Canada’s electronic surveillance agency has secretly developed an arsenal of cyber weapons capable of stealing data and destroying adversaries’ infrastructure, according to newly revealed classified documents.
Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, has also covertly hacked into computers across the world to gather intelligence, breaking into networks in Europe, Mexico, the Middle East, and North Africa, the documents show.
The revelations, reported Monday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, shine a light for the first time on how Canada has adopted aggressive tactics to attack, sabotage, and infiltrate targeted computer systems.
Christopher Parsons, a surveillance expert at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, told CBC News that the new revelations showed that Canada’s computer networks had already been “turned into a battlefield without any Canadian being asked: Should it be done? How should it be done?”
According to documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, CSE has a wide range of powerful tools to perform “computer network exploitation” and “computer network attack” operations. These involve hacking into networks to either gather intelligence or to damage adversaries’ infrastructure, potentially including electricity, transportation or banking systems. The most well-known example of a state-sponsored “attack” operation involved the use of Stuxnet, a computer worm that was reportedly developed by the United States and Israel to sabotage Iranian nuclear facilities.
One document from CSE, dated from 2011, outlines the range of methods the Canadian agency has at its disposal as part of a “cyber activity spectrum” to both defend against hacking attacks and to perpetrate them. CSE says in the document that it can “disable adversary infrastructure,” “control adversary infrastructure,” or “destroy adversary infrastructure” using the attack techniques. It can also insert malware “implants” on computers to steal data.
The document suggests CSE has access to a series of sophisticated malware tools developed by the NSA as part of a program known as QUANTUM. As The Intercept has previously reported, the QUANTUM malware can be used for a range of purposes – such as to infect a computer and copy data stored on its hard drive, to block targets from accessing certain websites, or to disrupt their file downloads. Some of the QUANTUM techniques rely on redirecting a targeted person’s internet browser to a malicious version of a popular website, such as Facebook, that then covertly infects their computer with the malware.
According to one top-secret NSA briefing paper, dated from 2013, Canada is considered an important player in global hacking operations. Under the heading “NSA and CSEC cooperate closely in the following areas,” the paper notes that the agencies work together on “active computer network access and exploitation on a variety of foreign intelligence targets, including CT [counter terrorism], Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Mexico.” (The NSA had not responded to a request for comment at time of publication. The agency has previously told The Intercept that it “works with foreign partners to address a wide array of serious threats, including terrorist plots, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign aggression.”)
Notably, CSE has gone beyond just adopting a range of tools to hack computers.
According to the Snowden documents, it has a range of “deception techniques” in its toolbox. These include “false flag” operations to “create unrest” and using so-called “effects” operations to “alter adversary perception.” A false-flag operation usually means carrying out an attack but making it look like it was performed by another group – in this case, likely another government or hacker. Effects operations can involve sending out propaganda across social media or disrupting communications services. The newly revealed documents also reveal that CSE says it can plant a “honeypot” as part of its deception tactics, possibly a reference to some sort of bait posted online that lures in targets so that they can be hacked or monitored.
The apparent involvement of CSE in using the deception tactics suggests it is operating in the same area as a secretive British unit known as JTRIG, a division of the country’s eavesdropping agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Last year, The Intercept published documents from Snowden showing that the JTRIG unit uses a range of effects operations to manipulate information online, such as by rigging the outcome of online polls, sending out fake messages on Facebook across entire countries, and posting negative information about targets online to damage their reputations.
CSE declined to comment on any specific details contained in the latest revelations. In a general statement issued to The Intercept and CBC News, a spokesman for the agency said: “In moving from ideas or concepts to planning and implementation, we examine proposals closely to ensure that they comply with the law and internal policies, and that they ultimately lead to effective and efficient ways to protect Canada and Canadians against threats.”
The spokesman said that some of the Snowden documents do “not necessarily reflect current CSE practices or programs.” But he refused to explain which capabilities detailed in the documents the agency is not using, if any. Doing so, he said, would breach the Security of Information Act, a Canadian law designed to protect state secrets.
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
New Zealand launched a covert surveillance operation targeting candidates vying to be director general of the World Trade Organization, a top-secret document reveals.
In the period leading up to the May 2013 appointment, the country’s electronic eavesdropping agency programmed an Internet spying system to intercept emails about a list of high-profile candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, and South Korea.
New Zealand’s trade minister Tim Groser was one of nine candidates in contention for the position at the WTO, a powerful international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland that negotiates trade agreements between nations. The surveillance operation, carried out by Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, appears to have been part of a secret effort to help Groser win the job.
Groser ultimately failed to get the position.
A top-secret document obtained by The Intercept and the New Zealand Herald reveals how GCSB used the XKEYSCORE Internet surveillance system to collect communications about the WTO director general candidates.
XKEYSCORE is run by the National Security Agency and is used to analyze billions of emails, Internet browsing sessions and online chats that are vacuumed up from about 150 different locations worldwide. GCSB has gained access to XKEYSCORE because New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
The WTO spying document shows how the New Zealand agency created an XKEYSCORE targeting “fingerprint,” a combination of names and keywords used to extract particular information from the vast quantities of emails and other communications accessible through the system. The document reveals that a fingerprint was specially tailored to monitor the WTO candidates and was “used to sort traffic by priority,” looking for “keywords [as they] appear in the email_body.” It is stamped with a “last modified” date of 6 May 2013, about a week before the new director general was to be announced.
Two different intelligence searches were carried out by the GCSB staff as part of what they termed the “WTO Project.” First, they looked for emails referring to Groser, the WTO, the director general candidacy, and the surnames of the other candidates: Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen (Ghana); Amina Mohamed (Kenya); Anabel González (Costa Rica); Herminio Blanco (Mexico); Mari Elka Pangestu (Indonesia); Taeho Bark (South Korea); Ahmad Thougan Hindawi (Jordan); and Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo (Brazil).
Second, they zeroed in on the Indonesian candidate, Pangestu, that country’s former minister of trade and a professional economist. A separate XKEYSCORE fingerprint was created, headed “WTO DG Candidacy issues – focus on Indonesian candidate.” This was presumably because the New Zealand government was particularly concerned that the job might go to another Pacific candidate ahead of Groser.
The surveillance of Pangestu appears to have targeted all Internet communications (not just email) containing the name “Pangestu,” the words “Indonesia,” “WTO” and “candidacy,” and the other candidates’ names.
The searches had keyword instructions in English, French and Spanish – for instance “zealand”, “zelande” and “zelandia” – in order to catch communications from more countries. The intercepted messages were to be passed to the GCSB’s “trade team,” which would likely have had the job of collating intelligence for people in government involved in Groser’s bid for the WTO role.
The Intercept and the New Zealand Herald attempted to contact each of the named targets prior to publication. Several were not reachable or did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the WTO had not responded to multiple requests for comment at time of publication.
Bark, the South Korean candidate, said he had no inkling that he was the focus of surveillance during his bid for the director general role. He told the New Zealand Herald he had received no intelligence agency support as part of his own campaign. “It’s a different world for very advanced countries,” he said.
Bark, now an academic at Seoul National University and South Korea’s ambassador-at-large for international economy and trade, added that he was not “offended” by the spying because he didn’t think it had any impact on the outcome of his effort to get the WTO job. But he predicted others would be stung by the eavesdropping revelations. “The Indonesian candidate would be very upset,” he said.
International economic law expert Meredith Lewis, who specializes in the WTO, said she was “quite shocked” at the allegation New Zealand had spied on emails about the director general candidates.
“I’m a little surprised that New Zealand used the surveillance power available to it for this purpose,” Lewis said. “It’s possible those who ordered the surveillance wanted to know who other countries in the region supported.”
Andrew Little, leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party, criticized the surveillance and described it as “completely out of order.”
“It just seems outrageous,” Little said. “I would have thought that [to be] a misuse of our security and intelligence agencies. It seems to me right outside the mandate of the GCSB. It’s nothing to do with security threats.”
It was in late 2012 that Groser was nominated for the position at the WTO.
The New Zealand trade minister launched a lobbying campaign as part of his candidacy bid, traveling to Europe, the United States, Africa, the Caribbean and around the Pacific Islands in an effort to win support from members of the WTO’s general council, which includes representatives from 160 countries.
However, his campaign was unsuccessful. Brazil’s Azevêdo (pictured above) was appointed the WTO’s new director general on 14 May 2013.
Three weeks earlier, when it had become clear that Groser was not going to make the final shortlist, New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, expressed his disappointment. “At the end of the day it was always going to be a long shot – so he gave it his best go with the support of the government,” Key said.
What the public didn’t know was that this support had included deploying the GCSB to spy on communications about the competitors.
At the time of the surveillance, prime minister Key was the minister in charge of the GCSB, raising the question of whether he knew about and personally sanctioned the electronic eavesdropping to help Groser.
A spokesman for Key declined to answer any questions about the WTO spying and instead issued a boilerplate response. “New Zealand’s intelligence agencies have been, and continue to be, a significant contributor to our national security and the security of New Zealanders at home and abroad,” the spokesman said.
Groser, reached by New Zealand Herald reporters late Saturday, said the government wouldn’t discuss “such leaks” because he claimed they were “often wrong, [and] they are deliberately timed to try and create political damage.” Asked if he knew the GCSB was conducting surveillance for him, he said: “I’ve got no comment to make whatsoever.”
GCSB also declined to comment on any of the specific revelations. In a statement, the agency’s acting director, Una Jagose, said: “The GCSB exists to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders. We have a foreign intelligence mandate. We don’t comment on speculation about matters that may or may not be operational. Everything we do is explicitly authorized and subject to independent oversight.”
Last week, The Intercept revealed that GCSB used XKEYSCORE to target top government officials and an anti-corruption campaigner in the Solomon Islands.
Earlier disclosures, which were based on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, have exposed how New Zealand is funneling data into XKEYSCORE from a surveillance base in the Waihopai Valley and is spying on about 20 countries across the world, predominantly in the Asia-Pacific region, among them small Pacific islands and major trading partners including Japan, Vietnam, and China.
The Intercept is reporting details about New Zealand’s surveillance operations in collaboration with the New Zealand Herald, the Herald on Sunday, and the Sunday Star-Times.
Photo: Martial Trezzini/Keystone/AP
Dr. Friederike Habermann wird eine dokumentarische Analyse vergangener Proteste geben. In den 1990er Jahren entwickelte sich die globalisierungskritische Bewegung ausgehend von den Basisbewegungen des globalen Südens und verbreiterte sich schnell als globale Widerstandsbewegung: Gipfelproteste, Weltsozialforen und Klimabewegung folgten.
Dr. Friederike Habermann, Historikerin, promovierte Volkswirtin und Politologin, Aktivistin, veröffentlicht v.a. zu Globalen Sozialen Bewegungen und alternativen Wirtschaftsformen.
Geplant sind vielfältige, offene und entschlossene Aktionen: Demonstrationen, Blockaden und Versammlungen direkt am Schloss sowie der Großdemonstration in Garmisch-Partenkirchen und der Gegengipfel in München.
Aktionswoche 3. – 8. Juni 2015 Infos: stop-g7-elmau.info
Das war der Gipfel
Regie Martin Keßler, D 2007, 90 min
Juni 2007. Ostseebad Heiligendamm. Der größte Polizeieinsatz in der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik. Über 17.000 PolizistInnen und Bundeswehr, “sichern” das rituelle Gipfeltreffen der “mächtigsten Frau und Männer der Welt”, den sogenannten “Weltwirtschaftsgipfel”. Trotzdem gelingt es circa 12.000 GlobalisierungskritikerInnen immer wieder, die wichtigsten Zufahrtsstraßen zum Tagungsort zu blockieren. Der Film liefert eine “Chronik der laufenden Ereignisse”während “der Tage von Rostock und Heiligendamm”.
Über den Tellerrand
Ernährungssouveränität in Zeiten des Klimawandels
Regie Jürgen Kraus, Heiko Thiele, BANGL/D 2013, 85 min
“Ernährungssouveränität” ist die zentrale Forderung der kleinbäuerlichen Bewegungen in Bangladesch. Angesichts von Klimawandel, Flächenknappheit und Landkonflikten setzen sie sich für eine gerechte Landverteilung und eine selbstbestimmte Agrarproduktion ein. Eigene Parzellen sowie kulturell und ökologisch angepasstes Saatgut sehen sie als Basis für die Nahrungsmittelversorgung. Die Bewegungen verfolgen ihre Ziele gegebenenfalls mit radikalen Mitteln: Sie besetzen und bewirtschaften Land, das ihnen laut Gesetz zusteht, aber aufgrund von Korruption meist nicht übertragen wird.
+++ 200 Antifaschist_innen demonstrieren gegen Landesparteitag der AfD in der Kieler Sparkassen-Arena +++
+++ Gewalttätige Übergriffe auf Demonstrant_innen durch die Polizei und
Massenanzeige können lautstarken Protest nicht unterbinden +++
+++ Wichtige Intervention gegen die zunehmende Etablierung der
national-chauvinistischen Partei und ihrer menschenverachtenden Politik +++
UN-Generalsekretär Ban Ki Moon hat Israel zur Auszahlung einbehaltener Steuergelder der Palästinenser aufgefordert. Zudem appellierte Ban in einer am Freitag von den Vereinten Nationen in New York verbreiteten Mitteilung, an der Zwei-Staaten-Lösung im Nahost-Konflikt festzuhalten. Sie sei „der einzige Weg nach vorne“, sagte Ban. Das habe er dem wiedergewählten israelischen Regierungschef Benjamin Netanjahu am Freitag auch in einemTelefonat gesagt. Zuvor hatte Netanjahu im Wahlkampf beteuert, mit ihm werde es keinen Palästinenserstaat geben.