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TBR News May 12, 2017

May 12 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. May 12, 2017: “The total dependence of the world on the Internet for all means of communication is being shown today, as a warning by the same people who have been revealing the inner secrets of the world, of what is possible and what can come. We are no longer at threat of military force but we are engaged in a one-sided cyber warfare that has the potential to wreak more global havoc than batteries of long range missiles. A lack of diplomacy coupled with mindless arrogance has led to an extensive cyber attack on global systems. More can certainly follow in the coming months if diplomacy is not resorted to.”

Table of Contents

  • Big Brother Is Still Watching You
  • Trump attacks on fired FBI chief meet resistance; Russia probe proceeds
  • FBI chief sacking: Trump warns Comey over leaks to media
  • ‘Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations’ before leaking to press – Trump
  • Trump Threatens Comey With Secretly Recorded “Tapes” of Their Conversations
  • Shut Down the ‘Russia-gate’ Farce
  • Acting FBI director McCabe contradicts White House statement on Comey dismissal
  • Ukrainian general calls for destruction of Jews
  • Kremlin says may retaliate against U.S. over expulsion of Russian diplomats
  • Thousands of ransomware cyberattacks reported worldwide
  • Malware, described in leaked NSA documents, cripples computers worldwide
  • Worldwide ‘ransomware’ attack reported in at least 14 countries

 Big Brother Is Still Watching You

May 11, 2017

by John W. Whitehead

AntiWar

“You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

~ George Orwell, 1984

Supposedly the National Security Administration is going to stop collecting certain Internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target.

Privacy advocates are hailing it as a major victory for Americans whose communications have been caught in the NSA’s dragnet.

If this is a victory, it’s a hollow victory.

Here’s why.

Since its creation in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman issued a secret executive order establishing the NSA as the hub of the government’s foreign intelligence activities, the agency has been covertly spying on Americans, listening in on their phone calls, reading their mail, and monitoring their communications.

For instance, under Project SHAMROCK, the NSA spied on telegrams to and from the U.S., as well as the correspondence of American citizens. Moreover, as the Saturday Evening Post reports, “Under Project MINARET, the NSA monitored the communications of civil rights leaders and opponents of the Vietnam War, including targets such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohammed Ali, Jane Fonda, and two active US Senators. The NSA had launched this program in 1967 to monitor suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, but successive presidents used it to track all manner of political dissidents.”

Not even the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the creation of the FISA Court, which was supposed to oversee and correct how intelligence information is collected and collated, managed to curtail the NSA’s illegal activities.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans’ phone calls and emails.

Nothing changed under Barack Obama. In fact, the violations worsened, with the NSA authorized to secretly collect Internet and telephone data on millions of Americans, as well as on foreign governments.

It was only after whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 that the American people fully understood the extent to which they had been betrayed once again.

What this brief history makes clear is that the NSA cannot be reformed.

This is an agency whose very existence – unaccountable and lacking any degree of transparency – flies in the face of the Constitution.

Despite the fact that its data snooping has been shown to be ineffective at detecting, let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the NSA has continued to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

As long as the government is allowed to make a mockery of the law – be it the Constitution, the FISA law, or any other law intended to limit its reach and curtail its activities – and is permitted to operate behind closed doors, relaying on secret courts, secret budgets and secret interpretations of the laws of the land, there will be no reform.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have done much to put an end to the NSA’s “technotyranny.”

The beast has outgrown its chains. It will not be restrained.

Moreover, even if the NSA could be reformed, the problem of government surveillance goes far beyond the criminal activities of this one agency.

In fact, long before the NSA became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace. Just about every branch of the government – from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between – now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies – the police, public health officials, transportation, etc. – and make it accessible for all those in power. And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

Corporate trackers monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere. For example, every time you use a loyalty card at the grocery store or elsewhere, your purchases are being monitored, mined for data, and sold to the highest bidder. Every time you use your credit or debit card, or your digital “wallet,” your transactions are being tracked. Uber’s ride service app knows where you are even when you are not actively using the service. Even store mannequins are being used to monitor and identify shoppers with facial recognition software.

Major cities are being transformed into “Smart Cities” filled with sensors in everything from pavement to lamp posts, and all of that data is being linked together to monitor the day-to-day lives of everyone in them. In some cities, even the sewage is being monitored and could potentially be used to find out what drugs a household may have used.

All of your medical data in the near future will be constantly monitored, and while the data is supposed to only be shared with your doctor, in practice it will be accessible by any number of government and private actors.  Microchips in “smart pills” can communicate with tablet devices to ensure the elderly take their medications already exist. And a transponder injected into the skin that contains a person’s entire medical history has been approved by the FDA.  Wearable health-monitoring devices likewise can be used to monitor you, and the information collected can be used in a court of law.  Smart toothbrushes can monitor your brushing habits and communicate them to your dentist, or anyone else.  Smart alarm clocks can monitor your sleep habits.

Like all other devices relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) to communicate, these can be hacked into by government and private corporations.

The “Internet of things” refers to the growing number of “smart” appliances and electronic devices now connected to the Internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs.

Of course, there’s a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung’s Smart TVs are capable of “listening” to what you say, thereby allow users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party. Same goes for Amazon’s Echo.

“Smart houses” filled with IoT-capable devices are just starting to come into play, but by 2020 Samsung pledges that all of its devices, including its household appliances, will be IoT capable.  Such products include ovens, microwaves, vacuums (including robot vacuums), refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers, as well as smart hubs which coordinate everything.  Coffee makers and toasters are also being made IoT compatible.

