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

News you may have missed #438 (Stuxnet edition)

[Research credit to Arthur Sbygniew]

Experts see nation-state behind sophisticated computer virus attack

Ahmadinejad

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Computer forensics specialists are split as to the purpose and initial target of a sophisticated computer virus that infected computers used in the Iranian government’s nuclear energy program. The virus, named Stuxnet, was discovered in Iran in June by a Belarusian computer security firm doing business in the Islamic Republic. It has since infected at least 100,000 computer systems in countries such as Brazil, India, Russia and the United States. But the primary target of the virus appears to have been the Iranian nuclear energy program, specifically computers located at the Islamic Republic’s nuclear reactor facility in Bushehr and the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. Several commentators, including Wired magazine, dispute the existence of any evidence pointing to a clear target inside Iran.  But Israeli media maintain that computers at Natanz were the primary target of Stuxnet, and that subsequent infections at computer labs at Bushehr were in fact an unintended side effect. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #435 (cyberwarfare edition)

  • Analysis: Cyber attacks test US Pentagon. US military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times a day, and the systems of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters are attacked at least 100 times a day. Meanwhile, more than 100 countries are currently trying to break into US defense networks.
  • US should be able to shut Internet, ex-CIA chief says. Cyberterrorism is such a threat that the US President should have the authority to shut down the Internet in the event of an attack, Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has said.
  • Iran battling alleged ‘spy virus’. Iranian officials have confirmed reports that a malicious computer code, called Stuxnet, was spreading throughout the nation’s nuclear infrastructure. But they have given differing accounts of the damage, said to be capable of taking over computers that operate huge facilities, including nuclear energy reactors. Did someone say ‘Israel‘?

News you may have missed #425 (US edition)

  • US Pentagon considering pre-emptive cyber-strikes? This is what The Washington Post is reporting, noting that military officials are “still wrestling with how to pursue the strategy legally”. If anyone in the DoD discovers a legal method of launching pre-emptive aggression, we’d sure like to know.
  • More changes in US FISA court. After a recent change of leadership, the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court is considering new compliance rules for handling surveillance requests by US counterspy agencies. The court authorizes requests by agencies for surveillance of foreign suspects operating inside the US.
  • Why do US officials want to deport Chinese defector? Washington wants to deport Li Fengzhi, a Chinese ex-intelligence agent who defected to the US in 2004, back to China, where he could be executed for treason. There are rumors that Li may have “oversold” himself to the FBI and the CIA.

Comment: What Can the US Do To Stop WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since whistleblower site WikiLeaks published 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan, several pundits have urged US government agencies, including the Pentagon, to take action. Late last week, former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen urged the Pentagon to unleash its “cyber capabilities to prevent WikiLeaks from disseminating those materials”. Some columnists have even suggested that US intelligence services should “come up with an up-to-date photo of [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange and distribute it to […] SEAL sharpshooters”. Pentagon representatives have also stepped up their rhetoric, warning that “[i]f doing the right thing isn’t good enough for [WikiLeaks], we will figure out what alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing”.

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News you may have missed #405

  • Democracy Now on Google-CIA partnership. Democracy Now has aired an interview with John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Inside Google project, and Noah Shachtman, of Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, who broke the story of the Google-CIA investment partnership.
  • Ex-CIA chief downplays cyberwar with China. Retired CIA chief Michael Hayden downplayed the notion that the US is in a raging “cyberwar” with China during a speech on Thursday at the Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Las Vegas.
  • Men held over parcel bomb sent to MI6. Two men have been arrested in north Wales, after parcel bombs were sent to the offices of the British government executive at 10 Downing Street, and the headquarters of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. The two men, aged 52 and 21, are believed to be related and of Pakistani origin.

