Monthly Archives: December 2015

Former Sri Lankan cop wanted over assassination linked to Aussie eco-consultancy business

AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING

Sri Lankans protesting the 2006 shooting death of Tamil politician and human rights lawyer Nadarajah Raviraj in Sri Lanka image www.intelagencies.com

Sri Lankans protesting the 2006 shooting death of Tamil politician and human rights lawyer Nadarajah Raviraj in Sri Lanka. Photo: Supplied

A Sri Lankan policeman wanted in connection with the assassination of a prominent Sri Lankan politician and human rights lawyer is suspected of hiding out in Australia and running an eco-consultancy business.

The eco-consultancy is owned by a businesswoman who says she is a friend of former United States President Bill Clinton.

Sri Lankan police have confirmed asking Australian police for assistance in tracking down Fabian Royston Toussaint​ who is wanted in Sri Lanka in connection with the 2006 shooting death of Tamil politician and human rights lawyer Nadarajah Raviraj​.

Malini Ventura, who is now known as Malini Saba image www.intelagencies.com
Malini Ventura, who is now known as Malini Saba, from a promotional pic used by the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce to promote her appointment to the role.

​Australian Securities and Investment Commission records this month listed Mr Toussaint as being a director of Eco Support Consulting, a private company owned by a Malaysian-born businesswoman Malini Ventura which was established in May 2014, and registered in Victoria.
Advertisement

Ms Ventura, who has since changed her last name to Saba, has been involved in promoting charity dinners with Mr Clinton in Sydney and Brisbane that were mysteriously cancelled in 2010 leaving ticket buyers out of pocket.

Fairfax does not suggest Ms Saba is in any way connected to the political assassination or any of the allegations involving Toussaint.
The flyer for the Bill Clinton dinner that was promoted by Ventura and her company Redbrick Development in 2010.

The flyer for the Bill Clinton dinner that was promoted by Ventura and her company Redbrick Development in 2010. Photo: Supplied

Ms Saba last week confirmed that she had employed Mr Toussaint in the eco-consulting business but had fired him in January after becoming aware of the allegations levelled against him.

She also confirmed that Mr Toussaint had come to Australia “as a tourist” but said she did not know his whereabouts.

“That guy has been fired since January and I don’t keep in touch with that person. I wouldn’t know where to look for him. I had my team fire him. ”

She said the company was no longer operating.

Last week Sri Lankan Police Homicide Inspector Anuruddha Polwatha confirmed there was a warrant out for the arrest of Mr Toussaint in connection with the slaying of Raviraj.

Mr Raviraj, who was also a human rights lawyer was gunned down in the street by two men on a motorbike, a day after he led a protest demonstration over a Sri Lankan army bombing that killed civilians in 2006.

Inspector Polwatha said Sri Lankan police had contacted Australian police more than two months ago after receiving a tip-off that Mr Toussaint was living in Australia but were yet to receive any information.

He was surprised to learn of Mr Toussaint’s alleged involvement in the eco-consultancy.

“He’s (Toussaint) a cop. He is not expert in such matters” said Inspector Polwatha speaking by phone from Colombo.

“Can you please send us the details of that company?”.

Inspector Polwatha said police suspected Mr Toussaint may have been seeking asylum in Australia as he was reported to have left Sri Lanka four or five years earlier.

He said Mr Toussaint had been named in court as being a wanted suspect in the killing.

Efforts to contact Mr Toussaint were unsuccessful.

The registered address for the $500 Eco Support Consulting company is listed as being at Swaab lawyers in Hunter St , Sydney.

On Monday Swaab partner Terry Sperber​ said he could confirm that the firm had acted for a Ms Ventura in the past.

But he said: “We haven’t done so for quite some time.”

He said he had no information about the whereabouts of Mr Toussaint or a Ms Ventura.

Ms Saba has courted controversy in the past after being involved in business ventures which investors allege left them out of pocket – claims she vigorously denies.

She also says she is a friend of former Mr Clinton and donated between $500,000 and $1 million to the Clinton Foundation in the United States.

In September Ms Saba featured in local newspapers in Queensland after she was briefly appointed to head a chamber of commerce in Ipswich west of Brisbane this time using the name Malini Saba, but then left after just six weeks.

