US Reportedly Weighs Sanctioning Russia and China for Cyber-Attacks

The United States is considering sanctions against both Russian and Chinese individuals and companies for cyber-attacks against US commercial targets, several US officials said on Monday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no final decision had been made on imposing sanctions, which could strain relations with Russia further and, if they came soon, cast a pall over a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September.

The Washington Post first reported the Obama administration was considering sanctioning Chinese targets, possibly within the next few weeks, and said that individuals and firms from other nations could also be targeted. It did not mention Russia.

A move against Chinese entities or individuals before Xi’s trip, the officials said, is possible but unlikely because of the strain it could put on the top-level diplomatic visit, which will include a black-tie state dinner at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama.

“The Chinese government staunchly upholds cyber-security, firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber-attacks in accordance with law,” Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan said in a statement.

He said China wants enhanced dialogue and cooperation with the United States and that “groundless speculation, hyping up or accusation is not helpful to solve the problem.”

The Russian Embassy did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The US government has suffered a series of embarrassing cyber-attacks in recent months, includingone on the White House Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that potentially provided a treasure trove of data about government employees to foreign spies.

US officials suspect that attack was linked to China, which has denied any involvement in hacking US databases and says it too has been a victim of cyber-attacks.

The sanctions Washington is currently considering would not target suspected hackers of government data, but rather foreign citizens and firms believed responsible for cyber-attacks on commercial enterprises, one official said.

If taken, the action would be the administration’s first use of an executive order signed by Obama in April to crack down on foreign hackers accused of penetrating US computer systems.

The officials declined to name any potential targets, concerned that advance warning would allow them to hide assets.

One US official said that sanctions imposed on individuals or companies would effectively cut them off from using the US financial system, which could be a death-sentence for a serious business venture.

The official also said that entities or individuals from countries other than Russia or China could face sanctions.

Another US official suggested that a decision on targeting Chinese entities could depend partly on whether diplomatic efforts, such as last week’s visit by White House national security adviser Susan Rice to Beijing last week, produce positive results going forward.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel visits China next weekend for further talks ahead of Xi’s US trip in the second half of September.

Strained US-Russia relations
US-Russian relations have been deeply strained in recent years, notably by Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as well as its continued support for pro-Russian rebels fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Cyber-security was a major issue between China and the United States during the June Strategic and Economic Dialogue that gathers some of the top financial and foreign policy officials in the two governments.

“The United States, as we all know, has sharp disagreements with China over its actions in cyber space,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Monday.

“We have remained deeply concerned about Chinese government-sponsored cyber-enabled theft of confidential business information and proprietary technology from US companies,” he added at his daily briefing.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to confirm the United States was weighing sanctions against Chinese entities, though he said US cyber-security concerns were “not a surprise” to Beijing.

“It would be strategically unwise for us to discuss potential sanctions targets because that would only give the potential targets of sanctions the opportunity to take steps that would allow them to evade those sanctions,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One.

He said an executive order signed by Obama in April provided “an additional tool in the toolbox to confront this particular challenge.”

Google-CCI Antitrust Probe Moves Into Next Phase

A lengthy investigation into whether Google has been abusing its dominance of Internet search to stifle competition in India is moving into its next phase.

The preliminary findings of the three-year-old probe have been submitted to the Competition Commission of India and to Google.

The inquiry revolved around complaints filed by several websites contending that Google has been unfairly highlighting its own services in its influential search results at the expense of its rivals.

The allegations are similar to other accusations of illegal self-promotion in the US, Europe and other parts of the world.

Google has until Sept. 10 to respond to the preliminary findings in India, although that deadline could be extended.

Google says it is confident it will be cleared of wrongdoing in India.

The Mountain View, California, company is already facing allegations in Europe that it rigged its shopping results to thwart rivals. European regulators are still examining whether Google manipulated other types of search results to keep traffic away from sites that could diminish its advertising sales.

Google has denied the allegations in Europe. If it loses the case in Europe, Google could be fined more the $6 billion (roughly Rs. 39,775 crores).

Antitrust regulators in the US wrapped up a probe into Google’s practices in 2013 without requiring that the company make any major changes to how it ranks websites.

Secure your fortress with the Internet of Things

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A man’s home is his castle. Unfortunately, moats and drawbridges are no longer strong options for most homeowners looking to protect themselves. Security means defending not against barbarians at the gates but against thieves staking out your home and trying to sneak in undetected, often when you’re away.

Fortunately, modern households have a new resource to deter thieves and detect trouble before it happens: the Internet of Things. Here’s how you can use simple appliances – or elements of your home itself – as focal points in a home security strategy.

DIY Alarm Systems

If your home isn’t already wired for security with door sensors, window sensors, and motion detectors, you can now easily add them without having to rip open the walls. Do-it-yourself alarm kits let you attach battery-powered, wireless sensors anywhere there’s a risk of unauthorized entry. These devices connect to your existing wireless network and can send real-time notifications to you when a sensor is tripped, via an email, text message, or mobile app. Check out Viper and SimpliSafe for a few examples of solid starter security systems.

Surveillance Cameras

Whether you want to keep tabs on who’s at the front door or just want to keep an eye on the pets while you’re away, a wide range of security and surveillance cameras can now fit the bill. Just configure the camera on your network, place it on a shelf or attach it to the wall, and aim it where you want it to watch. Most cameras can be set to record only when they detect motion, and numerous cameras, like the D-Link DCS-2136L, can store their video feed on a Network Attached Storage device that’s part of your home network. Using a tool like QNAP’s TS-451 NAS gives you access to the Surveillance Station feature, which can be paired with QNAP’s VMobile app to turn your mobile device into a full-fledged security monitoring station. The TS-451 can monitor up to 24 IP cameras simultaneously (camera licenses additional) – either real-time or recorded video. It is compatible with thousands of IP cameras from over 80 major manufacturers.

Smart Locks

YouTube is littered with videos of people who’ve figured out how to pick a standard door lock in a matter of seconds, making key-based security nearly worthless. Enter the smart lock, a technology which brings the medieval lock into the digital age at last. Smart locks from companies like Goji and August let you decide who gets in and who doesn’t – and even when they can come in – via a smartphone app. Instead of turning a key, authorized users tap a button on their phone to unlock the door – and some can even automatically unlock when an authorized visitor approaches the house.

Automated Lights and Appliances

One standby of any home security strategy is to leave some lights on when you’re away from home for an extended period, but old-school light timers are cumbersome and difficult to program. These tools have received an upgrade in recent years, as well. Products like the Belkin WeMo let you turn lights and other appliances like your television on and off through a device that attaches to any wall socket. A mobile app lets you control the lights manually even if you’re on the other side of the world, or set up schedules to automate things.

 

IBM Demoes Cloud, Analytics, and Mobile Innovations at ConnectIn 2015

IBM showcased its latest innovations designed to help companies drive growth and productivity using cloud, analytics, mobile and social technologies at ConnectIn 2015, at the IBM Campus in Bengaluru on Monday.

Some of the new innovations to emerge from the IBM Labs included a personalized learning on cloud solution, which combines predictive analytics to provide comprehensive guidance to each student, Apatani, an mHealth solution for community health workers, and IBM Kenexa BrassRing on Cloud, a SaaS-based enterprise hiring platform used by 25 of the Fortune 50 companies.

Kaushik Bhaskar, Vice President, India Software Labs at IBM India said that his firm was embracing open source technologies and ecosystems, and working with partners to deliver IoT solutions like theDigital Locker. He also cited examples of IBM’s partnership with Twitter, Facebook, and Apple.

“The educational industry is at a tipping point and there’s a lot of opportunity for IBM to innovate in this space. The possibilities are enormous. India being a mobile-first country, there’s plenty to be learned from this region that’s also applicable to the world, from applying cognitive and mobile technologies and social data, and bringing all that together.” he said.

Over the last three years, IBM has invested over $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,26,000 crores) on R&D globally. Bhaskar said that IBM was aligned with the initiatives launched by the Indian government, citing Digital India, Startup India, and Make in India initiatives. “Skilling and digital literacy is one of the key areas of focus for us, and we see a huge gab in between supply and demand,” he said.

IBM showcased a prototype of a Watson-powered cognitive health monitor that helps psychiatrists and healthcare workers predict through disorders or psychotic episodes before they occur, for early intervention. The software used machine learning and natural language processing algorithms to analyse psychiatric conditions. The India software lab developed a prototype that works through mobile and cloud-based platform via a smartphone interface designed for healthcare workers.

The firm also demoed a research project that tries to understand an image and articulate its content in words, generating descriptive sentences that could have wide-ranging applications. A Track-N-Trace solution built on IBM’s Bluemix IoT foundation used Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tags to label valuable assets and alert the user if they move. The firm also showcased a mobile testing solution that enables remote access, letting service companies perform a wider array of tests and scenarios.

Netflix to Lose Major Titles Like Hunger Games as Epix Contract Expires

Streaming service Netflix is losing Hunger Games and Transformers as it will not renew its deal with Epix that will expire at the end of September.

Big movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Transformers: Age of Extinction, World War Z, Star Trek: Into Darkness, among others will not be available on Netflix beginning in October, reported Aceshowbiz.

“We know some of you will be disappointed by the expiration of the Epix movies. Our goal is to provide great movies and TV series for all tastes, that are only available on Netflix,” chief content officer ofNetflix Ted Sarandos said.

These films, along with newer ones such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and Interstellar will now be available for streaming by Hulu subscribers starting October 1.

(Also see:  Netflix to Launch in Japan on September 2)

Netflix had previously inked a four-movie deal with Adam Sandler. One of the projects under the deal is The Ridiculous Six, which is set to be released on December 11.

The streaming giant will also release Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation in October and Sofia Coppola’s A Very Murray Christmas in December.

Netflix was last in the news for giving new parents on its payroll up to a year of paid leave in a move that could pressure other technology employers to improve their baby benefits as they vie for talent.

The Netflix employee benefit is generous even by the high standards of Silicon Valley, where free meals and other perquisites supplement lavish salaries in the fiercely competitive battle for computer programmers and other technology workers.

Droom Lets Users Buy, Rent, and Sell Private Planes, Helicopters Online

Droom, an online marketplace for automobiles, will now let its users buy or sell private planes and choppers on its platform.

Droom’s platform will also be available for rental and chartering of private planes and choppers, it said in a statement.

Claiming to be the largest online automobile marketplace in India at present, Droom has product offerings in 14 different automobile categories, including auto services, over 10,000 sellers and more than 6,000 listings.

“The addition of the aerial vehicle segment gives the company the opportunity to tap into the ever-expanding private aviation segments by utilising JetSetGo’s resources,” it said.

Sandeep Aggarwal, founder and CEO of Droom, said with the introduction of the new category, users can now can buy and sell everything on wheels, right from bicycles to planes.

“At Droom, we have always endeavoured to provide our consumers with the widest selection in the automobile segment. By partnering with JetSetGo and adding this new category into our list of product offerings, we are poised to leverage the growing spending power of the Indian consumers to provide them with need-based private aviation solutions,” he added.

Backed by venture investors like Lightbox and BEENOS, Droom plans to expand its operations to add 20 automobile and 12 service categories hosting over 50,000 sellers and 200,000 listings in the next 18-24 months

Quick Heal Reports New Malware Designed to Infect Protected Networks

Security software maker Quick Heal has identified a new malware sample that is able to breach the ‘sandbox’ protection in computers of many small, medium, and large companies, a senior company official has said.

Detailed analysis of the malware sample – APT-QH-4AG15- revealed that it has been designed to infect highly protected networks. It also has several anti-sandbox tricks implemented within it, Quick Heal’s Chief Technology Officer

Sanjay Katkar said.

Malware is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms and other malicious programs. It can take the form of executable code, scripts, active content, and other software.

“The early success of sandbox-based appliances can be attributed to the fact that malware variants were never designed with such protection mechanisms in mind. Instead, these samples were focused on breaching traditional anti-virus and firewall solutions. This enabled them to breach traditional security solutions with zero-day (quick) attacks very frequently,” Katkar said.

“But now that more enterprises are using these advanced threat protection sandbox-based appliances, new malware variants are being designed with an aim of penetrating this specific protection mechanism,” he said.

He said companies need to consider and implement multiple layers of protection to safeguard networks.

“FireEye and others believe that the current anti-virus solutions and endpoint protections (EPS) are useless. In reality, the current malwares have been designed keeping in mind only End Point Security (EPS) and their main challenge is to pass EPS security and that is how the malwares have been designed/tested and released,” he said.

With more organisations starting to use sandboxed appliance like FireEye or FortiSandbox, the newer malwares are being designed with these protection in mind, he said.

“Thus, new malware can easily bypass these security solutions and land up in user’s inbox and network,” Katkar added.

US Academics Raise Concerns Over ‘Digital India’ Campaign

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to promote ‘Digital India’ campaign, more than 100 prominent US-based academics have raised privacy concerns about the project.

In a statement, these academics, said ‘Digital India’ seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally-protected rights of citizens.

“We are concerned that the project’s potential for increased transparency in bureaucratic dealings with people is threatened by its lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and thus its potential for abuse,” said the statement signed by about 137 academics, a significant majority of whom are of Indian-origin.

“Those who live and work in Silicon Valley have a particular responsibility to demand that the government of India factor these critical concerns into its planning for digital futures,” the statement

“We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions,” the two-page statement added.

Among prominent signatories to the statement are Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University; Shahzad Bashir, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University; Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Director, South Asian Institute, Columbia University and Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University.

The views expressed by these academicians were dismissed by Indian-origin entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, who hailed ‘Digital India’ and said that India under Modi has finally woken up to the potential that innovation and technology can bring to the country.

“Only technology and innovation can enable massive changes that are needed in India. Prime Minister’s visit to Silicon Valley is a long overdue acknowledgement that the government in India has finally woken up to the potential that innovation and technology can bring to India,” Venktesh Shukla, president of TiE Silicon Valley, told PTI.

TiE or The Indus Entrepreneurs is one of the most powerful and prestigious organisations in the Silicon Valley. Top Silicon Valley companies and entrepreneurs are its members.

Shukla said the entire Indian American community in Silicon Valley is geared up to welcome the Prime Minister. “We are delighted that, for the first time after Independence, there is a government in India that won the election on the platform of growth and development and not based on identity politics or competitive populism,” he said.

“We at TiE stand for wealth creation through entrepreneurship. A government in India that espouses growth, development and entrepreneurship is well aligned to our mission of creating wealth and fostering entrepreneurship,” he said.

In their statement, the academics also raised the issue of Gujarat riots, and also allegations related to restrictions on non-governmental organisations, and freedom of media.

“Under Mr. Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, academic freedom is also at risk: foreign scholars have been denied entry to India to attend international conferences, there has been interference with the governance of top Indian universities and academic institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institutes of Technology and Nalanda University; as well as under-qualified or incompetent key appointments made to the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Film and Television Institute of India, and the National Book Trust,” they alleged.

“A proposed bill to bring the Indian Institutes of Management under direct control of government is also worrisome. These alarming trends require that we, as educators, remain vigilant not only about modes of e-governance in India but about the political future of the country,” the statement said.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Goes Paperless, Adopts E-Governance

Any file which lands up at Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor’s desk for his approval is now greeted with a stamp which says “kindly send through e-office system”, a move aimed at ensuring paperless administration.

To make all its operations paperless, the varsity has computerised everything – from student registration and faculty recruitment to inter and intra-department communication.

“We have established an e-governance cell to streamline operations and utilise the resources in an optimal way. But there has been some resistance from some departments so we have started using this stamp to put pressure on them who still prefer to use paper,” JNU Vice Chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory told PTI.

The varsity has roped in Accel Frontline Ltd. of Chennai for software development while Wipro is serving as the technical consultant.

The cell has developed different modules like Manpower Information Management System, Student Information Management System, Financial Information Management System and Library Information Management System. A majority of these modules are at the “User Acceptance Test” stage.

As part of the project, the varsity’s computer centre has also developed “JNU Intranet portal” and “JNU private cloud IT infrastructure”.

“The objective is to make workflow at JNU more efficient with computerised operations and make accurate data and information available to users.

“This has helped in reducing the time taken for movement of papers and files in regular official work. It is also helpful in contributing to less paper work and better utilisation of manpower resources,” Sopory said.

US Prosecutors Win Fight for Indicted Paul Aide’s Gmail

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Federal prosecutors prevailed Friday in their yearlong fight to force Google Inc. to turn over the emails of an indicted Republican consultant with close ties to Ron and Rand Paul.

US District Judge John Jarvey rejected a request to quash a warrant ordering Google to give the FBI the contents of Jesse Benton’s Gmail account, which he used to work on Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2014 re-election bid.

Benton had been leading a super PAC supporting Rand Paul’s presidential campaign until he was indicted earlier this month. He and two other top aides from Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign are charged with conspiring to secretly pay off an Iowa state senator to endorse Paul before that year’s Iowa caucuses. They pleaded not guilty in an Iowa federal court.

Under Jarvey’s order, Google will be legally required to divulge tens of thousands of emails sent and received by Benton between March 2011 and July 2014.

Guy Cook, a lawyer for Google, said Friday that the company would respect the order. Lawyers for Benton and the Justice Department declined to comment.

Jarvey’s ruling appears to end a dispute that has gotten attention in libertarian and technology circles as a test of the government’s ability to broadly review email accounts during criminal investigations.

Benton gave the FBI permission to search the account last year, but he withdrew it days later after investigators started combing through his email. An FBI agent then applied for a warrant to search and seize parts of the account, which a magistrate judge approved based on probable cause that a crime was committed.

After Google received the warrant, the company told Benton that it intended to comply with the request unless he filed a legal challenge. Benton’s attorney filed a motion to quash the warrant, arguing that it was overly broad, violated his privacy rights and amounted to a fishing expedition.

Prosecutors argued that the warrant was lawful and tailored to the evidence of wrongdoing they had uncovered related to improper payments to Sen. Kent Sorenson, who flipped from supporting Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul days before the 2012 caucuses.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Helen Adams upheld the warrant Aug. 10. Google then sought to give Benton time to appeal the order, resisting the government’s request to immediately produce the emails.

Adams last week put the ruling on hold so Benton could appeal to the district judge, Jarvey, who sided with the government in a terse order Friday. He said the law doesn’t give Benton the ability to challenge the execution of a search warrant beforehand. Instead, Benton could later seek to suppress any emails the government wants to use against him in the criminal case by arguing their seizure was unconstitutional.

Prosecutors have said they will review the emails and seize only those that are relevant to their investigation. They pledge to filter out all others, including those protected by attorney-client privilege.