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.
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