Category Archives: Media

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, hacks, crime, spooks


We begin with a twofer from Reuters:

South African spooks red-faced from latest spy data leak

A mass leak of South African espionage secrets will cause many foreign agencies to think twice before sharing information with Pretoria, hampering its efforts to walk a delicate diplomatic tightrope between East and West, experts said on Tuesday.

Britain’s Guardian paper and Gulf TV channel Al Jazeera said they had obtained hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s top spy agencies to and from South Africa, dubbing it “one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times”.

“A leak like this affects the credibility of the agencies and how they cooperate,” said Mike Hough, a retired professor from Pretoria University’s Institute for Strategic Studies. “It could lead to the termination of certain projects.”

From Al Jazeera, something many journalists have assumed for a half century:

Spy cables: Israel airline used as intelligence ‘front’

  • Leaked documents reveal South Africa challenged Mossad over alleged clandestine security operations under El Al cover.

Secret cables obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit confirm that South Africa’s spy agencies concurred with allegations that Israel uses its flag-carrier, El Al Airlines, as cover for its intelligence agencies.

Leaked documents from South Africa’s intelligence agency support claims made on a 2009 South African television programme by a former El Al employee-turned-whistleblower.

Despite official Israeli denials, the whistleblower’s claims prompted an emergency meeting between senior officials from both sides, as well as a separate note of enquiry from Canada’s intelligence agency.

Another leak, via the Guardian:

Spy cables: Greenpeace head targeted by intelligence agencies before Seoul G20

  • South Korea’s intelligence service requested information about South African activist Kumi Naidoo in runup to leaders’ meeting in 2010

The head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, was targeted by intelligence agencies as a potential security threat ahead of a major international summit, leaked documents reveal.

Information about Naidoo, a prominent human rights activist from South Africa, was requested from South African intelligence by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the runup to a meeting of G20 leaders in Seoul in 2010.

He was linked in the intelligence request with two other South Africans who had been swept up in an anti-terrorist raid in Pakistan but later released and returned to South Africa.

And from Al Jazeera, faults revealed:

Spy Cables expose S Africa’s alarming security failings

  • Secret documents reveal an array of security lapses and flaws within South African government and intelligence.

South African government and security agencies have left secrets exposed at every level and foreign spies have access to all areas of government, according to Intelligence documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

A secret security assessment by South African intelligence says foreign espionage is booming, with more than 140 foreign spies estimated to be operating in South Africa – and that the South African state is doing a poor job of protecting itself.

They are thought to have gained access to government departments, ministries and “even the presidency” and are suspected of breaking into nuclear power plants, stealing military blueprints and hacking computers.

The report slams poor security awareness among civil servants, who regularly failing to observe the most basic procedures, leaving classified information unlocked and failing to adequately vet new recruits.

From the Los Angeles Times, a major security fail:

State Department official arrested, suspected of soliciting sex from minor

A senior State Department official who oversees counter-terrorism programs has been arrested on suspicion of of soliciting sex from a minor, authorities in Virginia said late Tuesday.

Daniel Rosen was arrested at his home in Washington, D.C., just after noon and is being held in the city’s jail on suspicion of use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Rosen, 44, is the director of counter-terrorism programs and policy for the State Department. Police said they have notified the State Department of his arrest.

A kindred failure across the pond, via the London Telegraph:

Sir Malcolm Rifkind to step down as MP and resigns from security committee

  • Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to step down as an MP at the General Election and has also resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Conservative MP embroiled in cash for access allegations, is to step down as an MP at the General Election and has also resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

Sir Malcolm was suspended by the Conservative Party pending an internal investigation on Monday after telling undercover reporters from The Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches that he would use his position as a politician to help a fictitious Chinese company.

His decision to stand down as the Conservative MP for Kensington means there will be a contest for one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats.

The Guardian exposes a case of Chicago P.D. reality rising to film noir levels:

Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage

  • This building looks innocent enough. But those familiar with the secretive interrogation and holding facility describe a shocking display of police abuses

From the outside, you have to concentrate to realize Homan Square is a police facility. At first glance, it’s an unremarkable red brick warehouse, one of a handful on Chicago’s west side that used to belong to Sears Roebuck, complete with roll-up aluminum doors. No prominent signage tells outsiders it belongs to the police. The complex sits amidst fixtures in a struggling neighborhood: a medical clinic, takeout places, a movie theater, a charter school.

But a look at what surrounds the warehouse gives clearer indications of Homan Square’s police business. The yellow barrier for cars at the street checkpoint. The vans in the motor pool marked Chicago Police Forensic Services parked next to the unmarked cars. The black-and-white checkered door to match the signature pattern on Chicago police hats. The floodlights on the roof. The guy with a gun walking outside and smoking a cigarette in a black windbreaker with POLICE written on the back.

Over the years Homan Square has formed a backdrop for high-profile drug seizures, where Chicago officials or cops display cocaine, marijuana and guns taken off the street. The rock group Portugal.The Man reportedly sent Homan Square detectives three dozen doughnuts – plus croissants and danishes – in gratitude for helping the band recover stolen music equipment.

But its interrogations function is less well known, even to close observers of Chicago police. Anthony Hill, an attorney, said he once made it into Homan Square, to the surprise of police, and said he saw “four, five cells,” describing it as a “bare-bones police station.

“When I got in, they were so shocked I was there they didn’t know what to do with me,” he said.

The Hill takes a profitable spin through the revolving spooky door:

NSA staffers rake in Silicon Valley cash

Former employees of the National Security Agency are becoming a hot commodity in Silicon Valley amid the tech industry’s battle against government surveillance.

Investors looking to ride the boom in cybersecurity are dangling big paydays in front of former NSA staffers, seeking to secure access to the insider knowledge they gained while working for the world’s most elite surveillance agency.
With companies desperate to protect their networks against hackers, many tech executives say the best way to develop security products is to enlist the talents of people who have years of experience cracking through them.

“The stories he could tell,” venture capitalist Ray Rothrock recalled about his meetings with a former NSA employee who founded the start-up Area 1 Security. “They come with a perspective that nobody in Silicon Valley has.”

From the Verge, from their resumes:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone

Last week, The Intercept published shocking new documents detailing a campaign by US and UK spies to hack into the SIM manufacturer Gemalto, stealing crucial encryption keys that protect and authenticate cellphone signals. But while it was clearly a major attack, I had a hard time seeing the operational benefits for the world’s spy agencies. SIM encryption only protects calls between your phone and the cell tower, which means any would-be surveillers would need to stay within a mile of the target. It’s also puzzling because carriers are often happy to hand over all their data with a blanket court order. Why would the GCHQ go to so much trouble for access to data they mostly already have?

But in the days since the report published, there’s been concern over an even more frightening line of attack. The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Our earlier report focused on the Ki keys, used to encrypt traffic between the phone and the tower — but this new attack uses a different set of keys known as OTA keys, short for “over-the-air.” Each SIM card gets its own OTA key, typically used to remotely install updates. Manufacturers can send a binary text message directly to the SIM card, and as long as it’s signed with the proper OTA key, the card will install the attached software without question. If those keys were compromised, it would give an attacker carte blanche to install all manner of spyware. Researcher Claudio Guarnieri, who’s researched the Snowden documents extensively, says the OTA keys could make the Gemalto heist the most important news to come out of the documents so far. “It’s scary,” Guarnieri says. “If the NSA and GCHQ have obtained a large quantity of OTA keys, we’re facing the biggest threat to mobile security ever.”

From the Guardian, real class-y AT&T:

AT&T is putting a price on privacy. That is outrageous

  • Poor customers should not have to choose between being spied on and forking over money

Imagine if the postal service started offering discount shipping in exchange for permission to scan every letter you receive and then target you with junk mail based on the contents of your personal mail.

One of the largest telecommunications companies in America, AT&T, is doing just that for customers of its super-fast gigabit broadband service, which is rolling out in select cities. Though a few months ago, it dropped the use of an undeletable “supercookie” that tracked subscribers’ web browsing activity, AT&T reportedly plans to track and monetize its broadband customers’ internet activity – “webpages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter” – to deliver targeted “ads online, via email or through direct mail”.

The tracking and ad targeting associated with the gigabit service cannot be avoided using browser privacy settings: as AT&T explained, the program “works independently of your browser’s privacy settings regarding cookies, do-not-track and private browsing.” In other words, AT&T is performing deep packet inspection, a controversial practice through which internet service providers, by virtue of their privileged position, monitor all the internet traffic of their subscribers and collect data on the content of those communications.

What if customers do not want to be spied on by their internet service providers? AT&T allows gigabit service subscribers to opt out – for a $29 fee per month.

