Category Archives: Edward Snowden

Snowden Documents Reveal Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Visitors

Snowden Documents Reveal Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Visitors Snowden Documents Reveal Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Visitors

The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has long been in the crosshairs of the U.S. government.  Now, more details exposed by The Intercept reveal that the National Security Agency (NSA)’s British counterpart, GCHQ, monitored Internet users who visited the WikiLeaks website and that the Obama administration urged allies to file charges against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, the site’s founder.

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The article was written by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher, and is the latest piece on The Intercept based off documents Edward Snowden leaked to Greenwald and other journalists.

WikiLeaks is a target of a U.S. grand jury case, though the Washington Post reported last November that the Justice Department has indicated no charges would be filed since they couldn’t prosecute without targeting other media organizations and journalists.  But the grand jury is not the only way the U.S. set its sight on WikiLeaks, which rose to prominence after they published hundreds of thousands of secret documents exposing the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and U.S. diplomatic dealings.

Greenwald and Gallagher report on three documents that show the extent of U.S. and British targeting of WikiLeaks.  They contradict the U.S. government’s insistence that they only target “terrorists” for surveillance.

One document shows that the GCHQ used its surveillance system to sweep up the IP addresses of those visiting the WikiLeaks website and the search terms people used to reach the site.  These included Americans.  “How could targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate?” asked Gus Hosein, the head of Privacy International, in an interview with The Intercept.  “These are innocent people who are turned into suspects based on their reading habits. Surely becoming a target of a state’s intelligence and security apparatus should require more than a mere click on a link.”
piwik2 Snowden Documents Reveal Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Visitors

A separate file reveals how the Obama administration wanted allies like Australia and Germany to file charges against WikiLeaks for publishing the Afghan war logs, which detailed civilian deaths caused by soldiers and other aspects of the war.

A third document shows that the NSA considered designating WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign actor.”  According to The Intercept, such a designation would “have significantly expanded the agency’s ability to subject the group’s officials and supporters to extensive surveillance.

Such a designation would allow WikiLeaks to be targeted with surveillance without the use of ‘defeats’ – an agency term for technical mechanisms to shield the communications of U.S. persons from getting caught in the dragnet.”  There is no confirmation that the NSA did decide to use the designation, though.

Source: Alternet.org

​Snowden used common web crawler tool to collect NSA files

Snowden web crawler ​Snowden used common web crawler tool to collect NSA files

Whistleblower Edward Snowden used “inexpensive” and “widely available” software to gain access to at least 1.7 million secret files, The New York Times reported, quoting senior intelligence officials investigating the breach.
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The collection process was “quite automated,” a senior intelligence official revealed. Snowden used “web crawler” software to “search, index and back up” files. The program just kept running, as Snowden went about his daily routine.

“We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence,” the official said.

Investigators concluded that Snowden’s attack was not highly sophisticated and should have been easily detected by special monitors. The web crawler can be programmed to go from website to website, via embedded links in each document, copying everything it comes across.

The whistleblower managed to set the right algorithm for the web crawler, indicating subjects and how far to follow the links, according to the report. At the end of the day, Snowden was able to access 1.7 million files including documents on internal NSA networks and internal “wiki” materials, used by analysts to share information across the world.

Reportedly, Snowden had full access to the NSA’s files, as part of his job as the technology contractor in Hawaii, managing computer systems in a faraway outpost that focused on China and North Korea.

Officials added that the files were accessible because the Hawaii outpost was not upgraded with the latest security measures.

The web crawler used by Snowden was similar to, but not as advanced as the Googlebot crawler, used by Google and its search engine to access billions of websites and download their contents for fast search results.

The whistleblower did raise some flags while working in Hawaii, prompting questions about his work, but he was able to ward off criticism successfully.

“In at least one instance when he was questioned, Mr. Snowden provided what were later described to investigators as legitimate-sounding explanations for his activities: As a systems administrator he was responsible for conducting routine network maintenance. That could include backing up the computer systems and moving information to local servers, investigators were told,” according to the report.

Snowden admitted in June to taking an undisclosed number of documents, which in the last half-year have been regularly relied on by the international media for a number of high-profile reports about the US National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ. He was then granted political asylum by Russia and now resides in Moscow.

The leaks have unveiled a number of previously unreported NSA operations, including those involving dragnet surveillance programs that put the digital lives of millions, if not billions, of individuals across the world into the possession of the US government.

