Category Archives: POLITICS PARLIAMENT

Malcolm Turnbull and Benjamin Netanyahu witness MOU on defence industry co-operation Australia & Israel

Jerusalem: The prime ministers of Australia and Israel have shared a warm bearhug and pledged deeper cooperation on cyber-security in the fight against global terror threats.

Mr Turnbull arrived in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon, local time, on a trip that had been delayed and truncated by the political fallout from the High Court’s dual citizenship ruling.

But there was no ill feeling on show at Benjamin Netanyahu’s headquarters, where he was welcomed by the Israeli prime minister pronouncing him “mishpacha” – family.

“Malcolm you are a true friend of Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Our two nations understand each other in the deepest sense… and your personal commitment to Israel is absolutely clear.”

Mr Turnbull said it was a “long schlepp” from Australia but “it feels like family”.

“We are all fighting together against militant Islamist terrorism,” he said. “It’s a threat to Israel, it’s a threat to Australia and it’s a threat to all who value and cherish freedom.”

After two hours of meetings, including a one-on-one discussion then an official bilateral, the men witnessed the signing of a new memorandum of understanding on defence industry co-operation.

Mr Turnbull said they had spoken at length on the Islamist terror threat, and the role of technology in both enabling and fighting against it.

The prime ministers of Australia and Israel shared a warm bearhug and pledged deeper cooperation on cyber-security Photo: Dan Peled

Technology has “empowered individuals who seek to do us harm”, he said, and cyber security was more important than ever.

Israel is considered a cyber warfare superpower, alongside the US, Russia, China and the UK.

It accounts for 10 per cent of global sales of computer and network security technology.

But it also has significant offensive powers.

In October it emerged that in 2015 an Israeli security agency hacked into Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky, which enabled it to watch Russian spies as they worked to infiltrate sensitive US networks.

Israel was reported to have used cyber weapons to spy on the Iran nuclear negotiations in 2014 and 2015.

And Israel was reportedly behind the Stuxnet virus, dubbed the world’s first digital weapon, which was used to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment plants.

Last year Mr Turnbull announced a $230 million cyber security strategy, which would include an offensive capability to launch pre-emptive attacks on ‘cyber raiders’.

Mr Turnbull said Monday’s agreement would lead to closer collaboration between the two countries on cyber security.

“It is vitally important that we work more closely together, more of the time, to keep our people safe from terrorism,” he said.

A particular problem was the encrypted apps that terrorists used to communicate in secret, he said.

“We look forward to deeper collaboration on defence, particularly in the cyber domain,” he said.

After the meeting Mr Turnbull told media the two men had also discussed the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes but Australia supports.

It has recently come under pressure from the US, where president Trump has disavowed but so far not scrapped the agreement.

Mr Turnbull said Australia “absolutely understand Israel’s very real concerns and anxieties about Iran moving to a nuclear weapons capability but we are not persuaded that moving away from the agreement … would be beneficial in preventing that type of proliferation.”

Asked on the state of domestic politics, Mr Turnbull denied it was in a state of turmoil after the High Court decision.

“The business of government goes on,” he said. “It’s business as usual.”

Asked if he’d had enough with politics, Mr Turnbull responded “I’ve never had more fun in my life.”

Henry Sapiecha

Federal Budget 2017: Gangs, terrorists targeted in $321 million Australian Federal Police shakeup

A MASSIVE $321 million boost to the Australian Federal Police budget will mean 300 extra covert intelligence operators and forensic specialists to help protect Australians from the threat of terrorism.

GANGS and local terrorists will be the target of a beefed-up Australian Federal Police force in a $321 million Turnbull government plan to tackle ­violent crime.

A major drive to recruit 300 specialist police will see AFP ranks bolstered by new tactical response teams, undercover investigators and forensic experts, some of whom will ­support Victoria Police to iden­tify and arrest gang members.

The security package, to be announced today, is part of a Budget spending spree, which will also benefit Victorians with $100 million to help struggling manufacturing businesses adapt after the car industry closure. Treasurer Scott Morrison told the Herald Sun Tuesday’s Budget aimed to deliver fairness, security and opportunity, sharing the benefits of Australia’s economic growth with everyone.

