All Surveillance stories

Pompeo says Russia is "pretty clearly" behind cyberattack on U.S.

Mike Pompeo. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Friday evening interview that "we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians" behind a massive cyber attack that breached dozens of government agencies, think tanks and companies.

Driving the news: Pompeo's comments on "The Mark Levin Show" are the first from a Trump administration official publicly linking Russia to the hack. President Trump has yet to address the issue.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Dec 12, 2020 - World

Cyber AI firm helps Vatican digitize its library archives

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A cybersecurity firm is working with the Vatican to defend its priceless collection of digitized writings from hacking efforts.

Why it matters: Digitizing library archives can provide an invaluable backup should the originals be lost or destroyed, but they're also vulnerable to cyberattacks. Without stout defenses, digital libraries can be looted or even vandalized.

Breaking down Microsoft's "Productivity Score" tool

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft has a new tool called "Productivity Score" that lets managers track how often their workforces are using Word and Excel, how many emails they're sending on Outlook, and how many video meetings they're attending on Teams or Skype.

The big picture: After fielding backlash over privacy concerns, Microsoft no longer allows companies to collect individual employee data with the tool. Firms can just look at aggregate numbers to track how they're using different products.

Report: Swiss government long in dark over CIA front company

Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Image

The Swiss intelligence service has known since at least 1993 that Switzerland-based encryption device maker Crypto AG was actually a front for the CIA and its German counterpart, according to a new report released by the Swiss Parliament, but Swiss leaders were in the dark until last year.

Why it matters: Switzerland’s intra-governmental information gap is unlikely to be welcome news in Europe, which already looks warily upon the U.S.’ expansive surveillance practices. Still, Crypto AG provided information of incalculable value to U.S. policymakers over many decades.

Oct 14, 2020 - Technology

COVID is worsening global internet freedom, report finds

Singapore's TraceTogether contact-tracing app. Photo: Catherine Lai/AFP via Getty Images

Governments around the world have seized on the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to expand digital surveillance and harvest more data on their citizens, according to a report out Wednesday from Freedom House, a democracy and human rights research group.

Why it matters: Privacy advocates have warned since early in the pandemic that the tech behind efforts to conduct contact tracing and enforce quarantines and other public safety protocols could be abused and made permanent, particularly in authoritarian countries like China.

FBI says Virginia governor was a potential target for militia kidnapping plot

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaks during a news conference. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The militia groups who had allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) also discussed kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) during a June meeting in Ohio, an FBI agent testified in court on Tuesday.

The big picture: FBI agent Richard Trask was part of the investigation that thwarted an extremist plot last week to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow state governments and law enforcement. Six Michigan residents were arrested in connection with the plot, while seven others linked to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen were arrested for allegedly planning to attack the Michigan Capitol.

FCC: 5G could eventually help cities predict and prevent wildfires

Axios' Erica Pandey, (left) with Jessica Rosenworcel (right), Federal Communications Commissioner. Photo: Axios.

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Federal Communications Commissioner, said Tuesday that she hopes smart cities and 5G could eventually predict and ensure the safety of its residents, even from natural disasters like wildfires.

What she's saying: "Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we knew those kind of things well in advance, if we had a predictive ability that exceeds what we have today because we are looking at patterns at a scale that previously we haven’t been able to do? I think that those things are real and they are not so in the far-off future," she told Axios' Erica Pandey at a virtual event.

Iranian cyber group "Pioneer Kitten" sold access to hacked networks

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A hacker group associated with the Iranian government is selling “access to compromised networks on an underground forum,” likely without Tehran’s blessing, according to research by threat intelligence firm CrowdStrike.

Why it matters: That these Iranian hackers were apparently caught trying to make money on the side may show the dangers of relying on likely underpaid contractors to conduct sensitive offensive cyber operations.

Federal court deems NSA phone data collection program illegal

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency's surveillance program that collected data from Americans' phone calls was illegal.

What they found: The court concluded that "bulk collection" of phone data violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Wednesday's ruling came seven years after Basaaly Moalin and three other Somali immigrants were found guilty on charges of fundraising for the terror group al-Shabab.

TikTok sale drama clouds the app's genuine security concerns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Political and economic motivations behind a sale or shutdown of TikTok in the U.S. are obscuring sincere security concerns raised by the rise of the Chinese-owned social video app.

The big picture: U.S. intelligence officials evince deep worry over Chinese companies’ ability to resist Beijing’s demands for data.