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News you may have missed #333

  • Ex-MI6 officer allegedly betrayed spies. Daniel Houghton was arrested last month while trying to sell classified documents to MI5 spooks posing as foreign agents. But now the former MI6 employee is accused by British authorities of trying to trade lists of British intelligence personnel. It is unclear which nation’s spy service Houghton believed he was selling to at the time of his arrest, though it is believed that Dutch intelligence tipped off MI5.
  • NSA director under friendly fire in US Senate. US National Security Agency director, Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, spoke last Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He addressed the synergies among the NSA, the newly created Cyber Command, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the concept of cyberwar: “In general terms, I do think a cyberwar could exist”, he said, but only “as part of a larger military campaign”.

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Senate bill proposes closer links between US spies, private sector

Olympia Snowe

Olympia Snowe

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
A bipartisan bill, unveiled yesterday in the US Senate, proposes closer links between US intelligence agencies and private sector companies active in areas of “critical infrastructure”. Drafted and proposed by Republican senator Olympia Snowe and Democrat Jay Rockefeller, the legislation builds on concerns by government officials that US energy and telecommunications systems may not be able to sustain a concentrated cyber-attack by a foreign government agency or organized cybercriminal group. The major practical problem in terms of the government protecting these systems is that most have been deregulated since the Reagan era, and are now almost entirely under the control of private corporations. According to the bill, the US government would have to define the term “critical infrastructure”, and then designate the companies in control of such infrastructure networks as “critical partners” in protecting strategic national interests. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #309

  • Iran claims arrest of US cyberspies. Iranian security forces have arrested 30 people accused of waging cyberwar against the country, with the backing of the United States. The Iranian government accuses them of running a network of websites funded by US intelligence, which aims to “collect information about Iran’s nuclear program”.
  • Nazis planned to infiltrate Vatican with spies. Nazi Germany hatched a plan during World War II to infiltrate the Vatican with spies disguised as monks, according to secret MI5 intelligence reports. The codename for the plan was Operation GEORGIAN CONVENT.
  • US misled even us on detainees, says ex-MI5 chief. Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of the Britain’s foremost domestic spy agency, MI5, has said that United States intelligence agencies misled even MI5 about the mistreatment of suspected terrorists.

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News you may have missed #305

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Comment: Are Clinton’s Cyberattack Protests Hypocritical?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
The Chinese have accused the US government of hypocrisy in criticizing Beijing for its alleged role in organized hacking attacks, which recently drove Google to abandon its operations in China. Speaking last Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued that “[c]ountries or individuals that engage in cyberattacks should face consequences and international condemnation”. But a subsequent editorial in government-owned The People’s Daily essentially said that China is not the only country that engages in cyberwarfare; the US does it too. Is this true? Most likely, yes. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0190

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News you may have missed #0185

  • Article claims US employed cyberwar in 2007. A cover story in the Washington-based National Journal claims former US President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to “launch a sophisticated attack […] on the cellular phones and computers that insurgents in Iraq were using to plan roadside bombings”. IntelNews regulars will remember that we had suspected as much.
  • Somali suicide bomb recruiter had US residency. Somali Mohamud Said Omar, who was arrested a week ago in Holland on suspicion of recruiting youth in Minneapolis for suicide missions in Somalia, has a US green card, Dutch media reported Friday.
  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial a huge challenge for US judiciary. The alleged 9/11 mastermind’s case poses the question of how to deal with what is likely to be an extremely large body of classified evidence that the prosecution will want to present.

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News you may have missed #0146

  • RAND wants the US to abstain from cyberattacks. A new report by the US Pentagon’s research arm, RAND Corporation, suggests the US may be better off playing cyber-defense instead of resorting to cyberattacks. On offense, cyberwar might be better relegated to support roles, and then only “sparingly and precisely”, according to the report. The study comes as the US military fires up its new unified Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) program this month.
  • Turkey says it foiled al-Qaida plot against Israeli, US targets. Turkish security forces detained on Thursday 32 suspected members of al-Qaeda, believed to have been planning attacks on Israeli, US and NATO targets. The suspects, some of whom are said to have been trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, were detained in simultaneous raids across eight provinces.
  • South Korea arrests alleged Swedish-handled spy. A former South Korean air force major general, identified only as Kim, was arrested last Friday on charges of leaking classified military information to Swedish defense and aviation company Saab, between August 2008 and May this year.

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