Posts Tagged ‘NSA’

Chinese back doors and mincing rascals from the US!

May 21, 2014

The United States on Monday charged  five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets, ratcheting up tensions between the two world powers over cyber espionage.

Washington is playing the victim of cyber-espionage when in fact it is the world’s top intelligence power, a Chinese state-run newspaper has said in a sharply worded editorial after US authorities levelled criminal hacking charges at China’s army. “Regarding the issue of network security, the US is such a mincing rascal that we must stop developing any illusions about it,” wrote the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist party.

Meanwhile we learn from the Snowden affair that the US Government turned Silicon Valley into a surveillance partner. The second part of the United States of Secrets is to be broadcast by PBS tonight.

Increasingly industrial systems have their hardware  and/or their control systems equipped, at the time of manufacture, with “backdoors” to allow remote access at some future time. Inevitably the backdoors” are associated with embedded software very often with features to make it undetectable. These include power plants and their components, industrial control systems, access control systems, network appliances, surveillance systems, communication devices and even commercial aircraft.

In the US not only the software giants (Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook…), but even hardware manufacturers such as Boeing and GE and IBM and even automotive companies have been involved with installing “backdoors” and their associated software (malware) into their products.  Many US companies have regularly utilised their security services for industrial espionage and it is not very surprising that they feel beholden. Intelligence agencies in the US and Australia and the UK are not permitted to use Chinese Lenovo hardware because they are suspected of containing hidden  “backdoors”. Lenovo isn’t unique. Chinese firms accused of espionage in the past include Huawei and ZTE. Chinese government organisations in their turn are not permitted to use Microsoft products and Windows 8 is especially suspected for its many hidden, built-in vulnerabilities.

There is much active research in designing and hiding “backdoors” and in detecting and disabling them.

Hardware backdooring is practical, Jonathan Brossard, Blackhat Briefings and Defcon Conferences, Las Vegas, 2012

(We) will demonstrate that permanent backdooring of hardware is practical. We have built a generi proof of concept malware for the Intel architecture, Rakshasa, capable of infecting more than a hundred dierent motherboards. The net effect of Rakshasa is to disable NX permanently…. resulting in permanent lowering of the security of the backdoored computer, even after complete erasing of hard disks and re-installation of a new operating system. We shall also demonstrate that preexisting work on …. subversions such as bootkiting and preboot authentication software, brute-force or faking can be embedded in Rakshasa with little effort.

Silencing Hardware Backdoors, Adam Waksman and Simha Sethumadhavan, SP ’11 Proceedings of the 2011 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy,Pages 49-63

Hardware components can contain hidden backdoors, which can be enabled with catastrophic effects or for ill-gotten profit. These backdoors can be inserted by a malicious insider on the design team or a third-party IP provider. In this paper, we propose techniques that allow us to build trustworthy hardware systems from components designed by untrusted designers or procured from untrusted third-party IP providers. We present the first solution for disabling digital, design-level hardware backdoors. The principle is that rather than try to discover the malicious logic in the design–an extremely hard problem–we make the backdoor design problem itself intractable to the attacker. The key idea is to scramble inputs that are supplied to the hardware units at runtime, making it infeasible for malicious components to acquire the information they need to perform malicious actions.

The US accusing China is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. But the black methods now surely being used by the Chinese were all invented first in the US and probably under State sponsorship.

There are many Big Brothers out there.

US technology giants were complicit in NSA’s data trawling

March 19, 2014

Microsoft, Google, Apple,Yahoo, Facebook and AOL all claimed they did not know that the access they provided led to the NSA trawling their clients’ and customers’ data. But while they may not have liked it, they certainly knew all about it according to the NSA’s chief legal counsel. It would seem that these large technology companies all cooperated – even if reluctantly – and were complicit in the NSA’s indiscriminate data gathering.

It seems they have all been protesting too much as they have tried to build up their facade of innocence.

The Guardian: 

The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting month of angry denials from the firms. 

Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Asked during at a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”

……. The NSA’s Wednesday comments contradicting the tech companies about the firms’ knowledge of Prism risk entrenching tensions with the firms NSA relies on for an effort that Robert Litt, general counsel for the director of national intelligence, told the board was “one of the most valuable collection tools that we have.”

“All 702 collection is pursuant to court directives, so they have to know,” De reiterated to the Guardian.

The technology giants do not really believe in the privacy of their clients. They have been complicit all along in the NSA’s data trawling exercises and have put up – in reality – very little resistance. And all their protests of innocence and reluctance and resistance are merely a public relations exercise.

As the Jungle Drum reported in December last year:

Let’s start with Gates and MS, which allowed the NSA to access every 9x series OS via a backdoor tailored especially for the purpose — that much is verified. Then we have master data censor and exploiter Eric Schmidt of Google, who has been a regular attendee at Bilderberg meetings over the past few years — for those unaware, the shadowy Bilderberg group of mega wealthy business people, bankers, media magnates, monarchs and strategically placed people of influence, hold annual meetings where ‘they’ outline future directions for the world — and you thought your elected puppets represented you and made all the decisions!

