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Kim Zetter, Iran: Computer Malware Sabotaged Uranium Centrifuges, *WiReD*, 29 Nov 2010 [PGN-ed] http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/11/stuxnet-sabotage-centrifuges/ In what appears to be the first confirmation that the Stuxnet malware hit Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that malicious computer code launched by `enemies' of the state had sabotaged centrifuges used in Iran's nuclear-enrichment program. The surprise announcement at a press conference coincided with news that two of Iran's top nuclear scientists had been ambushed Monday by assassins who killed one scientist and seriously injured the other. Iran had previously acknowledged that Stuxnet infected the personal computers of workers at its Bushehr nuclear power plant but had insisted that the malware had not infected work systems involved in the nuclear program, and that the program itself had not been harmed. Officials did not mention then whether any computers at its nuclear facility at Natanz had been infected. Natanz is engaged in enriching uranium that could be used to manufacture weapons. It was therefore believed by various computer security experts to have been Stuxnet's likely target. Ahmadinejad did not mention Natanz by name at Monday's press conference but admitted that malware had “succeeded in creating problems for a limited number of our centrifuges.'' According to a recent report from the United Nations/ International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had temporarily halted uranium enrichment at its Natanz plant for unknown reasons earlier this month. Thousands of centrifuges reportedly stopped production as a result. Iran has had various problems over the years with equipment used in its nuclear facilities. The problems have delayed progress in both the country's nuclear power plants and the uranium-enrichment program, which Iran has insisted is for peaceful purposes only. Ahmadinejad said the malware that caused problems with its centrifuges was in software that the attackers had “installed in electronic parts.'' He said the infection had been halted. “Our specialists stopped that and they will not be able to do it again,'' he said, according to the BBC. Ahmadinejad blamed Israel and “the West'' for spreading the malware. The Stuxnet worm was discovered on computers in Iran in June by a Belarusian security firm and has infected more than 100,000 computer systems worldwide, most of them in Iran. The targeted code was designed to attack Siemens Simatic WinCC SCADA systems. The Siemens system is used in various facilities to manage pipelines, nuclear plants and various utility and manufacturing equipment. But speculation has focused on Iran's nuclear facilities—at Bushehr, Natanz and other locations—being the most likely target. The sophisticated malware is believed to have been created by a well-financed nation state, with speculation focusing on Israel and/or the United States. Security firm Symantec recently determined that the malware specifically targets Siemens systems that are used with frequency-converter drives made by two firms, one based in Iran and one in Finland. Even more specifically, Stuxnet targets only frequency drives from these two companies that are also running at high speeds—between 807 Hz and 1210 Hz. Frequency-converter drives are used to control the speed of a device. Although it's not known what device Stuxnet aimed to control, it was designed to vary the speed of the device wildly but intermittently over a span of weeks, suggesting the aim was subtle sabotage meant to ruin a process over time but not in a way that would attract suspicion. “Using nuclear enrichment as an example, the centrifuges need to spin at a precise speed for long periods of time in order to extract the pure uranium,'' Symantec's Liam O Murchu told Threat Level earlier this month. “If those centrifuges stop to spin at that high speed, then it can disrupt the process of isolating the heavier isotopes in those centrifuges—and the final grade of uranium you would get out would be a lower quality. Iran's confirmation this week that malware was behind recent problems with its centrifuges suggests that Stuxnet may indeed have been designed specifically to target Iran's nuclear program. But if this is the case, the assassinations on Monday could indicate that whoever targeted Iran felt the malware was insufficient to halt Iran's nuclear program. According to news reports, the scientists were targeted in separate but nearly simultaneous car bomb attacks near Shahid Beheshti University. Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi, along with their wives, were driving to work when assailants on motorcycles zipped by their vehicles and slapped magnetized explosives to the cars, which were detonated within seconds. Shahriari, who was head of an unnamed Iranian nuclear program, was killed. Abbasi, a high-ranking Ministry of Defense official who reportedly holds a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, was wounded. Both wives were wounded in the attacks. Two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years. A senior physics professor at Tehran University was killed in January, when a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded near his car as he was leaving for work. A second nuclear scientist died in 2007 from gas poisoning. Ahmadinejad blamed Monday's assassination attacks on Israel and the West. “Undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination,'' he said, according to an Associated Press account of the news conference. Sunday's disclosure of U.S. State Department documents also show that Arab nations share the same concerns that Israel and the United States have about Iran's nuclear programs. The documents, given to various media outlets by the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, reveal that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia pleaded with the United States to stop Iran before it could develop an atomic weapon. Other Arab leaders were equally urgent that Iran had to be stopped. There have been suggestions, however, that the Iranian government itself could have been responsible for the attacks on the two nuclear scientists.
