Dutch intel bill proposes non-specific (‘bulk’) interception powers for “any form of telecom or data transfer”, incl. domestic, plus required cooperation from “providers of communication services”

On July 2nd 2015, the Dutch government released (in Dutch), for public consultation, the long-awaited bill (.pdf, in Dutch) that overhauls the Dutch Intelligence & Security Act of 2002 (aka “Wiv2002″). It is nearly a complete rewrite of the current law (.pdf, in English), and includes significant expansions of power, as well as improvements to oversight and new provisions for activities that the current law didn’t foresee (e.g. metadata network analysis).

The post below focuses on the non-specific (‘bulk’) interception, including the mandatory cooperation from (to be selected) “providers of communication services” — which includes not only providers of public electronic communications networks and services, but also providers to closed user groups, including telcos, access providers, hosting providers and website operators.

The post below omits, for the sake of brevity, many other aspects that are crucial to forming a well-informed opinion on the bill in its entirety, which include:

  • the proposed introduction of required “purpose-orientation”, which intends to limit the hay stack created using non-specific interception to relevant information;
    • caveat: it remains to be seen how broad a “purpose” can be;
  • the proposed mandatory reporting about the use of special powers;
    • caveat: related existing requirements have not always been met in the past;
  • the proposed limitations on retention of intercepts;
    • caveat: encrypted data obtained via non-specific interception can (still) be stored indefinitely; the retention period does not start until the data is decrypted — think of collecting TLS-encrypted traffic until you know what to do with it (possibly compel someone to decrypt it or hand over keys);
  • the proposed specification of information that must be present in approval requests sent to the Minister
    • caveat: it has always been required that approval requests include a motivation (in terms of necessity, proportionality and subsidiarity), but oversight reports show that it has often been missing or was inadequate in the case of the use of the existing (ether-only) sigint power — which is why I stated oversight is currently broken. The new bill aims to fix that, but we won’t really know what has (not) been fixed until the bill is adopted and new oversight reports are published based on the new legal framework;
  • the proposed increase of the level of authorization required for hacking from head of service to Minister
    • caveat: the Minister may rubber-stamp it — although the Minister does get additional support in reviewing approval requests;
  • the many other proposed changes concerning oversight — but alas, still no ex ante or court oversight —, complaint handling, freedom of information, and more.

Please keep the above in mind. Specific interception, i.e., interception that only targets a specific individual, organization or technical characteristic (phone number, IP address, etc.), is omitted from this post, as it is not notably changed. The hacking power is included because it includes a new paragraph aimed at reconnaissance of computer networks (e.g. mapping computers and networks, running port scans, inquiring software/hardware configurations, etc.; think of NSA’s HACIENDA).

The bill uses the term “providers of communication services” (translations are mine):

Article 31

In this paragraph and the provisions based thereon, the following definitions apply:

  1. provider of a communication service: the natural or legal person who, in carrying out their profession or business, offers users of the service the possibility to communicate via an automated work, or who processes or stores data for the purpose of such a service, or for a user of that service;
  2. user: the natural or legal person who has a contract with the provider of a communication service concerning the use of that service or who actually uses such a service.

[…]

From the MoU (.pdf, in Dutch) it is clear that “provider of communication service” at least includes providers of public telecommunication services and networks (public telcos an internet access providers) and providers of closed services and networks, as well as hosting providers and website operators.

(The term “automated work” is linked to the Dutch computer crime legislation. The Dutch government is preparing another bill that will grant police hacking powers. That bill won’t be released until after the parliamentary summer break, which ends on August 31st 2015. Some details here.)

The intelligence services are granted the power of non-specific interception of “any form of telecommunications or data transfer via an automated work” (cable, ether, whatever; regardless of its source & destination, thus including domestic communication):

Article 33

  1. The services are authorized to, using a technical aid, wiretap, receive, record and listen to any form of telecommunications or data transfer via an automated work regardless of location in other cases than meant in Article 32 [= the specific interception power], if what has been required or provisioned by law is complied with. The power, meant in the previous sentence, includes the authority to undo encryption of telecommunications or data, as well as technical analysis of the data, insofar this is aimed at optimizing the use of the power meant in the previous sentence.

[…]

Providers of communication services are required to hand-over of data necessary to exercise the non-specific interception power in a purpose-oriented manner:

Article 36

  1. The services are authorized to request a provider of a communication service to provide data, which are necessary to exercise the power meant in Article 33, first member. The categories of data, to which the request mention in the previous sentence can apply, will be determined by governmental decree.

