New York, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — U.S. Attorney General William Barr and other U.S., U.K. and Australian officials are pressing Facebook to give authorities a way to read encrypted messages sent by ordinary users, re-igniting tensions between tech companies and law enforcement.
Facebook’s WhatsApp already uses so-called end-to-end encryption, which locks up messages so that even Facebook can’t read their contents. Facebook plans to extend that protection to Messenger and Instagram Direct.
But the officials will ask Facebook to hold off in an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg . A copy of the letter, dated Friday, was obtained by The Associated Press.
“Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes,” the officials wrote. The letter repeatedly emphasizes the dangers of child sexual exploitation to justify their stance.
Law enforcement has long sought a way to read encrypted messages that’s analogous to wiretaps for phone calls. Security experts, however, say giving police such access makes messaging insecure for everyone. Redesigning encryption to create “backdoors” for police also creates vulnerabilities that criminals or foreign spies can exploit, they say.
“Every couple of years, the FBI rears its ugly head and tells us they need to have access to end-to-end encrypted messaging,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group. “You cannot make a backdoor that only good guys can go through.”
Facebook said Thursday that people have the right to have private conversations online and that companies are already able to respond to government agencies when they receive valid legal requests. "We strongly oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement.
The letter marks yet another salvo in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to persuade technology companies to weaken or bypass encryption upon requests from law enforcement.
Former FBI Director James Comey championed the need for law enforcement to find a workaround for encrypted devices and communications. He led a highly publicized push to gain access to an iPhone belonging to one perpetrator of a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people in 2015.
Apple resisted such efforts and went to court to block an FBI demand for Apple to disable security measures that complicated efforts to guess the phone’s passcode. While the FBI cast its request as a limited emergency measure, CEO Tim Cook argued that the technique could easily be used again, making iPhone users more vulnerable to spies and thieves. The FBI relented after it found another way of getting into the San Bernardino phone.
Barr will make the request to Facebook in a letter with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australia Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. BuzzFeed News reported on the letter earlier.
The Justice Department calls the growing use of end-to-end encrypted communications the “going dark” problem, referencing the way encryption shields information that law enforcement could previously access easily.
Barr gave lengthy comments on what he described as a dangerous increase in device encryption at a cybersecurity conference this summer in New York. During his comments, Barr specifically detailed the use of WhatsApp group chat by a drug cartel to coordinate the murders of Mexico-based police officials.
In announcing plans in March to expand encryption, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the privacy protection it affords extends to “the privacy of people doing bad things.” He said Facebook was working on better ways to detect patterns of bad behavior, without seeing contents of messages.
United Nations, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — Deteriorating security across Afghanistan in the past four years led to over 14,000 “grave violations” against children, including nearly 3,500 youngsters killed and over 9,000 injured, according to a U.N. report circulated Thursday.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned “the alarming level” of grave violations committed by all parties and the fact that children “continue to bear the brunt of the armed conflict.”
Of serious concern, he said, is that the nearly 12,600 children verified to have been killed or injured in 2015-2018 represented almost a third of all civilian casualties. That was “an increase of 82 percent in child casualties compared with the previous four years,” he wrote.
Guterres said in his fourth report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan that the rise was traced to “an increase in child casualties resulting from ground engagements, explosive remnants of war and aerial attacks.”
The U.N. chief said he is “extremely concerned,” especially by the number of children killed and injured as a result of “aerial operations conducted by government and pro-government forces.”
According to the report, child casualties from airstrikes “have significantly increased since 2015,” reversing the downward trend of the four preceding years. The U.N. verified 1,049 child casualties from airstrikes in 2015-2018, including 464 youngsters killed. That represented 40% of civilian casualties from aerial attacks, the report said.
Guterres said armed groups were responsible for 43% of child casualties _ 3,450 killed and 9,149 injured. While Taliban fighters were responsible for the majority, the number attributed to the Islamic State extremist group increased overall during the four-year period, he said.
Government and pro-government forces were responsible for 30% of child casualties, he said.
Guterres said the U.N. also verified the recruitment and use of 274 children by armed groups and government forces, sexual violence against 13 boys and four girls, and 467 attacks on schools and education personnel.
