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Spooked by Spike in Cyber Extortion, Businesses are Stockpiling Bitcoin for Payoffs

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Paying ransom just invites the next attack.

Tim Johnson reports: U.S. corporations that have long resisted bending to the demands of computer hackers who take their networks hostage are increasingly stockpiling bitcoin, the digital currency, so that they can quickly meet ransom demands rather than lose valuable corporate data.

The companies are responding to cybersecurity experts who recently have changed their advice on how to deal with the growing problem of extortionists taking control of the computers.

“It’s a moral dilemma. If you pay, you are helping the bad guys,” said Paula Long, chief executive of DataGravity, a Nashua, New Hampshire, company that helps clients secure corporate data. But, she added, “You can’t go to the moral high ground and put your company at risk.”

“A lot of companies are doing that as part of their incident response planning,” said Chris Pogue, chief information security officer at Nuix, a company that provides information management technologies. “They are setting up bitcoin wallets.”

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Pogue said he believed thousands of U.S. companies had prepared strategies for dealing with hacker extortion demands, and numerous law firms have stepped in to facilitate negotiations with hackers, many of whom operate from the other side of the globe.

Symantec, a Mountain View, California, company that makes security and storage software, estimates that ransom demands to companies average between $10,000 and $75,000 for hackers to provide keys to decrypt frozen networks. Individuals whose computers get hit pay as little as $100 to $300 to unlock their encrypted files.

Companies that analyze cyber threats say the use of ransomware has exploded, and payments have soared. Recorded Future, a Somerville, Massachusetts, threat intelligence firm, says ransom payments skyrocketed 4,000 percent last year, reaching $1 billion. Another firm, Kaspersky Lab, estimates that a new business is attacked with ransomware every 40 seconds.

“If you’re hit by ransomware today, you have only two options: You either pay the criminals or you lose your data,” said Raj Samani, chief technical officer at Intel Security for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We underestimated the scale of the issue.”

Hackers often send out email with tainted hyperlinks to broad targets, say, an entire company. All it takes is one computer user in a company to click on the infected link to allow hackers to get a foothold in the broader network, leading to hostile encryption.

“At least one employee will click on anything,” said Robert Gibbons, chief technology officer at Datto, a Connecticut company that offers digital disaster recovery services. Read the rest of this entry »

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Russian Military Buildup on Disputed Isles Clouds Resolution of Row with Tokyo

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 reports: Even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed their recent agreement on joint economic activities on four disputed islands off Hokkaido is a step toward resolving the territorial row, the islands’ strategic importance for Russia is likely to continue complicating the decades-old issue.

Even if the agreed economic cooperation chiefly in the Russian Far East makes headway, the strategic importance of the Russian-held islands, claimed by Japan, bodes ill for Tokyo in its efforts to regain them, especially given the advance of China in the Arctic region and Russia’s need to maintain its nuclear deterrence, according to some analysts.

Japan claims that Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group are an integral part of its territory and were illegally seized by the Soviet Union after Japan’s surrender in World War II in August 1945. Russia maintains the Soviet Union took the islands legitimately as the spoils of war.

Russia has been modernizing its military on the islands, which delineate the southern edge of the Sea of Okhotsk where Russian nuclear submarines are deployed. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] FIREWALL: Bill Whittle on FAKE NEWS

What cost Hillary Clinton the election? Well obviously it could not have had anything to do with her creepy, fake smile, her human-like warmth or the swamp of corruption and even treason that she has made for herself. It must be the Russians! And FAKE NEWS! In his latest FIREWALL, Bill Whittle picks apart this nonsense and places the blame squarely on the head of the sore loser responsible for her thrashing.

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Vladimir Putin Honors Critical Russian Journalist’s Birthday with a Celebratory Gunshot Wound to Journalists’s Head 

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Alexander Shchetinin found dead with a gun near his body after friends tried to visit him at home.

Rachael Pells reports: A well-known Russian journalist and critic of President Vladimir Putin has been found dead in his Kiev apartment with a gunshot wound to the head.

The body of Alexander Shchetinin, founder the Novy Region (New Region) press agency, was found at his flat after friends tried to visit him on his birthday.

A police spokesperson said Kiev forces were alerted of Ms Shchetinin’s death at around midnight on Saturday. He is believed to have died a few hours earlier, between 8 and 9.30pm.

Officials have speculated that his death was caused by suicide, after a gun was found near his body along with spent cartridges, and the door to his apartment was said to be locked. Read the rest of this entry »


Israeli Athletes at Rio Olympics Endure ‘Shocking’ Hostility, Taunting by Muslim Nations 

The confrontations with delegations of nations traditionally hostile to Israel have marred an otherwise successful Olympics for Israel. Two days ago, judo fighter Yarden Gerbi won the bronze medal, making her the nation’s first medal winner since the 2008 Olympics.

 reports: The 2016 Olympic Games have been billed as an opportunity to put politics aside in the spirit of international camaraderie, but that’s not necessarily how it’s working out for Israeli athletes.

“Shocking but not surprisingly, the Lebanese and Saudi delegations obviously have the wrong idea about the Olympic Games.”

Animosity toward the 47-member delegation has triggered a reprimand from the International Olympic Committee and alarm from Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, which issued a statement this week decrying anti-Israel “hostility” in Rio de Janeiro.

“Instead of using the events to forget animosity and promote peace between people, they have brought their brainwashed minds to Rio.”

“Shocking but not surprisingly, the Lebanese and Saudi delegations obviously have the wrong idea about the Olympic Games,” said a statement Wednesday by Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel group Stand With Us.

[Read the full story here, at Washington Times]

“Instead of using the events to forget animosity and promote peace between people, they have brought their brainwashed minds to Rio,” she said. “How unfortunate that they could not implement the good, peaceful intentions of the Olympics, and instead have used it as a forum to spread hate and continued rejection of peace.”

“How unfortunate that they could not implement the good, peaceful intentions of the Olympics, and instead have used it as a forum to spread hate and continued rejection of peace.”

The confrontations with delegations of nations traditionally hostile to Israel have marred an otherwise successful Olympics for Israel. Two days ago, judo fighter Yarden Gerbi won the bronze medal, making her the nation’s first medal winner since the 2008 Olympics. Read the rest of this entry »


A Statue of Vladimir Lenin has Been Mysteriously Beheaded in Moscow 

A puzzling note and small bits of rope had been left at the scene. The note, which had an image of a clothes hanger and a tank top, appeared to suggest the word ‘hangman.’

A statue of the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin has stood tall in a park off of Moscow’s Klimashkina Street for decades, but this week it came down to earth with a crash.

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Worse still, the statue’s head apparently came off in the process. The communist revolutionary, still widely admired in Russia, was beheaded in the very Russian city he had restored as the capital almost 100 years ago.

It’s a somewhat mysterious story. According to reports in the Russian media, the statue was discovered on the ground early Tuesday. At first, utility workers suggested that the statue had been brought down by winds. However, weather reports for Moscow showed that the wind that day was hardly gusty enough to knock down a heavy statue.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

More intriguing still, Life.ru reported that a puzzling note and small bits of rope had been left at the scene. The note, which had an image of a clothes hanger and a tank top, appeared to suggest the word “hangman.”

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Later, it was reported that authorities arrested two young men in connection with the statue’s fall. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES HE DID: Putin Raises Possibility of Using Nuclear Weapons Against Terrorists 

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But hopes they ‘will never need’ them

Serina Sandhu reports: Vladimir Putin has said he hopes nuclear warheads will not be needed to deal with terrorists, after Russia launched cruise missiles from its submarine at Syria.

“With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”

— Vladimir Putin

During a meeting in the Kremlin, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the President that Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired by the submerged Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.

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He said TU-22 bombers also took part in the latest raids and that “significant damage” had been done to a munitions depot, a factory manufacturing mortar rounds and oil facilities. Two major targets in Raqqa, the defacto capital of Isis, had been hit, said Mr Shoigu.

President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them.

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He said: “With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”

President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them. Read the rest of this entry »


Russia Steps Up Bombing Campaign in Syria 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin defends decision to send warplanes as aimed at political solution.

MOSCOW— Thomas Grove reports: Russia stepped up its bombing campaign in Syria over the weekend, more than doubling the rate of strikes seen at the beginning of the operation.

“The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday its jet fighters had carried out 55 sorties over the past 24 hours, hitting targets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Idlib and Raqqa. The daily number had been around two dozen last week.

“U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.”

Russian warplanes are backing an offensive launched last week by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian military said Su-34, Su-24 and Su-25 fighters hit Islamic State field headquarters, training camps and weapons arsenals in the latest bombing runs.

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“Our task is to stabilize the legal government and create the right conditions for reaching a political compromise. We have no desire to recreate an empire and resurrect the Soviet Union.”

— Vladimir Putin

The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

The Russian government depicts Islamic State as a direct threat to its citizens. On Monday, Russia’s Federal Security Service told the state news agency Interfax that law-enforcement officials had foiled a plot to carry out an attack on public transportation in Moscow—and that some of the individuals arrested in the case had trained at Islamic State camps in Syria.

In an interview aired Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his decision to send warplanes to Syria, saying the air war was aimed at spurring a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »


SPACE: Progress Failure Puts Burden on Upcoming Resupply Missions

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jeff_foust_4c-90x90WASHINGTON — Jeff Foust writes: The failure of a Russian Progress spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station is unlikely to have a significant near-term effect on station operations, but will place a greater burden on upcoming resupply missions and could alter the cargo those missions carry.

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying the Progress M-27M spacecraft lifted off on schedule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:09 a.m. Eastern time April 28. The launch appeared to take place normally, putting the spacecraft on track to dock with the ISS about six hours later.

However, shortly after the Progress reached orbit, controllers reported that two antennas used as part of the spacecraft’s docking system failed to deploy properly. NASA initially announced that the docking would be delayed until early April 30 to give engineers time to resolve the antenna problem.

“Roscosmos announced that the Progress will not be docking and will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere here some days in the future.”

— NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, April 29, 2015

Within hours, though, it was clear the problem with the Soyuz was more serious than a faulty antenna. The spacecraft entered a roll, and Russian controllers reported problems maintaining communications with the spacecraft. NASA announced later April 28 that it had called off an attempted April 30 docking.

The U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center, tracking the Progress, said in an April 28 statement that the spacecraft was rotating “at a rate of 360 degrees every five seconds,” or 12 RPM. The Air Force also reported tracking 44 pieces of debris in the vicinity of the Progress and its Soyuz upper stage, but could not determine from which object the debris originated.

NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos ruled out any attempt to dock the Progress with the ISS on April 29. “Roscosmos announced that the Progress will not be docking and will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere here some days in the future,” NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, currently on the station, said in an interview on NASA Television April 29.

The cause of the Progress failure, including whether it is a flaw with the spacecraft or its launch vehicle, is unclear. Roscosmos, in an April 29 statement, said telemetry from the Progress was interrupted 1.5 seconds before the Progress was scheduled to separate from the Soyuz upper stage. When contact was restored after separation, the spacecraft was in a spin.

With no ability to control the spacecraft, the Progress’s orbit will decay and the spacecraft will reenter some time in early May. Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, said April 30 that he estimated the Progress would reenter on May 9, with a margin of error of two days.

Most of the spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere. “However, we cannot exclude the chance that some portion of its structure, for example the heavy docking mechanism or tanks and thrusters, could survive reentry to reach the surface,” Krog said. Read the rest of this entry »


The Crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia: ‘We Remember…Feb. 1, 2003…12 Years Ago Today’

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The seven-member crew of the STS-107 mission was just 16 minutes from landing on the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, when Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle Columbia. A piece of foam, falling from the external tank during launch, had opened a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings, leading to the breakup of the orbiter upon re-entry.

Addressing the nation, President Bush said, “mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.”

Remembering Columbia – NASA – Johnson Space Center on Twitter


[VIDEO] Potemkin Humanitarianism

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”.

BBC News – YouTube


[VIDEO] Vintage: Rare 1908 Film Footage of Leo Tolstoy During His Final Days

This item recommended by hitchhikeamerica’s Tim Shey, from Open Culture:

“My life came to a standstill,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in his 1882 conversion memoir A Confession, “I could not breathe, eat, drink, and sleep, and I could not help doing these things.” So Tolstoy’s described his “arrest of life,” a period of severe depression that led to a very deep, personal brand of faith in his late middle age.

[Read the dramatic story of Tolstoy’s last ten days in this translated excerpt from Pavel Basinsky’s award winning Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise.]

The towering Russian novelist renounced worldly desires and came to identify with the poor, the former serfs of his aristocratic class. Tolstoy’s radical religious anarchism in his final years spread his fame far among the peasantry just as his literary achievements had brought him worldwide renown among the reading public.

[Also see: Putin Signs Russian Law Banning Swearing in Arts and Media]

So famous was Tolstoy, William Nickell tells us, that Russian critic Vasily Rozanov wrote that “to be a Russian and not have [seen] Tolstoy was like being Swiss and not having seen the Alps.”

Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] Romantic Pictures from Russian Dating Sites

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“Me strong man, like Putin”

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“I’ll be your trashy dirty girl”

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“Watch as I demonstrate my talent for oral sex. You like oral sex?”

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Former U.S. Ambassador McFaul on Whether Sanctions Have Weakened Putin: ‘No’

From this morning’s media roundup at The Corner: When asked this morning whether he thought the first round of American sanctions on top Russian officials has helped bring Putin to the negotiating table, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia had a blunt answer: “No.”

Read the rest of this entry »


CNN Reporter Asks Occupying Russian Gunmen ‘Hey, Are You Guys From Russia?’

Then Anderson Cooper turns our attention to Tom Foreman, to present a kindergarten-level geography lesson for CNN’s barely-literate, low-information viewers. He talks slow, and doesn’t use any big words, so if we watch closely, we’ll be able to follow what he’s showing us. Watch the whole thing:

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“See this yellow circle? This is that place our President was talking about yesterday…

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Weaponry & Fireworks [PHOTOS] From the Ukraine Protests

Jesus Diaz writes:  Protests against new anti-democratic laws in Ukraine are increasing in intensity, with four citizens reported dead. As you can see in these extraordinary images by Ilya Varlamov, the demonstrators are using rockets made with fireworks. They look like scenes from some science-fiction movie about urban warfare.

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Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: UN Security Council meeting cancelled after Russian withdrawal

An Emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria has been cancelled after Russia reportedly withdrew its request for the session.

Australian ambassador, Gary Quinlan, announced the news on his Twitter account, saying: “Following withdrawal of the request for consultations, Security Council meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) will not proceed.”

The meeting was expected to focus on a Russian plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.

Developing…

Source: ITV News