We open today’s tales from the dark side with a demand via The Intercept:
The Bahamas Wants to Know Why the NSA is Recording Its Phone Calls
Government officials in the Bahamas want their U.S. counterparts to explain why the National Security Agency has been intercepting and recording every cell phone call taking place on the island nation.
Responding to a report published by The Intercept on Monday, which revealed that the NSA has been targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network and storing the audio of every phone call traversing the network for up to 30 days, Bahamian officials told the Nassau Guardian that they had contacted the U.S. and vowed to release a statement regarding the revelations.
In a front-page story published Tuesday, Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell told the Guardian that his government had reached out to the U.S. for an explanation. Mitchell said the cabinet was set to meet to discuss the matter and planned to issue a statement on the surveillance. The Bahamian minister of national security told the paper he intended to launch an inquiry into the NSA’s surveillance but did not provide a comment.
The New York Times parses spookery:
Fine Line Seen in U.S. Spying on Companies
The National Security Agency has never said what it was seeking when it invaded the computers of Petrobras, Brazil’s huge national oil company, but angry Brazilians have guesses: the company’s troves of data on Brazil’s offshore oil reserves, or perhaps its plans for allocating licenses for exploration to foreign companies.
Nor has the N.S.A. said what it intended when it got deep into the computer systems of China Telecom, one of the largest providers of mobile phone and Internet services in Chinese cities. But documents released by Edward J. Snowden, the former agency contractor now in exile in Russia, leave little doubt that the main goal was to learn about Chinese military units, whose members cannot resist texting on commercial networks.
The agency’s interest in Huawei, the giant Chinese maker of Internet switching equipment, and Pacnet, the Hong Kong-based operator of undersea fiber optic cables, is more obvious: Once inside those companies’ proprietary technology, the N.S.A. would have access to millions of daily conversations and emails that never touch American shores.
Then there is Joaquín Almunia, the antitrust commissioner of the European Commission. He runs no company, but has punished many, including Microsoft and Intel, and just reached a tentative accord with Google that will greatly change how it operates in Europe.
In each of these cases, American officials insist, when speaking off the record, that the United States was never acting on behalf of specific American companies. But the government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security. In short, the officials say, while the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials — and, by extension, the American industries and workers they are trying to bolster.
From Agence France Presse, taking it on the road:
Eric Holder To Discuss NSA Spying Scandal In Germany
US Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Germany to discuss privacy concerns after the NSA spying scandal damaged relations between the two allies, Germany said Wednesday.
German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told journalists in Washington that Holder has accepted an invitation from Berlin to explain how the US would curb spying on foreign nationals overseas.
“We will have this discussion together in Germany,” he said.
The Christian Science Monitor raises a reasonable question:
US hacking charges against China for economic cyber-spying: Why now?
The US indictment of five military officials in China’s secret ‘Unit 61398′ aims to put China on notice but also plays to US corporate concerns that Washington has done too little to curb cyber threats.
While many believe it is unlikely those Chinese military officers will ever be extradited for trial in the US, the public outing of China’s military for engineering the cyber theft of the crown jewels of US companies’ intellectual property is the punitive part of a multipart “carrot and stick” policy the Obama administration adopted to deal with a problem shortly after it took office, these experts say.
In the administration’s early days, cyber threats were already a priority. But by 2010, cyber espionage had vaulted to the top of the list. The next year, a nonpublic internal federal review determined that “China’s economic espionage activities were greater than all others combined, including Russia,” says James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
By early 2013, the US and China had agreed to regular diplomatic talks – a cyber working group – that was one of the White House “carrots” designed to deal with sensitive cyber issues behind closed doors. In those talks, the US told Chinese representatives that using the powerful state-controlled military to conduct cyber-espionage operations against hundreds of US corporations was unacceptable.
From the Associated Press, stupid is as stupid does:
U.S. hacking victims fell prey to slapstick, mundane ruses
The hacking techniques the U.S. government says China used against American companies turned out to be disappointingly mundane, tricking employees into opening e-mail attachments or clicking on innocent-looking website links.
The scariest part might be how successfully the ruses worked. With a mouse click or two, employees at big-name American makers of nuclear and solar technology gave away the keys to their computer networks.
In a 31-count indictment announced on Monday, the Justice Department said five Chinese military officials operating under hacker aliases such as “Ugly Gorilla,” “KandyGoo” and “Jack Sun” stole confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage. The United States identified the alleged victims as Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse, Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel, United Steelworkers Union and SolarWorld.
From the Verge, an embarrassment:
The US Navy was hacked from inside its own aircraft carrier
When the Navy Criminal Investigative Service started looking into a breach of one of their low-security networks, the team got an unpleasant surprise: at least one of the culprits was a Navy sailor, performing the attacks from an aircraft carrier at sea.
