#CyberFLASH: Canadian government expects another Snowden-level leak, documents say

Surveillance_610pxOTTAWA–It’s not a matter of if there will be another Edward Snowden, it’s a matter of when, according to internal government documents obtained by the Star.

Global Affairs officials warned minister Stéphane Dion in November an event on the scale of Snowden’s disclosures about Internet surveillance is inevitable.

“Incidents similar to the Snowden disclosures and the Sony hack will happen again and we can expect that sudden events will affect international debates on cyberspace,” the document reads.

The briefing note, prepared for Dion in November and obtained under access to information law, suggests that Snowden’s disclosures about Western mass surveillance “altered the tone” of the international discussion on cyberspace.

In 2013 Snowden, a former employee of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), pulled back the curtain on mass surveillance online, detailing the capabilities of the “Five Eyes” countries — Canada, the United States, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand — to monitor activity online. His release of classified NSA documents triggered outrage among those who said he put lives at risk, and praise from others who argued he shed light on questionable practices and has forced needed change. He was forced to flee the U.S. and was granted asylum in Russia.

Then in 2014, hackers broke into Sony company computers and released thousands of emails, documents and sensitive personal information. U.S. federal investigators blamed North Korea.

While Canada has long advocated for an open and free Internet, suggestions that the nation’s spy agency the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has engaged in mass online surveillance have complicated that narrative.

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#CyberFLASH: Opinion: Big Data, surveillance and Privacy 2.0 after Snowden – Is B.C. on the right track?

sweden-rights-espionage-diplomacy-computers-filesEdward Snowden’s analysis of the largest leak yet — the Panama papers — did what Shane Pointe of the Musqueam Nation intended: lift up the heart and minds of very brave truthtellers. While Snowden’s public conversation terrified many, he also pointed the way to hope in the era of Big Data and the Internet of Things.

When talking about Big Data and Surveillance, focus on the information and knowledge that comes from the data, and the power matrix in which that unfolds. That is the real message from the Snowden event held in Vancouver last Tuesday. Value can be positive or negative: information, knowledge and understanding can be used for good or bad purposes. To make Big Data constructive, we need more than just the technological advances and industrial developments — the key component is keeping sight of the rights to human privacy and personal security.

Advances in Big Data offer huge potential benefits and risks when we bring different data resources together. New machine learning algorithms with massive computational resources are incredible, but they need to be mediated by people who know how to ethically use the new technology and how to derive value from it — and who, as Snowden says, know when to blow the whistle when the public interest is abused.

B.C. is at the forefront of this Big Data wave. At SFU, we have a competitive advantage with our Big Data and Data Science training programs, plus we work with other institutions on other research and training initiatives such as those provided by the Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics. The Metro Vancouver corporate sector is equally invested. A growing number of companies located in B.C. such as Tableau, Amazon, Global Relay, Phemi, SImba, and Splunk provide cutting edge Big Data-related products and services.

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#CyberFLASH: University of Toronto researchers show how Canadian data can be vulnerable to US state surveillance

Canada cyber security newsWhile Edward Snowden leaked documents exposing the wide breadth of National Security Agency surveillance in 2013, the repercussions of those documents still inform conversations around online privacy concerns. And University of Toronto researchers have created an interactive database to show how NSA surveillance can even have an impact on Canadians.

The IXMaps database helps Canadians understand how their internet traffic moves—specifically, it helps Canadians understand how certain traffic routes, known as boomerang routes, move data into the United States and into the jurisdiction of the NSA before the data returns to Canada. The tool is funded by the .CA Community Investment program, which is dedicated to funding initiatives “keep Canadians at the forefront of the digital age,” according to its website.

“IXmaps highlights just how much of our Canadian web traffic is unnecessarily being routed through the U.S. and back againwithout our knowledge. The biggest concern about our data moving into the NSA’s jurisdiction is that Canadians do not have the same protections from NSA surveillance that Americans do, so our information is more vulnerable.” says Laura Tribe, digital rights specialist at Open Media. “ And as the Snowden revelations have highlighted, the amount of information being shared between the Five Eyes governments (Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia and New Zealand), means that our information doesn’t likely stop with just the NSA.”

Many of the major Internet providers in Canada have networks that favour north – south connections, pushing Canadian data flows toward key American routing hubs in New York, Chicago, Seattle, or California, and popular sites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon leaves Canadian data vulnerable to American mass surveillance.

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#CyberFLASH: Edward Snowden speaks to Queen’s students via Skype

snowden0.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxReceiving astounding applause, Edward Snowden appeared on screen at Queen’s University stage via Skype as the keynote speaker for the Queen’s Model United Nations Invitational on Thursday night.

The security-agency whistleblower, who now lives in exile in Russia, first thanked the professors and students involved with organizing the conference, moderated by Dr. David Lyons, who directs the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queens. Then he thanked the online Twitter community for ensuring that he received the invitation to speak at Queen’s — something he had missed at first — as an example of the importance of public opinion.

“Too often, when we are engaging in society we don’t get to seem to get the right response. By working together, and if we amplify our voice… we can get results.”

Snowden, a hero or a criminal depending on your point of view, began to lay down a brief history of the “growing up in the shadow of the NSA (National Security Agency)” and coming from a family with deep roots in the U.S. military. “When I started working for the government, I was really a true believer,” said Snowden. “I swallowed propaganda entirely.”

He recalled how, as he worked in various parts of the NSA with increasing levels of access, he began to sketch out the contradictions between the public pronouncements made to citizens and the reality behind the government’s closed doors, where his agency was carrying out programs of mass surveillance, including extensive phone and Internet surveillance of the public.

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#CyberFLASH: Snowden launches push for global privacy treaty

American whistleblower Edward Snowden delivers remarks via video link from Moscow to attendees at a discussion regarding an International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers in Manhattan, New York September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew KellyFugitive former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden on Thursday backed a push for an international treaty on privacy rights, protection against improper surveillance and of whistleblowers as he said more countries are trying to boost spying powers.

Speaking via video conference from Russia, which granted him asylum in 2013 after he leaked details of mass U.S. surveillance programs, Snowden said mass spying was a global problem that needs a global response.

“We have to have a discussion, we have to come forward with proposals to go ‘how do we assert what our rights are, traditionally and digitally and to ensure that we can not just enjoy them, but we can protect them,” Snowden said.

On the eve of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, Snowden, campaign group Avaaz, journalist Glenn Greenwald – who obtained Snowden’s leaked documents – and his partner David Miranda launched the campaign for what they dubbed the Snowden Treaty.

“We see that in many countries around the world governments are aggressively pressing for more power, more authority, more surveillance rather than less,” said Snowden, citing Australia, Canada, Britain and France.

“In every case these policy proposals that work against the public are being billed as public safety programs,” he said.

Snowden acknowledged that the campaign for a treaty was likely to take years.

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#CyberFLASH: Cyber-spying fight shows Snowden was right: Burman

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The backlash from whistleblower Edward Snowden’s security leaks is a gift that keeps on giving. This week’s righteous cyber-clash between China and the U.S. is the latest example. However unintended, it further peels the onion that modern global politics has become, as hypocritical as it is unpredictable.

Just imagine the Chinese military believing it can spy on American companies with impunity! Why wouldn’t it expect the U.S. government to respond aggressively — the first time by any country — by actually laying charges against five of its army officers? After all, what self-respecting nation can tolerate one of its historic rivals using the most sophisticated forms of 21st-century spy craft to ensure that its commercial interests have an unfair advantage?

Now, wait a minute. Isn’t that what the Snowden leaks revealed the Americans have been doing to the Chinese in recent years, as well as to many other countries — with, of course, the blind support of its client states, such as Canada? Does this huffing and puffing have no bounds?

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