Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Teacher’s death may be linked to drugs: cops

POLICE are considering a public school teacher’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade as the motive behind his murder outside his home in Barangay Guinsay, Danao City past 10 p.m. last Sunday. Investigators have yet to identify the two masked men on a motorcycle who shot Jerry Durano Puno several times. Danao City Police Chief Gerard Ace Pelare said the victim was on their list of suspected drug pushers. The incident happened while the 43-year-old was walking to the toilet outside his house. Puno was rushed to the Cebu Provincial Hospital in the city, but he was declared dead on arrival. The victim taught at the Carmen National High School. Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 welcomed the plan of the Department of Education (DepEd) to conduct a mandatory drug testing for all elementary and high school teachers in public schools. PRO 7 Director Noli Taliño said teachers will be a bad influence on their students if they use drugs. “It’s also a big possibility that their students will be their clients as well as couriers,” Taliño said. Taliño said that they will also monitor teachers as part of their anti-illegal drugs campaign. “We fully support their plan because any efforts to get rid of drugs in society, especially in schools, are very needed. If they need police personnel during their program then we will provide them,” he said. Education Secretary Leonor Briones made the announcement about the drug testing during the kickoff of the Brigada Eskwela 2017 at the Ramon National High School in Cebu City last Monday.

 

By KEVIN A. LAGUNDAJOHANNA O. BAJENTING

 Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper


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Focus Turns to North Korea Sleeper Cells as Possible Culprits in Cyberattack

SEOUL, South Korea — They take legitimate jobs as software programmers in the neighbors of their home country, North Korea. When the instructions from Pyongyang come for a hacking assault, they are believed to split into groups of three or six, moving around to avoid detection.

Ever since the 1980s, reclusive North Korea has been known to train cadres of digital soldiers to engage in electronic warfare and profiteering exploits against its perceived enemies, most notably South Korea and the United States. In more recent years, cybersecurity experts say, the North Koreans have spread these agents across the border into China and other Asian countries to help cloak their identities. The strategy also amounts to war-contingency planning in case the homeland is attacked.

Now this force of North Korean cyberhacking sleeper cells is under new scrutiny in connection with the ransomware assaults that have roiled much of the world over the past four days. New signs have emerged not only that North Koreans carried out the attacks but also that the targeted victims included China, North Korea’s benefactor and enabler.

As evidence mounts that North Korean hackers may have links to the ransom assaults that destroyed more than 200,000 computers, their motives appear twofold: financial gain — which does not appear to be turning out so well — and proof that Pyongyang has the means to cause significant damage, with or without a nuclear weapon.

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Cyberattacks are also a way for the country to inflict damage with little risk of a military response. They are inexpensive and hard to trace, and they can be profitable.

Until last year, nation states rarely used cyberattacks for financial gain. China has been tied to attacks aimed at stealing trade secrets. A handful of countries, including Russia, the United States, Iran and North Korea, have also used cyberweapons.

North Korea has been tied to gunrunning, jewel smuggling, illegal gambling and counterfeiting to pay for its military and the lifestyle of the government, but as foreign nations have clamped down on those activities Pyongyang has turned to cyberattacks for badly needed funds.

“North Korea was always a state criminal, sheltered behind sovereignty, and now they’ve moved this into cyberspace,” said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Over the past year, the same North Korean hacking unit that hit Sony Pictures was linked to cyberattacks at banks in Vietnam and the Philippines, and to a breach at the Bangladesh Central Bank that resulted in the theft of $81 million. Last year, the same North Korean hackers breached more than 20 Polish banks.

And while it is still too early to point the finger definitively at Pyongyang, clues in the attack code and attackers’ machines suggest that the ransom attacks were the work of the same group of North Korean hackers, or of someone masquerading as them.

Though the North Korean hacking group that security experts call the Lazarus Group has been known to use different infection methods, the group’s telltale code, techniques and tools were seen in the ransomware attacks.

So far, the ransomware attacks, called WannaCry, have not proved very profitable. According to the latest tally of payments made to attackers’ Bitcoin wallets, victims have paid only $75,000 in ransom.

North Korea has in the past timed cyberattacks to coincide with its banned weapons tests — like the ballistic missile launched on Sunday — as a way of subtly flaunting its technology advances despite its global isolation.

 

Unlike its missile and nuclear weapons tests, however, North Korea has never announced or acknowledged its hacking abilities.

It also is possible that North Korea had no role in the attacks, which exploited a stolen hacking tool developed by the National Security Agency of the United States. Early Tuesday, the Shadow Brokers, the hacking group that spread the tool and is not believed to be linked with North Korea, threatened in an online post to start a “Data Dump of the Month” club, in which it would release more N.S.A. hacking methods to paying subscribers.

Security officials in South Korea, the United States and elsewhere say it is well known that the North Korean authorities have long trained squads of hackers and programmers, and that when superiors in North Korea issue instructions, these hackers are activated to attack targets.

Boo Hyeong-wook, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said the scale of the recent attacks was large enough that it was likely to have been supported on a national level. He also said it would be a logical extension of the growing boldness of North Korean hackers.

While North Korean hackers have for years operated out of China, defectors and South Korean officials say they have been spreading to Southeast Asian countries, where government monitoring is less intense.

In countries like Malaysia, many North Korea hackers are believed to work undercover at technology companies and other jobs. Sometimes, the hackers will also run online gambling sites or even make use of ransomware to raise funds for themselves.

North Korea began training electronic warfare soldiers well before the internet era, according to defectors and South Korean officials. They selected math prodigies when they were 12 or 13 and trained them to become software developers, online psychological warfare experts and hackers.

They were also trained in foreign languages so they could operate abroad. North Korea sends students to study in Russia, China and, more recently, India to learn software and programming techniques. They return home and some are hired as hackers.

If the North Korean hackers were responsible for the disruptions suffered by Chinese computer users, that would constitute an extraordinary assault on North Korea’s most important neighbor.

Mr. Boo said the changing dynamics in the relationship between China and North Korea, which once described themselves as close as “lips and teeth,” could be why China was attacked.

“China has dialed up the pressure on North Korea,” he said. “Pyongyang faces the increased possibility that Beijing could abandon it. It made a loud statement.”

The New York Times

  • Published in World
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Duterte to sponsor entry of Turkey, Mongolia into ASEAN

Beijing — President Duterte is amenable to the entry of Mongolia and Turkey into the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) despite the concerns raised by Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on their geographical location.

The President said the two nations expressed interest in joining the regional bloc during his separate meetings with Mongolia Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat and Turkey President Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of a trade forum in Beijing early this week.

“By the way, I had a talk with the President Erdoğan and the Prime Minister of si Erdenebat sa Mongolia. They also want to… Gusto nila na mag-sali sa ASEAN,” Duterte said upon arrival in Davao City early Tuesday morning.

“And since I am now the chair, ang Pilipinas ngayon, they wanted me to sponsor their entry and I said, ‘Yes, why not?’” he said.

Another ASEAN leader has some misgivings about the entry of the Mongolia and Turkey but Duterte stood his ground.

“Si Aung San Suu Kyi, ang sabi niya, ‘Have you considered the physical – the geography whether they are part of the ASEAN or not?” Duterte said, quoting the Myanmar leader.

Duterte responded to Suu Kyi: “They are. I would say that they are.”

He said there has been an “ambivalent view” on whether Turkey is actually part of Asia or just a bridge between Asia and Europe. “Wala silang klaro diyan. There has always been an ambivalent view. Sometimes they say that they are part of Asia, sometimes they say that they are the bridge of Asia to Europe,” he said.

Mongolia is located in East Asia while Turkey has been known as a transcontinental country that lies both in Asia and Europe.

ASEAN, founded in 1967, is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The group seeks to accelerate economic growth and social progress, promote regional peace and stability, provide assistance to each other in training, research, among others.

Timor Leste applied to join ASEAN in 2011 but has yet to officially join the regional group.

Among the ASEAN dialogue partners are China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, European Union, Australia, and Canada.

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