The NewsFuror

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Estonia fines man for 'cyber war'

Crowds visit Tallinn's relocated war monument on 9 May
The attacks were in response to the relocation of a war memorial
A 20-year-old ethnic Russian man is the first person to be convicted for taking part in a "cyber war" against Estonia.

Dmitri Galushkevich was fined 17,500 kroons (£830) for an attack which blocked the website of the Reform Party of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.

The assault, between 25 April and 4 May 2007, was one of a series by hackers on Estonian institutions and businesses.

At the time, Estonia accused the Russian government of orchestrating the attacks. Moscow denied any involvement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC in May 2007 that the allegations were "completely untrue".

Minority attacks

The attacks took place against a backdrop of riots by ethnic Russian Estonians prompted by the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the centre of Tallinn.

Pirate message which appeared on Estonian Reform Party's website (image: Russian news website lenta.ru)
The website of Estonia's ruling party was hacked (image: lenta.ru)

During the unrest, one person was killed and more than 150 injured.

Moving the so-called Bronze Soldier was seen as an affront to the memory of Russian soldiers who died during World War II.

Prosecutors said Mr Galushkevich, a student, had claimed the attack was an act of protest against Mr Ansip, who became a hate figure for Estonia's Russian minority.

Ethnic Russians make up about a quarter of Estonia's population of 1.3 million.

Other websites that were crippled by the denial-of-service attacks, which knock websites offline by swamping servers with requests, included those of the state government, political parties and leading newspapers.

Some sites also redirected users to images of Soviet soldiers and quotations from Martin Luther King about resisting "evil".

'No record'

Most of the hackers were believed to be based in Russia - the Estonian government said at the time that Kremlin computers were used to carry out a number of the attacks.

The tiny Baltic State enlisted the help of Nato to help defend their networks in what was described as a "cyber war".

But David Emm, senior technical consultant at Moscow-based antivirus software company Kaspersky Lab, told the BBC website that he believed the most likely culprits were "younger types who, in other days, would have been writing and spreading viruses".

Mr Galushkevich is the first individual to be fined in connection with the attacks.

"The young man admitted his guilt," Gerrit Maesalu, spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office in north-east Estonia, told AFP.

"In deciding the verdict, the court took into account the fact that he had no criminal record," he said.

Several other investigations into the events are under way, but no-one else has yet been brought to trial.

Honour for Colossus code-cracker

Colossus in operation during wartime, PA
Bletchley's code-breaking effort shortened the war by many months

An amateur cryptographer who beat the British World War II computer Colossus in a code-cracking challenge has been honoured for his skills.

Joachim Schueth solved a German cipher in just 46 seconds, more than three hours quicker than the 60 year old PC.

He received a prize from the National Museum of Computing, which included a valve from the Colossus machine.

Mr Schueth deciphered the code using a laptop and a program he wrote specifically for the challenge.

Joachim Schueth and Tony Sale
Joachim Schueth (L) and Tony Sale (R)

"It was unfair because I was using a modern PC, while Colossus was created more than 60 years ago," he said. "It really is astonishing and humbling that the world's first programmable, digital computer was created in the 1940s."

The Cipher Challenge took place in November 2007 at Bletchley Park, the home of early UK computing efforts, and marked the end of a project to rebuild Colossus.

Tony Sale, who has spent the last 14 years rebuilding the machine said: "Joachim really showed how things have advanced from the days of Colossus."

"As well as recapturing the excitement that the Bletchley Park code breakers must have felt, the Cipher Challenge has more importantly highlighted the magnitude of their achievement, their tenacity and their ingenuity."

Secret workings

Mr Schueth competed against other code breakers and a Colossus Mark II machine last November.

The target messages were encoded with a Lorenz S42 machine - as used by the German high command - and were transmitted by a team of radio enthusiasts in Paderborn, Germany.

The re-built Colossus

Colossus, the size of a bus and widely recognised as being one of the first recognisably modern computers, took three hours and fifteen minutes to unravel the code.

Mr Schueth and his machine took just 46 seconds.

"My laptop digested ciphertext at a speed of 1.2 million characters per second - 240 times faster than Colossus," he said.

"If you scale the CPU frequency by that factor, you get an equivalent clock of 5.8 MHz for Colossus. That is a remarkable speed for a computer built in 1944.

"Even 40 years later many computers did not reach that speed."

There were 10 Colossus machines built in the 1940s.

They were key in shortening the war by revealing troop movements to the UK armed forces.

All of the machines they were broken up after the war in a bid to keep their workings secret.

It is currently on display at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.

