Tag: spying

China puts anti-western tech law on hold

1900-intl-forces-including-us-marines-enter-beijing-to-put-down-boxer-rebellion-which-was-aimed-at-ridding-china-of-foreigners-A law, China claimed was all about counter-terrorism but stopped US technology companies selling so much behind the bamboo curtain, has been put on hold.

A senior US official welcomed the move which he said was a good sign for Western businesses that saw the rule as a major impediment to working in the world’s second largest economy.

President Barack Obama said in an interview with Reuters on March 2 that he had raised concerns about the law directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said the Chinese have decided to suspend the third reading of that particular law, which has put the law on hiatus.

“We did see that as something that was bad not just for U.S. business but for the global economy as a whole, and it was something we felt was very important to communicate very clearly to them,” Daniel said.

The law would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security “backdoors” in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access.

The move has given companies “some breathing room, but not complete relief” because the bill could be picked up again at any point.

The thought is that the Chinese are not ready to kick out all foreign companies, and because they weren’t ready to take that step, they backed off.

The initial draft, published by the NPC late last year, requires companies to also keep servers and user data within China, supply law enforcement authorities with communications records and censor terrorism-related Internet content.

Although the law would apply to both domestic and foreign companies, officials in Washington and Western business lobbies complained that the combination of that law, the banking rules and anti-trust investigations amounted to unfair regulatory pressure targeting foreign companies.


British spooks can spy without a warrant

james_bond_movie_poster_006British spooks have been using the systems set up by the US National Security Agency to spy on everyone without a warrant.

The agreement between the NSA and GCHQ means that the internet and phone data of Americans is in the hands of the Brits without legal oversight.

The data, once obtained, can be kept for up to two years. GCHQ was forced to reveal that it can request and receive vast quantities of raw, unanalysed data collected from foreign governments it partners with during legal proceedings in a closed court hearing in a case brought by various international human-rights organisations, including Privacy International, Liberty UK, and Amnesty International.

It is well known that the NSA and GCHQ share intelligence data with one another, as part of a long-standing surveillance partnership, but this is the first time the British government has disclosed that it does not require a warrant to access data collected and maintained by its American chums. This flies in the face of statements made by an oversight committee of the British Parliament in July of last year.

At the time, Parliament was told that “in each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, a warrant for interception, signed by a minister, was already in place.”  Clearly GCHQ forgot to mention mass data which it mines for data.

NSA boss had cash stashed in tech companies

KeithAlexanderFormer top spook Keith Alexander, who served as its director from August 2005 until March 2014, had thousands of dollars of investments during his tenure in a handful of technology firms

It seems that he did not think that when he warned the American public that it was at “greater risk” from a terrorist attack in the wake of the Snowden disclosures the companies he was investing in would make more money.

Alexander was very honest about it. Each year he had reported his investments, but he also ticked the checked box next to this statement: “Reported financial interests or affiliations are unrelated to assigned or prospective duties, and no conflicts appear to exist.”

The documents were obtained and published Friday by Vice News as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit against the NSA brought by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold.

From 2008 through 2013, document that as of 2008, Alexander had as much as $50,000 invested in Synchronoss, a cloud storage firm. Synchronoss provides services to major mobile phone providers, including AT&T, Verizon and others.

He had cash in  Datascension, a “data gathering and research company.” Public trades in the firm were suspended by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August 2014 due to “a lack of current and accurate information” about it.

Pericom, a semiconductor company makes hardware for “DVR solutions for the CCTV security and surveillance markets,” also appears in his portfolio, with investments up to $15,000 appearing as of 2008.

Until 2013 he had money squirreled away in RF Micro Devices, a company that makes “high-performance semiconductor components” for “aerospace and defence markets,” among others. RF Micro Devices has done $10.5 million worth of business with the government, including $9.5 million of the Department of Defence.

Alexander has been a little controversial since leaving the NSA. He founded a company called IronNet Cybersecurity, which offers protection services to banks for up to $1 million per month. This has led some cynics to suggest he is advising companies how to avoid the sort of snooping he set up while working at the NSA.


EU might suspend data agreements with the US

Russia-State-Cultural-Ideological-Policy-Weapon-West-US-Europe-Bodhita-NewsThe EU Justice Commissioner  is considering suspending a commercial data-sharing agreement between the European Union and the United States if Washington  doesn’t stop spying.

