Monday, 15 May 2017

Ransom Attacks, Is It Over?

Baltic Dry Index. 1012 +07     Brent Crude 51.60

The difference between a misfortune and a calamity is this: If Juncker fell into the Thames, it would be a misfortune. But if someone dragged him out again, that would be a calamity.
Prime Minister May, with apologies to Benjamin Disraeli and Gladstone.
We open with the big story of the week. Will there be more waves of ransom computer attacks. No one knows of course, but the security experts expect the blackmailers to release tweaked versions of Friday’s global attack. Versions that can counter the fixes so far successfully used. How we must thank America’s NSA for inventing this stuff and not successfully preventing it getting into rogue hands.  So far this morning Asia and Australia seem to be coping well as they reopen, hopefully a good omen for Europe and America later today.

New Wave of Ransom Threats Seen in Unprecedented Global Attack

by Jordan Robertson and Rebecca Penty
15 May 2017, 04:25 GMT+1
  • Renault, FedEx among companies affected by cyber-attack
  • Europol says more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries hit
An unrivaled global cyber-attack is poised to continue claiming victims Monday as people return to work and turn on their desktop computers, even as hospitals and other facilities gained the upper hand against the first wave.

More than 200,000 computers in at least 150 countries have so far been infected, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. The U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said new cases of so-called ransomware are possible “at a significant scale.”

“We’ve seen the rise of ransomware becoming the principal threat, I think, but this is something we haven’t seen before -- the global reach is unprecedented,” Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright said on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday” broadcast.

The malware used a technique purportedly stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency. It affected the U.K.’s National Health Service, Russia’s Ministry of Interior, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn rail system, automakers Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, PetroChina, logistics giant FedEx Corp., and other company and hospital computer systems in countries from Eastern Europe to the U.S. and Asia.

----The initial attack was stifled when a security researcher disabled a key mechanism used by the worm to spread, but experts said the hackers were likely to mount a second attack because so many users of personal computers with Microsoft operating systems couldn’t or didn’t download a security patch released in March that Microsoft had labeled “critical.”

Microsoft said in a blog post Saturday that it was taking the “highly unusual“ step of providing the patch for older versions of Windows it was otherwise no longer supporting, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

While the scale of the attack shows Microsoft needs to strengthen its own capabilities, “there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their system,” Smith said in his blog post. “Otherwise they’re literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past.

Up next, President Macron’s “Plan A” looks dead on arrival as Chancellor Merkel looks more likely to win the September German election, than Macron’s ally Schulz. Without Germany onboard Plan A, President Macron can’t reshape the EUSSR into a big socialist, cross-border, cross-subsidising, French-German run super-state. At present there is no “Plan B” because no one knows how Macron’s candidates will fare in next month’s French parliamentary elections. For now President Macron is in office but barely in power.

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.

John Kenneth Galbraith.

Merkel's Hand Strengthened by German Voters Ahead of Summits

by Arne Delfs and Rainer Buergin
14 May 2017, 21:06 GMT+1
Chancellor Angela Merkel is picking up a tailwind for Germany’s election in September, strengthening her position at home and on the global stage ahead of a series of summits with fellow leaders including President Donald Trump.

Written off last year for her open-border stance on refugees, Merkel is clawing back when it counts. Her party’s election victory in Germany’s most populous state on Sunday highlights her pull among voters as Merkel stands up for free trade, vows to hold the European Union together and fends off Trump’s attacks in a conflict over defense spending. Merkel plans to hold a news conference Monday at about 12 p.m. in Berlin, before hosting French President Emmanuel Macron for their first meeting after his inauguration.

“Almost everybody in Europe expects that Merkel will stay in power” now, Famke Krumbmueller, a partner at political-risk consultancy OpenCitiz, said by phone. For European peers such as Macron, that means “he can be pretty sure now that he will have to deal with Angela Merkel in the next four years.”

After Macron’s victory in France, the decisive win by Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the German industrial heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia is another setback for the populists who propelled the U.K. out of the European Union and Trump into the White House. After 12 years in office, it confirms the German leader’s standing before she heads to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Group of Seven summits in Brussels and Sicily next week.