2007's best selling game revealed

Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 4 has won many awards since its launch
First-person-shooter Call of Duty 4 was last year's biggest selling game, according to sales figures.

It has sold more than seven million units since its launch in November, says its publisher Activision.

The claim is based on sales figures from research firms The NPD Group, Chart Track and The GFK Group.

The game was just one of a raft of high profile releases in 2007 including the third instalment of the Halo series for the Xbox 360.

Halo 3 earned more than £84m ($170m) in sales in its first 24 hours on release, according to Microsoft.

The game sets the record for the most money earned in a day by an entertainment product, topping figures set by film Spiderman 3.

'Perfect 10'

However, Microsoft recently announced that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had overtaken Halo 3 for the first time as the most popular game on Xbox Live, based on unique users.

And despite being released six weeks after Halo 3 it has also sold more units.

"We're very excited about this achievement especially given so many competitive titles this year," said Will Kassoy, of the game's publisher Activision.

Call of Duty 4 was developed by Infinity Ward and is available for PC, PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.

It follows the story of a American and British Special Forces in Russia and the Middle East and won "Best Action game" at the video game industry's leading event, E3.

It also won the Spike TV awards for "Best Shooter" and "Best Military Game".

However, the title narrowly missed a perfect 10 out of 10 score in computer game's magazine Edge.

Halo 3, The Orange Box and Super Mario Galaxy all achieved a perfect score.

Labels deny deals on file sharing

Anthony Kiedis, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Qtrax said it would carry tracks from "all the major labels"
Three major record labels have denied signing deals allowing their music to feature on a new file-sharing service offering unlimited free downloads.

The service, Qtrax, boasted it would carry up to 30 million tracks from "all the major labels".

But Warner, EMI and Universal all say they have not licensed their music.

Qtrax said it expected an agreement to be reached with Warner and that terms had been agreed with the others even if deals had not been formally signed.

Discussions ongoing

Qtrax aims to allow users to download music from the major labels for free, with advertising revenue used to pay licensing fees.

But Warner says it "has not authorised the use of our content on Qtrax's recently-announced service".

And Universal and EMI said discussions with Qtrax were still ongoing but that licensing deals were not in place.

A spokesman for Sony BMG - the other "big four" record label - was not available for comment.

Amazon store

Qtrax president Allan Klepfisz said that, while a deal with Warner had not been signed, he expected terms to be agreed "shortly".

"With everyone else, we have agreed on all terms," he said.

In some cases, deals had not been formally signed, he added.

Online retailer Amazon, meanwhile, has announced the international rollout of its digital music store.

The store, which is already operating in the US, allows customers to download music without any digital copying protection.

Millions of songs will be sold without Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, allowing - for example - customers to burn their own CDs freely.

Amazon says it is the only retailer to offer DRM-free MP3s for the four major record labels as well as thousands of independent record labels.

Harbhajan cleared of racial abuse

Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh arrives for his ICC Code of Conduct appeal hearing at the Federal Court of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia
Harbhajan Singh arrives for his ICC Code of Conduct appeal in Adelaide
Harbhajan Singh has been cleared at an appeal hearing of racially abusing Australia's Andrew Symonds.

The India spinner had been found guilty of calling Symonds, Australia's only mixed-race player, a "monkey" during the second Test in Sydney last month.

But at an appeal hearing on Tuesday Harbhajan had his three-match ban lifted and was instead fined half his match fee for offensive behaviour.

The charge was downgraded to general abuse, governing body the ICC said.

"The racial abuse charges have been dropped," added Niranjan Shah, board secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

"It is finished. The punishment is only for using obscene language."

The appeal commissioner of governing body the International Cricket Council, New Zealand high court judge John Hansen, is due to hand down his ruling in Adelaide later on Tuesday.

India have now lifted a threat to pull out of the rest of their tour of Australia.

The original punishment of Harbhajan by match referee Mike Procter came after Australia captain Ricky Ponting made an official complaint about his alleged comments.

On-field umpires Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor levelled a charge under section 3.3 of the International Cricket Council code of conduct following Ponting's complaint.

At the time of the incident, Harbhajan was batting alongside Sachin Tendulkar, who backed his team-mate's claim that he had not called Symonds a "monkey".

Sachin Tendulkar arrives at the hearing
Sachin Tendulkar was at the appeal

In the aftermath of Procter's decision, India suspended the tour and later warned they might abandon it if Harbhajan's appeal failed.

They also accused Australia spinner Brad Hogg of making an offensive remark to India skipper Anil Kumble and his deputy Mahendra Dhoni.

They have since withdrawn their threat to quit the tour and the charge against Hogg.

