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WannaCry glossary in Plain English

Monday, 22 May, 2017 0 Comments

StrategyPage examines what it calls “An Endless Mystery Called WannaCry” and rounds off the piece with a useful glossary of basic hacker terms “in plain English” that begins with “Backdoor” and ends with “ZDE” (Zero Day Exploit). Three examples:

EternalBlue – A bit of malware developed by the NSA that exploits a ZDE in Microsoft local network software. EternalBlue was stolen and distributed by Wikileaks.

Spear fishing– a fishing operation where targets are carefully chosen and researched before putting together the attack. Despite having software and user rules in place to block spear fishing attacks there are so many email accounts to attack and you only have to get one victim to respond to a bogus email with a ‘vital attachment’ that must be ‘opened immediately’.

Social Engineering– Exploiting human nature to get malware onto a system. This is what fishing and spear fishing attacks depend on.

Update: Keith Collins has a superb article in Quartz titled Inside the digital heist that terrorized the world—and only made $100k. Bottom line:

“All told, the three bitcoin wallets used in the attack have received just under 300 payments totaling 48.86359565 bitcoins as of Saturday evening, the equivalent of about $101,000 USD. That’s a small take for an attack that infected nearly 300,000 systems, made medical care inaccessible, shut down factories, and ultimately may have created billions of dollars in losses.”

There’s something very fishy about the WannaCry fishing.


New scam: Scammers offering scam compensation

Tuesday, 16 May, 2017 0 Comments

The e-mail subject line is suspect: “Dear Beneficary.” The misspelling of “Beneficary” there should alert every potential beneficiary that something odd is afoot. The mail is from one “[email protected]”, who claims to be acting on behalf of the officiously titled “Barrister Dusman Diko, Solicitors & Co, Chambers,” in Benin, a French-speaking West African nation that’s famous for being the birthplace of the vodun (or voodoo) religion and home to the Dahomey Kingdom from 1600 to 1900.

Anyway, Dusman Diko, we are led to believe, represents an entity called the “United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) West Africa Regional Office, Fraud Victim Compensation Unit of Fidelity Insurance Plc,” which happens to be located in Benin. There is no such unit and the UN constantly warns people about scams implying association with its offices. And now, the e-mail:

Dear Beneficary

I am writing to inform you that your Scam Victim Compensation Payment is ready, sum of $1,200,000.00 USD is been granted to you by the Scam Victim Regulatory Authorities. The fund is ready to be released to you, I await your urgent confirmation as soon as you read this message. Secondly remember that you will be responsible for the registration fee of $55 only and be assured to receive your compensation payment as soon as you are able to comply fully with the payment release procedures.

Sincerely yours,

Barrister Dusman Diko, Solicitors & Co, Chambers

Office of the Attorney General, Division of Scam Victim Services
For: United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) West Africa Regional Office, Fraud Victim Compensation Unit of Fidelity Insurance Plc, Benin Republic, West Africa

Despite the criminality involved here, one has to acknowledge that it takes a certain level of roguish ingenuity to come up with a “Scam Victim Compensation Payment” issued by the “Scam Victim Regulatory Authorities”.

Note: Australians report losses of $300 million to scams in 2016.


Don’t pay the ransom!

Monday, 15 May, 2017 0 Comments

“The general advice is not to pay the ransom. By sending your money to cybercriminals you’ll only confirm that ransomware works, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the decryption key you need in return.” That’s the guidance offered by the No More Ransom website, and in these days of the WannaCry malware threat, we need to pay attention.

No More Ransom is an initiative by the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch police, Europol’s Cybercrime Centre, Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security. The goal is to help victims of ransomware recover their data without having to pay the criminals. The project also aims to educate users about how ransomware works and what can be done to prevent infection.

Note: “The Wcry ransom note contains a compassionate message towards those who can’t afford to pay up. The malware’s operators claim they would unlock the files for free — after a six-month period!” Security Intelligence.

WannaCry


How did the UN get it so wrong on Julian Assange?

Saturday, 6 February, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Joshua Rozenberg in the Guardian. “Assange has always been free to leave the embassy at any time,” says Rozenberg, adding: “Of course, he knew he would be arrested for breach of his bail conditions. Of course, he knew he would face extradition to Sweden. Of course, he knew that he might face extradition to the United States once proceedings in Sweden were at an end. But that does not mean he was detained, and still less that his detention was of an arbitrary character.”

Rozenberg outlines the faulty logic of the UN working group, but it is his colleague Marina Hyde who really gets to the heart of the matter with this devastating assessment of Assange: “He can issue limitless portentous statements, and declaim from all the Juliet balconies he likes, but for my money he looks more and more like just another guy failing to face up to a rape allegation.”

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for Julian Assange’s alleged victim, named as SW, was as critical of the UN group as she was of the purported rapist. She told the Daily Mirror:

“The panel seems to have a lack of understanding of the fact the alleged rape of a woman is one of the most serious violations and abuses of human rights.

That a man arrested on probable cause for rape should be awarded damages because he has deliberately withheld himself from the judicial system for over five years is insulting and offensive to my client — and all victims.

It is time that Assange packs his bag, steps out of the embassy and begins to cooperate with the Swedish Prosecuting Authority.”

Both the UN and Assange have emerged from this looking shabby and shameless.


The Rotherham horror

Thursday, 28 August, 2014 1 Comment

Back in 2010, Julie Bindel was on the case. But people didn’t want to hear. Snippet:

“Often giving the girl a mobile telephone as a ‘gift’, the pimp is then able to track her every move by calls and texting, which eventually will be used by him to send instructions as to details of arrangements with punters. The men sell the girls on to contacts for around £200 a time or as currency for a business deal. ‘I was always asked why I kept going back to my pimp,’ says Sophie, ‘but they flatter you and make you think you are really loved. I thought he was my boyfriend until it was too late to get away.’ Another tactic of the pimp is getting the girl to despise and mistrust her own parents in order that he can achieve total control over her. The pimps routinely tell their victims that their parents are racist towards Asian people and that they disapprove of the relationships because the men are of Pakistani Muslim heritage, not because they are older. Some of the parents I met were racist, and some had developed almost a phobia against Asian men, fuelled by the misinformation and bigotry trotted out by racist groups in response to the pimping gangs.”


Horripilation: Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Monday, 31 March, 2014 0 Comments

Each week brings with it dreadful stories that would make one’s hair stand on end. Take the one about the four princesses who say that they have been trapped in the Saudi Arabian royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years. The mother of the four girls was married off to King Abdullah at the age of 15, and she claims that they have been subject to constant abuse and are effectively being held under house arrest. Sadly, such tales about court intrigue are not new and Shakespeare captured the horror of it all some four centuries ago in Hamlet, where the ghost addresses the young prince:

But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Language note: Shakespeare’s “porpentine” is better known today as the porcupine, and the idiom of hair standing on end refers to the sensation of hairs, especially those on the neck, standing upright when the skin contracts due to fear. This phenomenon was once called “horripilation” and was defined in 1656 as “the standing up of the hair for fear… a sudden quaking, shuddering or shivering,” by Thomas Blount in his splendidly named Glossographia, or a dictionary interpreting such hard words as are now used.


BHL: The bloodied Games of Putin the Terrible

Friday, 21 February, 2014 0 Comments

“For those who care about democracy, can we, by pulling out of Sochi — or at least by boycotting the closing ceremony on Sunday — ensure that the XXII Winter Olympics will not go down in history as the Games that were the shame and defeat of Europe?” Bernard-Henri Lévy

That’s the plea of Bernard-Henri Lévy, often referred to simply as BHL, the French intellectual and author. Il faut quitter Sotchi! is how he put in Le Monde. In the translated version, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, he pointed the finger at the Russian President: “At these Games, where the flame symbolizing the Olympic ideal has been purloined by a thug, when the winning athletes playfully bite their medals, this time will not the gold, silver and bronze have the metallic taste of blood?” And then he hammers the nail home:

“Do you not see the absurdity — not to say the obscenity — of pretending to believe, up to the last minute of the last day of this ruined Olympiad, that there might be two Putins: Putin the Terrible, who earlier this week issued $2 billion to prop up the regime of his valet Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who then unleashed his forces on the Maidan protesters; and the other Putin, strutting across the stage and through the stands, greeting you with the munificence due those who used to be called the gods of the stadium?”

