Category Archives: Geopolitics

InSecurityWatch: Bigots, hackable Hillary, war


From the Independent, some things never change:

Netanyahu speech: Far-right blogger calls for Black Congressional Caucus Democrats boycotting speech to be hanged

A far right-wing radio host has sparked a race row, after she called on Democrat politicians, including members of the Black Congressional Caucus, to be hanged if they boycotted a controversial speech by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress today.

More than four dozen House and Senate Democrats said in advance they would not attend the event in a highly unusual move given historically close ties between the two allies.

Andrea Shea King, a member of the populist Tea Party movement, said in her weekly talk-radio show: “I would like to think that these guys [Congressmen boycotting the speech] could pay with their lives, hanging from a noose in front of the US Capitol Building.”

BBC News covers a spooky plea deal:

Ex-CIA chief in federal charge plea

David Petraeus, a former CIA director and four-star general, has reached a plea deal with the US Justice Department in which he will admit to mishandling classified materials.

It ends a long investigation into whether he provided secret information to his mistress. He resigned from his post at the CIA in 2012, after it emerged he was having an affair with his biographer.

A Justice Department statement said a plea agreement had been filed. The deal means that Mr Petraeus will plead guilty to one count of unauthorised removal and retention of classified material, but could avoid an embarrassing trial.

From the Intercept, the business of justice as usual:

Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks

David Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, admitted today that he gave highly-classified journals to his onetime mistress and that he lied to the FBI about it. But he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor that will not involve a jail sentence thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors. The deal is yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.

According to the plea deal, Petraeus, while leading American forces in Afghanistan, maintained eight notebooks that he filled with highly-sensitive information about the identities of covert officers, military strategy, intelligence capabilities and his discussions with senior government officials, including President Obama. Rather than handing over these “Black Books,” as the plea agreement calls them, to the Department of Defense when he retired from the military in 2011 to head the CIA, Petraeus retained them at his home and lent them, for several days, to Paula Broadwell, his authorized biographer and mistress.

In October 2012, FBI agents interviewed Petraeus as part of an investigation into his affair with Broadwell — Petraeus would resign from the CIA the next month — and Petraeus told them he had not shared classified material with Broadwell. The plea deal notes that “these statements were false” and that Petraeus “then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” Lying to FBI agents is a federal crime for which people have received sentences of months or more than a year in jail.

Reuters covers a return contemplated:

Fugitive ex-U.S. spy Snowden in talks on returning home: lawyer

A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden said on Tuesday the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of the government’s mass surveillance programs was working with American and German lawyers to return home.

Anatoly Kucherena, who has links to the Kremlin, was speaking at a news conference to present a book he has written about his client. Moscow granted Snowden asylum in 2013, straining already tense ties with Washington.

“I won’t keep it secret that he… wants to return back home. And we are doing everything possible now to solve this issue. There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I’m dealing with it on the Russian side.”

The United States wants Snowden to stand trial for leaking extensive secrets of electronic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA). Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite him.

From Nextgov, Hillary insecurity:

Were Clinton’s Personal Emails an Open Door to Hackers?

Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account during her time as secretary of state is raising alarm over how secure her communications were from hackers and foreign governments interested in prying into private files of the nation’s top diplomat.

Clinton, who is expected to be the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, exclusively relied on a personal account to conduct official business during her four-year stint running the State Department, The New York Times first reported late Monday.

“The focus here really needs to be on the information-security piece,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s irresponsible to use a private email account when you are the head of an agency that is going to be targeted by foreign intelligence services.”

From the National Journal, Hillary hucksterism:

Clinton Emails Raise Red Flags for Keystone Review, Greens Say

  • Revelations that Clinton used private email at State erode trust among key environmental allies

Major environmental organizations are sounding the alarm over revelations that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official business during her tenure as secretary of State, pointing to disputes about her review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Green groups Friends of the Earth and 350.org warn that the private correspondence could have been used to cover up a conflict of interest during Clinton’s review of the controversial pipeline. And Clinton’s penchant for private email, first reported by The New York Times on Monday, is all but guaranteed to deepen distrust between the likely 2016 Democratic front-runner and her presumed allies in the environmental movement.

“This is deeply concerning,” said Ben Schreiber, the climate and energy program director for Friends of the Earth. “The total lack of transparency is a real red flag for us and adds to other concerns that we have about Clinton’s ties to the oil industry.”

From the ACLU Blog of Rights, mum’s the word:

Feds Refuse to Release Documents on “Zero-Day” Security Exploits

Federal agencies served with a Freedom of Information Act request are refusing to release documents related to their purchase, use and disclosure of zero-day exploits, keeping the American public in the dark about a practice that leaves the Internet and its users less secure.

Zero-day exploits are special software programs that take advantage of security vulnerabilities in software that are unknown to the software’s manufacturer. These exploits are frequently used by intelligence agencies and the military as well as, we suspect, by federal law enforcement agencies. But they can be used by any hackers, whether they work for the U.S. government, a foreign government, a criminal group, or anyone else. Zero-day vulnerabilities and the tools that exploit them are extremely powerful, because there is very little that potential targets can do to protect themselves.

But the effectiveness of such exploits depends on their secrecy—if the companies that make the affected software are told about the flaws, they will issue software updates to fix them. Governments thus have a strong incentive to keep information about the exploits they have developed or purchased secret from both the public and the companies who create the software we all use.

On February 5, we received a response from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed for the disclosure of guidance or directives related to the government’s policies for the purchase, discovery, disclosure and exploitation of zero-days. The ODNI claimed that these records are classified under Executive Order 13526, Section 1.4(c), which states that information can be considered for classification if its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to national security issues pertaining to “intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology.” This response is consistent with the Obama administration’s refusal to make public most information related to its surveillance and cybersecurity policies.

From Threatpost, not reassuring:

Government Report Critical of FAA Security Controls

Federal Aviation Administration has been put on notice that its information security controls are not up to par and that a risk-based program must be implemented from the ground up in order to assure the safety of its networks and passengers in the sky.

A scathing Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released earlier this year hammered the FAA about vulnerabilities on the networks used to support communication between the ground and aircraft and monitoring systems for air traffic control that make up the national airspace system (NAS).

The GAO contends that the FAA has ignored mandates and procedures as outlined by NIST and FISMA guidelines, and has not established a governance structure in order to align security decisions with its overall mission. More specifically, the GAO said the FAA has not established specific security roles and responsibilities for the NAS, or updated its information security strategic plan in order to line it up with the FAA’s reliance on computer networks.

From the Guardian, a Berlin/London spooky rift:

British refusal to cooperate with spy inquiry causes row in Germany

  1. Committee under pressure to censor disclosures about UK activity after Downing Street threatens to break off intelligence-sharing with Berlin

Downing Street and the German chancellery are embroiled in a worsening dispute over intelligence-sharing and the covert counter-terrorism campaign because of conflicts arising from the surveillance scandals surrounding the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.

According to German newspaper reports citing government and intelligence officials in Berlin, the Bundestag’s inquiry into the NSA controversy is being jeopardised by Britain’s refusal to cooperate and its threats to break off all intelligence-sharing with Berlin should the committee reveal any UK secrets.

The weekly magazine Focus reported last month that a national security aide to David Cameron had written to Peter Altmaier, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, refusing all requests for help in the inquiry and warning that Britain would cease supplying terrorism-related intelligence to the Germans unless Berlin yielded.

It emerged during the NSA revelations that the Americans had hacked into Merkel’s mobile phone, generating outrage in Germany and feeding growing anti-American sentiment.

From Techdirt, so that’s why your calls are dropping:

In Unsealed Document, FBI Admits Stingray Devices Will Disrupt Phone Service

  • from the making-Stingray-omelets-required-breaking-a-few-communications dept

A small crack in the FBI’s Stingray secrecy has appeared. A 2012 pen register application obtained by the ACLU was previously sealed, but a motion to dismiss the evidence obtained by the device forced it out into the open. Kim Zetter at Wired notes that the application contains a rare admission that Stingray use disrupts cellphone service.

