Category Archives: GWOT

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

InSecurityWatch: Crimes, hacks, terror, war


And so much more. . .

We begin with the most fundamental sort of domestic InSecurity, via the Oakland Tribune:

Criminalization of homeless expensive, inhumane and ineffective, UC law team says

When homelessness increased nationwide in the early 1980s, California cities responded with ever more laws that unfairly punished the poor and failed to improve the problem, according to a critical UC Berkeley report released Thursday.

Over the past 30 years, cities statewide “have been engaged in a race to the bottom by increasing criminalization, hoping to drive homeless people away and make them someone else’s problem,” the study says.

The 53-page report, authored by the UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, says the rising number of anti-homeless laws has been costly for taxpayers and brought more hardship than help to the state’s most vulnerable residents.

From TheLocal.fr, sounding the intolerance alarm across the Atlantic:

‘France must combat rising racism urgently’

A damning report from the Council of Europe has concluded that the French public are becoming more racist and more intolerant towards minorities, including Muslims and Jews and that there was an urgent need to combat it.

France has “issues” with intolerance, racism, and respect for the human rights of migrants, according to a new report by the Council of Europe, an independent body which aims to improve cooperation between European countries.

The Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, based his findings on a visit in September last year – long before the Charlie Hebdo attacks that left the nation traumatized.

From TheLocal.at, a case of Austrian mistaken identity:

Suspect ‘Isis’ house turns out to be drug den

Armed police were called to a council flat on Vienna’s Margaretengürtel on Wednesday after a bailiff reported having seen an Isis-like flag with Arabic writing in the apartment.

The bailiff had entered the apartment because the tenants had not paid a mobile phone bill – but he quickly retreated and called the police when he saw what he thought was an Isis-flag in the hallway.

When armed police and sniffer dogs entered the empty apartment they found that rather than harbouring suspected extremists it appeared to be an amateur drugs lab, where the tenants may have been trying to manufacture crystal meth.

A report in the Heute tabloid said that police found Isis-flags, swords and machines guns in the apartment, but Vienna police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger said this was nonsense and that there was no evidence that the tenants had been radicalized or had anything to do with Isis. The flag with Arabic script was religious rather than Islamist, he said.

From Network World, hacking the world:

NSA, UK’s GCHQ reportedly hacked encryption of SIM card maker

U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have reportedly hacked into the computer network of giant SIM card maker Gemalto and taken smartphone encryption keys potentially used by customers of hundreds of mobile phone carriers worldwide.

The Gemalto hack, by the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), allowed the two spy agencies to monitor a large portion of the world’s mobile phone voice and data traffic, according to a story in The Intercept.

The hack was detailed in a 2010 GCHQ document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the story said.

From the Guardian, a petition for British spooky disclosure:

Thousands sign petition to discover if GCHQ spied on them

  • Privacy International campaign comes after tribunal rules that sharing between US and UK of intercepted communications was unlawful

More than 6,000 people in 24 hours have signed up to a campaign to discover if Britain’s communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, has illegally spied on them.

Privacy International launched the campaign in the wake of a court ruling this month that said regulations governing the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk breached human rights law for seven years until last December.

Privacy International says the decision by the investigatory powers tribunal allows anyone in the world to ask GCHQ if the US unlawfully shared their individual records with Britain. “Did GCHQ illegally spy on you?Have you ever made a phone call, sent an email, or, you know, used the internet? Of course you have,” says the campaign.

Homeland Security News Wire covers the universalized panopticon:

Sensor network

  • Wireless sensors transform real-time monitoring infrastructure

Small wireless computing devices, ranging from the size of a matchbox to the size of a dime, are going to change the way Florida monitors its water quality, sea level rise, hurricanes, agriculture, aquaculture, and even its aging senior population. The types of sensing devices developed by computer scientist Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., who recently joined Florida Atlantic University, can collect information about the surrounding environment and transmit that information to cloud-based computing systems that store, analyze and present that information to educators, researchers and decision-makers. Deployable at massive scales, the technology represents a paradigm shift in how our world is observed and managed.

“This is a thrilling time to join Florida Atlantic University,” said Hallstrom. “The university is on an amazing trajectory, driven by capabilities and opportunities that span every college, at every campus. There is incredible capacity to build interdisciplinary teams here, teams that are going to have a fundamental impact on the state and the nation.”

An FAU release reports that Hallstrom, a professor in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as director of the Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering at FAU (ISENSE@FAU). ISENSE will serve as an interdisciplinary research hub, drawing talent from both within and outside FAU to tackle grand challenge problems head-on through novel hardware, software and ideas.

From El País, automotive panopticon disclosure in Spain:

Spanish highway agency to reveal locations of all speed cameras

  • Motorists to be given early warning of upcoming traffic controls, both fixed and mobile

Drivers on Spanish roads will soon know the location of all speed cameras and speed traps and receive early warnings of their presence, the head of Spain’s DGT national highway agency announced on Wednesday.

“Our 2014 figures consolidate us as one of the safest countries in terms of moving around,” said DGT director general María Segui during a congressional appearance.

But the announcement follows news that the decline in road deaths appears to have bottomed out after a decade of sharp drops: 1,131 people died in traffic accidents last year compared with 1,134 in 2013.

From Nextgov, a cell for your cell?:

Justice, DHS Quarantine Smartphones Returning from Abroad

Officials at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security typically expect employees’ smartphones will be bugged when they travel overseas. So, they are experimenting with various ways to neutralize foreign spy gear.

For years, the FBI has warned government and corporate executives not to use hotel Wi-Fi connections, because of reports that foreign travelers were unknowingly downloading spyware.

When DHS personnel travel, “we understand you go there, you go to Ukraine, you come back, there’s a good chance that the BlackBerry or any other device, Androids, iOS, whatever, is probably owned. We get that,” said Vincent Sritapan, a cybersecurity division program manager at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.

To contain the damage, Homeland Security limits what employees can see on their mobile device overseas, and “when it comes back, it’s usually quarantined,” he added.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, lost in translation:

Documents leaked through free online translation service

Documents, including customers’ information of a megabank, have been posted on the Internet without owners’ knowledge after they were translated through a free online translation service, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

There are at least 30 cases of e-mail leaks in which the senders of the information were identified. They include e-mails between a ministry’s official and a major home appliance maker’s employee as well as e-mails from an automobile manufacturer to the company’s affiliate in Indonesia.

This online translation service is not that of major website operators such as Google, Yahoo and Excite. However, about 60 languages, including those spoken in Southeast Asian countries, are translated through the service.

From BBC News, hacked in the factory:

Lenovo taken to task over ‘malicious’ adware

Computer maker Lenovo has been forced to remove hidden adware that it was shipping on its laptops and PCs after users expressed anger.

The adware – dubbed Superfish – was potentially compromising their security, said experts.

The hidden software was also injecting adverts on to browsers using techniques more akin to malware, they added.

Lenovo faces questions about why and for how long it was pre-installed on machines – and what data was collected.

A hacking conviction via Network World:

Swedish man pleads guilty to peddling Blackshades malware

A Swedish man pleaded guilty Wednesday to peddling one of the most prevalent spying programs called Blackshades that was widely used by the criminal underground.

Alex Yucel, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing malicious software. He could face a maximum of 10 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said. He is expected to be sentenced on May 22.

BlackShades, a remote access trojan, was marketed by its developers as a program for legitimate computer monitoring but was mostly used for stealing payment card data, recording a computer’s keystrokes and secretly controlling webcams. It was sold for between US$40 to $100.

A corporate snooping limitation: in Germany, via Deutsche Welle:

In ‘sick-leave secretary’ ruling, federal court limits spying on employees

  • A secretary on sick-leave for two months who was spied on has won a suit against her employer in Germany’s highest labor court. The ruling defines when detectives can be used to monitor employees.

Only under very limited circumstances can German companies spy on their workers, said judges of the Federal Court of Labor on Thursday, in a case that weighed a complaint by a secretary who claimed she had been unlawfully spied on.

“Only when an employer’s suspicions of a breach of duty are concrete and based on fact can a detective be used to monitor an employee,” the judges in Erfurt said on Thursday.

Specifically, the judges said that the secretary – who had been on sick leave – at a small metal parts plant in the western German city of Münster had been unlawfully spied on; her boss, they said, hadn’t possessed concrete justification for hiring a private detective to determine the veracity of her claims.

From the TheLocal.no, a Norse alarm:

Norway hunts suspected suicide bomber

Norway’s intelligence services have put out an international alert warning about a female Norwegian Islamic militant suspected of planning a suicide attack in Europe.

According to Sweden’s Göteborgs Tidning newspaper, Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) has put out an “orange notice”  warning that the woman, who has they believe has received weapons training in Syria, is now back in Europe.

According to the newspaper, the agency had received a tip-off from friends of the woman, who said that she may have had weapons training in Syria, and could be planning a suicide attack.

The woman has not been seen by her relatives for more than two months and there are fears that she may have crossed the border into Sweden. Swedish police and security services have been asked to keep an eye out for the potential terror suspect and to pass on any relevant information to authorities in Norway.

Danish announces a $150 million in new anti-terror security measures, via TheLocal.dk:

Denmark announces new anti-terror initiatives

The Danish government will spend nearly one billion kroner over the next four years to better defend the nation against terror, the prime minister announced Thursday.

In the aftermath of the twin shootings over the weekend that shocked the nation, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Thursday presented a new 12-point plan to combat terror.

“Our security level is high. Preparedness is high. But we are also challenged. Militant Islamists are constantly developing new ways of challenging our security,” the PM said at a press conference where she was joined by her ministers of justice, defence and the interior.

The plan will enable the intelligence services to better monitor Danes travelling abroad to fight with Isis, while also targeting the radicalisation of prisoners in jails.

And from Deutsche Welle, a comforting embrace:

Norwegian Muslims show solidarity with Jewish shooting victims

  • Norwegian Muslims are planning to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in the country’s capital, Oslo. Deadly shootings targeting free speech and the Jewish community in Copenhagen last week sparked the idea.

Young Muslims in Norway announced an event to a show of solidarity with Jews across Europe, as well as with their neighbors in Denmark: building a peace ring around a synagogue.

On a Facebook invitation for the event, to be held on Saturday, organizers say “Muslims want to show that we strongly reject any type of anti-Semitism and that we are here to support them.”

By Thursday, around 1,500 people had accepted the invitation.

The head of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK he welcomed the idea, and hoped lots of people would turn up.

After the jump, Turkey alarms NATO with a possible Chinese missile deal, Washington reveals an Iraqi military move, Western doubts over more military involvement in Libya, Washington sets parmenters, and a pro-ISIS militia seizes a university, Boko Haram loses ground to Chad troops in Nigeria, Washington promises anti-Boko Haram forces intel and hardware, Afghan Taliban seek Pakistani talks and Pakistan sends signals, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outline legal plans for military support abroad, more questions overs Abe’s WWII apology, and Japanese banks get government data to shut out Yakuza, Abe says gay marriage barred by constitution, and a curious case of corporeal intelligence. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Wars fuel Big Oil’s profits


Call it fuel for thought.

A stunning chart from the latest edition of Real-World Economics Review [PDF] reveals the direct correlation between the relative profits of BP, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell [and their predecessors] copared to average profits of the Fortune 500 and outbreaks of armed conflict in the Middle East ]symbolized by the explosion graphics], with wars preceded by declining profits, and profits soaring in their aftermath.

Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Oil war

Chart of the day: The T-word, edging back up


From Gallup:

BLOG Carta

InSecurityWatch: Fox fustian, crime, fear, war


And so very much more. . .

First up, from Al Jazeera’s AJ+, it’s official:

Fox News Says…The Holy War Is Here!

Program notes:

A Holy War has begun and you should be very afraid! That’s according to Fox News, the news network famous for fear mongering and “fair and balanced” reporting.

From the Washington Post, a domestic security problem:

Threatening ‘white power’ letters appear at police department with a history of racial tensions

Dozens of copies of a threatening and racially charged letter were circulated within a Connecticut police department with a long history of racial tensions, black officers said.

The note, typed on official City of Bridgeport Department of Police letterhead, began and ended with the words “WHITE POWER.” “These Black Officers Belong in the toilet,” the letter reads in part.

Bridgeport Police Lt. Lonnie Blackwell said the unsigned letter comes as no surprise to officers of color in the department, which has long struggled to remedy discrimination claims dating to at least the 1970s.

“This is not the first race-based letter that has circulated recently throughout the Bridgeport Police Department, but this is the most severe and damaging letter,” Blackwell, an African American department veteran, told The Washington Post in an interview. “We’re very concerned for our safety and our well-being as black police officers.”

From the Washington Post, we are not surprised:

Lying in the military is common, Army War College study says

A new study by Army War College professors found that not only is lying common in the military, the armed forces themselves may be inadvertently encouraging it.

The study, released Tuesday, was conducted by retired Army officers and current War College professors Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras. They found that untruthfulness is “surprisingly common in the U.S. military even though members of the profession are loath to admit it.”

The paper’s release follows a series of high-profile incidents involving bad behavior across the services, including a still-widening corruption case involving senior Navy officers and at least two incidents in which Army generals were accused of sexual assault.

From The Hill, similarly unsurprising:

White House: Israel ‘cherry-picking’ intel that distorts Iran talks

The White House is accusing Israel of “cherry-picking” information that distorts the U.S. position in nuclear talks with Iran.

“There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate. There’s no question about that,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“We’ve also been very clear about the fact that the United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

The White House spokesman said those involved in the talks are obligated to act in “good faith.”

From the New York Times, reasonable suspicions:

Fear of Israeli Leaks Fuels Distrust Over U.S. Talks With Iran

With the Obama administration racing to negotiate the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran by the end of March, aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel have charged in recent days that they are being deliberately left in the dark about the details of the talks. The Americans have said that is untrue, but even one of Washington’s closest negotiating partners reports being warned about being too open with the Israelis, “because whatever we say may be used in a selective way.”

The tensions between the United States and Israel over negotiating with Tehran have a long and twisted history, and they plunged to a new low when Mr. Netanyahu engineered an invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress, in less than two weeks, to warn against a “bad deal.”

Now, with Mr. Netanyahu maneuvering to survive a March 17 election, and Mr. Obama pressing for a breakthrough agreement that could end three decades of enmity with Iran and reduce the chances of a military confrontation, it seems that Washington and Jerusalem are engaging in the diplomatic equivalent of posting notes to each other on the refrigerator door.

From the Guardian, Jeb endorses the panopticon:

Jeb Bush backs brother’s NSA surveillance program ‘to keep us safe’

  • Presidential contender says of NSA dragnet ‘this is a hugely important program’, in sharp contrast to Republican rivals for the White House

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush delivered a full-throated defense of government surveillance programs on Wednesday, expressing a resounding faith in techniques pioneered by his brother, George W Bush, and staking out a position in sharp contrast with other prospective 2016 presidential candidates.

Dragnet metadata collection by the National Security Agency and similar programs were necessary to keeping US citizens safe from foreign terror threats, Bush said – unprompted – during remarks laying out his foreign policy vision as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand – the debate has gotten off track, where we’re not understanding and protecting,” Bush said in a major speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

From the Associated Press, an accessory pays up:

Poland to pay $262,000 to inmates held at secret CIA prison

Poland will pay 230,000 euros ($262,000) in compensation to two terror suspects who say they were tortured at a CIA secret prison that Poland hosted from 2002-2003, a government minister said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna spoke after the European Court of Human Rights in France rejected Poland’s appeal of its earlier ruling.

“We will abide by this ruling because we are a law-abiding country,” Schetyna told Polish Radio 3. “It is a question of the coming weeks, a month.”

But he questioned how the money would be used and whether it needed to be paid directly to the suspects, who are imprisoned in Guantanamo.

From the Guardian, NSAnywhere:

Google warns of US government ‘hacking any facility’ in the world

  • Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress

Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.

In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.

The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.

From the Guardian, the penultimate contempt:

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications

  • Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The Independent covers InSecurity in British high places:

Downing Street accused of being ‘systemically negligent’ with national security secrets after name of ex-SAS officer finds its way into the public domain

Downing Street has been accused of “systemic” negligence in its approach to the handling of sensitive information – by the body charged with keeping threats to national security out of the media.

No 10 is at the centre of an extraordinary row with the secretive DA Notice Committee after the name of a senior former SAS officer found its way into the public domain, The Independent can reveal.

The officer was named when he took up his post as military adviser to No 10 last year. The DA Notice Committee alleges that the name of the ex-SAS man was deliberately given to The Sun newspaper in direct contravention of rules governing the identification of present or former members of Britain’s Special Forces.

After the jump, French surveillance gaps, Aussie metadata storage scheme costs still secret, another claim Pyongyang hacked Sony, whipping up malware with a British cooking site, fake Windows 10 update sites serve up malware too, a unique twist to an Israeli malware attack, a biased Pakistani web crackdown, while Obama disses North Korea’s hacker team, on to the Isis front and a fragmenting Iraq, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria changes course on arming “moderates,” whilst Washington admits having vetted at least 1,200, Isis threatens to flood an increasingly xenophobic Europe with refugees and Italy’s already alarmed, and a reminder of an American bad example, civilians killed in an anti-Boko Haram air strike in Nigeria while Nigeria claims beaucoup Bokos slain, another Tanzanian albino infant butchered for black magic, Pakistan orders a mass expulsion of Afghans, allegations Indian weaponized rape, India greenlights six nuclear subs, seven stealth frigates, mass flight from Myanmar civil war, China tells neighbors to order Uighur returns, Seoul censors a “Comfort Women” book, and a Japanese paper sued over “Comfort Women”a articles, Shinzo Abe’s government readies an overseas deployment law, Abe targets legalized foreign weaponry sales, and new Tokyo/Beijing security talks slated, And two reminders of some nasty old habits resurfacing, first in a racist rank by Brits in Paris, and then in dramatic evidence of prejudice against would-be Latino-named voters in the U.S. . . . Continue reading

Venn diagram of the day: Call it the Axis of Evil


The ongoing imperialistic foreign policy cabal created by Rotten Ronnie Reagan and nurtured by Bush I and Bush II endures in the would-be Bush III’s foreign policy team.

From the Washington Post:

BLOG Axis