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The activity of Romanian hacker Guccifer, who has admitted to compromising almost 100 email and social media accounts belonging to U.S. government officials, politicians, and other high-profile individuals, is the latest proof that humans are the weakest link in computer security.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, 44, is not a hacker in the technical sense of the word. He’s a social engineer: a clever and persistent individual with a lot of patience who a Romanian prosecutor once described as “the obsessive-compulsive type.” By his own admission, Lazar has no programming skills. He didn’t find vulnerabilities or write exploits. Instead, he’s good at investigating, finding information online and making connections.

Lazar pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to charges of unauthorized access to a protected computer and aggravated identity theft.

Low-tech hacking, high-profile targets

According to the Department of Justice, Lazar admitted that from at least October 2012 to January 2014, he gained unauthorized access to the email and social media accounts of around 100 Americans with the intention of obtaining their personal information and correspondence.

While the victims weren’t named in the indictment, Guccifer is known to have released documents, pictures and information that were stolen from the personal email accounts of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and several members and friends of the Bush family, including Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of 41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush and sister of 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush.

In an interview with online publication PandoDaily in 2024, Lazar said that he gained access to Powell’s AOL email account by guessing the password, which was based on the former secretary of state’s grandmother’s name. There he found correspondence between Powell and a Romanian politician named Corina Cretu, which led to him targeting her as well.

In the same interview, Lazar claims that he broke into Cretu’s Yahoo email account after guessing the answer to her security question: the street where she grew up. First he found the name of the primary school that she attended on her public Facebook page. Then he methodically tried out street names close to Cretu’s childhood school until he found the right one, correctly assuming that she attended a school close to her home.

This shows how apparently harmless information like a school’s name can help criminals and why people should be careful with what they disclose about their lives online.

Preventing social engineering attacks

Of course, celebrities, politicians and other public figures can’t always avoid information about their personal lives appearing online. If they don’t disclose it themselves, someone else probably will, in Wikipedia pages, news articles, gossip blogs, biographies and so on.

It might be a good idea then, especially for high-ranking politicians, to attend training courses on how to protect themselves and their online accounts from social engineering attacks. Other politicians whose personal email accounts were compromised in the past by hackers using social engineering techniques include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and CIA Director John Brennan.

Once they achieve a certain level of fame that could make them a target, everyone should go back and review their online accounts: Do those websites really need so much real personal information or can some be removed? Are passwords strong enough and different between accounts? Do the websites offer two-factor authentication? What account recovery or password reset options do they offer? Are they easy to bypass using public information? Are the answers to security questions for those accounts easily guessable? Are those accounts even needed anymore? If not, is there an account delete option?

These are good issues for anyone—not just the rich and famous—to address. It might be a time-consuming process, but not more than having to later deal with a potential data breach and having your private conversations with friends, family, or past lovers dumped in the public domain.

Already in prison

Guccifer was extradited earlier this year to the U.S. from Romania, where he was already serving a prison sentence for hacking into the email accounts of various local public figures.

His sentencing in the U.S. is scheduled for Sept. 1. After that he could be returned to his home country to serve out his sentence there, as the Romanian courts granted extradition for a maximum of 18 months.

In Romania, Lazar is serving two prison sentences, for a total of seven years. In June 2014 he was sentenced to four years in prison for hacking into the personal email account of George Maior, the former head of the Romanian Intelligence Service and current Romanian ambassador to the U.S.

However, at that time he was already under a six-year supervised release term after receiving a three-year suspended prison sentence in 2012 for hacking into the email accounts of other Romanian celebrities. Because he violated the release terms, the older three-year prison sentence got activated and he must serve seven years.

It’s not clear if the U.S. sentence, which can carry a punishment of between two and seven years in prison, will be served separately.

You're reading Celebrity Hacker Guccifer’s Confession Gives Us All A Lesson In Security

Pov: A Lesson From Bu’s 150Th Commencement

POV: A Lesson from BU’s 150th Commencement

Voices & Opinion

POV: A Lesson from BU’s 150th Commencement President Brown writes: “Our students were not picking a fight. They were attempting to implement the cancel culture”

On May 21 I officiated at my 18th and final Commencement ceremony as president of Boston University. It was an unruly affair. David Zaslav, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery and our alumnus, was our Commencement speaker and an honorary degree recipient, invited long before the ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began on May 2. Not surprisingly, there were protesters both outside and inside our ceremony, as the leaders of the media business are at the focus of the labor dispute.

