Intelligence

19 May 2020
In a preprint study of primary sewage sludge from a northeastern US metropolitan area, researchers detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA in all environmental samples and found that the concentrations of virus RNA were highly correlated with the COVID-19 epidemiological curve and local hospital admissions. The RNA
25 Sep 2017

Mexico is one of the biggest buyers of next-generation surveillance technology. And now data leaked to Forbes indicates it's taken an unprecedented step in becoming the first-known buyer of surveillance technology that silently spies on calls, text messages and locations of any mobile phone user, via a long-vulnerable portion of global telecoms networks known as Signalling System No. 7 (SS7).

The revelation was contained in what an anonymous source close claimed was internal sales information from Israeli provider Ability Inc., which appeared to have sold its Unlimited Interception System (ULIN) to Mexico. With prices ranging between $5 and $20 million, ULIN enables silent, almost-undetectable snooping on cellphones, and all that's required is a telephone number, according to a leaked manual detailed by Forbes in 2016.

It comes at a time when Mexico is wrapped up in a spyware scandal. Researchers found this year that activists, journalists, murder victims' attorneys, and investigators into a mass student disappearance have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware, a creation of $1 billion-valued Israeli firm NSO Group
29 Mar 2020

Saudi Arabia appears to be exploiting weaknesses in the global mobile telecoms network to track its citizens as they travel around the US, according to a whistleblower who has shown the Guardian millions of alleged secret tracking requests.

Data revealed by the whistleblower, who is seeking to expose vulnerabilities in a global messaging system called SS7, appears to suggest a systematic spying campaign by the kingdom, according to experts.

The data suggests that millions of secret tracking requests emanated from Saudi Arabia over a four-month period beginning in November 2019.

The tracking requests, which sought to establish the US location of Saudi–registered phones, appeared to originate from Saudi’s three biggest mobile phone companies.

The whistleblower said they were unable to find any legitimate reason for the high volume of the requests for location information. “There is no other explanation, no other technical reason to do this. Saudi Arabia is weaponising mobile technologies,” the whistleblower claimed. The data leaked by
News & Analysis

Privacy International (PI) and Liberty have filed on Friday, 31 January 2020, a complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the judicial body that oversees the intelligence agencies, against MI5 in relation to how they handle vast troves of personal data.

05 Feb 2019
In February 2019, Joke Schauvliege, an environment minister in Flanders, was forced to resign after she suggested that Belgian intelligence services had information showing that the schoolchildren's strikes to protest climate change were being directed by others. The largest march in Belgium to date
20 Dec 2018
In 2015, officials within the US Treasury Department Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes unit used a network of private Gmail and Hotmail accounts set up by the Russians with the stated goal of jointly defeating ISIS. Soon, however, instead the Russian financial crimes agency was
29 Jun 2018
On the night of June 23, 2016, as the polls closed Britain's Sky News broadcast what sounded like a concession statement from Nigel Farage, the leader of the campaign to leave the EU, plus a YouGov exit poll indicating that the country had voted to remain; over an hour later, Farage reiterated his
15 May 2010
In 2010, Google revealed that a data audit required by Germany's data protection authority had revealed that since 2007 the cars deployed to capture images for its Street View project had accidentally captured 600GB of data from local wifi networks, including personal web browsing histories. Google
28 Feb 2018
As part of its attempt to keep its 40,000 drivers operating on the streets of London after Transport for London ruled in October 2017 it was not "fit and proper" to run a taxi service, Uber has promised to share its anonymised data on travel conditions and journey times. TfL said in February 2018
Car companies have long collected data about the consumers who buy their cars. Now, they hope to aggregate and sell customer preferences to outside vendors for marketing purposes much as online tech giants like Google and Facebook already do. The companies say that exploiting this data will help
27 Feb 2018
Under a secret deal beginning in 2012, the data mining company Palantir provided software to a New Orleans Police Department programme that used a variety of data such as ties to gang members, criminal histories, and social media to predict the likelihood that individuals would commit acts of
In February 2018 the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed a contract with Vigilant Solutions, giving it access to the company's giant database of billions of license plate records, which can be searched to produce every place a given license plate has been seen in the last five years
The story began with the free Bylock messaging app, which was used between 2014 and 2016 and which the Turkish government associated with treason and followers of Fethullah Gülen, the group they believe was behind the attempted 2016 coup. The app was downloaded roughly half a million times and had
28 Feb 2018
In February 2018 Uber and the city of Cincinnati, Ohio announced the Cincinnati Mobility Lab, a three-year-partnership that will allow the city and the surrounding area in northern Kentucky to use Uber data for transport planning. Cincinnati, like many cities, is anxious to identify the impact of
30 Jan 2018
As a gift in 2012, the Chinese government built the African Union's $200 million Addis Ababa headquarters, where African ministers and heads of state meet twice a year to discuss major continental issues. In 2017, Le Monde Afrique discovered that the building's computer systems incorporated an
02 Jan 2018
In February 2018 the Canadian government announced a three-month pilot partnership with the artificial intelligence company Advanced Symbolics to monitor social media posts with a view to predicting rises in regional suicide risk. Advanced Symbolics will look for trends by analysing posts from 160
02 Jun 2010
In 2010, Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs revealed that the reason his company changed the rules in the written agreement it requires iPhone app developers to sign was due to a report published by the vice-president of the app analytics company Flurry, Peter Farago. In one of its monthly reports on app
29 Jan 2018
In November 2017, San Francisco-based Strava, maker of a GPS-enabled fitness app, published a heat map showing the activity of all its 27 million users around the world. Upon outside examination, the data visualisation, which was built from 1 billion activities and 3 trillion data points covering 27
In 2014, the UK suicide prevention group The Samaritans launched Radar, a Twitter-based service intended to leverage the social graph to identify people showing signs of suicidal intent on social media and alert their friends to reach out to offer them help. The app was quickly taken offline after
19 Dec 2014
In 2014, researchers at Princeton University outlined an attack that uses multiple third-party cookies to link traffic so that individual users can be identified and tracked from anywhere in the world. A nation-state wishing to surveil particular users outside its jurisdiction, for example, may have
08 Sep 2016
The "couples vibrator" We-Vibe 4 Plus is controlled via a smartphone app connected to the device via Bluetooth. In 2016, researchers revealed at Defcon that the devices uses its internet connectivity to send information back to its manufacturer including the device's temperature, measured every
08 Aug 2016
Many people fail to recognise the sensitivity of the data collected by fitness tracking devices, focusing instead on the messages and photographs collected by mobile phone apps and social media. Increasingly, however, researchers are finding that the data collected by these trackers - seemingly
10 Feb 2017
In 2017 two Metropolitan police officers were jailed for five years for hacking into the force's intelligence database and leaking the identity of a protected witness to the defence lawyer in a 2011 murder trial that eventually saw the defendant, Leon De St Aubin, convicted. While the trial was in
11 Mar 2016
In 2016 Jonathan Evans, the former head of Britain's MI5 warned that private firms are analysing "open source" - that is, publicly posted - information to create profiles that are just as intrusive as anything Britain's intelligence agencies deploy and that the gap is closing between open
10 Jun 2016
In June 2016, National Security Agency deputy director Richard Ledgett told a conference on military technology conference that the agency was researching whether internet-connected biomedical devices such as pacemakers could be used to collect foreign intelligence. Ledgett identified the complexity
14 Nov 2016
At the Sixth Annual Conference on Social Media Within the Defence and Military Sector, held in London in 2016, senior military and intelligence officials made it clear that governments increasingly view social media as a tool for the Armed Forces and a "new front in warfare". Social media are also
10 Sep 2015
In 2015, US director of national intelligence James Clapper, backed by National Security Agency director Admiral Michael Rogers, warned Congress that the next phase of escalating online data theft is likely to involve manipulating digital information. Clapper and Rogers viewed this type of attack as
23 Mar 2016
In 2016, the Big Data lab at the Chinese search engine company Baidu published a study of an algorithm it had developed that it claimed could predict crowd formation and suggested it could be used to warn authorities and individuals of public safety threats stemming from unusually large crowds. The
21 Apr 2016
According to the US security firm Statfor the Chinese government has been builsing a system to analyse the massive amounts of data it has been collecting over the past years. The company claims: "The new grid management system aims to help the Chinese government act early to contain social unrest