CYBER CRIMS USE ‘SAFE COUNTRIES’ TO PEDAL THEIR I T CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES

Cybercriminals look to infect Australian computers because the country is considered “safe”.

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Australia is emerging as a major conduit for targeted cyber attacks, a report shows, as online criminals shift their gaze towards Asia.

The country has become the main location of so-called “command and control” servers, which are used by cybercriminals when they attack governments and businesses.

According to a report by cyber security firm Trend Micro, 32 per cent of targeted attacks in the second quarter of 2013 involved a command and control server located in Australia.

Second-placed South Korea had 15 per cent, while Germany had 9 per cent

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The servers are infected computers which act as a kind of middle-man in cyberattacks, said Jonathan Oliver, a software architect at Trend Micro.

The criminals first infect Australian computers with malware via spam emails and other common pathways.

This turns the computer into a command and control server, which unbeknownst to the user establishes an internet link with the actual target.

Sensitive information is fed back to the command and control server, and then back to the cybercriminals.

Australia had become a deeply sought-after server location as cybercriminals increasingly look to target Asian governments and businesses, Oliver said.

Cybercriminals look to infect Australian computers because the country is considered “safe”, he said.

If a government or business sees that their computer has linked with an internet address in Australia, they are less suspicious than if it came from Russia, China or other known cybercriminal hotspots, Oliver said.

“What the cybercriminals are hoping is that no one will notice this connection, and it won’t look that suspicious,” he said.

They’re trying to fly under the radar.”

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Henry Sapiecha

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BRITISH SPIES ARE OPERATING AN EAVEDROPPING OPERATION THAT DWARFS THE USA SPY SAGA

BRITAIN HAS A SPY NETWORK WHICH OUTSTRIPS THE USA OPERATION

Security contractor Edward Snowden

London: British spies are running an online eavesdropping operation so vast that internal documents say it even outstrips the United States’ international internet surveillance effort, The Guardian newspaper says.

The paper cited UK intelligence memos leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to claim that UK spies were tapping into the world’s network of fibre optic cables to deliver the “biggest internet access” of any member of the Five Eyes – the name given to the espionage alliance composed of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

That access could in theory expose a huge chunk of the world’s everyday communications – including the content of people’s emails, calls, and more – to scrutiny from British spies and their US allies. How much data the British are copying off the fibre optic network isn’t clear, but it’s likely to be enormous.

The Guardian said the information flowing across more than 200 cables was being monitored by more than 500 analysts from the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ.

“This is a massive amount of data!” The Guardian quoted a leaked slide as boasting.

The newspaper, whose revelations about America and Britain’s globe-spanning surveillance programs have reignited an international debate over the ethics of espionage, said GCHQ was using probes to capture and copy data as it crisscrossed the Atlantic between western Europe and North America.

It said that, by last year, GCHQ was in some way handling 600 million telecommunications every day – although it did not go into any further detail and it was not clear whether that meant that GCHQ could systematically record or even track all the electronic movement at once.

GCHQ declined to comment on Friday, although in an emailed statement it repeated past assurances about the legality of its actions.

“Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary, and proportionate,” the statement said.

Fibre optic cables – thin strands of glass bundled together and strung out underground or across the oceans – play a critical role in keeping the world connected. A 2010 estimate suggested that such cables are responsible for 95 per cent of the world’s international voice and data traffic, and The Guard-ian said Britain’s geographic position on Europe’s western fringe gave it natural access to many of the trans-Atlantic cables as they emerged from the sea.

The Guardian said GCHQ’s probes did more than just monitor the data live; British eavesdroppers can store content for three days and metadata – information about who was talking to whom, for how long, from where, and through what medium – for 30 days.

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GOOGLE REQUESTS NATIONAL SECURITY & INTERNET DRAGNET TO BE REDETERMINED

REDETERMINING GUIDELINES FOR INTERNET SECURITY SURVEILLANCE

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Google is asking the Obama administration for permission to disclose more details about the U.S. government’s demands for email and other personal information transmitted online in an effort to distance itself from an Internet dragnet.

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In a show of unity, Google rivals Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. also supported the attempt to pressure the U.S. Justice Department to loosen the legal muzzle that limits disclosures about government surveillance authorized by courts to protect national security.

Google made its plea in a Tuesday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Google is trying to debunk media reports that the company has created a way for the National Security Agency to gain access to large amounts of its users’ online communications as part of a secret program code-named “PRISM.”

The reports surfaced last week after a government contractor leaked confidential documents revealing the NSA has been tapping into the computers of Google Inc. and many other Internet services to retrieve information about foreigners living outside the U.S. The other companies linked to PRISM are: Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo Inc., Apple Inc., AOL Inc., Paltalk, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft’s Skype.

All the companies and services have denied giving the U.S. government unfettered access to user data. The companies say they only turn over user data under legally binding orders, and try to regularly resist orders considered to be too broad.

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Minimizing the appearance of their involvement in PRISM is important to the technology companies. The companies don’t want Web surfers to become paranoid about sharing personal information on their services or, worse yet, avoiding their websites altogether. Attracting big audiences helps the companies sell more advertising. Those ads command higher prices and run more frequently when the companies are able to decipher personal data and determine which parts of the audience are most likely to be interested in certain products.

The stakes are particularly high for Google, which sold $44 billion in digital advertising last year alone.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence for the Obama administration, last week confirmed PRISM had been approved by a judge and is being conducted in accordance with U.S. law. He hasn’t listed the companies cooperating. Those identifications came from the PRISM documents leaked to The Washington Post and The Guardian, a British newspaper.

Even while acknowledging PRISM’s existence, Clapper has insisted the scope of its surveillance has been more limited than depicted in published reports.

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Google also portrayed itself as an unwitting participant in the program. Executives at the Mountain View, Calif., company maintain that they didn’t know about PRISM until reading about it for the first time last week. Google insists it hasn’t been handing over user data on a broad scale, something the company believes it can prove if it receives clearance to disclose the number of requests that have been submitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Federal law currently prohibits recipients of FISA requests from revealing information about them.

“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote to Holder and Mueller. “Google has nothing to hide.”

In its own statement, Microsoft said it also wants to be more forthcoming if the Justice Department would allow it.

“Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues,” the Redmond, Wash. company said.

Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, said the social networking leader wants to provide “a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond.”

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Henry Sapiecha

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