Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A newly revealed Al Qaeda video calls on followers to launch cyberattacks on Western targets, a message called "alarming" by U.S. lawmakers in light of the increase in such attacks last year.
Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, say they first learned of the Al Qaeda video a week ago in a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
“This tape is really alarming,” Collins, R-Maine, told Fox News. “It's essentially instructing anybody who's sympathetic with Al Qaeda's ideology to engage in cyberattacks, and the tape is telling them how easy it is to do so.”
The six-minute video instructs Al Qaeda followers that the U.S. is vulnerable to cyberattacks in the same way airline security was vulnerable in 2001 before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The video calls on Muslims "with expertise in this domain to target the websites and information systems of big companies and government agencies."
Lieberman, I-Conn., said it's hardly surprising that Al Qaeda would turn to such attacks.
“Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are focused on cyber warfare because it can be carried out, if you have somebody smart enough, at very little expense,” Lieberman said.
The senators said the Homeland Security Department responded to 100,000 cyber incidents in 2011, and there was a five-fold increase in the number of attacks aimed at industrial control systems. They are the central nervous system of critical infrastructure, including power plants and dams.
“There has been a huge increase in the number of cyberattacks against our country in the last two years,” Collins said. “It would be naive for us to think that Al Qaeda is not responsible for at least some of those attacks.”
Without getting into classified information, Lieberman confirmed that there has been a spike in cyber intrusions -- believed to originate with Iran.
“There is real evidence that the Al Qaeda groups want to pursue and are beginning to pursue the capacity to launch a cyberattack against America,” he emphasized. “I mean, that is the real and present danger and that Iran will share that cyberattack capacity with terrorist groups.”
Fox News has learned this so-called electronic jihad was part of a two-hour Al Qaeda online video that was the basis for the FBI and Homeland Security intelligence bulletin last summer about possible lone wolf attacks. Asked why it took so long to flag the specific threat to the Senate committee, neither federal agency gave an immediate response.
The Senate is scheduled to take up its version of legislation tackling cyber security next month.
Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge's bestselling book "The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda's American Recruits" draws on her reporting into the first American on the CIA’s kill or capture list and the new digital jihad.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/05/22/al-qaeda-video-calling-for-cyberattacks-on-western-targets-raises-alarm-in/#ixzz1vhWXZvQN
CYBER weapons can cause as much real damage as conventional attacks and there is nothing technology can do to save us, a leading internet security expert has warned.
Eugene Kaspersky, founder of anti-virus software developer Kaspersky Labs, said cyber warfare and terrorism had topped his list of threats on the web ahead of cyber crime, identity theft and privacy violations.
"Cyber weapons can damage a physical object as badly as a traditional weapon," Mr Kaspersky said.
“It is a realistic scenario against any country because we all have the same systems. All it takes is the wrong people with the right motives.”
Mr Kaspersky used the Stuxnet virus attack which destroyed on an Iranian nuclear plant last year as an example of a cyber “super weapon” that could be turned against us.
Cyber weapons like this could be used to attack infrastructure like the electricity grid and telecommunications and disrupt financial markets.
He said he feared "hacktivist" groups such as Anonymous, who use their skills as a kind of “internet vandalism”, could provide the future seeds for cyber terrorism – whether willingly or through force by militants.
“Most hacktivists - not all of them - are just following orders from their leaders, but many of these leaders are professional people and this is really dangerous,” he said. “They can grow to the terrorist level.
“At the moment there is nothing the Australian Government or any other government can do.”
He said these types of weapons were cheap to produce and could not be stopped with technology short of redesigning the world’s industrial software programs – a prohibitive exercise.
“I'm afraid that there's only one way that they can be protected and that's international agreements against cyber weapons, same as was done with nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons."
Mr Kaspersky was in Sydney for the technology and business conference CeBIT.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/cyber-warfare-technology-will-be-used-by-terrorists-says-eugene-kaspersky/story-e6frfro0-1226363625940#ixzz1vhW4zqbT
It sounds like a bad sci-fi film: A group of scientists build an robot intelligent robot, give it the ability to build its own tools, and arm it with a gun.
Thankfully, while the first part is true, the gun on this occasion is just a glue gun.
Still, the reality of a tool-building robot is a scary enough thought, with the team from the science and technology university ETH Zurich building a robot which can built its own tools to carry out its missions.
In the video below, the un-named robot uses the glue gun to build itself a cup, which it then glues on to itself to transport water from one dish to another.