Smart TVs seemingly out of Orwell’s 1984 will also collect data and spy on you.  Modern gaming consoles likewise have Internet connections, and those with cameras can be used to spy like any smartphone or computer.  Smart power outlets can turn your lights on and off remotely, and smart thermostats work similarly.

All of them monitor when you’re at home or not, as can smart home security systems. Wi-Fi routers can even monitor the inside of your home and distinguish between different individuals in the house, while reading their lips to “hear” what they say.  Other forms of home monitoring systems for the elderly can be hacked and used by anyone.

Already the web-enabled “Hello Barbie” doll has been the center of a hacking controversy, in which security experts disclosed a number of significant security flaws with the toy.  Other smart objects include smart golf clubs, which monitor the speed, acceleration, and swing plane of your golf swing, smart shoes which track your location and can guide you on where to go. Tostitos has even unveiled a promotional smart bag of chips which can tell you if you’ve been drinking too much.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the government’s many methods of spying on its citizens. For instance, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants.

Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, are already being employed by the police to peer inside a suspect’s home.

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. These surveillance devices can also photograph those inside a moving car. Recent reports indicate that the DEA has been using license plate readers in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a “vehicle surveillance database” of the nation’s cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and “public space” cameras, sold to gullible communities as a surefire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of “pre-crime” cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to preset parameters for “normal” behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being “suspicious.”

Capitalizing on a series of notorious abductions of college-aged students, several states are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. Technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person’s cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Radar guns have long been the speed cop’s best friend, allowing him to hide out by the side of the road, identify speeding cars, and then radio ahead to a police car, which does the dirty work of pulling the driver over and issuing a ticket. Now, developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. No word yet on whether the technology will also be able to detect the contents of that text message.

It’s a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty surprises. Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras – made possible by funding from the Department of Justice – are turning police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you’ll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

And the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Government surveillance of social media such as Twitter and Facebook is also on the rise. Americans have become so accustomed to the government overstepping its limits that most don’t even seem all that bothered anymore about the fact that the government is spying on our emails and listening in on our phone calls.

Drones, which are taking to the skies en masse, will be the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. This means drones that can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

It’s a given that the government’s tactics are always more advanced than we know, so there’s no knowing what new technologies are already being deployed against us without our knowledge. Certainly, by the time we learn about a particular method of surveillance or new technological gadget, it’s a sure bet that the government has been using it covertly for years already.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’ve all become suspects, a.k.a. potential criminals.

As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, and probation officer.

So don’t get too excited about the NSA’s latest concession.

It won’t stop Big Brother from watching you.

Trump attacks on fired FBI chief meet resistance; Russia probe proceeds

May 11, 2017

by Patricia Zengerle and Arshad Mohammed

Reuters

WASHINGTON-President Donald Trump on Thursday ran into resistance for calling ousted FBI chief James Comey a “showboat,” an attack that was swiftly contradicted by top U.S. senators and the acting FBI leader, who pledged that an investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia would proceed with vigor.

In his first interview since firing Comey on Tuesday, Trump appeared to try to underscore that Comey’s dismissal was about his performance at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and not about the Russia probe.

Trump faces accusations from Democrats that he fired Comey to hinder the FBI investigation into U.S. intelligence agency allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump. The probe has hung over Trump’s presidency since he took office in January and threatens to overwhelm his policy priorities.

“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander,” Trump told NBC News. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.”

Trump’s characterization was at odds with that of the top Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At a hearing on Thursday, the Republican chairman of the panel, Richard Burr, and the top Democrat, Mark Warner, praised Comey. Warner said he was offended at Trump’s remarks.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, testifying in place of Comey, contradicted Trump’s appraisal of turmoil at the FBI, saying that Comey had “broad support” from the rank and file “and still does to this day.”

A White House spokeswoman on Thursday morning had said that Trump was expected to soon visit FBI headquarters, but MSNBC later reported that plan had been thrown out after agency officials told the White House that Trump would not be greeted warmly following his firing of Comey.

Several candidates are being considered to replace Comey, a senior White House official said, including Mike Rogers, a former Republican representative; Trey Gowdy, a Republican representative and former federal prosecutor; Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration; and Ray Kelly, former commissioner of the New York Police Department.

The nominee must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

PROBE TO PROCEED

McCabe promised to tell senators of any White House meddling into the agency’s probe on Russia. Democrats have called for a special counsel to look into the matter.

“It is my opinion and belief that the FBI will continue to pursue this investigation vigorously and completely,” McCabe told the senators.

Moscow has denied interference in the election, and the Trump administration denies allegations of collusion with Russia.

In firing Comey, Trump said he knew he ran the risk he would “confuse people” and “lengthen out the investigation” into ties to Russia.

“In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” he told NBC.

Trump said in the interview that he never pressured Comey into dropping the FBI probe, adding: “If Russia did anything, I want to know that.” Trump said there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” but that “the Russians did not affect the vote.”

His explanation of why he fired Comey ran counter to previous administration explanations of Comey’s dismissal.

The White House and Vice President Mike Pence had said Trump fired Comey on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and No. 2 Justice Department official Rod Rosenstein.

On Thursday, Trump said he would have taken the action regardless. “I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” Trump said. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”

Rosenstein, who met privately with some senators on Thursday, was invited to brief all 100 senators next week, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said. Schumer said he hoped that Sessions would also speak to senators separately on the firing of Comey.

In the House of Representatives, Justin Amash, a Republican member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said on Twitter that he had signed onto Democratic-sponsored legislation calling for an independent, bipartisan commission to probe Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election campaign.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to disrupt the election that included hacking into Democratic Party emails and leaking them, with the aim of helping Trump.

