Today’s collection of tales from the realms of espionage, privacy hacks, bellicosity, and that ol’ Games of Zones begins with Glenn Greenwald’s latest, via The Intercept:
Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack
The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.
Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the GCHQ and CSEC.
The relationship has, on at least one occasion, entailed the covert payment of a large amount of cash to Israeli operatives. Beyond their own surveillance programs, the American and British surveillance agencies rely on U.S.-supported Arab regimes, including the Jordanian monarchy and even the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, to provide vital spying services regarding Palestinian targets.
Wired threat level listens in:
How the NSA Could Bug Your Powered-Off iPhone, and How to Stop Them
Just because you turned off your phone doesn’t mean the NSA isn’t using it to spy on you.
Edward Snowden’s latest revelation about the NSA’s snooping inspired an extra dose of shock and disbelief when he said the agency’s hackers can use a mobile phone as a bug even after it’s been turned off. The whistleblower made that eye-opening claim when Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, holding his iPhone aloft during last Wednesday’s interview, asked, “What can the NSA do with this device if they want to get into my life? Can anyone turn it on remotely if it’s off? Can they turn on apps?
“They can absolutely turn them on with the power turned off to the device,” Snowden replied.
The Register covers mislabeled “reforms”:
NSA leaker Thomas Drake says Oz security reforms are ‘scary’
Australians urged to oppose NatSec laws before they silence whistleblowers
National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake says Australia’s looming national security reforms makes him ‘shudder’, labelling them ambiguous and a plot to stamp out legitimate public-interest whistleblowing.
Drake, who Edward Snowden said was his inspiration for leaking the NSA spy documents, blew the lid in 2006 on the NSA’s massively inefficient Trailblazer Project while at the agency that wasted billions of US dollars in spy operations post 9/11.
He along with NSA colleagues had built ThinThread what he said was a much more efficient intelligence program that cost a fraction of the Trailblazer Project and had more checks and balances in place to prevent wholesale collection of private data.
Nextgov partners up, spooks and the Washington Post’s owner are BFFs:
CIA’s Amazon-Built Cloud Goes Live
The Central Intelligence Agency is now officially an Amazon Web Services cloud consumer.
Less than 10 months after a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge ended a public battle between AWS and IBM for the CIA’s commercial cloud contract valued at up to $600 million, the AWS-built cloud for the intelligence community went online last week for the first time, according to a source familiar with the deal.
The cloud — best thought of as a public cloud computing environment built on private premises — is yet far from its peak operational capabilities when it will provide all 17 intelligence agencies unprecedented access to an untold number of computers for various on-demand computing, analytic, storage, collaboration and other services.
From BBC News, they’re reading all your emails, then snitching:
Google ‘reveals user’ over Gmail child abuse images
Police in Houston told the local news station that Google detected explicit images of a young girl in an email being sent by John Henry Skillern. After the existence of the email was referred to them by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the police obtained a search warrant and arrested the man.
The 41-year-old is a convicted sex offender. He has been charged with possessing child pornography, it was reported. “I can’t see that information, I can’t see that photo, but Google can,” Detective David Nettles said.
Emma Carr, the acting director of privacy lobby group Big Brother Watch, told the BBC: “With the rate that Gmail messages are scanned, and the fact that all US companies are bound by US law to report suspected child abuse, it is hardly surprising that this individual has found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
“However, Gmail users will certainly be interested to know what action Google proactively takes to monitor and analyse Gmail messages for illegal content, including details of what sorts of illegal activity may be targeted. Google must also make themselves very clear about what procedures and safeguards are in place to ensure that people are not wrongly criminalised.”
The Guardian covers yet more sharing to come:
Whitehall tries to revive plans to share confidential personal data
Proposals to share people’s details resemble Labour’s 2009 plans which critics said could ‘wipe out privacy at a stroke’
Whitehall officials are trying to revive plans that could allow the government to share confidential details about people’s finances, health and criminal records across different providers of public services.
The data sharing plans being drawn up by the Cabinet Office appear to be similar to proposals dropped by Labour in 2009 after a backbench revolt. At the time, the plans were described by critics as having the potential to “wipe out privacy at a stroke”.
Details emerged in minutes of a meeting held in April by the Cabinet Office’s data team. Under the most radical option, data could even be shared with “all bodies providing public services”, which might allow private contractors to gain access to the data.
From We Meant Well, Uncle Spooky’s trans-Atlantic reach:
Caught Stealing Data in Europe, U.S. Now Seeks to Legalize the Theft
Nearly unique among nations, the U.S. broadly imposes extraterritoriality– in the case, the enforcement of U.S. laws in other, sovereign nations.
Many examples of extraterritoriality grow out of America’s archipelago of military bases around the world, where Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) allow service members exemption from local laws, even when they commit crimes against host country people. The U.S. also stations Customs and Border Patrol agents in other nations, denying boarding on U.S.-bound flights from Canada, for example, to Canadian citizens otherwise still standing in their own country. Imagine the outcry in America if the Chinese were to establish military bases in Florida exempt from U.S. law, or if the Russians choose which Americans could fly out of Kansas City Airport. Never mind drone strikes, bombings, deployment of Special Forces, invasions and CIA-sponsored coups.
The snowballing NSA revelations have already severely damaged U.S. credibility and relationships around the world; nations remain shocked at the impunity with which America dug into their private lives. NSA spying has also cost American tech firms $180 billion in lost revenues, as “We’re not an American company” becomes a sales point.
An American court has just taken things to a new level of extraterritorial offensiveness by requiring Microsoft to turn over to the U.S. government emails it holds on its servers. But in this case, those servers are located in Ireland, a European Union nation with its own privacy laws. Those laws are apparently of no real concern to the United States.
Europe Online covers a challenge for Zuckerberg:
12,000 join class action suit against Facebook
Some 12,000 Facebook members have joined Austrian privacy advocates in suing the US social network over its use of personal data, activist Max Schrems said Monday.
“We are surprised by the positive feedback,” said Schrems, who had issued a call on Friday to join his lawsuit.
Schrems heads an Austria-based group called Europe vs. Facebook, which has been campaigning against Facebook’s use of member data, arguing that its policies are intransparent and run counter to EU law.
PandoDaily covers another secret snitch:
Your wearable fitness tracker is a narc. You should probably stay home and eat cake
Oh good, your wearable device is telling the world how lazy you are.
Researchers from Symantec have revealed that they were able to intercept data from fitness trackers simply by hanging out in parks and at athletic events with a Raspberry Pi device programmed to sniff the data out of the air.
According to a blog post published by the company:
Symantec also found vulnerabilities in how personal data is stored and managed, such as passwords being transmitted in clear text and poor session management.
The fitness snoopers also discovered that 20% of the devices broadcast their login credentials as plain text.
From Techdirt, droning on, secretly:
FBI Refuses To Let Public Know How Its Drone Usage Affects Their Privacy
from the I’ve-got-plenty-of-nothing-and-nothing’s-plenty-for-[REDACTED] dept
The FBI’s production of privacy impact assessments (PIAs) lags far behind its deployment of privacy-impacting technology. From facial recognition software to Stingray devices to its drone usage, the FBI has always violated privacy first and assessed the damage later. In some cases, it hasn’t bothered to assess the impact at all, despite repeated assurances to questioning lawmakers that the required report (and it is required) is (forever) nearing completion.
Its biometric database, which pulls in photos from all over the place for its facial recognition software to peruse, rolled out without the required PIA in 2012. Two years later, the FBI is still promising Eric Holder that the PIA will be completed literally any month now, even as it hopes to have the system fully operational by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.
It has supposedly cranked out a PIA for its drone use — again lagging far behind its first reported deployments in “late 2006.” But the public apparently isn’t allowed to know how the agency’s drone use impacts its privacy. Instead of placing the assessment on its website for public viewing (the default method), the FBI has stashed it behind every shady government entity’s favorite FOIA exception: b(5).
From RT, airborne spookery turns tail:
Confirmed: US spy plane fleeing Russian jet invaded Swedish airspace
US officials have confirmed Swedish media reports of a mid-July incident in which an American spy plane invaded Sweden’s airspace as it was evading a Russian fighter jet. The maverick plane was spying on Russia when it was intercepted.
The incident, which happened on July 18, went public last Wednesday after a classified document from Sweden’s Defense Ministry was leaked to the press.
The plane, a Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint, entered Sweden’s airspace after permission to do so was denied by traffic control, Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper said. It passed from the east over the island of Gotland and flew more than 200km over 90 minutes before leaving.
And from TheLocal.de, another aerial panic:
French scramble jet after German’s wayward flight
French aviation authorities were forced to dispatch a fighter jet to intercept a German tourist who had sparked a security alert by flying over sensitive sites in his microlight aircraft, French media reported.
A Mirage 2000 fighter jet was scrambled after the German tourist set off alarm bells after flying over two nuclear power stations in the south of France, French TV station TF1 reported.
The German, who had taken off from Avignon on August 1st for a day’s flying, was forced by authorities to land in the town of Valence, France’s air transport police (CGTA) said.
From Reuters a really chilling airborne threat:
Hacker says to show passenger jets at risk of cyber attack
Cyber security researcher Ruben Santamarta says he has figured out how to hack the satellite communications equipment on passenger jets through their WiFi and inflight entertainment systems – a claim that, if confirmed, could prompt a review of aircraft security.
Santamarta, a consultant with cyber security firm IOActive, is scheduled to lay out the technical details of his research at this week’s Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, an annual convention where thousands of hackers and security experts meet to discuss emerging cyber threats and improve security measures.
