ambiguity at work

The­re’s this sto­ry going round that the Ger­man Federal Intel­li­gence Ser­vice (BND) tap­ped an Afghan Minis­try — which stir­red up some dust on their work. The issue came into lime­light when jour­na­list of the SPIEGEL rea­li­zed that they were also being moni­to­red due to con­ver­sa­ti­ons they had with an Afghan Minis­ter in the past.

Now, I am not the per­son to deli­ver any facts or details on this par­ti­cu­lar sto­ry, but I real­ly have to won­der about some fel­low Ger­mans who appar­ent­ly think that the­re’s anything wrong about this procedure…Well, is it?

I lea­ve it to you to deci­de if an Intel­li­gence Agen­cy (respon­si­ble for for­eign affairs) *should* use all avail­ab­le tech­ni­cal faci­li­ties to moni­tor all elec­tro­nic com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on. Obvious­ly, this also is a a) a poli­ti­cal decisi­on and b) if *they* think it’s appro­pria­te, they will do it — with or without a poli­ti­cal or legal mandate.

What real­ly worries me though is this new law in Ger­ma­ny that gives so much more power into the wrong hands and which enab­les them to moni­tor all elec­tro­nic (com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on) data wit­hin the country.
Only ~ 30.000 ppl out of ~ 80 Mil­li­on regis­tered with a lawy­er in Ber­lin to impeach the Government on their behalf on this issue. I am one of them. We all HAD the chan­ce of taking the Government to court on this stu­pid and dan­ge­rous law, but only a rela­tively few took the oppor­tu­ni­ty of doing so. Main excu­se: “I don’t have anything to hide..”. As IF that was rea­son enough to accept this law without regar­ding the per­so­nal con­se­quen­ces this real­ly implies. I did have some nas­ty con­ver­sa­ti­ons — even with rela­ti­ves — on this issue and it always appeared to me that they never real­ly wan­ted to under­stand the impact this will have on ever­yo­ne of us in future. Ppl just don­t’t want to under­stand it.

Oh, ter­ro­rism? “Terror(ism) is what they do to us”.

My col­league Chris also blog­ged on this in Eng­lish ear­lier this year in a very com­pre­hen­si­ve article.

Now, accord­ing to this arti­cle in the Frank­fur­ter All­ge­mei­ne Zei­tung (FAZ), all e‑mail traf­fic of the named Afghan Minis­try is said to be done via Yahoo!.

And this is exact­ly whe­re I thought: WHAT THE.…why-o-why are they still using Yahoo!?????

Take Afgha­ni­stan and replace that word with any other coun­try. ANY! I am sure the­re are hund­reds or thousands of poten­ti­al vic­tims out the­re (inclu­ding me) who haven’t yet real­ly pro­tec­ted their online acti­vi­ties or who don’t even know about how to enga­ge pro­tec­ti­ve measurements.

We do have a Federal Office in Ger­ma­ny — the Bun­des­amt für Sicher­heit in der Infor­ma­ti­ons­tech­nik — that pro­vi­des direc­ti­ves and trai­nings on how to secu­re your online acti­vi­ties. Only, they are not being app­lied in this par­ti­cu­lar case, becau­se if they were serious on this, they could have told the Afghan Minis­try to stop using Yahoo! & other free (unse­cu­red) web­mai­lers. And poli­ti­ci­ans often aren’t the ones who think in IT-secu­ri­ty terms. Hell, who does? So if they don’t know, it’s easier to spy on them. Simp­le as that. Bes­i­des, ever­yo­ne knows that ever­yo­ne is spy­ing on everyone.

Case in point: I’ve seen many many fel­low ppl working in the Government of Kenya who were using free web­mai­lers. If you were inte­res­ted in moni­to­ring them, just would­n’t need advan­ced equip­ment. And with the Government having access to GSM moni­to­ring equip­ment, even cel­lu­lar pho­nes aren’t ful­ly protected.
I belie­ve the­re’s no 100% secu­re con­cept out the­re to pro­tect you from any tap­ping or DDoS, so it’s up to you to deci­de what and to which extent you want to com­mu­ni­ca­te online.

Ano­t­her ana­lo­gy to Kenya:

Six of the 20 Afghan cabi­net minis­ters had spent part of their lives in Ger­ma­ny and spo­ke Ger­man, the news­pa­per said. Far­hang holds a doc­to­ra­te from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Colo­gne and taught at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bochum befo­re retur­ning home. (source)

As long as the­re are inte­rests and invest­ments at sta­ke, the­re will always be a moni­to­ring of other par­ties, governments or just indiv­du­als. With or without a poli­ti­cal man­da­te, with or without any moral obli­ga­ti­ons and regard­less of any “good rela­ti­ons­hips” with deploy­ed poli­ti­ci­ans. Rai­la of cour­se knows this, but hey: as long as the GoK keeps on buy­ing Mer­ce­des and strucks some main­ten­an­ce deals for the fleet — why worry?

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