• How the NSA Found Out the Russians had Hacked It

    Israel hacked Russia’s Kaspersky cyber labs, found code that could only have come from the NSA, then told the Americans (Washington Post)

    In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm: hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.

    Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government.

    Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab, the global anti-virus firm under a spotlight in the United States because of suspicions that its products facilitate Russian espionage –Washington Post

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 10

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Massive Wildfires across Northern California. Blazes in Sonoma’s wine country have not been contained(New York Times)

    At least 10 dead so far, 1500 buildings destroyed.

    Comment: There are other fires in Southern California. Together, they challenge the state’s ability to respond.

     Tennessee’s centrist Republican Senator, Bob Corker, doubles down on his accusations against Trump

    The New York Times broke the news and did an in-depth interview with Corker, whose attacks on Trump are as personal as DJT’s angry tweets at Corker. The Times’ latest article is here.

    Comment: Corker’s attacks are important for three reasons

    • First, according to NYT reporters, Corker’s criticisms are merely the public voice of what most Senate Republicans say. Steve Bannon has said the same thing: establishment Republicans hate Trump and want to sink his agenda.
    • Second, since the Democrats oppose every Trump legislative initiative, he only chance to pass legislation is to hold together a narrow Republican majority. Now, Corker and McCain seem determined to oppose Trump. Add Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski to that grouping and you fall well short of 50 votes. (And most legislation will require 60.)
    • Third, Corker, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is privy to the highest-levels of US intel and diplomacy. He has recently said that Trump could be leading the US into World War III.

    The husband-and-wife team indicted in the Democratic Congressional IT scandal have now turned on each other (Daily Caller)

    The indicted husband-and-wife team of former IT aides to Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz sat directly across from each other at the defendants’ table in federal court Friday in Washington, D.C., but refused to look at each other.

    Even as they are co-defendants in a U.S. case, Imran Awan’s own wife, Hina Alvi, has become the latest person to accuse him of fraud, filing papers against him in Pakistani court, according to Pakistani news channel ARY.

    Awan, his wife and two brothers — all previously on the payroll of House Democrats — became subjects of a Capitol Police investigation last year after investigators concluded they were submitting falsified invoices for equipment and had transferred “massive” data off a House server. After he was banned from the House network, Awan left a laptop with the username RepDWS in a Capitol Hill phone booth.

    Although The Washington Post has reported that investigators found that Awan and his relatives made unauthorized access to a congressional server 5,400 times, Wasserman Schultz has said concern about the matter was the stuff of the “right-wing media circus fringe.” –Daily Caller

    Comment: Whenever the defendants turn on each other, the prosecution benefits.

    What do we need to know?

    • Were the Democrats’ confidential information shared with outsiders, including foreign actors?
    • Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz stick by her accused aide for so long? Did he have anything on her?
    • How deep and wide does this scandal go?

    Comment #2: Mainstream media has shown zero interest in this massive scandal.

    Today’s “WTF” story

    Comment: No matter how fearsome your school’s mascot, I’m betting that “Radioactive Wild Boars” is scarier.

    The University of Arkansas should really consider upgrading their Razorback symbol.

     

     

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  • For Equifax’s Chief Security Officer, how much expertise in computer science and data analysis would you expect?

    If your answer was ZERO, then you are correct!!

    At first, I thought this LinkedIn profile for Susan Mauldin, Equifax’s chief security officer, was a joke.

    It’s not.

    The joke is on us.

     

    Do you think the Chief Information Officer has a stronger background?

    Nope. BA in Russian, an MBA, and then some work in a bank.

    Here’s the report from CNN:

    In response to a CNNMoney inquiry, the company said Susan Mauldin is retiring as chief security officer and Dave Webb is retiring as chief information officer.

    A LinkedIn profile for Susan M. says she’s served in the CSO role since 2013. She previously worked at First Data Corporation, Sun Trust Banks and HP. She studied music in college and earned her MFA from the University of Georgia.

    Webb joined Equifax in 2010, according to his company bio. He previously served as chief operations officer at Silicon Valley Bank and as a vice president at Goldman Sachs. Before earning his MBA, Webb earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian from the University of London.

    Comment: Equifax, you got some ‘splainin’ to do. 

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 13

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Bad as Hurricane Irma was, it could have been even worse

    Homeowners’ preparations and evacuations meant relatively few deaths.

    As for the physical damage, it is huge but still smaller than feared. One way to see that is to look at insurance company stocks.

    Today, they are UP. Chicago Tribune headline: Stocks jump as relieved investors buy banks, insurers, tech

    Small insurers, especially ones that do a lot of business in Florida, climbed. … Larger insurers also rallied. … Travel-related companies rose as investors felt their businesses won’t take such a big hit.  –Associated Press via Chicago Tribune

    The most immediate problem now: restoring electric power to millions of homes.

     Apple makes a big noise with its rollout. $1k for new phones. Market is unimpressed (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Comment: Students at elite universities will use the new phones to send selfies at demonstrations against inequality.

     Study: Over 90% of MSM reports on Trump are negative, same as previous studies (Washington Times)

    Comment: To be fair, they do actually hate him.

     Trump’s travel bans finally made it to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the President (Washington Times)

    The ruling, which stays a decision from the 9th Circuit, keeps some 24,000 refugees from entering the US, at least temporarily.=

    Good economic news: Middle-class incomes in US for 2016 were highest in history (in real terms)  (Washington Post)

    These figures from the Census Bureau cover the final year of Pres. Obama’s tenure.

    Median household income rose to $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year and the second consecutive year of healthy gains, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The nation’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, returning nearly to what it was in 2007 before a financial crisis and deep recession walloped workers in ways that were still felt years later. –Washington Post

    Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, resigns after fifth person comes forward accusing him of child-sex abuse (Seattle Times)

    The latest accuser: Murray’s cousin. He had been a teenager, like the others.

    The computer scandal engulfing House Democrats continues to widen. Latest news: the IT contractor used a secret server, tried to hide it, and then falsified what was on it (Daily Caller)

    Imran Awan, the Pakistani IT aide who worked closely with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also used Dropbox to back up data, which is illegal for Congressional data.

    Awan had access to all emails and office computer files of 45 members of Congress who are listed below. Fear among members that Awan could release embarrassing information if they cooperated with prosecutors could explain why the Democrats have refused to acknowledge the cybersecurity breach publicly or criticize the suspects. –Daily Caller

    Comment: This scandal receives almost no coverage. That’s a scandal, too.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, September 11

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Remembering those who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

    Those in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the airplanes, and the selfless first responders.

    As the prayer says, “May their memory be for a blessing.”

    Florida’s massive cleanup begins

    Miami Airport closed Monday because of “significant water damage.” Fears for Florida Keys and southwest FL

    Updated coverage in Miami Herald

    Gangs loot in Ft Lauderdale. Smash windows, grab boxes of shoes and clothes from stores (NBC Miami)

    Comment: They will claim to be victims, not the perps, in 3, 2, 1 . . .

    Btw, Houston and south Texas maintained law and order after their disaster. Let’s hope other cities in Florida can, too.

    Speaking of crime, the creator of McGruff, the Crime-Fighting Dog, dies. Jack Keil was 94. (New York Times)

    Comment: He was 650 in dog years.

     Yawn: Hillary criticizes Donald as she rolls out her book. Upset about identity politics . . . when used by others.

    That’s a shocker. She says Trump “used race to win the election” (Washington Post)

    She adds that his inaugural speech was a white-nationalist cry from the gut.

    Comment: Mrs. Clinton is shocked, shocked to discover identity politics is being practiced in America.

    She plans to search high and low to find the political party that relies on it and on divisive ethnic- and racial-mobilization.

    We wish her the best of luck.

    China pushing for lots more electric cars. Global manufacturers rush in, despite risks (New York Times)

    Comment: The main risk is to intellectual property.

    To gain access to their market, the Chinese demand outsiders give away their proprietary technology to local firms.

    First, robot vacuum cleaners. Now, lawnmowers.

    The best ones, by Husqvarna, currently run $2,000 to $3,500. They rely on GPS and advanced electronics, mow 1.25 acres, and have anti-theft devices. (Link to story here)

    Comment: As with all electronics, expect the prices to drop steadily.

    Once manufactures produce really heavy-duty machines, the robots should save enormous $$$ maintaining highways and parks.

    Expect autonomous snow-plows and more over the next few years.

    Equifax: Still neck-deep in trouble after the hack. Their site to see if you have been hacked is returning random results (Slashdot TechCrunch)

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    Hat Tip to

    Michael Lipson for the Equifax story

    ◆ Ed Vidal for Ft. Lauderdale

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, September 8

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ We are enduring the hardest test of our lifetime for national-disaster response efforts.

    Huge Hurricanes Back-to-Back and a Third Looming

    The number of elderly in South Florida only compounds the potential tragedy.

    Comment: So far, I have been impressed by 

    • The high quality of weather forecasts, often 4-5 days out
    • The learning by federal, state, and local authorities after Katrina
    • The much-greater competence of authorities in Texas than in Louisiana, in Houston than in NOLA, and in FEMA today than under Bush. (Granted, being more competent than NOLA officials is a very low bar.)
    • The exceptional contributions by volunteers in Texas. Here’s hoping for the same in Florida.
    • The absence of looting and other predation after Harvey. (Again, a welcome improvement over Katrina.)

    Here’s hoping the worst weather forecasts don’t come true for Florida, the response is as effective as in Texas, and that the long-term recovery effort lets people rebuild their lives.

    The hack of Equifax computers records is the most massive to date

    It exposes sensitive personal data on 44% of the US population.

    To compound the injury, several executives seem to have sold the company’s stock before the hack was publicly disclosed.

    ZipDialog has a separate post on the mess (link here)

     Rules for dealing with  alleged sexual assault on campus to be rewritten by Department of Education 

    The New York Times gets the basic story right (link here):

    Saying that the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault had “failed too many students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.

    Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights. –New York Times

    Comment: The problem is their headline: “Betsy DeVos Says She Will Rewrite Rules on Campus Sex Assault”

    She plans to rewrite the rules on allegations of campus sex assault.

    The key word is “allegation.” That word is missing from the NYT headline.

    The victims deserve thorough, fair investigations, with appropriately harsh penalties for sexual harassment and coercion when those have been proven. At the same time, the accused deserve through, fair investigations and a chance to present their side. The whole point of due process is to sort through the allegations.

    ◆ FIRE, the leading supporter of free speech on campus, uses this headline:

    Education Department says it will finally confront its role in campus due process crisis (FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

    ◆ Competition in Artificial Intelligence: IBM invests $240 million in AI Research Lab with MIT (Forbes)

    Forbes reports IBM is struggling in the area, competing against Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.

    The lab will focus on areas like training AI algorithms that don’t require extensive supervision and exhaustive manual labeling of data. Right now, many deep learning systems require people to go through and label each piece of data — like, say, that’s a car in the image.

    In hardware, the lab hopes to move beyond what’s popular in AI today — namely, graphics processors usually made by Nvidia — and start experimenting with processors that don’t rely on traditional chip designs, such as quantum computing, an area IBM has already been pursuing. –Forbes

    Comment: This is another example of how US leadership in basic research in the physical and biological sciences pays off for the larger US economy. A glance at Kendall Square (next to MIT) and Silicon Valley’s close connection to Stanford reinforce this critical point.

    While the Humanities sink into political advocacy, second-rate ideology, and irrelevance to most serious students, the sciences and empirical social sciences continue to advance.

    The Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal continues to unfold (Daily Caller)

    The scandal centers on IT professional, Imran Awan, who (with family members) handled computers and software for lots of Democratic House members, led by DWS.

    Awan was arrested trying to flee to his native Pakistan with significant cash. Federal prosecutors have brought some charges against him and expect to bring more.

    Awan’s wife has already fled to Pakistan.

    Because the family handled sensitive computer work for many Congressmen, they had access to all their computer files.

    Most D’s fired them after the initial investigations turned up serious problems. DWS did not and actually pushed hard against investigators. We still don’t know why.

    It is unclear whether sensitive information was stolen and perhaps sent to overseas entities, used for blackmail, etc.

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  • That HUGE Equifax hack….really bad. Also bad: three execs there sold stock before the disclosure

    The hack itself was massive, exposing 143 million names and their social security numbers to criminals.

    That’s about 45% of the US population.

    It is one of the largest and most-damaging computer hacks ever, according to Engadget.

    The criminals had access to information that could allow them to create or take over accounts for many of the people impacted since they have names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers and “in some cases” drivers license numbers. –Engadget

    Now, Bloomberg is reporting

    Three Equifax Inc. senior executives sold shares worth almost $1.8 million in the days after the company discovered a security breach that may have compromised information on about 143 million U.S. consumers.

    Marisa Salcines, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based company, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.–Bloomberg

    Comment: Confer Desi Arnaz

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, June 7

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     ISIS attack at the heart of Iran’s government is stunning. ISIS, a Sunni group, has been under attack by the Iranian-led Shia forces in Iraq and Syria, and now they’ve struck back.

    The spectacular event is designed to humiliate the Iranians and show that ISIS can strike anywhere, even hard targets in a hostile country.

    Comment: More as it develops. 

     Qatar Qrisis: Trump suggests he led Saudis to act against Qatar’s support of terror (New York Times)

    Comment: True and dumb. True because Trump’s meetings in Saudi Arabia were a key to the new pressure the Arab states are putting on Qatar. Not smart to trumpet the US role when you are relying on others to lead. Makes them look like lap-dogs. 

     Two big stories broken by ABC News:

    1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign because Trump was furious Sessions had recused himself in Russian investigation
    2. Former FBI Director Comey will not say Trump tried to obstruct justice

     Sessions offer to resign (ABC) Jonathan Karl reports:

    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

    The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general’s abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on. –ABC News

    At a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer would not say whether Trump still supported AG Sessions.

    Comment: First, Sessions was right to recuse himself.

    Second, it’s over; he’s already done it; let it go, Donald.

    Third, if your earliest and strongest supporter from the Senate is not comfortable in the Cabinet, who will be?

    Four, this is still more evidence that, in this ship of state, everybody is rowing in different directions and the captain keeps changing course. What’s missing: self-discipline and a solid staff, given some authority to create order.

     Comey will stop short of saying Trump obstructed justice in Flynn probe (ABC)

    Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.

    The president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.

    The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.

    “He is not going to Congress to make accusations about the president’s intent, instead he’s there to share his concerns,” the source said, and tell the committee “what made him uneasy” and why he felt a need to write the memo documenting the conversation. –ABC

    Comment: Here’s how I read that. Comey cannot say the president tried to obstruct justice without creating big problems for himself. He would be legally required to report it and, if he had any integrity, would have resigned. Also, he subsequently testified to Congress that no one had tried to obstruct his investigation.

    Given those constraints, he will do everything in his power to destroy Trump.

     Comey himself is being sued over an alleged coverup; a whistleblower says he gave Comey evidence of a huge, illegal surveillance operation on Americans by the CIA (using FBI computers) during the Obama administration (Circa)

    A former U.S. intelligence contractor tells Circa he walked away with more than 600 million classified documents on 47 hard drives from the National Security Agency and the CIA, a haul potentially larger than Edward Snowden’s now infamous breach.

    And now he is suing former FBI Director James Comey and other government figures, alleging the bureau has covered up evidence he provided them showing widespread spying on Americans that violated civil liberties.

    The suit, filed late Monday night by Dennis Montgomery, was assigned to the same federal judge who has already ruled that some of the NSA’s collection of data on Americans violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, setting up an intriguing legal proceeding in the nation’s capital this summer.

