Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

you say hack, we say christmas carols....


Hackers have breached computer systems used by US federal agencies including the Treasury and Commerce departments, US Government officials say.


Key points:
  • The hack was so serious it prompted a National Security Council meeting at the White House over the weekend
  • One Reuters source described the hack as a "huge cyber espionage campaign targeting the US Government"
  • The government department hack came after a breach at a prominent cybersecurity firm


The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity arm are investigating.

Reuters sources familiar with the investigation said Russia was believed to be behind the attack.

And there is concern within the US intelligence community the hackers who targeted the Treasury and the Commerce departments' national telecommunications and information administration (NTIA) used a similar tool to break into other government agencies, according to four people briefed on the matter. 

Two said the breaches were connected to a broad campaign that also involved the recently disclosed hack on FireEye, a major US cybersecurity company with government and commercial contracts.

The hack was so serious it led to a National Security Council meeting at the White House on Saturday, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

"The United States Government is aware of these reports and we are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to this situation," National Security Council spokesman John Ullyots said.

The Government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said it had been working with other agencies "regarding recently discovered activity on government networks".

"CISA is providing technical assistance to affected entities as they work to identify and mitigate any potential compromises," it said in a statement.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the Russian foreign ministry described suggestions Moscow was behind the cyber attack as "unfounded attempts (sic) of the US media to blame Russia for hacker attacks on US governmental bodies" .

US President Donald Trump last month fired CISA director Chris Krebs, who had vouched for the integrity of the presidential election and disputed the President's claims of widespread electoral fraud.

The Commerce Department confirmed there was a breach at one of its agencies. 

"We have asked the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI to investigate, and we cannot comment further at this time," it said.


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Note: As usual, there is no proof the hacking was done by Russians/Russia or Vlad the Hacker...

blaming the "manipulators"...

The US Treasury Department has designated Vietnam and Switzerland as “currency manipulators,” while placing China, India and several other countries on its “monitoring list.”

“The Treasury Department has taken a strong step today to safeguard economic growth and opportunity for American workers and businesses,” Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Wednesday, as he unveiled the department’s report on the “manipulators.”

Treasury will follow up on its findings with respect to Vietnam and Switzerland to work toward eliminating practices that create unfair advantages for foreign competitors.

The designation greenlights a set of maneuvers, envisioned under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, including calls for bilateral talks between the US and “manipulator”countries, as well as a complaint to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The “currency manipulator” designations is based on three criteria; a $20 billion-plus trade surplus with the US, current account surplus exceeding two percent of GDP and currency intervention exceeding two percent of GDP.

Both Switzerland and Vietnam meet the criteria, with the latter boasting a trade surplus of a whopping $57 billion, which has triggered repeated accusations from Washington that it is deliberately undervaluing its currency. Switzerland, which was added to the monitoring list in January, has already reacted to the designation with the Swiss National Bank promising to continue its aggressive monetary policies regardless of US pressure and saying it “does not engage in any form of currency manipulation.”

China, which was labeled a “currency manipulator” last August amid the heated trade war with the US, remains on the monitoring list. Beijing’s designation, which was not backed by the IMF, was withdrawn early this year, days before it reached a trade deal with Washington.


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The US never manipulated the US dollar... It just printed some more IOUs...



hacking your mind...

The alleged hack of US government computers, for which the US media blame Russia without evidence, served as a pretext for Fareed Zakaria to first declare that it’s all President Donald Trump’s fault, then go full Russiagate.

“Russia hasn’t just hacked our computer systems. It’s hacked our minds,” the Washington Post columnist and CNN host argued on Friday, blithely unaware of the irony. For if the article is a reflection of Zakaria’s mind, then it definitely has been hacked – by Russiagate, anyway.

The problem is not just that Russia has hacked America’s computer systems. It seems to have hacked our minds.My latest column:

— Fareed Zakaria December 18, 2020


The piece isn’t really about the SolarWinds hack, which Zakaria himself notes was merely “widely attributed to Russia” – by the media, starting with the Post, rather than the US government – but treats that as an established fact anyway. Rather, he uses that to quickly pivot to a “model” of how Russian propaganda supposedly works, which then finally leads into his real point: Orange Man Bad.