After the jump, ghoulish corporate vultures follow our health concerns online, a Dutch university occupation evicted, Germans lose faith in democracy, the Anthem health data breach scope widens, widespread ongoing hack points persist in many aps, denial of service attacks target Google in Vietnam, on to the Mideast and an Assyrian Christian army mobilizing to fight ISIS, a Saudi apostasy death sentence, a Pakistani cell phone fingerprint requirement, pushing for a North Korean nuclear surrender, China raises NATO hackles with a missile sale to Turkey, Hong Kong delegates to the Beijing legislature call for a crackdown, Shinzo Abe aims for more power for military commanders, more Okinawan anger over an American military base move, and a Japanese human rights downgrade. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, artists, and politicians


We begin with the protests, first from teleSUR English:

Mexicans call for another global action day in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

Social organizations, relatives of the missing students and general supporters are using social media to call for a massive protest to continue demanding answers from the government about the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa. The march will take place this Thursday, five months to-the-day since the disappearance of the teaching students.

Here’s a poster for one of the events, from the Asamblea Popular de Houston:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, a dubious presidential legacy in the making:

Violence on the Rise in Mexico Under Peña Nieto

  • Over 130,000 kidnapping cases took place in Mexico in 2013, while 173 have been executed in two weeks.

Violent crimes, including kidnappings and executions, have increased exponentially under President Enrique Peña Nieto according to Mexican newspaper Reforma Tuesday.

The new statistics show one kidnapping was reported every five hours in January 2015 alone. The recent spike has seen kidnappings increase 7.2 percent compared to December 2014, while over 170 executions took place in the last two weeks.

“In the first month of 2015, 163 kidnappings have been reported, which is 7.2 percent more than December 2014,” said the anti-kidnapping coordinator, Renato Sales Heredia.

From Mexico News Daily, a reasonable move:

PRD rejects candidate: her husband’s in jail

  • The ex-mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas was arrested on suspicion of criminal links

The national council of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has the edge on its state-level officials in Michoacán when it comes to recognizing bad optics.

On Friday, the party’s state council approved the list of proportional representation candidates for the federal Chamber of Deputies. No. 2 on the list was Nalleli Pedraza Huerta, whose husband, Arquímedes Oseguera, is a former mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas.

He became a former mayor after he was jailed last April on suspicion of kidnapping and extortion and for having links to organized crime. One piece of evidence is a video showing Oseguera at the side of Servando Gómez, “La Tuta,” leader of the Caballeros Templarios cartel.

And from the Washington Post, politics by other means:

Mexican party turns to lottery to pick candidates

Mexican political parties are desperate to convince voters their candidates aren’t tied to drug gangs, violence or corruption. But one party has gone to extreme lengths to pick candidates in an open, transparent way: It held a lottery.

The National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, had some 3,000 vetted hopefuls put their names in a drum on Sunday, and the names of more than 100 candidates for the June 7 congressional races were pulled out at random. Many have little previous experience in political office.

“We have decided to break the mold, and break with the corrupt way politics has always been done in our country,” said Morena leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “The candidacies going to be decided by a lottery.”

Reuters covers a complaint:

Mexico complains about remarks attributed to pope over drug image

Mexico said on Monday it would send a letter to the Vatican to complain about remarks attributed to Pope Francis about the risk of Argentina suffering a criminal “Mexicanization” due to the spread of drug gangs there.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said his government had expressed concern that the country was being “stigmatized” as a land of drug traffickers in an email attributed to Francis published in Argentina over the weekend.

“We had a meeting with the (papal) nuncio and we will indeed send a note, and what worries us is that the drug trafficking challenge is a shared challenge. It’s a challenge that Mexico is undertaking massive efforts on,” Meade said in Mexico City.

While Mexico News Daily looks at the other side of the rhetorical coin:

Poppy cultivation grows with demand

  • It’s a lucrative crop for rural farmers in Guerrero and other states

The only publicly available statistic that gives some indication of opium poppy production in Mexico is that which reveals how many hectares of poppies were discovered and destroyed.

And in 2014 that figure was up 46% over the previous year for a total of 21,425 hectares. In terms of worldwide cultivation, that’s 7% of the total, well behind No. 1 producer Afghanistan with 70%, but still in third place behind Myanmar with 57,800 hectares.

Colombia was at one time the biggest producer in Latin America (although it never came close to Afghanistan’s output) but that changed in 2005 when its production began to drop. A year later, the area under cultivation in Mexico began to climb, rising from 3,300 to 5,000 hectares between 2005 and 2006.