In 2010 she made headlines when using the name “Malini Alles-Ventura”, she promoted the charity dinners with Mr Clinton organised through a private company Redbrick Development Pty Ltd.

The Australian Financial Review reported the proposed dinners as taking place as part of the Asia Pacific Global Issues forum raising awareness and money for disadvantaged women and children. The paper reported Ms Alles-Ventura was a personal friend of Mr Clinton.

Prominent business people in Brisbane and Sydney bought tickets which were priced in some cases up to $15,000 to attend the events that included a special round table personal dinner with the ex-president to raise money for charity.

One ticket buyer prominent Brisbane businessman John MacTaggart confirmed his organisation Brisbane Angels which represents private investors looking for new technology ventures paid $5000 for tickets to the proposed Clinton dinner in Brisbane in 2010.

“It just started to become obvious things weren’t right. She disappeared.”

Mr MacTaggart said Brisbane Angels had been successful in getting a judgement against Red Brick Development but had not received any refund

“Our legal advice was that that’s about as good as you are going to get. It wasn’t much, about five grand and we weren’t going to spend any more,” he said.

Ms Saba has denied any impropriety in business dealings and said the dinners did not go ahead because Mr Clinton had cancelled.

She denied the ticket sale was a scam and said her “attorneys were still handling” issues with the money being refunded.

When asked who the lawyers were she declined to provide their name.

She said any claims that she had caused individuals to lose money were “all false”.

She said one business in Queensland that was the subject of complaints about losses had been organised by a former partner.

“That’s got nothing to do with me,” she said.

A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police refused to comment on whether officers were assisting Sri Lankan authorities in the hunt for Toussaint.

He said the AFP “did not confirm who it may or may not be investigating nor does it discuss requests for assistance from overseas law enforcement agencies”.

The Immigration Department declined to comment on the grounds it does not make statements on individuals’ immigration status or investigations.
ooo

Henry Sapiecha

Twitter warns users about potential ‘state-sponsored’ hacks

twitter blue logo image www.intelagencies.com

Attackers may have been looking for “email addresses, IP addresses, and/or phone numbers”, Twitter says. Photo: Bloomberg

Twitter has issued an alert to some users warning them that state-sponsored hackers may have tried to obtain sensitive data from their accounts, the company said, the first such warning by the microblogging site.

The notice said there was no indication the hackers obtained sensitive information from what it said were a “small group of accounts” targeted.

It did not provide additional information about the attack or possible suspects in its investigation.

Twitter’s notice is the latest amid concern about cyber attacks by state-sponsored organisations. Government agencies, businesses and media have all been hacked.

One organisation that said it received the notice, a Canadian nonprofit called Coldhak, said the warning from Twitter came on Friday. The notice said the attackers may have been trying to obtain information such as “email addresses, IP addresses, and/or phone numbers”.

Coldhak’s Twitter account, @coldhakca, retweeted reports from a number of other users who said they received the notice. Coldhak and the other users did not indicate why they may have been singled out.

Colin Childs, one of the founding directors of Coldhak, told Reuters his organisation has seen “no noticeable impact of this attack”.

Google and Facebook have also started issuing warnings to users possibly targeted by state-sponsored attacks.

Reuters
ooo

Henry Sapiecha

Australia’s bungling spies dialled wrong numbers and bugged wrong phones

red phone off hook image www.intelagencies.com

ASIO bugged the wrong phone line during an exercise but realised the error after seven minutes.

Australia’s secret intelligence organisations made a string of bungles during the past financial year, according to the annual report by their watchdog.

In one case, the domestic spy agency ASIO bugged the wrong phone, while other officers risked penalties for impersonating Commonwealth officers when trying to give themselves so-called “light-cover” stories to hide their real jobs.

ASIO agents handed out the wrong phone number to the targets of search warrants executed on numerous homes across Sydney last year.

Margaret Stone, former federal court judge who has delivered her first report on Australia's spy agencies as the new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security image www.intelagencies.com

Margaret Stone, former federal court judge who has delivered her first report on Australia’s spy agencies as the new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security. Photo: Tanya Ingrisciano

In separate incidents, Australia’s foreign spy agency, ASIS, sent private information about Australian citizens to foreign intelligence organisations without permission. It also spied on Australians without ministerial authorisation, had officers fire weapons they were not authorised to do and was chided about official record keeping.
Advertisement

The report is the only view the public usually gets inside the secretive agencies known collectively as the Australian Intelligence Community unless there is a specific inquiry.

The annual snapshot was delivered by the new Inspector of Intelligence and Security, Margaret Stone, a former Federal Court judge. Ms Stone has replaced Dr Vivienne Thom, who has finished her five-year contact.

It shows that there were 496 complaints received across the agencies. Of those, 473 were about delays in visa-related security assessments by ASIO. The number was down slightly on the 2013-2014, when there were 504 complaints, of which 487 were related to visa-related security assessments.

Reviewing the highlights of the year, the report said the IGIS had designed and implemented new oversight programs as a result of the federal government’s national security legislative reform program, which has given the intelligence agencies new powers.

“The changes required a re-prioritisation of our work program and a comprehensive revision of existing inspection methodology to focus on the use of the new powers and higher risk activities,” the report said.

Dr Thom spoke at the International Intelligence Review Agency Conference in London in 2014 about how oversight regimes needed to be more transparent to enhance public credibility.

The annual report said that many agencies had since moved to develop outwardly-focused media strategies and explore ways of informing the public about their work. However, “the challenge of ensuring that oversight is transparent continues in Australia”, the report said.

The report revealed a target of an ASIO entry and search warrant had complained that ASIO had given the household the wrong phone number and after an investigation ASIO confirmed that an “incorrect phone number was inadvertently given to individuals at all the Sydney addresses where search warrants were executed on that date”. ASIO later corrected the error.

ASIO also bugged the wrong phone line during an exercise but realised the error after seven minutes. The report found no communications were intercepted or recorded and ASIO has established more stringent procedures and advice for staff to stop any future errors.

A major inquiry into its sister agency ASIS found it had sent intelligence information to foreign spy agencies without permission and without the application of privacy rules on seven separate occasions. It was also found to have spied on two Australians without the required ministerial authorisation.

There was also a deficiency in training for ASIS officers regarding firing of weapons in training without approvals.

“A very significant number of ASIS officers had fired weapons they were not authorised for, either once or on several occasions … indicating a widespread lack of understanding about the legal requirements.”

The report said that ASIS senior management had accepted a raft of recommendations and “demonstrated a strong commitment to reform”.

An inspection report into the so-called “light cover” used by ASIO and ASIS officers to conceal their employment identified four areas of potential concern: risk of penalties for impersonating a Commonwealth officer when using an alternative government department as their cover; court appearances; dealing with police; and obtaining private insurance policies.

Since the report ASIO has finalised its light-cover policy and both ASIO and ASIS have “sought to identify suitable life insurance options for their staff”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/wrong-number-wrong-phone-australias-bungling-spies-20151217-glqjjy.html?eid=email:nnn-13omn656-ret_newsl-membereng:nnn-04/11/2013-news_am-dom-news-nnn-smh-u&campaign_code=13INO010&et_bid=25741951&promote_channel=edmail&mbnr=MTA5MTAwMDU#ixzz3uobjFOpV
Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

Hack attacks and data law boost European cyber insurance demand

An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

New European legislation on data privacy is helping push up regional demand for cyber insurance, industry specialists say, after companies such as TalkTalk and Experian were affected by hackers earlier this year.

The European Union agreed this week to change fragmented data protection laws, forcing companies to report breaches likely to harm individuals to national authorities within 72 hours.

Up until now, insurers say many European companies have swept the issue under the carpet and shown little interest in cyber cover. But anticipation of the European law has already boosted demand, according to Paul Bantick, technology, media & business services UK focus group leader at insurer Beazley.

“We have seen clients buying policies because they know that this is coming,” Bantick said. “Breaches are going to get more expensive, they are going to get more complex and they (clients) want insurers to help with both of those issues.”

