‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper

yeah um

19th Nov 2016

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.

The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

Snowden in 2013 revealed the scale of mass surveillance – or bulk data collection as the security agencies prefer to describe it – by the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ, which work in tandem.

But, against a backdrop of fears of Islamist attacks, the privacy lobby has failed to make much headway. Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers.

The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger, one of the leading voices against the investigatory powers bill, said: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression. If Labour had backed us up, we could have made the bill better. We have ended up with a bad bill because they were all over the place.

“The real Donald Trump has access to all the data that the British spooks are gathering and we should be worried about that.”

The Investigatory Powers Act legalises powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.

One of the negative aspects of the legislation is that it fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources, which could discourage whistleblowing.

One of the few positives in the legislation is that it sets out clearly for the first time the surveillance powers available to the intelligence services and the police. It legalises hacking by the security agencies into computers and mobile phones and allows them access to masses of stored personal data, even if the person under scrutiny is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Privacy groups are challenging the surveillance powers in the European court of human rights and elsewhere.

Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”

Renate Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “The passing of the investigatory powers bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country. None of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and, most importantly, securely.”

Trump’s victory started speculation that, given his warm words for Vladimir Putin, he might do a deal with the Russian president to have Snowden sent back to the US where he faces a long jail sentence. Snowden has lived in Russia since leaking tens of thousands of documents to journalists in 2013.

But Bill Binney, a former member of the NSA who became a whistleblower, expressed scepticism: “I am not sure if the relationship a President Trump would have with President Putin would be bad for Snowden.

“In Russia, he would still be an asset that maybe Putin would use in bargaining with Trump. Otherwise, Snowden does have a large support network around the world plus in the US and Trump may not want to disturb that. Also, I think any move to get Snowden out of Russia and into US courts would also open up support for at least three other lawsuits against the US government’s unconstitutional surveillance.”

  • This article was amended on 19 November 2016. The act has not yet received royal assent, as stated in an earlier version.


source; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper

NSA spied on German Chancellors for 10 yrs, tapped 125 govt phone numbers

9th July 2015

America’s National Security Agency has spied on German chancellors and their offices for more than 10 years, a new WikiLeaks report says. The three leaked NSA intercepts indicate that the US targeted 125 phone numbers of top German officials.

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) intercepts published on Wednesday show that Washington has been tapping the phones of the political offices of the last three German chancellors – Angela Merkel, Gerhard Schröder (in office 1998–2002) and Helmut Kohl (chancellor from 1982 to 1998), the whistleblowing site said in a report Wednesday.

The new list released on Wednesday of the so-called “selectors” includes 56 phone numbers for the Chancellor and the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) with almost two dozen telephone numbers which belong to Merkel’s current political entourage.

Washington has been tapping not only the numbers for Chancellor Merkel, but also for her top officials, her aides, her chief of staff, her political office and even her fax machine, WikiLeaks said.

The list suggests that among the bugged officials were Merkel’s head of office Beate Baumann, Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery and a Federal Minister for Special Affairs Peter Altmaier, State Secretary at the Federal Chancellery and Federal Government Commissioner for the Federal Intelligence Services Klaus-Dieter Fritsche.

It also included the currently valid number of Ronald Pofalla, former Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery and a Federal Minister for Special Affairs from 2009 to 2013. Geza Andreas von Geyr, former department head of a unit of Foreign and Security Policy at the Chancellery responsible for bilateral US relations was also a target.
Merkel & Co: NSA also spied on top German ministers – Wikileaks

According to WikiLeaks the report was standardized in 2002, however its roots stem from an earlier target list extending back to the 1990s.

“The intensive nature of US targeting around the Chancellor explains why the White House could easily commit to not targeting Angela Merkel personally in the future, but continues to refuse to make such a commitment for other members of the German government – the Chancellor cannot run the government by talking to herself,” the whistle-blowing group said.

The combined leaks of NSA targets released by WikiLeaks so far suggest that the US has been engaged in long-term surveillance of 125 confidential numbers of top German officials and “did so for political and economic reasons.”

The second NSA intercept published on Wednesday was based on communications between Merkel and the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Shaykh Muhammad bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan in March 2009, where the chancellor expressed her private views about US President Barack Obama’s engagement with Iran. Another NSA document detailed Merkel’s plans on how to respond to the international financial crisis and the eurozone bank bailout in 2011.

“There is now proof enough of NSA surveillance on German soil. It is time to reopen the investigation and for the NSA to stop engaging in its illegal activities against Germany,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said wrote a statement.

The new list of German “targets” supplements the one WikiLeaks published on July which includes sixty nine top officials among whom are Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and his deputy ministers.

The spying row shook up US-German relations, with Merkel’s Chief of Staff summoning the US ambassador for a meeting on July 2.