Following Australia's 2-1 victory in the Test series, the sides next face each other in a Twenty20 match in Melbourne before playing in a triangular one-day tournament which also involves Sri Lanka.

India's chief selector Dilp Vengsarkar told the BBC: "The tour is obviously on."

Transport chaos in snow-hit China

A man pushes a bicycle loaded with goods through snow in Wuhan, Hubei province on 27 January 2007
Parts of China have seen their heaviest snow falls in 50 years
The heaviest snow in decades is continuing to cause chaos across China ahead of the busy Lunar New Year holiday, state media have reported.

Road and rail links have been paralysed, thwarting travellers trying to return home for the festivities.

A blocked rail line has stranded about 500,000 people in the southern city of Guangzhou and officials are working to prevent riots, reports say.

In Guizhou, 25 people died when a bus plunged from an icy road, Xinhua said.

The snowstorms, which began on 10 January, have now affected 80 million people across 14 provinces.

The central provinces of Hunan and Hubei have been hardest hit, but eastern provinces are also affected.

The job of ensuring coal, electricity and oil supplies and adequate transportation has become quite severe
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao

Houses and agricultural land have been destroyed, leading to economic losses totalling Y22.09bn ($3bn, £1.5bn), Xinhua said.

At least 24 people have been killed in weather-related accidents, the agency said, but this figure appears not to include traffic accidents.

More snow

Transport woes have been exacerbated by the fact that millions of people, many of them migrant workers, are travelling to visit their families for the Chinese New Year holiday, beginning on 7 February.

Stationary trains in Wuhan, Hubei province on 27 January 2007
Trains across the region have been cancelled or delayed

In Guangzhou, about half a million people have been unable to travel because snow in Hunan has blocked a key rail link with Beijing.

Officials were trying to accommodate the stranded passengers, who were creating camps around the station.

Police and soldiers were also on the scene to control the crowd, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Highways connecting Guangzhou and Hunan have also been blocked, with 20,000 vehicles stranded on one expressway, Xinhua said.

In one of them was a man taking 10 children to visit their migrant worker parents in Guangdong.

Crowds at Guangzhou station, 28/01
Temporary shelters have been arranged at Guangzhou station

"Today is our fifth day on the bus," he told the agency. "Every day we each get two packs of instant noodles to eat."

Tens of thousands more people were said to be waiting at stations across central and eastern China, while flights have been delayed or cancelled.

More snow is forecast for central regions in the next few days, making an early end to the chaos unlikely.

Power shortages have also become a problem, with Premier Wen Jiabao warning of serious difficulties.

"Due to the rain, snow and frost, plus increased winter use of coal and electricity and the peak travel season, the job of ensuring coal, electricity and oil supplies and adequate transportation has become quite severe," he said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Stockpiles of coal - upon which many of China's power stations depend - are reported to be low and 17 provinces have introduced blackouts to ration power.

Gunmen kill Kenyan opposition MP

Luos search passing vehicles for Kikuyus at a makeshift roadblock in Kisumu
The national death toll since the elections is now about 800
A Kenyan opposition MP has been shot dead in Nairobi, police say, adding they could not rule out a connection to disputed presidential elections.

Mugabe Were, a member of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of the defeated candidate, Raila Odinga, was attacked outside his home, police said.

An ODM spokesman called for calm and restraint following the MP's death.

Meanwhile the parties will begin formal talks on Tuesday to resolve the crisis, mediated by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

A UN spokesman said the dialogue process would start at 1600 local time (1300 GMT) at a neutral location.

'Shun violence'

Mr Were is the first leading politician to have died amid violence that has gripped Kenya since December's poll.

Two gunmen shot Mr Were as he drove up to the gate of his house in the capital just after midnight, Kenya police spokesman Eric Kiraithe was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

This is a new kind of violence but let's call again on people to be peaceful and to only respond to this kind of violence by shunning violence
Salim Lome
ODM spokesman

"We are treating it as a murder but we are not ruling out anything, including political motives. We are urging everyone to remain calm," he said.

Mr Were, who represented Nairobi's Embakasai district, won a seat in the 27 December legislative election, which was held at the same time as the presidential vote.

ODM spokesman Tony Gachoka said: "The current situation makes one suspicious. All fingers will point at the government, and the government will have to show it is not involved."

Another ODM spokesman, Salim Lome, called on people "to be peaceful and to only respond to this kind of violence by shunning violence".

The appeal came amid reports of opposition supporters pouring onto the streets in several cities.

In the Kibera slum in Nairobi, eyewitnesses spoke of clashes between rival ethnic groups.

Members of President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe have been fighting with Luos and Kalenjins who backed his rival, Mr Odinga, in last month's election.