[…]

  1. The provider of a communication service is required to comply with a request as meant in the first sentence of the first member.

[…]

The MoU sheds a dim light on what data is meant (p.79):

[…] This involves acquiring information that can help map the communications landscape, which is necessary to, at some point in time, exercise the interception power meant in Article 33.[…]

[…] This involves, among others, the technical data of for instance the telecommunications network exploited by the provider, and the equipment used etc., which are necessary to — in consultation with the provider — determine what technical provisions that need to be made to carry out the authorized interception. […]

Footnote 63 of the MoU sheds slightly more light on what data is meant, and refers to the newly introduced requirement that interception must be purpose-oriented:

63: In order to intercept in a purpose-oriented manner, it must be made clear where, what type of communication is processed c.q. transported. This involves for instance information concerning business customers/tenants and data commonly known as part of daily operations of providers of communication services about the services offered, characteristics of traffic flows, and communication channels.

Providers of communication services must cooperate in enabling the intelligence services to exercise their non-specific interception powers, as authorized by the Minister, in that the providers must provide access to their systems/networks:

Article 37

  1. The services are authorized to request a provider of a communication service to cooperate in exercising the authorized interception as meant in Article 33, second member.

[…]

  1. The provider of a communication service that is not already required to cooperate based on Article 13.2 of the Telecommunications Act, is required to comply with a request as meant in the first member. The services are authorized to contact a provider of a communication service to request cooperation in the exercise of an authorized request as meant in Article 33, second member.
  2. The provider must maintain, for twelve months, the technical provisions made as part of the requested cooperation as authorized per the second member [= Ministerial authorization].

[…]

Providers of communication services can also be required to hand over telecommunications data of users (Art. 38):

Article 38

  1. The services are authorized to contact a provider of a communication service to request data concerning the telecommunication of a user that has been stored by the provider as part of the communication service offered. The categories of data, to which the request mention in the previous sentence can apply, will be determined by governmental decree.

[…]

  1. The provider of a communication service is required to comply with a request as meant in the first sentence of the first member.

[…]

Furthermore, the intelligence services are authorized to compel anyone (Dutch: “een ieder”) to help decrypt data in an automated work (Art.30-5 to 30-8) or help decrypt conversations, telecommunications or data transfer (Art.41-1), after approval from their Minister (Art.30-6 and Art.41-2); either by handing over keys or providing decrypted data. Another option to defeat encryption is the use of the hacking power (Art.30, see down below), again, after approval from the Minister.

New provisions are also present concerning “automated data analysis” — think of metadata analysis based on non-specific intercepts:

Article 35

  1. The services are authorized to:
    1. select the data that have been collected through the use of the power meant in Article 33.
    2. apply automated data analysis as meant in Article 47 concerning data collected using Article 33 that concerns data other than the content of that telecommunication.

[…]

Article 47

  1. The services are authorized to apply automated data analysis concerning:
    1. data from the services’ own automated databases,
    2. data from information sources accessible to anyone,
    3. data from automated databases to which the services have direct automated access, and
    4. data from databases provided by third parties.
  2. For the purpose of processing the data meant in (1) the data can at least:
    1. be compared in an automated way, or be compared in combination with each other;
    2. be searched on the basis of profiles;
    3. be compared for the purpose of tracing certain patterns.

[…]

The “data from databases provided by third parties” refers to databases that are provided voluntarily (on the basis of a request  ex Article 22); there is no power to compel third parties (i.e., private sector) to provide databases in the way that US intelligence services can under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act on the basis of the “tangible things”-provision.

The hacking power is pretty much unchanged, except that a specific provision is introduced for reconnaissance (see Art. 30-1-a):

Article 30

  1. The services are authorized to:
    1. explore the technical characteristics of automated works that are connected to a communications network;
    2. whether or not using technical interference, false signals, false keys, false identity or through intervention of the automated work of a third party, access an automated work;
  2. The power meant in the first member, under b, includes the power to:
    1. break any security;
    2. make technical provisions to undo the encryption of data stored or processed in the automated work;
    3. make technical provisions in relation to exercising the power meant in Article 25, first member [=observation of persons], and Article 32, first member [=specific interception];
    4. take over the data stored or processed in the automated work.