His presentation on Thursday on vulnerabilities in satellite communications systems used in aerospace and other industries is expected to be one of the most widely watched at the conference.
From Wired threat level, hackery gone keyless :
Watch This Wireless Hack Pop a Car’s Locks in Minutes
Shims and coat hangers are the clumsy tools of last century’s car burglars. Modern-day thieves, if they’re as clever as Silvio Cesare, may be able to unlock your vehicle’s door without even touching it.
As part of a talk on the insecurity of wireless devices at the Black Hat security conference later this week, Cesare plans to reveal a technique that could allow anyone to spoof the signal from a wireless key fob and unlock a car with no physical trace, using a codebreaking attack that takes as little as a few minutes to perform. “I can use this to lock, unlock, open the trunk,” says Cesare, an Australian researcher for the security firm Qualys. “It effectively defeats the security of the keyless entry.”
For now, Cesare’s hack requires off-the-shelf tools that cost just over $1,000, and in some cases may require the attacker to remain within wireless range of the car for as long as two hours. He’s also only tested it on his own car, which is ten years old.
While the London Daily Mail sounds a Skynet alert:
AI is ‘potentially more dangerous than nukes’: Elon Musk claims a robot uprising could be a serious threat to humanity
Comment tweeted by Musk while recommending a book by Nick Bostrom
The book ‘Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies’, asks major questions about how humanity will cope with super-intelligent computers
Musk previously said ‘Terminator-like’ scenario could be created from AI
42-year-old is so worried that he said his investment in AI group, Vicarious, was purely to keep an eye on the technology rather than make money
Elon Musk is one of the driving forces behind super-intelligent computers that could improve everything from space travel to electric cars.
But the Tesla-founder claims the technology could someday be more harmful than nuclear weapons.
At the weekend, the billionaire tweeted a recommendation for a book that looks at a robot uprising, claiming ‘We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.’
Another airborne alert from Deutsche Welle:
Russia launches huge air defense exercises close to Ukraine
Russia has announced large-scale air defense exercises along its Ukraine border. The move is being perceived as a show of strength by Moscow, and is likely to further raise tensions in the region.
Russia has announced large-scale air defense exercises along its Ukraine border. The new military drills will involve around 100 aircraft, and will be staged from Monday through to Friday this week, a Russian air force spokesman told the Interfax news agency.
Fighter jets, supersonic interceptor jets and attack helicopters are expected to take part in missile-firing practice and target training maneuvers in the central and western military districts.
Air force spokesman Igor Klimov told AFP the drills were “a routine event.” He said they were not related to the ongoing conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
And from Want China Times, a new chapter in the Game of Zones?:
Russia might win China as ally: Canadian military magazine
Russia may speed up siding with the East after the Crimea crisis and it is inevitable that neighboring China and Russia will forge closer ties, reports the military magazine of Canada-based news organization Kanwa Information Center.
The report said the stalemate among Russia, Europe and the United States may last for a long time, so China-Russia’s military cooperation may also enter a new era.
A Russian newspaper reported on March 29 that Russian president Vladimir Putin had agreed to the arms sales of the S-400 Triumf to China. It is unusual for a major media outlet to link Putin’s name with S-400 sales to China and is being interpreted as Russia sending a strong political message to the West and Japan.
And yet another one, this time from JapanToday:
Japan to launch military space force: report
Japan is planning to launch a military space force by 2019 that would initially be tasked with protecting satellites from dangerous debris orbiting the Earth, a report said.
The move is aimed at strengthening Japan-US cooperation in space, and comes after the countries pledged to boost joint work on monitoring space debris, Kyodo news agency said Sunday.
Japan would provide the US military with information obtained by the force as part of the joint bid to strengthen ties in space, the so-called “fourth battlefield”, Kyodo said, citing unnamed sources.
And for our final item, yet another airborne alert from Want China Times:
Chinese DF-41 missile can penetrate US air defense: German expert
None of the air defense systems the United States currently employs are capable of intercepting China’s newly developed DF-41 solid-fueled road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, reports the Berlin-based Die Welt.
Intercepting the DF-41 in the air is as challenging as trying to shoot a rifle bullet into another, Karl Josef Dahlem, chief advisor of air defense with the European guided weapons manufacturer MBDA, told Die Welt during an interview. Early detection by reconnaissance and radar facilities is a must for the US to intercept intercontinental missiles, Dahlem said.
“Depending upon the flight path a missile takes roughly 20 to 25 minutes to launch from Asia to a target in the USA,” said Dahlem. The DF-41 is capable of ascending over 1000 kilometers into space, twice as far as the International Space Station circling the Earth. For this reason, it is better for the defender to destroy the incoming missile when it is still far away from the ground.