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

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Western companies help Bahrain spy on democracy activists

NSN Logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
While Western governments preach to the world about the benefits of democracy, Western companies supply some of the most detestable dictatorial regimes with surveillance technologies for use against pro-democracy activists. One example in point is the repressive government of Bahrain, which, according to Amnesty International, is responsible for some of the most extensive human rights violations anywhere in the Middle East. Bahrain is the kind of place where even medical professionals who treat people wounded by police or soldiers in demonstrations are charged with “incitement”. Despite the fervor of the pro-democracy movement that has risen as part of the Arab Spring, the oil-rich royal clique that rules the nation has managed a series of debilitating hits against the reformists. The success of the crackdown is largely due the use of sophisticated telecommunications surveillance systems that allow Bahraini authorities to spy on cell phones and social networking platforms used by members of the pro-democracy opposition. Who supplied the Bahraini dictators with this equipment? Step forward German engineering conglomerate Siemens AG, and Finnish multinational Nokia. An article published this week in Bloomberg’s Markets magazine, fingers the German company as the primary supplier of telecommunications surveillance systems to the Bahraini royals. The latter rely on contracts with Nokia’s Trovicor GmbH subsidiary to maintain the sophisticated software and hardware. Bloomberg says it was notified of the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership by two unnamed insiders, “whose positions at the companies gave them direct knowledge of the installations and the sale and maintenance contracts”. 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

FBI wiretaps broke the law thousands of times from 2002 to 2006

FBI memos

FBI memos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Considering the extent of illegal domestic telephone surveillance practiced by US intelligence agencies after 9/11, the disclosure of yet another wiretap scandal can hardly surprise anyone. But the latest revelation by The Washington Post points to an alarming collusion between FBI agents, their supervisors, as well as telephone industry employees, all of whom consciously disregarded even the severely lax standards of the USA PATRIOT Act. The paper says it acquired several internal FBI memos (.pdf), through “a government employee outside the FBI, who gained access to them”. These memos appear to show widespread abuse of more than 2,000 US telephone call records (but not content, it appears), which FBI agents obtained between 2002 and 2006, by presenting telephone companies with fake National Security Letters (NSLs). The NSLs claimed the records were required for emergency counterterrorism investigations. But in reality these investigations bore no connection to terrorism, and the NSLs were never followed up with actual subpoenas, as they were supposed to. 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