The development of the U.S. cyber insurance market is an indication of possible trends in Europe, where big players in cyber insurance also include Axa, Hiscox, Ergo (part of Munich Re (MUVGn.DE)) and Zurich Insurance.

The U.S. market has grown by more than a third this year, with gross written premiums totaling $2.75 billion, according to The Betterley Report, a survey of the cyber insurance market.

Most U.S. states have introduced legislation requiring companies to notify individuals of security breaches of personal information, with the first law enacted in 2002. Before that, almost no cyber insurance was written, a situation similar to the current state of play in Europe.

LOW TAKEUP

In Germany for instance the market is only expected to total $10 million this year, while in Britain the market only totaled between 20 million pounds ($30 million) and 25 million in premiums last year, according to brokerage Marsh.

That low takeup is already changing.

Stephen Ridley, senior development underwriter at Hiscox UK, estimated the UK market has at least tripled this year and noted the Lloyd’s of London [LOL.UL] underwriter has seen demand increase month by month.

Ridley expects this to continue in 2016, boosted in part by media coverage of the high profile data breaches that have hit UK-based companies.

Globally cyber insurance market could double to $5 billion in annual premiums by 2018 and reach at least $7.5 billion by the end of the decade, according to a report by PwC.

Julia Graham, technical director at Airmic, a UK-based trade body for company risk managers, also said there were signs of increasing demand, particularly from industries most aware of the threat.

“There is a small but perceptible increase,” Graham said. “The sectors that are more sophisticated – financial services, law, tech companies, pharma companies – those are the early entrants.”

ooo

Henry Sapiecha

 

Repeat performance: Paris Attacks May Renew Encryption Debate

FILE - In this June 2, 2014, file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event in San Francisco. The deadly attacks in Paris may soon reopen the debate over whether and how tech companies should let the government sidestep the data scrambling that shields everyday commerce and daily digital life alike. The Obama administration continues to encourage tech companies to include backdoors, although it says it will not ask Congress for new law that requires them. Cook has said that the trouble with that approach is that "there's no such thing as a backdoor for the good guys only." (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

FILE – In this June 2, 2014, file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event in San Francisco. The deadly attacks in Paris may soon reopen the debate over whether and how tech companies should let the government sidestep the data scrambling that shields everyday commerce and daily digital life alike. The Obama administration continues to encourage tech companies to include backdoors, although it says it will not ask Congress for new law that requires them. Cook has said that the trouble with that approach is that “there’s no such thing as a backdoor for the good guys only.” (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

In this June 2, 2014, file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event in San Francisco. The deadly attacks in Paris may soon reopen the debate over whether and how tech companies should let the government sidestep the data scrambling that shields everyday commerce and daily digital life alike. The Obama administration continues to encourage tech companies to include backdoors, although it says it will not ask Congress for new law that requires them. Cook has said that the trouble with that approach is that “there’s no such thing as a backdoor for the good guys only.” (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The deadly attacks in Paris may soon reopen the debate over whether – and how – tech companies should let governments bypass the data scrambling that shields everyday commerce and daily digital life.

So far, there’s no hard evidence that the Paris extremists relied on encrypted communications – essentially, encoded digital messages that can’t be read without the proper digital “keys” – to plan the shooting and bombing attacks that left 129 dead on Friday. But it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they did.

So-called end-to-end encryption technology is now widely used in many standard message systems, including Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Similar technology also shields the contents of smartphones running the latest versions of Apple and Google operating software. Strong encryption is used to protect everything from corporate secrets to the credit-card numbers of online shoppers to intimate photos and secrets shared by lovers.

That widespread use of encryption, which was previously restricted to more powerful desktop or server computers, is exactly what worries members of the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Some are now using the occasion of the Paris attacks to once again argue for restrictions on the technology, saying it hampers their ability to track and disrupt plots like the Paris attacks.

“I now think we’re going to have another public debate about encryption, and whether government should have the keys, and I think the result may be different this time as a result of what’s happened in Paris,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said Monday on CBS This Morning.

The last such debate followed 2013 disclosures of government surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Since then, tech companies seeking to reassure their users and protect their profits have adopted more sophisticated encryption techniques despite government opposition. Documents leaked by Snowden also shed light on NSA efforts to break encryption technologies.

