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NSA ‘surveilled’ French presidents: WikiLeaks

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Paris: French President Francois Hollande, ex-presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, and French cabinet ministers were surveilled by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US, WikiLeaks said on Wednesday in a press release.

WikiLeaks on Tuesday began publishing “Espionnage Elysee”, a collection of top secret intelligence reports and technical documents from NSA concerning targeting and intelligence intercepts of the communications of high-level officials from successive French governments over the last ten years, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The documents also contain the ‘selectors’ from the target list, detailing the cell phone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysee up to and including the direct cell phone of the President,” the press release said.

According to WikiLeaks, the to-be-published documents are intelligence summaries of conversations between French government officials concerning some of the most pressing issues facing France and the international community, including a dispute between the French and the US governments over the US spying on France.

“The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, adding that “French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future”.

This revelation of Americans spying against French leaders came not long after Germany opened an investigation to Americans tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials.

France is formally a close ally of the US, and plays a key role in a number of US-associated international institutions, including the Group of 7 (G7) and NATO. (IANS)

 

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Hackers Release documents and files Indicating US National Security Agency (NSA) Monitored Global Bank Transfers

The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity

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An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, VOA

April 15, 2017: Hackers released documents and files Friday that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks.

The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity, said Shane Shook, a cyber security consultant who has helped banks investigate breaches of their SWIFT systems.

The documents and files were released by a group calling themselves The Shadow Brokers. Some of the records bear NSA seals, but Reuters could not confirm their authenticity.

The NSA could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Holes in Windows

Also published were many programs for attacking various versions of the Windows operating system, at least some of which still work, researchers said.

In a statement to Reuters, Microsoft, maker of Windows, said it had not been warned by any part of the U.S. government that such files existed or had been stolen.

“Other than reporters, no individual or organization has contacted us in relation to the materials released by Shadow Brokers,” the company said.

The absence of warning is significant because the NSA knew for months about the Shadow Brokers breach, officials previously told Reuters. Under a White House process established by former President Barack Obama’s staff, companies were usually warned about dangerous flaws.

Bangladesh heist

Shook said criminal hackers could use the information released Friday to hack into banks and steal money in operations mimicking a heist last year of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank.

“The release of these capabilities could enable fraud like we saw at Bangladesh Bank,” Shook said.

The SWIFT messaging system is used by banks to transfer trillions of dollars each day. Belgium-based SWIFT downplayed the risk of attacks employing the code released by hackers Friday.

SWIFT said it regularly releases security updates and instructs client banks on how to handle known threats.

“We mandate that all customers apply the security updates within specified times,” SWIFT said in a statement.

SWIFT said it had no evidence that the main SWIFT network had ever been accessed without authorization.

It was possible that the local messaging systems of some SWIFT client banks had been breached, SWIFT said in a statement, which did not specifically mention the NSA.

When cyberthieves robbed the Bangladesh Bank last year, they compromised that bank’s local SWIFT network to order money transfers from its account at the New York Federal Reserve.

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NSA and SWIFT

The documents released by the Shadow Brokers on Friday indicate that the NSA may have accessed the SWIFT network through service bureaus. SWIFT service bureaus are companies that provide an access point to the SWIFT system for the network’s smaller clients and may send or receive messages regarding money transfers on their behalf.

“If you hack the service bureau, it means that you also have access to all of their clients, all of the banks,” said Matt Suiche, founder of the United Arab Emirates-based cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies, who has studied the Shadow Broker releases and believes the group has access to NSA files.

The documents posted by the Shadow Brokers include Excel files listing computers on a service bureau network, user names, passwords and other data, Suiche said.

“That’s information you can only get if you compromise the system,” he said.

Cris Thomas, a prominent security researcher with the cybersecurity firm Tenable, said the documents and files released by the Shadow Brokers show “the NSA has been able to compromise SWIFT banking systems, presumably as a way to monitor, if not disrupt, financial transactions to terrorists groups.”

Thwarting terrorists

Since the early 1990s, interrupting the flow of money from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere to al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other militant Islamic groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries has been a major objective of U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.