Source: RT

GCHQ secret unit uses DDOS attack tactics against Anonymous – Snowden leak

Anon GCHQ secret unit uses DDOS attack tactics against Anonymous – Snowden leak

British intelligence has its own hacker subdivision that uses questionable practices for hunting down enemies of the state, reveals a new leak from Edward Snowden. GCHQ is fighting Anonymous and LulzSec hacktivists with DDoS attacks and malware.
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classified document obtained by NBC News reveals that the British secret service is brandishing a cyber-sword in the guise of the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), an intelligence unit not constrained by domestic or international laws.

The JTRIG unit is staging distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyber-attacks, implanting malware to disclose identities of hackers in order to prevent their communications. JTRIG is such a secret unit that its very name has never been mentioned anywhere before.

A PowerPoint presentation prepared for a 2012 NSA conference called SIGDEV, obviously from the collection of documents from the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, contains information about the Rolling Thunder operation against Anonymous hacktivists. JTRIG organized a DDoS attack on the internet relay chat (IRC) used by Anonymous, which reportedly resulted in 80 percent of the users quitting internet chat rooms.

The fact that the presentation was made at a conference of America’s National Security Agency is particularly interesting. It means that the NSA was informed about such governmental activities in the UK.

A DDoS attack is a criminal offence in most countries, the US and UK included. For example, in the UK a person found guilty of a cyber attack would be charged in accordance with the Computer Misuse Act, while in the US such illegal activities are prosecuted with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

Servers GCHQ secret unit uses DDOS attack tactics against Anonymous – Snowden leak

Besides that, according to cyber experts, a DDOS attack takes down an entire server, with all websites hosted on it, along with other severs operated by the same Internet Server Provider (ISP). This means that while attacking Anonymous chat rooms, JTRIG was actually disabling other web resources that had no connection to Anonymous whatsoever.

If the fact of a DDoS attack by a secret service gets some independent proof, it would mean that Britain will become the first state incriminated in staging a cyber-attack, internationally recognized as unlawful.

“Law enforcement and intelligence officials must be able to pursue individuals who are going far beyond speech and into the realm of breaking the law: defacing and stealing private property that happens to be online,” said the former head of the US National Counterterrorism Center and now an NBC News analyst Michael Leiter, noting that “there must, of course, be limitations”.

“No one should be targeted for speech or thoughts, but there is no reason law enforcement officials should unilaterally declare law breakers safe in the online environment,” said Leiter.

“Targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs,”said NBC News’ Gabriella Coleman, an anthropology professor at McGill University.

In another NSA document in possession of NBC News, a JTRIG official maintains that the unit’s activities are definitely not limited to computer network protection. JTRIG is staging attacks itself, Such as “Active Covert Internet Operations” and “Covert Technical Operations”. The unit is vigorously using cyber tools to disrupt enemy communications, engaging in computer and phone jamming, breaching email accounts and conducting ‘false flag’ operations.

The Anonymous global hacker community emerged in 2011, and conducted the “Operation Payback” campaign, a series of attacks against government websites in Britain and the US in protest against the prosecution of Chelsea Manning, who handed over thousands of classified US military documents to WikiLeaks. They also attacked several financial organizations, such as credit card companies and the PayPal pay service for blocking donations support to WikiLeaks.

Source: RT

Hackers sue Merkel and entire German government over NSA spying

hackers sue german government Hackers sue Merkel and entire German government over NSA spying

Europe’s largest association of hackers has filed a criminal complaint against the German government for aiding foreign spying by NSA and GCHQ, and violating the right to citizens’ privacy, basing their case on leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
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The Chaos Computer Club (CCC) in cooperation with the International League for Human Rights (ILMR) filed the complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor General’s office on Monday.

“We accuse US, British and German secret agents, their supervisors, the German Minister of the Interior as well as the German Chancellor of illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, of aiding and abetting of those activities, of violation of the right to privacy and obstruction of justice in office by bearing and cooperating with the electronic surveillance of German citizens by NSA and GCHQ, ” the group saidin a statement on its website.

The CCC also called for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to be invited to give testimony as a witness, and that he should “be provided safe passage to Germany” and “protection against extradition to the US.”

The hackers added that after Snowden’s revelations about US global spying activities they “now have certainty” that German and other foreign intelligence services have broken German criminal law.

The criminal complaint is meant to spark a “long-overdue investigation by federal prosecutors” into alleged law-breaking by government officials and foreign intelligence agencies.

