Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 3, 2014

Fake cell phone towers eavesdropping on Android devices;  How those nude photos were leaked (and why you should care);  What to look for in Android permissions;  Five mobile apps to keep CXOs ahead of the pack;  Use Normal to target power-hogging apps;  Meet Tox, an open, privacy-focused Skype replacement;  Home Depot investigating potentially huge credit card hack;  FLIR One iPhone camera makes stealing PIN codes really easy;  Recommend Netflix Favorites to Facebook Friends;  Xbox 360 ‘Minecraft’ owners can get the game for $5 on Xbox One this Friday; Xbox One welcomes free shooter game Warframe;  GM to install distraction-tracking gadgets in 500k cars;  This is what caffeine does to your brain;  Toilet seat with built-in fan sucks out the stench;  Rizonesoft Pixel Repair (free).

Dozens of fake cell phone towers discovered eavesdropping on Android devices – If you’re taking a late-summer roadtrip, chances are your phone will be intercepted by a fake cell phone tower. At least that’s what Les Goldsmith, CEO of ESD America and developer of the CryptoPhone 500, claims. On a road trip taken from Florida to North Carolina by one of ESD America’s customers, Goldsmith says, the device encountered 8 different interceptors. The fake towers may very well be operated by the government, Goldsmith says, but he also entertains the possibility that they could’ve been planted by a foreign government such as China to snoop on military communications. Regardless of the source or the intent, regular citizens are falling victim to the interceptors and running the risk of having their phone calls and even text messages intercepted by unknown parties.

How those nude photos were leaked (and why you should care) – What does the hack mean for your own cloud security? Here are all of your nude selfie-related questions answered.

What to look for in Android permissions – Do you know what to look for in the Android permissions listing? Jack Wallen offers a bit of advice to help you through this murky water. If you’re unsure what I’m talking about, it’s simple: every time you install an app on the Android platform, you are given a listing of the permissions that app requires. To ensure the security of your device, it is imperative to read through that listing to make sure you’re not giving an app permissions it shouldn’t need or have. It’s a very simple system, but one that doesn’t offer a lot of control.

Airbnb Sued by Group of Users in New York City for Breach of Privacy – The company released user data to New York City authorities investigating suspected violations of housing and rental laws. Around 25 people with apartments listed on the online accommodation-sharing website Airbnb are suing the company to prevent what they claim is a breach of their privacy.

Three months with the Surface Pro 3: Using it more and less than expected – It has been three months since I first got my hands on the Pro 3 and it’s time to take a look at the long term use of the device to see if it is better or worse after than launch-hype has worn off.

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Two Google scheduling tricks to keep you organized in the fall – The fall is always a big period of adjustment. These two tools baked into Google can help by keeping your academic, professional and home lives organized.

Five mobile apps to keep CXOs ahead of the pack – Staying on top of business news, following tech developments, managing tasks, brainstorming solutions, and even watching the weather halfway across the world: All in a day’s work for today’s leaders.

HTC owners can now get 100GB of free cloud storage on Google Drive – HTC previously offered 50GB of free storage on Google Drive for anyone with an HTC smartphone, but now they’re doubling the storage to 100GB — and better yet, it’s free to all HTC users, old and new.

Use Normal to target power-hogging apps – If there’s one thing every smartphone user wants, it’s better battery life. Indeed, save for a larger screen, the one thing iPhone 6 buyers are most hoping for is more power. Of course, there are various ways to squeeze extra runtime from your battery, but current iPhone owners have a new tool for their arsenal: Normal: Battery Analytics. This 99-cent (69p and AU$1.29 in the UK and Australia, respectively) iOS utility relies on crowdsourced data to help pinpoint your iPhone’s biggest power hogs.

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Meet Tox, an open, privacy-focused Skype replacement – A relatively new project made up of programmers who frequent 4Chan, Hacker News, and Reddit are working on an open source, security-focused Skype replacement, as first reported by Wired on Monday. The new project, called Tox, is yet another example of programmers uniting in the post-Snowden era  to make easy-to-use tools with encryption and privacy considerations built-in. It’s still too early to recommend Tox as a solid (or even more secure) alternative to Skype as the project is under active development. Nevertheless, Tox is far enough along that there are usable Tox clients you can try out.

