Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Researchers unearth more Chinese links to defense contractor attacks

Researchers with Symantec have uncovered additional clues that point to Chinese hacker involvement in attacks against a large number of Western companies, including major U.S. defense contractors.

The attacks use malicious PDF documents that exploit an Adobe Reader bug patched last month to infect Windows PCs with "Sykipot," a general-purpose backdoor Trojan horse.

According to findings published Thursday by Symantec's research team, a "staging server" used by the attackers is based in the Beijing area, and is hosted by one of the country's largest Internet service providers, or ISPs.

Symantec did not identify the ISP.

The staging server stores new files, many of them malformed PDFs, that are used to infected machines. Symantec found more than 100 malicious files on the server; many had been used in Sykipot campaigns.

Researchers also said that one of the attackers who connected to the staging server did so from Zhejiang province on China's eastern coast. Hangzhou is that province's capital and largest city. Read More

Persian guile drives Israel crazy

I am not surprised that Hebrew indeed has a popular expression, ‘Hold me back’. It’s a convenient thing to say in a street fight when you tell the bystanders to hold you back so that you don’t hit the big chap in front of you who towers over you and can make pulp out of you if he chooses to.

Israel is a grandmaster in using this expression with perfect timing. Timing is important, because you know if it is articulated even a clutch of minutes too late, you are left with no option but to hit the big guy, which of course would have disastrous consequences. And, alternatively, if you don’t hit, you get badly exposed as the little guy who keeps pretending he is what he isn’t in actual prowess.

Predictably, Israel is once again reviving the ‘threat’ that it is about to attack Iran. Al Jazeera has a useful piece by the well-known American Jewish commentator M J Rosenberg giving the chronicle of such Israeli threats in current history. Of course, none of those threats in the recent years was carried out.

Reason? It’s rather simple: Israeli military and security establishment is inhabited by cooly rational human beings who would know their country’s real military strengths and weaknesses and won’t allow themselves easily to get carried away by insane politicians. Read More

France selling 126 advance war fighters to India (the weapons trade never slows)

NEW DELHI: French company Dassault Rafale today bagged India's biggest-ever contract for supplying 126 combat aircraft for the air force, edging out European competitor EADS in the multi-billion dollar deal.

The French firm was declared as the lowest bidder, according to which it will get the contract under India's defence procurement procedure, sources said.

"The French firm Dassault Rafale has emerged as the L-1 (lowest bidder) and cheaper than its european rival EADS (maker of Eurofighter) in the tender and will be offered to supply the aircraft to the IAF," the source said.

They said the representatives of Dassault here were informed about the development in the morning and further negotiations on price will be held with them in the next 10-15 days. Read More

Home prices dropped in November in most US cities

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices fell for a third straight month in nearly all cities tracked by a major index. The declines show that most homeowners are not reaping the benefits from some signs of an improving housing market.

Prices dropped in November from October in 19 of the 20 cities tracked, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday. The steepest declines were in Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. Phoenix was the only city to show an increase.

The declines partly reflect the typical fall slowdown after the peak buying season.

Still, prices fell in 18 of the 20 cities in November compared to the same month in 2010. Only Washington and Detroit posted year-over-year increases.

Prices in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa dropped to their lowest points since the housing crisis began. And prices have fallen 33 percent nationwide since the housing bust, to 2003 levels. Read More

Occupy DC protesters make 'citizens' arrest' of Fox News van

It's no secret that Occupy DC protesters aren't exactly fans of Fox News. So when the protesters noticed a Fox van illegally parked on K Street Monday, they took advantage of the situation.

Several dozen protesters surrounded the empty van, which had already received a parking ticket from the city, and placed a handwritten "Citizen's Arrest" ticket on the windshield.

While three D.C. police officers monitored the situation, Occupiers chanted slogans from the sidewalk and jokingly asked police to tow the van.

Eventually a Fox employee moved the van and protesters marched back across the street. Read More

5.2 Magnitude Earthquake SAMAR, PHILIPPINES - 1st Feb 2012

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake has struck Samar, Philippines at a depth of 61 km (37.9 miles), the quake hit at 04:30:54 UTC Wednesday 1st February 2012
The epicenter was 75 km (46 miles) NNW of Guiuan, Samar, Philippines
No Tsunami Warning Issued - No Reports of Damage or Injuries at this time

Ranger zaps off-leash dog walker with shock weapon

A Montara man walking two lapdogs off leash was hit with an electric-shock gun by a National Park Service ranger after allegedly giving a false name and trying to walk away, authorities said Monday.

The park ranger encountered Gary Hesterberg with his two small dogs Sunday afternoon at Rancho Corral de Tierra, which was recently incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said Howard Levitt, a spokesman for the park service.

Hesterberg, who said he didn't have identification with him, allegedly gave the ranger a false name, Levitt said.

The ranger, who wasn't identified, asked Hesterberg to remain at the scene, Levitt said. He tried several times to leave, and finally the ranger "pursued him a little bit and she did deploy her" electric-shock weapon, Levitt said. "That did stop him."

San Mateo County sheriff's deputies and paramedics then arrived and Hesterberg gave his real name, the park spokesman said. Read More

Why Are the Chinese Buying Record Quantities of Gold?

This month, the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department reported that China imported 102,779 kilograms of gold from Hong Kong in November, an increase from October’s 86,299 kilograms. Beijing does not release gold trade figures, so for this and other reasons the Hong Kong numbers are considered the best indication of China’s gold imports.

Analysts believe China bought as much as 490 tons of gold in 2011, double the estimated 245 tons in 2010. “The thing that’s caught people’s minds is the massive increase in Chinese buying,” remarked Ross Norman of Sharps Pixley, a London gold brokerage, this month.

So who in China is buying all this gold?

The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has been hinting that it is purchasing. “No asset is safe now,” said the PBOC’s Zhang Jianhua at the end of last month. “The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency—gold.” He also said it was smart strategy to buy on market dips. Analysts naturally jumped on his comment as proof that China, the world’s fifth-largest holder of the metal, is in the market for more. Read More

Video On Facebook Shows Beating Of Boy In Flint

FLINT (WWJ/AP) - The mother of a 14-year-old Flint boy who was beaten last week says she hopes a video of the attack posted on Facebook leads to arrests.

Trina McNeil told The Flint Journal that video of the Friday afternoon attack was posted on a Facebook page of one of the attackers.

McNeil says at least 25 people clicked Facebook’s “like” button in response to the video.

According to a police report, the Northern High School student was walking on the city’s west side when three teens that he recognized as schoolmates attacked him. The boy told police he believed the attack was unprovoked. Read More