In May, WikiLeaks revealed a similar set of documents concerning France. It showed that the NSA had spied on the last three French presidents and other government officials.

Meanwhile, in June, Germany closed its investigation into the revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by Der Spiegel that the US agency tapped Merkel’s phone. German federal prosecutors said that didn’t have substantial evidence that would stand up in court.

Another scandalous revelation made in April suggested that the German BND foreign intelligence agency helped the NSA spy on European firms and officials. However, after that the BND reportedly pulled the plug on the internet surveillance program for the NSA.



Source: http://rt.com/news/272491-wikileaks-germany-tapped-chancellor/

Sony Hack: WikiLeaks Publishes More Than 30,000 Documents

17th April 2015

On Thursday, WikiLeaks published more than 30,000 documents and 170,000 emails from Sony Pictures, obtained from a hack that has been sourced to North Korea in anticipation of the studio’s release of The Interview.

The Julian Assange website noted in a press release that “whilst some stories came out at the time, the original archives, which were not searchable, were removed before the public and journalists were able to do more than scratch the surface.”

In a move that could trigger another round of embarrassing prying into Sony affairs, WikiLeaks has now published those documents in a searchable format.

“This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation,” says Assange. “It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.”

In what could be a preemptive move to defend the newsworthy nature of what’s been published, WikiLeaks is stressing some of the documents with political and policy implications. These include Sony’s reactions to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade treaty that is presently getting Congressional attention. There’s also the studio’s involvement in anti-piracy causes.

Sony Pictures Entertainment condemned the release of the documents.

“The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures was a malicious criminal act, and we strongly condemn the indexing of stolen employee and other private and privileged information on WikiLeaks,” Sony said in a statement. “The attackers used the dissemination of stolen information to try to harm SPE and its employees, and now WikiLeaks regrettably is assisting them in that effort. We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than

WikiLeaks says it has documents about the connections between Sony and the Democratic Party, from “SPE’s CEO [Michael] Lynton attending dinner with President [Barack] Obama at Martha’s Vineyard” to an alleged effort to get around campaign donation limits to support New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The website also points to Lynton’s involvement on the board of trustees of RAND Corporation, a policy think tank on the edge of the military sector, and how Sony reached out to the State Department and the NSA about North Korea’s complaints about The Interview.

With an interest in intelligence matters that once prompted WikiLeaks to publish state department cables, WikiLeaks appears especially fascinated by Sony “collecting ‘intelligence’ on rival pictures.” It cites as an example the budget breakdown for Oliver Stone‘s Snowden.

In December, as hackers slowly released Sony Picture documents with threats to the company about releasing The Interview, federal law enforcement reportedly made cyber counter-measures to impede the flow of information. WikiLeaks presents a digital operation that could be more resilient to such digital attacks. Sony has previously made legal warnings to those in the media publishing its trade secrets.

“WikiLeaks has a commitment to preserving the historical archive,” states the press release. “This means ensuring archives that have made it to the public domain remain there regardless of legal or political pressure, and in a way that is accessible and useable to the public. WikiLeaks’ publication of The Sony Archives will ensure this database remains accessible to the public for years to come.”




Reports: NSA and allies steal keys to allow mobile phone tapping

22nd Feb 2015

A NEW report by The Intercepthas revealed the movie-like plot of US and UK spy agencies gaining access to the world’s smartphones by stealing the secret keys for SIM cards.

It’s claimed that the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the American National Security Agency (NSA) successfully hacked into the network of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer, Gemalto, and stole keys that allow them to access your phone data.

Basically, this means your phone could be vulnerable to the world’s most powerful spy agencies, including Australia’s ASIO.

In Australia, all three major telcos – Telstra, Vodafone and Optus – are customers of Gemalto. News.com.au has approached all three carriers for comment.

While ASIO and other Australian agencies aren’t believed to be directly involved with this operation, Australia is a part of the joint international intelligence group with the USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand known as ‘Five Eyes’. As a part of this alliance, intelligence is freely shared between the nations. That could include access to Australian SIM numbers if local spy agencies deemed it necessary.

Despite the report, security experts have cautioned that spy agencies might not have everything they need to access our phones. They say that separate encryption codes are needed at an individual operator’s level, meaning the agencie could not simply hack into a global network of phones without individual network operators’ unique codes.

But given the track record of the NSA and its allies when it come to attaining data, it would still be foolish to write off the possibility.

This all comes courtesy of the fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. He claims GCHQ spies were able to gain the keys by essentially cyberstalking Gemalto employees, finding whatever they could to lead them into Gemalto’s systems.


source: http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/reports-nsa-and-allies-steal-keys-to-allow-mobile-phone-tapping/story-fnjwnj25-1227233645498

NSA braced for new leaks

16th Feb 2015

The National Security Agency, still reeling from massive leaks caused by Edward Snowden, is preparing to be hit with another major loss of secrets, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The leaks are expected to be published in the near future by a news outlet that was not further identified by the officials familiar with details of the compromise, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

The NSA is aware of the news outlet’s forthcoming disclosures and is taking steps to try and minimize any damage they will cause.

According to the officials, the latest NSA disclosure of secrets is not the result of an insider stealing documents, as occurred in the case of fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Instead, the leaks will reveal certain NSA technical cyber intelligence gathering capabilities. The officials did not provide details about the leaks.



Source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/02/15/nsa-braced-for-new-leaks/

Massive Utah cyberattacks — up to 300 million per day — may be aimed at NSA facility

8th Feb 2015

Five years ago, Utah government computer systems faced 25,000 to 30,000 attempted cyberattacks every day.

At the time, Utah Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires thought that was massive. “But this last year we have had spikes of over 300 million attacks against the state databases” each day: a 10,000-fold increase.

Why? Squires says it is probably because Utah is home to the new, secretive National Security Agency computer center, and hackers believe they can somehow get to it through state computer systems.

“I really do believe it was all the attention drawn to the NSA facility. In the cyberworld, that’s a big deal,” Squires told a legislative budget committee Tuesday. “I watched as those increases jumped so much over the last few years. And talking to counterparts in other states, they weren’t seeing that amount of increase like we were.”



Source: http://www.sltrib.com/news/2135491-155/massive-utah-cyber-attacks-may-be

Julian Assange launches attack on ‘shady, invasive’ web giant Google – and claims chairman Eric Schmidt is ‘imperialist’ government stooge

27th Oct 2014

Julian Assange has launched an attack on Google – saying the search giant has turned ‘big and bad’, and characterizing its chairman Eric Schmidt as a Government agent trying to further U.S. ‘imperialist’ ambitions.

The Wikileaks founder, who is under a Justice Department criminal investigation for leaking thousands of classified diplomatic cables, lashed out at the internet giant in an extract from an upcoming book.

Assange, who has spent the past two years claiming asylum to avoid facing rape accusations, also detailed connections between Schmidt and the U.S. establishment and implied Google is acting as a front to enact U.S. foreign policy

His attack on the search company came in an extract from his upcoming book, When Google Met Wikileaks, which was published in Newsweek magazine.

In a lengthy extract Assange hits out at the friendly image of the company – which has the official motto ‘Don’t be evil’.

Despite its cuddly image and free services, he said, Google’s mass harvesting of data and dominance of the internet are cause for ‘serious concern’ worldwide.

He said: ‘Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has. Schmidt’s tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of U.S. power structures as it expanded into a geographically invasive megacorporation.’

He then listed personal visits by Schmidt to politically sensitive countries, and referred to alleged support from the U.S. Government for him to advance their objectives.

He wrote: ‘Schmidt’s emergence as Google’s “foreign minister” – making pomp and ceremony state visits across geopolitical fault lines – had not come out of nowhere; it had been presaged by years of assimilation within U.S. establishment networks of reputation and influence.

‘On a personal level, Schmidt and Cohen [the other Google executive he met] are perfectly likable people.

‘But Google’s chairman is a classic “head of industry” player, with all of the ideological baggage that comes with that role. Schmidt fits exactly where he is: the point where the centrist, liberal and imperialist tendencies meet in American political life.’

He later warns of Google’s ambitions to become an ’empire’ with influence reaching across the world.

Assange wrote: ‘Google is steadily becoming the Internet for many people.

‘Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history…

‘If the future of the Internet is to be Google, that should be of serious concern to people all over the world – in Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union and even in Europe – for whom the Internet embodies the promise of an alternative to U.S. cultural, economic, and strategic hegemony.’

‘A “don’t be evil” empire is still an empire.’

MailOnline has contacted Google for a response to Assange’s claims.

The publication comes as he awaits a decision tomorrow from Swedish prosecutors over whether the international arrest warrant against him will be dropped.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England, since 2012 after he claimed asylum to avoid being taken to Sweden, where police want to question him over alleged sexual molestation and rape.

He claims the accusations are a trumped-up attempt to get him into a position where he can be extradited to the United States to face trial over leaking Government documents – though he has never been charged





Assange fears Ecuador embassy in London bugged

19th Octr 2014

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder have filed eavesdropping claims to the Swedish court, as Julian Assange, who has been stuck in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over two years, fears he is being bugged

In a submission presented to the Swedish Court of Appeal on Friday, Assange’s lawyers claim that he “is most likely under auditory surveillance,” the Daily Mail reports.

The defense also urged the Swedish side to hand over text messages, sent by one of Assange’s accusers, which they believe could serve as evidence that there was no ground for the arrest warrant. Assange says they reveal the woman’s ambiguity over his arrest and even her opposition to the case, based on sexual assault allegations.

