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Paul Merrell

Exclusive: Inside America's Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere | The Cable - 0 views

  • The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable. The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.
  • The Brazilian and German initiative seeks to apply the right to privacy, which is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to online communications. Their proposal, first revealed by The Cable, affirms a "right to privacy that is not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, home, or correspondence." It notes that while public safety may "justify the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information," nations "must ensure full compliance" with international human rights laws. A final version the text is scheduled to be presented to U.N. members on Wednesday evening and the resolution is expected to be adopted next week. A draft of the resolution, which was obtained by The Cable, calls on states to "to respect and protect the right to privacy," asserting that the "same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy." It also requests the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, present the U.N. General Assembly next year with a report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy, a provision that will ensure the issue remains on the front burner.
  • Publicly, U.S. representatives say they're open to an affirmation of privacy rights. "The United States takes very seriously our international legal obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said in an email. "We have been actively and constructively negotiating to ensure that the resolution promotes human rights and is consistent with those obligations." But privately, American diplomats are pushing hard to kill a provision of the Brazilian and German draft which states that "extraterritorial surveillance" and mass interception of communications, personal information, and metadata may constitute a violation of human rights. The United States and its allies, according to diplomats, outside observers, and documents, contend that the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to foreign espionage.
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  • n recent days, the United States circulated to its allies a confidential paper highlighting American objectives in the negotiations, "Right to Privacy in the Digital Age -- U.S. Redlines." It calls for changing the Brazilian and German text so "that references to privacy rights are referring explicitly to States' obligations under ICCPR and remove suggestion that such obligations apply extraterritorially." In other words: America wants to make sure it preserves the right to spy overseas. The U.S. paper also calls on governments to promote amendments that would weaken Brazil's and Germany's contention that some "highly intrusive" acts of online espionage may constitute a violation of freedom of expression. Instead, the United States wants to limit the focus to illegal surveillance -- which the American government claims it never, ever does. Collecting information on tens of millions of people around the world is perfectly acceptable, the Obama administration has repeatedly said. It's authorized by U.S. statute, overseen by Congress, and approved by American courts.
  • "Recall that the USG's [U.S. government's] collection activities that have been disclosed are lawful collections done in a manner protective of privacy rights," the paper states. "So a paragraph expressing concern about illegal surveillance is one with which we would agree." The privacy resolution, like most General Assembly decisions, is neither legally binding nor enforceable by any international court. But international lawyers say it is important because it creates the basis for an international consensus -- referred to as "soft law" -- that over time will make it harder and harder for the United States to argue that its mass collection of foreigners' data is lawful and in conformity with human rights norms. "They want to be able to say ‘we haven't broken the law, we're not breaking the law, and we won't break the law,'" said Dinah PoKempner, the general counsel for Human Rights Watch, who has been tracking the negotiations. The United States, she added, wants to be able to maintain that "we have the freedom to scoop up anything we want through the massive surveillance of foreigners because we have no legal obligations."
  • The United States negotiators have been pressing their case behind the scenes, raising concerns that the assertion of extraterritorial human rights could constrain America's effort to go after international terrorists. But Washington has remained relatively muted about their concerns in the U.N. negotiating sessions. According to one diplomat, "the United States has been very much in the backseat," leaving it to its allies, Australia, Britain, and Canada, to take the lead. There is no extraterritorial obligation on states "to comply with human rights," explained one diplomat who supports the U.S. position. "The obligation is on states to uphold the human rights of citizens within their territory and areas of their jurisdictions."
  • The position, according to Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Human Rights Program, has little international backing. The International Court of Justice, the U.N. Human Rights Committee, and the European Court have all asserted that states do have an obligation to comply with Human Rights laws beyond their own borders, he noted. "Governments do have obligation beyond their territories," said Dakwar, particularly in situations, like the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where the United States exercises "effective control" over the lives of the detainees. Both PoKempner and Dakwar suggested that courts may also judge that the U.S. dominance of the Internet places special legal obligations on it to ensure the protection of users' human rights.
  • "It's clear that when the United States is conducting surveillance, these decisions and operations start in the United States, the servers are at NSA headquarters, and the capabilities are mainly in the United States," he said. "To argue that they have no human rights obligations overseas is dangerous because it sends a message that there is void in terms of human rights protection outside countries territory. It's going back to the idea that you can create a legal black hole where there is no applicable law." There were signs emerging on Wednesday that America may have been making ground in pressing the Brazilians and Germans to back on one of its toughest provisions. In an effort to address the concerns of the U.S. and its allies, Brazil and Germany agreed to soften the language suggesting that mass surveillance may constitute a violation of human rights. Instead, it simply deep "concern at the negative impact" that extraterritorial surveillance "may have on the exercise of and enjoyment of human rights." The U.S., however, has not yet indicated it would support the revised proposal.
  • The concession "is regrettable. But it’s not the end of the battle by any means," said Human Rights Watch’s PoKempner. She added that there will soon be another opportunity to corral America's spies: a U.N. discussion on possible Human Rights violations as a result of extraterritorial surveillance will soon be taken up by the U.N. High commissioner.
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    Woo-hoo! Go get'em, U.N.
Paul Merrell

