Transatlantic cables will bypass USA to avoid NSA spying

A Jointly funded, 135 million euro project is underway to enable Brazil and The European Union (EU) to bypass US-owned transatlantic cables. They plan to lay a modern high capacity fiber-optic cable from Lisbon, Portugal to Fortaleza, Brazil.  The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff said during the joint EU – Brazil news statement

We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don't want businesses to be spied upon. The internet is one of the best things man has ever invented. So we agreed for the need to guarantee the neutrality of the network, a democratic area where we can protect freedom of expression.”

Brazil also intends to create their own secure government email infrastructure to prevent spying. In reality the transatlantic cable plans are unlikely to be driven by the desire to protect the privacy of individuals. its much more likely to be about developing their digital economy and protect both government and business confidentiality.

Specifically, using non-USA cable routing will bypass the NSA’s “Upstream” project, where in 2011 the telecom operators on the US side of the transatlantic cables helped PRISM intercept possibly 25 million internet communications.

All this could steal from the USA’s market share in South America and elsewhere around the globe.In this, as in other cases the NSA appears to be driving business away from the USA.

Transatlantic cables will bypass USA to avoid NSA spying

Gmail is now HTTPS only

As  of today, Gmail will be using https for all traffic. Since 2010, Google has had htttps be the default, but today they have required its use with gmail. This is pretty related, at least thematically, to the Schneier video we watched in class recently. In that video, Schneier had said, in response to a question specifically about e-mail encryption, that the way that encryption would be most useful is for everybody to use it. Google has now taken that step, forcing their users to use encryption when dealing with their mail. This is beneficial, as now there won’t be people standing out by using encryption, which could make them a target, nor will people risk sending sensitive data over plaintext as a sort of “hide in plain sight” technique.

Google DNS server traffic hijacked

Early this Sunday morning, Google’s public DNS server’s traffic was hijacked and redirected. The public DNS server was hijacked for about 22 minutes affecting users in Venezuela and Brazil. During that time, all traffic utilizing that DNS server was redirected to the Latin America division of British Telecommunications service.

The hack was performed by exploiting a Border Gateway Protocol vulnerability. This protocol is used to exchange data between large service providers, and allowed the traffic to be directed through a router of the attacker’s choice. It also required that an important router at a major South American ISP be under the control of an attacker.

The redirect does not appear to have any specific goal. Perhaps this was just a test for a future attack, or simply a mistake made by a service provider. By redirecting all traffic, attackers can send users to sites which are designed for phishing. Thankfully this was not the case here.

The attack was reported by network security company BGPmon who mentioned that this is not the first time that Google’s public DNS server traffic has been hijacked. Last year a similar event occurred where the traffic was redirected to Romania.

Government Computers Vulnerable

On April 8th Microsoft will stop support for Windows XP. One major organization that this will effect is the government. According to federal officials there are still seven million government computers still running Windows XP, this is about 10% of their computers. Security experts say that hackers are stockpiling vulnerabilities and waiting for the day when Microsoft stops supporting XP. Government officials have also stated that back in April 2012 the Department of Homeland Security had sent out a draft with a plan pushing for the prioritization of moving the computer running Windows XP to a more modern operating system.  This has become a great concern as the end-of-life date is approaching. Many of the government computers still running XP have classified material on them, this includes some of the computers on naval ships. Officials say that they are working on getting as many computers to a different operating system before the date, but there will still be some using XP when the support for the OS is stopped.


Hackers attack NATO websites.

During the weekend of March 15-16, cyber attackers made an attempt against various NATO websites. The attackers brought down several public NATO websites for a short period of time over the weekend. This appears to be just the latest of escalation in cyber attacks centered around the Crimea tensions. NATO officials have gave several statements validating the attack. Although, the hackers brought down a few websites related to NATO, the main website ( was not effected and NATO officials have stated that this attack has had no effect on their ability to help and monitor Crimea’s status. 

“The so-called “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attack, in which hackers bombard websites with requests causing them to slow down or crash, also hit the site of a NATO-affiliated cyber security center in Estonia. NATO’s unclassified e-mail network was also affected.”

The attackers were never in a position to steal any classified information. A group calling themselves “cyber berkut” asid the attack was done by patriotic Ukranians angry over what they saw as NATO interference in their country.

“Tensions between Moscow and the West have been rising steadily since Russia intervened following the ouster of Yanukovich. Ukrainian and Russian websites have both been targets for cyber attacks in recent weeks but this appeared the first major attack on a Western website since the crisis began.

Suspected Russian hackers used DDoS attacks to cripple websites and services in Estonia in 2007 during a dispute over a war memorial, and against Georgia during its brief 2008 war with Russia. Moscow denied orchestrating such attacks, saying they were simply carried out by independent patriots.”