Mustafa Al-Bassam, a computer science researcher at University College London, said on Twitter that the Shadow Brokers documents show that the “NSA hacked a bunch of banks, oil and investment companies in Palestine, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, more.”

He added that NSA “completely hacked” EastNets, one of two SWIFT service bureaus named in the documents that were released by the Shadow Brokers.

Reuters could not independently confirm that EastNets had been hacked. And EastNets, based in Dubai, denied it had been hacked in a statement, calling the assertion “totally false and unfounded.”

EastNets ran a “complete check of its servers and found no hacker compromise or any vulnerabilities,” according to a statement from EastNets’ chief executive and founder, Hazem Mulhim.

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Snowden documents

In 2013, documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said the NSA had been able to monitor SWIFT messages.

The agency monitored the system to spot payments intended to finance crimes, according to the documents released by Snowden.

Reuters could not confirm whether the documents released Friday by the Shadow Brokers, if authentic, were related to NSA monitoring of SWIFT transfers since 2013.

Some of the documents released by the Shadow Brokers were dated 2013, but others were not dated. The documents released by the hackers did not clearly indicate whether the NSA had actually used all the techniques cited for monitoring SWIFT messages.
-VOA

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US National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Pakistan’s mobile networks: WikiLeaks

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FILE - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link in a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the anti-secrecy group in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. VOA

Islamabad, April 11, 2017: The US National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on Pakistan’s mobile networks, whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks has tweeted.

“Hundreds of NSA cyber weapons variants publicly released including code showing hacking of Pakistan mobile system,” @wikileaks tweeted.

According to a report in Express Tribune on Monday, the hacker group “Shadow Brokers” released a new cache of information detailing how the NSA accessed private and public networks in other countries.

A researcher on Twitter who identifies himself as ‘x0rz’ decrypted the files and uploaded them on Github, a web-based repository and internet hosting service.

“The researcher confirmed that the archives include evidence of NSA operators’ access inside the GSM network of Mobilink — one of the Pakistan’s most popular mobile services provider,” the report noted.

The hacker group had previously released data suggesting the US agency may have been monitoring hundreds of IP addresses in Pakistan. The encrypted files were being decrypted by security researchers around the world.

“Shadow Brokers” had initially wanted to auction its data cache in exchange for Bitcoin but as no buyer turned up, they released the data online.

This is not the first time that reports have surfaced claiming that the US NSA is snooping on other countries.

According to a Daily Mail report in 2014, WikiLeaks disclosed documents that suggested the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was among six political parties from around the world the NSA was authorised to conduct surveillance on for gathering foreign intelligence. The authorisation was given by a secret American court, it said.

The leak was planned months ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, the report claimed.

Another report in the Washington Post that also came in 2014 said the US has long had broad no-spying arrangements with four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively as the “Five Eyes”.

“But a classified 2010 legal certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries [including India], that would be of valid interest for US intelligence,” the Post said. (IANS)

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WikiLeaks’ latest disclosure of CIA cyber-tools can Blow Cover on Hacking Operations

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FILE - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain, Feb. 5, 2016. VOA

April 1, 2017: WikiLeaks latest disclosure of CIA cyber-tools reveals a technique used by the agency to hide its digital tracks, potentially blowing the cover on hacking operations aimed at gathering intelligence on foreign targets, the media reported.

The release on Friday of the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Marble Framework” comes less than a month after the WikiLeaks disclosed a trove of files — dubbed “Vault 7” — that described the type of malware and methods the CIA uses to gain access to targets’ phones, computers and other electronic devices, The Washington Post reported.

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The material includes the secret source code of an “obfuscation” technique used by the CIA so its malware can evade detection by anti-virus systems.

The technique is used by all professional hackers, whether they work for the National Security Agency, Moscow’s FSB security agency or the Chinese military.

Since the code contains a specific algorithm — a digital fingerprint of sorts — it can now be used to identify CIA hacking operations that had previously been detected but not attributed, The Washington Post said.

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In response, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said late Friday: “Dictators and terrorists have no better friend in the world than Julian Assange, as theirs is the only privacy he protects.”

It said “the American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the intelligence community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries,” The Washington Post quoted Boid as saying.

“Such disclosures not only jeopardise US personnel and operations but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm,” he added. (IANS)