US experts warn of cyberattack risk over further sanctions on Russia

US officials security specialists warn that Russian hackers may answer new sanctions by attacking computer networks of US banks and large companies.

Officials involved in a White House review of the effects of further penalties on Russia did not respond to questions about whether the study explored the risk of cyberattacks. Even so, two sources said it included revisiting previous classified exercises in which small numbers of computer experts showed they were able to cripple the United States economy in a few days.

Cybersecurity specialists consider Russian hackers among the world’s best at infiltrating networks and say evidence exists that they have already inserted malicious software on computers in the US. Continue reading

Is your money safe at the bank? An economist says ‘no’ and withdraws his

And he’s right about the FDIC having less funds available than what it needs to cover its obligations.

Last week I had over $1,000,000 in a checking account at Bank of America. Next week, I will have $10,000.

Why am I getting in line to take my money out of Bank of America? Because of Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, who officially begins her term as chairwoman on Feb. 1.

Before I explain, let me disclose that I have been a stopped clock of criticism of the Federal Reserve for half a decade. That’s because I believe that when the Fed intervenes in markets, it has two effects — both negative. First, it decreases overall wealth by distorting markets and causing bad investment decisions. Second, the members of the Fed become reverse Robin Hoods as they take from the poor (and unsophisticated) investors and give to the rich (and politically connected). These effects have been noticed; a Gallup poll taken in the last few days reports that only the richest Americans support the Fed. (See the table.) Continue reading

Bank of America issues `bond crash’ alert on Fed tightening fears

The 1994 bond shock – and seared in the memories of bond-holders – ricocheted through global markets. It bankrupted Orange Country, California, which was caught flat-footed with large bond positions. It set off the Tequila Crisis in Mexico as the cost of rolling over `tesobonos’ linked to the US dollar suddenly jumped.

Bank of America said the “Great Rotation” under way from bonds into equities closely tracks the pattern of 1994, with bank stocks leading the way. Continue reading

Money for Nothin’ Writing Checks for Free

When coming from PIMCO, alarm bells should be going off.

Mr. Bernanke never provided additional clarity as to what he meant by “no cost.” Perhaps he was referring to zero-bound interest rates, although at the time in 2002, 10-year Treasuries were at 4%. Or perhaps he knew something that American citizens, their political representatives, and almost all investors still don’t know: that quantitative easing – the purchase of Treasury and Agency mortgage obligations from the private sector – IS essentially costless in a number of ways. That might strike almost all of us as rather incredible – writing checks for free – but that in effect is what a central bank does. Yet if ordinary citizens and corporations can’t overdraft their accounts without criminal liability, how can the Fed or the European Central Bank or any central bank get away with printing “electronic money” and distributing it via helicopter flyovers in the trillions and trillions of dollars?

Well, the answer is sort of complicated but then it’s sort of simple: They just make it up. When the Fed now writes $85 billion of checks to buy Treasuries and mortgages every month, they really have nothing in the “bank” to back them. Supposedly they own a few billion dollars of “gold certificates” that represent a fairy-tale claim on Ft. Knox’s secret stash, but there’s essentially nothing there but trust. When a primary dealer such as J.P. Morgan or Bank of America sells its Treasuries to the Fed, it gets a “credit” in its account with the Fed, known as “reserves.” It can spend those reserves for something else, but then another bank gets a credit for its reserves and so on and so on. The Fed has told its member banks “Trust me, we will always honor your reserves,” and so the banks do, and corporations and ordinary citizens trust the banks, and “the beat goes on,” as Sonny and Cher sang. $54 trillion of credit in the U.S. financial system based upon trusting a central bank with nothing in the vault to back it up. Amazing! Continue reading

Iran Strikes Back

At this pace, it’s only a matter of time an event this video portrays will happen again. One can only hope this time there will still be a safety net in place.

Iranian hackers took over a University of Michigan computer network during a massive cyber attack on U.S. financial systems last week that continued following comments on the strike by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

According to reports by a leading Internet security-monitoring firm, the cyber attacks against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, and several other U.S. financial institutions began Oct. 8 when hackers gained control of the university’s College of Engineering network in Ann Arbor. Continue reading