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Microsoft Spot New Antivirus Blocking Trojan

In Uncategorized on 22.01.11 at 04:05

A new Trojan has been spotted by Microsoft researchers in China that neutralize antivirus products that rely on cloud-based technology. The cloud technology is a relatively new technology, specially used in security software. Upon running, it targets major Chinese AV vendors and other international security brands by blocking their internet access at the network driver layer.

“Engineering it is not trivial.”

Kurt Baumgartner


Of particular concern here is the sophistication of the so-called “Bohu” Trojan, which blocks the cloud-based antivirus software by means of a Windows Sockets service provider interface (SPI) filter, itself made possible by the installation of an NDIS driver. The malware employs social engineering techniques to trick users into executing it.

The use of cloud-based technologies is becoming more prevalent, as traditional antivirus companies adopt techniques that allow them to detect and neutralize malware infestations in minutes rather than in days.

Speaking to eWeek, Kurt Baumgartner, who is a senior malware researcher at Kaspersky Lab acknowledged that engineering it is “not trivial.”

This effectively gives Bohu the ability to perform deep packet inspection on the network data, which it uses to modify search terms sent to sogou.com, and cookies belong to the top search engines.

For now, Microsoft says it has already contacted the affected vendors about the Bohu threat.

More on this story:
article at eWeek
article at Computer Weekly
article at IT Pro

Related:

Microsoft tool now scans for the Zeus Trojan
Security loopholes surfaces on Mac App Store
Zeus Trojan mules used fake names, passports
Evidence of Zeus Trojan found in majority of Fortune 500 companies

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Cyber Attacks Force EU to Close Emission Trading System

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, Natural science, Quantitative Finance, Technology, Trading software, Uncategorized, Views, commentaries and opinions on 22.01.11 at 03:15

A series of cyber-attacks on national registries, where carbon permits are stored, have forced the EU to close its emissions trading system (ETS) for at least a week. The European Commission posted the announcement on its website on Wednesday after Czech Republic-based firm Blackstone Global Ventures said about €6.8 million of carbon allowances appeared to have disappeared. Thefts on electronic registries in Austria, Greece, Poland and Estonia have also been reported over the last days.

“They will over time undermine the credibility of carbon trading as a policy measure.”

Kjersti Ulset


After discovering unauthorized trading on its account on Wednesday, Blackstone contacted the Czech registry OTE AS, which promptly closed all operations and began an investigation. The Paris-based BlueNext SA, operator of the world’s biggest spot exchange for permits, followed suit, as did registries in Poland and Estonia, before the EU finally imposed a region-wide shutdown.

It’s not the first time cyber criminal have been trading stolen permits at the international ETS market, but never has the activity been so comprehensive that the regulators have been forced to close the whole market.

“Incidents over the last weeks have underlined the urgent need for enhanced security measures,” the EU commission says in its announcement of the closure.

The bloc’s ETS system will be down, at least until 26 January.

Full statement

Q&A’s

A Criminals Market

According to The Guardian, European Authorities estimate that up to 90% of the whole market volume is plain fraudulent activities.

Belgian prosecutors highlighted the massive losses faced by EU governments from VAT fraud today after they charged three Britons and a Dutchman with money-laundering following an investigation into a multimillion-pound scam involving carbon emissions permits.

The three Britons, who were arrested last month in Belgium, were accused of failing to pay VAT worth €3m (£2.7m) on a series of carbon credit transactions.

European authorities believe the EU has lost at least €5bn to carbon-trading VAT fraud in the last 18 months.

Last month, the European police agency Europol reported that the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme had been victim of fraudulent trading activities over the past 18 months, worth €5 billion for several national tax revenues.

Europol, the EU’s law-­enforcement operation, fears the fraud will be used in other areas, especially gas and electricity trading markets, after criminals found VAT fraud was one of the most lucrative financial frauds.