In response, law-enforcement and intelligence officials have argued that companies like Apple and Google should build “backdoors” into their encryption systems that would allow investigators into otherwise locked-up devices. The Obama administration continues to encourage tech companies to include such backdoors, although it says it won’t ask Congress for new law that requires them.

“The Snowden revelation showed that backdoors can be destructive, particularly when they’re done in secrecy without transparency,” says Will Ackerly, a former NSA security researcher and the co-founder of Virtru, which provides encryption technology for both companies and individual people.

On Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the government continues to have “ongoing discussions” with industry about ways in which companies can lawfully provide information about their users while still ensuring their privacy.

Last week in Dublin, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that “there’s no such thing as a backdoor for the good guys only. If there’s a backdoor, anybody can come in.” In other words, any shortcut for investigators could also be targeted by cybercriminals eager to hack major corporations – a la the devastating cyberattack on Sony late last year – or to target individuals for identity theft or extortion, as reportedly occurred following the disclosure of records from the infidelity dating site Ashley Madison.

In the same speech, Cook said Apple will resist attempts to weaken encryption in iMessage. A draft law recently introduced in Britain would require telecommunications companies to provide “wider assistance” to police and intelligence agencies in the interests of national security.

Like iMessage, Facebook’s WhatsApp encrypts all communications from “end-to-end” – a technique that blocks anyone outside the conversation from reading or seeing what’s being sent. Although Facebook can’t see the content of the messages, it does track who is talking to whom and stores their phone numbers – information that can be valuable for law enforcement officials trying to sniff out terrorist plots and fight other criminal activity.

Steven Bellovin, a Columbia University professor and computer security researcher, says he isn’t surprised by the effort to bring back discussion on encryption backdoors. But he adds that it’s way too early to tie it to the Paris attacks.

“We don’t know how these people were communicating and with whom,” he said. “If they were communicating with homegrown software and there’s some indications of that, then a mandatory backdoor is not going to do any good.”

Source: Associated Press

ooo

Henry Sapiecha

Japan its Own Enemy in Push to Improve Cybersecurity

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, a man walks out from the headquarters of Sony Corp. in Tokyo. Improving cybersecurity practices has emerged as a top national priority for Japan, stung in recent years by embarrassing leaks at Sony Pictures, the national pension fund and its biggest defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which possibly suffered the theft of submarine and missile designs. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

FILE – In this Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, a man walks out from the headquarters of Sony Corp. in Tokyo. Improving cybersecurity practices has emerged as a top national priority for Japan, stung in recent years by embarrassing leaks at Sony Pictures, the national pension fund and its biggest defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which possibly suffered the theft of submarine and missile designs. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

In this Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, a man walks out from the headquarters of Sony Corp. in Tokyo. Improving cybersecurity practices has emerged as a top national priority for Japan, stung in recent years by embarrassing leaks at Sony Pictures, the national pension fund and its biggest defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which possibly suffered the theft of submarine and missile designs. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Apart from rogue hackers, criminal organizations or even state-backed cyberwarfare units, Japan’s businesses and government agencies are facing a unique cybersecurity foe: themselves.

Even with the frequency and severity of cyberattacks increasing rapidly worldwide, efforts by the world’s third-largest economy to improve its data security are being hobbled by a widespread corporate culture that views security breaches as a loss of face, leading to poor disclosure of incidents or information sharing at critical moments, Japanese experts and government officials say.

Improving cybersecurity practices has emerged as a top national priority for Japan, stung in recent years by embarrassing leaks at Sony Pictures, the national pension fund and its biggest defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which possibly suffered the theft of submarine and missile designs.

Toshio Nawa, a top Japanese security consultant who is advising the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers, said he encountered a telling instance this summer when he was called to investigate a breach at a major Japanese government agency.

Nawa found that five different cybersecurity contractors employed by the agency had discovered the breach, but not one reported or shared their findings.

With evidence from the contractors pooled together, Nawa matched the digital fingerprints to a Mexican group that he believes was responsible for a previous attack on Japanese diplomatic servers. The breach was patched, but Nawa walked away flustered.