Via Borderland Beat, another awards ceremony, another opportunity to call out for justice:

BLOG Ayotz 2

And from teleSUR, the response:

Mexico Ruling Party on Defensive over Inarritu’s Oscar Comments

  • The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI responded sharply to the critical comments made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at Sunday’s Oscar awards ceremony.

In response to critical comments made on Sunday night at the Oscar awards ceremony by Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI published a sharp congratulations on Monday morning on its Twitter feed. Later, the country’s PRI president Enrique Pena Nieto responded to the acclaimed director’s message.

When accepting the Oscar trophy for best film for the highly acclaimed Birdman, Inarritu told the crowd, “I want to dedicate this award to my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico … I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve.”

The response given by the PRI party, which returned to power in 2012 with Pena Nieto after a 12 year hiatus from a 71 year long stint, was, “Rather than just deserving it, it’s a fact that we’re building a better government, Congratulations #GonzalezInarritu.”

And one more image to close, via Camilo José Villa:

BLOG Ayotz 3

MexicoWatch: An anniversary, allegations, & art


From teleSUR English, an anniversary nears:

5 months since Ayotzinapa students forcibly disappeared

Program notes:

Family members and activistis continue to demand the return of the 43 Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared last September 26. Instead of helping the families, the entire political system has affected their lives for the worse, says lawyer Vidulfo Rosales.

Mexico News Daily covers a curious story:

‘Journalists on payroll of Coahuila criminals’

  • Fake videos meant to discredit elite police unit, says government official

Some journalists in Coahuila are being paid by organized crime gangs, and the state’s government secretary says he has a list to prove it.

Victor Zamora says some reporters and media outlets are being paid by criminals to broadcast videos designed to discredit the efforts of a tactical police unit known as GATE.

The latest such video shows what appears to be members of that unit and soldiers engaged in executing civilians in a pickup truck. Several shots are fired but none of the officials appears worried about getting hit as they are seen milling around the truck.

But all the videos showing GATE officers have been analyzed and found to be fake, said Zamora, adding that there was a campaign under way by Los Zetas and their followers against tactical police units in Coahuila.

From Mexico News Daily, a textbook case:

Union’s textbooks replace official ones

  • Michoacán’s dissident teachers reject ‘neoliberal model’ and its school texts

Textbooks supplied by the federal Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) are being removed from schools in Michoacán and replaced by books produced and printed by the teachers’ union.

About 150,000 students in preschool, primary and secondary levels will be provided with texts that do not teach “a neoliberal model,” says Section 18 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE.

The SEP said last year it had distributed 97% of the books required by state schools, but all are to be discarded, said the union, which warned last year that its teachers would not use them.

The new books are accompanied by a letter from the union to parents: “The education project of neoliberal governments is not designed to respond to the needs and interests of the vast majority of the country. To achieve its purpose workers who have attained higher levels of study are not required, and intelligent human beings with a transforming spirit are needed even less.”

And to close, a graphic from graficamazatl:

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.

 

InSecurityWatch: Fear, malls, hacks, terror, war


With begin with CNBC and the latest shrieking from Europe:

Nato must prepare for Russian Blitzkrieg, warns UK general

Nato forces must prepare for an overwhelming Blitzkrieg-style assault by Russia on an eastern European member state designed to catch the alliance off guard and snatch territory, the deputy supreme commander of the military alliance has warned.

Openly raising the prospect of a conventional armed conflict with Russia on European soil, the remarks by Sir Adrian Bradshaw, second-in-command of Nato’s military forces in Europe, are some of the most strident to date from Nato. They come amid a worsening in relations with the Kremlin just days into a second fragile ceasefire aimed at curbing continued bloodshed in Ukraine’s restive east between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London on Friday, Sir Adrian warned that as well as adapting to deal with subversion and other “hybrid” military tactics being used by Russia in Ukraine, allied forces needed to be prepared for the prospect of an overt invasion.

The Christian Science Monitor sounds the latest alarm:

Big US, Canadian shopping malls: Next terrorist target?

A new video threat from the Al Qaeda-linked extremist group Al Shabab calls for terrorist attacks on major shopping malls in the US, Canada, and Britain. Malls are adding extra security.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he’s “confident” that big shopping malls will enhance security measures in the wake of new threats of attack by Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked extremist group based in Somalia.

Still, Secretary Johnson said on CNN Sunday, “Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously.” Johnson spoke on five Sunday morning TV news programs.