International concern

Police fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse a crowd of about 100 opposition supporters who had gathered in the western city of Kisumu in a show of anger at Mr Were's killing, AFP news agency reported.

"First they started killing the ordinary people like us, now they are killing our leaders, we won't accept it," demonstrator Justus Othieno told AFP news agency.


The protest followed bloodshed in Kisumu and also in Eldoret.

Riots have also been ongoing in the towns of Naivasha and Nakuru in the Rift Valley, where dozens of people have been killed in five days of ethnic violence.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the lakeside at Naivasha, as crowds apparently looted the homes of people fleeing the violence.

Mr Odinga accuses Mr Kibaki of stealing the vote and has refused to recognise the result.

Analysts warn a cycle of violence is emerging amid the political impasse, where the pattern of attacks is followed by reprisals.

The former UN secretary general Kofi Annan has been trying to mediate a solution between the two sides.

He set Tuesday as a target for Kenya's government and opposition to name negotiators, in the hope that engaging in formal talks might make it possible to quell the violence.

Map showing ethnic distribution in Kenya

Bush addresses US economy fears

President George W Bush delivers his State of the Union Address, 28 Jan 2008
Mr Bush also warned Iran over its nuclear plans
President George W Bush has admitted US economic growth is slowing, but in his final State of the Union address urged Americans to have long-term confidence.

The president acknowledged that the US was facing "uncertainty".

A $150bn (£76bn) stimulus plan negotiated with Congress would help, he said, and must be passed soon.

Mr Bush also said his troop "surge" in Iraq was succeeding after a long and costly war, and that al-Qaeda was "on the run" and would be defeated.

He called on Iran's leaders to cease their "support for terror abroad", although he said the US respected the country's people.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that while they agreed with Mr Bush on the need for a bipartisan approach, he "offered little more than the status quo".

"At a time when our economy is on shaky ground and our leadership around the world is eroding, the status quo won't do," they said in a joint statement.

Oil dependence

Mr Bush acknowledged that the US was "undergoing a period of economic uncertainty", but sought to reassure the nation.

"At kitchen tables across our country, there is concern about our economic future," he said.

But, he added: "In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth."

Mr Bush urged Congress not to expand the economic stimulus package beyond what had been agreed, or risk derailing it. He also urged lawmakers to make his tax cuts permanent.

Echoing a theme of his 2006 address, when he spoke of the US being "addicted to oil", Mr Bush spoke about the importance of US energy independence.

"Our security, our prosperity and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil," he said.

Mr Bush also urged Tehran to suspend its nuclear enrichment programme and "come clean" about its intentions.

He continued: "But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will protect our vital interests in the Gulf."

'American response'

On Iraq, Mr Bush acknowledged that the "enemy is still dangerous and more work remains" to be done.

But he praised the work of American and Iraqi forces in achieving "results few of us could have imagined just one year ago", and assured Americans that al-Qaeda "will be defeated".

He urged Congress to "meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops".

Mr Bush said that as a result of progress in Iraq and a transition of operations to Iraqi forces, more than 20,000 troops would be returning to the US in the coming months.

US troops in Iraq (file image)
Mr Bush said 20,000 troops would be withdrawn in the coming months

In the official Democratic reply to the president's speech, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said: "In this time, normally reserved for the partisan response, I hope to offer you something more: an American response.

"There is a chance, Mr President, in the next 357 days, to get real results and give the American people renewed optimism that their challenges are the top priority."

But the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, took much tougher lines.

Mr Obama said Mr Bush's speech was full of empty rhetoric, and criticised his "failed politics and policies of the past".

Mrs Clinton said Mr Bush had only offered "more of the same: a frustrating commitment to the same failed policies".

The two rival Democrats have been fighting a bitter campaign for the candidacy, and although they sat only metres away from each other in Senate for the address, they did not speak.

At one point, Mrs Clinton reached across to shake the hand of Senator Edward Kennedy, who hours earlier had endorsed Mr Obama.

As she did so, Mr Obama turned his back.

Republican candidate Senator John McCain stayed in Florida ahead of his party's primary in the state on Tuesday.

Lame duck?

The State of the Union address is expected to be Mr Bush's last before he leaves office in January 2009, although he does have the right to deliver one more immediately before he goes.

Bush popularity ratings

According to Gallup polls of approval ratings around the time of the State of the Union addresses, this is the worst year for Mr Bush since his presidency began.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington says Mr Bush's speech was overall more businesslike than inspirational, perhaps more reflective of a more realistic president - aware that some of his policy goals would now remain elusive but determined that others would not.