“In the U.S., if they find a problem, they have to report,” he said. “The Japanese engineer feels he fails his duty if he escalates a report. They feel ashamed.”

To be sure, the cybersecurity industry around the world, not just in Japan, frequently echoes the call for greater transparency within and among organizations. The U.S. Senate last month passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act to ease data sharing between private companies and the government for security purposes, although civil liberties advocates warned it posed a threat to privacy.

But the problem may be particularly acute for Japan’s private sector behemoths and government ministries. These sprawling bureaucracies are wrapped in a “negative culture that cuts against wanting to communicate quickly,” said William H. Saito, the top cybersecurity adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While rank-and-file workers fear reports of security lapses may get them punished, the problem reflects a broad lack of understanding of cybersecurity among the top ranks of Japanese executives, Saito said in an interview on the sidelines of the Cyber3 conference in Okinawa.

“This is Japanese culture where in some situations the upper management doesn’t know how to use email and IT integration is voodoo magic,” said U.S.-born Saito, also an executive at Palo Alto Networks, a security firm. “The reality is companies either have been hacked or will be hacked. My message is, ‘It’s not your fault.'”

In 2013, the latest year of available data, the Japanese government network faced an eightfold increase in cyberattacks from two years prior, with attacks spreading into civil infrastructure, as well as the telecommunications and energy sectors.

Against that backdrop, the Abe administration has pinpointed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a chance to upgrade Japan’s national security capabilities while calling for a more hands-on government role to nudge companies to take cybersecurity seriously.

A Cabinet-level cybersecurity agency in September published a strategy paper that proposed, among other things, extending government-run cybersecurity classes to companies, awarding financial incentives for firms that demonstrate improved security capabilities and requiring companies to fill a chief cybersecurity officer role.

The Cabinet report also highlighted the issue of disclosure, saying “it is essential to relieve (network) operators’ psychological burden of possibly losing credit or ruining reputation of their business if providing information to others.”

Jim Foster, a former U.S. diplomat and Microsoft Japan executive who heads the Keio International Center for the Internet and Society in Tokyo, said the fast-evolving threat of hacking poses a looming challenge for Japanese industry, which never developed a deep pool of cybersecurity expertise with active exchange of ideas and know-how.

“Japanese companies grew up too big too quick and didn’t have to cooperate or rely on outside expertise,” he said. “But now there’s this new threat unlike anything else and things suddenly get difficult.”

But changing habits is hard, said Nawa, the security adviser for the Olympics, who is now holding simulations and educational sessions around the country, where he emphasizes to security engineers – who do not necessarily lack technical chops – the importance of sharing findings and speaking up when they spot a problem.

He said he uses a simple mantra on the training circuit: “What I say is: ‘Please remove your pride.'”

Source: Associated Press

ooo

Henry Sapiecha

Convicted Spy Pollard Released from Prison after 30 Years

FILE - In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard is set to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel.  (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)

FILE – In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard is set to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel. (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)

In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard is set to be paroled from a federal prison in North Carolina on Friday, 30 years after he was caught selling American intelligence secrets to Israel. (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker)

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was released from prison early Friday, culminating an extraordinary espionage case that complicated American-Israeli relations for 30 years and became a periodic bargaining chip between two allies.

Within hours after his release, Pollard’s attorneys began a court challenge to terms of his parole that they called “onerous and oppressive,” including requiring him to wear an electronic GPS ankle bracelet and the monitoring of any computer that Pollard may use either personally or at a job.

Pollard was driven away from the federal prison at Butner, North Carolina, before dawn in heavy fog, and Larry Dub, a Pollard attorney, told Israel’s Army Radio that he was being driven to New York City. The prison is on a two-lane rural road lined with pine trees. Reporters and camera crews who waited outside didn’t get a glimpse of him.

“The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “As someone who raised Jonathan’s case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come.”

The federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that Pollard was no longer in custody but provided no other details.

Pollard’s release came nearly 30 years to the day after his arrest for providing large amounts of classified U.S. government information to Israel.

“I have waited for this day for 30 long years, unbelievable,” Anne, his ex-wife, told Israel’s Army Radio. “It’s an amazing moment.”