Wikipedia takes feds to court over spying | TheHill - 0 views

  • The foundation behind Wikipedia is suing the U.S. government over spying that it says violates core provisions of the Constitution.The Wikimedia Foundation joined forces on Tuesday with a slew ofspyinggroups, The Nation magazine and other organizations in a lawsuit accusing the National Security Agency (NSA) and Justice Department of violating the constitutional protections for freedom of speech and privacy.
  • If successful, the lawsuit could land a crippling blow to the web of secretive spying powers wielded by the NSA and exposed by Edward Snowden nearly two years ago. Despite initial outrage after Snowden’s leaks, Congress has yet to make any serious reforms to the NSA, and many of the programs continue largely unchanged.The lawsuit targets the NSA’s “upstream” surveillance program, which taps into the fiber cables that make up the backbone of the global Internet and allows the agency to collect vast amounts of information about people on the Web.“As a result, whenever someone overseas views or edits a Wikipedia page, it’s likely that the N.S.A. is tracking that activity — including the content of what was read or typed, as well as other information that can be linked to the person’s physical location and possible identity,” Tretikov and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wrote in a joint New York Times op-ed announcing the lawsuit. Because the operations are largely overseen solely by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which operates out of the public eye and has been accused of acting as a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies — the foundation accused the NSA of violating the guarantees of a fair legal system.In addition to the Wikimedia Foundation and The Nation, the other groups joining the lawsuit are the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,spyingWatch, Amnesty International, the Pen American Center, the Global Fund for Women, the Rutherford Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America. The groups are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • In 2013, a lawsuit against similar surveillance powers brought by Amnesty International was tossed out by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the organization was not affected by the spying and had no standing to sue. That decision came before Snowden’s leaks later that summer, however, which included a slide featuring Wikipedia’s logo alongside those of Facebook, Yahoo, Google and other top websites. That should be more than enough grounds for a successful suit, the foundation said. In addition to the new suit, there are also a handful of other outstanding legal challenges to the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, a different program that has inspired some of the most heated antipathy. Those suits are all pending in appeals courts around the country.
Paul Merrell

After Brit spies 'snoop' on families' lawyers, UK govt admits: We flouted human rights laws * The Register - 0 views

  • The British government has admitted that its practice of spying on confidential communications between lawyers and their clients was a breach of the European Convention onspying(ECHR). Details of the controversial snooping emerged in November: lawyers suing Blighty over its rendition of two Libyan families to be tortured by the late and unlamented Gaddafi regime claimed Her Majesty's own lawyers seemed to have access to the defense team's emails. The families' briefs asked for a probe by the secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a move that led to Wednesday's admission. "The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies' policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the ECHR," a government spokesman said in a statement to the media, via the Press Association. "In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies applied since 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically Article 8. This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public."
  • The guidelines revealed by the investigation showed that MI5 – which handles the UK's domestic security – had free reign to spy on highly private and sensitive lawyer-client conversations between April 2011 and January 2014. MI6, which handles foreign intelligence, had no rules on the matter either until 2011, and even those were considered void if "extremists" were involved. Britain's answer to the NSA, GCHQ, had rules against such spying, but they too were relaxed in 2011. "By allowing the intelligence agencies free rein to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the Government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial," said Cori Crider, a director at the non-profit Reprieve and one of the lawyers for the Libyan families. "For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years."
  • Crider said it now seemed probable that UK snoopers had been listening in on the communications over the Libyan case. The British government hasn't admitted guilt, but it has at least acknowledged that it was doing something wrong – sort of. "It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on the part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligation to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously," the government spokesman said. "Nor does it mean that any of the agencies' activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings. The agencies will now work with the independent Interception of Communications Commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK's human rights obligations." So that's all right, then.
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    If you follow the "November" link you'[l learn that yes, indeed, the UK government lawyers were happily getting the content of their adversaries privileged attorney-client communications. Conspicuously, the promises of reform make no mention of what is surely a disbarment offense in the U.S. I doubt that it's different in the UK. Discovery rules of procedure strictly limit how parties may obtain information from the other side. Wiretapping the other side's lawyers is not a permitted from of discovery. Hopefully, at least the government lawyers in the case in which the misbehavior was discovered have been referred for disciplinary action.  
Paul Merrell

Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance | Business | The Guardian - 0 views

  • Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond.The company has broken its silence on government surveillance in order to push back against the increasingly widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens, and will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report on Friday. At 40,000 words, it is the most comprehensive survey yet of how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their people.The company said wires had been connected directly to its network and those of other telecoms groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer. Privacy campaigners said the revelations were a "nightmare scenario" that confirmed their worst fears on the extent of snooping.
  • Vodafone's group privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, said: "These pipes exist, the direct access model exists."We are making a call to end direct access as a means of government agencies obtaining people's communication data. Without an official warrant, there is no external visibility. If we receive a demand we can push back against the agency. The fact that a government has to issue a piece of paper is an important constraint on how powers are used."Vodafone is calling for all direct-access pipes to be disconnected, and for the laws that make them legal to be amended. It says governments should "discourage agencies and authorities from seeking direct access to an operator's communications infrastructure without a lawful mandate".
  • In America, Verizon and AT&T have published data, but only on their domestic operations. Deutsche Telekom in Germany and Telstra in Australia have also broken ground at home. Vodafone is the first to produce a global survey.
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  • Peter Micek, policy counsel at the campaign group Access, said: "In a sector that has historically been quiet about how it facilitates government access to user data, Vodafone has for the first time shone a bright light on the challenges of a global telecom giant, giving users a greater understanding of the demands governments make of telcos. Vodafone's report also highlights how few governments issue any transparency reports, with little to no information about the number of wiretaps, cell site tower dumps, and other invasive surveillance practices."
  • Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, joined Google, Reddit, Mozilla and other tech firms and privacy groups on Thursday to call for a strengthening of privacy rights online in a "Reset the net" campaign.Twelve months after revelations about the scale of the US government's surveillance programs were first published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, Snowden said: "One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives – no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be. Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same."
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    The Vodafone disclosures will undoubtedly have a very large ripple effect. Note carefully that this is the first major telephone service in the world to break ranks with the others and come out swinging at secret government voyeur agencies. Will others follow. If you follow the links to the Vodafone report, you'll find a very handy big PDF providing an overview of the relevant laws in each of the customer nations. There's a cute Guardian table that shows the aggregate number of warrants for interception of content via Vodafone for each of those nations, broken down by content type. That table has white-on-black cells noting where disclosure of those types of surveillance statistics are prohibited by law. So it is far from a complete picture, but it's a heck of a good start.  But several of those customer nations are members of the E.U., where digital privacy rights are enshrined as human rights under an EU-wide treaty. So expect some heat to roll downhill on those nations from the European treaty organizations, particularly the European Court of Human Rights, staffed with civil libertarian judges, from which there is no appeal.     
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Another Case Against GCHQ Filed At The European Court Of Human Rights; Could Overturn UK's Main Snooping Law | Techdirt - 2 views

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    "from the pressure-keeps-building dept Just last week we wrote about the growing number of legal challenges to GCHQ spying. Now here's another one, from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is concerned about how blanket surveillance threatens the workings of a free press: "
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    "from the pressure-keeps-building dept Just last week we wrote about the growing number of legal challenges to GCHQ spying. Now here's another one, from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is concerned about how blanket surveillance threatens the workings of a free press: "
Paul Merrell

Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance - And You Can, Too - The Intercept - 1 views

