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New Intelligence Bill Gives FBI More Secret Surveillance Power

June 10, 2016

A Senate bill published late Monday night includes a new provision that would give the FBI more power to issue secret demands, known as national security letters, to technology, internet, communications, and banking companies for their customers’ information.
The provision, tucked into the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act, would explicitly authorize the FBI to obtain “electronic communication transactional records” for individuals or entities — though it doesn’t define what that means. The bill was passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.
In the past, the FBI has considered “electronic communication transactional records” to be a broad category of information — including everything from browsing history, email header information, records of online purchases, IP addresses of contacts, and more.
The Justice Department told the FBI in 2008 that it was not authorized to receive this information from companies without a court order, although as The Intercept reported last week, the FBI has continued to demand such data anyway — insisting on a different legal interpretation.
The major technology companies have been fighting back since then by refusing to provide email metadata and online records — forcing the FBI to pursue a legislative solution.
Before the full text of the bill was published, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., issued a press release warning about the expansion of power.
Read the text of the amendment below:
Sec. 803. Counterintelligence Access to Telephone Toll and Transactional Records:
Subsection (b) of section 2709 of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
“(b) REQUIRED CERTIFICATION.—The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the designee of the Director in a position not lower that Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director, may, using a term that specifically identifies a person, entity, telephone number, or account as the basis for a request, request the name, address, length of service, local and long distance toll billing records, and electronic communication transactional records of a person or entity, but not the contents of an electronic communication, if the Director (or the designee) certifies in writing to the wire or electronic communication service provider to which the request is made that the name, address, length of service, toll billing records, and electronic communication transactional records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”.
By Jenna McLaughlin
www.theintercept.com

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CIA Ex-Boss: Secretive Spooks Tolerated In UK More Than In US

May 31, 2016

British people are not demanding more transparency from the intelligence services as loudly as Americans, the former director of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA has said.
Michael Hayden played a pivotal, leading role in American intelligence until he was replaced as director of the CIA shortly into the presidency of Barack Obama.
In a wide-ranging talk on the fourth day of the Hay festival, Hayden addressed CIA torture, targeted killings, what he thinks about Edward Snowden and how Facebook is perhaps a greater threat to privacy than government.
Hayden said the security services were changing faster in the US than the UK. “You as a population are far more tolerant of aggressive action on the part of your intelligence services than we are in the United States,” he said.
The US intelligence services would not have validation from the American people unless there was a certain amount of knowledge, an increased transparency, he said.
Hayden talked about the tensions between the need to know and the need to protect.
In his newlypublished book Hayden calls Snowden naive and narcissistic and says he wanted to put him on a “kill list”.
On the next page he said Snowden “highlighted the need for a broad cultural shift” in terms of transparency and what constitutes consent. On Sunday he said there was no contradiction between the two assertions.
“The 2% of what Snowden revealed that had to do with privacy accelerated a necessary conversation. The other 98% was about how the US and foreign governments collected legitimate material … that was incredibly damaging.”
The privacy revelations quickened a conversation which had “hit the beach” in the US but it “has not hit the beach here in Great Britain”.
Hayden was asked about how much information we give to social media companies and whether the public is naive in trusting Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook more than the NSA.
“I have my views on that,” he joked. “Your habits are all geared to protecting privacy against the government because that was always the traditional threat. That is no longer the pattern, it is the private sector … we are going through a cultural adjustment.
“With regard to the 21st-century definition of reasonable privacy, Mark Zuckerberg is probably going to have a greater influence on that than your or my government because of the rules we will embed inside his Facebook applications.”
On “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture – which could include waterboarding – Hayden said he personally authorised it only once and it did not, he admitted, work.
But he added the “suite” of usable techniques had been reduced from 13 to six and the interrogator believed he would have got information if that had not been the case. “Was it doomed to failure or was it a failure because we did not do enough?”
Targeted killings were justified, Hayden said, because the US believed it was at war. The UK, he said, referring to the killing of “Jihadi John”, has now “joined the queue”.
Hayden said he believed Islam was going through the crisis that Christianity went through in the 17th century as it was in an internal crisis. “We are not the target, we are collateral damage. What has happened in Paris, in Brussels … is spillage.”
Hayden also touched on Donald Trump, whose pronouncements, he said, had damaged US security.
“The jihadist narrative is that there is undying enmity between Islam and the modern world so when Trump says they all hate us, he’s using their narrative … he’s feeding their recruitment video.”
By Mark Brown
www.theguardian.com

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Under Surveillance: Journalists Urged To Guard Their Data

May 30, 2016

The two most important principles for great journalism go hand in hand: first, to hold power to account, and second, to protect sources.
However, both principles are becoming increasingly challenging in light of the UK government’s attack on Freedom of Information and the expansive surveillance powers laid out in the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
If the UK Home Office has its way, bulk collection of metadata and content, collation of ‘bulk personal datasets’ (including innocent people’s political opinions, medical conditions, ethnicity, sexuality) and even bulk hacking, will be exercised under the new legislation. This is despite the extreme breaches of human rights law and basic democratic principles.
Journalistic principles are more important than ever if the draft bill becomes law in the United Kingdom. Equally important is for journalists to offer real source protection and adopt good information security practices.
It is thanks to great journalism, and excellent information security, that we can even have an informed debate about the surveillance state today. I’m referring, of course, to the courageous work of Glenn Greenwald and other journalists. It was their reporting on thousands of classified documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – jigsaw pieces put together over the past two and a half years – that formed an unrecognisable and frankly dystopian picture of the Western democracies we thought we knew.
Whistleblowing and journalism has forced UK intelligence agencies and government to present comprehensive legislation to parliament in form of the draft bill to clearly define the powers that have been, and currently are, exercised with dubious legality. Few expected the worst of Snowden’s revelations to be proliferated and even extended, but they have been.
The UK government made a great deal of ‘journalist protections’ in the draft bill. I spent considerable time looking for them in the 300-page document. There aren’t any. There is a draft code of practice accompanying the bill, which recommends that police and spies have ‘consideration’ when gathering data on, or intercepting, journalist-source communications. But the bill gives police and intelligence agencies the power to spy on, intercept and even hack journalists’ communications. Since when is ‘consideration’ an effective safeguard to protect a critical pillar of a free society – a free press?
Journalists rarely know when they are being spied on. Authorities need not declare their target’s job; there is no obligation to inform those wrongfully spied on; and intercept evidence is banned from the courts. Despite the near impossibility of finding out you’ve been the target of surveillance, there are increasing examples of unjustified surveillance of journalists and their sources.
Journalists who want to be able to offer source protection; who want to do serious investigative work; who want to hold power to account, must adopt information security practices. Information security is source protection in the digital age, and journalists who show an awareness, willingness and ability to adopt digital security behaviours will attract valuable sources and stories.
My top tips for journalists on protecting their data:
• Don’t offer source protection unless you are confident you can provide it. It is important to give potential sources an honest and informed evaluation of the protection you can provide them and the safety of your communications. Their livelihoods, and in some countries their lives, could be at stake.
• Information you need to understand the risks and defend against them is widely available, including this free handbook from the Centre for Investigative Journalism.
• Use encryption to securely exchange emails and to safely share important source files. Encryption wraps communications in impenetrable code, so that the content is only accessible to the intended recipient/s. It is one of the very best ways we have of securing modern communications and technologies.
• Using the Centre for Investigative Journalism handbook you can learn some simple but highly effective ways to encrypt your emails, use encrypted instant messaging and store or exchange encrypted files.
By Silkie Carlo
www.newssafety.org

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Secret Text in Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access to Email Records

May 27, 2016

A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy.
If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI’s already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs — most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account.
Since a 2008 Justice Department legal opinion, the FBI has not been allowed to use NSLs to demand “electronic communication transactional records,” such as email subject lines and other metadata, or URLs visited.
The spy bill passed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with the provision in it. The lone no vote came from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who wrote in a statement that one of the bill’s provisions “would allow any FBI field office to demand email records without a court order, a major expansion of federal surveillance powers.”
Wyden did not disclose exactly what the provision would allow, but his spokesperson suggested it might go beyond email records to things like web-surfing histories and other information about online behavior. “Senator Wyden is concerned it could be read that way,” Keith Chu said.
It’s unclear how or when the provision was added, although Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., — the committee’s chairman — and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., have both offered bills in the past that would address what the FBI calls a gap and privacy advocates consider a serious threat to civil liberties.
“At this point, it should go without saying that the information the FBI wants to include in the statue is extremely revealing — URLs, for example, may reveal the content of a website that users have visited, their location, and so on,” Andrew Crocker, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an email to The Intercept.
“And it’s particularly sneaky because this bill is debated behind closed doors,” Robyn Greene, policy counsel at the Open Technology Institute, said in an interview.
In February, FBI Director James Comey testified during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats that the FBI’s inability to get email records with NSLs was a “typo” — and that fixing it was one of the FBI’s top legislative priorities.
Greene warned at the time: “Unless we push back against Comey now, before you know it, the long slow push for an [electronic communication transactional records] fix may just be unstoppable.”
The FBI used to think that it was, in fact, allowed to get email records with NSLs, and did so routinely until the Justice Department under George W. Bush told the bureau that it had interpreted its powers overly broadly.
Ever since, the FBI has tried to get that power and has been rejected, including during negotiations over the USA Freedom Act.
The FBI’s power to issue NSLs is actually derived from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — a 1986 law that Congress is currently working to update to incorporate more protections for electronic communications — not fewer. The House unanimously passed the Email Privacy Act in late April, while the Senate is due to vote on its version this week.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is expected to offer an amendment that would mirror the provision in the intelligence bill.
Privacy advocates warn that adding it to the broadly supported reform effort would backfire.
“If [the provision] is added to ECPA, it’ll kill the bill,” Gabe Rottman, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s freedom, security, and technology project, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “If it passes independently, it’ll create a gaping loophole. Either way, it’s a big problem and a massive expansion of government surveillance authority.”
NSLs have a particularly controversial history. In 2008, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine blasted the FBI for using NSLs supported by weak evidence and documentation to collect information on Americans, some of which “implicated the target’s First Amendment rights.”
“NSLs have a sordid history. They’ve been abused in a number of ways, including … targeting of journalists and … use to collect an essentially unbounded amount of information,” Crocker wrote.
One thing that makes them particularly easy to abuse is that recipients of NSLs are subject to a gag order that forbids them from revealing the letters’ existence to anyone, much less the public.

By Jenna McLaughlin

www.theintercept.com

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phishing-attack

Phishing Attacks Soar in Record-Making Surge

May 26, 2016

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) observed more phishing attacks in the first quarter of 2016 than at any other time in history. According to the APWG’s new Phishing Activity Trends Report, the total number of unique phishing websites observed in Q1 2016 was a record 289,371, with 123,555 of those phishing sites detected in March 2016.
Those quarterly and monthly totals are the highest the APWG has seen since it began tracking and reporting on phishing in 2004.
There was a 250 percent increase in phishing sites between October 2015 and March 2016. “We always see a surge in phishing during the holiday season, but the number of phishing sites kept going up from December into the spring of 2016,” said Greg Aaron, APWG Senior Research Fellow and Vice-President of iThreat Cyber Group. “The sustained increase into 2016 shows phishers launching more sites, and is cause for concern.”
APWG Chairman Dave Jevans said, “Globally, attackers using phishing techniques have become more aggressive in 2016 with keyloggers that have sophisticated tracking components to target specific information and organizations such as retailers and financial institutions that top the list.”
On the heels of this report of record numbers of cybercrime attacks, APWG will be holding its annual general meeting and cybercrime research conference next week in Toronto. There, its global cadre of cybercrime responders, managers and university researchers will be plotting strategies to neutralize the menace of cybercrime, a sprawling threatscape growing seemingly unchecked in scope and virulence in recent years.
In the Q1 Trends Report, APWG found that the Retail / Service sector continued to be the most heavily attacked. APWG member MarkMonitor observed more attacks targeting cloud-based or SAAS companies, which drove significant increases in the Retail/Service sector. Financial and Payment targets were also heavily targeted as usual.
Ransomware continues to be another increasing threat, with APWG members Forcepoint and PandaLabs seeing increasing numbers of ransomware infections in early 2016. According to Carl Leonard, Principal Security Analyst at Forcepoint: “The onslaught of ransomware has not abated in 2016. Ransomware authors exhibited a willingness to adjust their scare tactics and software in Q1 2016 as they sought to scam more end-users. The takeaway is clear – ransomware authors are more determined and aggressive in 2016. End-users should be aware of the danger and take preventative measures.”
APWG co-founder and Secretary General Peter Cassidy reviewing the quarter’s disturbing numbers said, “The threat space continues to expand despite the best efforts of industry, government and law enforcement. It’s clear we have a lot to talk about in Toronto, perhaps broaching some broader resolutions to unify efforts across sectors. After all, what is civilization but the largest conspiracy?”
The full text of the report is available here:
http://docs.apwg.org/reports/apwg_trends_report_q1_2016.pdf
By APWG – Anti-Phishing Working Group
http://www.apwg.org

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