EU warns of 5G cybersecurity risks, stops short of singling out China

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union warned on Wednesday of the risk of increased cyber attacks by state-backed entities but refrained from singling out China and its telecoms equipment market leader Huawei Technologies as threats.

The comments came in a report prepared by EU member states on cybersecurity risks to next-generation 5G mobile networks seen as crucial to the bloc’s competitiveness in an increasingly networked world.

The authors chose to ignore calls by the United States to ban Huawei’s equipment, drawing a welcome from the Shenzen-based company after it faced U.S. accusations that its gear could be used by China for spying.

“Among the various potential actors, non-EU states or state-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks,” the European Commission and Finland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a joint statement.

“In this context of increased exposure to attacks facilitated by suppliers, the risk profile of individual suppliers will become particularly important, including the likelihood of the supplier being subject to interference from a non-EU country,” they said.

Huawei, which competes with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson, said it stood ready to work with its European partners on 5G network security. It has always denied its equipment can be used for spying.

“This exercise is an important step toward developing a common approach to cybersecurity and delivering safe networks for the 5G era,” a Huawei spokesman said.

“We are pleased to note that the EU delivered on its commitment to take an evidence-based approach, thoroughly analyzing risks rather than targeting specific countries or actors.”

Tom Ridge, a former U.S. secretary of homeland security, took a different view of the report. He said Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government meant it would have to comply with legislation requiring it to assist with intelligence gathering.

“If countries needed more reason to implement stricter security measures to protect 5G networks, this comprehensive risk assessment is it,” said Ridge, a member of the advisory board of Global Cyber Policy Watch.

Fifth-generation networks will hook up billions of devices, sensors and cameras in ‘smart’ cities, homes and offices. With that ubiquity, security becomes an even more pressing need than in existing networks.

“5G security requires that networks are built leveraging the most advanced security features, selecting vendors that are trustworthy and transparent,” a Nokia spokesperson said, adding that the company was the only global vendor capable of providing all the building blocks for secure 5G networks.

EU members have differed on how to treat Huawei, with Britain, a close U.S. ally, leaning toward excluding it from critical parts of networks. Germany is meanwhile creating a level playing field in which all 5G vendors should prove they are trustworthy.

OVER-DEPENDENCE

The report warned against over-dependence on one telecoms equipment supplier.

“A major dependency on a single supplier increases the exposure to a potential supply interruption, resulting for instance from a commercial failure, and its consequences,” it said.

European network operators, including Germany’s Deutsche Telekom typically have multi-vendor strategies that they say reduce the security risks that might arise from relying too heavily on a single provider.

“The Commission’s 5G assessment recognizes security isn’t just a supplier issue,” said Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer of the GSMA, a global mobile-industry trade group.

“We all have a role to play – from manufacturers to operators to consumers – and we are taking responsibility for our part in the security chain seriously.”

The EU will now seek to come up with a so-called toolbox of measures by the end of the year to address cyber security risks at national and bloc-wide level.

The European Agency for Cybersecurity is also finalizing a map of specific threats related to 5G networks.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine in Berlin and Anne Kauranen in Helsinki; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Elaine Hardcastle)

Canada bids to reassure U.S., other allies after intelligence official arrested

Cameron Ortis, director general with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's intelligence unit, is shown in a court sketch from his court hearing in Ottawa, Canada, September 13, 2019. Lauren Foster-MacLeod/Handout via REUTERS

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada is working to reassure the United States and other allies after a top police intelligence official was charged with leaking secrets, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Cameron Ortis, a director general with the national police force’s intelligence unit, had access to highly sensitive domestic and foreign intelligence, and his arrest last week sparked fears of a possible major security breach.

Ortis was charged on Friday under a 2012 security information law used to prosecute spies.

Security experts say the case could damage Canada’s standing inside the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network that also includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

“We are in direct communications with our allies on security, not only the Five Eyes group,” Trudeau said during a campaign stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously.”

Canadian security officials are working urgently to see what if any data might have been leaked, said a senior source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Canada’s allies are working on the assumption that if any secrets were shared, China and Russia are likely to have been the main beneficiaries, said a second source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Canadian officials say China, in particular, has been aggressively seeking to obtain sensitive information.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., citing government documents, said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had tipped off Canada as it probed a separate criminal matter. The FBI discovered in 2018 that someone had contacted the head of Canadian company Phantom Secure offering to sell secrets.

The chief executive of the firm last year pleaded guilty to facilitating international narcotics traffic by supplying drug cartels with encrypted communications devices.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner Brenda Lucki is expected to provide a “short update” and answer questions on the case on Tuesday at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT).

On Monday, Lucki said the leaks could have hurt allied nations’ intelligence operations and promised that “mitigation strategies are being put in place as required.”

(Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Edmund Blair and Bernadette Baum)

Russia extends detention of ex-U.S. Marine accused of spying

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, stands inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

By Andrew Osborn and Polina Ivanova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court on Friday extended by two months the pre-trial detention of a former U.S. Marine who has been held in Russia on suspicion of spying since December and who accused Moscow prison authorities of injuring him.

The court ordered Paul Whelan held until the end of October, as Russian news agencies reported that authorities said they planned to wrap up their investigation into him in two weeks and present definitive accusations.

Whelan, who denies the allegations against him, said the court hearings were a waste of time.

“It’s simply a dog and pony show for the media,” he told reporters. “We are not doing anything at all. We are just sitting around and walking back and forth.”

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 after a Russian acquaintance gave him a flash drive which his lawyer said he thought contained holiday photos, but which actually held classified information.

Whelan believes he was set up in a politically-motivated sting..

On Friday, he said he was the victim of “a political kidnapping,” and that he had been subjected to an isolation regime designed to force him to make a false confession.

Whelan also told reporters that he had received an injury while in jail, which his lawyer told Russian news agencies happened while he was being moved from one cell to another.

“I’m standing here in great pain,” said Whelan. “It’s inhumane.”

His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said Whelan was suffering from a long-standing groin hernia that his client said prison authorities aggravated by dragging him. Whelan was willing to be operated on in Russia, Zherebenkov added.

The presiding judge ordered an ambulance to be called. A Russian medic then examined Whelan before concluding there were no grounds for him to be hospitalized.

Whelan’s brother, David Whelan who lives in Canada, denounced the court proceedings as a farce and said he was worried about Paul’s physical condition. He said the two have not spoken directly since December.

“While his statement was cut off, what we heard makes us concerned about his treatment at Lefortovo prison,” David Whelan said in an email.

If found guilty, Whelan faces up to 20 years in jail.

(Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Gareth Jones and Marguerita Choy)

Ex-U.S. Marine accused of spying by Russia asks Trump to help

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, speaks inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing to consider an appeal to extend his detention in Moscow, Russia June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A former U.S. Marine held in Russia on suspicion of spying called on U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of Britain, Canada and Ireland to help him as he appeared in court at an appeal hearing on Thursday.

Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 and accused of espionage, a charge he denies. If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in jail.

Whelan said last month that he had been threatened by a Russian investigator in custody and harassed, accusations that added to strains in U.S.-Russian relations.

“Mr president (Trump), we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend American citizens wherever they are in the world,” Whelan told reporters at a hearing in Moscow on Thursday.

“I am asking the leaders and governments in Ottawa, Dublin, London and Washington for their help and public statements of support,” he said, standing inside a glass cage.

Whelan’s lawyer has said his client was framed and that he was given a flash drive by an acquaintance that he thought contained holiday photos, but that actually held classified information.

Whelan was in court on Thursday to appeal against the extension of his custody until Aug. 29. The court ruled against him.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Russia extends detention of ex-U.S. Marine accused of spying

Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan who is being held on suspicion of spying talks with his lawyers Vladimir Zherebenkov and Olga Kralova, as he stands in the courtroom cage after a ruling regarding extension of his detention, in Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

By Tom Balmforth and Alexander Reshetnikov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court on Friday ruled that Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of spying, should be held in a pre-trial detention facility for a further three months to give investigators more time to look into his case.

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 and accused of espionage, a charge he denies. If found guilty, he could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

The case has put further strain on already poor U.S.-Russia relations as has that of another detained American, private equity chief Michael Calvey.

Russia’s Federal Security Service detained Whelan after an acquaintance handed him a flash drive containing classified information. Whelan’s lawyer says his client was misled.

Whelan had met the same person in the town of Sergiev Possad in May last year where they visited the town’s monastery and other tourist sites, the lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told reporters on Friday.

When Whelan returned to Russia again in December to attend a wedding, the same acquaintance unexpectedly turned up and gave him a flash drive containing what Whelan thought were photographs of the earlier trip, the lawyer said.

“Paul and I consider this was a provocation and a crime by his acquaintance,” said Zherebenkov, saying Whelan had known the man, whom he did not name, for several years.

Whelan on Friday appeared in court in a cage and looked downcast when he spoke briefly to reporters before masked security officials cut him off.

“I could do with care packages, food, things like that, letters from home,” Whelan said.

The court on Friday said Whelan would be held in pre-trial detention until May 28, extending an earlier ruling to keep him in custody until Feb. 28.

The U.S. embassy in Moscow said a consular official had visited Whelan in custody on Thursday.