Pollard had been granted parole this summer from a life sentence imposed in 1987. His lawyers have said that they have secured a job and housing for him in the New York area, without elaborating. The terms of his parole require him to remain in the United States for at least five years, though supporters – including Netanyahu and some members of Congress – are seeking permission for him to move to Israel immediately.

The saga involving Pollard for years divided public opinion in the United States and became both an irritant and a periodic bargaining chip between the U.S. and Israel.

His release caps one of the most high-profile spy sagas in modern American history, a case that over the years sharply divided public opinion and became a diplomatic sticking point. Supporters have long maintained that he was punished excessively for actions taken on behalf of an American ally while critics, including government officials, derided him as a traitor who sold out his country.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the crime merited a life sentence, given the amount of damage that Mr. Pollard did to the United States government,” said Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted the case as U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. “I would have been perfectly pleased if he had spent the rest of his life in jail.”

Seymour Reich, a former president of B’nai Brith International who visited Pollard twice in prison, said that while he believed Pollard broke the law and deserved to be punished, his sentence was overly harsh. Like other supporters, he believes Pollard was “double-crossed” into thinking he’d be afforded leniency in exchange for a guilty plea.

“I hope that he settles down and lives the remaining years as best as he can,” Reich said.

Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He had earlier drawn the suspicion of a supervisor for handling large amounts of classified materials unrelated to his official duties.

U.S. officials have said Pollard, over a series of months and for a salary, provided intelligence summaries and huge quantities of classified documents on the capabilities and programs of Israel’s enemies. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage and was given a life sentence a year later.

Though he has said his guilty plea was coerced, he has also expressed regret, telling The Associated Press in a 1998 interview that he did not consider himself a hero.

“There is nothing good that came as a result of my actions,” he said. “I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work.”

Under sentencing rules in place at the time of his crime, he became presumptively eligible for parole in November – 30 years after his arrest. The Justice Department agreed not to oppose parole at a July hearing that took into account his behavior in prison and likelihood to commit future crimes.

The parole decision was applauded in Israel, which after initially claiming that he was part of a rogue operation, acknowledged him in the 1990s as an agent and granted him citizenship. Israelis have long campaigned for his freedom, and Netanyahu said last summer that he had consistently raised the issue of his release with American officials.

Pollard’s lawyers also have sought permission for him to travel immediately to Israel, and two Democratic members of Congress – Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, both of New York – have called on the Justice Department to grant the request so that Pollard can live with his family and “resume his life there.” The congressmen say Pollard accepts that such a move may bar him from ever re-entering the United States.

The White House has said that it has no intention of altering the conditions of Pollard’s parole, and even friends and supporters say they don’t know exactly what’s next for him.

President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser reiterated that stance on Friday, telling reporters traveling with Obama to Malaysia that “this is something that Prime Minister Netanyahu has regularly raised” in discussions with the United States.

“Obviously, the one thing at issue is the requirement that he remains in the United States,” Rhodes said. “But again, the president does not have any plans to alter the terms of his parole.”

Last year, the U.S. dangled the prospect of freeing Pollard early as part of a package of incentives to keep Israel at the negotiating table during talks with the Palestinians. But the talks fell apart, and Pollard remained in prison.

More details about his plans were expected to emerge after his release.

“It’s a very unusual situation … I’ve been working with Mr. Pollard for 20 years, and even I don’t know where he is going or what he will be doing,” said Farley Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi who has been lobbying on Pollard’s behalf for two decades.

Source: Associated Press

ooo

Henry Sapiecha

U.S.A. Advised to Examine ‘Hack Back’ Options Against China

china-us-fight hack back option image www.intelagencies.com

The United States remains ill-prepared to combat state-backed cyber intrusions from China and lawmakers should look at whether U.S.-based companies be allowed to ‘hack back’ to recover or wipe stolen data, a congressional advisory body said Tuesday.

That’s the primary recommendation of this year’s report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission that examines the national security implications of the relationship between the two world powers.

The report says China’s increasing use of cyber espionage has already cost U.S. companies tens of billions of dollars in lost sales and expenses in repairing the damage from hacking. It says in many cases, stolen trade secrets have been turned over to Chinese government-owned companies.

