Fresh Technology Insights

Category: Government Surveillance (Page 1 of 2)

UK government’s MI5 spies want “exceptional access” to your encrypted communications

Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian »

MI5’s director general has called on technology companies to find a way to allow spy agencies “exceptional access” to encrypted messages, amid fears they cannot otherwise access such communications.

Sir Andrew Parker is understood to be particularly concerned about Facebook, which announced plans to introduce powerful end-to-end encryption last March across all the social media firm’s services.

In an ITV interview to be broadcast on Thursday, Sir Andrew Parker says he has found it “increasingly mystifying” that intelligence agencies like his are not able to easily read secret messages of terror suspects they are monitoring.

EU Commission recommends staff use the Signal messaging app

The EU and other world governments have suffered high profile data breaches, often because they were using insecure commercial apps, or apps that were handling data in ways that were not obvious or stated.

Signal is a true end-to-end messaging app that has been verified by security experts around the world. Journalist and activists dealing in sensitive areas where their lives are often at stake, depend on Signal.

Laurens Cerulus, Pro Publica »

The European Commission has told its staff to start using Signal, an end-to-end-encrypted messaging app, in a push to increase the security of its communications.

The instruction appeared on internal messaging boards in early February, notifying employees that “Signal has been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging.”

[…]

Privacy experts consider that Signal’s security is superior to other apps’. “We can’t read your messages or see your calls,” its website reads, “and no one else can either.”

The Signal App is available free on several platforms (iOS, Android, etc) through the official web site.

New bill would establish a US Data Protection Agency

It might startle you to learn how little privacy protection is available to Americans.

Issie Lapowsky, Protocol »

The so-called Data Protection Act of 2020 would create the country’s first data protection agency to oversee how privacy laws in America are enforced and guide Congress on the development of those laws. The agency would be empowered to impose penalties on companies that violate people’s privacy, taken them to court, field consumer complaints, and launch investigations.

[…]

The agency would enforce current privacy laws and any future laws Congress passes and have rule-making authority to determine how those laws are carried out. Specifically, the agency would be able to conduct impact assessments on companies deploying “high-risk practices” with regard to data. That includes companies using data to profile people on a large scale. The bill also gives the agency the power to regulate consumer scoring in sensitive areas like housing, employment and education.

The agency would have subpoena power and the ability to take companies to court over violations of federal privacy law. It would also closely monitor large companies — both in terms of revenue and in terms of the amount of data they collect — and ask for reports from these companies, to ensure they’re complying with the law. Meanwhile, the agency would be tasked with guiding Congress on emerging technologies and representing the United States in international deals regarding privacy.

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is asking the British government to rethink its decision to allow Huawei to play a role in the UK’s 5G network

There appear to be legitimate national security concerns about allowing Chinese firm Huawei to bid on and install 5G mobile networking equipment. Boris Johnson’s government announced they will allow the firm to install it’s equipment, however, they have not addressed those concerns or stated why they will allow this added risk, when there are other highly reputable alternatives.

The decision appears to be a political one, and not one based on facts. To be clear, Huawei should not be banned based on what is being asked for by the Trump Administration. National security should be top priority.

BBC »

In a letter, the group – which includes four ex-cabinet ministers – said there were alternatives to the Chinese firm.

They want “high-risk” vendors to be ruled out now, or phased out over time.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the decision followed a “rigorous” review by security experts and that Huawei’s involvement would be restricted.

More » The Independent

[Updated] US Attorney General Bill Barr encourages Americans to invest in Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericcson to counter China’s Huawei

Nokia and Ericsson shares got a boost. So someone made a profit on that stock tip.

Bill Barr was previously a lawyer for US phone carrier Verizon.

Meanwhile, much of Ericsson and Nokia hardware is built in China.

Reuters »

“Putting our large market and financial muscle behind one or both of these firms would make it a far more formidable competitor and eliminate concerns over its staying power, or their staying power,” Barr said in a speech to a Washington think tank conference on China.

“We and our closest allies certainly need to be actively considering this approach,” Barr said.

The United States alleges that the Chinese government could use Huawei’s equipment for espionage, which Huawei denies.

More » Financial Times

Updated Feb 7, 2020 » Reuters » ‘No concrete proposition’ from U.S. to back Huawei rival Ericsson: Swedish minister

US Homeland Security Dept has purchased access to at least one database to track the locations of millions of mobile phones and is using the info in immigration and border controls and possibly other secret government surveillance programs

If the headline surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. This has been going on for years. Ask Snowden.

What I’d like to know is how much tracking is DHS doing outside it’s borders?

US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledges tracking millions of smartphone users within the USA, despite a Supreme Court order limiting it’s authority to do so. DHS will not state how the data is being used.

