Early Salvos Launched Ahead of Cybersecurity Talks
Today in international tech news: A day after China said it was irresponsible to blame governments for cyberattacks, the United States blames the Chinese government for cyberattacks. Also: Things might be getting hairy for Apple in Europe; the EU backs off from some of its earlier data-protection demands; and Saudi Arabia blocks an app that wouldn't give it access to data.
President Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping will meet this weekend to talk cybersecurity, among other things, but there are plenty of people on either side talking already.
A day after China's claim that it has "mountains of data" proving U.S.-based hackers have been attacking the Middle Kingdom, United States intelligence officials say they have reason to believe Chinese hackers orchestrated "a massive cyberespionage operation against the 2008 presidential campaigns" of Obama and John McCain.
The cyberattacks reportedly targeted computers and laptops of campaign aides and advisors who were privy to high-level briefings. Dennis Blair, who served as Obama's director of national intelligence in 2009 and 2010, said that, best he can tell, "this was a case of political cyberespionage by the Chinese government against the two American political parties."
Such phrasing is intriguing given China's rhetoric earlier this week. Beijing said that it was "technically irresponsible" to accuse governments of being complicit in hacking, and that such disputes should be handled "through communication, not confrontation."
So much for that.
As part of China's 2008 hack attacks, a private correspondence between McCain and the president of Taiwan was also thieved. As a result, Randall Schriver, who was serving as a top McCain adviser on Asian policy, received a call from a Chinese official complaining about the letter -- before it had been delivered.
The intrusions had been reported previously, but U.S. officials had never so explicitly pointed the finger at the Chinese government as being responsible. Doing so now further spices up this weekend's summit between Xi and Obama.
[Source: NBC News]
Things Get Hairier for Apple in Europe
It's looking less and less likely that this will go away.
Apple used its influence to gain preferential treatment from mobile operators, a former senior executive at a major European operator told The Guardian. The claim comes on the heels of the European Commission's announcement that it was probing Apple's tactics.
The probe included a questionnaire sent to mobile network operators throughout Europe and investigated whether Apple forced dodgy distribution terms on potential carriers. If these operators answered questions the same way they talk to reporters, it could spell a full-blown investigation, which, as Microsoft and Google can attest, isn't always fun.
Apple says its contracts fully comply with EU law.
One thing potentially working in Apple's favor is the definition of "dominance." Researchers have pegged Apple's share of the European smartphone market at 22 percent -- well below the 40 percent threshold typically used to define dominance. That, by extension, makes it difficult for Apple to abuse its dominance.
[Source: The Guardian]
European Union Still Grappling With Data Laws
Justice ministers from all 27 European Union members states agreed Thursday to a proposal that will allow companies' use of personal data to be scrutinized by regulators.
The agreement was described as "business-friendly" by The New York Times, which said that the agreement is far less stringent than measures proposed more than a year ago. The Times credited an intense lobbying effort for the "softening" of original proposals.
The final version of the legislation will not be done for several months -- perhaps not until 2014.
[Source: The New York Times]
Report: Saudi Arabia Blocks Messaging App
The Viber messaging app service has been blocked in Saudi Arabia, according to Talmon Marco, the head of Viber.
Earlier this year, Saudi authorities had warned Viber and other encrypted messaging services that unless they allowed monitoring, they would be blocked. Viber didn't comply, and it looks as though authorities stuck to their guns.
WhatsApp and Skype also received warnings from authorities, but thus far neither has been blocked.