[…]

For further explanation about the interception framework, see this previous post. (written on the basis of preliminary documents released by the government prior to their release of the new bill).

The bill still restricts the use of the interception (non-specific and specific) and hacking powers to specific legal tasks, but a new task has been added for both the AIVD (‘g-task’) and MIVD (‘h-task’) concerning security screening of intelligence employees, agents and informants. Interception is currently not permitted in that context. For the AIVD, use of special powers remains restricted AIVD’s security task (‘a-task'; think of national security) and foreign intelligence task (‘d-task'; think of non-proliferation).

That’s it for now; further reading is to be done.

EOF

Dutch Minister of the Interior: so far, no new information concerning allegations that German BND spied on 71 KPN phone communication links on behalf of the NSA

On June 29th 2015, the Dutch Minister of the Interior sent a letter (.pdf, in Dutch) to the House of Representatives in response to a request from the House in the context of the allegations, made by Austrian MP Peter Pilz and reported (in Dutch) in May 2015, that 71 phone communication links (STM-1) of Dutch telco KPN were wiretapped by the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) on behalf of the NSA. The letter mostly refers to the ongoing investigation by the Dutch General Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD), but for the sake of completeness, here’s a translation (hyperlinks are mine):

On June 25th 2015, the House’s standing committee for the Interior asked me to respond to KPN’s statement about the wiretapping of its  telephony links by the German security service BND. Furthermore, the committee wants to know whether the BND has responded to the allegations, and whether the Netherlands carries out similar espionage on behalf of the NSA. Following the claims from Austrian MP Pilz, the AIVD is currently carrying out an investigation. In that context, consultations take place with mr. Pilz, the German authorities, and KPN. The AIVD also performs its own analysis.

KPN published a statement that mentions that the links named by Pilz start or end in the Netherlands. KPN can, on the basis of information in its own systems, not determine whether the links have in fact been wiretapped. The AIVD takes these findings into account in its investigation.

The German authorities reports that the Netherlands is not, and has not been, a target of the German BND. Previously, the director of the American NSA stated that the Netherlands is not a target of the NSA. I have informed the House on that.

Because the investigation is ongoing, it is too early to make conclusions concerning the claims by mr. Pilz. The Dutch intelligence & security services AIVD and the Military Intelligence & Security Service (MIVD) carry out their activities on the basis of the Dutch Intelligence & Security Act of 2002 (Wiv2002). The Dutch Review Committee on the Intelligence & Security Services (CTIVD) oversees the lawfulness of the execution of the Wiv2002. In CTIVD report 38 [2014, in Dutch], on telecommunications data processing, the CTIVD concluded that the AIVD and MIVD do not structurally collect (personal) data outside the legal framework.

On May 28th 2015, the House transferred a request from MP Voortman to the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for receiving a letter with a response to the claims by Austrian MP Pilz. When said investigation is completed, I will inform the House.

One may recall that Pilz also claimed that the Netherlands, France, Luxemburg an Austria were targets of BND spying during operation Eikonal in the period 2004-2008.

Also recall that it was a former chief of the German BND, mr. Hansjörg Geiger, who suggested to establish an “intelligence codex”, i.e., a no-spy agreement — for instance between a group of European countries — to mutually abstain from “political, economic and diplomatic” espionage. That proposal was included in Pieter Omtzigt’s PACE report on mass surveillance (.pdf). On March 3rd 2015, in response to a request from the House, the idea of a codex was rejected by the Dutch government.

EOF

On Ixquick/StartPage.com showing localized results & not showing Google CAPTCHAs

TL;DR: there is no reason to believe Ixquick/StartPage.com discloses user IP addresses to Google.

Sometimes a question pops up (for instance here, here, here and here) about 1) how the privacy-oriented search engine Ixquick/StartPage.com (wikipedia) shows localized Google search results and AdWords to its users, and 2) how it is possible that Google CAPTCHAs are never shown. I could not find answers in the Ixquick/StartPage.com FAQs or support forums. Because some Reddit commenters wondered whether Ixquick/StartPage.com discloses IP addresses to Google, I asked Ixquick/StartPage.com, and received answers that — as expected — provide more plausible explanations. The questions and answers are posted below, as well as on Reddit, with the intent to counter some unnecessary FUD.

