New Snowden files: Intelligence agencies planned to hack Android phones by compromising app stores

app-store

A multinational government group known as the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – the spy group comprising Canada, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand – planned to hack Android phones by compromising both Google and Samsung app stores. The plan was revealed in newly-released Snowden files dating back to 2012, reports CBC News.

Five Eyes specifically sought ways to find and hijack data links to servers used by Google and Samsung’s mobile app stores [trying] to find ways to implant spyware on smartphones by intercepting the transmissions sent when downloading or updating apps.

The alliance planned to begin by analyzing traffic to the stores to identify the Internet usage habits of targets (such as which apps they used), but the ultimate goal was to plant spyware that would enable them to extract data from targeted smartphones, or even to take control of them …  Read more

Google agrees to Italian regulatory checks following data collection privacy investigation

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Last year, the Italian government gave Google 18 months to reform its tata collection policies and change the way it stores and treats that user data. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Google has now agreed to allow the Italian government to perform spot checks at its Mountain View headquarters. The regulator will get quarterly updates from Google and have the ability to send someone  to Mountain View for “on-the-spot checks.”

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FBI wants more ‘remote access’ search freedom, but Google doesn’t approve

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The US government is seeking to have more regulatory control over the digital realm, and many tech companies are taking a stand. Google is definitely one of those, taking to its Public Policy Blog today to tell the world about proposed changes to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41, a procedural rule that sets limits on search warrants. The Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure, at the request of the Department of Justice, is proposing a big change to this rule, and Google says it could be a “monumental” threat to constitutional rights.

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Former Googler changing the way the government recruits talent

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After spending a lot of his time keeping Google’s servers running smoothly, Mikey Dickerson is officially a government employee. After resolving launch issues with HealthCare.gov last year, the White House asked the former Googler to be its deputy chief information officer of the federal government and administrator of the United States Digital Services Team.

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FCC chairman praises Google Fiber, wants to model future rules after it

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Tom Wheeler — the Chairman of the FCC, the federal commission currently in the middle of a firestorm surrounding net neutrality — today praised Google for its checklist of requirements for cities to meet that are interested in working with Google to roll out fiber networking.

Google’s checklist includes various measures and decisions that help enable the company to quickly add their fiber services to a city or municipality. Wheeler specifically cites this as something that the FCC should look into, as it effectively cuts through red tape and speeds up deployment of faster service: Read more

Tom Coburn’s Let Me Google That For You Act of 2014 will help stop federal money from being wasted in the US

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There is a United States federal agency that specializes in collecting and cataloguing scientific research papers of all kinds. The NTIS — National Technical Information Service — will serve up files or paper copies of these records for $25 or $73, respectively. The issue, as pointed out by NPR, is that most of these records are available for free elsewhere, and are easier to find with Google than with the NTIS’ outdated website. And so, ever the enemy of a wasteful budget, Tom Coburn has introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act of 2014 to abolish the NTIS. Read more

Google chairman Eric Schmidt, other tech CEOs meet with Obama, NSA

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Google chariman Eric Schmidt joined a group of tech CEOs who met with the president and members of the administration today to discuss the implementation of recently-announced changes in the National Security Administration’s spying practices. Other CEOs in the group represented Facebook, Dropbox, Netflix, and more. Along with the president were several advisors and councilors, including the Deputy Director of the NSA.

The executives were updated on the status of changes to the NSA’s spying policies that were first detailed last year and continued to be further expanded upon in recent months. These CEOs were among those who signed an open letter to the federal government comdemning the unwarranted sue of spying tactics to intercept and store communications sent via various online platforms.

Earlier this week Google’s Larry Page also discussed the NSA and issues of privacy during the TED conference.

Boeing enters smartphone race with the secure, tamper-proof Android ‘Boeing Black’

Following reports last night when the device was spotted going through the FCC, Reuters reports Boeing today officially announced a new Android smartphone with a number of innovative security features. Dubbed “Boeing Black,” the device will be marketed towards government officials and other organizations that highly value keeping their data secure. The tamper-proof device builds in a number of security features for encrypting calls and more and is designed to wipe itself clean of any data if someone attempts to open the physical casing of the phone. Here’s a bit more from Boeing’s website: Read more

Google joins tech titans in calling for government spying reform and limitations

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has joined Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, and other giants in the tech industry in calling for a reform of the NSA’s surveillance tactics. Earlier this year it was revealed that the National Security Agency was using information from these companies and more to monitor citizens across the nation without warrants.

The companies allegedly involved in the “PRISM” program denied turning over any user data to the government, but a leaked NSA slidedeck (seen above) seemed to imply the opposite.

The new collaborative campaign, called Reform Government Surveillance, cites five driving principles in its drive to curb excessive government spying:

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Google’s top legal chief says the company is not ‘in cahoots’ with the NSA

David Drummond, Google's top legal chief

David Drummond, Google’s top legal chief

A lot of false facts were spread around when the original news regarding the NSA’s relationship with technology companies broke. Since then, Google, Apple, and other others have been on a mission to repair their public image. In an interview with the Guardian, Google’s top legal chief reaffirmed the fact that the company is not “in cahoots” with the NSA, nor does it give the government direct access to its servers.

“We’re not in cahoots with the NSA and there is no government programme that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said. “There is no free-for-all, no direct access, no indirect access, no back door, no drop box,” Drummond reaffirmed.

“We didn’t know [Prism] existed,” he said, suggesting that Google was just as surprised by the leaked reports as citizens were. Read more

Samsung set to launch anti-theft features for smartphones in July

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Earlier this month, we told you about government officials calling on major tech companies to improve anti-theft features of their devices. At WWDC this year, Apple did just that and announced its new Activation Lock feature. Now, all eyes have shifted to the other large smartphone manufacturer, Samsung. According to a report out of Korean site MK, Samsung is set to launch its anti-theft features for smartphones as early as July.

The feature will essentially be a kill switch that will allow carriers, manufacturers, and even the government to remotely wipe, lock, and disable any smartphone that has been stolen. Once this is done, the device would be rendered useless, even when a new SIM card is installed.

A kill switch is exactly what government officials called for earlier this month, and what it and manufacturers likely discussed when they met last week at a “smartphone summit” to talk about mobile security.  Read more