Chinese hackers said to wage cyberwar on The New York Times

Unusual activity was seen in the paper’s computer systems during a probe on China’s prime minister. The Times then discovered that the corporate passwords for every employee had been stolen.

After a lengthy newspaper investigation on China’s prime minister, The New York Times claims, the newspaper’s computer systems were infiltrated and attacked by Chinese hackers.

The attacks began four months ago and culminated with hackers stealing the corporate password for every Times employee, according to the paper. The personal computers of 53 of these employees were also broken into and spied on.

The Times discovered the attacks after observing “unusual activity” in its computer system. Security investigators were then able to get into the system and track the hackers’ movements, see what the infiltrators were after, and eventually “expel them.”

Hackers penetrated the newspaper’s computers as one of its reporters, David Barboza, was wrapping up an investigation into the family wealth of Chinese
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Once the story published in October, the hackers’ activity intensified. According to The New York Times, they were after information on the sources and contacts for Barboza’s story.

In order to find out more of who was behind the cyberattacks, The Times hired computer security firm Mandiant. Experts from this firm were able to detect and block the attacks, while watching the hackers’ every move, the paper said.

The newspaper’s executive editor, Jill Abramson, said, “no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded, or copied.”

According to the Times, the methods these hackers used were similar to past attacks by the Chinese military. These methods include routing attacks through U.S. university computers, constantly changing IP addresses, using e-mail malware to get into the computer system, and installing custom software to target specific individuals and documents.

China’s Ministry of National Defense has denied that the government had anything to do with the hacking spree. “Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security,” the Ministry told the Times. “To accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.”

It’s not unusual for governments to wage cyberattacks against other country’s media, agencies, and facilities. Iran allegedly waged an attack on the U.K.’s BBC News last March; and earlier this month, the U.S. government claimed Iran was responsible for a massive wave of cyberattacks on U.S. banks.

The U.S. has also allegedly waged its own hacking war against Iranian power plants, oil companies, and nuclear facilities with three viruses called Flame, Stuxnet, and Duqu.

Chinese cyberespionage against the U.S. has reportedly been a growing threat for some years now. The U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission on China sent a report to Congress in November that urged lawmakers to take preventative action. The report called China the “most threatening actor in cyberspace” and found that in 2012, Chinese state-sponsored hackers continued to target computer systems run by the U.S. government and military, as well as the private sector.

Despite the Times being able to shut out the hackers for now, it doesn’t mean the newspaper won’t become the target of another attack.

“This is not the end of the story,” Mandiant’s chief security officer, Richard Bejtlich, told the Times. “Once they take a liking to a victim, they tend to come back. It’s not like a digital crime case where the intruders steal stuff and then they’re gone. This requires an internal vigilance model.”

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Android app will snap photo of thief trying to unlock your device

The next time a thief tries to break into your smartphone or tablet, you may be able to get the culprit’s mugshot emailed to you.

Lookout Mobile Security has updated its free Android app with a new feature called “Lock Cam” that helps users spot where their lost phones or tablets might be and who might have taken it.

The Lock Cam takes a picture using devices’ front-facing cameras when someone incorrectly enters a device’s unlock code three times in a row.

The app then emails the picture, along with the location of the device, to the users’ email address. Lookout says the app does all of this silently so thieves have no idea they’ve been captured on camera.

The updated app with the Lock Cam feature can be downloaded from Google Play. It only works with devices running Google’s Android operating system. The company said it wants to add the feature to its app for the iPhone and iPad but doesn’t have a timetable as to when that might happen.

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South Korea launches satellite into orbit

In danger of falling behind in the space race on the Korean peninsula, the South Korean government announced Wednesday that it had successfully launched a rocket into space.

Pressure had been mounting ever since mid-December when communist arch-rival North Korea managed to launch a multi-stage rocket and put a satellite into orbit.

South Korea’s Satellite Launch Vehicle-1, also known as Naro, blasted off at 4 p.m. local time from a space center in Jeolla province on the southwestern coast.

“Five hundred forty seconds after the launch, Naro successfully separated the satellite,” South Korean Science and Technology Minister Lee Joo-ho said at a news briefing Wednesday. “After analyzing various data, we have confirmed that [the satellite] has been successfully put into orbit.”

Officials said the launch made South Korea the 13th country to get a satellite into orbit from its own territory. Iran on Monday announced that it had launched a monkey into space using its own technology.

