White House review ‘found no evidence’ of Huawei spying for China

Huawei TechnologiesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A review commissioned by the government of the United States has reportedly found no evidence that Chinese telecommunications hardware manufacturer Huawei Technologies spied for the Chinese government. The 18-month-long review, which was ordered directly by the White House, examined the question of security vulnerabilities posed by telecommunications hardware suppliers, which could theoretically harm US service providers and pose a danger to US national security. The report, which was allegedly aided by several US intelligence agencies and other federal government departments, was based on detailed interviews with nearly 1,000 telecommunications equipment consumers across the United States. It was concluded at the start of 2012, but remains largely classified. However, Reuters news agency cites “two people familiar with the probe”, who claim that the probe contains “no clear evidence” that Huawei spied for the government of China. At the same time, however, the probe concluded that Huawei telecommunications hardware contains numerous structural vulnerabilities which could help hackers exploit telecommunications networks supported by the Chinese company. According to one source quoted by Reuters, the White House report found that the telecommunications hardware sold by Huawei was “riddled with holes”. Read more of this post

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Situation Report: Samsung accuses LG of corporate espionage

Samsung smartphones on display in KoreaBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
Most technology companies spar with rivals over patent portfolio infringement, pricing arrangements, bundling of products and services with partners, and other trade practices. More recently, technology companies have been waging a war for talent and human capital. But in Korea, a dispute between Samsung and LG Electronics has been taken to a new level with Samsung publicly accusing LG of conducting corporate espionage. According to VenterBeat, Samsung has leveled corporate espionage charges against an employee at LG regarding particularly sensitive display technology that is used in smartphones and other mobile devices. This technology is of great value to Samsung, as its displays are used in nearly 98 percent of mobile phones around the globe. The critical display technology, active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, or MOLED, technology, is an extremely thin-film, which is a lynchpin technology for televisions and mobile devices. This technology replaced previously existing display technologies because it required significantly less power and therefore less battery drain and it also increased response rates to mere milliseconds. Such technology was perfectly positioned to help spur on the proliferation of the mobile and smartphone boom. Read more of this post

Did cell phone companies help India spy on the United States?

Page from the Lords of Dharamraja document leakBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Leaked documents acquired by a computer hacker collective appear to show that international cell phone manufacturers helped Indian intelligence agencies spy on the United States, in return for access to the Indian cellular phone market. The documents, which are written in English, were posted online on Saturday by a group of Indian hackers calling themselves Lords of Dharamraja. In a statement, the group said they obtained the documents by breaking into the computer servers of Indian Military Intelligence, after managing to acquire the source code of Symantec Corporation, makers of Norton antivirus software. According to the documents, the companies arm-twisted to assist Indian intelligence agencies to spy on the US included Apple, Nokia, and Research in Motion, the company that builds BlackBerry devices. The documents also appear to show that Indian intelligence agencies were particularly eager to spy on the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Established by the US Congress in 2000, the Commission is tasked with researching and reporting on the national security implications of bilateral trade between the US and China. Allegedly, the cellular telephone makers provided Indian intelligence agencies with backdoor access to personal phones used by Commission members. These back doors allegedly allowed the Indian Military Intelligence Directorate and India’s Central Bureau of Investigation to spy on Commission members beginning in April of 2011. Read more of this post

Analysis: How serious a blow did the CIA suffer in Lebanon?

