[syndicated profile] theintercept_feed

Posted by Kim Zetter

Kaspersky Lab has come under intense scrutiny after its antivirus software was linked to the breach of an NSA employee’s home computer in 2015 by Russian government hackers; U.S. government sources, quoted in news reports, suggested the Moscow-based company colluded with the hackers to steal classified documents or tools from the worker’s machine, or at least turned a blind eye to this activity. The Department of Homeland Security banned Kaspersky products from civilian government systems, and Best Buy has removed the software from computers it sells based on concerns that the software can be used to spy on customers.

But a closer look at the allegations and technical details of how Kaspersky’s products operate raises questions about the accuracy of the narrative being woven in news reports and suggests that U.S. officials could be technically correct in their statements about what occurred, while also being incorrect about collusion on the part of Kaspersky.

Initial reports suggested the Russian hackers siphoned the files by hijacking Kaspersky software installed on the NSA employee’s machine — without the antivirus firm’s knowledge. But subsequent stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal include assertions or suggestions that the company was complicit.

“There is no way, based on what the software was doing, that Kaspersky couldn’t have known about this,” an anonymous former U.S. official told the Journal. The software “would have had to be programmed to look for specific keywords, and Kaspersky’s employees likely would have known that was happening,” the source said, calling the company a “witting partner.”

Kaspersky denied any collusion and said last week it “was not involved in and does not possess any knowledge of the situation in question.”

Multiple stories about the incident have been contradictory and confusing.

The NSA reportedly learned what the Russian hackers were doing after Israel hacked Kaspersky’s network in 2014 and obtained screenshots and keystroke logs showing the Russian hackers using Kaspersky’s software to search “computers around the world.” The searches reportedly used “terms as broad as ‘top secret'” and also included classified code names for U.S. government programs — presumably code names the NSA assigned to hacking tools or hacking operations that were not publicly known.

The stories don’t say how the Israelis knew the searches were conducted by Russian government hackers and not Kaspersky employees. Some have speculated that the Russians provided the search terms to Kaspersky or to a mole or liaison inside the company who initiated the searches for Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, or that Russian hackers hijacked the software to search customer computers on their own. The NSA and Britain’s GCHQ spy agency have themselves studied Kaspersky software extensively since at least 2008 with an eye toward subverting it for their own ends to track users and infiltrate networks.

But there is another possible explanation that would make both U.S. officials and Kaspersky accurate in their claims and potentially absolve Kaspersky of collusion. It involves a technique commonly used by the antivirus community called “silent signatures.”

In this scenario, it’s possible Kaspersky learned the NSA code names on its own and created silent signatures — essentially commands — to search for files or documents on customer computers that it believed contained malicious code. This could happen if Kaspersky’s software detected what it thought was known NSA malware on a customer’s computer, but that turned out to be a document or file containing something different and new, yet still related to previously uncovered malware. Perhaps the file contained snippets of code from known malware, and this is what triggered the software to find a match. If these files also contained previously unknown NSA code names, the company, believing the documents were part of a new malicious attack, would then have written signatures to search for other samples of the files on customer machines and upload them to Kaspersky servers for analysis. Once Kaspersky collected the files, it’s possible Russian intelligence hackers then intercepted them without Kaspersky’s knowledge, using a common nation-state hacking method called “fourth-party collection.”

This scenario could explain why Israel saw someone using the software to search computers and also explain how Russian hackers got hold of files the software collected from machines. And it would explain the odd wording of a directive issued last month by Homeland Security banning Kaspersky software from being used on civilian government computers on grounds that “the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”


Home screen of Kaspersky Internet Security.

Screenshot: Ffgamera

How Silent Signatures Work

Signatures are essentially search terms that antivirus companies program into their scanners to search for known or suspected malicious files on customer machines. There are two types of signatures: overt and silent. An overt signature can be the name of a malicious file or its associated hash — a sort of mathematically-derived representation of the contents of a file — or it can be keywords and snippets of code found in the malware. When antivirus software like Kaspersky’s finds a file that matches a signature or search parameters, it quarantines or deletes the file and alerts the customer, or at least records the finding in a log the customer can view.

Silent signatures serve the same function but without an alert to customers. And instead of simply zapping or quarantining the file, they send the file back to the antivirus company for analysis. Companies like Kaspersky use silent signatures to collect files when they want to see if their overt signatures are producing false positives, when they want to collect additional samples of known malware to see if attackers have altered their techniques in new versions of their code, or when they’ve found a component of what appears to be a new attack or suite of attack tools and want to find other malicious files that are related to it.

“Silent detection is a widely-adopted cybersecurity industry practice used to verify malware detections and minimize false positives,” Kaspersky noted in a statement it released last week. “It enables cybersecurity vendors to offer the most up-to-date protection without bothering users with constant on-screen alerts.”

Customers agree to this sort of collection in the terms of service attached to antivirus software. Kaspersky isn’t alone in using silent signatures; publicly traded American software company Symantec uses them, as do a few others.

“Kaspersky is just the most aggressive,” a former intelligence analyst told The Intercept, asking to remain anonymous to preserve a security clearance essential to his livelihood.

Although silent signatures give antivirus companies the ability to collect any file from a computer, customers expect they will only collect suspicious files, not rifle through the content of all their files searching for anything of interest. The recent stories about Kaspersky suggest the company or Russian government hackers used the Kaspersky software to search broadly not only on the NSA worker’s computer, but also the computers of other customers, using words like “top secret” or NSA code names.

Kaspersky software began using silent signatures in this way in 2008 when the company launched the Kaspersky Security Network with its Kaspersky Endpoint Security 8 virus detection product. KSN, which is essentially a cloud platform works like this: The company’s “overt” signatures analyze the behavior of all executable code on a customer machine, and if they find a file containing executable code that meets a certain threshold of suspicious criteria, the scanner will send information about the file back to Kaspersky cloud servers — including its hash, name, and a list of the activity the executable is trying to perform on a customer’s machine. If the company’s analysts decide they need to examine the file, they will create a silent signature to collect it.

The silent signature is almost identical to the overt signature but for one change. An overt signature for the malicious file, known as “Duqu” — the malware that was reportedly used by Israel to hack Kaspersky — might be “trojan.duqu.file” while a silent signature for the same file would be “trojan.duqu.file.silent.”

Silent signatures can lead to the discovery of new attack operations and have been used by Kaspersky to great success to hunt state-sponsored threats, sometimes referred to as advanced persistent threats, or APTs. If a Kaspersky analyst suspects a file is just one component in a suite of attack tools created by a hacking group, they will create silent signatures to see if they can find other components related to it. It’s believed to be the method Kaspersky used to discover the Equation Group — a complex and sophisticated NSA spy kit that Kaspersky first discovered on a machine in the Middle East in 2014.

Kaspersky has become a hot target of various spy agencies due to its success in discovering and exposing sophisticated attack tools belonging to the NSA, the Israeli signals intelligence agency Unit 8200 (Israel’s counterpart to the NSA), and Britain’s GCHQ. In addition to the Equation Group, the threats Kaspersky has uncovered also include: Flame, which is believed to be a product of the NSA and Israel; Gauss, another tool created by either the U.S. or Israel; Duqu, believed to be a product of Israel; and Regin, attributed to GCHQ. Interest in Kaspersky’s work to uncover APTs is so high that in 2014, Israel hacked the company in large part to uncover intelligence about its investigations into state-sponsored threats and identify the threats Kaspersky might expose next.

