#CyberFLASH: Canada’s military plans to monitor the world’s social media

Online Privacy ConceptOTTAWA—Canada’s military wants to monitor and analyze the world’s social media streams, with 24/7 access to real-time and historical posts on websites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

And they don’t want anyone knowing it’s them doing the monitoring, either.

The Department of National Defence and its research wing, Defence Research and Development Canada, are in the market for a new Internet monitoring platform that can analyze and filter the daily firehose of social media posts.

“At an operational and tactical level, social data can provide information on events as they unfold, key influencers, sentiment of local populations, and even help to geo-locate people of interest,” documents posted online Thursday read.

“Given the reactive and long-term nature of DND intelligence operations, access to this information is essential to maintaining situational awareness and achieving our global mandate.”

The platform envisioned by the military will pull from the most popular social media sites — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram — but will also track data from a much broader range of websites.

Blogs, message boards, Reddit, even the comment sections on news sites will be brought in for review and analysis by as many as 40 intelligence officers.

A spokesman for DND said the platform is not intended to be directed at Canadians’ online activity, and will comply with Canadian privacy laws.

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#CyberFLASH: There’s a Secret Hearing Into Allegations Canada Illegally Spied on Environmental Activists

gavel-stock-image-2A federal watchdog committee is set to begin a round of secret hearings to probe complaints that Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has been illegally snooping on environmental activists working against oil pipeline projects.

In 2014 the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed two complaints against CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) accusing both agencies of spying on environmental and First Nations groups who were organizing against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude west from Alberta to BC. The groups allegedly subjected to surveillance include the Sierra Club of BC, the Dogwood Initiative, and ForestEthics Advocacy.

“This kind of activity, what’s being alleged, has no place in democracy. The government and its spy agencies should not be busy surveilling and gathering intelligences on citizenships who are simply living their lives and participating in their communities,” Josh Paterson, BCCLA’s executive director, told VICE News. “There are plenty of undemocratic countries where governments spy on people they don’t agree with. And Canada should not be one of them.”

The BCCLA’s complaints, based on government documents obtained under access to information requests, further allege the spy agency also shared their intelligence about “radicalized environmentalist” groups with the National Energy Board.

CSIS has long denied the BCCLA’s allegations. “CSIS investigates — and advises government on — threats to national security, and that does not include peaceful protest and dissent,” a CSIS spokesperson told the CBC last year.

New federal anti-terror legislation, known as Bill C-51, that recently came into force gives CSIS more powers to probe and disrupt extremist activities and has raised further worries that environmental and aboriginal groups in Canada could be subjected to more surveillance than ever before.

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#CyberFLASH: Canada uses NSA Search Engine which Taps Into Global Comms to Intercept, Well, Everything

edward-snowden.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxEdward Snowden has once again provided fodder for the surveillance fears of American citizens: New leaked documents show that the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) XKeyscore search engine hoovers up vast amounts of private communications information, to the tune of 700,000 voice, fax and video files every day.

According to a report in The Intercept, XKeyscore doesn’t bother with intercepting last-mile telephone calls and the like. Oh no. It drinks directly from the hose: it taps into the billions off bits that are carried on the long-haul fiber-optic cables that make up the global communications network, including data on people’s internet searches, documents, usernames, passwords, emails and chats, pictures, voice calls, webcam photos, advertising analytics traffic, social media traffic, botnet traffic, logged keystrokes, computer network exploitation (CNE) targeting, intercepted username and password pairs, file uploads to online services, VOIP streams taken from Skype sessions, etc. etc.

In other words, it absorbs everything.

XKeyscore is used by NSA intelligence agents as well as spooks in Canada, New Zealand and the UK (and possibly other allies) to target people by location, nationality and browsing histories. The NSA itself calls it “a fully distributed processing and query system that runs on machines around the world” with “the ability to scale in both processing power and storage.”

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#CyberFLASH: CSE says Snowden leaks eroding spy agency’s long-term advantage over terrorists

snowden-onlinedatabase-20150304Canada’s electronic spy agency says leaks by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have “diminished the advantage” it enjoyed over terrorists and other targets, both in the short term and — of more concern — well into the future.

In newly released briefing notes, the Communications Security Establishment says Snowden’s disclosures about CSE’s intelligence capabilities and those of its allies “have a cumulative detrimental effect” on its operations.

