CIA Malware for All Versions of Windows

May 20th, 2017

Via: WikiLeaks:

Today, May 19th 2017, WikiLeaks publishes documents from the “Athena” project of the CIA. “Athena” – like the related “Hera” system – provides remote beacon and loader capabilities on target computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system (from Windows XP to Windows 10). Once installed, the malware provides a beaconing capability (including configuration and task handling), the memory loading/unloading of malicious payloads for specific tasks and the delivery and retrieval of files to/from a specified directory on the target system. It allows the operator to configure settings during runtime (while the implant is on target) to customize it to an operation.

According to the documentation (see Athena Technology Overview), the malware was developed by the CIA in cooperation with Siege Technologies, a self-proclaimed cyber security company based in New Hampshire, US. On their website, Siege Technologies states that the company “… focuses on leveraging offensive cyberwar technologies and methodologies to develop predictive cyber security solutions for insurance, government and other targeted markets.”. On November 15th, 2016 Nehemiah Security announced the acquisition of Siege Technologies.


A Quarter Of American Adults Can’t Pay All Their Monthly Bills; 44% Have Less Than $400 In Cash

May 20th, 2017

Via: ZeroHedge:

Nearly eight years into an economic recovery, nearly half of Americans didn’t have enough cash available to cover a $400 emergency. Specifically, the survey found that, in line with what the Fed had disclosed in previous years, 44% of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to cover an unexpected $400 expense like a car repair or medical bill, or would have to borrow money or sell something to meet it. Troubling as this statistic remains, the overall share of adults who would struggle to come up with $400 in a pinch has declined by 2% from the last survey conducted in 2015, and down 6% since 2013.

Of the group that could not pay in cash, 45% said they would go further in debt and use a credit card to pay off the expense over time. while a quarter would borrow from friends of family, and another 27% just couldn’t pay the expense. Others would turn to selling items or using a payday loan.


U.S. Special Forces Expanding Shadow War in Africa

May 20th, 2017

Via: Vice:

Six years ago, a deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Special Operations Command gave a conservative estimate of 116 missions being carried out at any one time by Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and other special operations forces across the globe.

Today, according to U.S. military documents obtained by VICE News, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time — in Africa alone. It’s the latest sign of the military’s quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent, one that represents the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe.

In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent. In fact, according to data supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East — 1,700 people spread out across 20 countries dedicated to assisting the U.S. military’s African partners in their fight against terrorism and extremism.

“At any given time, you will find SOCAFRICA conducting approximately 96 activities in 20 countries,” Donald Bolduc, the U.S. Army general who runs the special operations command in Africa (SOCAFRICA), wrote in an October 2016 strategic planning guidance report. (The report was obtained by VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and is published in its entirety below.)


Americans Are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt

May 19th, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

The federal government has, in recent years, paid debt collectors close to $1 billion annually to help distressed borrowers climb out of default and scrounge up regular monthly payments. New government figures suggest much of that money may have been wasted.

Nearly half of defaulted student-loan borrowers who worked with debt collectors to return to good standing on their loans defaulted again within three years, according to an analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For their work, debt collectors receive up to $1,710 in payment from the U.S. Department of Education each time a borrower makes good on soured debt through a process known as rehabilitation. They keep those funds even if borrowers subsequently default again, contracts show. The department has earmarked more than $4.2 billion for payments to its debt collectors since the start of the 2013 fiscal year, federal spending data show.


Stanford Professor: Fossil-Fuel Vehicles Will Vanish in 8 Years in Twin ‘Death Spiral’ for Big Oil and Big Autos

May 18th, 2017

I very seriously doubt it.

Via: Financial Post:

No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.

This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. His report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.

Seba’s premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are ten times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles.

Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2,000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024.

Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. This will spread to suburbs, and then beyond. There will be a “mass stranding of existing vehicles”. The value of second-hard cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle.

It is a twin “death spiral” for big oil and big autos, with ugly implications for some big companies on the London Stock Exchange unless they adapt in time.

Report: Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the Internal-Combustion Vehicle and Oil Industries


Brazil’s Stock Market Declines 10 Percent

May 18th, 2017

Via: CNN:

Brazil’s stock market, Bovespa, plunged more than 10% immediately after opening Thursday, wiping out almost all of its gains for the year. Officials halted trading for 30 minutes.

Brazil’s currency, the real, also tanked 7% against the dollar, its worst day since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The selloff came after new bribery allegations surfaced against Brazil’s president, Michel Temer.

A prominent Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, reported Wednesday night that Temer paid a bribe to the former House Speaker in Congress, Eduardo Cunha, to stay silent while Cunha serves a prison term.

O Globo said there were recordings of conversations between the two in which the alleged bribe occurred.

The news comes as Brazil is already suffering through record-high unemployment and its worst recession in history.

The country has been embroiled in an infamous bribery scandal for over three years known as Operation Car Wash and involving its biggest company Petrobras. It has entangled the past two presidents, all political parties and imprisoned billionaires.


Household Debt Surpassed Record Level Reached During the 2008 Financial Crisis

May 18th, 2017

Via: CNBC:

The New York Federal Reserve reports that household debt across the nation has hit a dubious milestone in the first quarter: It surpassed the peak debt level of 2008 at $12.7 trillion.

Household debt — including mortgages, auto and student loans, and credit cards — rose $149 billion compared with the last quarter of 2016, with nearly all the gain coming from mortgages.

Reaching the peak raises questions about whether the backdrop exists again for another financial meltdown. But the data show the current structure of debt is substantially different from 2008.

Mortgage debt has fallen from 73 percent to 68 percent of total debt since the peak. That has come along with a rise in auto- and student-loan debt as a percent of the average American’s liabilities.


Firm Thinks Solar Will Attract More Investment Funds Than Coal, Gas and Nuclear Combined in 2017

May 16th, 2017

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

Via: PV Magazine:

A new report by analyst firm Frost & Sullivan projects that in 2017 solar PV will attract more investment than coal, gas and nuclear power combined.

The report, titled the Global Power Industry Outlook 2017, examines power market trends, including investment and regional growth. The report deduces that this year, renewable power investment will reach $243.1 billion globally, with solar PV investment comprising $141.6 billion of that total, followed by wind.

Although solar prices continue to decline, as does the cost of wind power, renewable investment is booming at the expense of traditional power generation because clean energy increasingly offers more profitable project costs and benefits from stable regulatory support across the globe, the report finds.


FDA Approved Drugs Have Nearly 1 in 3 Chance of Having a “Significant Safety Issue”

May 16th, 2017

Oh sure, it’s a surprise. *wink*

Via: Los Angeles Times:

Almost one-third of new drugs approved by U.S. regulators over a decade ended up years later with warnings about unexpected — sometimes life-threatening — side effects or complications, according to a new analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Researchers looked at potential problems that cropped up during the routine monitoring that’s done once a medicine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is on the market. The results, published Tuesday, covered all 222 prescription drugs approved by the FDA from 2001 through 2010.

The 71 drugs that were flagged included top sellers for treating depression, arthritis, infections and blood clots. Safety issues included risks for serious skin reactions, liver damage, cancer and even death.

“The large percentage of problems was a surprise,” and they included side effects not seen during the review process, said senior author Dr. Joseph Ross, an associate professor of medicine and public health at Yale University.


NASA: Ocean Below Ice Layer on Enceladus Could Hold Life

May 16th, 2017

Via: Newsweek:

Today Earthlings came one very giant step closer to finding life elsewhere in our solar system. In the final months of its 20-year mission, the spacecraft Cassini delivered its most noteworthy revelation yet: the ocean of Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, is releasing hydrogen, an energy source for some microorganisms. In other words, that ocean is inhabitable. “Enceladus,” says Cornell University astrophysicist Jonathan Lunine, “is the place to go to look for life.”


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