Obama’s cybersecurity adviser: Biometrics will replace passwords for safety’s sake

The days of using a password to access a bank account or cellphone will soon be a thing of the past, President Obama’s top cybersecurity adviser said Thursday.

The risk of getting hacked by criminals has grown so widespread that far more sophisticated identification technology — including biometric scanning devices — will become the norm, said Michael Daniel, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator.

“You’ve started to see some of that with the emergence of the fingerprint readers,” said Mr. Daniel, adding that the technology will become increasingly mainstream as cellphone cameras, “hard” card readers and other authentication gadgets replace the annoying process for millions of Americans of punching in a password to confirm their identity.

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Uncle Europe wants you!

“Learn a trade in the European Army. Send your applications to the following email or postal address…” Such slogans do not yet appear on posters displayed in the metros of Berlin, Rome, Warsaw or Madrid. Yet, if the EU did have its own army, it would be the biggest recruiter on the continent and an important provider of jobs, both direct and indirect. Continue reading

Attacking Iran: Did US just torpedo Israeli deal for a base in Azerbaijan?

Quoting unnamed senior US diplomats and military intelligence officials, a lengthy article in Foreign Policy magazine asserts that “Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border.”

“The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official is quoted as saying, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”

Why would US officials be talking about this? Likely to slow down any rush to war in an already volatile region, some speculate.

“I think this leak today is part of the administration’s campaign against an Israeli attack,” former US diplomat John Bolton said Thursday on Fox News.

“Clearly, this is an administration-orchestrated leak,” Mr. Bolton said, adding, “It’s just unprecedented to reveal this kind of information about one of your own allies.”

Full article: Attacking Iran: Did US just torpedo Israeli deal for a base in Azerbaijan? (Christian Science Monitor)

Video Games: The New American Pastime

Today’s food for thought:

As the Christian Science Monitor brings out, 183 million Americans play video games at least an “hour a day.” Virtually all Americans (97 percent) ages 12 to 17 play video games. And almost 5 million Americans play at least 40 hours a week—the equivalent of a full-time job.

Millions of people live, breath and play in virtual worlds. It is not only young people either. Atari hit it big in the early 1970s. Today, one quarter of all gamers are over the age of 50.

By the time the average American youth turns 21, he will on average have spent 10,000 hours playing video games over the course of more than a decade.

Consider that number. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000-hour rule. To achieve mastery in any field of expertise, he explains, takes about 10,000 hours of practice over the course of about 10 years. Experts become experts because they abide by this rule. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good,” Gladwell writes. “It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Imagine what those 5 million Americans who spend 40 hours a week playing video games could accomplish if they instead devoted that much work to something useful. In just five years, this country would have 5 million more master designers, craftsmen, engineers, pilots, scientists, builders, artists, architects, painters, geologists, farmers, inventors, poets, screenplay writers, opera singers, tuba players—the list goes on and on. Imagine how different America could be if the 183 million Americans who spend at least one hour a day playing video games did the same thing.

And now imagine the world we might live in if all these people took just a portion of that time and spent it with their families and taught their children how to become experts themselves.

What a different, more prosperous, more inspiring, more beautiful world we would live in. How would your life be different? Are you willing to change the course of your child’s life?

Many people look at America and decry its deficiencies. People see its economy collapsing. They see America’s waning influence and its growing list of enemies. They see the political fighting and dysfunction in Washington and a house divided among itself. They see a nation of eroding morals and common decency.

And they wonder, why are these things happening, and why doesn’t someone stand up and put this nation back on course?

Full article: Video Games: The New American Pastime (The Trumpet)

What sanctions? Top five countries buying oil from Iran.

Third-world economies have no bottom, therefore sanctions are unlikely to be as hard hitting as most believe. There will always be another customer for oil.

Iran is the third-largest exporter of crude oil in the world, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. Its economy relies heavily on oil exports. Recent Western sanctions have targeted Iran’s oil industry in hopes of pressuring Tehran to address international concerns about its nuclear program.

However, the effect of the sanctions could be limited if Iran’s top customers keep buying oil, or even increase their imports. According to tallies from June 2011, here are the top 5 importers of Iranian oil:

1. China

2. India

3. Japan

4. South Korea

5. Turkey

Full article: What sanctions? Top five countries buying oil from Iran. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Is Iran trying to develop a missile that could reach America?

Is Iran trying to develop a missile that could reach the “Great Satan”?

The missile under construction at an Iranian research-and-development facility, which was damaged by a mysterious explosion in November, was a long-range missile prototype with a range of 6,000 miles – enough to hit the United States, a senior Israeli official said Thursday in a speech to a defense and security forum.

At the time of the Nov. 12 explosion at a facility some 30 miles outside Tehran, Iranian officials insisted that the suspicious blast was an accident. It occurred, they said, during experimentation on a medium-range missile – one capable of reaching Israel.

But on Thursday, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, said in a speech outside Tel Aviv that the missile under development actually had a range closer to 6,000 miles.

“That’s the Great Satan,” Mr. Yaalon said, using the well-known pejorative term that Iranian officials have used for the US. “It was aimed at America, not at us.”

Full article: Is Iran trying to develop a missile that could reach America? (Christian Science Monitor)

How Iran could beat up on America’s superior military

America’s defense budget is roughly 90 times bigger than Iran’s. But Iran has a well-honed strategy of asymmetric warfare.

Indeed, Iran can cause immense harm, analysts say, without ever directly facing off against far superior conventional US forces. Even a few incidents – like mines laid in the Gulf, or Iran’s small-boat swarming tactics against oil tankers or a US Navy ship – could raise fears of insecurity to unacceptably high levels.

It could also have far-reaching economic consequences, including a spike in oil prices, since roughly a third of all seaborne oil shipments pass through the Strait of Hormuz – making it the single most important choke point for oil tankers in the world.

“[Iran’s] final aim is not to physically close [the strait] for too long, but to drive up shipping insurance and other costs to astronomical heights – which is just as good, in terms of economic damage, as the physical closing of the strait,” says a former senior European diplomat who recently finished a six-year tour in Tehran.

“If you are not sure whether you will get hit, or if you get hit not by conventional force but some wild boat that might float around in the sea – or a mine or two – that will create far more insecurity than a battle line where the strait is closed,” he says.

And Iranian harassing tactics are just the start, he adds. Other layers include artillery and rockets stationed at the Strait of Hormuz, Kilo submarines, and mini-submarines from which divers can be sent out to damage ships.

Continue reading article: How Iran could beat up on America’s superior military (Christian Science Monitor)