‘Be Afraid’: Ukraine Hit by Cyberattack, Russia Moves More Troops

Ukraine was hit by a massive cyberattack warning its citizens to “be afraid and expect the worst”, and Russia, which has massed more than 100,000 troops on its neighbor’s frontier, released TV pictures on Friday of more forces deploying in a drill. The developments came after no breakthrough was reached at meetings between Russia and Western states, which fear Moscow could launch a new attack on a country it invaded in 2014. “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud,” said a senior U.S. Diplomat. Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified military action unless demands are met, including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Kyiv. Russia said troops in its far east would practice deploying to far-away military sites for exercises as part of an inspection. Defense Ministry footage released by RIA news agency showed numerous armored vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in the Eastern Military District. “This is likely cover for the units being moved towards Ukraine,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst and a fellow at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. The movements indicated Russia has no intention of dialing down tensions over Ukraine, having used its troop build-up to force the West to the negotiating table and press sweeping demands for “security guarantees” – key elements of which have been described by the United States as non-starters. Ukrainian authorities were investigating a huge cyberattack, which hit government bodies including the ministry of foreign affairs, cabinet of ministers, and security and defense council. “Ukrainian! All your personal data was uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” said a message visible on hacked government websites, written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish. “All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future.” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters it was too early to say who could be behind the attack but said Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past. Russia did not immediately …

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SpaceX Rocket Lifts Off with South African Satellites on Board

A SpaceX rocket launch Thursday carried three small South African-made satellites that will help with policing South African waters against illegal fishing operations. Produced at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the satellites could also be used to help other African countries to protect their coastal waters. SpaceX’s billionaire boss Elon Musk has given three nano satellites produced in his birth country, South Africa, a ride into space. The company’s Falcon rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in the U.S. state of Florida with 105 spacecraft on board. All three South African satellites deployed successfully. This mission, known as Transporter 3, is part of SpaceX’s rideshare program which in two previous outings has put over 220 small satellites into orbit. The three South African nano satellites on this trip were designed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Africa Space Innovation Centre. The institution’s deputy vice chancellor for research, technology and innovation Professor David Phaho says “it marks a quantum leap in terms of South Africa’s capability to participate in the space sector. As you can imagine the issue of oceans economy has become topical globally. And the fact that we’ve developed this capacity in South Africa, and we are launching this (sic) satellites will go a long way in enhancing our capabilities to monitor our coastline and grow our economy.” Phaho notes the university has been building up to the launch of these satellites, known collectively as MDASat-1, with a previous satellite launch in 2018. “These three satellites, there was a precursor to these current three satellite constellation. Zcube2 is the most advanced nano satellite developed on the African continent and it was launched in December 2018 so these ones are basically part and parcel of that development. And they are probably the most advanced nano satellites developed on the African continent,” Phaho expressed. Stephen Cupido studied at the space center and graduated in 2014. Today, he works here as a software engineer and points out that “it’s been a ride, it’s been amazing, ups and downs but this is definitely an up today. Just to get everything ready for today has been a lot of pressure.” And the interaction with SpaceX has been complicated he says laughing “but it’s necessary. We are putting objects in space and space is for everyone, we have to keep …

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Hong Kong COVID-19 Tracking App Spurs Opposition

A new Hong Kong mandate that restaurants and other establishments require use of an app aimed at recording people’s locations and telling them if they have been near a COVID-19 patient has spurred opposition from the city’s pro-democracy voices. The LeaveHomeSafe app scans a two-dimensional QR barcode at taxis and other locations. If a COVID-19 patient has been there, the app will alert users and provide health advice. The government required the use of the app Dec. 9 in all indoor premises including government buildings, restaurants, public facilities, and karaoke venues. Those over the age of 65, 15 years or younger, the homeless and those with disabilities are exempt. Previously Hong Kongers could record these movements using a paper form, but the cursive characters written by opposition Hong Kongers or pro-democracy activists expressing their distrust in government were often illegible for authorities. Hong Kongers believe the app can be a tool used by authorities to monitor citizens, according to a human rights advocate. “Given Beijing’s use of mass surveillance in China, many Hong Kong people suspect that the app is one way for the Hong Kong and Beijing governments to normalize the use of government surveillance in Hong Kong,” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang told VOA by email. An office worker in her 20s entering a Taiwanese restaurant recently was one of the Hong Kongers harboring doubts about the app. Before entering the restaurant, she said she stopped texting on her phone to use a second phone to scan the restaurant’s QR code using LeaveHomeSafe. “It’s an act of human right and privacy violation as we can no longer choose the way we live and the app is part of the digital surveillance system,” she told VOA, referring to the government app. Government officials sought to allay such privacy concerns last February, as health secretary Sophia Chan said the COVID-19 tracking app would not send personal data to the authorities. “The fact is there is no issue of data privacy, because the data would be just stored in the phone of the person. There is no platform that …

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World Economic Forum Warns Cyber Risks Add to Climate Threat

