Displaying items by tag: US Government

Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei is preparing to take the US government to court in an effort to the challenge the decision taken by the US congress which prohibits federal agencies from using its equipment.

The New York Times is reporting that the embattled Chinese vendor is now preparing to file a lawsuit against that legislation which was passed through the US House of Representatives.

Sources close to Huawei have leaked that the telecommunications company plans to argue the measure amounts to a so-called bill of attainder, which penalizes the vendor for a penalty without the benefit of a trial, which is illegal under the US Constitution.

The US has adopted a very aggressive approach towards Huawei and ZTE, and the latter was almost pushed the point of bankruptcy following draconian measures implemented by the US Department of Commerce.

In August of last year, President Donald Trump signed into law a defence spending bill which included a clause banning government agencies and contractors from using equipment from Huawei and fellow Chinese vendor ZTE.

At the time, Huawei labelled the bill ‘misguided and unconstitutional’ – and blasted the decision taken by the Trump administration.

The lawsuit by Huawei is expected to be filed on 7 March in a federal court in Texas, where Huawei has its US headquarters.

The move comes as Huawei battles assertions from the US that it poses a security threat to telecommunications networks. The US has lobbied other nations in banning Huawei from their 5G networks, such as Australia and New Zealand, and is also attempting to pressure European countries such as the UK and France.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said countries that use Huawei equipment risk losing the US as a business and trade partner over the alleged security threat.

However, during his keynote address on stage at MWC19 Barcelona last week, Huawei rotating chairman Guo Ping blasted the US campaign against the company saying officials have “no evidence, nothing” to back up their claims.

Published in Telecom Vendors

US government is set to intervene into the long-running saga between technology giants Apple, the EU and the Irish government. The EU ordered the iPhone maker to pay back €13 billion in taxes it claimed it owed Ireland.

However, in a bizarre turn of the events the Irish government rejected the EU’s ruling that it was owed €13 billion in back taxes and said that Apple hadn’t breached any tax laws in Ireland. The EU insisted that Apple had secured favorable tax incentives from the Irish government which amounted to illegal subsidies and issued the record tax demand against the US tech leaders.

Apple decided to take its case to Luxembourg-based General Court, which is Europe’s second highest in December in light of the ruling by the EU. The decision by the EU was heavily criticized by the Obama administration which alleged that the EU was attempting to help itself to cash that should have ended up in the US.

The Trump administration has subsequently proposed a tax break on $2.6 trillion in corporate profits being held offshore as part of its own tax reform, although it has not stated anything in public in relation to Apple’s tax row with the EU.

A source close to the case that who wishes to remain anonymous confirmed that the US had filed an application with the EU in relation to the long-running saga between Apple and EU decision-makers. The source said, “I can confirm the United States filed an application with the European Union General Court to intervene in the case involving the retroactive application of state aid rules to Apple.”

It has also been reported that The General Court will deal with the case in late 2018, although that has not been officially confirmed. Apple firmly believes that it is a convenient target for the EU and that EU competition enforcer used an ‘absurd theory in coming with the punitive figure. Other companies currently embroiled with the EU in relation to tax issues in Luxembourg are Amazon and McDonalds.

Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Starbucks, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and several other companies that were also ordered to pay back taxes to other EU countries have similarly challenged their EU rulings.

Published in Government

Social networking colossus Facebook is challenging a gag order from a US court that is currently preventing the organization from talking about three government search warrants. However, Facebook is claiming that the preventative measures implemented by the US court pose a threat to freedom of speech.

According to reports and court documents, Facebook wants to notify three of its users about the search warrants that are seeking their communications and information, and to provide those users with the opportunity to object to the warrants.

Facebook released a statement on the gag order and expressed its concern over a breach of the First Amendment concerns with this particular case. Facebook said: "We believe there are important First Amendment concerns with this case, including the government's refusal to let us notify three people of broad requests for their account information in connection with public events.”

The First Amendment to the US constitution guarantees certain rights including freedom of speech; however, William Miller, a spokesman for US prosecutors declined to comment on Facebook’s decision to challenge the gag order. In an undated court document it said that Facebook decided to challenge the gag order around the three warrants on the basis that free speech was at stake – and that the events underlying the government’s investigation were generally known to the public.

It has not yet been disclosed what the precise nature of the government’s investigation is; however, there have been suggestions that the timing of the proceedings coincide with charges against people who protested at Donald Trump’s inauguration in January. On the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president - over 200 people were arrested in Washington as masked activists threw rocks at police, whilst multiple vehicles were set on fire.

Technology firms have consistently complied with thousands of requests for user data made on an annual basis by the government around the world, but in extraordinary circumstances, leading tech entities such as Microsoft and Twitter have defied and challenged government secrecy orders. Facebook fought a secrecy order in April, in relation to a disability fraud investigation, but it lost the case in New York highest state court.

Facebook says about half of U.S. requests are accompanied by a non-disclosure order prohibiting it from notifying affected users. In April, a local judge in Washington denied Facebook's request to remove the gag order there, according to the document. Facebook is appealing and has preserved the relevant records pending the outcome, the document said.

"The government can only insulate its actions from public scrutiny in this way in the rarest circumstances, which likely do not apply here," said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for digital rights.

Published in Apps

On March 7 2017, WikiLeaks began its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named "Vault 7" by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency. The first full part of the series, "Year Zero", comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.

The technology industry has been scrambling to understand the implications of the alleged CIA hacking arsenal described in the WikiLeaks documents, which is said to be capable of spying on phones and other connected devices – even end-to-end encrypted applications like WhatsApp.

