Russian hackers used flaw in Microsoft Windows to spy on NATO, a new report says

WASHINGTON — A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report.

The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm. Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm.

“This is consistent with espionage activity,” said iSight senior director Stephen Ward. “All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.” Continue reading

Obama Says Putin Must Pull Back on Crimea Annexation

Another day, another ‘line’ drawn in the sand.

President Barack Obama today imposed sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and four others from Ukraine and warned Russia will face more penalties if it doesn’t pull back from Crimea.

“Continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy,” Obama said at the White House. The U.S. can “calibrate our response” based on whether Russia chooses “to escalate or to de-escalate the situation.” Continue reading

Russia’s Holding Back Cyber Capabilities in Ukraine

There is a big difference between the known capabilities of Russian hackers — such as cyber espionage — and the debilitating software the country actually possesses, which could hamper U.S. efforts to predict Putin’s next move, say some security researchers.

So, far Russia’s alleged cyber operations amid unrest in Ukraine have caused more spectacle than destruction. Reportedly a “massive denial-of-service attack” paralyzed Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council servers for several hours last week, but such temporary traffic floods cannot access data or damage systems.

This doesn’t mean Russia can’t carry out a cyberattack that would physically or economically damage Ukrainian citizens.  Continue reading

Modernize Russia

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) – The derogatory German campaign against Russia and its President Vladimir Putin has persisted even after the Olympic Games have opened. The campaign is not only aimed at mobilizing German public opinion; it seeks to also further incite the emerging Russian middle strata against their government. These middle strata are gaining in strength and are seen as a potential leverage for Western influence in Moscow since the 2011 and 2012 mass demonstrations against the current President Vladimir Putin. German government advisors are proposing that Berlin establish new channels of influence through contacts to oppositional milieus of these middle strata. The German government is not only exploiting liberal but also national chauvinist circles of the opposition – just as it does in the Ukraine, where it also relies on the fascist milieu’s potential for protest. A Russian opposition leader, who is popular in Berlin, refers to natives of the Caucasus as “cockroaches” and recommends the pistol as the means for dealing with them. He is praised as an “anti-corruption expert” in German media reports on the Sochi Olympic Games. Continue reading

Russia withholds information on Olympic threats, US lawmakers say

Washington: US intelligence officials are frustrated that the Russian government is withholding information about threats to Olympic venues coming from inside Russia, several lawmakers said on talk shows on Sunday.

“We aren’t getting the kind of cooperation that we’d like from the Russians in terms of their internal threats,” Representative Adam Schiff, a Democatic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday.

“It means that we’re less effective in protecting our people, and that’s a frustration,” Mr Schiff said. Continue reading

Revenge of the Bear: Russia Strikes Back in Syria

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation has drawn a line in the sand over Syria, the government of which he is determined to protect from overthrow. Not since the end of the Cold War in 1991 has the Russian Bear asserted itself so forcefully beyond its borders in support of claims on great power status. In essence, Russia is attempting to play the role in Syria that France did in Algeria in the 1990s, of supporting the military government against rebels, many of them linked to political Islam. France and its allies prevailed, at the cost of some 150,000 dead. Can Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pull off the same sort of victory?

Even as Damascus pushes back against the rebels militarily, Putin has swung into action on the international and regional stages. The Russian government persuaded U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to support an international conference aimed at a negotiated settlement. Putin upbraided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his country’s air attacks on Damascus. Moscow is sending sophisticated anti-aircraft batteries, anti-submarine missiles and other munitions to beleaguered Assad, and has just announced that 12 Russian warships will patrol the Mediterranean. The Russian actions have raised alarums [sic] in Tel Aviv and Washington, even as they have been praised in Damascus and Tehran. Continue reading

Reset Claims Nunn-Luga

Russia pulls out of nuclear aid program in setback for Obama reset policies

Russia’s government announced on Wednesday it is pulling out of the multi-billion dollar Cooperative Threat Reduction program that since the early 1990s helped Moscow dismantle nuclear weapons and missiles, United States officials said. Continue reading

Crackdown in Syria, and the Roads that Lead to Moscow

The Merchant Ship Alaed, was stopped about fifty miles off the Northern coast of Scotland in the Morning hours of June 19th.  Her cargo was a number of refurbished Mi-24 helicopter gunships which were embarked in the Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation, bound for the Syrian Port of Tartus.  The Ship’s insurance company known as “The Standard Club” had suspended the ship’s insurance coverage preventing her from docking or mooring in any reputable port.  In effect, the transaction was halted.  But the temporary halt to a contentious arms transfer begs an examination of the motives of those involved, and raises questions of the US response to the entire situation especially in view of recent news of Russian Warships preparing to sail to the Syrian Port of Tartus.