The latest well publicised manoeuvres by tech giants are simply part of an overall damage control plan to convince the public that their data will not be compromised by the NSA when in fact these companies were willing and complicit partners to US agency spying. Schmidt, Gates and Zuckerberg are probably the worst pretenders/offenders.

What Snowden’s revelations have done is make the public aware of a well known fact in digital underground circles, that privacy is a myth, in fact it was Eric ‘Google’ Schmidt who stated publicly that people have to fight to maintain privacy today. So let’s cut the crap and just admit that large tech companies are complicit in attacks on the public and follow the globalist agenda.

……. Do not be deceived by the pretence of mega tech companies, they voluntarily entered into partnerships with the NSA and in Google’s and Facebook’s case, the CIA. Private mail services are already being offered on the net and its only a matter of time before other companies, not related to the above nefarious data corporations, make huge inroads in the digital world.

David Cameron snubbed by Obama and left off the NSA spy list

October 24, 2013

Information is now filtering into the public space that the Heads of friendly nations including Brazil and Mexico and France and India and now – horror of horrors – Germany have had their communications bugged and mobile phones tapped by the US intelligence Agencies (mainly the NSA).


Germany has summoned the US ambassador to Berlin over claims that the US monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle will personally meet US envoy John Emerson later on Thursday.

Mrs Merkel has demanded a “complete explanation” of the claims, which are threatening to overshadow an EU summit on Thursday and Friday.

She discussed the issue with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

President Obama told Mrs Merkel the US was not monitoring her calls and would not in future, the White House said. However, it left open the question of whether calls had been listened to in the past.

The list of governments, companies and people who have been spied on by the US is now getting very long. But what is also very clear is that anybody – who is anybody – is or was on the spy list.

But poor David Cameron was not / is not quite important enough to make the NSA spy list as The Telegraph reports:

The White House has explicitly said US spies never monitored David Cameron’s communications but refused to say whether it had ever tapped Angela Merkel’s phone in the past.

A spokesman for President Barack Obama told The Telegraph that the US never targeted the prime minister but the White House would not offer the same assurances about the German chancellor.

But what would really be almost impossible for Cameron to bear would be if Ed Miliband has made the list and that adds to his consequence.

German helicopter probes US consulate in Frankfurt for spy station

September 10, 2013

The US NSA’s wide-spread surveillance of friends and foes alike revealed by the Snowden documents is creating an atmosphere of distrust. South American countries are not pleased after the revelations that leading politicians have had their e-mails intercepted and hacked by the NSA. Of course many of the intelligence agencies in European countries have been complicit in the indiscriminate surveillance. Now it seems that the NSA have also probably been helping US companies by spying on their rivals such as Petrobras, SWIFT and other foreign firms.

In Sweden you haven’t really arrived if you aren’t important enough to have had your e-mail intercepted!

But suspicions are now running very high about all US installations.

The Local:

A German police helicopter has flown low over the US Consulate in Frankfurt looking for a secret listening station, prompting a call from the American ambassador to Germany’s foreign ministry.

The helicopter circled low over America’s consulate in Frankfurt on August 28th on the orders of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Ronald Pofalla, magazine Focus reported on Monday.

Pofalla had declared the NSA spying scandal – sparked by whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations of a mass surveillance programme – over. 

But the helicopter flight, whose mission was to gather evidence of the supposed spying station – hints at the German government’s lack of trust in its ally’s spying activities on German soil. The helicopter slowly flew twice over the consulate at a height of 60 metres to photograph the site, Focus reported. 

Probably the only safe course is now for any country and for any company with US competitors to assume that they are being spied upon and to assume that every US government installation abroad is involved in the surveillance.

A democratic police state?

August 9, 2013

Being “democratic” has increasingly become the cloak under which the oppression of minorities can be carried out without much criticism. Though constitutions are supposed to enshrine the values and fundamental principles which protect minorities from excesses of the “majority” –  following the majority view is itself the cornerstone for an ostensible “democracy”. And every constitution has built-in mechanisms – usually more complex than just a simple majority vote – by which it can be amended to suit the wishes of the majority.

Which is what happened in Egypt where a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood put in place a constitution which would have ensured the oppression of non-Muslim minorities. Which is what applies in Russia where the majority feel more comfortable with an authoritarian government. Which is what is happening in Libya after the overthrow of Gadaffi’s regime. Which was happening in Tunisia. Which is happening in Hungary. Which has just happened in Zimbabwe. Which is what threatens in Afghanistan.

But it also happens in well established democracies. Coercive and oppressive measures to be applied to minorities can always be justified in any democracy provided it can be shown to be the “majority” view as expressed by the “democratic institutions” in place. To oppress a minority for “the common good” is always possible and justifiable – even in a supposed democracy.

And so it is also in the US. Actions which are more reminiscent of a police state of the cold-war era can be and are justified because Congress – as a democratic institution – allows it. If it was the objective of the 9/11 terrorists to undermine the democracy of the US, then the US – under the cloak of its “War on Terror” – has itself achieved part of that objective.

Ladar Levison who is the owner of the encrypted email service Lavabit has been forced to cease operation. Presumably because Snowden used the service. He has this to say:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

The New Yorker writes:

As Kevin Poulsen and others have pointed out, our collective experience has prepared us to guess what is going on here: Levison got either a national-security letter “or a full blown search or eavesdropping warrant.” In the weeks since the Guardian and Washington Post first began publishing stories with Snowden’s documents, the picture of the National Security Agency’s domestic-surveillance practices that’s come together is different from the one most everyone held before we’d ever heard Snowden’s name. And it has left the Administration’s explanations of what it does and doesn’t do looking pretty spotty, and at times just false. …..

…. The extreme example that an unnamed official gave Savage is a search for a phone number the N.S.A. believes terrorists are using to call each other. What about a name? Could the N.S.A. read e-mails from members of the public if they simply discuss the case of someone the government has said is a threat? It sounds like it. This is dangerous; we already have Senators constrained from talking about what they know. We can’t all be afraid to ask questions; for a democracy, the most threatening thing would be the absence of such conversations. ….

Repression of the bulk of the people, by some of the people for the benefit of others of the people

July 24, 2013

How the political tables do turn.

It seems more than a little ironic – but quite delicious nevertheless – that a Democratic President in the White House is trying to block an amendment by a Republican in the House which aims to restrict the unbridled spying by the Government on the bulk of the people, on the grounds that the amendment is a ” blunt approach” which ” is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process”.  

Business InsiderIn a terse statement late Tuesday evening, the White House blasted the so-called “Amash Amendment” that would limit the National Security Agency’s ability to collect data on personal phone communications, calling the program crucial to national security. 

 “We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

The amendment is one of several the House of Representatives will consider to the 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill. It was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, and has earned bipartisan backing from, among others, Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Conyers is a co-sponsor.

The amendment would “end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act,” as well as prevent the NSA from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, “including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.” It is targeted at the first part of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in disclosures to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.

Tuesday’s statement clearly shows that the White House is worried about it passing. The NSA is also worried — it held a “top secret” meeting with members of Congress to lobby against the amendment. 

Here’s the full statement from Carney:

In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.  The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.

However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.  This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.  We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

It must be a little galling for President Obama that history will probably show a Democratic President as being more “repressive” of citizens than most Republican Presidents. But probably not as galling as having a US citizen who discloses his Administration’s repression of US citizens now receiving sanctuary and seeking asylum in Russia!

Snowden and religious teachings

June 28, 2013

Security agencies must dread the fanatics and even those just religiously inclined.

I heard this quote from the Bible on radio today!

  1. Beware you of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 
  2. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. 
  3. Therefore whatever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which you have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Luke 12: 1-3

For “Pharisees” read “the US Government and the UK Government”.

How very apt and it could be the anthem of the whistle-blowers. But it is probably of little comfort to them as they are universally and invariably denounced by the keepers of secrets.

Not that I think that Snowden is particularly religious.

Herrings galore in l’affaire Snowden

June 27, 2013

Some level of state surveillance is no doubt necessary though it has probably gone too far in the US. To have blanket eavesdropping and entrapment and agents provocateur is not so unlike the Stasi or the KGB. I am not too concerned if the NSA has been reading my emails – much good it may do them! I have no strong opinions as to whether Snowden is a hero or a villain but I would be more than a little surprised if he has been sitting quietly in the transit lounge of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for the last 3 days.

I am pretty sure that all the reports coming out about his possible movements or non-movements are largely disinformation. I am very suspicious when Foreign Ministers and Heads of State make statements about his whereabouts or where he is not. I suspect that technically none of them have lied outright – but I am fairly certain that  they know much more than they are letting on. The lone individual bravely evading the far-flung resources of the most powerful nation in the world is the stuff of Baroness Orczy and of urban legends to come.

So my guesses as to where he might be are:

  1. He is being debriefed by Russia. It would be child’s play for the Russians to have whisked him into a private and  “safe part” of the transit area and to return him to the public area after a suitable period. I see no reason for the official Russian line to have been jeopardised since he would not technically have gone through immigration control. When Ecuador says they need time to consider his asylum request, I wonder if it is the Russians who need time to debrief him – willingly or unwillingly.
  2. He is in the transit area of another Russian airport and to get to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport – for example – would have been easy for the Russians to arrange.
  3. The trip to Havana was just for disinformation and he actually flew to Hanoi and is now hidden within the entourage surrounding Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino.
  4. He has already reached and is holed up in Havana (and the Cubans therefore are not saying anything), or
  5. He is in the transit area of a country friendly to Russia (Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan….)

With the heavy US presence in Reykjavik, it is unlikely that Iceland was ever a serious destination.

Given the resources that the US and the world’s media must be bringing to bear to find him, it can only be a matter of time …

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Yankies seek him everywhere.

But the US establishment has some egg on its face. John Kerry’s blustering against China and Russia and now threats of a trade war against Ecuador come across as heavy-handed and hypocritical. It is only Snowden who gains and Obama and Kerry who lose in the PR stakes for every day that he continues to remain undiscovered.

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