Wednesday, March 11, 2015

OpenStack 03/12/2015 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, China, tech-security

    • China’s new draft anti-terror legislation has sent waves across the U.S. tech community. If there is a brewing tech war between U.S. and China over government surveillance backdoors and a preference for indigenous software, China’s new draft terror law makes it clear that Beijing is happy to give the United States a taste of its own medicine. The law has already drawn considerable criticism from international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for its purported attempts to legitimize wanton human rights violations in the name of counter-terrorism. Additionally, China has opted to implement its own definition of terrorism, placing  “any thought, speech, or activity that, by means of violence, sabotage, or threat, aims to generate social panic, influence national policy-making, create ethnic hatred, subvert state power, or split the state” under the umbrella of the overused T-word.

      The problematic human rights issues aside, the draft anti-terror law will have important implications for foreign tech firms within China. According to Reuters’ reporting on the draft anti-terror law, counter-terrorism precautions by the Chinese government would essentially require foreign firms to “hand over encryption keys and install security ‘backdoors’” into their software. Additionally, these firms would have to store critical data — certainly data on Chinese citizens and residents — on Chinese soil. The onerous implications of this law could have lead to an immediate freeze to the activities of several Western tech companies in China, the world’s second largest economy and a booming emerging market for new technologies.

    • On the surface, the most troublesome implication of this law is that in order to comply with this law, Western firms, including non-technical ventures such as financial institutions and manufacturers, will be forced to give up a great deal of security. In essence, corporate secrets, financial data — all critical data — would be insecure and available for access by Chinese regulators. The new law would also prohibit the use of secure virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around these requirements.
    • The U.S. diplomatic response to Beijing’s new draft law is perhaps best captured in the fact that a whopping four cabinet members in the Obama administration, including Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, wrote the Chinese government expressing “serious concern.” China, for its part, seemed unfazed by U.S. concerns. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the press that she hoped the United States would view the new anti-terror precautions in “in a calm and objective way.” Indeed, following Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the extent of the United States’ surveillance of private firms both within and outside the United States, Beijing likely views U.S. concerns as hypocritical. One U.S. industry source told Reuters that the new law was ”the equivalent of the Patriot Act on really, really strong steroids.”
  • Tags: surveillance state, Canada, cellphone, border-search-&-seizure, password

    • Montreal (AFP) - A Canadian charged for refusing to give border agents his smartphone passcode was expected Thursday to become the first to test whether border inspections can include information stored on devices.

      Alain Philippon, 38, risks up to a year in prison and a fine of up to Can$25,000 (US$20,000) if convicted of obstruction.

      He told local media that he refused to provide the passcode because he considered information on his smartphone to be "personal."

      Philippon was transiting through the port city of Halifax on his way home from a Caribbean vacation on Monday when he was selected for an in-depth exam.

    • "Philippon refused to divulge the passcode for his cell phone, preventing border services officers from their duties," Canada Border Services Agency said in an email.

      The agency insists that the Customs Act authorizes its officers to examine "all goods and conveyances including electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops."

      But, according to legal experts, the issue of whether a traveler must reveal the password for an electronic device at a border crossing has not been tested in court.

      "(It's) one thing for them to inspect it, another thing for them to compel you to help them," Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at Dalhousie University, told public broadcaster CBC.

      Philippon is scheduled to appear in court on May 12.


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