It said, however, that it was unable to provide further information as Whelan had not been allowed by investigators to sign a privacy act waiver (PAW) that would legally allow the U.S. government to release information about the case.

“In every other instance, we have been able to obtain a signed PAW, but in Mr. Whelan’s case, the Investigative Committee is not allowing this to happen. Why is this case any different?” embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan wrote on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Maxim Rodionov; editing by Andrew Osborn)

Ex-U.S. marine held in Russia for spying was misled, says lawyer

Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who was detained by Russia's FSB security service on suspicion of spying, looks out of a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Andrew Osborn and Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The lawyer for a former U.S. Marine accused of spying by Russia said on Tuesday that his client had been misled before his arrest and believed that a thumb drive handed to him in a hotel room had contained holiday snaps rather than secret information.

Russia’s Federal Security Service detained Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28.

Whelan appeared in a Moscow court on Tuesday, where a judge rejected a release on bail. If found guilty of espionage, he could be jailed for up to 20 years.

Whelan, who denies the charges, was detained after receiving a thumb drive containing a list of all the employees of a secret Russian state agency, the Russian online news portal Rosbalt.ru reported this month.

Rosbalt cited an unnamed Russian intelligence source as saying that Whelan had been spying for 10 years, using the internet to identify targets from whom he could obtain information and that the list he was caught with had long been of interest to U.S. spies.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to support that version of events, later telling reporters Whelan had been “caught red-handed” carrying out “specific illegal actions” in his hotel room.

But Vladimir Zherebenkov, Whelan’s lawyer, said on Tuesday that his client had accepted the information unknowingly.

“Paul was actually meant to receive information from an individual that was not classified,” Zherebenkov told reporters.

“These were cultural things, a trip to a cathedral, Paul’s holiday … photographs. But as it turned out, it (the thumb drive) contained classified information.”

The lawyer said Whelan had not been able to see what was on the thumb drive because he had been detained before he had a chance to do so.

Wearing a blue shirt and dark trousers, he looked calm but somber as he stood inside a glass cage in the courtroom.

The hearing was closed to reporters, but his lawyer said afterward that Whelan had made a 15-minute speech rejecting the allegations against him in detail.

The lawyer declined to clarify if Whelan had known the individual who handed him the information.

He said Whelan had been experiencing some minor health problems in custody and was receiving treatment.

Whelan’s family have said he is innocent and was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe and Kevin Liffey)

France accuses Russia of spying on military from space

French Defence minister Florence Parly and her Finnish counterpart Jussi Niinisto (not pictured) during a joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, August 23, 2018. Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/via REUTERS

TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) – Russia attempted to intercept transmissions from a Franco-Italian satellite used by both nations’ armies for secure communications, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Friday, describing the move as an “act of espionage”.

In a speech outlining France’s space policy for the coming years, Parly said the Russian satellite Louch-Olymp had approached the Athena-Fidus satellite in 2017.

Parly said it came so close “that anyone would have thought it was attempting to intercept our communications.” She added: “Attempting to listen to your neighbors is not only unfriendly, it’s an act of espionage.

The minister’s remarks come a week after President Emmanuel Macron urged the European Union to modernize its post-Cold War ties with Moscow despite tensions with the West, including over allegations of meddling in foreign elections.

Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite provides secure communications to the French and Italian armed forces and emergency services.

Parly described the Russian efforts as a “little Star Wars” and said measures were taken immediately to prevent sensitive communications being compromised. The Louch-Olymp had since targeted other satellites, she added.

“We are in danger. Our communications, our military exercises, our daily lives are in danger if we do not react,” Parly said, emphasizing that Paris would complete a strategic space defense plan by the end of the year.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in August announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the U.S. military by 2020.

It would be responsible for a range of space-based U.S. military capabilities, which include everything from satellites enabling the Global Positioning System (GPS) to sensors that help track missile launches.

“I have heard many people mock the announcement of the creation of an American Space Force. I am not one of them… all I see is an extremely powerful sign, a sign of future confrontations,” Parly said.

(Editing by Johanna Decorse; writing by John Irish; editing by Richard Lough)

U.S. grand jury indicts woman on charges of being Russian agent

Public figure Maria Butina delivers a speech during a rally to demand the expanding of rights of Russian citizens, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on July 17, 2018. Press Service of Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. grand jury returned an indictment against a Russian woman on Tuesday, and added a charge accusing her of acting as a Russian government agent while developing ties with American citizens and infiltrating political groups.

Maria Butina, who studied at American University in Washington and is a founder of the pro-gun Russian advocacy group Right to Bear Arms, was charged in a criminal complaint on Monday with conspiracy to take actions on behalf of the Russian government.