  • Thousands of people are signing up to join an unprecedented legal campaign against the United Kingdom’s leading electronic surveillance agency. On Monday, London-based human rights group Privacy International launched an initiative enabling anyone across the world to challenge covert human rights operations involving Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s British counterpart. The campaign was made possible following a historic court ruling earlier this month that deemed intelligence sharing between GCHQ and the NSA to have been unlawful because of the extreme secrecy shrouding it.
  • Consequently, members of the public now have a rare opportunity to take part in a lawsuit against the spying in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special British court that handles complaints about surveillance operations conducted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Privacy International is allowing anyone who wants to participate to submit their name, email address and phone number through a page on its website. The group plans to use the details to lodge a case with GCHQ and the court that will seek to discover whether each participant’s emails or phone calls have been covertly obtained by the agency in violation of the privacy and freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. If it is established that any of the communications have been unlawfully collected, the court could force GCHQ to delete them from its vast repositories of intercepted data.
  • By Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 people had already signed up to the campaign, a spokesman for Privacy International told The Intercept. In a statement announcing the campaign on Monday, Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “The public have a right to know if they were illegally spied on, and GCHQ must come clean on whose records they hold that they should never have had in the first place. “We have known for some time that the NSA and GCHQ have been engaged in mass surveillance, but never before could anyone explicitly find out if their phone calls, emails, or location histories were unlawfully shared between the U.S. and U.K. “There are few chances that people have to directly challenge the seemingly unrestrained surveillance state, but individuals now have a historic opportunity finally hold GCHQ accountable for their unlawful actions.”
Paul Merrell

The Million Dollar Dissident: NSO Group's iPhone Zero-Days used against a UAE Human Rights Defender - The Citizen Lab - 0 views

  • 1. Executive Summary Ahmed Mansoor is an internationally recognized human rights defender, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and recipient of the Martin Ennals Award (sometimes referred to as a “Nobel Prize for human rights”).  On August 10 and 11, 2016, Mansoor received SMS text messages on his iPhone promising “new secrets” about detainees tortured in UAE jails if he clicked on an included link. Instead of clicking, Mansoor sent the messages to Citizen Lab researchers.  We recognized the links as belonging to an exploit infrastructure connected to NSO Group, an Israel-based “cyber war” company that sells Pegasus, a government-exclusive “lawful intercept” spyware product.  NSO Group is reportedly owned by an American venture capital firm, Francisco Partners Management. The ensuing investigation, a collaboration between researchers from Citizen Lab and from Lookout Security, determined that the links led to a chain of zero-day exploits (“zero-days”) that would have remotely jailbroken Mansoor’s stock iPhone 6 and installed sophisticated spyware.  We are calling this exploit chain Trident.  Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements.   We are not aware of any previous instance of an iPhone remote jailbreak used in the wild as part of a targeted attack campaign, making this a rare find.
  • The Trident Exploit Chain: CVE-2016-4657: Visiting a maliciously crafted website may lead to arbitrary code execution CVE-2016-4655: An application may be able to disclose kernel memory CVE-2016-4656: An application may be able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges Once we confirmed the presence of what appeared to be iOS zero-days, Citizen Lab and Lookout quickly initiated a responsible disclosure process by notifying Apple and sharing our findings. Apple responded promptly, and notified us that they would be addressing the vulnerabilities. We are releasing this report to coincide with the availability of the iOS 9.3.5 patch, which blocks the Trident exploit chain by closing the vulnerabilities that NSO Group appears to have exploited and sold to remotely compromise iPhones. Recent Citizen Lab research has shown that many state-sponsored spyware campaigns against civil society groups and human rights defenders use “just enough” technical sophistication, coupled with carefully planned deception. This case demonstrates that not all threats follow this pattern.  The iPhone has a well-deserved reputation for security.  As the iPhone platform is tightly controlled by Apple, technically sophisticated exploits are often required to enable the remote installation and operation of iPhone monitoring tools. These exploits are rare and expensive. Firms that specialize in acquiring zero-days often pay handsomely for iPhone exploits.  One such firm, Zerodium, acquired an exploit chain similar to the Trident for one million dollars in November 2015. The high cost of iPhone zero-days, the apparent use of NSO Group’s government-exclusive Pegasus product, and prior known targeting of Mansoor by the UAE government provide indicators that point to the UAE government as the likely operator behind the targeting. Remarkably, this case marks the third commercial “lawful intercept” spyware suite employed in attempts to compromise Mansoor.  In 2011, he was targeted with FinFisher’s FinSpy spyware, and in 2012 he was targeted with Hacking Team’s Remote Control System.  Both Hacking Team and FinFisher have been the object of several years of revelations highlighting the misuse of spyware to compromise civil society groups, journalists, and human rights workers.
Paul Merrell

