Dumping on Mickey D

We all read about the Target security breach that compromised tens of million of customers. Target is back in the news today.

(LA Times) Target Corp. is hiring an IT expert from General Motors Co. to beef up its data security following a massive breach that continues to weigh on its reputation.

Brad Maiorino will head up technology risk and information strategy, a newly created position.

It’s the latest move by Target to tighten security over its huge amount of shopper data. The Minneapolis company has increased monitoring of accounts and implemented new safeguards at its point-of-sale systems.

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Target, the nation’s third-largest retailer, has been struggling with the fallout from its disclosure in December that hackers stole credit and debit card information from tens of millions of customers.

Its revenue dropped 5% in the crucial fourth quarter and its chief executive, Gregg Steinhafel, stepped down last month. That followed the exit of Beth Jacob, the retailer’s former chief information officer.

You may recall that the breaches, they were big news this past December, but how exactly did the theft take place?

(Bloomberg Business) The biggest retail hack in U.S. history wasn’t particularly inventive, nor did it appear destined for success. In the days prior to Thanksgiving 2013, someone installed malware in Target’s (TGT) security and payments system designed to steal every credit card used at the company’s 1,797 U.S. stores. At the critical moment—when the Christmas gifts had been scanned and bagged and the cashier asked for a swipe—the malware would step in, capture the shopper’s credit card number, and store it on a Target server commandeered by the hackers.

It’s a measure of how common these crimes have become, and how conventional the hackers’ approach in this case, that Target was prepared for such an attack. Six months earlier the company began installing a $1.6 million malware detection tool made by the computer security firm FireEye (FEYE), whose customers also include the CIA and the Pentagon. Target had a team of security specialists in Bangalore to monitor its computers around the clock. If Bangalore noticed anything suspicious, Target’s security operations center in Minneapolis would be notified.

On Saturday, Nov. 30, the hackers had set their traps and had just one thing to do before starting the attack: plan the data’s escape route. As they uploaded exfiltration malware to move stolen credit card numbers—first to staging points spread around the U.S. to cover their tracks, then into their computers in Russia—FireEye spotted them. Bangalore got an alert and flagged the security team in Minneapolis. And then …

Nothing happened.

OK, so Target blew it.

Their focus being directed at realizing sales during the year’s biggest shopping weekend, the company’s security team missed the theft of millions of credit card numbers.

How much was stolen?

Estimates has those numbers at 40 million credit card numbers,  along with 70 million addresses, phone numbers and an unknown amount of card holder’s personal information simply flying out of a hacked Target server.

These were not Target credit cards.

The hackers stole every card number swiped in a Target store during 2013’s Black Friday weekend. So if you shopped at any Target store on or about last Thanksgiving, your information was very likely stolen.

Bloomberg Business goes on.

In testimony before Congress, Target has said that it was only after the U.S. Department of Justice notified the retailer about the breach in mid-December that company investigators went back to figure out what happened. What it hasn’t publicly revealed: Poring over computer logs, Target found FireEye’s alerts from Nov. 30 and more from Dec. 2, when hackers installed yet another version of the malware. Not only should those alarms have been impossible to miss, they went off early enough that the hackers hadn’t begun transmitting the stolen card data out of Target’s network. Had the company’s security team responded when it was supposed to, the theft that has since engulfed Target, touched as many as one in three American consumers, and led to an international manhunt for the hackers never would have happened at all.

They missed it not once, but twice.

Here’s a visual to help you along.

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Continue reading Dumping on Mickey D at The Last Wire

Of True Scotsmen and Real Conservatives

A joke.

A man was standing off the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge, obviously about to jump.

A passer-by notices the jumper and quickly decides to try and talk him down off the ledge, so he tries talking to the jumper.

“Sir, are you an American?” to which the jumper answers “yes.”

“Where are you from?” – asks the Good Samaritan. “I am from Louisiana”, responds the distraught man.

“Great! What an incredible coincidence! I am from the South as well!” – says the Good Samaritan.

The passer-by continues to engage the jumper.

“What is your political affiliation, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Independent?”