First, here’s my question to Ixquick/StartPage.com about how localized search results are shown (summarized from two mails):

How does StartPage show localized Google search results & AdWords? When using an English browser and searching for “computers” from a Dutch IP address, StartPage shows Dutch AdWords and search results. When doing the same from a German IP address, German results are shown. Does StartPage map the user IP to a country, and use that in the query that Startpage sends to Google’s servers? Does it work exactly like this?

  • step 1: perform geolookup of user IP to retrieve country code
  • step 2: send country code to Google in the “gl” parameter  (in addition to the search phrase etc.)

The answer from Ixquick/StartPage.com’s support desk:

The two steps you’ve outlined are exactly correct:

  • step 1: perform geolookup of user IP to retrieve country code
  • step 2: send country code to Google in the “gl” parameter  (in addition to the search phrase etc.)

Indeed, showing localized Google search results does not require Ixquick/StartPage.com to disclose the IP addresses of users to Google. Ixquick/StartPage.com explicitly states that users’ IP addresses are not shared with Google.

Second, here’s my question to Ixquick/StartPage.com about the absence of Google CAPTCHAs:

How can it be that users of Ixquick/StartPage are never (?) shown a Google CAPTCHA, even though Ixquick/StartPage’s servers send, on a daily basis, lots of queries to Google from a limited set of IP addresses? Is this an agreement between Ixquick/StartPage and Google, in which Google agreed to, for instance, whitelist those IP addresses to exempt them from the CAPTCHA?

Answer from Ixquick/StartPage.com:

StartPage has a contract with Google that allows us to use their official “Syndicated Web Search” feed. We have to pay them to get those results.

Indeed, preventing the Google CAPTCHA does not require Ixquick/StartPage.com to disclose the IP addresses of users to Google; a paid contract takes care of that.

According to a StartPage.com Knowledge Base article from 2013, 99% of the money they earn comes from the ads they show on results pages. Those ads are included via Ixquick/StartPage.com’s own servers, not from third-party domains. It is not until you click an AdWord — and thus help Ixquick/StartPage.com survive as a free, privacy-enhancing way to access Google search (and search results, if you use Ixquick/StartPage.com’s awesome proxy service) — or a search result, that your browser communicates with other parties.

In general, if you don’t want to expose your IP address and/or browser fingerprint to a website, access the website from the Tor Browser, and use Tor Browser properly. StartPage.com is nowadays included as a preset search engine in Tor Browser, and StartPage.com’s “compatibility” with Tor (“we don’t block Tor”, I suppose) is mentioned in a StartPage.com Knowledge Base article from 2014. Don’t forget about the possibility of vulnerabilities in Tor Browser itself: set the new security level setting to “high” to mitigate some of that risk, and lower it only whilst being fully aware that doing so increases risk, especially when allowing JavaScript and canvas fingerprinting. You won’t see localized information unless the Tor exit node happens to be in your country, or when you use a non-English version of Tor Browser and disagree to the following question that is asked at first use (translated from the Dutch version):

To increase your privacy, Torbutton can request web pages in the English language. This can mean that web pages you want to read in your own language are shown in English. Do you want to request web pages in English for better privacy?

Normally, Tor Browser sends the following header to websites to indicate the desired language (tested w/Tor Browser 4.5.2; “q” essentially denotes the preference order; see RFC2616 (HTTP/1.1) Section 14.4 for details):

Accept-Language:en-us,en;q=0.5

If you disagree to the prompt, the Dutch version of Tor Browser sends the following header:

Accept-Language:nl,en-US;q=0.7,en;q=0.3

Generally speaking, the latter will decrease your anonymity, because you are likely to blend in with a smaller crowd — and possibly a far smaller crowd if your particular non-default language setting in Tor Browser (such as Dutch) is used nearly exclusively by relatively small populations (such as the Dutch and the Belgians). Note that, similarly, setting Tor’s security level to “high” also results in a smaller crowd, specifically in the eyes of websites that run tests (through JavaScript, CSS, etc.) to determine and record the browser configuration, including (un)availability of properties and functions.

EOF

Outlines of the Dutch General Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD) Year Plan for 2015

On June 23rd 2015, the Dutch Minister of the Interior submitted the outlines of the 2015 year plan (in Dutch) of the General Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD) to the parliament.

The idea of a “year plan” was proposed by the oversight committee (CTIVD), and is intended to inform intelligence consumers, stakeholders, the parliament and society about what they can expect from the AIVD in the next year. Due to the nature of it contents, the year plan itself is a state secret. The year plan has been discussed with, and approved by, the government’s Council for the Intelligence & Security Services (RIV) on June 9th 2015, and was subsequently accepted by the cabinet. The present letter from the minister, the first of its kind, is referred to in Dutch as “Jaarplanbrief”, which (literally) translates to “Year Plan Letter”. It is scheduled as input, among other inputs, for the parliamentary General Meeting on intelligence & security services’ affairs that will take place on July 1st 2015 [postponed, new date yet to be set].

The cabinet is currently preparing an intelligence bill that will, besides change the oversight framework and safeguards, grant the AIVD and the Military Intelligence & Security Service (MIVD) to perform unspecific (bulk) interception of cable communications. That bill is yet to be released into public consultation (it will appear here); the letter below precedes it.

The remainder of this post consists of a translation of that letter; hyperlinks are mine.

National security and the role of the AIVD

Security is a core task of the government. The AIVD ensures national security by timely identification of threats, (political) developments and risks that are not immediately visible. To this end, the AIVD carries out domestic and foreign investigations, taking into account the safeguards of the Dutch Security & Intelligence Act of 2002 (.pdf) (Wiv2002). Collecting and interpreting intelligence is not an objective on and by itself. It is an essential condition to thwart terrorist attacks, disrupt terrorist traveling, detect espionage, and, more generally, support government policy to protect the democratic rule of law and other important state interests. The AIVD shares specific knowledge and information with its partners (for instance public administrators, policy makers, the National Police) and instigates other organizations to act.

AIVD year plan on the basis of Integrated Intelligence & Security Policy (Dutch: “Geïntegreerde Aanwijzing I&V”)

The AIVD Year Plan 2015 is, for the first time, based on the system of an Integrated Intelligence & Security Policy [“GA I&V”, abbreviating its Dutch title, “Geïntegreerde Aanwijzing Inlichtingen & Veiligheid”], as introduced following the cabinet response to the review of the Wiv2002 [by the Dessens Committee] (Parliamentary Papers, 2013-2014, 33 820, nr. 2). Although the GA I&V will not have a formal legal basis until the Wiv2002 has been changed, the cabinet has decided to start using the system this year. The GA I&V describes the needs of intelligence consumers concerning various themes and focus areas, and is, from now on, the basis for the year plans of the AIVD and the MIVD. The accompanying Year Plan Letter intended for the parliament will as of 2016 be available before January 1st of each year, in accordance with the motion filed by Van der Staaij c.s. (Parliamentary Papers, 2014-2015, 29 754, nr. 295).

Strengthening of AIVD budget

On June 30th 2014 the cabinet decided to grant a structural addition of EUR 25 million to the AIVD budget as of 2015. Reason for this budget increase was the changing threat landscape. Worrying developments happened both nationally and internationally. The intensification is meant for investigations concerning the threat from persons traveling to Syria for jihad, developments in Iraq, and developments concerning instability in the Middle-East and the outside borders of Europe. Intensification was also necessary concerning cyber threats.

On February 25th 2015 the cabinet decided on a new strengthening of the security chain. This concerns the prolonged nature of the worsened threat landscape concerning jihadism. This strengthening enables the services and organizations involved to counter the jihadist threat in the coming years. The structural addition to the AIVD’s budget increases in phases up to EUR 40 million a year per 2020. The AIVD’s budget is then EUR 230 million. This enables the structural strengthening of the investigation capability concerning radicalization and counter-terrorism, without harm to other important investigations (left-wing and right-wing extremism, foreign intelligence).

The AIVD Year Plan 2015 establishes the priorities and accents, as reflected in this Year Plan Letter, considering the aforementioned strengthening.

Priorities and accents of AIVD investigations

Concerning the legal tasks of the AIVD, insight is given below into the priorities and accents that are put central in 2015 in each focus areas:

Jihadist terrorism

The Netherlands has a terrorist threat level that is qualified as “substantial” [explanation] since March 2013. Approximately 200 jihadists have left the Netherlands to join the fight in Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, a number of persons with a Dutch background support the jihad in other conflict zones, such as Somalia. They train, and obtain knowledge, expertise and fighting experience, and get into contact with local, regional and international terrorist groups. They are a threat for the (regimes in the) countries concerned, but often also for the Western interests there. When these jihadists return to the Netherlands, they are a potential threat. Part of these persons can continue their terrorist activities in the Netherlands.