On Saturday, Al Shabab released an online video calling for attacks on western shopping centers, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, and Oxford Street in London.

From the Washington Post, first responder/worst responder?:

DHS tackles endless morale problems with seemingly endless studies

Afflicted with the lowest morale of any large federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security did what comes naturally to many in government.

It decided to study the problem. And then study it some more.

The first study cost about $1 million. When it was finished, it was put in a drawer. The next one cost less but duplicated the first. It also ended up in a drawer.

So last year, still stumped about why the employees charged with safeguarding Americans are so unhappy, the department commissioned two more studies.

And from the Guardian, cashing in:

Al-Shabaab mall threat ‘all the more reason’ to avoid shutdown, says homeland security chief

  • Somali terror group releases video threatening US, Canada and UK malls
  • DHS funding will end Friday if immigration impasse is not solved

The US homeland security secretary on Sunday seized on a new threat of attacks against western shopping centres by Islamist terrorists to pressure Congress to avert a partial shutdown of his department and agree to a funding deal.

Jeh Johnson said a propaganda video released by al-Shabaab on Saturday calling for strikes on the Mall of America in Minnesota, Oxford Street and two Westfield malls in London, and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, showed “all the more reason why I need a budget”.

“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’s inability to fund homeland security in these challenging times,” Johnson told CNN. On ABC, he said “it’s imperative that we get it resolved”, adding that senators and members of the House were each blaming those in the other chamber for the impasse.

The Independent covers a precedent set:

How Britain’s treatment of ‘The Hooded Men’ during the Troubles became the benchmark for US ‘torture’ in the Middle East

When Amal Clooney flies into Belfast shortly to meet a group of former Irish prisoners known as ‘The Hooded Men’ it will be the latest chapter of an extraordinary story concerning a quest for justice that has lasted almost half a century.

The international law and human rights specialist has joined the legal team representing all but one of the surviving men who say they were tortured under the British Government’s internment programme. More than 340 men were rounded up on 9-10 August 1971 but a group of just 12 were chosen for “deep interrogation” and subjected to hooding, prolonged stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink – the torture methods developed by the British Army during the Troubles and collectively known as the “five techniques”. Two more men suffered the same treatment later that year.

The Hooded Men won their case against the UK in 1976 when the European Commission of Human Rights ruled the techniques were torture, but the findings were overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on appeal two years later. It ruled that while the five techniques amounted to “a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment” they did not cause suffering of the intensity and cruelty to constitute torture.

From BuzzFeed News, solidarity in the North:

Muslims In Norway Form Human Shield Around Synagogue In Sign Of Solidarity

More than 1,000 people attended the peaceful demonstration in Oslo, with many holding hands and surrounding the synagogue in a protective ring.

Hundreds of Muslims formed a human protective shield around an Oslo synagogue Saturday in a sign of solidarity with the Jewish community there, Reuters reported.

The peaceful demonstration followed the killings of two people at a Copenhagen synagogue the previous week by a Danish-born son of Palestinian parents.

Pictures of the event circulated through social media tagged with the hashtag #ringofpeace.

From teleSUR, old school spookery:

Spying Scandal Threatens to Hurt Ties Between Chile and Peru

  • Peruvian media reported Thursday that three Peruvian navy officers were under investigation for allegedly spying on behalf of Chile.

The Chilean Foreign Minister stated Sunday that he is in consultation with the Chilean ambassador in Peru in order to help prepare the official response to Peru’s diplomatic letter concerning the alleged spying by Chile.

Bilateral relations between Peru and Chile were shaken last week as news broke that three Peruvian navy officers were under investigation for having allegedly spied for Chile between 2005 and 2012. Peru’s Minister of Defense confirmed that the officials were arrested and are being investigated by a military court.

“Ambassador Ibarra, our ambassador in Lima, is currently enjoying a legal vacation in Chile, we are going to keep him in Chile for consultations precisely so he can help prepare the (diplomatic) response to the Peruvian diplomatic letter,” said Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.

Clouding the issue, via Nextgov:

DOD Wants Physical Separation for Classified Data in the Cloud … For Now

The Defense Department’s evolving cloud strategy and recently updated security requirements govern how commercial cloud service providers can — and in some cases, have already begun to — host some the Pentagon’s most sensitive data.

But the Pentagon isn’t ready yet for classified information to be stored off-premise in the cloud.

In the immortal words of Olivia Newton-John, DOD wants to get physical with classified data that ends up in the cloud, meaning it wants “physical separation” between systems with classified workloads and that of other systems.

From the New York Times, wink, wink:

Chip Maker to Investigate Claims of Hacking by N.S.A. and British Spy Agencies

Gemalto, a French-Dutch digital security company, said on Friday that it was investigating a possible hacking by United States and British intelligence agencies that may have given them access to worldwide mobile phone communications.

The investigation follows news reports on Thursday that the National Security Agency in the United States and the Government Communications Headquarters in Britain had hacked Gemalto’s networks to steal SIM card encryption codes.

The claims — reported on a website called The Intercept — were based on documents from 2010 provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

The Register covers an ongoing hacking embarrassment in Foggy Bottom:

Hellooo, NSA? The US State Department can’t kick hackers out of its networks – report

  • Email servers still compromised after THREE months

An attack against US State Department servers is still ongoing three months after the agency spotted miscreants inside its email system, it’s reported.

In November the State Department was forced to suspend its unclassified email systems after it was successfully infiltrated by hackers unknown. At the time the agency said its classified emails were unaffected by the hack.

Now Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report multiple sources saying that the attack is still ongoing: the bad guys and girls still have remote access to internal computers.

Every time sysadmins find and delete a malware infection, installed by the hackers, another variant pops up.

The latest from Nextgov:

EXCLUSIVE: State Department Trashed 30,000 Log-in Key Fobs After Hack

The State Department over the past few months replaced some 30,000 network log-in fobs and digital tokens that employees had been using to access its systems remotely, after the agency’s unclassified network was hacked, according to a department official.

During the switchover, some State personnel said they were not able to access work outside the office for months.

“All of us had to turn them in and go through a very extended procedure of changing every aspect of our internal passwording,” said one foreign service officer. “Every one of us had to create new passwords and new PIN numbers to go along with our fobs. They changed the type of format that you use to create a PIN to make it more secure and they changed the requirements for your basic State Department password to make it more secure.”

After the jump, Android malware fakes a shutout to grab your data, hacking your car wash, Italy scores a win over the Googles, France pleads for anti-terror help from Silicon Valley giants, the big guns pull back in Ukraine’s civil war, Isis suicide bombers claim dozens in Libya as Isis woes in Libya fuel an Italian immigrant panic, hints of Isis schisms, Qatar finds itself on the outs over terror, Turkey leverages border fears to gain intel, on to Boko Haram and an abductee reunion, Boko Haram launches another bloody raid, and France calls for support for an all-African anti-Boko Haram force, Australia proclaims a new anti-terror strategy, China irked by an Indian visit to disputed territory, Myanmar rebels claim a government body count, China’s threat to Western eyes in the sky, on to Japan and a call to unleash the military abroad, Shinzo Abe wants Japanese civilian hands to relinquish defense department control, a decision nears on a Japanese insular deployment, another Japanese insular move sparks a South Korean protest, Japan plans an Iraqi diplomatic expansion, and another base relocation protest. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Maladies, toxins, climate, nukes


We begin with the maladies, including a new one from Kansas, via Medical Daily:

New Tick-Borne Disease Identified In Kansas Man, Kills Him In 11 Days

Experts have been warning us for years about the dangers of tick bites; they’re the primary cause of Lyme disease, a terrible infectious disease characterized by cognitive impairments, arthritis, and flu-like symptoms that can linger even after treatment. But a new tick-borne disease to emerge recently has given Americans more of a reason to avoid ticks, as it has killed the man who first developed it.

It’s called Bourbon virus, and was named after Bourbon County, Kansas, where the man who became ill with the disease lived. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the man, who was previously healthy in his 50s, sought medical attention after a series of tick bites and symptoms like fatigue and fever. However, he quickly developed thrombocytopenia and leukopenia, which are an absence of blood platelets — used to clot blood and prevent internal bleeding — and white blood cells, respectively. Within 11 days, his organs had failed, and he died of cardiac arrest.

This chain of events occurred despite the man undergoing antibiotic treatment. Moreover, he underwent a battery of tests for tick-borne viruses, which came back negative. Unsure of what was happening to him, doctors sent a blood sample to the CDC’s headquarters, where more sophisticated testing could determine what the cause of the man’s illness was. There, they found it belonged to a family of viruses known as thogotoviruses, which can be found all over the world.