“We know that things are improving globally and we’ve got to make the right choices to secure those better days ahead,” Mr Morrison said.

“We have to keep the economy growing for more and better paying jobs, to guarantee the services that Australians rely on, to put downward pressure on rising costs of living, and to ensure that the government lives within its means.”

The four-year AFP funding boost will pay for 100 intelligence experts, almost 100 forensic specialists and more than 100 tactical response and covert surveillance officers.

The package will fund more 100 intelligence experts and more.

Firearms specialists, bomb response technicians, intelligence analysts, negotiators and covert online investigators will be added to the AFP’s ranks, with several new officers placed on the National Anti-Gangs Taskforce to help Victoria Police.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said violent crime and criminal gangs were “two of the biggest issues facing Victoria” and the government would back the AFP to “crack down” on them.

“Victorians, like all Australians, deserve to feel safe to go about their daily lives without fear,” he said.

Mr Keenan said it was the largest funding boost for the AFP’s domestic policing operations in a decade.

“This will equip the AFP with new capabilities and greater flexibility to respond rapidly to emerging crimes today, and into the future,” he said. “The additional experts will fast-track investigations and lock up criminals sooner, targeting areas of priority including terrorism, criminal gangs, drugs, organised crime, cybercrime, fraud and anti-corruption.”

The AFP had previously raised concerns about its lack of funding, but Mr Keenan said the investment was “the first step in the AFP’s 10-year plan” for its future.

Another key element in the Budget will be the $100 million package to help struggling manufacturing businesses grow and adapt to changing technologies.

It includes $47.5 million over the next two years to pay for a third of the costs of capital upgrades to businesses in Victoria and South Australia that are trying to compete in the wake of the car industry closure.

“We shouldn’t fold our tents and believe Australians can’t compete. We can,” Industry and Innovation Minister ­Arthur Sinodinos said.

Mr Morrison said the Budget aimed to help Australians who had not shared in the ­nation’s strong growth.

“Our economic growth has been very good in a global context. At a personal level, at a household level, at a business-by-business level, things have been and felt a lot tougher.”

The manufacturing package also includes $5 million to help automotive research, particularly by students at ­universities.

Australia’s most successful businesswoman Gina Rinehart says Malcolm Turnbull must learn from Donald Trump to make Australia great again.

Ms Rinehart has urged the Prime Minister to cut spending and waste in Tuesday’s federal Budget, saying it is “frustrating” Australia is losing crucial investment.

“We have to do more to cut out spending. We’ve got to cut out a big slab of the expense of government,” she said.

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Henry Sapiecha

The 20 people who USA President Donald Trump turns to & are not in the White House

Washington: Relationships have always been President Donald Trump’s currency and comfort, helping him talk his way into real estate deals over three decades in New York.

Those who know him best say that his outer confidence has always belied an inner uncertainty, and that he needs to test ideas with a wide range of people.

As Trump’s White House advisers jostle for position, the president has turned to another group of advisers – from family, real estate, media, finance and politics, and all outside the White House gates – many of whom he consults at least once a week.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is on the phone every week, encouraging Trump when he’s low and arguing that he should focus on the economy rather than detouring to other issues.

Developer Richard LeFrak is a soothing voice who listens to Trump’s complaints that cost estimates for the border wall with Mexico are too high. Sean Hannity tells the president that keeping promises on core Republican issues is crucial.

Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict. Knowing these advisers – who are mostly white, male and older – is a key to figuring out the words coming from Trump’s mouth and his Twitter feed.

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Here, based on interviews with more than a dozen friends, top aides and advisers inside and outside the White House, are 20 of Trump’s outside touchstones:

The Mogul

Rupert Murdoch

Trump’s relationships depend on two crucial measures: Personal success and loyalty to him. Murdoch excels in both categories. His New York Post vaulted Trump from local housing developer to gossip-page royalty, and his Fox News Channel was pro-Trump in the 2016 general election.

The two share preferences for transactional tabloid journalism and never giving in to critics. (Trump said fallen Fox star Bill O’Reilly should not have settled sexual harassment complaints.)

