Tag: US

ZTE fears US action could hit results

Chinese telco outfit ZTE fears that penalties it expects to incur for allegedly breaking US sanctions against Iran will be a kick in the bottom line.

In March, the US government hit ZTE with some of the toughest-ever US export restrictions for the alleged breaches. It has since issued temporary reprieves on the curbs, which are now due to take effect next month.

ZTE said in a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange said that it had been actively cooperating and communicating with relevant U.S. government departments to reach a conclusion of the investigation.

“The outcome of the settlement issues still remains uncertain but will likely have a material impact on the financial conditions and operating results of the company.”

Measures it has taken to placate Washington include a management overhaul and the appointment of a new chief export compliance officer based in the United States.

If no settlement or reprieve extension were reached before the deadline, US suppliers would be banned from doing business with ZTE, which could cut off much of the Chinese company’s supply chain. ZTE relies on US suppliers for about one-third of its components.

US rocket man held phone searched by airport security

A NASA rocket scientist was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to turn over his phone and access PIN.

The move poses some serious security problems because US Customs and Border Patrol lacked the security clearance to hack Sidd Bikkannavar’s phone and since he worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) this is a big deal.

Bikkannavar says his phone was issued by NASA and may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Then there is the small matter that Bikkannavar is a US citizen and should not have been forced to give over his phone under the US constitution.

A CBP officer escorted Bikkannavar to a back room, and told him to wait for additional instructions. About 40 minutes later an officer took him to an interview room and sort of explains that I’m entering the country and they need to search my possessions to make sure I’m not bringing in anything dangerous.

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN despite Bikkannavar’s protests.

The officer insisted that he had a right to search the phone and did not allow him to leave until he handed over his PIN. This is also odd as Courts have ruled that travellers are not legally required to unlock their devices, although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not.

When the phone  was returned Bikkannavar immediately turned it off because he knew he had to take it straight to the IT department at JPL. Once he arrived in Los Angeles, he went to NASA and told his superiors what had happened. The cybersecurity team at JPL was not happy about the breach. After all if Russia or China wanted US rocket plans all it would have to do was compromise the US Customs and Border Patrol which is not that difficult.

Air force peeved after Lockheed Martin botched GPS satellite testing

A Lockheed Martin subcontractor botched testing on a key component for the US’s newest Global Positioning System satellites.

According to Bloomberg   subcontractor Harris forced another delay in the delivery of the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites until later this month, and the Air Force is rather hacked off.

Major General Roger Teague, the Air Force’s chief of space programs said that the cock up will mean that the $528 million satellite 34 months late.

Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System.  Now the Air Force is wondering if it should award the contract for the rest of the system to Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

Teague said that the incident was avoidable and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris programme management.

Ceramic capacitors which take higher-voltage power from the satellite’s power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem have been a headache for the project.

Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn’t conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010.

Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites.

Harris “immediately notified Lockheed and the government” after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message.

“The capacitors met all mission qualification requirements,” he said, so “we are confident the capacitors are mission-ready”.

But Teague said in an interview that Harris was required to perform not only a test to show that the part met design specifications but a separate one to assess the component’s reliability and whether it met a requirement to last 15 years. That second test wasn’t accomplished because “they used the wrong test item,” he said.

The Air Force has decided to accept the first satellite even if its capacitors may be flawed because removing them could delay the delivery until October and cost about $70 million,

The Air Force must pay $100 million to replace the suspect capacitors on the second and third satellites. That’s because the satellites are being developed under cost-reimbursement-type contracts, which require the Pentagon to pay for cost increases, the service said.

Foxconn will build in the US

huet_fox_chickenFoxconn is considering setting up a display making plant in the United States in an investment that will cost $7 billion.

Company chairman and chief executive Terry Gou said the move was to attempt to get around US President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s planned protectionism and a trend for politics to underpin economic development.

Foxconn’s proposal to build a display plant, which would be planned with its Sharp unit, will depend on many factors, such as investment conditions, that would have to be negotiated at the U.S. state and federal levels, Gou said.

Gou said that Foxconn had been considering such a move for years but the issue came up when Foxconn business partner Masayoshi Son, head of Japan’s SoftBank talked to Gou before a December meeting Son had with Trump.

Son pledged a $50 billion of investment in the United States and inadvertently disclosed information showing Foxconn’s logo and an unspecified additional $7 billion investment. At the time, Foxconn issued a brief statement saying it was in preliminary discussions to expand its U.S. operations, without elaborating.

The United States has no panel-making industry but it is the second-largest market for televisions. An investment for a display plant would exceed $7 billion and could create about 30,000-50,000 jobs.

“I thought it was a private conversation, but then the next morning it was exposed,” Gou said. “There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish.”

This is also a long way from manufacturing iPhones in the US.

If any deal goes ahead it will likely not provide many US jobs either. Foxconn is keen on creating heavily robotised plants with limited human staff.

Bug researcher found himself deep in the US army network

US Army - Wikimedia CommonsA security bug researcher who was invited by the US Army to look for holes in the system found himself rather a little deeper into the network that he, or the army expected.

The US Army shared some surprising results from its first bug bounty programme — a three-week trial in which they invite 371 security researchers “trained in figuring out how to break into computer networks they’re not supposed to”.

The Army said the experiment was a success and it received more than 400 bug reports, 118 of which were unique and actionable.

Participants who found and reported unique bugs that were fixed were paid upwards of $100,000…

The Army also shared high-level details on one issue that was uncovered through the bounty by a researcher who discovered that two vulnerabilities on the goarmy.com website could be chained together to access, without authentication, an internal Department of Défense website.

The researcher got in through an open proxy, meaning the routing wasn’t shut down the way it should have been. But the researcher, without even knowing it, could get to this internal network, because there was a vulnerability with the proxy, and with the actual system.

On its own, neither vulnerability was particularly interesting, but when you pair them together, it’s serious.

Chinese ZTE in big trouble

big-trouble-in-little-chinaChinese telecom equipment maker ZTE is slashing about 3,000 jobs, including a fifth of positions in its struggling handset business in China.

The company is already facing US trade sanctions that could severely disrupt its supply chain and is getting rid of about five percent of its 60,000 stron global workforce.

Its global handset operations will shed 600 jobs, or 10 percent of the total, with the cuts concentrated in China. Things have not been going very well in China and the outfit is losing market share.

A local manager in one of the company’s overseas branches said a 10 percent quota was given to shed staff in his department by the end of January.

The US Commerce Department first announced in March that it would impose a ban on exports by US companies to ZTE for allegedly breaking Washington’s sanctions on sales to Iran.

While this has not happened yet it could nobble the company’s supply chain because it relies on US companies including Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel for about a third of its components.

 

US senators investigate Russian hacking

russian-villagersWhile Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump is denying his chum Tsar Vladimir Putin unleashed his team of hackers to help him win the election, senior U.S. intelligence officials will testify in Congress on Thursday on Russia’s alleged cyber-attacks during the 2016 election campaign.

Trump has not been briefed on the hacks yet, but that has not stopped him denying they took place.  He is apparently going to receive details on the DMC hack today.

He is already heading for a spat with Democrats and fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom don’t like Putin and distrust Trump’s praise of the chap.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Putin.

Their testimony on cyber threats facing the United States will come a week after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 election.

US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election, a conclusion supported by several private cybersecurity firms. Moscow denies it.

US intelligence officials have also said the Russian cyber-attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Several Republicans acknowledge Russian hacking during the election but have not linked it to an effort to help Trump win.

Documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, were leaked to the media in advance of the election, embarrassing the Clinton campaign.

Trump and top advisers believe Democrats are trying to delegitimize his election victory by accusing Russian authorities of helping him.

However, he has not helped his case by nominating Moscow-friendly types to senior administration posts, including secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, who while Exxon Mobil chief executive, was awarded the Order of Friendship, a Russian state honour, by Putin in 2013.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also hold a closed-door hearing today to look at Russia’s alleged hacking and harassment of US diplomats.

 

White House rushes to lock out Russian hackers

Vladimir Putin - Wikimedia CommonsThe White House is rushing to stop Russian hackers from gaming future US elections before Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes over and lets them get away with it.

President Obama wants to implement measures to penalise Russia for allegedly interfering in the US presidential elections. In 2015, the White House announced new economic sanctions, which authorised the Obama administration to punish and prevent foreign hackers who attack US national security and economy.

The National Security Council, the sanctions fall short of providing the current administration enough power to punish the biggest and most controversial cyberattack that hit the Democratic National Committee so now it is trying to work out how to tailor the sanctions to punish the Russian election hackers.

According to reports, one way of striking back at the Russian election hackers would be to declare electoral systems as critical infrastructure and what the Russians did actually harmed it,

The White House is seeking to employ measures that not only provide authority to penalise hackers who harm national security, but also prevent such attacks in the future.

US authorities blame Russian state-sponsored hackers for targeting political parties in efforts to interfere in the elections and help Trump secure a victory. The White House’s allegations were bolstered by US intelligence and the FBI’s analysis of the attacks, which also hold Russia responsible for its interference in the elections.

The worry is that if the Russians think “that worked pretty well” they will try to do it every-time the US has an election until they get the sort of government they want. The fear is that when Trump enters the White House he will abandon any moves to shore up the defenses against Russia because he owes them rather a lot of money.  If the rules are in place before he takes over, it might be more difficult for him to bin them.

US drones turned over by Russian hackers

orvillecopter-bart-jansen-cat-droneWhile the US has spent a fortune on drone technology, that gear has never actually had to stand up to an opponent that can fight back.

The situation is a bit like the days of the British colonial wars where the prerequisite of a campaign was that the enemy should under no circumstances carry guns. Drones can buzz around blowing up who they like safe in the knowledge that the Iraqis, Isis or Afghans have not got anything to stop them.

According to a new Reuters report  all that is coming unstuck in the Ukraine which has spent a fortune on US drone technology only to find itself deployed against the Russians who know how to take it out.

Millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-supplied drones that Kiev had hoped would help in its war against Russian-backed separatists have proven ineffective against jamming and hacking.

The 72 Raven RQ-11B Analog mini-drones were so disappointing following their arrival this summer that Natan Chazin, an advisor to Ukraine’s military with deep knowledge of the country’s drone programme, said if it were up to him, he would send them back to the US.

He said that it was a wrong decision to deploy the AeroVironment drones in the Ukraine conflict where the separatists have their own Russian made high tech gear which can intercept and jam their video feeds and data.

For some reason the drones use an analogue signal which means that the the command channels and data are not protected from interception and suppression.

The US itself is a bit spooked.  It had convinced itself since the Cold War was over that the Russians could not technologically match it. Arrogantly it assumed it was the masters of electronic warfare only to discover that Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities were far more sophisticated than thought.

The U.S. Army told Reuters it still uses Ravens but has upgraded them to digital versions, but the Ukrainians apparently can’t have these. One of the US officials cautioned about limitations on America’s ability to export drones that can evade Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities.  The US is still smarting from IS capturing shedloads of its gear from the Iraqis.

The Ukrainians have found the older tech so useless that the do not use them in the front lines and are mostly in storage.

This was because they allowed the enemy to see Ukrainian military positions and, when it wanted, easily take them down. Their battery life was too short to be useful at gaining intelligence on artillery positions, he said. Meanwhile it is continuing the build its own drones from commercially available tech.

American families stay at home and spend like crazy

Online spending by bargain hunters in the US has climbed to more than $1 billion as Americans stay home and binge spend.

The Adobe Digital Index saw internet sales surging almost 14 percent from a year ago as Americans could not be bothered queuing for the brick-and-mortar shopping sales.

At the start of the first holiday shopping season since the election of Donald Trump as president on November 8, US consumers spent like there was no tomorrow, which is probably a safe bet. More than $1.15 billion online between midnight and 5 pm ET on Thursday, splashed the cash,  according to Adobe.

Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, has started the holiday shopping season in the United States with retailers offering steep discounts and turning a profit. But its popularity has been on the wane given the emergence of online shopping and cheap deals throughout the year.

US stores are now opening on Thanksgiving to try and boost in-store sales, while retailers have been offering online deals weeks in advance to cope with lower demand and stiff pricing competition.

The holiday season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales. Retailers try to attract shoppers with deep discounts, sometimes as much as 85 percent.

The National Retail Federation, which has been optimistic with projections in the past, expects holiday sales to grow 3.6 percent this year to $655.8 billion.

“Online discounts are earlier and a lot bigger than last year,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal research analyst at Adobe Digital Index.