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The press review catalogues press articles related to la Quadrature's issues, compiled by its volunteers.
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[TheIntercept] How the NSA Plans to Infect 'Millions' of Computers with Malware

Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process.

The classified files – provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware “implants.” The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.


In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.

[ComputerworldUK] Please Contact MEPs: Big Votes in European Parliament

Two of the biggest stories over the last year have been data protection and - of course - Edward Snowden's revelations of massive spying by the NSA and GCHQ on all online activity in Europe (and elsewhere). As it happens, both of these important issues are coming to a head this week: after a preliminary debate tomorrow, on Wednesday the European Parliament will vote on both (draft agenda.) That means we still have time to drop them a friendly email today asking them to support strong privacy and civil liberties in Europe.

[...] another important new document that you might like to read before contacting your MEPs is this testimony [.pdf] from Edward Snowden to the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee.

[...] the NSA has been pressuring European governments to change their laws to make them more convenient for surveillance purposes - which means less protection for European rights. The NSA also plays off EU nations against each other [...]

[Slate] SOPA, copyright voluntary agreements: Hollywood lobbyists are like exes who won't give up.

You know when you break up with someone and they just don’t get the message? A few months later, they’re trying again, [...] They ask you for drinks, just to “catch up,” you know? And then they talk about the way things used to be, and if only you two could try again. And you’re like, “What part of ‘I never want you to be a part of my life’ did you not understand?”

The copyright lobbyists in D.C. are following this ex-boyfriend playbook.

Let’s begin with the breakup. Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Tumblr, YouTube, Reddit, WordPress, and Facebook aren’t responsible for the copyright infringement of each of their millions of users, so long as they take down specific posts, videos, or images when notified by copyright holders. But copyright holders thought that wasn’t good enough. They wanted to take down whole websites, not just particular posts, and without ever going to court. In 2011, they proposed a bill [...] called SOPA. [...]

[TorrentFreak] News Editor Copyright Trolls Pirating Political Party - and Gets Paid

To draw attention to "broken" copyright law, the editor of a popular news site turned the tables on a leading German political party. Finding the government's Social Democratic Party using a Creative Commons work without permission, he sent them a troll-style settlement demand - and got paid.


“After some back and forth, because there were two images on the two websites, 1,800 euros was remitted to me,” [Sebastian] Heiser [Editor at] says. [...]

Underlining the state of today’s “great copyright”, of the 1,800 euros paid ($2,497) Heiser only pocketed 696 euros ($965) since the remaining 1,104 euros ($1,531) went into his lawyer’s bank acccount. Of course, SPD would’ve had to pay legal fees too, estimated at another 1,100 euros.

Total outlay 2,900 euros ($4,023). Amount paid to copyright holder – less than a quarter of that.

[TechDirt] Snowden Gives Testimony To European Parliament Inquiry Into Mass Surveillance, Asks For EU Asylum

A few weeks back, we reported that the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee planned to send some questions to Edward Snowden as part of its inquiry on electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens. He's now replied to these, prefacing them with a short statement (pdf -- embedded below.) Although there are no major revelations -- he specifically states that he will not be disclosing anything not already published -- it does contain many important clarifications and interesting comments. [...]

[TechDirt] Disappointing: DMCA Being Used To Make Feynman Lectures On Physics Less Accessible

[...] It took way too many years to get those [Feynman Lectures on Physics] lectures online after (you guessed it) a fight over copyrights. However, online the lectures went and now it appears that publisher Perseus is unfortunately using the DMCA to block attempts to make the works accessible via Kindle or EPUB formats.

[Spiegel] TTIP, Freihandelsabkommen, EU, USA

Das hoch umstrittene transatlantische Freihandelsabkommen steht auf der Kippe. Der Widerstand ist offenbar auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks so groß, dass die TTIP-Gespräche vorerst zu scheitern drohen.

Tot ist das TTIP-Freihandelsabkommen noch nicht - aber es sieht nicht gut aus für das derzeit ehrgeizigste transatlantische Projekt.


Schuld daran sind politische Bedenken auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks sowie wachsender Widerstand in der Zivilgesellschaft, der sogar die Begeisterung von Wirtschaftsvertretern für das ehrgeizige Projekt gemindert hat.