[I]n the newly uncovered document (.pdf)—a warrant application requesting approval to use a stingray—FBI Special Agent Michael A. Scimeca disclosed the disruptive capability to a judge.

“Because of the way, the Mobile Equipment sometimes operates,” Scimeca wrote in his application, “its use has the potential to intermittently disrupt cellular service to a small fraction of Sprint’s wireless customers within its immediate vicinity. Any potential service disruption will be brief and minimized by reasonably limiting the scope and duration of the use of the Mobile Equipment.”

Hacking songs British tabloid style, via the Independent:

Mirror hacking trial: Staff ‘sung Ying Tong song’ as they hacked Yentob’s phone

The “industrial scale” phone hacking conducted by journalists at Mirror Group Newspapers went “right to the top” of the organisation, the High Court has heard.

Senior journalists at Trinity Mirror’s three national titles presided over a culture that made hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World “look like a cottage industry”, the first civil trial related to voicemail hacking was told.

Phone hacking was so endemic that one senior journalist even suggested that an Enigma-style code-breaking machine should be developed that would automatically “crack” protected voicemail pin-numbers, to make listening to messages even easier.

After the jump, Ukraine demands a Crimean return, Russia and Egypt hold naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, imams lose visas for Dutch speeches, a  Gaddafi kin’s European 9/11/ warning, the Turkish president’s high tech food tasters, a Mossad report debunks Netanyahu’s Iranian claims, straight from the plot of a 1983 James Bond thriller to the phone in your pocket, allegations of overzealous federal monitoring of corporate cybersecurity, your hardwired-for-self-subervison tech?, casting an iCloud over iPhone security, an American military satellite explodes, and on to the ISIS front with Iran engaged and the battle for Tikrit bogs down, Iran eyes a Japanese nuclear reactor buy, then on to the Boko Haram front with a beheading video and Cameroon vows a prolonged Boko Haram fights as the country’s own youth sign up, Pakistan welcomes a prolonged U.S. Afghan stay, a Chinese admiral welcomes tension with the U.S., and Beijing documents Japanese militarism for a World War II reminder, Shinzo Abe mulls his own World War II declaration, a Japanese minesweeping mission assertedwhile Abe faces a donor conflict of interest allegation, plus U.S. police chiefs financially tied to a body cam maker. . .
Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, hack, terror, geopolitics


We begin with the hardly unexpected, via BBC News:

UK spy watchdog ‘taken in’ by security agencies – MP

The committee monitoring the security services has been taken in by the “glamour” of spying and is failing to do its job, its founder has said.

Conservative MP David Davis said the Intelligence and Security Committee had been “captured by the agencies they are supposed to be overseeing”.

And ex-chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind acted as a “spokesman” for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ rather than a watchdog.

From Deutsche Welle, the Macedonian panopticon sparks outrage:

Macedonia reels over evidence of Orwellian surveillance

Opposition allegations of massive wiretapping of more than 20,000 people imply that a small group linked to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski controls Macedonia’s institutions, judiciary and media.

A large group of journalists gathered this week at the headquarters of the biggest opposition party in Macedonian capital Skopje. They were personally invited to pick up folders and documents – filled with transcripts of their telephone conversations over the past couple of years.

“Over a hundred Macedonian journalists were wiretapped in the past years,” opposition Social Democrat (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev announced at minutes later. “These conversations show the link between the prime minister, the secret police and the media.”

The journalists’ phone transcripts were the fourth batch of such material released by Zaev’s SDSM this year. The opposition leader claims there is evidence that over 20,000 people were wiretapped as part of a system of media surveillance implemented by the prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, his cousin, the secret service chief, Saso Mijalkov, and a few other close associates.

National Journal covers the spooky pro forma:

NSA Spying Wins Another Rubber Stamp

  • Mass surveillance will continue for now, but is set to expire on June 1—unless Congress acts.

A federal court has again renewed an order allowing the National Security Agency to continue its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, a decision that comes more than a year after President Obama pledged to end the controversial program.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved a request to keep the NSA’s mass surveillance of U.S. phone metadata operating until June 1, coinciding with when the legal authority for the program is set to expire in Congress.

The extension is the fifth of its kind since Obama said he would effectively end the Snowden-exposed program as it currently exists during a major policy speech in January 2014. Obama and senior administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they will not act alone to end the program without Congress.

From SecurityWeek, nibbled to death by ducks:

US Spymaster Warns Over Low-level Cyber Attacks

A steady stream of low-level cyber attacks poses the most likely danger to the United States rather than a potential digital “armageddon,” US intelligence director James Clapper said on Thursday.

US officials for years have warned of a possible “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could shut down financial networks, poison water supplies or switch off power grids. But Clapper told lawmakers that American spy agencies were more focused on lower-profile but persistent assaults that could have a damaging effect over time.

“Rather than a ‘cyber Armageddon’ scenario that debilitates the entire US infrastructure, we envision something different,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

US Warns of Cyber Attacks”We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on US economic competitiveness and national security,” he said.

Bloomberg covers allegations of Vegas hackery:

Iran Behind Cyber-Attack on Adelson’s Sands Corp., Clapper Says

The top U.S. intelligence official confirmed for the first time that Iran was behind a cyber attack against the Las Vegas Sands Corp. last year.

Identifying Iran as the perpetrator came more than a year after the Feb. 10, 2014, attack against the world’s largest gambling company, which crippled many of the computer systems that help run the $14 billion operation. Sands’ chairman and chief executive officer and top shareholder is billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a leading U.S. supporter of Israel and of Republican political candidates.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that the attack by Iran, followed by the hacking of Sony Corp. by North Korea in November, marked the first destructive cyber-assaults on the U.S. by nation-states. Iran’s role in the attack that crippled operations at several of Sands’ U.S. casinos was reported in December by Bloomberg Businessweek.

From RT, an Aussie cyberspook data bonanza proposed:

Australian metadata bill proposes phone, internet record storage for 2yrs

A new bill that would force Australian telecom firms to store clients’ personal data to help law enforcement agencies track down extremists conspiring to carry out acts of terrorism has attracted the scrutiny of analysts.

Committee chair, Liberal MP Dan Tehan, said the legislation forwards 38 recommendations to enhance safeguards.

“These recommendations, which are all bipartisan, will ensure that those mechanisms there operate efficiently and effectively and the public can be confident the regime is being used appropriately,” he said, as quoted by Sky News.

From the Independent, British Airways spies on its own:

British Airways spying scandal: How the world’s most famous airline spied on its own staff

British Airways paid £1m to hush up the details of a spying operation in which the phones and emails of its own cabin staff were allegedly improperly accessed during a bitter dispute with Britain’s largest union.

The payment was made to stop the union, Unite, suing BA over the operation by specialist investigators based at Heathrow. Unite claimed the private communications of 10 BA staff, some of whom were also union officials, were accessed during a period in 2011 when the airline faced renewed strike action.

The decision to deploy the airline’s in-house investigators, many of them former Scotland Yard and security services personnel, was taken at the highest level within BA, according to information given to The Independent. The use of effective espionage against members of a major UK union, by a flagship UK company worth close to £12bn, raises new questions about the scale of use of private investigators inside Britain’s largest companies.

Yet another router exploit, via Network World:

Hackers exploit router flaws in unusual pharming attack

An email-based attack spotted in Brazil recently employed an unusual but potent technique to spy on a victim’s Web traffic.

The technique exploited security flaws in home routers to gain access to the administrator console. Once there, the hackers changed the routers’ DNS (Domain Name System) settings, a type of attack known as pharming.

