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You still cannot vape on US inbound, outbound flights

Statute barring smoking "covers these devices," divided federal appeals court says.

SpaceX completes first half of its weekend doubleheader

The company's successes are starting to stack up for the year 2017.

Virulent WCry ransomware worm may have North Korea’s fingerprints on it

Identical code ties Fridayrsquo;s attacks to hacks on Sony Pictures and $1bn bank heist.

Ancient ruins point to the origins of American state power

Throne room included massive brazier for barbecues, plus human sacrifice area.

Bad luck may play a big role in cancer—but prevention tactics...

Study doubles down on earlier work that led to big, some say pointless, controversy.

Is the dark really making me sad?

I ask if she’s a winter person: “No, I am not,” she replies stiffly. “I like the Sun.”

Astonishing geomagnetic spike hit the ancient kingdom of Judah

If this were to happen again today, the electrical grid would be a smoking ruin.

Netherlands reverts to hand-counted votes to quell security fears

Windows XP? SHA-1? USB sneakernet? What were they thinking? Or smoking? The Netherlands has decided its vote-counting software isn't ready for prime time, and will revert to hand-counted votes for its March 15 election.…

White House fails to make case that Russian hackers tampered with...

Enlargereader comments 54 Share this story Talk about disappointments.

The US government's much-anticipated analysis of Russian-sponsored hacking operations provides almost none of the promised evidence linking them to breaches that the Obama administration claims were orchestrated in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The 13-page report, which was jointly published Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, billed itself as an indictment of sorts that would finally lay out the intelligence community's case that Russian government operatives carried out hacks on the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Clinton Campaign Chief John Podesta and leaked much of the resulting material. While security companies in the private sector have said for months the hacking campaign was the work of people working for the Russian government, anonymous people tied to the leaks have claimed they are lone wolves. Many independent security experts said there was little way to know the true origins of the attacks. Sadly, the JAR, as the Joint Analysis Report is called, does little to end the debate.
Instead of providing smoking guns that the Russian government was behind specific hacks, it largely restates previous private-sector claims without providing any support for their validity.

Even worse, it provides an effective bait and switch by promising newly declassified intelligence into Russian hackers' "tradecraft and techniques" and instead delivering generic methods carried out by just about all state-sponsored hacking groups. "This ultimately seems like a very rushed report put together by multiple teams working different data sets and motivations," Robert M. Lee, CEO and Founder of the security company Dragos, wrote in a critique published Friday. "It is my opinion and speculation that there were some really good government analysts and operators contributing to this data and then report reviews, leadership approval processes, and sanitation processes stripped out most of the value and left behind a very confusing report trying to cover too much while saying too little." The sloppiness, Lee noted, included the report's conflation of Russian hacking groups APT28 and APT29—also known as CozyBear, Sandworm, Sednit, and Sofacy, among others—with malware names such as BlackEnergy and Havex, and even hacking capabilities such as "Powershell Backdoor." The mix up of such basic classifications does little to inspire confidence that the report was carefully or methodically prepared.

And that only sows more reasons for President elect Donald Trump and his supporters to cast doubt on the intelligence community's analysis on a matter that, if true, poses a major national security threat. Enlarge The writers showed a similar lack of rigor when publishing so-called indicators of compromise, which security practitioners use to detect if a network has been breached by a specific group or piece of malware.

As Errata Security CEO Rob Graham pointed out in a blog post, one of the signatures detects the presence of "PAS TOOL WEB KIT," a tool that's widely used by literally hundreds, and possibly thousands, of hackers in Russia and Ukraine, most of whom are otherwise unaffiliated and have no connection to the Russian government. Enlarge "In other words, these rules can be a reflection of the fact the government has excellent information for attribution," Graham wrote. "Or, it could be a reflection that they've got only weak bits and pieces.
It's impossible for us outsiders to tell." "Both foolish and baseless" Security consultant Jeffrey Carr also cast doubt on claims that attacks that hit the Democratic National Committee could only have originated from Russian-sponsored hackers because they relied on the same malware that also breached Germany's Bundestag and French TV network TV5Monde. Proponents of this theory, including the CrowdStrike researchers who analyzed the Democratic National Committee's hacked network, argue that the pattern strongly implicates Russia because no other actor would have the combined motivation and resources to hack the same targets.

But as Carr pointed out, the full source code for the X-Agent implant that has long been associated with APT28 was independently obtained by researchers from antivirus provider Eset. "If ESET could do it, so can others," Carr wrote. "It is both foolish and baseless to claim, as CrowdStrike does, that X-Agent is used solely by the Russian government when the source code is there for anyone to find and use at will." The doubts raised by Lee, Graham, and Carr underscore the difficulty members of the US intelligence community face when taking findings out of the highly secretive channels they normally populate and putting them into the public domain.
Indeed, the Joint Analysis Report makes no mention of the Democratic party or even the Democratic National Committee.

