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Paul Merrell

A New Era of Mass Surveillance is Emerging Across Europe | Just Security - 0 views

  • The world was a different place when, in October 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) struck down the “Safe Harbour” data-sharing agreement that allowed the transfer of European citizens’ data to the US. The Court’s decision concluded that the indiscriminate nature of the surveillance programs carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies, exposed two years earlier by NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, had made it impossible to ensure that the personal data of E.U. citizens would be adequately protected when shared with American companies. The ruling thus served to further solidify the long-standing conventional wisdom that Continental Europe is better at protecting privacy than America.

    However, Europe’s ability to continue to take this moral high ground is rapidly declining. In recent months, and in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks across Europe, Germany, France and the United Kingdom — Europe’s biggest superpowers — have passed laws granting their surveillance agencies virtually unfettered power to conduct bulk interception of communications across Europe and beyond, with limited to no effective oversight or procedural safeguards from abuse.

Paul Merrell

ISPs say the "massive cost" of Snooper's Charter will push up UK broadband bills | Ars ... - 0 views

  • How much extra will you have to pay for the privilege of being spied on?
  • UK ISPs have warned MPs that the costs of implementing the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snooper's Charter) will be much greater than the £175 million the UK government has allotted for the task, and that broadband bills will need to rise as a result. Representatives from ISPs and software companies told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that the legislation greatly underestimates the "sheer quantity" of data generated by Internet users these days. They also pointed out that distinguishing content from metadata is a far harder task than the government seems to assume.

    Matthew Hare, the chief executive of ISP Gigaclear, said with "a typical 1 gigabit connection to someone's home, over 50 terabytes of data per year [are] passing over it. If you say that a proportion of that is going to be the communications data—the record of who you communicate with, when you communicate or what you communicate—there would be the most massive and enormous amount of data that in future an access provider would be expected to keep. The indiscriminate collection of mass data across effectively every user of the Internet in this country is going to have a massive cost."

  • Moreover, the larger the cache of stored data, the more worthwhile it will be for criminals and state-backed actors to gain access and download that highly-revealing personal information for fraud and blackmail. John Shaw, the vice president of product management at British security firm Sophos, told the MPs: "There would be a huge amount of very sensitive personal data that could be used by bad guys.
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  • The ISPs also challenged the government's breezy assumption that separating the data from the (equally revealing) metadata would be simple, not least because an Internet connection is typically being used for multiple services simultaneously, with data packets mixed together in a completely contingent way.

    Hare described a typical usage scenario for a teenager on their computer at home, where they are playing a game communicating with their friends using Steam; they are broadcasting the game using Twitch; and they may also be making a voice call at the same time too. "All those applications are running simultaneously," Hare said. "They are different applications using different servers with different services and different protocols. They are all running concurrently on that one machine."

    Even accessing a Web page is much more complicated than the government seems to believe, Hare pointed out. "As a webpage is loading, you will see that that webpage is made up of tens, or many tens, of individual sessions that have been created across the Internet just to load a single webpage. Bluntly, if you want to find out what someone is doing you need to be tracking all of that data all the time."

  • Hare raised another major issue. "If I was a software business ... I would be very worried that my customers would not buy my software any more if it had anything to do with security at all. I would be worried that a backdoor was built into the software by the [Investigatory Powers] Bill that would allow the UK government to find out what information was on that system at any point they wanted in the future."

    As Ars reported last week, the ability to demand that backdoors are added to systems, and a legal requirement not to reveal that fact under any circumstances, are two of the most contentious aspects of the new Investigatory Powers Bill.

    The latest comments from industry experts add to concerns that the latest version of the Snooper's Charter would inflict great harm on civil liberties in the UK, and also make security research well-nigh impossible here. To those fears can now be added undermining the UK software industry, as well as forcing the UK public to pay for the privilege of having their ISP carry out suspicionless surveillance.

Paul Merrell

Report: Germany Spied on FBI, US Companies, French Minister - 0 views

  • German public radio station rbb-Inforadio reported Wednesday that the country's foreign intelligence agency spied on the FBI and U.S. arms companies, adding to a growing list of targets among friendly nations the agency allegedly eavesdropped on.

    The station claimed that Germany's BND also spied on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the World Health Organization, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and even a German diplomat who headed an EU observer mission to Georgia from 2008 to 2011.

    It provided no source for its report, but the respected German weekly Der Spiegel also reported at the weekend that the BND targeted phone numbers and email addresses of officials in the United States, Britain, France, Switzerland, Greece, the Vatican and other European countries, as well as at international aid groups such as the Red Cross.

    The claims are particularly sensitive in Germany because the government reacted with anger two years ago to reports that the U.S. eavesdropped on German targets, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, who declared at the time that "spying among friends, that's just wrong."

    German lawmakers have broadened a probe into the U.S. National Security Agency's activities in the country to include the work of the BND.

Paul Merrell

U.K. Police Confirm Ongoing Criminal Probe of Snowden Leak Journalists - 0 views

  • A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists working with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents remains ongoing two years after it was quietly launched, The Intercept can reveal.

    London’s Metropolitan Police Service has admitted it is still carrying out the probe, which is being led by its counterterrorism department, after previously refusing to confirm or deny its existence on the grounds that doing so could be “detrimental to national security.”

    The disclosure was made by police in a letter sent to this reporter Tuesday, concluding a seven-month freedom of information battle that saw the London force repeatedly attempt to withhold basic details about the status of the case. It reversed its position this week only after an intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws.

