Trails End Computer Club

Bulletin for week of FEBRUARY 11, 2013

Every Wednesday

Library Room
9:30 - 10:20
General Meeting
If you would like to meet in a small group to discuss special computer related subjects or form a Special Interest Group lets discuss it.

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1 on 1
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this week


This tool taskbar may be used to capture any portion of your screen in a .jpg format and use that image anywhere. You can capture the full screen, any portion of the screen in a rectangular or free form. You can make drawings on the image in several colors. After saving the image, you may attach it to a e-mail or any other applications that acepts .jpg images.
Useful if a system message pops up that you don't understand. With an image of the pop up, you can later research it.
It's on most Windows products but may have to be activated or downloaded and installed. By placing a shortcut in your tool bar, it is available all the time.

Are We Really Under Cyber Attack?

IRAby Ira Wilsker

Chinese Flag
            Normally I write about  issues that may impact us strictly as individuals, including how to secure our personal computers, where to get good quality free software, hardware reviews, and software reviews.  Many of us are blissfully unaware that our way of life is under cyberattack, which has the potential to adversely affect our quality of life.  Many of us can discuss the latest sports news with vigor, debate the crazy lifestyles of our favorite celebrities, and argue the fine points of politics and public policy, but are blissfully ignorant about how our dependence on the internet has made us vulnerable to attacks that can close our banks, disrupt our communications, shut down our utilities, and otherwise lose much of what makes our life possible in the 21st century.

            Buried in the news headlines over recent days are stories about how such icons as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and Twitter have been successfully attacked by hackers.  In the recent Wall Street Journal hack attack,  according to AFP reporter Rob Lever, writing on Friday, Feb 1, 2013, " The Wall Street Journal has become the second major US media organization to accuse Chinese hackers of targeting its computers in an apparent effort to spy on journalists covering China. The announcement on Thursday came a day after The New York Times said hackers, possibly connected to China's military, had infiltrated its computers in response to its expose of the vast wealth amassed by a top leader's family.  The Journal reported that the attacks were "for the apparent purpose of monitoring the newspaper's China coverage" and suggested that Chinese spying on US media has become a "widespread phenomenon."

            Also on February 1, Washington Post reporters Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima wrote in the Post, "A sophisticated cyberattack targeted The Washington Post in an operation that resembled intrusions against other major American news organizations and that company officials suspect was the work of Chinese hackers, people familiar with the incident said.  Post company officials confirmed the broad outlines of the infiltration, which was discovered in 2011 and first reported by an independent cybersecurity blog on Friday. But they did not elaborate on the circumstances, the duration of the intrusion or its apparent origin."  Twitter, a major social media network with over 200 million current users, was also the victim of a cyber attack, according to a February 2 Associated Press story by Terry Collins and Anne D'Innocenzio.  In this report, they wrote, "Twitter said in a blog post on Friday (February 1)  it detected attempts to gain access to its user data earlier in the week. It shut down one attack moments after it was detected. But Twitter discovered that the attackers may have stolen user names, email addresses and encrypted passwords belonging to 250,000 users they describe as a very small percentage of our users. The company reset the pilfered passwords and sent emails advising the affected users."

            In the days and few weeks prior to the high profile newspaper and Twitter attacks, there were countless attacks on major banks, financial institutions, power companies, and other components of our daily lives and critical infrastructure.  In the recent "Gozi Trojan" case, a small group of eastern European cyber thieves infected over a million computers with the "Gozi Trojan Virus".  This virus which started stealing online banking information in 2007, and remained almost undetectable by most security utilities until 2012, which resulted in millions of dollars in banking losses over a five year period, making it (according to a New York U.S. Attorney). “ ... one of the most financially destructive computer viruses in history.” (Source:  These cyber criminals employed countless "money mules", mostly innocent and out-of-work individuals, who were recruited through work-at-home job scams.  These money mules helped the cyber thieves launder stolen funds.

            In addition to the more traditional cybercrooks, as in the NY Times and Washington Post cases above, cyber espionage is widely used to gather intelligence for political, industrial, and military purposes.  In terms of political espionage, the recent attacks on the major newspapers may have been used to intimidate Chinese nationals who might want to talk to western media outlets.  Mark Clayton, in a Christian Science Monitor article, February 1, 2013, " How large is China's campaign to control, intimidate?", he wrote, "China’s apparent motives in infiltrating major news organizations, experts say, are to anticipate and respond to negative coverage of the country, and, perhaps no less importantly, to deter Chinese citizens from speaking openly with Western news organizations."  In terms of industrial espionage, Richard Clarke, the former cybersecurity and cyberterrorism advisor for the White House, said in a March, 2012 interview in the Smithsonian Magazine, that, "China has hacked every major US company."  According to Clarke, every major company in the U.S. is regularly infiltrated by Chinese hackers employed by the Chinese government to steal research and development data, plans, and information.  According to Clarke, " "Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China. My greatest fear is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. Where we lose our competitiveness by having all of our research and development stolen by the Chinese." (Source:

            Sadly, this cyber industrial espionage also has strong military and national security implications.  According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, " Computer Spies Breach Fighter-Jet Project" (, U.S. officials have known at least since 2009 that Chinese cyber spies have " ... broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the Defense Department's costliest weapons program ever  ... Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, officials say, potentially making it easier to defend against the craft."  The result of this cyber espionage on our national secrets can be seen in the newly released Chinese and Russian fighter aircraft that were explicitly designed to defeat our latest generations of fighter aircraft.  According to an article in Bloomberg, " China’s new stealth fighter likely was designed “to counter” the U.S. F-22 and F-35 jets, according to U.S. Navy intelligence analysts."

            In the same Wall Street Journal story (above) about the Chinese cyber spies stealing our fighter aircraft designs is a chilling statement, " The latest intrusions provide new evidence that a battle is heating up between the U.S. and potential adversaries over the data networks that tie the world together. The revelations follow a recent Wall Street Journal report that computers used to control the U.S. electrical-distribution system, as well as other infrastructure, have also been infiltrated by spies abroad."  Other, more recent reports indicate that China is greatly enhancing its cyberattack abilities to launch a devastating cyber attack on an adversary (the United States?) by shutting down its infrastructure using technical "cyber" methods rather than more traditional and violent methods.

            Be careful to listen to snippets in the national and global news about such things as cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, such as happened in the recent past when the Stuxnet computer worm wrecked Siemens centrifuges.  Richard Clarke has written about attacks on the electric power grid, trains, and the stock exchanges; listen in the news for more stories about this continuing attack.  Almost daily, there are news stories about "denial of service" attacks that can effectively shut down the  internet servers used by banks, credit card payment gateways, and the name servers which direct internet traffic.  In an April 2009 story, "Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies", the Wall Street Journal reported that China and Russia had infiltrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national security officials (Source:   Think about this the next time you hear about a major blackout for reasons other than a major weather event such as a hurricane.  Some cyberterrorism experts claim that the infamous August 2003 blackout that darkened much of Canada and the northeastern United States was due to cyberterrorism, a claim that was vehemently denied by government authorities, but still discussed in hushed circles.  Al Qaeda documents indicate that they had been seriously planning to shut down our power grids, and evidence exists that there had even been surveillance on key components of the grid (Source:

            With the microcosm of information and sources referenced above, and now being more aware of the need to listen to contemporary news stories about cyberattacks and other cyberthreats, it should be evident that we are indeed now engaged in a cyberwar, and have been for several years.  Do we really have anything to worry about?  Sleep well tonight.

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