New Philippine military chief vows to drive Daesh out

New AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez, center, inspects the honor guard during the Armed Forces of the Philippines change of command ceremony at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Manila on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018
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New Philippine military chief vows to drive Daesh out

  • New military chief seeks cooperation of mainstream Muslim groups in fighting violent extremists
  • For the first time, leaders of the two major Muslim rebel groups attended the Philippine military's change of command ceremony

MANILA: The new armed forces chief in the Philippines took up his post with a pledge to drive Daesh from the Philippines while also extending an olive branch to Filipino militants and insurgents.
Army Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez became the country’s 50th military chief on Wednesday, replacing the retiring Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero. 
President Rodrigo Duterte led the change of command ceremony at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
In a speech at the ceremony, Galvez called on all enemies of the state to choose peace. “It is time for rebuilding and reconciliation among Filipinos,” he said.
“It is the best time to walk the path of peace. I now extend to our misguided brothers and sisters a chance to end all conflicts,” he added.
He noted that that for decades, Filipinos have fought fellow Filipinos. Communist rebels, Galvez said, have brought misery and enmity among Filipinos, while Abu Sayyaf and other local groups have terrorized communities. He added though that many members of these insurgent and militant groups had already abandoned their illegal activities and begun rebuilding their lives.
“Hundreds of our comrades have already stocked arms and abandoned your hopeless cause. They have seen by themselves that our government is a just and fair government. Your armed forces... invite you to abandon your pointless struggle and return home to your families and your community,” said Galvez.
Galvez pointed out that violent extremism remains a threat as shown by the destructive fighting in Marawi City, which was attacked by members of the Daesh-inspired Maute Group in May last year. 
The Marawi crisis lasted almost five months.
“Daesh and the battle of Marawi have just very recently shown us how truly destructive violent extremism can be. We have won many battles but we have yet to win the war,” he said.
“Violent extremists and their corrupted ideology remain a threat. Too much (blood) has been spilled. Too many lives have been lost to terror and hate,” he added.
He called on all peace-loving Filipinos, including “our Muslim brothers and sisters,” to join the AFP in the fight against all forms of violent extremism. 
“We will pursue with even more vigor our campaign to end insurgency and terrorism. And with your indispensable help, we will ultimately win,” he said,
“Together, we shall render the cause of insurgency irrelevant for it can only thrive where discord prevails. Together we shall defeat the Abu Sayyaf and all other terrorist group for terrorism only works when people are divided and afraid. Together we shall drive Daesh and other violent extremists from our shores for extremism dies in the light of a people united and strong,” he added.
For the first time, leaders of the two major Muslim revolutionary groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), attended the change of command ceremony.
Galvez expressed his full support to the peace process with the armed groups.
“Even though we soldiers are warriors, we shall always prepare the path of peace. Hence we shall support all peace initiatives of the government,” he said.
“We shall more vigorously work hand in hand with government agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders to address the underlying cause of conflict. We shall keep our door open with all peaceful possibilities.
“We look forward to the final peaceful political resolution of conflict in Mindanao,” Galvez continued, as he vowed to further strengthen existing peace mechanisms and revitalize the peace and development offices of AFP unified command levels.
 


Russian hackers used US online infrastructure against itself

A man walks past the building of the Russian military intelligence service in Moscow, Russia, in this July 14, 2018 photo. (AP)
Updated 33 min 27 sec ago
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Russian hackers used US online infrastructure against itself

  • The Russians are accused of exploiting their access to inexpensive, powerful servers worldwide
  • The hackers accessed DNC data in September 2016 by breaking into DNC computers hosted on the Amazon Web Services’ cloud

WASHINGTON: Exactly seven months before the 2016 presidential election, Russian government hackers made it onto a Democratic committee’s network.
One of their carefully crafted fraudulent emails had hit pay dirt, enticing an employee to click a link and enter her password.
That breach of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the first significant step in gaining access to the Democratic National Committee network.
To steal politically sensitive information, prosecutors say, the hackers exploited some of the United States’ own computer infrastructure against it, using servers they leased in Arizona and Illinois. The details were included in an indictment released Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller, who accused the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, of taking part in a wide-ranging conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The companies operating the servers were not identified in the court papers.
The Russians are accused of exploiting their access to inexpensive, powerful servers worldwide — conveniently available for rental — that can be used to commit crimes with impunity. Reaching across oceans and into networks without borders can obfuscate their origins.
The indictment painstakingly reconstructs the hackers’ movements using web servers and a complex bitcoin financing operation.
Two Russian hacking units were charged with tasks, including the creation and management of a hacking tool called “X-agent” that was implanted onto computers. The software allowed them to monitor activity on computers by individuals, steal passwords and maintain access to hacked networks. It captured each keystroke on infected computers and took screenshots of activity displayed on computer screens, including an employee viewing the DCCC’s online banking information.
From April to June 2016, the hackers installed updated versions of their software on at least 10 Democratic computers. The software transmitted information from the infected computers to a GRU-leased server in Arizona, the indictment said. The hackers also created an overseas computer to act as a “middle server” to obscure the connection between the DCCC and the hackers’ Arizona-based server.
Once hackers gained access to the DCCC network, it searched one computer for terms that included “hillary,” “cruz,” and “trump” and copied select folders, including “Benghazi Investigations.”
In emails, the hackers embedded a link that purported to be a spreadsheet of Clinton’s favorability ratings, but instead it directed the computers to send its data to a GRU-created website.
Meanwhile, around the same time, the hackers broke into 33 DNC computers and installed their software on their network. Captured keystrokes and screenshots from the DCCC and DNC computers, including an employee viewing the DCCC’s banking information, were sent back to the Arizona server.
The Russian hackers used other software they developed called X-Tunnel to move stolen documents through encrypted channels to another computer the GRU leased in Illinois.
Despite the use of US-based servers, such vendors typically aren’t legally liable for criminal activities unless it can be proved in federal court that the operator was party to the criminal activity.
A 1996 federal statute protects Internet vendors from being held liable for how customers use their service, and except for a few exceptions, provides immunity to the providers. The law is considered a key part of the legal infrastructure of the Internet, preventing providers from being saddled with the behemoth task of monitoring activity on their servers.
“The fact that someone provided equipment and or connectivity that was used to engage in data theft is not going to be attributed to the vendor in that circumstance,” Eric Goldman, a professor of law and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law, said. A notable exception, however, is if federal prosecutors are bringing a criminal charge for violations of a federal criminal law.
In that case, “we’re going to require a high level of knowledge of their activity or intent,” Goldman said.
When the DNC and DCCC became aware they had been hacked, they hired a cybersecurity firm, Crowdstrike, to determine the extent of the intrusions. Crowdstrike, referred to as “Company 1” in the indictment, took steps to kick the hackers off the networks around June 2016. But for months the Russians eluded their investigators and a version of the malware remained on the network through October — programed to communicate back to a GRU-registered Internet address.
“We do not have any information to suggest that it successfully communicated,” said Adrienne Watson, the DNC’s deputy communications director.
As the company worked to kick them off, GRU officials allegedly searched online for information on Company 1 and what it had reported about its use of X-Agent malware and tried to delete their traces on the DCCC network by using commercial software known as CCleaner. Though Crowdstrike disabled X-agent on the DCCC network, the hackers spent seven hours unsuccessfully trying to connect to their malware and tried using previously stolen credentials to access the network on June 20, 2016.
The indictment also shows the reliance of Russian government hackers on American technology companies such as Twitter, to spread its stolen documents.
The hackers also accessed DNC data in September 2016 by breaking into DNC computers hosted on the Amazon Web Services’ cloud. The hackers used Amazon Web Services’ backup feature to create “snapshots” that they moved onto their own Amazon cloud accounts. Amazon also provides cloud computing services for various government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency.