government pried deep into the servers of Huawei, one of China’s most successful Internet and communications companies. The documents made clear that the N.S.A. was seeking to learn whether the company was a front for the People’s Liberation Army and whether it was interested in spying on American firms. But there was a second purpose: to get inside Huawei’s systems, and to use them as a conduit to spy on countries that buy its equipment around the world.
Another consequence from China Daily:
China suspends cyber working group activities with US to protest cyber theft indictment
China on Monday decided to suspend activities of the China-U.S. Cyber Working Group as U.S. announced indictment against five Chinese military officers on allegation of cyber theft.
“Given the lack of sincerity on the part of the US to solve issues related to cyber security through dialogue and cooperation, China has decided to suspend activities of the China-U.S. Cyber Working Group,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang regarding the US Justice Department’s announcement on Monday.
The US side announced on Monday indictment against five Chinese military officers on allegation of cyber theft. This U.S. move, which is based on intentionally-fabricated facts, grossly violates the basic norms governing international relations and jeopardizes China-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust, Qin said.
BBC News reminds of Washington’s status as a player in the same game:
Cisco calls for curb on NSA surveillance efforts
The NSA’s wide-ranging surveillance programme should be curtailed, says hardware-maker Cisco in a letter to President Obama.
Cisco boss John Chambers said faith in US technology companies was being eroded by the NSA’s activities.
The letter comes after whistleblowers revealed the NSA regularly intercepted Cisco hardware to help it gather information on potential targets.
Mr Chambers said the NSA should be held to higher “standards of conduct”.
Meanwhile whack at the branch from the Guardian:
NSA to test legal limits on surveillance if USA Freedom Act becomes law
- Aides and lawyers contend over terms of surveillance bill
- Authors of first realistic reform seek to avoid loopholes
Those behind the legislation, which is expected to head to the House floor as early as this week, have labored to craft the terms of the bill in a way that avoids loopholes for the NSA to exploit. But some wonder whether the agency will lawyer the bill’s restrictions on bulk data collection into oblivion, as recent statements by Obama administration officials have suggested it might.
The NSA, its credibility hurt by whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures, is trying to reassure its overseers that it will abide by new congressional action, even as its advocates labor to shape the bill to its liking. But the agency’s post-9/11 history has left the architects and advocates of the bill concerned about the ways in which it might once again reinterpret a law intended to restrain it into one allowing it more surveillance leeway than congressional architects intend.
Meetings last week between Hill aides and administration and intelligence lawyers yielded a sense of the legal reasoning likely to result if the USA Freedom Act becomes law.
And the guy behind it all faces a dilemma, via Spiegel:
‘Risks’: Snowden’s Lawyer Expresses Concerns about Testimony
- Speculation has been brewing for weeks over whether Edward Snowden will testify against the NSA from Moscow or Germany. In a letter to a parliamentary investigative committee, his lawyer has said he will advise his client against speaking in Russia.
With the German parliament currently investigating spying by the National Security Agency on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and the communications data of millions of German citizens, testimony by former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden was expected to take center stage in the proceedings. But a four-page letter from Snowden’s German attorney, Wolfgang Kaleck, obtained by SPIEGEL, casts doubt on whether he will be able to provide testimony from Moscow for the parliamentary investigative committee.
In the letter, Kaleck specifies the “risks” associated with Snowden providing testimony in Russia, where, he notes, his client has only been provided with temporary political asylum.
“Given the conditions of his right of residence,” Kaleck writes, “both I and his American lawyers will have to advise him against speaking in any manner from Moscow that might make his situation worse or possibly threaten his residency status.”
From the Los Angeles Times, major voyeurware busts:
Cybercrime: Creators, users of sinister Blackshades malware arrested
Federal prosecutors announced charges Monday against creators and users of a sinister software program called Blackshades, whose flagship feature, RAT, enabled hackers to watch victims in their own homes using their infected computers’ webcams.
At a news conference, FBI agents and the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, said they had arrested one of Blackshades’ alleged creators, Alex Yucel, in Moldova. Yucel is awaiting extradition to the United States. Also arrested was Brendan Johnston of Thousand Oaks, who, according to court documents, sold Blackshades to others and provided technical support to customers between August 2011 and September 2012.
According to the FBI, Blackshades had sales of more than $350,000 between September 2010 and April 2014. Buyers came from more than 100 countries and infected more than a half-million computers.
And a Blackshades video report from Canada, via The National:
The FBI has arrested dozens of people suspected of distributing suspected a malicious software called BlackShades. It allows hackers to remotely control personal computers and webcams.
From Guardian, ringfencing the royals:
William and Kate ‘embarrassed’ by hacking revelations, says NoW reporter
- Clive Goodman tells Old Bailey the police and CPS decided to ‘ringfence’ interception of royals to keep them out of a trial
The royal family has been “embarrassed” by revelations that the News of the World had frequently hacked the phones of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it has been claimed at the Old Bailey.
