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HSE hackers ‘most probably’ located in Moscow, says Russia’s top cybersecurity tycoon

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Hackers in Russia who target foreign firms and critical infrastructure such as Ireland’s health service will enjoy impunity until the West works more closely on the issue with Moscow, according to the head of Russia’s top cybersecurity firm.

Before speaking at a conference on cybercrime in Dublin on Thursday, Eugene Kaspersky also denied that his company has links to Russia’s powerful security services, despite it being blacklisted by the US and British governments over fears that its products could be exploited by intelligence agencies in Moscow.

Kaspersky said his experts were quick to assist Ireland via Interpol when the HSE was hit by a major ransomware attack in May, and within three days pinpointing “the internet provider that the bad guys were using in Moscow”.

“We don’t have their names. We’re not the police so we can’t go to the internet provider and ask who is behind these IP addresses,” Kaspersky told The Irish Times at the headquarters of Kaspersky Lab overlooking the Moscow canal.

The Moscow headquarters of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, founded in 1997, which via Interpol helped Ireland respond to the HSE ransomware attack in May. Photograph: Daniel McLaughlin
The Moscow headquarters of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, founded in 1997, which via Interpol helped Ireland respond to the HSE ransomware attack in May. Photograph: Daniel McLaughlin

“But we have everything for the Russian cyberpolice if they call us about the case. And we shared all this information with Interpol, of course.”

That call is unlikely to come, however, due to an almost complete breakdown of co-operation between Moscow and the West in the political and security fields, which Kaspersky says makes Russia a “paradise” for cybercriminals.

Shadowy deal

Yet he puts this down to a combination of legal issues and poor relations for which the West and the Kremlin are both to blame, rather than any shadowy deal by which Russia’s security services shield – and sometimes deploy – the country’s hackers as long as they only attack foreign targets.

“It’s not an agreement, it’s the law. It’s about all crime, not just cybercrime – if the crime is done abroad, then the Russian police don’t have any reason to start an investigation,” he said.

If the US asks Russia for help in such cases, Kaspersky said there is “no response”.

“And it’s the same the opposite way. If Russia asks the United States or the UK to do something with suspects, nothing happens. There are win-win situations and this is lose-lose,” he added.

“What I heard from law enforcement and people working with law enforcement is that this co-operation is completely broken, and it is not [only] Russia’s fault – it’s both sides’ fault. So in Russia, for cybercrime, it’s a paradise.”

US president
Joe Biden has repeatedly urged Russian counterpart
Vladimir Putin to tackle the issue, apparently without success

Kaspersky said the HSE hackers were “most probably” located in Moscow at the time of the attack, and described Russia as a “major source” of cybercrime, where hackers who attacked foreign targets were “safe, absolutely, at the moment.”

“But if Russia and the [United] States agree about more close co-operation, they will not be safe. It must be solved on the top,” he added, referring to the political leadership of both countries.

Many analysts believe the Kremlin views Russian cybercrime against foreign firms and governments as a useful card to hold in talks with the West.

US president Joe Biden has repeatedly urged Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to tackle the issue, apparently without success, and at a summit in June he gave him a list of 16 infrastructure sectors that should be “off-limits” to hackers, including energy and water supply and the health, election and banking systems.

In 2017 the US banned government departments from using Kaspersky Lab software over fears it could enable Russian spying and threaten national security.

Warning

The UK’s national cybersecurity centre told government agencies the same year not to use anti-virus products from Kaspersky Lab and other Russian firms, in a warning issued by its then director Ciaran Martin, who is also expected to attend the Irish Reporting and Information Security Service conference at the Aviva Stadium.

The company, which has offices in more than 30 countries and declared revenue of $704 million (€622 million) for 2020, insists it is not subject to sweeping rules that oblige Russian communication firms to save data on users’ activity for six months, and it assures customers outside Russia that their data is stored in Switzerland.

Kaspersky denies that the firm he co-founded in 1997, a decade after graduating from a KGB technical university, has moved closer to the Russian security services in recent years, particularly after the brief kidnapping of his son in 2011.

“When you talk about pressure from [security officials], I think it’s mostly the same in the States, the UK and many other nations. In some less, and some like China are even more strict. But the government coming and asking [us] to do something wrong? I don’t believe in this scenario, because it would be seen,” he said.

So in front of your smart devices, just don’t do something that you don’t want to be seen tomorrow on
YouTube

Kaspersky (56) also brushes off strong claims from opposition politicians that electronic voting in September’s Russian parliamentary elections was massively rigged in Moscow to hand victory to ruling-party candidates, using a system that incorporated Kaspersky block-chain technology.

“A couple of our engineers were there. They didn’t see everything, but I know others with more information there and I trust them…I don’t have any indicator that something was wrong.”

Kaspersky expects state regulation of the internet to increase globally in the coming years, in response to fears over the security of critical infrastructure and the vast amounts of personal data now in digital storage.

