News you may have missed #0286 (Internet edition)

  • Email trojan targeted at US .gov, .mil accounts. A Trojan-containing email, which is spoofed so that it appears to have been sent by the US National Intelligence Council, appears to have been directed solely at US government and military email accounts.
  • Analysis: Smuggling secret information through VOIP. Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) systems use a series of protocols to essentially create an open, unmediated link between two computers. VOIP applications also provide a way to make sure the packets are ordered quickly and correctly. And that’s a goldmine for anyone trying to send hidden messages.
  • ACLU concerned about Google-NSA partnership. Google corporation has turned to the US National Security Agency for assistance in warding off cyberattacks. But the American Civil Liberties Union is among several organizations that view the partnership as “troubling”.

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News you may have missed #0128

  • US government appeals judge’s order in Cuban Five spy case. US government officials are contending a judge’s order because they say it would be detrimental to US national security. The order requires the US government to turn over any national security damage assessments in the Cuban Five case. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. Three of the five are to be given new sentences on October 13 after an appeals court ruled that the initial sentences they received (ranging from 19 years to life) were too long.
  • Indian spies want access to missed calls. Indian security agencies have told the country’s Department of Telecommunications that they need access to missed calls because “anti-social elements” may be using the system to communicate without actually making a call. Last month, India’s Intelligence Bureau asked for all VOIP (internet-based) calls in the country to be blocked until it figures out a mechanism to track them. It also said it wants access to the content of all mobile phone calls in the country.
  • New book investigates Stasi’s scientific espionage. Documents from the vaults of HVA (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung), the foreign department of the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security, which were purchased by the CIA from a German informant in 1992, were made available in 2005 to Kristie Macrakis professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Her book, Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s Spy-Tech World, offers a rare look into the Stasi’s secret technical methods and sources. Macrakis’s analysis of the CIA material reportedly reveals that about 40% of all HVA sources planted in West German companies, research institutions and universities were stealing scientific and technical secrets.

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News you may have missed #0108

  • Fatah dismisses spy chief in West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed Palestinian General Intelligence Chief Mohammad Abu Assam. The dismissal appears to be part of a broader plan to unify the Palestinian Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Service, who have been fighting a notorious turf war for several years.
  • Indian Intelligence Bureau wants to block all VOIP Services. India’s Intelligence Bureau has instructed the country’s communications ministry to block all VOIP (internet-based) calls in the country until it figures out a mechanism to track them. It has also said it wants access to the content of all mobile phone calls in the country. Indian security agencies have been struggling with this issue since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after it emerged that the attackers used VOIP software to communicate with the their handlers.
  • Is Afghan President’s brother a US informant? There is speculation that Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is in fact an informant for US intelligence agencies. It true, this would explain why he has been allowed by US agencies to operate freely in the country.

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News you may have missed #0088

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Has Skype’s VOIP encryption been broken?

NSA HQ

NSA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
I have explained before that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies have found it impossible to intercept Skype’s instant messaging and voice traffic. Like other voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) communications providers, Skype uses technology that converts audio signals to data, and transports them through most of the Internet infrastructure in binary, rather than audio, format. Furthermore, Skype uses very complex algorithms to encrypt its customers’ communications. Skype has repeatedly pointed to the technical complexities of VOIP communications, arguing that it is often technically impossible to facilitate communications interception requests by government authorities. There are rumors among communications interception specialists that the NSA is offering billions to anyone who can come up with a reliable eavesdropping model for Skype. Remarkably, on August 25, a Swiss software developer released what he claims is the source code of a program for tapping into encrypted Skype communications. I don’t know whether the source code (essentially a trojan) is effective. He claims it is. If this is confirmed, then several people in Fort George F. Meade, Maryland, will be really close paying attention.

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Comment: EU wants to intercept encrypted VOIP communications

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Italian authorities are taking the initiative in a European Union (EU)-wide effort to terminate the tacit immunity of voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) communications from authorized interception. Italy’s delegation to Eurojust, an EU coordination body tasked with combating transnational organized crime, issued a statement last weekend, promising to spearhead a project to “overcome the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of internet telephony systems”. The statement contains several references to Skype, a Luxembourg-based VOIP provider that has so far reportedly refused to share its communications encryption system with government authorities. Because of this, the latter have accused Skype of providing organized crime syndicates with the ability to communicate without fear of their messages being intercepted.

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Unprotected Wi-Fi now seen as security threat in India

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
IntelNews has been reporting on the interesting technical intelligence details of the November 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. On January 7, we explained that the organizers of the attacks used a virtual number, 1-201-253-1824, set up by a California-based VOIP (voice-over-Internet protocol) telecommunications provider, to communicate with the assailants on the ground in real-time. Now the Mumbai Police have said they will start monitoring the city’s neighborhoods for unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and instructing their owners to secure them on the spot. This is because militant groups have apparently been logging on to unprotected wireless networks to sent emails claiming responsibility for several attacks in the country. Last November it emerged that the email claiming responsibility for the Mumbai attacks was sent by an individual with “technical expertise and their knowledge of sophisticated [anonymizing] software”.