The hacking group called Team Digi7al breached at least 24 websites in 2012, including the Navy’s own SmartMove system, used to help sailors coordinate changes of address. The team was looking for social security numbers and other personal data, the raw material for identity theft, targeting sites like the Toronto Police Service and Stanford University. For the most part, the attacks were small enough to stay under the radar — but when a tweet posted to Team Digi7al’s Twitter account from an internal Navy network, NCIS realized the SmartMove attack had been an inside job, and sprang into action.
It took an elaborate sting operation to find Digi7al’s inside, including a fake database designed as an attractive target, but finally NCIS traced the breach back to Nicholas Paul Knight, the systems administrator for the nuclear reactor onboard the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier. On Tuesday, Knight plead guilty to charges of identity theft and obstruction of justice in federal court. He faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A paradigm shifts from Homeland Security News Wire:
Snowden revelations spur a surge in encrypted e-mail services
The Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency(N.S.A) surveillance programs have fueled a surge of new e-mail encryption services. “A lot of people were upset with those revelations, and that coalesced into this effort,” said the co-developer of a new encrypted e-mail service which launched last Friday. The company notes that its servers are based in Switzerland, making it more difficult for U.S. law enforcement to reach them.
The Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs have fueled a surge of new e-mail encryption services. “A lot of people were upset with those revelations, and that coalesced into this effort,” said Jason Stockman, a co-developer of ProtonMail, a new encrypted e-mail service which launched last Friday with collaboration from scientists from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the European research lab CERN.
Yahoo News reports that ProtonMail is marketed as user-friendly as major commercial e-mail services such as Google Gmail and Yahoo Mail, but it offers extra security. The company notes that its servers are based in Switzerland, making it more difficult for U.S. law enforcement to reach them. E-mail encryption has been a go-to-tool for dissident activists in China and Iran to avoid detection by the authorities, but the adoption of encryption services is now favored by many Americans who want to avoid surveillance from the NSA or other intelligence services.
From the Washington Post, a legacy for the University of California’s new president [former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano]:
Planned Homeland Security headquarters, long delayed and over budget, now in doubt
The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, is running more than $1.5 billion over budget, is 11 years behind schedule and may never be completed, according to planning documents and federal officials.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the George W. Bush administration called for a new, centralized headquarters to strengthen the department’s ability to coordinate the fight against terrorism and respond to natural disasters. More than 50 historic buildings would be renovated and new ones erected on the grounds of St. Elizabeths, a onetime insane asylum with a panoramic view of the District.
The entire complex was to be finished as early as this year, at a cost of less than $3 billion, according to the initial plan.
The Tribune Washington Bureau seeks release:
Obama administration to release drone memo on killing US citizens
President Barack Obama’s Justice Department will release a long-sought secret document laying out the legal basis for using drones to kill Americans suspected of terrorist activities abroad, administration officials confirmed Tuesday.
Rather than appeal a court order that the so-called “drone memo” be released under the Freedom of Information Act, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. concurred with the decision of Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli not to pursue the appeal and agreed to release a redacted version of the document, the officials said.
Officials requested anonymity to discuss the closed-door deliberations, first disclosed Tuesday by The Associated Press. The documents will be released later, pending court approval.
From CNN, an announcement with suspicious timing:
Stream of al Qaeda threats has U.S. intelligence concerned
A series of al Qaeda-based threats to attack American and Western targets in Europe, as well as threats to launch attacks inside the United States, has caused significant concern inside the U.S. intelligence community, CNN has learned.
Officials are trying to determine the extent to which the threats may be linked and determine what it may mean about the strength of al Qaeda in several countries. While the “threat stream” has evolved during the past six months, according to a senior U.S. official, none of the threats has been corroborated.
The official said the threats appear to detail “a lot of activity where intelligence suggests there are operational cells,” but so far, “we do not see operational cells of al Qaeda inside the United States,” the official said, although he emphasized it could not be ruled out.
From the Arizona Republic, about damn time:
FBI reverses no-recording policy for interrogations
Since the FBI began under President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, agents have not only shunned the use of tape recorders, they’ve been prohibited by policy from making audio and video records of statements by criminal suspects without special approval.
Now, after more than a century, the U.S. Department of Justice has quietly reversed that directive by issuing orders May 12 that video recording is presumptively required for interrogations of suspects in custody, with some exceptions.
There was no news release or press conference to announce the radical shift. But a DOJ memorandum —obtained by The Arizona Republic — spells out the changes to begin July 11.
From the Dept. of Oh, Puhleeeze via The Wire:
GOP Senator Does Not Think the FBI Director’s Weed Joke Was Very Funny
FBI Director James Comey made a weed joke earlier this week; turns out the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t find it funny. Speaking at a conference on Monday, the FBI chief made headlines when he admitted that the agency is “grappling with the question” of whether it could be more open to hiring people who smoke pot, especially as the demand for cybercrime fighters increases.
What went mostly unreported was a little funny that Comey made when he added that some of the prospective hires “want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.”
Today we found out that Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was not so amused:
Do you understand that that could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use and that could undermine our ability to convince young people not to go down a dangerous path?”
From the Boston Globe, with maximum security:
Ohio Prison Shows Pirated Movies to Prisoners Convicted of Pirating Movies
Pirated movies are being shown to Ohio inmates convicted for selling pirated films, according to Cleveland.com. The Lorain County Correctional Institution confirmed that prison officials know about the practice and that it’s being investigated.
Richard Humphrey, who was released on May 6 for a parole violation, posted on torrentfreak.com that guards let the inmates watch “Ride Along” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” before the films’ DVD releases. Humphrey faced a 29-month sentence in 2010 for selling pirated copies of movies on a subscription-based website.
From CNN, keeping kids secure from security people:
Cop, rabbi, scoutmaster among arrests in child porn bust
They are people children are supposed to trust: A New York Police Department officer, a Fire Department of New York paramedic, a rabbi and a scoutmaster were among more than 70 people arrested in a major child porn bust, a U.S. law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The police officer allegedly used the video chatting service Skype to have women pose their children naked for him, another law enforcement official said.
Another of those arrested — a supervisor with the Transportation Security Administration — allegedly traveled to the Dominican Republic to have sex with children, the official said. He allegedly made more than 50 trips there.
From Reuters, how much for a hack attack?:
EBay says client information stolen in hacking attack
E-commerce company eBay Inc said hackers stole email addresses, birthdays and other identity information between late February and early March in a data breach that may have affected a “large number” of accounts.
In the latest major cyber attack at a U.S. company, eBay said it had found no evidence of unauthorized access to financial or credit card information, which is stored separately in encrypted formats.
But the company urged all of its users, including the 145 million customers who bought or sold something on eBay in the last 12 months, to change their passwords.
Blowback blues from Global Times:
Microsoft ‘surprised’ at move to change systems
- Windows 8 ban to aid security
In an e-mail to the Global Times, Microsoft said they are surprised by the news.
“Windows 8 has some unique back doors reserved by developers for later system upgrade and daily maintenance. The downside of the back doors is the potential risk of leaking sensitive personal information to developers or Internet hackers,” Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen-based iiMedia Research, told the Global Times.
Zhang’s opinion was echoed by Ni Guangnan, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who reportedly appealed that the government should not purchase Windows 8 devices.
Ni was quoted by China Electronics News as saying the new generation of Windows system would leave information vulnerable to monitoring from the US government, as shown in the scandal of PRISM.
More blowback from South China Morning Post:
US cyberespionage charges may cool Westinghouse’s China nuclear deal
- Business ties at risk after Washington accuses five PLA officers of hacking
China may consider postponing negotiations for buying eight nuclear reactors from an American nuclear company embroiled in a US indictment of five PLA military officers for alleged cyberespionage, Chinese experts say.
The deal, together with parts and services, would potentially be worth more than 24 billion yuan (HK$30 billion) and create thousands of jobs.
Five cybertechnology experts, allegedly from the People’s Liberation Army’s Shanghai-based Unit 61398 that has been accused of being a major source of cyberattacks abroad, are now wanted by the FBI for hacking into a number of US firms, including Westinghouse Electric, the company tendering to supply the Chinese nuclear power plants.
And north of the border, and sure to move south, from CBC News:
La Ronde under fire for scanning visitors’ fingerprints
- Quebec privacy commissioner says La Ronde has not been cleared to have biometric database
La Ronde, the Montreal amusement park owned by Six Flags, is scanning biometric data from its users to admit them to the park. The only problem is, it hasn’t been cleared to do so.
This year, the park brought in measures to scan what it calls “fingerpoints.” The scans of season-pass holders’ index fingers are then used to admit them to the amusement park.
“So what happens is season-pass owners come to the park, they have two options. Either they can do a traditional way, so they can get a season pass with picture or they can go through our new system, which is quicker,” La Ronde’s communications officer Jules Hébert told CBC Daybreak on Wednesday.
After the jump, the latest developments in the ongoing and ever-escalating Asian Games of Zones, with an emphasis on the latest efforts of to send Japan down Abe’s Road of rash remilitarization. . . Continue reading