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Microsoft Training May Have Helped Tunisian Regime To Spy On Citizens 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A document released in the recent Cablegate leak reveals that Microsoft provided training to the Tunisian Ministries of Justice and the Interior in exchange for exemption from the country's open software policy. These Ministries would soon put the training to use by phishing for the social networking credentials of bloggers, reporters, political activists and protesters. Microsoft's assistance resulted in the sale of 12,000 software licenses to the Tunisian government." The cable itself details the effort Microsoft put into negotiating a deal. Their clear intent was simply expanding into a new market, but the author of the cable was skeptical of the Tunisian government's adherence to its stated goals. Quoting: "In theory, increasing GOT law enforcement capability through IT training is positive, but given heavy-handed GOT interference in the internet, Post questions whether this will expand GOT capacity to monitor its own citizens."
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Microsoft Training May Have Helped Tunisian Regime To Spy On Citizens

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  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:04PM (#37311380)
    Can anyone knowledgable comment? There are quite a few articles around saying that the key thing that MS did was to put in a certificate for the Tunisian Government in Windows / Internet explorer which let them intercept any domain they wanted to; See this posting in Scribd [scribd.com]. If that's true it's a much more serious betrayal of their users by Microsoft.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:22PM (#37311456) Journal
      Maybe state CAs are swapped in according to localization; or I suck at finding them; but I didn't manage to locate any such cert in an EN-US win7 machine. I don't, of course, have any access to whatever localization Tunisian systems would be using.
      • The Windows XP machine I'm using has the Tunisian government certificate authority installed (it's named "Agence Nationale de Certification Electronique").

        An easy way to check if you have it is to simply go to the Tunisian Certification Agency site [certification.tn] (with https). If your browser shows a warning saying that the certificate authority can't be confirmed (or something like that), you don't have the Tunisian Govt CA. If it doesn't show any warnings, it probably means you do have the CA -- to check it, ask your br

        • How curious. I still cannot find any mention of the certificate, or the CA in the system certificates management interface; but IE sure does seem happy with the certificate and the root...

          I revise my earlier comment to the effect that "either I suck at finding them, or Microsoft sucks at showing them".
          • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

            Well Google isn't Microsoft and they don't seem to mind telling me the Agence Nationale de Certification Electronique is just fine as well within Chrome. I don't have firefox, but I doubt it's any different.

            Bad government or not, I'm betting most browsers aren't going to have fits over it.

            • On Windows clients, at any rate, Chrome uses the system certificate store, same as IE, so behavior should be identical(barring any ad-hoc bodging in response to particular issues). I don't know what Chrome on other platforms does.

              FF does its own thing, independent of the OS/DE provided certificate store, and throws an untrusted certificate warning.
              • In my case both Chromium and Firefox reject the certificate. So it's clearly a Microsoft thing to accept it.
            • by Ltap (1572175)
              Testing that site on Firefox 6.0.1, I get an error page which says the following:

              www.certification.tn uses an invalid security certificate.

              The certificate is not trusted because no issuer chain was provided.

              So Firefox definitely does find something fishy about it, though this might be completely unrelated.

              • There is nothing "fishy" about it, Firefox just doesn't include the issuing CA in its certificate store.

                Unlike Chrome (and obviously IE), Mozilla software doesn't use the certs supplied with Windows.

        • Huh, site worked fine in stock IE8 (OS installed from a Dell image), in a heavily modded Firefox 6 it was untrusted. Half the Perspectives notaries showed consistent results, the other half returned nothing.

        • for it to mean anything, you should check who signed the site's certificate.

          Afaict even that is of limited utility because thanks to the webs page by page model there is no enforcement that the cert used to send you the login page is the same cert that will be used when you submit the login form.