“Every citizen is affected by the massive surveillance of their private communications. Our laws protect us and threaten those responsible for such surveillance with punishment. Therefore an investigation by the Federal Prosecutor General is necessary and mandatory by law – and a matter of course. It is unfortunate that those responsible and the circumstances of their crimes have not been investigated,” CCC member and attorney Julius Mittenzwei said on the group’s website.

The group accused government offices of being unwilling to help investigate the crimes, adding that CCC and the ILHR wanted “to bring to light more information about the illegal activities of German and foreign secret services” and bring the offenders “to account.”

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is to process the complaint and consider whether to open a criminal investigation.

Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for Chancellor Merkel, declined to give a detailed comment, saying only that “everyone in Germany can file a criminal complaint,” AP reported.

2letter Hackers sue Merkel and entire German government over NSA spying

The documents leaked by Snowden have revealed that the NSA intercepted millions of phone calls, text messages, emails and internet chat comments by German citizens without any legal authorization. In October, a new report based on Snowden’s documents revealed that the US intelligence agency also tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal phone.

The revelations put transatlantic ties “to the test,” Merkel said last November, demanding that the US give an explanation. Washington, however, claimed that the surveillance was carried out to prevent threats to national security.

In January, US President Barack Obama said his government would “continue to gather information about the intentions” of foreign governments. However, he also promised the NSA “will not monitor the communications of heads of state” in allied countries, unless there were compelling national security reasons to do so.

Since August, Berlin and Washington have been negotiating a no-spying bilateral agreement, though the governments have not yet been able to reach a deal.

Source: RT

Video released: Guardian destroys Snowden files on GCHQ’s orders

guardian destroy snowden video Video released: Guardian destroys Snowden files on GCHQ’s orders
 
The Guardian has released a video of the newspaper’s editors destroying hard drives and memory cards with encrypted files leaked by Edward Snowden – under the watchful gaze of experts from GCHQ, the government’s surveillance agency.
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It is the first time the footage has been published online since The Guardian’s hard drives were demolished on July 20, 2013, in the basement of the newspaper’s London offices.

Three Guardian staff members – deputy editor Paul Johnson, executive director Sheila Fitzsimons and computer expert David Blishen – are seen taking angle-grinders and drills to the internal components of computers to destroy information on them.

The journalists were watched by two Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) technical experts, named in Guardian’s recent report as “Ian” and “Chris.” They recorded the process on their iPhones.

It took three hours to smash up the computers. The journalists then fed the pieces into the GCHQ-provided degausser high-tech equipment, which destroys magnetic fields and erases data, The Guardian said.

Initially, GCHQ officials wanted to inspect the material before destruction, carry out the operation themselves and take the remnants away. But the Guardian refused to let them.

The classified information was stored on four computers, none of which was ever connected to the Internet or any other network.

0 Video released: Guardian destroys Snowden files on GCHQ’s orders

The UK government saw the destruction of the computers as a way to stop further publications of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. It gave The Guardian an ultimatum to either hand the Snowden material back, destroy it, or face an injunction. UK Prime Minister David Cameron sent Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to convey the message.

“We can do this nicely or we can go to law,” Heywood told The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger during one of their meetings in June and July.

“A lot of people in government think you should be closed down,” he added, The Guardian reported.

Initially reluctant to comply with the government’s demand, The Guardian eventually took the decision to demolish the hard drives with the information on them – as it was seen as the only way to protect the newspaper and its team.

The measure, however, did not stop the flow of NSA- and GCHQ- related revelations. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told government officials that several copies of the secret documents existed, but only one in the UK. It was known that The Guardian’s columnist Glenn Greenwald, who met Snowden in Hong Kong, had leaked material in Rio de Janeiro. There were further copies in the US, according to Rusbridger.

After the destruction of the hard drives, the paper continued to consult with the government before publishing national security stories.

“There were more than 100 interactions with No. 10 Downing Street, the White House and US and UK intelligence agencies,” The Guardian said in a recent report.

The release of the video comes a week before a new book by Guardian correspondent Luke Harding,“The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,” is due to be published.