There is also a threat from jihadist groups that are active in various countries, and that also have an international agenda. The most well-known organizations are core al-Qa’ida (AQ core), the related groups AQAS (AQ on the Arabian Peninsula), AQIM (AQ in the Islamic Maghreb), al-Shabaab (Somalia) and Jabhat al-Nusra (Syria). Besides that, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) intends to carry out attacks in the West. The increasing role of old, transnational jihadist networks that were active in the 1990s is also worrying. Active veterans seem to increasingly put themselves forward as facilitators for a new generation of jihadists. These veterans have the right contacts to have a supporting role to groups with an international agenda.

The jihadist threat against the West is currently also stems from individuals who are not associated with a particular group, and who have or have not traveled abroad. Sympathizers are used worldwide to carry out relatively simple attacks. The attacks in Paris and Copenhagen are examples, and can inspire radical muslims to carry out similar terrorist activities. Moreover, the attacks in Paris make clear that various independent elements can come together: individuals, sympathizers, diffuse local networks, relations with and inspiration from old transnational networks and persons sympathizing with rival jihadist groups, but who nonetheless on their own grasp opportunities to carry out attacks nearly simultaneously and jointly.

Furthermore, jihadists who’s travels are disrupted can pose a threat to the West. The attacks that were carried out in Canada and Australia in the Fall of 2014 and can be related to ISIS illustrate this threat. In the Netherlands as well, signs exist that a threat can exist from jihadists who’s travels were disrupted.

The AIVD’s efforts are aimed at timely identification of the aforementioned national and international jihadist threats, to provide operational perspectives to the relevant government organization(s). Besides that, efforts are aimed at contributing to the prevention of Dutch youngsters traveling abroad to conflict zones, and at identifying the threat from (returned) jihad fighters. The AIVD also attempts to impede the supporting and recruiting activities for participation in the international violent jihad. Naturally, the AIVD can not act alone concerning jihadi terrorism, and active cooperation takes place with other organizations, such as the NCTV, the National Police, the Public Prosecution Service, the municipalities and Child Protective Services. Also, international cooperation takes place with foreign intelligence and security services.

Radicalization and extremism

Radicalization of various groups in the Dutch public is reason for concern to the AIVD, and reason for the intensification of the investigation. Recent developments in, among others, the Middle-East have effects that stretch to the Netherlands. In the last two years, a large number of people traveled to the conflict in Syria and Iraq. A far larger number feels involved in this conflict, for personal or ideological reasons. The attraction of jihadism has various consequences.

The public AIVD report Transformation of jihadism in the Netherlands [available in English] points out the potential threat from the broad group of sympathizers and supporters of radical islam in the Netherlands, who are not immediately involved with or can not be related to actual jihadist activities, but who create support and growing potential. It is therefore important to have good insight into radicalization processes among this group. Not only the strong momentum that the jihadi movement has gained is reason for serious concern. Also the growth of a different specific form of radical islam, dawa-salafism, is an increasing risk. Dawa-salafism has in recent years taken more ground in the islamic landscape of the Netherlands, both physically and online. Preachers who work outside the established dawa-salafist organizations loudened the intolerant and anti-democratic message that dawa-salafism and jihadism share. The voices of established salafist preachers have hardened. The resistance that established dawa-salafist organizations claimed they could offer against jihadism is decreased partially because of that.

The threat from (the growth of) radical islam in the Netherlands is twofold: on the one hand, this growth can lead to violence in the form of jihadist terrorism, on the other hand it can itself form a threat to the democratic rule of law because of the intolerant and anti-democratic message that is spread. The AIVD investigates both types of threat. The investigation into persons and organizations who spread jihadist thoughts helps in timely insight into jihadists, and facilitates the AIVD research into the focus of investigations into jihadist terrorism. The investigation into non-jihadist radical islam helps, among others, the NCTV, the local governments and other relevant organizations in taking measures against individuals who promote anti-integrative and intolerant isolationism.

The left-wing extremism in the Netherlands in characterized by erratic developments, with sometimes large peaks in intensity and threat. In the right-wing extremism, a form of hardly organized and unstructured ‘new’ right-wing extremism is developing next to the some remaining small ‘classic’ right-wing extremist groups. The latter involves ‘anti-islamic’ persons and groups who often ad hoc focus on (alleged) islamist excesses. Besides the actual threat from this, the perceived threat and the societal unrest must be taken into account that follows from that as a result of inflation of the threat from right-wing extremism by left-wing activists and extremists from their anti-fascist viewpoint. The interpretation of the factual threat that the AIVD recognizes from left-wing extremism and right-wing extremism is essential in providing an operational perspective for local and national officials.