Leaders of the U.S. intelligence agencies, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA chief Mike Pompeo, testified to the senators on Thursday that they agreed with that finding.

Trump, in his interview, also gave further details of his account that Comey had told him on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation in the Russia matter.

Trump said he had asked Comey once over dinner and twice by telephone. “I said: ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation?'” Trump told NBC. “He said: ‘You are not under investigation.'”

Trump said the dinner with Comey was at the White House and Comey wanted to discuss staying on as FBI chief. “We had a very nice dinner. And at that time, he told me: ‘You are not under investigation.'”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she believed it was not a conflict of interest for a president to ask the FBI chief such a question.

Comey has not publicly discussed any conversations he had with Trump.

At the Senate hearing, McCabe testified it was not typical practice to tell people they were not a targets of an investigation.

Republican chairman Burr asked McCabe whether he ever heard Comey tell Trump that the president was not the subject of investigation. McCabe sidestepped the question, saying he could not comment on an ongoing probe.

Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, said it was “hard to avoid the conclusion” that Trump’s firing of Comey was related to the Russia investigation.

“And while it’s clear to me now more than ever that an independent special counsel must be appointed, make no mistake our committee will get to the bottom of what happened during the 2016 presidential election,” Warner said.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan, Eric Beech, Susan Heavey and David Alexander; Writing by Will Dunham and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney, Grant McCool and Leslie Adler)

FBI chief sacking: Trump warns Comey over leaks to media

May 12, 2017

BBC News

US President Donald Trump has warned fired FBI chief James Comey against leaking material to the media.

In a tweet on Friday, he said Mr Comey had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations”.

Mr Comey, who had been leading an inquiry into possible collusion between Trump election campaign officials and Russia, was fired on Tuesday.

Mr Trump has since insisted he was told by Mr Comey that he was not under investigation.

Once over dinner and twice over the phone Mr Comey had told him he was not a target of the inquiry, the US president said

His comments raised accusations among opponents that he was interfering in the investigation.

Mr Trump also said this week that he alone was responsible for the decision to sack Mr Comey, calling him a “showboat” and “grandstander”.

But this explanation appeared to undermine earlier comments from administration officials that Mr Comey had been fired on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein.

The first line of Mr Trump’s letter sacking Mr Comey refers to a memo written by Mr Rosenstein and says: “I have accepted their recommendation”.

But he later told NBC he was “going to fire him regardless of the recommendation”.

Apparently angered by criticism of the different accounts, Mr Trump used another of his tweets on Friday to say: “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!”

He added: “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings” and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”

Mr Trump has dismissed the FBI investigation as a “charade” and has said Democrats are using “fake news” about collusion with the Russians as an excuse for losing the election.

It was unclear whether Mr Trump’s reference to “tapes” suggested there might be secret recordings of conversations that could be used to challenge any statements by Mr Comey, or whether it was simply a way of warding him off from commenting.

But the reference has done nothing to silence the echoes of the Watergate affair that have resounded around the Russian interference inquiry.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon sacked Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor who was seeking access to tapes of presidential conversations that ultimately led to Mr Nixon’s resignation.

In another tweet on Friday, Mr Trump said: “When [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?”

However, Mr Comey’s successor, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, said on Thursday that it remained “a highly significant investigation”.

In testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, he also cast doubt on White House claims that Mr Comey had lost the confidence of his staff.

“I can confidently tell you that the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey,” Mr McCabe said.

Separately on Friday, Mr Trump’s lawyers said a review of the past 10 years of his tax returns showed “no income of any type from Russian sources”. Although there was income from a beauty pageant and the sale of a property, there was “no equity investment by Russians” and no money owed by Russians to Mr Trump, a letter said.

‘Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations’ before leaking to press – Trump

May 12, 2017

RT

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that recently fired FBI Director James Comey had better hope there are no tapes of their conversations “before he starts leaking to the press.”

Comey, who had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s advisers and Russian officials, was fired by the president on Tuesday.

In a separate tweet, Trump questioned when the “witch hunt” would end, noting that former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and “virtually everyone else” with knowledge of the situation says there has been no collusion with Russia.

Trump admitted during a Thursday interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” was on his mind when he made the decision to sack Comey, who he referred to as a “showboat.”

However, he said the main reason for firing him was because the FBI has been “in turmoil.”

“You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that,” Trump said.

Trump has repeatedly denied that he or anyone on his staff has ties to Russia, tweeting earlier on Friday that the story was “fabricated by Democrats as an excuse for losing the election.”

Trump has vowed that Comey will be replaced by “someone who will do a far better job,” noting that he had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington.”

Trump Threatens Comey With Secretly Recorded “Tapes” of Their Conversations

May 12, 2017

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Here’s your morning Impeachment Watch: The president of the United States, @realDonaldTrump, just publicly threatened to release secretly recorded tapes of his conversations with James Comey, the former FBI director he fired this week.

Trump’s attempt to intimidate Comey appeared to be in response to reports from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News that the former director had let it be known, through associates, that the president had lied in the termination letter he had his bodyguard deliver to FBI headquarters on Tuesday. The letter included a bizarre aside in which Trump claimed that he was grateful to the director for assuring him, in three conversations, that the president himself was not under investigation. Trump’s claim, one associate of Comey’s told the Journal, “is literally farcical.”

Nonetheless, Trump repeated that claim in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, saying that he had first asked the director over dinner at the White House on January 27 if he was a subject of the federal investigation into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and the Russian government to undermine his rival, Hillary Clinton.

“I actually asked him, yes,” Trump said of his conversation with Comey, at a dinner requested by the president the day after the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, had informed the White House that the FBI had proof that the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump reportedly asked Comey, that night, if he would be “loyal” to him. Comey refused to make such a pledge, his associates told The New York Times.)

“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know — am I under investigation?’” Trump recalled asking Comey. “He said, ‘You are not under investigation.’”

Moments later, Trump admitted that ending the federal investigation into his own campaign was central to his thinking when he made the final decision to fire the FBI director leading the probe.

“I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it,” Trump said, describing his thought process. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia, is a made-up story — it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.’”

“It should be over with,” Trump added of the investigation — which, in fact, began months before he won the election. “In my opinion it should’ve been over a long time ago.”

Norm Eisen, a White House Ethics Czar for President Barack Obama, noted that Trump’s tweet could even be criminal intimidation of a witness to his attempt to obstruct justice.

Trump’s reference to the possible existence of recordings of his conversations with Comey — two of which, he says, took place on the phone — raised the immediate specter of a secret White House recording system, like that used by Trump’s political idol, Richard Nixon.

According to his biographer Tim O’Brien, however, during his long career as a fixture of New York gossip columns, Trump often made similar threats to reporters, hinting at hidden recording devices in his Trump Tower office, which simply did not exist.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump inaccurately claimed that James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, had exonerated him, and described the ongoing FBI investigation as a “witch hunt.”

The presidential Twitter meltdown was not going over well at the FBI, according to a former senior official there who told NBC News: “This threatens the independence of the FBI and goes against core American values.”

“This is not going to end well for this administration,” the former official predicted.

A source close to Comey told CNN that the president’s attempt to threaten the former FBI director had failed, since, “if there is a tape, there’s nothing he is worried about” that could be on it.

Later in the day, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, refused to confirm or deny that there are recording devices in the Oval Office or elsewhere in the residence.

The president’s spokesman refusing to rule out the possibility that visitors to the White House, including senior officials, might be under surveillance stunned journalists and legal observers — including Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was initially asked to stay on by Trump, and then abruptly fired.

Leaving aside the fate of the republic, the episode seems certain to end badly for Spicer himself, given that Melissa McCarthy was seen impersonating him outside the offices of CNN in Manhattan on Friday, renewing her mockery of him for a sketch to be broadcast on Saturday.

Shut Down the ‘Russia-gate’ Farce

It’s bogus, it’s boring, and it’s hurting the country

May 12, 2017

by Justin Raimondo,

AntiWar

The level of lunacy we’ve reached can be measured by the brouhaha over the presence of Russian photographers in the Oval Office during Sergey Lavrov’s visit: no US photographers were allowed, but the Russians somehow got in and the Paranoid Brigade went into overdrive. They may have planted “bugs” there! No, this wasn’t nutjob Louise Mensch, the queen of the Russia-haters, but “former intelligence officials,” including the former deputy director of the CIA, David Cohen.

Given this kind of paranoia, why allow Lavrov in the Oval Office? After all, he could slip a bug into that sanctum just as easily as somehow who works for Tass – indeed, it would be far easier for him to do so, since photographers are routinely searched before they enter, and I doubt the Russian Foreign Minister is subjected to the same procedure.

Aside from that, the same people who are making a fuss about this are convinced the Trump administration is a cabal of Kremlin agents: so why would the Russians even need to plant a bug in the Oval Office? After all, according to the conspiracy theorists, they’re getting the same intelligence directly from the White House.

Yes, folks, I’m really writing about this nonsense. Because that’s where we’re at these days.

Now the conspiracy theorists who have taken over the Democratic party are screaming that the firing of James Comey is all a part of the plot: Trump did it to scotch the year-long investigation into “Russia-gate,” which has so far yielded nothing. The White House denies this, although we’re now hearing a different and probably far more accurate account: the President was pissed off that Comey wasn’t investigating leaks of classified information, and was paying too much attention to the Russia probe.

If this is true, then one can only applaud the White House and urge them to be more upfront about the reason for Comey’s firing. The “Russia-gate” conspiracy theory is total nonsense, is based on completely unsupportable premises, and is bad for the country. The President should quash it, so he can get back to the job he was elected to do.

The whole thing is a media-driven hate campaign that has no relation to the facts: despite the “high confidence” our “intelligence community” says it has that the Russians somehow mysteriously “influenced” our election, the alleged evidence they’ve made public is nothing but a joke. Indeed, it has been repeatedly debunked by cyber-security experts, and yet the media ignores this, just like they ignored the warnings of those of us who challenged the Bush administration’s “high confidence” that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction.”

Hillary Clinton refers to “Russian WikiLeaks” as if it were a foregone conclusion that Julian Assange is an agent of Moscow, but there’s no evidence for this. Just like there’s no evidence for the allegation that the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Russians to deny her the White House: it was the American voters who did that.

In short, the multiple investigations into “Russia-gate” are based on nothing but speculation, innuendo, and unsupportable conspiracy theories – and yet they’re consuming the Congress, the White House, and the law enforcement apparatus that is supposed to be protecting us from real threats. The whole thing is a tiresome theatrical performance that has dragged on long enough: it’s long past time for the actors to take their curtain call, roll up the somewhat tattered scenery, and move on to more serious fare.

Speaking of “foreign influence” on US politics, it’s been reported that the intelligence agencies of both Great Britain and Estonia fed dirt on Trump to our own spooks, who then leaked it to their conduits in the media. While “former” MI6 agent Christopher Steele, author of the slanderous anti-Trump dossier commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, is not officially connected to British intelligence, does anyone really believe Her Majesty’s spies weren’t clued in to the operation?

Of course, that kind of foreign influence is considered perfectly okay, and will never be investigated.