“This is how [Kaspersky] picks apart APTs. They were collecting on Equation as silent signatures for like a year before they made the signatures overt,” said the former intelligence analyst. “This same silent signature functionality is almost certainly how they were collecting the NSA tools that the press is talking about right now.”

According to the Washington Post, the NSA worker whose files were stolen was helping to develop new hacking tools for the NSA to replace others that had been compromised after agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents to journalists. Many in the information security community believe that the NSA worker, who was targeted in 2015, may have been developing new tools to replace the Equation Group tools, which were partially exposed in 2013 in an NSA hacking catalogue published by Der Spiegel. The NSA would have known it was only a matter of time that the tools were discovered in the wild, and indeed Kaspersky discovered the first component in 2014 and spent a year amassing a large collection of Equation Group tools before going public with the information in 2015, effectively burning the expensive and sophisticated NSA toolset.

The NSA has long been aware of the potential risk Kaspersky’s cloud capability and silent signatures pose to its own operations. The former intelligence analyst tells The Intercept that during his time in the intelligence community, whenever an NSA hacker encountered a target machine that had Kaspersky software with cloud-reporting capability installed on it, they had to get special permission from a mission director to proceed with the intrusion. If a director deemed the risk of being discovered by Kaspersky worth it, then the hackers could proceed. (Asked about this and other elements of this story, the NSA declined to comment.)

NSA documents provided by Snowden seem to support this. One, dated February 2012, instructs NSA hackers that “no new implants [should be installed] on Kaspersky 2010+ [machines]. This is because Kaspersky 2010+ products have been updated to include the cloud functionality.” Another 2012 document notes that after NSA hackers determined that Kaspersky software was installed on one particularly important target computer in the Middle East, “[CounterTerrorism] MAC analysts gained Mission Director approval to install TAO’s second stage implant – UNITEDRAKE.” UNITEDRAKE is an NSA software implant and collection tool that can be adapted to different attack methods using plugins. The same capability that has helped Kaspersky uncover covert NSA hacking operations can conceivably be used to spy on customer machines.

“The reason the government doesn’t want Kaspersky on [U.S.] government machines is because they can and will suck up files they find interesting. They will say it’s to protect people and only will analyze threats, but that’s a moral limitation, not a technical one,” said the former intelligence analyst, indicating the only thing preventing Kaspersky — or any other antivirus firm — from collecting other files is professional ethics.

The fact that the NSA knew this and was cautious about hacking any machine that used Kaspersky software makes it all the more remarkable that the NSA employee whose documents were stolen by Russian intelligence had the Kaspersky software installed on his personal computer.

An employee of Kaspersky Lab works on computers at the company's headquarters in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, July 1, 2017. The chief executive of Russia's Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky, says he's ready to have his company's source code examined by U.S. government officials to help dispel long-lingering suspicions about his company's ties to the Kremlin. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

An employee of Kaspersky Lab works on computers at the company’s headquarters in Moscow, Saturday, July 1, 2017.

Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP

Source of Code Names

The question now is whether Russian intelligence hijacked the Kaspersky software to send silent signatures to the NSA worker’s computer or supplied the code names and instructed Kaspersky to write the silent signatures, or whether Kaspersky discovered the code names on its own in the course of its normal activity. How would the latter be possible?

If the NSA worker was creating new tools to replace the Equation Group toolkit, he may have had Equation Group files on his home computer or snippets of code from these tools that caused Kaspersky’s overt or silent signatures to detect them. The new tool the worker was developing, or a file containing it, might have shared some properties or code with the Equation Group tools and therefore triggered the silent signature, which caused the file to be uploaded to Kaspersky’s cloud servers. Kaspersky might have pulled something from that file that turned out to be an NSA code name and created silent signatures to look for other files that contained the same term, something that’s in the normal realm of its operations.

“If you’re Kaspersky, that’s what your job is — to find APTs,” said Matt Tait, a former information security specialist for GCHQ. “And in the event that you’re Kaspersky and you’re looking for malware, you’re looking for Russian-state malware and Iranian-state malware and U.S.-state malware, too. And in the event that you discover a whole bunch of nation-state malware on a computer, then obviously that’s of interest.”

But if the company collected documents with words like “top secret” instead of collecting executable files, that’s where it becomes murky.

“They shouldn’t be collecting files that aren’t being executed,” said the former U.S. intelligence analyst. “I don’t see any good reason to be sucking up files off of a customer’s machine just because they wanted to go fishing.”

Tait disagrees. He says there are good reasons to collect documents that match a silent signature.

“[D]ocuments can contain malware — when you have things like macros and zero-days inside documents, that is relevant to a cybersecurity firm,” said Tait, who is currently a cybersecurity fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. “What’s not clear from these stories is what precisely it was that they were looking for. Are they looking for a thing that is tied to NSA malware, or something that clearly has no security relevance, but intelligence relevance?”

If Kaspersky was searching for “top secret” documents that contained no malicious code, then Tait said the company’s actions become indefensible.

“In the event they’re looking for names of individuals or classification markings, that’s not them hunting malware but conducting foreign intelligence. In the event that the U.S. intelligence community has reason to believe that is going on, then they should … make a statement to that effect,” he said, not leak anonymously to reporters information that is confusing to readers.

Kaspersky said in a statement to The Intercept that it “has never created any detection in its products based on keywords like ‘top secret’, or ‘classified.'”

The company also wrote that “it is quite normal that malware samples contain codenames and unusual keywords, which have been added there by accident or by their authors as a means to identify it. … It is a normal practice for antivirus researchers to create detection records based on unique keywords.”

Malware like Stuxnet, the famous attack code created by the U.S. and Israel to target Iran’s nuclear program, contained a data string that appeared to identify a name the attackers had given one of the attack’s components — “b:\myrtus\src\objfre_w2k_x86\i386\guava.pdb.” And Equation Group files also contained many words, such as DesertWinter STRAITSHOOTER30, STEALTHFIGHTER, DRINKPARSLEY, STRAITACID, and others that were NSA code names for the tools. Such code names are frequently fed into Yara, an open-source tool widely used by malware researchers to uncover malicious code, the company noted.

“Creating signatures which include such codenames is a perfectly acceptable practice as shown by multiple Yara rules written by many antivirus researchers, independently,” the company said. “The goal of these detection rules is not to hunt for documents containing classified keywords, but rather to detect malware samples based on such unique keywords that do not appear in clean programs. … An antivirus product can scan for keywords in executable files, documents, and other potentially malicious file formats.”

Kaspersky’s detractors reject this explanation.

“I think the idea that Kaspersky randomly found some malware and found code names is ridiculous,” said Dave Aitel, a former NSA analyst and founder of security firm Immunity, who thinks that someone working inside Kaspersky — an FSB agent or a Kaspersky employee — was specifically tasked with doing searches on code names and was caught red-handed by the Israelis grabbing the files. “I think the FSB knew exactly what it was looking for and decided to get copies of the actual files,” he said.

Aitel points to a recent story describing how members of Kaspersky’s sales team in the U.S. reportedly boasted to U.S. government officials in 2015 that the company could leverage its software to help capture targets tied to terrorism in the Middle East. If Kaspersky was offering to use its software to help the U.S. government spy on customers, there’s no reason to believe it didn’t make the same offer to the Russian government, Aitel notes.

Kaspersky has denied the reported claim saying the company “has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts.”

Tait said it doesn’t make sense as a business model for Kaspersky to send out silent signatures that are clearly aimed at espionage instead of malware detection, because other antivirus firms regularly reverse-engineer the signatures of competitors to see if their rivals are detecting something they’re not detecting.