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Recommend Netflix Favorites to Facebook Friends – Television binge-watching loves company, so Netflix has partnered with Facebook to allow users to recommend shows to friends. Starting today, the new social recommendation feature makes it easy to privately suggest shows, movies, documentaries, and other Netflix content.

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Raspberry Pi Foundation bakes a custom, optimized browser for the $35 mini-PC – Midori served the Raspberry Pi well, but now it’s time to welcome a new browser optimized for the mini PC and based on Epiphany/Gnome Web.

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Raspberry Pi’s new Epiphany browser.

Revamped Google for Work puts new spin on courting businesses – Ten years after the search giant started eyeing business customers, it’s doing some rebranding to catch the eye of people bringing their devices to work.

Gamers Sign Open Letter Against Online Harassment – In the wake of a female blogger receiving threats over her online critiques of the gaming industry, dozens of gamers have taken a public stand against harassment in the industry. In an open letter posted to Medium, Andreas Zecher from independent games studio Spaces of Play called on the gaming community to report threats or harassing speech. Several of Zecher’s colleagues signed on, as did others from independent labels and major players like Infinity Ward, Bioware, Ubisoft, Riot Games, and Dice.

Beware! 8 sinister consequences of Google and Amazon drones – If Google, Amazon, and Facebook usher in a new era of urban delivery drones, will we lose more than we gain? Crave’s Eric Mack sees danger ahead for everything from Spam to Slurpees.

Security:

Home Depot investigating potentially huge credit card hack – Home Depot is investigating a potentially huge credit and debit card breach, with early signs that the scale of the stolen cards could well exceed the sizable Target hack of late 2013. Evidence of a new cache of fraudulently cloned cards began showing up today at black-market stores, with whispers from banks going on to be confirmed by Home Depot that something seemed awry.

Hackers make drive-by download attacks stealthier with fileless infections – Cybercriminals are increasingly infecting computers with malware that resides only in memory in order to make their attacks harder to detect. Recent attacks launched with the Angler exploit kit—a Web-based attack tool—injected malicious code directly into other processes and did not create malicious files on affected computers, an independent malware researcher known online as Kafeine said Sunday in a blog post. Fileless malware threats are not new, but their use is rare, especially in large scale attacks, because they don’t persist across system reboots when random access memory (RAM) is cleared.

Apple Denies Any Breach Of Its Systems In Celebrity Photo Leak – Apple has released an official statement in response to accusations that its iCloud storage system might be somehow behind the recent leak of a large number of nude or otherwise private celebrity photos, whose victims included Jennifer Lawrence. In the statement Apple denies any breach within its systems, but does concede that celebrity accounts were compromised by attackers using standard phishing techniques to guess user names, passwords and the answers to security questions.

FLIR One iPhone camera makes stealing PIN codes really easy – As shown in the video, it’s pretty simple to walk up to an ATM or payment kiosk keypad immediately after someone has used it and point your FLIR case at the buttons. The heat signature from the person’s finger will still be visible on most keypads for about a minute. This tells you which buttons were pressed, but the intensity of the heat can also indicate the order — that is, the warmest key was probably the last digit and the coolest was the first.

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Celebrity photo leak worsens as underage photos found – The hacking of celebrity accounts and the theft of explicit photos of a number of female stars has become even more serious, with word that at least one of the women was underage when the leaked pictures were taken. Several sites hosting the photos – which have already prompted an official statement from Apple early today, about the role iCloud played in their theft – have been notified that, in some shots, Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney was under the age of 18.

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Hackers compromise Namecheap user accounts – Hosting provider Namecheap said Monday hackers compromised some of its users’ accounts, likely using a recently disclosed list of 1.2 billion usernames and passwords compiled by Russian hackers. The “vast majority” of login attempts have failed, wrote Matt Russell, vice president of hosting, on a company blog. The attackers are trying brute-force attempts to gain control of accounts, which involves repeatedly trying different usernames and passwords until the right combination grants access.

Europol launches international cybercrime task force – Europol launched a cybercrime task force Monday to fight online crime in the EU and other countries. The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) will be piloted for six months and hosted at Europol’s European CyberCrime Center (EC3), the organization said in a news release. The J-CAT will coordinate international investigations to take action against key online threats and top targets, such as underground forums and malware, including banking Trojans, Botnets and online fraud, Europol said.

Company News:

Microsoft Partners Said To Test Windows 9 Ahead Of Public Release – Microsoft is expected to release a technical preview of Windows 9 on September 30. So if you were looking forward to getting your paws on the code, you have only four weeks left to wait. That is, if you are not a key Microsoft partner. According to NeoWin’s Brad Sams, Microsoft is currently providing some partners with access to the operating system ahead of the public.

BlackBerry plots Passport launch for September 24 – The Waterloo, Ontario company on Tuesday announced a media event, pegged for September 24, where the smartphone maker will unveil its latest and greatest smartphone. There will be three events held in tandem in Toronto, London, and Dubai.

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OUYA rumored to be looking for buyers to save it – Remember the new partnership between OUYA and Chinese OEM Xiaomi reported last month? Apparently, that isn’t the only thing the two have been talking about. Sources are now claiming that the gaming startup is currently engaged in acquisition talks with big Chinese companies, painting a rather dreary picture for the former darling of Android gaming.

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AMD Rolls Out Unlocked, Eight-Core FX Series CPUs – AMD’s new desktop CPU lineup includes the first pair of lower-wattage E Series processors in the FX lineup, the AMD FX-8370E and FX-8320E, both with TDPs of 95W. The FX-8370E, priced at $199.99, has a base clock of 3.3GHz and can be throttled up to 4.3GHz. The FX-8320E is priced at $146.99, and has a 3.2GHz base clock and 4.0GHz maximum clock. AMD suggests that both the new E Series eight-cores be paired with its own Radeon R9 285 graphics processors in desktop systems using an AMD 970 board and DDR3-1866 memory.

Court strikes down Uber car service in Germany – Uber had already been banned in Berlin, but the Tuesday’s court ruling means the car service could be shut out nationwide.

Compuware goes private in $2.5 billion deal – Compuware said it was selling the company to private equity firm Thoma Bravo in a deal valued at $2.5 billion. The enterprise software company, which primarily offers mainframe operating software, has been retooling, divesting units and fending off activist investors. Compuware also spun off its Covisint unit recently. Those moves refocused Compuware on its mainframe and application performance monitoring software. As a private company Compuware and Thoma Bravo said they will be able to take a long-term strategic view and focus on returns.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox 360 ‘Minecraft’ owners can get the game for $5 on Xbox One this Friday – “Minecraft” for Xbox One will be available for download this Friday, Microsoft announced today, and owners of the Xbox 360 version of the game will get a significant discount on the title. For those who bought “Minecraft” on Xbox 360, the game will cost just $4.99 to download; for those who are buying it on an Xbox console for the first time, it will cost $19.99. The discount applies to Xbox 360 owners who purchased the game either as a physical copy at retail or as a digital copy via Xbox Live. Additionally, all content purchased for the Xbox 360 game will be free to re-download on Xbox One.

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You can now explore the worlds of Destiny with Google Street View – Bungie’s next big title, the first-person shooter space-themed pseudo MMO Destiny, is due out in one week on September 9. If you participated in the beta or watched livestreams but still need something to satiate your caped space warrior hunger, Bungie has something that should hold you over until next week. Using Google’s Street View technology, Bungie has built Destiny Planet View, allowing you to explore various game worlds using the familiar Street View medium.

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Bio Inc. Infects Android with Biomedical Strategy Gameplay – After infecting and subsequently wiping out untold multitudes of unfortunate virtual patients, Bio Inc had made the trip from iOS to Android. Bio Inc bills itself as a biomedical strategy simulator. What it really amounts to is annihilating it humanity one virtual person at a time.

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You Should Play: Godus – These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play. You play as a deity trying to expand your following by creating a civilization. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Godus is ideally suited for numerous (and lengthy) play sessions.

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Xbox One welcomes free shooter game Warframe – When we first logged in to the PlayStation 4 back in November of 2013, there was one extremely unique shooting game ready for us to play – one called Warframe. This wasn’t and isn’t the only 3rd-person shooter game in this console’s generation – and it certainly isn’t alone now on the Xbox One. But it is free – and it does allow you to fight with a sword.

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Best new games for mobile – Looking for a new game to play on your mobile device? Here’s our pick of the best released in August.

Off Topic (Sort of):

‘What If?’ A terrific combination of the ridiculous and real – Learning how science and the world work is rarely is as much fun as in this book from Randall Munroe, the creator of the XKCD comic. It’s good for kids and adults.

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What if you drained the world’s oceans? Randall Munroe explores these and other questions in his book “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.”

BMW’s new armored X5 SUV can stop AK-47 bullets – There are a multitude of factors to consider when you buy a car, but for most people, the degree to which it protects you from an AK-47 round is not on the list. For those who are concerned about armor quality, BMW has announced its new X5 Security Plus. This armored SUV can protect occupants from direct fire from any weapon up to and including the popular AK-47. BMW didn’t announce an exact price when revealing the X5 Security Plus in Moscow, but it is expected to clock in at nearly $200,000.

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GM to install distraction-tracking gadgets in 500k cars – If you’re on the road, there’s a good chance that you’ve fired off at least one text message while behind the wheel. Distracted driving is a perilous activity for all involved, but that hasn’t stopped many drivers from updating statuses, responding to snapchats, and other similar activities while behind the wheel. Various “nanny” systems have been proposed that will take action against this, and it seems GM will be the first automaker to mass produce vehicles with such a system in place.

Toilet seat with built-in fan sucks out the stench – Bad bathroom odors are conquered by Fresh Air Plus, a toilet seat with a fan and exhaust pipe that banishes smells to the outside. Fresh Air Plus is trying to position itself as a more budget-friendly alternative to spending bucks on candles or air fresheners, or venting out your precious heating and cooling through a ceiling fan that takes forever to clear out the air. You’ll have to decide if your $180 early-bird pledge or $200 standard pledge is worth the potential for eventual savings.

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This is what caffeine does to your brain – If you’re an avid coffee drinker like me, you probably need three to five cups in the morning to feel like a normally functioning human being. You can probably also have a cup at 9 p.m. and still be fast asleep by 10. Caffeine, the main stimulant found in coffee, works on a chemical level to give you a boost of energy. But how does the whole process actually work scientifically, and why do some people need more coffee to stay awake than others? This video from AsapSCIENCE breaks it down.

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Something to think about:

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

–     Putt’s Law

Today’s Free Downloads:

Rizonesoft Pixel Repair – With this little tool, you can detect stuck or dead pixels and also repair stuck pixels. Many tools like this can be found all over the internet, but we could not find a tool with all the functions in one. Therefore, an adequate application was created, called Rizonesoft Pixel Repair.

You can use the Dead pixel locator section on Rizonesoft Pixel Repair to look for dead or stuck pixels. You can also use this section to help you find dirty little spots and dust when you clean your screen. Now, after you have located stuck pixels, try to repair them with this tool. Set the color mode, press go and place the flashy window thingy under the stuck pixel. Pixel Repair will attempt to repair stuck pixels and it will not repair dead pixels.

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MultiMonitorTool – MultiMonitorTool is a small tool that allows you to do some actions related to working with multiple monitors.

With MultiMonitorTool, you can disable/enable monitors, set the primary monitor, save and load the configuration of all monitors, and move windows from one monitor to another. You can do these actions from the user interface or from command-line, without displaying user interface. MultiMonitorTool also provides a preview window, which allows you to watch a preview of every monitor on your system.

Using MultiMonitorTool

MultiMonitorTool doesn’t require any installation process or additional dll files. In order to start using it, simply run the executable file – MultiMonitorTool.exe

The main window of MultiMonitorTool contains 2 panes: The upper pane displays the list of all monitors detected on your system. When you select a monitor in the upper pane, the lower pane displays the details of all visible windows on the selected monitor.

You can select one or more monitors in the upper pane, and then use the following options: Disable Selected Monitors (Ctrl+F6), Enable Selected Monitors (Ctrl+F7), Disable/Enable Switch (Ctrl+F8), or Set As Primary Monitor (Ctrl+F9)

You can also select one or more Windows in the lower pane, and then use the ‘Move Window To Next Monitor’ and ‘Move Window To Primary Monitor’ options in order to easily move Windows from one monitor to the other.

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HostsMan – Freeware application that lets you manage your Hosts file with ease. Features include online update of hosts file, enable/disable usage of hosts file, open Hosts file with one click, merge two hosts files, built-in hosts editor and more.

Features:

online update of hosts file;

enable/disable usage of hosts file;

open Hosts file with one click;

merge two hosts files;

built-in hosts editor;

prevent other programs of writing to the hosts;

scan hosts for errors, duplicates and possible hijacks;

find how many host names;

easily install newly downloaded hosts file;

create encrypted backups of your hosts file;

resolve host names;

keep log of latest blocked sites;

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama faces calls to reform reagan-era mass surveillance order – A coalition of civil liberties groups and members of Congress are calling on President Obama to urgently review a controversial executive order being used by the National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance.

Executive Order 12333, a Reagan-era authority, allows the NSA to covertly sweep up vast amounts of private data from overseas communication networks with no court oversight. Last week, The Intercept revealed how 12333 underpins a secret search engine the NSA built to share more than 850 billion records on phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats with other U.S. government agencies, including domestic law enforcement. The search system, named ICREACH, contains information on the private communications of foreigners as well as, it appears, millions of Americans not accused of any wrongdoing.

Now, more than 40 organizations and rights groups – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the American Civil Liberties Union – are calling on Obama and his surveillance review panel to ensure there is no “disproportionate or unnecessary collection” taking place under 12333.

In a letter to the President, dated 29 August and released on Tuesday, the groups say that the surveillance undermines “the fundamental rights of internet users everywhere” and demand that secret legal opinions or interpretations that relate to 12333 be declassified by the government. The letter states:

We, the undersigned former government officials, organizations, and members of Congress, write to express our concerns about the U.S. government’s surveillance activities conducted under the authority  of Executive Order 12333. Many involve communications that are protected by the U.S. Constitution,  and all implicate international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and  Political Rights, to which the United States is a party. These activities undermine the fundamental rights of internet users everywhere.

First US appeals court hears argument to shut down NSA database – Six days after the first Snowden leak appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to stop the mass surveillance by US intelligence agencies. A New York federal judge ruled against the ACLU in December. Today, ACLU lawyers made a second effort, making their case to a three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. It’s the first time a US Appeals Court has considered whether the “bulk telephony” database is constitutional.

Oral arguments stretched on for nearly two hours this morning, an unusually long argument for the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which often gives just 10 or 15 minutes to each side for oral argument in an appeal case. C-SPAN was allowed to record and broadcast the full proceeding, another unusual step in an appeals court that’s nearly always closed to cameras. The proceedings can be viewed on C-SPAN’s website.

Judge mulls contempt charges in Microsoft’s e-mail privacy fight with US – A federal judge is mulling whether to hold Microsoft in contempt of court for defying orders to give the US government e-mails stored on an overseas server.

The case is the nation’s first testing the Obama administration’s position that any company with operations in the US must comply with valid warrants for data, even if the content is stored overseas. The US believes the e-mail on a Microsoft server in Dublin, Ireland is associated with narcotics trafficking.

Microsoft on Tuesday reiterated its position that it was talking with US District Judge Loretta Preska, the judge who sided with the Obama administration on Friday. “We will not be turning over the e-mail,” Microsoft said in a statement.

The precedent-setting case became mired in a procedural muck on Friday. A contempt order could solve it, however.

Can the feds fix local police? – The August 9 shooting of Michael Brown was a tragedy, but at least the ensuing backlash against myriad police sins in Ferguson, Missouri, and throughout the nation has lead to a long overdue conversation about the cops.