The implications are exciting - or terrifying, depending on which side of the line you fall.
To the future: The robot's workspace, from which it can design tools such as cups for carrying water
Building away: Over half an hour, the robot builds up a cup out of glue
Building a bar: The robot then creates a handle which it can use to carry the cup of water
One of the key signs of intelligence is tool-building - and thanks to the team, robots can now join that small group of 'smart' beings.
Thankfully, this robot is still following carefully-prepared instructions on what to build, so this is not an example of a free-thinking robot.
But the achievements of this robot are remarkable, leading to a point where robots will be given tasks and have the ability to design the tools they need to accomplish them.
The robot uses the tool to build items one layer at a time, similar to how a 3D printer works.
Eventually such robots will likely have an array of tools and blueprints for many different items they could build. For the moment the ETH Zurich team have equipped their robot just with a glue-gun.
The cup is dry, so the robot can now being water duties
Water boy: The robot has now attached the cup to itself and is carrying water to the gravel on the left
Rise of the machines: Mission complete, as the robot succeeds in filling up the gravel pot
As explained by Spectrum, the robot using the glue - or hot melt adhesive - to construct the base and sides of a cup, one layer at a time, over the course of 30 minutes.
The robot uses an aluminum surface for the cup, covered in a thin layer of oil to keep the HMA from sticking too much.
While the cup cools, the robot builds a small bar out of HMA, and then bonds the bar to itself, by melting one end and pressing against it.
Then the robot attaches the other end of the bar to the cup, and it ends up with its own water-bucket.
According to Spectrum, the researchers dream about a robot that can adaptively extend its body how and when it deems fit, and also suggest these kind of techniques could be used to create robots that can repair themselves, increase their own size and functionality, or even construct other robots.
An optimist might see this as making life easier for humans, who can relax while robots take care of us as dreamed of by Isaac Asimov. A pessimist might see this as the rise of a Terminator-like future.
Only time will tell.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2148000/Scientists-build-robot-design-tools.html#ixzz1vhVJjwRj
Editor's note: The USGS has now confirmed that the earthquake in question had a magnitude of 6.4.
An earthquake that ruptured this week off the coast of Japan was one of the largest recent aftershocks to affect an area that, more than a year after one of the most powerful earthquakes on record, is still experiencing a steady stream of seismic jolts.
So far, 5,229 aftershocks have rattled the tectonic boundary that ruptured off the coast of Japan's Tohoku region in March 2011. The magnitude-9.0 earthquake was the fifth largest earthquake ever recorded.
The Sunday (May 20) quake is listed as both magnitude 6.0 and 6.4. If it proves to be the latter, it would be the largest aftershock since March 14, when a magnitude-6.9 earthquake hit the region.
Magnitude-6.0 quakes can cause serious damage if they hit near populated areas, yet the bulk of Japan's significant aftershocks have hit out at sea, many miles from land, and have caused relatively few problems.
This recent quake caused only light shaking for residents of northern Japan, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data. It occurred beneath the Pacific Ocean, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) east of Miyako, a coastal town devastated by the deadly tsunami that followed the March 2011 earthquake.
"With an earthquake this big, you can have aftershocks for months and years," said Paul Earle, a seismologist with the USGS. You can't say when or where they'll happen, he told OurAmazingPlanet, but they tend to decrease in number exponentially.
However, he added, there's an equal chance of getting a big aftershock or a small one. There tend to be fewer powerful aftershocks the more time goes by, but that's only because there are fewer aftershocks in general.
In total, 82 aftershocks of magnitude 6.0 or higher have hit since the Tohoku quake. The two largest, a 7.9 and a 7.7, hit on March 11, in the hours following the colossal main shock.
"Aftershocks are just earthquakes — they look exactly the same," said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the USGS. "The only thing that defines an aftershock is it's in the same basic location and has the same type of mechanism as the main shock," he told OurAmazingPlanet.
And aftershocks happen for the same reason a main shock happens, Earle said — when the stresses on either side of a fault exceed the friction that's holding it together.
In the case of Japan's Tohoku earthquake, the stresses that had built up were enormous. The aftershocks that have continued in its wake are the result of changes in the way stress is distributed around the fault.
"It's difficult to express how big this earthquake was compared to other earthquakes," Earle said. "When you have an earthquake this big, it totally reorients the stress that existed before it, and the Earth responds," he said.
The Philippines says more Chinese ships are at the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, despite ongoing talks on the row.
A statement from the Foreign Ministry said the vessels included five government ships as well as dozens of fishing and utility boats.
The Philippines currently has two vessels there.
The two countries, both of which claim the area, have been locked in a stand-off since April.
On Monday there were five Chinese government vessels, 16 fishing boats and 56 "utility boats" in the area, the Philippine foreign ministry said.
The number of utility boats - smaller vessels launched from bigger boats, the coast guard said - went up to 76 on Tuesday, it said.
But the ministry said it was still "committed to efforts of defusing the tensions" with China, even as it "expressed grave concern" over the issue to the Chinese embassy in Manila.
In Beijing, the foreign ministry dismissed the comments.
"It is understood that some 20 Chinese fishing boats are operating around Huangyan Island, similar to that of last year," said spokesman Hong Lei.
"The way they operate is in compliance with the relevant laws in China, as well as China's fishing moratorium order."
Both sides imposed fishing bans for the area earlier this month.Fishing ban
The Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines and Huangyan Island in China, has been a source of ongoing tension in the region.
It lies a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China.
The current row began when the Philippines said its naval ship had found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal but was prevented by Chinese surveillance ships from arresting the fishermen.
The dispute has started to hit tourism in the region, with authorities in Beijing warning Chinese citizens against travelling to the Philippines. Beijing has also upped inspection of fruit imports from the Philippines.
China is engaged in multiple disputes with its neighbours over the South China Sea, and in recent years has grown more assertive on the issue.
Eurozone nations are reportedly told to prepare for a Greek euro exit, and markets fall ahead of key meeting of European leaders in Brussels, as hopes fade that new measures will be agreed.
Reuters reported earlier that the Eurogroup - the collection of eurozone finance ministers - had called for nations to develop a contingency plan for a Grexit. Within minutes Francois Hollande had muddied the waters by claiming to know nothing about any such order.
Swiss disaster response teams have rehearsed for a scenario in which a major earthquake hits northwestern Switzerland, leaving up to 6,000 people dead, 30,000 missing and over 60,000 injured.
In mid-May, the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP) put hundreds of experts through their paces as part of a tri-national earthquake disaster exercise that took place near Basel.
Why Basel? The most devastating earthquake recorded in central Europe occurred here in 1356, with a magnitude of 6.5 to 7.0 on the Richter scale. According to seismologists, an earthquake with a similar intensity can be expected to recur about every 1000 years.
The large-scale exercise called “Seismo 12” was based on the 14th century earthquake and tasked real-life civil servants and military personnel – over 1600 of them from Switzerland, France and Germany – to respond to one of the worst natural disasters the region could face.
“First responders, such as police and fire fighters, are very well prepared to react in emergency situations,” Hans Guggisberg, director of Seismo 12, told swissinfo.ch. “But for a crisis of this scale, you would have several different organisations working together to achieve the same objective.”
“In order for organisation A to work effectively with organisation B, they need to trust each other. And trust cannot be built during a real crisis. It must be tested, practised and improved before [one occurs]. This interdisciplinary exercise allows that to happen,” Guggisberg said.
Death and destruction
Two hours before the exercise began, all Seismo 12 participants were presented with the same horrifying scenario – though fortunately a fictional one.
A major earthquake, measuring between 6.5 and 7.0 on the Richter scale, has occurred in the Basel fault zone, affecting approximately 6.2 million people in the region. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands are injured or missing.
The quake has left 1.6 million people homeless and hundreds of thousands of buildings destroyed. However, nuclear disaster has been avoided. All reactors in Switzerland and in neighbouring Alsace were automatically shut down. No radioactivity has been reported.
With that, teams from the cantons of Aargau, Basel-Country, Basel-City and Solothurn and the neighbouring German districts of Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, Lörrach and Waldshut, had to respond to the fallout in their own regions.
Robert Hilty, an exercise participant from Aargau, told swissinfo.ch that the exercise started well into the aftermath of the disaster "because you can never train for the chaos phase”.
During the three-day, round-the-clock exercise, Hilty was based at the Office for Civil Military Protection and Administration in Liestal, the capital of the canton of Basel-Country, where Seismo 12 was headquartered.
From the headquarters, exercise directors issued tasks and scenario details to their teams, working from their respective local sites. From buried survivors and bridges down to power outages and fires, teams had to react to a continuous flow of problems and quickly decide how to act. Which emergency should be addressed first? How many troops should be sent? Which route should they take?