The president’s relationship with Murdoch is deeper and more enduring than most in his life, and in their calls they commiserate and plot strategy, according to people close to both.

Murdoch even called the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, to buck him up after Spicer was savaged for a remark about Adolf Hitler.

Media baron Rupert Murdoch, pictured with Ivanka Trump

The Media

Sean Hannity

Presidents always deploy surrogates to appear on television to spout their talking points, but Trump has expanded on that by developing relationships with sympathetic media figures like Hannity who also serve as advisers.

Hannity, the Fox News host, defends Trump’s most controversial behaviour in public, but privately, according to people close to Trump, he urges the president not to get distracted, and advises him to focus on keeping pledges such as repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Chris Ruddy

The chief executive of Newsmax Media is a longtime Mar-a-Lago member and was a Trump cheerleader among conservative media well before the website Breitbart joined the parade. He employs writers and editors who tracked Trump’s career when they were at The New York Post. He recently visited the Oval Office, and he and Trump kibitz in Florida and by phone.

The Lawyer

Sheri Dillon

Dillon seemed out of place when she spoke at a too-large lectern in the lobby of Trump Tower on January 11, describing the steps Trump planned to take to separate himself from his business.

But Dillon, an ethics lawyer who worked out a highly criticised plan for Trump to retain ownership of his company but step back from running it, has repeatedly counseled the president about the business and made at least one White House visit. (Michael Cohen, a veteran Trump aide, has been serving as his personal lawyer.)

Campaign Advisers

Corey Lewandowski

Despite his “you’re fired” slogan, the president dislikes dismissing people. Lewandowski, Trump’s hot-tempered first campaign manager, was fired last June but never really went away.

A New England-bred operative whose working-class roots and clenched-teeth loyalty earned him Trump’s trust, he continued to be in frequent phone contact with Trump until the election and beyond.

Friends of Lewandowski say that he can see the windows of the White House residence from his lobbying office on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that the view is even better during his visits to the West Wing, including when the New England Patriots were at the White House in the past week.

Newt Gingrich

The former House speaker talks more with Trump’s top advisers than he does with the president, but his presence permeates the administration. Gingrich’s former spokesman is at the State Department, and two former advisers work in the West Wing.

Gingrich has relentlessly promoted Trump’s policy adviser, Stephen Miller, as the West Wing conservative ballast as the chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has been under fire.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Photo: AP

Childhood Friend

Richard LeFrak

Their fathers were developers together in New York, and the two men have been friends for decades. LeFrak is a Mar-a-Lago member, and he agreed to be part of an infrastructure effort that Trump hopes to put forward. Trump has turned to him to vent frustrations about the slow pace of bureaucracy.

The Peers

Thomas Barrack

Trump divides the people around him into broad categories: family, paid staff and wealthy men like Barrack whom he considers peers.

A sunny and loyal near-billionaire who has socialised with the president for years, Barrack is less a strategic adviser than a trusted moneyman, fixer and sounding board who often punctuated his emails to Trump with exhortations like “YOU ROCK!” He has urged Trump to avoid needless, distracting fights.

Under Barrack’s leadership, Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $US106.7 million ($141.4 million), much of it from big corporations, banks and Republican megadonors like Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Barrack also helped usher Paul Manafort, the international political operative under scrutiny for his ties to Russia, into the Trump fold last year. The velvet-voiced Barrack does not seek out attention for himself, one of the most important and elusive qualities by which the president judges people.

Stephen Schwarzman

The chairman and chief executive of the Blackstone Group, Schwarzman is the head of Trump’s economic advisory council. He and the president don’t speak daily, West Wing aides said, but do talk frequently.

Schwarzman has counselled him on a number of topics, including advising him to leave in place President Barack Obama’s executive order shielding young undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” from deportation.

Steve Roth

A good way to get on Trump’s side is to do a deal with him, particularly if it means rescuing him from his own financial crisis. That’s what real estate tycoon Steve Roth did a decade ago when he bought out Trump’s share in a New York City real estate deal that went sour.