The jumper looks back over his shoulder and answers “I am a Republican.”

“Me too, that’s amazing!” – the Good Samaritan continues, as he slowly moves closer to the jumper. “What kind of Republican are you: Conservative, small “l” libertarian, paleoconservative,  Krystolian neoconservative, or Country Club Republican?”

The jumper seems to be more engaged in the conversation at this point, visibly relaxing and responds: “I am a Conservative.”

The Good Samaritan gets excited . He is now within arm’s reach of the would-be jumper.

“Me too! Is this a small world or what?”

The would-be jumper smiles and sits on the handrail, the tension visibly leaving his shoulders.

The Good Samaritan finally reaches the man, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Whatever it is, we can sort this out” – he tells the jumper.

“Are you a Social Conservative, or a Fiscal Conservative?” – asks the Good Samaritan, continuing to  engage the jumper as he sits beside him on the handrail..

The man on the edge, now obviously more relaxed answers “Social Conservative” as a smile creeps across his face.

Now, the Good Samaritan with the jumper’s shoulder firmly in his grasp says “Me too! What kind of Social Conservative. Are you a Christian Right, or a Compassionate Conservative?”

The guy on the bridge says: “Compassionate Conservative”, and with that the Good Samaritan, becoming very angry, screams: “Die liberal!” and pushes him off the bridge. 

OK… maybe not so much a joke as possibly the core reason why Democrats will continue to win elections and mold the nation’s future for years to come. The right has no greater enemy than the right.

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Continue reading Of True Scotsmen and Real Conservatives at The Last Wire

American Führer

Many Americans are lauding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner for the past five years by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, probably somewhere in Pakistan.

His freedom came about via a prisoner exchange, with the United States trading five Taliban detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay.

The Guantanamo Bay detainees released are:

  • Khairullah Khairkhwa, an early member of the Taliban whose most prominent post was as governor of the Herat province from 1999 to 2001.
  • Noorullah Noori, who served as governor of the Balkh province and played a role in coordinating fighting against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance.
  • Fazl Muhammad, the commander of the main force that fought against the Northern Alliance in 2001 and served as chief of army staff under the Taliban. He was also accused of war crimes during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s.
  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy chief of the Taliban’s intelligence service.
  • Muhammad Nabi Omari, a minor Taliban official from the Khost province.

The exact details surrounding Bergdahl’s capture are sketchy, with many sources reporting that Sgt. Bergdahl was not captured by insurgents, but that he deserted his post, willingly joining the terrorist organization that just released him. But let’s for a moment set aside Sgt. Bergdahls’s disquieting story, and pay attention to the larger story surrounding his “release.”

How far has Barack Obama overstepped his authority this time?

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Continue reading American Führer at  The Last Wire

The Humanity Paradox

Sometimes, lessons are learned from the most unexpected places. This is one of those times.

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Via FOX News) –  Traditional hunters armed with homemade guns, poisoned spears and amulets have gathered in their hundreds, eager to use their skills and what they believe to be supernatural powers to help find nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists.

Some 500 hunters, some as young as 18 and some in their 80s, say they have been specially selected by their peers for their spiritual hunting skills and have been waiting for two weeks in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and the birthplace of Boko Haram, to get backing from the military and get moving.

With Nigeria’s military accused by many citizens of not doing enough to rescue the girls, the hunters demonstrated their skills to an Associated Press reporter on Sunday. With cow horn trumpets echoing eerie war cries from the screaming and chanting men who twirled knives and swords with dexterity, occasionally stabbing and cutting themselves with no apparent harm.  The hunters claimed their magic charms prevented any blood being drawn. They also trust amulets of herbs and other substances wrapped in leather pouches as well as cowrie shells, animal teeth and leather bracelets to protect them from bullets.

The appearance of the hunters from three northeastern states underscores how deeply the April 15 mass kidnapping — and the government’s apparent lack of action — has affected Nigerian society. It has spawned demonstrations and a tidal wave of commentary in media including social sites like Twitter and Facebook.

A spokesman for the hunters stopped short of actually criticizing the military.

“We’re not saying we are better than the soldiers, but we know the bush better than the soldiers,” said Sarkin Baka. The hunters said they gathered here at the suggestion of a state legislator.

A military spokesman did not immediately respond to an emailed question from AP on whether it would take advantage of the hunters’ local knowledge.

These men came to help, uninvited and unfunded, out of a sense of humanity and they’ve been sitting idle for two weeks as the help given by the world’s superpowers turns up nothing in their search.

Nigeria’s military insists that it is diligently searching for the girls and says near-daily aerial bombardments of the forest that began in mid-January were stopped to avoid accidentally hitting the girls.

“Our troops are out there combing the forests and all other possible locations searching for our fellow citizens. International support is also there assisting the process,” Mike Omeri, a government spokesman, said Friday.

Some parents of the abducted girls say villagers in the Sambisa Forest tell them they haven’t seen a uniformed soldier in the forest.

The girls of Chibok were kidnapped six weeks ago, on April 14, and because of the denseness of the forest in the region where Boko Harum is known to operate, no trace of them has yet to be found.

So then, why not use trained forest hunters to help locate traces of the girls and their kidnappers?

In fact, why aren’t we pushing for the hunters to be allowed to go find the girls?

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Continue reading The Humanity Paradox at The Last Wire

“Communism Works” Says Ear Wax-Eating Democrat

Last week, Rep. Joe Garcia D-FL) was caught on camera enjoying a snack during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on government surveillance programs.

The irony of that is beyond amazing.

He was picking his ear and eating the wax, unaware that he was on camera during a house judiciary committee on surveillance.

The more I say it, the funnier it gets.

This week Joe is having his foot for dessert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WupBj4VPVTQ

Garcia has tried to brush off criticism for his comment by writing it off as a cheap shot at his GOP opponents on the subject of immigration reform, and by standing on his Cuban immigrant status.

“This is an absurdity, accusing the son of Cuban immigrants of believing in Communism is just ridiculous,” Garcia told The Miami Herald in an interview this week.

Joe… sadly, there are more and more children and grandchildren of Cuban immigrants espousing Socialism and neocommunism in Miami every day. You’re a prime example.

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Continue reading at The Last Wire

The “Cuban Embargo” Myth

Here we go again.

(Bloomberg) – A group of 44 former high-ranking U.S diplomats, civil servants, military officers and Cuban-American businessmen is calling on President Barack Obama to further loosen a half-century embargo on the Communist regime in Cuba.

In an open letter sent to Obama, the group, which includes former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, former head of the U.S. Southern Command Admiral James Stavridis and Andres Fanjul, co-owner of sugarcane producer Fanjul Corp., called on Obama to expand the roster of groups allowed to organize travel to the island, authorize import and export licenses between the two countries’ private sectors and encourage the expansion of telecommunications in Cuba by permitting the sale of hardware.

“The U.S. is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally in its Cuba policy,” the group said in the letter. “The Obama administration has an unprecedented opportunity to usher in significant progress using its executive authority at a time when public opinion on Cuba policy has shifted toward greater engagement with the Cuban people while continuing to pressure the Cuban government on human rights.”

I think that someone should put this myth to bed once and for all.

There is no US embargo on Cuba.

Did everyone get that?

Let me say it again.

THERE. IS. NO. US. EMBARGO. ON. CUBA.

I can prove that easily.

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Read more at The Last Wire

T.E.A. and Solipsism with Lolita

The Book

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” is a stunningly beautiful example of prose at its very best. An absolute pleasure to read and to immerse oneself in the writer’s delicately crafted imagery, Lolita, as seen through the eyes of Humbert Humbert is the epitome of one who “walks in beauty like the night.”

“Oh, what a dreamy pet! She walked up to the open suitcase as if stalking it from afar, at a kind of slow-motion walk, peering at that distant treasure box on the luggage support. (Was there something wrong, I wondered, with those great gray eyes of hers, or were we both plunged in the same enchanted mist?)

The deftness of the prose is incredible. In your mind’s eye you can “see” exactly what the writer wants you to see moving at the exact pace that he intends for you to move at.

