Month: May 2019

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Fake links to nude celebrities crash New Zealand internet

It is believed a handful of computer users clicked links on Friday evening believing they would take them to the illicit images, but instead they inadvertently installed malware triggering a crippling Internet attack.

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It took telecommunications giant Spark, the rebranded Telecom Corp., until Sunday to fully repair what it termed a “dynamic” cyber-attack that overloaded its system covering more than 600,000 customers.

The intimate celebrity photos, which included actress Jennifer Lawrence and singers Avril Lavigne and Rihanna, were stolen from a cloud storage system.

Spark tweeted it was aware that when people clicked on some links they inadvertently installed malware “generating a high amount of traffic to overseas sites”.

Computer security specialists Trend Micro issued an alert shortly before the attack began warning not to open the links related to the nude celebrities.

“For obvious reasons, clicking on links to ‘naked celebrity’ photos, or opening email attachments would be a very bad idea right now, expect criminals to ride this bandwagon immediately,” it said.

“Our scanning brought to our attention some freshly-concocted schemes targeting those looking for the photos borne from the aforementioned leak.

“The first threat we found hails from Twitter, in the form of a tweet being posted with hashtags that contain the name of one of the leak’s victims – Jennifer Lawrence.”

Trend Micro said users who clicked the link offering to show a video of the actress were directed to download a “video converter” that was actually malicious software.

New Zealand authorities said they did not know who was behind the attack, which was launched from outside the country, and the malware was generating denial-of-service attacks towards Europe. 


26/05/2019 0

I’m glad I chose Labor: Oakeshott

On the first anniversary of the Abbott government, Mr Oakeshott told a Brisbane Writers Festival audience he’s now seeing what would have happened if he and fellow independents Tony Windsor and Bob Katter had struck a deal with the coalition instead of Labor.

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The retired politician said the trio had faced a blunt choice between former prime minister Julia Gillard’s “transactional” leadership style versus the “crash or crash through” adversarial style of Tony Abbott following 2010’s hung parliament. 

“I think it’s too early to call on many fronts as to whether it (the coalition) can be a functioning government but I’ve got to say one year in, and particularly the way the budget process is being handled, I’m very comfortable with the decision I made in 2010,” Mr Oakeshott told a sold-out crowd of about 250 people on Sunday.

Some budget measures are still yet to clear parliament, and critics say it disproportionately targets those on lower incomes.

Mr Oakeshott who resigned in 2013, said a functioning government needed to compromise to get results and Mr Abbott would need to negotiate with foes in the Senate, lower house and his own party.

The former Member for Lyne in NSW, who’s now concentrating on raising his four young children, appeared at the festival alongside former federal Labor treasurer Wayne Swan and retired Greens leader Bob Brown.

All three men have released books recently.

Mr Swan said Australians’ capacity to achieve their full potential was being threatened by government policies such as deregulating university fees, which in the long term would produce a more unequal nation.

Mr Brown said Australia was positioned to lead the world on humanitarian and environmental issues but was going backwards because of a “small-minded, hubristic government”.


26/05/2019 0

Abbott satisfied with first year in power

Mr Abbott arrived back in Australia on Sunday after a three-day trip to India and Malaysia, in time to celebrate Father’s Day and the one-year anniversary of his election as prime minister.

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“We’ve faced some difficult challenges and I think we’ve handled them pretty well,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“I do look back over the past 12 months with some satisfaction.” 

Mr Abbott cited his triumphs as: the scrapping of the carbon and mining taxes, stopping the boats and working on budget control.

His party issued a 20-page brochure expounding these achievements.

But the prime minister conceded not everything had been smooth sailing.

“With the wisdom of 20/20 hindsight there are always some things (we could have done better),” he said.

International events including the disappearance of flight MH370, the growing threat of Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria and escalating tensions between Russia and the Ukraine following the downing of MH17 often overshadowed the Abbott government’s domestic agenda.

In a video address to mark the anniversary, Mr Abbott said the “increasingly uncertain world” tested Australians like never before.

The Australian Greens say those events, which Mr Abbott had responded to strongly, rescued him from “complete failure”. 

Leader Christine Milne acknowledged the prime minister’s dedication to bringing the bodies of those Australians killed on MH17 home to their families.

“I accept that he did a good job on that front,” she said. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten harked back to Mr Abbott’s election night promise to lead a government of no surprises and no excuses. 

“When Tony Abbott was elected it was on the basis that things would get better,” he told reporters in Melbourne. 

 “Ever since then we’ve seen nasty surprises and pathetic excuses.”

Opposition frontbenchers issued a flurry of statements on Sunday morning pointing to promises across all portfolios they said had been broken.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, one of several crossbenchers refusing to back various government budget measures, accused Mr Abbott of “sneaking up on people with quite radical changes”.

“I think some Australians feel more tasered than surprised by some of the changes,” he said, listing deregulation of university fees, a $7 GP co-payment and welfare cuts in particular.

The government faces tough negotiations in its second year to pass those measures, with the Greens and Labor also vowing to oppose them.

Mr Abbott praised his cabinet for their work over the past year, but refused to give himself a personal score card. 

“If you give yourself 10 out of 10 they say you’re full of yourself,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. 

“If you give yourself seven out 10, they say you lack confidence.”

In the end, his government’s performance was a matter for the Australian people to judge at the next election, he said.


26/05/2019 0

Saluting the new breed of first responders

In the wake of 9/11, the world developed a special appreciation for first responders, the men and women who ran toward danger when they saw it.

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They risked all to help others, and fittingly there was a surge of recognition for cops and firefighters and paramedics – both those lost in the twisted metal of lower Manhattan and those who carried on in the same tradition.

Neither James Foley nor Steven Sotloff wore a badge or a uniform. Nor did Mbalu Fonnie, Alex Moigboi, Alice Kovoma, Mohamed Fullah or Sheik Umar Khan. But they embodied the first-responder spirit as truly and fully as any of those whose courage inspired us and whose sacrifices broke our hearts at the World Trade Center. For precisely that reason, out of genuine respect for them and their contribution to the world, it is essential we not make the same errors we did amid the anger and grief that marked the earliest days of what we once called the War on Terror.

Foley and Sotloff … chose to run into the flames of Syria even as the rest of the world looked away.

Foley and Sotloff, the two American journalists who were recently brutally murdered by terrorists, chose to run into the flames of Syria even as the rest of the world looked away. They, like other journalists covering that country’s civil war, knew that the risks they faced were grave. But they made a calculation that letting the slaughter in that country go unrecorded, unnoted, or uncommented upon would be compounding those battlefield atrocities with indifference. That would be inhumane and was so intolerable to them that they made their way into a country that many of the world’s great and powerful leaders were doing their best to avoid and ignore. What does it say about a person who chooses to go on their own into mayhem that has already claimed almost 200,000 lives and do so without a weapon, without an army, without a congressional resolution?

How deep must be their conviction that bearing witness is essential, the only possible human reaction, the one that might motivate others to action, to actually caring?

“I am afraid for my life, I must say, because I cherish my life”

Fonnie, Moigboi, Kovoma, Fullah and Khan were all health-care professionals, doctors, nurses, and technicians who were affiliated with the Kenema Government Hospital’s Lassa fever facility in Sierra Leone. All five, described in a moving Washington Post article from late August by Abby Ohlheiser, were co-authors of an important new Ebola study who died of the disease before their work could be made public. By virtue of their work, they were more acutely aware of the risks they faced from the current outbreak, the worst by far of its kind to date, one that has claimed more than 1,500 lives and may infect as many as 20,000 before it has run its course. Khan acknowledged this in late June by telling Reuters, “I am afraid for my life, I must say, because I cherish my life…. Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease. Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk.” But it was precisely because they knew the risks better than others — better than those who were infected and spreading the disease — that they chose to remain on the front lines of the efforts to combat the epidemic. Like other first responders, they too felt that the right response to a crisis is to run toward it rather than away from it.

Of course, Foley and Sotloff were not the only journalists to die in Syria, nor were they the only ones to be lost to the depravity of terrorists. Because they were Americans and because their murders were so gruesomely fed to the media and the grotesque appetites of the Internet, their stories have gained the most attention. But estimates as to the number of journalists lost in Syria alone range from 71 to more than 150. And, according to the World Health Organization, the number of doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers to have succumbed to this current Ebola outbreak was, as of late August, more than 120, with over 240 estimated to have contracted the disease.

Both of these totals pale to insignificance when weighed against the greater tolls of the crises that claimed the lives of these heroes. And other wars and genocides and epidemics are claiming their own fair share of such heroes, the first responders to these humanitarian catastrophes that many would prefer to ignore. All deserve the kinds of thoughts, attention, and prayers that we have offered on behalf of Foley and Sotloff, as well as our gratitude, because these are the people who, by risking their lives, make it impossible for the rest of us to look away. These are the people who risk their lives in order to offer a human touch to those whom most of humanity has abandoned. These are the people who demand that we cut through the impotence of high-minded political rhetoric and the incomprehensible mountains of statistics to reveal and serve the human beings at the heart of these problems.

bottom feeders of the American political commentariat sought to use the Sotloff tragedy as an opportunity 

