Situation Report: China’s Huawei Going Mobile? (Exclusive)

Huawei TechnologiesBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
The Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies, a provider of information and communications technology, has been constantly under fire in the United States and around for the world for its supposed deep ties to China’s military and intelligence establishment. It is not without some justifiable concern either. Prior to starting Huawei Technologies, the company’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, served for more than 10-years in China’s People’s Liberation Army’s engineering corps. This reality, rightly or wrongly, has added fodder for concerns that Chinese government interests are intertwined with those of Huawei. On September 13, Huawei Technologies and another Chinese firm, ZTE, were the subject of a Congressional hearing titled “Investigation of the Security Threat Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE”. The purpose of the hearing, as explained by the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was to assess the potential danger of “telecommunications equipment manufactured by companies with believed ties to the Chinese government”. Read more of this post

Situation Report: Is DARPA’s Phoenix Program Intelligence-Related?

DARPA's Phoenix ProgramBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN| intelNews.org |
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the out-there research arm of the United States Department of Defense, is well known for it’s futuristic and bleeding-edge technology research projects. Often times, the Agency’s highflying efforts seem to protrude a motto of “failure is an option”. In fact, a 2003 article in The Los Angeles Times states that DARPA’s failure rates are between 85 and 90 percent. But this has not prevented the Agency from trying out new things, which sometimes help shape the future. It’s predecessor, Advanced Research Projects Agency, renamed DARPA in 1972, helped create what is today the Internet. Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (aka UNIX), Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface (Siri, that female voice on your iPhone —yup, she’s a spinout from a DARPA Artificial Intelligence project called CALO), and Onion Routing (core technique for anonymous communications over computer networks, i.e. the base technology underlying Tor), were all funded, in part, by DARPA. Unsurprisingly, DARPA is at it again. The question remains, though, can the hype become a reality or will the new effort find a home in the vast majority of DARPAs forward-looking failed adventures? Read more of this post

Situation Report: Intel-on-Demand in a Web 2.0 World (Exclusive)

US President Barack Obama and his BlackBerry phoneBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
In the United States, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), “the highest-level intelligence analysis targeted at the key national security issues and concerns of the President”, is increasingly going digital. For that matter, so is much of the output produced by the US Intelligence Community at large. According to AOL Defense News, “The President and his top officials want and will get a single mobile device allowing them to access highly classified and unclassified data wherever they are”. The mobility feature is driven by a desire not to be tethered to a desk or a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). In addition to the obvious benefits of mobility, the digitized PDB allows for a more in-depth and interactive reading of intelligence matters. In the example of the PDB, as the President reviews the nation’s most sensitive intelligence information on a specialized tablet, he can jump back and forth, click on links to take a deeper dive, see follow-up briefings, review background materials for greater context, view videos, photographs, maps and other visual aids. In fact, the PDB has gone from a static page to an interactive assessment of top intelligence concerns, landing it squarely in a quasi Web 2.0 world for the Intelligence Community. That is not to say that the President is checking Twitter, Facebook or the Rasmussen Report’s daily Presidential Tracking Poll numbers. Instead, reports indicate the digitized hardware has been scaled way down. For obvious reasons, specific details regarding the hardware’s composition and features remain classified. Read more of this post

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

Situation Report: Hacker convention brings out top NSA spy

DefConBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
In less than a week, the 20th annual DefCon Hackers convention will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada. The yearly gathering brings out the good, the bad and the script kiddies alike. Computer security practitioners, cyber-criminals, grey and white hat hackers, law enforcement, and members of both the US intelligence community as well as probably foreign government representatives will be on hand to listen to presentations, see novel techniques, and view new innovative methods for cyber intrusion. DefCon has become a Mecca of sorts for those interested in groundbreaking developments and nefarious possibilities within the computer security and cyber realm. As organizers of the event explain in their call for presentations, “DefCon is all about thinking up cool and new ways to approach everything from the most complex modern technology to hacking grandma’s toaster […] what attack exploits, defensive techniques, or unique research [have] you have been working on”. The focus is often two-fold “how to break it”, followed by a segment on “how to fix it”. “Spot the Fed” is an ongoing and widely popular contest at the convention. The task of regular attendees is to properly identify plain-clothed members of law enforcement or the intelligence community. As DefCon explains, “if you see some shady MIB (Men in Black) earphone penny loafer sunglass wearing Clint Eastwood to live and die in LA type lurking about, point him out”.

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Situation Report: CIA venture group funds video recorder firm

In-Q-TelBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
On June 27, In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of the Central Intelligence Agency and other members of the United States intelligence community, announced a strategic partnership with Looxcie, makers of the first ever “wear and share” videocam recorders. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. In-Q-Tel, created in 1999, is the foremost strategic investor on behalf of the US Intelligence Community. Originally called “Peleus”, In-Q-Tel was initially associated with the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T).  Interestingly enough, the “Q” in In-Q-Tel’s branding is apparently derived from a fictional character in the James Bond movies referred to as “Q”.  As many movie fans will recall, “Q” was responsible for outfitting Bond and other 00s with the famed and awe-inspiring gadgetry and technical equipment needed for missions. Having evolved from the CIA’s DS&T, whose primary purpose is to “create, adapt, develop and operate technical collection systems and apply enabling technologies to the collection, processing and analysis of information”, In-Q-Tel’s strategic investments in dual-purpose technology firms is hardly surprising. In fact, In-Q-Tel has a notable track record, especially given the fact that it is a government-run venture capital fund. Successful as it may be, In-Q-Tel represents itself quite humbly, formally explaining that it is a “not-for-profit organization […] created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the Intelligence Community and new advances in commercial technology”. Read more of this post