    • 6. (C) In a call on DCM a few days before the South Africa Forum, Smaoui worried that she was going to the Forum without a signed agreement in hand and could not confirm that the GOT's representative would even show up. She fretted that she might have to confess to Bill Gates that she had no reason to be at the Forum. In the event, Khedija Ghariani, Secretary of State for Computers, Internet, and Free SIPDIS Software, attended and signed the agreement on behalf of the GOT. Despite the drawn-out negotiations, Smaoui stated that reaching an agreement was "vital" for Microsoft. ...... Even as the goal of expanding employment opportunities for handicapped Tunisians is worthy, the program's affiliation with Leila Ben Ali's charity is indicative of the backroom maneuvering sometimes required to finalize a deal.

      first of all, this likely is a violation of FCPA [wikipedia.org], this is the stuff that Murdoch is facing BTW, so he is trying to repeal this law.

      Microsoft's reticence to fully disclose the details of the agreement further highlights the GOT emphasis on secrecy over transparency. In theory, increasing GOT law enforcement capability through IT training is positive, but given heavy-handed GOT interference in the internet, Post questions whether this will expand GOT capacity to monitor its own citizens. Ultimately, for Microsoft the benefits outweigh the costs.

      - secondly, here we have a company (MS) conspiring with a foreign government in order to limit freedoms of entire nation. If there is nothing illegal about this, then everything on this planet is f.d up.

      • obama's DOJ is too busy going after journalists and 'leakers'

        (Stephen Kim, Jeffrey Sterling, Shamai Leibowitz, Thomas Drake, Bradley Manning)

        In fact, Bradley Manning is quite probably being charged specifically with giving out this cable, as it is probably one of the 100,000+ he is charged with under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Theft of Government Property laws.

        in essence... the government we have now would allow Microsoft to break this law, but they would put the guy in jail who let you know that

  • In other news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    GE power turbine used to energize torture cables

    Caterpillar tractor harvested crops to feed dictator

    • Re:In other news (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 05, 2011 @08:15PM (#37311706)

      GE makes missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

      Caterpillar sells bulldozers to Israel that are used to run over and kill people, as well as illegal home demolitions.

      In other news, blissfully ignorant American is ignorant.

      • by Quila (201335)

        Missiles aren't considered weapons of mass destruction, and GE got out of the nuclear weapons making business a while ago.

        Caterpillar sells special armored bulldozers to Israel because the Palestinians try to kill the drivers who are demolishing terrorist hideouts. People get run over because they run where the driver can't see them (the armor restricts visibility), or the Palestinians are shooting at or otherwise interfering with the the Israeli soldiers whose job is to clear the path of any people.

        In othe

        • and you do? So he may have chosen a side in this conflict but (clearly) so have you. Both parties are committing immoral acts in this everlasting conflict, but that doesn't make them OK...
          • The purpose of these bulldozers is not to run over people. In fact, that is why the IDF has troops go with them when possible to make sure they don't run over anybody (but as I said, their job is made difficult due to attacks by the very people they're trying to save from getting run over). The IDF has even installed cameras to try to eliminate the blind spots so drivers can avoid running over people who throw themselves in front of the bulldozers.

            But the AC made it out as running over people was in the pla

    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's hardly interesting, in both of those cases the equipment would have to be used in a legitimate way before that could happen. Unless GE generators are being hooked up directly to the cables used for torture, it's highly unlikely that GE would know that it's being used for nefarious purposes rather than for humanitarian ones.

      As for Caterpillar, under that scenario it's unlikely that they'd have done anything wrong, so long as they didn't need to break an embargo to ship the equipment over there.

  • Plan A: Build better products which compete on merit alone. Failed - look at the market share of anything outside Windows & Office - e.g 1% for their new phone OS or IE's decline.
    Plan B: Use litigation to extort or smother the competition, e.g. 5$ for every Android handset from HTC [slashdot.org]. Failed - Motorolas patents will nullify them now, and Ballmer is in serious shit for letting Motorola go to Google [cnet.co.uk].
    Plan C: Get corrupt government officials to buy their products by helping them do evil. Good luck with that,

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:28PM (#37311480)

    Because it gets known now? You don't think MS is the only company that doesn't give half a shit about who they sell to, do you? If there's not an outright embargo (that has to be circumvented somehow), anyone can buy anything if the price is right. Hell, IBM sold computers to the Nazis, knowing quite well just what they will be used for.

