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British GCHQ Hacked Belgacom, Belgium’s Largest Telecom


Belgium’s largest telecom provider Belgacom has been hacked by British intelligence agency GCHQ, in an orchestrated attack to spy on the European Union and Belgium’s government officials.

The sophisticated malware attack disguised itself as Microsoft software, going undetected for over a year. It was not until NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked the information on GCHQ being behind the attack that Belgacom found its source.

Even though Belgacom found the malware in 2013, the company is still worried the cleanup job didn’t remove all of the malware, meaning the UK surveillance group could still have eyes of all of Belgacom’s partners.

Sources who worked on destroying the malware claim it is the most advanced attack they have ever seen, the GCHQ has invested millions in cyber attacks and defense and has capabilities that far surpass most state-sponsored hacking.

Named “Operation Socialist”, the malware bug was the UK’s (and U.S.) way into the inner governments of many European countries, able to steal secrets from computers and effectively monitor all of Belgacom’s partners.

At such a tense time when Germany starts to move away from the US, it is extremely odd as to why the GCHQ attempted this hack, on one of its closest allies. Belgium has been under the UK’s protection for over two centuries and the two groups have fought in World War’s together, but it is clearly not enough for the GCHQ to overstep its boundaries.

The UK is also facing a huge change in Europe, moving out of the European Union. If the UK cannot create strong alliances with Germany once it leaves, it might find industrial imports scrapped and a loss of political and economical allies in Europe.

Once again, the GCHQ is silent on the matter, not answering for comment. In a court case a few weeks ago, Privacy International lost the right to sue the GCHQ in the UK, but the pro-privacy group will try again in the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: The Intercept 


Microsoft Windows 10 Event Set For January 21


Microsoft has revealed the date for its second Windows 10 event, holding the event in Redmond, Washington—Microsoft’s headquarters. The event will cover the consumer side and some new features kept secret in the Developer Preview.

There are still a few things unclear, after the first event. The big question is will Windows 10 be free for some or all customers. Microsoft’s COO said Windows 10 would not be a “loss leader”, pointing to some price points for customers.

Rumors say Microsoft may offer Windows 10 for free to Windows 8 owners or may only offer the price to enterprise customers—who need extra support and set-up tools. This would be a good way for Microsoft to stop fragmentation plaguing the OS.

There are a few secret features like Continuum—a new touch interface—that have yet to be unveiled. Microsoft has also not discussed how it intends to add Windows 10 to phones and tablets, removing RT and Phone platforms.

Microsoft did reveal a few new features at the small conference in San Francisco, including the new Start Menu with Windows Metro tiles and various workspaces for power users—who want a lot of screens open at once.

Ever since CEO Satya Nadella took the reins of the company, it has been about reformation, services and enterprise. The entertainment division has been dropped and it finally looks like Microsoft knows where it is going.

However, it is still an uphill battle. Microsoft Office is starting to see competition, the enterprise market is heavily stacked with competition, and other services like OneDrive still sit behind rivals.

Windows 10 may bring all of the services together in one neat bundle and reconcile all of the Windows XP and Windows 7 users, who have yet to update to Windows 8.


The Pirate Bay Goes Dark Worldwide


The Pirate Bay has—for the past ten years—been the main source for pirated content. Various organizations upload movies, TV shows, music, books, software and other content onto The Pirate Bay, to be redistributed for free.

Content creators have had enough and under the Right Alliance, filed a complaint in Sweden to shut down the servers. Stockholm’s police force raided the server room on Wednesday, and The Pirate Bay has been dark since.

This is the first time Sweden has actively looked to remove The Pirate Bay from its country. Several European countries have outright banned the service, blocking IP and forcing Internet service providers to make sure The Pirate Bay is unavailable.

The Pirate Bay did announce a few years ago they would move to cloud servers, making it near impossible to shut the site down. It looks like the creators could not make this possible, due to the large outage following the server raid.

Some pockets of The Pirate Bay are still active and people are now showing alternatives to the piracy site. It is unclear what effect—if any—the shutdown of The Pirate Bay will have on piracy at large.

The Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde said he was glad the site had been shut down. The new site developers spend too much time on ads and too little time updating the sites design or code, according to Sunde.

In the ten years since launch, The Pirate Bay has not seen a lot of updates to the design. Advertisements have become all the more common however, obviously trying to cash in on the massive success of The Pirate Bay.

Megaupload was shut down in a similar fashion a few years ago, but it failed to show any change in the piracy rates. There is an argument to be made that deleting the older, more popular sites will only lead to better coded and smarter pirating sites.

Popcorn Time is a good example of this, now users can stream from an application most of the new movies and TV shows available. It is extremely hard to shut down Popcorn Time, due to it being an app and utilizing cloud servers.

Instead of focusing on the sites, piracy experts claim movie, music and TV program creators should look to lower the price of content and make it more readily available. Imagine if film makers uploaded their content onto Netflix straight away, or if TV shows like Game of Thrones were available on the service—it would most likely drop piracy rates.


The UK has started the fight against the GCHQ, but it looks like privacy advocate groups have hit a wall at the first round. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal claimed it was not a violation of human rights for the government to employ mass surveillance through phone and broadband networks.

After a few weeks to review the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the tribunal came to a rather unconvincing decision. This is the same tribunal that has sided with the government in various other black-and-white cases.

The GCHQ has actively worked with the NSA on PRISM and TEMPORA, two mass surveillance networks utilized in both the U.S. and the UK. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are also partners in the “Five Eyes Defeat”, creating a cross-continental surveillance service.

Privacy International refutes the decision made by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and will fight the case at the European Court of Human Rights. The E.U. has been much more demanding when it comes to the removal of surveillance services — after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was spied on by U.S. networks.

Other countries, like Brazil, are defending the right to privacy. They recently removed a fiber line between Brazil and the U.S., setting up a new one that connects to Portugal — a close ally to Brazil.

The UK government is still denying some of these programs exist, even after Edward Snowden’s leaks have been brought up by journalists. The government is taking a very dormant approach to allegations, where the NSA is at least fighting for their voice to be heard.

Edward Snowden has said the UK is in a much more difficult position than the U.S., due to the lack of constitution, allowing the GCHQ to spy and attack anyone at will. The UK has been using surveillance tools since the early 2000’s, meaning both Labour and the Conservatives have kept the programs running.


Angela Merkel Pitches In On Net Neutrality Debate


The net neutrality debate has been ongoing in the U.S. for the past year, but in Europe most countries still hold full net neutrality, regulating the Internet service providers to make sure no fast-lanes or price hikes are allowed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to change that, at a conference in Berlin, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union claimed the only way for innovation to happen on the Internet would be through a priority lane.

The priority lane would be used for telemedicine or self-driving cars, according to Merkel. The necessary increase in speed and priority service would allow these types of technologies to flourish in the future.

The only issue is the Chancellor forgot to explain how this priority lane would be regulated. In the U.S., many are worried a fast-lane would simply turn into a normal lane, and any company not paying would be put on low priority.

Germany is generally better at regulating companies than the U.S., but Internet service providers will find workarounds to a priority lane, to make sure all companies will pay or face lower speeds — unless German wants to add more regulation.

The mobile world will need faster data connections, but the pro-net neutrality argument is everyone should get faster Internet. If a push in Internet speeds is only made for companies that can afford it, new innovative upstarts will be left behind, unless they can find sufficient capital.

In a world where the next Facebook, Google or Amazon is just around the corner, there needs to be no boundaries set up by price. Anti-net neutrality groups argue regulation will stop this, but the only people getting hurt from more legislation is large companies trying to tip the odds.

Thankfully, no other European leader has come forward to push this priority-lane, so Germany stands alone at the moment.


Sony Hackers Threaten Family Members In New Email


After the initial Sony hack — taking 10 terabytes of data from the computer system and shutting down Sony Pictures for a week — the attackers #GOP have remained quiet.

A few days ago several gigabytes of data were released onto the Internet, containing business documents, visa, new films, passwords and security questions. Security experts claim this is the largest hack of a corporation ever and the FBI warns other U.S. companies of the seriousness of the situation.

Now the #GOP are back, according to internal sources at Sony Pictures. In broken English, one of the group leaders wrote an email to employees:

I am the head of GOP who made you worry.

Removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which is a worldwide organization. And what we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan. It’s your false if you if you think this crisis will be over after some time. All hope will leave you and Sony Pictures will collapse. This situation is only due to Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures is responsible for whatever the result is. Sony Pictues clings to what is good to nobody from the beginning. It’s silly to expect in Sony Pictures to take off us. Sony Pictures makes only useless efforts. One beside you can be our member.

Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world. Our agents find themselves act in necessary places. Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below if you don’t want to suffer damage. If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.

Nobody can prevent us, but the only way is to follow our demand. If you want to prevent us, make your company behave wisely.

It is a rather threatening email and shows the #GOP has the potential to ruin a lot of lives. The FBI is still trying to figure out who is behind the attack, with claims North Korea or another state-funded hacking group is at work.

The scale of the attack brings up serious questions on Sony Pictures security. It is unclear if employees will be able to leave and sue Sony for poor management, which could effect home-life.



In a bid to make sure all mobiles were available for the NSA worldwide, the surveillance agency created Operation Auroragold, to attack and weaken various bands and network creators.

The attack not only represents the NSA’s vicious ways to intercepting networks, but also how they do not care for the safety of these networks, which billions of people use everyday. The weakening of networks not only make it easier for the NSA to attack, but also allow other hacking groups to attack.

One of the major targets on Operation Auroragold is GSMA, the largest networking service in the world for mobile. Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Facebook, Cisco and Microsoft all work with the GSMA organization based in the UK.

This is a serious issue, considering the implications a weakened GSMA network could have on hundreds of millions of mobile users worldwide. GSMA is used in other countries as well and has become especially popular with the growth of 4G in the West.

The international growth of GSMA should help the NSA extract information from citizens in various countries, although the relevance of this information for a spying organization might be pointless—especially considering the scale of the surveillance.

However, the main issue in the Operation Auroragold leak, provided by Edward Snowden, is the fact the NSA is clearly trying to weaken the network. Weakening the network with attacks invites trouble from organizations who actively want to destroy, not spy.

GSMA has said they will look into the report and if any foul play in noted, they will get the police involved. It will take more than UK police to stop the NSA’s hidden efforts however, especially since the two sub-groups working on the mobile network attacks are not even disclosed to the public.

This lack of disclosure has lead to the NSA being able to attack without consequence. The project, for all we know, could still be ongoing, their motto is to be ahead of the curve in mobile network security and to make sure they always are on top of the popular network bands.


In an effort to stop companies like Google from diverting its profits overseas, the UK government has enacted a “Google tax” to close current loopholes in the formula — like diverting profits to Ireland — where there is a lower tax rate.

A strict 25 percent tax will be placed on all companies who make profit in the UK. It should remove any loopholes Google and other multinational companies like Apple, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft.

It is interesting the UK has informally named it the Google tax, considering the current relations with Google in Europe. Various European countries are not happy with Google’s dominance in the search market, asking for the company to split the business.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the plans today, which will come into the government on April 2015. The language in the new law could still create new workarounds and we are sure companies are actively looking for ways to work around the heavy 25 percent tax — larger than the current 21 corporate tax in the UK.

If anything, it does show a shift away from diverting profits to countries like Luxembourg and Ireland. The UK is one of the largest markets in the World, especially for consumer goods and companies should pay higher tax to work in the region.

Other countries like Germany, France and Spain are facing the same sort of tax avoidance, but not as active as the UK. Ireland, part of Great Britain but not part of the UK government, is a smart divert for companies that has been a workaround for the past three decades.

Multinational companies dominant sales in the UK, mostly coming from the U.S. The tax avoidance could potentially lose the UK billions in tax, which could be used to fund the NHS and other public services. Considering the lackluster position the UK government is already in, due to the recession, it would be nice to see all of the money arrive in the UK’s coffers.