Tags: Cyber | Attackers

CIA: Cyber Attackers Have Hacked into Utilities

By    |   Sunday, 27 January 2008 04:14 PM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. CIA: Cyber Attackers Have Hacked into Utilities
2. Ex-Lawmakers Turning to Lobbying
3. Medved: Talk Radio Big Loser in South Carolina
4. Abortion Rate Drops as RU-486 Use Rises
5. Former Thompson Backers Staying on Sidelines
6. We Heard: Oprah Winfrey, Mike Huckabee

1. CIA: Cyber Attackers Have Hacked into Utilities

A CIA analyst has disclosed that Internet hackers have attacked the computer systems of utility companies outside the U.S. and in at least one case caused a power outage in several cities.

"We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet," Tom Donahue, the CIA's top cybersecurity analyst, told a gathering of security officials from utility and energy companies in New Orleans.

"We suspect, but cannot confirm, that some of the attackers had the benefit of inside knowledge."

He did not provide details about the attacks, but did say the hackers made demands for money.

Over the last decade in the U.S., electric utilities, pipelines, railroads, and oil companies have employed remotely controlled and monitored valves and other mechanisms that rely on wireless Internet connections linking them to central offices, the Washington Post reported.

That has made them vulnerable to sabotage or shutdown by Internet intruders seeking to perpetrate cyber extortion. Online gambling sites, e-commerce banks and other entities sometimes meet the hackers' demands for money to prevent being shut down, according to Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, the cybersecurity group that sponsored the gathering.

Ralph Logan, who heads the Logan Group, a cybersecurity firm, told the Post that over the past 18 months there has been a sharp increase in "attacks on our national infrastructure networks."

The attacks have been coming from outside the U.S., he said, but he believes they were launched from computers belonging to foreign governments or militaries, and not terrorist organizations.

Editor's Note:

2. Former Lawmakers Turning to Lobbying

The one-year ban on lobbying by legislators who left Congress last year has just expired — and ex-lawmakers are flocking to Washington to take up new roles as lobbyists.

Among them is Democrat Jim Davis, who left the House in 2007 after an unsuccessful bid for governor in Florida and has now signed up as a lobbyist with the Holland & Knight law firm.

During an interview with The Politico, Davis "shifted in his seat" when the discussion turned to charges from presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards that lobbyists are interested only in making money and shaping public policy to boost profits for their corporate clients.

"I've been a member of Congress, a candidate for governor — I've had pretty much everything thrown at me," Davis said.

Lobbying "seemed a place where I could do well," he added.

Davis said now that he is back in Washington, he's been struck by how the House has changed since the Democrats took control of Congress.

For example, he said that while he was on the Energy and Commerce Committee during the Republican era, "when I talked about climate change, they'd turn off the lights and the microphone."

Legislative actions are now discussed at hearings open to minority party input, while during the GOP era major legislation was often drafted by a handful of Republican leaders and their aides, according to The Politico.

Another change is the rise of Davis' old friends in the House to committee and subcommittee chairmanships. He's been teased by some for leaving office just as his party was about to take control.

"Don't you wish you were back?" they ask.

Said Davis: "I don't look back."

Editor's Note:

3. Medved: Talk Radio Big Loser in South Carolina

John McCain was without doubt the big winner in the South Carolina Republican primary, snaring 19 of the 22 awarded delegates. The big loser wasn't any of his GOP rivals, however — it was conservative talk radio.

That's the view from film critic and author Michael Medved, himself a conservative talk radio host.

Talk radio is "a medium that has unmistakably collapsed in terms of impact, influence and credibility because of its hysterical and one-dimensional involvement in the GOP nomination fight," Medved writes in Townhall.com.

For weeks before the primary, the leading conservative talkers were broadcasting the same message in an attempt to "demonize" Mike Huckabee and John McCain because they are not "real conservatives," Medved notes.

He writes that the "angry right" has characterized Huckabee as a "pro-life liberal," and McCain as a "pro-war liberal."

But McCain and Huckabee won 63 percent of the GOP vote in South Carolina, while the two "darlings of talk radio" — Mitt Romney and to a lesser extent the now departed Fred Thompson — combined for just 31 percent.

What's more, McCain and Huckabee received 61 percent of the vote from Republicans who describe themselves as "conservative," and even won 60 percent from "very conservative" voters.

"In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed — and failed miserably — in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain," Medved writes.

