Thursday, August 21, 2008

Note: We have added a new feature with this issue. Frequently, the headline item details are not included in this report as they are beyond the normal scope of Banking, IT & Communications. We will endeavor to include the detail of each headline and have added a couple of titles to make it clear where you are in the report. You should also note that all material here is as it appears in the original report including typos.

Complete DHS Daily Report for August 21, 2008

Daily Report


• The Washington Times reports that a federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out a presidential administration policy that allowed only the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor polluting industries, giving states broader authority over emissions control. (See item 2)

2. August 20, Washington Times – (National) States granted control of emissions. A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out a Bush administration policy that allowed only the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor polluting industries, giving states broader authority over emissions control. The ruling could affect more than 16,000 industrial polluters such as oil refineries, power plants, and factories across the country and was hailed by environmentalists as a victory for those seeking tougher restrictions for soot, smog, mercury, and other pollutants. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that an EPA regulation that blocked states from monitoring industry pollution “is contrary to the [Clean Air Act] statutory directive that each permit must include adequate monitoring requirements.” The panel’s 2-1 decision in the case Sierra Club v. EPA gives states access to more information that could be used to prosecute polluters and marks the federal judiciary’s latest rejection of EPA policies. Source:

• According to Fox News, a jihadist Web site posted a call to poison a major city’s water supply. The posting, reportedly discovered August 9 on a site favored by Al Qaeda, called for an attack on “atheist Europe,” a reference that some terror watchers believe represents Western nations in general. (See item 23)

23. August 19, Fox News – (National) String of security threats have federal investigators on alert for attacks. Two weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention, a string of security scares have federal investigators working to downplay potential terrorist threats. Almost two weeks ago, a jihadist Web site posted a call to poison a major city’s water supply. The posting, reportedly discovered August 9 on a site favored by Al Qaeda, called for an attack on “atheist Europe,” a reference that some terror watchers believe represents Western nations in general. Just days later, a Canadian immigrant was found dead in a Denver hotel room with a pound of cyanide, only blocks away from the site of the Democratic National Convention. Both cases have mobilized federal investigators into action, although they say that neither case carries any real terror threat. The U.S. official commenting about the water-supply threat added it appeared to be in the “aspirational” category — in other words, it is an effort to encourage like-minded followers to execute their own operations in the name of Al Qaeda. Source:,2933,406664,00.html


Banking and Finance Sector

15. August 20, Alexandria Echo Press – (Minnesota; National) Beware of advance fee loan schemes and other financial scams. With a struggling economy and a shortage of credit, many consumers are financially squeezed and looking for help. With a shortage of credit, many people are experiencing difficulty obtaining loans from conventional sources. Fraudulent operators target would-be borrowers with promises of being able to find them loans during this “credit crunch,” only to collect up-front fees from them and then disappear. The state attorney general warns Minnesotans to be on guard against such “advance fee loan” scams. Federal regulators, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) report increases in this scam nationwide. Legitimate loan fees are typically paid after a given loan has been approved. People should beware of up-front charges or finders fees and they should not wire money in connection with obtaining a loan. Many scams, including advance fee loan schemes ask consumers to wire money to Canada or another location. Source:

16. August 20, Wall Street Journal – (National) SEC unveils a filing system intended to replace Edgar. Edgar, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s electronic database of corporate filings, will be replaced by a new system dubbed IDEA, or Interactive Data Electronic Applications, the agency said. IDEA will supplement Edgar at first but eventually replace it altogether. The SEC chairman said the system will give investors faster and easier access to key financial information about public companies and mutual funds. Unlike Edgar, IDEA will use data-tagging software akin to bar codes for financial data. The technology, based on extensible business reporting language, or XBRL, permits rapid comparisons of different companies or different time periods. “All of the information will be searchable on the Internet,” and available free of charge, the official promised. The SEC said IDEA filings will be available starting later this year. Source:

