Espionage

  • China syndromeState Department stays away from Chinese-owned Waldorf Astoria

    The U.S. State Department said American diplomats and State Department officials, for the first time in decades, would not be staying at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel during this year’s UN general assembly. Worldwide last year sold the high-end Midtown hotel for $1.95 billion to the Chinese group Anbang Insurance Group. The sales contract allowed for “a major renovation” by the Chinese, and American security experts had no doubt as to the purpose of these “renovations”: As is the practice in China, the Chinese owners, working on behalf of China’s intelligence services, were going to plant listening devices in every room and ball room, and wire every phone, Wi-Fi hot spot, and restaurant table in order to eavesdrop on hotel guests.

  • BusinessU.S. surveillance policies cost U.S. tech sector more than $35 billion in sales

    New report says the U.S. tech industry has under-performed as a result of concerns about the U.S. government’s electronic surveillance. The report estimates that the total economic impact on the U.S. tech sector of U.S. surveillance practices exceeds $35 billion annually. The report recommends policymakers level the playing field for the U.S. tech sector by implementing a series of reforms such as increasing the transparency of its surveillance practices, opposing government efforts to weaken encryption or introduce backdoors in software, and strengthening its mutual legal assistance treaties with other nations.

  • Quick Take // By Ben FrankelSnowden fallout: Revelations forced U.K. to pull out agents from “hostile countries”

    The British security services had to pull out agents from “hostile countries” as a result of information the Chinese and Russian intelligence services obtained when they gained access to the millions of top-secret NSA files Edward Snowed was carrying with him when he fled to Honk Kong and then to Russia. Snowden assured journalists who interviewed him that the Chinese and Russian intelligence services would not be able to access these files because he encrypted them with the highest encryption methods available. Security experts commented that he was either naïve or disingenuous – because he must have known, or should have known, that the cyber capabilities these two countries would make it relatively easy for them to crack the encrypted files he was carrying with him. We now know that these security experts were right.

  • Cyber espionageCyber espionage campaign, likely sponsored by China, targets Asian countries: FireEye

    FireEye has released a report which provides intelligence on the operations of APT 30, an advanced persistent threat (APT) group most likely sponsored by the Chinese government. APT 30 has been conducting cyber espionage since at least 2005, making it one of the longest operating APT groups that FireEye tracks. APT 30 targets governments, journalists, and commercial entities across South East Asia and India.

  • Cyber operationsThe CIA bolsters cyber operations

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is planning to join the growing list of U.S. intelligence and security agencies which have redefined their missions to include cyber operations — in the CIA’s case, cyber espionage. Current and former agency officials say the new effort will be part of the broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work. The shift also reflects the increasing role cyber plays in intelligence gathering, with allies and adversaries relying on smartphones, social media, and other technologies to communicate.

  • CybersecurityFirst known Arabic cyber-espionage group attacking thousands globally: Kaspersky Lab

    The Kaspersky Lab Global Research and Analysis Team the other day announced the discovery of Desert Falcons, a cyber-espionage group targeting multiple high profile organizations and individuals from Middle Eastern countries. Kaspersky Lab said its experts consider this actor to be the first known Arabic group of cyber mercenaries to develop and run full-scale cyber-espionage operations. In total Kaspersky Lab experts were able to find signs of more than 3,000 victims in 50+ countries, with more than one million files stolen.

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  • China syndromeNew Chinese cyber rules aim to facilitate intellectual property theft: U.S. tech companies

    The Chinese government’s cyberspace policy group in late 2014 approved a 22-page document which contained strict procurement rules for technology vendors. Those rules would require U.S. firms selling computer equipment in China to turn over sensitive intellectual property — including source codes — submit their products for “intrusive security testing,” and use Chinese encryption algorithms. U.S. companies selling equipment to Chinese banks will be required to set up research and development centers in China, get permits for workers servicing technology equipment, and build “ports” which allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware. U.S. tech companies charge that the new rules would make it easier for China to steal U.S. companies’ intellectual property.