“[T]hat seems to me to be a really risky move for Kaspersky, because … someone is going to say, ‘Hey, you’re looking at all of these documents for specific search terms, and they look like terms [being used] on behalf of the Russian government, so you’re the Russian government. From a specifically business perspective, it would be crazy for Kaspersky to go down that path, which is one of the reasons why [this is] such an odd story.”

Aitel thinks Kaspersky could bypass this scrutiny by only sending espionage-related signatures to a narrow set of customers, reducing the possibility that anyone else would see and reverse-engineer them.

If Kaspersky’s own scans did collect the sensitive files from the NSA worker’s home computers in the course of the company’s normal hunting for malware, the question remains: How did Russian intelligence get them? Kaspersky has denied providing anything to the Russian government, so if this is true, it leaves two possibilities, none of which alleviates the broader concern that files the company collected fell into the hands of Russian intelligence.

The first possibility is that a Russian intelligence mole works inside Kaspersky and provided the files to Russian intel. Barring this, Russian intelligence could have stolen the documents from Kaspersky using fourth-party collection.

Fourth-Party Collection

Fourth-party collection is a spy term that describes when one intelligence agency steals data from another intelligence agency or hacking group that has already stolen it from a victim, allowing them to benefit from the other party’s efforts. The practice is described in an NSA document leaked by Snowden, titled “I Drink Your Milkshake.”

There are two types of fourth-party collection: active and passive. Passive collection involves stealing stolen data after it leaves the victim’s computer and as it traverses undersea cables and routers on its way to the hackers’ infrastructure. This kind of interception requires access to internet infrastructure and also requires the ability to decrypt the stolen traffic if the thieves have encrypted it.

Active collection, by contrast, involves hacking the infrastructure — command-and-control servers or staging servers and collection nodes — of the other hackers, where data they have stolen from victims may be stored unencrypted or with the decryption keys.

News stories have postulated that Russian intelligence hackers intercepted the files taken from the NSA worker’s machine as they traversed Russian telecom networks on their way to the Kaspersky cloud servers. But files that Kaspersky software collects from customer machines is encrypted in transit using SSL with RSA 2048 and AES 256 encryption. Though it’s possible that under Russian law, the government could compel Kaspersky to hand over its decryption keys, the company has insisted it has never aided any government in spying on customers.

But it’s also possible that passive collection may have been the means — that the Russian hackers compromised Kaspersky cloud servers and grabbed the files there. A Washington Post story said the Israeli spies who hacked Kaspersky found the NSA hacking tools “on” Kaspersky’s network, which suggests they may have been collected while at rest, not in transit. If Israel found them on Kaspersky’s network, Russian spies could have found them as well.

And there’s the crux. Regardless of whether Russian intelligence obtained the tools via active or passive collection or some other means, if Russian intelligence was able to obtain them, this raises concerns that anything the company collects from customer computers could fall into the hands of the Russian government. But the same holds true for every antivirus company collecting files from customer computers.

In the end, it’s hard to determine from the conflicting and confusing news reports what exactly occurred, which is why Tait said the public would be better served if the U.S. government stopped the anonymous leaks and insinuations, and stated clearly what the intelligence community does and does not know about the incident.

“The real difficulty with all of this is that we’ve got a bunch of different stories … and all of them are talking about the same set of events, but it’s not really quite clear what precisely has taken place,” he said. “If Kaspersky is genuinely acting on behalf of the Russian government, that is a really important topic for U.S national security, [and the intelligence community needs] to put an official stamp on it and say the U.S. intelligence position is that Kaspersky is an arm of the Russian government. … The national security cost of keeping it secret is higher than the national security benefit of making that fact publicly known.”

The headquarters of Kaspersky Lab in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. Moscow has been awash with rumours of a hacking-linked espionage plot at the highest level since cyber-security firm Kaspersky said one of its executives with ties to the Russian intelligence services had been arrested on treason charges. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The headquarters of Kaspersky Lab in Moscow on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP


December 30, 2013: Equation Group Tools Exposed

Seven months after journalists began publishing documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the German newsweekly Der Spiegel publishes the so-called ANT catalogue — a massive and rich compendium of NSA spy tools apparently compiled by the spy agency in 2008. Der Spiegel does not attribute the leak to Snowden, suggesting the possibility that the catalogue was obtained by other means. The catalogue describes each tool and its capabilities in abundant detail, along with their NSA code names, information that can help security companies devise methods for detecting the tools on machines of customers. Among the tools are a few that will later be identified as belonging to the Equation Group family of malware.

March 2014: Kaspersky Discovers First Equation Group Component in the Wild

Purportedly while investigating “Regin” attack code linked to British spy agency GCHQ, Kaspersky happens upon a malicious file, a driver, that appears to belong to an attack group Kaspersky has never seen before. The driver is found on a system belonging to a research institute in the Middle East that is apparently a high-value target for many state hacker groups. Kaspersky dubs the system the “Magnet of Threats” because it turns out to be cluttered with multiple infections; in addition to Regin and this new mystery threat, Kaspersky finds several other families of malware by other nation-state groups, including Flame, reportedly a product of Israel and the U.S.; Animal Farm, believed to belong to French intelligence; Careto (or Mask), believed to be a Spanish-speaking nation-state group; and Turla, a Russian-speaking group.

The mysterious driver uses advanced techniques to avoid detection but also uses a known method to hijack Windows and thus, triggers an alert in Kaspersky software. After Kaspersky upgrades its products to detect the driver, the driver shows up on the machines of other customers along with other related software components. The discovery of each new component leads to the discovery of more related components, until Kaspersky amasses an expansive and sophisticated toolkit that it dubs the Equation Group, which Kaspersky believes has been used since at least 2001, possibly even 1996. It will be almost a year before Kaspersky will publicly disclose the discovery of the Equation Group, but the authors of the toolkit — believed to be the NSA — are likely aware their toolkit has been discovered before the public disclosure.

A photo taken on September 16, 2013 shows the headquarters of Belgium telephone operator Belgacom in Brussels. Belgacom announced on September 16 that its computer systems were hacked and that it had filed on July 19 a complaint with police about the hacking. According to reports in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports, Belgacom was allegedly hacked by the American security service NSA, intercepting conversations in Africa and the Middle East.                                               AFP PHOTO / BELGA /  BRUNO FAHY                  - BELGIUM OUT -        (Photo credit should read BRUNO FAHY/AFP/Getty Images)

A photo taken on Sept. 16, 2013 shows the headquarters of Belgium telephone operator Belgacom in Brussels.

Photo: Bruno Fahy/AFP/Getty Images

November 2014: Kaspersky Goes Public With Discovery of Regin

Kaspersky discloses its discovery of Regin, the surveillance toolkit believed to originate with Britain’s GCHQ. Regin was used to hack the European Commission, Belgium telecommunications company Belgacom, and telecoms in multiple other countries.

February 2015: Kaspersky Goes Public With Discovery of Equation Group

After more than a year spent collecting various components belonging to the Equation Group platform, Kaspersky finally goes public with news of its discovery. If, as the Kaspersky spokesperson reports, Kaspersky didn’t discover it had been hacked until early spring, the company is still ignorant that intruders are in its network when it goes public with the Equation Group news.

Spring 2015: Kaspersky Discovers It Has Been Hacked

Kaspersky discovers that it has been hacked, and all signs point to Israel as the perpetrator. Kaspersky dubs the hackers’ malware “Duqu 2.0,” naming it after “Duqu,” a previous toolkit also believed to originate from Israel. The hackers infected the first Kaspersky system with Duqu 2.0 sometime before November 18, 2014, when Microsoft released a patch for a zero-day vulnerability used by the attackers.