Talking of Yanukovych, why is the Kremlin propping him up? Simple. If he were to fall, the risk of contagion would reach Russia and its power base would be vulnerable. In Putin’s eyes, the Ukraine is Russia’s barricade against the West. From the perspective of the West, however, and Poland, in particular, a pro-Western Ukraine is a vital cordon sanitaire against an increasingly belligerent Russia. Paweł Świeboda, the president of demosEUROPA, a Warsaw-based think tank, used the conciseness of Twitter to put it all in perspective:

When the Sochi Winter Games end, the Great Game for the future of Eastern Europe will fill the gap in the TV schedules. The West would be well advised not to bring a baguette to this knife fight.


The Genghis Khan way: Russia’s neo-imperialism

Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 0 Comments
The Genghis Khan way: Russia’s neo-imperialism

On Monday, in a Neue Zürcher Zeitung article titled “The Third Empire,” Ulrich Schmid looked at how the Russian culture scene is being exploited by Putin’s authoritarian state for its imperialistic propaganda goals. “Largely unnoticed by the world press, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was awarded the ‘Imperial Culture’ prize in January 2012 for his ‘resistance to Western expansion’. The patrons of the honour were the Russian writer’s guild, the Russian literature foundation and several Orthodox organizations.”

Schmid notes as well that the steppes of Russian cinema have been experiencing something of a Mongolian invasion of late. Films such as Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007), The Secret of Genghis Khan (2009) and The Horde (2012) have been big hits. All of them portray the image of strong ruler who created a gigantic empire thanks to his unconditional demand for discipline. The not-so-subtle message is that Mongolian harshness and the Russian capacity to endure suffering are the perfect platform for empire building. This interpretation of history, writes Schmid, hews close to the ideology of Eurasianism. Seen through that prism, the Western model of the market economy plus representative democracy appears alien to a Russia that was, in parts, dominated by the Mongols for more than 300 years. Eurasianism claims that Russian culture is different its European counterpart due to this Asian impact and that Russia, therefore, must follow a separate path. The popular enthusiasm for all things Mongol plays into Putin’s hands as he’d like to create a Eurasian Union, which in terms of economic power and political weight, would act as a counterbalance to the European Union.

He’s got big dreams, that Vlad.

The Horde


Mao, the mass murderer, and his supporters

Thursday, 26 December, 2013 1 Comment
Mao, the mass murderer, and his supporters

In 1968, John Lennon was asked about Mao Zedong. “It sounds like he’s doing a good job,” said the Beatle, who once sang, “Imagine no possessions.” In the same ballad, the idiotic Lennon continued, “No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people / Sharing all the world.” Mao would have liked that. Regarding the bit about “No need for greed or hunger,” it is estimated that at least 45 million people died of starvation during Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.” When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local Communist boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot. Imagine.

Today, China “celebrates” the 120th anniversary of the birth of the monster Mao and in a piece that John Lennon would have been proud of, the BBC eulogizes the mass murderer claiming that “Unlike Stalin, Mao sentenced no-one and certainly did not intend to create a terrible famine.” Time for someone there to read Mao’s Great Famine.

Maoism lives at the BBC, the Guardian and similar outposts. There, it has turned itself into a nonsense on a Lennonist scale, but, then, Maoism made no sense. The worst famine in human history was caused by policies that made no sense, such as forcing farmers to melt all their metal tools in backyard furnaces, but those who used to be Maoists no have retained their commitment to following the latest madness with absolute faith. José Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission, was a Maoist and Ireland’s political establisment has offered a comfortable home to a collective of former Maoists. The unrepentant (and now very fashionable) Maoist Alain Badiou has a new object of hatred these days: Israel and the Jews.

Badiou and his ilk would benefit greatly from reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, who survived the nightmare of Maoism. Snippet:

“In the days after Mao’s death, I did a lot of thinking. I knew he was considered a philosopher, and I tried to think what his ‘philosophy’ really was. It seemed to me that its central principle was the need or the desire for perpetual conflict. The core of his thinking seemed to be that human struggles were the motivating force of history and that in order to make history ‘class enemies’ had to be continuously created en masse. I wondered whether there were any other philosophers whose theories had led to the suffering and death of so many. I thought of the terror and misery to which the Chinese population had been subjected. For what?

But Mao’s theory might just be the extension of his personality. He was, it seemed to me, really a restless fight promoter by nature, and good at it. He understood ugly human instincts such as envy and resentment, and knew how to mobilize them for his ends. He ruled by getting people to hate each other. In doing so, he got ordinary Chinese to carry out many of the tasks undertaken in other dictatorships by professional elites. Mao had managed to turn the people into the ultimate weapon of dictatorship.

That was why under him there was no real equivalent of the KGB in China. There was no need. In bringing out and nourishing the worst in people, Mao had created a moral wasteland and a land of hatred. But how much individual responsibility ordinary people should share, I could not decide.

The other hallmark of Maoism, it seemed to me, was the reign of ignorance. Because of his calculation that the cultured class were an easy target for a population that was largely illiterate, because of his own deep resentment of formal education and the educated, because of his megalomania, which led to his scorn for the great figures of Chinese culture, and because of his contempt for the areas of Chinese civilization that he did not understand, such as architecture, art, and music, Mao destroyed much of the country’s cultural heritage. He left behind not only a brutalized nation, but also an ugly land with little of its past glory remaining or appreciated.”

Mao was a monster.

Mao


Rotten Russia: Snowden in; Altunin out

Thursday, 29 August, 2013 0 Comments

In his devastating New Yorker takedown of the traitorous Edward Snowden on 10 June, Jeffrey Toobin wrote: “Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent… As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government — which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?” But worse was to come. Snowden went from one ghastly tyranny to another: Russia. And there he found asylum at the hands of the tender Vladimir Putin.

That’s the same Putin who was depicted this week by the Russian artist Konstantin Altunin wearing women’s undies and fondly arranging the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. For this “crime”, the Russian authorities removed four of Altunin’s satirical depictions of Russian politicians from St Petersburg’s Museum of Power and shut down the exhibition. Konstantin Altunin has fled Russia and is said to be seeking asylum in France. Meanwhile, in a perverse gesture of solidarity with the quisling Snowden, a group of cretinous German academics, the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, has decided to award him its “Whistleblower 2013” prize and €3,000. The real hero in this rotten Russia-centred drama, however, is Konstantin Altunin.

Putin on the style


Questions for the scam-artist @arusbridger at the @Guardian

Friday, 23 August, 2013 9 Comments

Louise Mensch has them, and they’re good. For example:

You state

The Guardian paid for Miranda’s flights. Miranda is not an employee of the Guardian. As Greenwald’s partner, he often assists him in his work and the Guardian normally reimburses the expenses of someone aiding a reporter in such circumstances

You paid for David Miranda’s flights and expenses because, you claim, he was “assisting Glenn Greenwald” in his work.

But how was he assisting Glenn Greenwald? If he was transporting purely “journalistic materials” why did Greenwald not use FedEx? If the data needed to be secure, why not use a P2P fileshare site? Why did the Guardian approve paying Miranda’s expenses when there are direct flights from Berlin to Rio that Poitras and Greenwald could have used?

Is it because Glenn Greenwald explained to you that as a US citizen he could not email, transport, or securely share stolen information about US and UK intelligence operations against foreign regimes without committing a serious felony and needed to use his husband as a mule?

In that case is not Guardian Media Group corporately responsible for abetting espionage against the United States and United Kingdom?

Yes, it is.