Lebanon

Lebanon

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Late last month, the Central Intelligence Agency admitted that a number of its agents in Lebanon had been captured by Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that controls large parts of the country. The group announced the arrests in the summer, but in was only on November 21 that the Associated Press confirmed the accuracy of Hezbollah’s claims from a US intelligence source. Neither Hezbollah nor the CIA have offered details of the arrests, but it is generally assumed that the captured agents were not officers of the CIA, but rather Lebanese or Iranian citizens who had been recruited as assets by CIA case officers. Regardless, the incident has undoubtedly directly impacted the Agency’s operations in Lebanon, and maybe Iran. The question is, how much? Former CIA operations officer Robert Baer, who spent several years in Lebanon in the 1980s, has penned an analysis article in Time magazine, in which he says that his sources tell him the arrests of the CIA agents represent “a serious compromise”, and that the Agency is “still trying to get to the bottom of [it]”. Baer also provides some new information about the method used by Hezbollah counterintelligence to capture the CIA agents. Last week, ABC News reported that the arrests were caused by careless spy tradecraft on behalf of the CIA. Specifically, according to ABC, “Hezbollah operatives figured out that CIA informants, who had infiltrated the Iranian proxy group, were meeting with their agency handlers at a Beirut Pizza Hut. How could Hezbollah deduce that location? The CIA used the codeword ‘PIZZA’ when discussing where to meet with the agents”. But Baer says that the arrests were not necessarily caused by CIA errors; rather it may have been advanced counterintelligence analysis by Hezbollah that compromised the agents. He claims that Hezbollah is using telephone link analysis, a type of signals intelligence testing that utilizes advanced software “capable of combing through trillions of gigabytes of phone-call data”. The aim of telephone link analysis is to search for unusual communications patterns —such as too many brief calls, or heavy reliance on prepaid cell phones that seem to become disused after only a few calls. Read more of this post

Leaked documents show capabilities of new surveillance technologies

Net Optics logo

Net Optics logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A trove of hundreds of documents, obtained by participants in a secretive surveillance conference, displays in unprecedented detail the extent of monitoring technologies used by governments around the world. The Wall Street Journal, which obtained the leaked documents, says they number in the hundreds; they were reportedly authored by 36 different private companies that specialize in supplying government agencies with the latest surveillance hardware and software. They were among dozens of vendors that participated in an unnamed conference near Washington, DC, in October, which attracted interested buyers from numerous government agencies in America and beyond. The Journal, which has uploaded scanned copies of the leaked documents, says that many include descriptions of computer hacking tools. The latter enable government agencies to break into targeted computers and access data stored in hard drives, as well as log keystrokes by the targeted computers’ users. Other applications target cellular telecommunications, especially the latest models of so-called ‘smartphones’; one vendor in particular, Vupen Security, gave a presentation at the conference, which describes how its products allow for electronic surveillance of cell phones by exploiting security holes unknown to manufacturers. Some of the most popular products at the conference related to what the industry calls “massive intercept” monitoring, namely large-scale software systems designed to siphon vast amounts of telephonic or email communications data, or to capture all Internet exchanges taking place within a country’s computer network. One conference participant, California-based Net Optics Inc., bragged in its presentation about having enabled “a major mobile operator in China” to conduct “real-time monitoring” of all cell phone [and] Internet content on its network. The stated goal of the surveillance was to “analyze criminal activity” and “detect and filter undesirable content”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #598 (US edition)

Brian Kelley

Brian Kelley

►►CIA officer wrongly accused of being KGB mole dies. CIA officer Brian J. Kelley, who was falsely accused by his own agency, as well as by the FBI, of supplying covert information to Moscow, has died at the age of 68. The real mole, the FBI agent-turned-spy Robert P. Hanssen, was apprehended in 2001, but not before Mr Kelley had been followed, interrogated, suspended and told that he might well be charged with a capital offense.
►►NSA working on secure smartphone technology. Troy Lange,  mobility mission manager at the US National Security Agency, says he is developing a secure smartphone that can be used to access classified information and apps while on the move. He is working on a pilot project using a smartphone that looks like any bought in stores but with security configurations to allow top-secret communication.
►►Kabul attack kills CIA contractor. An Afghan working for the US government killed a CIA contractor and wounded another American in an attack on the intelligence agency’s office in Kabul, making it the latest in a series of high-profile attacks this month on US targets. An anonymous US official in Washington said the Afghan attacker was providing security to the CIA office and that the American who died was working as a contractor for the CIA.

