It is vital to keep business communications secure. Quite recently, a group of Polish politicians learned this the hard way, when their conversations were recorded in a cafe. They are but a small fragment of the long and enthralling history of wiretaps and scandals. Which of them are most well known?
The Watergate is the most famous political scandal of the USA, and the most exciting piece in the American journalism to date. It was named after an American Watergate hotel compound, where 5 people, working back then for president Richard Nixon, were arrested.
The Watergate scandal broke out in the 1970s, when Nixon was fighting for re-election during the 1972’s presidential elections. A few years before, he formed a re-election committee, which was supposed to help him retain his office. As it turned out, members of the committee were involved in some illegal affairs, such as money laundering. Besides, they were directly involved in the Watergate scandal. Unveiling it was mainly the work of the journalists of The Washington Post, who, in cooperation with a secret informant nicknamed Deep Throat (who revealed himself 33 later as an FBI employee), described the entire situation. The Washington Post readers could learn about the arrest at the front page just next day. Among the arrested five, there was a former CIA employee. They were caught red-handed, trying to break into the Democrat Party electoral staff, located in the office sector of the Watergate compound. They intended to bug the office.
Watergate complex; source: wikipedia.
However, theirs was not the only attempt. In 1972, Gordon Liddy joined the committee, intending to obtain funds of one million dollars to bring unfair fight (dubbed Operation Gemstone) to Nixon’s rivals. The operation even included plans to kidnap the president’s most radical opponents! A million dollars proved to be too much to collect though, leaving Liddy with “mere” 250 thousand dollars. His first task was to plant listening devices at Watergate. After an initial failure, another attempt was made, only to be thwarted by the police.
Ultimately, Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972, but over time more and more of his frauds became public, which forced him to resign.
Watergate inspired a number of documentaries and one full-length film. Additionally, the journalists responsible for uncovering the scandal proceeded to write best-selling books.
Quite recently, the Snowden scandal was the most widely discussed issue worldwide. This young man managed to quickly enter one of the most well known agencies in the world – the CIA. He also worked for other companies, commissioned by the NSA. It was during his work with the NSA that Snowden published numerous pieces of confidential and classified of information regarding national security. Wanted by the US government, he received a temporary asylum in Russia. Today, it is virtually impossible for the whistleblower to live in the USA as a free man. Back home, he is considered a traitor, but he has undoubtedly contributed to enlightening the world on the fact that the USA have more than just their own citizens under surveillance.
Top 10 facts revealed by Snowden:
1. NSA is able to listen in on the users of almost all mobile carriers in the USA.
2. PRISM – USA’s surveillance of email accounts, VoIP communications and social media information
3. Government Communications Headquarters, a British intelligence agency, collects information sent via email, social media messages, etc. (the Tempora project). They are cooperating with the NSA.
4. NSA has other countries and world leaders under surveillance.
5. XKeyscore – a program used by the NSA, able to monitor everything you do over the Internet.
6. NSA’s attempts to decipher encrypted data and weaken the Internet’s security.
7. NSA commands an elite group of hackers (Tailored Access Operations), used when other methods prove insufficient.
8. NSA’s break-ins to Google i Yahoo.
9. NSA, using a classified program named Dishfire, collects almost 200 millon text messages daily.
10. NSA, using a program called MYSTIC, intercepts all phone calls from two countries – Afghanistan and Bahamas.
3. Hungary’s greatest scandal
Ferenc Gyurcsany became Hungary’s prime minister in 2004, after Péter Medgyessy’s resignation. In September 2006, recordings humiliating Gyucsarny were made public.
The recordings took place just a few weeks after Ferenc Gyurcsany was re-elected as the prime minister in April 2006, for the first time in post-communist Hungary. This ill-fated May, Gyurcsany admitted behind closed doors to having lied to the public opinion about the country’s true economic condition. He kept it a secret in order to ensure his victory in the elections.
“It almost killed me, lying for a year and a half, that everything is fine. I was actually lying – in the morning, at noon and at night. I do not want to do it any more” – he admitted to his associates.
The recording was published by a radio broadcasting station, and the entire 25-minute long material was available for download at the station’s website. Contrary to what one might expect, Ferenc Gyurcsany did not resign at once. He announced his resignation as late as March 2009, presenting the economical crisis in Europe as the reason. The same year, in April, the National Assembly looked into his resignation.
4. Lewinsky scandal
Back to the USA. Monica Lewinsky was hired in the White House in 1995, during Bill Clinton’s administration. Lewinsky, 21 at the moment, was an intern, working as a secretary. For 2 years of her employment, she was involved with the president in relations not strictly professional in nature, which started in the very same year 1995. It was not until 3 years later that the affair was made publicly known, when Lina Tripp – a friend of Monica’s, and a Pentagonu employee – recorded their phone conversations, during which Lewinsky admitted to having sexual relations with the president. Tripp contacted a number of people, including an independent prosecutor Keneth Starr, to whom she presented the records. Later, she met Monica at the Ritz-Carlton near Pentagon, and recorded their conversation using a listening device given her by the FBI and taped to her body.
Clinton did not admit to anything and was able to finish his tenure. Ultimately, even though he was considered a good president, his administration became somewhat tarnished by the world’s most famous sex scandal.
5. Sony Pictures
This scandal is a relatively recent one, having its origins in Sony Pictures, a cinema industry potentate (among other things) being hacked. The entire situation deserves to be called the “20th century scandal”, as this cybernetic attack made even Barack Obama himself express his concern.
It all started with a hacker attack, which knocked out the company’s entire computer system. The employees were given leave to go home, and an investigation began. It turned out soon that North Korea is responsible. Not just films, but also employee emails, film plans, and other confidential documents were stolen from the Sony Pictures’ servers. What attracted the most attention was The Interview – a film mocking Kim Jong-Un. Sony Pictures received numerous threats of revealing more information, should the film be published. Sony, apparently concerned, initially decided not to produce The Interview. Soon after, the decision was changed, and the film appeared in cinemas, and in DVD and BluRay formats. President of the United States announced that the North Korea’s cybernetic attack will be “responded to”.
The examples above are just a few of a huge number of scandals that have taken place worldwide. Wiretapping, cyber-attacks, or Internet surveillance are, unfortunately, a very common practice nowadays. Even though most of such situations involve only the world’s most prominent figures and the largest of companies, smaller enterprises can be threatened as well. Security of business information is of vital importance, and it is advised to utilise a number of measures to protect data – any data – from leaking.
Source:washingtonpost.com, mashable.com, people.com, listverse.com, wikipedia.org, theverge.com, cnn.com