Roth, head of Vornado Realty Trust and a longtime Democratic donor, also helped Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, when he injected $80 million into 666 Fifth Avenue, a Kushner family property in danger of defaulting on $US1.1 billion in loans. Trump speaks with Roth frequently, and is leaning on him to help develop a trillion-dollar infrastructure package expected this year.

Phil Ruffin

Trump has 20-odd business partners, but none is closer to him than Ruffin, 82, a Texas billionaire who has lent his ear and private jet.

The president was best man at the 2008 wedding of Ruffin to his third wife, a 26-year-old model and former Miss Ukraine. Ruffin has a knack for showing up when Trump needs him most and remains a die-hard defender.

“This stuff about him having financial investments all over Russia – that’s just pure crap,” Ruffin told Forbes. “I went to Russia with him. We took my airplane. We were having lunch with one of the oligarchs there. No business was discussed.”

Carl Icahn

Rounding out Trump’s roster of wealthy octogenarians is this 81-year-old corporate raider and real estate mogul who occupies perhaps the most respected perch in the president’s circle of businessmen buddies.

The affection is long-standing: The New York-bred Icahn has known Trump and his family for decades.

It’s also numerical: Icahn is worth an estimated $16 billion, a major plus in the eyes of a president who keeps score. Icahn serves as a free-roving economic counsellor and head of Trump’s effort to reduce government regulations on business.

Man of Mystery

Roger Stone

Few alliances in politics are as complicated as the 40-year relationship between the Nixon-tattooed Stone and Trump. Stone won’t say how frequently they speak these days, but he shares the president’s tear-down-the-system impulses and is ubiquitous on cable, on radio and on the website InfoWarsnews defending Trump.

The Clubgoers

Ike Perlmutter

Perlmutter, the chief executive of Marvel Comics who is so reclusive that few public photographs exist of him, has been informally advising Trump on veterans issues. The two men are old friends, and Perlmutter has been a presence at Mar-a-Lago club.

Robert Kraft

The owner of the Patriots is a Democrat but his loyalty to Trump, Kraft once said, dates partly to the president’s thoughtfulness when Kraft’s father died. Trump loved talking about the Patriots during the campaign, and Kraft has been a Mar-a-Lago presence since the transition.

The First Lady

Melania Trump

Melania Trump is uninterested in the limelight, but she has remained a powerful adviser by telephone from New York. Among her roles: giving the president feedback on media coverage, counselling him on staff choices and urging him, repeatedly, to tone down his Twitter feed. Lately, he has listened closely and has a more disciplined Twitter finger.

US first lady Melania Trump. Photo: AP

The Governor

Chris Christie

Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and palace gatekeeper, has shown a capacity to hobble his rivals, but few have been finished off. The most durable has been Christie, whose transition planning, several West Wing aides now concede, should not have been discarded. He has been a frequent Oval Office visitor and has worked with the White House on the opioid addiction crisis.

The Speaker

Paul Ryan

Trump and the clean-cut and wonky Wisconsinite aren’t exactly best friends forever. But their relationship is closer than in the bad old days of the 2016 campaign when Ryan delayed a hold-my-nose endorsement of Trump, whose morality he had long questioned. But as the president’s agenda passes through the razor-blade gantlet of the House, where Ryan faces the constant threat of opposition and overthrow, the two men have become foxhole buddies.

The Sons

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump

The two sons and the president insist they no longer discuss company business. But the family is close and Trump still speaks to his sons frequently, inquiring about their lives and searching for gut-checks on his own.

– The New York Times

Henry Sapiecha

Donald Trump speech at CIA memorial risks fueling intelligence feud

In first official act, Trump pledges support for agency he has attacked

  • Former director ‘angered’ by political speech at wall for dead officers

Trump makes first speech as president to CIA audience in Virginia.

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Henry Sapiecha

Trump concedes Russia likely hacked DNC, attacks USA intelligence agencies over leaks

US President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he believes Russian operatives hacked the Democratic Party during the election, but he continued to dispute intelligence reports that Moscow acted to help him win.

During an at times rancorous press conference, he angrily denounced the publishing of claims he had been caught in a compromising position in Russia and attacked news organisations for publishing the claims, while also lashing US intelligence agencies over the leak of an explosive but unverified dossier.