The meeting with Lavrov, which our warmongering media is portraying as Trump taking orders from the Kremlin, is good news: it means that the Trump administration is beginning to implement the President’s campaign promise to “get along with Russia.” At a time when tensions in Europe are at an all-time high, and US troops in Syria are doing their best to separate our Kurdish allies from Turkish aggression, the prospect of better relations with nuclear-armed Russia is a bright spot in an otherwise darkening world. That this development scares the national security bureaucracy, especially some elements of the military as well as the ever-Russophobic CIA, is hardly surprising. The former is counting on inflating the “Russian threat” in order to grab a big share of the defense budget, while the latter is institutionally opposed to Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

What’s interesting is how this wave of anti-Russian hysteria is roiling American politics. The Democratic party has been completely captured by it: they sound like a McCarthyite mob out of the 1950s. Instead of howling about “Who lost China?” they’re demanding to know “Who lost Ukraine?”

The Republicans are split: Trump loyalists pay lip service to the “Russian threat,” but their enthusiasm is lacking. The McCain-Graham wing of the party – shrunken quite a bit since the days of George W. Bush – is in some ways more fanatically anti-Russian than the Democrats. They really want a military standoff with Moscow.

Then there are the real leftists, the Bernie Sanders types, who are also split: Bernie himself has jumped on the hate-Russia bandwagon, and many of his followers have followed suit. Yet there are the Sincere Lefties, typified by people like Glenn Greenwald, who are straddling the fence: on the one hand, they are nervous about the Russia-baiting campaign – and even, like Greenwald himself contemptuous of it – but on the other hand they go along with the mainline Democrats’ campaign to appoint a special counsel to head up the McCarthyite witch-hunt for “Kremlin agents” in our midst. This ambiguity is motivated, in part, by a need to appease their liberal fan club: these people are reflexively anti-Trump and don’t much care how he’s brought down. The Sincere Liberals’ problem is that they know too much history – and are far too aware of the foreign policy consequences of the new McCarthyism – to go along with the Russian-under-every-bed hysteria that’s gripped the Democrats’ base.

What they don’t understand – or, perhaps, don’t want to understand – is that there’s no way to separate the witch-hunt on the home front from an actively anti-Russian foreign policy. If Russia is the Main Danger, then that holds true both at home and abroad: there’s no way to escape the logic of Russophobia.

The appointment of a special counsel would mean that the current anti-Russian hysteria would be extended into the indefinite future. It would mean a witch-hunt the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1950s. And it would preclude any hope of a rapprochement with Russia: no reduction in nuclear arms, no deal over Syria, and perhaps the beginning of a new arms race, with the threat of a major war hanging over us. In short, it would mean another cold war with Russia, and the prospect of World War III.

In a recent interview Greenwald did with the left-wing “Democracy Now,” the pseudo-communist Amy Goodman was eager to buttress the Democratic narrative, averring that the Russia-gate investigation was “getting close to the truth,” which is why Comey was fired. Of course, now that Russia is no longer communist, extreme leftists like Goodman are in the front line of the Russia-haters. Greenwald, however, was visibly queasy:

“Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s the obvious perception that, even if you’re trying to wear a lens of thick skepticism through which you’re viewing these events, you have to take into account. You know, but on the other hand, I still think that it’s an extremely dangerous situation when you have two countries like the United States and Russia, drowning in a nuclear-armed arsenal, to have it be politically radioactive on both sides, to be able to have constructive relations. And so, I think it’s imperative that we keep these two things separate.”

This is wishful thinking. History teaches us that no such separation is possible. Greenwald & Co. are going to have to choose between appeasing the Democratic base or staying true to their anti-interventionist, pro-civil liberties principles.

The same goes for Rep. Justin Amash, the alleged libertarian Republican congressman from Michigan, who is calling for a special counsel and is sponsoring legislation to set up some kind of “Russian Commission” to look into the issue of alleged Russian “subversion” of our precious bodily fluids. What this would amount to, in effect, would be the restoration of the old House Un-American Activities Committee, which notoriously dragged many writers, actors, and other into the dock, interrogated them, and sent some to prison when they refused to answer questions. The irony of this is that Amash is supposed to be a libertarian, and has made the defense of civil liberties his forte in the House. Yet what does he think will be the result of his “Russian Commission,” if it is ever established? It would be just another device for the government to spy on us, and to intimidate people for having non-approved political opinions. Amash’s support for this cockamamie scheme is inexplicable. – unless, that is, he’s trying to stave off another costly primary campaign from the neoconservatives, who hate him. Whatever the reason, his proposal is shameful coming from a supposed libertarian.

Acting FBI director McCabe contradicts White House statement on Comey dismissal

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has refuted claims that ousted Director James Comey had lost the confidence of the bureau. He also stressed the probe into Russian election meddling remained “highly significant.”

May 11, 2017

DW

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s testified before a Senate committee Thursday.

McCabe and other intelligence chiefs were questioned by the committee in a bid to get to the bottom of Comey’s surprise ousting Tuesday.

The White House had justified the move, stating that the former director had lost the confidence of rank and file within the bureau.

However, McCabe contradicted the White House, calling its assertions “not accurate.”

“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. The vast majority of FBI staff enjoyed a deep, positive connection to director Comey.”

The dismissal leaves the fate of the FBI’s probe into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign team deeply uncertain.

McCabe said the Russia investigation remained “highly significant” and that the FBI would not tolerate any White House interference in the matter, adding that he would not update the Trump administration on the status of the investigation.

“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he declared.

That investigation may have deepened Wednesday after Moscow released photos of a closed-door meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Scheduled to only meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov’s ad-hoc meeting with the president compounded the perception among critics that the Kremlin had scored a diplomatic coup — just months after being hit with sanctions by the previous administration under President Barack Obama.

