You can imagine the NSA getting impatient over free lunches following the announcement last month about Google’s proposed underseas fiber optic cable that will span the Pacific Ocean from the US west coast to Japan starting mid-2016.
The new cable dubbed “Faster” to transmit 60 terabits per second will be “easy to tap for sure”, according to a former NSA official quoted in a report by online news portal VentureBeat.
Google will cough out US$300 million to join hands with several parties – including China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, KDDI and SingTel – for the project which “could have big implications for Google on the public-cloud front and also for mobile needs”.
The involvement of some of these Google’s partners in this undertaking would blow the socks off many in the intelligence communities.
Intelligence agencies tapping into undersea cables have been well documented. The NSA’s British counterparts GCHQ, for example, have “Tempora” that could collect up to 21 million gigabytes of data every 24 hours as previously revealed by Edward Snowden, according to VentureBeat.
Apart from tapping communications, undersea cables are also left vulnerable exactly where they are.
Media reports had it that the Egyptian Armed Forces have arrested 3 scuba divers who tried to cut and sabotage an undersea internet cable in the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile lawyers representing the US government are in court hearings at the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan this week to defend the government’s bulk collection of telephone records from millions of Americans. Please stay tune.
A new homegrown Chinese operating system aimed to sweep aside foreign rivals like Microsoft, Google and Apple could be expected this coming October, according to a Xinhua news report Sunday.
The new OS would first target desktops with smartphones and other mobile devices to follow, according to Ni Guangnan who heads the development launched in March.
Now, it’s not that China has not attempted to create its very own OS. There was a Chinese Linux OS launched some years ago for mobile devices, dubbed the China Operating System (COS). It was developed as a joint effort by a company ‘Shanghai Liantong’, ISCAS (Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the Chinese Government. But it failed to take off and was later discontinued.
But the Chinese determination to have its very own system has risen a few bars recently, not least further sparked by the Snowden revelations that the American NSA planted “backdoor” surveillance tools on US-made hardware. Similarly the US have long been suspicious of China-made devices – Hmmm, is it still possible to get laptops with NO parts made in China? Check out my earlier column here if you are keen.
More recently, after the US made poster-boys of 5 Chinese military officers they accused of cyber-espionage in May, China swiftly banned government use of Windows 8. Just last month, it was also reported that as many as 10 Apple products were pulled out of a government procurement list as the spate of mistrusts continued.
China also lamented early last year that Google had too much control over its smartphone industry via its Android mobile operating system and has discriminated against some local firms.
Any bets on a fake Chinese OS any time soon – and sooner than October?
Several reports have surfaced the last 24 hours about Google’s “Project Zero”, essentially the online search giant’s very own in-house super-geeks team of security researchers and hackers now devoted to finding security flaws in non-Google, third-party software “across the internet”, especially zero-day flaws (newly discovered bugs) – also known as “zero-day” vulnerabilities, those hackable bugs that are exploited by criminals, state-sponsored hackers and intelligence agencies.
Now the question is, is this a Google PR stunt? Read this and that articles and decide for yourself.
“More than once, I’ve wished my real life had a delete key.” – Harlan Coben, American novelist.
If that sounds familiar, it has now become a reality but with reasons for concern – it has been two months since the controversial European “right to be forgotten” ruling. The irony is that nothing has actually changed fundamentally despite all the subsequent hoo-hah.
Let’s not forget the internet was originally designed to exchange raw data between researchers and scientists. Any attempt to manually and selectively remove the contents, successful or otherwise, is like playing God – much worse when Google decides what to delete.
I have listed an example to illustrate the lessons to be learned and price to be paid – of a somewhat similar attempt and the implications on the society at large.
You can find the entire column here.
From China with Love
It’s the one year anniversary of what is now known as the Snowden revelations, which appeared on June 5 and June 9 when The Guardian broke news of classified National Security Agency documents and Edward Snowden revealed himself in Hong Kong as the source of those leaks.