Vera Jourova said in written answers to EU lawmakers that the so-called Safe Harbour agreement allowing companies to transfer personal data to the United States could be suspended if negotiations between Brussels and Washington go nowhere.

Jourova said that suspension was an option on the table for me, but we are not yet there.

Under the EU’s strict data protection laws, companies may only transfer personal data outside the 28-member bloc if a country is deemed to have adequate safeguards for that data. Only a handful of countries worldwide meet the required standards and the US is not one of them.

In 2000 the EU adopted a Safe Harbour agreement under which US companies certify themselves that they meet the EU’s data privacy standards.

However the agreement was rendered a joke after last year’s revelations about mass US surveillance programs involving EU citizens which showed that  US technology companies were just handing over data to spooks.

And if negotiations with the US are tough now, it is expected that things will get worse when Jan Philipp Albrecht of the Greens group takes over  in November as the new Justice Commissioner. The Greens have no love of the US’s spying antics.

More than 3,246 companies were certified under Safe Harbour, including Google and Facebook.

The Commission announced a review of Safe Harbour in November last year after former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of Washington’s eavesdropping on Europeans’ phone calls, including those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Commission gave Washington a 13-point list of issues to address before it would put forward a revised data sharing agreement. One of them was that the US would use the national security prerogative to access Europeans’ data only when strictly necessary and in response to a specific threat.

Apparently this is causing a problem because the US sees everyone as a threat, even loyal allies.

Jourova asked for more time to continue working in a constructive spirit with the United States building on the progress made so far. Theoretically, the Commission could roll over and allow the US to have its wicked way with Europe, but it is likely that the European Parliament would throw its toys out of the pram if it did so. Most feel that the Commission is a US lapdog and it is about time it gave the land of the Free a Chinese burn until it stops being such an international douche.

StealthGenie about to be bottled

idreamofjeannie1-300x193The US government has arrested the chief executive officer of a mobile spyware maker  and charged him with allegedly illegally marketing an app that monitors calls, texts, videos, and other communications on mobile phones “without detection”,

Hammad Akbar, 31, of Pakistan, was the first person to be banged up in connection with advertising and the sales of mobile spyware targeting adults—in this case an app called StealthGenie.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement that selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime. Apps like StealthGenie were expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life—all without the victim’s knowledge.

We guess that is the government’s job.

Akbar, as CEO of InvoCode marketed the spyware online, produced an app that works on the Blackberry, the iPhone, and phones running Android.

He faces charges of conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device, and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device. He was arrested in Los Angeles on Saturday. The spyware was hosted on servers run by Amazon Web Services in Ashburn, Virginia, the government said.

StealthGenie could record all incoming/outgoing voice calls and intercepted calls on the phone to be monitored while they take place. It allowed the purchaser to call the phone and activate it at any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius monitor the user’s incoming and outgoing e-mail messages and SMS messages, incoming voicemail messages, address book, calendar, photographs, and videos.

All of these functions were enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone in real time.

The app required “physical control” of the phone, but the purchaser could then review communications intercepted from the monitored phone without ever again needing to touch the phone again, the government said.

While parents may use surveillance software to monitor their minor children’s mobile phones, InvoCode also marketed the spyware to “potential purchasers who did not have any ownership interest in the mobile phone to be monitored, including those suspecting a spouse or romantic partner of infidelity.”

Huawei loses out on US contracts

huawei-liveHuawei, which sparked unwanted publicity yesterday when its chief security exec told reporters it was standard practice for governments to spy on each other, has apparently been pushed out in the planned acquisition of Sprint by SotfBank.

The £20.1 billion deal, which has been cleared by the US Committee on Foreign Investment, and is now awaiting the nod from one more US regulation body, has had a restriction on  third-party supplier over allegations of Chinese spying.

According to Bloomberg this means that the pair involved in the deal had to reassure those above that they would limit the use of telecommunications gear made by Huawei as well as ZTE.

They also had to agree that they would remove “certain equipment” by Huawei and allow all American vendors to provide the tech instead.

The US is fearful that Huawei and ZTE use their gear for snooping.

Yesterday Huawei’s head of security operations and ex British government CIO John Suffolk claimed that governments had always embarked on such practices.

His comments followed claims that the company had gained access to secret designs of US weapons, which it had managed to steal from Australia’s new intelligence agency headquarters.