Security chiefs hustled by social networking experiment


Anna Chapman need never have bothered with moving to Manhattan to become a sleeper agent for the Russian intelligence service. The experience of another femme fatale, Robin Sage, suggests the 28-year-old spy, who posted raunchy photos on her Facebook profile, should instead have honed her social networking skills.

In just a month, Sage made connections with hundreds of people from the US military, intelligence agencies, information security companies and government contractors. The 25-year-old navy cyberthreat analyst was invited to speak at security conferences and offered jobs at companies including Google and Lockheed Martin.

Her Twitter profile proclaimed: “Sorry to say, I’m not a Green Beret! Just a cute girl stopping by to say hey! My life is about info sec [information security] all the way!”

But there was a slight hitch: Robin Sage did not exist. The pretty cybergeek, supposedly educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a prep school in New Hampshire, was in reality an avatar created by a security researcher to find out how social networking sites could be used to covertly gather intelligence.

Thomas Ryan, co-founder of Provide Security says…Sage attracted dozens of connections across sites including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, including a senior intelligence official in the US marine corps, the chief of staff for a US congressman and several senior executives at defence contractors, as well as an official from the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds, launches and runs US spy satellites…

The security analyst told the magazine that the vast majority (82%) of Sage’s online friends were men, suggesting her looks lay behind her popularity. His conclusion after completing the study: “The big takeaway is not to befriend anybody unless you really know who they are.”

Especially if you’re just looking for someone to jump into bed with you.

All World Cup players for France dropped for Norway friendly

Shh. Don’t tell Thierry Henry!
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

New France coach Laurent Blanc Friday has punished the country’s farcical World Cup squad by dropping each of the 23 players for a friendly against Norway next month.

Blanc’s decision to take action was approved by the French Football Federation’s federal council after a meeting with Raymond Domenech’s successor in Paris.

France suffered a miserable World Cup campaign in South Africa, marked by striker Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion after his foul-mouthed tirade at Domenech, infighting, and the players’ refusal to train.

‘Les Bleus’ returned home in ignominy after failing to win any of their first round games, with Domenech refusing to shake South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parriera’s hand following the final defeat to the hosts…

France football has endured a woeful year, with Thierry Henry’s controversial handball which put France into the World Cup at the expense of Ireland in the play-offs, their pitiful display in the competition itself, and then the scandal involving international stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema who this week put under investigation on charges of having sex with an under-age prostitute.

Phew! How to start a new job, eh?

Stanley McChrystal bids farewell to army life

Gen. Stanley McChrystal ended his 34-year career as an Army officer Friday in an emotional retirement ceremony at his military headquarters in Washington, D.C., marking the last chapter of his swift and stunning fall from grace.

Before a crowd of a few hundred friends, family and colleagues on the Fort McNair parade grounds under an oppressively hot July sun, McChrystal said his service didn’t end as he hoped. But he regretted few decisions he had made on the battlefield, cherished his life as a soldier and was optimistic about his future, he said.

I trusted and I still trust,” McChrystal said. “I cared and I still care. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan was fired last month after Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled “The Runaway General” that quoted scathing remarks he and his aides made about their civilian bosses…

Shortly after the article was published, McChrystal was sent packing…

McChrystal also sounded a more serious note, when he talked about the pain of leaving behind unfulfilled commitments in Afghanistan and watching colleagues ensnared in the scandal…

Still, he said he was approaching the future with optimism…

Soldiers attending the ceremony were allowed to forgo their formal dress uniforms in lieu of combat fatigues — an apparent tribute to a war commander fresh from battle and whose career was marked by more secret operations to snatch terror suspects than by pomp and circumstance.

Wearing his own Army combat uniform for the last time, the four-star general received full military honors, including a 17-gun salute and flag formations by the Army’s Old Guard.

RTFA. A modicum of interest and insight.

As much as I support the precedence of civilian control over the military, Stan McChrystal will be missed in this household. As much of my life as I spent afoot, in the field and in political war zones opposing the imperial uses of American military might – I will miss a good soldier who understood 4th Generation warfare and the commitment to civilian needs required by that understanding.

I haven’t saluted a general since the days of Omar Bradley and Georgii Zhukov. I salute Stanley McChrystal.

Remember when Americans led the world in college degrees?

The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.

