Category Archives: Security

‘WHAT?’ Even Theresa May is shocked by Gove’s flapdoodle about post-Brexit security

Bewilderment: Theresa May actually said, “What?” in the middle of Michael Gove’s answer to her question, it made so little sense.

If you saw Theresa May’s reaction to Michael Gove in Parliament this afternoon (October 19), you might have had a lot of sympathy for her.

The former prime minister spent her entire term in office wrestling with the problems raised by Brexit, so when Gove’s responded to a serious question about security with a mouthful of bafflegab, it’s no wonder she did what she did.

She had asked: “The government appears resigned to the prospect of no deal, yet one area in which they should not be resigned to the prospect of no deal is in security. I note that my Right Honourable friend made no mention of security in his statement this afternoon, and the prime minister made no reference to security in his letter to Parliamentarians on 16th October. So will my Rt Hon friend confirm that if the UK walks away with no deal, then our police and other law enforcement agencies will no longer have the necessary access to databases such as PNR, in order to be able to continue to identify and catch criminals and potential terrorists in order to keep us safe?”

Here’s the response – and her reaction:

Let’s have that reaction again:

Gove had not answered her question so she was right to react in that way – and it’s reasonable for you to sympathise with that reaction…

… as long as you remember everything Owen Jones mentions here:

Some people have taken to criticising him lately but when he’s right, he’s right.

The message is right – shame about the messenger.

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UK’s coronavirus ‘test and trace’ system is as much a shambles as previous measures

Test and trace: testing can’t be done everywhere in the UK yet, and the information from those tests, along with that for contact tracing, is not secure.

There’s an old adage: “start as you mean to go on”. It seems with Covid-19 that the Tory government has taken it to heart – it started badly, and has got worse.

Plans to trace people who have been in contact with others who have caught the disease have been in disarray since February, when initial attempts to trace Covid-19 contacts were called off.

The Johnson administration tried resorting to technology, with a contact-tracing app for mobile phones that it has been testing on the Isle of Wight.

But the system, developed in co-operation with private contractors, has caused such controversy that many have refused to have anything to do with it.

It has wide-ranging security flaws that allow the data collected by the app to be used for purposes other than those for which it was collected.

The researchers detail seven different problems they found with the app.

They include:

  • weaknesses in the registration process that could allow attackers to steal encryption keys, which would allow them to prevent users being notified if a contact tested positive for Covid-19 and/or generate spoof transmissions to create logs of bogus contact events
  • storing unencrypted data on handsets that could potentially be used by law enforcement agencies to determine when two or more people met
  • generating a new random ID code for users once a day rather than once every 15 minutes as is the case in a rival model developed by Google and Apple. The longer gap theoretically makes it possible to determine if a user is having an affair with a work colleague or meeting someone after work, it is suggested

Apparently the information is currently downloaded to a centralised database, where it could be leaked or otherwise abused.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said on Monday a new law to protect people “is not needed because the Data Protection Act will do the job” and NHSX – the health service’s digital innovation unit – has said using the centralised model will both make it easier to improve the app over time and trigger alerts based on people’s self-diagnosed symptoms rather than just medical test results.

They don’t seem to have our interests at heart, really, do they?

Management of the app is planned to be outsourced to a private firm in the middle of June, according to contract details released by NHSX, and computer engineers working in other European countries and the Far East will have access to the app as part of a troubleshooting role agreed between the NHS and the Swiss firm.

A new, manual test-and-trace regime was introduced across the UK on May 28 but it, too, has problems.

For a start, it has been revealed that personal information collected by both the manual system and the app will be kept for 20 years.

We can ask for it to be deleted, but we are not being given the right to demand it.

And the website explaining what will happen to our data seems to have been either rushed out so that it is riddled with mistakes, or deliberately written to contain terminology that has no legal meaning in the UK.

So, for example, it states that our “personal identifiable information” (a US legal concept) is “governed by the GDPR” (a UK / European law). The phrase is therefore meaningless.

And This Writer has heard that the manual system is not running in some parts of the UK, where the NHS was not ready to roll it out.

So if anybody caught it in London and then travelled to a part of the country that isn’t running test-and-trace (let’s suggest purely for the sake of example, Durham) then the information would be lost and it is possible that infected people would be missed.

These problems are not going to go away.

We have a flawed system that does not cover the whole nation and that seems designed to create problems going forward for years to come. It is typical of the Tories cack-handed attitude to the whole Covid-19 crisis.

Source: Coronavirus: Test and trace system will start on Thursday – BBC News

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Grayling put in charge of intelligence committee – we live in an age of Orwellian doublespeak

Chris Grayling: He’s as clever as he looks.