White House officials reportedly admitted that they had not been told the images would be made public. The deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, tried to put on a brave face before the media, lambasting reporters for supposedly attacking Trump for “doing his job.”

Trump’s conversation with Comey

In an interview with US news network NBC on Thursday, Trump also appeared to contradict the White House’s earlier statement that he had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy General Secretary Rod Rosenstein for their opinions on Comey and acted on those recommendations.

The president stressed that he had decided to fire Comey himself, irrespective of Sessions’ or Rosenstein’s recommendation, because the former FBI Director was a “showboat” who had brought the bureau into “turmoil.”

Trump reiterated to NBC that Comey had said to him on three occasions that he was not under investigation as part of the FBI’s probe into Russia’s election meddling, an apparent attempt to quash suspicions that the bureau chief was fired for launching an inquest into the Trump campaign. The president had stated the same thing in his termination letter to Comey.

I know that I’m not under investigation,” Trump said. “Me personally. I’m not talking about campaigns or anything else. I am not under investigation.”

Asked by the Senate committee whether Comey had assured Trump that he was not being investigated, McCabe said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. However, he stated that it was not typical to tell a person whether or not he or she is the target of an investigation.

Deputy Press Secretary Sanders, however, told reporters that she believed it was not inappropriate or legally unsound for Trump to ask Comey whether he was under investigation.

Ukrainian general calls for destruction of Jews

“I’m telling you one more time – go to hell, kikes”, wrote senior officer affiliated to the intelligence services

May 11, 2017

thejc

In the latest of a series of highly public antisemitic statements by prominent figures in Ukraine, a retired Ukrainian general affiliated with the country’s intelligence services this week called for the destruction of his country’s Jewish community.

In a post since deleted from Facebook, Vasily Vovk – a general who holds a senior reserve rank with the Security Service of Ukraine, the local successor to the KGB – wrote that Jews “aren’t Ukrainians and I will destroy you along with [Ukrainian oligarch and Jewish lawmaker Vadim] Rabinovych. I’m telling you one more time – go to hell, zhidi [kikes], the Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.”

“Ukraine must be governed by Ukrainians,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian war hero-turned-lawmaker Nadiya Savchenko came under fire in March after saying during a television interview that Jews held disproportionate control over the levers of power in Ukraine.

More recently, opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko was forced to apologise after being filmed laughing at an antisemitic comedy act at a gathering of her Fatherland party, and Volodymyr Viatrovych, director of the state-run Institution for National Memory accused Jewish activist Eduard Dolinsky of fabricating antisemitic incidents for money.

Viatrovych is also running a public awareness campaign whitewashing the participation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), a Ukrainian nationalist militia, in the Holocaust.

In 2015 the Ukrainian parliament passed a law prohibiting the denigration of the UPA and other groups which fought for the country’s independence.

Earlier this month, Ukraine made waves internationally when it announced it was opening a murder investigation into the killing of a member of UPA by a ninety four year old Jewish ex-KGB agent in the early 1950s. Ukraine has not prosecuted any of its citizens for war crimes against Jews since the country gained its independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Asked for comment regarding the latest incident of antisemitic rhetoric, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv said it “regrets about the fact that General of the Security service of Ukraine left a highly provocative post of anti-Semitic character on his facebook page” but did not indicate if Vovk would be disciplined.

“The Embassy of Ukraine condemns all kinds of manifestations of antisemitism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, and is convinced that there should be no place for them in modern Ukrainian society,” an embassy spokesman wrote the JC.

Kremlin says may retaliate against U.S. over expulsion of Russian diplomats

May 12, 2017

Reuters

Russia may retaliate against the United States for the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats it said were spies, a top Kremlin aide said on Friday.

Moscow is also waiting for the return of two diplomatic compounds seized in the United States during the same espionage scandal, Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy aide, said.

“We are waiting for the return of Russian diplomatic property illegally impounded before the New Year by the previous U.S. authorities,” Ushakov told a news briefing.

“We decided not to respond immediately to this escapade, but no one has yet abolished the principle of reciprocity in diplomacy … Our patience is not without limits,” he said, saying Russian retaliation could not be ruled out.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had raised the issue of the compounds during a Washington visit this week, he said.

Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of the 35 Russians in late December and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over what he said was their involvement in hacking political groups in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the time he would not retaliate immediately and would wait until at least U.S. President-elect Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20 before deciding what action to take.

Ushakov said a meeting between Putin and Trump was likely to happen under the auspices of the G20 summit in Hamburg in Germany in July and that it was important that their meeting brought tangible results.

(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Thousands of ransomware cyberattacks reported worldwide

May 12, 2017

RT

A ransomware virus is reported to be spreading aggressively around the globe, with over 50,000 computers having been targeted. The virus infects computer files and then demands money to unblock them.

An increase in activity of the malware was noticed starting from 8am CET (07:00 GMT) Friday, security software company Avast reported, adding that it “quickly escalated into a massive spreading.”

In a matter of hours, over 57,000 attacks have been detected worldwide, the company said.

Seventy-four countries around the globe have been affected, with the number of victims still growing, according to the Russian multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider, the Kaspersky Lab.The ransomware, known as WanaCrypt0r 2.0, or WannaCry, is believed to have infected National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK and Spain’s biggest national telecommunications firm, Telefonica.

Britain and Spain are among the first nations who have officially recognized the attack. In Spain, apart from the telecommunications giant, Telefonica, a large number of other companies has been infected with the malicious software, Reuters reported.

The virus is said to attack computers on an internal network, as is the case with Telefonica, without affecting clients.