"There's no need to pretend that the candidates are identically conservative (they're certainly not), or equally qualified, or similarly appealing. But they're all solid Republicans, dedicated public servants, and worthy contenders for the party's nomination. Most important, each of them is vastly preferable to Clinton or Obama."

Editor's Note:

4. Abortion Rate Drops as RU-486 Use Rises

At a time when the overall number of abortions has been declining, abortions induced by the RU-486 pill have been steadily increasing.

Use of the French pill, on the market in the U.S. since 2000, has been rising by 22 percent a year and now accounts for more than 20 percent of the abortions performed by the ninth week of pregnancy, the Washington Post reports.

The pill — chemical name mifepristone — is "clearly starting to become an important part of the abortion provision in the United States," Lawrence Finer of the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization, told the Post.

"I think we'll continue to see increases."

The drug, often called "miffy," ends a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Pregnant women take the pill in a doctor's office, then take another drug, misoprostol, at home to trigger contractions, essentially resulting in a miscarriage.

More than 840,000 women in the U.S. have taken mifepristone, according to Danco Laboratories, which sells the drug. In some European countries, it's been estimated that it accounts for more than 60 percent of all abortions.

The increased popularity of RU-486 has also slowed the decline in the number of doctors willing to perform abortions, as physicians who previously would not perform a surgical abortion are willing to prescribe the drug.

But the increase in RU-486 use bothers abortion opponents.

"This troubles me," Randal O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee told the Post.

"It obviously shows that the marketing efforts have been effective in getting doctors to introduce this into their practices."

Editor's Note:

5. Former Thompson Supporters Staying on Sidelines

Congressional supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson are in no hurry to switch their allegiance to another GOP candidate now that Thompson is out of the race.

Thompson, who ended his campaign on Tuesday after finishing a distant third in the South Carolina primary, had been endorsed by 22 Senators and House members, including Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and House GOP Conference Chairman Adam Putnam of Florida.

But Alexander said after Thompson's withdrawal that he intends to put off selecting another candidate for the time being.

"I'm not likely to jump very quickly to endorse," he told Roll Call newspaper. "There are several good candidates."

Putnam said it is "unlikely" that he will endorse a candidate before the Florida primary on Jan. 29.

"I believed very strongly in Fred Thompson and all that he brought to the table, and I think that it would be very disingenuous for me to switch horses that quickly," he told Roll Call.

Two other Thompson supporters, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, said they are remaining neutral in the presidential race for now. But Thompson backer Thad Cochran of Mississippi has already endorsed Mitt Romney.

As for Thompson himself, Wamp said he believed the former Senator would not immediately endorse one of his former GOP rivals. But Roll Call pointed out that Thompson has had a long-established friendship with John McCain, who worked with Thompson in the Senate.

Editor's Note:

6. We Heard . . .

THAT Oprah Winfrey has given author and TV host Rabbi Shmuley Boteach his own show on her XM radio channel — and not everyone is happy about that.

The reason: While Oprah is presidential hopeful Barack Obama's most famous supporter, Rabbi Shmuley — author of the best seller "Kosher Sex" — has hosted a fundraiser for Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani.

"I don't understand why someone like Oprah, who ostensibly supports the causes of women and people of color, would hire a host who raised money for Giuliani," comedian-turned-activist Randy Credico, director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, told the New York Daily News.

"Giuliani has a history of treating women like dirt, including the mother of his children.

"Oprah has a lot of explaining to do."

Rabbi Shmuley created controversy in September 2005 when his radio talk show was pulled from a Utah station because he urged black Katrina evacuees to relocate to Utah.

He now hosts the TV show "Shalom in the Home" on TLC.

THAT former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is in the race — the Boston Marathon race, that is.

The Republican presidential hopeful plans to run in the April 21 event as part of Team Hoyt, a charity team organized by Dick and Rick Hoyt. Dick has pushed his wheelchair-bound son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in the race for 25 years.

Huckabee, who lost 110 pounds while he was governor, has run in four marathons, with a personal best time of 4 hours, 26 minutes.

Editor's Notes:

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. CIA: Cyber Attackers Have Hacked into Utilities2. Ex-Lawmakers Turning to Lobbying3. Medved: Talk Radio Big Loser in South Carolina4. Abortion Rate Drops as RU-486 Use Rises5. Former Thompson Backers Staying on Sidelines6. We...
Sunday, 27 January 2008 04:14 PM
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