The Most Lucrative Financial Fraud

Wednesday’s announcement and similar cyber-attacks have also damaged the EU initiative, together with reports of tax fraud and the recycling of used credits, the EUobserver.com reports.

“They will over time undermine the credibility of carbon trading as a policy measure,” says Kjersti Ulset, manager at Point Carbon, a company that reports on Europe’s emission trading, carried out in a network of registries across the union.

Despite its pioneering position, Europe’s ETS system has attracted criticism over its six years of operation, with some businesses saying it threatens the bloc’s competitiveness, while NGOs argue emission thresholds have been set too high.

By placing a price on carbon, Europe’s trading system is designed to lower company emissions and therefore protect the environment from global warming. Corporations received emission permits for free under the first phase (2005-2007) of the scheme. Some, however, are forced to pay for a portion of their permits.

The European emission trading system is the world’s largest, as the US plans for a similar cap-and-trade scheme was blocked by the US Senate last year.

Carbon permits are, however, traded as ordinary securities at the Chicago Carbon Exchange.

Brussels wants to see energy companies buy all their permits with their own money from 2013 and onwards, with other heavy industries gradually phased in by 2020.

China experts suggest pilot ETS projects could appear in Beijing’s next five-year plan, set to be approved in March.

Here at The Swapper we have been skeptical to the ETS all along.

It’s an artificial market, created on basis of nice thoughts, without a real supply/demand situation and is regulated in a way the is more similar to a pharmacy than a financial market.

But what is really worrisome, is the sharp increase in this kind of activity.

Just wait till you see the Chicago Board Option Exchange gets hacked!

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Bank of America Sets Up War Room, Hires Army of Lawyers

In Financial Markets, High Frequency Trading, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Technology on 22.01.11 at 01:18

Wikileaks, and its founder Julian Assange, has certainly stirred up some murky waters releasing confidential documents and emails on government activities. Recently Assange stated that he has a large batch of confidential documents that could lead to problems for a major bank, and in at least one interview he has identified that bank to be Bank of America. And the bank are taking the possible threat serious – deadly serious! So does the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The nation’s largest bank has set up a war room and assembled a S.W.A.T.  team of lawyers.”

FOX Business Network


According to FOX Business, the largest US bank has set up a war room and assembled a S.W.A.T.  team of lawyers and company officials to deal with the matter if anything should arise. And now the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is focusing in on the case too.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is keeping a close eye on Bank of America’s (BAC) Wikileaks dilemma to determine whether anything that the info-leaking website might release should have already been turned over to regulators who have conducted numerous investigations into the bank’s activities, FOX Business Network has learned.

The same goes for WikiLeaks.

It is, in fact, illegal to withhold information about criminal activities.

See also: Wikileaks Obstruction of Justice?

If and when the document dump occurs, the SEC – Wall Street’s top cop –  will be examining the material to determine if Bank of America has failed to include the emails and other documents in demands for information the commission has made as part of its many investigations into BofA activities.

Bank of America has been the subject of several high-profile probes by the commission, including issues surrounding its Countrywide Financial subsidiary, and its ill-fated purchase of Merrill Lynch during the dark days of the financial crisis in 2008.

Countrywide, which was the largest issuer of so-called subprime mortgages, has been accused of issuing mortgages to people with little if any documentation of work history or  means to repay the loans.

Neither SEC’s spokesman or BofA’s spokesman had no immediate comment, FOX reports.

If Bank of America purposely failed to turn over documents involving an investigation, the bank could face possible criminal charges of obstructing justice.

But so far, BofA has said that despite all the talk about it being a target, it has no evidence that Assange’s organization has documents involving the bank.

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MORE:

Bank of America vs. WikiLeaks, the inside story
WikiLeaks should motivate information security managers
Bove: WikiLeaks bluffing about Bank of America
The Most Sued Companies in America

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Yippee! Another European Stress Test Festival!

