Chinese nationals charged in mega hacking scheme; Indian govt networks hit: US

Agencies
September 17, 2020

Washington, Sept 17: The US Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with hacking over a 100 companies and institutions in America and abroad, including the Indian government's networks, and stealing valuable software data and business intelligence.

Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen on Wednesday announced three indictments have been unsealed in the matter that collectively charge five Chinese nationals with computer hacking and charge two Malaysian nationals for helping some of those hackers target victims and sell the fruits of their crime.

The Malaysian nationals were arrested on Sunday and the Chinese nationals have been declared fugitive, according to a Justice Department statement.

Rosen severely criticised the Chinese government.

"The Department of Justice has used every tool available to disrupt the illegal computer intrusions and cyberattacks by these Chinese citizens. Regrettably, the Chinese Communist Party has chosen a different path - of making China safe for cyber-criminals so long as they attack computers outside China and steal intellectual property helpful to China," the deputy attorney general said.

"In about 2019, the conspirators compromised Government of lndia websites, as well as virtual private networks and database servers supporting the Government of India. The conspirators used VPS PROVIDER servers to connect to an Open VPN network owned by the Government of India," the indictment said.

In the attacks, the conspirators installed 'Cobalt Strike' malware on Indian government-protected computers, it added.

According to the charges, the computer intrusions affected over 100 companies in the United States and abroad.

The victims ranged from software development, computer hardware, telecommunication, social media and video game companies. Non-profit organisations, universities, think-tanks, foreign governments, pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong were also targeted.

Security researchers have tracked the intrusions using labels "APT41, Barium, Winnti, Wicked Panda, and Wicked Spider.

These intrusions facilitated the theft of source code, software code signing certificates, customer account data, and valuable business information, the researchers said.

These intrusions also facilitated the defendants' other criminal schemes, including ransomware and crypto-jacking schemes, the latter refers to the group's unauthorised use of victim computers to mine cryptocurrency.

The Chinese hackers also targeted government computers and networks of Vietnam and United Kingdom. The hackers, however were not successful in compromising the government computer networks in the United Kingdom.

The racketeering conspiracy pertained to the three defendants' conducting the affairs of Chengdu 404 Network Technology ( Chengdu 404 ), a Chinese Government company, through a pattern of racketeering activity involving computer intrusion offenses affecting over 100 victim companies, organisations, and individuals in the United States and around the world, including in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, the Justice Department said.

"Today's announcement demonstrates the ramifications faced by the hackers in China but it is also a reminder to those who continue to deploy malicious cyber tactics that we will utilise every tool we have to administer justice, said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.

Noting that the scope and sophistication of the crimes are unprecedented, Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael R Sherwin said some of these criminal actors believed their association with the Peoples Republic of China provided them free licence to hack and steal across the globe.

"This scheme also contained a new and troubling cyber-criminal component -- the targeting and utilisation of gaming platforms to both defraud video game companies and launder illicit proceeds," Sherwin said.

Rosen told reporters that as an additional method of making-money, several of the Chinese defendants compromised the networks of video game companies worldwide -- a billion-dollar industry -- and defrauded them of in-game resources.

Two of the Chinese defendants stand accused, with two Malaysian defendants, of selling those resources in the black market, through their illicit website, he said.

Asserting that the Chinese government has the power to help stop crimes like these, Rosen alleged that the Chinese Government has made a deliberate choice to allow its citizens to commit computer intrusions and attacks around the world because these actors will also help them.

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News Network
October 29,2020

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Madrid, Oct 29: The Spanish authorities have restricted movement in the regions of Andalusia, Castile-La-Mancha, Castile and Leon and Murcia due to the worsening epidemiological situation amid the pandemic, according to the regional governments.

The provinces of Granada, Jaen and Seville in Andalusia -- the country's largest autonomous community -- were put on a partial lockdown, following in the steps of the regions of Navarre, Aragon, Asturias, Basque Country and Rioja.

Exceptions to leave or enter the territory of the autonomous communities are visits to medical institutions, work or study-related issues, as well as visits to relatives.

Murcia closes borders for 14 days, while Andalusia, Castile and Leon and Castile-La-Mancha until November 9.

