MOSCOW, June 18 -- Using Russian equipment and software to manage the country's power grids is necessary to protect the energy system from cyber criminals, the press service of the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Media said on Monday.
The ministry was commenting on the article in The New York Times that claims that "the United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia's electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively." "Informational security of the energy system is one of our priorities. We are constantly working on it together with the Ministry of Energy. Using our own intelligent accounting software, telecommunications equipment, component base and secure protocols provides a guarantee against hacker attacks," spokesman for the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Media Yevgeny Novikov said. Novikov noted that "smart" meters can be used to remotely turn on and off the supply of resources (electricity or gas). "So a hacker attack can, for example, leave a hospital, school, or a whole city, without electricity. In a situation with gas supplies, consequences can be catastrophic," Novikov said.
LONDON, June 14 -- The UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed he has signed a request for Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. where he faces charges of computer hacking, The Guardian reports.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Thursday, June 13, Javid said: “He’s rightly behind bars. There’s an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.” Javid’s decision opens the way to the court sending the WikiLeaks founder to America. Assange faces an 18-count indictment, issued by the U.S. Justice Department, that includes charges under the Espionage Act. He is accused of soliciting and publishing classified information and conspiring to hack into a government computer. Javid said: “It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but there is a very important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
Javid’s decision follows news last week that an attempt to extradite Assange to Sweden had suffered a setback when a court in Uppsala said he did not need to be detained. The ruling by the district court prevented Swedish prosecutors from applying immediately for an extradition warrant for Assange to face an allegation of rape dating back to 2010. Assange denies the accusation. Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its offer of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him.
MONTREUX, 28 MAY 2019 – The 67th Bilderberg Meeting will take place from May 30 – June 2, 2019 in Montreux, Switzerland.
About 130 participants from 23 countries have confirmed their attendance. As ever, a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia, labour and the media has been invited.The 2019 edition of the exclusive Bilderberg Meeting will take place at the Hotel Montreux Palace in the Swiss town of Montreux from Thursday to Sunday. It will feature Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, the head of Germany’s Christian Democrats, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and Crédit-Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam among others. According to Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also be among the attendees, although he is not on the official guest list on the Bildberg website. The Swiss paper reports that Pompeo is set to sit down with Ueli Maurer. The two are tipped to discuss the situation in Iran where Switzerland represents US interests.
However, the Swiss Finance Ministry told The Local on Tuesday that no meeting was envisaged between Pompeo and Maurer. The yearly Bilderberg talk-fest, which dates back to 1954, features a guest list of around 130 people from Europe and North America including everyone from royals to business tycoons and academics. A highly secretive affair without a fixed agenda, the Bilderberg Meeting is regular fodder for conspiracy theorists who believe its participants act as a secret world government. However, organisers argue the private nature of the event gives attendees the chance to hold informal discussions about major issues. Topics up for discussion this year include climate change and sustainability, Brexit, China, Russia, the future of capitalism and the weaponization of social media. According to the official Bilderberg website, discussions are held under the Chatham House Rule, which means participants can use any information they receive during the meeting but cannot reveal its source. This year will be the second time the Bilderberg meeting has been held in Switzerland. In 2011, it was held in St Moritz in the country’s southeast.
The key topics for discussion this year are:
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS 2019
WASHINGTON, May 16 -- The US Commerce Department has announced it is blacklisting Chinese telecom giant Huawei and 70 affiliates over alleged threat to national security.
The department said it has a reason to conclude that Huawei is "engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interest." It accused Huawei of providing banned financial services to Iran bypassing US sanctions and also attempts to obstruct justice during the investigation into these violations. This move will "prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine US national security or foreign policy interests," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring emergency to protect US information and telecommunications technology from external threats. The order will empower the US commerce secretary after consultations with heads of other federal agencies to block transactions deemed as a threat to national security.
In August 2018, Trump signed an order banning US government agencies from using the equipment manufactured by Huawei and another Chinese company ZTE. Huawei has said the US "unreasonable restrictions" will infringe upon its rights. "Restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives," the telecom giant said in a statement, according to AFP.
JERUZALEM, May 14 -- As Apple rolled out an advertising campaign last month touting the impenetrability of the iPhone — “Privacy. That’s iPhone”, the commercials promised a secretive Israeli company called in its sales people to talk about an important update designed to thwart that very privacy.
According to one person at the meeting, the executives from NSO Group made a bold claim: using just one simple missed call on WhatsApp, it had figured out a way to “drop its payload”, a piece of software called Pegasus that can penetrate the darkest secrets of any iPhone. Within minutes of the missed call, the phone starts revealing its encrypted content, mirrored on a computer screen halfway across the world. It then transmits back the most intimate details such as private messages or location, and even turns on the camera and microphone to live-stream meetings. The software itself is not new — it was the latest upgrade to a decade-old technology so powerful that the Israeli defence ministry regulates its sale. But the WhatsApp hack was an enticing new “attack vector”, the person says. “Great from a sales point.”
It was an illustration of the sales pitch that NSO has made to governments around the world — and which have helped give a tiny and discreet company a market valuation of around $1bn. NSO’s few hundred engineers claim they have managed to manoeuvre around whatever obstacle Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has thrown in its way. Apple declined to comment for this article. At an investor presentation in London in April, the company bragged that the typical security patches from Apple do not address the “weaknesses exploited by Pegasus”, according to an unimpressed potential investor. Despite the annual software updates unveiled by companies such as Apple, NSO had a “proven record” of identifying new weaknesses, the company representative told attendees. NSO’s pitch has been a runaway success — allowing governments to buy off the shelf the sort of software that was once thought to be restricted to only the most sophisticated spy agencies, such as GCHQ in the UK and the National Security Agency in America. The sale of such powerful and controversial technologies also gives Israel an important diplomatic calling card. Through Pegasus, Israel has acquired a major presence — official or not — in the deeply classified war rooms of unlikely partners, including, researchers say, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Although both countries officially reject the existence of the Jewish state, they now find themselves the subject of a charm offensive by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that mixes a shared hostility to Iran with intelligence knowhow. The Israeli government has never talked publicly about its relationship with NSO. Shortly after he stepped down as defence minister in November, Avigdor Lieberman, who had responsibility for regulating NSO’s sales, said: “I am not sure now is the right time to discuss this . . . I think that I have a responsibility for the security of our state, for future relations.” But he added: “It is not a secret today that we have contact with all the moderate Arab world. I think it is good news.”
LONDON, May 12 -- Investigations show how cash, legal support and millions of tweets underpin anti-Islam activist - but Facebook removes his ‘donate’ button.
The British far-right activist Tommy Robinson is receiving financial, political and moral support from a broad array of non-British groups and individuals, including US thinktanks, rightwing Australians and Russian trolls, a Guardian investigation has discovered. Robinson, an anti-Islam campaigner who is leading a “Brexit betrayal” march in London on Sunday, has received funding from a US tech billionaire and a thinktank based in Philadelphia. Two other US thinktanks, part-funded by some of the biggest names in rightwing funding, have published a succession of articles in support of Robinson, who has become a cause célèbre among the American far right since he was jailed in May for two months. His imprisonment on contempt of court charges prompted a vigorous international Twitter campaign, with 2.2m tweets being posted using the hashtag #freetommy between May and October. An analysis conducted for the Guardian by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that more than 40% of the tweets came from the US, 30% from the UK and other significant volumes from Canada, the Netherlands and nine other countries.
A separate study of about 600 Twitter accounts, believed to be directly tied to the Russian government or closely aligned with its propaganda, found significant numbers had tweeted prolifically in Robinson’s defence. On Facebook, Robinson has more than 1 million followers from at least a dozen countries outside the UK, including the US, Australia, Sweden and Norway. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been using Facebook donation tools designed for charities to raise funds for his activism for several months. He says he has raised several hundred thousand pounds via online donations, some of which were solicited via the Facebook donate button. Robinson has said he plans to use the money to launch a European version of the rightwing conspiracy website Infowars, and to sue the British government over his prison treatment. But the tool is meant for charities alone. When the Guardian alerted Facebook to this, the social media company switched off the function within hours.
The investigation has established that:
Horowitz, the co-founder of the DHFC, told the Guardian in an email: “Tommy Robinson is a courageous Englishman who has risked his life to expose the rape epidemic of young girls conducted by Muslim gangs and covered up by your shameful government.”
OTTAWA, May 6 -- Canada is leaning on the United States to help settle a dispute with China, which has started to block imports of vital Canadian commodities amid a dispute over a detained Huawei executive.
In a sign of increasing frustration at what it sees as a lacklustre US response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is signalling it could withhold cooperation on major issues. China has upped the pressure on Canada in recent weeks over the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, arrested last December on a US warrant. It halted Canadian canola imports and last week suspended the permits of two major pork producers. After Meng’s Vancouver arrest, Chinese police also detained two Canadian citizens.
Beijing is refusing to allow a Canadian trade delegation to visit, forcing officials to use video conference calls as they try to negate a major threat to commodity exports. With no cards to play against China without risking significant economic damage, Canada has launched a full-court press in Washington, which is negotiating its own trade deal with Beijing. “It’s a very challenging situation. When we raise it with the Americans they just say, ‘Dealing with the Chinese is tough’,” said a Canadian government source. “It’s also not clear who we should be targeting since you never know who is up and who is down in the administration at any given point,” said the source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.
Among those the Canadians approached are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. The State Department said it was “concerned” by the canola ban. In March, the Foreign Relations Committee responded to Canada’s concerns by passing a bipartisan resolution supporting the country. Canada says the United States is obliged to help, given that the US arrest warrant triggered the crisis with Beijing. US negotiators have rejected Chinese proposals to include the Huawei issue in their current trade deal discussions, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
LONDON, May 2 -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces an initial hearing in London on Thursday over an extradition request from the United States, a day after he was jailed for 50 weeks for jumping bail.
The US wants to extradite the Australian whistle-blower, who was arrested on April 11 after spending seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy, to face charges of “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The US indictment, which was only revealed following his dramatic arrest for breaching bail, accuses him of helping crack a password stored on US department of defence computers in March 2010. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years. Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrong-doing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries. WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said on Wednesday that all efforts would now be focused on preventing Assange’s extradition to the US. “It will be a question of life and death,” he warned. Assange’s supporters believe that more serious charges could be filed if he is transferred to the US, and he fears the death penalty. Hrafnsson was speaking outside London’s Southwark Crown Court, where a British judge handed Assange a 50-week jail term for breaching a British court order when he sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012.
‘I apologise unreservedly’
At the time, Swedish authorities wanted to extradite Assange over claims of sexual assault and rape, which he denied. He claimed the allegations were a pretext to transfer him to the United States. There is no longer an active investigation in Sweden and the extradition request has lapsed, but Assange was still accountable for breaching British law, leading to him being dragged shouting from the embassy by police when Ecuador gave him up last month. The 47-year-old, his shaggy beard neatly trimmed, raised his fist to supporters in the public gallery at Southwark Crown Court as he was taken down to the cells. In a letter read out on his behalf, Assange expressed regret, saying: “I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done.” “I apologise unreservedly,” he said. Assange’s team is fighting his extradition and the process could take years. WikiLeaks is also back in the news in the United States, over its alleged role in the leak of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 US presidential election. The Swedish claims against Assange date back to 2010, when he was at the centre of a global storm over WikiLeaks’ exposures. The sexual assault claim expired in 2015, but while the rape claim was dropped in 2017, the alleged victim wants the case reopened. If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, Britain must decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.
WASHINGTON, April 26 -- A court in Washington has sentenced Russian national Maria Butina to 18 years in prison, reports from the courtroom.
Judge Tanya Chutkan ignored the defense lawyers’ request Butina should be sentenced to a term equal to the period she has already spent in custody. Instead, she sustained the prosecution’s request for sentencing Butina to 18th months. Butina’ caseMaria Butina, 30, was charged with conspiracy for the purpose of conducing activities in favor of a foreign country in the territory of the United States. US secret services claimed Butina indulged in such activity without being registered as a foreign agent at the US Department of Justice. Butina was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018 ahead of the summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Helsinki. Moscow described the charges against Butina as a fake and demanded her release from custody.
Butina had arrived in the United States for a course of studies. Last spring she obtained a master’s degree at American University, where she studied international relations. On December 13, Butina faced court in the District of Columbia to plead guilty to one of the charges concerning the foreign agents act. She signed a plea bargain with the prosecutor-general’s office. The date when the sentence might be pronounced was not disclosed at once at the request of the attorney’s office, because the process of Butina’s cooperation with the investigation, it was stated, might take some time.
BRUSSELS, April 24 -- The European Parliament voted last week to interconnect a series of border-control, migration, and law enforcement systems into a gigantic, biometrics-tracking, searchable database of EU and non-EU citizens.
This new database will be known as the Common Identity Repository (CIR) and is set to unify records on over 350 million people. Per its design, CIR will aggregate both identity records (names, dates of birth, passport numbers, and other identification details) and biometrics (fingerprints and facial scans), and make its data available to all border and law enforcement authorities. It's primary role will be to simplify the jobs of EU border and law enforcement officers who will be able to search a unified system much faster, rather than search through separate databases individually.
"The systems covered by the new rules would include the Schengen Information System, Eurodac, the Visa Information System (VIS) and three new systems: the European Criminal Records System for Third Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN), the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)," EU officials said last week. CIR passed through the European Parliament last Monday, April 15, in two separate votes. The CIR rules for borders and visa checks were adopted by 511 to 123, and nine abstentions, while the CIR legislation for police and judicial cooperation, asylum and migration was approved 510 to 130, and nine abstentions. The European Parliament and the European Council promised "proper safeguards" to protect people's right to privacy and regulate officers' access to data.
Ever since plans to create this shared biometrics database have been made public last year, privacy advocates have criticized the EU, calling CIR's creation as the "point of no return" in creating "a Big Brother centralised EU state database." Once up and running, CIR will become one of the biggest people-tracking databases in the world, right behind the systems used by the Chinese government and India's Aadhar system. In the US, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations run similar biometrics databases. The database's existence can be easily justified by the necessity to give law enforcement better tools for tracking migrants and criminals; however, there's always the fear that the system will slowly be expanded to include and track people that are not the subject of any criminal investigations, such as tourist traveling across the EU space.