  • Nuclear cloak & daggerRussian secret agents implicated in nuclear poisoning of a critic of Putin

    Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident and a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, died in London on 23 November 2006 after suffering from radioactive polonium-210 poisoning. An inquest has established that on 1 November 2006 he ingested large quantities of the radioactive material, surreptitiously put in his tea by two agents of the Russian Federal Protective Services. A nuclear expert testifying at the inquest said that less than a millionth of a gram of polonium would be enough to kill a human being.

  • EspionageNYC Russian spy ring busted

    In a federal complaint unsealed Monday, prosecutors say that Russian spies used talk about books, or tickets for sporting events or concerts, as code words for conducting espionage against the United States. On Monday in New York, law enforcement arrested one of the men, Evgeny Buryakov, 39, who posed as an employee in the New York City office of a Russian bank. The two other men listed in the complaint, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, had diplomatic immunity and no longer live in the United States. U.S. officials said the men were gathering intelligence related to possible U.S. sanctions on Russia and U.S. efforts to develop alternative energy resources, in addition to trying to recruit Americans in high positions.

  • China syndromeNOAA employee charged with giving information on vulnerabilities of U.S. dams to China

    A National Weather Service (NOAA) employee is being charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) with stealing sensitive infrastructure data from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers database and handing it off to a Chinese government official in Beijing.The dam database is considered sensitive data and has also been compromised by Chinese hackers in 2013, as part of a covert Chinese government operation.The database information includes details on the location, type, storage, capacity, year of construction, and other crucial details helpful in the event of any coordinated strike.

  • Sony hackingCyber whodunnit: North Korea prime suspect but there are many potential culprits

    By Alan Woodward

    Many suspect North Korea to be behind the attack on Sony Pictures. North Korea quite possibly has motive, means, and opportunity to carry out this attack on Sony, but as with any successful prosecution, that isn’t enough. We need evidence. We will have to wait for the detailed forensic work to complete before we stand a realistic chance of knowing for certain. That may or may not be forthcoming, but in the meantime we should consider what this event tells us about the balance of power in cyberspace. In a world in which major disruption can be caused with scant resources and little skill, all enemies are a threat. North Korea might be the rogue state that everyone loves to hate but there are plenty of others who could have done it. There is no longer a tiered approach of superpowers fighting proxy wars in smaller, developing nations. Now those developing nations can fight back, and you might not even know it was them.

  • CybersecurityA malware more sophisticated than Stuxnet discovered

    Security experts at Symantechave discovered the world’s most sophisticated computer malware, Regin. Thought to have been created by a Western intelligence agency, and in many respects more advanced than Stuxnet — which was developed by the U.S. and Israeli government in 2010 to hack the Iranian nuclear program — Regin has targeted Russian, Saudi Arabian, Mexican, Irish, and Iranian Internet service providers and telecoms companies. “Nothing else comes close to this … nothing else we look at compares,” said one security expert.

  • China syndromeSecurity concerns over purchase of Waldorf Astoria by Chinese company

    Citing espionage risk, U.S. officials are expressing concern over the sale of the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City to a Chinese insurance company. The sale of the hotel will likely lead to a review by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) of the Chinese firm’s long-term plans for the site and the finer details of the sale. “Because the agreement calls for major renovations to the hotel, CFIUS will be worried that the Chinese could engage in some form of espionage,” said a former Treasury Department official who managed CFIUS reviews.

  • Security businessSecurity contractor USIS failed to notice months-long hacking of its computer systems

    A new report reveals that the cyberattack on security contractor USIS, similar to previous attacks by Chinese government hackers on U.S. firms, was infiltrating USIS computer systems for months before the company noticed. The breach, first revealed publicly by the company and the Office of Personnel Management(OPM) in August, compromised the records of at least 25,000 DHS employees.

  • EspionageNew report details Russia’s cyber-espionage activities

    Researchers at FireEye, a Silicon Valley-based computer security firm, are connecting the Russian government to cyber espionage efforts around the world. The researchers released a report on Tuesday which says that hackers working for the Russian government have, for seven years now, been hacking into computer networks used by the government of Georgia, other Eastern European governments, and some European security organizations.