“I think it was Russia,” Mr Trump conceded at the press conference in New York when asked who was responsible for the leaks of Democratic emails during the campaign.

But Mr Trump said he believes Russia would have released damaging information about him had they obtained such information.

Mr Trump also addressed questions about his relationship with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, saying “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks, that’s an asset not a liability. I don’t know if I’ll get along with Vladi­mir Putin. . .but even if I don’t does anyone in this room think Hillary Clinton will be tougher on Putin than me? Give me a break.”

Mr Trump made his remarks in his first news conference as President-elect, ending a period of 167 days since he has fielded questions from the full media contingent. Past winners of the presidency have traditionally faced the press far earlier.

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On Wednesday morning the president-elect angrily denounced news reports about a dossier of potentially compromising information Russia has allegedly gathered about him, citing denials from the Kremlin that it has any such intelligence.

The president-elect also charged via Twitter that his “crooked opponents” are trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in “one last shot at me,” saying, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

President-elect Donald Trump listens to a question during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York image www.intelagencies.com

At the news conference on Wednesday he attacked US intelligence agencies over the leak of the dossier, which was published in full by the news and entertainment website Buzzfeed on Tuesday.

“I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out there,” Mr Trump told the news conference. He called the dossier that makes salacious claims about him “fake news” and “phony stuff.”

Mr Trump acknowledged Russia was likely behind the hack of the DNC image www.intelagencies.com

“I think it’s a disgrace … That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done,” the Republican said days ahead of his inauguration.

Mr Trump’s comments follow the revelation Tuesday night that a classified report delivered to Mr Trump and President Obama last week, according to US officials, included a section summarising allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising information about Mr Trump’s personal life and finances.

The officials said that US intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations but believed the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin called the allegations that Russia has collected compromising information about Trump an “absolute fantasy.”

Soon after, Mr Trump tweeted: “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.’ Very unfair!”

Most media organisations reported only on the existence of the report and that intelligence officials had included a summary of it in their briefings with Mr Trump and Mr Obama on Russia’s attempts to sway the election. But BuzzFeed News published a document supposedly created by a former British intelligence official. The information it contains has not been verified.

Mr Trump and other officials appeared to focus on BuzzFeed’s publication of the report, denying that the document possesses any truth.

Mr Trump said Wednesday morning that he had no relationship with Russia that could compromise him.

“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me,” he said. “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

The Washington Post with Reuters

Trump Receives Russia Hacking Report. Contents, true or false??

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Hours after concluding his meeting with the U.S.’s top intelligence officials, President-elect Donald Trump didn’t immediately continue his previous denial that the Russian government was behind the election season hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump did, however, promptly issue a statement contradicting the report’s scope.

His statement, which was emailed to the media around 2:30 P.M., claimed that regardless of who was behind the hacks, they caused “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

However, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which prepared the report, explicitly said they never attempted to judge how many votes Russia might have swayed — just that it was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intent to favor Trump over his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” the report read. “The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.”

It would likely be impossible to determine how many voters stayed home or chose Trump over Clinton because of the hacks, as well as their subsequent news coverage, especially in Russian outlets like RT, which the report called “a platform for Kremlin messaging.” Clinton lost by 74 electoral votes — a minimum of at least two states — though she received more total votes than any American presidential candidate in history save President Obama in 2008. She received 2.8 million more votes than Trump.

ODNI, which presented the report to President Obama on Thursday, made a declassified version available to the public late Friday afternoon. It contains few genuine revelations not previously reported in the news, though it’s noteworthy for breaking down the independent major intelligence agencies’ conclusions. The CIA and FBI both have “high confidence” that Putin ordered a hacking campaign to injure Clinton’s campaign. The NSA, which intercepted messages of senior Russian officials celebrating Trump’s win, expressed “moderate confidence” in that conclusion.

The report maintains, also with high confidence, that the online character Guccifer 2.0, who had claimed to be a Romanian hacktivist while slowly dispensing various documents stolen from Democrats’ servers, was a tool of Russian intelligence to disseminate those files. Vocativ reported in July that Guccifer 2.0 was lying about his identity and likely Russian, and in September that he seemed to leaking information about Democrats specifically in states vital for a Trump victory.

