Archive for September, 2011

QR Tags Can Be Rigged to Attack Smartphones

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

A blogger has demonstrated how these innocuous tags can be made into cybercrime weapons

The one to the side here says, “Samadhisoft Blog” and is harmless.

You’ve probably seen QR tags thousands of times, from advertisements in the subway to coupon flyer in the mail to products in the supermarket. They look like stamp-size bar codes, a grid of small black-and-white rectangles and squares, usually with bigger black squares in the corners.

A marketer’s dream-come-true, these tiny images are capable of storing and transmitting loads of data directly to the smartphones of interested customers. When a person scans a QR tag with a smartphone, the tag can do any number of things, including taking the user right to the product’s website.

But like any technology, they can also be manipulated to bite the hands — or phones — that feed them. On the mobile security blog Kaotico Neutral, researcher Augusto Pereyra demonstrated how these innocuous QR tags can be made into cybercrime weapons.

In his proof-of-concept hack, Pereyra took a QR tag he created from a free online tag creator and embedded in it the URL for an attack server called When the target smartphone scanned the tag, the browser was directed to the spoofed site and fed malware.

QR tags are touted for their convenience, but it’s that same convenience — coupled with their increasing prevalence — that Pereyra believes could allow them to becomedangerous attack vectors. Popular QR tag-scanning software, such as ScanLife, automatically takes mobile browsers to the site embedded within the tag, and while it makes the process quick, it does nothing for its safety.

“This is a serious problem since this is the equivalent of clicking a link with your eyes closed,” Pereyra wrote.

– More…

Anonymous hackers attack US defence group

Saturday, September 10th, 2011


Hacker group Anonymous has released a cache of data it claims to have stolen from US defence consultant Booz Allen Hamilton.

A file containing more than 90,000 e-mail addresses plus passwords, logins and other information was put on The Pirate Bay file-sharing site.

The group said it stole the information by targeting a poorly protected server on the defence firm’s network.

Booz Allen Hamilton declined to comment on the incident.

In text accompanying the download package, Anonymous said it was “surprised” at how easy it was to infiltrate the server given the consulting firm’s record of working on defence and homeland security.

The attack was carried out under the banner of the “Anti Sec” campaign that was originated by the short-lived LulzSec hacking group.

That hacker collective “disbanded” in late June following a spree of hack attacks on high profile targets. Many of its members are thought to have joined up with Anonymous.

As well as grabbing e-mails, passwords and a copy of a database, Anonymous said it had also got hold of lots of other material that it planned to use to attack other government agencies and federal contractors.

Booz Allen told Reuters it had no comment to make about the alleged attack, adding that company policy meant it could not discuss “specific threats or actions taken against our systems”.

Commenting on the attack, Chester Wisniewski from security firm Sophos, said the attack’s significance may lie in what happens to the addresses now they have been stolen.

“…there clearly is demand for information about individuals related to the US defence that can be used to compromise their accounts and computers,” he wrote.

The Anonymous hacking group came to prominence thanks to the actions it took in defence of the Wikileaks whistle-blowing website. Among other things, Anonymous helped to co-ordinate attacks on companies, including Mastercard and Amazon, which it felt did not do enough to help Wikileaks.

The latest attack follows recent raids by police forces in Spain, Turkey and Italy that resulted in the arrest of suspected members of Anonymous.

– To the original…

Hong Kong share trading hit by hackers

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Trading in seven stocks listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange was suspended on Wednesday after a hacking attack.

The attack was aimed at a website run by the exchange used to tell traders about company announcements.

The site was shut and trading in seven firms due to make announcements via the website was suspended for half a day.

Shares in HSBC, Cathay Pacific, China Power International and the Hong Kong exchange itself were among those suspended.

“Our current assessment (is) that this is a result of a malicious attack by outside hacking,” said Charles Li, head of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEC), in a statement. HKEC runs the Hang Seng exchange.

Mr Li said the company was looking into the motive for the attack and what hackers sought to gain from it. The incident has been referred to the police as well as the Securities and Futures Commission.

The attack on the site made it temporarily unavailable. It is not yet clear whether the attack overwhelmed the site with data, making it unreachable, or whether hackers gained unauthorised access to it.

HKEC was investigating the attack and said if the site remained unstable on Thursday, announcements would be made via the Hang Seng’s bulletin board. Additionally, the suspension of the seven shares would be lifted.

Price sensitive information due to be announced included HSBC announcing the sale of its US credit card arm and Cathy Pacific unveiling half year results. The suspended stocks are among the biggest on the Hang Seng index.

None of the other systems operated by Hong Kong Exchanges was hit in the attack and its securities and derivatives markets ran as normal.

The Hong Kong exchange is one of many stock markets that have been hit by hackers. The Zimbabwe stock exchange was attacked in early August and in February, the US Nasdaq revealed that cyber criminals had planted malicious code on its “Directors Desk” web application.