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

What the Hack! 56 Suspected Hackers arrested in the UK | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • The UK National Crime Agency arrested 56 suspected hackers, including one 23-year-old male who allegedly attempted to hack his way into the U.S.’ Department of Defense in 2014. Not attempting to minimize the potential risks of hacking but how much does cyber-crime actually cost, what are the risks and what about those who hack the data of billions of internet users per day to, allegedly, “keep all of us safe?”
  • Besides the 23-year-old who allegedly attempted to hack his way into the a U.S. Department of Defense site, the other detainees allegedly were members of the hacking collectives Lizard Squad and D33DS which are being accused of fraud, money laundering and Denial of Service and Distributed Denial of Service (DOS & DDOS) attacks.  D33DS stands accused of having stolen data of some 450,000 Yahoo users.

    The arrests followed the recent announcement about the so-called FREAK security vulnerability that was leaving thousands of SSL sites unprotected. The arrest of the 56 hackers in the UK was reported as the National Crime Agency’s way of “sending a clear message” to the hacker community.

  • The U.S. DoD’s cyber-security functioned, obviously. A recent article by Benjamin Dean entitled “Hard Evidence: How much is cybercrime really costing us” suggests that the money spent on cyber-security per year is disproportional to the harm that is being caused by cyber-crime.

    Dean, who is a Fellow for Internet Governance and Cyber-security at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University would conclude that:

    There are numerous competing budgetary priorities at any one time and limited funds to spend on meeting all these needs. How much money does it make sense to invest in bolstering cybersecurity, relative to the losses? …In the hysteria created in the wake of the hacks of 2014, we risk making the wrong choice simply because we don’t know what the current sums of money are being spent on.

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  • Meanwhile, NSA whitleblower Edward Snowden (think about him what you want), would reveal that the NSA and the GCHQ hacked themselves into the possession of the encryption codes of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer Gemalto.

    Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program wouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have known about the United States’ and allies mutual spying network Echelon for decades.

Paul Merrell

British Prime Minister Suggests Banning Some Online Messaging Apps - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • Popular messaging services like Snapchat and WhatsApp are in the cross hairs in Britain.

    That was the message delivered on Monday by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he would pursue banning encrypted messaging services if Britain’s intelligence services were not given access to the communications.

    The statement comes as many European politicians are demanding that Internet companies like Google and Facebook provide greater information about people’s online activities after several recent terrorist threats, including the attacks in Paris.

  • Mr. Cameron, who has started to campaign ahead of a national election in Britain in May, said his government, if elected, would ban encrypted online communication tools that could potentially be used by terrorists if the country’s intelligence agencies were not given increased access. The reforms are part of new legislation that would force telecom operators and Internet services providers to store more data on people’s online activities, including social network messages.

    “Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Mr. Cameron said at an event on Monday, in reference to services like WhatsApp, Snapchat and other encrypted online applications. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’ ”

    Mr. Cameron said his first duty was to protect the country against terrorist attacks.

  • “The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe,” he added.

    Any restriction on these online services, however, would not take effect until 2016, at the earliest, and it remained unclear how the British government could stop people from using these apps, which are used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Paul Merrell

New Security Bill will force online service providers to keep log of users' activity - ... - 0 views

  • Terrorists and child sex rings could be uncovered through their internet discussions as part of a tough set of security measures to be unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May this week.

    Major online service providers, such as Google, will be legally obliged to retain a log of users and the mobile phones or computers they have accessed in case police and security agencies later need the information to help them locate criminals. This measure will be included in the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill that is being introduced in the wake of Isis’s beheadings of prisoners, including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, this year

Paul Merrell

UK ISPs to introduce jihadi and terror content reporting button | Technology | The Guar... - 0 views

  • Internet companies have agreed to do more to tackle extremist material online following negotiations led by Downing Street.

    The UK’s major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation.

    They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material.

    The UK is the only country in the world with a Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CITRU) - a 24/7 law enforcement unit, based in the Met, dedicated to identifying and taking down extreme graphic material as well as material that glorifies, incites and radicalises.

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    Bookburning in the digital era.
Paul Merrell

YouTube Gives UK Gov't Broad Powers To Censor Videos It Doesn't Like, Even If They're L... - 0 views

  • Over in the UK, where the government has been gradually censoring more and more of the internet over the past few years, Google has apparently agreed to give the UK government broad powers to "flag" videos they argue are bad, even if they're not illegal. Ostensibly, the goal is to block videos that "proliferate jihadi material."
    The YouTube permissions that Google has given the Home Office in recent weeks include the power to flag swaths of content “at scale” instead of only picking out individual videos.

    They are in part a response to a blitz from UK security authorities to persuade internet service providers, search engines and social media sites to censor more of their own content for extremist material even if it does not always break existing laws.
    And the UK government even admits that the videos it will be taken down are not illegal:
    The UK’s security and immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said that the British government has to do more to deal with some material “that may not be illegal, but certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive”.
    Of course, that kind of statement shows the program is wide open to abuse. The sort of material people would not want to see or receive? Well, then they just don't watch it. Besides, who gets to decide what people would not want to see? Because there's lots of important content that a government might not want its citizens to see, but which are kind of important to a functioning democracy and open society.
  • While I'm sure the pressure from the government here was quite strong, it's upsetting to see Google cave in to these kinds of requests. Giving the UK government a giant "censor this video" button seems like exactly the wrong approach.
Paul Merrell

Snooper's charter has practically zero chance of becoming law, say senior MPs | UK news... - 0 views

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    Finally, acknowledgement that the growth of the cloud computing industry will likely be affected greatly by disclosures of widespread US and UK storage and surveillance of digital data. But will this be enough to turn cloud computing companies into staunch advocates of reining in the NSA and GCHQ?

    Note that the emerging E.U. position creates an economic advantage for cloud computing companies with their server farms located in the E.U. (likely excluding the UK). 
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