The Switchboard: The NSA snooped on Mexican president’s email

October 21, 2013

Walmart is getting serious about competing online. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking/Files)

NSA accessed the email of Mexico's president. The German magazine Der Spiegel reports that documents leaked by former national security contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. government successfully infiltrated the email of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. According to the report, the NSA's offensive hacking unit, Tactical Access Operations, "successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon's public email account."

To catch up, Walmart moves to Amazon turf. Claire Cain Miller and Stephanie Clifford at the New York Times report that Walmart is laying the groundwork to compete with Amazon online. "The country’s largest retailer, which for years didn’t blink at would-be competitors, is now under such a threat from Amazon that it is frantically playing catch-up by learning the technology business, including starting @WalmartLabs, its dot-com headquarters."

How stores use your phone’s WiFi to track your shopping habits Our own Brian Fung explains how store can track your real-life behavior: "Every smartphone these days comes equipped with a WiFi card. When the card is on and looking for networks to join, it's detectable by local routers. In your home, the router connects to your device, and then voila — you have the Internet on your phone. But in a retail environment, other in-store equipment can pick up your WiFi card, learn your device's unique ID number and use it to keep tabs on that device over time as you move through the store."

Why Apple’s claim that it can’t intercept iMessages is largely semantics.
In a post for The Switch, security researcher Ashkan Soltani explains why Apple's position on iMessage security isn't that comforting: "So, is iMessage interception possible? Yes, of course. When you control the entire stack, anything is possible. Saying "we can’t do this" is a bit disingenuous since what Apple really means is "the current system doesn’t have the ‘spy on user X’ button. But it could add this with a few lines of code, and most users probably wouldn’t know."

NSA delayed anti-leak software at base where Snowden worked. Reuters, citing unidentified current and former U.S. officials, reports that "before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton last spring and was assigned to the NSA site as a systems administrator, other U.S. government facilities had begun to install software designed to spot attempts by unauthorized people to access or download data." However, the report says, the NSA facility in Hawaii where Snowden was assigned to work delayed implementing the system due to "insufficient bandwidth."

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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Brian Fung · October 20, 2013