August 3, 2020

A Department of Homeland Security intelligence report leaked to The Nation has some experts skeptical of the department's motives.

The report targeted several left-wing American activists who the department would normally be prohibited from gathering intelligence on unless they had reason to believe the individuals were operating on behalf of a foreign power. The people named in the report, many of whom have identified with far-left causes, do have connections abroad — they traveled to Syria in the past and fought against the Islamic State alongside Kurdish factions like the YPG, PKK, and the Peshmerga.

The U.S., of course, considers ISIS an enemy, so it may seem surprising the U.S. government would focus on people who volunteered to fight against the terrorist group, but critics argue the Syria connection could be a ruse to root out potential antifa members. (Some of the individuals denied membership in antifa, which does not necessarily operate in any organized capacity to begin with.)

The report eventually appears to conclude there is no evidence of a "centralized effort to give marching orders to returning antifa-affiliated" U.S. residents, but either way, the briefing didn't sit well with everyone. "They targeted Americans like they're Al-Qaeda," a former intelligence officer in the department with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. "They were essentially violating people's rights like this was the '60s." Read more at The Nation. Tim O'Donnell

February 16, 2015

A Russian cybersecurity firm says that the United States has been embedding surveillance and sabotage tools into computers and networks in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and other countries.

The Kaspersky Lab announced during a conference in Mexico on Monday that the implants had been placed by the "Equation Group," which "appears to be a veiled reference to the National Security Agency and its military counterpart, United States Cyber Command," The New York Times reports. Based on timestamps in affected code, the firm believes the Equation Group has likely been infecting computers since 2001, and increased its efforts in 2008. It also said that infection rates were very high in countries whose nuclear programs are closely monitored by the U.S.

The techniques are similar to Stuxnet, a computer worm that that was operated by the U.S. and Israel that disabled close to 1,000 centrifuges in Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Kaspersky's report said that some of the implants are able to infect the firmware, where it can't be reached by existing antivirus products, and once there, American intelligence agencies can take the encryption keys off the machine and unlock the contents. "If the malware gets into the firmware, it is able to resurrect itself forever," threat researcher Costin Raiu said in the report. "It means that we are practically blind and cannot detect hard drives that have been infected with this malware." Catherine Garcia

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