[30C3] Investor-to-state Dispute Settlement: A Threat To Democracy

Lightning conference that Ante gave at the 30C3, the 30th Chaos communication conference of the German CCC, in Hamburg on 28 December 2013.

Investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) gives multinationals the right to sue states before special tribunals if changes in law may lead to lower profits than expected. Multinationals can challenge environmental policies, health policies and reform of copyright and patent law. A growing number of civil society groups see ISDS as a threat to democracy.

See also:

ISDS gives multinationals the right to sue states before special tribunals if changes in law may lead to lower profits than expected. Multinationals can challenge reform of copyright and patent law, challenge environmental and health policies.

How does the ISDS system work?

International trade and investment agreements give foreign investors greater rights than citizens and local companies, even expected future profits are protected.

On top of that, investor-to-state dispute settlement gives foreign investors the right to bypass the local court system and use international arbitration. Tribunals consisting of three investment lawyers decide the cases. These tribunals can overturn decisions of supreme courts.

Let me give three examples.

After the nuclear disaster in Japan, the German government decided to close down two nuclear reactors. The Swedish company Vattenfall now claims 3.7 billion euro using investor-to-state dispute settlement.

Second example: Australia introduced health warnings on tobacco packaging. Tobacco company Philip Morris claimed that their trade marks lost value, and sued Australia in local courts. Philip Morris lost the court case and then started an ISDS arbitration case. As a result, Australia decided not to sign treaties with ISDS clauses any more.

Third example: Canada made some minor adjustments to its patent system to ascertain better access to medicine. United States pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly now claims 500 million dollar in ISDS arbitration.

Captive in-crowd

Arbitrators have enormous powers. They also have a negative incentive. Unlike judges, they are paid by the hour or by the day, very well paid. They have an incentive to let cases drag on. And they have an incentive to make the system more important by taking multinational friendly decisions.

The negative incentive has negative consequences. The legal costs are skyrocketing, in some cases the legal costs are more than 30 million dollar. The number of cases is rising sharply. The damages are rising.

Arbitrators wear many hats. They may also act as government official negotiating investment treaties, corporate lobbyist advocating investor-to-state dispute settlement, council defending the interest of corporations, media commentator and professor. The editorial boards of key journals consist of 50 to 100 percent arbitrators. (CEO and TNI, 2012)

International investors and investment lawyers are natural allies. The small community of arbitrators is a captive in-crowd (they share ideas and interests with the investors). A very powerful captive in-crowd.


The ISDS tribunals can overturn decisions of supreme courts. ISDS is best understood as a transfer of sovereignty. It gives investors equal standing to states. And it gives investment lawers the power to decide in conflicts between investors and states.

Investors and investment lawyers are natural allies. So, in conflicts between investors and states, the natural allies of investors take the decisions. The system is fundamentally flawed.

There is no excuse for this. Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz points out that companies can take an insurance against expropriation:

"There is no reason that foreign-owned property should be better protected than property owned by a country’s own citizens. Moreover, if constitutional guarantees are not enough to convince investors (...) foreigners can always avail themselves of expropriation insurance provided by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (a division of the World Bank) or numerous national organizations providing such insurance." (Joseph Stiglitz, 2013)

He also explains what is really behind ISDS:

"But those supporting the investment agreements are not really concerned about protecting property rights, anyway. The real goal is to restrict governments’ ability to regulate and tax corporations – that is, to restrict their ability to impose responsibilities, not just uphold rights. Corporations are attempting to achieve by stealth – through secretly negotiated trade agreements – what they could not attain in an open political process."

ISDS threatens our ability to reform copyright and patent law, to protect our privacy, to protect our health and environment. Vital interests are at stake.

What can we do?

European countries signed many bilateral investment treaties, but since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU gained competence. From now on, the European Commission will negotiate and the European Parliament has a veto. We have a unique chance now to get things right. Consumer and environmental groups already did a lot of work. The parliament is critical about ISDS. The digital community can help to tip the scale.

Note that adding safeguards to the system is not enough. A powerful captive incrowd can always find a way around safeguards. The only solution is exclusion, no investor-to-state dispute settlement in EU trade agreements.