The Ottawa-based CSE monitors foreign communications of intelligence interest to Canada, and exchanges a large amount of information with partner agencies in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, were among the briefing materials prepared for CSE chief Greta Bossenmaier’s March 25 appearance before the House of Commons committee on national defence.

Canada spying

Documents Snowden handed to the media revealed the U.S. National Security Agency — the CSE’s American counterpart — had quietly obtained access to a huge volume of emails, chat logs and other information from major Internet companies, as well as massive amounts of data about telephone calls.

The documents also suggest Canada helped the United States and Britain spy on participants at a London G20 summit and that the CSE devised a sophisticated spy operation against Brazil’s ministry of mines and energy.

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#CyberFLASH: For U.S. allies, paradigm shift in intelligence collection

dynamic_resizePARIS — Fearful of an expanding extremist threat, countries that for years have relied heavily on U.S. intelligence are quickly building up their own capabilities with new technology, new laws and — in at least one case — a searing debate on how much the American government should be allowed to spy on their own citizens.

Responding to a jihadi movement that is successfully recruiting people from around the world, France and Canada are both passing laws that would dramatically ramp up their surveillance apparatus. In France, lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would let the government install “black boxes” to collect metadata from every major phone and Internet company.

Canada’s measures were rushed through after a two separate attacks in October 2014 on Canadian soldiers — including one that ended when the gunman stormed Parliament and was shot to death by guards and police. France’s law went into high gear after the January terror attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 20 dead, including the gunmen.

Analysts say it’s not so much a question of diminishing cooperation with the U.S. — the revelations of Edward Snowden have ultimately done little to harm relationships between allies — as a push to increase domestic capacities ill-equipped to face the rising threat of Islamic State and other jihadi groups.

“These are not people coming from the outside, these are not people who are taking plane trips, they are not people who attracted notice outside our countries. These are people who come from the heart of our society,” said Alain Chouet, a former French intelligence official who recently returned from an extended trip to Canada where he debated the measures in both countries. “International cooperation in this area isn’t hugely useful.”

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#CyberFLASH: Canadian cyberspy agency CSEC fretted about staff after Snowden leaks


Canada’s secret eavesdropping agency feared for the personal safety of staff following the leak of sensitive intelligence by a former U.S. spy contractor, newly declassified memos show.

The Ottawa-based Communications Security Establishment Canada combed through personnel files to assess risks to employees whose name, agency affiliation or specific duties may have been disclosed by Edward Snowden, says an internal note from the head of the spy service.

In the September 2013 memo, CSEC chief John Forster urged staff with concerns to speak with a manager or personnel security officials.

“There should not be any conversation that is too difficult to have, or any question that is too difficult to ask,” says the memo, originally classified top secret for Canadian eyes only.

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#CyberFLASH: Canada’s electronic spy agency uncovers wrongdoing, ethics breaches


OTTAWA — An investigation at Canada’s secretive eavesdropping agency has uncovered misuse of public assets and “serious breaches” of the spy outfit’s values and ethics code.

The findings, prompted by confidential information from a whistleblower, led Communications Security Establishment Canada to revise policy, improve training and boost oversight.

However, CSEC will say little more about the episode — leading opposition MPs to accuse the spy agency of needless secrecy as it comes under intense scrutiny due to widely publicized leaks by former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Ottawa-based CSEC monitors foreign computer, satellite, radio and telephone traffic of people, countries, organizations and terrorist cells for information of intelligence interest to the federal government.

The Canadian agency says its findings of asset misuse and ethics breaches are not related to national security information, the privacy of Canadians or the continuing construction of CSEC’s elaborate new Ottawa headquarters.

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#CyberFLASH: Canadian spy agency gathered data at airport: Snowden document


Canada’s electronic spy agency collected data from thousands of travellers passing through a major airport and tracked their wireless devices for days after they left the terminal, according to a secret document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) collected information gathered from unsuspecting passengers’ wireless devices by the airport’s free wi-fi system over a two-week period in 2012. 

CSEC then tracked the travellers for a week or more as their wireless devices showed up in wi-fi “hot spots” in cities across Canada and even at US airports, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) quoted a top secret document retrieved by Snowden as saying. 

The document indicated the passenger tracking operation was a trial run for a powerful new software programme being developed jointly with the US National Security Agency (NSA). 

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