The lack of specifics and vagueness about exactly how the DHS and FBI have determined Russian involvement in the hacks leaves the report sounding more like innuendo than a carefully crafted indictment. The intelligence community has found itself in this position before, including in attributing a highly destructive attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 to North Korea.
In fairness, the reticence in both cases is likely justified by the interest in protecting sources and methods used to detect such attacks.
Still, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Thursday's Joint Analysis Report provides almost no new evidence to support the Obama Administration's claims Russia attempted to interfere with the US electoral process.

Absent something more, the increasingly bitter debate may rage on indefinitely.

Masterful malvertisers pwn Channel 9, Sky, MSN in stealth attacks

Same group compromised a million users A DAY. A two-year long, highly sophisticated malvertising campaign infected visitors to some of the most popular news sites in the UK, Australia, and Canada including Channel 9, Sky News, and MSN. Readers of those news sites, just a portion of all affected (since it also affected eBay's UK portal), were infected with modular trojans capable of harvesting account and email credentials, stealing keystrokes, capturing web cam footage, and opening backdoors. The news sites are not at direct fault as they displayed the advertising; the ad networks and the underlying structure of high-pace and low-profit margins is what lets malvertising get its huge impact. Users from the United States were ignored, for reasons unknown. The quiet success of the still-ongoing attacks comes despite that researchers from security firm ESET found earlier variants in late 2014 targeting Dutch users. Well-known researcher Kafeine, now with Proofpoint, reported on a subsequent massive malvertising campaign in July in which the AdGholas malvertising campaign had ensnared as many as a million users a day. The malware stenography revealed.
Image: ESET. Those attacks slung banking trojans at British, Australian, and Canadian users with localised ruses. AdGholas exploited among others a low-level Internet Explorer vulnerability (CVE-2016-3351) to assist with cloaking that Microsoft was slow to patch. Victims who surfed various news outlets using Microsoft Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash which did not have recent patches applied could be silently compromised. Users of Yahoo!'s email service were also served the trojanised ads through the tech giant's advertising network. Those on other browsers were ignored, as were those running packet capture, sandboxing, and virtualisation software, the latter platforms being hallmarks of white hat security researchers. The criminals were able to maintain stealth despite the many skilled eyes of the whitehat research community by weaving malicious code into advertising banners. They even went as far as to create legitimate software, including a still-live Google Chrome extension, which appear non-malicious and are functional. The Browser Defence Chrome app seems legit.
Image: The Register. While regular malvertising manages to get booby-trapped banner ads accepted by the likes of Google, Yahoo!, and scores of smaller networks, the AdGholas campaign served its trojans through the manipulation of individual ad pixels. Malwarebytes analyst Jerome Segura along with ESET researchers revealed the intricacies of the latest campaign today. They say criminals remained cloaked for so long by altering the alpha channel within pixels of the advertising banners they submitted to ad networks. This passed the weak security checks to be displayed on major news sites, forcing the trojan to install on any machine which merely viewed the banner with vulnerable Internet Explorer and Flash installations. The offending ads.
Image: MalwareBytes. Poisoned pixel ads included those for Browser Defence and BroXu, two legitimate working creations of the malware writers. The malcode within the ads exploited Internet Explorer bug CVE-2016-0162 for initial reconnaissance and Flash bugs CVE-2016-4117, CVE-2016-1019, and CVE-2015-8651 to get payloads onto machines. "Despite not targeting the US, the latest AdGholas campaign has once again reached epic proportions and unsuspecting users visiting top trusted portals like Yahoo or MSN [among] many top level publishers were exposed to malvertising and malware if they were not protected," Segura says. "There is no doubt that the adversary is very advanced and has been clever to fly under the radar for long periods of time." "At the time of posting the campaign still continues, although the major ad networks have been informed and should no longer be involved." The BroXu and Browser Defence sites.
Image: The Register. Segura found the first attack based on the Browser Defence scam on 5 September through the SmartyAds network, before noticing it move to Yahoo! a month later. It took until 27 November for Segura to "finally" reproduce the malvertising chain using a real residential IP address and a normal user machine free of monitoring tools. "Up until then, we only had very strong suspicions that something was going on, but without a network capture, we simply did not possess the smoking gun required to make an affirmative claim," he says. Segura informed Yahoo! once he confirmed the malvertising attacks. > Researchers at ESET reveal much the same and reveal the technical complexity of the stenography effort in which the malcode was hidden almost perfectly within advertising images. ® Sponsored: Flash enters the mainstream.
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Thinking Ahead: Cybersecurity In The Trump Era