    Comment: Circa’s Sara Carter and John Solomon have done first-rate reporting on potential violations of civil liberties by US intel agencies.

     Why did Trump decline to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as he promised during the campaign?

    Because he thought it would hamper his goal of an “ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians, says Eytan Gilboa  (Begin-Sadat Center, Bar-Ilan University)

    Trump completely reversed the attitude of Obama, which verged on hostility, towards both the pro-American Arab states and Israel. –Eytan Gilboa

     Excellent news: One of the country’s staunchest, most experienced advocates for free speech, Adam Kissel, has been to head the Dept. of Education’s higher ed programs  (Inside Higher Ed)

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday June 6, 2017

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ D-Day: 73 years ago today. The US, Britain, and Canada opened a second front against the Nazis.
    A young, low-level intelligence contractor is first person charged with leaking, re Russian interference in 2016 election 
    (New York Times)

    She’s a big Bernie Sanders supporter and may have thought this was part of the “Resistance,” which she has supported online.

    The case showed the department’s willingness to crack down on leaks, as Mr. Trump has called for in complaining that they are undermining his administration. His grievances have contributed to a sometimes tense relationship with the intelligence agencies he now oversees.

    The Justice Department announced the case against the contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, 25, about an hour after the national-security news outlet The Intercept published the apparent document, a May 5 intelligence report from the National Security Agency. –New York Times

    Comment: Good. A first step.

    Now, go after the big boys and girls, who aren’t as careless as kids still on their parents’ insurance.

     Chicago’s free fire zone: 3 dead, 3 wounded in eight hours (Chicago Tribune)

    “I always see this on TV,” [the uncle of 23-year-old-victim Devonta Scott] said looking at frantic relatives holding each other splashed in strobing police lights. “I just never thought it would happen to me.” –Chicago Tribune

    And then, the most common ending to all this shootings in poor, black neighborhoods.

    Police reported no arrests. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: The problems are extremely serious and just as hard to manage.

    • The city needs a lot more police but cannot afford them.
    • The worst neighborhoods know who the criminals are, but they don’t cooperate with the police, either because they don’t trust the cops or they fear the bad guys, or both
    • The gangs have splintered, so dozens and dozens of gangs are fighting lethally for each street corner.
    • The gang members have no fathers, no education, and no jobs

    The headlines mislead outsiders in one important respect. The crime and killing is largely a product of–and confined to–very poor neighborhoods. Occasionally, it spills out as members try to escape their enemies or rob the rich, but that’s uncommon.

     The sanctions against Qatar are beginning to bite.  

    Qatar flight ban begins as Gulf crisis grows (BBC) The Saudis and Egyptians are leading this move.

    Several countries have cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism in the Gulf region.

    Qatari nationals in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been given two weeks to leave.

    Qatar denies backing militants and its foreign minister has called for “a dialogue of openness and honesty”.

    Egypt said it was closing off its airspace to Qatar from 04:00 GMT on Tuesday “until further notice”. –BBC

    Comment: The sanctions are a very good idea against a very bad actor, one the US has coddled for years because we have bases there. No more. And the shift in US policy made it easier for the Arab states to form this coalition.

    The question is whether it’s a first step or a showy diversion to avoid taking others, such as staunching the local donations to terrorists.

    Additional Reading:

    For a magazine-length piece on Qatar’s controversial history, this new article in The Atlantic is very good.

     Over 130 British Imams have refused to perform burial services for the attackers  (CBS)

    The ritual is normally carried out for every Muslim, regardless of their actions.

    In what is a highly unusual move, Muslim religious leaders from different schools of Islam — both Sunni and Shia — issued a statement late Monday saying their pain at the suffering of the victims of Saturday’s attacks had led to their decision, and they called on others imams to follow suit. –CBS

    Comment: Good. Also good: it seems like several Muslims who knew the attackers told the police about them, but the officials dropped the ball.

    One reason why important things slip through the cracks: the UK current has 500 active terror investigations, plus another 3000 top-tier subjects of interest, and 20,000 more one tier below that. Those numbers are overwhelming.

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