Terrorists Used Burner Phones Not Encryption To Evade Detection

In light of the recent discussions regarding privacy vs security, such as those being discussed by Apple and the FBI in congress, the discussion often comes back to the encryption and whether groups or government agencies should be able to break it when it comes to security. It could perhaps be damaging to groups like the FBI to learn that it wasn’t encryption that stopped the people responsible for the terrorist attacks in Paris from being detected earlier on but it was instead burner phones.

Burner phones is a term used to describe phones that are used only briefly before being disposed or burned. The concept being that the longer you hold onto a device the easier it is to track and monitor your actions with it. Several phones linked to the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks only activated their phones the day before, or even minutes before the events occurred.

Currently, all the burner phones involved had sent no online chat messages or emails, throwing more doubt over if terrorists use methods which federal agencies are often targeting and claim they need access to monitor and track.

With little to no evidence that encryption played any part in their communications, recent calls to unlock encryption communication because of these events could struggle to hold the sway they did before while traditional methods of burner phones and “dead drops” (where you leave a package or message at a specific location for picking up at a later date) could require more old-fashioned work to catch early on.

Snowden Claims ISIS Encrypted Email is Fake

A new video was released yesterday, which featured an encrypted message that supposedly contained plans for a future attack to be committed by ISIS or another group aligned with their goals. The video also featured shots of the gunmen behind last year’s attack in Paris and graphic shots of executions by radicals. The video also featured clips of London and RAF fighter aircraft, ending with a shot of David Cameron and the words “Whoever stands in the ranks of kufr (unbelievers) will be a target for our swords and will fall in humiliation.” As Edward Snowden was quick to point out on Twitter, the ‘encrypted email’ shown in the video was clearly fake.

The most obvious flaw he pointed out was in regards to the encrypted email’s key ID “1548OH76”, which is not a valid Hexadecimal string, being invalidated by the O and H. Further, the creation date on the PGP supposedly used to decrypt the instructions for both the Paris attacks and this new attack was the 16th of November 2015, after the Paris attacks. This could mean that the instructions for the attack on Paris were re-encrypted along with this new unknown message, which is implied to be the plans for a new attack.

Even taking into regard these flaws, the real question is what the video’s creators intend to achieve by showing this. Is it really plans for the next attack, or simply scare tactics designed to get the world’s intelligence agencies to crack it? More frighteningly, it could be an attempt by terrorist groups to spur on the adoption of encryption backdoors or bans by government agencies. Such groups would certainly have a lot to gain from the crippling of encryption, from potentially being able to access the backdoors themselves to them disregarding the requirements and continuing to use strong cryptography undeterred, causing even more grief for groups thinking they have all the backdoor keys. I have no doubt that this video should be taken seriously, as should any terrorist threat, but any influence it may have on cryptography should be taken with a pinch of salt.

France Looks to Ban Tor and Public Wi-Fi

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, French police has submitted proposals to ban anonymous web browser Tor and block Wi-Fi networks in public places to President Francois Hollande (pictured), according to French newspaper Le Monde (via Business Insider). La Monde has acquired documents that show the French government is taking the proposal very seriously and it could be included in France’s new anti-terrorism bill, which could come into effect as early as January.

According to Vice Motherboard, French authorities want “to block or forbid communications of the Tor network” and “Forbid free and shared wi-fi connections” when a state of emergency is declared, similar to mobile phone networks being taken down during such a time.

If France does introduce a ban on the Tor browser, it has two options with which to enforce it: a legal ban, which would outlaw its use at risk of prosecution, and a technological ban, which would require the installation of a China-esque national firewall that blocks Tor entry nodes. The latter is sure to worry free speech and civil liberties activists.

The recently imprisoned Silk Road creator, Ross Ulbricht, operated using a combination of Tor and public Wi-Fi in an effort to make himself more difficult to track and monitor.

9/11 Oculus Rift Game ‘8:46’ is Horrifying and Distasteful

September 11th, 2001 is a date in history which will always be remembered as the moment when global terrorism came to the doorsteps of ordinary US citizens. The morally repugnant attack shocked the world and demonstrated how unsafe modern society can be. Whatever you’re political affiliation or beliefs about American foreign policy, you cannot forget the innocent people who died on that fateful day. As a student of history, it’s important to look at atrocities and not shy away from the events of the past. This is so we can educate others to avoid future mistakes.