U.S. knocks plans for European communication network | Reuters - 0 views

  • The United States on Friday criticized proposals to build a European communication network to avoid emails and other data passing through the United States, warning that such rules could breach international trade laws. In its annual review of telecommunications trade barriers, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said impediments to cross-border data flows were a serious and growing concern.It was closely watching new laws in Turkey that led to the blocking of websites and restrictions on personal data, as well as calls in Europe for a local communications network following revelations last year about U.S. digital eavesdropping and surveillance."Recent proposals from countries within the European Union to create a Europe-only electronic network (dubbed a 'Schengen cloud' by advocates) or to create national-only electronic networks could potentially lead to effective exclusion or discrimination against foreign service suppliers that are directly offering network services, or dependent on them," the USTR said in the report.
  • Germany and France have been discussing ways to build a European network to keep data secure after the U.S. spying scandal. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone was reportedly monitored by American spies.The USTR said proposals by Germany's state-backed Deutsche Telekom to bypass the United States were "draconian" and likely aimed at giving European companies an advantage over their U.S. counterparts.Deutsche Telekom has suggested laws to stop data traveling within continental Europe being routed via Asia or the United States and scrapping the Safe Harbor agreement that allows U.S. companies with European-level privacy standards access to European data. (www.telekom.com/dataprotection)"Any mandatory intra-EU routing may raise questions with respect to compliance with the EU's trade obligations with respect to Internet-enabled services," the USTR said. "Accordingly, USTR will be carefully monitoring the development of any such proposals."
  • U.S. tech companies, the leaders in an e-commerce marketplace estimated to be worth up to $8 trillion a year, have urged the White House to undertake reforms to calm privacy concerns and fend off digital protectionism.
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    High comedy from the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The USTR's press release is here along with a link to its report. http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/USTR-Targets-Telecommunications-Trade-Barriers The USTR is upset because the E.U. is aiming to build a digital communications network that does not route internal digital traffic outside the E.U., to limit the NSA's ability to surveil Europeans' communications. Part of the plan is to build an E.U.-centric cloud that is not susceptible to U.S. court orders. This plan does not, of course, sit well with U.S.-based cloud service providers.  Where the comedy comes in is that the USTR is making threats to go to the World Trade organization to block the E.U. move under the authority of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). But that treaty provides, in article XIV, that:  "Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where like conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on trade in services, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any Member of measures: ... (c)      necessary to secure compliance with laws or regulations which are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Agreement including those relating to:   ... (ii)     the protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to the processing and dissemination of personal data and the protection of confidentiality of individual records and accounts[.]" http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/26-gats_01_e.htm#articleXIV   The E.U., in its Treaty on Human Rights, has very strong privacy protections for digital communications. The USTR undoubtedly knows all this, and that the WTO Appellate Panel's judges are of the European mold, sticklers for protection of human rights and most likely do not appreciate being subjects o
Paul Merrell

Here Are All the Sketchy Government Agencies Buying Hacking Team's Spy Tech | Motherboard - 0 views

  • They say what goes around comes around, and there's perhaps nowhere that rings more true than in the world of government surveillance. Such was the case on Monday morning when Hacking Team, the Italian company known for selling electronic intrusion tools to police and federal agencies around the world, awoke to find that it had been hacked itself—big time—apparently exposing its complete client list, email spools, invoices, contracts, source code, and more. Those documents show that not only has the company been selling hacking tools to a long list of foreign governments with dubious human rights records, but it’s also establishing a nice customer base right here in the good old US of A. The cache, which sources told Motherboard is legitimate, contains more than 400 gigabytes of files, many of which confirm previous reports that the company has been selling industrial-grade surveillance software to authoritarian governments. Hacking Team is known in the surveillance world for its flagship hacking suite, Remote Control System (RCS) or Galileo, which allows its government and law enforcement clients to secretly install “implants” on remote machines that can steal private emails, record Skype calls, and even monitor targets through their computer's webcam. Hacking Team in North America
  • According to leaked contracts, invoices and an up-to-date list of customer subscriptions, Hacking Team’s clients—which the company has consistently refused to name—also include Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and many others. The list of names matches the findings of Citizen Lab, a research lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs that previously found traces of Hacking Team on the computers of journalists and activists around the world. Last year, the Lab's researchers mapped out the worldwide collection infrastructure used by Hacking Team's customers to covertly transport stolen data, unveiling a massive network comprised of servers based in 21 countries. Reporters Without Borders later named the company one of the “Enemies of the Internet” in its annual report on government surveillance and censorship.
  • we’ve only scratched the surface of this massive leak, and it’s unclear how Hacking Team will recover from having its secrets spilling across the internet for all to see. In the meantime, the company is asking all customers to stop using its spyware—and likely preparing for the worst.
Paul Merrell

NSA contractors use LinkedIn profiles to cash in on national security | Al Jazeera America - 0 views

  • NSA spies need jobs, too. And that is why many covert programs could be hiding in plain sight. Job websites such as LinkedIn and Indeed.com contain hundreds of profiles that reference classified NSA efforts, posted by everyone from career government employees to low-level IT workers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. They offer a rare glimpse into the intelligence community's projects and how they operate. Now some researchers are using the same kinds of big-data tools employed by the NSA to scrape public LinkedIn profiles for classified programs. But the presence of so much classified information in public view raises serious concerns about security — and about the intelligence industry as a whole. “I’ve spent the past couple of years searching LinkedIn profiles for NSA programs,” said Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
  • On Aug. 3, The Wall Street Journal published a story about the FBI’s growing use of hacking to monitor suspects, based on information Soghoian provided. The next day, Soghoian spoke at the Defcon hacking conference about how he uncovered the existence of the FBI’s hacking team, known as the Remote Operations Unit (ROU), using the LinkedIn profiles of two employees at James Bimen Associates, with which the FBI contracts for hacking operations. “Had it not been for the sloppy actions of a few contractors updating their LinkedIn profiles, we would have never known about this,” Soghoian said in his Defcon talk. Those two contractors were not the only ones being sloppy.
  • And there are many more. A quick search of Indeed.com using three code names unlikely to return false positives — Dishfire, XKeyscore and Pinwale — turned up 323 résumés. The same search on LinkedIn turned up 48 profiles mentioning Dishfire, 18 mentioning XKeyscore and 74 mentioning Pinwale. Almost all these people appear to work in the intelligence industry. Network-mapping the data Fabio Pietrosanti of the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights noticed all the code names on LinkedIn last December. While sitting with M.C. McGrath at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany, Pietrosanti began searching the website for classified program names — and getting serious results. McGrath was already developing Transparency Toolkit, a Web application for investigative research, and knew he could improve on Pietrosanti’s off-the-cuff methods.
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  • “I was, like, huh, maybe there’s more we can do with this — actually get a list of all these profiles that have these results and use that to analyze the structure of which companies are helping with which programs, which people are helping with which programs, try to figure out in what capacity, and learn more about things that we might not know about,” McGrath said. He set up a computer program called a scraper to search LinkedIn for public profiles that mention known NSA programs, contractors or jargon — such as SIGINT, the agency’s term for “signals intelligence” gleaned from intercepted communications. Once the scraper found the name of an NSA program, it searched nearby for other words in all caps. That allowed McGrath to find the names of unknown programs, too. Once McGrath had the raw data — thousands of profiles in all, with 70 to 80 different program names — he created a network graph that showed the relationships between specific government agencies, contractors and intelligence programs. Of course, the data are limited to what people are posting on their LinkedIn profiles. Still, the network graph gives a sense of which contractors work on several NSA programs, which ones work on just one or two, and even which programs military units in Iraq and Afghanistan are using. And that is just the beginning.
  • Click on the image to view an interactive network illustration of the relationships between specific national security surveillance programs in red, and government organizations or private contractors in blue.
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    What a giggle, public spying on NSA and its contractors using Big Data. The interactive network graph with its sidebar display of relevant data derived from LinkedIn profiles is just too delightful. 
Paul Merrell

The New Snowden? NSA Contractor Arrested Over Alleged Theft Of Classified Data - 0 views