That is why out of respect for their lives and for the spirit of what they do, we must consider our reactions carefully. It is easy for tabloid newspapers to offer up headlines demanding revenge or promoting scare stories. When infected American doctors returned home to the United States to be treated for Ebola, social media erupted with a debate about the risks this entailed, ignoring how hard it is for this disease to spread when properly contained, not to mention the plight of the health workers seeking treatment. This week, the bottom feeders of the American political commentariat sought to use the Sotloff tragedy as an opportunity to bash U.S. President Barack Obama for his inaction in Syria and to call for tough strikes against the journalists’ murderers. For them, the death was just a prop, and their railing reflected their own character flaws more than those of any of the people they were decrying.

No, an appropriate response to these tragedies lies not with the empty rhetoric of politicians going through the motions of seeming to care or with the histrionics of hotheads and opportunists. It lies with the ideas that motivated all of these first responders to action: compassion, getting to the facts – and then taking action even when the risks were high. In the case of Sotloff and Foley, not only does this mean that the world must heed their message that this crisis demands our attention, but it means knowing that spasms or showpieces of revenge are not enough.

Nor is it enough simply to target the Islamic State. The entire Middle East and much of Africa and Asia are now at risk because of the spread of Islamist extremism, and as we learned with our too narrow focus on “core al-Qaida,” targeting one group only ensures that others will assume its place. We need a comprehensive strategy to confront all such groups and to cut off their sources of funding and those who would give them comfort. And we must recognize that only through finding successful alternative political solutions to the problems on the ground can we fill the governance void that currently is the breeding ground and preferred environment for extremists. In the case of the Ebola battle, we must similarly not only contain and treat this disease, but recognize that the infrastructure, education, and resource gaps that enable an epidemic like this one to spread as it has threaten the world in ways that are greater than any one disease could.

Indeed, in both cases, what these first responders have shown are the costs of our indifference and inaction to date. And in both cases they demand a response that is not the narrow, crowd-pleasing “deliverables” of a political class that just wants ugliness off the front pages. Both crises are symptomatic of greater threats that demand long-term, global commitments to contain and eliminate them. Both require, in fact, governments, international institutions, and their leaders to act with something like the courage and humanity that defined the lives of Foley, Sotloff, the other journalists who have been lost bearing witness, the health-care workers fighting Ebola, and their colleagues fighting less well known but equally serious battles worldwide.

Rothkopf is CEO and editor of the FP Group. His next book, “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear” is due out in October of this year.

(c) 2013, Foreign Policy


26/05/2019 0

Cleary delighted with Penrith’s progress

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary bemoaned another short turnaround ahead of next Saturday’s NRL finals clash with the Sydney Roosters, but was full of praise for his players after securing a top-four finish.

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Cleary’s side beat the Warriors 22-6 on Sunday evening to climb above North Queensland and into fourth position on the ladder.

The win also ended the season of Andrew McFadden’s men who could have afforded to lose the game by two points and still knock Brisbane out of the finals places.

However, not for the first time, they failed when it mattered and the Panthers delighted a crowd of 13,551 at Sportingbet Stadium with an excellent display.

Penrith were long odds to finish in the top-four at the start of this season and Cleary said he didn’t set any targets this year apart from another steady season of improvement.

“Eighteen months ago we were everyone’s favourites to finish last and we scratched our way up to 10th spot,” Cleary said.

“The obvious one this year was to try and get in the eight and we’ve done that and I am very proud of the whole club.

“I think it is a pretty big achievement being in the top four with Souths, Roosters and Manly.”

The Roosters beat South Sydney on Thursday and now have nine days to prepare for the game compared to the six afforded to Penrith.

Cleary said his side have used to short turnarounds but admitted it was frustrating.

“The last four times we’ve played top-four teams they’ve had at least nine days to prepare for us,” he said.

“We’ve done it the hard way. But we are pretty match hardened and that will keep us in good stead.

“But we cemented our spot in the eight a few weeks ago and our performances ever since have shown we are happy to test ourselves against the best.

“We’ll be pretty heavy underdogs, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Young fullback Matt Moylan once again showed his quality with another outstanding display to become his team’s best attacking option.

“He’s going really well, he was almost faultless tonight and that is what you want from your fullback in those sort of games,” said Cleary.

“Your back three can get hurt in those games and it was pretty tricky conditions and all the boys did a good job.”

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden accused his players of going down tamely when their season was on the line.

“We didn’t really fire a shot,” he said.

“We had opportunities, we didn’t take them and weren’t good enough. We just weren’t tough enough to get ourselves out of it.”


26/05/2019 0