In a chilling account in this month’s issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, freelance journalist Matthieu Aikins recounts how hackers in the employ of the Libyan government were able to access the email accounts of foreign journalists. It wasn’t that difficult – nothing that a hacker of average skills in say, Manila or Bucharest, couldn’t do. Among other things, Libyan authorities got a spreadsheet from a CNN email account; it had a list of names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of the network’s underground sources in Tripoli.
In the past few years, the surveillance capacities of intelligence bodies around the world have multiplied beyond imagination, thanks in part to surveillance technologies developed in the U.S. and Western Europe. But even without those technologies, governments in many countries have been able to count on the cooperation of telecoms companies who willingly release data on subscribers in exchange for leniency on their licensing and other requirements. Read the rest of this entry »