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Mishandled CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents

New report has described how a catastrophic failure on the part of the Central Intelligence Agency, combined with the Chinese government’s steadily more sophisticated internet monitoring capabilities, led to the dramatic collapse of an American intelligence network in China and the executions of dozens of spies and their associates. The incident is just one example of how authorities in Beijing are overseeing the creation of an ever more effective police state, complete with technology and tactics straight out of a certain genre of near-future science fiction movie.

It is considered as one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically broke up the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.

Foreign Policy revealed how Chinese state security officials were able to completely demolish a CIA-run intelligence operation over the course of two years, beginning in 2010.  The New York Times first broke the news of the debacle in 2017, but its sources either did not disclose or did not know exactly what had happened or the true scale of China’s response. In May 2018, U.S. officials charged former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee with conspiracy to commit espionage over the affair, nearly five months after indicting him for retaining classified information.

The CIA turned to the FBI to help uncover the source of the leak, according to the report. That investigation helped turn up Lee, who allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars to deliver information to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, which oversees both foreign and internal intelligence operations.

Xinjiang, where Uighurs, a non-Chinese Turkic ethnic group that is predominantly Muslim, make up the bulk of the population, has been an ideal setting to test out new equipment and concepts of operation far from both Han Chinese and outside observers.

To help exercise social control, China has put into place one of the most elaborate surveillance architectures in the world, complete with omnipresent cameras connected to monitoring stations running advanced facial recognition software, checkpoints with paramilitary police, and a system of systems all tied to a government-issued identification card that includes a “score” of how much a threat an individual poses to the state. Authorities have also begun implementing mass biometric data collection, including blood and DNA samples, to go along with other official information on file. All this can limit a person’s ability to buy goods and services or get a job.

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP

An archway with no less than seven cameras in front of the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgarin in Xinjiang.

After a spate of knife attacks in Xinjiang by alleged separatists, Chinese officials instituted a policy where cutlery vendors must physically laser-etch a QR code linked the buyer’s ID into the blade.

In July 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that some 11,500 Uighurs that the Chinese government had approved to go on the Hajj, the sacred Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, had to carry special cards with a GPS tracker inside on a lanyard around their necks. Ostensibly for their own safety in the event of some sort of crisis, this system would obviously be able to monitor their every movement and it seems likely that anyone who decided to leave it behind would, if nothing else, take a serious hit on their social scorecard.

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP

A security guards man a checkpoint with a metal detector and an ID scanning system in a shopping mall in Xinjiang’s Kashgarin.

 Recently added in Xinjiang itself are small drones shaped like birds with realistically flapping wings, according to a June 2018 report from the South China Morning Post. These “Doves” can fly for thirty minutes and carry a small, color video camera and an ability to transmit the feed down to an individual on the ground. It reportedly has a GPS antenna and could be able to fly a pre-programmed route or operate under line-of-sight control.

The Chinese are “applying a very, very broad attempted solution to what they see as an ideological danger,” James Millward, who teaches Chinese history at The Georgetown University, told The Atlantic earlier in August 2018. “In Xinjiang, the definition of extremism has expanded so far as to incorporate.

Northwestern Polytechnical University

China’s “Dove” drone, a product of the country’s Northwestern Polytechnical University.

 

Imaginechina via AP

Chinese police officers and dogs, all with cameras, in Tiananmen Square.

China’s Police are now wearing Google Glass-style headsets with similar recognition capabilities to spot repeat offenders for crimes as minor as jaywalking. In the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, public restrooms use facial recognition software to give out only a specific amount of toilet paper per person. Even the police dogs have cameras.

 

 

Sixteen Year Old Teen Hacks Into Apple

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  • A 16 year old Australian teenager pleaded guilty to hacking Apple, stealing 90 gigabytes of secure files, and accessing customer accounts.
  • The 16-year-old broke into Apple’s mainframe several times over the course of a year, according to The Age, and stored hacking instructions on his laptop under a folder named “hacky hack hack.”
  • Apple identified and reported the hack to the FBI. It said “at no point during this incident” was personal user data compromised.
  • The teen will return to the court for sentencing in September.

