TIME cell phones

Researchers Find Flaws That Means Anyone Can Listen to Your Cell Phone Calls

Flaws found in global cell network means spies can hack your phone

Security flaws discovered by German researchers could allow hackers to listen in on private phone calls and intercept text messages en masse, the Washington Post reports.

The weaknesses in the global cellular network are to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, by Tobias Engel, founder of Sternraute, and Karsten Nohl, chief scientist for Security Research Labs.

The Post reports that these experts believe that SS7, the global network that allows cellular carriers worldwide to route calls and messages to each other, have “serious vulnerabilities that undermine the privacy of the world’s billions of cellular customers.” Researchers in Germany have discovered that hackers with an in-depth knowledge of SS7’s different features would be able to exploit certain functions to listen to private calls and intercept text messages.

One way that hackers could intercept calls would be to exploit cellular carriers forwarding function — which allows a user to have his calls directed to another number — by redirecting “calls to themselves, for listening or recording, and then onward to the intended recipient of a call. Once that system was in place, the hackers could eavesdrop on all incoming and outgoing calls indefinitely, from anywhere in the world.”

Despite mobile carriers working to secure data, the Post reports that the weaknesses in SS7 have left millions vulnerable:

These vulnerabilities continue to exist even as cellular carriers invest billions of dollars to upgrade to advanced 3G technology aimed, in part, at securing communications against unauthorized eavesdropping. But even as individual carriers harden their systems, they still must communicate with each other over SS7, leaving them open to any of thousands of companies worldwide with access to the network. That means that a single carrier in Congo or Kazakhstan, for example, could be used to hack into cellular networks in the United States, Europe or anywhere else.

It’s unclear how much, if any, data has been intercepted due to these vulnerabilities, but as Engel told the Post, “I doubt we are the first ones in the world who realize how open the SS7 network is.”

[Washington Post]

TIME Germany

10,000 People Protest Against Islam in the German City of Dresden

Participants hold a banner during a demonstration called by anti-immigration group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) in Dresden, Germany, on Dec. 15, 2014 Hannibal Hanschke—Reuters

Protesters demand immigration-policy overhaul, ruling politicians label them "Nazis in pinstripes"

A march against the “Islamization of the West” in the German city of Dresden attracted about 10,000 people on Monday.

Participants gathered under banners reading “Protect our homeland” and “No Shari‘a law in Europe,” but also the famous slogan “We are the people,” used during the demonstrations that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, reports the BBC.

“There’s freedom of assembly in Germany, but there’s no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

“Everyone [who attends] needs to be careful that they are not taken advantage of by the people who organize such events.”

It is the ninth week in a row that a movement called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) is organizing protests in the German state of Saxony, but Monday’s march is the biggest by far.

Frauke Petry, Dresden leader of the Pegida-sympathetic party Alternativ für Deutschland, said the march was “protesting against inadequate legislation on asylum rights.”

Germany accepts more asylum seekers than any other country, and immigration rates have surged because of the wars in Syria and Iraq. However, a mere 2% of Saxony’s population is foreign, and only a fraction of them Muslim, the New York Times points out.

Considering the country’s troubled past with extreme right-wing politics, the protests have shocked many Germans. Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called them “a disgrace” and the Social Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, have branded them “Nazis in pinstripes.”

TIME Business

Germany Requires Large Companies to Put More Women in the Boardroom

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014. Stefanie Loos—Reuters

Large listed companies must fill at least 30% of the supervisory board seats with female non-executive directors, under new law

Women are about to flood the corporate world in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government adopted a bill on Thursday that will require large listed companies to fill at least 30% of the supervisory board seats with female non-executive directors. The bill will also force thousands of large and mid-size companies to employ more women as managers.

Despite being arguably the most powerful woman in the world, Merkel has so far been unable to convince Germany’s male-dominated business world to voluntarily diversify. Only one-third of the 30 companies in Germany’s DAX stock index would currently meet the 30% quota suggested in the bill. Women’s representation on executive boards is low compared to other European countries like Norway, France and Sweden, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“I am convinced that we will set in motion a cultural change and that this law is a historic milestone for more equality between women and men in this country,” Manuela Schwesig, family minister and main sponsor of the bill, said at a news conference.

The new law will require 108 publicly-traded companies to place women in over 170 supervisory board seats. And an additional 3,500 companies with over 500 employees each will have to boost the number of women in management positions within the next two years.

But businesses are unenthused to meet these targets. A quota “ignores that professional qualification must be the decisive criterion for filling a supervisory board position,” Germany’s employer and industry federations said in a joint statement.

TIME

Mourners Gather in Germany for Funeral of Slain ‘Hero’ Tugce Albayrak

Student teacher praised for intervening in harassment of two girls in a fast food restaurant

Hundreds of mourners in Germany paid their respects on Wednesday to the student-teacher hailed as a martyr after succumbing to injuries she had sustained after standing up for two girls who were being harassed in a fast food restaurant.

Some 1,500 people, including politicians and religious leaders, gathered to recall Tugce Albayrak with a communal prayer at a mosque east of Frankfurt, the Guardian reports. “Her warmhearted and generous nature set a worthy example for others to follow,” Volker Bouffier, the prime minister of Hesse state, said. Friends and family then took part in a funeral service in Bad Soden-Salmünster, her birthplace.

Albayrak had been in a coma for two weeks after the Nov. 15 attack when her parents took her off life support on Friday, her 23rd birthday. Germany’s president has been deluged with requests to posthumously honor the woman with a national medal of honor.

[The Guardian]

TIME Germany

The Killing of This Student Teacher Has Galvanized Germany

Vigil outside the hospital that treated Tugce Albayrak in Offenbach am Mein, Germany, Nov. 28, 2014.
Vigil outside the hospital that treated Tugce Albayrak in Offenbach am Mein, Germany, Nov. 28, 2014. Boris Roessler—EPA

More than 141,000 people have signed a petition demanding a posthumous medal for Tugce Albayrak, a 22-year-old student teacher

Tugce Albayrak wanted to teach. The 22-year-old German-born daughter of Turkish immigrants had enrolled in a teacher-training course at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, majoring in German and Ethics. In the early hours of Nov. 15 she gave a masterclass in the second of these disciplines, intervening to protect two teenaged girls from harassment by a group of men at a McDonald’s restaurant in Offenbach, a town that has been swallowed by the larger of conurbation of Frankfurt. It will be down to the German judicial system to determine the exact sequence of the events that took place inside the restaurant and then in its car park but CCTV footage released on Dec. 1 shows Albayrak punched to the ground by an assailant as his companion tries to restrain him. Albayrak never regained consciousness and on Nov. 28 — her 23rd birthday — doctors switched off the machinery sustaining her life. In dying, she gave a final proof of her civic commitment; a registered organ donor, her tissues may save at least three people in urgent need of transplants.

As a result, her death may not be entirely in vain, but it was senseless. There have been candlelit vigils outside the hospital that treated her and on Nov. 30 crowds gathered in Berlin’s Turkish district, Kreuzberg, to pay their respects. On the same day soccer player Haris Seferovic scored a goal for his team Eintracht Frankfurt and then lifted his jersey to reveal a tribute to Albayrak written on his undershirt.

By Dec. 1 more than 141,000 people across Germany and further afield had signed a petition calling on the German President Joachim Gauck to award Albayrak a Federal Order of Merit. There is a precedent — five years ago the medal was given posthumously to Dominik Brunner, a German killed trying to stop a brawl — and Gauck has already indicated that he is giving serious consideration to Albayrak’s case. “Whilst others looked away,” Gauck wrote in a letter to Albayrak’s parents — and the CCTV footage suggests the phrase is literally true, “Tugce showed bravery and civil courage in an exemplary fashion.” She was, he said, a role model.

Vigil for Tugce A. in Offenbach
Photograph of Tugce Albayrak seen during a vigil outside the hospital that treated her in Offenbach am Mein, Nov. 28, 2014. Boris Roessler—EPA

She also became the unwitting avatar of the dangers posed to women simply by being women, with up to 70% of women expected to experience violence during their lifetimes, according to figures put out by the United Nations to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25. The girls Albayrak sought to help were also victims or potential victims, but public opinion hardened against them when they proved slow to contact the police to give witness statements. The accounts of other witnesses suggested that they had been surrounded by men in or near the toilets at the McDonald’s and that Albayrak, hearing the commotion, intervened. Later, out in the car park, a man who may have been involved in the first incident paced up and down, and despite attempts to restrain him, eventually lunged at Albayrak. An 18-year-old, identified as Sanel M, is in custody. On Dec. 1, the department of public prosecution confirmed that the girls had also been located and interviewed.

Albayrak may now receive justice. It is what she stood for in the final hours of her conscious life.

TIME Germany

BMW Hits Back at Germany’s Female Board Quota Plan

Plan would require 30% of supervisory board positions to go to women

BMW and other German industry leaders are blasting a government plan to get more women in key business roles.

A spokesman for the automaker said it “doesn’t believe in quotas” while denouncing a bill supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel that would require 30% of supervisory board positions at companies to go to women, Bloomberg reports. “While we hold that opinion,” BMW Spokesman Jochen Frey said, “we want and strive for diversity in our workforce in terms of gender, ethnicity and age.”

The plan is expected to apply to 114 large companies starting in 2016. In 2015, smaller ones will need to set and publicize their plans to get a certain amount of women into management positions. Women currently hold about 6% of seats on management boards and 22% of supervisory board positions in Germany, the report adds, and several top-level government posts.

“We can’t afford to forgo the competence of women,” Merkel was quoted as saying Wednesday. “We’ve decided to do this and it will happen.”

[Bloomberg]

TIME europe

German Chancellor Says Russia’s Actions Are Unjustifiable

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 26, 2014. Stefanie Loos—Reuters

Angela Merkel appears to be taking a tougher stance against Vladimir Putin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday suggested she is prepared for a drawn-out confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis

“We need patience and staying power to overcome the crisis,” Merkel told German lawmakers in a speech to Berlin’s parliament. She added that economic sanctions on Russia “remain unavoidable” as long as government forces continue to battle pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

Merkel continued that while the crisis may have been triggered by Russia’s concerns over the impact of Ukraine’s free trade agreement with the European Union, “none of this justifies or excuses Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”

Russia’s actions, she said, interrupt “the peaceful international order and breach international law.”

MORE: Russia wants a “100% guarantee” that Ukraine won’t join NATO

The German chancellor’s speech to parliament follows an address Merkel made in Australia Monday, during which more openly critical of Putin than in the past, suggesting her patience with Putin is running out after months of negotiations. Merkel and Putin met during the G20 conference, but that reportedly did not go well for either leader.

[Bloomberg]

TIME World War II

Swiss Museum to Accept German Collector’s ‘Nazi Art’ Trove

File picture showing the facade of the Kunsmuseum Bern art museum in Bern
The facade of the Kunsmuseum Bern art museum is seen in the Swiss capital of Bern, on May 7, 2014. Arnd Wiegmann—Reuters

The museum will work with German officials to return pieces looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners

BERLIN — A Swiss museum agreed on Monday to accept a priceless collection of long-hidden art bequeathed to it by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt, but said it will work with German officials to ensure any pieces looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners are returned.

German authorities in 2012 seized 1,280 pieces from Gurlitt’s apartment while investigating a tax case, including works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. Gurlitt died in May, designating Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern as his sole heir.

The museum’s president, Christoph Schaeublin, told reporters in Berlin that the Kunstmuseum Bern had decided to accept the collection after long, difficult deliberations.

“The ultimate aim was to clarify how the Kunstmuseum Bern could meet the responsibilities imposed upon them by the bequest,” Schaeublin said.

Shortly before he died, Gurlitt reached a deal with the German government to check whether hundreds of the works were looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis. Authorities have said that deal is binding on any heirs, and Schaeublin said the museum would undertake extensive research to determine the provenance of the works.

According to an agreement the museum worked out with German authorities, a task force set up by the government will also continue to investigate the background of the art to determine if it was looted, and whom it was looted from.

If no owner can be found for a looted piece, the agreement calls for the work to be exhibited in Germany with an explanation of its origins so the “rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims.”

German officials said all works will remain in Germany until the task force finishes its work. An update on the research is expected “in the course of 2015.”

One of Gurlitt’s cousins has also filed claim, which a Munich court said Monday would have to be sorted out before the collection goes anywhere.

TIME Ukraine

Russia Wants a ‘100% Guarantee’ That Ukraine Won’t Join NATO

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the All-Russia Popular Front in Moscow on Nov. 18, 2014 Alexei Druzhinin—AP

Comment's come as NATO's secretary-general accuses Kremlin of "destabilizing" Ukraine

A top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Kremlin wants “a 100% guarantee” that Ukraine will be prevented from joining NATO.

Dmitri Peskov told the BBC that NATO’s eastward expansion continued to make Russia “nervous.” His comments echoed similar tough talk coming from President Putin, who promised a crowd attending a forum in Moscow on Tuesday that Russia would never be subdued by Washington.

“Throughout history no one has ever managed to do so toward Russia — and no one ever will,” RT quoted Putin as saying.

Putin’s remarks came as NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused the Russian leadership of “destabilizing” Ukraine and breaking a two-month-old truce by continuing to support separatist forces fighting in the country’s southeast.

“We see the movement of troops, of equipment, of tanks, of artillery, of advance air-defense systems, and this is in violation of the cease-fire agreements,” said Stoltenberg, after arriving at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. “We call on Russia to pull back its forces from eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk Agreements.”

The alliance, along with independent monitors, has issued numerous reports during the past two weeks claiming that the Russian military is moving armored columns across the border into Ukraine, where rebel militias have been shelling strategic locations in the war-torn Donbass region on a daily basis.

In Moscow on Tuesday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned during a press conference that there was no end in sight to the conflict in Ukraine unless all parties to the Minsk accord stuck to the cease-fire.

“There are no grounds for optimism in the current situation,” Steinmeier told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel struck an even harsher tone — labeling Russia’s incursions into Ukraine as “dangerous and irresponsible.”

“The violations of sovereignty and international law that the Russians have perpetuated continue to require responses,” said Hagel, adding that the U.S. has begun working with NATO “in shifting our entire rotational rapid deployment focus.”

But as politicians verbally spar over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the humanitarian disaster inside the country continues unabated. Last week, the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, warned that Europe was facing its largest displacement crisis in more than two decades as winter arrives.

“By October, UNHCR estimated that more than 800,000 people have been displaced, representing the largest displacement of people in Europe since the Balkan wars,” read a statement released by the U.N. “It is the latest refugee crisis in a year that has seen several, and is stretching resources thin.”

Read next: Putin’s Loss of German Trust Seals the West’s Isolation of Russia

TIME Germany

This Hitler Watercolor Painting Could Sell for Over $60,000

Hitler Watercolor Auction
An employee puts away a watercolour of the old registry office in Munich by former German dictator Adolf Hitler at Weidler auction house in Nuremberg November 18, 2014. Kai Pfaffenbach—Reuters

Hitler was a struggling painter when he was in his late teens and early 20s

A watercolor painted by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler will likely auction off for over $60,000 due to high demand, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The 1914 painting of an old registry office, to go on auction Saturday, is one of many works Hitler created during his young adulthood, according to Kathrin Weidler, an auctioneer at her Weidler Auction House in Nuremberg, Germany. Nuremberg was the site of several Nazi party rallies in the 1930s.

Buyers interested in the artwork hail from all around the world, but mostly come from outside Europe, Weidler said.

“The interest has been high from America, Japan and across Asia,” Weidler told Reuters. “I don’t know if all these bidders will actually come to the showroom in person. It’s possible, but the last time we had a painting from this artist, that didn’t happen.”

The auctioning of the painting, considered more of a historical document than a work of art, has been called “tasteless” by critics, Weidler said. But she requested that complaints be addressed to either the unidentified pair of German sisters selling the painting or to the city of Nuremberg.

Five of Hilter’s paintings have been auctioned off previously at the Weidler Auction House for values between about $6,000 and $100,000.

[Reuters]

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