Israel is using emergency surveillance powers to track people who may have COVID-19, joining China and Iran in using mass surveillance in this way. I believe pressure will increase to leverage existing corporate surveillance infrastructure for these purposes in the US and other countries. With that in mind, the EFF has some good thinking on how to balance public safety with civil liberties:
Thus, any data collection and digital monitoring of potential carriers of COVID-19 should take into consideration and commit to these principles:
- Privacy intrusions must be necessary and proportionate. A program that collects, en masse, identifiable information about people must be scientifically justified and deemed necessary by public health experts for the purpose of containment. And that data processing must be proportionate to the need. For example, maintenance of 10 years of travel history of all people would not be proportionate to the need to contain a disease like COVID-19, which has a two-week incubation period.
- Data collection based on science, not bias. Given the global scope of communicable diseases, there is historical precedent for improper government containment efforts driven by bias based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, and race — rather than facts about a particular individual’s actual likelihood of contracting the virus, such as their travel history or contact with potentially infected people. Today, we must ensure that any automated data systems used to contain COVID-19 do not erroneously identify members of specific demographic groups as particularly susceptible to infection.
- Expiration. As in other major emergencies in the past, there is a hazard that the data surveillance infrastructure we build to contain COVID-19 may long outlive the crisis it was intended to address. The government and its corporate cooperators must roll back any invasive programs created in the name of public health after crisis has been contained.
- Transparency. Any government use of “big data” to track virus spread must be clearly and quickly explained to the public. This includes publication of detailed information about the information being gathered, the retention period for the information, the tools used to process that information, the ways these tools guide public health decisions, and whether these tools have had any positive or negative outcomes.
- Due Process. If the government seeks to limit a person’s rights based on this “big data” surveillance (for example, to quarantine them based on the system’s conclusions about their relationships or travel), then the person must have the opportunity to timely and fairly challenge these conclusions and limits.
Posted on March 20, 2020 at 6:25 AM •
Israel has acknowledged that its recent airstrikes against Hamas were a real-time response to an ongoing cyberattack. From Twitter:
CLEARED FOR RELEASE: We thwarted an attempted Hamas cyber offensive against Israeli targets. Following our successful cyber defensive operation, we targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives work.
HamasCyberHQ.exe has been removed. pic.twitter.com/AhgKjiOqS7
Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 5, 2019
I expect this sort of thing to happen more — not against major countries, but by larger countries against smaller powers. Cyberattacks are too much of a nation-state equalizer otherwise.
EDITED TO ADD (5/7): Commentary.
Posted on May 6, 2019 at 4:09 PM •
The Israeli Defense Force mounted a botched raid in Gaza. They were attempting to install surveillance gear, which they ended up leaving behind. (There are photos — scroll past the video.) Israeli media is claiming that the capture of this gear by Hamas causes major damage to Israeli electronic surveillance capabilities. The Israelis themselves destroyed the vehicle the commandos used to enter Gaza. I’m guessing they did so because there was more gear in it they didn’t want falling into the Palestinians’ hands.
Can anyone intelligently speculate about what the photos shows? And if there are other photos on the Internet, please post them.
Posted on November 18, 2018 at 6:26 AM •
Forbes reports that the Israeli company Cellebrite can probably unlock all iPhone models:
Cellebrite, a Petah Tikva, Israel-based vendor that’s become the U.S. government’s company of choice when it comes to unlocking mobile devices, is this month telling customers its engineers currently have the ability to get around the security of devices running iOS 11. That includes the iPhone X, a model that Forbes has learned was successfully raided for data by the Department for Homeland Security back in November 2017, most likely with Cellebrite technology.
It also appears the feds have already tried out Cellebrite tech on the most recent Apple handset, the iPhone X. That’s according to a warrant unearthed by Forbes in Michigan, marking the first known government inspection of the bleeding edge smartphone in a criminal investigation. The warrant detailed a probe into Abdulmajid Saidi, a suspect in an arms trafficking case, whose iPhone X was taken from him as he was about to leave America for Beirut, Lebanon, on November 20. The device was sent to a Cellebrite specialist at the DHS Homeland Security Investigations Grand Rapids labs and the data extracted on December 5.
This story is based on some excellent reporting, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered. We don’t know exactly what was extracted from any of the phones. Was it metadata or data, and what kind of metadata or data was it.
The story I hear is that Cellebrite hires ex-Apple engineers and moves them to countries where Apple can’t prosecute them under the DMCA or its equivalents. There’s also a credible rumor that Cellebrite’s mechanisms only defeat the mechanism that limits the number of password attempts. It does not allow engineers to move the encrypted data off the phone and run an offline password cracker. If this is true, then strong passwords are still secure.
EDITED TO ADD (3/1): Another article, with more information. It looks like there’s an arms race going on between Apple and Cellebrite. At least, if Cellebrite is telling the truth — which they may or may not be.
Posted on February 27, 2018 at 5:58 AM •
According to this story (non-paywall English version here), Israeli scientists released some information to the public they shouldn’t have.
Defense establishment officials are now trying to erase any trace of the secret information from the web, but they have run into difficulties because the information was copied and is found on a number of platforms.
Those officials have managed to ensure that the Haaretz article doesn’t have any actual information about the information. I have reason to believe the information is related to Internet security. Does anyone know more?
Posted on January 31, 2018 at 2:37 PM •
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting that Israel has penetrated Kaspersky’s network and detected the Russian operation.
From the New York Times:
Israeli intelligence officers informed the NSA that, in the course of their Kaspersky hack, they uncovered evidence that Russian government hackers were using Kaspersky’s access to aggressively scan for American government classified programs and pulling any findings back to Russian intelligence systems. [Israeli intelligence] provided their NSA counterparts with solid evidence of the Kremlin campaign in the form of screenshots and other documentation, according to the people briefed on the events.
Kaspersky first noticed the Israeli intelligence operation in 2015.
The Washington Post writes about the NSA tools being on the home computer in the first place:
The employee, whose name has not been made public and is under investigation by federal prosecutors, did not intend to pass the material to a foreign adversary. “There wasn’t any malice,” said one person familiar with the case, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case. “It’s just that he was trying to complete the mission, and he needed the tools to do it.
I don’t buy this. People with clearances are told over and over not to take classified material home with them. It’s not just mentioned occasionally; it’s a core part of the job.
More news articles.
Posted on October 11, 2017 at 2:54 PM •
I have no comment on the politics of this stabbing attack, and only note that the attacker used a ceramic knife — that will go through metal detectors.
I have used a ceramic knife in the kitchen. It’s sharp.
EDITED TO ADD (6/22): It looks like the knife had nothing to do with the attack discussed in the article.
Posted on June 20, 2017 at 6:21 AM •
We’re starting to see some information on the Israeli cyberweapons arms manufacturer that sold the iPhone zero-day exploit to the United Arab Emirates so they could spy on human rights defenders.
EDITED TO ADD (9/1): There is criticism in the comments about me calling NSO Group an Israeli company. I was just repeating the news articles, but further research indicates that it is Israeli-founded and Israeli-based, but 100% owned by an American private equity firm.
Posted on August 31, 2016 at 8:16 AM •
Abstract: Objectives — Informed by situational crime prevention (SCP) this study evaluates the effectiveness of the “West Bank Barrier” that the Israeli government began to construct in 2002 in order to prevent suicide bombing attacks.
Methods — Drawing on crime wave models of past SCP research, the study uses a time series of terrorist attacks and fatalities and their location in respect to the Barrier, which was constructed in different sections over different periods of time, between 1999 and 2011.
Results — The Barrier together with associated security activities was effective in preventing suicide bombings and other attacks and fatalities with little if any apparent displacement. Changes in terrorist behavior likely resulted from the construction of the Barrier, not from other external factors or events.
Conclusions — In some locations, terrorists adapted to changed circumstances by committing more opportunistic attacks that require less planning. Fatalities and attacks were also reduced on the Palestinian side of the Barrier, producing an expected “diffusion of benefits” though the amount of reduction was considerably more than in past SCP studies. The defensive roles of the Barrier and offensive opportunities it presents, are identified as possible explanations. The study highlights the importance of SCP in crime and counter-terrorism policy.
Unfortunately, the whole paper is behind a paywall.
Note: This is not a political analysis of the net positive and negative effects of the wall, just a security analysis. Of course any full analysis needs to take the geopolitics into account. The comment section is not the place for this broader discussion.
Posted on July 14, 2016 at 5:58 AM •
The NSA and GCHQ have successfully hacked Israel’s drones, according to the Snowden documents. The story is being reported by the Intercept and Der Spiegel. The Times of Israel has more.
EDITED TO ADD (2/11): Cryptanalysis of intercepted Israeli drone feeds.
Posted on February 1, 2016 at 2:27 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.