Posting’s been slow of late, mostly because we’re into the eighth day of a nast respiratory bug.
But let’s get right to it, starting with this headline from Digital Trends:
NSA can gain complete access to iPhones, but Apple denies it helped install spyware
The National Security Agency can intercept the world’s Internet communications, tap Google’s and Yahoo’s corporate networks, collect revealing data on every phone call in America, and covertly divert new PC shipments to install monitoring software. And now, as newly revealed NSA documents show, we know it can take complete control over virtually anyone’s Apple iPhone.
Apple, for its part, says it knew nothing about the iPhone exploit, and has vowed to protect customers from any “malicious hackers.”
First revealed by security researcher Jacob Appelbaum and Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the NSA installs a piece of spyware called DROPOUTJEEP, which enables the agency to intercept SMS text messages; snag voicemail, geolocation data, cell tower location, and contact lists; capture conversations over the iPhone’s microphone; and snap pictures via the camera.
More from The Guardian:
Top secret program to target iPhones: Australian agencies may have known
- Apple denies knowledge of the tool, saying it ‘has never worked with the NSA to create a back door in any of our products’
Australian intelligence agencies may have had knowledge of a top secret US National Security Agency program for targeting iPhones, according to newly-released documents.
The Guardian debunks:
President Obama claims the NSA has never abused its authority. That’s false
The facts that we know so far – from Fisa court documents to LOVEINT – show that the NSA has overstepped its powers
Digital Trends ironizes:
TURBOPANDA, RAGEMASTER, and 13 other NSA codenames that prove spies laugh, too
The National Security Agency gets a lot of flack for, you know, violating the entire world’s right to privacy and whatnot. But after seeing the codenames the NSA gives its spyware and other snooping tech, we’re starting to wonder if we’re thinking of these guys all wrong. They’re not clandestine cyberspies who seek to infiltrate every nook and cranny of the digital world – they’re just misunderstood comedians! Seriously, whoever thought “BANANAGLEE” was a good name for anything this side of a Lemon Party has a fantastic sense of humor.
Computerworld havests the Blue Screen of Death:
Unencrypted Windows crash reports give ‘significant advantage’ to hackers, spies
- Microsoft transmits a wealth of information from Windows PCs to its servers in the clear, claims security researcher
Windows’ error- and crash-reporting system sends a wealth of data unencrypted and in the clear, information that eavesdropping hackers or state security agencies can use to refine and pinpoint their attacks, a researcher said today.
Not coincidentally, over the weekend the popular German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) collects Windows crash reports from its global wiretaps to sniff out details of targeted PCs, including the installed software and operating systems, down to the version numbers and whether the programs or OSes have been patched; application and operating system crashes that signal vulnerabilities that could be exploited with malware; and even the devices and peripherals that have been plugged into the computers.
From Wired, another gotcha:
Court Upholds Willy-Nilly Gadget Searches Along U.S. Border
A federal judge today upheld a President Barack Obama administration policy allowing authorities along the U.S. border to seize and search laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices for any reason.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in New York comes as laptops, and now smartphones, have become virtual extensions of ourselves, housing everything from email to instant-message chats to our papers and effects.
Reuters seeks enlightenment:
ACLU sues for details of U.S. surveillance under executive order
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Monday, seeking to force the U.S. government to disclose details of its foreign electronic surveillance program and what protections it provides to Americans whose communications are swept up.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, came three days after the ACLU lost a bid to block a separate program that collects the phone calls of millions of Americans.
The Verge has a body count:
Covert US targeted killings took 253 lives in 2013, report estimates
The Council on Foreign Relations has released its estimates on the year’s covert targeted killings in Yemen and Pakistan, carried out primarily by drones. The numbers are based on reports from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Long War Journal, and The New America Foundation. Each source provides slightly different numbers, but the Long War Journal figures estimate a total of 54 strikes and 253 casualties, of whom 31 were civilians. The Council estimates a total of 3,520 casualties since the drone strike program began in 2004, of whom 457 have been civilians.
The numbers are only estimates, as data on civilian casualties is notoriously unreliable, but CFR is straightforward about its goals in releasing the report. “The current trajectory of US drone strike policies is unsustainable,” author Micah Zenko wrote in his initial report last year, to which these new numbers are an update. “Without reform from within, drones risk becoming an unregulated, unaccountable vehicle for states to deploy lethal force with impunity.”
USA TODAY has just the job for you:
Looking for a college major? How about drone technology
The controversial use of drones in business and everyday life is leading to more and more interest on an academic level
And from Deutsche Welle, another educational opportunity:
Master in Cyber Spying — Britain’s University for Secret Agents
If James Bond were to hit the books again, he’d likely attend the University of Buckingham in South East England. The private institution offers a Master’s degree in Security and Intelligence Studies. Cyber espionage is also part of the curriculum.
People come from around the world to study at the university’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies. Graduates hope to work in counter-terrorism or help businesses ward off cyber-attacks.
Vladimir Putin vows vengeance after Volgograd bus bombing
- Police sweeps lead to detention of dozens in southern Russian city
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to annihilate “terrorists” following two deadly bomb attacks in less than 24 hours in the southern city of Volgograd that raised security fears ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The uncompromising remarks in a New Year’s Eve address were Putin’s first public comments since suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in attacks on a railway station and a trolleybus on Sunday and Monday.
The bombings raised fears of further attacks before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a major prestige project for Putin.
Off to Asia, where crises are the order of the day, first with a very troubling headline from Want China Times:
Japan has enough plutonium to build 1,000 nuclear bombs: report
The real reason why Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, refuses to abandon nuclear power is because he wants to develop a nuclear weapons program, claims the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po, citing Koide Hiroaki, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.
There have been strong calls for Tokyo to reconsider its position on nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear incident in March 2011, when the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo was hit by an earthquake and tsunami, triggering the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl.
Despite the risks, Hiroaki said that Tokyo is determined to develop a nuclear bomb. As Japan is not allowed to legally import weapons-grade plutonium, he says it is able to extract the plutonium it needs from the nuclear waste from the country’s power plants.
After the jump, the latest stunningly aggressive moves by the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, North Krean nightmares, American electoral insecurity, and the reinicarnation of Pepper Spraying Cop. . .
NHK WORLD admonishes:
Germany urges Japan to face up to the past
German leaders have urged Japan to face up to its role in history after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine.
Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, spoke in Berlin on Monday.
He said all nations must face up to their role in the horrible events of the 20th century. He said an honest acknowledgement makes it possible to build a future with former foes.
NHK WORLD reaffirms:
US repeats disappointment over Abe’s shrine visit
A US State Department official says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine will not affect Japan-US relations.
But Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Monday repeated a statement earlier by the US government, saying it was disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Harf said the US government hopes Japan and its neighbors will find constructive ways to address sensitive historical issues and mend their ties.
South China Morning Post tempers:
Beijing opts for diplomacy in row over Shinzo Abe’s visit to war shrine
Foreign minister calls counterparts in Russia, Germany and Vietnam to protest against Japanese leader’s ‘alarming’ visit to war shrine
The Mainichi has more:
Chinese, Russian foreign ministers criticize Abe’s shrine visit
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine and confirmed that they will work together on history issues, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
Referring to Abe’s paying homage to the shrine honoring the war dead along with war criminals, Wang told Lavrov over the phone, “Abe’s move must prompt high alert among all peace-loving nations in the world,” according to the ministry.
Lavrov told Wang, “Russia holds a completely identical stance with China on the Yasukuni Shrine issue” and urged Japan to correct its “erroneous historical view,” according to the ministry.
Jiji Press with still more:
S. Korea Parliament Denounces Abe’s Yasukuni Visit
South Korean parliament adopted at a plenary session Tuesday a resolution denouncing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines convicted Class-A World War II criminals along with the war dead.
The Japanese prime minister’s visit to the Tokyo shrine last week was a move to glorify Japan’s past aggression rather than to show a true remorse over its aggressive wars that hurt other Asian nations, the resolution said.
And the new year brought more umbrage from China. From South China Morning Post:
Beijing urges Japan’s Shinzo Abe to learn from post-war German leaders
Chinese state media kept up the heat on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the first day of the new year, urging him to learn from Germany in dealing with divisive historical issues.
“Abe’s conspicuous lack of historical honesty contrasts shamefully with the courage and vision of late West German Chancellor Willy Brandt,” Xinhua said in a commentary.
It highlighted Brandt’s 1970 visit to a monument in Poland to victims of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising – a revolt by Jews against deportations to Nazi death camps that was brutally crushed by German troops – when he famously fell to his knees. What Brandt did was a “spontaneous act of genuine repentance”, Xinhua added. “He said no words, but his silent apology spoke a lot: Germany repents its history, is willing to make up for the past, and stands ready to earn the international trust it needs to move on.”
Then, just to make matters worse. . .From Kyodo News:
Japanese Cabinet minister visits Yasukuni Shrine on New Year’s Day
Japanese Cabinet minister Yoshitaka Shindo visited the war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Wednesday, in a move that is certain to fuel anger in China and South Korea, both of which suffered from Japanese wartime aggression.
The visit by Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shindo on New Year’s Day came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a surprise visit to the Shinto shrine on Dec. 26, sparking sharp criticism from Japan’s Asian neighbors and disappointing the United States, Tokyo’s closest ally.
The reaction was immediate, via the Jiji Press:
China Strongly Protests Japanese Minister’s Yasukuni Visit
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman lodged a “strong protest” on Wednesday against Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo’s visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine the same day.
Shindo’s visit to Yasukuni was another act of provocation by a Japanese cabinet minister on an issue of history following a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said the spokesman, Hua Chunying, in a statement.
The latest visit demonstrated again Japan’s dangerous inclination to challenge the results of a world war against fascism and postwar international order, Hua said.
But the prime minister continued to fuel the flames. From the JapanToday:
Abe says it is time to revise pacifist constitution
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday reaffirmed his resolve to change the nation’s pacifist constitution imposed by the U.S. after Japan’s defeat in World War II.
In a New Year message to the nation, Abe said: “As it has been 68 years since its enactment now, national debate should be further deepened toward a revision of the constitution to grasp the changing times. Now is the time for Japan to take a big step forward toward a new nation-building effort.”
Abe said the constitution, which limits Japan’s military to self-defense could be amended by 2020, “will have been revised” by 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Want China Times editorially assailed the Japanese leader’s increasing militaristic agenda:
Abe’s skewed view of history threatens peace in East Asia
The Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to worship at the Yasukuni Shrine — which enshrines war criminals among Japan’s war dead — on the anniversary of his assumption of office has angered China and South Korea, and has drawn severe criticism from various other parties. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs charged Abe with being “false, arrogant and reckless,” while the People’s Liberation Army warned Japan that it would have to bear all the consequences of the move. The South Korean government is considering recalling its ambassador to Japan and canceling strategic dialogue between the two nations’ vice ministers.
In contrast to its passive response to the visit by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi to the shrine in 2006, the US has instructed its embassy in Japan to express dissatisfaction and disappointment at Abe’s visit, urging Japan to express remorse for its aggression during World War II and to abide by the commitment to peace in its constitution. Chuck Hagel, the US secretary of defense, canceled a teleconference with his Japanese counterpart after hearing of the visit. The mainstream media in the US also criticized Abe’s nationalistic mindset, with some outlets saying the act had provoked confrontation with other East Asian nations and had increased the risk of a military conflict between the US and China.
The Yasukuni Shrine enshrines, among others, 14 Class-A war criminals executed by postwar Allied tribunals and stands as a symbol of Japanese militarism. Worship at the shrine by political leaders, therefore, is often seen as an insult to the victims of Japan’s wartime atrocities in mainland Asia. That such a high-profile figure as the prime minister would make a visit underscores a lack of remorse for or denial of such crimes by Japanese troops as the Nanjing Massacre or the forcing of thousands of women into sexual slavery. On this latter point, Abe is on record as denying that women from China, Korea and other Asian countries were coerced into working in Japanese military brothels, against the historical evidence. In an editorial, the Osaka-based Asahi Shimbun criticized Abe’s worship at the shrine as betraying the true face of peaceful postwar Japan, and as exposing Abe’s distorted vision of history.
The Mainichi enlightens:
Chinese officers told Japan about expanded air defense zone in 2010
Senior officers in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) informed Japanese government officials of China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture all the way back in 2010, according to secret documents obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun.
According to the documents — the minutes of an informal meeting between the PLA officers and Japanese government officials at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies in Beijing on May 14-15, 2010 — China had already established the ADIZ but had yet to make it public. Furthermore, the zone presented to the Japanese officials is almost identical to that declared by the Chinese government in November 2013. The revelations indicate that China had been doing the groundwork for the declaration of the ADIZ for at least three and a half years before its official announcement.
The minutes show that a Chinese navy commodore with the PLA’s naval warfare research institute not only revealed the existence of the ADIZ, but also stated that it roughly matched what China claimed as its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf — one way to define a nation’s ocean borders. The commodore clearly explained that the Senkakus were inside this zone.