Information Technology

33. August 20, Port Huron Times Herald – (National) Malware tricksters launch Flash attacks. Some big websites, including Digg, MSNBC, and Newsweek, are being salted with malware-infected Adobe Flash banner ads that take over users’ system-wide clipboards. Any web browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems that runs Flash, which is almost all of them including Microsoft’s Internet Exploder, Apple’s Safari, and Mozilla’s Firefox, is said to be vulnerable. The malicious advertisements place a persistent URL on the wibbler’s clipboard, which points to a fake anti-virus program that presumably contains malware like a Trojan, keyboard logger, zombie robot, or rootkit. The user has to close and restart the web browser or even reboot the system in order to purge the offending URL and make their clipboard usable again. It is apparently not known yet how the offending banner ads are being inserted or served. Source:

34. August 19, CSO – (National) Sensitive data on 100,000 students exposed by Princeton Review. The Princeton Review is the latest company hit with a data breach that is making headlines. The New York-based educational service and test preparation provider inadvertently exposed files on at least 100,000 students in Sarasota, Florida, and Fairfax County, Virginia, through its Web site. News of the breach was made public Tuesday morning by a report in the New York Times. Files were exposed after the company switched Internet service providers earlier this year. The sensitive information, which included personal data such as names, birth dates, ethnicities, and learning disabilities, along with test performance, were easily accessed through a simple Web search and were available for at least seven weeks, according to the report. None of the information was password protected and was intended only to be viewed by Princeton Review authors. Princeton Review officials said that access to the information was immediately shut down as soon as the company was informed about the problem. Source:

Communications Sector

35. August 19, North Country Gazette – (New York) Verizon begins building cell phone towers. Construction has begun on the first four of 13 cell phone tower sites that Verizon Wireless will erect along the Adirondack Northway. Earlier this year, the Adirondack Park Agency approved sites in North Hudson, Schroon Lake, Lewis and Warrensburg. Verizon Wireless said the towers are expected to be operational by year’s end. They are expected to close a 50-mile gap along the Northway where cell service is unavailable. The towers are part of $100 million of investments Verizon is making this year in upstate New York. The APA is currently reviewing applications for additional towers in Chesterfield and Lewis. The need for cell phone service along the remote area of I-87 was spotlighted during the winter of 2007 when a Brooklyn man froze to death and his wife miraculously survived after the couple became trapped in their car on an isolated stretch of the Northway about 75 miles south the Canadian border following an auto accident in Essex County. Source:

36. August 19, Government Executive – (National) Commission finds U.S. vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse attack. In the early 1960s, engineers in nuclear weapons testing programs in the United States and the Soviet Union noticed an unexpected phenomenon when warheads were exploded high above the Earth’s surface. The electromagnetic fields produced by the detonations often resulted in damage to electrical systems on the ground. One test 400 kilometers above Johnston Island in the South Pacific destroyed a commercial telecommunications system in the Hawaiian Islands 1,400 kilometers away. Now, a new report by the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack warns that a nuclear attack aimed at crippling the nation’s technological backbone could be greater today than it was during the Cold War. Such an attack also would be easier to orchestrate, and potentially more devastating, than a direct hit to a major metropolitan area. To thoroughly understand the threat, the commission sponsored analytic tests to examine the specific vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure, including: electric power systems; telecommunications; banking and finance; petroleum and natural gas pipelines; transportation systems; food and water infrastructure; emergency services, space systems; government operations; and communications for keeping the citizenry informed. As a result, the 208-page report details the daunting complexity of modern life. “The separation of these infrastructures into different domains tends to obscure the real interdependencies that sustain the effectiveness and daily operation of each one,” the report found. To illustrate the point, the commission noted that the accidental severing of a single fiber-optic cable in New York City in 1991 resulted in a power failure that blocked 60 percent of phone calls into and out of the city, disabled air traffic control functions in the Washington-Boston flight corridor (the busiest in the nation) and crippled the operations of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Source: