back to article Snowden leaks show that terrorists are JUST LIKE US

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's media allies have launched a counteroffensive against allegations by intelligence agencies that terrorists have upped their game in cryptography as a result of his leaks about NSA spying. Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept published leaked GCHQ mobile phone OPSEC guidance from 2010 alongside …

  1. Rich 11

    which has repeatedly been aired by everyone from Sir Iain Lobban, director of Britain's GCHQ spy agency, who did so last year in front of a parliamentary committee

    newly installed NSA chief Admiral Michael Rogers has played down the impact of the Snowden revelations on the spy agency's work

    It's almost like one of them is lying.

    1. FartingHippo
      Holmes

      A spy lies. More at eleven. --->

      1. Oninoshiko

        re: a spy lies

        Hell, both of them are probably lying.

    2. FuzzyTheBear
      Happy

      You got to be kidding

      Neither of those men Lobban or Rogers would ever tell a lie. Never ever the hell ever.

      Suggesting it might make you a new candidate for a free trip to Guantanamo though ..

  2. brooxta

    Removable batteries

    Yet another reason to demand a device with a removable battery from your smartphone vendor of choice.

    1. Brangdon

      Re: Removable batteries

      True. Although removing the battery is itself a suspicious act that has helped persuade a jury that the accused was up to no good. Better to leave the phone at home (or wherever your alibi is).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Removable batteries

        Ah but not to be a fanboi or fandroid is now enough to get you detained as a suspicious individual. "What do you mean you don't have a mobile phone? Ok lads, cavity search !"

        1. David Pollard

          Re: Removable batteries - and the SIM?

          "Both the battery and SIM card must be removed."

          Do these phones have backup power, or what?

          1. logistix

            Re: Removable batteries - and the SIM?

            There are ways to extract information electromagnetically within a certain amount of feet away. Sending voltage through the air to turn on a device is also possible. Some research on TEMPEST as well and Van Eck phreaking when you have some free time should get your imagination going. Lots of ideas Tesla had years ago are in fact possible. YOU just won't hear about them for several years down the road.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Removable batteries

        "Although removing the battery is itself a suspicious act that has helped persuade a jury that the accused was up to no good. "

        Brangdon, do you happen to know of a specific case where this argument was used? I find it interesting, and disturbing.

      3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Removable connections

        > Better to leave the phone at home (or wherever your alibi is.)

        It took an Edward Snowden to help us realise that the combined Secret Services can be duped by old tech?

        Nice one!

        Meanwhile we can all rest assured that valuable data can be shared between terrrrsts by snail mail provided they can remember long tracts of text verbatim, sort of like good old fashioned book codes.

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Removable batteries

      Could this be part of the reason for the recent requirement to switch on such devices when passing through airports ... most people will then just leave the battery in the device.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Removable batteries

        " the recent requirement to switch on such devices when passing through airports"

        I don't get the "recent" bit here.

        I was asked to switch electronic stuff on at airports to show that it worked more than 20 years ago.

      2. Chad H.

        Re: Removable batteries

        >>>Could this be part of the reason for the recent requirement to switch on such devices when passing through airports ... most people will then just leave the battery in the device.

        I flew from EDI-LHR-JFK-YUL and back, and wasn't asked once to demonstrate it worked.

        i'm wondering exactly how true this demand is.

      3. Bloakey1

        Re: Removable batteries

        Alain.williams wrote:

        Nail, hit, spot on my son.

    3. Bloakey1

      Re: Removable batteries

      I have cracked on about this shite for years on this fora. There are lots of other Opsec things to do and for no other reason than practicality, binning a fruity device is one of them.

      Can post a good practice phone useage doo dah for enemy states such as Iraq, Afghanistan, U.S.A. , sadly most of the Islamic world and Monaco (1.).

      1. Why not include everybody, the U.S. does.

    4. Ole Juul

      Re: Removable batteries

      Too bad Lobban and Rogers don't have removable batteries.

  3. Chris G

    Tell no lies

    Just misinform and misdirect.

    USA, UK, France, Germany, Israel, Russia I don't believe too much of what any of them say, I'm running out of salt.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    How the gov't sets itself up for a fail ....

    If you are carrying a covert mobile phone, you MUST NOT carry any personal communications device e. g. mobile phone, ....

    and (my boldening):

    officers .... may wish to advise family or friends of disruption to their travel plans. .... If a phone is not available at the airport, then during office hours contact the OPA-TAS OOA number ...

    In other words they do not keep the OOA number monitored 24x7 which will vastly increase the temptation for a quick call home to tell the missus that you are late ...

    For the sake of a few bob they increase the risk a security breach - stupid!

  5. DerekCurrie
    Mushroom

    "So Don't Do That Again!"

    Clearly, the point of this propaganda barrage against Snowden and other leakers is:

    1) Just another diversionary tactic to avoid the fact that the NSA ad nauseam committed crimes against the US Constitution and We The People.

    2) To instill FUD against future whistleblowing, inferring that ripping the masks off government crimes might lead to successful Muslim extremist crimes against We The People.

    UNACCEPTABLE.

    The NSA is now a criminal organization bent on deceiving We The People who allow them to exist. They are themselves acting as TERRORISTS, using terror to push their criminal ends onto we the good people of the USA and the rest of the world. It's time to BREAK UP THE NSA and start again!

    We must REFUSE to allow the USA to become even more deeply a CRIMINAL NATION. These crimes, in and of themselves, are the greatest threat to the USA. They are internal. They are our killing disease. Who needs external terrorists when we are our own?

    1. LucreLout

      Re: "So Don't Do That Again!"

      @DerekCurrie

      If you genuinely think the NSA are acting as terrorists then you have clearly never experienced actual terrorism, or trust me on this, you'd not be making such a stupid comparisson. I'm not saying the NSA are behaving well, or even legally, but they sure as hell aren't terrorising anyone.

      Branding the USA a criminal nation also shows a lack of both critical thinking and emotional maturity. Tony Blair and the last labour government spilled more blood around the world than any since the last great war, but they were by no means representative of my beliefs or me as a person. The same can presumably be extrapolated across the leadership of America too.

      Most Americans probably aren't happy that GCHQ collects data on them and hands that to the NSA as a work around 'fix' for their constitution. That doesn't make the UK a "criminal nation" - I'm certainly not a criminal, nor are most of my friends.

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The overlooked bit....

    Yes, the bad guys have become more knowledgeable, but to read that they're using a multitude of encryption methods is interesting. From an operational viewpoint,this will create headaches. For example, there can't be much easy communication between different groups/units/teams using different methods. It will make interception/decryption tougher on the whoever wants to listen in or watch (any 5eyes probably) but it will create problems for the people using it especially tactically. Do they need 3-5 cell phones/laptops, all with different encryption methods? Or training the users? The disruption to comms is probably just as important as the snooping.

    I do think there's a snow job being blown by the NSA about much of this and I suspect they're trying to ferret out other whistleblowers before they release anything more damaging.

    1. Charles Manning

      Re: The overlooked bit....

      "From an operational viewpoint,this will create headaches. . For example, there can't be much easy communication between different groups/units/teams using different methods."

      It is perfectly fine if different groups/cells use different encryption. You don't want them communicating or listening to eachother. Keeping them ignorant of eachother is basic operational safety.

      Same deal for the French resistance people during WW2. The last thing you wanted was for a member of one cell to be captured and spill the beans on how everyone worked.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    woven wire mesh mobile case?

    What about turning the phone off and placing it in a wire mesh case? Faraday cage and all that.

    1. Charles Manning

      Hah!

      They can still get to you through the fillings in your teeth.

      Best wrap your head in tin foil!

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: woven wire mesh mobile case?

      Don't you only get the full effect if the Faraday cage is earthed though?

  8. Charles Manning
    Headmaster

    Triangulation

    "munin @munin

    @thegrugq @empiricalerror Not sure I buy that. Cellular triangulation doesn't strike me as being the thing they're defending against w/ that

    "

    The problem with fancy-pants technical words like triangulation is that they often don't mean what people think they do.

    Cellular triangulation would be hard to do since uses angles and therefore requires directional antennas.

    Trilateration, OTOH, is perfectly feasible. It measures distance (ie. flight time of radio signals). That is the basis of GPS, LORAN and such and it does give pretty good location information.

  9. keithpeter Silver badge
    Windows

    50 mile radius

    "The Foreign Office provides non-attributable official and personal mobile phones to GCHQ officers while on deployment. Covert mobile phones are equipped with Bluetooth and therefore they must not be switched on or used within a 50-mile radius of GCHQ's Cheltenham HQ, operatives are instructed."

    So look out for fairly young looking very inconspicuous chaps and chapesses conspicuously not using mobile phones in Birmingham or in fact most of the West Midlands including the West Coast train line and several small airports?

    Or have I misunderstood the 'covert' bit and they are using other phones then?

    The tramp: confused as always

    1. dogged

      Re: 50 mile radius

      It's odd, isn't it?

      One could make a case that a phone which travels around Britain a lot but never within a 50 mile radius of Cheltenham is actually far more noticeable as an anomaly than one which goes there just as often as it goes everywhere else.

      1. DropBear

        Re: 50 mile radius

        No need, you just look for phones that regularly drop off a cliff (and/or pop back online) somewhere roughly 50 miles away from Cheltenham...

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 50 mile radius

      That's what I was thinking, 50 miles includes Bristol as well as Birmingham, Oxford, Hereford, Coventry, Swindon, Bath, Wolverhampton, Newport and almost reaches Cardiff.

      Perhaps this is advice they've taken wholesale from the NSA without bothering to think about it in terms of UK geography?

      (a handy visualisation: http://www.freemaptools.com/radius-around-point.htm?clat=51.89847574774747&clng=-2.133922576904297&r=80.4672000307346&lc=FFFFFF&lw=1&fc=00FF00&fs=true)

    3. John Sturdy
      Black Helicopters

      Payphones in airports

      So anyone other than your own agents using an airport payphone will come under increased suspicion of being someone else's agent, too?

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So I guess the TLA will just have to rely on that 20 yr old hole in image compression software

    It's tough to build a really minimal installation that does not have a load of extraneous stuff on it all of which offers potential entry points.

  11. veti Silver badge
    Coat

    Did I read that right?

    So, GCHQ violated some jihadi's copyright?

    Presumably in an effort to make him blow his cover to claim for damages...

  12. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Most everything cell depends on IMEI

    I travel both regionally and internationally frequently and Border Plod/ICE people having taken on an obscene interest in cell handset usage.

    At first I simply travelled without a SIM, which defeats many of the simpler customs inspections techniques. Later, I was advised, they don't need a SIM as they can use the IMEI (serial number) with an on-line connected computer.

    The GSM Association is the issuing authority for IMEI numbers and now governments access it's database for IMEI information.

    Since I acquired a smartphone I have used an App that can change/re-install IMEI numbers, which I do weekly. Or before international travel. NOTE that it is essential you use a cell handset with a modified IMEI in the COUNTRY THAT ISSUED THE SIM as ROAMING CALLS are checked against that Cellco's database. I never use a SIM in my smartphone - only buffered WiFi.

    Now that Border Plod/ICE men are getting smarter an 'inappropriate' IMEI number (using a Samsung IMEI number on a Motorola handset) will be kicked out, raising their hackles a notch or two.

    On my Android device I refuse to use 'included' software opting for Third Party software that is less, or even non-responsive, to these intrusions. This means by keeping all my data on an SD card, removed and secreted on my person during travel, there is precious little to interest them. My ever trusty 'diversionary' but ancient Mitsubishi Trium handset, lacking even GSM ability, is usually sufficient to distract the inquisitors. A film or two also helps quell interest.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @LucreLout

    "If you genuinely think the NSA are acting as terrorists then you have clearly never experienced actual terrorism, or trust me on this, you'd not be making such a stupid comparisson. I'm not saying the NSA are behaving well, or even legally, but they sure as hell aren't terrorising anyone."

    One word. Cyber-terrorism.

    "Branding the USA a criminal nation also shows a lack of both critical thinking and emotional maturity. Tony Blair and the last labour government spilled more blood around the world than any since the last great war, but they were by no means representative of my beliefs or me as a person. The same can presumably be extrapolated across the leadership of America too.

    Most Americans probably aren't happy that GCHQ collects data on them and hands that to the NSA as a work around 'fix' for their constitution. That doesn't make the UK a "criminal nation" - I'm certainly not a criminal, nor are most of my friends."

    Confused between the difference between a state / administration and citizens of a country?

    The state and administration of BOTH the UK and USA are criminal, as are the actions of the NSA, GCHQ and the other "eyes".

    Saying that does not make other terrorists magically disappear. Both sides are criminal, and both sides are bad for citizens everywhere.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @logistix - Re: removable batteries and the SIM...?

    "There are ways to extract information electromagnetically within a certain amount of feet away. Sending voltage through the air to turn on a device is also possible. Some research on TEMPEST as well and Van Eck phreaking when you have some free time should get your imagination going."

    Utter sensationalism. You sentences taken alone are true, but in the context of a reply and taken together are complete lies.

    The remote power on voltage technology has never been seen or proven to work on consumer devices at more than a couple of centimetres. You can be sure it would have been noticed and reported if it had. Or do you think that the NSA and other security forces only use it on themselves?

    Van Eck phreaking has not been proven to work on LCD/LED panels. It worked on CRT monitors and DVI cables for LCD panels, since it requires a certain level of electromagnetic radiation to work.

    Next.

  15. Looper

    @Lucrelout

    "If you genuinely think the NSA are acting as terrorists then you have clearly never experienced actual terrorism, or trust me on this, you'd not be making such a stupid comparisson. I'm not saying the NSA are behaving well, or even legally, but they sure as hell aren't terrorising anyone."

    One word. Cyber-terrorism.

    "Branding the USA a criminal nation also shows a lack of both critical thinking and emotional maturity. Tony Blair and the last labour government spilled more blood around the world than any since the last great war, but they were by no means representative of my beliefs or me as a person. The same can presumably be extrapolated across the leadership of America too.

    Most Americans probably aren't happy that GCHQ collects data on them and hands that to the NSA as a work around 'fix' for their constitution. That doesn't make the UK a "criminal nation" - I'm certainly not a criminal, nor are most of my friends."

    The USA and UK ARE terrorists, as are the NSA, GCHQ and all the other illegal eyes.

    Your fundamental ignorance of the difference between state and citizen leads you to extrapolate that which what was not said.

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