Tuesday, December 23, 2014

North Korean Web goes dark days after Obama pledges response to Sony hack

North Korea’s fledgling Internet access went dark Monday, days after 
President Obama promised a “proportional response” to the nation’s 
alleged hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The question of who 
pulled the plug immediately became the stuff of a global cyber-mystery.

Was it a shadowy crew of guerrilla hackers, under the flag of Anonymous?
A retaliatory strike from the United States? A betrayal from China,
North Korea’s top ally and its Web gatekeeper? Or just a technical
glitch or defensive maneuver from the Hermit Kingdom itself?
On Monday, a State Department official issued a somewhat coy
non-denial when asked about U.S. involvement in North Korea’s
The official wouldn’t comment on how the government plans to
avenge North Korea’s alleged attack on Sony but added, “As we
implement our responses, some will be seen, some will not be seen.”
The mystery behind North Korea’s 9 1/2 -hour outage highlights
a paradox of modern cyberwarfare: As attacks become more
prominent, the combatants — and their motives — are becoming
 harder to identify.
“This is the standard for espionage: Things are murky. It’s not
like the movies, where in the last scene someone ties it all together
with one long soliloquy,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at
the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies.
North Korea continues to deny that it was responsible for the hack
that hobbled Sony, exposed intimate e-mails from top executives
and posted online copies of unreleased films — all efforts in an
apparent revenge scheme for “The Interview,” a comedy about two
goofballs told to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
After Obama accused the country last week and promised retaliation,
North Korean officials at first offered to hold a joint investigation
with the United States to find the source of the attack.
Then Pyongyang warned through its state-owned news agency that
it would fight any retaliation with “our toughest counteraction­ . . .
against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland,
the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’
declared by Obama.”

On Thursday, researchers began to notice an uptick in attacks against 
North Korea’s Internet infrastructure. Designed to overload servers and 
Web sites with a flood of fake traffic, such “denial-of-service” attacks 
can render entire networks inoperable.
The next day, a Twitter account affiliated with Anonymous — the
collective behind numerous high-profile hacks — announced that
a counterattack against North Korean hackers had begun.
“Operation RIP North Korea, engaged. #OpRIPNK,” tweeted the
account known as @theanonmessage. (That account was suspended
by Twitter on Monday over separate threats it had made to
release a sex tape belonging to rapper Iggy Azalea.)
On Monday, a separate group, also claiming links to Anonymous,
sought credit for the outages.
The timing of the two tweets was consistent with statistics tracked
by the security research firm Arbor Networks. On Thursday, the
company recorded two denial-of-service attacks. The next day it
saw four. The wave peaked Saturday and Sunday with 5.97
gigabits of data inundating North Korea’s pipes every second.
Late Monday, Dyn Research said North Korea’s Internet access was
restored after a nine-hour, 31-minute outage.
While it is unclear whether Anonymous played a role in North
Korea’s downtime, at least six of the observed ­denial-of-service
attacks originated from the United States, Arbor Networks said.
But other security experts said hostile code can be adapted from
other attacks and filtered covertly through foreign servers. Even
basic cyberattacks can use decoys or distractions, including hosts
of “zombie” computers or falsified location data, to shake pursuers
off the trail.
“The actual work of evidence-gathering and prosecution is so much 
more difficult in the digital world than in the biological world,” 
said Alec Ross, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s School 
of International and Public Affairs. “Unlike a bullet, something 
‘shot’ as a cyberweapon can be reused and repurposed. Obfuscation 
s much easier, and it’s much easier to distribute an attack.”

Some security analysts noted that North Korea’s rudimentary
Web pipeline flows directly through the routers of a company
called China Unicom, leading some experts to speculate that
Chinese hackers were responsible for the blackout. China may
have seen the Sony hack as an embarrassing, unauthorized mishap
from its small but loud ally, or thought the friction it sparked
with the economies of the United States and Japan could be too
destabilizing to ignore.
“It is quite possible that the Chinese are reminding the North Koreans
of who really controls those networks,” Ross said.
On Monday, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations called for global
partners to hold North Korea accountable for the hack on Sony as
well as longtime human rights abuses. “It is exactly the kind of
behavior we have come to expect from a regime that threatened
to take ‘merciless countermeasures’ against the U.S. over a Hollywood
comedy and has no qualms about holding tens of thousands of people
in harrowing gulags,” Ambassador Samantha Power said.
Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, doubted
that North Korea took down its own Internet, saying the event was
not consistent with a more common outage, like a cut wire or
technical error, because the connections struggled for hours to
come back online.
“This doesn’t look they’re taking themselves down. You’ve got hours
and hours of instability, and that comes from somewhere,”
Madory said. “It looks like their network is for hours just struggling
to stay online, trying to come back, and eventually it’s just over,
just down.”
But Madory said that attributing blame for something like a distributed
denial-of-service (DDOS) attack is “notoriously difficult,” and that
something as unsophisticated as a DDOS attack would be easy to replicate.
Some hackers agreed the job wasn’t necessarily a mission-impossible
situation. A group of hackers calling itself Lizard Squad, which
has claimed knocking Sony’s PlayStation Network and several
other gaming services offline over the past few months, tweeted a
Web address it called the “North Korea off button.” It also tweeted
a message suggesting the blackout would be easy: “Xbox Live &
other targets have way more capacity. North Korea is a piece of cake.”

Source:   The Washington Post.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oil demand to 'rise tentatively' in 2015: IEA

Oil prices might have taken a tumble over the summer but demand is set to make a modest recovery in 2015 as the global economy improves, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Project funding
Oil demand 
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Oil prices have seen dramatic declines in the last few months, with the price for Brent crude hitting a two-year low of $88.55 a barrel this week, on the back of an abundant supply and slowing orders in the U.S., China and Europe. However, the IEA believes that demand growth "may have touched bottom" and should steadily improve.
"Projections of oil demand growth for 2014‐15 have been reduced, but growth is still expected to gain momentum. Recent data suggest that may already have started to happen," the IEA said in its monthly report on Tuesday. It added that record‐high refinery throughputs in August and improved margins worldwide suggest demand is perhaps not currently "as dismal as it might appear."
The agency revised its forecasts for global oil demand for 2014 to 92.4 million barrels a day -- down 200,000 b/d from its September report -- on "reduced expectations of economic growth and the weak recent trend."
As such, demand growth was now projected at 700,000 b/d in 2014 although the agency predicted demand growth to rise "tentatively" to 1.1 million b/d in 2015, "as the macroeconomic backdrop improves."Demand growth is forecast to pick up momentum in the fourth quarter of 2014, the IEA remarked, "albeit modestly in line with the global economy."
Concerns over a slowdown in economic growth have been a major factor behind a sharp fall in oil prices over the last few months. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, has fallen more than 20 percent since June when turmoil in Iraq had lifted prices to $116 a barrel.
The drop in prices has led to expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could cut output in an attempt to shore up prices, but Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have played down such a move.
According to the IEA, weaker-than-expected demand for oil in the second quarter of 2014 has "come as a surprise" and it added that "further oil price drops would likely be needed for supply to take a hit – or for demand growth to get a lift."
Rather than be deterred by falling prices, OPEC crude oil output surged to a 13-month high in September, led by Libya's recovery and higher Iraqi flows, the IEA reported.
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How Ben Bernanke's refi rejection could help you

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke.
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Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke.
"How can you understand the wisdom or the logic of a former Fed chairman not being able to qualify for a refinance on a relatively small number given he's in the one percent," said Peltier—urging a return to the lending standards of before the housing bubble, which burst in dramatic fashion between the 2006 home price peak and the 2012 bottom.
Eight years later, as Bernanke and many other Americans have found out, it's still really hard to get a mortgage—a double-whammy since historically low interest rates are creating a big opportunity for qualified buyers.
Many would-be first-time home buyers can't get approved—forcing them to become renters. But Peltier hopes that'll change. "When the mortgage markets loosen and the credit standards get more normalized, we see that [renters] will move into purchases of homes."
Another optimistic sign, according to the Home Services CEO, support for the housing recovery has moved from mainly investor-buying for rentals to people who actually intend to live in the homes they purchase.
"At the start of the recovery two years ago, we were seeing a large percentage of the home purchases being transacted by investors and by private equity. The good news is we are getting a more normalized mix of buyers," Peltier said.

Your comments please....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Russia and Ukraine reach tentative gas deal in Milan