Another outbreak, via the Associated Press:

Deaths in Saudi Arabia from MERS virus climb to 385

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says two more people have died after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, pushing the total number of deaths from the virus in the kingdom to 385.

The ministry’s statement on Saturday says that 902 cases of MERS have been discovered in Saudi Arabia since the virus was first identified in 2012, though 490 people who contracted it have recovered.

Some 57 people have contracted MERS in the kingdom since the start of February.

From the New York Times, troubling resistance:

Malaria in Widening Area Resists Drug, Study Finds

The world’s best drug for treating malaria, a medicine that is the key to saving millions of lives in Africa and beyond, is losing its efficacy in a much larger swath of territory than was previously known, according to research that was released Friday.

The study, in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, a medical journal, raises the troubling prospect that resistance to the drug, artemisinin, might one day severely hamper treatment of a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.

“This should focus minds,” said Charles Woodrow, one of the authors of the study. “We have to eliminate these very resistant parasites. The fear is that if we don’t, we would reverse all the gains that have been made.”

For several decades, artemisinin has been considered an anti-malaria wonder drug, rapidly ridding the body of the parasite that is introduced into the body by a mosquito and infects the blood.

Running the numbers with BBC News:

Malaria on Myanmar-India border is ‘huge threat’

Deaths from malaria have nearly halved since 2000, and the infection now kills about 584,000 people each year.

But resistance to artemisinin threatens to undo all that hard work, and it has been detected in:

  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Myanmar, also known as Burma

Blood samples from 940 people with malaria from 55 sites across Myanmar showed this resistance was widespread across the country.

From GNN Liberia, the witchcraft of Big Agra’s food products:

LIBERIA: Diabetes Symptoms Not Witchcraft Says Pervocate Manager

The Administrative Manager of Pervocate, a diabetes testing and awareness center located on Front Street in Monrovia has called on Liberians to be familiar with the symptoms of diabetes which is often associated to witch craft in Liberia.

Agnes Johnson made the statement during an interview at her front street offices . She said diabetes which is simply an increased of sugar level in the body has become a global health crises that is affecting about 3.3 million people in west Africa according to the World Health Organization estimate.

She said since the opening of the diabetes testing and awareness center in Liberia data collected indicates, that diabetes is becoming a major health crises in the country adding that everyone visiting the center and getting tested is either pre-diabetic or suffering from type 2 diabetes.

From teleSUR, riverine toxic maladies?:

Illnesses Spike 6 Months after Mine Spill into Mexico River

  • One of Mexico’s worst mine disasters continues to affect residents, 6 months after spill.

Farmworkers and rural residents from several communities around the Sonora State capital, Hermosillo, have started a sit-in protest in front of the state capital building, declaring that they have been affected by toxins from a mine spill that occurred in August of 2014.

According to a report in the Mexican weekly, Proceso, residents from the communities of Molino de Camou, Fructuoso Méndez, El Oregano, Jacinto Lopez, San Juan San Bartolo and Mesa del Seri have reported at least 20 new cases of illness due to contact with water from Hermosillo’s reservoir. The water source is fed directly by the Sonora River, which was contaminated in the massive mine spill.

“Everyday more people get sick…a few days ago we had 17 and now we have 20; they were attended to superficially in November by the state’s medical unit…but they never came back,” said Jose Lopez, a resident of Molino de Camou, in the Proceso report.

From the New York Times, India’s killer air:

Polluted Air Cuts Years Off Lives of Millions in India, Study Finds

More than half of India’s population lives in places with such polluted air that each person loses an average of 3.2 years in life expectancy, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Chicago, Yale and Harvard.

Altogether, 660 million Indians could lose 2.1 billion years as a result of air pollution at enormous cost to the country’s economy, the researchers found.

“This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely,” said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Indian prepares for a major GMO push, via Reuters:

Modi bets on GM crops for India’s second green revolution

On a fenced plot not far from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home, a field of mustard is in full yellow bloom, representing his government’s reversal of an effective ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops.

The GM mustard planted in the half-acre field in the grounds of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi is in the final stage of trials before the variety is allowed to be sold commercially, and that could come within two years, scientists associated with the project say.

India placed a moratorium on GM aubergine in 2010 fearing the effect on food safety and biodiversity. Field trials of other GM crops were not formally halted, but the regulatory system was brought to a deadlock.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, another  tar sands threat:

Cut costs or face ‘death spiral,’ CNRL warns oil sands

The president of one of Canada’s biggest oil and gas producers delivered a stern warning to the oil sands industry, telling a room full of Fort McMurray business people that they need to start cutting costs or the industry will fall into a “death spiral.”

