OFFICIAL SAYS HACKERS HIT UP TO 25,000 FED WORKERS

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Feds claim it’s a “state-sponsored attack”

By STEPHEN BRAUN

WASHINGTON (AP) — The internal records of as many as 25,000 Homeland Security Department employees were exposed during a recent computer break-in at a federal contractor that handles security clearances, an agency official said Friday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of an incident that is under active federal criminal investigation, said the number of victims could be greater. The department was informing employees whose files were exposed in the hacking against contractor USIS and warning them to monitor their financial accounts.
Earlier this month, USIS acknowledged the break-in, saying its internal cybersecurity team had detected what appeared to be an intrusion with “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.” Neither USIS nor government officials have speculated on the identity of the foreign government. A USIS spokeswoman reached Friday declined to comment on the DHS notifications.
USIS, once known as U.S. Investigations Services, has been under fire in Congress in recent months for its performance in conducting background checks on National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden and on Aaron Alexis, a military contractor employee who killed 12 people during shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington in September 2013.
Private contractors perform background checks on more than two-thirds of the 4.9 million government workers with security clearances, and USIS handles nearly half of that number. Many of those investigations are performed under contracts with the Office of Personnel Management, and the Homeland Security and Defense departments.
The Justice Department filed a civil complaint in January against USIS alleging that the firm defrauded the government by submitting at least 665,000 security clearance investigations that had not been properly completed and then tried to cover up its actions. USIS replied in a statement at the time that the allegations dealt with a small group of employees and that the company had appointed a new leadership team and enhanced oversight and was cooperating with the Justice probe.
It’s not immediately clear when the hacking took place, but DHS notified all its employees internally on Aug. 6.
At that point, DHS issued “stop-work orders” preventing further information flows to USIS until the agency was confident the company could safeguard its records. At the same time, OPM temporarily halted all USIS background check fieldwork “out of an abundance of caution,” spokeswoman Jackie Koszczuk said.
Officials would not say whether workers from other government agencies were at risk. DHS will provide workers affected by the intrusion with credit monitoring. The risk to as many as 25,000 DHS workers was first reported Friday by Reuters.
A cybersecurity expert, Rick Dakin, said the possibility that other federal departments could be affected depends on whether the DHS records were “segmented,” or walled off, from other federal agencies’ files inside USIS.
“The big question is what degree of segmentation was already in place so that other agencies weren’t equally compromised,” said Dakin, chief executive of Coalfire, a major Colorado-based IT audit and compliance firm.
In an announcement Friday, DHS warned that more than 1,000 U.S. retailers that their cash register computers could be infected with malicious software allowing hackers to steal customer financial data. Officials urged businesses of all sizes to scan their point-of-sale systems for software known as “Backoff.”

Germany tapped John Kerry’s phone, spied on Turkey for years – report

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Germany’s foreign intelligence agency eavesdropped at least one telephone conversation of US Secretary of State John Kerry and spied on NATO ally Turkey since 2009, Der Spiegel newspaper revealed on Saturday.

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) picked up the phone call “by accident” in 2013, the weekly newspaper reported in a pre-publication citing unnamed sources. Kerry was discussing the Middle East tensions between Israelis, Palestinians and Arab states in a satellite link, according to Der Spiegel.

The new revelation comes after German media – Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR – reported on Friday that BND intercepted at least one phone call made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The date of the call was not given and the media said that it was also picked up “by accident”.

The German media retrieved the information of the hacking from documents that were passed to the CIA by one of its moles inside the BND.

On Saturday Der Spiegel reported that Clinton’s call recorded was intercepted in 2012. Clinton was in talks with former UN chief Kofi Annan, who had just returned from negotiations in Syria and wanted to brief the former Secretary of State.

The NDR added on Friday that Clinton wasn’t the only one spied on as “apparently, phone calls by US politicians and from other friendly nations have been repeatedly recorded and submitted to the respective BND President as instructed”.

“The fact that the recording wasn’t deleted immediately was called ‘idiocy’ by a member of the government in Berlin,” NDR reported.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

In another leak, Der Spiegel also learned that BND has been spying on its NATO ally Turkey since 2009. No further details on the scale of surveillance were given. Sources confirmed the wiretapping to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, saying that it was essential for national security as there are many Turkish people living in Germany.

The government in Ankara says it intends to carefully investigate the Der Spiegel report.

“I am of the opinion that this needs to be taken seriously… Definitely, our government and foreign ministry will carry out the necessary research about the allegations in the magazine,” Mehmet Ali Sahin, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse.

According to Der Spiegel, the German government reviews its espionage program every four years but did not modify its priorities after the NSA scandal that deeply strained US-German relations last year.

The full version of the report will be published by Der Spiegel on Sunday.

In October, US whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information that Washington had conducted intensive spying operations including tapping phones of at least 35 heads of state, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel called US President Barack Obama over the issue, saying that if the revelations were proven to be true it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said at the time.

The issue was brought up again in July when two US agents were unmasked, suspected of acting as double agents within the state security apparatus, and passing secrets to US intelligence contacts. In response to the espionage scandal Germany promptly expelled the Berlin CIA chief.

The new reports may escalate the growing political tension between the two states, key partners in the NATO military alliance.

Last month in an interview to German broadcaster ZDF Germany’s Chancellor said that Washington and Berlin have different perceptions of the role of the intelligence service.

“For me it is a sign that we have fundamentally different conceptions of the work of the intelligence services.”

“I can’t say in advance if [the measures we took] will have an effect, of course I hope something will change. But the important thing is to show how we view things… and it is not a co-operative partnership when such things take place.”

Elite US hackers shut down Syrian internet trying to snoop on traffic – Snowden

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An elite team of US government hackers left Syria without internet, when they tried to hack one of the cores routers but instead crashed it, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said.

The three-day nationwide internet blackout in war-torn Syria in November 2012, which was blamed on either the government or the rebels, depending on who you listened to, was actually the doing of the Tailored Access Operations (TAO), a group of hackers in the employment of the US National Security Agency.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told the story to Wired magazine as it was preparing its cover story on MonsterMind, a US software designed to detect cyber-attacks and hit back in response.

NSA bot MonsterMind can wage cyberwar on its own – Snowden

According to his account, TAO attempted to remotely install malware in one of the core routers at a major Syrian internet service provider. The NSA launched the operation to snoop on virtually all internet traffic from Syria.

But instead of infecting the router the hackers ‘bricked’ it, effectively cutting the country from the web. Snowden called it an ‘oh shit’ moment for TAO, who tried to remotely repair the router hoping to cover up their tracks. They tensely joked that if they could “always point the finger at Israel,” if they got caught.

Luckily for them, the Syrian authorities were apparently too busy getting the country back online to get to the bottom of the incident. Damascus blamed ‘terrorists’ for the blackout while the rebels (and Washington) said the government had done it to hamper their communications.

Syria experienced two major internet blackouts since it went into turmoil in 2011, the second one reported in May 2013.

Eight More Things You Didn’t Know Are Racist

The Daily Caller’s Alphabet of Racism is still going strong. Here are eight things beginning with the letter ‘L’ you should know are racist.

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Los Angeles police dogs are racist, reported The Independent, after a 2013 report found that since 2004, the number of minority individuals bitten by police dogs had dramatically increased. And in the first six months of 2013, ”every single victim of a bite by a LASD dog was African-American or Latino,” the piece read.
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Sarah Palin was blasted by PoliticusUSA when she used the word lackadaisical to describe President Obama’s tendency to lead from behind. “That’s a bit of that lackadaisical eh you know, don’t have to take responsibility,” she said on Fox News last year in reference to the president’s handling of the Edward Snowden debacle. PoliticusUSA called her comments an “ugly racist rant,” because in the 1937 book Class and Caste in a Southern Town a racist person used the term lackadaisical to describe “Negro work habits.”

The film “Lucy” is racist, a Huffington Post writer explained in a rant about women and Hollywood, because it suggests that the most evolved human being is a white woman. “See, I just can’t get right with that,” Olivia Cole wrote, and added, “How is it that in a film whose premise rests on the idea of reimagining the past, present and future, we still end up with a blonde white woman with flashing blue eyes as the stand-in for what personifies evolution and supremely fulfilled human potential?” The answer, of course, is racism.

Singer Lorde is racist, according to the blog Feministing, which points to the lyrics of her hit single “Royals” as evidence. Here are the lyrics at issue:

But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
The song is deeply racist, according to Feministing, because “we all know who she’s thinking about” when she mentions gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. “So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers?” the writer asks, “Why not take to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality? I’m gonna take a guess: racism.”

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In addition to pretty much every other Disney movie, “Lady and the Tramp” is likely racist. As Buzzfeed reported, the film’s villains are two Siamese cats with “stereotypical Asian speech and slanted eyes.”

The “Lord of the Rings” franchise is racist, the Chicago Tribune reports. Although the piece acknowledges author (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube)J.R.R. Tolkien himself probably meant no offense, it says the representation of race in the films is problematic, because, as usual, Caucasian men are the “good guys” and other races are the “bad guys.” For example, the piece mentions Aragorn’s warning to King Theoden that Saruman is out to “destroy the world of men.” A more accurate statement, the piece says, would have been “the forces of evil have assembled an army ‘to destroy the world of civilized white men.”

In a segment of “PoliticsNation” last year, host Touré informed MSNBC’s small audience that the term “lazy” is one of those racist code words conservatives use to attack President Obama. He and Al Sharpton were discussing a portion of Fox News President Roger Ailes’ biography, in which he suggests Obama is lazy. ”[Roger Ailes is] one of the most powerful voices in the country, and he’s attacking President Obama,” Sharpton complained. Touré then explained why it’s not OK to use the term in reference to black people: “This sort of ‘lazy’ term is something we heard flung at us as black people going back to slavery,” he said, “which, of course, you know, we perceive them as being guilty of not wanting to work. Of course they didn’t want to work. They were slaves.”

“Law and Order” is racist, because it suggested justice should be color-blind, according to the socialist, feminist, anti-racism website Solidarity. In one episode, three black kids steal a baseball bat from three white kids. When the mother of two of the white kids urges them to get their bat back, the white kids pick a fight with the black kids, whose father ends up shooting and killing one of the white kids. In an apparently racist decision that “floored” Solidarity, the court decides the mother and father are both guilty. “Real inequalities of wealth and social power — of race and class — disappear before ‘blind justice’ that sees not black and white, not workers and professionals, but “citizens” who appear as equals in ‘the eyes of the law,’” the piece explains.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/08/08/eight-more-things-you-didnt-know-are-racist/2/#ixzz39w6hR6YX