The hackers sought intelligence about Kaspersky’s investigations into the Equation Group and Regin campaigns, which the company had not yet revealed publicly at the time the hack occurred. And according to recent news reports, the hackers also apparently discover at this time evidence that Kaspersky, or Russian government hackers using the Kaspersky software, are collecting a new set of NSA tools that are still in development — possibly tools being built to replace the Equation Group tools that got exposed, or “burned,” via Der Spiegel in 2013. Israel collects screenshots and keystroke logs that show Russian government hackers leveraging the Kaspersky software to spy on the machine of an NSA hacker, who is helping to create the new replacement tools, according to the New York Times and Washington Post.

There are signs the Israeli hackers already know that Kaspersky has caught them in its network, because they erase data from infected Kaspersky machines while Kaspersky is chasing their footprints through the company’s network.

2015: NSA Discovers Theft of Tools From Worker’s Home Computer

Sharing what their hackers have learned, the Israelis at some point in late 2014 or early 2015 notify the NSA that some of its classified tools have fallen into the hands of Russian hackers via Kaspersky software. The NSA traces the leak to the home computer of an NSA worker, a member of its elite hacking division, Tailored Access Operations, who was reportedly developing a new set of NSA hacking tools meant to replace the set exposed starting with the Der Spiegel article in 2013.

The exact dates of everything are unclear: Kaspersky discovered the Israeli intruders in its network in “early spring 2015,” according to a company spokesperson. So the screenshots and computer logs the Israelis collected that show someone using the Kaspersky software to search for NSA code names on customer machines presumably were captured by the Israelis sometime between late 2014 to early 2015. The Washington Post said the theft from the NSA worker’s computer occurred in 2015, and the worker was fired in November 2016; the Wall Street Journal also reports that the theft occurred in 2015, but the NSA didn’t connect it to the NSA worker’s machine until the spring of 2016; the New York Times says the theft was discovered in 2015, but the role Kaspersky’s software played in the theft wasn’t discovered until “recently.”

June 2015: Kaspersky Reveals It Was Hacked

Kaspersky announces that it was hacked beginning in late 2014, and all signs point to Israel. The company says it withheld this information until Microsoft could release a patch for a vulnerability the hackers used to breach the Kaspersky network. Kaspersky also discloses that the same attackers who hit it, also struck several hotels and conference venues where members of the U.N. Security Council had met in 2014 to negotiate a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

February 2017: U.S. Government Begins Campaign to Ban Kaspersky Software

The Department of Homeland Security sends secret report on the national security risks of Kaspersky software to other government agencies. News leaks to the media that the FBI is also investigating the nature of the company’s relationship with the Russian government. The investigation reportedly stems from some incidents in early 2015 when someone on Kaspersky’s sales team in the U.S. allegedly made aggressive sales pitches to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies about Kaspersky’s ability to use its software to spy on customers and help catch suspected terrorists. It appears that the FBI was both intrigued by the prospect of using Kaspersky software for spying, but also concerned that the tool could be used against U.S. customers, in particular government customers. After the Kremlin reportedly expressed displeasure at the FBI’s investigation of Kaspersky, the FBI began a campaign to get Kaspersky software off of government systems.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., listens to testimony during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 30, 2017, on Russian intelligence activities. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., listens to testimony during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 30, 2017, on Russian intelligence activities.

Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

March 30, 2017: Lawmakers Ask Witnesses About Kaspersky

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., asks a panel of experts if they would ever install Kaspersky software on any of their computers or devices after citing news stories saying the company has connections to Russian intelligence. Kevin Mandia, CEO of U.S. security firm FireEye, replies: “My answer indirectly would be, there would be better software probably available to you than Kaspersky.”

Gen. Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency who now runs a cybersecurity firm, replies more directly: “No, I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t recommend that you do it either.” He then mentions that there are other U.S. firms, including FireEye, that would be better.

The only panelist to answer in the affirmative that he would use Kaspersky software is Thomas Rid, then a professor from King’s College in London, who also says he would use other competing products simultaneously. He then adds: “It’s important to say that Kaspersky is not an arm of the Russian government.”

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 04:  (L-R) U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attend an event at the Justice Department August 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions held the event to discuss "leaks of classified material threatening national security."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, left, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attend an event at the Justice Department on Aug. 4, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

April 2017: Lawmakers Raise Red Flags About Kaspersky

In a secret memo sent to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly raises red flags about Kaspersky and urges the intelligence community to address potential risks posed by its software.

September 2017: DHS Issues Ban on Kaspersky Software on Government Computers

The Department of Homeland Security issues a directive banning Kaspersky software from being used on civilian government computers on grounds that “the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.” Not long after this, a series of stories are published that indicate the reason for this ban may be because Kaspersky software was used to steal NSA tools from a worker’s machine in 2015.

Top photo: A picture taken on Oct. 17, 2016 shows an employee walking behind a glass wall with machine coding symbols at the headquarters of internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow.

The post How Russian Firm Might Have Siphoned Tools from the NSA appeared first on The Intercept.

[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Charline Jao

There’s a lot to look forward to when Stranger Things season 2 returns this month, especially more of the awesome music they had in Season 1. The soundtrack for the second season is currently on Spotify, and the original work of Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, members of the band S U R V I V E is as synth-heavy and sci-fi appropriate as ever.

Those curious can also try and interrogate some meaning from the song titles, which include “Eulogy” (who’s gone?!), “The First Lie” (as we learned from Season 1, friend’s don’t lie), “Birth/Rescue,” “Eggo in the Snow,” and “Shouldn’t Have Lied.” There’s going to be a lot going down this season. The last song on the list? “To Be Continued.” Looks like we might be getting another ambiguous/cliff-hanger ending.

Anyway, don’t mind me as I try and make my morning commute way more interesting and full of science fiction possibility by blasting “Walkin in Hawkins.”

What do you think of the Season 2 soundtrack?

(via Indiewire, image: Netflix)

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Posted by Ashley Chupp

“You cannot overcome suffering if you refuse to look at it” is a line spoken to the titular character in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It also serves as something of a thesis statement for the game, in which a warrior traverses the Norse mythology-based Underworld to redeem the soul of her deceased love. In a medium saturated with glory or duty-spurred warrior archetypes, Hellblade gives us something sorely needed: an achingly realistic portrayal of how women experience and cope with severe trauma.

It is important to note Senua’s physical aptitude. She’s a skilled warrior, on par with one of any gender, and this is important to her journey. Still, it isn’t her sole source of strength. Combat play is interspersed with stretches of puzzle-solving and long, revealing cutscenes that make it clear to the player that Senua’s emotional fortitude is exactly as vital to her survival as her battle prowess. Even during combat, each individual fight is deeply felt, as opposed to cutting down swathes of foes, then sprinting off unaffected.

Hellblade’s chief distinguishing feature is its aural atmosphere. It’s best played with headphones, as the information the player receives through sound is crucial to gameplay. The enveloping soundscape doesn’t just guide the player; it gives them immediate insight into Senua’s state of mind. When the way through Hel becomes especially bleak and terrifying, you hear it in Senua’s shaky breath. The graphics are excellent, but there are still intimacies of expression that technology can’t artificially generate. This is where Hellblade ingeniously supplements with sound. Senua’s terror and trauma is evident and unfiltered, making her courage and perseverance that much more affecting.

Women have been soldiering on in the face of immense hardship for as long as they have existed. In a world where women are so often abused and disenfranchised, Senua’s journey is more universal that it seems at first glance. So many of us have experienced significant loss and mistreatment, yet still rise to the unfair expectation that we provide care for everyone other than ourselves. Senua plays this out on a grander scale than the average woman, but at its core, it’s still the story so many of us find ourselves living out on repeat.

Indeed, the entire reason Senua single-handedly storms the gates of Hel is to save someone she cares for. She doesn’t come for revenge. She doesn’t come to prove herself. She comes to do right by her loved one, even when no one would blame her for giving up or moving on.

Senua is “cursed” with something referred to in-game as “The Darkness,” a clear allegory for mental illness. (The game begins with a trigger warning for realistic simulations of psychosis.) Senua was born experiencing the world in a way different from others, which unfortunately begat so much of her situational trauma, as often is the case for women who struggle with mental illness. Some (including Senua herself at times) view her as an abomination, but a precious few believe in the enormous strength she has already shown.

Trust in these allies is essential to Senua’s survival, even as she maneuvers through a hostile world, even as her own mind deceives her. Breaking through the fog of harmful voices, Senua’s lost love Dillion, her old friend Druth, and her mother Galena all speak wisdom, guidance, and motivation to her. She cannot make it through alone. Accepting help from her loved ones is crucial. In this, Hellblade illustrates one of womankind’s most incredible abilities: that of remaining open no matter how badly the world wants to see them hardened and isolated.

Senua also must learn to trust herself, broken as she may be. Women are vigorously socialized to assume responsibility for their own trauma. Slut-shaming and victim-blaming are used to dismiss the pain and suffering women face to such an extent that we often internalize these lies subconsciously. Senua is no exception. The voices in her head whisper blame and doubt in her darkest moments. “This is your fault,” they tell her. They beg her to give up—to accept that she is doomed.

She doesn’t. Senua fights her own internal battles with the same steadfastness and bravery she brings to her external ones, as women do. In order to succeed as Senua, you must sift through the voices that surround you, weeding out the ones that preach self-doubt and self-blame to focus in on the ones that offer you help and hope. If you know who to listen to, you will find crucial hints in both the combat and puzzle-solving aspects of the game, and Senua will be victorious.

Hellblade is not a simple or easy ride. It is emotionally taxing, painful, and terrifying. But it is well worth it to validate the everyday heroism of women who tirelessly grapple with the world and themselves, just because it’s the right thing to do.

(image: Ninja Theory)

Ashley Chupp is a Chicago-based writer, improviser, and crossword enthusiast. She can usually be found drinking Diet Coke at the bar or crying at Trader Joe’s.

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Posted by Nathan Yau

Cartographer Geraldine Sarmiento from Mapzen explores the drawing forms in cartography, such as lines, bridges, and buildings.

What is the visual language of cartography? Let’s explore this question through the medium of drawing. After all, it is this abstract representation of place onto a surface of fewer dimensions that the act of cartography entails.

Be sure to check out the Morphology tool to poke at the forms yourself.

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Posted by Russell Berman

Republican senators have found the secret to recovering the unity that’s eluded them on major legislation this year. All they had to do was sacrifice the deficit.

In narrowly approving a $4 trillion budget resolution on a 51-49 vote Thursday night, the GOP majority moved an important step closer to the major tax-cut plan that the party wants to enact by the end of the year. After this summer’s defeat on health care, Republicans momentarily eased doubts that they could ever get all of their members—everyone except Senator Rand Paul, at least—to agree to a complicated policy document.

But the unity, and the lure of tax cuts that drove it, come at a cost, both politically for Republicans and potentially for the nation’s debt. The Senate budget would allow Congress to reduce taxes by up to $1.5 trillion over the next decade without offsetting the cost. That had been in the Senate plan all along, but over the course of several hours on Thursday, Republicans had opportunities to shift course. Democrats offered amendments that would have forced Congress to work on a deficit-neutral tax plan, while Paul, the Kentucky spending hawk, tried to get his colleagues to reduce spending as well as taxes. The Senate rejected them all, choosing to forgo, for the moment, the more difficult decisions involved in picking what additional spending to cut or which taxes to raise.

“I will fight for the biggest, boldest tax cut we can pass, but I could not in good conscience vote for a budget that ignores spending caps that have been the law of the land for years and simply pretend it didn’t matter,” Paul said in a statement after the vote. “We can be for lower taxes AND spending restraint.”  

Republicans in the Senate could have also accepted the more fiscally-conservative House budget, which passed earlier in the month and called for tax reform that would not add to the deficit. In a nod to the Freedom Caucus, the House plan also included an extra $200 billion in cuts to mandatory programs like food stamps. But with Republicans in a rush to get to the tax bill and needing to pass the budget first, the House is now more likely to accept the Senate plan than try to meet in the middle with a compromise.

“There was a time not long ago when many congressional Republicans demanded a budget that balanced within 10 years,” lamented Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Today, with their vote, the Senate GOP has turned away from this goal, sprinting in the other direction and instead approving a plan that allows for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to be added to the national debt.”

Democrats saw both hypocrisy and opportunity in the budget’s passage, hammering Republicans for proposing cuts to entitlement programs while advancing a tax plan that benefits the wealthy. “The same Republicans who criticized deficit spending under President Obama would run up the deficit by more than $1.5 trillion in order to benefit the richest Americans,” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said Thursday.

Budget resolutions are not legislation signed by the president. They’re mostly non-binding, and the GOP plan does not preclude Republicans from pursuing deficit-neutral tax reform or seeking Democratic support. President Trump has made overtures to Democrats from states that he carried last year on the tax bill, but they have complained that the Republicans who are actually writing it are shutting them out of the process. Approval of the budget means Republicans can pass a tax bill with a simple majority in the Senate, bypassing a Democratic filibuster. But the budget’s passage doesn’t guarantee Republican unity on tax reform, and lawmakers in both chambers are still fighting over key details. “The sole purpose of this budget resolution was to kick-start the legislative process on tax reform,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has warned that he won’t vote for a final tax bill that he sees as adding to the deficit.

Republicans in the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill have defended the budget by arguing that tax reform will generate economic growth that would refill the federal coffers, effectively paying for itself. But that line of thinking has generated more opposition within the GOP than it did when Congress passed budget-busting tax cuts under President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003. The debate isn’t over, and it’ll likely be revived if and when Republicans unveil their tax bill. With the Senate’s approval of the budget resolution on Thursday, the party’s remaining deficit hawks have lost the first round.

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[personal profile] laughing_tree posting in [community profile] scans_daily

When I was a kid, Superman quite literally saved my life.

I have always been a devotee. Captivated by superhero comics when I was no more than four years old, they became the foundation of my existence. They always buoyed me in times of trouble, but even they couldn't elevate me when I was hitting high school. I was from a broken home, I was incessantly bullied in school, I wasn't handling any of it well, and the darkness of my depression had me -- and I am not exaggerating, forgive me -- suicidally depressed that no one really gave a damn about me and no one ever would.

And in that mood, on a January afternoon in 1979, I went to see Superman: The Movie, and it changed everything. I sat through it twice, full of joy I have rarely experienced since. I knew Superman was a fictional character. I knew Christopher Reeve was an actor. But together, alchemically, magically, they communicated something profound to me: Superman cared. He cared about everyone.

Even me.

-- Mark Waid

Read more... )
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Posted by McKay Coppins

RICHMOND, Va.— The event had all the trappings of a vintage Obama rally. There was the bouncy Motown soundtrack; the chants of “yes we can”; the call-and-response with a crowd of die-hards—Fired up, and ready to go!—for whom seeing Barack Obama in the flesh seemed to stir emotions akin to a religious experience.

And, of course, there was that hallmark of Obama’s rhetoric—audacious, unavoidable, dripping from every syllable of the former president’s speech: Hope.

“Look, I’ve been in this arena for a while,” Obama told a crowd of thousands at a campaign rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam Thursday night. American politics might be “depressing” now, “but what I also know is that as frustrated as you get … there are people all across this country who want to do things better.” After all, he reminded them, “I’ve seen the possibilities of our democracy.”

Obama’s return to the campaign trail Thursday, which included stops in New Jersey and Virginia, was timed to boost a pair of Democratic candidates in competitive races. But for a party in exile and a country in turmoil, the reemergence of a popular former president with a broad base of loyal supporters could have implications that reach far beyond two battleground states. What remains to be seen is whether the iconic message of hope and healing that propelled Obama to the presidency nearly a decade ago can still have anything like the same effect on the voters of Donald Trump’s America.

From the moment he stepped onto the stage at the 2004 Democratic convention, Obama has infused his speeches with a kind of defiant optimism. It is the signature trait of his oratory—maybe even of his entire presidency—and it’s part of what first made him such a phenomenon on the campaign trail. “In the unlikely story that is America,” he once said, in perhaps his most memorable speech, “there has never been anything false about hope.”

Of course, there were moments during the Obama presidency when that thesis was tested, and his buoyant, upbeat message didn’t always resonate perfectly with Americans. But trying to pull it off now—in the midst of what feels like a national nervous breakdown—is to risk coming off as downright delusional. No one in American politics is talking about hope and unity anymore. They are talking about resistance and conquest; victory and defeat; all or nothing, us or them, and to hell with anyone who picks the wrong side.

And yet, here was Barack Obama, in a Richmond convention center on a Thursday night in 2017, playing the old hits as if nothing at all had changed. His collar open, his smile broad, he reminisced warmly about the humble beginnings of his long-shot presidential bid, and reminded his audience of how Americans had united around the country’s shared ideals.

He did take time to bemoan the state of U.S. politics, but he generally avoided framing the problems in partisan terms. “We live in a time when all sorts of forces conspire to turn good people off of politics,” Obama said. “The way we get our news. The way money floods into our campaign. The way … our candidates are rewarded for pandering to the extremes instead of trying to keep common ground and forging consensus.”

Obama did not mention Trump by name in his remarks, and his one clear reference to the 45th president came in the form of a cautionary tale about the importance of fostering national unity. “If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you aren’t going to be able to govern,” he said.

Toward the end of his speech, Obama turned his attention to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville over the summer.

“We saw what happened in Charlottesville,” he said. “But we also saw what happened after Charlottesville, when the biggest gatherings of all rejected fear and rejected hate, and the decency and goodwill of the American people came out. That’s how we rise. We don’t rise up by repeating the past. We rise up by learning from the past and listening to each other.”

Just as in 2008, Obama never acknowledged the irony of equating support for his partisan cause with the embrace of unity. And just as in 2008, the crowd that packed in to hear him loved him for it.

After he exited the stage to an ear-splitting ovation, I asked several attendees about their impressions of the speech. They used words like “inspiring” and “uplifting,” and invariably they talked about how much they missed his presence in the White House. Many of them seemed genuinely touched, and all of them promised they would be at the polls next month.

A black rally-goer named Love Mack (she declined to give her full name because her husband is in the military, stationed at a nearby base) told me that the months since Obama left office had been “terrifying” for her family. She said she lives in regular fear of how Trump’s unpredictable approach to geopolitics might end up affecting her husband. “We don’t know if it’s going to be World War III just because he doesn’t understand his words have consequences.”

When I asked Mack if Obama’s words had reassured her at all, she seemed to hesitate for a moment. “Honestly,” she told me, “after the election, I was questioning everyone who wasn’t my race. I could not understand how Trump won. You know, how many people really think like he does? Because he ran on a platform of hate, and people voted for that.” But the diverse turnout that night had given her hope. “This is the first time [since the election] that I’ve been in a room with a mixed-race crowd and actually felt like maybe we were all on the same page,” she said. “Like, maybe these people don’t hate me.”

After the rally, people spilled out of the convention center and onto the sidewalks, chattering happily with each other while vendors sold them pins celebrating Colin Kaepernick and t-shirts featuring Obama’s face next to the words, “Y’ALL MISS ME YET!!!” The mood was cheerful and friendly, like a church barbecue.  

But once they said goodbye and began ambling down the dark street toward their cars, the Obama-induced high seemed to recede as reality set in. It was still October 2017, just nine months into what could be an eight-year Trump presidency. The commander in chief was still culture-warring with black football players. White nationalists were still on the march. The local TV airwaves were still filled with ugly attack ads, and the never-ending campaign that now comprises our national politics was still just as tribal and toxic as ever.

Waiting at a crosswalk a couple blocks from the convention center, a trio of young professionals still carrying their “Northam for Governor” signs sounded deflated as they talked about the gubernatorial race, and how distant they felt from the other half of their state, the other half of their country.

“How do they see the world so differently?” one of the men wondered. “I just don’t get it.” There was a pause in the conversation, and then he sighed. “I know they’re saying the same thing about me.”


Oct. 20th, 2017 10:11 am
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[personal profile] seekingferret
The 25 mile ride I did in Helsinki at Worldcon left me wanting to do more longer rides on my bike. I somehow rode ~25 miles in Helsinki in spite of the fact that I don't think I've ever ridden more than 10 miles in a trip here in the US- in retrospect the bravado of saying "Sure, I can do this, let me sign up" amazes me. Helsinki is flatter than Highland Park, though, especially along the coastline, and the bike I rented there had road tires that I think probably also helped reduce rolling resistance compared to the more treaded tires on the crummy mountain bike I've been riding since I was a teenager. 25 miles still feels out of reach at home, but I want to work toward it not feeling so crazy, since I know that in some parallel European universe it's possible.

About a month ago, I set off on a 14 mile ride. They converted an old industrial railroad track into a biking path in Metuchen. It's about 4 miles to the trail, the trail is 3 miles long, and so all told the round trip is 14 miles. I rode 3.5 miles and then wiped out catastrophically on a curb cut, damaging my bike and bruising my arm pretty badly. There's this tricky part of the trip out where there's no choice but to ride alongside Rt. 27 and there's no sidewalk, and I was overly anxious having cleared that passage to get back on the sidewalk as soon as it was there, and there was also a puddle to avoid, and the result was I hit the curb slightly wrong and went flying. So that was a bust.

But I got right back on the horse. Er, bicycle. As soon as my bike was fixed up, I went out on the same route. We had beautiful weather and I made it through the tricky part without trouble (beyond a racing heartbeat) and the actual bike trail was lovely, with an overgrown tree canopy isolating it from the rest of town. I had to cut the ride short because I was going to dinner in my sister's Sukkah that night, so I only did 10 miles total. But I easily could have done the 14, I had it in me. I'm waiting for the next free Sunday to do the whole trip.

I've also been pushing the limits on my shorter after-work rides, lately, though it's getting dark earlier and earlier, making it harder for me to get in those rides before the point in the sunset where I'm too nervous of getting hit by a car to ride.

My next goal is to do a ride on the D&R Canal trail... I've done, a few times, the ride to the entrance to the trail- it's roundtrip 8 miles from home. And then the actual trail segment is 29 miles, so I can sort of pace myself and work my way up to the whole trail. Of course, now it's late October, I'm going to be running out of good weather weekends soon. I keep saying I'm going to get a gym membership to try to do indoor stationary biking in the winter, but then I remember that I find stationary biking stultifying. So we'll see.
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Posted by Charline Jao

Director Quentin Tarantino, who had collaborated with producer and predator Harvey Weinstein for decades on films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hateful Eight, spoke to the New York Times for about an hour about the producer’s continuous harassment and assault towards women in the industry.

Mainly, he revealed the unsurprising but still horrifying fact that he was completely aware of Weinstein’s behavior. “I knew enough to do more than I did,” he said. “There was more to it than just the normal rumors, the normal gossip. It wasn’t secondhand. I knew he did a couple of these things.”

Tarantino confessed that he had known about the abuse of power from actress friends of his, including his former girlfriend Mira Sorvino who recently shared accounts of Weinstein trying to massage her, chasing her through a hotel room, and more. The director shared that he felt the problem was resolved when Sorvino became his girlfriend, and Weinstein would keep his distance.

The director also pointed out that nearly everyone close to Weinstein knew one of these stories. So how did Tarantino continue working with with Weinstein for several more years, even attending an engagement party Weinstein threw for the director just weeks before? “What I did was marginalize the incidents,” says Tarantino. “Anything I say now will sound like a crappy excuse.”

And of course, that’s what they are. They are crappy excuses that paint him as an apathetic, uncaring coward whose career benefited from keeping his silence. The New York Times article is full of apologies. He also said (emphasis mine):

“I chalked it up to a ’50s–’60s era image of a boss chasing a secretary around the desk … As if that’s O.K. That’s the egg on my face right now.

“I wish I had taken responsibility for what I heard. If I had done the work I should have done then, I would have had to not work with him.

“I’m calling on the other guys who knew more to not be scared. Don’t just give out statements. Acknowledge that there was something rotten in Denmark. Vow to do better by our sisters.

“What was previously accepted is now untenable to anyone of a certain consciousness.”

Now, reactions to Tarantino are somewhat split, with some praising the director for being candid and upfront about his failures, and others feeling frustrated and angry at how blatantly complicit the director was in Weinstein’s abuse. If it wasn’t clear, I’m in the latter camp. I’m furious at how familiar this story is, as it reminds us that while there are many hidden predators, there are just as many who quietly support them—that you could be Tarantino’s girlfriend and he still wouldn’t take real action against your abuser.

That’s not to promote the idea that men should be motivated only when someone close to them is under threat, only to point out that Tarantino’s reaction to Sorvino’s treatment wasn’t to try to create an environment where that couldn’t happen to any woman. Rather, his reaction was to use his own status, to enforce the idea that Sorvino was off-limits because she was his—not because she’s, you know, a person. What he thought of the less-famous actresses without famous boyfriends, we don’t know.

And “previously accepted”? By whom? Because anyone with a “certain consciousness” recognized that Weinstein’s behavior was never acceptable. Tarantino, in his call for action, also noted that Hollywood has been “operating under an almost Jim Crow-like system that us males have almost tolerated. We allowed it to exist because that’s the way it was.”

Beyond what’s wrong with the Jim Crow comparison in the first place (let’s remember that black women often have an even harder time when it comes to going forward with allegations), Tarantino’s use of the word “tolerated” and “allowed” really snag here. It’s incredibly telling about how he views his position. “Tolerating” and “allowing” something implies a certain level of passivity. Let’s make it clear: What Tarantino was doing was not passive.

It was a conscious choice of looking away from a problem, and deciding that the well-being and safety of these women weren’t of enough concern. It was hearing these stories and then going on to make hugely popular, award-winning films—ones that Weinstein would later go on to quote, name-drop, and reference when propositioning and preying on young, up-and-coming actresses.

It was an active enforcement of the status quo, of rape culture that keeps women silent and afraid while uplifting their abusers. Tarantino’s work and career is one that uplifted and contributed to Weinstein’s power—this is not tolerating a power structure, it is creating one.

Like all the stories coming out now about Hollywood and Weinstein, we should never forget that rape culture is in every industry and every aspect of our day-to-day lives. “When did you meet YOUR Harvey Weinstein?” showed us that countless women encounter workplace harassment and assault from men in power. But I’m sure that just as many women can recall a Quentin Tarantino in their life.

The Tarantino is the man who made excuses for your abuser, who didn’t cut him out of his life despite the fact that just the mention of his name leaves you crying and shaking, and who you see posing and smiling with your abuser in photos. He’s the man who feels so, so bad about what he did and gets called “brave” and “honest” for admitting his wrongdoings while the women who came forth before him are still dealing with threats and doubt. He’s a crappy excuse.

Tarantino states that Weinstein needs to “face the music,” but it feels just as necessary for men like Tarantino who are complicit in that kind of abuse to face the music as well. That is, if we truly want to change the culture.

(via NY Times, image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

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havocthecat: shego facepalms at stupid people, and everything else (kim possible shego facepalm)
[personal profile] havocthecat
Thousands of Bats Slaughtered Annually in Asia End up on Ebay and Etsy for Artsy Americans

Oh, of course they're not "ethically sourced," because why would they be when profit is involved?

(You see skeletal art at local craft shows too.)

(I really wasn't creeped out by dead thing art before.)

(Not that I don't understand "killing lots of shit for profit," but also PASSENGER PIGEONS, enough said there.)

(Damn it.)

World Fantasy 2017

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:00 am
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
[personal profile] marthawells

Registration for World Fantasy 2017 in San Antonio ends Oct 21, banquet seats still available until Oct 27, and the final program schedule is now online:


Panels include:

Paging Doctor Tavener and Carnaki: Occult Detectives Old and Newly Reinvented

Beards and Intrigue: Queering the Historical Fantastic

Exceptional Characters in Horrible Times

Metaphors & Metadata: Libraries in Fantasy Literature

Molly Weasley Was a Bad Ass: Aged Protagonists in Fantasy

From Angry Fairy Queens to Flying Lizard People: An Interview with Toastmaster Martha Wells [Spotlight]

Exploration of Gender in Fantasy

Calamity Jane Defeats Conan—the Persistence of American Folklore in Fantasy Literature

Kitsune & Dragon: Thoughtful Approaches to Alternate Eastern Asias

Greg Manchess: Short Take on a Long Career in Illustration [GoH Spotlight]

Hild and Hilt: the Female Monk, the Lone Woman Protagonist

Hidden Secrets [GoH Spotlight] ( Tananarive Due will discuss the role of history, especially hidden history, in her work and in black horror in general, which is emerging as a sub-genre in the wake of Jordan Peele's Get Out. How horror serves as trauma narratives, or even healing narratives, to help artists and readers come to grips with the past.)

Borrowing from History: Intention and Appropriation

The Role of the City in Fantasy Settings

Religions of the African Diaspora: Beyond Zombies, Ancestors, and Giant Apes.

Urban Legends in the Age of Fake News (Engaging Our Theme IV)

Everybody Was There: Diversity in Fantasy Then and Now

Remembering Zenna Henderson: A Centennial Discussion and Appreciation

Women Authors That Men Don't Read --- Or Do They?

Reinventing the Fantastic Other

Pulp Era Influences: the Expiration Date

New Graphic Novels You Should be Reading

Julian Clare May (1931 - 2017)

Oct. 20th, 2017 10:03 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Angry Robot Books reports the death of Julian May.


Oct. 20th, 2017 09:58 am
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[personal profile] kass
1. Beautiful sunny morning. Beautiful hills. Beautiful skies.

2. A latte. Because latte.

3. Goofy kid-and-kitten shenanigans this morning before school.

4. Shabbat is coming and I get to have Shabbat dinner with some people I love!

5. The Good Place is on On Demand, so last night I watched the two-part S2 premiere and it made me happy.

How are y'all?
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[personal profile] capriuni
Basically: I want to devote 90% of my attention to a fiction world for a month just because I need a vacation from the real world, and I can't decide on a "Destination":

  • Dark -- bordering on tragic, with lots of hurt/comfort
    • Pros: lets me process my depression by changing my stress into metaphors I can control, and lets me comfort myself by writing scenes where my characters comfort each other.
    • Cons: I'm entering a potentially dangerous space while already feeling vulnerable.

  • Light -- with Dr. Seuss-like absurdity and Piers Anthony-like puns.
    • Pros: Creating a world that is a clear alternative to the dystopia I feel my country sliding into in the real world.
    • Cons: Not my wheelhouse. Will trying to write that way leave me even more exhausted, mentally? And will Avoidance-with-a-Capital-A make it harder to "return" when the month is over?

The train is leaving in ten days, and I don't know whether I should pack for a ski trip in the Alps, or a cruise through the Caribbean...

I haven't been this much of a "Pantser" since my very first year, when I didn't even know NaNoWriMo was a thing until a couple of days before it started...
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[personal profile] copperbadge
So, it used to be that we hadn’t upgraded to Windows 10 because our IT department hadn’t cleared it as “secure” enough (it’s not that it wasn’t secure, it just hadn’t gone through the security affirmation process). Now apparently it is, since they upgraded me to 10. I’ve never really had 10; I decided not to upgrade my personal laptop, though for a while the laptop I used for travel had it. 

I know this is just me getting older, but I am weirdly suspicious not of Windows 10 as a system but of the Windows 10 aesthetic. Everything is too smooth and square. Things that should be rounded are pointy and things that should be pointy are rounded. Everything is well-animated and in soothing pastel greys. 

I come from an era where computers weren’t even MEANT to be soothing, where it was just accepted that they would challenge you visually as well as implicitly. And I’m not saying we should go back to a Windows 3.0 aesthetic or anything, I don’t want computers to be difficult, I’m just saying. It’s…

It’s quiet. Too quiet. 

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2xU8suD

dilemma solved!

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:29 am
the_shoshanna: pleased-as-punch little girl: "Ta-da!" (ta-da!)
[personal profile] the_shoshanna
Thanks to everyone who offered guest gift suggestions! So many great possibilities I feel silly for not thinking of; sometimes I get stuck on one thing that won't work, and can't wrench my brain away to look beyond it to things that will.

In the end I went to Ten Thousand Villages (well, Dix Mille Villages) and got a couple of paperweights/worrystones, one engraved "Joy" and the other "Peace." They're pretty and friendly, not so expensive or so cheap as to be embarrassing for anyone, and fitting for a church-related function. Plus they won't be degraded by spending ten hours in the car before being presented! Yay.

And I'm supposed to be on the road in two minutes and I'm not ready yet aaaaaa. Happy weekend, all!
[syndicated profile] niemanjournalismlab_feed

Posted by Laura Hazard Owen

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

A bill to make Internet companies reveal who is paying for ads. U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ) on Thursday announced the Honest Ads Act, which aims to increase the transparency of online political ads by forcing Internet companies to disclose who’s buying them. The full text of the bill is here. The Verge’s Colin Lecher explains:

The new bill, called the Honest Ads Act, would require companies like Facebook and Google to keep copies of political ads and make them publicly available. Under the act, the companies would also be required to release information on who those ads were targeted to, as well as information on the buyer and the rates charged for the ads. The new rules would bring disclosure rules more in line with how political ads are regulated in mediums like print and TV, and apply to any platform with more than 50 million monthly viewers. The companies would be required to keep and release data on anyone spending more than $500 on political ads in a year.

Surprise: Tech companies and political advertisers aren’t super excited. The New York Times’ Kenneth P. Vogel and Cecilia Kang run down how tech companies are “mobilizing an army of lobbyists and lawyers — including a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — to help shape proposed regulations.”

Axios’s Sara Fischer talked to ad buyers about concerns over privacy, loopholes, and bots:

“This is over-reaching and includes targeting information not supplied by broadcast or cable buyers,” says Jaime Bowers, a consultant who has managed ad buying for dozens of ad campaigns for Republican candidates and advocacy groups. “Digital ads are bought in a variety of different ways, and views on social are proprietary because so much goes into what you pay for a view. Targeting is highly specialized and proprietary for the agency, campaign and pollsters.”

If you’d like to get deeper into campaign finance disclosure, this paper by Hamsini Sridharan of political reform nonprofit MapLight and Ann Ravel, former Chair of the Federal Election Commission, “outlines a brief history of campaign finance disclosure in relation to the internet; examines trends in political advertising and campaigning online; and explains why additional regulation is necessary to ensure transparency for political spending online while promoting democratic speech.”

“Our task was to set Americans against their own government.” Meduza, the Latvia-based Russian news outlet that recently partnered with BuzzFeed to do investigative Russia stories, writes about an interview conducted by the Russian independent news network Dozhd with a man who says he worked for Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), “the ‘troll factory’ responsible for buying ads on social media and polluting American online news discussion in an apparent effort to destabilize U.S. democracy,'” between 2014 and 2015 (before Donald Trump even announced his candidacy).

Max says that IRA staff were tasked with monitoring tens of thousands of comments on major U.S. media outlets, in order to grasp the general trends of American Internet users. Once employees got a sense of what Americans naturally discussed in comment forums and on social media, their job was to incite them further and try to ‘rock the boat.’

According to Max, the Internet Research Agency’s foreign desk was prohibited from promoting anything about Russia or Putin. One thing the staff learned quickly was that Americans don’t normally talk about Russia: ‘They don’t really care about it,’ Max told Dozhd. ‘Our goal wasn’t to turn the Americans toward Russia,’ he claims. ‘Our task was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest and discontent, and to lower Obama’s support ratings.’…

A separate ‘Analytics desk’ would supposedly supply his department with Excel files containing hyperlinks to news stories and short summaries of how to comment on these articles, in order to incite American Internet users and derail political discussions.

Defining “disinformation.” A brief from the nonprofit National Endowment for Democracy delves into what disinformation is, especially in light of Russian activities.

Analysts generally agree that disinformation is always purposeful and not necessarily composed of outright lies or fabrications. It can be composed of mostly true facts, stripped of context or blended with falsehoods to support the intended message, and is always part of a larger plan or agenda. In the Russian context, observers have described its use to pursue Moscow’s foreign policy goals through a “4D” offensive: dismiss an opponent’s claims or allegations, distort events to serve political purposes, distract from one’s own activities, and dismay those who might otherwise oppose one’s goals.

Take that, New York Times. WikiTribune, the crowdfunded news platform from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, posted its “list of preferred news sources.” At the top are three “preferred news sources,” “which do not require specific attribution beyond the hyperlink to the original source”: The AP, Reuters, and The BBC. The B-grade news sources — which “we’re comfortable linking to for hard news but which require attribution in addition to the hyperlink” — are The New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Axios, Quartz, BuzzFeed Investigations, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Politico, Bloomberg, and Nature. WikiTribune says it will expand the list over time.


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