Elsewhere in Europe, the finance minister’s summit in Bari, Italy, went about as well as expected, which is to say, everyone reserved their position on President Trump’s “America First” protectionist trade policy. The deaf largely talked to the deaf. So it’s all on to the upcoming Great Leaders Pow-Wow, in Sodom-on-the-sea, May 26-27.

Trump Doctrine Confounds G-7 as Ministers Kick Can to Sicily

by David Goodman and Alessandra Migliaccio
15 May 2017, 05:00 GMT+1
Group-of-Seven ministers slowly coming to terms with the reality of Donald Trump’s administration are about to leave the heavy lifting to their bosses.

Finance chiefs in Italy at the weekend spoke of an improving relationship with their U.S. counterpart Steven Mnuchin, in a contrast to previous encounters. But with their gathering in Bari cementing rather than mending disagreements on free trade, the risk is that the diplomatic truce they achieved unwinds when Trump himself meets with G-7 leaders on the island of Sicily later this month.

“They couldn’t do more for now,” said Simone Romano, a research fellow in economics at Rome Institute for International Affairs. “At the upcoming G-7 leaders, Trump is a bit of unknown quantity -- it can go well or badly, he can decide something suits him and things can advance rapidly, or not. So, the ministers did O.K. under the circumstances.”

For all the talk of warmer relations after the event, the rest of the G-7 remains fundamentally divided from the U.S. on the legitimacy of free-flowing global commerce -- a concept against which Trump was outspoken during his election campaign. The Bari meeting of finance ministers resulted in a communique that maintained only diluted language on trade, while noting collaboration on a host of issues from tackling cybercrime and inequality to addressing currency manipulation.

Sat May 13, 2017 | 2:23pm EDT

U.S. fails to reassure Europe, Japan over 'Trumponomics'

The United States said on Saturday the world's other rich economies were getting used to the policy plans of President Donald Trump, but Europe and Japan showed they remained worried about Washington's shift.
Officials from the Group of Seven nations met in southern Italy hoping to hear more about Trump's plans which they fear will revive protectionism and set back the global approach to issues such as banking reform and climate change.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States reserved the right to be protectionist if it thought trade was not free or fair.
"We do not want to be protectionist but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent that we believe trade is not free and fair... Our approach is for more balanced trade, and people have heard that," Mnuchin told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting.
"And as I say, people are more comfortable today, now that they've had the opportunity to spend time with me and listen to the president and hear our economic message."
Other ministers from the G7 countries made it clear they did not share his view.
"All the six others ... said explicitly, and sometimes very directly, to the representatives of the U.S. administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of international cooperation," French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters.
Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said there was a "light breeze" of optimism within the G7 about the recovering global economy after years of sluggish growth following the financial crisis that began nearly a decade ago.
But he said the continued uncertainty about the direction of U.S. policy represented a risk, echoing comments made on Friday by Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso.

In UK v EUSSR news, Prime Minister May looks to be heading for a landslide victory. How 
the EU now regrets snubbing Dodgy Dave Cameron’s EUSSR reform farewell tour, of early 2016.

Dodgy Dave Cameron: "Juncker, I haven't tasted food for 3 days." 

Juncker: "Well, I wouldn't worry about it... it still tastes the same."

How the EU helps out. With apologies to Curly, Moe, and Larry.

Labour Lawmakers Said to Fear Losing 120 Seats in U.K. Election

by Alex Morales
The U.K. opposition Labour Party may lose as many as 120 seats in next month’s general election, two of the party’s lawmakers who are defending seats said, citing internal polling that paints a bleaker picture than public surveys.

Some Labour seats with majorities of more than 10,000 may even come into play in the June 8 vote, the politicians said. Both lawmakers declined to be identified discussing internal party matters. The Labour Party declined to comment when contacted by phone on Sunday.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is trailing badly in the polls, with most showing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives ahead by 15 percentage points or more, suggesting she’s on course for a landslide win. The opposition won 232 seats in the 2015 general election, and a loss of 120 would reduce them to just 112 constituencies.

“That’s worse than even the most pessimistic projections,” John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said in an interview. “It would be Labour’s worst result since the 1930s.”

Curtice said most projections show Labour winning from 170 to 180 seats, a loss of 50-60 lawmakers. The 
Electoral Calculus website on Sunday put Labour on 166 seats, with the Conservatives on 410. The House of Commons has 650 seats.