The secretary-general said the actual number of children recruited and used in the Afghan conflict “is estimated to be much higher,” citing as an example allegations in 2016 that over 3,000 children were recruited, mainly by armed groups.
Similarly, Guterres said rape and other forms of sexual violence against children “is known to be underreported as a result of prevailing social norms, fear of retaliation and impunity.”
In a study by the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan between October 2016 and December 2017, he said, people in communities across Afghanistan “shared their perceptions that the use of boys for the purposes of sexual abuse and exploitation, including bacha bazi, by parties to conflict was common and widespread.” Bacha bazi is a practice in which wealthy or powerful men exploit boys for entertainment, especially dancing and sexual activities.
Guterres cited the case of a boy in Takhar province who was held for about a year by several armed commanders, including national police commanders, “and used for bacha bazi.”
In an overview of political and security developments in 2015-2018, the secretary-general said the situation deteriorated compared to the previous four years, “notably following the transfer of responsibility for security from international forces to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in 2014.” The following year, he said, the Taliban made “significant territorial inroads.”
Guterres said in recent months, 45,000 to 65,000 Taliban fighters were reportedly active in Afghanistan “although estimates vary considerably.” He added that “the Haqqani network has assumed an increasingly influential role in the Taliban’s military operations.”
The secretary-general said al-Qaida “is believed to maintain a limited presence in eastern Afghanistan” while the Islamic State extremist group is also present in eastern Afghanistan, “with 2,500 to 4,000 elements believed to be currently active.”
Operations by Afghan and international forces have constrained the Islamic State group’s expansion, Guterres said, and as a result IS has “increasingly relied on suicide and complex attacks deliberately targeting civilians in large cities.”
New York, OCT 4 (AP/UNB) — Six men have been accused of running a drug operation that officials believe resulted in the death of the tech executive who co-founded the Vine app.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan, released an indictment Wednesday charging six men with conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine in an “on-demand drug delivery service” called Mike’s Candyshop.
Colin Kroll, 34, who also co-founded the HQ Trivia app, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment in December 2018. Officials said his death was an accidental overdose of a mixture of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.
The indictment did not name Kroll, but an official with knowledge of the case said he is “Victim-1” listed in the indictment, The New York Times reported .
His communications with members of the operation on numerous occasions, including the day before his death, is said to have led investigators to their arrest nearly 10 months later.
The members of the operation worked around the clock, in various shifts and took orders electronically from customers that had been “approved” in advance, according to the indictment.
“This illicit enterprise allegedly allowed people to order heroin and cocaine to their doorstep simply by calling the business phone number with the same convenience as if they were ordering a pizza,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said in a statement .
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in partnership with the New York Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations said this is part of a “continued commitment” to ending the influx of heroin and cocaine in New York City.
Chicago, OCT 4 (AP/UNB) — A jury has convicted a man of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 9-year-old Chicago boy who was lured into an alley with the promise of a juice box.
Prosecutors contended that Dwright Boone-Doty and fellow gang member Corey Morgan planned the November 2015 slaying of Tyshawn Lee before Boone-Doty took a gun Morgan gave him and shot the boy.
The Cook County jury found Boone-Doty guilty on Thursday night. A separate jury deciding Morgan’s fate has been sequestered after not being able to reach a verdict.
Prosecutors have said the boy was killed because the men believed his father belonged to a rival gang. They said the men thought that gang was responsible for fatally shooting Morgan’s brother and wounding his mother.
Prosecutors said tests revealed that Boone-Doty’s DNA was on the basketball found near the boy’s body and they played a tape of Boone-Doty bragging to another jail inmate that he’d killed the boy.
Warsaw, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- One miner died and 16 were wounded following a quake at the Bielszowice mine in Ruda Slaska, southwestern Poland.
The quake, measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale, hit the mine on Thursday afternoon, when 17 miners were in the mine.
A 39-year-old man working as electrician was killed in the quake.
The wounded were transported by helicopter to hospitals in nearby cities of Katowice and Krakow. According to the authorities, nine sustained severe injuries and seven lighter.
In July, three miners died after a quake at another mine in Katowice. Last year, 21 miners died while working in mines in Poland.