A Twitter employee groomed by the Saudi government prompted 2015 state-sponsored hacking warning

An explosive report in The New York Times this weekend sheds new light on the apparent targeting of Twitter accounts by “state-sponsored actors” three years ago. It comes in the wake of the confirmed death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, two weeks after he disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi […]

An explosive report in The New York Times this weekend sheds new light on the apparent targeting of Twitter accounts by “state-sponsored actors” three years ago.

It comes in the wake of the confirmed death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, two weeks after he disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had long been a target of a Saudi troll army, according to the report, which employed hundreds of people to stifle the speech of government critics, like Khashoggi, who left the kingdom to live and work in the United States.

But the troll farm is said to be one part of a wider scheme by the Saudi leadership to surveil critics and dissidents.

According to the report, Western intelligence officials told Twitter that one of its employees, a Saudi national, was asked by the Saudi government to spy on the accounts of dissidents. The employee — an engineer — had access to account data on Twitter users, including phone numbers and IP addresses. Saudi officials are said to have convinced him to snoop on several accounts. Twitter fired the employee, despite finding no evidence that he handed data over to the Saudi government. The employee later returned to the kingdom and now works for its government.

After the dismissal, the Times reports, Twitter sent out warnings a few dozen users that their accounts “may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors.”

“As a precaution, we are alerting you that your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors,” said Twitter in the email to affected users. “We believe that these actors (possibly associated with a government) may have been trying to obtain information such as email addresses, IP addresses, and/or phone numbers.”

Twitter didn’t say at the time what was the cause of the email warning, leading some to question what linked the affected accounts.

Around 20 users were affected, including privacy and security researcher Runa Sandvik, human rights activist Michael Carbone, and Austrian communications expert Marco Schreuder.

Several of the affected users also worked for the Tor Project, a non-profit that allows activists and researchers to browse the web anonymously — often to bypass state-level censorship and surveillance.

Facebook and Google also have similar alerts in place in the event of suspected state-sponsored attacks or hacking, though often the companies send out alerts out of an abundance of caution — rather than a solid indicator that an account has been breached.

When reached, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.

Tor Project launches official mobile browser for Android

Tor Project, the group behind the anonymous Tor browser, has released an alpha version of its own anonymous browser for Android. Following this release, Orfox, the longstanding Tor Project -approved browsing app for Android, said it will be sunset by 2019. To run both apps, users will need to also download the Tor Project proxy app, Orbot. Tor […]

Tor Project, the group behind the anonymous Tor browser, has released an alpha version of its own anonymous browser for Android.

Following this release, Orfox, the longstanding Tor Project -approved browsing app for Android, said it will be sunset by 2019. To run both apps, users will need to also download the Tor Project proxy app, Orbot.

Tor Project’s anonymous browser uses a system of decentralized relays that bounce a user’s data to anonymize internet activity. This makes it almost impossible for ads, location trackers and even government surveillance to follow your tracks across the web. While Tor is often associated with illegal drug or weapons sales on the dark web, the browser is also a haven for political dissidents, journalists and just browsers who prefer to maintain their anonymity.

This release comes several days after Tor Project rolled out Tor Browser 8.0, based on Firefox’s 2017 Quantum browser structure. The major updates include a new user landing and on-boarding page, increased language support and improved bridging methods to enable users to access the browser in countries where Tor is banned — like Turkey.

While the service is regarded as the current gold standard of anonymous browsing, there are still vulnerabilities. Federal investigators can gain access and identify users through security flaws in the browser itself. It remains to be seen how secure Firefox Quantum will be for Tor 8.0, but users would be wise to follow Tor’s guidelines on further protecting their anonymity, just in case.

Anonymous vows to take down Q

A cheerful video released by YourAnonNews suggests that the murky hacker collective called Anonymous is now after the murky deep state collective called Q. Q, to the uninitiated, is a 4Chan poster who claims to be connected deep inside the US government. Q claims to have high level clearance and posts in furtherance of the […]

A cheerful video released by YourAnonNews suggests that the murky hacker collective called Anonymous is now after the murky deep state collective called Q.

Q, to the uninitiated, is a 4Chan poster who claims to be connected deep inside the US government. Q claims to have high level clearance and posts in furtherance of the conspiracy theory that the government has been running massive pedophile ring and that Trump and Robert Mueller are working like Scooby Doo and Shaggy to bring it down. Sites like QAnon.pub are archives of Q’s cryptic and often ridiculous claims.

Support for the conspiracy most recently surfaced at multiple Trump rallies and the sayings – including the faintly ominous “Where We Go One, We Go All” – are appearing everywhere from placards to Roseanne Barr’s Twitter.

Anonymous, best known for attacking Scientology with its Project Chanology operation, is well-equipped to unmask and ridicule Q. When Q began, said Anonymous, they found their antics to be a bit of clever trolling. Then, when Q followers began threatening lives Anonymous decided they were dangerous.

“We were all like ‘Check this troll out.’ He has them convinced that he’s on the inside and they’re eating it up,” Anonymous said in their atypically comical video. After a bit of ribbing, however, Anonymous said they found much to dislike. “None of us are happy with your bullshit,” they wrote. “We gonna wreck you. We are Anonymous.”