Tuesday’s grand jury indictment added a more serious charge of acting as an agent of the Russian government, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Butina has not been charged with espionage or with being a member of a Russian intelligence service.

She was arrested on Sunday and is scheduled to appear on Wednesday in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department said.

Public figure Maria Butina (R) attends a meeting of a group of experts, affiliated to the government of Russia, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on July 17, 2018. Press Service of Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

Public figure Maria Butina (R) attends a meeting of a group of experts, affiliated to the government of Russia, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on July 17, 2018. Press Service of Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS

Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, said she was not a Russian agent.

Butina is accused of operating at the direction of a high-level official of the Russian Central Bank who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, the Justice Department said.

Court records did not name the official.

Butina has appeared in numerous photographs on her Facebook page with Alexander Torshin, the deputy head of Russia’s Central Bank who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April.

A person familiar with the matter has told Reuters that Butina worked for him as an assistant. Other media reported on a business relationship between Butina and Torshin.

Torshin did not reply to a request for comment on Monday and the Russian Central Bank declined to comment.

The Justice Department said in its complaint that Butina worked with two unnamed U.S. citizens and the Russian official to try to influence American politics and infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization.

The complaint did not name the group, however photos on her Facebook page showed that she attended events sponsored by the National Rifle Association. The NRA did not reply to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh and Diane Craft)

UK defence minister says Russia looking to cause thousands of deaths in Britain

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with employees during a visit to the Gorbunov Aviation factory in Kazan, Russia January 25, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s defence minister warned that Russia was looking to damage the British economy by attacking its infrastructure, a move he said could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths”, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

Relations between Russia and Britain are strained. Prime Minister Theresa May last year accused Moscow of military aggression and in December, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said there was evidence showing Russian meddling in Western elections.

Britain has also scrambled jets in recent months to intercept Russian jets near the United Kingdom’s airspace.

“The plan for the Russians won’t be for landing craft to appear in the South Bay in Scarborough, and off Brighton Beach,” defence minister Gavin Williamson, tipped as a possible successor to May, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

“What they are looking at doing is they are going to be thinking ‘How can we just cause so much pain to Britain?’. Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country.”

The Kremlin, which under Vladimir Putin has clawed back some of the global influence lost when the Soviet Union collapsed, has denied meddling in elections in the West. It says anti-Russian hysteria is sweeping through the United States and Europe.

Williamson said Russia was look at ways to attack Britain.

“Why would they keep photographing and looking at power stations, why are they looking at the interconnectors that bring so much electricity and so much energy into our country,” he was quoted as saying.

“If you could imagine the domestic and industrial chaos that this would actually cause. What they would do is cause the chaos and then step back.”

“This is the real threat that I believe the country is facing at the moment,” he said.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Friday that Williamson’s comments showed he had lost his understanding of what was reasonable, RIA news agency reported.

“It is likely he has lost his grasp on reason,” RIA quoted ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison)

U.S. House panel advances bill aimed at limiting NSA spying program

U.S. House panel advances bill aimed at limiting NSA spying program

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. House panel on Wednesday passed legislation seeking to overhaul some aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program, overcoming criticism from civil liberties advocates that it did not include enough safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 27-8 to approve the bill, which would partially restrict the U.S. government’s ability to review American data collected under the foreign intelligence program by requiring a warrant in some cases.

Lawmakers in both parties were sharply divided over whether the compromise proposal to amend what is known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would enshrine sufficient privacy protections or possibly grant broader legal protections for the NSA’s surveillance regime.

“The ultimate goal here is to reauthorize a very important program with meaningful and responsible reforms,” Republican Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the committee, said. “If we do not protect this careful compromise, all sides of this debate risk losing.”

Passage of the House bill sets up a potential collision with two separate pieces of legislation advancing in the U.S. Senate, one favored by privacy advocates and one considered more acceptable to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Congress must renew Section 702 in some form before Dec. 31 or the program will expire.

U.S. intelligence officials consider Section 702 among the most vital of tools at their disposal to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

It allows the NSA to collect vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, incidentally gathers communications of Americans for a variety of technical reasons, including if they communicate with a foreign target living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant, including by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The House bill, known as the USA Liberty Act, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to review American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of crime.

It does not mandate a warrant in other cases, such as requests for data related to counterterrorism or counter-espionage.

The committee rejected an amendment offered by Republican Representative Ted Poe and Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren that would have generally required all searches of U.S. data collected through Section 702 to require a warrant. In 2014 and 2015 the full House of Representatives voted with strong bipartisan support to adopt such a measure, though it never became law.

“We have created a measure that has actually taken us backwards in terms of constitutional rights,” Lofgren said.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; editing by James Dalgleish)