    You think any corporation would have acted different in any way? Corporations are the pinnacle of capitalist evolution: Intelligence without conscience.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Most do it as a shell game, using cut outs and having all paper work moved around as needed.
      If anyone finds a person or tech, its emptied out, sold, lost in a take over ...
      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-22/torture-in-bahrain-becomes-routine-with-help-from-nokia-siemens-networking.html [bloomberg.com]
      e.g. "says he can’t comment because all documentation from the intelligence solutions unit had been transferred"
      The big brand then only likes "ethical businesses"
    • IBM sold computers to the Nazis...

      Cite - cause I'd really like to know which ones. The first true computer ever built wasn't completed until 1943 (ENIAC). Other computers wouldn't show up until after the war.

    • Fortunately not every corporation corrupts the iso process, not every corporation joins a standardization body while parallely setting a patent ambush.. So yes corporations can act differently;

      I guess the morality of the executive leadership can affect the morality of the corporation's acts.
      Sometimes the main shareholders are real humain beings with a conscience, which may affect their choices for the corporation.
      Even if we accept the idea that every corporations are without conscience, they may a le
      • Nope. Corporations, from bottom to top, are guided by a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility and a shift of blame.

        Every person has a conscience that would prohibit certain actions. Even the most "evil" patent lawyers might be conscious people. But they have a duty, a responsibility and someone else is to blame for their actions.

        Take the chance of getting laid off. A group manager gets told that he has to fire one of his people. He knows them. All of them. He knows that Bill has just bought a new house a

  • Wouldn't that mean open source software was being used to oppress? Or would somehow the spirit of freedom inside of the software refuse to run, knowing what it was being used for?

    I know Microsoft is evil and all, but really, it sounds like they had plausible deniability: "..Tunisian government's adherence to its stated goals."

    • Nice strawman. The problem is not the software, it's the company. Nobody is blaming Windows, we're blaming actual people who made a deal. And if instead of MS it was a company which produced open source it would be just has bad.

      And there's nothing plausible about their deniability.

  • USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax (1541065) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:49PM (#37311568)
    So, the USA torture practices come to light, the USA illegal wars, the USA illegal everything... and those same guys see MS doing something that might be stupid from a human perspective, but no where near the level of the USA as a country in itself... is pointing the finger???? Man, you guys here still don't get the cables. It's the fucking USA that is the enemy! YES! Even if you are a USA Citizen. I might as well say, especially if you are a US citizen. Those people, that lead your country, not the guy in the White House... are fucking war criminals at best! Do something about it! We (the rest of the world) can't! Prove for once America is about freedom. But think about real freedom for once. Not just freedom on your own continent. The world doesn't turn around you. Let alone the universe. We have one earth and we have to make it together. And right now we are fucking it up. And that fucking up is being orchestrated by a handful very powerful people. Having said that... Peace. We need to stick together. Because our children will hopefully be smarter.
    • China and Russia could sell all their fannie and freddie bonds, and all their tresaury bonds, and the US would collapse overnight.
      move off the dollar as a world reserve currency, and it would undergo mass inflation like argentina a few years back.

      • by santax (1541065)
        Yeps but the usa has a zillion nuclear weapons and a zillion nuclear idiots... The top guys - the snakes in suits - would probably rather kill the whole world :( Having said that, here in Europe we only have a million nuclear weapons but still a zillion nuclear idiots that would do the same. People are retarded. They really are. Me myself and i. That's all that matters. And even these cables that should have lead to a complete new system... well... we - the people - just don't give a fuck. At least, that is
      • China can crash the US economy, and then their biggest exports market ($365 billion just last year) crashes too, leaving them in shit. The EU (the other big importer) is already having enough problems affording China's stuff, they have nothing to gain adding instability.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Isn't this the story of every powerful nation? We could go back in time and the people of the world would be complaining about the English, or the Dutch, or the French spreading their imperialism across the globe, and complaining that they can't do anything about it. Well, the cost for us to do something is the same as the cost for you. And meanwhile, the powers that control the USA are not the only problem. Germany, Canada, Australia, Britain, China... they're all the same. The USA just happens to be proje

    • by jtseng (4054)

      WE'RE TRYING!!!!! It doesn't help that the sane people who vote in those who they thought were also sane were ( bought off by monied interests | turned his/their back on their base constituents ). And it takes time to change minds to at least change (if not dismantle) the military-industrial-intelligence complex.

