Sunday, June 08, 2014

OpenStack 06/09/2014 (a.m.)

  • Looks like Vodafone broke a government transparency logjam on government surveillance via digital communications, as to disclosure of raw totals of search warrants by nations other than the U.S. 

    Tags: surveillance state, NSA-reform, Deutsche-Delekom, Vodafone

    • Germany's biggest telecoms company is to follow Vodafone in disclosing for the first time the number of surveillance requests it receives from governments around the world.

      Deutsche Telekom, which owns half of Britain's EE mobile network and operates in 14 countries including the US, Spain and Poland, has already published surveillance data for its home nation – one of the countries that have reacted most angrily to the Edward Snowden revelations. In the wake of Vodafone's disclosures, first published in the Guardian on Friday, it announced that it would extend its disclosures to every other market where it operates and where it is legal.

      A spokeswoman for Deutsche Telekom, which has 140 million customers worldwide, said: "Deutsche Telekom has initially focused on Germany when it comes to disclosure of government requests. We are currently checking if and to what extent our national companies can disclose information. We intend to publish something similar to Vodafone."

    • Bosses of the world's biggest mobile networks, many of which have headquarters in Europe, are gathering for an industry conference in Shanghai this weekend, and the debate is expected to centre on whether they should join Deutsche and Vodafone in using transparency to push back against the use of their technology for government surveillance.

      Mobile companies, unlike social networks, cannot operate without a government-issued licence, and have previously been reluctant to discuss the extent of their cooperation with national security and law enforcement agencies.

      But Vodafone broke cover on Friday by confirming that in around half a dozen of the markets in which it operates, governments in Europe and outside have installed their own secret listening equipment on its network and those of other operators.

  • Tags: surveillance-state, NSA-reform, DIY-reform, internet-hardening, digital-privacy

    • As fast as it can, Google is sealing up cracks in its systems that Edward J. Snowden revealed the N.S.A. had brilliantly exploited. It is encrypting more data as it moves among its servers and helping customers encode their own emails. Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo are taking similar steps.
    • After years of cooperating with the government, the immediate goal now is to thwart Washington — as well as Beijing and Moscow. The strategy is also intended to preserve business overseas in places like Brazil and Germany that have threatened to entrust data only to local providers.

      Google, for example, is laying its own fiber optic cable under the world’s oceans, a project that began as an effort to cut costs and extend its influence, but now has an added purpose: to assure that the company will have more control over the movement of its customer data.

    • A year after Mr. Snowden’s revelations, the era of quiet cooperation is over. Telecommunications companies say they are denying requests to volunteer data not covered by existing law. A.T.&T., Verizon and others say that compared with a year ago, they are far more reluctant to cooperate with the United States government in “gray areas” where there is no explicit requirement for a legal warrant.
    • Eric Grosse, Google’s security chief, suggested in an interview that the N.S.A.'s own behavior invited the new arms race.

      “I am willing to help on the purely defensive side of things,” he said, referring to Washington’s efforts to enlist Silicon Valley in cybersecurity efforts. “But signals intercept is totally off the table,” he said, referring to national intelligence gathering.

      “No hard feelings, but my job is to make their job hard,” he added.

    • In Washington, officials acknowledge that covert programs are now far harder to execute because American technology companies, fearful of losing international business, are hardening their networks and saying no to requests for the kind of help they once quietly provided.

      Robert S. Litt, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all 17 American spy agencies, said on Wednesday that it was “an unquestionable loss for our nation that companies are losing the willingness to cooperate legally and voluntarily” with American spy agencies.

    • Many point to an episode in 2012, when Russian security researchers uncovered a state espionage tool, Flame, on Iranian computers. Flame, like the Stuxnet worm, is believed to have been produced at least in part by American intelligence agencies. It was created by exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s operating systems. Companies argue that others could have later taken advantage of this defect.

      Worried that such an episode undercuts confidence in its wares, Microsoft is now fully encrypting all its products, including Hotmail and Outlook.com, by the end of this year with 2,048-bit encryption, a stronger protection that would take a government far longer to crack. The software is protected by encryption both when it is in data centers and when data is being sent over the Internet, said Bradford L. Smith, the company’s general counsel.

    • Mr. Smith also said the company was setting up “transparency centers” abroad so that technical experts of foreign governments could come in and inspect Microsoft’s proprietary source code. That will allow foreign governments to check to make sure there are no “back doors” that would permit snooping by United States intelligence agencies. The first such center is being set up in Brussels.

      Microsoft has also pushed back harder in court. In a Seattle case, the government issued a “national security letter” to compel Microsoft to turn over data about a customer, along with a gag order to prevent Microsoft from telling the customer it had been compelled to provide its communications to government officials. Microsoft challenged the gag order as violating the First Amendment. The government backed down.

    • Hardware firms like Cisco, which makes routers and switches, have found their products a frequent subject of Mr. Snowden’s disclosures, and their business has declined steadily in places like Asia, Brazil and Europe over the last year. The company is still struggling to convince foreign customers that their networks are safe from hackers — and free of “back doors” installed by the N.S.A. The frustration, companies here say, is that it is nearly impossible to prove that their systems are N.S.A.-proof.
    • In one slide from the disclosures, N.S.A. analysts pointed to a sweet spot inside Google’s data centers, where they could catch traffic in unencrypted form. Next to a quickly drawn smiley face, an N.S.A. analyst, referring to an acronym for a common layer of protection, had noted, “SSL added and removed here!”
    • Facebook and Yahoo have also been encrypting traffic among their internal servers. And Facebook, Google and Microsoft have been moving to more strongly encrypt consumer traffic with so-called Perfect Forward Secrecy, specifically devised to make it more labor intensive for the N.S.A. or anyone to read stored encrypted communications.

      One of the biggest indirect consequences from the Snowden revelations, technology executives say, has been the surge in demands from foreign governments that saw what kind of access to user information the N.S.A. received — voluntarily or surreptitiously. Now they want the same.

    • The latest move in the war between intelligence agencies and technology companies arrived this week, in the form of a new Google encryption tool. The company released a user-friendly, email encryption method to replace the clunky and often mistake-prone encryption schemes the N.S.A. has readily exploited.

      But the best part of the tool was buried in Google’s code, which included a jab at the N.S.A.'s smiley-face slide. The code included the phrase: “ssl-added-and-removed-here-; - )”


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