  • A contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) was arrested by the FBI following his alleged theft of “state secrets.” More specifically, the contractor, Harold Thomas Martin, is charged with stealing highly classified source codes developed to covertly hack the networks of foreign governments, according to several senior law enforcement and intelligence officials. The Justice Department has said that these stolen materials were “critical to national security.” Martin was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, the company responsible for most of the NSA’s most sensitive cyber-operations. Edward Snowden, the most well-known NSA whistleblower, also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton until he fled to Hong Kong in 2013 where he revealed a trove of documents exposing the massive scope of the NSA dragnet surveillance. That surveillance system was shown to have targeted untold numbers of innocent Americans. According to the New York Times, the theft “raises the embarrassing prospect” that an NSA insider managed to steal highly damaging secret information from the NSA for the second time in three years, not to mention the “Shadow Broker” hack this past August, which made classified NSA hacking tools available to the public.
  • Snowden himself took to Twitter to comment on the arrest. In a tweet, he said the news of Martin’s arrest “is huge” and asked, “Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports [that the] NSA sat on huge flaws in US products?” It is currently unknown if Martin was connected to those reports as well.
  • It also remains to be seen what Martin’s motivations were in removing classified data from the NSA. Though many suspect that he planned to follow in Snowden’s footsteps, the government will more likely argue that he had planned to commit espionage by selling state secrets to “adversaries.” According to the New York Times article on the arrest, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are named as examples of the “adversaries” who would have been targeted by the NSA codes that Martin is accused of stealing. However, Snowden revealed widespread US spying on foreign governments including several US allies such as France and Germany. This suggests that the stolen “source codes” were likely utilized on a much broader scale.
Paul Merrell

Freedom Online Coalition Basically Ignores Surveillance: Makes A Mockery Of Its Name | Techdirt - 1 views

  • We already wrote about how US Secretary of State John Kerry made some tone deaf remarks about "online freedom" and transparency during his appearance at the Freedom Online Coalition meeting in Estonia last week. However, it appears that his remarks fit in well with the theme of the event, which appeared to be "big governments ignoring that whole state surveillance online thing." The Freedom Online Coalition is a group of 23 governments, including the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France and many others -- and you'd think they'd pay some attention to the very vocal concerns about how those governments are engaged in lots of online spying. In fact, a bunch of public interest groups sent a letter asking the FOC to live up to their state commitments, and respond to claims ofspyingviolations against journalists and others via state surveillance online. But... that didn't happen:
  • A dominant theme that ran throughout the conference was erosion of credibility and doubt about member government follow-through on commitments to protect freedom online themselves, much less to serve as role models for other governments. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans acknowledged the credibility gap facing the coalition and invited constructive criticism and debate about the proper limits of surveillance. Yet while the final Tallinn declaration produced by FOC governments asserted that members would “[c]ollectively condemn – through diplomatic channels, public statements and other means – violations and abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms online as they occur in different countries throughout the world,” the declaration says little about reining in indiscriminate surveillance, nor does it acknowledge that mass surveillance chills freedom of expression and violates the right to privacy. Perhaps the Freedom Online Coalition should start exploring a name change to more accurately reflect what they really represent.
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    "from the blathering-about-other-stuff-coalition dept We already wrote about how US Secretary of State John Kerry made some tone deaf remarks about "online freedom" and transparency during his appearance at the Freedom Online Coalition meeting in Estonia last week"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Researchers Uncover Government Spy Tool Used to Hack Telecoms and Belgian Cryptographer | WIRED - 1 views

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    "Though no one is willing to speculate on the record about Regin's source, news reports about the Belgacom and Quisquater hacks pointed a finger at GCHQ and the NSA." [#! Can't ask for compliance when you do not comply]
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    "Though no one is willing to speculate on the record about Regin's source, news reports about the Belgacom and Quisquater hacks pointed a finger at GCHQ and the NSA." [#! Can't ask for compliance when you do not comply]
Paul Merrell