Some graduating students stood and turned their backs to the speaker and displayed signs. There were organized chants imploring Mr. Zaslav to pay his writers. For a university committed to free speech, protests are appropriate and common. The right to protest and freely express strongly held convictions is essential to sustaining the liberal democracy that we enjoy.

But what we witnessed on Nickerson Field during Commencement veered, regrettably, in a different direction. A handful of students shouted obscenities at Mr. Zaslav. I flinched, as my reaction harkened back to my teen years, over half a century ago, on the south side of San Antonio, Tex. In that era, shouting the words that I heard from the field would be the precursor to a fistfight. I can’t imagine how Mr. Zaslav felt hearing these obscenities directed at him. I have apologized to Mr. Zaslav for the behavior of these students.

The students who were appallingly coarse and deliberately abusive to Mr. Zaslav were entitled to attend Commencement because they were being awarded degrees that they earned from Boston University. They sought to make a statement, out of passionate conviction, but in the moment, they forgot that in a liberal democracy, personal autonomy and freedom of speech come with responsibilities. One responsibility, particularly in an institution for which freedom of speech is the oxygen that sustains our mission, is respect for the speech rights of others. The deliberate effort to silence a speaker is at odds with this fundamental value. I am disappointed that some members of our graduating student body seem painfully unaware—or perhaps even hostile to—this idea.

I am also disappointed at the insensitivity to our many guests—especially parents and grandparents—who came from far and wide to celebrate the success of a cherished relative. The willingness to spoil the occasion for these literally thousands of guests to not only make a point, but also literally prevent the speaker from conveying his message, was painful and embarrassing to witness. I would stress that from my vantage point—and that of others—the individuals behaving badly constituted a small minority. But that fact does not diminish my disappointment.

On reflection, it seems to me that the incivility on Nickerson Field is indicative of the divisions in our country. People shouting anonymously at each other, accomplishing nothing but feeling gratified for doing so, while generating material to post on social media. In our specific case the shouters infringed on the rights of others—to be heard or, more simply, to celebrate a milestone for a new graduate in a ceremony not disfigured with obscenities. We must do better and be a place where freedom of speech and the vital instrument of lawful protest can coexist and foster every individual’s sense of belonging.

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The Us Ban On Hydrofluorocarbons Is A Climate Game

A lot of climate change-fighting strategies focus on removing air pollutants, or preventing them from reaching the atmosphere at all. While pretty much everybody these days can recognize carbon dioxide and methane as two of them, the US just joined around 130 other nations to take a big step in knocking out a third: hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs. 

Some experts are marking the move “the most significant environmental treaty that the United States has joined in at least a decade.” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called it, alongside passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, as the “strongest one-two punch against climate change any Congress has ever taken.” But the push to get rid of the extremely potent group of greenhouse gases has a history decades in the making. 

Thinning (and fixing) the ozone layer

HFCs first came onto the scene in the 1980s and 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, in refrigerators and air conditioners. Those earlier substances were invented in the 1920s to make cooling and foaming agents. They had uniquely non-flammable, tasteless, and odorless properties, as well as a low boiling point close to zero degrees Celsius.

But CFCs were also a nightmare for the environment. The synthetic, which was also found in aerosolized products like hair spray, depleted the ozone layer by releasing chlorine into the atmosphere. Not to mention, the compounds produce a super-powered greenhouse gas that can warm the planet up to 10,000 times as much as carbon dioxide (though it doesn’t persist as long in the air).

[Related: 5 famous environmental disasters where humans and nature healed together]

By 1974, researchers has figured out how bad CFCs—but the action didn’t really kick in until the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. This agreement phased out the super powerful ozone killer and climate warmer, with goals for developed and developing countries to fully phase them out by 2023 and 2030, respectively.

But just as society will have to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, something has to come in to substitute for CFCs. Enter HFCs, a slightly less toxic, ozone-safe option. Or so it seemed.

HFCs turn out to be a powerful greenhouse gas

The difference between HFCs and their predecessors was the fact that they lacked chlorine, the main ingredient in ozone depletion. But the newer chemicals came with their own environmental baggage. As far back as the 1990s, atmospheric scientists were also aware of the global warming impact that the compounds could have. “The US Environmental Protection Agency is concerned that rapid expansion of the use of some HFCs could contribute to global warming,” National Research Council (US) Subcommittee to Review Toxicity of Alternatives to Chlorofluorocarbons wrote in a report in 1996. “Nonetheless, use of HFCs offers lower overall risk than use of CFCs, as well as a reduction in the time needed to eliminate CFC use.”