Source: RT

Future of the internet could depend on Lavabit appeal

email Future of the internet could depend on Lavabit appeal

Lawyers for Lavabit, a recently-shuttered email service once used by Edward Snowden, told a federal appeals court this week that the government had no reason to request from the company a code that could unlock the encrypted messages of its 410,000 users.
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Starting last June, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison unwittingly became entwined in a complicated legal case when the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a pen register order requiring him to let the FBI install a wiretap device on his servers to record and store information about one of his company’s nearly half-a-million customers, widely presumed to be the now-notorious former intelligence contractor. And although much of the ordeal is to this day still under seal, on Tuesday his attorneys argued publically before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia that a civil contempt order waged against Levison should be rejected because the government unjustly compelled him to surrender his website’s master encryption keys.

Because the customer in question had opted-in to Lavabit’s encrypted email function, the information sought by the government was impossible to acquire using ordinary methods. Levison complied with the pen register order nonetheless, but the metadata being logged by the FBI proved to be unusable and quickly prompted them to demand the SSL (Secure Socket Layer) keys that encrypted all data going in and out of the website’s servers. The architecture of the SSL protocol as well as his nature of the custom-built site made it arguably impossible for Levison to provide unencrypted data using just a standard wiretap, but because the FBI’s request also provided he furnish the government with the “technical assistance necessary” to fulfil their demands, the government said he’d have to surrender the SSL keys as well and in turn compromise the privacy of each and every user.

When the pen register wouldn’t work, the feds returned with a subpoena for the keys. And when Levison didn’t immediately comply, they came back with a search warrant. Levison’s lawyers are now fighting to appeal the lawfullness of those requests for the keys by saying they were not valid.

“[T]o comply with the government’s subpoena would have either required Lavabit to perpetrate a fraud on its customer base or shut down entirely. That is the key point, and the resulting harm goes far beyond a mere inconvenient search for records,” his counsel claimed when the appeal was first filed in October.“The Fourth Amendment insists that a warrant name particular things to be searched; a warrant that permits open-ended rummaging through all of Lavabit’s communications data is simply a modern-day writ of assistance, the sort of general warrant that the Fourth Amendment was ratified to forbid,”

An earlier offer made by Levison to personally log data about that particular target should have sufficed, his attorneys said during oral arguments Tuesday, and the FBI should have been satisfied with that option without effectively compromising the privacy of all Lavabit customers by having a federal judge demand the SSL keys.

“The offer was basically, ‘I will record this data. I have a tool that can transmit it to your servers and I can do it either at the end of the period or so that it’s more frequent then that,’” Lavabit attorney Ian Samuel recalled in court this week. “The company in this case offered the United States all of the information that the United States was seeking — all of it — and it did it in a way that would have protected the privacy of hundreds of thousands of innocent people as well,” he said.

But “That isn’t what they were ordered to provide,” one judge responded. “They were ordered to install a pen register and a tracking device which provided unencrypted data.” Levison agrees that this means giving up the SSL keys, but at what cost? When his attorney time and time again argued that sacrificing the keys would render the whole site insecure, Judges Paul V. Niemeyer, Roger L. Gregory and G. Steven Agee appeared befuddled by the technological aspects involved, and along with lawyers representing both Lavabit and the government struggled to make sense of the science behind intercepting encrypted emails.

“I’m no technologist, your honor,” attorney Andrew Peterson for the government admitted at one point, later claiming he could only “assume” that it was possible for Lavabit to decrypt data in real-time to be logged on-the-fly by the FBI — which tech experts dispute.

Levison eventually relinquished to the government’s requests for his site’s SSL keys while the first of the now-ongoing Snowden leaks began to surface, but only after several weeks of a back-and-forth with investigators that ended with him being fined $10,000 and the court claiming he was in contempt for not cooperating sooner. When he eventually complied with their requests last August, Levison immediately shut-down his site to protect the privacy of his customers whose accounts had been compromised by giving up the keys. A gag-order in place at the time prevented him from disclosing even the existence of the investigation to his customers, though, and instantly he eroded access to the accounts of each and every one of his customers to, as he put it then, avoid being complicit in “crimes against the American people.”

The civil contempt order lobbed at Levison for failing to initially provide that assistance is what is now before the Fourth Circuit, but the other, much greater underlying issues at hand, may never be resolved in a court of law. When Samuel raised the issue of protecting the privacy of Lavabit’s entire client base repeatedly during Tuesday’s meeting, the appellate judges routinely said that wasn’t at issue.

“We’re only here,” Judge Leon said at one point, “because of [Lavabit’s] refusal to do what the initial request was — which was the pen register. The encryption key became a red herring.”

“There is such willingness and a desire to argue about secret keys being provided,” another judge added,“…and the government’s going to take full advantage of that and spy on everybody. What was ordered here was with respect to a particular target to provide unencrypted data pursuant to that order.”

“And even when they asked for the key,” the court claimed at one point, “they only wanted to use it and were only authorized to use it in connection with a particular target.”

As evident by what has become routine news articles as of late, though, Lavabit’s fear about government surveillance is indeed a legitimate one. Disclosures about the National Security Agency’s contentious operations continue to surface more than seven months after Mr. Snowden’s first revelations, and a recent story about a former competitor has revealed that very recently the US government relied on a court order to collect emails used later in unrelated investigations. As RT reported last week, the FBI seized all servers used by the company TorMail in 2013 pursuant to a separate investigation overseas. When the government wanted to get a copy of a single TorMail customer’s emails several months later, they didn’t bother to ask the company — they just had a judge allow them to search the trove of messages they had already taken into possession.

Lavabit now has the unique opportunity to establish a precedent to determine what the FBI can and can’t order an internet company to do, but those following the case closely fear this week’s comments from the court suggest the Department of Justice isn’t quite ready to weigh in on such matters.

“As this case unfortunately demonstrates, our judicial system is not always well-suited to addressing complex, cutting-edge technical issues,” Brian Hauss of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project told RT’s Andrew Blake this week. “Judges, of course, work very diligently to educate themselves about the disputes they are called upon to resolve, but without a technical background it is often difficult to sensibly address the important technical issues that are now coming before our courts.”

Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist at the same ACLU office, tweeted on Thursday that Tuesday’s oral arguments were “terrifying,” and that “The court desperately needed to hear from someone technical.”

Norwegian MPs nominate Snowden for Nobel Peace Prize

snowden Norwegian MPs nominate Snowden for Nobel Peace Prize

Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two Norwegian lawmakers, who say the NSA whistleblower contributed to “transparency and global stability” by revealing the depth and sophistication of the global surveillance apparatus.
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Snorre Valen and Baard Vegar Solhjell, parliamentarians from Norway’s Socialist Left Party, announced the nomination on Facebook on Wednesday.

Noting that “peace is more than simply the absence of war,” the MPs said that Snowden had contributed to global security by revealing “the nature and technological prowess of modern surveillance.”

“The level of sophistication and depth of surveillance that citizens all over the world are subject to, has stunned us, and stirred debate all over the world. By doing this, he has contributed critical knowledge about how modern surveillance and intelligence directed towards states and citizens is carried out,” a statement by the Norwegian MPs said.

The legislators said Snowden’s leaks may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short-term, noting they do not necessarily support or condone all of the former NSA contractor’s disclosures.

“We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistle-blowing has contributed to a more peaceful, stable and peaceful world order.”

Each year the Norwegian Nobel Committee invites ‘qualified people’ from national assemblies and governments, courts, universities and former laureates to submit nominations.

The deadline to nominate candidates for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize is Saturday. The winner is announced on the second Friday of October each year.

In October, a group of US whistleblowers presented Snowden with the Sam Adams Award for ‘Integrity in Intelligence’ in Moscow, where the former NSA was granted temporary asylum.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who was present at the ceremony, told RT the award “is a candlestick holder for someone, who has shone bright light into dark corners.”

In July, the German branch of Transparency International also awarded Snowden its Whistleblower Award. That same month, a Swedish sociology professor also nominated NSA leaker Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize for his “heroic effort at great personal cost.”

Professor Stefan Svallfors said giving Snowden the Nobel nod could “save the prize from the disrepute incurred by the hasty and ill-conceived decision” to give the 2009 award to Barack Obama.

In 2013, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.” OPCW inspectors entered Syria on October 1 to help implement a last minute plan hammered out by the United States and Russia which saw Syrian President Bashar Assad agree to destroy his chemical weapons stockpiles in order to avert US-led military strikes in the country.

The Nobel Committee received far more criticism the previous year by opting to grant the European Union the peace prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”

Source: RT

NSA and GCHQ target ‘leaky’ phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

 NSA and GCHQ target leaky phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.
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The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

Many smartphone owners will be unaware of the full extent this information is being shared across the internet, and even the most sophisticated would be unlikely to realise that all of it is available for the spy agencies to collect.

Dozens of classified documents, provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, detail the NSA and GCHQ efforts to piggyback on this commercial data collection for their own purposes.

Scooping up information the apps are sending about their users allows the agencies to collect large quantities of mobile phone data from their existing mass surveillance tools – such as cable taps, or from international mobile networks – rather than solely from hacking into individual mobile handsets.

Exploiting phone information and location is a high-priority effort for the intelligence agencies, as terrorists and other intelligence targets make substantial use of phones in planning and carrying out their activities, for example by using phones as triggering devices in conflict zones. The NSA has cumulatively spent more than $1bn in its phone targeting efforts.

The disclosures also reveal how much the shift towards smartphone browsing could benefit spy agencies’ collection efforts.

 NSA and GCHQ target leaky phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

 

 

One slide from a May 2010 NSA presentation on getting data from smartphones – breathlessly titled “Golden Nugget!” – sets out the agency’s “perfect scenario”: “Target uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device. What can we get?”

The question is answered in the notes to the slide: from that event alone, the agency said it could obtain a “possible image”, email selector, phone, buddy lists, and “a host of other social working data as well as location”.

In practice, most major social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, strip photos of identifying location metadata (known as EXIF data) before publication. However, depending on when this is done during upload, such data may still, briefly, be available for collection by the agencies as it travels across the networks.

Depending on what profile information a user had supplied, the documents suggested, the agency would be able to collect almost every key detail of a user’s life: including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status – options included “single”, “married”, “divorced”, “swinger” and more – income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.

The agencies also made use of their mobile interception capabilities to collect location information in bulk, from Google and other mapping apps. One basic effort by GCHQ and the NSA was to build a database geolocating every mobile phone mast in the world – meaning that just by taking tower ID from a handset, location information could be gleaned.

A more sophisticated effort, though, relied on intercepting Google Maps queries made on smartphones, and using them to collect large volumes of location information.

So successful was this effort that one 2008 document noted that “[i]t effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system.”

The information generated by each app is chosen by its developers, or by the company that delivers an app’s adverts. The documents do not detail whether the agencies actually collect the potentially sensitive details some apps are capable of storing or transmitting, but any such information would likely qualify as content, rather than metadata.

Data collected from smartphone apps is subject to the same laws and minimisation procedures as all other NSA activity – procedures that the US president, Barack Obama, suggested may be subject to reform in a speech 10 days ago. But the president focused largely on the NSA’s collection of the metadata from US phone calls and made no mention in his address of the large amounts of data the agency collects from smartphone apps.

The latest disclosures could also add to mounting public concern about how the technology sector collects and uses information, especially for those outside the US, who enjoy fewer privacy protections than Americans. A January poll for the Washington Post showed 69% of US adults were already concerned about how tech companies such as Google used and stored their information.

The documents do not make it clear how much of the information that can be taken from apps is routinely collected, stored or searched, nor how many users may be affected. The NSA says it does not target Americans and its capabilities are deployed only against “valid foreign intelligence targets”.

The documents do set out in great detail exactly how much information can be collected from widely popular apps. One document held on GCHQ’s internal Wikipedia-style guide for staff details what can be collected from different apps. Though it uses Android apps for most of its examples, it suggests much of the same data could be taken from equivalent apps on iPhone or other platforms.

The GCHQ documents set out examples of what information can be extracted from different ad platforms, using perhaps the most popular mobile phone game of all time, Angry Birds – which has reportedly been downloaded more than 1.7bn times – as a case study.

From some app platforms, relatively limited, but identifying, information such as exact handset model, the unique ID of the handset, software version, and similar details are all that are transmitted.

Other apps choose to transmit much more data, meaning the agency could potentially net far more. One mobile ad platform, Millennial Media, appeared to offer particularly rich information. Millennial Media’s website states it has partnered with Rovio on a special edition of Angry Birds; with Farmville maker Zynga; with Call of Duty developer Activision, and many other major franchises.

Rovio, the maker of Angry Birds, said it had no knowledge of any NSA or GCHQ programs looking to extract data from its apps users.

“Rovio doesn’t have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in 3rd party advertising networks,” said Saara Bergström, Rovio’s VP of marketing and communications. “Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations you mentioned [NSA and GCHQ].”

Millennial Media did not respond to a request for comment.

In December, the Washington Post reported on how the NSA could make use of advertising tracking files generated through normal internet browsing – known as cookies – from Google and others to get information on potential targets.

However, the richer personal data available to many apps, coupled with real-time geolocation, and the uniquely identifying handset information many apps transmit give the agencies a far richer data source than conventional web-tracking cookies.

Almost every major website uses cookies to serve targeted advertising and content, as well as streamline the experience for the user, for example by managing logins. One GCHQ document from 2010 notes that cookie data – which generally qualifies as metadata – has become just as important to the spies. In fact, the agencies were sweeping it up in such high volumes that their were struggling to store it.

“They are gathered in bulk, and are currently our single largest type of events,” the document stated.

The ability to obtain targeted intelligence by hacking individual handsets has been well documented, both through several years of hacker conferences and previous NSA disclosures in Der Spiegel, and both the NSA and GCHQ have extensive tools ready to deploy against iPhone, Android and other phone platforms.

GCHQ’s targeted tools against individual smartphones are named after characters in the TV series The Smurfs. An ability to make the phone’s microphone ‘hot’, to listen in to conversations, is named “Nosey Smurf”. High-precision geolocation is called “Tracker Smurf”, power management – an ability to stealthily activate an a phone that is apparently turned off – is “Dreamy Smurf”, while the spyware’s self-hiding capabilities are codenamed “Paranoid Smurf”.

Those capability names are set out in a much broader 2010 presentation that sheds light on spy agencies’ aspirations for mobile phone interception, and that less-documented mass-collection abilities.

The cover sheet of the document sets out the team’s aspirations:

 NSA and GCHQ target leaky phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

 

Another slide details weak spots in where data flows from mobile phone network providers to the wider internet, where the agency attempts to intercept communications. These are locations either within a particular network, or international roaming exchanges (known as GRXs), where data from travellers roaming outside their home country is routed.

 NSA and GCHQ target leaky phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

 NSA and GCHQ target leaky phone apps like Angry Birds to scoop user data

These are particularly useful to the agency as data is often only weakly encrypted on such networks, and includes extra information such as handset ID or mobile number – much stronger target identifiers than usual IP addresses or similar information left behind when PCs and laptops browse the internet.

The NSA said its phone interception techniques are only used against valid targets, and are subject to stringent legal safeguards.

“The communications of people who are not valid foreign intelligence targets are not of interest to the National Security Agency,” said a spokeswoman in a statement.

“Any implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is focused on the smartphone or social media communications of everyday Americans is not true. Moreover, NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission. We collect only those communications that we are authorized by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes – regardless of the technical means used by the targets.

“Because some data of US persons may at times be incidentally collected in NSA’s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for US persons exist across the entire process concerning the use, handling, retention, and dissemination of data. In addition, NSA actively works to remove extraneous data, to include that of innocent foreign citizens, as early as possible in the process.

“Continuous and selective publication of specific techniques and tools lawfully used by NSA to pursue legitimate foreign intelligence targets is detrimental to the security of the United States and our allies – and places at risk those we are sworn to protect.”

The NSA declined to respond to a series of queries on how routinely capabilities against apps were deployed, or on the specific minimisation procedures used to prevent US citizens’ information being stored through such measures.

GCHQ declined to comment on any of its specific programs, but stressed all of its activities were proportional and complied with UK law.

“It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters,” said a spokesman.

“Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework that ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

 

 

• A separate disclosure on Wednesday, published by Glenn Greenwald and NBC News, gave examples of how GCHQ was making use of its cable-tapping capabilities to monitor YouTube and social media traffic in real-time.

GCHQ’s cable-tapping and internet buffering capabilities , codenamed Tempora, were disclosed by the Guardian in June, but the new documents published by NBC from a GCHQ presentation titled “Psychology: A New Kind of SIGDEV” set out a program codenamed Squeaky Dolphin which gave the British spies “broad real-time monitoring” of “YouTube Video Views”, “URLs ‘Liked’ on Facebook” and “Blogspot/Blogger Visits”.

A further slide noted that “passive” – a term for large-scale surveillance through cable intercepts – give the agency “scalability”.

The means of interception mean GCHQ and NSA could obtain data without any knowledge or co-operation from the technology companies. Spokespeople for the NSA and GCHQ told NBC all programs were carried out in accordance with US and UK law.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/nsa-gchq-smartphone-app-angry-birds-personal-data

 

 

 

NSA is after industrial spying – Snowden to German TV

 snowden nsa industrial interview.si NSA is after industrial spying – Snowden to German TV

 

The NSA agency is not preoccupied solely with national security, but also spies on foreign industrial entities in US business interests, former American intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, has revealed in an interview to German TV.