On the other hand, conversation—even if it includes heartening agreement from conservatives, libertarians, and liberals that something needs to change—is not enough. Having previously cast a moderately critical eye toward police, a writer for the conservative National Review wrote that protests in Ferguson were a bust and that most people, white and black alike, still support police, want more of them, want longer prison sentences, and approve of dramatic remedies for unrest such as sending in the National Guard.

The increased media attention and the belatedly concerned pandering of the political class should not be dismissed. President Obama’s sudden concern about police militarization may be cynical, but his promise to take another look at the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security’s funding of local police is a welcome first step.

However, even the solutions to an established problem present an ideological quandary. Conservatives tend to distrust federal law enforcement, while excusing local police. Liberals do the opposite.

Australia: ALRC recommends tort for serious invasion of digital privacy – The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended a new Commonwealth tort for a serious invasion of privacy, including the disclosing of a person’s private information or images without their consent, or watching, listening or recording a person in their private space.

The recommendation came in the ALRC’s Serious Invasions of Privacy In the Digital Era report (PDF) tabled in parliament today, following an inquiry launched in June last year by then-Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Under the tort outlined in the recommendations of the final report, a person would need to prove their privacy was invaded through the disclosure of private information, or the invasion of their private space. The tort would only apply to intentional or reckless invasions of privacy.

Report author Professor Barbara McDonald told ZDNet that the tort would be as technology-neutral as possible.

“It’s the activity or the actual interference that is wrongful, rather than how it is made,” she said.

“However, in some cases the uses of technology will make it easier to show it was an intrusion because it is not something you could have done with your own sight and hearing.”

McDonald said deliberate use of technology to capture a private image would then be seen as possible invasion of privacy.

Australia: Brandis warns against future Snowdens and Mannings – Public servants will face far more scrutiny from their employer under new guidelines from Attorney-General George Brandis to prevent the ‘insidious enemy’ of ‘trusted insiders’ leaking sensitive government information to the public.

Brandis yesterday launched a new personnel security handbook (PDF) for government that outlines how agencies can be protected against deliberate, or accidental, information leaks through their staff.

He told a Security in Government conference in Canberra that the “trusted insider” was an “insidious enemy” that could cause enormous damage through the leaking of information.

Brandis again referred to the “treachery” of National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and said his leaks about the NSA’s spying and data retention regimes, as well as Australia’s own spying activities in Indonesia had put Australia’s relationships in countries in our region under strain.

“Prior to Snowden’s disclosures, we were working with our allies to fight national security threats and combating terrorism, people smuggling and organised crime,” he said.

“Was it in the public interest for these programs to be jeopardised by Snowden’s actions?” Brandis asked.

He did not name any specific instances where Snowden’s leak had endangered lives, but said that former Director-General of the US National Security Agency, Keith Alexander had said that lives would be lost because “capabilities that were once effective are now rendered ineffective”.

Brandis also said that the 2010 leaks from Chelsea Manning to Wikileaks hurt international diplomatic relationships.

Exploit a flaw or go to war? NATO’s cyber battle rules raise more questions than they answer – Later this week, ministers are due to ratify NATO’s new cyber defence policy. As exclusively revealed by ZDNet in June, the new policy means that a digital attack can now be considered as the equivalent of an attack with tanks or rockets — and thus could trigger NATO’s collective defence clause.

Known as Article 5, the clause states an attack against one member of NATO “shall be considered an attack against them all”. This concept is at the very heart of the organisation — the largest military alliance in the world — making the decision to add coverage of cyber attacks to the clause a significant move.

The new policy also includes some detail around cyber defence governance and how members would assist a country under cyber attack, plus the integration of cyber defence into operational planning, including civil emergency planning. NATO also wants to improve information sharing with industry.

The change in policy reflects how digital attacks have become a common element of many military campaigns, and is intended as a deterrent, because until now it’s not been entirely clear if, say, hacking a nation’s power grid could be considered to be an act of war.

As such, NATO will be hoping that by clarifying its policy it is issuing a warning to state-sponsored hackers, who have grown increasingly bold. But the new policy also leaves a number of tricky questions unanswered.

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