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, Quantitative Finance, Technology, Views, commentaries and opinions on 20.01.11 at 04:46

EU finance ministers have Wednesday agreed on the broad outlines of another stress tests on major European financial institutions. I’m not really sure what happens during an European Stress Test, but it seems to make a lot of people happy. Perhaps it’s some kind of big party – like a festival, or something.  Anyway – I’m sure it will be fun.

“The euro zone debt crisis could last another ten years.”

Gyorgy Matolcsy


And this years stress test will be even better than last year, when they somehow forgot to invite the Irish, the prominent people of Brussels promise. But, like last year, the organizers are not sure if they will tell us all about it, or not.

Please forgive the sarcasm, but if the new European Banking Authority is going to be taken just a little bit serious, the stress test has to be conducted with total transparency.

Nothing less will ever be able to restore the lost confidence in this maneuvers.

“We are going to draw the lessons by making the next tests more rigorous and even more credible,” says internal market commissioner, Michel Barnier, at the end of a two-day meeting between Europe’s economy chiefs in Brussels.

The new stress tests will this time also take into account underlying capital, liquidity and exposure to sovereign debt.

In July last year, the financial strength of 91 institutions was tested against potential crisis situations. Only seven failed the examination.

The methodology this time, which will imagine even more severe crisis situation, notably in property markets, has yet to be agreed upon, but will be undertaken by the new European Banking Authority, with ministers expecting the tests to be completed by the end of May.

The level of disclosure once the results are concluded however remains a point of division amongst ministers.

The new test comes as Portugal, currently in the euro zone’s sovereign-debt emergency room, sees increased pressure on its bond yields, with rates climbing on 10-year bonds to 6.951 percent, shy of the seven-percent level thought to be the tipping point for the country to request a bail-out.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Hungarian EU presidency enjoyed renewed opprobrium from other member states when the country’s finance minister made the gaffe of publicly saying the euro zone debt crisis could last another ten years, the EUobserver.com reports.

Mr. Gyorgy Matolcsy made the comments during the public, televised portion of the meeting of EU finance ministers.

There is a likelihood “that the euro is endangered for another decade,” he says.

Well, that’s just what I pointed out in my commentary on New Years Eve.

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Mass Animal Death Mystery Just Got More Mysterious

In Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Natural science, Philosophy, Technology, Views, commentaries and opinions on 20.01.11 at 02:49

This is now beyond weird – its plain spooky. Reports of mass animal deaths keeps coming in. Any plausible explanations, however, is totally absent. On Tuesday, 200 cows was found death on a farm in Portage County, Wisconsin, USA. Cause of death is yet to be determined. Yesterday a large number of dead, half rotten, fish was found floating in the area around Stjernøya in northern Norway. And here neither fishermen or authorities are able to figure out what kind of fish it is.

“It was a sad sight, and the whole fjord smelled absolutely terrible. It became worse further up the fjord where large amounts of fish was floating, partially disintegrated. All down in the fjord, it looked as if there were large quantities of dead fish at the bottom.”

Tor Mikkola


The Norwegian broadcasting Cooperation (NRK) reports of large amounts of dead fish found in Kjerringfjorden at Stjernøya in northern parts of Norway. At the moment, no ne can say where the fish originally comes from. And even more odd – no one can say for sure what kind of fish it is.

Local resident, Tor Mikkola, who first discovered the dead fish, tells NRK that it looked like herring at first, “but after looking a bit closer on some of them it looked more like saith,” he says.

These parts of Norway is traditionally populated by fishermen who usually knows what there is to know about fish.

Elisabeth Arild at the local FSA in Alta says that she is uncertain about what type of fish it is, based on the pictures she has seen.

“It is difficult to conclude anything just by looking at the pictures. It is perhaps small saith, that are not gutted. It may be from a fishing device that has been left there in where the fish has died,” she says, but points out that this is pure speculation.