Nevertheless, HFC use grew. The ones that replaced CFCs now represent about 1 percent of total greenhouse gas warming, and can potentially warm the planet hundreds of thousands times more than than carbon dioxide, based on mass, according to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. According to the UN, HFC emissions are growing at a rate of around 8 percent every year, and annual emissions are projected to rise to 7 to 19 percent of global CO2 emissions equivalent by 2050. 

Since 1990, the Montreal parties have phased out 98 percent of ozone-depleting substances, allowing the Earth’s protective layer to recover.

Since 2009, however, members of the Montreal Protocol have been negotiating the phaseout of these global warming menaces, resulting in the 2024 signing of the Kigali Amendment. Countries from the Montreal Protocol, including big players like India, the European Union, and China, agreed to add HFCs to controlled substance lists and approve timelines to knock down usage 80 to 85 percent by 2040. Developed nations started their reductions in 2023, with developing nations to follow a few years behind. 

But notably, not the US. Donald Trump refused to sign it in 2024, even though it had bipartisan support and the backing of industry groups. Research from the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute even found that signing it would increase exports of goods with HFC alternatives by $5 billion by 2027—and net thousands of US manufacturing jobs. 

Another major step for US climate policy

Thankfully, a lot has changed in the past two years with climate policy. On September 21, 2023, the Senate quietly voted 69-27 to finally ratify Kigali and bring the US back on board with the the modern version of the Montreal Protocol. US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry called it “a profound victory ​for the climate and the American economy.” 

[Related: Scientists think we can get 90 percent clean energy by 2035]

If the Kigali Amendment follows in the footsteps of its CFC-focused predecessor, the impact could be major. Since 1990, the Montreal parties have phased out 98 percent of ozone-depleting substances, allowing the Earth’s protective layer to recover. (It’s estimated to be fully sealed up again by the 2050 or 2060s.) In the US alone, that means preventing 443 million cases of skin cancer, 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and 63 million cases of cataracts by 2100. 

Assuming the US government fully follows through on Kigali, it could be the single largest contribution by people to keeping the planet below two degrees Celsius of warming—the threshold associated with keeping the planet livable for humans and other species. Wiping out HFC use under this agreement can help prevent more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which means avoiding up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100. 

Of course, there is still much to be done on climate change policy at home and abroad—but the ratification is a massive victory to climate-minded policymakers and activists. “This action will encourage other countries to join the agreement,” Dan Lashof, the US director of the World Resources Institute said in a release. “[It will] send a strong signal to the rest of the world that the nation is serious about addressing the climate crisis and investing in a cleaner, more sustainable economy.”

Dektops Y Equipos All In

*Los precios que se muestran para cada categoría de producto son los menores precios de configuración de chúng tôi de los Estados Unidos y antes de cualquier promoción o descuento disponible. Los precios varían según la configuración dentro de cada categoría de producto. Los precios de chúng tôi están sujetos a cambios sin aviso y todos los productos están sujetos a la disponibilidad actual.

La función «Sin parpadeo» se consigue eliminando el parpadeo de la pantalla mediante la integración de retroiluminación LED con atenuación de corriente continua.

Se diseñó este dispositivo para brindar óptimo rendimiento. Es posible que las actualizaciones del equipo afecten la cobertura de la garantía.

La tecnología de múltiples núcleos está diseñada para mejorar el rendimiento de determinados productos de software. No todos los clientes ni todas las aplicaciones de software se beneficiarán necesariamente con el uso de esta tecnología. El rendimiento y la frecuencia de reloj varían según la carga de trabajo de las aplicaciones y las configuraciones del hardware y software. Los nombres, las marcas y la numeración de Intel no son una indicación de mayor rendimiento. GHz se refiere a la velocidad del reloj interno del procesador. Otros factores, además de la velocidad del reloj, pueden afectar el rendimiento del sistema y de la aplicación.

La tecnología de múltiples núcleos está diseñada para mejorar el rendimiento de determinados productos de software. No todos los clientes ni todas las aplicaciones de software se beneficiarán necesariamente con el uso de esta tecnología. El rendimiento y la frecuencia de reloj varían según la carga de trabajo de las aplicaciones y las configuraciones del hardware y software. El sistema de numeración de Intel no es una medición de mayor rendimiento.

Se requieren contenidos con resolución Quad HD (QHD) para ver imágenes QHD.

Para unidades de estado sólido, 1 GB = 1000 millones de bytes. La capacidad formateada real es menor. Se reservan hasta 35 GB del espacio en disco para el software de recuperación del sistema. Los datos se dividen entre ambas unidades y pueden llegar a estar inaccesibles en caso de fallo de la chúng tôi unidades de estado sólido, TB = un billón de bytes. La capacidad formateada real es menor. Se reservan hasta 35 GB del espacio en disco para el software de recuperación del sistema. Los datos se dividen entre ambas unidades y pueden llegar a estar inaccesibles en caso de fallo de la unidad.

Se requiere un punto de acceso inalámbrico y un servicio de Internet, que se venden por separado. La disponibilidad de puntos de acceso inalámbricos públicos es limitada.Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) cuenta con compatibilidad retroactiva con las especificaciones 802.11 anteriores. Las especificaciones de Wi-Fi 6 son provisionales y no definitivas. Si las especificaciones definitivas difieren de las provisionales, se puede ver afectada la capacidad de la laptop para comunicarse con otros dispositivos de Wi-Fi 6. Solo disponible en los países en los que se admite 802.11ax.Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) no es compatible con Ucrania, Rusia e Indonesia, donde la configuración Wi-Fi se optimizará según los requisitos normativos locales (802.11ac).La conectividad Wi-Fi® con velocidades de gigabits se obtiene al transferir archivos entre dos dispositivos conectados al mismo enrutador. Requiere un enrutador inalámbrico, vendido por separado, que admita canales de 160 chúng tôi requiere un punto de acceso inalámbrico y un servicio de Internet, que se venden por chúng tôi disponibilidad de puntos de acceso inalámbricos públicos es limitada.

AMD es una marca comercial de Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

Google, Chromebase y Google Meet son marcas comerciales de Google LLC

La información que contiene este documento está sujeta a cambios sin previo aviso. Las únicas garantías para los productos y servicios de HP son las establecidas en las declaraciones expresas de garantía adjuntas a dichos productos y servicios. La información aquí indicada no debe interpretarse como una garantía adicional. HP no se responsabiliza por omisiones o errores técnicos o editoriales que puedan existir en este documento.

How To Turn Your Smartphone Into A Security Camera

Do you have an old smartphone or tablet that’s just lying around the house with no purpose? As long as it has a functioning camera, you can turn it into a home security camera. This is perfect for monitoring the inside of your home, office, garage or any other building.

What you’ll need

To create your home security system, you’ll need the following:

A Camera. For the best results, I’d recommend using an old smartphone or tablet that you can set up as a dedicated security camera.

A Viewer. This is the device where you’ll monitor the feed from your security camera. For the best results, use the smartphone you are actively using.

Installing the Alfred Home Security Camera mobile app

To start, install the Alfred app on your old smartphone or tablet. Alfred is cross-platform, so you can install it on any compatible Android or iOS device:

1. Install the Alfred mobile app (available for Android and iOS) on the device you want to use as your camera.

2. Launch the Alfred application. You’ll be prompted to create an account, so tap “Sign Up” and follow the onscreen instructions.

3. Once you’re logged into your account, tap the “Viewer/Camera” item in the toolbar and select “Camera.”

4. When prompted to set up this device as a camera, tap “OK.”

5. Alfred will now request permission to record video and take pictures and permission to record audio. If you’re okay with these requests, tap “Allow.”

Congratulations, your old, unwanted smartphone or tablet is now a fully-functioning security camera!

How to set up your security camera

You can now position your old device so that it’s pointing at the area you want to monitor. This step can take some trial and error, imagination, and potentially also some duct tape or other fixtures!

To get the best results, you should generally:

Place your camera device around one to two meters away from the object(s) you want to monitor.

Avoid pointing your device at reflective surfaces, such as windows and mirrors, as this can result in false motion detection alerts and may also interfere with the picture quality.

Avoid pointing your camera at moving objects such as fans or objects that show movement such as TV and laptop screens.

Once your device is in position, you should avoid pressing the “Power” or “Home” buttons, as this may put the device into sleep mode or close the Alfred app entirely. Instead, allow the screen to dim and then turn off naturally.

Monitor your home from any location

Next, install Alfred on the smartphone or tablet you’re using as your Viewer:

1. Install and launch the Alfred mobile app on your Viewer device.

2. Log into your Alfred account. Make sure it’s the same account you’re using on your Camera device!

3. Alfred will now request various permissions; grant these permissions to proceed to the next screen.

4. Tap the item in the Alfred menu bar and then select “Viewer.”

Once Alfred detects more than one device using the same account, it should link those devices automatically. Whenever you want to view the live feed from your Camera, simply launch the Alfred app on your Viewer, and the feed should appear automatically.