The sky was clear and the weather had warmed up on Wednesday afternoon at the space center, where about 3,000 people gathered to observe the latest attempt to launch Naro. The crowd excitedly cheered and waved national flags during the countdown.

Two attempts to launch a space vehicle, in 2009 and 2010, ended in failures. The third attempt was to take place in October but was delayed due to a damaged rubber seal that caused a fuel leak. The next try came in November, but it was canceled 17 minutes before the rocket set to be launched due to a technical glitch.

The failures looked all the more embarrassing after the successful Dec. 12 launch of the Unha-3 rocket by North Korea, which has an economy less than one-twentieth the size of South Korea’s. What North Koreans have dubbed a “peaceful satellite launch” was a part of the legacy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died in December 2011.

The international community condemned North Korea as its rocket launch was suspected to be a cover for a test of ballistic missile technology.

Lee Sang-ryul, a South Korean scientist with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said the launches seven weeks apart were not comparable because the South Korean objective was purely scientific.

“The exterior of Unha-3 and Naro seems to be very much alike. It is about the same weight, the shapes are similar, and the fact that it puts a satellite in the orbit is the same. However, I believe North Korea’s purpose is not to develop a satellite launch vehicle but a weapons development,” South Korean television quoted Lee as saying Wednesday.

North Korea said earlier this month it would also conduct a nuclear test and that “the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire … are targeted at the United States, the archenemy of the Korean people.”

Independent scientists say the North Korean satellite was not a complete success because its transmitter failed during the launch, but that it achieved a reasonably accurate orbit.

“Most countries when they launch their first satellite don’t get too close,” Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a recent interview.

He added that South Koreans shouldn’t feel that North Korea has beaten them.

“It is difficult, but it is basically high-tech plumbing,” McDowell said. “It is not as sophisticated as creating the industrial base to make a Samsung monitor.”

South Korea’s Naro program began in 2002 with the help of Russian technology. Before Wednesday’s launch, the country had sent about 10 satellites into space, but they were all launched from foreign rockets overseas.

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Brazil mourns Santa Maria nightclub fire victims

Brazil has declared three days of national mourning for 231 people killed in a nightclub fire in the southern city of Santa Maria.

The fire reportedly started after a member of a band playing at the Kiss nightclub lit a flare on stage.

Authorities say most of the victims were students who died of smoke inhalation. The first funerals took place place on Monday morning.

Three people were arrested over the fire, unconfirmed local reports said.

Police on Monday arrested two musicians from the band, Gurizada Fandangueira, and one of the club’s owners, the website of the Diario de Santa Maria newspaper reported. A fourth person was being sought, the paper said.

The fire is the deadliest in Brazil in five decades.

The BBC’s Gary Duffy reports from Sao Paulo that the national sense of loss is profound.

Brazil postponed a ceremony due on Monday in the capital, Brasilia, to mark 500 days to the 2014 football World Cup. In Santa Maria, 30 days of mourning were declared.

President Dilma Rousseff, who cut short a visit to Chile, has been visiting survivors at the city’s Caridade hospital along with government ministers.

“It is a tragedy for all of us,” she said.

Authorities have released the names of the victims, after revising down the death toll from 245.

More than 100 people were being treated in hospital, mostly for smoke inhalation.

Officials will now investigate reports that a flare was lit on stage, igniting foam insulation material on the ceiling and releasing toxic smoke.

They will also look at claims that many of those who died were unable to escape as only one emergency exit was available.

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Nearly 1,000 march in D.C. for gun control

A group of residents from Newtown, Conn., joined nearly 1,000 people taking part Saturday in a march on the Mall in support of gun-control measures, hopeful their presence will add momentum to legislative efforts to enact tougher laws.

“We’re living in the middle of a crisis,” said Dave Ackert, a father of two from Newtown who helped organize the group, which included others from the state. “Many, many people want to take action. Newtown wants to be remembered as a tipping point for positive change to reduce gun violence.”

Advocates said they hope that the March on Washington for Gun Control will be the first of several such events to push for tougher laws when public opinion on the issue seems to be shifting.

The issue prompted a White House summit on gun policy, and marchers heard from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who invoked a memory from his time as chief executive of Chicago public schools.

“I used to have a drawing on my desk from a child,” Duncan said. “It said, ‘If I grow up, I want to be a fireman.’ ‘If I grow up.’ Far too many children are growing up in an environment where they are scared. Our country deserves better than that.”

The December killing spree in Newtown “has been the tipping point for so many people in this country,” said Molly Smith, one of the march’s organizers. “This is a movement, an honest-to-God movement.”

