in post

20 July 2021

We are living in a dystopian hellscape where democratic freedoms, institutions, politicians, governments, civil society and basic infrastructure are all under unremitting attack. A kind of high-tech warfare is being waged by state actors both against other nations and their own citizens. No one is safe. Off-gridders seem to be right: the less dependence we have on technology, infrastructure and systems of distribution, the better. But Edward Snowden is even more right in saying that the problems cannot be solved at an individual level. If we want something to change, people need to get together and take action.

National governments, leaders and ruling parties, when censured, try to deflect criticism by denial, claims of partisanism, or foreign bias. Thus, the BJP in India, says that Amnesty International, which conducted the forensic analysis of phones for Pegasus spyware, is "anti-Indian", and that the Congress Party is angry because they are losing. China and Russia angrily deny being responsible for cyber-attacks. Israel denies conducting diplomacy through cyber-weapon sales.

As citizens of the planet, we have to recognize that the issues we are facing are common to all of us. Our adversaries are not particular parties, polities or nations, but the misuse of power, by any group, in order to undermine democratic freedoms, civil society, and the systems upon which we rely. We need to oppose the misuse of power even when it is not our own group that is under attack, because there can only be democracy when the rights of all citizens are respected and protected. There can only be peace between nations when the welfare of all nations is our common goal.

Links

The Guardian view on spyware sales: the proliferation risks are real - The Guardian

Revealed: murdered journalist’s number selected by Mexican NSO client - The Guardian

India

Pegasus spyware used to ‘snoop’ on Indian journalists, activists - The Hindu

17 media groups across world collaborated to expose secret surveillance via victims’ phones
Indian ministers, government officials and opposition leaders also figure in the list of people whose phones may have been compromised by the spyware, The Wire, which conducted the investigation along with international partners, claimed.

Modi accused of treason by opposition over India spyware disclosures - The Guardian

“This is clearly treason and total abdication of national security by the Modi government, more so when the foreign company could possibly have access to this data,” said the Congress statement, which labelled Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) government as the “Bharatiya Jasoos [spy] party”.

“This is an unforgivable sacrilege and negation of constitutional oath by the home minister and the prime minister,” it added.

“Pegasus is a cyber-weapon, a controlled defence export from Israel under 2007 Act as per Wassenaar [Arrangement], with strict EUMA,” said Sushant Singh, an Indian journalist whose phone was examined by Amnesty’s Security Lab, the technical partner to the project.
It found proof that his phone had been compromised using Pegasus. “That [weapon] has been used in India against its own citizens,” he said. “Imagine if a fighter jet or missile of same category was used against Indians similarly. That’s it.”

Prashant Kishor Hacked by Pegasus, Mamata’s Nephew Also Selected as Potential Snoop Target

This is the first iron-clad piece of evidence that the deadly spyware is being used in India by an as yet unidentified agency to gather political information from rivals of the ruling BJP.

Leaked Snoop List Suggests Surveillance May Have Played Role in Toppling of Karnataka Govt in 2019 - The Wire

Regional Newspapers Have More Detailed Coverage of Pegasus Than National, Business Dailies - The Wire

Most English newspapers, including Hindustan Times and Mint covered the news report as a single column on their front pages. The Economic Times – India’s largest business daily – published the report on page 3. The Times of India, The Financial Express and Indian Express carried the story as the lead on their front flap/pages. The Telegraph carried it as lead on page 2, headlined “Judge and ministers on ‘hack wish list'”. Business Standard has not carried the report, but they have published a PTI copy on their website. The Hindu decided not to give it space on the front page, and carried the story on page 8 in a double column.
Most of the news stories didn’t have any infographics. When covering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcements or other government-related reports, they usually do use graphics and other visual aids.

Sedition and the Supreme Court: Justice Delayed, but Not Justice Denied - The Wire

The almost simultaneous entertainment by three benches of the Supreme Court of petitions seeking declarations that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is unconstitutional indicates that the apex court finally realises that sedition is a draconian provision and needs to be done away with.

It is welcome because if the petitions succeed, a colonial provision designed to crush nonviolent social movements against the British Crown, which is now being used to suppress democratic dissent in an independent country, will go, making prosecutions for free speech difficult. Thousands, including the CAA protestors and the tribal supporters of the Patthalgadi movement, journalists, artists, farmers, trade unionists, students and others will have the yoke of this oppressive provision lifted.

Let us hope that the Supreme Court will now take up with alacrity the other provisions of law such as criminal defamation and the infamous Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which deserve to be put in the dustbin of history. Before that is done, however, judges have to introspect on the tolerance of tyranny, which is so prevalent in our country.

