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Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 12:06 PM gHale

A former CIA employee is now facing charges of violating the Espionage Act and related crimes in connection with the leak last year of a collection of hacking tools the agency used for spy operations overseas, federal prosecutors said.

Joshua Adam Schulte, who worked for a CIA group that designs computer code to spy on foreign adversaries, was charged Monday in a 13-count superseding indictment with illegally gathering and transmitting national defense information and other related counts in connection with what is considered to be one of the most significant leaks in CIA history.

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The indictment accused Schulte of causing sensitive information to be transmitted to an organization, which is not named in the indictment.

The group posted the hacking tools online last year in a release it called “Vault 7.” Prosecutors alleged Schulte stole the information in 2016.

Schulte had long been a suspect of investigators exploring the leak, but before Monday, he had been held on separate child pornography charges. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement that investigators looking into Schulte found the porn in his residence. His personal computer, federal prosecutors alleged, held more than 10,000 images and videos of such material, protected under three layers of passwords.

Schulte was arrested on charges stemming from the porn in August 2017.

“As alleged, Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims,” William Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said in a statement. “As an employee of the CIA, Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of classified information. To further endanger those around him, Schulte allegedly received, possessed, and transmitted thousands of child pornographic photos and videos.”

An attorney for Schulte did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday night. In a statement reviewed by The Washington Post previously, Schulte claimed he reported “incompetent management and bureaucracy” at the CIA to that agency’s inspector general as well as a congressional oversight committee. He asserted that cast him as disgruntled and that when he left the CIA, he became a suspect in the leak as “the only one to have recently departed [the CIA engineering group] on poor terms.”

The indictment accuses Schulte, 29, of exceeding his authorized access to CIA computer systems and even altering systems to delete records of his activities and deny others access. Added together, the charges against him carry a statutory maximum penalty of 135 years in prison. Some officials have compared the leak of which his accused to that of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who also revealed details about U.S. capabilities to spy on computers and phones around the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 12:06 PM gHale

Crews were continuing cleanup efforts after 300 to 400 gallons of oil discharged into a local waterway after an oil transfer malfunction at an auto dealership in central Greenwich, CT, last Wednesday.

Fire personnel put down booms in the Horseneck Brook to stop the flow of used motor oil.

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“The majority of it was contained,” Deputy Fire Chief Brian Koczak said Wednesday evening.

The spilled happened at New Country Audi on West Putnam Avenue as a contractor was removing used motor oil, Koczak said.

“There was a malfunction,” he said, and the oil began to discharge into the nearby Horseneck Brook. “It’s a tidal creek, and it flows into Long Island Sound,” Koczak said.

“We ensured that the leak was controlled, and then we responded with booms downstream,” the deputy chief said. Most of the spill was contained in the area of Field Point Road and Prospect Street, and additional booms were placed farther downstream as an additional safeguard.

Workers were using mechanical devices and other means to remove the motor oil from the brook. “They’re going to be there all night,” said Koczak.

The spill posed no threat to public health, but firefighters found an egret coated in oil and cleaned it off in the afternoon, he said. It was later released after a thorough cleaning, he said. Environmental regulators will be on alert for other wildlife suffering from the spill.

The Audi dealership, and the contractor involved in the spill, were fully cooperative, Koczak said.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection arrived the on scene shortly after the accident and were assisting with the response.

Used motor oil is stored on-site at the dealership until a contractor picks it up for removal on a regular basis.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 07:06 AM gHale

There is a new piece of malware based on one of the first tools used by a Chinese cyber-espionage group that targets manufacturers among other sectors, researchers said.

The attacker is known as APT15, Ke3chang, Mirage, Vixen Panda, Royal APT and Playful Dragon, and its tools are tracked by various cybersecurity companies as Mirage, BS2005, RoyalCLI, RoyalDNS, TidePool, BMW and MyWeb.

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In addition to manufacturers, the group targets organizations in the defense, high tech, energy, government, aerospace, and other sectors.

“Following the recent hack of a US Navy contractor and theft of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare, we have found evidence of very recent activity by a group referred to as APT15, known for committing cyber espionage which is believed to be affiliated with the Chinese government,” said Jay Rosenberg senior security researcher at Intezer in a post. “The malware involved in this recent campaign, MirageFox, looks to be an upgraded version of a tool, a RAT believed to originate in 2012, known as Mirage.”

Intezer, a cybersecurity firm that specializes in recognizing code reuse, said it identified this new malware linked to APT15 based on YARA rules created for Mirage, the oldest tool used by the threat actor, and Reaver, another piece of malware previously

MirageFox based on a string found in one of the components, shares code with both Mirage and Reaver. Resarchers found similarities to the original Mirage malware, including in the code used for a remote shell and the function for decrypting command and control (C&C) configuration data.

“MirageFox functions similarly to previous malware created by APT15, first collecting information about the computer like the username, CPU information, architecture, and so forth. Then it sends this information to the C&C, opens a backdoor, and sits waiting for commands from the C&C with functionality such as modifying files, launching processes, terminating itself, and more functionality typically seen in APT15’s RATs,” Rosenberg said.

The sample analyzed was compiled on June 8 and uploaded to VirusTotal one day later.

The malware appears to abuse a legitimate McAfee binary to load malicious processes through DLL hijacking. APT15 has been known to use DLL hijacking in its campaigns.

Intezer also found a C&C server has an internal IP address.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 11:06 AM gHale

A fourth miner has been found dead at an abandoned working area of a mine owned by Sibanye-Stillwater, while a fifth miner remains unaccounted for, officials said.

The body of a fourth missing employee was found Tuesday in an abandoned stop ore pass at the Kloof Ikamva shaft, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, Sibanye-Stillwater officials said.

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On Monday, the company said three miners had died.

“Specialized proto [rescue] teams have been working through the night to locate and retrieve the employee but it is currently uncertain how long the retrieval process will take,” the company said in a statement.

“The search for the fifth employee continues and further updates will be issued when more information becomes available.”

The fifth worker had disappeared after the group entered the abandoned space, said Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted.

He did not want to comment on what the miners were doing in an area that had been abandoned. He said temperatures were high in that area and it did not have proper access to oxygen.

“A thorough investigation will be undertaken into the incident,” the company said.

National Union of Mineworkers (Num) deputy president Joseph Montisetsi said the union was seeking a clear mandate regarding the path forward.

“There is a lapse from management’s side in terms of safety,” he said.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has called for government intervention into ensuring safety for miners.

Sibanye Chief Executive Neal Froneman last week told an investor meeting the company had seen a “regression in safety performance,” blaming the majority of accidents to human error.

South Africa has unusually deep mines, which makes them some of the world’s most dangerous. This has historically resulted in high numbers of fatalities. The mining industry previously committed to a goal of “Zero Harm.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 @ 02:05 PM gHale

A timelapse shot of traffic at night in Ann Arbor, MI.

Connected cruise control uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication to let automated vehicles respond to multiple cars at a time in an effort to save energy and improve safety.

It can be effective on public roads, even when just one automated vehicle is moving among human-driven cars, said researchers at University of Michigan.

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Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) refers to the ability of cars to wirelessly share data including their speed and position in real time. Connected cruise control can adjust a vehicle’s speed based on information obtained through V2V. It’s different from adaptive cruise control because it tracks more vehicles than just the car in front of it. 

The tests on public roads have shown how connected cruise control and V2V between automated and conventional cars performs in a common traffic scenario — a chain-reaction braking and re-accelerating caused by one car at the head of several others. An automated vehicle utilizing connected cruise control was able to brake with 60 percent less of the G-force required by a car with a human driver.

And that smoother transition from braking to accelerating improved energy efficiency by as much as 19 percent for the automated vehicle equipped with V2V. It also surpassed the performance of other automated vehicles operating without V2V.

“Automated cars utilizing V2V data will not only perform better, but they can also foster a friendlier environment where few safety hazards sneak into traffic and higher efficiency is possible for all cars on the road,” said Gabor Orosz, a U-M associate professor of mechanical engineering who led the research.

Automated cars are coming, but they will face challenges when sharing the roads with human-driven vehicles. On-board sensors cannot see around corners or see through buses and trucks. If a car suddenly appears within the sensors’ view, the automated car has little time to respond and may need to brake hard to avoid a potential collision — just like a human driver.

Similarly, if a vehicle a few cars ahead triggers a cascade of braking, on-board sensors only tell the automated car to respond when the car immediately ahead hits the brakes. Not seeing beyond the direct line of sight means lots of surprises to deal with in driving. 

While experienced drivers often anticipate potential safety hazards to drive smoothly and stay safe, automated cars still have a long way to go if on-board sensors are their only information source.

“A significant amount of cars on the road will be equipped with V2V communication devices during the next few years, since major automakers such as General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota are deploying such communication devices on their new cars,” Orosz said. 

“Most of these cars will still be human-driven, but they will broadcast their motion information such as position, speed and acceleration. When an automated car encounters these signals on the road, it can readily pick up such V2V data and see the traffic situation beyond the reach of on-board sensors.”

The research group carried out a series of experiments on public roads in Southeast Michigan where the automated vehicle received motion information from up to six human-driven vehicles ahead.

In the experiments, Orosz’s group recorded scenarios where braking got increasingly more severe while cascading along a chain of human-driven vehicles. When the speed decreased from 55 mph to almost zero and then reached 55 again, some humans decelerated heavily up to 0.8 G, sending anything not buckled down flying toward the windshield. However, the V2V-based automated driving algorithm maintained a steadier speed profile, gliding through the ripples of rapidly changing traffic. The deceleration of the automated vehicle was kept less than 0.3 G, not spilling a drop from a full cup of coffee. 

“The V2V data allow the automated car to anticipate how the traffic in front might slow down once someone starts to brake several vehicles ahead,” Orosz said. “The V2V-based connected cruise control then eases off the gas and prepares to brake early on, evening out the brunts when an automated car goes through stop-and-go traffic waves.

“In contrast, a sensor-based adaptive cruise control would only start to brake after the car immediately in front started to brake, a few seconds after the slowing down is broadcast by V2V. And those few seconds can be crucial when driving in dense traffic.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 @ 11:05 AM gHale

Things appeared normal just before an air filter blew off a corn-grinding device shortly before a deadly explosion demolished Didion Milling Co. in Cambria, WI, May 31 last year.

Workers believed conditions at the Didion Milling facility in Cambria, WI, were running normal at the time of a fatal blast that killed five and injured 14 others last May, federal officials said.

The explosion occurred in Didion’s “dry corn milling” facility, where raw corn is processed to create a variety of corn products, said officials at the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

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The dry corn milling process – especially the acts of grinding and separating individual kernels of corn into distinct components – produces corn dust. Corn dust is combustible and is known to be explosive under certain conditions. In the inquiry, CSB investigators were able to glean the perspectives of 10 of the 14 survivors as the events unfolded the night of the incident.

The CSB found:
• Workers believed the conditions at the mill on the night of the incident were “normal,” and up until just moments before the explosions, workers either were unaware of any problems or assumed their troubleshooting efforts would reveal a typical and manageable situation.
• Prior to the explosion workers reported seeing and smelling smoke coming from the facility. 
• Several workers entered various mill buildings to locate the source of the smoke, but were unable to immediately find the cause.
• Approximately 15 to 30 minutes before the explosions, workers focused their inspections on a piece of equipment called a gap mill. Workers then observed an air filter blow off the gap mill’s air intake line, resulting in corn dust filling the air and a three- to four-foot flame shooting from the air intake line.
• Around 11 p.m., one or more explosions occurred. The explosions caused the complete collapse of four of the nine buildings that make up the Didion facility; the remaining five were severely damaged.
• There were 19 workers at the facility that night. Five workers died as a result of the explosions and the collapse of the buildings. The other 14 workers sustained injuries that ranged from minor to life-threatening.

The CSB’s full technical analysis of the incident and its examination of dust management at Didion are still underway and will be included in its final report, which will also explore the conditions that influence the safe management of combustible dust and the challenges associated with dust explosion prevention.

Friday, May 4, 2018 @ 02:05 PM gHale

Francis “Frankie” Crispen Jr., an apprentice electrician, died after he fell into a vat at Columbia Forest Products.

An apprentice electrician died following an accident at Columbia Forest Products in Klamath Falls, OR, was working on repairs alone at the time of his death, investigation documents show.

Francis “Frankie” Crispen Jr., 28, died Nov. 17 after he fell into an improperly protected vat, containing a hot sodium hydroxide water mixture, while trying to repair a damaged cord on a conveyor motor system.

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Crispen worked at the Columbia Forest Products facility located just south of Klamath Falls along Highway 97.

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Columbia Forest Products $17,500, citing three “serious” violations for not providing safer access to the area in question. Field notes in OSHA’s report state the vat cover Crispen fell through was not designed to provide fall protection nor function as a walking/working surface.

Calls to Columbia Forest Products in Klamath Falls for further comment were not immediately returned.

Crispen was the 68th person involved in an Oregon work-related fatality in 2017, which had 80 deaths through December, according to OSHA preliminary reports.

The Herald and News in Klamath Falls obtained a 235-page report Tuesday, which details several events, testimonials and summaries of Crispen’s death in the OSHA investigation.

Crispen first answered a call to the boiler house at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 in response to a waste conveyor motor that kicked out. The motor was above the vat Crispen fell into.

Crispen likely climbed over an existing but damaged guard rail, described as two posts “lying flat down” and a chain, and went upward along the area in an attempt to repair the damaged motor, according to reports.

He was working alone and did not answer radio calls between 9:20 and 9:25 p.m. Co-workers later found the hole, about 5-feet long, along the vat cover at 9:55 p.m.

Several local law enforcement and rescue crews first responded at 11 p.m. that night. Crispen’s body was not recovered until about 7 a.m. the next morning.

The investigation notes a lack of fall protection use while working around or above vat tanks, noting that Columbia Forest Products supervisors were “cooperative,” providing documentation of training, safety meetings, work orders, employee contacts and other interviews. All electrical equipment was locked out adequately and there were no indicators of electric shock.

Records also show all interviewed supervisors believed Crispen was capable of working alone, though one remarked that they prefer to have electricians “work in pairs.”

Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber said the incident “appears to be an industrial accident.”

In the days that followed, several of Crispen’s supervisors and colleagues were interviewed, in addition to OSHA officials closely inspecting the condition of the broken vat cover.

OSHA documents say the employer reported the incident in a timely manner and that a phone conversation was held shortly after. Two senior safety compliance officers from Medford traveled to the site to survey and take photos of the area following the incident.

The full investigation, which started Nov. 20, included measurements, photos, air sampling, surveying of potential electrical hazards and potential fall hazards near the vat.

Each violation mentioned in the report states the employer did not ensure there were proper protections to prevent injury or death from falls.

The vat cover had a 2-foot by 6-foot steel frame and wood exterior with thin plastic material that could not withstand high amounts of pressure. OSHA’s reports also note the cover was in “poor condition with existing damage and holes” throughout.

Several employees who walk by or have worked near the vat have said they were aware that the cover was not designed to be worked on or walked on. There was, however, no documentation or signage to warn that it was potentially unsafe.

The report also shows Columbia Forest Products has since installed improved guard railings around the vat.

Friday, May 4, 2018 @ 01:05 PM gHale

Larson released an explosion proof, solar-powered LED strobe light for flammable environments.

Larson Electronics released an explosion proof, solar-powered LED strobe light for flammable environments.

The system carries a Class I, Division 1 & 2 (Class I, Division 2 panel assembly); Class I, Zone 1 & 2; and Class II, Division 1 & 2 ratings. A Group B rating allows the LED strobe light to be used in facilities where combustible gas and liquid-produced vapor can be found, such as hydrogen plants.

The EPSLED-HBNM-SOL-80C-C1D2-20C is equipped with a cutting-edge Class I, Division 2 rated solar panel, which provides power to four, 12V 18aH sealed lead acid batteries.

The power cell components are inside of the panel and not the light. Operators may mount the panel outdoors for maximum exposure to sunlight. Included with this unit is a heavy-duty 80-foot 10/2 SOOW cord, connecting the explosion proof solar panel and batteries to the explosion proof LED strobe light.

The explosion proof LED strobe lamp is a compact, 10-watt device for signaling in flammable facilities. Featuring a strobe count of four seconds, the fixture offers 1,050 lumens of light during use. A 360-degree beam angle and strobing flood configuration ensures maximum visibility in the work site. When ordering this unit, customers may customize the color of the lamp. Color choices include the following: red, green, blue, amber or white. Mounting options for the explosion proof LED strobe fixture: ceiling, wall or pendant.

This solar-powered, explosion proof LED strobe light offers automated functionality and features for hands-free operation. Day-night sensing turns on the LED strobe lamp after sunset and turns off the unit at sunrise. Motion sensing features activate the explosion proof LED strobe fixture upon detecting movement within the range of the sensor. Customers may choose a preferred operational mode when placing the order. Manual on/off controls (no automation) and no special features are also available choices.

Suitable for wet environments, the EPSLED-HBNM-SOL-80C-C1D2-20C complies with UL 844, UL 1598 (Marine Type) and CSA C22.2 No. 250/137.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 @ 05:05 PM gHale

Consolidated Disposal Services LLC, which does business as Republic Services, is facing $71,435 in fines for four serious violations when a security guard at the company’s dumpster yard in Gardena, CA, ended up fatally struck by a truck while working in the early morning hours, said officials at the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA).

Cal/OSHA inspectors determined the employer failed to provide adequate lighting and traffic controls to prevent struck-by hazards from haulage vehicles.

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In one violation, Republic Services failed to effectively implement their company’s written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

In another violation, the natural or artificial illumination provided for the GS4 Secure Solutions security guard by Republic Services as he was working at the Republic Services roll off yard at the Gardena facility was not adequate or suitable to provide a reasonably safe place. As a result, on October 7, the guard suffered fatal injuries as he was struck by a Republic Services Roll Off truck picking up roll off containers from the roll off yard.

In addition, Republic management failed to provide suitable portable lights to employees working at the roll off yard throughout the night.

Also, Republic failed to ensure where a hazard existed from vehicles such as the Roll Off Vehicles to have a system of traffic controls to abate the hazard.

Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 12:04 PM gHale

A chemical fire forced the evacuation of dozens of homes around the Tyson Foods chicken plant in Dawson, GA, Wednesday night, officials said.

A fire broke out in a dock area of the Dawson plant, employees evacuated, and there were no injuries, said Worth Sparkman, a spokesperson for Tyson Foods.

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“We’re grateful for area fire departments and their quick response,” Sparkman said. “The incident involved the release of ammonia, which is used as a refrigerant at the plant. The leak has been isolated and we’re working to determine the root cause.

“The plant will not operate the rest of this week. We’re evaluating the damage and will determine when we might resume operations sometime next week.”

A HazMat team was requested by the Terrell County EMA Director around 9:15 p.m. due to ammonia released through Tyson Foods refrigeration lines. 

Forty homes evacuated in the area of Old Mill Road and the intersection of Highway 32, said Terrell County EMA Director Billy McClung.

First responders went door to door in outlying areas to inform residents to be on standby. McClung said the evacuations are due to ammonia leaks.

The fire was reported to be in the walls when the Albany Fire Department arrived on scene but was under control as of midnight Thursday, said Battalion Chief Keith Ambrose. When the leak was noticed, the big tank was shut down and ammonia released from the refrigeration lines. No plume clouds were reported.

Ambrose spoke with McClung who said where the winds are blowing, the ammonia would not be heading toward residential areas.

Ambrose added ammonia is a pungent smell that leaves a burning sensation in/on/around moist areas of the body (eyes, nose, lungs, crotch area and underarms). All believe that there was only a small amount of ammonia released and was contained to a small area around the plant.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.