Obama to end cyber-attacks

American president Barack Obama is so hacked off with cyber-attacks on US companies (and other interests) that he’s taken a step sure to send the perpetrators running for cover. In an executive order on the 1st of April, he created a new sanctions authority to have a go at anyone attacking the USA. In the statement announcing it he is quoted as saying “Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges to the United States, and my administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront them”, describing it as a “national emergency”

Basically it gives the US Treasury Department to freeze the assets of any hackers suspected of attacking the US, in much the same way as it brings peace to places the Middle East and Ukraine. The criminals behind these attacks are no doubt quaking in their sneakers.

The decision to blame North Korea for the Sony attack told the world that the administration was getting tough, never mind the facts. And the Chinese, of course, deny state-sponsored naughtiness on an apparently daily basis.

The problem is, of course, that it’s somewhat difficult to actually figure out who’s behind an attack. Working out where an attack comes from is possible, and it’s usually from some hijacked computers used to obfuscate the origin. China and various other countries have a higher installed base of pirated software, which often comes with a built-in botnet, so of course attacks come from these places.

Initial opinion in the USA is divided between the law-makers, politicians and the non-technical cyber-security industry heralding it as the beginning of the end for international espionage gangs, and those of us who know now it works wondering if this is an April Fool.

One point I find intriguing, however, is whether this will have an effect on patent disputes. Apparently they’re worried about, and plan to apply these powers to, intellectual property theft. It seems to me that if some technology turned up in a competitor’s product and the American company went crying to the authorities they could have sanctions imposed on the foreign company, without any reasonable way of proving that any theft had taken place – or even who had it first. It could get messy.



Barack Obama uses BP as excuse to invade Iran

Could Barack Obama be using the Deepwater Horizon accident as an excuse to invade Iran?

I always had my suspicions about him, but to be fair I’d suspect anyone wily enough to convince the Americans to elect them president. Just look at who they’ve voted for in the past. Incidentally a lot of the British voted for Blair/Brown so it’s not a purely an American issue.

Democratic politics is all about image, not substance, and saying the right things in public is everything if you want to get votes. Many of my thinking American friends wanted “anyone but Bush” and would have probably voted for Kermit the Frog if the Democrats selected him as their candidate. And even that would have been the least-worst choice. But Obama rose to the top.

The last few days have seen Obama and the American news media jumping up and down about “British Petroleum” and how foreigners are responsible for polluting their Gulf of Mexico. I see little concern for the American oil workers killed in the explosion – just a rush to blame whatever foreigners are available at the time. Same old story. Time for a reality check:

  1. BP (not “British Petroleum”) is an international company, a large part of which is owned and based in American.
  2. The Deepwater Horizon rig (the one that blew up) was owned and operated by another international company (Transocean) – originally American and the division operating it was was based in Houston, Texas, USA.
  3. The engineering company responsible for lining the well (which I believe was the cause of the accident) was Halliburton – based in… Houston, Texas, USA.
  4. The crew of the rig were American.
  5. The regulator responsible for the safe operation of the rig was the American Government.

So why is Obama jumping up and down blaming a “foreign” company he’s decided to call “British Petroleum” for this, and demanding they pay for everything? He’s either pig-ignorant or he’s lying through his teeth for political reasons. Given that he’s a politician, it’s almost certainly the latter.

As he’s inherited a wrecked economy, getting a large amount of money from an international company is going to be a good thing as far as his short-term political career is concerned. It’s also important to deflect attention from the fact that his government licensed, regulated and derived a huge amount of income from this operation – even if it was set up before his time in office.

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I’m no fan of oil companies, but why should BP foot the bill? This is an accident, with BP being one link in a chain of responsibility running from Halliburton to the US Government. The only commercial reason to blame BP is that it’s the link with the most money. Why are companies operating in America paying the government all this money? For sound regulation and the provision of services. It’s probably a fact that only BP has the knowledge needed to deal with this disaster anyway, but the US government is just as complicit as anyone else. They take the money and the oil, but have a big problem when it comes to taking responsibility. Nothing new there. America is, of course, the biggest consumer of oil in the world.

But what’s really worrying is that this new-age reforming “black” liberal politician is using the American people’s xenophobia for political ends – plain and simple. Anyone But Bush?

To recap: We have another American President playing to the gallery and blaming all the USA’s problems on foreigners to distract attention from his administration’s shortcomings. The Americans seem to be lapping this up, and the rest of the world is back to looking at American rhetoric in disbelief and bewilderment.

So where’s this going to lead? Is Obama looking for an excuse to invade St James’s Square (the location of BP’s rather small global HQ)? I think that’s taking it a bit far.

But wait – BP used to be called the “Anglo-Iranian Oil Company”. The Iranians still remember this, even if most of us have forgotten. It was associated with previous Iranian regimes, some of which are somewhat unpopular. From this point you’re free to make up your own conspiracy theories.

Personally I’ll stick to Occam’s Razer  – the simple answer is that Obama is just another stain on the office of US President, albeit nothing like as scary as the alternatives. So far.