Special to the London Post
WASHINGTON—America’s super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for the dreaded “Heartbleed” virus that has infected servers worldwide, according to documents leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edwin Snowden.
The documents show that NSA developed Heartbleed as part of its massive MYSTIC anti-terrorism surveillance operation. The virus “enables security personnel to monitor Internet traffic flowing through half a million U.S. and European-based servers,” according to a highly classified briefing NSA officials made last summer to security experts at European intelligence agencies. The briefing was part of the large trove of classified documents on NSA surveillance passed along to news outlets last year by Snowden, who is living under asylum in Russia.
A statement Snowden released yesterday says Heartbleed is “yet one more reason why I’m not sorry for what I did.”
Security experts say the virus is particularly pernicious because it lodges in the actual infrastructure of the Internet—the servers and routers that comprise the backbone of the World Wide Web—making possible the widespread swiping of personal information by those who have access to the data.
Some of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs) in the United States and Europe are believed to be compromised, and security professionals have been scrambling to make the necessary patches and alert users to change their passwords. “The Heartbleed virus is everyone’s worst nightmare,” says Nigel Coolings of ShadowNet, an independent security consultancy based in London.
In testimony yesterday before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, NSA Director Keith Alexander says the Heartbleed program is under strict controls and the data is “only being used to prevent acts of terror by evildoers. Did we want to compromise the Internet? Of course not, but to protect against acts of terror, nothing can be outside our jurisdiction. Sorry.”
Even so, he says, he intends to place the program “under review” to ensure the program’s controls are “sufficient to protect the data we are collecting for critical national security purposes.”
That is not enough, say lawmakers. “Creating a massive security breach is not the way to stop evildoers,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the intelligence panel chair. “This program needs to be shut down.”
But Alexander said that’s easier said than done, because the NSA’s own passwords have been compromised. “As soon as we find a way to get back into our systems, we will take all the appropriate steps to ensure the integrity of the Internet,” he said. “But we can’t protect people’s information until we regain control of our systems, and we can’t do that until we think up new passwords, and we’re doing that as quickly as we can.”
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House budget negotiators averted yet another showdown by meeting much of the federal government’s projected fiscal year 2015 spending gap with proceeds from the sale of phone data on U.S. citizens that the National Security Agency has been collecting since 2001 under the USA PATRIOT ACT. “We know NSA’s data collection has been controversial, but at least we were able to solve a very real problem with it, and that’s to get our fiscal house in order without resorting to showdown tactics and last-minute deals,” says House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). More.
Ralph Hudson says he knows he’s not doing the country any favors by exploiting wedge issues between people but the money he earns in exchange for making the country a more violent and less tolerant place is too good to refuse. “In a perfect world would I want to make our country a crappy place to live? Probably not,” says the radio veteran, whose conservative talk show is syndicated nationwide and attracts a daily audience of some 15 million listeners. “But my first responsibility is to myself, because even though I’m probably going to die in another 2o years or so, and won’t be around to enjoy it, I want to amass as much wealth as I can, and doing what I’m doing enables me to do that.” More.
Don’t expect quick processing of your Social Security check today. Agencies throughout the federal government have closed in response to heavy cloud cover over the city, preventing the sun from shining and threatening rain. “All federal empoyees, with the exception of essential employees and national security personnel, are instructed to stay home during today’s extreme weather event.” Kevin Longley, director of personnel management for the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement today. “We expect federal agencies to resume normal operations tomorrow, although if current conditions persist, we expect to issue a revised update calling for a second day of closure.” More.
Alarmed at a rash of high-profile data breaches at big U.S. retailers like Home Depot, a task force of scientists and engineers looking at computer safety and privacy have called on lawmakers to add 16 letters to the English alphabet. They’ve also called for the addition of three numbers to the number scale, but that recommendation was not included in the final report as task force members look at how that could be done, since the number scale is universally understood to be based on the 10-digit system and any change would be difficult to administer. More.
BEIJING—China this week released its plan to dominate the world by 2020 and also host a summit on the overfishing of red herring in the South Sea. “This is China’s century and we are determined to assert our interests globally in accordance with our stature as the one true superpower,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a news conference here yesterday. China is the world’s largest country by population, with 1.36 million people, not counting ethnic Uighurs, and the world’s second largest economy, with a gross domestic product of $16.1 trillion. That is about $1 trillion less than the United States, although that gap is expected to close within the next 18 months because of America’s declining productivity and “black president,” the plan says. More.
WASHINGTON—Disrespect shown to America’s favorite dessert from the heartland, apple pie, by liberal foodies is the next step in the Left’s war on everything America stands for, a coalition of conservative organizations said at a press conference here yesterday. “We know apple pie isn’t fashionable in some quarters of America, and we know in some quarters of America there are fancier or trendier desserts for people of so-called sophisticated palates, but we humbly say that an attack on apple pie is an attack on the values that have made America the greatest nation on earth,” the coalition says in a statement. More.
Elegant British super spy and womanizer James Bond is ditching his iconic Saville Row suits and other formal wear to sport a more casual look, an MI6 spokesperson says. “Agent 007 isn’t immune to the times,” the spokesperson says. “He understands business is conducted in an increasingly casual atmosphere and that spy craft is similarly changing. I’m not saying Bond will be stepping out of his Aston Martin in anything less than a nice shirt and maybe some khakis, but when he’s just puttering around London, Paris, or New York, you might just see him in a T-shirt and jeans. I’m not saying it will happen, but you might see that. He’s a secret agent, after all.” More.
Researchers at Oxford University have bestowed upon Canada the dubious distinction of being the most boring of the six countries that comprise what’s known as the Anglosphere: Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States. “We think it’s important that this matter be settled once and for all,” says lead researcher Nigel Clappe, lecturer in political science and demographics at Oxford University. “Up until this point, people have been identifying the most boring country based on nothing more than their own gut feeling. And that wasn’t helping anybody.” More.
Saying it’s impossible to be mad when you skip, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for leaders around the world to take up skipping, the “hippity-hoppity” gait that comes so naturally to children. “If you remember the last time you skipped, you will no doubt remember feeling frisky and carefree,” Ban said in a statement released today. The U.N. last week passed a referendum declaring the week of Dec. 18-25 World Skipping Week, which the international organization hopes will inspire people everywhere to skip rather than fight. More.