The Yomiuri Shimbun prepares:
Chinese military to be reorganized for contingencies
To more quickly respond to a military contingency, the Chinese military is considering reorganizing its seven military regions into five districts, each of which will have a joint operations command that controls the army, navy, air force and a strategic missile unit in that district, senior Chinese military officials have told The Yomiuri Shimbun.
The planned reorganization would mark a shift from the current defense-oriented military that relies mainly on the army to one that will ensure more mobile and integrated management of the army, navy, air force and strategic missile units.
South China Morning Post drones on:
Police arrest four in Beijing after mysterious drone forces diversion of civilian planes
Four employees at a Beijing company were detained by police pending a criminal investigation on Monday after they flew an unmanned aircraft near the Chinese capital’s airport, forcing the diversion of two airplanes and causing multiple flight delays.
The suspects, whose identities were not disclosed, were detained on suspicion of “endangering public security” after they were linked to the self-modified drone that cruised near Beijing International Airport and “seriously interrupted flight orders” on Sunday, local media reported on Tuesday.
On to the Korean crisis with Sky News:
Kim Jong-Un: Uncle’s Killing Removed ‘Filth’
In his New Year address, North Korea’s leader says the death of Jan Song-Thaek has made the Communist Party stronger.
In his New Year message, broadcast of state television, Mr Kim said: “Our party took resolute action to remove … scum elements within the party last year.”
He accused Jang Song-Thaek, who was once considered the second most powerful individual in the North, of trying to build his own power base within the ruling party.
“Our party’s timely, accurate decision to purge the anti-party, anti-revolutionary elements helped greatly cement solidarity within our party,” Mr Kim said.
Want China Times adds a telling detail:
Kim Jong-un forced top officials to witness uncle’s execution: report
North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un forced other top officials in his government to witness the execution of his uncle-in-law Jang Sung-taek in person as a warning against subverting his rule, reports South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo.Jang, 67, Kim’s former mentor, was executed on Dec. 12 for allegedly seeking to seize power. He was described as “despicable human scum” by North Korean state media and accused of treason, corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs.
And a blast from the North Korean past — 23 January 1968 to be exact — from USA TODAY:
Book reveals new details of N. Korea capture of Pueblo
The plight of the Pueblo and its crew, as well as the stakes for U.S. intelligence and security, is told by author Jack Cheevers in the new book, Act of War: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo. Long forgotten or never learned by most Americans, the capture of the Pueblo, Cheevers writes, and the loss of its intelligence information was one of the worst in U.S. history.
“One key document I uncovered was a secret, 236-page history of the Pueblo affair, written by the National Security Agency in 1992, indicating that the ship’s capture was one of the biggest intelligence debacles in U.S. history — ‘everyone’s worst nightmare,’ as one NSA historian put it,” Cheevers told USA TODAY.
Another ghost from the past via Reuters:
Croatia arrests ex-spy chief wanted in Germany
Croatia arrested on Wednesday a former intelligence chief wanted in Germany, responding to an extradition row that overshadowed the Balkan state’s accession to the European Union last summer.
Josip Perkovic was one of 10 people arrested, state news agency Hina reported, as an amended law took effect that brought the country’s extradition laws into line with most of the rest of the bloc.
He is sought in connection with the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria, allegedly orchestrated by communist Yugoslavia’s secret services for which he then worked.
Threatpost covers a contemporary crisis in the making:
‘Significant Deficiencies’ at Election Commission Put Agency At Risk
The Federal Election Commission (FEC), the government agency that keeps track of money raised each term by candidates and political action committees, is highly vulnerable to intrusions and data breaches according to a recent audit that discovered “significant deficiencies” in the FEC’s IT security program.
The concerns stem from an audit (.PDF) that surfaced online this week administered by Maryland-based Leon Snead & Company earlier this month.
The report notes the FEC must “fundamentally change its governance and management approach and adopt a risk-based IT security program” that meets the best practices laid out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
While the Toronto Globe and Mail gives us our last security item:
U.S. cop pepper-sprayed boy because he didn’t want to go to school, say police
A U.S. law enforcement officer faces criminal charges for allegedly pepper-spraying his girlfriend’s 13-year-old son because the boy stayed in bed instead of going to school.
WTAE-TV reports that Pennsylvania state Trooper Ernest Boatright faces a Jan. 22 preliminary hearing on child endangerment and harassment charges.
According to court records, Boatright told investigators he had pepper-sprayed two cats on an enclosed porch, but the boy tells police Boatright sprayed the chemical into his room in April. The boy told police he had sprayed him with the substance before.