Community leaders in Madrid want to restrict movement during the long weekend due to the holidays.

Over the past two weeks, Spain confirmed more than 170,000 cases of the coronavirus, with over 34,000 of the infections being registered in Catalonia. On Sunday, a new curfew came into force across Spain. In Catalonia, residents are ordered to stay at home from 10 p. m. to 6 a. m. (from 21:00 to 05:00 GMT).

Last week, Spain became the sixth country in the world to register a total of over 1 million coronavirus cases.

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Agencies
October 31,2020

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Waterford, Oct 31: As the United States continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has accused the American doctors of lying about COVID-19 deaths for financial gain. 

"If you have a bad heart and are ready to die or if you have cancer and you are going to be dying soon and you catch COVID-19 -- that happens -- we mark it down to COVID-19. Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid. You know that, right?" Trump made the allegations just a few days ahead of the Presidential elections.

"Our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is, they say, 'I'm sorry, but you know, everybody dies from Covid.' But in Germany and other places, if you have a heart attack, or have cancer, you're terminally ill, you catch Covid, they say you died of cancer or a heart attack. With us, when in doubt, choose Covid," Trump added.

The US President further said that the reason that there are 'only 3 per cent' visits to the emergency room is a testimony to his relentless efforts.

"Thanks to our relentless efforts -- only 3 per cent of ER (emergency room) visits nationwide are related to the virus. We understand it (COVID-19) now but we are making the turn and the vaccines are coming," he added.

As the US reported more than 90,000 cases taking it beyond the 9 million cases mark-- according to the latest update by Johns Hopkins University, Trump attributed the spike in cases to "more testing".

"You know, everything is Covid Covid Covid. You know that. You turn on the news, Covid Covid. And you know, cases are up. Why are cases up? Because we test more than anybody in history. We test much more than India -- they have more than 1.5 billion people. Many countries don't test at all -- we test more. The deaths are down and people are getting better -- I am an example of it, my wife is an example of it," the US President said.

The United States has a total of 9,044,255 COVID-19 cases and 229,686 fatalities -- the worst affected country in terms of most cases and most deaths. The US Presidential Elections are scheduled to be held on Tuesday, November 3.

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Agencies
October 25,2020

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Kabul, Oct 25: At least 18 people and dozens have been injured in a suicide bombing that took place at an education centre in a western neighbourhood of Afghanistan's capital Kabul, the BBC reported citing the interior ministry. The bombing took place on Saturday around 4:30 p.m. (local time) outside Kowsar-e-Danish, a private education centre that offers courses for students in higher education. The security guards of the facility had identified the suicide bomber and intercepted him, after which he detonated his explosive vest, Kabul police spokesman Ferdaus Faramarz told reporters via a text message.

The death toll rose from 11 to 18, including the bomber. In the preliminary assessment, 20 were wounded in the explosion. The number of casualties may change," he said. Many have been taken to hospital. There are fears the death toll may rise.

"We heard a huge blast outside an education centre in Pul-e-Khushk locality of Dashti Barchi area. The explosion triggered panic in the area in Police District 13 of Kabul," eyewitness Mohammad Nabi told Xinhua.

The casualties were transported by ambulances and police vans to hospitals.

The Islamic State group said it was behind the attack in messages posted on its social media channels, but did not provide any evidence. Several educational and cultural centers, mosques and sports facilities have been attacked in the district in recent years, and most of the attacks have been claimed by the militants of the Islamic State (IS) group. Earlier, the Taliban denied involvement in the attack. 

"A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre," interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a statement, according to a leading media outlet. The spokesman added that the attacker was identified by security guards "after which he detonated his explosives in an alley".

A local resident claimed he was standing about 100 metres from the centre when "a big blast" knocked him down.

Afghanistan has seen a rise in violence in recent weeks - with most of the attacks carried out by the Taliban. The violence threatens to imperil peace talks between government forces and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The building (where the bombing took place on Saturday) in the predominantly Shia Muslim Dasht-e-Barchi area usually hosts hundreds of students. The Shia community in Afghanistan has previously been targeted by Sunni Muslim extremists such as the Islamic State group, which views the Shia practise of Islam as heretical.

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