– To the original…

As Verizon Demands Huge Cuts to Worker Benefits, Its Profits Soar and Its CEO Gets $18 Million in Compensation

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Yesterday [August 8th, 2011], 45,000 Verizon employees, represented by the Communications Workers of America, went on strike following the breakdown of negotiations between union representatives and management on Saturday. The workers are battling a long list of concessions that the company is demanding of them, ranging from asking employees to contribute more to their health care plans to halting pension accruals this year.

Cutting workers benefits as a cost-saving measure is a natural part of a market economy when times are bad, but what is particularly outrageous about Verizon’s demands is that the company’s fiscal health is actually rapidly improving and its profits soaring. The company’s quarterly report released in January found that their profits nearly doubled from the same point last year. Then in April, Bloomberg reported that the company’s profits “more than tripled” after the company began offering services on Apple’s popular iPhone, with net income approaching $1.44 billion:

Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), the second-largest US phone company, reported earnings that more than tripled as taxes decreased and the carrier attracted new customers after introducing Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone. Net income rose to $1.44 billion, or 51 cents a share, New York-based Verizon said today in a statement.

“They are outperforming the overall industry,” said financial analyst Michael Nelson of their Spring 2011 returns. Meanwhile, one person at Verizon who is not being asked to take any cuts is Ivan Seidenberg, the company’s CEO. His compensation actually rose four percent in 2010 to $18.1 million. The Communications Workers of America note that the “top five executives [at the company] received compensation of $258 million over the past four years.”

It appears that Verizon’s stockholders and executives are being treated well by the company while it demands sacrifice from its workers. “We are regular folk like most other folk out here trying to pay our mortgages, pay our bills and survive and we don’t think that is a lot to ask when the company is making billions of dollars in profits,” said one striking worker.


It should be noted that Verizon isn’t just trying to skimp on worker benefits — it is also a notorious tax dodger, paying little in taxes in years past and actually netting benefits from the US taxpayer.

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Arctic ‘tipping point’ may not be reached

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Scientists say current concerns over a tipping point in the disappearance of Arctic sea ice may be misplaced.

Danish researchers analysed ancient pieces of driftwood in north Greenland which they say is an accurate way to measure the extent of ancient ice loss.

Writing in the journal Science, the team found evidence that ice levels were about 50% lower 5,000 years ago.

They say changes to wind systems can slow down the rate of melting.

They argue, therefore, that a tipping point under current scenarios is unlikely.

While modern observations by ship and by satellite give us a very accurate picture of the recent state of the ice, historic information is limited. The ice comes and goes without leaving a permanent record.

But a Danish team believes it has found an indirect method that gives a clear picture of the ice loss dating back 11,000 years.

Dr Svend Funder from the Natural History Museum of Denmark led several expeditions to inhospitable regions of Northern Greenland. On these frozen shores the Danish team noticed several pieces of ancient driftwood. They concluded that it could be an important method of unlocking the secrets of the ancient ice.

“Driftwood cannot float across the water, it has to be ferried across the ocean on ice, and this voyage takes several years, which means that driftwood is actually a signal of multi-year sea ice in the ocean and it is this ice that is at risk at the moment” said Dr Funder.

Carbon dating was used to determine the age of the wood. And figuring out its origins also yielded important information.

“It’s so lovely that drift wood from Siberia is mainly larch and from North America is mainly spruce. So if we see there was more larch or spruce we can see that the wind system had changed and in some periods there was little spruce and in other periods there was lots,” he said.

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Healthcare in New Zealand

Friday, September 9th, 2011

– For my American friends who still haven’t worked out how badly you are being treated by the corporate owned and dominated healthcare industry in the U.S., let me share the details of my small interaction this afternoon with the New Zealand system.

– I made an appointment with my GP two days ago and I went in today to see him and discuss my current health (which has returned to excellent) and to get some prescriptions renewed.

– I noted that he has copies of all my medical records from the several places here in New Zealand where I’ve generated records; 24 hour walk-ins, other GP’s offices and the hospital.   It’s all shared electronically here and the system is organized so that it all your medical records go automatically to your GP (who you can change any time you like at no charge and all your records will follow you).

– My appointment was at the end of the day at 5 PM and, amazingly, he was only 10 minutes late in seeing me.

– I spent 20 minutes with him talking over various issues and discussing prescriptions and whether, based on research, I should be taking this or that.   In the end, he wrote me five prescriptions. 

– At the front desk, my bill for seeing him was $38.00.   I then walked next door (literally) to the pharmacy and my prescriptions were filled in under 10 minutes and I was charged $3.00 each or a total of $15.00.   I know from earlier experiences that those which have refills authorized will be refilled for no charge.   The original $3.00 covers it.

– Here, the medical system is what some would call Socialized Medicine.   That simply means that we, the people, all pay for it with our taxes.   The government has a special branch that shops for the prescription medicines consumed in the country.   It’s a simple circle:  we all pay taxes, according to how much we earn, to subsidize the medical system.  And we all use and benefit from it according to our level of need.

– In the U.S., there’s something or someone else in what should be a simple circle.   It’s the corporate for-profit entities.   And they are milking the American consumer big time to maximize their profits and holding the health of Americans for ransom in order to do it.   Meanwhile, the U.S. government, which collects nearly as much tax as is collected here, doesn’t have to use that money to maintain the health of the American people because the corporate entities have said, “No problem, we’ve got it covered“.  Yeah, right!   So, the government is free to spend the taxes Americans pay instead on foreign wars, bank bailouts and whatever else they think governments are suppose to be about.

– In my opinion, the purpose of government’s should be about maximizing the quality of life for all of its citizens – not just for its ‘corporate citizens’.

– Wake up my friends – things are a mess there!

– dennis

The Lesson of the Chinese Invasion

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

– Isn’t this how America took over much of Central and South America 50 to 100 years ago?   Selling them things they didn’t have, gaining control of their markets and buying up control of their natural resources?

– And then, eventually, as the Americans moved behind the scenes, right wing dictatorships friendly to American interests were installed so that the money from the local resources could keep flowing to the US and so that any local political unrest was kept in check?

– Many left-wing students of American foreign policy over the last 2 or 3 decades will recognize these patterns.   Allende, Copper & Chile and Nicaragua’s Sandinistas and Contras are just two arch-typical stories of this genre. 

– So, the wheel of history turns and the Chinese nw are only doing what rising economic powers do; which is to seek more of the same.    And the greed of the naive and unsuspecting for lower prices in their target markets makes it all quite easy for them.   And all the money returns home to China and the standard of living of the Chinese people rise each year and their military is rapidly advancing from third-world quality to first-wolrd.

– What part of this “writing on the wall” can students of history not see?

– But amazingly, the short terms benefits always drive us like lemmings bound for their cliff jumps, to stock our stores with cheap Chinese gee-gaws.  And while the cheaply manufactured stuff pours into our countries, our cash goes the other way and day by day we deliver increasing power over us to them.

– Even here in my new country, New Zealand, the big box stores are jammed with cheap gee-gaws.   And the currently ascendant National Party (a rough analog of the US’s Republican Party) is busy passing laws to allow the country to sell off chucks of it essential infrastructure; Electric power generation, rail systems, etc.   The say that they believe not more than 10 to 20% will be sold so we will still retain control.  But, significantly, they’ve put no legal limits on how much can be sold – so they don’t offend or scare off the buyers.  (right!).

– They are saying that we need to do this to raise capital to fund other infrastructure projects that the nation needs.   As a first-order argument, that sounds, perhaps, reasonable.   But turn the crank one more round, and those new infrastructures will also need to be sold to fund the next round.  And so on.

– How sweet for the offshore buyers; an entire country building itself up very nicely and selling itself off as it does so.   Eventually, we’ll have a very nice country with lots of excellent infrastructure here.   And all owned by someone else.

– Going down this path, either here or in the US, how long will it be before the Chinese’s unlimited money is controlling who is winning elections?   And how long before they’ve installed a majority of people in the government who are deeply sympathetic to Chinese interests?   After that, it’s a single inevitable step to a nation becoming a Banana Republic to the Chinese juggernaut – much like many nations in Central and South America were when the American hegemony was at its apex.

– To my Chinese friends and readers  this is not an anti-Chinese flame I’ve written.   I fully believe that if it was Brazil, or India or any of a dozen other countries, the results would be the same.    This is all driven by human greed for power and control.  And the fact that it is the Chinese who are just now sitting in the global power spot, is just a coincidence of history and not an indictment of them as a people.

– dennis

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Many economic Nostradamuses have long predicted that the epitaph on America’s tombstone will ultimately read, “Made In China.” But casual observers probably didn’t think the funeral procession would happen this fast. In the last year, though, most have wised up. Thanks to a spate of mind-blowing headlines, we are learning that the Chinese invasion isn’t just a distant possibility — it’s happening right now.

First, in February, ABC News reported that almost every Americana-themed trinket sold in the Smithsonian Institute is made in China. Then news hit that San Francisco is importing its new bay bridge from China. Then came the New York Times dispatch about the Big Apple awarding Chinese state-subsidized firms huge taxpayer-funded contracts to “renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium.”

Astounding as all of that is, it was quickly topped by news last week reminding us that the new Martin Luther King monument in Washington was designed by a Chinese government sculptor and assembled by low-wage Chinese workers.

The trend is enough to trouble any American. After all, when a memorial for a civil rights leader who deplored “starvation wages” and died supporting a sanitation union’s strike is built by non-union serfs from China, it’s a good sign there’s a big problem.

But then, what exactly is that problem?

Xenophobes will say China’s ascendance threatens America’s global cultural hegemony and promises to create a dystopia forcing us all to endure the supposed horrors of speaking Mandarin and using chopsticks.

Such misguided and bigoted demagoguery, though, distracts from the real crisis staring at us in our own mirror — a crisis not of other, but of self. Indeed, for all the fears of external assault, the Chinese invasion tells us the true problem is that America is no longer willing or able to invest in its own future.

– To read more…