Computers at Russia’s Interior Ministry have been infected with the malware, the ministry said Friday evening.

Some 1,000 Windows-operated PCs were affected, which is less than one percent of the total number of such computers in the ministry, spokeswoman Irina Volk said in a statement.

The virus has been localized and steps are being taken to eliminate it.

The servers of the ministry have not been affected, Volk added, saying it’s operated by different systems for Russia-developed data processing machines.

Russian telecom giant, Megafon has also been affected.

“The very virus that is spreading worldwide and demanding $300 to be dealt with has been found on a large number of our computers in the second half of the day today,” Megafon’s spokesperson Pyotr Lidov told RT.

The internal network had been affected, he said, adding that in terms of the company’s customer services, the work of the support team had been temporarily hindered, “as operators use computers” to provide their services.

The company immediately took appropriate measures, the spokesperson said, adding that the incident didn’t affect subscribers’ devices or Megafon signal capabilities in any way.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said the cyberattack on UK hospitals is part of a wider international attack.

In Sweden, the mayor of Timra said “around 70 computers have had a dangerous code installed,” Reuters reported.

According to Avast, the ransomware has also targeted Ukraine and Taiwan.

The virus is apparently the upgraded version of the ransomware that first appeared in February. Believed to be affecting only Windows operated computers, it changes the affected file extension names to “.WNCRY.”

It then drops ransom notes to a user in a text file, demanding $300 worth of bitcoins to be paid to unlock the infected files within a certain period of time.

While the victim’s wallpaper is being changed, affected users also see a countdown timer to remind them of the limited time they have to pay the ransom. If they fail to pay, their data will be deleted, cybercriminals warn.

According to the New York Times, citing security experts, the ransomware exploits a “vulnerability that was discovered and developed by the National Security Agency (NSA).” The hacking tool was leaked by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, the report said, adding, that it has been distributing the stolen NSA hacking tools online since last year.

Malware, described in leaked NSA documents, cripples computers worldwide

May 12, 2017

by Craig Timberg, Griff Witte and Karla Adam

The Washington Post

Malicious software that blocks access to computers is spreading swiftly across the world, snarling critical systems in hospitals, telecommunications and corporate offices, apparently with the help of a software vulnerability originally discovered by the National Security Agency.

The reports of the malware spread began in Britain, where the National Health Service (NHS) reported serious problems throughout Friday. But government officials and cybersecurity experts later described a far more extensive problem growing across the Internet and unbounded by national borders. Europe and Latin America were especially hard hit.

“This is not targeted at the NHS,” British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters. “It’s an international attack, and a number of countries and organizations have been affected.”

Cyber experts said the malicious software works by exploiting a flaw in Microsoft software that was described in NSA documents stolen from the agency and leaked publicly by a criminal group called Shadow Brokers.

Microsoft released a patch fixing the flaw in March, but it was apparently applied inconsistently, with many computers continuing to be unprotected. The malicious software — called “ransomware” because it encrypts systems and threatens to destroy data if a ransom is not paid — is spreading among computers that have not been patched, experts said.

So-called “phishing” attacks are delivering the malicious software by tricking email recipients to open misleading links that take over computers. Such attacks have become increasingly common in recent years, mainly because they are simple to execute and lucrative for attackers.

But the speed and scale of the spread of the malicious software startled experts.

“It’s one of the first times we’ve seen a large international global campaign,” said Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer for Flashpoint, a cyber-intelligence company.

This ransomware program has hit companies including FedEx and the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica.

“Like many other companies, FedEx is experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware. We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible. We regret any inconvenience to our customers,” FedEx said in a statement Friday.

The program is called Wanna Decrypt0R 2.0 and appears to support 28 different languages, indicating its potential worldwide reach. A shorthand for the ransomware’s name “#wannacry” began trending on Twitter on Friday.

The ransomware locks computers and then launches a ransom note in a text file, according to researchers at the Avast security software company in the Czech Republic.

The note says that “you need to pay service fees for the decryption” and asks for $300 worth of Bitcoin to be sent electronically to an address.

It was not clear who would receive the funds, nor the group or individual behind the attack.

A sum of $300 is a fairly low ransom when compared to some previous attacks, such as last June at the University of Calgary, which agreed to pay nearly $16,000 in bitcoin currency to an unknown group of hackers.

The WannaCry ransom note also says, dryly: “Don’t worry about decryption. We will decrypt your files surely because nobody will trust us if we cheat users.”

Though the exploit used by the ransomware attack relies on a computer flaw discovered by the NSA, some experts said responsibility for the wide spread of Friday’s problems lies with the failure of many institutions to keep their computers updated.

In a statement Friday, Microsoft said: “Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt. In March, we provided a security update which provides additional protections against this potential attack. Those who are running our free antivirus software and have Windows Update enabled, are protected. We are working with customers to provide additional assistance.”

The BBC broadcast a screen shot of a message apparently sent to National Health Service medical facilities demanding payments for unlocking computer files that had been “encrypted” by the attack.

Officials made no public comment on the possible source of the hack, which touched off havoc and confusion across the state-run health system. Operations were canceled, emergency room services were scaled down, and medical personnel went back to using handwritten notes.

Health officials offered no indication of when services might return to normal, or whether patient records could be permanently lost to the attack.

“The most exploitable industry in the world is the health-care sector,” said Tom Kellerman, chief executive of Strategic Cyber Ventures. He said the industry is chronically hobbled by regulation and insufficient investment in computer security.

A statement from NHS Digital — the computer services arm of the health service — said at least 16 hospitals or doctor’s offices were directly affected by the attack. Officials later acknowledged the number was rising, though they did not give a precise figure.