[Source: A Month After Elections, 200,000 Votes Found; Every vote counts, eventually. Sam Roberts (Uli Seit for *The New York Times*), 2 Dec 2010; PGN-ed, with thanks to Jeremy Epstein] http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/02/a-month-after-elections-200000-votes-found/?hp The city's Board of Elections routinely reminds New Yorkers that the election night vote count is unofficial and preliminary. Still, the difference in the results from Nov. 2 and in the returns formally certified by the board on Wednesday seems striking: The board found 195,055 votes, or 17 percent more votes, than were originally reported. [The article is not clear on the details, so I'll let you interpret from Kim's original. PGN]
* One of Australia's biggest banks is scrambling to process payments to millions of customers, who potentially face days of uncertainty about when they will be able to access their money. * A corrupted file in the National Australia Bank's computers on Wednesday jammed its payment system, hitting customers from a range of banks who rely on the NAB to process payments. http://www.smh.com.au/business/millions-cashless-in-bank-glitch-20101126-18akf.html Interesting in that it demonstrates how fragile the financial "eco-system" is. As an IT guy, I assume they are talking about a corrupted database, where the the software develops the IT equivalent of Alzheimer's. ("Let's see Joe Jones' record please." "Don't have Joe's in that slot have Sam's." "Tilt. Summon programmer." To which the programmer says: "<synonym for excrement>" and schedules rebuilding the index. That's like a Doctor's secretary having to go through every file folder recreating an index into the filing cabinet. Long and cumbersome for people. Same for computers.) The fact that there's a "holiday" around when the problem occurs makes me suspect that there was a change or testing going on. When I had a Dister Recovery Group, Tday Weekend was a great time for testing. Basically four days with minimal requirement from "real people". It's one of the most highly sought weekends by IT people to do "stuff". So, when ANY holiday comes, think of the herds of nerds globally changing stuff. If that doesn't inspire you to take a little extra cash and make a few preps for at least a little outage, then you are truly clueless. :-) [On 2 Dec 2010, fjohn noted another description on Australian ATM outage. Disappearing Bank Accounts. Robert Wenzel http://www.lewrockwell.com/wenzel/wenzel52.1.html PGN]
http://forums.avg.com/ww-en/avg-free-forum?sec=thread&act=show&id=132999 In their instructions are the lines: * If you have unfortunately met mentioned error, please follow these steps: (sic) * If possible to boot into Safe Mode, then run System Restore before the night AVG update and **reinstall AVG.** (sick) (my emphasis) Yeah, right. Also, "we have met the error and he is us" (bonus points for identifying the reference).
Bound checking would have helped here: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_16720803?nclick_check=1 Woodie Williams' experience may serve as a cautionary tale for those who have shifted to paying bills online or are thinking about it. Williams, 79 [in Pittsburg, California], found that a decimal point means a lot when he apparently left one out when paying his cable TV bill to Comcast on Nov. 8. Williams, a retired Contra Costa County employee, meant to pay the company $68.94 but actually paid $6,894 when he omitted the decimal point. "I had enough money in the bank, so the payment cleared," he said. Williams received a refund check Monday morning for the overpayment, but it took longer than he expected.
I have an alarm clock that "knows" about daylight saving time. This fall on a Sunday night at 12:15 AM (really it was Monday) I noted that the displayed time was 11:15. I remembered that the old dates for time change were built into the clock, so the clock automatically changed the time a few weeks early. I wound the time ahead to the correct 12:15 AM. The next morning I awoke and noted that it was past the set alarm time of 6:20 AM. Further, I noted that it was getting light and checked another clock that said it was after 7:20 AM. After some consideration, I realized that when setting the time ahead from 11:15 PM to 12:15 AM, the date didn't change so I had really set it to 12:15 AM on Sunday morning. Then, at 2 AM (this being Sunday in the mind of the clock), the clock set the time ahead again! Also, as the clock still thought it was Sunday, the alarm wouldn't go off anyway (it is set to alarm only on weekdays).
Windows Phone 7 jailbreak tool comes, goes within a week [NNSquad] http://bit.ly/hGc3ay (arc technica) Exercise for readers, compare and contrast this closed attitude with that of Android.
The TSA sure didn't mind when a good-looking young woman walked through security in a bikini. Nor did the press. It's hard to find an article about this event that doesn't have drool stains on it, so I won't post any links or excerpts, but you can get the full story (complete with video footage and slide shows) by googling "Corinne Theile". Dag-Erling Smørgrav - email@example.com [PGN adds that this item was also noted by Chris D.: “As it happens, this week's newspaper features underwear with strategically-placed shield panels, invented by a guy called Jeff Buske—a Google search for his name comes up with many links to this. (Probably the closest that RISKS has ever come to featuring glamour models!)'']
Several items contain URL-shorteners like this: > U.S. may require jamming of cell phone use inside vehicles > http://bit.ly/deUpGb (Daily Caller) > Two items on this for Secretary LaHood: I've seen it claimed that shortened URLs like bit.ly and goo.gl can be a RISK as they may hide something nasty, which isn't obvious as you can't see where the link actually ends up. [We noted in RISKS long ago that short URLs may be ephemeral. But I gave up on trying to chase down the real URLs, because browsers can generally find desired items anyway. PGN]
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