Sun May 14, 2017 | 1:40pm EDT

Britain is gearing up for EU disputes, Brexit minister says

Britain is gearing up for rows with the EU over the structure of divorce talks and the future role of the European court, fuelling an increasingly bitter war of words before negotiations begin.

David Davis, Brexit minister in Prime Minister Theresa May's government, described the EU's position on the talks' format as "illogical" and said he took "slight offense" to suggestions that European courts were better than those in Britain.

The atmosphere between London and Brussels has soured in recent weeks as battle lines are drawn before the complex negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union are due to start next month, a year after June's referendum vote to quit.

Asked about the EU's stance that the two sides should first make progress on citizens' rights, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and a financial settlement before starting discussions on a future relationship, Davis said the sequencing was "illogical".

"How on earth do you resolve the issue of the border with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless you know what our general borders policy is, what the customs agreement is, what the free trade agreement is, whether you need to charge tariffs at the border or not?" he asked on Britain's ITV.

"You can't decide one without the other, it's wholly illogical ... That will be the row of the summer."

With hacking big in the news, we close with possibly the biggest error of all, and the baddies didn’t even need to break in. Unless the error was only available for a matter of hours, which I think highly unlikely, almost certainly others will have discovered this treasure trove and copied it.  Since they didn’t inform NYU, I would assume that this was an incredible massive own goal.

NYU Accidentally Exposed Military Code-breaking Computer Project to Entire Internet

May 11 2017, 3:57 p.m.
In early December 2016, Adam was doing what he’s always doing, somewhere between hobby and profession: looking for things that are on the internet that shouldn’t be. That week, he came across a server inside New York University’s famed Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing, headed by the brilliant Chudnovsky brothers, David and Gregory. The server appeared to be an internet-connected backup drive. But instead of being filled with family photos and spreadsheets, this drive held confidential information on an advanced code-breaking machine that had never before been described in public. Dozens of documents spanning hundreds of pages detailed the project, a joint supercomputing initiative administered by NYU, the Department of Defense, and IBM. And they were available for the entire world to download.

The supercomputer described in the trove, “WindsorGreen,” was a system designed to excel at the sort of complex mathematics that underlies encryption, the technology that keeps data private, and almost certainly intended for use by the Defense Department’s signals intelligence wing, the National Security Agency. WindsorGreen was the successor to another password-cracking machine used by the NSA, “WindsorBlue,” which was also  documented in the material leaked from NYU and which had been previously described in the Norwegian press thanks to a document provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Both systems were intended for use by the Pentagon and a select few other Western governments, including Canada and Norway.
Adam, an American digital security researcher, requested that his real name not be published out of fear of losing his day job. Although he deals constantly with digital carelessness, Adam was nonetheless stunned by what NYU had made available to the world. “The fact that this software, these spec sheets, and all the manuals to go with it were sitting out in the open for anyone to copy is just simply mind blowing,” he said.
He described to The Intercept how easy it would have been for someone to obtain the material, which was marked with warnings like “DISTRIBUTION LIMITED TO U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ONLY,” “REQUESTS FOR THIS DOCUMENT MUST BE REFERRED TO AND APPROVED BY THE DOD,” and “IBM Confidential.” At the time of his discovery, Adam wrote to me in an email:
All of this leaky data is courtesy of what I can only assume are misconfigurations in the IMAS (Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing) department at NYU. Not even a single username or password separates these files from the public internet right now. It’s absolute insanity.
The files were taken down after Adam notified NYU.


Protecting your organisation from ransomware

Created:  17 Oct 2016  Updated:  17 Oct 2016
How to prevent a ransomware incident, and what to do if your organisation is infected.
Ransomware is a growing global cyber security threat, and one which could affect any organisation that does not have appropriate defences. The first half of 2016 saw an almost threefold increase in ransomware variants compared to the whole of 2015[1].  While ransomware against Windows operating systems has been commonplace for some years, attacks against Mac and Linux systems are also seen.

The methods for infecting systems with ransomware are similar to other types of malicious software, as are the steps organisations can take to protect themselves. Depending on your level of preparation, ransomware infection can cause minor irritation or wide-scale disruption.

This guidance provides an overview of ransomware, suggests some simple steps to prevent a ransomware incident, and advises on what to do if your organisation is infected by ransomware.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.

John Kenneth Galbraith.

