National Security Stories January 18, 2016

Last week, Apple was at the heart of a conversation during the Republican presidential debate over encryption and national security. Candidates such as Jeb Bush explained that, even if companies like Apple aren’t willing to give up user data, the government has “got to keep asking because this is a hugely important issue.” Last night, NBC held a Democratic presidential debate out of South Carolina, and once again, encryption and technology’s role in national security were hot button issues during the debate.

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National Security Stories January 15, 2016

Apple’s strong position on privacy and encryption has been at odds with the United States government’s pressure to step up its national security efforts in the wake of recent terrorist attacks across the globe. In short, iPhones are encrypted to protect customer data from prying eyes, and law enforcement agencies believe that gives criminals a safe haven for communication that can’t be traced.

The Obama administration including the former and current attorney general and FBI director have strongly voiced opposition to Apple’s position, and Tim Cook reportedly pressed the White House to back strong encryption as recently as this week. So it’s no surprise that Tim Cook and Apple came up at the end of last night’s Republican presidential debate hosted by the Fox Business channel where at least one candidate was asked to address his position on the subject.

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National Security Stories January 28, 2014

Rovio responds to claims Angry Birds was targeted by NSA smartphone surveillance program

Yesterday we reported on new leaked docs from Edward Snowden reported by The New York Times and others that detailed secret NSA and GCHQ programs used to siphon data from popular smartphone apps on both iOS and Android. While Apple and Google have yet to respond to the reports, today one of the main developers singled out in the claims has. Rovio, maker of the popular Angry Birds game that was mentioned several times in the reports, today posted a response on its website.

The developer confirms that it in no way works with NSA, GCHQ or any other government organization to provide data about users, but it does point to third-party advertising networks as a possibility of the leaks:

The alleged surveillance may be conducted through third party advertising networks used by millions of commercial web sites and mobile applications across all industries. If advertising networks are indeed targeted, it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance. Rovio does not allow any third party network to use or hand over personal end-user data from Rovio’s apps.

Referring to the third-party advertising networks, Rovio CEO Mikael Hed said the company would have to “re-evaluate working with these networks if they are being used for spying purposes.”

Angry Birds wasn’t the only app specifically mentioned in the leaked docs, however. The reports claim the NSA program is capable of intercepting information ranging from location, age, and sex of users to address books, buddy lists, phone logs, geographic data and more from various mobile apps and third-party ad networks. Twitter, Google Maps, Facebook and others were also specifically mentioned in yesterday’s reports.

National Security Stories January 27, 2014

New documents leaked by Edward Snowden and reported by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica detail how the NSA and its British counterpart can collect users’ personal data through smartphone apps. The reports specifically mention popular apps like Angry Birds, Twitter, Google Maps and Facebook and claim the NSA is capable of intercepting information ranging from location, age, and sex of users to address books, buddy lists, phone logs, geographic data and more:

The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address books, buddy lists, phone logs and the geographic data embedded in photos when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services.

At least one of the app developers, Rovio, is not surprisingly unaware of any of the activity mentioned in the documents, but it will be up to the app developers, Apple, and Google to address the issue and clarify for users if their personal data is safe. In a recent interview with ABC, Apple CEO Tim Cook commented on the controversy over surveillance programs and promised he would press congress for more transparency: expand full story

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