Archive | August 22, 2013

Windows 8 – Links to NSA*

Windows 8 – Links to NSA*

By Wolf Richter

According to leaked internal documents from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), IT experts figured out that Windows 8, the touch-screen enabled, super-duper, but sales-challenged Microsoft operating system is outright dangerous for data security. It allows Microsoft to control the computer remotely through a built-in backdoor. Keys to that backdoor are likely accessible to the NSA – and in an unintended ironic twist, perhaps even to the Chinese.

The backdoor is called “Trusted Computing,” developed and promoted by the Trusted Computing Group, founded a decade ago by the all-American tech companies AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Wave Systems. Its core element is a chip, the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and an operating system designed for it, such as Windows 8. Trusted Computing Group has developed the specifications of how the chip and operating systems work together.

Its purpose is Digital Rights Management and computer security. The system decides what software had been legally obtained and would be allowed to run on the computer, and what software, such as illegal copies or viruses and Trojans, should be disabled. The whole process would be governed by Windows, and through remote access, by Microsoft.

Now there is a new set of specifications out, creatively dubbed TPM 2.0. While TPM allowed users to opt in and out, TPM 2.0 is activated by default when the computer boots up. The user cannot turn it off. Microsoft decides what software can run on the computer, and the user cannot influence it in any way. Windows governs TPM 2.0. And what Microsoft does remotely is not visible to the user. In short, users of Windows 8 with TPM 2.0 surrender control over their machines the moment they turn it on for the first time.

It would be easy for Microsoft or chip manufacturers to pass the backdoor keys to the NSA and allow it to control those computers. NO, Microsoft would never do that, we protest. Alas, Microsoft, as we have learned from the constant flow of revelations, informs the US government of security holes in its products well before it issues fixes so that government agencies take advantage of the holes and get what they’re looking for.

Experts at the BSI, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Federal Administration warned unequivocally against using computers with Windows 8 and TPM 2.0. One of the documents from early 2012 lamented, “Due to the loss of full sovereignty over the information technology, the security objectives of ‘confidentiality’ and ‘integrity’ can no longer be guaranteed.”

Elsewhere, the document warns,

“This can have significant consequences on the IT security of the Federal Administration.” And it concludes, “The use of ‘Trusted Computing’ technology in this form … is unacceptable for the Federal Administration and for operators of critical infrastructure.”

Another document claims that Windows 8 with TPM 2.0 is “already” no longer usable. But Windows 7 can “be operated safely until 2020.” After that other solutions would have to be found for the IT systems of the Administration.

The documents also show that the German government tried to influence the formation of the TPM 2.0 specifications – a common practice in processes that take years and have many stakeholders – but was rebuffed. Others have gotten what they wanted, Die Zeit wrote. The NSA for example. At one of the last meetings between the TCG and various stakeholders, someone dropped the line, “The NSA agrees.”

Rüdiger Weis, a professor at the Beuth University of Technology in Berlin, and a cryptographic expert who has dealt with Trusted Computing for years, told Die Zeit in an interview that Microsoft wanted to completely change computing by integrating “a special surveillance chip” in every electronic device. Through that chip and the processes of Windows 8, particularly Secure Boot, “users largely lose control over their own hardware and software.”

But wouldn’t it contribute to higher levels of security? Certain aspects actually raise the risks, he said. For example, during production, the secret key to that backdoor is generated outside the chip and then transferred to the chip. During this process, copies of all keys can be made. “It’s possible that there are even legal requirements to that effect that cannot be reported.” And so the TPM is “a dream chip of the NSA.”

Perhaps even more ominously, he added: “The other realistic scenario is that TPM chip manufactures don’t sit within reach of the NSA, but in China….”

Apple phased out the surveillance chips in 2009. Linux doesn’t comply with the standards, and Linux machines cannot use the technology. Microsoft defended itself the best it could. The TPM is activated by default because most users accept defaults, it said. If users would have to activate the functions themselves, many users would end up operating a less secure system. And of course, government regulations that would require that users have the option to opt in or out would be unwise.

Instead, hardware manufactures could build machines with the chips deactivated, Microsoft said. If you want to have control over your computer, that’s what you’d have to buy. Another option would be to switch to Linux machines, something that the city government of Munich has started 10 years ago; the changeover should be complete before the year is up. This end of the NSA debacle cannot possibly be twisted into bullish news for Microsoft.