In a panel held by the University of California Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and Bipartisan Policy Center, experts discuss challenges facing the incoming presidential administration. In the wake of an abundance of news headlines on data breaches, and a presidential election cycle packed with cybersecurity concerns, the University of California Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and Bipartisan Policy Center today hosted experts to discuss security challenges and solutions America will face in the new administration.  Panelists included Steven Webber, faculty director at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity; Betsy Cooper, executive director at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity; Jamie Gorelick, former deputy attorney general and partner at WilmerHale; and Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). The group gathered to discuss ideas that could fuel an effective plan for preventing, responding to, and recovering from cyber attacks. Webber acknowledged part of the problem for many people is that cybersecurity still feels like a technical issue related to the protection of computer networks.
It's time to "demystify the network" for folks outside the core tech sector, he said. "What happens when individuals everywhere interact with digital technologies?" he questioned, saying there are bigger and broader issues at play. Cooper addressed the need for change in addressing the future of cybersecurity, noting how this problem "is an existential challenge we haven't fully recognized yet." The new administration must have a stronger approach to the growth of cybersecurity problems. Another issue addressed during the panel was the need for a public campaign on cybersecurity, similar to campaigns launched in the past to raise awareness about problems like recycling and smoking. "We're suggesting the situation is serious enough in cybersecurity that we need a public awareness campaign," Cooper emphasized. "People should be aware of strong passwords, of two-factor authentication from an early age."  Webber compared the problem of cybersecurity with the problem of secondhand smoke. He said people are motivated by the negative externalities of the issue; not only how it comes with a personal cost, but how it affects their community as a whole. "When people recognize their dangerous behavior is a risk to family and neighbors, there's another lever we can pull," he said. "Companies will start to respond to that as the demand [for change] starts to emerge. We need to get that conversation started right now, and who is better than a new administration?" The panel also addressed the cybersecurity skills shortage.

There is a great demand for cybersecurity professionals, said Cooper, but universities aren't producing enough talent to fill the gap. Part of the problem is fear of being in the security space long-term, she said. "In these industries, it's hard to keep up-to-date with technology," Cooper explained. "It's hard to convince people it's a fun and exciting area." She noted how providing loan forgiveness for cybersecurity professionals may drive motivation to enter the industry. Webber agreed that society needs to take the cybersecurity problem seriously enough to subsidize education. "Security issues are hard, involve classified data and techniques, and there isn't a sense that the world thinks of those things as super important," he said. Right now, there are many people who could generate the skills needed for a first-rate cyber workforce, but they're out doing different things.  Webber acknowledged this could be an opportunity to circulate ideas between the East and West coasts, and help people from Washington, DC and Silicon Valley work together.   Panelists also recognized the need for public and private administration to work together and overcome the cybersecurity challenge. "We're crazy to think the government or private sector can address the problem alone," said Hurd. Related Content: Kelly is an associate editor for InformationWeek.
She most recently reported on financial tech for Insurance & Technology, before which she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. When she's not catching up on the latest in tech, Kelly enjoys ...
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2016’s craziest “cybersex” political scandal comes from… Nebraska

Enlarge / The Nebraska state capitol building in Lincoln.Education Images / Getty Images reader comments 30 Share this story “Make me pleasure.” That Facebook message was directed at Bill Kintner, a 55-year-old Nebraska state senator, while the politician was in Boston for a conference last July.
In his hotel room, Kintner had started chatting online—using a state-supplied computer—with a woman who went by “Vinciane Diedeort.” Her English was not idiomatic, but she looked good.

And she wanted Kintner to masturbate with her on Skype. “I don't want to sneak behind my wife's back,” he wrote. “It's not about you, it is about me. You are smoking hot.” So Kintner broke it off. “Let's end this, before I get in trouble,” he wrote. His willpower lasted for seven hours.

At midnight, Kintner returned to Facebook and resumed his conversation with Diedeort. He agreed to her plan. He fired up Skype.

And he removed his pants. Enlarge / Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner. Bill Kintner The scam According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the pleasure ended almost immediately. Within minutes, [Diedeort] threatens to post the video on YouTube and share it with [Kintner's] Facebook friends if he doesn't wire $4,500 to an account in the Ivory Coast, which she claimed was for a deaf child. Kintner reported himself to the [Nebraska] State Patrol that day, telling investigators he'd fallen victim to a scam. Kintner knew his life was about to get complicated. Not only was the incident likely to come out now that he had involved the state patrol, but his wife Lauren was a key policy aide to Nebraska’s governor.