This announcement makes it extremely unlikely that we’ll ever see the so-called ‘Russia report’ on interference by that country’s government in UK politics:

Chris Grayling has been named as Downing Street’s choice to head the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), that is responsible for publishing the report.

It’s further proof that the Conservative government has adopted George Orwell’s concept of “doublethink” – the acceptance of two diametrically-opposed concepts at the same time.

Why else would they put a dimwit of Grayling’s magnitude in charge of an intelligence committee?

The Russian interference report has been ready to be published since the end of October 2019, but was delayed when the election was called, and then subsequently delayed again until the ISC reconvened.

So it’s already five months late.

With Grayling in charge, that report may never see the light of day.

The choice has provoked fury, even from Conservative MPs.

But here’s a thing: If they kick up a fuss that delays the committee from reconvening, won’t that set publication of the ‘Russia report’ back even further? Is that what Boris Johnson wants?

Source: Chris Grayling set to head up committee in charge of releasing Russian intelligence report | Latest Brexit news and top stories | The New European

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Priti Patel: threat or menace?

Priti Patel: why is she always smirking?

Is Priti Patel trying to take advantage of Boris Johnson’s long absence (he hasn’t been seen for nine days at the time of writing) to make a bid to become the bete noir of the Conservative Party?

First she flaunted her racist credentials by claiming that Johnson isn’t one when he so obviously is – and by proposing a racist immigration policy that, if it had been imposed in the 1960s, would have prevented her parents from coming to the UK – and her from being born here.

Now there is controversy over whether our security services are happy for her to be at briefings or consider her a risk:

Ms Patel would have brought any distrust on herself after being sacked from Theresa May’s cabinet for trying to conduct her own foreign policy in Israel.

And she seems unable to have a simple conversation with staff without upsetting them:

The only rational explanation would be that she is trying to take some of the heat off her prime minister – who, by the way, hasn’t been seen for nine days (at the time of writing), despite the national flooding emergency – although he hasn’t bothered to declare it as such – and all the other crises that have been going on.

But let’s be honest with ourselves: nobody really believes it’s that, do we?

She simply acting true to character.

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Tory incompetence: Cabinet Office publishes home addresses of Honours recipients

Data publication: This is how the recipients of the New Year Honours probably responded to the announcement that their private details had been made public by the government.

They really can’t complain. We can be sure most of the New Year Honours recipients voted for this kind of Tory ineptitude so they can’t make much of a fuss about having received it.

Yes, the Tory-run Cabinet Office has managed to publish the home addresses of celebrities including Elton John and cricketer Ben Stokes, alongside those of police officers, politicians like Iain Duncan Smith and Ministry of Defence staff, and hundreds of “unsung” local heroes.

The Tory government even made the details available in an easily-downloadable list – to make it extra easy for enemies of the state to access the home addresses of its defenders.

The spreadsheet was posted on the government website at 10.30pm on Friday (December 27), and was taken down early today (December 28).

But experts reckon the breach will be hard to remedy, now it has happened. Even if the number of people who downloaded the list is known – along with their identities, how many of them will have passed it on? It could spread like a virus.

Clearly the Tory government doesn’t have the slightest idea about data protection and cannot stick by the rules that it made for itself.

Of course we already knew that. The biggest security risk in the country is current prime minister Boris Johnson.

The Tories passed a new Data Protection Act last year, intended to ensure that sensitive information of this kind would not be broadcast by organisations such as, say, Her Majesty’s Government.

The Cabinet Office, which published the list, is responsible for supporting the National Security Council and the Joint Intelligence Organisation. It coordinates the government’s response to crises and manages the UK’s cybersecurity.

So we’re all doomed, obviously.

Source: Government exposes addresses of new year honours recipients

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It is Boris Johnson – not Jeremy Corbyn – who is a risk to the UK’s security

If The Sun is to be believed (and it isn’t), the UK general election has now descended to such a farcical level that people are being asked to decide which of the main party leaders poses the lowest risk to national security.

That’s what I get from the front page of today’s Sun, anyway:

But we’ve been here before – less than five months ago – when the papers were saying it was Mr Johnson who was the risk:

Back then, it was fellow Tory Jeremy Hunt who sounded the alarm, claiming Mr Johnson’s tumultuous private life (about which I hope I don’t have to state much here, I hope) made him a prime candidate for blackmail by foreign powers. Indeed, it seems former prime minister Theresa May blocked him from receiving sensitive information on the grounds that it would be unsafe with him – although Mr Johnson himself has denied this.

Since then, we have experienced several scandals which tend to support this theory.

First, Mr Johnson was alleged to be in hock to a cadre of shadowy hedge fund bosses who allegedly funded his campaign to become the leader of the Tory Party – in return for which, it was claimed, he was to deliver a “no deal” Brexit from which they would profit by a staggering £8 billion.

Then it was suggested that a report on Russia’s possible influence over UK politics may include revelations indicating that Mr Johnson is in the pocket of the Kremlin.

How risible, then – how ridiculous – that Mr Johnson’s allegations against Mr Corbyn include a claim that the Labour leader would “bow down” to the Kremlin.

Like the other lies which The Sun presented as if they were true – that Mr Corbyn has a history of siding with the IRA and Palestinian terrorists – there isn’t a scrap of truth to it.

The claims about the IRA are in fact references to the fact that Mr Corbyn kept on good terms with all political sides in the so-called ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland; if he had not done so, the Good Friday Agreement would have been much more difficult to achieve. In contrast, when he was doing this in the 1980s and 90s, Conservative governments led by Margaret Thatcher and John Major were negotiating with the real terrorists – and lying about it to the general public.

The allegations about connections with Palestinian terrorism have all been disproved and dismissed. They seem to revolve around the fact that Mr Corbyn advocates a peaceful solution to hostilities between the Israeli government and the people of Palestine. It seems strange that a politician who calls for peace should be said to be siding with terrorists, but that’s Tory logic for you.

So it seems Mr Johnson has put another choice before the people of the UK:

Do you believe the lies about Jeremy Corbyn – or the facts about Mr Johnson?

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Williamson sacked as defence secretary over Huawei leak – but was it really him?

Tight-lipped: But will Gavin Williamson have something explosive to say about Theresa May’s decision to fire him as Defence Secretary?

Theresa May has sacked Gavin Williamson as Defence Secretary, saying she has “lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of defence secretary and as a member of her cabinet”.

It appears he is to take responsibility for an embarrassing leak from the National Security Council, stating that Huawei is to take a contract to help provide the UK’s 5G network, despite concerns over spyware funnelling information to the Chinese government.

But was he really to blame?

Mr Williamson himself is on the record as swearing on his children’s life that he had nothing to do with the leak.

But it seems an inquiry run by Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill has found that he was responsible for the leak, which has angered the United States government, which has banned Huawei from government networks and pressurised the UK to do the same.

Alternatively, some have suggested that the US is simply protecting its interests, saying Huawei provides better service than American firms.

According to The Independent, Mr Williamson is said to believe his firing was “politically motivated”.

He may now face prosecution and the loss of his Parliamentary seat if a by-election is triggered.

According to The Independent:

In a damning letter to Mr Williamson, she wrote that “no other credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified”.

Ms May said the leak inquiry had “been conducted fairly, with the full co-operation of other NSC attendees”.

“They have all answered questions, engaged properly, provided as much information as possible to assist with the investigation, and encouraged their staff to do the same,” she wrote, adding: “Your conduct has not been of the same standard as others.”

Ms May continued: “In our meeting this evening, I put to you the latest information from the investigation, which provides compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure. No other credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified.

“It is vital that I have full confidence in the members of my cabinet and of the National Security Council. The gravity of this issue alone, and its ramifications for the operation of the NSC and the UK’s national interest, warrants the serious steps we have taken, and an equally serious response.”

And now she says she considers the matter closed. Is she protesting too much?

Source: Gavin Williamson sacked: Theresa May fires defence secretary over Huawei leak | The Independent


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People think the Gatwick airport ‘drone’ story was invented by the government to distract from Brexit

The usual suspect: This witty little piccie was spotted on Twitter.

Be honest: It wouldn’t surprise you one bit if Theresa May was responsible for the drones that brought Gatwick Airport to a standstill this week.

Of course there are some who would blame Jeremy Corbyn (the following is humorous, though) …

… but the empirical evidence suggests it couldn’t have been him. That’s unless you think he would do it to highlight the fact that Labor was right two years ago, of course:

The reaction of government ministers to the airport situation has been risible, to say the least.

If there is a serious side to this, many people are finding it hard to see. For instance:

https://twitter.com/MontyBestUK/status/1075819200701181958

The reaction of @MontyBestUK demonstrates the danger presented by the Conservative government’s behaviour.

The Tories have failed to retain the confidence of the British public (the confidence of Parliament is another matter entirely), and people are finding it easy to believe they could be behind “scare” stunts that distract the media from Theresa May’s failure over Brexit.

Comedian Mark Steel reinforces the point:

Gatwick itself has returned to normal – more or less, as Mishal Husain reported earlier:

But how long do you think it will be until the Tories decide to ban ordinary UK citizens from owning and using drones?

And if Mrs May hoped this drone incident really would distract us from her Brexit woes, she is mistaken.

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