Snowden: NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Edward Snowden has revealed that he witnessed “numerous instances” of National Security Agency (NSA) employees passing around nude photos that were intercepted “in the course of their daily work.” In a 17-minute interview with The Guardian filmed at a Moscow hotel and published on Thursday, the NSA whistleblower addressed numerous points, noting that he could “live with” being sent to the US prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also again dismissed any notion that he was a Russian spy or agent—calling those allegations “bullshit.” If Snowden’s allegations of sexual photo distribution are true, they would be consistent with what the NSA has already reported. In September 2013, in a letter from the NSA’s Inspector General Dr. George Ellard to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the agency outlined a handful of instances during which NSA agents admitted that they had spied on their former love interests. This even spawned a nickname within the agency, LOVEINT—a riff on HUMINT (human intelligence) or SIGINT (signals intelligence).
  • “You've got young enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old,” Snowden said. “They've suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all of your private records. In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense. For example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising position. But they're extremely attractive. “So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and show their co-worker. The co-worker says: ‘Hey that's great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ And then Bill sends it to George and George sends it to Tom. And sooner or later this person's whole life has been seen by all of these other people. It's never reported. Nobody ever knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communications stream from the intended recipient and given to the government without any specific authorization without any specific need is itself a violation of your rights. Why is that in a government database?” Then Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, asked: “You saw instances of that happening?” “Yeah,” Snowden responded. “Numerous?” “It's routine enough, depending on the company that you keep, it could be more or less frequent. These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Keep the FBI out of my Computer - Access Now - 0 views

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    "The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants the power to hack into computers anywhere in the world, and even millions of computers at once. Instead of asking U.S. Congress for permission, they're sneaking a procedural rule change through the bureaucracy. It's called Rule 41 and it's part of the U.S.Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Read more about Rule 41 and government hacking here and here. "
Paul Merrell

Court gave NSA broad leeway in surveillance, documents show - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information “concerning” all but four countries, according to top-secret documents. The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well.
  • The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The NSA is not necessarily targeting all the countries or organizations identified in the certification, the affidavits and an accompanying exhibit; it has only been given authority to do so. Still, the privacy implications are far-reaching, civil liberties advocates say, because of the wide spectrum of people who might be engaged in communication about foreign governments and entities and whose communications might be of interest to the United States.
  • That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German government’s position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign-intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professor’s e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the American’s e-mail could be collected as well, under the program’s court-approved rules
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  • On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a transparency report stating that in 2013 the government targeted nearly 90,000 foreign individuals or organizations for foreign surveillance under the program. Some tech-industry lawyers say the number is relatively low, considering that several billion people use U.S. e-mail services.
  • Still, some lawmakers are concerned that the potential for intrusions on Americans’ privacy has grown under the 2008 law because the government is intercepting not just communications of its targets but communications about its targets as well. The expansiveness of the foreign-powers certification increases that concern.
  • In a 2011 FISA court opinion, a judge using an NSA-provided sample estimated that the agency could be collecting as many as 46,000 wholly domestic e-mails a year that mentioned a particular target’s e-mail address or phone number, in what is referred to as “about” collection. “When Congress passed Section 702 back in 2008, most members of Congress had no idea that the government was collecting Americans’ communications simply because they contained a particular individual’s contact information,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has co-sponsored ­legislation to narrow “about” collection authority, said in an e-mail to The Washington Post. “If ‘about the target’ collection were limited to genuine national security threats, there would be very little privacy impact. In fact, this collection is much broader than that, and it is scooping up huge amounts of Americans’ wholly domestic communications.”
  • The only reason the court has oversight of the NSA program is that Congress in 2008 gave the government a new authority to gather intelligence from U.S. companies that own the Internet cables running through the United States, former officials noted. Edgar, the former privacy officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said ultimately he believes the authority should be narrowed. “There are valid privacy concerns with leaving these collection decisions entirely in the executive branch,” he said. “There shouldn’t be broad collection, using this authority, of foreign government information without any meaningful judicial role that defines the limits of what can be collected.”
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

TOR IS THE NSA [LWN.net, 2008] - 0 views

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    "Posted Jul 9, 2008 21:13 UTC (Wed) by dulles (guest, #45450) Parent article: GNU/Linux free software tools to preserve your online privacy, anonymity and security (FSM)"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Anonymizing Networks - GNU/Linux - PRISM Break - 0 views

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    "e Recommendations freenet.png Freenet Decentralized censorship-resistant network. gnunet.png GNUnet GNUnet is a fully free P2P network. i2p.png I2P The invisible internet project. syndie.png Syndie Distributed, anonymous forum software. tor.png Tor Free software for enabling online anonymity. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer network consisting of more th… "
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