Russia and Ukraine made progress on Friday towards resolving a row over gas supplies, but European leaders said Moscow had to do much more to prop up a fragile ceasefire and end fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The mooted deal aimed at re-opening Russian gas supplies to Ukraine ahead of the cold winter months came as something of a surprise following an initial round of talks in Milan that the Kremlin said was "full of misunderstandings and disagreements".
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
However, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said a subsequent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France and German had made some headway in defusing a crisis that has revived memories of Cold War enmity.
"We have the first limited progress on the gas issue. We have agreed on the main parameters of the contract," he said, adding that all sides remain committed to a ceasefire deal struck last month to halt a pro-Russia revolt.
The Kremlin said Putin and Poroshenko would meet one-on-one later on Friday.
The West has clamped sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea in March and its support for separatists battling government troops in the east of Ukraine.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Moscow of aiding the separatist revolt by providing troops and arms. Russia denies the charges but says it has a right to defend the interests of the region's Russian-speaking majority.
EU officials said the gas talks would continue in Brussels next week, with Poroshenko telling reporters that the financing still needed to be resolved.
Moscow cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in June over unpaid debts and a pricing disagreement. This has sparked fears that the Russian gas that transits Ukraine en route to Europe could also be disrupted this winter.
Clearly sympathetic with Kiev, European leaders attending an EU-Asia summit in Milan lined up to tell Russia to ensure full implementation of the ceasefire deal struck last month.
Germany, in particular, sounded gloomy.
"I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far," Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier on Friday.
"We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine," she added.
Merkel's position as German leader in effect means that she sets the tone of EU relations with Russia, and she has taken the lead within Europe in trying to persuade Putin to change tack over Ukraine. She had a rocky time in Milan, however, with one German official saying the Russian leader had not displayed a "too constructive mood".
An initial meeting set for Thursday was delayed for hours because Putin flew into Italy well behind schedule. They then held more than 2-1/2 hours of talks that ran well past midnight, with both sides acknowledging discussions had been unproductive.
On Friday, Merkel reprimanded the former Soviet KGB spy in front of EU and Asian leaders, according to people present.
After a speech in which Putin raised doubts about the sovereignty of Ukraine, Merkel reminded him of the 1994 Budapest agreement, in which Russia recognised the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.
The Kremlin also sounded unhappy about the initial round of meetings -- particularly a breakfast attended by Putin, Poroshenko and an array of EU leaders.
"The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, the exchange of opinion is in progress," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, accusing some unnamed participants of taking an "absolutely biased, non-flexible, non-diplomatic" approach.

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Top economist looking for Fed to surprise market

On Thursday, the head of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank said the Fed may want to keep up its bond buying stimulus for now given a drop in inflation expectations.
However, one day later Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren told CNBC he doesn't expect the U.S. economy to need another round of quantitative easing, although he didn't rule out the option.
The Federal Reserve building.
Getty Images
The Federal Reserve building.
Top economist Maury Harris of UBS Investment Research thinks the Fed will surprise the market at its next meeting. He thinks the Janet Yellen and company could extend bond buying longer than expected.
"Don't forget, they're still buying $15 billion a month," said Harris on CNBC's "Closing Bell." "I think they'll cut that to $5 billion instead of going straight to nothing, (as is widely expected)."
Harris added that the Fed is committed to moving gradually; and slowing the taper rather than ending it, would be, what he called, another example of its gradualism.
If Harris is correct, economist Joe LaVorgna of Deutsche Bank said it wouldn't surprise him. "The Fed has made so many changes over the past year, they could, again, change their minds."
However, both pros added that slowing the end of QE doesn't necessarily mean the Fed will kick a rate hike down the road.
Both pros also said inflation data will likely compel the Fed to raise rates in June of next year. "And when that happens, it could be very disruptive," LaVorgna said.
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Dimon: 'I'm a real long-term bull' on US economy

The JPMorgan Chase CEO spoke Friday at the Institute of International Finance membership meeting in Washington, D.C., and delivered a mostly upbeat message.
However, asked what keeps him up at night, he said nonbank lending poses a danger "because no one is paying attention to it." He said the system is "huge" and "growing."
Nonbank lending was a contributing factor in the financial crisis due to firms lending money to low-quality borrowers who then defaulted on mortgages in droves.
He said, though, that the long-range prospects are good for the U.S.
"I'm a real long-term bull on the U.S. economy," he said on a panel with other Wall Street banking heavyweights, including Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, in a discussion about the future of finance.
"Innovation ... it's everywhere. It's unbelievable," Dimon said. "From nanotechnology to solar ... the technologies that are going to benefit the global economy are going to be huge."
He added, though, that policymakers are going to have to find a way to solve income inequality, which he said is causing the most negative feelings about the economy.
"A lot of people got hurt, obviously, in this global recession. I do think there's a true issue in income inequality," Dimon said. "It's a serious issue for politicians. It's not something we want."
He suggested earned income tax credits, better education and job training as ways to remedy inequality.
"Until we are doing better for everybody you are going to have this sour attitude and hostility toward banks and businesses," Dimon said.
Dimon's appearance comes just a month after he wrapped up treatments for a throat cancer diagnosis in July and is his first since the company's last earnings call.
It's all part of a busy month for Dimon, who is expected to lead JPMorgan's conference call when it reports earnings Oct. 14, The Wall Street Journalreported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

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Source:Jeff Cox   CNBC

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Biggest Mistakes I See on Resumes, and How to Correct Them

