To The Point

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A researcher at Hauri, an IT security software company investigating computer viruses, works at a lab of the company in Seoul March 22, 2013.

Military equipment and private-sector trade secrets are well-known targets of China’s state-sponsored cyber espionage program. But there’s now a new target for an elite Chinese hacking outfit known as “APT 18” or, more colorfully, “Dynamite Panda”: U.S. personal medical records.

This week, the medical firm Community Health Systems revealed the personal data of 4.5 million of its patients was stolen by the Chinese hacking group earlier this year. The hospital group is among the largest in the US, with 206 facilities spread across 29 states.

Michael Riley, who covers cybersecurity for Bloomberg News, said the government-sponsored hackers stole the names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers of Community Health System’s patients. He added the attack highlights the security vulnerabilities endemic to hospitals across the country, including the long-term susceptibility of digital medical records.

“I think [hospitals] are realizing that they are certainly a target for cyber espionage and from very sophisticated hackers,” Riley said, adding that cyber-attacks against hospitals have increased dramatically over the last year.

The motive behind the medical records breach remains unclear, Riley said, adding the attack is “out of character” for this particular hacking outfit.

One theory is that rogue members of the “Dynamite Panda” cyber unit used their abilities to obtain the personal information to sell it on the black market — typically the domain of eastern European cyber thieves — without approval from their superiors. The medical documents in question could be very valuable, Riley added, because they contain enough information to apply for new credit cards or open online retail accounts.

“If that’s the case — that a Chinese cyber spy also has a gig on the side — then those 4.5 million people should definitely be concerned about identity theft,” Riley said.

It’s also conceivable the hackers sought to steal all the data they could from Community Health’s Systems databases, and simply ended up with the personal data. They may not have any intention to sell or use it, Riley said.

Additionally, the information may be used for adding supplementary data to the profiles of existing targets of the Chinese government. 

— Benjamin Gottlieb, producer for To the Point

Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers… No just god would stand for what they did.
President Obama speaking about the journalist who was executed by ISIL. 


A history of police uniforms and why they matter.

Uniforms have influenced interactions between cops and citizens since the start of American policing.

My conclusion was that Edward Snowden was a man interested in helping the US, not helping himself.

James Bamford on Edward Snowden on today’s To The Point.

(Listen to the interview with Bamford here)

 Listen to the interview with Radley Balko on “To the Point”

Images of protests in Ferguson, MO show police officers dressed like soldiers, in full riot gear facing off with citizens. They wear all camouflage, Kevlar vests and hide their faces under helmets. Tear gas and rubber bullets have been fired. It looks like war, but the standoff is in the Missouri suburb where Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man, was shot and killed by a police officer last Saturday. 

This trend toward militarization in local law enforcement in the United States has been developing over the last 30-35 years, explains Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.” The drug war and the war on terror have exacerbated it and it’s not just militarization in terms of the gear, “but also in the mindset in how police officers view themselves,”  says Balko, speaking on “To the Point”. The St. Louis County police department confirmed to Balko that every warrant is issued by a SWAT team.

“In some ways it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get confrontation when you go in expecting it,” says Balko. Particularly in the case of Ferguson, where the demonstrations are against the police department. Here they see a “robotic manifestation of everything they’re protesting against,” he says. “When you discourage both sides from seeing one another as human beings, you set the stage for violence.”

The response to demonstrators during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests helped create this template for protest preparation. The WTO protests, which started out peacefully, turned violent when the police decided to fire teargas on demonstrators who were trespassing.  “The police chief at the time, Norm Stamper, says today that it was the biggest mistake of his career,” explains Balko, because “Darth Vader gear” became the norm.  

“Protest is people basically expressing their right to free speech and free assembly, and when the default response is ‘we are expecting violence, we are expecting confrontation,’ that has a chilling effect on free speech,” says Balko.

Of course, there’s also the issue of race. Ferguson, MO is 67 percent black while the police department is overwhelmingly white,  52 out of 55 police officers in the department are white. “When a community doesn’t see itself reflected in its police force, it’s more likely to view the police as an occupying force,” says Balko. “If the police don’t see themselves reflected in the people they serve, they are not likely to consider themselves part of that community, and instead they’re likely to see themselves as enforcers.”   



Music from today’s interview with Jason Hamacher, who spent 4 years preserving ancient Syrian chants. 

We tortured some folks.
President Obama speaking from the White House today, acknowledging the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation tactics in the years after the Sept. 11 attack. It’s not the first time Obama has used the word “torture” to describe the tactics used at CIA-run secret prisons during the Bush administration, but his words today were more direct than previous statements. (via latimes)

(via latimes)


Ukrainian Rebel Gun Locker: A 72-Year-Old Returns To War.

Note this piece from Hill 277.9, in Saur-Mogila, in which Noah Sneider, a preternaturally prepared young correspondent working in eastern Ukraine, documents a PTRD-41 anti-tank rifle, b. 1942, in service again.  

We’ll have more about this weapon, and another from the same time, soon on the At War blog.  In the interim, Noah sums up one of the tragedies of Ukraine, and of many wars, with a pitch-perfect understanding. It is painful to read, because it rings so true. This:

The encounter is emblematic of the war in Ukraine: fought from afar against inhuman opponents. Neither side wants to look the other in the eye, because to do so would be to acknowledge that, for the most part, they aren’t fighting Nazis and terrorists, but neighbors and countrymen. 

When Hitler and Stalin had it out here, George Orwell wrote of a force that he called “nationalism.” He did not mean allegiance to a nation-state though, but the conviction around which one can construct a reality. “Having picked his side, [the nationalist] persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him,” Orwell writes. “Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is alsosince he is conscious of serving something bigger than himselfunshakeably certain of being in the right.”


By Noah Sneider, a short while ago, of a 14.5mm weapon made to stop the Third Reich’s tanks, now, more than 70 decades on, in use in an internal war.