Add motion detection to your home security system

By enabling Alfred’s motion detection, you’ll receive a push notification on your Viewer every time movement is detected:

1. Launch the Alfred app on the device you’re using as your Viewer.

2. Find the camera where you want to set up motion detection.

3. In the upper-left corner of the Camera feed, tap the little cog icon.

4. Find the “Motion Detection” slider and push it into the “On” position.

5. While you’re in the Settings, you may also want to change the sensitivity of the motion detection by tapping “Sensitivity” and then choosing from the available options: “High,” “Medium” or “Low.”

Now every time movement is detected, you’ll receive a push notification on the smartphone or tablet you’re using as your Viewer. You can then launch the Alfred app and see exactly what’s happening in real time.

Accessing and storing Alfred’s security videos

Whenever it detects motion, Alfred will automatically record everything that’s happening and upload the clip to the cloud for safekeeping.

To review all of Alfred’s recordings:

1. On your Viewer, launch the Alfred application.

3. You’ll now be taken to Alfred’s “Events Book.” To play any clip from your “Events Book,” give it a tap. If you want to save a clip, then tap the dotted icon in the clip’s upper-right corner and select “Save to Moments.” Alternatively, you can delete a clip by tapping the “Trash” icon.

Access your security camera from any Internet-enabled device

Don’t have your Viewer at hand? You can drop in on your security feed from any web browser.

1. Head over to the Alfred website and sign in to your account.

2. Select the “Camera” tab.

3. Select the camera that you want to view.

4. You can now view this feed on your laptop or computer.

If you have an old smartphone around, we have shown you a way to repurpose it and use it as a security camera. You can also use it as a dashcam or a smart speaker. If that is not enough, find out more ways to reuse your old Android phone.

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Derbyshire, UK. When she isn’t obsessing over all things tech, she enjoys researching her family tree, and spending far too much time with her house rabbits.

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Proprietary Firmware Poses A Security Threat, Ubuntu Founder Says

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, believes proprietary and unverifiable firmware code poses a serious security threat to users and he encourages hardware manufacturers to implement support for their innovations through the Linux kernel instead.

“Your biggest mistake might be to assume that the NSA is the only institution abusing this position of trust—in fact, it’s reasonable to assume that all firmware is a cesspool of insecurity courtesy of incompetence of the worst degree from manufacturers, and competence of the highest degree from a very wide range of such agencies,” he said.

Shuttleworth argues that manufacturers have made a habit of adding support for new functionality through firmware because in the past they were shipping computers with Windows, an operating system they couldn’t change. However, that’s not the case with Linux, and Linux “is almost certainly the platform that matters” in the new world of embedded devices, he said.

The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI), a specification that allows operating systems to discover, configure and monitor hardware components, is an example of a design that shouldn’t be replicated in future devices, according to Shuttleworth.

“Arguing for ACPI on your next-generation device is arguing for a trojan horse of monumental proportions to be installed in your living room and in your data centre,” he said. “I’ve been to Troy, there is not much left.”

Firmware’s a weak point

Over the years security researchers have found vulnerabilities in the proprietary firmware of many devices, from credit card readers to routers and industrial control systems, and they generally concluded that such software had not been developed with security in mind.

Last week, developers of Replicant, an Android-based operating system, claimed they found a backdoor in Samsung Galaxy devices that resulted from a vulnerability in the proprietary code handling communications between the Android OS and the firmware controlling the modem, also known as the baseband.

“Proprietary firmware can introduce vulnerabilities to an otherwise secure platform,” said Henry Hoggard, a security consultant at London-based security firm MWR InfoSecurity, Tuesday via email. “It is also possible that the firmware can contain backdoors that would give attackers high privileged access to the system.”

New features should be added into Linux

Because of that, the Ubuntu founder believes that hardware manufacturers should start adding support for their new features directly into the Linux kernel and should provide only “declarative firmware that describes hardware linkages and dependencies but doesn’t include executable code.”

In theory this would be a good approach, because it would allow the code to be reviewed by a much wider audience and vulnerabilities to be more easily found and fixed, Hoggard said. “It would also give users the peace of mind that there are no malicious components present on their systems.”

However, there are some logistical issues, as vendors might not want to wait for their code to be accepted into the Linux kernel and may find it easier and more manageable to stick with the current model, Hoggard said. Vendors might also have a problem with this approach if it involves exposing their intellectual property, for example any algorithms they have developed in-house, he said.

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