Obama’s Secret Afghan Trip Almost Undone By Tweet

Air Force OnePresident Obama made what was meant to be a secret trip to Kabul this week to sign a post-war agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. However news that Air Force One had touched down in Afghanistan was tweeted by a local Afghan news agency. The trip was intended to be kept secret for obvious security reasons, although once something is said on Twitter it is very hard to contain it.

The first American media organisation to make mention of the visit was The Huffington Post, with Joshua Hersh posting the following update:

Is this right? RT @TOLOnews BREAKING: United States President Barack Obama has arrived in Kabul to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In reaction to this the US Embassy in Kabul tweeted to denial TOLO’s report, saying that any news of President Obama being in Afghanistan was false. However, Joshua Hersh wasn’t prepared to let this story go as he posted more updates questioning whether or not Obama was in Kabul, and also referenced the fact that all roads leading to the US Embassy there were blocked.

Eventually the story was broken by The Associated Press who were able to confirm the purpose of the trip:

BREAKING: President Obama in Afghanistan on an unannounced trip to sign agreement on US post-war role.

While in this case it was not the US government nor military who let the cat out of the bag, it does serve as a timely reminder that when things are said on any open forum they no longer remain secret and it can be a mad scramble to limit the potential damage. When dealing with anything even remotely sensitive or secret then using a method of private sharing would be advisable.

CISPA Author Feels Confident About Collaborative Progress

Security, internet privacy and state intervention are all hot topics at the moment. The current proposals in the UK for GCHQ to be able to monitor web activity and electronic communications in the name of ‘national security’ have been met with fierce opposition from personal freedom and privacy advocates. Yet the man behind the latest US bill, CISPA, thinks that a happy medium is near to being reached.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers is the primary sponsor of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). He feels that by collaborating with the technology industry, privacy groups and big name companies in the online world, they can together come to an agreement on terms for a bill that protects the privacy interests of the individual, while protecting the security of the US as a whole.

“We’ve got a coalition of companies in the high-tech industry supporting the bill…because we’ve listened to people’s concerns and incorporated them. It’s truly a collaborative effort” he told Mashable.

The aim of CISPA is to encourage cyber threat communication between businesses and government. In the world we live in, attacks no longer have to be physical nor carried out by terrorists to cause widespread damage to a country. State-sponsored attacks that seek to obtain top-secret information from US firms in order to give foreign countries an unfair advantage in the global marketplace are among Rogers’ concerns.

By creating an environment where companies can create a pool of knowledge pertaining to cyber attacks that they have previously fallen victim to, CISPA hopes to provide a means for others to prepare for those sort of eventualities.

Big names such as Facebook and Microsoft have publicly announced their support of CISPA, along with almost 30 other organisations, while Engine Advocacy, an organisation dedicated to bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C, have withdrawn their opposition to the bill.

However, not everyone is behind this proposed legislation. The Electronic Front Foundation (EFF) and Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) are seeking to inform the public about what they see are the dangers of CISPA, while others believe the vagueness of the bill will allow the government to snoop on internet users’ emails, texts and social media interactions.

It’s a very interesting topic, with strong arguments and heated debate emanating from both sides of the table. What are your views on this? Do you think that in the time of a crisis it is acceptable for the government to pop the hood and see what’s going on, or is it never justifiable for the state to monitor private communications?

Home Office Website Hacked, Anonymous Claim Responsibility

The website of the British Home Office is thought to have become the latest victim of the hacking group Anonymous. On Saturday evening the site was inaccessible, with a message simply displaying: “Due to a high volume of traffic this page is currently unavailable.”

While the site was down there were tweets from Anonymous claiming responsibility for what appears to have been a denial-of-service attack:

anonymous twitter account

Anonymous had actually warned of their planned attack well in advance of the site being down, with tweets and posts about taking down the Home Office site appearing online as early as Wednesday last week.

Explaining the reason behind this particular attack, one digital flyer said that the action was taking place in support of three Britons facing deportation to the US on various charges – Gary McKinnon (hacking), Christopher Tappin (arms dealing), and Richard O’Dwyer (copyright infringement).

One of the articles attempting to galvanize Anonymous sympathisers into helping with the attack was accompanied by this statement: “A faction of hactivist group Anonymous in the UK has invited its supporters to draw digital arms in protest against the extradition of three UK citizens to the US.”

This incident is said to be particularly embarrassing for the Home Office given that this sort of attack (denial-of-service) is one of the least complicated tools at a hacker’s disposal, as well as the fact that they were warned about it well in advance.

During the attack on Saturday a Home Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the situation and are working on it.”