'Similarities Between Hitler's Third Reich and Modi's India Growing Everyday': Avay Shukla - The Wire

India's working women: It has taken a pandemic and remote work to crack the glass ceiling - CNN

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have given an unexpected boost to a small — but influential — cohort of India's working women.

Coronavirus live news: 4 million excess deaths in India, study suggests, as official Covid toll passes 414,000 - The Guardian

China

China drafts new cyber-security industry plan - The Hindu

US condemns China for ‘malicious’ cyberattacks, including Microsoft hack - The Guardian

Blinken added in a statement that China’s “Ministry of State Security (MSS) has fostered an ecosystem of criminal contract hackers who carry out both state-sponsored activities and cybercrime for their own financial gain”.

UK

How a proposed secrecy law would recast journalism as spying | Duncan Campbell and Duncan Campbell - The Guardian

Priti Patel seems to be at the heart of so many bad news stories

Israel - Palestine

Pegasus project turns spotlight on spyware firm NSO’s ties to Israeli state - The Guardian

A recent transparency report released by NSO Group acknowledged the company was “closely regulated” by export control authorities in Israel. The Defense Export Controls Agency (DECA) within the Israeli defence ministry “strictly restricts” the licensing of some surveillance products based on its own analysis of potential customers from a human rights perspective, the company said, and had rejected NSO requests for export licences “in quite a few cases”.

Moreover, NSO was also subject to an “in-depth” regulatory review by Israel on top of its own “robust internal framework”.

Within NSO, the process Israel uses to assess whether countries can be sold the technology is considered a “state secret”. A person familiar with the process said officials in both Israel’s national security council and prime minister’s office had been known to give their input.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, sources familiar with the matter said the kingdom was temporarily cut off from using Pegasus in 2018, for several months, following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but was allowed to begin using the spyware again in 2019 following the intervention of the Israeli government.

the 10 countries that the forensic analysis for the Pegasus project suggests have actually been abusing the technology all enjoy trade relations with Israel or have diplomatic ties with the country that have been improving markedly in recent years.

In two NSO client countries, India and Hungary, it appears governments began using the company’s technology as or after their respective prime ministers met the then Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in high-profile encounters intended to boost trade and security cooperation. It is understood no countries that are considered enemies of Israel – such as Turkey – have been allowed to buy NSO’s wares.

What remains unclear is whether Israel’s intelligence agencies might have special privileges with NSO, such as access to surveillance material gathered using its spyware. One person close to the company, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was a frequent topic of speculation. Asked whether Israel could access intelligence gathered by NSO clients, they replied: “The Americans think so.”

That view was supported by current and former US intelligence officials, who told the Washington Post, a partner in the Pegasus project, that there was a presumption that Israel had some access – via a “backdoor” – to intelligence unearthed via such surveillance tools.

For Israel, few clients whom it has approved to use Pegasus have been as problematic as Saudi. Weeks ago, NSO cut the kingdom off once more, following allegations that Saudi had used Pegasus to hack dozens of Al Jazeera journalists.

I'm thinking that journalists and activities in countries that Israel didn't agree to sell to, like Turkey, have a lot to be thankful for.

Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales in occupied Palestinian territories - The Guardian

Vermont-based company says sales in the occupied lands were ‘inconsistent with our values’

Why did Netanyahu vote against a law he wholly embraces? - Al Jazeera

Those who cannot carry out crimes of apartheid including the separation of spouses and children from their parents are, in his perverse world, unworthy of remaining in power.

Surveillance capitalists

WhatsApp

The updated multi-device experience allows people to use the messaging service on up to four devices, excluding their smartphone, simultaneously and without requiring a constant connection with the phone. This means, even if their phone is switched off, users will be able to connect over WhatsApp, using the devices linked to their account.

Google has introduced a new ‘quick delete’ option

in its app that allows users to erase the last 15 minutes of saved Search history with the single tap of a button. Users can access the feature from the Google account menu, just below Search

Jeff Bezos to donate $200 million to Smithsonian

Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos will donate $200 million to the Smithsonian. It is the largest gift to the Smithsonian since the Institution’s founding gift

The Hindu'

Google Meet to limit time on group calls for free accounts - The Hindu
Google didn't manage to eradicate Zoom by offering the same service for free

Microsoft announces Windows 365, a computer that runs on its cloud - The Hindu

Facebook often removes evidence of rights atrocities – but we can preserve it - Scroll

We need a decentralised platform, without gatekeepers or potential single points of failure, to gather incriminating material.