Week in Review: September 16, 2015

by Muira McCammon

European Union and United States Reach "Umbrella Agreement"

The governments of the European Union and the United States reached an agreement on Tuesday (September 9) to allow for the exchange of personal data during counterterrorism investigations. In regards to the Umbrella Agreement, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová noted, “The finalization of the Umbrella Agreement negotiations is therefore an important step to strengthen the fundamental right to privacy effectively and to rebuild trust in EU-U.S. data flows." The Umbrella Agreement emphasizes the individuals' right to access and rectification. The European Commission's online fact sheet states clearly, "The Umbrella Agreement will be signed and formally concluded only after the US Judicial Redress Bill, granting judicial redress rights to EU citizens, will have been adopted." Negotiations regarding the Umbrella Agreement began officially on March 29, 2011.

India, the Philippines, Mexico, and Ukraine: Cisco Routers Found with Stealthy Backdoor

Researchers from security firm Mandiant/FireEye wrote in a report on September 15, 2015 that SYNful knock malware had been located in 14 routers in four countries, including Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico, and India. In response, Cisco Systems shared intrusion detection signatures for customers to employ against attacks. The researchers, Bill Hau and Tony Lee, added, " It should be evident now that this attack vector is very much a reality and will most likely grow in popularity and prevalence." At this juncture, the identity of the hackers, who planted the malware, has not been revealed, though computer logs indicate that the malicious activity has been going on for at least a year.

Facebook: The Company Announces a "Dislike" Button Is Coming

At a town hall in Menlo Park, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that his company was in the final stages of crafting a "dislike" button. "We have an idea that we're going to be ready to test soon, and depending on how that does, we'll roll it out more broadly," he explained. International news outlets around the world [EN] [ES] [FR] [AR]  broadcasted this announcement. Previously, many bloggers had asserted that it was not in Facebook's interests to have a "dislike" button. Over the years, Zuckerberg has held a series of town hall gatherings, including one with President Obama in 2011. He will host another one with India's Prime Minister Modi on September 27, 2015.

Russia: Snowden Criticizes the Kremlin's Lack of Internet Freedom

While accepting the the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression’s Bjornson prize, Edward Snowden criticized Russia's lack of Internet freedom. He reflected, "I’ve been quite critical of [it] in the past and I’ll continue to be in the future, because this drive that we see in the Russian government to control more and more the internet, to control more and more what people are seeing, even parts of personal lives, deciding what is the appropriate or inappropriate way for people to express their love for one another ... [is] fundamentally wrong.” The prize includes 100,000 Norwegian kroner, about $12,000; previous recipients include Turkish author Yaşar Kemal (2013) and Swedish writer Ola Larsmo (2008).

Russia: Cyberattacks on Two Government Websites Recorded

"Hackers carried out a very powerful attack on the president's site, but the [cyber] defense system managed to thwart it," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov disclosed. It is not clear who initiated the cyberattack on President Putin's webpage. However, Russian media outlets have indicated that Americans were behind the recent hacking of the Russian Central Election Commission. Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov noted, in an interview with Sputnik News , “Yesterday [on September 13] someone tried to hack our website and alter the data there, making 50,000 requests per minute. They failed and we have already established the culprit — it’s a company based in San Francisco."

United States: New Hampshire's Kilton Library Restores Tor Access

After considerable controversy, the first public library to support anonymous Internet browsing on its computers re-activated its Tor node. In July 2015, the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire adopted a unique policy, letting patrons use Tor, and shortly thereafter, state authorities received a concerned email from an agent at the Department of Homeland Security. Concern from local police and city officials led the Kilton Public Library to shut down its Tor node. On September 15, the Library's Board of Trustees voted to reactivate the Tor node. This decision came after an extensive campaign conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to encourage the Kilton Public Library to grant patrons access to anonymous Internet browsing services.

The Internet Monitor Week in Review is a weekly round-up of news about Internet content controls and online activity around the world.