17 Dec 13. NSA Says It Foiled Plot To Destroy US Economy Through Malware. The National Security Agency described for the first time a cataclysmic cyber threat it claims to have stopped On Sunday’s ’60 Minutes.’ Called a BIOS attack, the exploit would have ruined, or ‘bricked,’ computers across the country, causing untold damage to the national and even global economy. Even more shocking, CBS goes as far as to point a finger directly at China for the plot — ‘While the NSA would not name the country behind it, cyber security experts briefed on the operation told us it was China.’ The NSA says it closed this vulnerability by working with computer manufacturers. Debora Plunkett, director of cyber defense for the NSA: One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver — to actually use this capability — to destroy computers.” (Source: Slashdot.com)
18 Dec 13. The White House this week issued a presidential determination to facilitate the sale of weapons to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The move by the Obama administration shows the rapid development in events since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans this month in Bahrain to sell weapons to the Gulf Cooperation Council as a block, as opposed to selling to individual nations within the council. According to the document issued Monday, the White House wants to confirm the eligibility of the Gulf Cooperation Council to receive defense articles and defense services under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act.
“I hereby find that the furnishing of defense articles and defense services to the Gulf Cooperation Council will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace,” the document stated.
The move by the White House follows last week’s announcement at the GCC Summit in Kuwait to establish a Joint GCC Military Command. According to a State Department official, the GCC is being designated for future sales, however, congressional approval has yet to be established when deals flow to Congress. On Dec. 7, in Manama, Hagel said the Pentagon “will better integrate with GCC members to enhance missile defense capabilities in the region,” adding “the United States continues to believe that a multilateral approach is the best answer for missile defense.” Officials at the State Department said that over the past several years, the US and the GCC have explored ways to expand multilateral defense cooperation in response to evolving regional security challenges. (Source: Defense News)
18 Dec 13. NSA shouldn’t keep phone database, review board recommends
The White House will release later Wednesday the report of a surveillance review board that has recommended modifying the National Security Agency counterterrorism program that collects virtually all Americans’ phone records. The recommendation that the NSA no longer keep the phone database — estimated by some former officials to contain more than 1 trillion records — is among a set of sweeping technical reforms aimed at restoring public confidence in the spying apparatus, said individuals briefed on its contents. Rather than the NSA, the phone companies or a third party would hold the records, said U.S. officials briefed on the contents. The report’s 40-plus recommendations, also include barring NSA from asking companies to build “backdoors” into their software so that the government may gain access to encrypted communications, barring it from undermining global encryption standards and prohibiting it from stockpiling “zero day” hacking tools that can be used to penetrate computer systems, and in some cases, damage or destroy them, according to the individuals, who were not authorized to speak on the record. The panel also suggested moving the NSA’s information assurance directorate, which is in charge of protecting classified government computer systems, under a separate entity. The idea there would be to separate a clea