The “made in Fort McMurray cost” of doing business has risen too quickly and must end, Steve Laut of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. told members of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Laut said oil sands producers were making three times the profit in 2004 when a barrel of oil cost about $40 (U.S.) than it did when the price hit close to $100 in 2013.

He said rising costs from suppliers, and not world oil prices, were the reason that CNRL and others could no longer produce the profits it once did.

After the jump, concerns mount over fracking-caused quakes, Montana farmers sue for fracking protection, fuel train warnings sounded, Texas to release fuel train data, fireworks send Chinese air pollution soaring, scientist who denies anthropogenic climate change sucks at Big Oil’s teat, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a radiation levels spiking, a Strontium 90 leak cited, a Fukushima highway straight out of Sartre, and a Sport Illustrated cover sparks a surgical boomlet. . . Continue reading

Abby Martin pulls the plug on Breaking the Set


Abby Martin, who launched her television career on Berkeley Community Television and landed her own show on RT America, is pulling the plug on Breaking the Set, which will end in another week.

Here’s how she explains it in a post on Media Roots, an advocacy group she started:

RT has given me opportunities I will be eternally thankful for and hosting Breaking the Set has been the best and most invaluable experience of my life. I never imagined the kind of support it would generate, proving how many people are hungry for raw truth and systemic change.

Throughout the course of the show, I’m most proud of the stories we’ve done on the road – Pine Ridge, Detroit, Gulf Coast, Guantanamo Bay and soon to be released Cuba. As such, after almost three years of reporting from the studio I’ve decided to focus on investigative field reporting.

Please note I’m not stopping or going anywhere. If I can’t find a platform to host my show vision with the same editorial freedom, I will turn to crowdsourcing. And until I establish my next venture I’ll be writing daily, podcasting, producing video shorts and doing talks around the world.

Please follow me on facebook, youtubetwitter and my website Media Roots to stay tuned.

I’m excited to put all my heart into the last two weeks of the most hard hitting show on TV and celebrate a great run, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Much love and appreciation to everyone for supporting me and my future endeavors.

Never Stop Breaking the Set.

We watched her evolution into a self-assured and provocative journalist, and she has covered some of the most critical issues of the day with an increasingly authoritative voice.

We hope she finds a new source for funding that will enable her to address the same range of issues and attract the same notable interview subjects. While the costs have come down on the technical end, journalism isn’t cheap.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest edition of Breaking the Set:

Brainwashing American Youth, AIPAC 2015 & Cancer at the Dollar Store

Program notes:

Abby Martin Breaks the Set on Rewriting History, AIPAC 2015, The Real Media Lies, and AUMF Again

LIKE Breaking the Set @ http://fb.me/JournalistAbbyMartin
FOLLOW Abby Martin @ http://twitter.com/AbbyMartin

EPISODE BREAKDOWN: On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin talks about a recent proposal in the Oklahoma State Legislature that would ban Advanced Placement US History courses for being “un-American” for teaching events like the Trial of Tears. Abby then speaks with Israeli dissident Ronnie Barkan then joins Abby to discuss the role Zionism and AIPAC play in US politics in light of the upcoming AIPAC conference in DC .

Abby then juxtaposes the outrage over Brian Williams’ lie about his experience in Iraq with the lack of concern with lies peddled by journalists like Judith Miller in the lead up to the Iraq War. Abby then interviews journalist Sam Sacks on Obama’s recent request for Congressional approval to use force against ISIS.

Abby wraps up the show with Lee Camp and John F. O’Donnell of Redacted Tonight to discuss everything from factory farms to Walmart’s recent announcement that they will raise their minimum wage… to $9.

TechnoAcronym of the day: And the winner is. . .


From The Register:

Expired router cache sends Google Cloud Engine TITSUP

  • ‘Unacceptable’ performance led to two hours and forty minutes of dead VMs

Google’s Cloud Engine (GCE) has experienced Total Inability to Support Usual Performance (TITSUP) for about two-and-a-half hours.

Incident 15045, as Google describes the outage, kicked off at about 22:59 on the evening of 18 February (West Coast US time) and then rolled on until 01:31 the next day.

Virtual machines in the service were unavailable during the outage, as they could not reach the internet. That was an unfortunate outcome given that the timing of the incident meant it came at the start of the European working day.