Cyberthreats and the growing space race are emerging risks to the global economy, adding to existing challenges posed by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum said in a report Tuesday.   The Global Risks Report is usually released ahead of the annual elite winter gathering of CEOs and world leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, but the event has been postponed for a second year in a row because of COVID-19. The World Economic Forum still plans some virtual sessions next week.  Here’s a rundown of the report, which is based on a survey of about 1,000 experts and leaders:   World outlook  As 2022 begins, the pandemic and its economic and societal impacts still pose a “critical threat” to the world, the report said. Big differences between rich and poor nations’ access to vaccines mean their economies are recovering at uneven rates, which could widen social divisions and heighten geopolitical tensions.  By 2024, the global economy is forecast to be 2.3% smaller than it would have been without the pandemic. But that masks the different rates of growth between developing nations, whose economies are forecast to be 5.5% smaller than before the pandemic, and rich countries, which are expected to expand 0.9%.   Digital dangers  The pandemic forced a huge shift — requiring many people to work or attend class from home and giving rise to an exploding number of online platforms and devices to aid a transformation that has dramatically increased security risks, the report said.   “We’re at the point now where cyberthreats are growing faster than our ability to effectively prevent and manage them,” said Carolina Klint, a risk management leader at Marsh, whose parent company Marsh McLennan co-authored the report with Zurich Insurance Group and SK Group.   Cyberattacks are becoming more aggressive and widespread, as criminals use tougher tactics to go after more vulnerable targets, the report said. Malware and ransomware attacks have boomed, while the rise of cryptocurrencies makes it easy for online criminals to hide payments they have collected.   While those responding to the survey cited cybersecurity threats as a short- …

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US Cyber Officials Bracing for ‘Log4j’ Vulnerability Fallout

U.S. cybersecurity officials are still sounding an alarm about the so-called Log4j software vulnerability more than a month after it was first discovered, warning some criminals and nation state adversaries may be waiting to make use of their newfound access to critical systems. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said Monday that the vulnerability, also known as Log4shell, has been subject to widespread exploitation by criminals over the past several weeks, but that more serious and damaging attacking could still be in the works. “We do expect Log4Shell to be used in intrusions well into the future,” CISA Director Jen Easterly told reporters during a phone briefing, adding, “at this time we have not seen the use of Log4shell resulting in significant intrusions.” “This may be the case because sophisticated adversaries have already used this vulnerability to exploit targets and are just waiting to leverage their new access until network defenders are on a lower alert,” she said. The vulnerability in the open-source software produced by the U.S.-based Apache Software Foundation, was first discovered in late November by the Chinese tech giant Alibaba. The first warnings to the public went out in early December.  Cybersecurity officials and experts initially described the flaw in the software as perhaps the worst vulnerability ever discovered, noting the software’s widespread use – in at least 2,800 products used by both private companies and governments around the world. CISA on Monday said the vulnerability has impacted hundreds of millions of devices around the world, with many software vendors racing to issue security patches to their customers. So far, U.S. agencies appear to be unscathed. “We, at this point, are not seeing any confirmed compromises of federal agencies across the broader country, including critical infrastructure,” CISA Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Eric Goldstein told reporters. But he cautioned the danger has not yet passed despite the lack of destructive attacks by sophisticated hacking groups and foreign adversaries. “It is certainly possible that that may change, that adversaries may be utilizing this vulnerability to gain persistent access that they could use in the future, which …

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Indian Muslim Women ‘Auction’ App Shows Tech Weaponized for Abuse

Six months ago, pilot Hana Khan saw her picture on an app that appeared to be auctioning scores of Muslim women in India. The app was quickly taken down, no one was charged, and the issue shelved – until a similar app popped up on New Year’s Day. Khan was not on the new app called Bulli Bai – a slur for Muslim women – that was hawking activists, journalists, an actor, politicians and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai as maids. Amid growing outrage, the app was taken down, and four suspects arrested this week.   The fake auctions that were shared widely on social media are just the latest examples of how technology is being used – often with ease, speed and little expense – to put women at risk through online abuse, theft of privacy or sexual exploitation. For Muslim women in India who are often abused online, it is an everyday risk, even as they use social media to call out hatred and discrimination against their minority community. “When I saw my picture on the app, my world shook. I was upset and angry that someone could do this to me, and I became angrier as I realized this nameless person was getting away with it,” said Khan, who filed a police complaint against the first app, Sulli Deals, another pejorative term for Muslim women. “This time, I felt so much dread and despair that it was happening again to my friends, to Muslim women like me. I don’t know how to make it stop,” Khan, a commercial pilot in her 30s, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Mumbai police said they were investigating whether the Bulli Bai app was “part of a larger conspiracy”. A spokesperson for GitHub, which hosted both apps, said it had “longstanding policies against content and conduct involving harassment, discrimination, and inciting violence. “We suspended a user account following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies.”   Misconception Advances in technology have heightened risks for women across the world, be it trolling or doxxing with their personal details …

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