TIME National Security

Police, NSA Investigating Report of Shots Fired

This Sept. 19, 2007 file photo shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md.
Charles Dharapak—AP The National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md., on Sept. 19, 2007

Damage was reported to the National Security Agency building

(FORT MEADE, Md.) U.S. Park Police are investigating whether a reported shooting along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway caused the damage that was reported to a nearby National Security Agency building.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lelani Woods said that the NSA reported damage to one of its buildings close to the parkway on Tuesday. She said it is too early to say whether the damage is related to the report of gunfire nearby.

NSA spokesman Ian Brennan says no injuries have been reported, and that state and local authorities are investigating.

Earlier Tuesday, Maryland Transportation Authority Police were investigating shots fired on the Inter-County Connector about 12 miles from the NSA. Police say one vehicle was hit, and one person was injured by broken glass.

Police would not say whether the shootings were related or whether the NSA was targeted.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. It’s time to break up the NSA.

By Bruce Schneier at CNN

2. By prescribing appearances, sororities are contributing to a culture of segregation.

By Clio Chang in U.S. News and World Report

3. In Egypt, the U.S. still values security over human rights.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

4. Bartering for eggs is saving giant turtles in Cambodia.

By Yoeung Sun at Conservation International

5. How does Internet slang work its way into American Sign Language?

By Mike Sheffield, Antwan Duncan and Andrew Strasser in Hopes and Fears

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Security

SIM Card Company Says the NSA Probably Hacked It

Mobile phone SIM card
David Gould—Getty Images

But it denies the NSA got access to billions of people's mobile communications

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of SIM cards has acknowledged evidence of security agency attacks on the company’s internal networks, but it’s denying that American and British intelligence agents were able to get access to billions of mobile phone users’ secure data.

Gemalto, a French-Dutch supplier of SIM cards, found “reasonable grounds” of an attack by U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) following an internal investigation into a series of security incidents. The audits came after online publication The Intercept reported on what it said was a joint British-American operation to covertly hack Gemalto’s stash of SIM encryption keys, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

SIM cards are small encrypted devices inside cell phones that carry users’ unique identifier codes on a network. Breaking their encryption could allow intelligence agencies or hackers easier access to targets’ mobile communication.

In particular, Gemalto cited two “sophisticated intrusions” in 2010 and 2011, one of which involved sending malware-infected attachments from faked company email addresses. Gemalto acknowledged that the breaches may have enabled a third party such as the NSA to spy on internal communications from company employees, but denied the breach led to a massive loss of encryption keys. The Intercept previously reported that the NSA and GCHQ stole encryption codes as Gemalto sent them to device makers like China’s Huawei.

“The attacks against Gemalto only breached its office networks and could not have resulted in a massive theft of SIM encryption keys,” read a statement from the company.

TIME intelligence

Obama to Limit Data Collection by Intelligence Agencies

FILE PHOTO  NSA Compiles Massive Database Of Private Phone Calls
Getty Images This undated photo provided by the National Security Agency (NSA) shows its headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Modest reforms will also establish White House oversight over surveillance of foreign leaders

Intelligence agencies will have to delete extraneous data on private citizens and limit storage of data on foreigners to five years, the Obama administration is expected to announce Tuesday, as part of a new batch of modest restrictions on intelligence gathering efforts.

The reforms will also initiate regular White House reviews over surveillance programs targeting foreign leaders, the New York Times reports. President Barack Obama abruptly cancelled one such program targeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013, after leaked documents revealed that the National Security Agency had tapped her cell phone records.

However, the administration stopped short of addressing the scope of the NSA’s collection of “metadata” on cell phone records, which sparked a controversy after it was revealed that the program encompassed millions of Americans’ cell phone records.

Read more at the New York Times.

 

TIME foreign affairs

The Government Must Show Us the Evidence That North Korea Attacked Sony

President Obama Holds News Conference At The White House
Leigh Vogel—WireImage President Barack Obama holds a press conference during which he discussed Sony Pictures' decision not to release "The Interview" in wake of the alleged North Korean hacking scandal at The White House on December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

American history is littered with examples of classified information pointing us towards aggression against other countries—think WMDs—only to later learn that the evidence was wrong

When you’re attacked by a missile, you can follow its trajectory back to where it was launched from. When you’re attacked in cyberspace, figuring out who did it is much harder. The reality of international aggression in cyberspace will change how we approach defense.

Many of us in the computer-security field are skeptical of the U.S. government’s claim that it has positively identified North Korea as the perpetrator of the massive Sony hack in November 2014. The FBI’s evidence is circumstantial and not very convincing. The attackers never mentioned the movie that became the centerpiece of the hack until the press did. More likely, the culprits are random hackers who have loved to hate Sony for over a decade, or possibly a disgruntled insider.

On the other hand, most people believe that the FBI would not sound so sure unless it was convinced. And President Obama would not have imposed sanctions against North Korea if he weren’t convinced. This implies that there’s classified evidence as well. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote for the Atlantic, “The NSA has been trying to eavesdrop on North Korea’s government communications since the Korean War, and it’s reasonable to assume that its analysts are in pretty deep. The agency might have intelligence on the planning process for the hack. It might, say, have phone calls discussing the project, weekly PowerPoint status reports, or even Kim Jong Un’s sign-off on the plan. On the other hand, maybe not. I could have written the same thing about Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of that country, and we all know how wrong the government was about that.”

The NSA is extremely reluctant to reveal its intelligence capabilities — or what it refers to as “sources and methods” — against North Korea simply to convince all of us of its conclusion, because by revealing them, it tips North Korea off to its insecurities. At the same time, we rightly have reason to be skeptical of the government’s unequivocal attribution of the attack without seeing the evidence. Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction is only the most recent example of a major intelligence failure. American history is littered with examples of claimed secret intelligence pointing us toward aggression against other countries, only for us to learn later that the evidence was wrong.

Cyberspace exacerbates this in two ways. First, it is very difficult to attribute attacks in cyberspace. Packets don’t come with return addresses, and you can never be sure that what you think is the originating computer hasn’t itself been hacked. Even worse, it’s hard to tell the difference between attacks carried out by a couple of lone hackers and ones where a nation-state military is responsible. When we do know who did it, it’s usually because a lone hacker admitted it or because there was a months-long forensic investigation.

Second, in cyberspace, it is much easier to attack than to defend. The primary defense we have against military attacks in cyberspace is counterattack and the threat of counterattack that leads to deterrence.

What this all means is that it’s in the U.S.’s best interest to claim omniscient powers of attribution. More than anything else, those in charge want to signal to other countries that they cannot get away with attacking the U.S.: If they try something, we will know. And we will retaliate, swiftly and effectively. This is also why the U.S. has been cagey about whether it caused North Korea’s Internet outage in late December.

It can be an effective bluff, but only if you get away with it. Otherwise, you lose credibility. The FBI is already starting to equivocate, saying others might have been involved in the attack, possibly hired by North Korea. If the real attackers surface and can demonstrate that they acted independently, it will be obvious that the FBI and NSA were overconfident in their attribution. Already, the FBI has lost significant credibility.

The only way out of this, with respect to the Sony hack and any other incident of cyber-aggression in which we’re expected to support retaliatory action, is for the government to be much more forthcoming about its evidence. The secrecy of the NSA’s sources and methods is going to have to take a backseat to the public’s right to know. And in cyberspace, we’re going to have to accept the uncomfortable fact that there’s a lot we don’t know.

Bruce Schneier is a security technologist, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and the CTO of Co3 Systems Inc. He blogs at schneier.com and tweets at @schneierblog.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY privacy

Security Flaws Let Hackers Listen in on Calls

German researchers say the network that allows cellphone carriers to direct calls to one another is full of security holes.

TIME intelligence

New NSA Privacy Chief Promises Transparency

NSA Surveillance-Privacy Report
Patrick Semansky—AP The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md., June 6, 2013.

In a Q&A online, Rebecca Richards promised a new era in transparency at the United States’ eavesdropping agency

The National Security Agency’s newly appointed Civil Liberties & Privacy Officer Rebecca Richards said Monday in an online Q& A she hopes to inject a sense of transparency into the secretive spy agency.

“Until somewhat recently, relatively little information about NSA was public. And the information that was made available rarely discussed the safeguards in place to protect civil liberties and privacy,” Richards said. “One of my goals is to share what NSA does to protect civil liberties and privacy. This will take time, but we must start somewhere.”

Richards conducted an online question and answer session Monday through the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Richards position was create earlier this year following recommendations from the White House on privacy reforms within the NSA. Those recommendations were made in response to revelations of privacy violations contained in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Much of her Q&A was little more than a defense of the agency but Richards did identify her four primary goals as privacy chief.

  1. Advise NSA leadership including the director.
  2. Build systematic and holistic civil liberties and privacy processes.
  3. Improve civil liberties and privacy protections through research, education, and training.
  4. Increase transparency.

Richards also revealed that the NSA is preparing to launch a privacy and civil liberties internship or work exchange program as part of its privacy initiative.

TIME Bill Cosby

Morning Must Reads: November 21

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Obama Unveils Immigration Plan

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday night he is granting temporary legal status and work permits to almost 5 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, the largest single immigration action in modern American history

Behind Bill Cosby’s Silence

The comedian and his wife Camille have largely been reticent about sexual-allegations directed at him. History tells us why this silence is oppressive

Forecasters Warn of Rain in N.Y.

After relentless snowfall blanketed much of western New York this week, officials warned on Thursday that a new danger is now threatening the area — rain

NSA Warns Cyber Attacks Could Cripple U.S. Infrastructure

NSA director Mike Rogers said U.S. adversaries are performing electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants

World Heads Toward Warmest Year Ever

October marked the fifth month to break worldwide heat records. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday that the average global temperature for October was 58.43ºF (14.74ºC)

U.S. to Up Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine, Says Report

Washington is ready to increase its delivery of nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian government, but will refrain from furnishing Kiev with weapons to use in its fight against pro-Russian forces in the country’s southeast, according to a Reuters report citing unnamed U.S. officials

University of California Approves Steep Tuition Hike

Tuition at University of California schools could rise by as much as 28% by 2019 under a plan approved on Thursday. The vote by the system’s board pitted top state officials, including Governor Jerry Brown, against those who run the UC’s 10 campuses

Michael Brown Sr. Urges Calm Ahead of Grand Jury

The father of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., this summer, has asked people not to “hurt others” or “destroy property” ahead of a grand jury decision into whether the officer will be indicted in the killing

Suicide Helpline Aims to Help Transgender People

On 2014’s annual day of remembrance for transgender victims of violence, Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline staffed entirely by transgender people, aims to help transgender people struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts

How TIME Reviewed the Work of Mike Nichols

The Oscar-winning director, who died on Wednesday aged 83, first appeared in TIME in 1958 as he was becoming famous as a comedian. But after Hollywood came calling, his movies got rave reviews from our critics — with one or two notable exceptions

Zoolander Will Return, With Penelope Cruz Attached

The Spanish actress will bring her finest Blue Steel to Ben Stiller’s long anticipated sequel to his 2001 supermodel comedy. No word yet on whether Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson will return for the follow-up, which is reportedly set in Europe

Oakland Raiders Win First Game Since 2013

The Raiders used a 17-play touchdown drive and a late defensive stop to pull off the shocking upset, 24-20. It was their first victory since a 28-23 triumph at Houston on Nov. 17 of last season

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A today, Friday, November 21, at 1 p.m., with TIME Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer, who wrote this week’s story on America’s New Anchor, Jorge Ramos of Noticiero Univision. His other stories can be found here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

Get TIME’s The Brief e-mail every morning in your inbox

TIME intelligence

Tech Firms Push NSA Reform Bill as Senate Vote Approaches

The USA FREEDOM Act still faces challenges from both sides

In an open letter to U.S. Senators a powerful coalition of technology companies including Google, Apple, Facebook and others called for passage of the USA FREEDOM Act surveillance reform package as Sen. Harry Reid scheduled a vote to advance the measure Tuesday.

“The Senate has the opportunity to send a strong message of change to the world and encourage other countries to adopt similar protections,” wrote CEOs of the companies comprising the Reform Government Surveillance coalition. The CEOs called the bill “bipartisan” and said it “protects national security and reaffirms America’s commitment to the freedoms we all cherish.” Signatories to the letter include Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Larry Page, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Twitter’s Dick Costolo and others.

The USA FREEDOM Act is a package of changes to the way the U.S. National Security Agency conducts mass surveillance of American citizens chiefly sponsored by Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D—VT). Debate over the issue accelerated a year and a half ago after leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed vast non-public surveillance programs and duplicity on the part of some officials about the extent of the programs.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D—Nevada) called for a cloture vote on Tuesday to end debate. Cloture requires a 60-vote majority is likely to be the biggest hurdle the legislation would face on its path out of Congress.

Though major interest groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the President’s own surveillance reform task force have backed the compromise legislation passage is anything but certain. Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D—CA) is reported to have reservations about the bill and other surveillance hawks have expressed outright hostility toward the measure. On the other side of the issue, libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul has said he will oppose the bill for not going far enough to rein the NSA.

In current form the bill puts new limits on the NSA’s ability legally to gather up bulk U.S. phone meta-data and installs special privacy advocates in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the body that oversees and authorizes NSA activities. The measure also forbids the NSA from storing data it collects in its own computers, instead requiring telecom companies to retain the data for up to five years. Some critics say the measure puts onerous restrictions on the NSA’s ability to protect Americans from harm. Others say the bill actually codifies and formalizes surveillance practices that once existed in a legal grey area.

“This is a first step in surveillance reform. This is by no means the whole kit and caboodle,” Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office Laura Murphy tells TIME. “For over the last decade we’ve been empowering government with more and more capabilities to surveil with less and less protections for its citizens. This legisaition would mark a departure from the trajectory since 9-11. We think it’s a very important first step.”

TIME movies

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Will Play Edward Snowden in New Movie

"White Bird In A Blizzard" - Los Angeles Premiere
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends the premiere of "White Bird in a Blizzard" at ArcLight Hollywood on October 21, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

Backers confirm the casting choice

Producers confirmed Monday that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play Edward Snowden in the Oliver Stone movie set to start shooting in Munich in January.

The casting choice has been rumored since September, but was finally confirmed today, just two months before the film is set to begin filming, the Guardian reports.

Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay based on two books about Snowden and NSA surveillance (The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena) and reportedly sought out independent production companies Open Road and Endgame in order to protect the production from political pressures.

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