‘Less freedom’

“I believe there will be more and more regulation and less and less freedom, not just in Russia and China but in the States and the rest of world…There will be much more data collected about you, even very private data, to make your life easier. Do you want to choose privacy or comfort?” said Kaspersky, who has anti-drone systems made by his firm standing by his desk and on the roof of the building.

“So in front of your smart devices, just don’t do something that you don’t want to be seen tomorrow on YouTube, ” he advised.

“Do I like it? Do you like this weather? It’s reality. I can’t change it.”

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Catella invests €15.5m in Portuguese student accommodation

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The Catella European Residential Fund (CER) has made its first venture into the emerging Portuguese institutional investment market for student housing with the acquisition of an asset in the municipality of Cascais, just to the west of Lisbon, for €15.5m. The vendor is Value One HoldingThe property is located close to the beach in the Lombos neighbourhood of Carcavelos within the Cascais municipality and is a 10-minute walk from Portugal’s most prestigious business school, the NOVA School of Business and Economics, which has a student population of over 3,500. The centre of Lisbon can be reached within 20 minutes via two train stations. The 6,622m² property was built in 2020 and comprises 192 spacious single rooms (20m² on average) with a gym, rooftop terrace, study, music and leisure rooms and parking. It is 99% occupied and has obtained LEED Gold sustainability certification for its construction.

 

European student accommodation provider MILESTONE operates the residence under a management contract. MILESTONE was founded in Vienna, is a member of the Value One Group, an international real estate Developer and student housing operator and brings extensive knowledge of the conception, design and successful management of student housing, combined with international expertise. MILESTONE currently has 4,627 beds of purpose-built student housing under management and in development across Austria, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Italy.

 

Eduardo Guardiola, Managing Partner of Catella AM Iberia, said: This is a milestone for CER marking the vehicle’s first investment in Portugal. It is also an important step for CRIM as it represents the investment manager’s entry into Portugal. For Catella AM Iberia it marks our third transaction as advisors on a student accommodation acquisition in the Iberian region. The Portuguese real estate market is becoming increasingly relevant across both the affordable rental and student housing markets – which although very different in maturity and size offer some excellent investment opportunities.”

 

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Kirstie and Phil’s Love It Or List It viewers slam father-of-two who ‘clearly wants a bachelor pad’

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Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed a father-of-two who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said he wanted a home where his children were ‘out the way.’

Sophie and Paul, from Aylesbury, who had spent the last eight years  in their home, had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years. 

The couple had allocated £90,000 to transform their house, but also had a £525,000 budget to look at new homes elsewhere. 

Following Kirstie’s advice on the show, they spent £80,000 converting their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension.

But many of those watching were unimpressed by Paul’s attitude after he said he liked their new playroom because it meant his children ‘couldn’t bug him’.

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil's Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who 'clearly wanted a bachelor pad' after he said a home where his children were 'out the way'

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said a home where his children were ‘out the way’

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage 

One wrote: ‘He doesn’t like his in-laws, his kids or his house. Think he wishes he was still a bachelor.’

Another wrote: ‘The partner is just gross, he just keeps going on about not being a bachelor anymore and how he doesn’t want the kids to bug him.

‘I get the sense he still likes to think of himself as a bachelor, I can just imagine him on a night out without her.’ 

Appearing on the programme last night, Sophie and Paul had been together for eight years and had two children, seven-year-old Finley and three-year-old Georgia. 

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years 

Following Kirstie's advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

Following Kirstie’s advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

But when Paul bought their three bedroom house 13 years ago, a family home was not the objective. 

He explained: ‘This was my bachelor pad. I’m team List It, I want something fresh and new for Sophie and the kids.’

Meanwhile Sophie said: ‘I’m definitely a home bird and I love being here.’

She said they relied on her parents ‘a lot’ because they lived at the bottom of the road.   

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were 'always on top of each other'

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were ‘always on top of each other’ 

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property's conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn't fit for purpose for their children

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property’s conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn’t fit for purpose for their children 

But Paul said: ‘My pet hates include the location, the small bedroom upstairs is a tiny box-room. 

‘The playroom downstairs isn’t fit for purpose, the kitchen needs overhauling and the garage is a mess.

‘The most important thing for me in a house is having the divide between adult space and children space and I think that’s important especially as they grow up.’ 

Sophie added: ‘We’ve been in a limbo now for three years where nothing has been done.’  

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured)

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured) 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner)

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner) 

While Sophie said the bedrooms were 'nice' (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was 'a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk'

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’ (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk’

She told Kirstie and Phil she wanted to extend their home, while Paul said: ‘I’ve fallen out of love with the property. We’re all on top of each other here.’ 

But Sophie admitted she was unwilling to move further than a 15 minute drive from her parent’s home. 

Kirstie warned they would have to go to the top of their budget to fix the home’s problems, suggesting extending the kitchen diner into the area where the current conservatory is.