Pharming is tricky to pull off because it requires access to an ISP’s or an organization’s DNS servers, which translate domain names into the IP addresses of websites. Those DNS systems are typically well-protected, but home routers often are not.

Security firm Proofpoint wrote in a blog post Thursday that launching the attack via email was a novel approach since pharming is normally a network-based attack.

From the Los Angeles Times, an Uber driver data breach:

Uber security breach may have affected up to 50,000 drivers

Thousands of Uber driver names and driver’s license numbers may be in the hands of an unauthorized third party due to a data breach that occurred last year, the ride-hailing company said Friday.

In a statement, Uber’s managing counsel of data privacy, Katherine Tassi, said the company discovered on Sept. 17, 2014, that one of its many databases could have potentially been accessed because one of the encryption keys required to unlock it had been compromised. Upon further investigation, it found the database had been accessed once by an unauthorized third party on May 13, 2014.

The company said it could not say how the security vulnerability was first discovered because the matter was under investigation.

After the jump, a French cartoon festival killed over terror fears, Muslims, Roma, and others, stage a philosemitic demonstration in Sweden, a leading Putin foe assassinated in Moscow, a former Mossad boss calls for a Netanyahu defeat, Pakistani vigilantes tackles ISIS and the Taliban, another historical revisionist heard from in Tokyo and the Pentagon sends in the Marines to join a Japanese landing drill, Abe and allies refine military moves abroad, more Japanese blowback from Abe’s agenda, and two Abe cabinet members under clouds of corruption suspicions, plus Kansas legislators threaten teachers with prison over “harmful” literature. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, politics, hacks, terror. . .


And much more.

We begin the the latest round of the Great Game from the Washington Post:

Top U.S. intelligence official backs arming Ukraine forces against Russia

The top U.S. intelligence official said Thursday that he supports arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists, as the Obama administration continues deliberations about whether to deepen involvement in a conflict pitting the West against Russian President Vladi-mir Putin.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said providing weapons to Ukraine would likely trigger a “negative reaction” from the Russian government, which Western officials are hoping will ensure that separatists stick to a European-brokered cease-fire that took effect this month.

“It could potentially further remove the very thin fig leaf of their position that they have not been involved in Ukraine,” Clapper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that Russia could respond by sending more sophisticated weapons to separatist areas.

From RT, asserting a naval presence:

Russia secures military deal to use Cyprus’ ports despite EU concerns

Russian navy ships will keep having access to stop off at Cyprus’ ports in Mediterranean as the two countries have agreed to prolong the pre-existing deal on military cooperation.

The agreement, which applies to Russian vessels involved in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts, was signed by President Vladimir Putin and his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, in Moscow.

The signing came aimed heightened tensions and sanctions between Russia and the EU over the military conflict in Ukraine.

President Putin, however, stressed that the agreement, as well as Russia-Cypriot ”friendly ties aren’t aimed against anyone.”

From Agence France-Presse, how to keep them from droning on:

BLOG Drones

From Nextgov, what could possibly go wrong?:

CIA’s New Big Data Hub Will be Hosted in the Cloud

The CIA is preparing to take the next step in its quest to shake up the status quo of siloed agencies within the intelligence community.

CIA Chief Information Officer Doug Wolfe confirmed Wednesday the intelligence agency will start using Cloudera’s Enterprise Data Hub platform by April, a move he expects “to extend the innovation and push the envelope on a whole range of different solutions” for all 17 IC agencies.

The enterprise data hub, also known as a “data lake,” would presumably provide standardized data sets compiled by intelligence analysts across various agencies to decision-makers among many other features found in the company’s widely used open source big data platform.

From SINA English, a Chinese wall:

Some foreign tech brands removed from China government purchase list

CHINA has dropped some of the world’s leading technology brands from its approved state purchase lists, while approving thousands more locally made products.

Chief casualty is US network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc, which in 2012 counted 60 products on the Central Government Procurement Center’s list, but by late 2014 had none, according to a Reuters analysis of official data.

Apple Inc has also been dropped over the period, along with Intel Corp’s security software firm McAfee and network and server software firm Citrix Systems.

An official at the procurement agency said there were many reasons why local makers might be preferred, including sheer weight of numbers and the fact that domestic security technology firms offered more product guarantees than overseas rivals.

From the Guardian, absence of evidence asserted:

No evidence of NSA and GCHQ Sim card hack, says allegedly compromised firm

  • Gemalto, the world’s largest Sim card manufacturer, denies claims intelligence services hacked into its servers and stole the keys to billions of mobile phones

The firm allegedly hacked by the NSA and GCHQ has stated that it cannot find any evidence that the US and UK security services breached and stole the encryption keys billions of Sim cards.

The alleged hack was revealed by documents from the NSA files provided by Edward Snowden, which detailed attacks on Gemalto – the world’s largest Sim card manufacturer – which allegedly saw them steal encryption keys that allowed them to secretly monitor voice calls and data from billions of mobile phones around the world.

But after an investigation, the Dutch security company, which supplies Sim cards to all of the major UK mobile phone networks and 450 operators globally, has said that no evidence of a theft of Sim card security details has been found.

From the Intercept, the sound of one hand clapping:

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

After the brief investigation, Gemalto now says that the NSA and GCHQ operations in 2010-2011 would not allow the intelligence agencies to spy on 3G and 4G networks, and that theft would have been rare after 2010, when it deployed a “secure transfer system.” The company also said the spy agency hacks only affected “the outer parts of our networks — our office networks — which are in contact with the outside world.”

Security experts and cryptography specialists immediately challenged Gemalto’s claim to have done a “thorough” investigation into the state-sponsored attack in just six days, saying the company was greatly underestimating the abilities of the NSA and GCHQ to penetrate its systems without leaving detectable traces.

“Gemalto learned about this five-year-old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Target tally totaled, via SecurityWeek:

Target Data Breach Tally Hits $162 Million in Net Costs

The cost of the Target breach keeps on climbing.

According to the firm’s latest earnings report, the net expense of the breach stands at $162 million.

The actual total has now reached a gross expense of $191 million. That amount was partially offset by a $46 million insurance receivable in 2014. In 2013, the company’s gross expense related to the breach was $61 million, which was offset by a $44 million insurance payment. That brings the net expense of the breach for the retail giant to $162 million.

According to the Ponemon Institute’s ninth annual global study on data breach costs released last year, the average total price tag of a breach was $145 for every record stolen or lost – an increase of nine percent compared to the cost noted in the previous report. The study focused on 314 companies across 10 countries. All the companies that participated in the 2014 study had experienced a data breach ranging from a low of 2,400 compromised records to a high of slightly more than 100,000. The most expensive data breaches occurred in the U.S. and Germany, and cost $201 and $195 per compromised record, respectively.

From Threatpost, Anthem for more bad news:

Up to 18.8 Million Non-Anthem Customers Affected in Breach

In addition to roughly 80 million Anthem customers, nearly 20 million more individuals who aren’t customers of the health insurer could ultimately wind up implicated in this month’s massive data breach.

The company disclosed yesterday that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million Blue Cross Blue Shield customers’ records may have been storoed in the database that was hacked. Anthem is part of a network of independent BCBS plans, and the latest batch of affected customers may have used their BCBS insurance in states such as Texas or Florida where the company runs partnerships.

It’s the first time the company has disclosed information regarding the breach as it relates to data other than its own since the compromise was announced on Feb. 5.

From SecurityWeek, ad-hacking your wireless:

Researchers Spot Aggressive Android Adware on Google Play

Highly aggressive adware has been found hidden in ten Android applications hosted on Google Play, Bitdefender reported.

Adware is highly common on both desktop PCs and smartphones. However, the threats discovered by the security firm stand out not just because they are aggressive, but also because they employ clever tricks to stay hidden on the infected device.

Once installed, the apps redirect victims to a webpage, hosted at mobilsitelerim.com/anasayfa, which serves ads designed to trick users into installing other pieces of adware disguised as system or performace updates, or get them to sign up for premium services. The displayed ads differ depending on the user’s location, Bitdefender said.

“Although they’re not malicious per se, by broadcasting sensitive user information to third parties, they resemble aggressive adware found on desktop PCs. The resulting barrage of pop-ups, redirects and ads irks users and seriously damages both the user experience and the performance of Android devices,” Bitdefender security researcher Liviu Arsene explained in a blog post.

And from Threatpost, an enduring threat:

Ransomware Looming As Major Long-Term Threat

On May 30, 2014, law enforcement officials from the FBI and Europol seized a series of servers that were being used to help operate the GameOver Zeus botnet, an especially pernicious and troublesome piece of malware. The authorities also began an international manhunt for a Russian man they said was connected to operating the botnet, but the most significant piece of the operation was a side effect: the disruption of the infrastructure used to distribute the CryptoLocker ransomware.

The takedown was the result of months of investigation by law enforcement and security researchers, many of whom were collaborating as part of a working group that had come together to dig into CryptoLocker’s inner workings. The cadre of researchers included reverse engineers, mathematicians and botnet experts, and the group quickly discovered that the gang behind CryptoLocker, which emerged in 2013, knew what it was doing. Not only was the crew piggybacking on the GameOver Zeus infections to reach a broader audience, but it also was using a sophisticated domain-generation algorithm to generate fresh command-and-control domains quickly. That kept the CryptoLocker crew ahead of researchers and law enforcement for a time.

“The interesting thing is all the opsec involved in this. The architecture thought out with this was really clear. The people working on this really sat down and architected and then engineered something,” said Lance James of Deloitte & Touche, who spoke about the takedown effort at Black Hat last year. “It took a lot more people on our side to hit it harder.”

After the jump, Austria enacts an Islamic crackdown, on to the ISIS front, first with a spooky assessment, crowdsourcing an anti-ISIS army, and a ‘Jihadi John’ profile from Old Blighty its spooky origins, Yemeni Arab Spring activists see their hopes dim, a Boko Haram bombing body count, bomb-sniffing pachyderms deployed, on to Pakistan and an American blogger slain, thence to North Korea and Japanese sanctions threatened, Washington deploys its top airborne spycraft to the South China Sea, Japan’s already considerable military power, and Shinzo Abe engineers more overseas naval deployments, and eases more legal restrictions. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, spooks, hacks war, more


We begin with the ACLU Blog of Rights, shining the light:

This Secret Domestic Surveillance Program Is About to Get Pulled Out of the Shadows

The federal government will have to produce information on a vast and secret domestic surveillance program and defend the program’s legality in open court. That’s the result of a decision issued Friday by the federal judge presiding over our lawsuit challenging the Suspicious Activity Reporting program, part of an ever-expanding domestic surveillance network established after 9/11.

The program calls on local police, security guards, and the public — our neighbors — to report activity they deem suspicious or potentially related to terrorism. These suspicious activity reports (“SARs” for short) are funneled to regional fusion centers and on to the FBI, which conducts follow-up investigations and stockpiles the reports in a giant database that it shares with law enforcement agencies across the country.

The decision is significant.

Surveillance programs have largely been shielded from judicial review, as many courts have accepted the government’s position that people cannot prove they have been under surveillance, and thus lack standing to sue. In this case, we represent clients who were confronted by law enforcement or know that SARs were uploaded to a counterterrorism database based on their entirely lawful activity. The government will now have to turn over information about a program that has never been subject to public scrutiny.

The problems with the Suspicious Activity Reporting program are manifold, beginning with the fact that government doesn’t require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity — an already low threshold — for a SAR to be maintained and shared. That violates a binding federal regulation, which is part of the basis for the lawsuit.

From AJ+, our first [but not last] leak story:

Spy Cables: Inside South Africa’s Spy Agency

Program notes:

Ever wondered how Africa’s most powerful spy agency operates? The Spy Cables show us how South Africa’s State Security Agency’s plans to build a secret satellite with Russia which would enable them to spy over all of Africa — take that NSA! Also, learn how a security screw up led to the African Union Chief almost being killed in Addis Ababa.

From the Guardian, domestic snooping:

South Africa spied on own government to get facts on joint project with Russia

  • Intelligence agency used agent with links to Russian government to glean information about satellite surveillance programme, leaked cables reveal

South Africa’s intelligence service relied on a spy “with direct access to the Russian government” to find out details of its own government’s involvement in a $100m (£65m) joint satellite surveillance programme with Russia, the leaked spy cables obtained by al-Jazeera and shared with the Guardian reveal.

The satellite system, known as Project Condor, which was launched into orbit by Russia in December last year, provides surveillance coverage of the entire African continent. The project has been shrouded in secrecy, with Russia originally refusing to reveal who its client was.

Those in the dark appear to have included South Africa’s intelligence agency. But a South African agent with access to Russian military intelligence was able to help, according to a leaked espionage report marked “top secret” and dated 28 August 2012.

From the Guardian, a Russian Al Queda warning:

Al-Qaida planning kamikaze attacks on ships in Mediterranean, cables claim

  • Leaked document from Russian intelligence agency claims north African branch wants to extend its range to Europe with marine unit

Al-Qaida has developed a seaborne unit to attack targets around the Mediterranean, according to a confidential report from Russian intelligence, one of a cache of secret documents from spy agencies around the world tracking jihadi terrorist groups.

According to the Russians, North African al-Qaida (Aqim – al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) has established a 60-strong team of suicide bombers to plant mines under the hull of ships and to use small, fast craft for kamikaze attacks.

The claim, in a leaked document from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), is one of a string of reports on the rise of Islamic State (Isis) and al-Qaida.

They include a two-month briefing by Omani intelligence estimating that Isis now has up to 35,000 fighters and an income of $1.5m (£1m) a day, reports from United Arab Emirates agents about the Isis leadership structure and a dossier from Jordanian intelligence on confessions extracted from terrorist suspects.

The Guardian has another leak story:

Spies, lies and fantasies: leaked cables lift lid on work of intelligence agencies

  • In the world of espionage, reports peppered with half-truths, rumours and the seemingly outlandish are par for the course, documents show

Intelligence agencies thrive on impressing politicians and the public with their mystique, exploits real or imagined, and possession of information that supposedly gives them a unique understanding of the world.

The reality is often bureaucratic and banal, the information unreliable, uncheckable or available in open sources and their judgments frequently politicised and self-serving. All of those elements can be found throughout the spy cables leaked to al-Jazeera and the Guardian.

Take the story about an Israeli plot to use water-gobbling plants to sabotage Egypt. The alleged scheme is mentioned in a 56-page report compiled by South African intelligence on the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

SecurityWeek covers snoopery north of the border:

Canada Monitoring Citizens’ Emails to Government: Media

Ottawa – Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has amassed a huge trove of emails sent to the government, as part of its cybersecurity mandate, according to a leaked secret document Wednesday.

And their retention by the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) for days, months or years in some cases, is worrying privacy advocates.

Public broadcaster CBC, citing a 2010 document obtained from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, said the CSE closely monitors visits to government websites and scans about 400,000 emails per day for suspicious content, links or attachments.

The electronic communications include Canadians’ electronic tax returns, emails to members of Parliament and passport applications, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said.

From RT, dis-Dane-ful:

Denmark’s plan to give spooks greater-than-NSA spy powers sparks outcry

Copenhagen is considering empowering its intelligence services to conduct covert electronic surveillance on citizens abroad without the need for a court order. Outraged privacy advocates have pledged to fight the initiative.

Despite the global outpouring of criticism of the National Security Agency and its affiliated partners in the so-called Five Eyes spying ring, which was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, it seems the Danish government is only too willing to take spying to an unprecedented new level.

As part of a package of new anti-terror initiatives, Copenhagen is now prepared to empower the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, or FE) with greater snooping authority than the NSA.

However, plans to give Danish intelligence what appears to be unlimited access to the electronic communications of Danish citizens abroad is being criticized by privacy watchdog groups, including the think-tank Justitia and Associate Professor Anders Henriksen, from the University of Copenhagen.

From TheLoca.de, jailed for a speech “crime”:

Ex-lawyer jailed again for Holocaust denial

A Munich court on Wednesday sentenced a previously convicted Holocaust denier and ex-lawyer to a second jail term, after she publicly declared that there had been no organized genocide of the Jews under Adolf Hitler.

Sylvia Stolz, 51, was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment for telling an anti-censorship congress in Switzerland in 2012 that the “so-called Holocaust” under Adolf Hitler’s National-Socialist (Nazi) Party had never been legally defined or proven, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

In an almost 100-minute address, video footage of which was used as evidence in her trial, Stolz stated before a crowd of 2,000 people there was no hard evidence of either Nazi plans or orders “to partially or wholly destroy Jewry”.
Therefore it was in itself a breach of the law that people like her who defended others put on trial for Holocaust denial should be prosecuted, she argued.

Another U.S. ISIS-related bust, via the Guardian:

Three New York men charged over alleged attempt to join Isis in Syria

  • One arrested at airport trying to board flight to Istanbul, another purchased ticket for Turkey on 29 March and third allegedly operated ‘domestic support network’

Three men from Brooklyn, New York are facing terrorism charges for allegedly attempting to join Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria, federal authorities said on Wednesday.

Two of the men, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Abror Habibov, 30, are Uzbekistani citizens; the other is a 19-year-old Kazakhstani citizen, Akhror Saidakhmetov. All three were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to Isis.

Their indictment was announced by the the FBI, the New York police department and US attorney Loretta Lynch, who is in the process of being confirmed by the Senate as US attorney general.

From the Guardian, a call for justice in the Windy City:

Chicago ‘black site’: former US justice officials call for Homan Square inquiry

  • Two ex-senior Justice Department officials say allegations about police operation are ‘very disturbing’ and raise serious questions about constitutional violations

Two former senior Justice Department officials are calling on their colleagues to investigate a secretive warehouse used for interrogations by Chicago police and likened to a CIA “black site” facility.

Sam Bagenstos, who during Barack Obama’s first term was the Justice Department’s No 2 civil rights official, said that the Guardian’s exposé of the Homan Square police warehouse raised concerns about “a possible pattern or practice of violations of the fourth and fifth amendments” that warranted an inquiry.

William Yeomans, who worked in the civil rights division from 1981 to 2005, and served as its acting attorney, said the allegations about off-the-books interrogations and barred access to legal counsel reported by the Guardian merited a preliminary investigation to confirm them, a first step toward a full civil rights investigation.

From the Guardian, intimidating cops under the gun in Old Blighty:

British police investigated over attempts to recruit activists as spies

  • Two Cambridgeshire officers face misconduct allegations after approaches by covert unit that campaigners said left them stressed and paranoid, with some ending their political activities

It is examining allegations that coercive and at times repeated approaches by police caused the activists to give up their political campaigning, or left them stressed and paranoid.

One campaigner wore a secret camera to capture police attempting to persuade him to spy on Cambridge University students, environmentalists, campaigners against government cuts and anti-racist activists. The footage was broadcast by the Guardian in 2013.

Another, a 23-year-old single mother, has alleged that police threatened to prosecute her if she disclosed to anyone, including her mother, the attempt to recruit her as an informer.

Cambridgeshire police are carrying out the internal investigation into what they have described as serious allegations surrounding its attempted recruitment of informers.

From the New York Times, more arrests for presidential wiretapping in Turkey:

Turkish Police Arrested and Accused of Wiretapping President Erdogan

Police officers in Turkey arrested dozens of fellow officers on Wednesday accused of wiretapping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top government officials.

The chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara, the capital, issued 54 arrest warrants, the Anadolu News Agency reported, and at least 40 people were arrested in a wave of early morning raids that were carried out simultaneously in 19 cities.

The arrests are the latest salvo in a feud between Mr. Erdogan and his former ally, Fethullah Gulen, an influential Muslim cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and has been accused of participating in a plot to overthrow the government.

After the jump, Al Jazeera reporters busted for droning Paris, a drone ban in Morocco, Charlie Hebdo back on schedule, a big reward for a hacking bank robber, Instagram leaks celebrity locations, an Aussie Anonymous hacker charged with attacking spooky sites, major civil rights failures by the major powers, on to the ISIS front and historical nihilism as libraries are burned and artifacts sold, and ISIS sounds up Syrian Christians, Lakes Chad fish traders bombed by Niger to defund Boko Haram, as Boko Haram targets Nigerian elections, a 100-bomb North Korean nuclear arsenal envisioned, China demotes a spy chief, corrupt officials planned to assassinate China’s leaders, China extends its bombers’ reach, and Okinawan opposition to an American base increases. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, hacks, crime, spooks


We begin with a twofer from Reuters:

South African spooks red-faced from latest spy data leak

A mass leak of South African espionage secrets will cause many foreign agencies to think twice before sharing information with Pretoria, hampering its efforts to walk a delicate diplomatic tightrope between East and West, experts said on Tuesday.

Britain’s Guardian paper and Gulf TV channel Al Jazeera said they had obtained hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s top spy agencies to and from South Africa, dubbing it “one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times”.

“A leak like this affects the credibility of the agencies and how they cooperate,” said Mike Hough, a retired professor from Pretoria University’s Institute for Strategic Studies. “It could lead to the termination of certain projects.”

From Al Jazeera, something many journalists have assumed for a half century:

Spy cables: Israel airline used as intelligence ‘front’

  • Leaked documents reveal South Africa challenged Mossad over alleged clandestine security operations under El Al cover.

Secret cables obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit confirm that South Africa’s spy agencies concurred with allegations that Israel uses its flag-carrier, El Al Airlines, as cover for its intelligence agencies.

Leaked documents from South Africa’s intelligence agency support claims made on a 2009 South African television programme by a former El Al employee-turned-whistleblower.

Despite official Israeli denials, the whistleblower’s claims prompted an emergency meeting between senior officials from both sides, as well as a separate note of enquiry from Canada’s intelligence agency.

Another leak, via the Guardian:

Spy cables: Greenpeace head targeted by intelligence agencies before Seoul G20

  • South Korea’s intelligence service requested information about South African activist Kumi Naidoo in runup to leaders’ meeting in 2010

The head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, was targeted by intelligence agencies as a potential security threat ahead of a major international summit, leaked documents reveal.

Information about Naidoo, a prominent human rights activist from South Africa, was requested from South African intelligence by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the runup to a meeting of G20 leaders in Seoul in 2010.

He was linked in the intelligence request with two other South Africans who had been swept up in an anti-terrorist raid in Pakistan but later released and returned to South Africa.

And from Al Jazeera, faults revealed:

Spy Cables expose S Africa’s alarming security failings

  • Secret documents reveal an array of security lapses and flaws within South African government and intelligence.

South African government and security agencies have left secrets exposed at every level and foreign spies have access to all areas of government, according to Intelligence documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

A secret security assessment by South African intelligence says foreign espionage is booming, with more than 140 foreign spies estimated to be operating in South Africa – and that the South African state is doing a poor job of protecting itself.

They are thought to have gained access to government departments, ministries and “even the presidency” and are suspected of breaking into nuclear power plants, stealing military blueprints and hacking computers.

The report slams poor security awareness among civil servants, who regularly failing to observe the most basic procedures, leaving classified information unlocked and failing to adequately vet new recruits.