  • by tvlinux (867035) on Monday September 05, 2011 @08:02PM (#37311644)
    MS is a business, It does not care about people, It would sell Windows licenses and database to the Devil if it could make a profit.
    • Are you suggesting that the Dark Lord pirates his database software?
  • Additionally, future GOT tenders for IT equipment will specify that the equipment must be Microsoft compatible, which is currently prohibited by the Tunisian open software policy.

    This seems to be a point of contention. Can anyone explain why/how Microsoft compatibility is prohibited? Just because it can run MS software doesn't mean it will, the same hardware could very well run exclusively "open" software. The open software itself could also be compatible with MS hardware and software, providing drivers that work with hardware under the Microsoft label (mice, keyboards, webcams, etc), and be capable of reading and exporting to MS file formats (.doc, .xls, etc).

    • by currently_awake (1248758) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:16AM (#37312712)
      It means that government contracts won't be awarded to cheaper hardware based on arm processors because that's not windows compatible. The change in policy means all government contracts must use windows compatible hardware instead of cheaper stuff that only runs open source. And as long as the hardware supports it microsoft has the option to bribe/leverage their software onto the hardware.
  • So you mean if I sell someone an axe, knowing that they will kill someone with it, I am somehow responsible?
    • If you live in the US, yes.

      It's called accessory to murder. Also, you could be charged with conspiracy.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessory_(legal_term)#United_States [wikipedia.org]

    • by formfeed (703859)

      So you mean if I sell someone an axe, knowing that they will kill someone with it, I am somehow responsible?

      Legally?
      It would be hard to prove, that you knew that they will kill someone with it. But if that could be established, in most countries you would be held responsible.

      Morally?
      Yes, asshole

    • by jbengt (874751)
      Yes, if you know that they will kill someone with it, you are guilty at least of aiding and abetting, assuming the killing is a crime in the first place.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just because it's legal, doesn't make it right.

  • that is the way the world works, you sell a product or service or die

  • by retroworks (652802) on Monday September 05, 2011 @10:24PM (#37312234) Homepage Journal
    "Software doesn't spy on people. People use software to spy on people."
  • See EFF's https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/07/politics-surveillance-erosion-privacy-latin-america [eff.org] - The Politics of Surveillance: The Erosion of Privacy in Latin America. Reminds me of Microsoft Coffee (http://cryptome.org/0001/ms-cofee.htm), and makes me wonder what effects the Pentagon's sockpuppet programs are having as well: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks [guardian.co.uk] *New Microsoft eugenics program leaked: Controversial "Just Click [HERE] to Send Drones" has man
  • by Anonymous Coward

    `According to a cable sent by the US embassy in Tunis on 22 September, 2006, Microsoft was so keen to get the Tunisian government to drop its policy favouring open-source software that it agreed to set up a "program on cyber criminality" to cover training. The deal also entailed the company giving the Tunisian regime, headed by President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the original source code for Microsoft software.' link [zdnet.co.uk]

    "Tunisia has its own certificateauthority and since 2007 the root certificate has been inclu

  • businesses are allowed to do business in Tunisia, isn't this just a piece of anti-microsoft fud? We (the USA) trained Afghani's to fight the Soviets, it worked pretty good until the tactics were used on US (USA). It's not the training that is the issue, its the application; just say what you want to say and be done with it;

    You think Microsoft training is evil.

    FUD.

  • ....creating front companies in Africa to shell for their investments in Monsanto, and pushing their GMOs throughout the planet.

    http://techrights.org/2009/09/20/privatization-africa/ [techrights.org]

    http://techrights.org/2009/11/02/gates-africa-un-education/ [techrights.org]

    http://techrights.org/2009/10/22/seeds-of-doubt-in-bill-gates-investments/ [techrights.org]

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