And it didn’t make Kintner himself look any better when, a few days after returning from Boston, Lauren was found to have ovarian cancer. Still, the sordid story stayed under wraps until this summer, when the investigation finally concluded.
In an August 5, 2016 statement, Kintner wrote, “Humbled by the reality that after initially resisting the overtures from a woman who had found me on Facebook, I caved to her temptation to engage in cybersex via her invitation over Skype...
I was most likely the target of a foreign criminal extortion ring.” According to the Journal Star, Kintner claimed that investigators had “traced the scam to a small crime syndicate based in the Ivory Coast and using Russian computers. Recorded video of the exchange was never saved on his computer, Kintner said.

The scammer posted a brief clip, or GIF, of the recording online, but it has since been deleted.” The aftermath Kintner was hauled before the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission and fined $1,000 for improper use of state-owned equipment. Many legislators—along with the governor—called for him to resign, but Kintner refused, saying he had already apologized to his wife and to God.

The best way for him to continue serving God, he added, was to stay in office. (A fellow state legislator quipped, “Whatever phone number he's using to talk to God, I want it.”) On August 10, State Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha—a legendary figure in local politics and the only black legislator in Nebraska—decided to up the pressure. "If Sen. Kintner is a member of the body in January [2017]," he wrote, "I plan to use him and his illegal, scandalous, vulgar behavior as source material for rhymes throughout the 90-day Session.

Be prepared for the pun, the double entendre, and other verbal techniques to 'keep the issue alive.'" Chambers then offered up a free sample: Kintner's free to masturbate on his own time, But not free to masturbate on Taxpayers' dime. On August 11, Chambers released a multi-page poem called "The Sordid Saga of Bill Kintner's 'Guttersnipery'" that began: "Who is Bill Kintner?" asked the Town Crier. A masturbating, would-be thief, and a liar— A hypocrite—doing not what he ought, Who never "comes clean" till after he's caught. The Legislature’s executive board considered plans to oust Kintner.

As the Journal Star reported on August 19, however, this would require a special session that could cost more than $75,000 in a state where legislators make just $12,000 a year. Kintner argued that this would be a waste of money, “especially at a time when our state is facing current and projected tax receipt shortfalls.” On September 6, Chambers released another "Kintner-gram" that got weirdly personal about the whole mess.
It began: Stuck at home with WIFEY, he's CLARK KINTNER, flaccid to the touch; On the other hand(s), with SKYPEMATE, who excites him O! so much, He tells her, "I'm Superman! because of how you make me feel!" "If so, take your pants off," coos she, "show me you're a man of steel." (She's his Wonder Woman, with her super powers, hot and stacked; Could it be Clark Kintner sought from her the OOMPH! that Wifey lacked...?) Kintner fired back, telling the local paper that the rhymes were a "new low." "This is beyond two politicians arguing over policy or personal differences," Kintner told the Journal Star on Thursday. "This is a politician going after another politician's wife." "I expect Chambers to be a man and apologize to my wife," he said in the news release. (Chambers did respond in an October 8 op-ed, which concluded: "I shall remain as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar in my quest to remove the 'Kintner blight' from the Legislature by my choice of means.
If others know a better way, come on with it.") One of Kintner's supporters filed an ethics complaint against Chambers over his rhymes (which now total more than 25 separate pieces).

But on October 21, the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission tossed the complaint against Chambers, saying that his poems had been "part of a broader public discussion about how to handle the matter" and were not unethical. “We’re not the etiquette police,” the Commission's vice chairman told a local paper. Enlarge / One of Ernie Chambers' "Kintner-grams." Webcams: For state business ONLY! As voters nationally go to the polls to pick the future direction of the country, Nebraska's legislature remains consumed with Kintner. He remains in office, and lawmakers are still debating various forms of censure or impeachment. One positive has emerged from the whole mess, though—more awareness of "personal use" rules for state-owned technology. Lawmakers will have new HP computers when they return to work in 2017, and last week, the legislature passed a new set of policies to go with the machines. In a November 5 editorial, the Omaha World-Herald praised the move. "By adopting a policy against misusing state-owned technology for personal or campaign purposes," it wrote, "the board removed any doubt about where the Legislature stands on policing its own." The 2016 election has shown us a world where Donald Trump's tweets, Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and even (alleged) Russian hackers have all played key roles.

But tech is altering politics at every level, and somewhere in the Ivory Coast, using a "Russian computer," lives a woman whose brief connection with a middle-aged man half a world away has roiled Nebraska state politics for months. Truly, we live in the future.