News you may have missed #567

Thuraya satellite telephone

Thuraya phone

►►Libya bans unauthorized cell phone use. The government of Libya warned Thursday that any of its citizens found using a Thuraya satellite phone without a permit will be treated as spies for NATO, and may face the death penalty. The reason, according to an official statement, is that “spies [of] NATO use the Thuraya telephones to give crusaders the coordinates of some locations to be bombed, which has caused the deaths of a large number of civilians”. Thuraya is a popular satellite phone provider based in the United Arab Emirates, with over a quarter of a million subscribers in the Middle East and Africa.
►►Uzbekistan jails senior mining scientist for spying. A court in Uzbekistan has convicted Said Ashurov, who worked as chief metallurgist for British mining company Oxus Gold, to 12 years in prison on charges of industrial espionage. Ashurov was arrested in March as he tried to cross the border into Tajikistan. A lawyer for the mining company described Ashurov’s case as a fabrication and said that the Uzbek government was using him as a pawn in their battle to take control of the Amantaytau Goldfields project, which is developing “some of the world’s most promising gold fields”.
►►Ex-White House official claims CIA tried to recruit 9/11 hijackers. Richard Clarke, who served in two US administrations as a White House counterterrorism adviser, says he now suspects the CIA hid its knowledge that two of the September 11 hijackers had entered the United States Read more of this post

News you may have missed #554

Bat Khurts

Bat Khurts

►►UK and US tried to delay Pakistan nuclear weapons program. We have written before about attempts by the CIA to delay or stop Pakistan’s nuclear program. Now newly declassified documents show that the United States and Great Britain undertook a coordinated secret diplomatic campaign between 1978 and 1981 to prevent Pakistan’s attempted covert purchasing of “gray area” technology for its nuclear weapons program.
►►FBI monitoring new phone technologies. According to an internal FBI document, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists through a FOIA request, the FBI continuously monitors the surveillance challenges posed by new mobile phone technologies. The document highlights the Bureau’s concerns that that 4G will require agencies to “deal with significantly higher data rates than in current wireless network intercepts”.
►►Mongolian ex-spy chief to be extradited to Germany. Britain has decided to extradite Bat Khurts, former director of the General Intelligence Agency of Mongolia, to Germany. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #546

Thomas Drake

Thomas Drake

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Whistleblower says NSA mismanagement continues. Former US National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake was recently sentenced to a year’s probation for leaking secrets about the agency to a journalist. The presiding judge did not sentence him to prison, recognizing that his genuine intention was to expose mismanagement. Soon after his sentencing, Drake told The Washington Times that mismanagement continues at the NSA, which he compared to “the Enron of the intelligence world”. He also told the paper that NSA’s accounts were “unauditable”, like those of most of the other agencies operating under the Pentagon. ►►Taliban claim phones hacked by NATO. The Afghan Taliban have accused NATO and the CIA of hacking pro-Taliban websites, as well as personal email accounts and cell phones belonging to Taliban leaders, in order to send out a false message saying that their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency that the hacking was “the work of American intelligence” and that the Taliban would “take revenge on the telephone network providers”. ►►Rumsfeld memo says ‘US can’t keep a secret’. “The United States Government is incapable of keeping a secret”. This was opined in a November 2, 2005 memo authored by Donald Rumsfeld. The memo by the then-Defense Secretary continues: Read more of this post

West directs spies, information-warfare at Libya

Libyan rebels

Libyan rebels

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Along with airborne surveillance and the bombing of targets, Western nations in charge of imposing a no-fly-zone over Libya are directing their intelligence and information-warfare arsenals against the Libyan regime. British newspaper The Daily Mail reports that MI6, the UK’s primary external intelligence agency, is sharing with the British military its lists of telephone numbers belonging to senior Libyan military officials. The latter are now receiving calls from British civilian or military intelligence officers prompting them to defect. The paper cited “a senior source” who claimed MI6 is warning senior Libyan military officers that the Royal Air Force has “the GPS coordinates” of their command posts and that “it could be fatal to remain loyal to the Libyan leader” Muammar al-Gaddafi. Presumably, the calls are conducted in the Arabic language. They also do not appear to be pre-recorded, unlike those directed by the Israel Defense Forces at Palestinians during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict. The “senior source” told The Mail that the same technique “worked in Iraq” in convincing senior military commanders to either defect or —in most cases— abandon their posts. Read more of this post