“The growing education deficit is no less a threat to our nation’s long-term well-being than the current fiscal crisis,” Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board, warned at a meeting on Capitol Hill of education leaders and policy makers, where he released a report detailing the problem and recommending how to fix it. “To improve our college completion rates, we must think ‘P-16’ and improve education from preschool through higher education.”

While access to college has been the major concern in recent decades, over the last year, college completion, too, has become a leading item on the national agenda. Last July, President Obama announced the American Graduation Initiative, calling for five million more college graduates by 2020, to help the United States again lead the world in educational attainment…

William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, who hosted the Washington discussion along with Gaston Caperton, said…“We led the world in the 1980s, but we didn’t build from there,” he said. “If you look at people 60 and over, about 39-40 percent have college degrees, and if you look at young people, too, about 39-40 percent have college degrees. Meanwhile, other countries have passed us by.”

Canada now leads the world in educational attainment, with about 56 percent of its young adults having earned at least associate’s degrees…

You can’t address college completion if you don’t do something about K-12 education,” Mr. Kirwan said.

The group’s first five recommendations all concern K-12 education, calling for more state-financed preschool programs, better high school and middle school college counseling, dropout prevention programs, an alignment with international curricular standards and improved teacher quality. College costs were also implicated, with recommendations for more need-based financial aid, and further efforts to keep college affordable.

Aside from sound governance – which drained away down sewers of greed in the eight years preceding the present administration – the mediocre stimulus budget approved by Congress doesn’t even keep up with maintaining staff minimums for education around the country. While there are legitimate discussions about the ratios of administrators to students, quasi-pro sports budgets versus the broad range of intelligent curricula, the task still remains to equip the young people of the United States to build a nation that can grow beyond an economy based wholly on consumption and service.

Though I imagine little or no change would please the beancounter breed of reactionary.

Homeless man breaks into abandoned bar – reopens!

Photo from the article about the “reopening”

A homeless man allegedly broke into a California bar and served drinks to unsuspecting patrons all weekend — before police came calling.

The bar, called the Valencia Club, had gone out of business for some time and its liquor license had expired, police said this week.

But the suspect, Travis Lloyd Kevie, 29, somehow got into the California establishment in the Penryn area of Sacramento Valley last week. He reopened the bar using beer he bought from a nearby store.

Kevie allegedly started with a six-pack of beer and used money he received to buy more alcohol. He kept the bar open for a weekend serving about 30 customers a day, authorities said.

He was so successful that a local newspaper did a story about the bar reopening.

This was the follow-up story:

“As Detective Jim Hudson read the morning newspaper he recognized an individual pictured on the front page as a local transient who has had numerous contact with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.”

He went to the bar to determine if Kevie had obtained a liquor license.

“When Detective Hudson arrived at the Valencia Club it was open for business with customers bellied up to the bar. Upon questioning Kevie Detective Hudson determined that he had no connection to the property and he did not have a liquor license,” the department said.

Kevie was arrested Tuesday and charged with burglary and selling liquor without a license…

The true American spirit of entrepreneurship. Or something like that.

As we have previously noted.

‘Eternal plane’ lands in Yuma, Arizona

The UK-built Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has confirmed its place in aviation history as the first “eternal plane”.

The solar-powered craft completed two weeks of non-stop flight above a US Army range in Arizona before being commanded to make a landing.

The Qinetiq company which developed Zephyr said the UAV had nothing to prove by staying in the air any longer.

It had already smashed all endurance records for an unpiloted vehicle before it touched down at 1504 BST (0704 local) on Friday…

Zephyr took off from the Yuma Proving Ground at 1440 BST (0640 local time) on Friday, 9 July.

After only 31 hours in the air, it had bettered the official world record for a long-duration flight by a drone; but then it kept on going, unencumbered by the need to take on the liquid fuel that sustains traditional aircraft.

Clear skies at 60,000ft delivered copious amounts of sunshine to its amorphous silicon solar arrays, charging its lithium-sulphur batteries and keeping its two propellers turning.

At night, Zephyr lost some altitude but the energy stored in the batteries was more than sufficient to maintain the plane in the air.

Zephyr is set to be credited with a new world endurance record (336 hours, 24 minutes) for an unmanned, un-refuelled aircraft – provided a representative of the world air sports federation, who was present at Yuma, is satisfied its rules have been followed properly.

One more step in a lot of right directions.