A few counterprotesters were also present.

Twenty children were killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, along with six adults.

Adam Lanza, 20, whom police identified as the shooter, also killed his mother, Nancy, and himself. The shootings shook the New England town and shocked the nation.

Stacy Blinn of Stratford, Conn., said she was marching in memory of Chase Kowalski, 7, one of the first-graders killed at Sandy Hook.

Blinn went to high school with Chase’s mother, and he and Blinn’s 5-year-old son were friends.

Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage, along with her partner, American Indian activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy, helped organize the march. Co-sponsors included One Million Moms for Gun Control, Washington National Cathedral, Foundry United Methodist Church in the District and Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Speakers included Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), actress Kathleen Turner, and Colin Goddard, who was shot four times during the 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech that killed 32.

This month, President Obama unveiled a far-reaching package of measures to reshape gun laws. Last week, Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), reintroduced legislation that would ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Officials at the National Rifle Association, however, say more guns in the hands of the right people is the key to reducing school shootings.

Friends of Jason Emma, who was fatally shot outside his home on Capitol Hill on Christmas Eve morning, attended the march. Emma, 28, had recently moved to the District from Arlington County to share a rowhouse with longtime friends.

Police have offered $25,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in his killing.

Joan Huskins, a Sandy Hook resident, said she came to represent those who couldn’t be in Washington.

“A lot of these kids are neighbors, friends, younger siblings of my friends’ kids,” she said. “I hope that we are able to get stronger gun control after this, to expand more services for prevention and treatment. It needs to change now.”

Marian Mollin, who teaches history at Virginia Tech and was there during the shooting in 2007 said the violence has to end.

“Every time you see another shooting like Sandy Hook, you relive it. It’s like [the] whole community has PTSD.”

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Ex-C.I.A. Officer Sentenced to 30 Months in Leak

A former Central Intelligence Agency officer was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in prison for disclosing the identity of a covert agency officer to a freelance writer, representing the first time that a C.I.A. officer will serve prison time for disclosing classified information to the news media.

The sentencing in federal court here of John C. Kiriakou, 48, who served as an agency analyst and counterterrorism officer from 1990 to 2004, was the latest development in the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on government leaks.

At the sentencing hearing, the judge overseeing the case, Leonie M. Brinkema of Federal District Court, said she would respect the terms of a plea agreement between prosecutors and Mr. Kiriakou, which called for him to serve a 30-month sentence. But she said, “I think 30 months is way too light.”

In October, Mr. Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act when he disclosed to a reporter the name of an agency officer who had been involved in the C.I.A.’s program to hold and interrogate detainees.

Judge Brinkema said, “This is not a case of a whistle-blower.” She went on to describe how the identity of the C.I.A. officer working under cover had been revealed by Mr. Kiriakou’s disclosures, and the damage it had caused the agency, based on a sealed statement from the undercover agent.

Moments before issuing the sentence, Judge Brinkema asked Mr. Kiriakou if he had anything to say. When he declined, the judge said, “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”

After the hearing, Mr. Kiriakou, who did not begin his sentence on Friday and was allowed to leave the courthouse, addressed members of the news media for a few minutes.

“I come out of the court positive, confident and optimistic,” he said, thanking supporters.

This week, Bruce O. Riedel, who was appointed by President Obama to lead a review of United States policies in Afghanistan, sent a letter to the president asking him to commute Mr. Kiriakou’s sentence. The letter was signed by many others, including former C.I.A. officers.

Mr. Kiriakou had played a significant role in some of the C.I.A.’s major achievements after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In March 2002, he led a group of agency and Pakistani security officers in a raid that captured Abu Zubaydah, who was suspected of being a high-level facilitator for Al Qaeda.

In 2007, three years after he left the C.I.A., Mr. Kiriakou discussed in an interview on ABC News the suffocation technique that was used in the interrogations known as waterboarding. He said it was torture and should no longer be used by the United States, but he defended the C.I.A. for using it in the effort to prevent attacks.

In subsequent e-mail exchanges with a freelance writer, Mr. Kiriakou disclosed the name of one of his former colleagues, who was still under cover and had been a part of the detention and interrogation program.

The freelancer later passed the name of the undercover agent to lawyers representing several Qaeda suspects being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The lawyers later included the name in a sealed legal filing, angering government officials and kick-starting the federal investigation that ultimately ensnared Mr. Kiriakou. The name was not disclosed publicly at the time, but it appeared on an obscure Web site last October. In January 2012, federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Kiriakou, accusing him of disclosing the identity of an agency analyst who had worked on the 2002 raid that led to Abu Zubaydah’s capture and interrogation.

The prosecutors said Mr. Kiriakou had been a source for a New York Times article in 2008 written by Scott Shane that said a C.I.A. employee named Deuce Martinez had played a role in the interrogation. When Mr. Kiriakou pleaded guilty last October, the charges stemming from that disclosure were dropped along with several others.

Prosecutors raised questions this week about Mr. Kiriakou’s contrition. In a filing, prosecutors cited a lengthy article by Mr. Shane published this month in The Times in which he quoted Mr. Kiriakou as saying that if he had known that the C.I.A. officer was still under cover, he would not have disclosed his identity.

The prosecutors said that Mr. Kiriakou’s intimation that the disclosure was an “accident or mistake” contradicted his plea that he had willfully disclosed the information.

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Samsung warns of smartphone slowdown

Samsung has reported record quarterly profits up 76 per cent on the back of Galaxy smartphone sales, but warned there were signs that future growth could be held back by intensifying competition.

The note of caution follows soon after Apple’s iPhone sales disappointed investors.

“The furious growth spurt seen in the global smartphone market last year is expected to be pacified by intensifying price competition, compounded by a slew of new products,” Samsung said in its earnings statement.

It said that the strongest growth in the future would come in the market for low cost handsets in developing countries.

“In the first quarter, demand for smartphones in developed countries is expected to decelerate, while their emerging counterparts will see their markets escalate with the introduction of more affordable smartphones and a bigger appetite for tablet PCs throughout the year,” Samsung told investors.

While Apple’s iPhone 5 failed to meet expectations, sales of Samsung’s broad Galaxy range continued to power the Korean giant’s rise to the top tier of global technology firms.

It did not provide unit sales figures, but analysts estimated Samsung sold 63 million smartphones in the quarter, including 15 million Galaxy S IIIs and 7 million Galaxy Note IIs, compared to Apple’s 47.8 million iPhones. Apple’s sales were a new record but fell short of Wall Street targets.

Samsung’s net income rose to £4.2bn from £2.3bn in the same three month period a year earlier, beating expectations. Profits in its mobile phone division, the biggest in the world, more than doubled on the year to £3.2bn.

“Overall its earnings momentum remains intact, and smartphone shipments will continue to grow even in the traditionally weak first quarter, as Samsung’s got a broader product line-up and Apple appears to be struggling in pushing iPhone volumes aggressively,” said Lee Se-chul, a Seoul-based analyst at Meritz Securities.

Apple shares have dropped by more than a third since mid-September as investors fret that its days of hyper growth are over and its devices are no longer as ‘must-have’ as they were.

By contrast, shares in Samsung have risen 12 percent in the same period as the company once seen as quick to copy the ideas of others now sets the pace in innovation.

Some industry observers expect Samsung to introduce its next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy SIV, at a special event the firm will hold in Monaco early next month.

Dominic Sunnebo of industry analysts Kantar Worldpanel ComTech said competition is intensifying.

“Samsung is the number one handset manufacturer in Britain, driven by its wide ranging portfolio from the wallet friendly Galaxy Ace through to the boundary pushing Galaxy Note II,” he said.

“As most developed markets near or surpass 50 per cent smartphone penetration – it’s 61 per cent in Britain – easy wins are certainly becoming harder to find.

“In Great Britain there is a significant shift to the contract market which exacerbates this further as consumers find themselves tied into 24 month contracts. This is an area that carriers and retailers alike are trying to address, with deals providing a discount to consumers wanting to upgrade early, but it remains a difficult line to tread between maintaining driving consumer satisfaction and maintaining margins.”

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Brazilian Man Attempting ‘Adverse Possession’ of $2.5 Million Boca Mansion

The neighbor of a Florida man invoking an obscure real estate law to stake a claim to an empty $2.5 million mansion said he believes that the man is a pawn in a attempt to cash in on the empty property.

Andre “Loki” Barbosa has lived in the five-bedroom Boca Raton, Fla., waterside property since July, and police have reportedly been unable to remove him. The Brazilian national, 23, who reportedly refers to himself as “Loki Boy,” cites Florida’s “adverse possession” law in which a party may acquire title from another by openly occupying their land and paying real property tax for at least seven years.

The house is listed as being owned by Bank of America as of July 2012, and that an adverse possession was filed in July.

After Bank of America foreclosed on the property last year, the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office was notified that Barbosa would be moving in, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that he posted a notice in the front window of the house naming him as a “living beneficiary to the Divine Estate being superior of commerce and usury.”

On Facebook, a man named Andre Barbosa calls the property “Templo de Kamisamar.”

A neighbor of the Boca property, who asked not be named, told ABCNews.com that he entered the empty home just before Christmas to find four people inside, one of who said the group is establishing an embassy for their mission, and that families would be moving in and out of the property. Barbosa was also among them.

Police were called Dec. 26 to the home but did not remove Barbosa, according to the Sentinel. Barbosa reportedly presented authorities with the adverse possession paperwork at the time.

The neighbor said he believes that Barbosa is a”patsy.”

“This young guy is caught up in this thing,” the neighbor said. “I think it’s going on on a bigger scale.”

Bank of America responded to ABCNews.com, saying that it is in communication with the Boca Raton police department regarding concerns at the house.

“There is a certain legal process we are required by law to follow and we have filed the appropriate action. The bank is taking this situation seriously and we will work diligently to resolve this matter,” the bank said in a statement.

Barbosa could not be reached for comment.

The Florida Department of revenue even posts the form to establish adverse possession on its website, but it is not the equivalent of a lease.

The neighbor says that although the lights have been turned on at the house, the water has not, adding that this makes it clear it is not a permanent residence. The neighbor also says that the form posted in the window is “total gibberish,” which indicated that the house is an embassy, and that those who enter must present two forms of identification, and respect the rights of its indigenous people.

“I think it’s a group of people that see an opportunity to get some money from the bank,” the neighbor said. “If they’re going to hold the house ransom, then the bank is going to have to go through an eviction process.

“They’re taking advantage of banks, where the right hand doesn’t know where the left hand is. They can’t clap.”

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U.S. leads the world in requests for users’ Google data

The latest Transparency Report from Google shows requests from U.S. authorities steadily growing, plus a breakdown — subpoena vs. search warrant, and so on.

The number of official requests Google receives for information about its users is steadily increasing — particularly in the United States, which between July and December once again outpaced the world.

In the second half of 2012, Google received 8,438 requests for information, up 6 percent from the first half of 2012. Globally, Google received 21,389 requests for information, up 2 percent from the first half 2012. The number of requests went up even as the number of users affected went down — a 9 percent decrease in the United States, and 3 percent globally.

The countries making the most requests in the second half of the year were:

-United States (8,438 requests for information about 14,791 users)
-India (2,431 requests for information about 4,106 users)
-France (1,693 requests for information about 2,063 users)
-Germany (1,550 requests for information about 1,944 users)
-United Kingdom (1,458 Brazil requests for information about 1,918 users)
-Brazil (1,211 requests for information about 2,526 users)

With this report, Google is beginning to break down the kinds of legal processes that governments are using when making these requests. In the period covered by the report, 68 percent of requests that Google received came from subpoenas, 22 percent came from search warrants issued through the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and 10 percent came from other processes, such as court orders.

The full report can be found here. Unlike previous reports it does not include information about requests for content removal; the company has decided to report those separately from now on.

“We’ll keep looking for more ways to inform you about government requests and how we handle them,” said Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security, in a blog post. “We hope more companies and governments themselves join us in this effort by releasing similar kinds of data.”

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Groupon Halts Gun-Related Deals After Sandy Hook Massacre

Groupon Inc. (GRPN), the largest provider of online daily deals in the U.S., halted gun-related offers amid nationwide debate about weapons sales following a school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

“The category is under review following recent consumer and merchant feedback,” Julie Mossler, a spokeswoman for, said by e-mail, without elaboration. The suspension covers areas including ranges and clay shooting, she said.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS) last month halted sales of military-style rifles similar to the one used in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School carnage, which resulted in the deaths of 26 pupils and staff members. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest seller of guns in the U.S., continues to offer the weapons at about 1,200 of its almost 4,000 stores.

Central Texas Gun Works, an Austin, Texas-based gun store, lost potential customers after Groupon ended its deal for half- off a $140 handgun safety class
earlier than planned, said Michael Cargill, the owner of the business.

Groupon is “targeting law-abiding citizens who are taking time out of their busy schedules to take a gun safety course, learn conflict resolution and all the laws that surround them carrying that firearm,” said Cargill, who is asking customers and other business owners to boycott the website.

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