Meanwhile she said they could also convert the garage into a new living room, creating space for a new hallway. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured)

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured) 

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it's playroom, adding it would 'keep the children out the way' (pictured)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it’s playroom, adding it would ‘keep the children out the way’ (pictured) 

Upstairs, the extension would give space for four bedrooms and a master suite.

Meanwhile the first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was. 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden.

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’, Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk.’  

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured)

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured) 

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom 

However the couple ultimately decided the downstairs living space wasn’t large enough for their family. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000. 

The detached home had been on the market a while, and Phil hoped that a deal could be done.

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen.   

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple's changes to their property and were blown away

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple’s changes to their property and were blown away 

Commenting on the couple's decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they 'wouldn't come through to bug us'

Commenting on the couple’s decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they ‘wouldn’t come through to bug us’

Paul commented: ‘Good playroom at the front…keep them out the way. Eventually this could be my main cave.’ 

And the final property in their search was in the quaint village of Stoke, with Paul saying: ‘I like the outside and it’s in a good location.’

The four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000, with a large kitchen diner and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom.

Outside, there was a double length garage which could be used for storage space. 

Fifteen months after the couple started the renovations on their home, Kirstie and Phil returned to find the property had been completely transformed. 

However despite Sophie and Paul's joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

They were blown away by the extension the couple had added to their home, with even Sophie admitting it was ‘bigger than they expected it to be.’

Meanwhile Paul added: ‘It’s definitely not a bachelor pad now.’

And commenting on the decision to build a separate  play room, he said: ‘The children can turn right [to the playroom] as opposed to coming all the way through here and bugging us.’ 

Overall the couple spent £80,000 and the property value has increased by £150,0000.

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitude. 

One wrote: ‘I think this guy just doesn’t want to live in the same house as his kids.’

Another added: ‘The guy on this obviously wants away from her parents and somewhere to shove the kids out of the way…he wants a bachelor pad…just come out and say it!’

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Four found dead at US-Canada border believed to be human smuggling victims

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The bodies were found on Wednesday in barren, snow-covered terrain just feet from the United States border in Manitoba, Canada: a man, a woman, a teenager and an infant who appeared to have frozen to death while trying to cross into the US, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

All four have been tentatively identified as members of a family who may have been victims of a human smuggling operation, the authorities said. Their bodies were discovered about 30-40ft from the US border, in a remote area just less than 10km east of Emerson, Manitoba, the authorities said.

“It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that it appeared that all four had died of exposure to the cold.

She emphasised that investigators consider the four to be victims. “We’re very concerned that this attempted crossing may have been facilitated in some way and that these individuals, including an infant, were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard when the weather hovered around minus-35 degrees Celsius, factoring the wind,” Ms MacLatchy said. “These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness.”

The bodies were found after US Border Patrol agents stopped Steve Shand (47), of Florida, on Wednesday, while he was driving a 15-passenger van less than 2km south of the Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota, federal prosecutors in Minnesota said. He was charged with human smuggling.

Law enforcement officials said two passengers in the rented van that Mr Shand was driving were citizens of India without legal permission to be in the US. While Mr Shand and his passengers were being taken to a Border Patrol station in North Dakota, law enforcement officers found five more Indian citizens walking in the snow about a quarter-mile south of the Canadian border, in the direction of where Mr Shand had been arrested, prosecutors said.

Separated

The five Indian nationals, who appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant in St Vincent, Minnesota, told law enforcement officials that they had expected to be picked up by someone, prosecutors said. They said that they had been walking for more than 11 hours and had crossed the border from Canada into the United States, prosecutors said.

One member of the group said he was carrying a backpack for a family of four Indian citizens who had become separated from his group during the night, court documents said. Inside the backpack were children’s clothes, a diaper, toys and children’s medication.

Canadian authorities then began a search with snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles that led to the discovery of the four bodies in Manitoba. One Indian woman in the group that had survived the crossing into the United States stopped breathing several times while she was being transported by the Border Patrol, court documents showed. She was flown to a hospital where she will likely require partial amputation of one of her hands because of exposure to the extreme cold, the documents stated.

Court

Prosecutors said Mr Shand made his first appearance on Thursday in US District Court for the District of Minnesota, where he was ordered to remain in custody until a hearing on Monday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. In a criminal complaint, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations said that the four deaths were being investigated “along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation of which Shand is suspected of being a part”.

According to the complaint, a Border Patrol agent said he knew of three other smuggling operations that happened in the place where Mr Shand was arrested. Two were in December and one was earlier this month, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that one of the Indian citizens detained on Wednesday said that he had paid a “significant amount” of money to enter Canada from India with a fraudulently obtained student visa. The man said he had walked across the border into the United States and had expected to be picked up by someone who would take him to his uncle’s house in Chicago.

Ms MacLatchy said she had a message for anyone who was thinking of crossing the international border in Manitoba: “Just don’t do it.”

“Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely,” she said. “They cannot. Even with proper clothing, it is not a journey that is possible.” – This article originally appeared in the New York Times

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