However, this has to be conducted in a respectful manner which puts academic interests first. Unbelievably, a game has been created for virtual reality devices entitled 8:46 which puts you in the footsteps of someone trapped in one of the Twin Towers. According to the project’s creative director, the game is designed:

 “As a tribute to the victims of our generation-shaping experience.”

Realistically, 8:46 won’t be a commercial endeavor so the developer isn’t making any money from 9/11. Although, this doesn’t sit right with me as you hear the screams ringing throughout the buildings. Currently, you can download the game for free but it requires a VR device such as the DK2.

Krafft was interviewed by Tech Insider and said:

“In the team, we are all in our twenties,”

“And 9/11, on a global scale, changed as much our social interactions as our geopolitical context.”

“We worked with a lot of references, from an interview with a survivor to plans of the floors or journalistic works … to be precise about the events and the human dynamics in the towers,” 

Clearly, this is a controversial release and one which divided opinion among some people. In my view, it is quite disrespectful to those who died in 9/11 and almost trivializes what transpired. Although, other opinions are just as valid, and it could be argued that the game finds a way to discuss 9/11 among modern audiences. Whatever the case, it’s certainly an eye-opening project.

Are you offended by this game or do you think it’s an interesting historical tool? To reiterate, we welcome a lively discussion but please refrain from political arguments as this is a technology site first and foremost.

Drones Could Be The Next Weapon Of Choice For ISIS

With each new tech invention arrives the phenomenon of how quickly it can be weaponised, from servers to self-driving cars; there is always a fixation with causing harm to others from certain sections of society. As Drones are becoming more popular with the mainstream, so have the coined IS or ISIS or whatever David Cameron insists on calling them, have reportedly noticed.

An unnamed counter-terrorism source told the Express that terror groups had beentrying to launch a drone-borne bomb attack for some time, as these machines are getting more hi-tech every year.” This has echoed a report which was published In March by the House of Lords EU Select Committee which highlighted some of the risks derived from the rapid increase in the use of commercial and civilian drones for services including photography and land surveillance.

So is the threat which is stated within the report genuinely authentic? Possibly, Drones are a convenient way to have your very own miniature air weapon. But one aspect which frustrates me is the use of the phrase “Unnamed counter-terrorism source” If the threat is substantial then we the public need to be correctly informed by a well-known and respectable official, an Unknown Source could lead to an individual with an agenda that has no reliable facts.

Thank you RT for providing us with this information

David Cameron Declares War on Encryption

In an effort to out-Tory even himself, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has reaffirmed his intent to outlaw data encryption during Prime Minister’s Questions this week. Cameron thinks it’s an affront that we peasants be able to send data and communications to each other without that cannot be read by him. Because, y’know, terrorism.

In response to a question from Conservative shill Henry Bellingham MP, querying whether “companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter […] understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?”, Cameron responded:

“Britain is not a state that is trying to search through everybody’s emails and invade their privacy … We just want to ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate. That is the challenge, and it is a challenge that will come in front of the House.

We have always been able, on the authority of the home secretary, to sign a warrant and intercept a phone call, a mobile phone call or other media communications, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether, as technology develops, we are content to leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other.

My answer is no, we should not be, which means that we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.”

Cameron first voiced his intention to ban end-to-end encryption in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre – because there’s nothing quite like using a tragedy to push your fascist agenda – when asked “we want to allow a means of communication between two people which even in extemis with a signed warrant from the home secretary personally that we cannot read?” he said, “My answer to that question is no, we must not. The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.”

It’s an age-old story by now: we should sacrifice our freedoms to fight our enemies. It’s not an easy, fearmongering excuse to spy on and control citizens, it’s for our own good. Yes, having rights that not even terrorists could affect taken away from us is “for our own good”. The US tried similar, dating back to the Nineties, and it didn’t stop the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.

So, say Cameron’s plan is enforced as law: either say goodbye to e-mail, instant messaging, online banking, and even credit and debit card transactions, or it’s farewell to privacy and security. It’s for our own good, y’know.

Thank you Business Insider for providing us with this information.

UK Lord Wants Anti-Radical Islamic Propaganda in Video Games

The UK’s former reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation wants video game developers to help in the fight against young Muslims becoming radicalised by producing video games that show ‘the good guys’ winning in the battle against Islamic extremism. Lord Carlile, the Liberal Democrat peer in the House of Lords, wants people who “create games on the internet” to “fight fire with the same sort of fire” through interactive narratives that show the terrorists losing.

Lord Carlile, Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme in the wake of 17-year-old Talha Asmal from Dewsbury, UK, becoming the youngest ever suicide bomber last week in Iraq, said that, “The government must sit down with the best brains who, for example, create games on the internet, who write programs for the Internet, and they must try to produce the same methods to show that the good guys sometimes win.”

“That being radicalised and going to fight for Isil is actually a ghastly thing to do, that it destroys families, that actually happiness can be obtained by having an ordinary British life.”

Speaking about Asmal in particular, Lord Carlile said that the boy was “exploited” online by radical extremists who “targeted and befriended” him.

The UK Foreign Office estimates that over 700 British citizens have travelled overseas to fight with radical Islamists, with around half that number returning to British shores.

Of course video games will solve that problem.

The kind of patronising logic that birthed this idea – that kids like video games, so we can influence them through video games – must extend to the point to which these kids also fail to differentiate between fiction and reality, and can’t see through this condescending exercise for what it is: politicians talking down to young people under the guise of being on ‘their level’. Instead of treating these kids as complex individuals, desperate enough to involve themselves in abhorrent acts, understanding their problems, and trying to offer practical solutions, they’re dismissed as ‘brainwashed’ youths who just need to be reprogrammed via pop culture.

Thank you The Telegraph for providing us with this information.

Islamic State Said to Have about 46K Twitter Accounts

The Islamic State terror organisation is known for its use of social media accounts. Though Twitter stated that the it found around 70,00 pro-ISIS accounts, 46,000 are deemed as the “most conservative” estimate.

The report comes after the FBI issued a warning about American teens being susceptible to ISIS recruitment tactics, having ISIS Twitter Census finding that one if five accounts are in English and the rest, representing 75%, are in Arabic.

The report states that “a minimum” of 1,000 accounts were closed between September and December 2014, while Twitter closed about 2,000 accounts this week alone. Following the social media giant’s action, ISIS issued a threat against Jack Dorsey, a Twitter co-founder.

“The process of suspension does create certain new risks. Most importantly, while suspensions appear to have created obstacles to supporters joining ISIS’s social network, they also isolate ISIS supporters online. This could increase the speed and intensity of radicalization for those who do manage to enter the network, and hinder organic social pressures that could lead to deradicalization.”

The group’s social media presence has even gained the attention of new Pentagon Chief, Ashton Carter, stating that ISIS “is a social-media-fueled terrorism group in a way we haven’t seen yet.”

“People who are very distant from any battlefield, from any experience of radicalism, are suddenly becoming enticed through social media,” said Carter.

The report found that Android is the most common platform for mobile tweeting, while iOS comes in second and Blackberry in third place.

“Among users of the three most popular phone types, 69 percent had downloaded a Twitter client from the Google Play store or Google.com,” the report said. “Another 30 percent used a client downloaded from the Apple iTunes store, and about 1 percent had downloaded a client from Blackberry.com.”

It is said that the ISIS Twitter numbers are only a fraction of the 288 million Twitter claims are active on the website. The report states that 4% of the accounts had between 5,000 and 50,000 followers. However, since the pro-ISIS accounts started to appear last year, they are likely to reach millions of people worldwide due to the fact that between 500 and 2,000 ISIS account holders tweet in high volume and their messages are likely to go viral.

“This activity, more than any other, drives the success of ISIS’s efforts to promulgate its message on social media,” the report said. “Short, prolonged bursts of activity cause hashtags to trend, resulting in third-party aggregation and insertion of tweeted content into search results.”

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information

North Korea Threatens to Blow Up the White House

In a totally reasonable and not at all childish reaction to a comedy movie, North Korea has threatened to bomb the White House in retaliation for the release of the Seth Rogen film The Interview.

After the Sony Pictures hack last month, the group claiming responsibility threatened Sony not to release The Interview – a comedy about two journalists attempting to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – else they would release confidential information gathered from the hack, and even attack any cinema that dared screen the film.

After initial reticence, Sony did release the movie over Christmas, both online and to a limited cinema run, and North Korea is not happy. In a statement published by state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s Policy Department of the National Defence Commission said:

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has already launched the toughest counteraction. Nothing is more serious miscalculation than guessing that just a single movie production company is the target of this counteraction. Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans.

The army and people of the DPRK are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels.

Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the “symmetric counteraction” declared by Obama.

The U.S. should reflect on its evil doings that put itself in such a trouble, apologize to the Koreans and other people of the world and should not dare pull up others. “

So, unless the US government apologises for a movie it had no hand in producing, North Korea will blow up the White House, presumably with its nefarious moon-mounted space laser. Sounds fair.

