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Dangerous plutonium stolen from rental car in a hotel parking lot

(credit: Alex Proimos / Flickr ) Two workers from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory lost an undisclosed amount of plutonium and cesium from a rental car parked overnight in a San Antonio, Texas, hotel parking lot in a neighborhood known for car break-ins and other crimes, according to an article published Monday by the Center for Public Integrity. The loss of the highly radioactive material occurred in March 2017 and was discovered when the two workers awoke the next morning to find the window of their Ford Expedition had been smashed. Missing were radiation detectors and small samples of plutonium and cesium used to calibrate them. The workers were transporting the equipment and materials during an assignment to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab in San Antonio when the theft occurred. The vehicle had been parked in the lot of a Marriott hotel in a San Antonio neighborhood where car break-ins are common. More than a year later, state and federal officials still don’t know where the substances are. No public announcement of the March 21 incident was ever made by either the San Antonio Police Department or by the FBI, which police consulted. Officials have declined to say how much plutonium and cesium were taken. A spokeswoman with the Idaho lab told reporters Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith that the amount of plutonium taken wasn’t enough to create a so-called dirty bomb and that there’s little or no danger from either sources being in the public domain. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Department of Justice indicts 12 Russian intelligence officers for Clinton email hacks

Just days before President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Department of Justice has leveled new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers who allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton . The charges were released by Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who’s leading the investigation into Russian election tampering because of the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the investigation. In January of last year, the intelligence community issued a joint statement affirming that Russia had indeed tampered with the U.S. presidential elections in 2016. Now the investigation is beginning to release indictments. Three former campaign aides for the president’s campaign have already pleaded guilty, and the president himself is under investigation by Special Investigator Robert Mueller for potential obstruction of justice. According to the indictment, the Russians used spearphishing attacks to gain access to the network of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Rosenstein also said that Russia’s military intelligence service was behind the leaks that distributed the information online under the aliases Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks. Read the full indictment below.

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DOD seeks classification “Clippy” to help classify data, control access

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallagher) Figuring out what information should be classified and controlling access to it has been an eternal headache for defense and national security organizations—a headache that got a lot of attention during the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of personal emails. Even people with a more clear understanding of sensitive data classification may have difficulty determining when information needs to be marked and restricted in circulation. So the Department of Defense is looking for some help from machine-learning systems. The DOD has issued a request for information (RFI) from industry in a quest for technology that will prevent the mislabeling and accidental (or deliberate) access and sharing of sensitive documents and data. In an announcement posted in May by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the Pentagon stated that the DOD CIO's office—part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense—is "investigating the use of commercial solutions for labeling and controlling access to sensitive information." Defense IT officials are seeking software that "must be able to make real-time decisions about the classification level of the information and an individual's ability to access, change, delete, receive, or forward the information based on the credentials of the sending and/or receiving individual, facility, and system." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Baltimore’s police department is a technological disaster

Enlarge (credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) As part of the consent decree reached in the Justice Department investigation that followed the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing unrest, an assessment team from the National Police Foundation recently completed a study taking inventory of the Baltimore Police Department's technology infrastructure . The study meant to determine what work needs to be done in order for the department to meet the reporting and other requirements set by the decree. The study's findings—coming just months after Baltimore's 911 center was struck by a ransomware attack —paint a damning picture of how tech has been managed by the eighth-largest city police force in the country. Over the past year, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has moved its IT department up and down within the organizational structure three time. The Information Technology Section has been put in charge of maintaining systems it had no hand in acquiring, because the director of ITS is not part of BPD's executive staff. Core technologies used by the department are no longer supported by software vendors, with some over 20 years old. And the Motorola radio system used for mobile communications by the force, including 911 dispatch, will no longer be supported after this year—and there are no plans in place to replace it. These are symptomatic of a larger problem the survey team noted: Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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U.S. Armed Forces is getting a Space Force (over the objections of the Secretary of Defense)

In a surprise announcement today at the third meeting of the White House’s newly reconvened Space Council, President Donald J. Trump announced his intention to create a new Space Force within the U.S. Armed Forces. “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important,” the president said. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis voiced opposition to the creation of new branch of the military last year when the idea was first proposed by Congress. Congressional leadership first floated the creation of sixth branch of the armed forces focused on space combat (sadly, not against invading alien insects though ) last year… and Mattis promptly blasted the idea. In a letter to Ohio Representative Mike Turner, one of the leaders of the Space Force initiative in Congress, Mattis wrote: “At a time when we are trying to integrate the Department’s joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations.” Apparently, the president has come around on the subject in the intervening months. Trump is now “directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.” The House Armed Services Committee began pushing for the creation of a space corps last year as part of the last spending authorization bill for the military. The new military force would fall under the purview of the Air Force in the same way that Marines work with the Navy, according to the proposal. That spending authorization bill was ultimately approved, but the space corps proposal was left on the cutting floor. Now the proposal is taking flight at the highest levels of the Trump administration

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US government finds new malware from North Korea

Even though Donald Trump is on good terms with North Korea, the Department of Homeland Security is still following that country's ongoing cyberattack campaign (which it's dubbed "Hidden Cobra"). Now CNN reports there's a new variant of North Korean m...

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What to expect now that AT&T officially owns Time Warner

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson ) AT&T yesterday completed its acquisition of Time Warner Inc., two days after a federal judge ruled against a Department of Justice (DOJ) attempt to block the deal. The DOJ could still appeal the ruling, but it agreed not to seek a stay pending appeal, allowing the merger to be completed. You can expect more personalized advertisements as AT&T combines a major programmer with its DirecTV, home broadband, and mobile services. By adding Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner to AT&T's TV and broadband services, the combined company will "bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in the merger completion announcement . AT&T will "offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," he said. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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