Edward Snowden chose the German ARD broadcaster to make his first TV interview ever since he became a whistleblower. The interview was made in strict secrecy in an unspecified location in Russia, where Snowden is currently living under temporary asylum.
Continue reading «NSA is after industrial spying – Snowden to German TV»

“There is no question that the US is engaged in economic spying,” said Snowden, from a teaser aired late on Saturday.
If an industrial giant like Siemens has something that the NSA believes “would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security, of the United States, they will go after that information and they’ll take it,” the whistleblower said, giving an example.

 

snowden tv interview ard NSA is after industrial spying – Snowden to German TVReuters / Tobias Schwarz

 

Edward Snowden disavowed participation in any future publications of the documents he withdrew from the NSA databanks, saying in the same interview that he no longer possesses any NSA data. The information has been distributed among a number of trustworthy journalists, who are going to decide for themselves what to make public and in what sequence.

The full 30-minute version will be aired at 11pm local time (22:00 UTC) on Sunday right after prime-time talk show, ‘Günther Jauch’.

The former NSA contractor’s revelations about US global spying activities, including snooping on its closest allies, put transatlantic ties “to the test,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel last November and demanded that Washington give Germany clarity over the future of the NSA in the country.

Snowden’s revelation hit Berlin particularly hard because Germany is a non-Anglophone country, and therefore is not a member of the ‘Five eyes’ intelligence alliance that incorporates NSA-equivalent agencies in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Deutsche Welle points out. While members of the ‘Five eyes’ were exchanging intelligence on a regular basis, Berlin had to consider itself satisfied with less data, while both Washington and London, for example, were blatantly listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone right in the middle of Germany’s capital.

The Germans – according to polls – have lost confidence in the US as a trustworthy partner, and the majority of them consider NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a hero.

 

snowden nsa industrial interview .si NSA is after industrial spying – Snowden to German TVNational Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)

 

In order to mend fences, US President Barack Obama made a rare appearance on German TV. On January 18 President Obama told the ZDF TV channel that “As long as I’m president of the United States, the chancellor of Germany will not have to worry about this.”

Yet Germany remains skeptical about US promises of discontinuing spying on foreign leaders, and is in the vanguard of a number of European countries aiming to change data privacy rules in the EU.

Former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, remains in Russia, where his temporary political asylum status could be extended every year. He has no plans for returning to the US where he would face trial for alleged treason.

“Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself,” said Snowden during his public Q&A session last Thursday.

 

Snowden can extend his asylum every year – lawyer

snowden extend asylum lawyer0.si Snowden can extend his asylum every year – lawyer

Though Edward Snowden’s temporary political asylum in Russia is set to expire in August, his lawyer says the NSA whistleblower has the right to extend his status every year until he is eligible for citizenship.

Snowden will make up his mind very soon, his legal representative in Russia, Anatoly Kucherena, told Kommersant newspaper.
Continue reading «Snowden can extend his asylum every year – lawyer»

Meanwhile, a top Russian lawmaker has indicated that Russia will most likely extend Snowden’s asylum. “He will not be sent out of Russia,” Aleksey Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, said Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It will be up to Snowden,” The New York Times quoted him as saying.

Kucherena did not rule out that Snowden will apply for an extension of his asylum and maybe even seek Russian citizenship in the future.

In an article published by The New Yorker earlier this week, Snowden dismissed as “absurd” accusations from US lawmakers that he might have spied on behalf of Russia when taking troves of classified US government documents. Snowden insisted that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”

Snowden asked why he would have initially fled to Hong Kong and why was he “stuck in the airport forever” – in reference to the forty days he spent stranded in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport – if he was a spy. “Spies get treated better than that,” he said.

Snowden’s statement follows accusations made by the chairs of both the House and Senate intelligence committees last Sunday, which insinuated that he might have collaborated with Russia’s special services.

Speaking to RT earlier this week, Kucherena dismissed any accusations against his client, stressing that he has spent a lot of time with Snowden since June of last year and would have been aware if he had cooperated with the Russian government.

But I assure everyone that all day-to-day issues, housing rental etc. – all these questions he resolves himself or with my help.”

The lawyer reminded that Snowden recently obtained a job after spending nearly all of his savings.

“So in this case I cannot say that there is any government involvement, because there is none. His life is modest.”

Source: RT