The Basel fault zone
“The exercise was based on as much as we know about that earthquake - the same kind of size, the same kind of location, the same kind of area that is affected,” Stefan Wiemer, director of the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told swissinfo.ch.
As the federal agency charged with monitoring earthquakes and assessing the seismic hazard in Switzerland, the SED helped to develop the very detailed disaster scenarios for the participating regions.
The seismic area in the Basel region, with its many fissues, lies in a fault zone. Starting from Manheim, Germany, and running 200 kilometres down to Basel, the zone forms the boundary of what is called the eastern Rhine trench. Earthquakes are caused here, as in other areas in Europe, by the collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates.
According to historic accounts, between 30 and 40 castles were seriously damaged in the quake that occurred on October 18, 1356.
“Following the earthquake, we know that church bells were ringing in Paris. We have reports like this that help us to [understand] what kind of damage that kind of shaking would cause today,” Weimer said.
Since the big quake of the Middle Ages, the fault zone has been relatively quiet. In the centuries following the 1356 event, there were quite a few moderate size earthquakes. But since the 1700s there have only been low intensity "micro" earthquakes in the Basel area.
Nonetheless, experts widely agree that the area is a high-risk zone. “The crust is pretty much critically stressed all the time. The area is tectonically stressed. The area has energy in the earth, we just do not know when it will be released in the next earthquake,” Weimer said.
The risk of earthquakes in Switzerland is classified as moderate to average – less likely to occur than in high-risk areas such as Turkey, for example. However, given the density of the population and property in risk areas like the Basel region, a severe earthquake is the kind of natural disaster with the greatest potential for destruction in Switzerland.
According to the FOCP, the economic impact of a 6.5 to 7.0-magnitude earthquake would be likely to amount to SFr50-100 billion ($54-107 billion).
Since 2000, the federal authorities have been implementing a programme of earthquake mitigation measures to “reduce the damage potential of earthquakes through prevention”. Defining plans for disaster preparedness and assistance in the event of a serious earthquake is one of the key measures.
The last major FOCP-led earthquake response exercise was Rheintal 06, which was conducted six years ago in eastern Switzerland. In order to encourage collaboration between response services at an international level, the final report recommended repeating this type of exercise every five to seven years. In-depth analysis of Seismo 12 should be available by October 2012.
Rachel Marusak Hermann in Basel, swissinfo.ch
Russia placed its new Voronezh-M long-range missile warning radar on duty in the Irkutsk region of Siberia on Wednesday, marking a major increase in its missile early warning system capability..
"At 10:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. Moscow time) on May 23, it was put on duty," said Lt. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko, the commander of Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces at the site.
"This unique station has massive capabilities and is a key link in carring out our strategic tasks given to us by the high command. It plays a key role in the missile early warning chain," he said at the opening ceremony for the Voronezh-M radar station.
"Once a second Voronezh-M is built, we will no longer have to rely on the Dnepr missile early warning system radars" he added.
The Dnepr system was the Soviet Union's first generation phased-array anti-missile radar system. It was deployed at a number of peripheral sites in the USSR including Latvia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Russia lost use of these facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed, causing a loss of surveillance capability.
With the introduction of a second Voronezh-M station, the system will have its coverage doubled to 240 degrees, covering an arc from India to the United States.
The new Voronezh-M station can also be more quickly deployed to a new site and requires a smaller crew to operate it compared to previous generation stations. The radar station also uses 40 percent less energy.
Former Strategic Missile Forces Chief of Staff Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin said the new Voronezh-M radar station covers the northeast of the U.S. and China.
It can detect ballistic targets up to 6000 kilometers, while the older Dnepr radar can only detect them at up to 2500 kilometers, Yesin said.
The technical analysis team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch thinks a month's long decline in gold is coming to an end.
Here's an excerpt from a note by Mary Ann Bartels and Stephen Suttmeier:
Gold has pulled back to test support at $1550-1500. This support is holding, which sets up gold for a rally. The downtrend line from the August/ September highs provides initial resistance near $1700. Chart resistances are near $1800 and $1900-1925.
Our longer-term view remains that gold is in a secular bull market with upside potential to $2000-2300 to as high as $3000 in coming years.
From Bank of America:
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/boa-gold-3000-2012-5?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheMoneyGame+%28The+Money+Game%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#ixzz1vhUYgXQE