Russian hackers use ‘zero-day’ in cyber-spy campaign
For The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reports: A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report.
“This is consistent with espionage activity. All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
– iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward
The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm.
Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm.
“This is consistent with espionage activity,” said iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward. “All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
“The firm began monitoring the hackers’ activity in late 2013 and discovered the vulnerability in August…The flaw is present in every Windows operating system from Vista to 8.1, he said, except Windows XP.”
There is no indication that the group was behind a recent spate of intrusions into U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Ward said.
“ISight dubbed the recently detected hacking group SandWorm because of references embedded in its code to the science-fiction novel ‘Dune.’ There were various mentions in Russian to the fictional desert planet of Arrakis, for instance.”
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials say the capabilities of Russian hackers are on par with those of the United States and Israel. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 29, 2014
Weakness Invites Aggression. Putin’s Only Responding to Passive U.S. Leadership, Happily Accepting the Invitation
Update 5:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include developing information about the Russian incursion off the coast of Alaska
Bill Gertz reports: Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.
“They are having a very aggressive nuclear readiness exercise now as a show of force. Whereas the U.S. has been on a path of nuclear zero which they think is ridiculous.”
Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.
Russia, under Putin, is engaged in a large-scale nuclear buildup that includes new missiles, submarines, and a new bomber.
A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said. Read the rest of this entry »
The Islamic State and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are enemies of liberty, democracy and the rule of law
Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes: The abhorrent beheading of two American journalists and a British aid worker shocked the world. So did the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The deaths of these innocents show the global consequences of two major crises on Europe’s doorstep: the advance of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group across Iraq and Syria, and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The peace and security we enjoy in Europe and North America are under threat like never before.
These challenges will last for years, and we need to face that reality.
With Russia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has tried long and hard to build a partnership that respects Russia’s security concerns and is based on international rules and norms. Regrettably, Russia has rejected our efforts to engage. Russia has trampled on all the rules and commitments that have kept peace in Europe and beyond since the end of the Cold War. It is now clear that Russia regards the West as an adversary, not a partner.
The terrorist threat is now growing in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State terrorists are fueling the fire of sectarianism already burning across the Middle East and North Africa, with the risk rising that terror will be exported back to our shores. Read the rest of this entry »
George Dvorsky writes: As Russian troops advance into Ukraine, and as ISIS forces ravage parts of the Middle East, the world is being forced to confront an uncomfortable fact: these belligerents aren’t just winning battles on the ground, they’re also winning over minds. Here’s what propaganda looks like in the 21st century — and how the West has failed to adapt.
Propaganda may seem like an archaic concept, but it’s very much alive and well. The world has changed significantly in the past few decades, as has our means of consuming information. Many state and non-state actors have taken notice, developing new strategies to sway public opinion both at home and abroad, and as a means to further their foreign policy agendas.
The Revival Of State Controlled Media
One area in which Western leaders have most certainly lagged behind is the effective use of media to promote its perspective. Much of this has to do with the independent nature of media in democratic countries; freedom of the press is a much-vaunted institution of free thinking and critical societies who look to the media for unbiased accounts of world events and as a way to hold their governments to account.
But these values aren’t shared at the global scale, particularly in authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Inspired by the state-controlled media of the Soviet regime, President Vladimir Putin is making a concerted effort to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon mass media” and to “illuminate abroad the state policies” of the Kremlin. To that end, he’s pouring incredible amounts of money into Russian media. The country now invests around $136 million each year just to influence public opinion abroad.
Russia is currently expanding its foreign broadcaster RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and the Ruptly News Agency. Launched back in 2005, RT is currently available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and is being positioned as an alternative to Western international media, such as CNN and the BBC. Ruptly is currently working to establish itself as an alternative to Reuters and the Associated Press in providing video coverage.
As noted by Anton Troianovski, “While viewership is relatively small, observers say that by airing increasingly shrill criticism of the West and comments from anti-American conspiracy theorists as well as far-right and far-left Western politicians, RT has sought to undermine the authority of Western media.”
According to Andrew Weiss, the Vice President of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war.” He describes RT as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. By using the Internet, newspapers and television — along with the deployment of allegedly neutral journalists and pundits dispatched around the world — the Kremlin is effectively propagating its position.