The commission, typically very critical of Beijing, is appointed by both parties in Congress but makes no bones about the “inadequate” U.S. response, saying China has also infiltrated a wide swath of U.S. government computer networks.

“The United States is ill-prepared to defend itself from cyber espionage when its adversary is determined, centrally coordinated, and technically sophisticated, as is the CCP and China’s government,” the report says, referring to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Cybersecurity has become an increasingly sore point in U.S.-China relations. It remains to be seen whether a September agreement between President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping that neither government will support commercial cyber theft will lead to an easing in the tensions.

Among the most serious breaches in the past year in which China is suspected was against the Office of Personnel Management, revealed in April. Hackers gained access to the personal information of more than 22 million U.S. federal employees, retirees, contractors and others, and millions of sensitive and classified documents.

“The Chinese government appears to believe that it has more to gain than to lose from its cyber espionage and attack campaign. So far, it has acquired valuable technology, trade secrets, and intelligence. The costs imposed have been minimal compared to the perceived benefit. The campaign is likely to continue and may well escalate,” says the report.

China describes itself as a victim of hacking and says that is combating cybercrimes. It denied involvement in the OPM hack.

The commission’s report says U.S. law does not allow retaliatory cyberattacks by private citizens and corporations, nor does it appear to allow ‘hack backs’ to recover, erase or alter stolen data in offending computer networks. It says international law has not kept up with developments in cyber warfare, and recommends Congress assess the coverage of U.S. law in this regard.

Congress should also study the feasibility of having a foreign intelligence cyber court to hear evidence from U.S. victims of cyberattacks and decide whether the U.S. government might hack back on a victim’s behalf, the report says.

Richard Bejtlich, chief security strategist at FireEye, a U.S. network security company, said there wouldn’t be much appetite in the private sector for this. He said it should be the U.S. government that conducts any counter intrusions, but publicly available information indicates that offensive cyber activities by the U.S. to date have been focused on intelligence targets and centers of state power rather than targeting groups that are hacking the private sector.

“We need to get our hackers to go after their hackers to put pressure on them and disrupt their operations,” Bejtlich said. “We need to start with more government pressure, not put the private sector in that role.”

The commission’s report, which surveys a wide range of economic and security developments in China, also criticizes its censorship and restrictions on Internet content and the impact that has on U.S. businesses. The report accused China of a “government effort to wall off the fastest-growing market in the world for digital commerce.”

Source: Associated Press

ooo

Henry Sapiecha

NATO Fights Malware, Bugged Devices at Estonian Cyber Center

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the media during an EU foreign and defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the media during an EU foreign and defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the media during an EU foreign and defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France has demanded that its European partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

NATO nations and allies are battling malware in tablets and infected devices this week in the alliance’s largest cyber drill to date aimed at improving members’ data privacy in crisis situations.

Some 400 participants from 33 countries were focused on solving scenarios including attacks on high-ranking officers’ computer equipment during an exercise at a cyber range in Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city.

“The idea is to replicate dynamics and threats that are real,” said Lt. Col. Christian Braccini, a researcher from the NATO cyber think tank and training center in the capital, Tallinn.

The five-day Cyber Coalition 2015 exercise, which ends Friday, included teams from non-NATO members Austria, Finland and Sweden, with Georgia, Japan and Jordan as observers.

It comes amid a flourish of NATO activity and recent visits by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to the region, where Nordic and Baltic countries have watched Russia’s increasing military presence in the Baltic Sea with increasing trepidation.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Hoar, head of the NATO drill on behalf of the Allied Command Operations, stressed the scenarios do not include attacking or defending. He says teams were given realistic “story lines” to solve, including cyberattacks on devices.

“The focus of the exercise is not competition, it’s collaboration,” Hoar told reporters.

Participating nations have at least one representative at the high-security cyber exercise range in Tartu, 190 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Tallinn.

It’s the third time such an event was held in Estonia, one of the most wired and technologically advanced countries in the world. Estonia itself was targeted in 2007 by hackers in one of Europe’s first major organized cyberattacks.

Source: Associated Press

ooo

Henry Sapiecha