The Switchboard: Five tech policy posts you need to read today

September 3, 2013
(Patrick Semansky/AP)
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

Drug agents use vast phone trove, eclipsing NSA's. The New York Times reported Sunday that drug agents had access to a huge cache of AT&T domestic phone records via subpoena for at least six years: "The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant. The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987."

Here’s why Microsoft is buying Nokia’s phone business. "In a letter to employees released late Monday evening, Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft was acquiring Nokia’s smartphone business," our colleague Tim Lee wrote last night. "The deal cements a partnership that has been central to Microsoft’s mobile device strategy in recent years."

The NSA hacks other countries by buying millions of dollars’ worth of computer vulnerabilities. The Switch's Brian Fung explains how the NSA purchases exclusive access to flaws in software from the zeroday grey market: "Like any government agency, the NSA hires outside companies to help it do the work it’s supposed to do. But an analysis of the intelligence community’s black budget reveals that unlike most of its peers, the agency’s top hackers are also funneling money to firms of dubious origin in exchange for computer malware that’s used to spy on foreign governments. This year alone, the NSA secretly spent more than $25 million to procure '‘software vulnerabilities’ from private malware vendors,' according to a wide-ranging report on the NSA’s offensive work by the Post’s Barton Gellman and Ellen Nakashima."

Firms brace for possible retaliatory cyberattacks from Syria. NPR explains the worst case cyber-scenario of a conflict with Syria: "U.S. cybersecurity experts worry most about an attack on critical infrastructure in the United States, including the power grid or the transportation system. Such an attack would probably result in an escalation of any military conflict with the United States."

Brazil, Mexico summon U.S. envoys over spy claims. It the latest international uproar caused by leaks from former NSA contracter Edward Snowden, Brazil and Mexico summoned U.S. ambassadors on Monday, demanding they explain allegations that the NSA spied on their presidents' communications. AFP reports, "Brazil's Foreign Minister Luis Figueiredo said the interception of Internet data from President Dilma Rousseff reported by U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, if proven, 'represents an unacceptable and unallowable violation of Brazilian sovereignty.' In Mexico, the foreign ministry said it sent a diplomatic note to Washington calling for an 'exhaustive investigation' into claims that the NSA spied on President Enrique Pena Nieto and warned that, if true, the snooping would be a 'violation of international rights.'"

More Stories:

Google crunches data on munching in office

Syria’s largest city just dropped off the Internet.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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