China is the promised land for our revenue-challenged tech heroes: over a billion consumers, economic growth several times that of the US, and companies splurging on IT. Layer the “cloud” on top, and China is corporate nirvana: a high-growth sector in a high-growth country. Or was nirvana, now that the NSA’s hyperactive spying practices have spilled out.


Related Topics:

The Fictionless Reality of NSA

EU Agrees to Suspend Sale of Arms, Security Goods to Egypt*

EU Agrees to Suspend Sale of Arms, Security Goods to Egypt*

Foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) have agreed to suspend the sale of arms and security equipment to Egypt as well as to review aid to the country, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton says.

During an extraordinary EU Foreign Affairs Council on Wednesday in Brussels, the ministers of the 28-nation bloc agreed to suspend export licenses for Egypt for any equipment used for “internal repression,” she said.

Ashton also said the foreign ministers strongly denounced the disproportionate use of force by the Egyptian security forces.

“We strongly condemn all acts of violence and we do believe the recent actions of the military have been disproportionate,” said Ashton.

The EU’s chief diplomat also reported that the ministers agreed to review assistance given to the country but that aid to the most vulnerable in Egypt will not be affected.

“All member states feel very strongly they want to continue to support the people of Egypt.”

Furthermore, the union called “on all sides” to end the violence taking place and urged all sides to go back to the negotiating table to agree on a political solution to the crisis.

Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since the army toppled former president, Mohamed Morsi, on July 3, suspended the constitution and dissolved the parliament.

Hundreds of people have died in clashes across Egypt since August 14, when the interim Egyptian government launched a brutal crackdown on thousands of peaceful protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed president.

The violence has sparked an outrage across the globe and triggered demonstrations in several countries. Meanwhile, international bodies have called for an end to the use of lethal force against Egyptian protesters and called for independent investigations into the killings.

It seems General El-Sisi is moving on a fast track to ruin the country:

  • shrinking tourism industry
  • Halt in production by industrial giants like General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp.
  • Cancellation the U.S. military’s participation in next month’s Operation Bright Star in Egypt
  • Delaying the U.S. delivery of four fighter jets to the country.
  • Suspension of the sale of military equipment used for “internal repression” by the EU
  • Cessation in relations with:




A growing number of Latin American countries

The African Union – On August 20, South Africa, a leading member of the AU as well as the BRICS five – member association, issued a statement to remind the “interim government” in Cairo that its “principled position is based on the Constitutive Act of the African Union, where any unconstitutional change of government – whatever the premise – is specifically rejected” immediately.


  • UK suspension of all British joint programs with the Egyptian intelligence services and the export of “some” items to Egypt
  • Germany’s development minister, Dirk Niebel, said Monday that Egypt will get “no further pledges this year” of aid from Berlin


Related Topics:

“Silence is Complacency”: Against the Coup in Egypt*

Egypt rallies head to No.10: Protesters gather as more clashes feared

Mubarak to be Released*

Jakarta and Paris Protests for Egypt

36 Brotherhood Detainees Killed Near Cairo*

An American living in Cairo through the Coup*

Egypt: Irish citizens escape Mosque violence following tense stand-off

Without Shame!

The Grand Scam: El-Baradei and his Liberal Elites*

The Mosque Where ALL Muslims are Welcomed

The Mosque Where ALL Muslims are Welcomed

This is a picture of Syed Ali Hassan, one of an increasing number of young people who shed light on the shadows of the adult world. Hassan is an A-Level student at Aitchison College, Lahore, India who loves to write and is keen on pursuing journalism as an occupation in the near future.

This article was written by him with some additions. The topic covers an issue that has not only plagued Pakistan, but the Muslim world in general, and that is the issue of sectarianism. If Muslims in general paid more attention to the guidance given in the Qur’an, instead of following their lower desires, we would not be prey to manipulation, violence, and our own downfall as much, for the Qur’an tells us quite clearly:

Of those who divided their religion and became sects, every sect rejoicing in what they had with them (Ar-Rum 30: 32)  

He has made plain to you of the religion what He enjoined upon Nuh/Noah and that which we have revealed to you, and that which we enjoined upon Ibrahim/Abraham, and Musa/Moses, and Isa/Jesus, that keep to obedience and be not divided therein…And they did not become divided until after knowledge had come to them out of envy among themselves… ( Al Shura 42: 13 – 14).

By Syed Ali Hassan

Businessman Zahid Iqbal, the man behind this project, treaded as thorny a road as Pakistan’s sectarian saga to arrive at a dream destination. As relevant departments require mosques to be registered according to sect following, Iqbal was refused registration over three years ago. He then established a trust, The Al-Kitaab Foundation Trust, and the mosque is under its umbrella.

The opening of Pakistan’s first sect-free mosque is such a refreshing change from the religious violence that has been plaguing the country for years now. On the foot of Margalla hills in Islamabad, a businessman, Zahid Iqbal has constructed a mosque. With the support of other businessmen and overseas Pakistanis, the 2-kanal compound has been built at a cost of Rs30 million.

This mosque, called the Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba, is spartan in its appearance, but the message it sends is even more powerful. In a time when inter-faith conflict is constantly escalating and Shia Hazaras in particular are subject to ethnic cleansing, this mosque welcomes visitors with a sign that reads:

“This mosque does not discriminate between any sects and welcomes all Muslims.”

However, that is not where the deviation from the norm ends. From its birth, the mosque has made intrepid statements: it has a young Imam and a coordinator, both MBA students who belong to different sects; there is a section for women, a library of religious books for all sects and a Shia Imam can lead the prayers. In addition, the mosque is also funding at least 10 students’ completion of their Bachelor’s degree, which they could otherwise not have afforded.

The mosque also hosts a separate, segregated section for women and contains a library filled with religious books that cater to and contain information on all the different sects. Iqbal has already found an Imam for the mosque – Qari Jehangir, who is currently doing his Master’s degree with the Islamic University. The coordinator of the mosque is doing his MBA from Preston University. Both are young men in their 20s. The Imam and Khateeb are both from different sects – and the mosque administration says it will have no problem if a Shia Imam leads prayers.

Iqbal commented:

 “By branding ourselves on sectarian lines we have even put non-believers to shame through violence and unruly conduct.”

Calling his prayer hall a ‘model mosque’, Iqbal added,

“This is God’s house. Even non-Muslims are allowed to come and seek the light.

The completion of the Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba is the first of the many steps that must be taken to end religious violence in the country. It is only when the message of love and peace is loud enough that hatred can truly be eradicated from our hearts.

While many have taken to social networking websites to praise the pro-peace, pro-tolerance and, in general, progressive minded initiative, the mosque and its brainchild have drawn attention from detractors who do not agree with the vision behind its creation. Iqbal claims that around one dozen members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan came to the mosque and criticised his thinking while showing disappointment that he “is not adhering to his sect.” They left after hours of debating in which he asked them to stop opposing his interpretation of Islam, but he fears they will come back.

Similarly, Iqbal was also given undue trouble by the Imam of a nearby mosque who forcibly took the property he bought for the sect-free centre over with the help of ‘body-builder-type’ madrassa students. Moreover, he claimed that he was forced to call the police to evict the trespassers from the property.

Despite the opposition, Iqbal is successful in founding an establishment where followers of any sect can come to pray in an eclectic environment and hopefully discuss and deliberate on the various issues facing the community-at-large in a civilised and thought-provoking manner.

It is difficult not to be full of praise for such an idea and I truly wish that it is successful in its attempt at bridging gaps between the different sects and ending the animosity that their members show for one another. At the same time, I hope that this progressive thinking does not end here. What Pakistan urgently requires is the opening of more of these centres throughout the country as well as of inter-faith centres for members of all religions where people can pray, engage in discussion with one another, study their own religious teachings, perhaps even study about other faiths, and even be able to criticise religious teachings without the fear of mob brutality. If properly done, such establishments will not only spread the message of love, coexistence and tolerance but should also weaken the intents of malicious organisations such as Taliban or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

The completion of the Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba is the first of many steps that must be taken to end religious violence in the country. It is only when the message of love and peace is loud enough that hatred can truly be eradicated from our hearts.


“Islamabads Sect Free Mosque Sends Pakistan Powerful Message”

Hassan, S. A. H. “The Mosque Where ALL Muslims are Welcomed”

Zaidi, M “Pakistan’s first sect-free mosque seeks end to discrimination”

Related Topics:

Fasting for Change

Lebanese Shia, Sunnis Unite Against Sectarian Strife*

The Unity of “I”

Justice vs. Injustice*