Crooks and Scoundrels Corner

The bent, the seriously bent, and the totally doubled over.
Below, more on Macron’s world.
Sun May 14, 2017 | 5:05am EDT

Macron's win adds to Poland's worries about its place in EU

While the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president with a vision of closer European Union integration was a relief to much of Europe, for Poland and Hungary it fanned fears of losing influence.
Poland has been the most vocal among eastern EU members fearing that their wealthier western neighbors, keen to deepen cooperation among themselves, will erode the single market that has been the biggest benefit of membership in the east and, in shifting power westward, reduce financial support for less wealthy countries.
Macron's arrival, and his support for the "multi-speed" Europe idea that has been gaining support in Germany and other EU countries since Britain's decision to quit the bloc, make it more likely that a key decision-making circle could exclude the former communist capitals of Budapest and Warsaw.
It would also thwart their efforts to shift power from Brussels back to member states.
Underlining their concerns, Polish officials have accused Macron of double standards and of contravening the spirit of the single market by calling for reforms of rules on moving workers within the bloc.
----A decision by Whirlpool to shift a tumble drier factory from France to Poland took center-stage in France's presidential campaign last month, with Macron's far-right opponent Marine Le Pen saying she would nationalise the plant. 
Macron, an ardent defender of globalization as well as European integration, refused to be drawn into promising the workers he would prevent the company moving its production.
But he did say Warsaw was exploiting differences in labor costs, which could not be tolerated. He alluded to the problem of social dumping - a hot-button issue in France - which refers to companies employing cheaper labor from other EU countries or moving production to lower-wage countries.
Polish Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Poland's state broadcaster that this amounted to "discrimination", and others said Macron was undermining the principles of the single market.
"It cannot be that when Poland is an export market then it is good, but when it attracts foreign investment, including from France ... that's not good any more," Morawiecki said this week.
"When it becomes serious, you have to lie"             

Jean-Claude Juncker. Failed Luxembourg Prime Minister and ex-president of the Euro Group of Finance Ministers. Confessed liar. EC President.
Technology Update.
With events happening fast in the development of solar power and graphene, I’ve added this section. Updates as they get reported. Is converting sunlight to usable cheap AC or DC energy mankind’s future from the 21st century onwards? DC? A quantum computer next?

Tesla's new moonshot is solar energy — here's why it might just work

By Christian de Looper 12/5/17 World of tech  

Can Tesla change how we power our homes, forever?

Tesla is a powerhouse in the modern tech world, and for good reason. The company's push for electric cars has captivated consumers, investors and industry observers, and the result is that Tesla is now the most valuable American car company. CEO Elon Musk has even set his sights on overtaking Apple one day in terms of company worth.

More recently, Tesla's focus has broadened, and it's made a different kind of push, one that aims to capture energy from the sun and use it to power people's homes.

The move makes sense. Tesla isn't just a car manufacturer; it's a multi-pronged company aiming for unseen heights in renewable energy. Tesla wants to radically transform how we access and use energy in our everyday lives, and to that end it's spearheading two different products: solar panels and solar roof tiles, also known as the Tesla Solar Roof.

Tesla's solar products are remarkably different than what we're used to seeing. Not only are the designs sleeker than traditional solar panels, but Tesla claims they are also cheaper, and that's before the savings you can expect on your power bill.

There are, of course, plenty of questions. How does Tesla plan to implement this new wave of solar power products? Is its technology really cheaper and more effective than traditional solar panels? Can Tesla pull off completely transforming home energy consumption, forever?

Tesla and solar energy: a brief history

Tesla's mission in solar and beyond is clear: the company wants to re-imagine how we consume energy. You might not know, however, that this plan actually isn't new.

In the 'Secret Tesla Motors Plan (just between you and me),' a blog post written in 2006, Musk described his grand vision to transform Tesla into more than a car company.

"...the overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution," wrote Musk.

Tesla started laying the groundwork for that transformation long before it announced any solar panel. Critical to using green energy is the ability to store it, and Tesla came up with a way to do just that in the Powerwall. First announced in 2015, the Tesla Powerwall serves as a battery to store energy captured by solar panels and tiles.

The monthly Coppock Indicators finished April

DJIA: 20,941 +149 Up. NASDAQ:  6,048 +190 Up. SP500: 2,384 +152 Up.