Colombia to increase peace talks cyber security after new attack

Colombia to increase peace talks cyber security after new attack

BOGOTA, Sept 27 (Reuters) – The lead government negotiator at Colombia’s peace talks with Marxist rebels said on Saturday that hackers had broken into his e-mail and may have accessed his phone in an effort to “sabotage” the peace process.

Head negotiator Humberto de la Calle said in a statement that authorities informed him that unidentified hackers had attempted to access his e-mail at least 17 times and may possibly have hacked cellphone.

The statement came days after the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released copies of the three preliminary agreements reached so far at the talks, to combat what they characterized as misinformation spread by opponents of the nearly two-year-old negotiations.

“It’s unacceptable that these types of practices re-occur – not just to look for what is already public, but to sabotage the process,” de la Calle said, adding that hackers may have masqueraded as him and sent e-mails from his account.

The e-mail of President Juan Manuel Santos, who spearheaded the Havana-based talks, was allegedly hacked this spring by a contractor working for the opposition candidate during presidential elections.

The talks, an effort to end 50 years of war that has killed over 200,000 and displaced millions, are opposed by some political leaders, most notably hard-line ex-President and now senator Alvaro Uribe, who says they may lead to impunity for rebel leadership.

The battle for Hong Kong’s future: there’s no going back

A pro-democracy demonstrator in Hong Kong

Regardless of what the end game is, Beijing cannot ignore the pro-democracy protests that have given the people of Hong Kong their voice. 

The fast moving events over the past week in Hong Kong have taken even the most astute political observers of the city by surprise.

The week started with class boycotts by hundreds of university students, followed by the unexpected launch of the long-awaited Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement.

Image: Riot police fire tear gas on student protesters occupying streets surrounding the government headquarters in Hong Kong


For a week, the Hong Kong public was treated to street theatre and passionate speeches pushing for a seemingly impossible dream: Beijing’s blessing for universal suffrage that would give citizens of the autonomous region a fair chance to elect its chief executive, the head of the city’s government.

The movement received a boost on Saturday afternoon when police shot tear gas into the crowd engaging in peaceful protests. The unprecedented attack touched a raw nerve in the city, provoking even the apathetic to take to the streets.


In 2005, tear gas was directed at South Korean farmers at World Trade Organisation protests. It hadn’t been used by the city police on citizens since the communist-backed riots in 1967 (under British rule).

On Monday, the second day of the massive street protests, an estimated 150,000 people were blocking major commercial districts and commuter hubs. The government was forced to pull back the riot police.


Officials also announced a delay in implementing Beijing’s restricted form of universal suffrage, denounced as a sham by its detractors.

The modest concessions have not appeased the masses who are now calling for the head of Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive. They also want to dump Beijing’s plans for political reform in Hong Kong.

So what is the end game? The Leung government has effectively lost control of the streets as the police force is outnumbered and outmanoeuvred. In many neighbourhoods, groups of young men and women have built makeshift barricades at key intersections and entrances to the subway. There were no police in sight to stop them.

Riot police in Hong Kong

Riot police stand on guard outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters.Photograph: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images AsiaPac

For the past two days, the “occupiers”, mostly young men and women, planted themselves on city streets, sharing water and war stories under the umbrellas that have become symbols of the peaceful urban uprising.

People were extraordinarily cordial and inclusive. On one street corner, a group of deaf people offering support in sign languages received a warm round of applause. Yet amid the sense of excitement and liberation, the threat of tear gas was never far away.

Nevertheless, on Sunday, Benny Tai, one of the three key leaders of the Occupy Central movement, admitted that the group had lost control of the movement, at least for now.


For the first time in Hong Kong’s history, hundreds of thousands of people are coordinating themselves with little direction from government or institutions. It is a classic case of the unorganised coming together with the help of technology, as described by Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody.

Protesters have been using social media to share information and developments about the protest and, most importantly, to coordinate action, such as mobilising supplies of water and umbrellas. Beijing now needs to understand the aspirations of a new generation and the way they work.

Yet the Chinese government still has a few options. It could send in the army, the PLA, in the name of restoring public order and retaking the city’s streets.

President Xi Jinping’s tough stance towards political reform in Hong Kong is consistent with his record of tightening up ideological control on the mainland.

Under Xi, China has developed a master narrative that frames the democratic aspirations of Hong Kong as the work of evil “foreign forces” trying to undermine the sovereignty of China.

Chinese national flaghoisted upside down

The Chinese national flag (with the Hong Kong flag on the left), seen after it was hoisted upside-down by protesters. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Or Beijing could offer the protesters a truce by ordering Leung to step down. Regardless of his politics leanings, Leung must go for having mismanaged the response to the protests and allowing the confrontation to escalate.

But such a concession will only give Beijing a reprieve. The people of Hong Kong have asked for greater freedom. Beijing is understandably worried about the spill-over effect of the democratisation of Hong Kong. Since the massive protests began,

Beijing has blocked Instagram, the social media app for sharing pictures. It has also stepped up censoring pictures on WeChat, a popular home-grown app (instead demonstrators are using an app called FireChat).

For Hong Kong, there’s no going back. The struggle for democracy has restored the city to international consciousness, reminding the world that Hong Kong is not just a city of high finance and outrageous real estate prices.

It is also a city with dreams, for which its people are willing to take risks and make sacrifices.

Spain blocks Catalonia referendum on independence

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to defend the 'sovereignty' of his country

Constitutional Court suspends Catalonia’s Scottish-style referendum planned for November 7 following appeal by Spanish prime minister

Spain’s Constitutional Court on Monday blocked a Scottish-style referendum called by Catalonia, after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to defend the “sovereignty” of his country.

The court said it would suspend the region’s planned independence vote while it considered a request from Mr Rajoy’s conservative government that the vote be declared unconstitutional.

That process is likely to take up to five months, meaning the referendum, due to take place on November 7, seems certain to be declared illegal if it goes ahead.

Rather than follow the lead of David Cameron and allow a vote on independence, Mariano Rajoy said on Monday that legal action would be taken by his government to block the regional plebiscite.

“It’s false that the right to vote can be assigned unilaterally to one region about a matter that affects all Spaniards,” Mr Rajoy said in a statement following an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday morning. “It’s profoundly anti-democratic.”

The decision puts Madrid on a collision course with Catalonia following the signing on Saturday by Artur Mas, the president of the Catalan government, of a decree to allow the “consultation” on breaking away from Spain.

Mr Mas had said the vote was legal because the result was non-binding.

“Catalonia wants to express itself, it wants to be heard and it wants to vote,” he said after approving the law passed by Catalan’s parliament in Barcelona on Saturday.

But Mr Rajoy insisted the vote would not take place.

President of Catalonia’s regional government Artur Mas (AFP/Getty)

“There is nothing and no one, no power nor institution, that can break this principle of sole sovereignty,” he told reporters at the palace in Moncloa.

Catalonia’s nationalists have urged the Spanish government to take inspiration from David Cameron’s decision to recognise the Scottish referendum.

With the Catalan referendum now suspended by the Constitutional Court, an action that gives no recourse to appeal, Mr Mas will come under pressure from nationalists to defy Madrid and go ahead with the vote anyway.

Or he may decide to call early elections in the region and make them a plebiscite on independence.

Recent polls show an overwhelming majority in the northeastern region of 7.5 million want the right to vote on sovereignty but that support for an independent state wavers around 50 per cent.

CRN mega yachts j’ade is world’s first to feature a floating garage

CRN mega yachts j'ade is world's first to feature a floating garage

on a recent designboom visit to the 2014 monaco yacht show, the CRN mega yachts ‘j’ade’ 60m vessel – the first to feature a floating garage – was a finalist in the interior design award category.


the ship was designed to feel at one with the sea as it boasts special full height windows that provide exceptionally wide panoramic views.


this feeling is even more evident because of the innovative flooded garage that enables the owner to store and easily access the 8 meter riva iseo speedboat without the use for a tender lift.


the hydraulic operated bay can dry out in three minutes and can also be transformed into a beach club terrace accessible ocean pool.


the prestige nominated inside layout was crafted by studio zuccon international project and was designed in collaboration with CRN’s technical office and centro stile.


its styling has a classical focus but has refined modern and elegant hints that are reflected by the fusion of leather, marble, metals and wood.


such textiles as the canaletto walnut, polished rosewood, afromosia strips and white tai ping carpets highlight these influences. the 60m ‘j’ade’ has room for 13 crew members and 10 guests, providing four decks and an outdoor diving table that can cater for up to 14 people.


to enthuse all these passengers, a videoworks developed audio/video entertainment system is set up throughout the ship and the main salon features a green marble bar that has a large aquarium backdrop.



the mega boat has two MTU 12V, 1500kW engines that allows a top speed of 16 knots and a cruising speed of 14 – this means it can make trans-atlantic journeys.


the steel and aluminum structure measures 60 meters with a beam of 10.2 meters and was manufactured by yacht specialists CRN, a brand of ferretti. lamberto tacoli, CRN shipyard chairman and CEO, commented on the launch:


‘we pride ourselves on the craftsmanship carried out by our skilled workers as they make it possible for us to reach every milestone. the shipyard is in full swing and all our efforts aim at maintaining CRN’s position in the elite world of shipbuilding.’


the CRN MY ‘j’ade’ was nominated for the interior design award at the 2014 monaco yacht show and was a press feature for designboom’s most recent visit to this event.


George Clooney Used ‘Burner Phones’ To Protect His Wedding From Hackers

george clooney

George Clooney’s wedding to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin was the celebrity story of the weekend.

Their no-expense-spared nuptials in Venice were the very image of a dream wedding, but what many people don’t know is the careful planning that went into keeping their wedding safe from hackers and tabloid journalists.

It has been reported that Clooney gave every guest at his wedding a “burner” phone. A burner phone has a single purpose, and is intended to be discarded after use.

These phones came with special codes that served as both a ticket into the wedding events, as well as a deterrent for guests wishing to leak photos.

The Sunday Telegraph claims to have obtained part of the document sent to Clooney’s wedding guests, which instructs them on the smartphone security protocols: 

The phones you’ve been given have a code. That is your ticket to everything. We will be taking lots of pictures…but we have to work very hard to keep our pictures our pictures.

Additionally, TMZ reports that guests were banned from bringing their own phones to the festivities, instead they had to leave them in their hotel rooms or hand them in at special kiosks outside the events.

So why the high security? Apparently Clooney was protecting against two things: iCloud hackers and leaked photos.

According to TMZ, “guests were all told the reason for the security measures was because of all the hackers who have been in the news recently.”

The hackers behind the recent leaked celebrity photos used vulnerabilities in Apple’s password recovery system to gain access to iCloud accounts.


If guests at Clooney’s wedding used their personal iPhones to photograph the event, then there’s a chance that hackers who already had access to the phones could gain valuable photos before the press.

American Vogue has exclusive rights to photograph of Clooney’s wedding, in return for a donation to a charity of his choice.

The burner phones meant that wedding guests couldn’t sell on photos to rival publications, as the code system means that Clooney would be able to tell exactly who each photograph came from.

It’s not unusual for guests attending celebrity parties to have their social media use restricted. In 2013, TMZ obtained a copy of one of Justin Bieber’s “party contracts” that guests have to sign before even meeting the star. The document made it clear that publishing any details or photos of the party could result in a $3 million fine.

I shall not, without your prior written consent in each instance, publish, directly or indirectly, or cause or induce the publication to a third party, of any Confidential Information including, without limitation, texting, “tweeting,” giving any interviews, making statements to the press, or writing, preparing or assisting in the preparation of any books, articles, programs, press releases, or any other oral or written communications.

Londoners give up eldest children in public Wi-Fi security horror show

Connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots can bring more than you bargained for.

F-Secure’s ‘Herod clause’ experiment aims to show the dangers of insecure public hotspot connections. A handful of Londoners in some of the capital’s busiest districts unwittingly agreed to give up their eldest child, during an experiment exploring the dangers of public Wi-Fi use.

The experiment, which was backed by European law enforcement agency Europol, involved a group of security researchers setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot in June.

When people connected to the hotspot, the terms and conditions they were asked to sign up to included a “Herod clause” promising free Wi-Fi but only if “the recipient agreed to assign their first born child to us for the duration of eternity”. Six people signed up.

F-Secure, the security firm that sponsored the experiment, has confirmed that it won’t be enforcing the clause.

“We have yet to enforce our rights under the terms and conditions but, as this is an experiment, we will be returning the children to their parents,” wrote the Finnish company in its report.

“Our legal advisor Mark Deem points out that – while terms and conditions are legally binding – it is contrary to public policy to sell children in return for free services, so the clause would not be enforceable in a court of law.”

Ultimately, the research, organised by the Cyber Security Research Institute, sought to highlight public unawareness of serious security issues concomitant with Wi-Fi usage.

The experiment used a mobile hotspot device built for less than £160 by German ethical-hacking company SySS using a Raspberry Pi computer, a battery pack and Wi-Fi aerial, all held together with elastic bands.

The device “could have been easily concealed in a woman’s handbag and could be deployed in seconds,” claimed the report. It was first deployed in Cafe Brera in Canada Square, in the heart of Canary Wharf, and later just outside the Queen Elizabeth Centre near the Houses of Parliament.

After the initial Herod clause experiment, the research continued with the terms and conditions removed. In Westminster, 33 devices connected to the hotspot, with researchers startled to find that the popular POP3 email protocol revealed passwords in plain text when used over Wi-Fi.

This vulnerability dates back 13 years to 2001, showing how little effort has been put into fixing a potentially critical issue. If the researchers had been malicious, they could have easily siphoned off critical data like usernames and passwords and logged into people’s accounts.

“The authentication happens in plain text in some old protocols,” F-Secure’s Sean Sullivan told the Guardian. “You could probably snare a lot of people using email… you could do more to refine [an attack] to capture more people’s mail.”

But more mundane data can also be useful for hackers. Even when they aren’t connected to a hotspot, devices on average reveal the last 19 access points they hooked up to, the study found.

“It‘s a particularly disturbing development as recent research has shown that individuals can be accurately identified by using just the last four access points where they have logged on,” F-Secure’s report read.

Other metadata, such as websites people have visited or their device ID, would also prove useful to criminal or government spies hoping to piece together a fuller picture of targets.

The report concluded that there needs to be much more education around the use of public Wi-Fi, especially hotspots that are of unknown origin. F-Secure is also calling for more transparency from the telecoms industry.

Currently, users are suffering because of “collusion between different branches of the industry”, which has sacrificed security for the sake of usability, the researchers claimed.

“People haven’t had anything to compare it to to wrap their head around,” Sullivan added. “People are thinking of Wi-Fi as a place as opposed to an activity… You don’t do unprotected Wi-Fi at home, why are you doing it in public?”

Sullivan advises users run a Virtual Private Networking (VPN) software product, which will encrypt the data being sent to and from their device.

Turning Wi-Fi off when in public or when around untrusted hotspots can also be helpful wherever and whenever possible. Deleting old and known networks broadcasted by the device can help protect from metadata snoops too.


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