I've sent out hundreds of resumes over my career, applying for just about every kind of job. I've personally reviewed more than 20,000 resumes. And at Google we sometimes get more than 50,000 resumes in a single week.
I have seen A LOT of resumes.
Some are brilliant, most are just ok, many are disasters. The toughest part is that for 15 years, I've continued to see the same mistakes made again and again by candidates, any one of which can eliminate them from consideration for a job. What's most depressing is that I can tell from the resumes that many of these are good, even great, people. But in a fiercely competitive labor market, hiring managers don't need to compromise on quality. All it takes is one small mistake and a manager will reject an otherwise interesting candidate.
I know this is well-worn ground on LinkedIn, but I'm starting here because -- I promise you -- more than half of you have at least one of these mistakes on your resume. And I'd much rather see folks win jobs than get passed over.
In the interest of helping more candidates make it past that first resume screen, here are the five biggest mistakes I see on resumes.
Mistake 1: Typos. This one seems obvious, but it happens again and again. A 2013 CareerBuilder survey found that 58% of resumes have typos.
In fact, people who tweak their resumes the most carefully can be especially vulnerable to this kind of error, because they often result from going back again and again to fine tune their resumes just one last time. And in doing so, a subject and verb suddenly don't match up, or a period is left in the wrong place, or a set of dates gets knocked out of alignment. I see this in MBA resumes all the time. Typos are deadly because employers interpret them as a lack of detail-orientation, as a failure to care about quality. The fix?
Read your resume from bottom to top: reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation. Or have someone else proofread closely for you.
Mistake 2: Length. A good rule of thumb is one page of resume for every ten years of work experience. Hard to fit it all in, right? But a three or four or ten page resume simply won't get read closely. As Blaise Pascal wrote, "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." A crisp, focused resume demonstrates an ability to synthesize, prioritize, and convey the most important information about you. Think about it this way: the *sole* purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. That's it. It's not to convince a hiring manager to say "yes" to you (that's what the interview is for) or to tell your life's story (that's what a patient spouse is for). Your resume is a tool that gets you to that first interview. Once you're in the room, the resume doesn't matter much. So cut back your resume. It's too long.
Mistake 3: Formatting. Unless you're applying for a job such as a designer or artist, your focus should be on making your resume clean and legible. At least ten point font. At least half-inch margins. White paper, black ink. Consistent spacing between lines, columns aligned, your name and contact information on every page. If you can, look at it in both Google Docs and Word, and then attach it to an email and open it as a preview. Formatting can get garbled when moving across platforms. Saving it as a PDF is a good way to go.
Mistake 4: Confidential information. I once received a resume from an applicant working at a top-three consulting firm. This firm had a strict confidentiality policy: client names were never to be shared. On the resume, the candidate wrote: "Consulted to a major software company in Redmond, Washington." Rejected! There's an inherent conflict between your employer's needs (keep business secrets confidential) and your needs (show how awesome I am so I can get a better job). So candidates often find ways to honor the letter of their confidentiality agreements but not the spirit. It's a mistake. While this candidate didn't mention Microsoft specifically, any reviewer knew that's what he meant. In a very rough audit, we found that at least 5-10% of resumes reveal confidential information. Which tells me, as an employer, that I should never hire those candidates ... unless I want my own trade secrets emailed to my competitors.
The New York Times test is helpful here: if you wouldn't want to see it on the home page of the NYT with your name attached (or if your boss wouldn't!), don't put it on your resume.
Mistake 5: Lies. This breaks my heart. Putting a lie on your resume is never, ever, ever, worth it. Everyone, up to and including CEOs, gets fired for this. (Google "CEO fired for lying on resume" and see.) People lie about their degrees (three credits shy of a college degree is not a degree), GPAs (I've seen hundreds of people "accidentally" round their GPAs up, but never have I seen one accidentally rounded down -- never), and where they went to school (sorry, but employers don't view a degree granted online for "life experience" as the same as UCLA or Seton Hall). People lie about how long they were at companies, how big their teams were, and their sales results, always goofing in their favor.
There are three big problems with lying: (1) You can easily get busted. The Internet, reference checks, and people who worked at your company in the past can all reveal your fraud. (2) Lies follow you forever. Fib on your resume and 15 years later get a big promotion and are discovered? Fired. And try explaining that in your next interview. (3) Our Moms taught us better. Seriously.
So this is how to mess up your resume. Don't do it! Hiring managers are looking for the best people they can find, but the majority of us all but guarantee that we'll get rejected.
The good news is that -- precisely because most resumes have these kinds of mistakes -- avoiding them makes you stand out.

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Source: Laszlo Bock