There is still much to decipher from the chronology of events in the aftermath and the sudden global awakening to the end of privacy. Among the impacts on the personal, business and political fronts, one interesting salient feature is the hypocritical rhetorical spats between the US and China in recent weeks, which could set the undertone for US-Sino relations for years to come.
Snowden said his biggest fear is that nothing would change following his bold decision a year ago.
You can find the entire column here.
End of Wins XP is No Dawn for Wins 8
Don’t be fooled into upgrading to Wins 8 after Microsoft recently ended support for the popular Wins XP OS. High time to switch to Linux instead – as I did 3 years ago.
Read this nicely written piece on those long held conspiracy theories about Microsoft and the NSA.
Or is Privacy Even Possible?
Is privacy and a secure email on your wish list? How does the “most secure email program” sound to you? Or rather, is that still possible in this post-Snowden era? How about a completely secure search engine?
Find out more from my latest column here and there.
The open source OpenSSL project revealed Monday a serious security vulnerability known as the “Heartbleed” bug that is used by two-third of the web to encrypt data, ie. to protect usernames, passwords and any sensitive information on secure websites. Yahoo is said to be the most exposed to Heartbleed but the company said it has fixed the core vulnerability on its main sites. There are several things you would need to do to check for Heartbleed bug and protect yourself from it, apart from changing your passwords. And according to the Tor project, staying away from the internet entirely for several days might be a good idea.
Check these YouTube video clips for more information – and find out how to fix it on Ubuntu Linux.
Take your pick: Edward Snowden, Internet and phone service providers, or just everybody?
The furor over the past week about how US intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have for years scooped up massive loads of private communications data raises one critical and distressing question.
Who, worldwide and in the US, are the general public supposed to trust now that it seems all forms of digital and cyber communications risk being read by the American authorities? The Americans, it seems, don’t believe it’s that big a deal. By 62-34, according to the latest poll by Pew Research and the Washington Post, they say it’s more important to investigate the threats than protect their privacy. But what about the rest of the world?
The immediate acknowledgement, rather than point blank denial, of the massive clandestine eavesdropping programs is no doubt alarming even for those long suspicious of such covert undertakings. But the more disturbing part is that the official response amounts to plain outright lies.
Please read this entire Opinion Column here.
The Security Assault on Social Networks
Forget hacking. It works but it’s illegal.
Big data mining is the future of cyber espionage. It is not illegal as long as the data is open source and in the public domain. And all that data on “open” social networking Web sites are most vulnerable.
Two recent commercially developed software packages could soon be giving your government and employer and possibly anyone else who is interested – ways to spy on you like never before, including monitoring your words, your movements and even your plans now and into the future.
Please read the full column here and there.
Christmas comes early for spies this year.
The National Security Agency and Defense Information Systems Agency (the unit that manages all communications hardware needs for the Pentagon) are reportedly going to issue in December their newly developed smart phones and tablets based on commercially designed devices. Only a selected number of “customers” would get such a device as an early Christmas present, including spies and some high-level military and government officials.
These new phones and tablets are modified from commercial designs - for good operational reasons - and thus mark a departure from the current use of special phones that stand out from the crowd and cost thousands of dollars. These ordinary looking devices will use some special Apps to optimize use of cloud computing and thus ease the risks of losing them and having sensitive data easily compromised.
And by the way, these modified devices run on Google’s Android operating system. Apple’s loyal worshippers will be left disappointed…
Looking back at 2010: A Very Social World
The world has changed. More than ever before, it is dominated by two opposing forces: the compulsion to share information and the need to control it. The year 2010 can claim to have a pivotal spot in the technological history of mankind, though not evidently for the better.
On the eve of the New Year, I began to wonder what some of the most significant world events were and which of these stood out. How could they further have an impact on a world already paranoid about privacy and national security on one hand, and obsessed with the advancement of techno-devices on the other?
The WikiLeaks headlines obviously top the list on a global scale, followed by the Google pullout from China, which left its mark on the world of corporate espionage. Third is the pressure exerted on the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM) to hand over its Blackberry encryption to several governments.
These three events signify a paradigm shift in the gathering and sharing of information… (Read the entire column here and there).