Trump added in his statement “that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.” That, however, wasn’t even up for debate. It wasn’t mentioned in ONDI’s report, and prominent voting experts, as well as FBI Director James Comey, proclaimed before the election that a major attack on the U.S.’s physical voting machines was unlikely. Subsequent audits found no evidence of foreign tampering.

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Henry Sapiecha

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IBM to set up cyber centre in Canberra

Led by a former federal police assistant commissioner, the new centre is intended to bring together business and government to tackle security issues.

IBM-Logo-in-blue image www.intelagencies.com

IBM has announced that it will create a National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in Canberra, to be headed by Kevin Zuccato, a former Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner and head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre.

The company said the NCSC would allow access to IBM’s threat-sharing platform used by more than 2,000 businesses around the world, provide emergency response teams for security incidents, and would be partnering with its Australian Security Development Lab on the Gold Coast.

“With the establishment of the IBM National Cyber Security Centre in Canberra, we will provide a destination for government and organisations to proactively collaborate on strategy and policy,” said Kerry Purcell, IBM ANZ managing director. “The NCSC will drive a culture of innovation and openness, essential if we are to tackle this growing issue for every organisation.”

IBM did not specify the timing of the centre’s opening, nor the number of employees it would have.

The new centre will align with the federal government’s cyber strategy, IBM said, and will look to support both government and business in improving information security capabilities.

Announced in April, the AU$240 million Cyber Security Strategy had as its centrepiece the sharing of threat information between business and government, using the existing Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and new portals in capital cities.

As part of the package, the government said it would create two new roles: Minister assisting the prime minister on cyber security, and special adviser on cyber security within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet — the latter of which was filled by former e-safety commissioner Alastair MacGibbon.

In its Defence White Paper, launched in February, the Australian government said it would spend between AU$300 million and AU$400 million over the decade to the 2025-26 financial year on its Cyber Security Capability Improvement program

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Henry Sapiecha

 

US personnel agency chief Katherine Archuleta resigns over massive data breach

Katherine Archuleta has resigned following a massive data breach that put 22 million at risk image www.intelagencies.com

Katherine Archuleta has resigned following a massive data breach that put 22 million at risk. Photo: Reuters

The chief of the US federal hiring office resigned on Friday after massive computer hacks at the agency that put the personal data of more than 22 million Americans at risk, including people seeking sensitive security clearances.

The White House said Katherine Archuleta had stepped down as head of the Office of Personnel Management and that OPM was enhancing cyber-security measures, such as limiting the number of “privileged users” of computer data.

Archuleta, facing a chorus of demands from Congress for her ouster, said in a statement she had told US President Barack Obama it was “best for me to step aside and allow new leadership to step in”.

Beth Cobert, who works in the White House budget office, will become acting OPM director, the White House said.
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The departure of Archuleta will not fix OPM’s serious cyber-security weaknesses, which Obama administration officials conceded would take months, possibly years, to address.

Republicans in Congress accused the administration of being flat-footed on the growing problem of computer hacks. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters it was conducting a “rapid assessment” of cyber security measures with the aim of accelerating improvements.

The latest hacking revelation at OPM, revealed on Thursday, followed what the OPM called a “separate but related” computer incursion involving the theft of data on 4.2 million current and former federal workers.

Because many of the same people were affected by both hacks, the total comes to about 22.1 million people, or almost 7 per cent of the US population, making the incidents among the most damaging cyber security breaches ever.

Social Security numbers and other sensitive data, including possibly compromising secrets gathered for security clearances, were stolen from OPM computers in the sweeping intrusions.

The United States has identified China as the leading suspect, but China’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed that as “absurd logic”.

Archuleta’s departure came a day after Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying that he had “no confidence” in OPM’s current leadership.

On Friday, Boehner, citing chronic problems at the Veterans Administration that led to the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki last year, said a change in personnel did not always lead to real change and Obama had to “repair” the OPM problems.