Proliferation of WMDs

WMDs potentially pose a significant threat for international peace and security. The Netherlands has signed treaties aimed at countering proliferation of such weapons. The joint Unit Counterproliferation (UCP) of the AIVD and MIVD investigates countries that are suspected of — in violation of international treaties — pursuing WMDs and  means of transfer, or already possess those. The efforts of the AIVD and MIVD are aimed at obtaining an independent information position concerning WMD programs in risk countries, so as to inform the Dutch government. Acquisition activities by or on behalf of risk countries via the Netherlands is countered. This prevents that Dutch companies knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the proliferation of (parts of) WMDs.

Investigations into states

Considering the uncertain and unpredictable international environment and the risks involved for international peace and security, intelligence is of vital importance to the establishment of Dutch foreign policy. The AIVD’s investigations into states are carried out to provide the government with background information and an operational perspective, and to use it in consultations on topics that affect the Dutch national and international political interests. The investigations into states are increasingly related to the AIVD’s security tasks. For a number of states, a joint intelligence need is defined by intelligence consumers in the GA I&V for the AIVD and MIVD. The execution of these investigations takes place in close (operational) cooperation and consultation with the MIVD.

(Digital) espionage and cyber threats

The AIVD carries out structural investigations into foreign intelligence activities (espionage) that take place in the Netherlands or are targeted at Dutch interests. This investigation is aimed at identifying and disrupting unwanted activities through independent AIVD action, or by providing operational perspectives to the relevant authorities.

Concerning digital espionage, the AIVD has in recent years observed various digital attacks aimed at espionage and gathering vulnerable and valuable (political, military, economical and technical) information. Examples are numerous, and the threat and damage is significant. Additionally, digital attacks aimed at sabotage or societal disruption can be involved. Digital attacks such as Flame, Shamoon and Stuxnet, but also less advanced attacks such as DDoS attacks showed in recent years how (parts of) vital sectors can be disrupted or damaged. A significant problem of cyber attacks is that they can often be difficult to trace to a perpetrator or whoever commissioned the attack, and that they can be deployed from and via nearly every country. The AIVD investigates cyber attacks, and if necessary in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC).

Promoting protection and the guarding and security of designated property and services

On the area of the promotion of measures to protect designated interests, the efforts of the AIVD are aimed at promoting measures for protecting processes, organizations and sectors that are important for national and economical security. This involves, for instance, the protection of vital parts of government and the private sector from terrorism, but also the protection of data that is classified on grounds of national security. The AIVD’s efforts are also aimed at informing the government and (vital) private parties about threats and risks, and at providing recommendations for the purpose of taking adequate protective measures. Furthermore, threat analyses are made for the NCTV’s Counterterrorism Alert system (ATb). The NL-NCSA (NBV), part of the AIVD, advises the national government about information security, for instance concerning preventive measures for detection of and response to security breaches. The AIVD also, at request, evaluates security products before they are used by the national government.

Concerning the guarding and security of designated property and services, the AIVD provides insight into the (potential) threat against politicians, the government, diplomatic representatives, international organizations and large-scale events. This information is provided to the NCTV in the form of threat estimates, threat analyses and risk analyses, and the NCTV then decides about security measures. This task has immediate relations to other investigation objectives, including with regard to radicalization and extremism.

Other AIVD priorities and accents

The other priorities and accents for the AIVD in 2015, including with regard to security screenings and business operations, are discussed below:

Security screenings and designated jobs

Since this year a new, re-calibrated method is used for designating trust positions, and for carrying out security screenings. Only positions that can cause serious and plausible damage to national security are designated as trust positions. Also, the legal principle is that security screenings are the breech block of security, among others because of the privacy infringement involved. In the execution of security screenings, the protection of national security is leading. Research in AIVD systems is the basis of each security screening, in which the nature of the threat recognized by the AIVD determines which information is most relevant. It is intended that at least 90% of the security screenings are completed within the legal term of eight weeks.

Following a recent change of law, the costs of security screenings for private sector appointments can charged to the private requester. This has already been implemented in 2013 for screenings for public sector appointments. In 2015, a cooperation model is developed within the exploratory inquiry into a joint AIVD/MIVD unit for carrying out security screenings. A joint unit should be established by 2017 at the latest.