“She stepped up to it, lifting her rather high-heeled feet rather high and bending her beautiful boy-knees while she walked through dilating space with the lentor of one walking under water or in a flight dream. Then she raised by the armlets a copper-colored, charming and quite expensive vest, very slowly stretching it between her silent hands as if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding his breath over the incredible bird he spreads out by the tips of its flaming wings.”

Just then, you feel a tinge of something wrong.

You begin to sense the vulgar aesthetic of it all, and you come to grips with the realization that you’re enjoying beauty through the eyes of a pedophile, and the book is never the same again. You struggle with Humbert’s morally repugnant behavior even as you recognize the greatness of the writing.

Lolita herself is nothing like what Humbert describes her as being. She is a rather ordinary twelve year-old, and her exotic beauty resides solely in Humbert’s mind. The nymphet described in the book exists because he exists.

That’s classic solipsism.

The theory or view that the self is the only reality. An extreme form of skepticism which denies the possibility of any knowledge other than of one’s own existence. Applied to political ideology, it is the belief that one specific set of beliefs is the only acceptable set of beliefs which defines that political ideology, to the exclusion of all others.

The modern day Social Conservative movement is Humbert Humbert to the Taxed Enough Already coalition’s Lolita.

Continue reading at The Last Wire

Eternal Sunshine of the Intolerant Mind

I am an intolerant man.

Ask anyone who has ever exchanged anything beyond social pleasantries with me, and they’ll confirm it.

I am an intolerant man, and this is my manifesto.

Once, caught up in the “liberal at 20” portion of the well-known (wrongly attributed) quote about the impact of aging on one’s political ideology, I would have agreed with the generally-accepted opinion which painted intolerance as a bad thing. All you have to do is to Google “quotes about intolerance” and you can see what I mean.

“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” – Mahatma Ghandi

“When you discriminate against anyone, you discriminate against everyone. It’s a display of terrible intolerance.” – Alan Dershowitz

“Intolerance is evidence of impotence.” – Alistair Crowley

Intolerance is violence.

Intolerance is discrimination.

Intolerance is impotence.

One would have to assume then that if intolerance means all of those things, then the opposite of intolerance must mean… well, the exact opposite, and that a world totally devoid of intolerance would be a world where peace, inclusiveness and potency abounded.

Think again.

Continue reading at The Last Wire

Why You Be Blaming Me?

Speaking to 1.200 graduating High School seniors in Topeka Kansas on the 60th anniversary of the groundbreaking Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, Michelle Obama spoke of the growing segregation in post-MLK America.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Sixty years after the Supreme Court outlawed “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, civil rights advocates say American schools are becoming increasingly segregated, while the first lady, Michelle Obama, lamented that “many young people are going to schools with kids who look just like them.”

“Today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech,” Mrs. Obama told 1,200 graduating high school seniors Friday here in the city that gave rise to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

In a speech that was part commencement address, part policy pronouncement and part journey into her own past, Mrs. Obama said that Brown’s advances were being reversed. “Many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools, and many communities have become less diverse,” she said, leading to schools that are less diverse.

“And too often,” Mrs. Obama said, “those schools aren’t equal, especially ones attended by students of color which too often lag behind.”

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“I think about my mother, who, as a little girl, went to segregated schools in Chicago and felt the sting of discrimination,” she said. “I think about my husband’s grandparents, white folks born and raised right here in Kansas — products themselves of segregation,” who helped raise a biracial grandson.

“And then,” Mrs. Obama said, “I think about how that child grew up to be the president of the United States, and how today, that little girl from Chicago is helping to raise her granddaughters in the White House.”

You can read the entire article here, and if you do, you may notice the absence of a few words very pertinent to a dialogue centered around the growing segregation in a post-MLK America.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mrs. Obama, but we may not see eye-to-eye on the reason for this growing segregation.

Michelle Obama and others of her mindset wish to paint a picture of an America slowly skulking back to segregation, but that is not the case at all, and all one has to do to understand that is to look around. Once you do that, you may realize what those missing words in the article are.

The first missing word is “disintegration”.

Continue reading at The Last Wire.