Archuleta, a high-ranking official in Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, was appointed to the top OPM job in May 2013 and sworn in the following November, becoming the first Latina to head the federal agency.

The computer hacks at OPM, coupled with computer glitches this week that disrupted operations at both the New York Stock Exchange and United Airlines, have raised serious concerns in US Congress about the security of major US computer systems.

In a related matter, arrangements for granting security clearances to employees and contractors have been seriously affected since a computer system used to receive and process applications was turned off temporarily on June 29, government security sources said.

The digital system, called E-QIP, had been the main platform through which applicants submitted detailed information about their background on a questionnaire known as Standard Form 86. The system was shut down for security enhancements.

A source familiar with the process said there were now serious problems handling the flow of paper forms, and concern that digitising them could expose them to the risk of hacking.

A senior Obama Administration official acknowledged that the process had been “hindered” by the E-QIP shutdown but said the digital system would be restored in four to six weeks.

Reuters

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Henry Sapiecha

Rep. John Katko to FAA: Take steps to prevent cyberattacks on airplanes

Katko1-on airport security image www.intelagencies.com

U.S. Rep. John Katko is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to address concerns that airplanes are vulnerable to cyberattacks after a Government Accountability Office report found a hacker could access the plane’s controls using its wireless Internet system. 

The GAO report said the FAA has taken action to protect its air traffic control systems, but the agency will continue to face challenges because it hasn’t implemented a model to help identify cybersecurity threats. And while the GAO acknowledges that the FAA has taken some steps to develop such a model, it hasn’t dedicated the funding or time needed to finalize the plan.

A co-requester of the report, Katko, R-Camillus, said GAO’s findings are “troubling.”

“This report exposes an enormous vulnerability in our system — that any traveler could gain unauthorized access to cockpit avionics systems from the cabin,” Katko, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said in a statement.

“Nearly 14 years since 9/11, terrorists have adapted both to our airport security protocols and to the modern communication systems used in aircraft systems, requiring us to be agile and resourceful in ensuring airport and in-flight security.”

In its report, the GAO recommended that the FAA should assess the cost and time needed to develop a cyberthreat model and add the Office of Aviation Safety to the agency’s Cyber Security Steering Committee.

The GAO also advised that the FAA should develop a plan to implement revisions to federal cybersecurity standards.

“In light of the significant threats we face, I urge FAA to quickly implement the GAO’s latest recommendations to eliminate these vulnerabilities and prevent cyberattacks on aircrafts in flight,” Katko said.

According to the report, the FAA agreed to two of the recommendations. But the agency said the Office of Aviation Safety “is sufficiently involved in cybersecurity” and won’t be added to its Cyber Security Steering Committee.

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Henry Sapiecha

Crime Commission to give evidence on disrupting illegal online activity

The ability of government agencies to disrupt the operation of illegal online services has proven to be a useful tool for Australian law enforcement to prevent harm to the Australian community caused by serious and organised crime, according to the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).

On Wednesday morning, the House Standing Committee on Communications will hear evidence from the ACC at its third public hearing for its inquiry into the use of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

The ACC is a strong advocate of maintaining section 313 of the Act, which gives powers to some agencies to disrupt illegal online activity, and also supports improvements in transparency and accountability in the use of the section.

In its submission, the ACC said that balancing transparency, accountability and law enforcement effectiveness can be achieved by creating a regime that is proportional to the threat posed by serious and organised crime.

Committee Chairman Jane Prentice said, “Striking a balance between freedom and protection is the essence of democratic government. The scale and nature of criminal activity online demanded a response from governments and law enforcement agencies. Nonetheless, agencies must be accountable for the use of the powers they are granted, and those powers must be proportional to the threat.”

Mrs Prentice noted that the Committee would be examining those issues to ensure that the use of the powers conferred under section 313 was appropriate, proportionate and subject to effective accountability.

Details of the hearing are as follows:
Date:  Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Time:  8:00 am
Venue:  Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra

Further information on the Inquiry, including the full terms of reference and how to prepare a submission can be obtained from the Committee’s website at www.aph.gov.au/section313 or from the Secretariat on (02) 6277 2352.

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Henry Sapiecha