Other health-care centers, meanwhile, turned off their computers to avoid potential infiltration. NHS Digital said it did “not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed.”

There also was no immediate evidence to suggest disruptions to medical procedures that use high-tech tools. But the basic business of hospitals was being thrown into turmoil.

The style of attack that appeared to be on display Friday has become increasingly common in recent years, said Cornell University computer science professor Emin Gun Sirer. . The attackers typically demand payment be made in bitcoins because “there are no take-backs. Once a transfer has been made, it’s final.”

Sirer said ransomware has become a lucrative business for criminal syndicates that can make millions of dollars a day from such attacks. Once a victim has been successfully attacked, their choices are limited.

“Undoing the hack is going to be just about impossible,” he said. “The only options are to wipe the machines and move on or to pay the ransom.”

Nigel Inkster, former director of operations and intelligence for MI6, told Sky News that one of the reasons the NHS in particular was vulnerable was its outdated software system. “A lot of hospital trusts in the U.K. — 40-plus last time I checked — are running their systems on Windows XP software, which hasn’t been supported by Microsoft for two or three years,” he said. “In other words, Microsoft is no longer looking for and seeking to repair vulnerabilities in the system.”

Attacks on health-care systems can also be especially high-stakes, creating potential life-or-death situations and raising the chances that the victim will ultimately pay.

Signs hung on the door at the emergency ward at the Royal London Hospital Friday afternoon read: “The emergency department has no IT facilities”

Across England on Friday, as well as at a handful of facilities in Scotland, internal tech systems were down in hospitals ranging from the center of London to rural parts of the country’s south and north.

The attack affected emergency services in some locations, and patients were urged to avoid visits to the emergency room unless absolutely necessary.

NHS Digital said it would be working with Britain’s National Cyber Security Center in efforts to resolve the outage. It soon became clear that the assault extended far beyond Britain’s health service.

“This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organizations from across a range of sectors,” NHS Digital said in its statement without giving details.

The attack came as Spain’s National Cryptologic Center announced a “massive ransomware attack” against Spanish companies. The statement said the attackers were demanding a ransom payment in bitcoins.

The attack in Britain had immediate impacts in hospitals across the country.

Richard Harvey, 50, was just about to undergo surgery Friday afternoon on his leg following a motorcycle accident when a nurse told him that the procedure had been canceled due to a cyberattack.

“I’m a bit of a nervous person and had to get settled about the operation, which I was. Now I had to go through that again,” said Harvey, a former hospital porter who had been fasting since the previous evening in preparation for the operation at Royal London Hospital in east London. “A cyberattack? That doesn’t happen every day.”

Stephen Hirst, a doctor in the northern English town of Preston, told the BBC that the first sign of the infiltration was an error message warning that “we’d have to pay money to unlock the computer because it’s been encrypted.

“It’s compromising having to open files and complete prescriptions. It’s interfering with day-to-day functioning,” Hirst said.

Doctors were using pen and paper as the National Health Service struggled to get computers back online. Routine appointments were being canceled.

The BBC reported that a list of affected locations included London, Blackburn, Nottingham, Cumbria and Hertfordshire.

Cybersecurity has been high on the agenda of many high-level gatherings of Western military and political leaders.

A report issued Wednesday by the European Commission called for greater attention to cyberthreats as the world becomes “more vulnerable to cyberattacks, with security breaches causing significant damage.” It said the commission plans a full review of European Union cybersecurity measures by September.

Witte and Adam reported from London.

 Worldwide ‘ransomware’ attack reported in at least 14 countries

A large-scale cyberattack that disrupted the UK health service has also affected a number of other firms, including telecoms giant Telefonica. Attacks have also been reported in Russia, Indonesia and many other nations.

May 12, 2017

DW

The “ransomware”cyberattack that disrupted several hospitals across the UK on Friday was revealed to be part of a large-scale global attack, with reports suggesting that there were some 50,000 more similar incidents in as many as 14 countries.

Another high-profile organization to be hit with the malicious malware was the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, which owns the German mobile network providers O2 and E-Plus. However, a spokesperson for the firm said that attack had only targeted computers on its internal network and had not affected customers.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), however, experienced major delays, with a number of hospitals and surgeries even turning away patients and forcing ambulances to divert to neighboring hospitals. The Health Service Journal reported that X-ray imaging systems, pathology test results and patient administration systems were all affected.

NHS Digital, the health service’s IT division, said it could not yet determine whether patient records had been accessed or compromised.

Systems held for ransom

Ransomware is a malicious software that locks up a machine by encrypting its files and data. Users have to pay a ransom fee within a set period of time. The particular malware that spread on Friday was identified as “Wanna Cry” or “Wanna Decryptor.”

NHS staff posted pictures on social media of their computer screens displaying the message, “Oops, your files have been encrypted!” and image demanding a payment of $300 (275 euros) in the online currency bitcoin to recover the files.

Both Britain’s National Cyber Security Center and Spain’s National Center for the Protection of Critical Infrastructure said they were working with companies hit by or potentially targeted by the attack.

Worldwide reach

Chris Doman, a researcher at the for the computer-security platform AlienWare, told the Reuters news agency that the ransomware infection had targeted up to 14 countries, including Russia, Indonesia and Ukraine.

Jakub Kroustek of the Czech Republic-based cyber security software company Avast, wrote in a company blog post that he had logged 57,000 detections of the malware. “According to our data, the ransomware is mainly being targeted to Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan, but the ransomware has successfully infected major institutions, like hospitals across England and Spanish telecommunications company, Telefonica,” he wrote.

 

 

 

 

 

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