Tag: US

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.

Privacy group launches legal challenge against US data deal

Data centreAn Irish privacy group has issued a legal challenge against an EU deal which allows Euro data to end up in US hands.

The EU-US Privacy Shield commercial data transfer pact has been running for  two months but it was hammered out after the European Union’s highest court struck down the previous such framework over concerns about intrusive US surveillance.

The framework enables businesses moving personal data across the Atlantic a way of avoiding falling foul of tough EU data transferral rules.

Digital Rights Ireland has challenged the adoption of the “Privacy Shield” in front of the second-highest EU court, arguing it lacks adequate privacy protections.

It will be a year or more before the court rules on the case and it could still be declared inadmissible if the court finds the Privacy Shield is not of direct concern to Digital Rights Ireland.

More than 500 companies have signed up to the Privacy Shield so far, including usual suspects Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

VW has to pay $15 billion for emissions scandal

vwHitler’s favourite car company Volkswagen is having to write a $15 billion cheque to make a US court case into its diesel car emissions go away.

A federal judge signed off on one of the largest consumer settlements in US history, which includes a massive vehicle buyback programme and environmental remediation efforts.

US District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco approved the sweeping agreement between consumers, the government, California regulators and the German automaker. He said the agreement was”fair, reasonable and adequate”.

Last year Volkswagen admitted that it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to dodge emissions standards.

The company is still facing criminal investigations by the US Justice Department and German prosecutors which could cost it even more. More than 475,000 VW owners in the US can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation, if a repair becomes available.

Buybacks range in value from $12,475 to $44,176, including restitution payments, and vary based on mileage. People who opt for a fix approved by the Environmental Protection Agency will receive payouts ranging from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on the book value of their car.

Volkswagen will also pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean-emissions infrastructure.

Deal backers include a class action group of consumers, the EPA, the California Air Resources Board and the FTC which growled at VW over the company’s “false” advertisements marketing its smog-spewing diesels as “clean diesel.”

Meanwhile, VW is negotiating a separate settlement with more than 80,000 owners of diesel vehicles fitted with similar software.

 

 

US Army to have more killer robots than people by 2025

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsA top British cyber-spook has told the Daily Express that the US was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025.

John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly 20 years told coppers and counter-terrorism officials in London that by 2025 the US army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers.

Many of those combat robots will be trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs and it is possible that in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers.

Robotic military equipment is already being used by the US Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships. In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the US Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines.

Of course drones have been a feature of US operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the US.

Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines. The cyber security expert said: “Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together.”

Isis weaponised consumer drones

dji-phantom-vision-2-plus-004Islamic death cult, the Islamic State, has been buying off the shelf drones and packing them with explosives.

Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq last week shot down a small drone the size of a model airplane. Thinking it was an observation drone they took it to their base to have a look at it only to find it was rigged with explosives and blew up.

According to the Pentagon, the Islamic State has tried to use small drones to launch attacks at least twice, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces fighting the group to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential flying bomb.

The terror group has used off-the-shelf surveillance drones on the battlefield for a while but now it looks like they have finally created a usable weapon.

American military analysts and drone experts say that the Pentagon, which still has not worked out how to take down drones was slow to anticipate that militants would turn drones into weapons.

Apparently the Pentagon does have expensive and sophisticated devices to stop drones attacking its own troops but has not given these to the Kurds or Iraqis. Officials said they have ordered the Pentagon agency in charge of dealing with explosive devices — known as the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization — to study ways to thwart hostile drones.

The Islamic State is using simpler, commercially available drones such as the DJI Phantom, which can be purchased on Amazon for slightly over $1000. The group attaches small explosive devices to them, essentially making them remotely piloted bombs.

What is worrying is that a European or American terror cell might do the same thing and conduct a remote control terror attack on a city.

US taxman cometh for Apple

taxmanWhile Apple claims that the EU  is all part of an “anti-American plot” it would appear that the US taxman is about to demand a slice of the action.

The US Treasury said it was tightening restrictions on companies’ use of foreign tax credits to reduce what they owe in US taxes.

Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur said the government was closing another tax loophole that contributes to the erosion of the US tax base.

Analysts have speculated whether Apple could cut its US tax bill by claiming foreign tax credits for its extra tax bill in Ireland.

Under normal circumstances, US companies can reduce the taxes they owe the US government by the value of the tax credits they claim for taxes paid abroad on foreign profits. No US tax is due on those profits until they are brought into the United States, or repatriated.

But the new rule will prevent companies faced with back tax bills from “splitting,” a strategy that allows companies to bring foreign tax credits into the United States without repatriating the income from which they were derived.

Apple is not saying anything of course. The Treasury had no comment on whether its notice would have an impact on Apple directly, but a spokesperson said the notice applies to all companies required by a foreign government to pay additional taxes, including those hit by state-aid cases.