Report: NSA Listens to International Calls From the Past
Today in international tech news: The NSA reportedly has a program that can record and store all phone calls within a country. Also: A Romanian man kills himself and his son because of ransomware despair; and Xiaomi wants to cozy up to Asia's richest man.
03/19/14 9:52 AM PT
The National Security Agency reportedly possesses a system that enables it to record telephone calls -- all telephone calls -- in a foreign country, and review conversations for up to a month after they took place.
The system is akin to a time machine, according to a source cited by The Washington Post, allowing for retroactive snooping on foreign targets.
Thanks to this technology, the NSA can record "every single" call made across an entire nation, according to a classified summary cited by the Post, which broke the story. The billions of calls are then stored in what the Post calls "a 30-day rolling buffer" that replaces the old with the new.
This, according to the summary, enables the NSA to go back and listen to calls that may not have been so noteworthy when they actually took place. Each month, analysts reportedly send millions of voice clippings to be processed and stored long-term.
The phone surveillance program, launched in 2009, is called "MYSTIC." The going-back-in-time bit -- officially called "retroactive retrieval" but dubbed "RETRO" -- reached full capacity in 2011.
The Post claims it is withholding details that could be used to pinpoint where the system is being used, or where it might be used in the future.
No other NSA program -- at least none that we know about yet -- has monitored the entirety of a nation's telephone network.
[Source: The Washington Post]
Romanian Ransomware Target Kills Self, Son
A cringe-inducing story out of Romania: A 36-year-old man hanged himself while holding his four-year-old son after falling victim to a particularly malicious ransomware attack.
Both the man and his son died.
In a suicide note, the man reportedly detailed his despair over not being able to pay the massive fine asked for by the ransomware, which told him he could go to jail if he didn't pay a fine for downloading porn. The warning said that the man must pay US$21,600 or face an 11-year prison term.
Ransomware, commonly peddled through pornography websites, infects users' computers and generally displays a message telling them that unless they must pay a fine, their computers will be locked.
Xiaomi Mulls Partnership With Asia's Richest Man
Xiaomi, a budding smartphone maker based in China, hopes to collaborate with Li Ka-shing -- Asia's richest man -- to bolster its operations in Southeast Asia.
The company wants to cozy up to Li and his Hutchison Whampoa telecommunications operation, according to Xiaomi Global Vice President Hugo Barra, a former Google official.
Xiaomi is launching its latest flagship device, the Mi 3, with Li's carrier in Hong Kong. Barra, however, foresees the two working together to penetrate markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam, where Xiaomi is eyeing product releases in the coming months.
Li's business empire includes ports and hotels, and has operations in more than 50 countries (with 270,000 employees to show for it). On the tech front, Li invested $60 million in Facebook back in 2007.
Xiaomi's MO is selling high-end phones for prices close to cost. Its newest flagship phone costs about $330, which is less than 50 percent what you'd pay for top selections from Apple and Samsung.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]