Source: We Are Anonymous

Uber Under Fire After Raising Prices in Sydney

Uber has been under fire today after the ride sharing app put prices up in Sydney following the alleged terrorist hostage crisis in the city. The app raised prices in the Sydney area before quickly backtracking.

Prices were raised up to 4 times the normal rate, according to the BBC. The company responded to the backlash by refunding some customers and offering free rides out of the Sydney central business district. They also tweeted that the price hike was to encourage more drivers to get in the area to help people get home.

“We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney. Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely. Our thoughts are with those affected and the NSW Police Force. We are in the process of refunding rides.” – Uber.

Source: BBC News

15 Year Old Boy Who “Swatted” Gamer Convicted of Domestic Terrorism!

Update: Turns out this story was a hoax, the following article should be seen as satire at best.

Recently we brought you news of someone being hit with a stupid and incredibly dangerous prank known as “swatting”, the act of calling the real SWAT police on another gamer. Today we have the results of what happens to people who think doing something like this “is a good idea”.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/Nz8yLIOb2pU[/youtube]

15 year old Paul Horner broke down in tears in front of a judge after he was found guilty on two counts of domestic terrorism, which even at the age of 15 has landed him with a staggering 25 years to life sentence, ouch! This makes Horner the first person in history to be charged on offences for swatting and given that this is a worrying and growing trend, he is likely being made into an example to prevent this prank from happening again.

It’s a waste of valuable police resources and it puts peoples lives at risk. Horner was upset that a follow Battlefield 4 gamer was beating him, so he obtained his private information and called police on a reported murder and hostage situation at the gamers address. When SWAT raided the house things went to hell, the gamer father was shot and critically injured in the process.

Prosecutors played audio of Horner’s 911 phone call to the jury: “I just shot and killed four people. If any police enter my home I will kill them too,” the statement read in part.

In short, Horner has got a lot of time to think about what he has done.

Thank you Nationalreport for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Nationalreport.

YO App Used for Notifying People About Missile Strikes in Israel

Increasingly popular social media application, Yo, the application which lets you say ‘YO’ to another friend may seem ridiculous to some smartphone users, but in fact it is apparently used for more complicated things than just ‘yo-ing’ around.

The Times of Israel apparently has stated that some developers are now using Yo as a means of notifying people when terrorist attacks are happening in the country. It is said that the notification will be triggered on all devices using the Yo app and are subscribed to the Red Alert: Israel group.

For those who use Red Alert to stay notifying of such activities probably know that the group even has their own standalone application which sends more detailed push notification about the same type of terrorism activities happening in the country.

Though this may seem useless given that a standalone app for Red Alert exists, it might not be for some users if other countries. The Red Alert standalone application is said to work only when you are in Israel, having a limited audience. With its partnership with the Yo application, users can now receive push notifications outside the Israeli borders, having friends and family abroad notified immediately as on the Red Alert app.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information

NSA Revealed to have Collected Docs from Innocent Individuals, not Valid Targets

It appears that a huge report from The Washington Post has uncovered a large number of communications and documents collected by the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

The report is stated to have revealed that 9 out of 10 users from the collected documents are not the people targeted by the agency. However, personal emails, instant messages, photos and personal documents from these people are said to still remain in the NSA database, even though they have been marked as irrelevant to the agency.

It is said that a large number of ‘victims’ are US citizens or residents, having The Washington Post analyse the files, also known as FISA documents, collected by the NSA between 2009 and 2012 under programs such as PRISM or Upstream.

The collected documents are said to have been delivered by Edward Snowden, having it be previously debated with NSA officials that Snowden in fact did not have access to such private communications. The agency did however ‘minimize’ collected information, having email addresses for example obscured, as the law states.

The Post is said to have found over 65,000 ‘minimised’ documents, but the most interesting part is around 900 of them were not obscured. This meant that sensitive information made it through censorship. More shocking is the way security analysts handled communications from foreign individuals. The Post stated that e-mails simply written in a foreign language were reason enough to believe that a person was not an American, having them opened to a degree warrantless surveillance under US law. In addition to the latter, everyone in the friends’ list of a so-called ‘foreigner’ was also deemed to be a non-American individual.

While the privacy concerns mentioned above are very real, information gathered did however lead to some suspected terrorists. The information however is kept private so as not to interfere with current investigations. Nevertheless, the real question which everybody should be asking themselves is whether or not all the surveillance attempts and non-relevant information gathered, on top of law infringing actions, is really worth it.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information