Daily, news reaches US television and print about the dire situation in Syria where a minority-run government is fighting a brutal counter insurrection against its own people.  The regime has observed few taboos of war in putting down the civil strife, including the use of artillery and airstrikes in dense urban areas.  The methods and ammunition in question are inaccurate and result in heavy collateral damage.  Hence, the nature of this effort could not reasonably be construed as measured or surgical; it is campaign to pacify by terror through the indiscriminate use of lethal force.

Moral clarity would demand that this is a compelling case for intervention by western powers.  Things quickly get complicated on examining the world politics of the Syrian Situation.  Syria remains the only dedicated friend to two players in the region who are under siege.  Iran is the primary benefactor of the Assad regime and is rightly singled out for being so.  Iran needs to maintain a friendly umbilical cord to their lackeys in neighboring Lebanon known to most as the terrorist group Hezbollah.  Support for Hezbollah is critical to maintaining Iranian standing among anti-American political forces in the region.  Further, one need not look beyond a map of the Middle East to see that, in the long time rivalry between Iraq and Iran, Syria would make a steadily modernizing military like Iraq think twice about any sudden aggression with hostile neighbors to the east and the west.  Hence a warm relationship with Syria provides leverage for an increasingly isolated Iran.

But as a key player, Russia too has a great deal to lose and significantly more resources to be made available to the Assad regime.  Many pundits of Middle East politics observe that the Assad regime is the only friend left for Russia in the region.  Syria hosts a Russian radar base which, according to a February 29th article in the Washington Times, underwent significant upgrades.  Similarly, the Port of Tartus hosts a Russian Naval contingent which hosts occasional show of force visits by the Russian Navy.  The significance of these installations in Syria cannot be understated.

The Russian government seeks to gain much information on the operations of NATO along its southern tier.  NATO air bases in Turkey are a hub of logistical activity for forces flowing into Central Asia and the Middle East.  The ability to gain real-time information on the size and scope of air activity there, as well as the deployments of US aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, would be a valuable tool to understanding NATO operations and therefore intentions.

In view of the discovery of a potential energy/political game changer, it makes eminent sense for the Russian government to attempt to preserve its position with respect to port access so close to the new natural gas field.  Although a number of other matters factor into their relationship, this is a key driver for Russian support of the Assad regime.

Full article: Crackdown in Syria, and the Roads that Lead to Moscow (Family Security Matters)

WikiLeaks’ Assange surfaces in Russia as media star and Putin tool

In another indication of his service to the Russians, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has told The New Internationalist magazine that the Swedish security services intercept 80 percent of Russian Internet traffic and share the information with the United States. The claim is making big news in Russia, where Assange is regarded as a hero for his charges and disclosures damaging to America and its allies. The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti trumpets Assange’s charges.

A promo for the new Assange Russia Today show, “The World Tomorrow with Julian Assange,” insists that he wants to “keep journalism honest” and achieve the “maximum political impact” by releasing “full source material.”

But Assange has been anything but honest about his own sources. For example, he insisted that he had no contact with U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, now on trial for treason, when evidence at Manning’s preliminary hearing demonstrated correspondence and communication between the two. Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, some of them dealing with counter-terrorism and sensitive national security matters.

Perhaps in a preview of what he intends to talk about on his own RT program, Assange attacked alleged Swedish cooperation with the U.S. in his interview with The New Internationalist, saying that “…the FRA [Försvarets Radioanstalt], which is the big spy agency in Sweden, intercepts 80 per cent of Russian Internet traffic and they sell it on to the national security agency in the US.”

Such a claim can only serve the purposes of those, like the Russian government, who object to cooperation with the U.S. on intelligence matters.

Full article: WikiLeaks’ Assange surfaces in Russia as media star and Putin tool (World Tribune)