Clive Goodman, the former royal editor at the paper, said the police and the Crown Prosecution Service had known he had hacked their phones in 2006 when he was first arrested but they had decided to “ringfence” the royals so they wouldn’t have to be part of a public trial.
He was convicted of hacking three royal aides – Helen Asprey, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton and Paddy Harverson – in 2006 but his hacking of the princes and William’s then girlfriend only emerged last week in the phone-hacking trial.
The Yomiuri Shimbun covers another species of hackery:
Identity thieves target customer loyalty websites
Websites for customer loyalty programs have seen a growing number of thefts of member program points and illegal access to customer accounts.
These companies have found cases of illegal access to loyalty program sites of airlines, home electronics makers, credit card companies and other firms. In some cases, online thieves have exchanged stolen points for gift certificates without the genuine holders knowing.
Affected companies and Internet crime experts say that some of the hackers appear to have used lists of user IDs and passwords, because in some cases the success rate of log-in attempts was unusually high.
One of the experts reminded users that “The best defense measure is changing passwords regularly and not using the same passwords for different websites.”
And the accompanying graphic:
From the Independent, a terror alert:
American student calls in bomb threat after dropping out so her ‘parents wouldn’t find out’
A Massachusetts dropout student was arrested after allegedly calling in two bomb threats to force her graduation ceremony to be cancelled on Sunday.
Danielle Shea, 22, reportedly told authorities she had dropped out of university, but kept receiving thousands of dollars in tuition fees money from her mother, who believed she was still attending classes.
Police say the former Quinnipiac University student panicked when her relatives did see not her name on the graduation roster and made two calls to the university’s public safety department in a bid to force the ceremony to be cancelled.
The Christian Science Monitor offers a modicum of security:
Supreme Court vacates police-immunity ruling in suit over multiple Tasering
The Supreme Court ordered the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit to reexamine a case involving a suit against a police officer for repeatedly Tasering a handcuffed arrestee who was lying on the ground.
The US Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals court Monday to reexamine a case involving the alleged use of excessive force by a police officer in Louisiana who deployed an electronic “Taser” device eight times against a handcuffed arrestee who was lying on the ground.
The suspect, who later died, had reportedly refused to obey a police command to stand up and walk to the patrol car. The police officer was fired for using “unnecessary force,” but was found not guilty of manslaughter.
A panel of the New Orleans-based Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity and could not be sued for allegedly violating the rights of the handcuffed prisoner.
CNBC offers another reason for insecurity, at least in the halls of the Pentagon:
Retired military leaders fret kids will be ‘too fat to fight’
- Obese recruits are newest threat to US military
“It’s not just a school problem. It’s not just a Department (of Education) problem. It’s a national security issue and it needs to be prioritized that way,” said retired Maj. Gen. D. Allen Youngman.
He’s one of hundreds of former military officers who have gotten involved in Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit organization whose “Too Fat to Fight” reports attack junk food in schools. Its members also lobby lawmakers for improved school lunches and more widely available pre-K education.
These military officials say such interventions are necessary for increasing the pool of people who want to serve in the military and would be able to do so.
From RT, heightening tensions:
US missile cruiser to enter Black Sea amid NATO drills in Eastern Europe – military source
The US missile cruiser Vella Gulf is expected to arrive in the Black Sea on May 23, a military source told a Russian news agency. Another NATO vessel is already in the area, while the French Navy’s stealth frigate will reportedly be there by late May.
This comes as part of a wider buildup of NATO forces close to Russian borders against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis.
The American Aegis guided missile cruiser will be in the Black Sea in time for the Ukrainian presidential elections on May 25, a military-diplomatic source told Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency on Monday.
And from The Hill, our first drone report:
Obama backs off drone strikes
President Obama is relying less on drones and more on foreign governments in the global fight against terrorists.
The shift, which also includes fewer unilateral special operations raids of the type that killed Osama bin Laden, is prompting criticism that Washington depends on unstable governments such as in Nigeria, where Boko Haram, an extremist group, has emerged as a new threat.
The Pentagon has hiked its budget for “Section 1206″ counterterrorism programs to train and equip foreign militaries from $218.6 million in 2012 to a requested $290.2 million in 2014, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.
A second from Deutsche Welle:
European aviation firms Airbus, Dassault, Alenia poised to produce military drones
Europe’s leading aviation companies have teamed up to develop and produce drones for military purposes in a drive to become independent of US technology. But governments have to decide about the drone’s capabilities.
European aviation and defense companies Airbus, Dassault Aviation and Alenia Aermacchi said Monday they had launched a new initiative for the production of military drones for medium-altitude and long endurance (MALE) missions.
They offered to hold talks with the governments of Germany, France and Italy to agree on the drones’ future capabilities. The companies said they had already signed a cooperation accord between them and decided on the division of labor at an industrial level.
European policy-makers have long debated the need to develop a military drone but have so far not been able to agree on a joint program.
After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including evacuations, promises, threats, assertions, and a trans-border germ invasion. . . Continue reading