“Wittingly or unwittingly, Trump uses the Russian model, which rests on the principle that people get convinced when they hear the same message many times from a variety of sources, no matter how biased,” says Zakaria.

That this sentence can appear in an article relying on the premise of a ‘Russian hack’ established precisely through such behavior by the US mainstream media has to be peak irony of 2020.


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Earlier this week, reports emerged that hundreds of US federal government entities and companies had been targeted in a massive hacking attack, which was instantly blamed on a foreign actor by US media. The Washington Post, in particular, claimed a hacking group with links to Moscow was behind it, but provided no evidence to back the allegation.

The extent of the hacking attack on US companies and entities is far less severe than mass media picture it to be, US President Donald Trump said on Saturday on his Twitter account. Addressing the data breach for the first time since the reports emerged, Trump berated media outlets for excluding China's potential involvement in the attack, which, he believes, might be the case.


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no chinese allowed to spy on us spying on you...

America has been increasingly concerned about the potential for surveillance from leading Chinese tech companies. But a new report suggests the US is primarily concerned with maintaining its own dominance of digital espionage.

A running theme of Donald Trump’s administration over the past four years has been its relentless campaign against Chinese technology.

Claiming that companies such as Huawei, ZTE, Bytedance (the owner of TikTok) and many more are extensions of China’s surveillance state and are used to spy on people, the White House has sought to penalize them with sanctions, bans and export blacklistings, while encouraging other countries to shun them in the same way.

The narrative of the threat of Huawei, in particular, is one that has been largely taken at face value by the mainstream media in the west, with virtually no questioning of America’s motivations.

While one can talk about the US deliberately aiming to contain China’s technological rise to its own strategic ends, what if there was another angle to this saga? What if this crusade against Chinese firms was more about America’s ability to spy, rather than Beijing’s?

That’s what an intriguing new report on the Foreign Policy website might just be suggesting. The article claims that China, through its growing presence online, has allegedly been able to obtain enormous amounts of personal data, which in turn has been utilized to undermine and intercept the activities of the CIA around the world, especially when targeting Beijing.

It is argued that this strongly motivated Xi Jinping’s own anti-corruption drive several years ago, which aimed to purge the influence of the CIA from the Communist Party.

And so, the saga about the ‘threat’ of Chinese technology arguably has two sides to it. We are now in a ‘data cold war’, a strategic conflict for a new age which is far more extensive and sophisticated than Washington’s tensions with the USSR in days gone by.

Although the US attempts to portray itself as an innocent party in terms of global espionage by drawing a contrast with China – touting developments such as the misleading “Clean Network” – the reality is that it fears a future where global technology will be dominated by Beijing. This will undermine its own surveillance capabilities, which have traditionally been unparalleled.

As a result, it is spreading opportunistic paranoia that every single Chinese company is potentially ‘guilty by association’. But it’s not so much about what China has been proven to have done, than what the US itself is doing and has long done.

The past 20 years have heralded a digital revolution. Our lives have become inseparable from the online world. We communicate online via social media and messaging applications, we shop online, we bank online, we carry devices with GPS capabilities which set out every single place we’ve ever been. The Internet’s influence is everywhere.

This data matters, because whoever accesses it has the potential to be omniscient. During the first Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, this factor did not exist. What was described as ‘espionage’ involved methods that now seem extremely old-fashioned, such as intercepting radio signals and relying on informants. The idea of hacking, and being able to access a comprehensive record of every single thing a person has ever done, was a fantasy that belonged in a science fiction novel.

But the ‘new cold war’ is very much immersed in the internet and online world. While the contest between the USA and USSR revolved around ideological dominance, now the US is battling with China to sustain its dominance in the digital sphere.

On this premise, it must be noted that it is Washington that has crafted and spearheaded the world of internet surveillance, rather than Beijing. It’s a trend which massively accelerated following 9/11 and the dramatic expansion of the National Security Agency (NSA).


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