Byron Tau and Michelle Hackman, Wall Street Journal »

The Trump administration has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The location data is drawn from ordinary cellphone apps, including those for games, weather and e-commerce, for which the user has granted permission to log the phone’s location.

More » Apple Insider

Gaia-X » Europe’s plan to avoid an over-reliance on US-based cloud providers Google, Amazon, and others

The EU is putting together a consortium to build a new, non-US, based cloud platform. It’s called Gaia-X.

Will Bedingfield, Wired »

The project is a collaboration between the European Commission, Germany, France, and according to an email from a spokesperson for Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy “some 100 companies and organisations”. (Firms confirmed include SAP SE, Deutsche Telekom AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Siemens and Bosch.) The first proofs of concept for the European cloud are set to be ready towards the end of this year.

The driving motivation behind the project is “data sovereignty”, or, more accurately “data governance” – an ambition to bring the flow and storage and data under greater European control. “Data sovereignty is the key to GAIA-X,” says Harald Summa, the CEO of DE-CIX Group AG, a group involved in the project. “Especially given that our society is relying more and more heavily on digital services, it is in the interest of a state or a region to enable a certain level of independence from external service providers.”

The project is a direct response to the dominance of American and Chinese service providers. The European Commission has already locked horns with Google, fining the company €4.34 billion for antitrust violations back in 2018. The US Cloud Act requires American firms to provide law enforcement with customers’ personal data on request, even when the servers containing the information are abroad.

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Apple dropped plan for encrypting iCloud after FBI complained about the initiative

Joseph Menn, Reuters »

Apple Inc. dropped plans to let iPhone users fully encrypt backups of their devices in the company’s iCloud service after the FBI complained that the move would harm investigations, six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The long-running tug of war between investigators’ concerns about security and tech companies’ desire for user privacy moved back into the public spotlight last week, as U.S. Attorney General William Barr took the rare step of publicly calling on Apple to unlock two iPhones used by a Saudi Air Force officer who shot dead three Americans at a Pensacola, Florida naval base last month.

James Vincent, The Verge » Apple can’t read your on-device data, but it can read your iCloud backups

This information is encrypted to stop attackers, but Apple holds the keys to decrypt it and shares it with police and governments when legally required.

Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica »

Apple has not implemented end-to-end encryption for iCloud Backup, the service that lets customers back up their iPhones and iPads to Apple servers, or for iCloud Drive. The iCloud Backup and iCloud Drive data sets are encrypted at rest and in transit, but Apple has the key to unlock them and can thus give decrypted versions to law enforcement.

More » AppleInsider, Tom’s Guide

US Army bans soldiers from using TikTok » The app is considered a “cyber threat”

 Justine Calma, The Verge »

United States Army soldiers can no longer use TikTok on government-owned phones following a decision to ban the app. The move comes amidst ongoing worries that the video app owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance could compromise national security or be used to influence or surveil Americans.

“It is considered a cyber threat,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa told Military.com, which broke the news on December 30th. The army reportedly used TikTok to recruit members prior to the ban.

Both the Navy and Defense Department sounded alarms on TikTok earlier this month. The Navy previously told its members not to add the app, and to delete it from government-issued devices if it was already installed. The Defense Department also instructed employees to “be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc., and delete them immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information,” according to military.com.

More » CNN

Related » US Navy Bans TikTok From Military Devices » Security Boulevard (Dec 27, 2019)

More » BoingBoing, The Next Web, SecurityAngle

Related » TikTok eyes global headquarters outside of China as US scrutiny mounts – Tech in Asia (Dec 24, 2019)

More » WSJ

NY Times journalists answer » What’s the worst that could happen to your smartphone data?

NY Times »

None of us really has a choice to participate in tracking or not — the system just serves up location data, usually without us noticing. So for people who do want a bit of privacy — worshipers, young people visiting Planned Parenthood, those visiting a queer space, survivors hiding from an abuser — they no longer have a real choice about their privacy. Because the tracking touches everyone, can we really give up after concluding it’s fine for us? When we participate in this system, we’re tacitly endorsing it.

[…]

Your imagination can run wild with possibilities. It runs from tracking kids to tracking the nation’s top security officials and using the intelligence for some kind of blackmail.

For us, it was talking to one group that was so concerned they didn’t want to be named. We expected them to be worried, but in conversations with them, they were downright scared. When we showed them all the device pings collected in the center of their building during a gathering, they were horrified that people could know exactly who and how many people were in the building and when. The idea that their community members were followed in the data and we could figure out where they all lived — it wasn’t an abstract threat anymore. It was real and personal for them, especially since they felt like a target already.

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