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Paul Merrell

US websites should inform EU citizens about NSA surveillance, says report - 0 views

  • All existing data sharing agreements between Europe and the US should be revoked, and US web site providers should prominently inform European citizens that their data may be subject to government surveillance, according to the recommendations of a briefing report for the European Parliament. The report was produced in response to revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on internet traffic, and aims to highlight the subsequent effect on European Union (EU) citizens' rights.
  • The report warns that EU data protection authorities have failed to understand the “structural shift of data sovereignty implied by cloud computing”, and the associated risks to the rights of EU citizens. It suggests “a full industrial policy for development of an autonomous European cloud computing capacity” should be set up to reduce exposure of EU data to NSA surveillance that is undertaken by the use of US legislation that forces US-based cloud providers to provide access to data they hold.
  • To put pressure on the US government, the report recommends that US websites should ask EU citizens for their consent before gathering data that could be used by the NSA. “Prominent notices should be displayed by every US web site offering services in the EU to inform consent to collect data from EU citizens. The users should be made aware that the data may be subject to surveillance by the US government for any purpose which furthers US foreign policy,” it said. “A consent requirement will raise EU citizen awareness and favour growth of services solely within EU jurisdiction. This will thus have economic impact on US business and increase pressure on the US government to reach a settlement.”
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  • Other recommendations include the EU offering protection and rewards for whistleblowers, including “strong guarantees of immunity and asylum”. Such a move would be seen as a direct response to the plight of Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who leaked documents that revealed the extent of the NSA’s global internet surveillance programmes. The report also says that, “Encryption is futile to defend against NSA accessing data processed by US clouds,” and that there is “no technical solution to the problem”. It calls for the EU to press for changes to US law.
  • “It seems that the only solution which can be trusted to resolve the Prism affair must involve changes to the law of the US, and this should be the strategic objective of the EU,” it said. The report was produced for the European Parliament committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, and comes before the latest hearing of an inquiry into electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens, due to take place in Brussels on 24 September.
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    Yee-haw! E.U. sanctuary and rewards for NSA whistle-blowers. Mandatory warnings for customers of U.S. cloud services that their data may be turned over to the NSA. Pouring more gasoline on the NSA diplomatic fire. 
Paul Merrell

European Parliament Urges Protection for Edward Snowden - The New York Times - 0 views

  • The European Parliament narrowly adopted a nonbinding but nonetheless forceful resolution on Thursday urging the 28 nations of the European Union to recognize Edward J. Snowden as a “whistle-blower and international human rights defender” and shield him from prosecution.On Twitter, Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about electronic surveillance by the United States government, called the vote a “game-changer.” But the resolution has no legal force and limited practical effect for Mr. Snowden, who is living in Russia on a three-year residency permit.Whether to grant Mr. Snowden asylum remains a decision for the individual European governments, and none have done so thus far. Continue reading the main story Related Coverage Open Source: Now Following the N.S.A. on Twitter, @SnowdenSEPT. 29, 2015 Snowden Sees Some Victories, From a DistanceMAY 19, 2015 Still, the resolution was the strongest statement of support seen for Mr. Snowden from the European Parliament. At the same time, the close vote — 285 to 281 — suggested the extent to which some European lawmakers are wary of alienating the United States.
  • The resolution calls on European Union members to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties.”In June 2013, shortly after Mr. Snowden’s leaks became public, the United States charged him with theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. By then, he had flown to Moscow, where he spent weeks in legal limbo before he was granted temporary asylum and, later, a residency permit.Four Latin American nations have offered him permanent asylum, but he does not believe he could travel from Russia to those countries without running the risk of arrest and extradition to the United States along the way.
  • The White House, which has used diplomatic efforts to discourage even symbolic resolutions of support for Mr. Snowden, immediately criticized the resolution.“Our position has not changed,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington.“Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States. As such, he should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process.”Jan Philipp Albrecht, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the resolution in Europe, said it should increase pressure on national governments.
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  • “It’s the first time a Parliament votes to ask for this to be done — and it’s the European Parliament,” Mr. Albrecht, a German lawmaker with the Greens political bloc, said in a phone interview shortly after the vote, which was held in Strasbourg, France. “So this has an impact surely on the debate in the member states.”The resolution “is asking or demanding the member states’ governments to end all the charges and to prevent any extradition to a third party,” Mr. Albrecht said. “That’s a very clear call, and that can’t be just ignored by the governments,” he said.
Paul Merrell