The lawyers also believe that to “break the deadlock,” the 43-year-old Australian should be questioned at the embassy in Knightsbridge, where he is staying, rather than go to Sweden, which he believes could lead to his extradition to the US.

Swedish prosecutors, however, think it a “far-fetched idea”. But in the US this May, Julian Assange was still under “active and ongoing” criminal investigation, which started in 2010 due to WikiLeaks activity. There he may face a 35-year prison sentence for revealing classified documents on the country’s military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The WikiLeaks claim adds “Residence in the embassy is, in other words, a result of the deprivation of liberty imposed on Assange by Sweden.” It goes on to say that his embassy sojourn is already nearly as long as the “maximum sentence for the suspected crime.”

What’s more, the lawyers warned “should he be forced to seek hospital care he will lose his political asylum and will be arrested.”

Previously, Assange complained about serious health issues he had developed during his embassy confinement that began in August 2012 – a potentially life-threatening heart defect and a chronic lung condition.

In summer last year, a hidden microphone was found beneath a desk in the Ecuadorian ambassador’s office in London, which is under constant surveillance by police stationed outside. The officers involved in the operation that has so far cost £7 million have orders to arrest him, should he try to leave.




Hackers crack US Army and Microsoft networks


FOUR members of an international hacking ring, including an Australian, have been charged with cracking the networks of the US Army and developers of blockbuster war video games to steal software.

Two of the men entered guilty pleas in the case, which centres on the “cyber theft” of at least $US100 million ($A108.2 million) worth of software and data, the US Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The hackers are accused of breaking into programs used for the Army’s Apache helicopter pilot training, Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles, and at the time un-released video games Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Those charged in the case teamed with others in the US and abroad to hack into networks of Microsoft, Epic Games, Valve Corporation, and the US Army, according to the indictment.

“Members of this international hacking ring stole trade secret data used in hi-tech American products, ranging from software that trains US soldiers to fly Apache helicopters to Xbox games that entertain millions around the world,” assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell said.

Prosecutors have charged the four with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, theft of trade secrets and other offences.

Those named in the indictment were Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland; Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, of Washington, New Jersey; David Pokora, 22, of Mississauga, Canada; and Austin Alcala, 18, of McCordsville, Indiana.

Additionally, an Australian citizen has been charged under Australian law for his alleged role in the conspiracy, officials said, without identifying the suspect.

Officials said Pokora and Nesheiwat pleaded guilty in a Delaware federal court to some of the charges and are scheduled for sentencing on January 13.

Pokora was arrested on March 28, at the US-Canada border in Lewiston, New York.

Officials said Pokora is believed to be the first person based outside the United States convicted of hacking into US businesses to steal trade secret information According to the indictment, the group hacked into networks to steal the source code, technical specifications and related information for Microsoft’s then-unreleased Xbox One gaming console, and other proprietary data related to the online gaming platform Xbox Live.

Other trade secrets stolen were from the Apache helicopter simulator software developed by Zombie Studios for the US Army and a prerelease version of Epic’s video game Gears of War 3.

Officials said they had seized more than $US620,000 in cash and other proceeds from the suspects.

This case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, the US Postal Inspection Service and in coordination with the Western Australia Police and the Peel Regional Police of Ontario, Canada.

Source: http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/hackers-crack-us-army-and-microsoft-networks/story-fnjwnj25-1227076379351

Julian Assange appears in the United States live onstage — as a hologram

30th Sept 2014

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has left the Ecuadorean Embassy in London — sort of.

Assange, who has been living in asylum for more than two years, appeared onstage in Nantucket, Massachusetts, as a hologram, participating in a live interview at the Nantucket Project’s Art + Commerce summit. Assange was interviewed by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, who was present in Nantucket.

“I’m getting very good at secret communication,” Assange, seated on a stool and beamed from inside the the embassy, said of living as a fugitive in plain sight.
His appearance as a 3D, life-size, high-definition projection was produced by Hologram USA, the same company behind the holograms of Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur.

Assange expressed anger at his forced asylum.

“I’m very pissed off,” he said.

“About the torture of Chelsea Manning, the banking blockades against me, the effect on my family and staff. But being really, really pissed off — you can use that as a fuel — to help you keep going and to see a situation clearly.”

He also reiterated his recent criticism of search giant Google.

“Google is not ‘a playroom of ideas’ as it wants to portray itself, and it’s not a ‘different kind of company,'” Assange said.

“It’s a normal company. Unlike normal companies it is engaged in a very ambitious project that is not normal … to gather as much info as possible on people, store it, index it and use it to sell advertising. And it’s very easy for the NSA to get its fangs into that.

“Google should be broken up,” Assange added.

“If it were the 1970s it would be broken up. It’s far more powerful than AT&T was.”

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador’s foreign minister in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in cases of alleged rape and sexual molestation.

Assange claims the charges are part of an international smear campaign stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of diplomatic cables.