Major technology firms, such as Apple and Samsung, have responded to the revelations saying they are looking closely at the released documents. Apple said in a release, "While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue to work rapidly to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities."

Samsung responded publicly to the revelations, saying: "We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter." Meanwhile, Microsoft said it is "aware of the report" and is "looking into it".

Some analysts, however, doubt the severity of the leaked documents, especially because they have not been confirmed as authentic yet. The 2013 revelations from former US national security contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed mass surveillance tools used by the National Security Agency, are seen by some as more controversial.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers, says a WikiLeaks release.

The agency's hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5,000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware.

Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons, says the WikiLeaks release.

"These are targeted mechanisms; they can't be used for bulk intelligence," said Joseph Hall, a technologist with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights organization. "It means they can't attack things in the middle and the core of the network, they have to go to the endpoints, and that's actually a nice thing. You have to be more precise about who you are targeting."

But the report raises serious concerns about the US government's promise to disclose security flaws to technology firms under a so-called "vulnerabilities equities process." The pledge suggests that "security flaws should get back to the companies so they can get fixed, and not languish for years," said Hall.

The leaked documents by WikiLeaks indicates that the CIA has tools that could turn smart TVs into listening devices, bypass popular encryption apps such as WhatsApp, and potentially control connected automobiles. The documents suggest CIA tools have targeted iPhones, Android systems which is what US President Donald Trump's personal phone uses, and also popular Microsoft software.

Open Whisper Systems, the company that developed the technology for the communications tool Signal, said the CIA documents showed its encryption works. The WikiLeaks report "is about getting malware onto phones, none of the exploits are in Signal or break Signal Protocol encryption," the group said in a tweet. Other encryption experts agreed.

In a blog post, Steve Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science researcher, said the existence of these hacking tools is "a testimonial to the strength of the encryption." He said it's "hard or impossible to break, so the CIA is resorting to expensive, targeted attacks."

Other experts suggest that the hacks are simply a method of the CIA to trick people into installing their software. "Snowden revealed how the NSA was surveilling all Americans," said Robert Graham, a researcher with Errata Security.

"Nothing like that appears in the CIA dump. It's all legitimate spy stuff (assuming you think spying on foreign adversaries is legitimate)."

Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at IBM Resilient and a frequent critic of government surveillance, said on his blog: "There is absolutely nothing illegal in the contents of any of this stuff. It's exactly what you'd expect the CIA to be doing in cyberspace."

Published in Government

US Government pledges $400m for 5G development

Written on Monday, 18 July 2016 07:49

The US Government has taken a significant step to securing the nation’s leadership in the rapidly developing 5G mobile industry, announcing of a $400 million Advanced Wireless Research Initiative led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enable the deployment and use of four city-scale testing platforms for advanced wireless research over the next decade.

The move follows a decision the FCC on 14 July that makes the US the first country in the world to set aside vast quantities of high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum available for both licensed and unlicensed use.

The $400m R&D initiative includes: an $85 million investment in advanced wireless testing platforms by a public-private effort, including NSF and more than 20 technology companies and associations; plans by NSF to invest an additional $350 million over the next seven years in academic research that can use these testing platforms; and complementary efforts by other Federal agencies.

NSF said the four city-scale testing platforms would each deploy a network of software-defined radio antennas city-wide, mimicking the existing cellular network and allowing academic researchers, entrepreneurs, and wireless companies to test, prove and refine their technologies and software algorithms in a real-world setting.

“These platforms will allow researchers to conduct at-scale experiments of laboratory-or-campus-based proofs-of-concept, and will also allow four American cities, chosen based on open competition, to establish themselves as global destinations for wireless research and development,” NSF said.

It also announced a range of private sector companies that would participate in the research: AT&T, Carlson Wireless, CommScope, HTC, Intel, InterDigital, Juniper Networks, Keysight Technologies, National Instruments, Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs, Oracle Qualcomm, Samsung, Shared Spectrum, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, Viavi Solutions.

Published in Government

The US Government’s development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has commenced the initial disbursement of a $250 million loan to Apollo Towers Myanmar to fund the rollout of its mobile tower network. It is OPIC’s first financing in Myanmar.

Investors TPG Growth, Tillman Global Holdings, and Myanmar Investments International Limited facilitated the loan process and will continue to partner with Apollo on its expansion. Apollo has built approximately 1,800 towers since commencing operations in 2014 and plans to build more than 2,000 additional towers in its next phase of development.  During this time Myanmar’s mobile phone penetration has increased from five percent to more than 75 percent.

Apollo provides services to all three licensed operators in Myanmar: Telenor of Norway, Ooredoo of Qatar, and Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. As one of the earliest entrants in the local tower development market, it was able to secure very crucial and strategically valuable tower sites. It provides wireless operators coverage in key urban areas as well as along highway routes, and offers an integrated tower and power solution sourced from global suppliers.

TPG Growth’s 2014 investment in Apollo was its first investment in Myanmar and, it claims, the first in the country by a leading Western private equity firm. U Thura Ko Ko, Managing Director of Myanmar-based YGA Capital Limited and Senior Advisor to TPG, said:  “It’s an incredibly exciting time in Myanmar, and there is tremendous opportunity for investment. The advantage Myanmar has in having a late start, in terms of building infrastructure, is that we can develop in a way that is smart, efficient, and in collaboration with the right partners.”

OPIC mobilizes private capital to help address critical development challenges and in doing so, advances US foreign policy and national security priorities and helps US businesses gain footholds in emerging markets. It provides investors with financing, political risk insurance and support for private equity investment funds when commercial funding cannot be obtained elsewhere.  It was established as an agency of the US Government in 1971.

Published in Finance