Operation Socialist: How GCHQ Spies Hacked Belgium's Largest Telco - 0 views

  • When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies. It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”
  • The full story about GCHQ’s infiltration of Belgacom, however, has never been told. Key details about the attack have remained shrouded in mystery—and the scope of the attack unclear. Now, in partnership with Dutch and Belgian newspapers NRC Handelsblad and De Standaard, The Intercept has pieced together the first full reconstruction of events that took place before, during, and after the secret GCHQ hacking operation. Based on new documents from the Snowden archive and interviews with sources familiar with the malware investigation at Belgacom, The Intercept and its partners have established that the attack on Belgacom was more aggressive and far-reaching than previously thought. It occurred in stages between 2010 and 2011, each time penetrating deeper into Belgacom’s systems, eventually compromising the very core of the company’s networks.
  • Snowden told The Intercept that the latest revelations amounted to unprecedented “smoking-gun attribution for a governmental cyber attack against critical infrastructure.” The Belgacom hack, he said, is the “first documented example to show one EU member state mounting a cyber attack on another…a breathtaking example of the scale of the state-sponsored hacking problem.”
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  • When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies. It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”
  • The revelations about the scope of the hacking operation will likely alarm Belgacom’s customers across the world. The company operates a large number of data links internationally (see interactive map below), and it serves millions of people across Europe as well as officials from top institutions including the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council. The new details will also be closely scrutinized by a federal prosecutor in Belgium, who is currently carrying out a criminal investigation into the attack on the company. Sophia in ’t Veld, a Dutch politician who chaired the European Parliament’s recent inquiry into mass surveillance exposed by Snowden, told The Intercept that she believes the British government should face sanctions if the latest disclosures are proven.
  • Publicly, Belgacom has played down the extent of the compromise, insisting that only its internal systems were breached and that customers’ data was never found to have been at risk. But secret GCHQ documents show the agency gained access far beyond Belgacom’s internal employee computers and was able to grab encrypted and unencrypted streams of private communications handled by the company. Belgacom invested several million dollars in its efforts to clean-up its systems and beef-up its security after the attack. However, The Intercept has learned that sources familiar with the malware investigation at the company are uncomfortable with how the clean-up operation was handled—and they believe parts of the GCHQ malware were never fully removed.
  • What sets the secret British infiltration of Belgacom apart is that it was perpetrated against a close ally—and is backed up by a series of top-secret documents, which The Intercept is now publishing.
  • Between 2009 and 2011, GCHQ worked with its allies to develop sophisticated new tools and technologies it could use to scan global networks for weaknesses and then penetrate them. According to top-secret GCHQ documents, the agency wanted to adopt the aggressive new methods in part to counter the use of privacy-protecting encryption—what it described as the “encryption problem.” When communications are sent across networks in encrypted format, it makes it much harder for the spies to intercept and make sense of emails, phone calls, text messages, internet chats, and browsing sessions. For GCHQ, there was a simple solution. The agency decided that, where possible, it would find ways to hack into communication networks to grab traffic before it’s encrypted.
  • The Snowden documents show that GCHQ wanted to gain access to Belgacom so that it could spy on phones used by surveillance targets travelling in Europe. But the agency also had an ulterior motive. Once it had hacked into Belgacom’s systems, GCHQ planned to break into data links connecting Belgacom and its international partners, monitoring communications transmitted between Europe and the rest of the world. A map in the GCHQ documents, named “Belgacom_connections,” highlights the company’s reach across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, illustrating why British spies deemed it of such high value.
  • Documents published with this article: Automated NOC detection Mobile Networks in My NOC World Making network sense of the encryption problem Stargate CNE requirements NAC review – October to December 2011 GCHQ NAC review – January to March 2011 GCHQ NAC review – April to June 2011 GCHQ NAC review – July to September 2011 GCHQ NAC review – January to March 2012 GCHQ Hopscotch Belgacom connections
Paul Merrell

High Court Rules UK's Surveillance Powers Violate Human Rights - 0 views

  • UK's High Court found the rushed Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) to be illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights and EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, both of which require respect for private and family life, as well as protection of personal data in the case of the latter. DRIPA was challenged by two members of Parliament (MPs), Labor's Tom Watson and the Conservative David Davis, who argued that the surveillance of communications wasn't limited to serious crimes, that individual notices for data collection were kept secret, and that no provision existed to protect those who need professional confidentiality, such as lawyers and journalists. DRIPA was pushed through in three days last year after the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU data retention powers were disproportionate, which invalidated the previous data retention law in the UK. The UK High Court also ruled that sections 1 and 2 of DRIPA were unlawful based on the fact that they fail to provide precise policies to ensure that data is only accessed for the purpose of investigating serious crimes. Another major point against DRIPA was that it didn't require judicial approval, which could limit access to only the data that is strictly necessary for investigations.
  • DRIPA passed in only three days, but the Court allowed it to continue for another nine months, to give the UK government enough time to draft new legislation. Although this almost doubles the time in which this law will exist, it might be better in the long term, as it gives the members of Parliament enough time to debate its successor, without having to rush yet another law fearing that the government's surveillance powers will expire. This court ruling arrived at the right time, as the UK government is currently preparing the draft for the Investigative Powers Bill (also called Snooper's Charter by many), which further expands the government's surveillance powers and may even request encryption backdoors. It also joins other recent reviews of the government's surveillance laws that called for much stricter oversight done by judges rather than the government's own members. "Campaigners, MPs across the political spectrum, the Government's own reviewer of terrorism legislation are all calling for judicial oversight and clearer safeguards," said James Welch, Legal Director for Liberty, a human rights organization.
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    The Dark State takes another hit.
Paul Merrell

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft - The Intercept - 0 views

  • European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday. The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys. The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.” “Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal. Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”
  • “If the average IT whizzkid breaks into a company system, he’ll end up behind bars,” In ’t Veld added in a tweet Friday. The EU itself is barred from undertaking such investigations, leaving individual countries responsible for looking into cases that impact their national security matters. “We even get letters from the U.K. government saying we shouldn’t deal with these issues because it’s their own issue of national security,” Albrecht said. Still, lawmakers in the Netherlands are seeking investigations. Gerard Schouw, a Dutch member of parliament, also with the D66 party, has called on Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of the interior, to answer questions before parliament. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament will debate Schouw’s request. Additionally, European legal experts tell The Intercept, public prosecutors in EU member states that are both party to the Cybercrime Convention, which prohibits computer hacking, and home to Gemalto subsidiaries could pursue investigations into the breach of the company’s systems.
  • According to secret documents from 2010 and 2011, a joint NSA-GCHQ unit penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and infiltrated the private communications of its employees in order to steal encryption keys, embedded on tiny SIM cards, which are used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the world. Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. The company’s clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers. “[We] believe we have their entire network,” GCHQ boasted in a leaked slide, referring to the Gemalto heist.
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  • While Gemalto was indeed another casualty in Western governments’ sweeping effort to gather as much global intelligence advantage as possible, the leaked documents make clear that the company was specifically targeted. According to the materials published Thursday, GCHQ used a specific codename — DAPINO GAMMA — to refer to the operations against Gemalto. The spies also actively penetrated the email and social media accounts of Gemalto employees across the world in an effort to steal the company’s encryption keys. Evidence of the Gemalto breach rattled the digital security community. “Almost everyone in the world carries cell phones and this is an unprecedented mass attack on the privacy of citizens worldwide,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit that advocates for digital privacy and free online expression. “While there is certainly value in targeted surveillance of cell phone communications, this coordinated subversion of the trusted technical security infrastructure of cell phones means the US and British governments now have easy access to our mobile communications.”
  • For Gemalto, evidence that their vaunted security systems and the privacy of customers had been compromised by the world’s top spy agencies made an immediate financial impact. The company’s shares took a dive on the Paris bourse Friday, falling $500 million. In the U.S., Gemalto’s shares fell as much 10 percent Friday morning. They had recovered somewhat — down 4 percent — by the close of trading on the Euronext stock exchange. Analysts at Dutch financial services company Rabobank speculated in a research note that Gemalto could be forced to recall “a large number” of SIM cards. The French daily L’Express noted today that Gemalto board member Alex Mandl was a founding trustee of the CIA-funded venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Mandl resigned from In-Q-Tel’s board in 2002, when he was appointed CEO of Gemplus, which later merged with another company to become Gemalto. But the CIA connection still dogged Mandl, with the French press regularly insinuating that American spies could infiltrate the company. In 2003, a group of French lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to create a commission to investigate Gemplus’s ties to the CIA and its implications for the security of SIM cards. Mandl, an Austrian-American businessman who was once a top executive at AT&T, has denied that he had any relationship with the CIA beyond In-Q-Tel. In 2002, he said he did not even have a security clearance.
  • AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon could not be reached for comment Friday. Sprint declined to comment. Vodafone, the world’s second largest telecom provider by subscribers and a customer of Gemalto, said in a statement, “[W]e have no further details of these allegations which are industrywide in nature and are not focused on any one mobile operator. We will support industry bodies and Gemalto in their investigations.” Deutsche Telekom AG, a German company, said it has changed encryption algorithms in its Gemalto SIM cards. “We currently have no knowledge that this additional protection mechanism has been compromised,” the company said in a statement. “However, we cannot rule out this completely.”
  • Update: Asked about the SIM card heist, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not expect the news would hurt relations with the tech industry: “It’s hard for me to imagine that there are a lot of technology executives that are out there that are in a position of saying that they hope that people who wish harm to this country will be able to use their technology to do so. So, I do think in fact that there are opportunities for the private sector and the federal government to coordinate and to cooperate on these efforts, both to keep the country safe, but also to protect our civil liberties.”
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    Watch for massive class action product defect litigation to be filed against the phone companies.and mobile device manufacturers.  In most U.S. jurisdictions, proof that the vendors/manufacturers  knew of the product defect is not required, only proof of the defect. Also, this is a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to get out of a pricey cellphone contract, since providing a compromised cellphone is a material breach of warranty, whether explicit or implied..   
Paul Merrell

European Court of Justice rules against mass data retention in EU | News | DW.COM | 21.12.2016 - 0 views

  • The ECJ has ruled that governments cannot force telecom firms to keep all customer data. The ruling, which says the laws violate basic privacy rights, comes as governments call for greater powers for spy agencies.
  • The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled on Wednesday that laws allowing for the blanket collection and retention of location and traffic data are in breach of EU law. In their decision, the justices wrote that storing such data, which includes text message senders and recipients and call histories, allows for "very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained." "Such national legislation exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society," the Luxembourg-based court said. EU member states seeking to fight a "serious crime" are allowed to retain data in a targeted manner but must be subject to prior review by a court or independent body, the EU's top court said. Exceptions can be made in urgent cases. The decision came amidst growing calls from EU governments for security agencies to be given greater powers with the goal of preventing or investigating attacks. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, said mass data retention is ineffective in combating such crimes.
  • The court's decision was a response to challenges against data retention laws in Britain and Sweden on the ground that they were no longer valid after the court previously struck down an EU-wide data retention law in 2014. In Sweden, the law requires telecommunications companies to retain all their customers' traffic and location data, without exception, the ECJ said. British law allows authorities to ask firms to keep all communication data for a maximum 12-month period. In the UK, politicians filed a legal challenge against a surveillance law which passed in 2014, part of which was suspended by a British court. British lawmakers then passed the Investigatory Powers Act - the so-called "snooper's charter." A German data retention law, which came into effect at the end of 2015, requires telecommunications companies to store telephone and internet use for 10 weeks, after which point the data must be deleted. The German law also stipulates a shorter storage time of four weeks for location data which results from mobile phone calls. It remains to be seen what effect the ECJ ruling will have on Germany's blanket data retention measures.
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