WikiLeaks has sparked a debate about cybersecurity by publishing secret CIA documents. In a DW interview, its founder, Julian Assange, said he will publish more information – and he was critical of US tech companies.
There are no less than 16 different intelligence agencies in the United States. In 2017, they will cost US taxpayers some $70 billion (65 billion euros) – roughly twice Germany’s overall annual defense budget. The actual distribution of that sum among US intelligence services is classified, but revelations brought to light by Edward Snowden in 2013 suggest that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) receives the lion’s share.
In 2013, that sum was around $15 billion. Now the CIA, a highly funded agency tasked with gleaning state secrets from other countries, has a problem keeping its own secrets: On March 7, the whistleblower platform WikiLeaks began publishing CIA documents under the name “Vault 7.”
To avoid increased scrutiny at airports, the CIA recommends its covert operatives have simple and plausible responses to the two questions most frequently asked at airport screenings: Why are you here? Where are you staying?
Bitcoin has seen its price fall slightly over the last 24 hours, dropping to its lowest price since mid-August.
The meme-inspired dogecoin also saw its value drop since yesterday, however significant gains over the last week will mean that this is less keenly felt.
Other major cryptocurrencies, including peercoin, darkcoin and namecoin, have seen their prices surge by between 8% and 16%.
Bitcoin creator pleaded with WikiLeaks
Satoshi Nakomoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, reportedly asked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to not accept bitcoin for donations to the whistleblowing website.
The revelations come from Assange’s latest book that comes out this week, titled When Google Met WikiLeaks.
When a member of a bitcoin forum suggested WikiLeaks could accept bitcoin, Nakamoto apparently claimed such integration would “provoke unwanted government interest” in the nascent cryptocurrency.
“The project needs to grow gradually so the software can be strengthened along the way,” Nakamoto said. “I make this appeal to WikiLeaks not to try to use bitcoin.
“Bitcoin is a small beta community in its infancy. You would not stand to get more than pocket change and the heat you would bring would likely destroy us at this stage.”
Bitcoin gets boost from Digital Currency Council
A new association has launched that will offer training, support and digital currency certification for those within the cryptocurrency space.
The Digital Currency Council (DCC) is backed by the investment vehicle Bitcoin Opportunity and was founded by David Berger, the former CEO of the Institute of Private Investors.
“The emergence of digital currencies and their growing acceptance as a form of both commerce and investment is creating significant new business opportunities for financial advisors, brokers and other professionals,” said Berger in a statement.
“Our goal is to provide a place where financial advisors and their firms can go to get comprehensive training in digital currencies, and to create a standards-based designation that will be recognized as conveying a professional level of expertise in digital currencies: ‘DCC Certified.'”
Germany has been criticised by the whistleblowing site for failing to block a ‘weaponised malware’ dealer selling to regimes with poor human rights records
WikiLeaks has released more information on controversial commercial surveillance tools, criticising the German government for not blocking a “weaponised malware” developer from shipping its code to countries with regimes with poor human rights records.
WikiLeaks’ latest Spy Files publication included some previously unreleased versions of the malware in question, produced by FinFisher, a German firm that used to be part of UK-based Gamma International.
FinFisher can infect Apple OS X, Windows and Linux computers as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone devices.
The files, originally obtained by a hacker going by the name Phineas Fisher in August, should be used to improve detection systems to protect people’s PCs and mobiles, WikiLeaks said.
The organisation also believes the files will help researchers uncover further human rights abuses related to FinFisher, which can be used to siphon off data from machines and spy on communications, from email to Skype.
According to the leaks, FinFisher customers include law enforcement and government agencies in Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa and Vietnam.
The FinFisher suite of spy software was originally brought to light when documents were found in the offices of Egypt’s secret police after former president Hosni Mubarak was deposed.
Since then, activists from Ethiopia and Bahrain, amongst other nations, claimed to have been targeted by governments using FinFisher.
WikiLeaks said Germany should take action to stop the malware spreading.
“FinFisher continues to operate brazenly from Germany selling weaponised surveillance malware to some of the most abusive regimes in the world. The Merkel government pretends to be concerned about privacy, but its actions speak otherwise,” said Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ editor in chief.
“Why does the Merkel government continue to protect FinFisher? This full data release will help the technical community build tools to protect people from FinFisher including by tracking down its command and control centres.”
Assange’s organisation claimed FinFisher’s revenue from the sales documented in the leak amounted to around €50m (£40m), though Bill Marczak, a researcher from Citizen Lab, suggested this could have been over-estimated.
FinFisher and its previous owner Gamma have previously claimed they only sold their products to responsible governments, though researchers and activists believe the firm has lied about its customer list. It had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Claudio Guarnieri, an independent researcher who has been investigating FinFisher on behalf of Citizen Lab, told the Guardian the release should have a positive effect.
“I think it’s a good release. Firstly because now it collects the material from the breach and make some sense out of the data, when nobody really made the effort to do some decent work around it.”
Eric King, deputy director at Privacy International, also praised the release. “These new documents from Wikileaks give us greater insight into how companies like FinFisher and the governments they supply compromise our personal devices, and spy on the most private parts of our lives,” he said.
“More transparency is needed to hold companies like FinFisher to account, as well as the governments purchasing such equipment. Without public scrutiny of the surveillance technology industry, activists will continue to be targeted by repressive regimes and the damaging practices of FinFisher will be allowed to continue unabated.”
The wider fight against so-called “lawful interception” technologies continues. In the UK, Privacy International has been leading the charge, recently uncovering data implicating Swiss surveillance tech company Neosoft in “trying to equip and train a brutal government unit in Bangladesh”.
Leaked documents purport to show that NSA wiretapped current leader Francois Hollande as well as two former presidents.
The United States wiretapped France’s former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as current leader Francois Hollande, according to documents released by WikiLeaks.
The spying spanned 2006 to 2012, French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website, said on Tuesday, quoting documents classed as “Top Secret” which include five reports from the US National Security Agency based on intercepted communications.
The most recent document is dated May 22, 2012, just days before Hollande took office, and reveals that the French leader “approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone”.
Another document dated 2008 was titled “Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve world financial crisis”.
Hollande called a meeting of his defence council to discuss the reports on Wednesday.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the US had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians.
Still, the new revelations are bound to cause diplomatic embarrassment for the Americans, even though allies have been spying on allies for thousands of years.
Hollande said last year that he discussed his concerns about NSA surveillance with President Barack Obama during a visit to the US, and they patched up their differences.
Spy scheme reviewed
After the Merkel disclosures, Obama ordered a review of NSA spying on allies, after officials suggested that senior White House officials had not approved many operations that were largely on auto-pilot.
After the review, American officials said Obama had ordered a halt to spying on the leaders of allied countries, if not their aides.
Neither Hollande’s office nor Washington would comment on the new leaks. Contacted Tuesday by AFP, Hollande’s aide said:
“We will see what it is about.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby meanwhile said: “We do not comment on the veracity or content of leaked documents.”
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks previous mass disclosures have proven to be accurate.
Top secret documents provided by U.S. intelligence contractorEdward Snowden have revealed that American and British spy agencies have not only targeted whistleblower organization WikiLeaks, but its supporters as well. One document, attributed to the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), details how visitors to WikiLeaks’s websites were secretly monitored.
Other documents, released concurrently, show the U.S. government targeted the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, which reporters claim is proof the U.S. National Security Agency frequently strays from its mandate of surveillingterrorists and national security threats. It was also revealed that Anonymous activists were also secretly targeted by the NSA.
The documents were outlined by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher in the Intercept, a digital magazine published by First Look Media, dedicated to reporting on documents obtained by Snowden.
Included in the files are new details of how the Obama administration pursued WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assangeby urging foreign governments to file criminal charges against him. Assange has been granted diplomatic asylum by the Ecuadorian government and since June 2012 has remained in their London embassy, fearing abduction and extradition to the United States.
A file called the “Manhunting Timeline,” dated 2008 to 2012, is used by intelligence community to record the efforts of the U.S. government to “locate, prosecute, capture, or kill alleged terrorists, drug traffickers, Palestinian leaders and others.” Among the targets listed in the file is Julian Assange.
“The United States on August 10 urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany, to consider filing criminal charges against Julian Assange,” the documents revealed.
A discussion between two NSA offices is recorded in a third document published the Intercept, including the NSA general counsel and analysts with its Threat Operations Center. The document suggests that the NSA considered designating WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor,” which would have allowed the agency to target U.S. citizens associated with the group.
The U.S. and British governments have claimed they do not spy on the citizens of each others countries, however, the documents released by the Intercept prove those statements are false. A powerpoint presentation published by the Intercept shows that a GCHQ system—codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL—has been used to specifically target Americans who visited WikiLeaks’ website.
In a statement to the Intercept, Assange condemned the NSA and GCHQ for the targeting of journalists and activists: “News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling. Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”
In another document released by the Intercept, titled “Discovery SIGINT Targeting Scenarios and Compliance,” includes a Q&A with the NSA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC). “I screwed up… the selector had a strong indication of being foreign, but it turned out to be US… now what,” one of the questions asks. The OGC responds that it was necessary to report the incident, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”
“The IP addresses collected by GCHQ are used to identify individual computers that connect to the Internet,” the Intercept said, “…and can be traced back to specific people if the IP address has not been masked using an anonymity service.”
The new report further highlights how the U.S. government may target American citizens who have taken steps to protect their privacy through this use of encryption products. With regards to Anonymous, analysts were told to specifically target only individuals living outside the United States, and then, only those not holding dual citizenship. Millions of activists, hackers, and average law-abiding citizens, however, legally employ various forms of online encryption, including virtual private networks (VPN), which can be used to mask their physical locations, by connecting to proxy servers occasionally located on foreign soil.
Assange told reporters that WikiLeaks is considering legal action against the United States.
“The investigations into attempts to interfere with WikiLeaks’ work will go wherever they need to go. Make no mistake: those responsible will be held to account and brought to justice,” he said.
It was a bright cool evening in August, and the clocks were striking nineteen. Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV had just been handed a gagging order as the nightly news was about to air, prohibiting any reports on documents released earlier that day by WikiLeaks.
Less than a year had passed since the start of the 2008 financial crisis that decimated the country’s economy and the leaks implicated Iceland’s largest bank in the collapse.
Faced with the decision of either cancelling the 7pm broadcast or running a different story, RUV instead chose to broadcast a screenshot of the WikiLeaks homepage, together with news that it had been forbidden to report on the matter.
For Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a poet, WikiLeaks volunteer and political activist, this was the spark that would ignite one of the most intriguing social and political movements of recent times.
““It’s like modern book burnings all the time and nobody knows about it.”” – Birgitta Jónsdóttir
Five years later, Jónsdóttir now leads Iceland’s Pirate Party, the world’s first political organisation of its type to hold office. Her work with WikiLeaks has finished but her ambition to transform her country is in full flow.
“I’m just sort of a geeky poet that accidentally got inside the parliament,” Jónsdóttir told IBTimes UK from the Pirate Party’s office within Iceland’s Parliament House. “And now I’m just hacking at it a bit to figure out how the system works, just like any good old hacker.”
Jónsdóttir’s parlance stems from her former career as a web developer, with the “hacker” moniker now denoting a mindset rather than any computer-related capabilities.
“There are hackers in many different fields,” Jónsdóttir said. “It’s basically a certain kind of mentality where you look at a system in a holistic way to understand if there are any holes in it.
“Our current systems, everywhere in the world, need a lot of patching and at some stage patching doesn’t work so you have to create new hardware.”
The new hardware Jónsdóttir has developed with comes in the form of the International Modern Media Institute (IMMI), a parliamentary resolution that cherry-picks all the best transparency, freedom of expression and source protection laws and policies from around the world into one comprehensive vision.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir.(IBTimes UK)
Through her work with WikiLeaks, Jónsdóttir was able to learn how documents and stories were kept safe no matter what sort of legal threats they faced by keeping different stories in different places, depending on their legal sensitivity within various state’s jurisdictions.
“There is no historical protection on news, stuff is just vanishing left, right and centre. Stories change – it’s like modern book burnings all the time and nobody knows about it,” she said. “So we felt that there needed to be a new standard for dealing with the digital era, asking how does democracy function in the digital era.”
After winning the support of all the major politicians from all the major parties, the IMMI is well on its way to achieving just such a digital democracy.
A recent white paper published by Gigaom Research, credited the IMMI with having created an international haven for data privacy and freedom of speech, capable of protecting data from warrants, subpoenas and espionage.
“Iceland, through the combination of the IMMI regulations and status as an European Economic Area state, is uniquely positioned as a data privacy haven,” the paper found.
The IMMI is also helping to fulfill Jónsdóttir’s vision of transforming Iceland into the “Switzerland of bits”, a notion suggested by John Perry Barlow, the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in 2008.
The haven created by the Pirate Party and the IMMI, together with Iceland’s cool climate and cheap and renewable energy, have meant companies and organisations are increasingly looking to Iceland to store their data.
The first major company to capitalise on this has been Verne Global, a data storage provider that set up shop in Iceland in 2012 and now provides its services to everyone from car manufacturers to Hollywood production companies – all eager to keep the development of new projects away from prying eyes.
“One of the great things about Iceland and one of the reasons that we really liked it for a data centre location is that the data privacy laws here are excellent and very much at the top among its European peers and we think this is going to be even more important over the next five to 10 years,” Jeff Monroe, CEO of Verne Global, told IBTimes UK on a recent visit to the firm’s data centre in Iceland.
The data centre itself is both a digital and physical fortress. Nine “challenge points” protect the data on the servers from the outside world, including fences, “man-trap” entrances, two-factor authentication codes and a bomb-proof security room.
It’s still early days for Iceland’s data centre industry but a measure of its success so far can be seen through Verne Global’s exponential growth.
“We’re a private company and we can’t disclose our customers in general,” Monroe said. “But we’ve doubled our capacity initially from our first launch and then we doubled again just in the past year.
“So our growth is substantial and we see a tremendous amount of interest in our offering.”
Jónsdóttir may be close to finally achieving her vision of a digitaldemocracy but she claimed it was not a simple case of putting the laws in place and declaring “mission accomplished”. It was more a case of revolution with a silent “R”.
“For creating the Switzerland of bits, I’d say we’re about 70% of the way there,” she said. “But of course we’re constantly faced with challenges because all these things are always shifting and changing. The transformative evolution that is revolutionary is all the technology that’s happening right now.
“So that’s my mission: to try and figure out if it’s possible at all,” she smiled. “Without a bloody revolution.”
“Mobile Photography Tips” is the blog run by Alex Markovich. It is so obvious that our smartphones have become, first and foremost, instruments for taking pictures and surfing the net, rather than tools for making calls.