Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Complete DHS Daily Report for December 7, 2011

Daily Report

Top Stories

• Unlawful policies and practices implemented by Performance Coal Co. and Massey Energy caused the 2010 West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men, the Mine Safety and Health Administration said in its report on the disaster that included the largest fine in the agency’s history. – Charleston State Journal (See item 4)

4. December 6, Charleston State Journal – (West Virginia) MSHA: Unlawful company policies at root of Upper Big Branch explosion. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) December 6 released its report on the April 5, 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, that killed 29 men in one of the deadliest mine accidents in decades. The report concluded the root cause of the explosion was the, “unlawful policies and practices,” implemented by Performance Coal Co. (PCC) and Massey Energy. Performance Coal owns the mine and was a subsidiary of Massey at the time. Massey has since been purchased by Alpha Natural Resources. “The evidence ... demonstrates that PCC/Massey promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety, including practices calculated to allow it to conduct mining operations in violation of the law,” the report’s executive summary states. The investigation pointed to examples of “systematic, intentional and aggressive efforts by PCC/Massey to avoid compliance with safety and health standards,” the summary indicates. The report also accuses the companies of attempting to hide noncompliance with federal and state rules. During the investigation, witnesses testified mine management intimidated miners by telling them that reporting safety violations would threaten their jobs, the summary states. The report concluded that because of this, no safety or health complaints were made to the MSHA. Other findings outlined in the executive summary include: the firms established a system to give warning when safety inspectors were headed to the mine; the companies kept two sets of safety and health hazard books; the explosion was caused by, “a methane ignition that transitioned into a small methane explosion that then set off a massive coal dust explosion”; basic safety precautions could have prevented the explosion as the mine lacked working methane gas detection methods and proper ventilation; the companies allowed significant amounts of coal dust to accumulate. Shortly after the report was released, the MSHA announced it would fine Performance Coal nearly $11 million; the largest fine in agency history. The MSHA also issued 369 citations and orders, including 21 flagrant violations. Source:

• Drivers were stranded all over New Mexico as a winter snowstorm shut major highways, caused several accidents, and closed many schools. – Associated Press (See item 12)

12. December 6, Associated Press – (New Mexico) New Mexico struggles with winter blast aftermath as snow closes, schools, highways in south. New Mexico continued December 6 to deal with the aftermath of a severe winter storm as more schools closed and the southern part of the state saw closed highways and weather-related car pileups. Motorists sought emergency shelter overnight as state officials closed both directions of Interstate 40 from Albuquerque to Gallup — part of the historic Route 66 — after blowing snow caused near-zero visibility. It was open December 6, but traffic was moving slowly because of ice. Roads still closed December 6 included Interstate 25 between Las Cruces and Belen, Interstate 10 between Lordsburg to Las Cruces, and U.S. Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces. A number of crashes were reported on I-10 between Las Cruces and Deming, and there was a multiple-car pileup on I-10 east of the Las Cruces airport. Meteorologists said heavy snow was not to blame for the highway closures but rather strong winds brushing light snow across roads, making visibility difficult. Some areas, such as Tajique, saw 2-foot snow drifts. The New Mexico Department of Transportation said the department worked December 5 with Las Cruces police and the housing authority to make sure that drivers who were not close to home could pull over and stay in a temporary shelter until conditions improved. Source:


Banking and Finance Sector

9. December 6, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – (International) SEC freezes assets of four Chinese citizens charged with insider trading. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) December 6 announced it froze assets of four Chinese citizens and a Chinese-based entity charged with insider trading in advance of a merger announcement by educational companies based in London and Beijing. The SEC moved quickly to obtain an emergency court order to freeze assets 2 weeks after the suspicious trading by the four individuals, who have U.S.-based brokerage accounts. Some of them already attempted to liquidate or transfer their illicit profits. The SEC alleges they purchased American Depository Shares (ADS) of Beijing-based Global Education and Technology Group in 2 weeks leading up to a November 21 public announcement of a planned merger with London-based Pearson plc. Their illicit gains totaled more than $2.7 million. The SEC also charged All Know Holdings Ltd. and one or more unknown purchasers of Global Education stock in its complaint filed December 5 in the federal court in Illinois. According to the SEC’s complaint, Pearson and Global each announced before trading began November 21 that Pearson agreed to acquire all of Global’s outstanding stock for $294 million. Global’s stock price increased 97 percent that day. The SEC alleges the four defendants made their purchases of Global’s ADS shares while in possession of material, non-public data about the merger. A Global co-founder and chairman of the board apparently tipped them about the pending acquisition. On November 18, the last trading day before the acquisition announcement, their purchases accounted for more than 35 percent of the entire day’s trading volume for the firm’s shares, which trade on the NASDAQ. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties. Source:

10. December 5, Los Angeles Times – (National) SEC touts its crackdown on insider trading. Even as it fends off criticism in other areas, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is pointing to its crackdown on insider trading as proof of its effectiveness. Always a high priority, the agency significantly boosted the number of cases brought against Wall Street traders and hedge-fund managers, according to data it released to Congress late the week of November 28. The SEC said it lodged 53 cases against 138 people and corporate entities in fiscal 2010, a 43 percent increase from 2009. It said it filed 57 cases against 124 people and entities in fiscal 2011. The agency also developed new investigative techniques, including the creation of a market abuse unit that focuses on a variety of practices, including complex insider-trading cases, the agency enforcement chief told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Source:

11. December 5, Reuters – (National) CFTC tightens limits on brokerages using customer funds. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) unanimously approved tighter limits on how brokerage firms can use customer funds December 5, a measure the now-bankrupt MF Global encouraged the agency to delay. The CFTC rule prevents brokerage firms, known as futures commission merchants, from conducting “in-house” repurchase transactions and restricts them from investing customer money in foreign sovereign debt. It is not clear whether the rule would have prevented MF Global from misappropriating as much as $1.2 billion in customer money, in what regulators believe was an unprecedented breach of client funds. It appears the push to finalize the rule gained momentum after the brokerage’s collapse shook faith in regulators’ ability to protect commodity traders. The measure was finalized in a 5-0 vote. It was initially in October 2010, but stalled because there was not enough commissioner support. The agency also passed two lesser-known measures as it races to put in place the sweeping overhaul of U.S. financial regulations ordered by 2010’s Dodd-Frank law. It is well behind schedule having implemented some 20 rules so far, with most of the high-profile and controversial rules yet to come. Currently, futures commission merchants are allowed to engage in internal repurchases, or “repo” agreements. The transactions allow firms to take customer funds and invest them in a range of securities such as sovereign debt. Under the new rule, the agency will permit companies to invest consumer funds in securities such as Treasuries, agency debt, corporate notes, and commercial paper. Potentially risky foreign sovereign debt will no longer be permitted. Transactions between affiliates of a company where the two entities exchange money or funds also are restricted by the new rule. Firms would still be able to enter into agreements using customer funds with an external third party. Source:

Information Technology

32. December 6, Softpedia – (International) HP publishes list of LaserJet printers susceptible to malicious firmware update. After the controversial study about HP LaserJet printers that could be set on fire was released to the public, HP quickly came forward to defend its reputation, Softpedia reported December 6. The first move they made was to publish November 30 the list of devices that could be impacted by the installation of an unauthorized printer firmware. “A potential security vulnerability has been identified with certain HP printers and HP digital senders. The vulnerability could be exploited remotely to install unauthorized printer firmware,” reads the security bulletin. HP LaserJet Enterprise 500 color M551, HP LaserJet Enterprise 600 M602, HP LaserJet M3035, HP Color LaserJet CP4005, HP LaserJet P4515, and HP LaserJet Enterprise M4555 MFP are just a few of the models out of the 40 or so listed by the company. Essentially, customers who purchased HP LaserJet models that were manufactured before 2009 may be susceptible to the attack. Meanwhile, until they come up with a more permanent solution to the issue, an advisory was published so customers can learn how to secure their devices against unauthorized access. Source:

33. December 6, H Security – (International) Opera 11.60 fixes security bugs. Version 11.60 of Opera has been released and closes three security holes in the Web browser, H Security reported December 6. Code-named “Tunny,” the update addresses a vulnerability affecting some two- and three-letter top-level domains (TLD) that could allow cookies to be set for the TLD itself; these cookies could then be read by other sites using that TLD. A problem related to a weakness in the SSL v3.0 and TLS 1.0 specifications, which could be used for eavesdropping attacks against some applications, and a cross-domain information leakage problem in the JavaScript “in” operator have also been fixed. Source:

34. December 5, threatpost – (International) Carberp and Black Hole exploit kit wreaking havoc. In the last month, there has a been a major spike in the volume of Carberp infections related to attacks from sites hosting Black Hole, mostly exploiting Java vulnerabilities, threatpost reported December 5. Much of the jump in activity occurred in Russia, and the attackers are targeting online payment systems primarily. However, the rise in Carberp infections is not limited to Russia. Researchers at Eset found in November that infections by the trojan tripled overall from the previous month. Attackers are using sites that have previously been infected with Black Hole as launching points for drive-by download attacks against visitors and install Carberp after the exploit attempt succeeds. Source:

Communications Sector

35. December 5, Bryan County News – (Georgia) Repairs to GPB radio tower in Pembroke under way. Repairs to Savannah’s Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) radio tower located in Pembroke are under way as the company works to restore full power after a lightning strike damaged the tower in November, Byran County News reported December 6. While the company makes repairs, GPB moved the programming to an alternative tower. The temporary signal does not provide complete coverage to the greater Savannah area, so some listeners may experience outages or lower signal strength. People who listen to WSVH 91.1 as well as viewers of the GPB television station, Savannah’s WVAN 9, may experience intermittent outages as repairs are made. WSVH listeners can access GPB Radio via live stream at Source: