We begin today’s collection of headlines from the worlds of espionage and security with on ominous note with this entry from Threat Level:
Judges Poised to Hand U.S. Spies the Keys to the Internet
How does the NSA get the private crypto keys that allow it to bulk eavesdrop on some email providers and social networking sites? It’s one of the mysteries yet unanswered by the Edward Snowden leaks. But we know that so-called SSL keys are prized by the NSA – understandably, since one tiny 256 byte key can expose millions of people to intelligence collection. And we know that the agency has a specialized group that collects such keys by hook or by crook. That’s about it.
Which is why the appellate court challenge pitting encrypted email provider Lavabit against the Justice Department is so important: It’s the only publicly documented case where a district judge has ordered an internet company to hand over its SSL key to the U.S. government — in this case, the FBI.
If the practice — which may well have happened in secret before — is given the imprimatur of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, it opens a new avenue for U.S. spies to expand their surveillance against users of U.S. internet services like Gmail and Dropbox. Since the FBI is known to work hand in hand with intelligence agencies, it potentially turns the judiciary into an arm of the NSA’s Key Recovery Service. Call it COURTINT.
The Guardian partially discloses:
Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo release US surveillance requests
- Tech giants turn over data from tens of thousands of accounts
- Limited disclosure part of transparency deal made last month
Tens of thousands of accounts associated with customers of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo have their data turned over to US government authorities every six months as the result of secret court orders, the tech giants disclosed for the first time on Monday.
As part of a transparency deal reached last week with the Justice Department, four of the tech firms that participate in the National Security Agency’s Prism effort, which collects largely overseas internet communications, released more information about the volume of data the US demands they provide than they have ever previously been permitted to disclose.
But the terms of the deal prevent the companies from itemising the collection, beyond bands of thousands of data requests served on them by a secret surveillance court. The companies must also delay by six months disclosing information on the most recent requests – terms the Justice Department negotiated to end a transparency lawsuit before the so-called Fisa court that was brought by the companies.
MintPress News cozies up:
Google’s New Partnership With Law Enforcement Disquiets Privacy Advocates
What’s concerning most about the system for privacy advocates is that the information, which includes the photos and videos, is shared directly by Google with law enforcement.
Google may be in bed with U.S. government and law enforcement agencies more than the American public may have realized.
While the tech giant maintains it was unaware of the extent that the National Security Agency was using its cookie technology to gather information about the public, it was recently discovered that the company filed for two patents last year that actually benefit law enforcement.
Known as “Mob Source Phone Video Collaboration” and “Inferring Events Based On Mob Sourced Video,” the patents are for a system that would identify when and where a “mob” event takes place and would send multimedia alerts to those with a vested interest in the event, namely law enforcement and news agencies.
According to the patents, a “mob” event is anything that attracts an “abnormal” amount of attention in the form of photos and videos, which is determined by the system’s monitoring photos and videos for similar time and location stamps.
PCWorld ponders prosecution:
German federal prosecutor considers formal NSA investigation
Germany’s federal prosecutor is considering if there is enough evidence to warrant a formal, criminal investigation into the German government’s alleged involvement in the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) data collection program, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Privacy and human rights campaigners including the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the International League for Human Rights (ILMR) and Digitalcourage on Monday filed a criminal complaint against the German federal government and the presidents of the German secret services for their alleged involvement in illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, they said in a news release.
The complaint also targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German Minister of the Interior as well as U.S., British and German secret agents who are all accused of violating the right to privacy and obstruction of justice by cooperating with the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ to electronically spy on German citizens, they said.
The Guardian mulls disclosure:
Intelligence agencies should be subject to FoI, says information commissioner
- John McMillan says FoI Act ‘can suitably apply to any agencies, parliamentary departments and the intelligence agencies’
Australia’s information commissioner has called for intelligence agencies to be subject to freedom of information laws and has expressed concern about “mixed messages” on open government and transparency.
In a wide-ranging interview with Guardian Australia on the state of privacy and freedom of information in Australia, the information commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said intelligence agencies should be subject to freedom of information (FoI) legislation.
“My preference would be at least for the FoI Act to apply to the intelligence agencies,” he said.
PCWorld hacks away:
Prominent cryptographers targeted by malware attacks
Belgian cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater had his personal computer infected with malware as the result of a targeted attack that’s believed to be related to a security breach discovered last year at Belgian telecommunications group Belgacom. According to him, other cryptographers have also been targeted by the same attackers.
Belgacom, whose customers include the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, announced in September that it had discovered sophisticated malware on some of its internal systems.
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported at the time, based on documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was responsible for the attack on Belgacom as part of a project code-named Operation Socialist.
The magazine later reported that GCHQ used packet injection technology called Quantum Insert developed by the NSA to target network engineers from Belgacom and other companies when they visited the LinkedIn and Slashdot websites. This technology can impersonate websites and can force the target’s computer to visit an attack server that uses exploits to install malware.
National Post denies:
Stephen Harper’s top security advisor denies reports of illegal spying on Canadians using airport Wi-Fi
The head of Communications Security Establishment Canada defended the collection of “metadata” on Monday, saying it helped identify foreign adversaries without snooping on the private communications of Canadians.
Testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, John Forster shot back against allegations of overzealous government electronic surveillance that have arisen as a result of leaks by Edward Snowden.
In a rare public appearance that follows unprecedented scrutiny of the ultra-secretive spy agency, Mr. Forster denied CSEC had been monitoring the private communications of Canadians as it vacuumed up metadata, or “data about data.
While CBC News equivocates:
Spy agencies, prime minister’s adviser defend Wi-Fi data collection
- ‘It’s data about data,’ Stephen Harper’s national security adviser says of metadata collection
The head of Canada’s communications surveillance agency defended its use of metadata Monday and argued a test using Canadian passengers’ data — revealed by CBC News last week — didn’t run in real-time and wasn’t an actual operation.
John Forster, chief of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, defended the cybersecurity agency over revelations contained in a document released by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Forster appeared before the Senate national defence committee amid the report that CSEC used airport Wi-Fi to track the movements of Canadian passengers, including where they’d been before the airport.
Pushing for a conclusion with TheLocal.se:
Prosecutor pressed to speed up Assange case
The Swedish prosecutor handling the Julian Assange case lashed out on Monday to calls urging him to push on with efforts to interrogate the whistle blower over sex crimes allegations stemming from a 2010 visit to Sweden.
Assange, who is suspected of rape and sexual assault involving two Swedish women in connection with a visit to Stockholm in 2010, remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been for the last 18 months.
But Swedish MP Johan Pehrson, legal policy spokesperson for the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), said on Sunday there was no point letting such a case fester.
“This is an exceptional case,” he said on the Agenda programme on Sveriges Television (SVT). “Which gets you thinking whether the prosecutor shouldn’t take one more look at it and take care of it once and for all.”
Military/industrial profiteering from Spiegel:
Arms Exports: Berlin Backs Large Defense Deal with Saudi Arabia
Berlin has often been criticized in recent years for selling weapons to questionable regimes. Now, the German government is backing a billion-euro deal for 100 patrol boats.
The German government has often drawn serious criticism for supporting defense deals with countries known to have democratic deficiencies. In the latest controversial move, SPIEGEL has learned that the new government in Berlin wants to secure a major defense deal with Saudi Arabia by offering Hermes export credit guarantees.
The information comes from a classified letter from a senior official in the Finance Ministry to the German parliament’s budget committee. The letter states that the German government intends to provide guarantees for the planned export of more than 100 patrol and border control boats to the Gulf state with a total value of around €1.4 billion ($1.9 billion). In the letter, official Steffen Kampeter writes of the “high importance in terms of economic and employment” of the deal, which includes contracts for the Bremen-based Lürssen Shipyard. Kampeter, a politician with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, asked for the “confidential handling of the business data” because negotiations are still in progress and competition is expected from other countries.
Wasting it profligately, via Aero-News Network:
New C-27J Cargo Planes Stored In Arizona Boneyard
- Military ‘Has No Use’ For For The Spartans
New C-27J Spartan cargo planes ordered by the U.S. Air Force are being delivered … directly to a storage “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. There are reportedly nearly a dozen new Spartans sitting on the ramp at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ.
The Dayton Daily News reports that the Air Force has spent some $567 million to acquire 21 new Spartans since 2007, but has found that the Air Force does not have missions for many of the aircraft.
The planes had originally been acquired because of their ability to operate from unimproved runways. But sequestration forced the Air Force to re-think the airplane’s mission, and it determined that they were not a necessity, according to an analyst with the Project for Government Oversight.
World Socialist Web Site gets right to it:
Germany, US push aggressive policies at Munich Security Conference
This weekend, some 400 leading international political and military figures and representatives of defense contractors, banks and corporations gathered at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) to discuss the global military and security situation. Both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel participated, marking the first time the US secretaries of state and defense both attended the conference.
The MSC featured a series of speeches by top German officials announcing an aggressive military policy, effectively repudiating the traditional restraints on German militarism that have existed since the collapse of the Nazi regime at the end of World War II. The belligerent tone of the conference was laid down by the former East German pastor and current president of Germany, Joachim Gauck.
Declaring that Germany must stop using its past—i.e., its role in starting two world wars in the 20th century—as a “shield,” Gauck called for the country’s armed forces to be used more frequently and decisively. “Germany can’t carry on as before,” Gauck argued. It was necessary to overcome German indifference and European navel-gazing, he said, in the face of “rapid” and “dramatic” new threats to the “open world order.”
And that complex again, via the London Telegraph:
China and Russia help global defence spending rise for first time in five years
- New forecasts show China’s defence spending will outstrip Britain, Germany and France combined by 2015
Soaring defence budgets in China and Russia mean global military spending is growing for the first time in five years, according to new forecasts.
Spending across Asia and the Middle East is surging even as the military powers of Europe and the US are forced to scale back dramatically in the face of austerity cuts – contributing to a steady change in the balance of military power.
The figures were disclosed as the secretary general of Nato issued a stark warning that the West will cede influence on the world stage because of its falling spending.
After the jump, Asian zone and militarism crises, censorship run amok, an assault on academic freedom, censorship in Egypt, a Spanish muckraker fired, military corruption, the German government hacked, and more. . . Continue reading