Operation Wire Wire

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 Department of Justice and the FBI—has announced a major coordinated law enforcement effort to disrupt international business e-mail compromise (BEC) schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals.

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FBI Warns Taxpayers of Scams For Getting Your W2’s

 The FBI is warning of an increase in new scams that try to trick taxpayers and employers into sending employee records, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other sensitive information.

The scams are most often directed at human resources departments in an attempt to trick workers into sending records for large numbers of employees. Often, the people perpetrating these crimes impersonate executives inside a targeted company by compromising or spoofing a trusted email account that asks for all W-2 information on record. 

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Records Reveal FBI Paid Best Buy Geek Squad As Informants

EFF filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in May 2017 seeking records about the FBI’s training and use of Best Buy Geek Squad employees to conduct warrantless searches of customers’ computers.

A federal prosecution of a doctor in California revealed that the FBI has been working for several years to cultivate informants in Best Buy’s national repair facility in Brooks, Kentucky, including reportedly paying eight Geek Squad employees as informants.

EFF sent a FOIA request to the FBI in February 2017 seeking agency records about the use of informants, training of Best Buy personnel in the detection and location of child pornography on computers, and policy statements about using informants at computer repair facilities.The FBI denied the request, saying it doesn’t confirm or deny that it has records that would reveal whether a person or organization is under investigation. A suit  was filed after the Department of Justice failed to respond to our administrative appeal of the FBI’s initial denial.

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CIA, FBI, and NSA Chiefs Say You Shouldn’t Use Huawei or ZTE phones

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Top officials from major U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency (NSA) have suggested people should not use phones made by Chinese manufacturers Huawei or ZTE. They have“Deep concerns,” over potential security risks claimed to come from using telecoms devices made by companies, “beholden to foreign governments.

There was a discussion at an annual meeting about various threats to the United States from around the world.  A wide range of subjects, including and primarily Russian influence on U.S. politics and North Korea’s nuclear program, right down to drugs entering the U.S. from Mexico. Cyber security and the use of technology in espionage, however, repeatedly permeated talks.

Director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, made the opening remarks. He said the United States is under attack from, “Entities using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States,” and called cyber threats one of his greatest concerns and top priorities. Coats singled out Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as posing the greatest threats.

 

Huawei’s new flagship phone, the Mate 10 Pro, is available for pre-order in the US despite not having any deals with US carriers — so to get some attention, it seems the company has stooped to having fake reviews for the new phone planted online, as spotted by 9to5Google.

The fake reviews, are hosted on the Best Buy website, probably  the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook. On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. “Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page,” the post states.

 

HBO Hackers Leaked Executive’s Emails

Hackers who posted several of HBO’s new episodes and a “Game of Thrones” script online in late July have published a month’s worth of emails from the inbox of one of the entertainment company’s executives. The Hackers also addressed a video letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler that demands the company demand payment of money, although the figure was redacted, according to the report. The hackers said HBO marked their 17th victim, and only three have failed to pay. HBO said its forensic review of the incident is ongoing and noted that it believed further leaks were forthcoming.

HBO private emails in the hands of hackers, came Monday in an email message to The Hollywood Reporter that also contained nine files with such labels as “Confidential” and “Script GOT7.” The hackers also delivered a video letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler that says, “We successfully breached into your huge network. … HBO was one of our difficult targets to deal with but we succeeded (it took about 6 months).”

They say that the frequency of the attacks has overwhelmed the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, which has been unable to properly investigate all of them. The FBI’s surprising advice, according to industry sources: Pay the ransom.

FBI spokesperson in the L.A. office denied that the agency is telling companies to cough up the bitcoins in cases of ransomware. “The FBI does not encourage payment of ransom as it keeps the criminals in business,” says Laura Eimiller. “Of course, the individual victim must weigh their options.”

“The FBI will say it’s easier to pay it than it is to try to fight to get it back,” says Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor of online crime in L.A. and onetime chief security officer for News Corp. “And if one company pays the ransom, the entire hacking community knows about it.”

 

 

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