Inflow of new staff

In the coming years, the inflow of new (operational) personnel will have high priority in the AIVD’s business operations. On the one hand, this new personnel results from the budget increases decided on by the cabinet, on the other hand from vacancies following from the completion of the reorganization per January 1st 2015. A task force has been established within the AIVD for the purpose of optimizing the chain of personnel flow and inflow, for instance concerning recruitment, security screenings, facilities, training and education.

Information provisioning and IT

The AIVD is highly dependent on timely and secure information provisioning. For that reason, it is necessary to make significant investments in renewal of IT. This need is increased as result of the AIVD having to process more data to determine the behavior of targets, of the fact that the AIVD must be present with systems on more locations, and the fact that data processing is increasingly threatened by new forms of cyber attacks. The focus within IT is unabated the continuous assurance of the continuity of IT systems and the renewal and further development of (operational) IT systems.

Inquiry into co-location AIVD and MIVD

At the end of 2014, and interdepartmental project started in which, in cooperation between the ministries of General Affairs, Defense and the Interior, it is investigated to what extent, and under what conditions, it is possible to accommodate the AIVD and the MIVD jointly on the Frederikskazerne. In the summer of 2015, the outcomes of the preliminary investigation on housing will be presented, after which, depending on the outcomes, further decisions will be made.

Follow-up on investigation by Court of Auditors

On May 19th 2015, the Court of Auditors published the report “Budget cuts and intensifications at the AIVD” (.pdf, in Dutch) [note: that report qualifies an earlier EUR 68 million budget cut — a third of the AIVD’s annual budget — as irresponsible]. In the cabinet’s response (.pdf, in Dutch) to this report, it was promised that the targeted investments by the cabinet in the AIVD and the GA I&V will be developed into a multi-year implementation plan. This plan will be delivered by the AIVD in 2015. Education, informatization and permanent innovation will be addressed in assuring this multi-year perspective.

Reports and accountability

Through this Year Plan Letter I provided insight in the priorities and accents for the AIVD in 2015, also in relation to the budget and the cooperation with (chain) partners in the security domain. Public accountability for the execution of the Year Plan will take place in the departmental annual report of the Ministry of the Interior, and in the AIVD’s own annual report. The AIVD will report ad interim about the progress of the Year Plan via, among others, four-monthly progress reports. These progress reports will be shared and discussed with the House Committee for the Intelligence & Security Services. 

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Dutch police arrest five persons in EUR 1,000,000 ‘car phishing’ & laundering scam

The Dutch National Police website reports (in Dutch) that five persons have been arrested as suspects in a million euro ‘car phishing’ scam. Here is a translation of that report:

Five suspected of  cajoling million euro from bank account holders

Last update:

Amsterdam/Hoogvliet – Four men and a woman have been arrested for ‘car phishing’ on Monday June 15th during searches of premisses in Amsterdam and Hoogvliet. They are suspected of having formed a criminal group and obtaining approximately one million Euro from bank account holders. From that money they bought cars and quickly resold those. The criminal group is suspected of scamming and laundering.

The police, the National Office of the Public Prosecutor and the banks investigate this criminal group within the context of the  Electronic Crimes Taskforce (ECTF). There are 63 reports of ‘car phishing’ between August 2014 and the present.

‘Phishing’

The criminals sent a phishing email asking various bank account holders to click on a link and enter their bank account data there. Using this data, the criminals selected victims who have a lot of money on their account.

The woman suspect pretended to be a bank employee, sought contact with the account holder and asked for the victim’s cooperation in updating the data. Victims were deceived into providing authentication and signing credentials. It is believed that during such a call, the other suspects logged into the internet banking account of their victims. From there, they transfered large amounts directly to a car salesman, individual or garage.

Cars

A straw man was already present at the car salesman at the time of the money transfer. As soon as the salesman confirmed reception of the money, the straw man got the car. The vehicle is often immediately resold, often at prices notably lower than the purchase prices.

Data storage devices and ‘calling instructions’

During the searches on Monday, various data storage devices where seized, such as computers, mobile phones, USB flash drives. In one of the premisses searched, ‘calling instructions’ were found for contacting the victims.

Remand

On Thursday June 18th the magistrate decided to extend the remand of the five suspects with 14 days.

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