From the Los Angeles Times, a major security fail:

State Department official arrested, suspected of soliciting sex from minor

A senior State Department official who oversees counter-terrorism programs has been arrested on suspicion of of soliciting sex from a minor, authorities in Virginia said late Tuesday.

Daniel Rosen was arrested at his home in Washington, D.C., just after noon and is being held in the city’s jail on suspicion of use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Rosen, 44, is the director of counter-terrorism programs and policy for the State Department. Police said they have notified the State Department of his arrest.

A kindred failure across the pond, via the London Telegraph:

Sir Malcolm Rifkind to step down as MP and resigns from security committee

  • Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to step down as an MP at the General Election and has also resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Conservative MP embroiled in cash for access allegations, is to step down as an MP at the General Election and has also resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

Sir Malcolm was suspended by the Conservative Party pending an internal investigation on Monday after telling undercover reporters from The Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches that he would use his position as a politician to help a fictitious Chinese company.

His decision to stand down as the Conservative MP for Kensington means there will be a contest for one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats.

The Guardian exposes a case of Chicago P.D. reality rising to film noir levels:

Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage

  • This building looks innocent enough. But those familiar with the secretive interrogation and holding facility describe a shocking display of police abuses

From the outside, you have to concentrate to realize Homan Square is a police facility. At first glance, it’s an unremarkable red brick warehouse, one of a handful on Chicago’s west side that used to belong to Sears Roebuck, complete with roll-up aluminum doors. No prominent signage tells outsiders it belongs to the police. The complex sits amidst fixtures in a struggling neighborhood: a medical clinic, takeout places, a movie theater, a charter school.

But a look at what surrounds the warehouse gives clearer indications of Homan Square’s police business. The yellow barrier for cars at the street checkpoint. The vans in the motor pool marked Chicago Police Forensic Services parked next to the unmarked cars. The black-and-white checkered door to match the signature pattern on Chicago police hats. The floodlights on the roof. The guy with a gun walking outside and smoking a cigarette in a black windbreaker with POLICE written on the back.

Over the years Homan Square has formed a backdrop for high-profile drug seizures, where Chicago officials or cops display cocaine, marijuana and guns taken off the street. The rock group Portugal.The Man reportedly sent Homan Square detectives three dozen doughnuts – plus croissants and danishes – in gratitude for helping the band recover stolen music equipment.

But its interrogations function is less well known, even to close observers of Chicago police. Anthony Hill, an attorney, said he once made it into Homan Square, to the surprise of police, and said he saw “four, five cells,” describing it as a “bare-bones police station.

“When I got in, they were so shocked I was there they didn’t know what to do with me,” he said.

The Hill takes a profitable spin through the revolving spooky door:

NSA staffers rake in Silicon Valley cash

Former employees of the National Security Agency are becoming a hot commodity in Silicon Valley amid the tech industry’s battle against government surveillance.

Investors looking to ride the boom in cybersecurity are dangling big paydays in front of former NSA staffers, seeking to secure access to the insider knowledge they gained while working for the world’s most elite surveillance agency.
With companies desperate to protect their networks against hackers, many tech executives say the best way to develop security products is to enlist the talents of people who have years of experience cracking through them.

“The stories he could tell,” venture capitalist Ray Rothrock recalled about his meetings with a former NSA employee who founded the start-up Area 1 Security. “They come with a perspective that nobody in Silicon Valley has.”

From the Verge, from their resumes:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone

Last week, The Intercept published shocking new documents detailing a campaign by US and UK spies to hack into the SIM manufacturer Gemalto, stealing crucial encryption keys that protect and authenticate cellphone signals. But while it was clearly a major attack, I had a hard time seeing the operational benefits for the world’s spy agencies. SIM encryption only protects calls between your phone and the cell tower, which means any would-be surveillers would need to stay within a mile of the target. It’s also puzzling because carriers are often happy to hand over all their data with a blanket court order. Why would the GCHQ go to so much trouble for access to data they mostly already have?

But in the days since the report published, there’s been concern over an even more frightening line of attack. The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Our earlier report focused on the Ki keys, used to encrypt traffic between the phone and the tower — but this new attack uses a different set of keys known as OTA keys, short for “over-the-air.” Each SIM card gets its own OTA key, typically used to remotely install updates. Manufacturers can send a binary text message directly to the SIM card, and as long as it’s signed with the proper OTA key, the card will install the attached software without question. If those keys were compromised, it would give an attacker carte blanche to install all manner of spyware. Researcher Claudio Guarnieri, who’s researched the Snowden documents extensively, says the OTA keys could make the Gemalto heist the most important news to come out of the documents so far. “It’s scary,” Guarnieri says. “If the NSA and GCHQ have obtained a large quantity of OTA keys, we’re facing the biggest threat to mobile security ever.”

From the Guardian, real class-y AT&T:

AT&T is putting a price on privacy. That is outrageous

  • Poor customers should not have to choose between being spied on and forking over money

Imagine if the postal service started offering discount shipping in exchange for permission to scan every letter you receive and then target you with junk mail based on the contents of your personal mail.

One of the largest telecommunications companies in America, AT&T, is doing just that for customers of its super-fast gigabit broadband service, which is rolling out in select cities. Though a few months ago, it dropped the use of an undeletable “supercookie” that tracked subscribers’ web browsing activity, AT&T reportedly plans to track and monetize its broadband customers’ internet activity – “webpages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter” – to deliver targeted “ads online, via email or through direct mail”.

The tracking and ad targeting associated with the gigabit service cannot be avoided using browser privacy settings: as AT&T explained, the program “works independently of your browser’s privacy settings regarding cookies, do-not-track and private browsing.” In other words, AT&T is performing deep packet inspection, a controversial practice through which internet service providers, by virtue of their privileged position, monitor all the internet traffic of their subscribers and collect data on the content of those communications.

What if customers do not want to be spied on by their internet service providers? AT&T allows gigabit service subscribers to opt out – for a $29 fee per month.

After the jump, ghoulish corporate vultures follow our health concerns online, a Dutch university occupation evicted, Germans lose faith in democracy, the Anthem health data breach scope widens, widespread ongoing hack points persist in many aps, denial of service attacks target Google in Vietnam, on to the Mideast and an Assyrian Christian army mobilizing to fight ISIS, a Saudi apostasy death sentence, a Pakistani cell phone fingerprint requirement, pushing for a North Korean nuclear surrender, China raises NATO hackles with a missile sale to Turkey, Hong Kong delegates to the Beijing legislature call for a crackdown, Shinzo Abe aims for more power for military commanders, more Okinawan anger over an American military base move, and a Japanese human rights downgrade. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, hacks, spooks, war, ISIS


And more. . .

We begin with the first of a series of stories prompted by a major cache of secret cables handed over to the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit:

Mossad contradicted Netanyahu on Iran nuclear programme

Spy Cables reveal Mossad concluded that Iran was not producing nuclear weapons, after PM sounded alarm at UN in 2012

Less than a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its “plans to build a nuclear weapon”, Israel’s intelligence service believed that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”.

A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012 that laid out a “bottom line” assessment of Iran’s nuclear work.

It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Another Al Jazeera story:

Israeli cable reveals S Africa missile theft cover-up

  • Leaked Mossad cable shows Israel obtained stolen missile plans, and South Africa asked for their return

Next, the first of two headlines about the cables from the Guardian:

Spy cables: MI6 intervened to halt South African firm’s deal with Iranian client

  • Furnace maker was ‘advised most strongly’ to end contract with company suspected of being involved in weapons manufacturing

The next Guardian headline:

CIA attempted to contact Hamas despite official US ban, spy cables reveal

  • Leaked files show US ‘desperate to make inroads’ into Gaza as well as Barack Obama’s alleged threat to Palestinians over statehood

While the Daily Dot points out a non-deletion:

Al Jazeera error puts North Korean spy’s life on the line

Newly leaked documents show the British government attempting to recruit a North Korean spy—but journalists have failed to properly redact the cables, potentially putting the life of the North Korean and his family in grave jeopardy.

Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news organization, published on Monday a leaked cable from the British Secret Intelligence Service outlining in great detail its attempt to bring a North Korean asset into a “long term clandestine relationship in return for payment.”

The four-page document was published with dozens of redactions, including the exact name of the North Korean individual in question.

However, the journalists left in key information. Dates and specific locations relating to where the North Korean individual met with British spies remains readable, vastly narrowing down the suspects North Korean authorities will no doubt be looking for.

Finally, a video summary for Al Jazeera America’s AJ+:

The Spy Cables – 4 Things We Learned From Leaked Documents

Program notes:

The Spy Cables are the largest release of intelligence documents since Edward Snowden’s and have been obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit. They show us how spies spy on one another and also occasionally help each other spy on mutual enemies. South Africa’s spy agency and MI6 have worked together to shift a North Korean spy’s allegiance. Also, find out who South Korea considers a dangerous individual – the answer might surprise you.

Here’s the masterpage for the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit leak cache stories.

From the New York Times, playing politics to the heights of absurdity:

Concerns Mount as Homeland Security Shutdown Looks Likely

The notion that Congress might actually shut down the Department of Homeland Security as part of a broader fight over President Obama’s immigration policies seemed laughable just a few weeks ago.

Literally.

A top Republican staff member laughed when asked if Republicans, who are usually security-minded, were prepared to shut down the agency in a political battle over Mr. Obama’s recent executive actions.

But now, with just days remaining until funding for the Homeland Security agency runs out on Friday, a shutdown of the department is looking increasingly likely.

And from CNN, the usually unmentioned:

DHS intelligence report warns of domestic right-wing terror threat

  • They’re carrying out sporadic terror attacks on police, have threatened attacks on government buildings and reject government authority.

A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.?

The Homeland Security report, produced in coordination with the FBI, counts 24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010.

Network World covers a demand:

NSA director wants gov’t access to encrypted communications

It probably comes as no surprise that the director of the U.S. National Security Agency wants access to encrypted data on computers and other devices.

The U.S. should be able to craft a policy that allows the NSA and law enforcement agencies to read encrypted data when they need to, NSA director Michael Rogers said during an appearance at a cybersecurity policy event Monday.

Asked if the U.S. government should have backdoors to encrypted devices, Rogers said the U.S. government needs to develop a “framework.”

From Nextgov, a prognostication desideratum:

Spy Research Agency Is Building Psychic Machines to Predict Hacks

Imagine if IBM’s Watson — the “Jeopardy!” champion supercomputer — could answer not only trivia questions and forecast the weather, but also predict data breaches days before they occur.

That is the ambitious, long-term goal of a contest being held by the U.S. intelligence community.

Academics and industry scientists are teaming up to build software that can analyze publicly available data and a specific organization’s network activity to find patterns suggesting the likelihood of an imminent hack.

The dream of the future: A White House supercomputer spitting out forecasts on the probability that, say, China will try to intercept situation room video that day, or that Russia will eavesdrop on Secretary of State John Kerry’s phone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

From the New York Times, documenting:

Document Reveals Growth of Cyberwarfare Between the U.S. and Iran

The document, which was written in April 2013 for Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the National Security Agency, described how Iranian officials had discovered new evidence the year before that the United States was preparing computer surveillance or cyberattacks on their networks.

It detailed how the United States and Britain had worked together to contain the damage from “Iran’s discovery of computer network exploitation tools” — the building blocks of cyberweapons. That was more than two years after the Stuxnet worm attack by the United States and Israel severely damaged the computer networks at Tehran’s nuclear enrichment plant.

And from the Washington Post, they want in on the action:

CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

CIA Director John O. Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, what else to expect?:

Rejection of NSA whistleblower’s retaliation claim draws criticism

Thomas Drake became a symbol of the dangers whistleblowers face when they help journalists and Congress investigate wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. He claims he was subjected to a decade of retaliation by the National Security Agency that culminated in his being charged with espionage.

But when the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office opened an inquiry into the former senior NSA official’s allegations of retaliation in 2012, it looked at only two of the 10 years detailed in his account, according to a recently released Pentagon summary of the probe, before finding no evidence of retaliation. That finding ended Drake’s four-year effort to return to government service.

Whistleblower advocates say Drake’s experience, spelled out in a document McClatchy obtained this month through the Freedom of Information Act, underscores the problem that intelligence and defense workers face in bringing malfeasance to the surface. The agencies that are supposed to crack down on retaliation are not up to the task, especially when the alleged wrongdoing involves classified information, they charge.

From the Independent, debunking the justification for the new state security regime Down Under:

Tony Abbott admits there were 18 warning calls before Sydney attack

A national security hotline received 18 calls about “self-styled” cleric Man Haron Monis just days before he took 18 people hostage at a café in Sydney, a report into the siege has revealed.

The calls between 9 and 12 December last year all concerned material on his Facebook page.

Just three days later he was shot dead by police after a 17-hour siege which left two hostages dead along with Monis himself.

It was later revealed that the Iranian-born attacker, who had long been known to security services, was out on bail at the time of the attack.

And from VICE News, a failure to communicate North of the Border:

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Refused to Tell Us How Much It Spent on an Unconstitutional Snooping Campaign

“We neither confirm nor deny that the records you requested exist. We are, however, advising you, as required by paragraph 10(1)(b) of the Act, that such records, if they existed, could reasonably be expected to be exempted.”

Translation: We’re not telling.

In January, VICE filed an Access to Information (ATI) request, asking for a slew of financial reports from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The specific documents we’re after are invoices for thousands, if not millions of payments made from various law enforcement bodies to Canada’s telecommunications companies.

For a decade, up until a surprise 2014 Supreme Court ruling, Canada’s investigators made informal requests to the country’s cellphone and internet providers for their customers’ personal information. They never had to go to a judge to make those requests. As an incentive, police paid nominal amounts of money per request—$1.50 here, $10 there—that they wouldn’t normally pay for requests authorized by a warrant.

After the jump, when your cell phone battery gives you away, more adware snooping enablement malfunctions, a bankster’s secrecy apologia, corporate espionage in the Indian oil biz, Obama’s promised Border Patrol reforms unfulfilled, Russian accusations of Western dominance aspirations, the Hitler-posing Pegida xenophobe reclaims his role, on to the Mideastern battlefield and a French carrier dispatched, signs that ISIS has deep roots, and the movement’s new English language schools, the emerging narrative on Libya, an embargo-busting Russian missile offering to Iran, the ISIS threat to Pakistan, a school assassination plotter nabbed, Myanmar captures rebel army bases, Japan’s Shnzo Abe makes a provocative insular move and South Korea responds, Japan plans more military attache deployments abroad, and a crown prince issue historical advice. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Fear, malls, hacks, terror, war


With begin with CNBC and the latest shrieking from Europe:

Nato must prepare for Russian Blitzkrieg, warns UK general

Nato forces must prepare for an overwhelming Blitzkrieg-style assault by Russia on an eastern European member state designed to catch the alliance off guard and snatch territory, the deputy supreme commander of the military alliance has warned.

Openly raising the prospect of a conventional armed conflict with Russia on European soil, the remarks by Sir Adrian Bradshaw, second-in-command of Nato’s military forces in Europe, are some of the most strident to date from Nato. They come amid a worsening in relations with the Kremlin just days into a second fragile ceasefire aimed at curbing continued bloodshed in Ukraine’s restive east between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London on Friday, Sir Adrian warned that as well as adapting to deal with subversion and other “hybrid” military tactics being used by Russia in Ukraine, allied forces needed to be prepared for the prospect of an overt invasion.

The Christian Science Monitor sounds the latest alarm:

Big US, Canadian shopping malls: Next terrorist target?

A new video threat from the Al Qaeda-linked extremist group Al Shabab calls for terrorist attacks on major shopping malls in the US, Canada, and Britain. Malls are adding extra security.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he’s “confident” that big shopping malls will enhance security measures in the wake of new threats of attack by Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked extremist group based in Somalia.

Still, Secretary Johnson said on CNN Sunday, “Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously.” Johnson spoke on five Sunday morning TV news programs.

On Saturday, Al Shabab released an online video calling for attacks on western shopping centers, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, and Oxford Street in London.

From the Washington Post, first responder/worst responder?:

DHS tackles endless morale problems with seemingly endless studies

Afflicted with the lowest morale of any large federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security did what comes naturally to many in government.

It decided to study the problem. And then study it some more.

The first study cost about $1 million. When it was finished, it was put in a drawer. The next one cost less but duplicated the first. It also ended up in a drawer.

So last year, still stumped about why the employees charged with safeguarding Americans are so unhappy, the department commissioned two more studies.

And from the Guardian, cashing in:

Al-Shabaab mall threat ‘all the more reason’ to avoid shutdown, says homeland security chief

  • Somali terror group releases video threatening US, Canada and UK malls
  • DHS funding will end Friday if immigration impasse is not solved

The US homeland security secretary on Sunday seized on a new threat of attacks against western shopping centres by Islamist terrorists to pressure Congress to avert a partial shutdown of his department and agree to a funding deal.

Jeh Johnson said a propaganda video released by al-Shabaab on Saturday calling for strikes on the Mall of America in Minnesota, Oxford Street and two Westfield malls in London, and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, showed “all the more reason why I need a budget”.

“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’s inability to fund homeland security in these challenging times,” Johnson told CNN. On ABC, he said “it’s imperative that we get it resolved”, adding that senators and members of the House were each blaming those in the other chamber for the impasse.

The Independent covers a precedent set:

How Britain’s treatment of ‘The Hooded Men’ during the Troubles became the benchmark for US ‘torture’ in the Middle East

When Amal Clooney flies into Belfast shortly to meet a group of former Irish prisoners known as ‘The Hooded Men’ it will be the latest chapter of an extraordinary story concerning a quest for justice that has lasted almost half a century.

The international law and human rights specialist has joined the legal team representing all but one of the surviving men who say they were tortured under the British Government’s internment programme. More than 340 men were rounded up on 9-10 August 1971 but a group of just 12 were chosen for “deep interrogation” and subjected to hooding, prolonged stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink – the torture methods developed by the British Army during the Troubles and collectively known as the “five techniques”. Two more men suffered the same treatment later that year.

The Hooded Men won their case against the UK in 1976 when the European Commission of Human Rights ruled the techniques were torture, but the findings were overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on appeal two years later. It ruled that while the five techniques amounted to “a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment” they did not cause suffering of the intensity and cruelty to constitute torture.

From BuzzFeed News, solidarity in the North:

Muslims In Norway Form Human Shield Around Synagogue In Sign Of Solidarity

More than 1,000 people attended the peaceful demonstration in Oslo, with many holding hands and surrounding the synagogue in a protective ring.

Hundreds of Muslims formed a human protective shield around an Oslo synagogue Saturday in a sign of solidarity with the Jewish community there, Reuters reported.

The peaceful demonstration followed the killings of two people at a Copenhagen synagogue the previous week by a Danish-born son of Palestinian parents.

Pictures of the event circulated through social media tagged with the hashtag #ringofpeace.

From teleSUR, old school spookery:

Spying Scandal Threatens to Hurt Ties Between Chile and Peru

  • Peruvian media reported Thursday that three Peruvian navy officers were under investigation for allegedly spying on behalf of Chile.

The Chilean Foreign Minister stated Sunday that he is in consultation with the Chilean ambassador in Peru in order to help prepare the official response to Peru’s diplomatic letter concerning the alleged spying by Chile.

Bilateral relations between Peru and Chile were shaken last week as news broke that three Peruvian navy officers were under investigation for having allegedly spied for Chile between 2005 and 2012. Peru’s Minister of Defense confirmed that the officials were arrested and are being investigated by a military court.

“Ambassador Ibarra, our ambassador in Lima, is currently enjoying a legal vacation in Chile, we are going to keep him in Chile for consultations precisely so he can help prepare the (diplomatic) response to the Peruvian diplomatic letter,” said Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.

Clouding the issue, via Nextgov:

DOD Wants Physical Separation for Classified Data in the Cloud … For Now

The Defense Department’s evolving cloud strategy and recently updated security requirements govern how commercial cloud service providers can — and in some cases, have already begun to — host some the Pentagon’s most sensitive data.

But the Pentagon isn’t ready yet for classified information to be stored off-premise in the cloud.

In the immortal words of Olivia Newton-John, DOD wants to get physical with classified data that ends up in the cloud, meaning it wants “physical separation” between systems with classified workloads and that of other systems.

From the New York Times, wink, wink:

Chip Maker to Investigate Claims of Hacking by N.S.A. and British Spy Agencies

Gemalto, a French-Dutch digital security company, said on Friday that it was investigating a possible hacking by United States and British intelligence agencies that may have given them access to worldwide mobile phone communications.

The investigation follows news reports on Thursday that the National Security Agency in the United States and the Government Communications Headquarters in Britain had hacked Gemalto’s networks to steal SIM card encryption codes.

The claims — reported on a website called The Intercept — were based on documents from 2010 provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

The Register covers an ongoing hacking embarrassment in Foggy Bottom:

Hellooo, NSA? The US State Department can’t kick hackers out of its networks – report

  • Email servers still compromised after THREE months

An attack against US State Department servers is still ongoing three months after the agency spotted miscreants inside its email system, it’s reported.

In November the State Department was forced to suspend its unclassified email systems after it was successfully infiltrated by hackers unknown. At the time the agency said its classified emails were unaffected by the hack.

Now Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report multiple sources saying that the attack is still ongoing: the bad guys and girls still have remote access to internal computers.

Every time sysadmins find and delete a malware infection, installed by the hackers, another variant pops up.

The latest from Nextgov:

EXCLUSIVE: State Department Trashed 30,000 Log-in Key Fobs After Hack

The State Department over the past few months replaced some 30,000 network log-in fobs and digital tokens that employees had been using to access its systems remotely, after the agency’s unclassified network was hacked, according to a department official.

During the switchover, some State personnel said they were not able to access work outside the office for months.

“All of us had to turn them in and go through a very extended procedure of changing every aspect of our internal passwording,” said one foreign service officer. “Every one of us had to create new passwords and new PIN numbers to go along with our fobs. They changed the type of format that you use to create a PIN to make it more secure and they changed the requirements for your basic State Department password to make it more secure.”

After the jump, Android malware fakes a shutout to grab your data, hacking your car wash, Italy scores a win over the Googles, France pleads for anti-terror help from Silicon Valley giants, the big guns pull back in Ukraine’s civil war, Isis suicide bombers claim dozens in Libya as Isis woes in Libya fuel an Italian immigrant panic, hints of Isis schisms, Qatar finds itself on the outs over terror, Turkey leverages border fears to gain intel, on to Boko Haram and an abductee reunion, Boko Haram launches another bloody raid, and France calls for support for an all-African anti-Boko Haram force, Australia proclaims a new anti-terror strategy, China irked by an Indian visit to disputed territory, Myanmar rebels claim a government body count, China’s threat to Western eyes in the sky, on to Japan and a call to unleash the military abroad, Shinzo Abe wants Japanese civilian hands to relinquish defense department control, a decision nears on a Japanese insular deployment, another Japanese insular move sparks a South Korean protest, Japan plans an Iraqi diplomatic expansion, and another base relocation protest. . . Continue reading