New clues in extensive recount of al-Mabhouh assassination

Ronen Bergman

Ronen Bergman

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The current issue of US-based magazine GQ contains what must be the most extensive account in English of the 2010 assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Written by Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman (author of The Secret War with Iran), the piece contains several new clues about the targeted killing of al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official, in a luxury hotel in Dubai last January. One new element that stands out in Bergman’s account is that, two months prior to his assassination, al-Mabhouh survived a poisoning attempt by the same team of Israeli operatives, again in Dubai. The Hamas official fell ill, but recovered fully. Bergman also claims that the operation to target al-Mabhouh, which must have lasted several months or even years, involved the use of an elaborate Trojan horse virus that was implanted on al-Mabhouh’s computer, and allowed Mossad operatives to monitor his email correspondence. It was through this method that the Israelis became aware of al-Mabhouh’s itinerary during his fatal trip to Dubai. Read more of this post

Proposed US-Chinese telecom deal worries US legislators

Huawei HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Three US Congress members have raised security concerns about a proposed deal between American and Chinese telecommunications companies, claiming that it could facilitate Chinese espionage in the United States. The proposed collaboration is between US-based Sprint-Nextel and Cricket Wireless, and Chinese hardware manufacturers ZTE Corporation and Huawei Technologies. But three US Senators, Jon Kyl (R-AR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), have written to US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, claiming that the ZTE and Huawei are effectively controlled by China’s civilian and military intelligence establishment. According to the legislators, if the proposed deal goes through the Chinese government may be able to use ZTE and Huawei to “manipulate switches, routers, or software embedded in American telecommunications networks so that communications can be disrupted, intercepted, tampered with, or purposely misrouted”. Read more of this post

Emirates police says US, Israel, use BlackBerry to spy

Dahi Tamim

Dahi Tamim

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The alleged use of encrypted BlackBerry communications by adversary intelligence services operating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is prompting local authorities to consider a nationwide ban on the popular phone. This was revealed late last week by Dubai Police chief, Lt. General Dahi Khalfan bin Tamim, who repeated a warning by UAE authorities that BlackBerry services in the country will be curtailed on October 11, unless the government is given access to BlackBerry’s encryption code by the manufacturer. Several other countries in the Middle East and beyond have made similar moves, including Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia, all of which have cited security reasons for the ban. But Lt. General Tamim’s comments provide the first known connection between a threat to ban BlackBerry and its alleged use by rival intelligence agencies. Read more of this post

British MI6 employee found dead in London flat

Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British authorities are keeping silent on the mysterious death of a Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) employee, whose body was found in the bath of his London apartment, stuffed in a sports duffle bag. By Monday afternoon, when police entered the top apartment of the five-storey townhouse in Pimlico, London, the man had been laying dead for nearly a fortnight. On Wednesday, he was identified as Dr. Gareth Williams, a 31-year-old mathematician employed by General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British government’s foremost communications security and surveillance agency. For the past year, Williams had been temporarily transferred to MI6, the country’s external intelligence agency, whose headquarters is located less than a mile from the apartment where the mathematician’s body was discovered. Read more of this post

Australian premier in ministerial spying scandal

Nathan Rees

Nathan Rees

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The premier of Australia’s state of New South Wales has been accused of trying to spy on local government officials by planning to install telephone surveillance equipment in their work offices. Nathan Rees, a Labour Party politician, who is one of six Australian state chief executives, is reportedly planning to employ phone-tracking software in an attempt to “put the screws on suspected dissidents” within his cabinet. The technology in question appears to be a real-time phone call data monitoring system, which records basic information of telephone exchanges (i.e. who calls whom, at what time, etc), but not their content. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Rees’ envoys have already contacted at least one telephone surveillance equipment provider, KNet Technology, whose representatives say they briefed the Premier’s people. Read more of this post

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