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Chinese hackers targeted five European foreign ministries in the run-up to the Russia-hosted G20 summit in September, according to security firm FireEye. There is no evidence that it was state-sponsored snooping, though FireEye reckons they were after intelligence related to the then-possible invasion of Syria. This year’s G20 was quite the summit from a security standpoint – Russia subsequently had to deny issuing spyware-laden USB sticks and phone-charging cables to foreign leaders and other delegates.

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Are you a terrorist using virtual worlds and gaming networks to hide your communications? There’s no evidence you exist, but if you do, then be warned: according to fresh revelations in the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica, the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ have for years infiltrated World of Warcraft and the Xbox Live network. Hilariously, so many agents were knocking around Second Life at one point that the NSA identified a need to “deconflict” them, ensuring they weren’t wasting time by spying on one another or duplicating efforts.

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In Brief

Former Autonomy boss Mike Lynch has invested in a company called Neurence through his Invoke Capital fund. Based in Cambridge, the firm was itself formed by former employees of Autonomy’s Aurasma augmented-reality (AR) division after HP bought Autonomy. Neurence has a new iPhone AR app called Taggar, which lets users overlay their own photos, videos and stickers on top of real-world objects, for viewing by other users when they hold their phone up in front of the object. Invoke’s previous investment, in September, was a Cambridge security firm called Darktrace.

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Sweden’s FRA intelligence agency has been spying on Russian politicians on behalf of the United States, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Swedish TV station Sveriges Television reported on Thursday that Sweden was a key regional partner for the U.S. National Security Agency because major telecommunications cables pass through it (suggesting bulk rather than targeted collection). Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell has previously warned of this situation, which dates back to the Cold War but was still apparently in play as recently as April this year. Diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in 2011 also pointed to the arrangement.

In Brief

London-based early-stage venture capital firm Hoxton Ventures officially revealed itself on Wednesday, despite having already made some quiet investments into startups Campanja and (according to TechCrunch) Tizaro. The firm will make 4 to 6 investments a year from its $40 million fund, which will apparently soon close at $50 million. Europe may be experiencing a much-needed boom in early-stage investment — Hoxton Ventures’ rivals include the likes of London’s Balderton Capital, Wellington Partners and MMC Ventures, and Berlin’s Earlybird and Point Nine Capital.

In Brief

One big advantage of Apple’s Lightning connectors over industry-standard Micro-USB (technically “Micro-B”) connectors is that they can go either way up – you don’t need to look first to see which way to insert it. Perhaps with that in mind, as well as the rise of thinner devices, the USB Implementors Forum said (PDF) on Tuesday that a new Type-C connector will offer the same benefit and more. It will be agnostic not only about orientation but also cable direction, and will be around the same size as today’s Micro-B connectors – prepare to say goodbye to the existing USB plug form factor after the specification is finalised in mid-2014.

In Brief

The UN’s special investigator on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism has opened an investigation into Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S., the U.K. and their close allies. Ben Emmerson will report back to the UN general assembly in autumn 2014, having looked into: whether Snowden is a whistleblower; whether his leaks weakened American and British counter-terrorism efforts; whether surveillance powers in those countries should be curbed; whether oversight of their spying is adequate; and whether the U.K. Parliament was misled by the country’s intelligence services. The UN itself was a target of NSA surveillance.

In Brief

German police are considering the use of a Shazam-like app for identifying neo-Nazi rock music, Der Spiegel reports. The app would identify far-right bands and their songs, apparently sparing police resources and speeding up investigations as they tackle extremist gatherings (and online radio stations, the article suggests). Nazism is illegal in Germany, as is racist hate speech. However, this app is unlikely to enter into use if legal authorities decide it’s a form of acoustic surveillance, which it plainly is.

In Brief

Facebook may soon buy a Bangalore startup, called Little Eye Labs, that provides performance analysis and optimization tools for Android developers. According to a Monday report in India’s Business Standard, advanced talks are being facilitated by the Indian Software Products Industry Roundtable (iSpirt). This may be connected with Facebook’s quest to better optimize its apps to run on low-end devices and spartan internet connections — like Google, the firm is trying to push further into developing markets. In recent months, Google bought French mobile optimization outfit Flexycore and Facebook picked up data compression specialist Onavo.

In Brief

Just days after a Berlin court decided Google’s privacy policy and terms of use were too vague, the Dutch data protection authority has done much the same. In a Thursday statement, the the watchdog’s chairman, Jacob Kohnstamm, said the U.S. firm didn’t give users any option or much transparency when it comes to combining their data from different Google services: “Google spins an invisible web of our personal data, without our consent. And that is forbidden by law.” The company will now need to attend a hearing, after which the privacy regulator will decide whether to take enforcement measures.

In Brief

A team at Georgia Tech has come up with an ingenious way to steer a wheelchair if you can’t move your limbs and torso: your tongue, featuring a magnetic titanium piercing full of sensors. Currently, the most common driving method for people with tetraplegia involves sucking on or blowing into a straw, but the researchers’ method — which basically turns the tongue into a joystick by having the sensors talk to a headset that controls the chair — is apparently just as accurate and much faster. Associate professor Maysam Ghovanloo hopes to commercialize the technology through his startup, Bionic Sciences.

In Brief

A federal judge has thrown out a consumer lawsuit against Apple, which alleged that the gadget-maker betrayed the trust of iPhone and iPad owners by allowing apps to scoop up their data and track them without consent. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh axed the 3-year-old case because none of the plaintiffs could prove they relied on Apple’s privacy policy in the first place. Indeed, as she pointed out, none of them could prove they had even read it – and that’s interesting from a legal perspective, because she rejected the ticking of the “Agree” box on iTunes accounts as evidence of genuinely informed consent.

European Union

The European Commission has set out its plan for restoring “trust” in the way the U.S. treats Europeans’ data. However, while it calls for more respect for EU ciitizens’ rights, the plan mostly amounts to asking the Americans to stick to the rules they’ve agreed to, and to be clearer about when surveillance may take place. Read more »

In Brief

The New York Times has published further details of an NSA operation that involves spying on the fiberoptic cables running between the data centers of companies such as Google and Yahoo. The piece highlights the role played by Level 3, the company that runs such cables for Google and Yahoo. Level 3 has already been identified as one of the telecommunications firms working with the UK’s NSA partner, GCHQ. These fiber connections are crucial to the affair, as they may provide a way for the NSA and GCHQ to effectively tap into major web firms’ systems without their cooperation.

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