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ukraine

Cyber attack’s spread slows; security stocks gain

By Guy Faulconbridge and Dustin Volz12 | LONDON/WASHINGTON

LONDON/WASHINGTON The global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack spread more slowly on Monday with no major infections reported, as attention shifted to investment and government policy implications of lax cyber security.

There were 213,000 infected machines in 112 countries as of 1000 GMT on Monday, according to Czech security firm Avast, making it one of the largest coordinated attacks to hit computers across the world.

The countries most affected by WannaCry were the same as Friday: Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine and India, Avast’s data showed.

The number of infections has fallen dramatically since Friday s peak when more than 9,000 computers were being hit per hour . By afternoon on the U.S East Coast, new infections had fallen to the low hundreds of machines and continue to decline, Avast said.

Earlier on Monday, Chinese traffic police and schools reported they had been targeted as the attack rolled into Asia for the new work week, but no there were no major disruptions.

Authorities in Europe and the United States turned their attention to preventing hackers from spreading new versions of the virus.

Tom Bossert, U.S . President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, said people “should be thinking about this as an attack that for right now we have under control, but as an attack that represents an extremely serious threat,” speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.

Shares in firms that provide cyber security services jumped on the prospect of companies and governments spending more money on defenses, led by Israel’s Cyren Ltd (CYRN.O) and U.S . firm FireEye Inc (FEYE.O)..

Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) rose 2.8 percent, making it the leading gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was up more than 100 points in afternoon trading, as investors focused more on opportunities the attack presented rather than the risk it posed to corporations.

The perpetrators of the attack are still not known . Bossert said that while U.S . officials had not ruled out the possibility that it was a “state action,” he said it appeared to be criminal, given the ransom requests.

Some victims were ignoring official advice and paying the $300 ransom demanded by the cyber criminals to unlock their computers, which was due to double to $600 on Monday for computers hit by Friday’s first wave.

So far only a few victims of the attack appeared to have paid, based on publicly available bitcoin accounts on the web, where victims have been instructed to pay.

The initial ransom demand was $300 per machine . Three days after becoming infected the demand doubles . Starting on Monday, the first victims began facing demands of $600 to unlock their machines.

This coming Friday, victims face being locked out of their computers permanently if they fail to pay the $600 ransom, said Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, a London-based private security company that investigates ransomware attacks.

As of 1400 GMT, the total value of funds paid into anonymous bitcoin wallets the hackers are using stood at just $55,169, from 209 payments, according to calculations made by Reuters using publicly available data.

Brian Lord, managing director of cyber and technology at cyber security firm PGI, said victims had told him “the customer service provided by the criminals is second-to-none,” with helpful advice on how to pay: “One customer said they actually forgot they were being robbed.”

Companies and governments spent the weekend upgrading software to limit the spread of the virus . Monday was the first big test for Asia, where offices had already mostly been closed for the weekend before the attack first arrived.

Renault-Nissan (RENA.PA) (7201.T) said output had returned to normal at nearly all its plants . PSA Group (PEUP.PA), Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), Daimler (DAIGn.DE), Toyota (7203.T) and Honda (7267.T) said their plants were unaffected.

British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security whiz who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” – an internet address which halted the virus when activated.

Individual European countries and the United States saw infections at a rate of only 10 percent to 20 percent of the most affected countries, according to the researcher who stumbled on the kill switch.

The virus hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) software that had not been recently updated . Microsoft released patches last month and on Friday to fix a vulnerability that allowed the worm to spread across networks . The company’s shares were down about 1 percent on Monday, in a slightly higher broad market.

Infected computers appear to be largely out-of-date devices . Some have also been machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions, difficult to patch without disrupting operations.

Graphic on cyber attack tmsnrt.rs/2qIUckv3

POLITICAL TOPIC

The U.S . Senate Intelligence Committee is monitoring the attack and expects to receive a briefing in the coming days from the Trump administration, a panel aide said.

In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft President Brad Smith confirmed what researchers had already widely concluded: the attack made use of a hacking tool built by the U.S . National Security Agency that had leaked online in April.

He poured fuel on a long-running debate over how government intelligence services should balance their desire to keep software flaws secret – in order to conduct espionage and cyber warfare – against sharing those flaws with technology companies to better secure the internet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting the technology’s link to the U.S . spy service, said it should be “discussed immediately on a serious political level.”

“Once they’re let out of the lamp, genies of this kind, especially those created by intelligence services, can later do damage to their authors and creators,” he said.

In Britain, where the virus first raised global alarm when it caused hospitals to divert ambulances on Friday, it gained traction as a political issue just weeks before a general election . The opposition Labour Party accused the Conservative government of leaving the National Health Service (NHS) vulnerable.

“The government’s response has been chaotic,” the British Labour Party’s health spokesman Jon Ashworth said. “If you’re not going to allow the NHS to invest in upgrading its IT, then you are going to leave hospitals wide open to this sort of attack.”

Britain’s NHS is the world’s fifth-largest employer after the U.S . and Chinese militaries, Wal-Mart Stores and McDonald’s . The government says that under a previous Labour administration the trusts that run local hospitals were given responsibility to manage their own computer systems.

Asked if the government had ignored warnings over the NHS being at risk from cyber attack, Prime Minister Theresa May told Sky News: “No . It was clear (that) warnings were given to hospital trusts.”

British health minister Jeremy Hunt said on Monday it was “encouraging” that a predicted second spike of attacks had not occurred, but the ransomware was a warning to public and private organizations.

ASIA IMPACT

China appeared over the weekend to have been particularly vulnerable, raising worries about how well the world’s second-largest economy would cope . However, officials and security firms said the spread was starting to slow.

“The growth rate of infected institutions on Monday has slowed significantly compared to the previous two days,” said Chinese Internet security company Qihoo 360.

An official from Cybersecurity Administration China (CAC) told local media on Monday the ransomware had affected industry and government computer systems but the spread was slowing.

Energy giant PetroChina (601857.SS) said payment systems at some petrol stations were hit although it had restored most of the systems.

Elsewhere in Asia, Conglomerate Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) said the attack had affected its systems over the weekend, leaving them unable to receive and send emails or open attachments in some cases.

At Indonesia s biggest cancer hospital, Dharmais Hospital in Jakarta, attacks affected scores of computers . By late morning, some people were still manually filling out forms, but 70 percent of systems were online.

India’s government said it received only a few reports of attacks and urged those hit not to pay any ransom . No major Indian corporations reported disrupted operations.

(Additional reporting by Cate Cadell, Jemima Kelly, Eric Auchard and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Peter Graff and Nick Zieminski; Editing by Peter Millership and Bill Rigby)


References

  1. ^ Guy Faulconbridge (uk.reuters.com)
  2. ^ Dustin Volz (uk.reuters.com)
  3. ^ tmsnrt.rs/2qIUckv (tmsnrt.rs)

Evidence shows Palestinian security forces violently suppressed peaceful protest in Ramallah

Photographic evidence and witness testimony gathered by Amnesty International at the scene suggest that Palestinian security forces used excessive force to violently suppress a peaceful protest outside of the Ramallah District Court in the West Bank on 12 March 2017. Ten minutes after the protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men, including slain activist Basil al-Araj, began outside the courthouse in al-Bireh area, Amnesty International researchers witnessed heavily armed security forces arriving, carrying batons and shields . They immediately began to charge towards the protesters, violently striking them with the wooden batons, using pepper spray and firing tear gas into the crowd . At least 21 people (13 men and eight women) were injured, including four journalists covering the event . Seventeen were hospitalized.

There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest . Video evidence obtained by Amnesty International shows Palestinian security forces resorting to brutal and alarming means to crush the protest in flagrant violation of their obligations to uphold and protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahPalestinian security forces firing tear gas into the crowd to disperse the protesters outside courthouse in Ramallah Amnesty International

Following a public outcry, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah today announced the formation of a committee to investigate the actions of the police at the courthouse.

The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the investigation announced into this incident is independent, impartial and thorough and that all those found to be responsible are held accountable for their actions, said Magdalena Mughrabi. International human rights standards require that police and security forces avoid using force to disperse a peaceful assembly. Amnesty International staff present at the scene observed no violence from protesters prior to police attacking them with batons, tear gas and pepper spray . Those injured suffered bruises from heavy beatings with wooden batons or after being struck by tear gas canisters .

Four journalists from Wattan TV, Roya TV1, and Palestine Today were also beaten in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to prevent them from covering the protest . No injuries were reported among members of the security forces. Khader Adnan, a protester who was hospitalized for his injuries, told Amnesty International: I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground . Once I fell down one of them stepped on my head while others continued to beat me, ripping my clothes . I have injuries on my back, my shoulders, and my leg.

I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground

Khader Adnan, Palestinian protester

He was taken to the Criminal Investigations Department with six others where he says he was verbally abused before five of them were released . The other two remained in detention. Farid al-Atrash, a lawyer, human rights defender and the head of the Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, who was present at the protest said he was beaten to the ground with wooden batons . He told Amnesty International he also witnessed police officers beating the father of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week . I tried to protect him when I was attacked by the officers; they hit me to the ground and beat me on my legs, he said.

Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahFather of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week, was among those beaten by Palestinian security forces during the protest Amnesty International

Bassem Tamimi, a well-known Palestinian activist from Nabi Saleh and former prisoner of conscience was also injured in the demonstration . I can t believe they did this to us . I was speaking to the head of the police unit there telling him we will disperse in 15 minutes . We were almost done when I saw a large crowd of police begin to swarm us and attack in a vicious manner . They used wooden clubs and started to hit people left and right, I walked back when they shot a tear-gas canister directly into my lower back, hitting my tailbone . I didn t expect them to behave like this. Bassem Tamimi s wife, Nariman, also an activist from Nabi Saleh, was beaten after she intervened to tell security forces to stop beating and dragging a young man .

What did we do ? We did nothing wrong ! My shoulder and arm are now injured . I didn t believe they would do something like this, she said. One eyewitness, Hafez Omar, said the protesters were standing peacefully when the police told them to leave the area . When they refused, the police started pushing them and beating them with batons . He witnessed two other men being beaten before the police dragged him and beat him with batons on his arms, back and legs.

Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahOne of the protesters who was beaten with a baton on his shoulder and back waits at Ramallah public hospital for treatment Amnesty International

Between 100 and 150 people had gathered outside the courthouse in al-Bireh to protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men accused of possessing firearms . Four of the men Haitham Siyaj, Muhammad Harb, Muhammad al-Salameen and Saif Idrisi are currently held without charge or trial in administrative detention by Israeli authorities . The fifth man, Basil al-Araj, was killed by the Israeli military last week . The sixth man, Ali Dar al-Shaikh was not arrested by Israel and was present at the court yesterday. In a media interview on Monday, a spokesperson for the Palestinian authorities security forces, Adnan al-Dmeir, accused the protesters of being mercenaries and foreign agents who he said were seeking to spread chaos .

In the rare cases where Palestinian authorities have taken steps to ensure accountability in the past, they have resorted to disciplinary measures2 rather than criminal prosecutions to hold police or security forces to account even in cases where the use of force was abusive or arbitrary.

The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the security forces use of force is not excessive, abusive, arbitrary or otherwise unlawful . Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial, said Magdalena Mughrabi. Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International

Given the Palestinian authorities poor record of bringing security forces to justice after violent crackdowns on protests, it is even more crucial for the authorities to send a clear message that use of excessive force will not be tolerated and that violations will not go unpunished.

Background

Palestinian security forces police have used unnecessary or excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, including men and women, repeatedly in recent years. In a recent incident documented by Amnesty International, human rights lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, described how 10 members of the Palestinian security forces in plainclothes punched and kicked him and beat him all over his body with sticks at a demonstration on 4 October 2016 . At least five others were also assaulted .

No one has been prosecuted over the incident. In February 2016, mass strikes and protests over low wages for teachers were met with a heavy-handed response from Palestinian security forces who arrested 22 teachers and set up roadblocks around Ramallah to prevent teachers joining demonstrations. Palestinian security forces also used excessive force to disperse protests in previous years3.

References

  1. ^ Roya TV (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ disciplinary measures (www.amnesty.org)
  3. ^ previous years (www.amnesty.org)

Poroshenko faces new security crisis in western Ukraine

President Petro Poroshenko confronted a fresh crisis Monday as a deadly standoff between interior ministry units and armed Ukrainian ultranationalists entered a third day in a western enclave near Hungary.

The EU-backed leader convened his “military cabinet” of top generals to try and diffuse tensions between two forces vital to his bid to stamp out a separatist insurgency 1,000 kilometres (more than 600 miles) away in eastern Ukraine.

The Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) nationalists played a small but instrumental role in three months of pro-European protests that eventually toppled the Kremlin-backed leadership in February 2014.

They then formed the heart of some of the best-equipped — and allegedly most ruthless — units to wage war against pro-Russian militias that overran parts of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland in the wake of the Kiev revolution.

Interior ministry battalions are also at the forefront of the 15-month battle against separatist fighters that has claimed more than 6,500 lives.

But mistrust between volunteer units and Ukraine’s armed forces has been building as Poroshenko tries to follow through on a February peace deal whose terms — including partial self-rule for the insurgents — are anathema to the nationalists.

Pravy Sektor members also cast themselves as Robin Hood figures who defend the public against corruption that has ravaged Ukraine’s political establishment and police since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

The weekend battles were sparked by Pravy Sektor’s self-proclaimed bid to prevent Hungary and Slovakia from being flooded with any more contraband cigarettes that have already enriched local politicians and their security overlords.

Pravy Sektor reported the death of two of its members in a shootout with what appeared to be a mixture of security personnel and armed local thugs.

The interior ministry — backed up with armoured personnel carriers and military trucks — said one civilian had also died in circumstances that were unclear.

The battle broke out after a dozen or so Pravy Sektor members came to what was meant to be a round of negotiations equipped with grenade launchers and machine guns.

Both sides accuse the other of being the first to open fire .

The Pravy Sektor groups claims to have slipped through a security cordon and established new positions in the surrounding woods.

– ‘Order through force’ –

Pravy Sektor leader Dmytro Yarosh — a bombastic parliament member who was wounded in eastern Ukrainian clashes and whom Moscow identifies as a neo-Nazi — pleaded for calm.

“We are working with the Ukrainian Security Service in order to stabilise the situation,” he wrote Monday on Facebook1.

The gun battle erupted in a rural region split from the rest of Ukraine by the Carpathian Mountains and has ancient cultural ties to Hungary.

The Zakarpattia (Trans-Carpathian) province has often wound up siding with pro-Russian political parties because many locals also mistrust the Ukrainian nationalists.

About half of the region’s residents also carry Hungarian passports and have few political links to either Moscow or Kiev.

The Ukrainian government’s near silence on the crisis was broken Monday when Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk came out firmly on Pravy Sektor’s side.

Yatsenyuk has issued orders “to dismiss all Zakarpattia customs service employees,” his office said in a statement.

Th politically more cautious Poroshenko appeared to prefer the middle ground by blaming both sides.

The president opened Monday’s security meeting by accusing “the Zakarpattia smugglers of throwing down a challenge to all of Ukraine.”

But he also blamed Pravy Sektor — whom he called “true patriots” — of allowing “banal criminal gangs” enter its ranks.

A senior Ukrainian security service source said most in the government believed Pravy Sektor was far less innocent than it claimed.

Pravy Sektor “itself is trying to win a piece of the contraband business,” the security source said.

“The problem for Ukraine is that there are a lot of armed people who view themselves as heroes and try to establish their brand of order through force,” said the source.

“Something like this was bound to happen — and it did.”

References

  1. ^ Facebook (uk.news.yahoo.com)