Monday, February 15, 2016

Recent items of interest

Recent news and commentary related to CSE or signals intelligence in general (other than the really big recent story):

- Justin Ling, "Canada’s Spy Agency [CSIS] Wants to Hire Shrinks to Study Terrorists," Vice News, 15 February 2016.

- Andrew Mitrovica, "What happens when our spies break the law? Nothing, apparently," iPolitics, 12 February 2016.

- Michael Petrou, "Canada’s secret bid to stop Russian hackers: How Ottawa quietly backed efforts to fight Russian cyber-attacks against Ukraine," Maclean's, 8 February 2016.

- David Omand, "Where privacy and security intersect, will police and intelligence (finally) work together?" Globe and Mail, 2 February 2016. Also listed in the Hall of Shame here.

- Steven Chase, "U.S. takeover of network carrying sensitive federal data raises security concerns," Globe and Mail, 26 January 2016. See also Steven Chase, "Liberals criticized for not conducting security reviews on foreign takeovers," Globe and Mail, 27 January 2016.

- Ben Makuch, "Canada Discovers It's Under Attack by Dozens of State-Sponsored Hackers," Vice News, 25 January 2016.

- Daniel Therrien, "Parliament should be wary of warrantless access: Privacy Commissioner," Toronto Star, 25 January 2016.

- Geoffrey York, "RCMP use cellphone data in bid to find Burkina Faso attackers," Globe and Mail, 24 January 2016. CSE involved?

- Colin Freeze, "China denies role in cyberhack that stole U.S. military aircraft secrets," Globe and Mail, 22 January 2016.

- Ryan Olshansky, "Real Change in the Oversight of Spies?" CDA Institute Blog, 21 January 2016.

- David Pugliese, "Can Canada's intelligence capability help in war on ISIL?" Ottawa Citizen, 19 January 2016.

- Justin Ling, "Canada Wants Drones to Bomb Terrorists, Track Pirates, and Spy on Protesters," Vice News, 19 January 2016.

- Jim Bronskill, "Liberals to review Tory policy allowing info sharing even when it might lead to torture: Goodale," Canadian Press, 18 January 2016.

- Lee Berthiaume, "Defence minister calls for ‘better intelligence capabilities’ in wake of deadly African attack," National Post, 18 January 2016.

- RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, John Tait Memorial Lecture, 15 January 2016.

- Editorial, "Will Trudeau finally let Parliament watch the watchers?" Globe and Mail, 15 January 2016.

- Jim Bronskill, "Canada must promote open, secure cyberspace, advisers tell Trudeau," Canadian Press, 15 January 2016.

- Michelle Zilio, "Sajjan wants increased use of Canadian intelligence in ISIS mission," CTV News, 13 January 2016.

- Justin Ling, "Canadian Cops Can Still Use an Unconstitutional Mass Surveillance Tactic to Grab Your Cell Data," Vice News, 14 January 2016. See also David Fraser, "Ontario court provides clear guidance on privacy and "tower dumps" in R v Rogers and Telus," Canadian Privacy Law Blog, 14 January 2016.

- Kurt Jensen, "Canadian Intelligence Accountability," CDA Institute Blog, 13 January 2016.

- Jessica Murphy, "Canada campaigners to demand public debate on controversial anti-terror law," Guardian, 13 January 2016.

- Ian MacLeod, "Government may take extra steps to examine security agencies," Ottawa Citizen, 13 January 2016.

- Marie-Danielle Smith, "Must see: The government doesn’t want you to click here," Embassy News, 13 January 2016 (subscriber only).

- Craig Forcese, "Comparative Thinking on National Security Lawyering," National Security Law blog, 13 January 2016.

- Craig Forcese & Kent Roach, "Bridging the National Security Accountability Gap: A Three-Part System to Modernize Canada's Inadequate Review of National Security," Social Science Research Network, 11 January 2016. See also Rosemary Barton interview with Craig Forcese on CBC Power & Politics, 13 January 2016.

- Jim Bronskill, "Liberals aim to balance national security with rights and freedoms in Bill C-51 revamp," Canadian Press, 10 January 2016.

- Jordan Press, "Rebuild of National Research Council systems years late, documents show," Canadian Press, 9 January 2016.

- Jim Bronskill, "Canada looking to British model for national security committee: Goodale," Canadian Press, 8 January 2016.

- Ian MacLeod, "MP McGuinty to chair parliamentary committee to monitor spying, security," Ottawa Citizen, 8 January 2016. See also the PM's press release.

- Jordan Pearson, "Canadian Company Netsweeper to Censor Bahrain’s Internet for $1.2M," Motherboard, 8 January 2016.

- Monique Muise, "Department of National Defence seeks help monitoring social media," Global News, 7 January 2016. See also Alex Boutilier, "Canada’s military plans to monitor the world’s social media," Toronto Star, 8 January 2016. Tender notice: Social Media Monitoring (W8484-168492/A), 7 January 2016. The contract was awarded to 9172-8766 Québec inc. (AKA Nexalogy Environics) on 10 February 2016.

- Ross Lord, "Rear Admiral confirms ‘data spill,’ downplays HMCS Trinity security breach," Global News, 5 January 2016. See also Michael McDonald, "Imprudence led to alleged intelligence centre security breach: rear admiral," Globe and Mail, 5 January 2016, and Keith Doucette, "Navy finds five more breaches of secure network at N.S. training school," Canadian Press, 7 January 2016.

- Alex Boutilier, "Canadians’ Internet traffic at risk," Toronto Star, 30 December 2015.

- Alex Boutilier, "Feds eye new IT security suite to prevent attacks, block websites," Toronto Star, 30 December 2015.

- Michael Nesbitt, "Canada can do more to fight terrorism," National Post, 28 December 2015.

- Laura Stone, "RCMP pushes for new law to get Canadians’ private information without a warrant," Global News, 22 December 2015.

- Scott Vrooman, "Happy holidays to the deep state!" Toronto Star video, 21 December 2015.

- Laura Tribe, "Canadian Internet traffic is travelling through the U.S. – making Canadians even more vulnerable to NSA surveillance," OpenMedia.org, 16 December 2015. See also Kieren McCarthy, "Canadian live route map highlights vulnerabilities to NSA spying efforts," Register, 17 December 2015.

- Ian MacLeod, "Jihadis could have influenced Hill shooter Zehaf-Bibeau, says RCMP Commissioner Paulson," Ottawa Citizen, 15 December 2015.

- Robin Levinson King, "The cellphone spyware the police don’t want to acknowledge," Toronto Star, 15 December 2015.

- Editorial, "We won’t take cyber security seriously until it’s too late," National Post, 15 December 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "Privacy czar sees middle ground in fight over access to web-customer info," Canadian Press, 14 December 2015.

- Dave Seglins, "New cybersecurity network aims to share data on emerging threats," CBC News, 11 December 2015. See also Ralph Goodale, "Statement from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on the launch of the Canadian Cyber Threat Exchange," Government of Canada, 11 December 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "Privacy czar urges 'open debate' on Bill C-51," Canadian Press, 10 December 2015. See also Claire Wählen, "Identifying privacy flaws in Harper-era legislation could take ‘years’: commissioner," iPolitics, 10 December 2015; David Fraser, "Privacy Commissioner tables annual report on privacy in the federal government," Canadian Privacy Law Blog, 10 December 2015; and Justin Ling, "There Has Been a 'Sea Change' in Privacy Rights in Canada, Warns Watchdog," Vice News, 14 December 2015. Annual Report to Parliament 2014-15: Protecting personal information and public trust, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, December 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "ISIL cyberattack on plane unlikely: Transport," Canadian Press, 10 December 2015.

- Ann Cavoukian, "Encryption is crucial to our privacy and freedom," Globe and Mail, 9 December 2015.

Plus a small flurry of articles on Canadian Forces Station Alert:

- "International team tests virtual reality technology for sustaining astronauts’ mental health at CFS Alert," RCAF News, 6 January 2016. Ground control to Major Walt!

- Matthew Fisher, "Canada’s ‘frozen chosen’ at top of the world have been in the dark since Oct 14," National Post, 1 February 2016.

- Bruce Campion-Smith, "Canadian Forces flights are the tenuous lifeline to Alert, the top of the world," Toronto Star, 6 February 2016; "Staying busy crucial to surviving 24 hours of darkness in Alert," Toronto Star, 6 February 2016; and "Alert: A feat of engineering sustained by a feat of logistics," Toronto Star, 6 February 2016.

The last article contains some very interesting comments by Wesley Wark about Alert's Cold War mission: "Alert was one of the principal intercept sites for Soviet military communications around their ballistic missile program. That was its early purpose."

He also ventures some guesses about its current mission: "Wark speculates that its mission has changed to intercept satellite communications. It could also monitor transmissions among Russian military aircraft. Whether Russia remains the prime target is a question mark, too."

Russian military aircraft, and naval vessels, do seem like likely targets. But I doubt satellite communications are monitored from the station.

Geostationary satellites cannot be seen from Alert's far north location, which is why the High Arctic Data Communications System was built between Alert and the (slightly) more southerly Eureka.

Most satellites in non-geostationary orbits can be seen from Alert, but monitoring those requires tracking antennas that can follow the motion of the satellite through the sky. I don't think there are any such antennas at Alert, although it's not impossible that one or two small ones might exist. For the most part, there is simply no advantage to monitoring satellites from a remote site like Alert compared to more accessible locations in the south of the country.


SIGINT history:

- "The Black Chamber: The man who made Edward Snowden inevitable," Economist, 19 December 2015. As mentioned in the article, Herbert Yardley was also the founding Director of Canada's first code-breaking agency, the Examination Unit.

- Richard Brisson & François Théberge, An Overview of the History of Cryptology, Communications Security Establishment, no date (2001?). Brisson, who retired from CSE in 2011, has a website dedicated to Cryptographic Artifacts based on his personal collection. Théberge recently turned up in one of the Snowden documents.

- It's also worth checking out this series of essays about the intercept site that operated at Point Grey, B.C., during the Second World War: Station Point Grey and Very Special Intelligence: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The claims the author makes for the significance of the station are a bit over the top, and the selection of subjects discussed is shall we say idiosyncratic, but there's still an interesting tale in there. There is supposed to be a 4th part in the set, but I haven't been able to find it. Anyone out there know where it is?


Also of interest:

The CBC and Vice News/Motherboard recently added SecureDrop capabilities to their sites to give anonymous sources a safe way to contact them. (The Globe and Mail also has done this.)

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