Kerry begins Europe, Mideast tour today

Updated 24 February 2013
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Kerry begins Europe, Mideast tour today

WASHINGTON: America’s top diplomat John Kerry will begin his first official trip as secretary of state today, a marathon get-acquainted tour of America’s closest allies in Europe and the Middle East.
Kerry will visit the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar from Feb. 24 to March 6.
His first stop will be London, where Kerry will meet with senior British officials, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.
Kerry travels on to Berlin where, in addition to meeting Germans, he will encounter his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for a tricky exchange at a time when Moscow and Washington are at loggerheads on many issues.
“Obviously, they know each other well from when Secretary Kerry was Senator Kerry, but it will be their first opportunity to sit down bilaterally as foreign ministers,” Nuland said.
Nuland added, “I would expect they’ll talk about all of the issues — bilateral, regional, global — but with a particular emphasis, I would expect, on Syria, Iran, DPRK (North Korea) and the bilateral issues of the day.”
The marathon trip underscores Washington’s new foreign policy imperative, which is subtly pivoting away from Asia and increasingly towards Europe.
Tyson Barker of the Bertelsmann Foundation thinktank said that, after a first term focused on relations with Pacific countries, President Barack Obama hopes “to consolidate and retro-fit some of our legacy relationships.”
He added that Obama has in Kerry someone who is “comfortable engaging with Europe, and someone with whom Europe is comfortable engaging.”
Kerry is a figure of standing in Washington. He served for decades as a US senator, including a stint as the chairman of the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee.


FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

Updated 12 min 39 sec ago
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FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

WASHINGTON: The FBI warned on Friday that Russian computer hackers had compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and could collect user information or shut down network traffic.
The US law enforcement agency urged the owners of many brands of routers to turn them off and on again and download updates from the manufacturer to protect themselves.
The warning followed a court order Wednesday that allowed the FBI to seize a website that the hackers planned to use to give instructions to the routers. Though that cut off malicious communications, it still left the routers infected, and Friday’s warning was aimed at cleaning up those machines.
Infections were detected in more than 50 countries, though the primary target for further actions was probably Ukraine, the site of many recent infections and a longtime cyberwarfare battleground.
In obtaining the court order, the Justice Department said the hackers involved were in a group called Sofacy that answered to the Russian government.
Sofacy, also known as APT28 and Fancy Bear, has been blamed for many of the most dramatic Russian hacks, including that of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Earlier, Cisco Systems Inc. said the hacking campaign targeted devices from Belkin International’s Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear Inc, TP-Link and QNAP.
Cisco shared the technical details of its investigation with the US and Ukrainian governments. Western experts say Russia has conducted a series of attacks against companies in Ukraine for more than a year amid armed hostilities between the two countries, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and at least one electricity blackout.
The Kremlin on Thursday denied the Ukrainian government’s accusation that Russia was planning a cyberattack on Ukrainian state bodies and private companies ahead of the Champions League soccer final in Kiev on Saturday.
“The size and scope of the infrastructure by VPNFilter malware is significant,” the FBI said, adding that it is capable of rendering peoples’ routers “inoperable.”
It said the malware is hard to detect, due to encryption and other tactics.
The FBI urged people to reboot their devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and help identify infected devices.
People should also consider disabling remote-management settings, changing passwords and upgrading to the latest firmware.