Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Daily Report

According to the WRIC 8 Richmond, reports of a bomb on an Amtrak train in Emporia, Virginia, forced hundreds of people onboard to evacuate. A number of streets were shut down overnight around where the Amtrak train stopped in the middle of town. The nearly 300 passengers on board the train bound from New York down to Florida were forced to evacuate after a man on board said he had a bomb. (See item 17)

• The Daily Item reports the mayor of Peabody, Massachusetts, and the Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council (NERAC) announced the completion of the “Southern Essex Regional Area Planning Council” daylong tabletop exercise drill hosted by Peabody on Thursday morning. The drill, moderated by Precision Planning and Simulations, Inc., was designed to help determine the North Shore’s ability to respond to hypothetical terrorist attacks by exploring key emergency response roles and communications protocols. (See item 34)

Information Technology

36. March 17, IDG News Service – (International) Google News, YouTube blocked in China amid Tibet riots. Beijing appears to have taken a page out of Myanmar’s playbook by blocking some Internet access amid rioting in Tibet that has already seen as many as 80 people killed, according to the Tibetan government in exile. China has blocked access to Google News and YouTube in an apparent attempt to stop the spread of video footage related the rioting going on in several cities in Tibet, including the capital Lhasa. Demonstrations in the city started on March 10, a day commemorating the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule after which the spiritual leader of the country, the Dalai Lama, fled to India. China’s decision to block access to the sites follows similar government censorship of protests by Myanmar. Last September, Myanmar cut off Internet access entirely to block people from viewing pictures and videos or sending them out of the country. Two videos about the situations in Tibet posted on YouTube by the user Amdo2007 both appear to show peaceful demonstrations. The first shows a public gathering, including Tibetan monks in their distinctive saffron robes, while the second video shows what appears to be peaceful marching. Some videos, including one from Amdo2007, have been “flagged by YouTube’s user Community” so that users have to verify they are 18 or older by logging in or signing up. The video shows bodies on the streets, protesters throwing rocks at Chinese army vehicles, and other images. It may have the most hits, over 80,000 so far, on the subject.

37. March 17, USA Today – (National) Botnet scams are exploding. Largely unnoticed by the public, botnets have come to inundate the Internet. On a typical day, 40 percent of the 800 million computers connected to the Internet are bots engaged in distributing e-mail spam, stealing sensitive data typed at banking and shopping websites, bombarding websites as part of extortionist denial-of-service attacks, and spreading fresh infections, says the CEO of Support Intelligence, a San Francisco-based company that tracks and sells threat data. The botnet problem shows no sign of easing. Security firm Damballa pinpointed 7.3 million unique instances of bots carrying out nefarious activities on an average day in January - an astronomical leap from a daily average of 333,000 in August 2006. That included botnet-delivered spam, which accounted for 91 percent of all e-mails in early March, up from 64 percent last June, says e-mail management firm Cloudmark. The upshot of this deluge is profound, if not immediately obvious, says Adam Cloudmark’s director of emerging technology. Telecoms and Internet service providers must absorb the cost of carrying botnet traffic; they can be expected to pass that expense onto companies and consumers, he says. Meanwhile, tens of millions of botted computer users are experiencing degraded performance with no clue why. Beyond that, cybercrime gangs are stockpiling enough stolen data to fuel identity theft scams for years to come. Meanwhile, law enforcement is negligible, and security protections for consumers and businesses remain, at best, patchwork and haphazardly deployed, says a computer science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Communications Sector

38. March 16, Associated Press – (National) Wireless firms fight FCC on cell-tower backup-power rules. When Hurricane Katrina assaulted the Gulf Coast in 2005, wind and flooding knocked out hundreds of cell towers and cell sites, silencing wireless communication exactly when emergency crews and victims needed it. To avoid similar debacles in the future, the Federal Communications Commission wants most cell-transmitter sites in the U.S. to have at least eight hours of backup power in case power fails, one of several moves regulators say will make the nation’s communication system more reliable. Two and a half years after Katrina and eight months after the FCC’s regulations were released, the two sides are still wrestling with the issue. A federal appeals court in Washington recently put the regulations on hold while it considers an appeal by some in the wireless industry. Several cell-phone companies, while agreeing that their networks need to become more resilient, have opposed the FCC’s backup-power regulations, claiming they were illegally drafted and would present a huge economic and bureaucratic burden. There are almost 210,000 cell towers and roof-mounted cell sites in the U.S., and carriers have said many would require modification. At least one industry estimate puts the per-site price tag at up to $15,000. Sprint Nextel Corp. told the FCC the rules would lead to “staggering and irreparable harm” for the company.
Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/technology/orl-cell1608mar16,0,3379047.story