The dead fish in the Norwegian fjord would not have been a big deal if it wasn’t for all the other cases of mass animal death being reported at the moment.

It happens from time to time that large amounts of fish gets killed by diseases, or other natural causes.

And there’s a lot of fish farming in the area. Last year one producer of salmon had to clean up 50 tons of fish who allegedly had died of hypoxia – lack of oxygen.

But the ting is; mass fish kills have also been reported in the US, Brazil and New Zealand, along with 40,000 dead crabs that washed ashore on the British beaches.

In addition it’s been reported that thousands of dead birds fell from the sky in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve, following a massive fish kill just 100 miles away days earlier.

In the week following, other mass bird deaths were reported in nearby Louisiana and Kentucky.

Birds were also reported to fall dead from the sky in Italy and Sweden, and more recently similar incidents have been reported in California and Alabama.

And now – cows.

200 Dead Cows

200 cows were found dead Friday on a farm in Portage County, Wisconsin, AP reports.

The dead cows had to be removed with semi-trucks. The rest of the farm has not been quarantined, as officials say no threat is posed toward humans or other animals.

The owner of the dead cows was working with a local veterinarian, who initially believed a virus such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) or bovine virus diarrhea (BVD) could be the culprit, according to The Wausau Daily Herald.

WSAW News reports that more recent updates have suggested pneumonia as the cause of the mass cow deaths, though such widespread cases of pneumonia are rare.

Tests are still underway to determine what is responsible.

(WSAW’s full video report here.)

In a recent news report, a veterinarian says he believes the cows died of acute interstitial pneumonia

Investigators are, however, still working to determine what caused the death of 200 steers in Portage County.

Many explanations have been offered for the various mass animal deaths, with everything from fireworks, semi-truck collisions, overeating and cold weather blamed for the birds’ deaths.

Cold weather has also been pinned to likely be the cause of many of the fish and crab deaths, as well.

According to some experts, mass animal deaths are not all that uncommon.

But the fact remains: There has been no exact and plausible explanation in any of these incidents.

As I said, this is now beyond weird.

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Related by The Swapper:

Who Killed The Blackbirds? The Aliens or Al Qaeda?

Low-Oxygen Zones In Oceans Worry Scientists

More Mysterious “Monster Fish” Comes To Surface

Norway: Police To Investigate “Monster Fish”

Coldest Winter In 1000 Years; Start Of New Ice Age?

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Fitch: Euro Governments Borrowing To Drop by 9% in 2011

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, National Economic Politics, Quantitative Finance, Views, commentaries and opinions on 19.01.11 at 13:36

Fitch Ratings says in a statement that gross government borrowing for the EU15 countries will fall by 9.2% this year, to EUR 1.866 billion versus EUR 2.050 billion in 2010. Fitch expects that the run-off of government-guaranteed bank debt will start to eliminate a source of competition for sovereign debt, potentially easing sovereign financing conditions.

“Fitch expects net borrowing by central governments across Europe to fall sharply in 2011 as governments implement budget cuts.”

Douglas Renwick


In 2010 European governments had the largest borrowing requirement for decades. In a new report, Fitch notes that 2011 euro area gross borrowing is down 13% year-on-year to EUR 1.607 billion, or 16.5% of GDP.

In absolute terms, it is largest in France (EUR 386 bn), Italy (EUR 381 bn) and Germany (EUR 292 bn).

As a share of GDP, it is largest in Greece (25%), Italy (23%), Portugal (23%) Belgium (21%), France (18%) and Ireland (17%).

Overall, gross borrowing has fallen y-o-y for most European governments.

Denmark, Greece, and Portugal are the exceptions.

“Fitch expects net borrowing by central governments across Europe to fall sharply in 2011 as governments implement budget cuts,” Douglas Renwick, Director of Fitch’s Sovereign team, says in a statement.

“The dramatic rise in short-term debt issuance by EU15 countries seen in 2009 has also started to unwind, with short-term debt falling 11.2% year-on-year as of December 2010. As a result, medium and long-term debt maturities are up 13% year-on-year in 2011, partly reflecting higher public debt stocks,” Robert Shearman adds.  Shearman is co-author of the report and member of Fitch’s Sovereign team.

Although the marginal cost of funding increased for ‘peripheral’ euro area governments (Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain), yields declined for the EU15 as a whole, on an annual average y-o-y basis, to 3.5% in 2010 from 3.7% in 2009.

The report notes that by maintaining the average duration of their debt, peripheral countries are slowing the feed-through of higher yields to their effective rate of interest.

Fitch expects that the run-off of government-guaranteed bank debt (EUR 242 billion in 2011) will start to eliminate a source of competition for sovereign debt, potentially easing sovereign financing conditions.

(Note: Fitch defines gross borrowing as net borrowing plus redemptions on medium and long-term debt plus the stock of short-term debt at the end of the previous year, which will need to be rolled over at least once during the current year).

Here’s a copy of the report, entitled “European Government Borrowing: Steps in the Right Direction”

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Cyber Security Is Waste of Money, OECD Advisers Says

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, High Frequency Trading, International Econnomic Politics, National Economic Politics, Technology, Views, commentaries and opinions on 18.01.11 at 16:26

Under the pseudonym “Hugo Cornwall”,Peter Sommer published the infamous “Hacker’s Handbook” in 1985. Since then he has become a noted security researcher and expert witness. Now he has co-authored a report for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which warns governments against swallowing wholesale stories about “cyber-war” and “cyber-weapons”.

“Governments should take a calm, disciplined approach and evaluate the risks of each type of attack very carefully rather than be swayed by scare stories.”

Peter Sommer


According to the report “Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk,” published today, a true cyber-war would have the same destructive effects as a conventional war, only that it will be fought exclusively in cyberspace. However, such a war is “highly unlikely” to occur, the OECD report says.

“Governments should take a calm, disciplined approach and evaluate the risks of each type of attack very carefully rather than be swayed by scare stories,” says Peter Sommer of the London

Peter Sommer

School of Economics, one of the two authors of the just released report on cyber security.

Co-authored with computer scientist Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute, UK, the report says online attacks are unlikely ever to have global significance on the scale of, say, a disease pandemic or a run on the banks.

But they say “localized misery and loss” could be caused by a successful attack on the Internets routing structure, which governments must ensure are defended with investment in cyber-security training.

Jay Abbott, security manager at the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, agrees that the routing structure is indeed vulnerable, new scientist.com writes.

“Short of physically cutting the wires, it’s the best way to take down a country from the internet,” he says.

Analysis of cyber-security issues has been weakened by the lack of agreement on terminology and the use of exaggerated language, the report points out.

“Cyber-espionage is not a few keystrokes away from cyber-war, it is a method of spying,” the authors write.

Controversially, the OECD advises nations against adopting the Pentagon’s idea of setting up a military division – as it has under the auspices of the US air force‘s Space Command – to fight cyber-security threats.

“While vested interests may want to see taxpayers’ money spent on such ventures,” says Sommer, “the military can only defend its own networks, not the private-sector critical networks we all depend on for gas, water, electricity and banking.”

Here’s a copy of the report: “Reducing Systemic Cyber Security Risk”

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I just have one question: Who will decide which hardware, computers and software that is “systemically important,” or not?
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The Economic Impact of Higher Oil Prices

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Views, commentaries and opinions on 17.01.11 at 15:54

Crude oil is rapidly closing in on the 100 dollar mark, most analyst believe it will break through the barrier in 2011. The impact of this on global production and economic recovery, is a slackening of consumer demand, according to future and commodity expert Ole S. Hansen at Saxo Bank.

“In other words, the only cure for higher oil prices is higher oil prices!”

Ole S. Hansen


The commodity shock and subsequent financial crisis back in 2008-09 led to a dramatic reduction in the global demand for crude oil. Demand from OECD nations fell off a cliff. This initially resulted in a 110 dollar collapse of the price of WTI Crude oil from 2008 to the early part of 2009.

Over the past two years the price of oil has steadily recovered half of that collapse on the back of continued strong demand from non-OECD members, especially China. OECD nations began seeing a pick-up in demand during the second half of 2010. According to the IEA, total global demand reached an all time high of 88.7 million barrels per day during 3Q10, a rise of 3.3 million bpd year on year.

“Given the continued positive growth assessments among emerging market nations and the boost that the US economy is receiving from the second round of quantitative easing and the new payroll tax break, global oil consumption is expected to expand by 1-1.5 million bpd in 2011. A rise of this magnitude will mean tight supply lines and the risk of higher prices,” Hansen writes in his latest analysis.
The average price of WTI crude during 2010 was just under 80 dollars per barrel after having traded in a relatively tight range for most of the year. Only in the last quarter did we see a sustained rally above 80 dollars a barrel on the back of the strong pick-up in demand. Most of the major research houses now predict average prices above 90 dollars for 2011 with the risk pointing towards a move above 100 dollars during the year.

“What kind of impact will this have on the still fragile economic recovery among OECD nations? To answer this question let us have a look at the U.S., which consumes approximately 22 percent of global production, of which nearly half goes to gasoline consumption.”

Above is the chart of the U.S. daily average gasoline price compiled by the American Automobile Association. The annual average price has moved higher over the last two years after the price shock back in 2008.

Prices during 2010 were relatively stable as the supply and demand situation on WTI crude was relatively balanced. Towards the end of the year the gasoline price began to move higher in line with crude oil and is currently sitting some 32 cents above the 2010 average.

“The annualized economic impact for every one cent rise in gasoline prices in the US is approximately 1.5 billion dollars, so US consumers are faced with a bill of an extra 48 billion dollars this year (approximately 0.3% of GDP) if gasoline prices stay at their current levels. And even if crude oil prices remain the same, gasoline prices will likely rise at least another 10-15 cents due to the shift to more expensive summer blends that occurs every spring. Even a rise of that magnitude would put us back at the 2008 average price, and a rise above 100 dollars a barrel would put us above that level in the spring and summer.”

A one dollar increase in the price of gasoline from the 2010 average to 3.78 dollars per gallon would result in 150 billion dollars less to the consumer and would be the approximate equivalent of a one percent reduction in GDP.

According to Saxo Bank, is the biggest risk of higher prices is a squeeze on margins and the relative in-elasticity of demand means a higher percentage of consumer spending goes to gasoline expenditures – particularly in the US, where taxes make up a much smaller percentage of the price, relative to other developed nations. Oil increases will come straight out of the bottom lines of corporations with energy intensive inputs, because their pricing power is still relatively modest considering the hangover and output gap from the last recession.

“This would put a huge additional burden on local authorities, whose budgets are already very hard pressed (school buses, city buses, etc..) and road construction activity would have to slow unless budgets are expanded to compensate for higher costs,” Hansen points out.
Adding: “Hardest hit by any increase would be emerging markets, however, as their use of oil per unit of GDP is still far higher than in the developed world. It will be interesting to see how the superior emerging market growth story will function of crude oil trades above 100 dollars a barrel for any significant period of time.”

Ole S Hansen

“Eventually, the only cure to higher oil prices is higher oil prices, which experience shows us do eventually crimp demand and bring supply and demand back into balance. During hurricane Katrina in the US, for example, the spike in gasoline prices saw year-on-year gasoline demand fall as much as -3% in the absence of a recession. As prices rocketed well above 100 dollars per barrel and the US lurched into a recession, demand fell even further. We would suggest that any further rise in prices from here will begin to see a slackening in demand,” he concludes.

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