Currently, RT reaches out to more than 644 million people worldwide, and as a state-influenced organization, it can slip messages about Russian policy into its programming (a good example can be found here). Looking ahead, Russia plans on expanding its Berlin office from two staff members to 30. It has also adopted a $39 million budget for expansion into French.
By using the media and other information channels, the Russian Federation has relentlessly and effectively conveyed it’s own narrative on unfolding events. Its startling ability to control information has become a critical tactic in its current efforts to annex portions of Ukraine and to influence events in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
It isn’t so much that former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was a prophet. Just that he had read a book or two.
…In 2012, Romney called it “troubling” and “alarming” that Barack Obama had essentially appeased the Russian bear by offering concessions like the withdrawal of interceptor missile and radar installations in Eastern Europe without reciprocity from Moscow. He said that Russia’s actions have made that nation “without question, our number one geopolitical foe.”
This prompted a flood of scorn and mockery from a raft of self-assured critics. But by 2014, after Russia had frustrated America’s ambition to contain the Syrian civil war, invaded neighboring Ukraine, and unilaterally annexed a portion of that nation’s territory into Russia proper, nearly all of Romney’s self-respecting critics were forced to concede that he had a point. Read the rest of this entry »
Foreign Ministry Summons Russian Ambassador
An official from the Internal Security Service (ISS), Estonia‘s national agency for counterintelligence and high-profile corruption investigations, was abducted at gunpoint at Luhamaa border checkpoint this morning where he was discharging service duties, and taken to Russia.
The incident occurred at about 9:00 on the Estonian side of the border and was preceded by jamming of communications and use of a smoke grenade, the agency said; the interference was said to originate from the Russia side.
The ISS said the official was in the process of interdiction of a cross-border crime.
The area is in Võru County, by Russian border post #121. The border is largely demarcated and lacks major fortifications; the area is thinly populated.
The whereabouts of the official are not known, Postimees daily’s online site said.
There was no immediate explanation on the late disclosure of the incident – more than six hours after it occurred – which comes during a period of more tense relations with Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
Calm when it comes to Putin, ISIS and Hamas, but furious with Israel
Barack Obama “has become ‘enraged’ at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. ” So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had “a very negative impact” on Jerusalem’s relations with Washington.
Think about this. Enraged. Not “alarmed” or “concerned” or “irritated” or even “angered.” Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.
[Also see Bret Stephens' - 'Pay Attention to Other People's Nightmares, Because They Might Be Contagious']
And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of “genocide” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president’s rage.
Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became “enraged” with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 “collaborators” in broad daylight, Bashar Assad‘s forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.
Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage? Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone reports: I have never eaten at a McDonald’s in France. But evidently a lot of French men and women do. Business Insider reports that France is McDonald’s most profitable country after the United States. So much for all the French cuisine snobs who lament the presence of McDonald’s in la belle France…(read more)
“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”
Aug 29 (Reuters) – Alexei Anishchuk reports: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”
“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.”
Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.
“Russia’s partners…should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”
Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armour to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge. Read the rest of this entry »
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 28, 2014
Andy Tully writes: Oil and gas are at the heart of the Russian economy and are largely responsible for keeping Moscow’s government budget in balance. But the recent decline in the price of oil from the North Sea and Texas has now spread to Urals crude, giving President Vladimir Putin one more economic headache.
The price of Urals crude fell just below $100 per barrel on Aug. 18, an 18-month low. On Aug. 19, it dropped to less than $97 per barrel. These declines coincided with similar drops in the price of Brent crude from the North Sea and U.S. oil.
The reasons are fairly easy to recognize. First, the United States has been on a drilling tear, extracting oil at record levels to increase its supply at a time when demand is waning. Second, though more tentative, is that conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East are so far not interfering with oil production in these regions.
This oil production boom raises problems for Moscow. Two-thirds of Russia’s exports are oil and gas, accounting for fully half of the central government’s revenues. That means that so far this year, every dollar drop in the price of Russian oil means a cut of about $1.4 billion in revenues. Read the rest of this entry »
“Events are developing quickly in 1861 and the potential for widespread violence is high, so we recommend that all citizens planning to visit that year exercise abundant caution and make proper arrangements.”
– State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Responding to reports of political turmoil and growing instability, officials from the U.S. State Department issued an advisory on Tuesday for all Americans traveling to the year 1861. “Events are developing quickly in 1861 and the potential for widespread violence is high, so we recommend that all citizens planning to visit that year exercise abundant caution and make proper arrangements,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, strongly advising against any non-essential travel to 1861 and the broader time period of the early 1860s in general. Read the rest of this entry »
Defense officials said the Chinese Su-27 interceptor jet flew within 50 feet of the P-8 anti-submarine warfare jet near Japan
Bill Gertz reports: A Chinese jet fighter flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft near Japan this week in an encounter that highlights China’s continued aggressiveness in the region.
The P-8, a new, militarized Boeing-737 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, was conducting routine surveillance of the Chinese coast over the East China Sea on Monday when the incident occurred, said U.S. defense officials familiar with reports of the encounter.
In 1991 China purchased an initial batch of 24 SU-27s for about $1 billion which were delivered in late 1992 and based at Wuhu Air Base, 250 kilometers west of Shanghai. In May 1995 China purchased a second batch of 24 SU-27 aircraft through Russia’s main state-run arms exporting company Rosvooruzheniye.
Su-27 profile from fas.org
Codenamed `Flanker’ by NATO, the J-11 [Su-27] is a multi-role fighter bomber and air superiority aircraft which can also be used in the maritime strike role. The Flanker has an operational radius of around 1500 km, and is equipped with an inflight refuelling facility extending their radius by another 500 km. Although normally configured for conventional operations, the J-11 could provide China with a high-performance nuclear-capable strike aircraft. The acquisition of Su-27, after China had attempted for years to develop the J-10 aircraft with equivalent technology to perform similar functions, demonstrates a lack of confidence in domestic industrial capabilities…(read more)
More from Washington Free Beacon‘s Bill Gertz: These were delivered in April 1996 and based at Suixi Air Base in Southern China. The 48 Su-27-type aircraft include 36 one-seat Su-27SK manufactured in Komsomolsk-on-Amur and 12 two-seat Su-27UB manufactured in Irkutsk, worth a total of 1.7 billion dollars.
In 1991 China purchased an initial batch of 24 SU-27s for about $1 billion which were delivered in late 1992 and based at Wuhu Air Base, 250 kilometers west of Shanghai. In May 1995 China purchased a second batch of 24 SU-27 aircraft through Russia’s main state-run arms exporting company Rosvooruzheniye. These were delivered in April 1996 and based at Suixi Air Base in Southern China. The 48 Su-27-type aircraft include 36 one-seat Su-27SK manufactured in Komsomolsk-on-Amur and 12 two-seat Su-27UB manufactured in Irkutsk, worth a total of 1.7 billion dollars. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 20, 2014
Kiev (AFP) – Max Delany with Anais Llobet in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russia reporting: Ukraine said on Friday it had destroyed part of a Russian military convoy that entered onto its territory in an incursion that has sent cross-border tensions rocketing.
NATO accused Russia of active involvement in the “destabilisation” of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin separatists have been fighting against Kiev for four months.
The two countries have also been wrangling for days over a Russian convoy that Moscow says is carrying humanitarian aid for besieged rebel-held cities but which Kiev suspects could be a “Trojan horse” to provide military help to the insurgents.
Fears that the border clash could spill into all-out war between Kiev and Moscow sent major share markets tumbling across Europe and the United States. Read the rest of this entry »
Aid Trucks to Ukraine? Almost Empty
A convoy of Russian trucks carrying aid for eastern Ukraine has been opened up to journalists at the border. The Ukrainian government had insisted that inspectors checked the trucks’ cargo, amid fears that they could be carrying military supplies for the rebels – an accusation Russia has rejected. The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg noted that many of the trucks were “almost empty”.
“… Policy and rhetoric are effective when deployed together in pursuit of a goal. Yet, for the Obama administration, from the Middle East to Ukraine, American policy exists, rudderless, as pure rhetoric…”
“Whether it’s domestic or foreign policy, Obama has failed to build a bridge between words and action. Without such a bridge, the administration will sink in a morass of increasingly pointless speeches…” (read more)
British lawmaker calls to strip Russia of World Cup http://t.co/YPgmFrST1K
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) July 26, 2014
— Andrei Nikitchyuk (@AndreiNikit) July 24, 2014