Category Archives: Cyberwarfare

Calls to ‘Stop the Deal’ as US Military Contractor Moves to Buy NSO Group

“NSO Group should not be rewarded for its facilitation of human rights violations and dangerous business practices with a lucrative offer from a U.S. defense contractor,” said one campaigner.

By Kenny Stancil  Published 6-14-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: NSO Group/Facebook

Digital rights advocates sounded the alarm on Tuesday following reports that U.S. military contractor L3Harris Tech plans to acquire NSO Group, a private Israeli firm widely condemned for selling surveillance technology to repressive governments across the globe.

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has been used to crack down on dissidents and journalists, worsening “human rights abuses around the world, from Palestine to El Salvador to Poland,” advocacy group Access Now said in a statement urging U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to “stop the deal.” Continue reading

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‘Bombshell’: Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an “in-plain-sight national security threat,” one expert warned that “a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 12-3-2021 by Common Dreams

Photo: Unsplash

Multiple news outlets revealed Friday that Apple notified at least 11 U.S. State Department officials that their iPhones were recently hacked by an unknown party or parties with spyware developed by the private Israeli firm NSO Group.

The “bombshell,” first reported by Reuters, comes after Apple sued NSO Group last month in an effort to protect iPhone users from its Pegasus spyware, which the Israeli company claims to only sell to government law enforcement and intelligence agencies and was the focus of a major reporting project earlier this year. Continue reading

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Creative Associates International (CAI): It’s Not Exactly the CIA, But Close Enough

While mercenary armies like Blackwater have at least been subject to inquiry, making the company’s name infamous around the world, Creative Associates International has largely flown under the radar — exactly where the organization’s board wants it to be.

By Alan Macleod   Published 8-13-2021 by MintPress News

Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

You have likely not heard of them, but Creative Associates International (CAI) is one of the largest and most powerful non-governmental organizations operating anywhere in the world. A pillar of soft U.S. power, the group has been an architect in privatizing the Iraqi education system, designed messenger apps meant to overthrow the government of Cuba, served as a front group for the infamous Blackwater mercenary force (now rebranded as Academi), and liaised with Contra death squads in Nicaragua. As such, it has functioned as “both as an instrument of foreign policy and as a manifestation of a broader imperial project,” in the words of Professor Kenneth Saltman of the University of Illinois, Chicago. Continue reading

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The disturbing rise of the corporate mercenaries

It’s not too late to rein in these unaccountable armed giants, but we need to act fast

By Felip Daza and Nora Miralles  Published 8-6-2021 by openDemocracy

Pre=deployment training at Tier 1 Group. Photo: T1G/Facebook

When the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government in 2018, it caused an international scandal. Now, it turns out that his killers were trained in the US. In June, The New York Times reported that four Saudis involved in the killing had received paramilitary training from Tier 1 Group, a private security company based in Arkansas.

This was no renegade operation, however. Tier 1 Group, whose training had approval from the US State Department, is part of a burgeoning global industry. Corporate mercenaries – or, more properly, private security and military companies – are increasingly taking over functions that were once carried out by states, with grave implications for human rights and democracy worldwide. It’s big business, too: Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity fund that owns Tier 1 Group, also owns a string of arms manufacturers. In April 2010, Cerberus merged with DynCorp International, one of the world’s largest corporate mercenary companies. Continue reading

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Press Freedom Advocates Condemn ‘Reckless’ US Shutdown of Iranian News Sites

“These are not actions of good faith negotiators.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-22-2021

Attempts in the United States to access some websites owned by or linked to the Iranian government were met with this message on June 22, 2021. (Photo: screenshot)

Press freedom advocates fumed Tuesday as U.S. authorities without immediate explanation reportedly blocked stateside access to numerous news websites owned by or linked to the Iranian government.

An unnamed U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that around three dozen websites were seized due to their alleged dissemination of “disinformation.” Continue reading

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Reality Winner’s Release From Federal Prison Met With Calls for Full Pardon for the NSA Whistleblower

Winner will serve the rest of her five-year sentence under the supervision of a halfway house.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-14-2021

Screenshot: ABC News

Press freedom advocates were among those celebrating the release of former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner on Monday after her attorney announced Winner had been transferred from federal prison to a halfway house.

Alison Grinter Allen, Winner’s lawyer, said the legal team is continuing to pursue a full pardon from President Joe Biden.
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Sheryl Sandberg and Top Facebook Execs Silenced an Enemy of Turkey to Prevent a Hit to the Company’s Business

Amid a 2018 Turkish military campaign, Facebook ultimately sided with Turkey’s demand to block the page of a mostly Kurdish militia. “I am fine with this,” Sandberg wrote.

By Jack Gillum and Justin Elliott.  Published 2-24-2021 by ProPublica

Sheryl Sandberg. Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr/CC

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

As Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria in early 2018, Facebook’s top executives faced a political dilemma.

Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted. Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments? Continue reading

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Google Workers Form Union to ‘Promote Solidarity, Democracy, and Social and Economic Justice’

The tech titan “has a responsibility to its thousands of workers and billions of users to make the world a better place,” two of the union’s leaders wrote. “We can help build that world.”

By 

The Googleplex (Google headquarters) in Mountain View, CA. Photo: The Pancake of Heaven!/CC

Decrying numerous policies and practices they say violate Google’s “don’t be evil” founding principle, more than 200 of the Silicon Valley tech giant’s workers on Monday announced they are forming a union, a move that was applauded by progressive lawmakers and labor advocates nationwide.

The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU)—named after Google’s parent corporation—says it “strives to protect Alphabet workers, our global society, and our world,” and to “promote solidarity, democracy, and social and economic justice.” It will operate as part of the Communications Workers of America and will be open to all 120,000 of the company’s employees.

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In Effort to ‘Cultivate Hopelessness,’ Trump 2016 Campaign Used Facebook for Deterrence Operation Targeting Millions of Black Voters

The social media giant, said one critic, “is the newest frontier in a long history of suppression of the Black vote.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-28-2020

Photo by Ben Combee from Austin, TX, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign sought to persuade 3.5 million Black voters in key battleground states to stay home on Election Day by targeting them with negative Facebook ads about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a Monday report on Britain’s Channel 4 News.

A massive data leak obtained by the U.K. outlet shows that four years ago Trump’s digital campaign team compiled files on 198 million American voters, which included information about their domestic and economic status obtained from market research companies. An algorithm then divided the voters into eight categories, called “audiences,” so they could be targeted with tailored ads on Facebook and other social media platforms. Continue reading

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Espionage and repression in the Middle East courtesy of the West

Western companies are providing surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

By Jon Hoffman.  Published 5-13-2020 by openDemocracy

Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain

Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.

New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading

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