Next year, there will be elections for the European Parliament. I suggest we try to keep proponents of investor-to-state dispute settlement out of the parliament.


[30C3] Hacking With Care

Lightning conference that Emily and Baba gave at the 30C3, the 30th Chaos Communication Congress of the German CCC, in Hamburg on 28 December 2013.

Hacking (with) care is a versatile, collaborative initiative which purpose is to bring balance, embodiment, body & soul awareness and care to the hackers' communities, living by the shared ethics of goodness for all, joyful creativity, freedom and sharing of knowledge.

Hacking (with) care explores questions relative to hackers' psychological and physical well-being and health, and looks at how a sense of freedom in the technological realms can relate to a sense of freedom in one's life. We seek to encourage vitality and (data)love potentialities to blossom both on and away from keyboards. We also feel we want to return the favor to those who, often behind their computers, care for all of us by engaging everyday in straining battles for freedom.

See also:

Emily:Hello. So, I am Emily and this is Baba and we are Hacking With Care. Hacking with care is a project, a collective project to care for hackers-who-care, and help them care for themselves and others. Before we go any further, we are going to stretch our tongue and face so that speaking will be easier and I suggest that you do the same with us. So, imagine a big lion, and stick the tongue out really far, open your eyes very wide, and lets go, three, two, one... alright so anytime that you have tensions in the jaws you can do that. It's really nice for teeth-grinders, people who grind their teeth at night. And it's really good before giving a talk. And so now Baba is ready to talk.

Baba: Hackers by definition have no limits. Their only limitation is, yet, the body. In order to survive, one has to take care of his body and organs. I must say at this point that we do not endorse the post-human clique theory. It's mostly the opposite: Very ancient techniques can provide solution to very new problems that hackers encounter. Yoga, or traditional Chinese medecine, are solutions to usual problems, to everyday problems. By training, by doing a training routine, ten minutes every day, one can feel one's own body. Like computers we can start the day by a boot sequence. You don't need to be a super hero to stretch yourself. Stretching is natural.

Emily:The way that we see massage and techniques like yoga, we see them as very successful examples of peer-to-peer. You know some go back thousands of years and so it's also an example of arts that are, free, still free, for, in the most part, free knowledge, very open protocols, so in that way we identify also with hackers' ethics and this is the way that we practice. We want to support regeneration of resistance, that vital forces of people who engage in defense and creation of freedoms, feel good and don't burn out doing so, so we want to share what we know about that. I wanted to tell you also, that once before giving a massage to someone, I asked him where he was feeling pain in his body, and he answered that the world was a chronic pain. In many aspects it is true, so we want, with this project, to help you, that this pain doesn't embed in your body and so that you, so we all do what we have to do for the common good without breaking.
More exercises.

Baba:We want to show you rapidly some basic exercises that hackers can do. First of all, yoga of the eyes, because we're always looking in front of a screen, so the yoga of the eyes is like this and we train our eyes like this. The second one is for the muscles of the arms. We can do two corners like this and it helps to strech the...

Emily: ...tendons so you don't get tendonitis from clicking all day. Another one is for the fingers.

Baba:We are making a survey and we would like to invite you to contribute to the survey. If you know some tricks, to help you every day, we would like to compile this and make a...

Emily: ...we want to build a well being hack box, so we have a survey on our blog if you want to contribute with your own tricks.

Baba: ...and we would like to invite you to the fourth level to the Tea House and La Quadrature where you can have a massage and some tea.


[TorrentFreak] Lawyers Sent 109,000 Piracy Threats in Germany During 2013

Over the past eight years Germany has earned a reputation as a leader when it comes to file-sharing settlement demands and last year was no different. New stats reveal 446 rightsholders sent 109,000 threat letters in 2013, seeking a cool 90.3 million euros ($124m) in compensation.

The file-sharing settlement business has humble roots, but is now turning into big business. As revealed last week, Rightscorp is growing its operation in leaps and bounds, obtaining tens of thousands of settlements from US-based users on behalf of rightsholders.


It was hoped that new legislation (Improper Business Practices Act) introduced last October would assist by imposing transparency requirements on law firms sending out letters and capping the amounts they can claim. But according to Christian Solmecke [of the Wilde Beuger Solmecke law firm], the law firms involved have adjusted accordingly.

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