NSA Lifts Middle Finger to Middle Kingdom
Today in international tech news: The NSA reportedly did all the things to Huawei that Washington was scared Huawei would do to the U.S. Also: Turkey fortifies its leaky Twitter blockade; and a Beijing-based bitcoin exchange halts withdrawals -- but maintains it still can pay back users.
03/24/14 9:31 AM PT
Oh, there have been some good National Security Agency revelations.
Like the one about the NSA tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone. Or the one about the NSA planting agents inside fantasy worlds in World of Warcraft, or impersonating Facebook in a global quest to spread malware.
Delicious as all those stories are, however, last weekend's NSA bombshell may take the cake.
The NSA reportedly has created back doors directly into networks run by Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that the U.S. has long suspected of doing scandalous things -- like creating backdoors into computer networks.
The NSA wiggled its way into Huawei servers at its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, and obtained info about the guts of Huawei's operations. For good measure, the NSA monitored the communications of Huawei execs.
The report, broken by The New York Times, was sourced from documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The Huawei-snooping operation, dubbed "Shotgiant," is particularly juicy, given the lengthy and acrimonious backstory between the U.S. on one side, and Huawei and China on the other.
In the fall of 2012, Congress formally decreed that Huawei was a security threat, more or less barring it from working on U.S. networks. The following March, after revelations of unprecedented cyberespionage carried out by China, President Barack Obama called Chinese President Xi Pinping to talk cybersecurity.
A few months later, the U.S. formally accused China's government and military of spying on U.S. government computers. The two sides powwowed about cybersecurity that summer -- right before U.S. lawmakers wondered aloud if Snowden was an operative of China.
While Shotgiant's stated purpose was finding links between Huawei and the People's Liberation Army -- a reasonable enough query, given that Huawei's founder is a former PLA member -- the operation went much further. The agency sought to exploit Huawei technology so as to thumb through computer and telephone networks in other nations where Huawei does business -- including nations considered U.S. allies.
"Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products," an NSA document says, adding: "We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products."
[Source: The New York Times]
Turkey Fortifies Twitter Block
Turkey increased its efforts to prohibit Twitter after last week's blockade proved leaky.
Before, the ISPs merely redirected traffic to a government Web page by manipulating servers. Now, however, they are blocking IP addresses used by Twitter, according to an analysis from Internet monitoring firm Renesys.
Turkey's Twitter saga pits Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who has referred to Twitter as a "scourge" -- against President Abdullah Gül -- who is far more progressive about these things (and who boasts an impressive 4.4 million Twitter followers).
[Source: The Guardian]
New Bitcoin Implosion
Beijing-based bitcoin exchange Vircurex has halted withdrawals of bitcoins and other digital currencies, and will freeze all existing accounts.
Large withdrawals in the last week caused the exchange's coffers to run dry, according to Vircurex.
The company has a plan to pay back all affected customers. Of course, this plan is contingent upon new users signing up. Good luck.
Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, once the world's preeminent bitcoin exchange, shuttered last month amid confusion and accusations about where its US$400 million-plus worth of bitcoins went. In other words, the digital currency's heyday may have passed.
[Source: The Next Web]