Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BBC: Hacktivists step up web attack volumes

27 January 2015 Last updated at 08:39 ET  BBC

Many games including League of Legends have been knocked offline by DDoS attacks
Hacktivists and gamers are becoming big users of net attacks that knock sites offline by bombarding them with data, suggests a report.
Compiled by Arbor Networks, the report looks at 10 years of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

The ease with which they could be staged had made them a favourite for groups with a grudge, said Arbor.

Also, it said, insecure home routers were being enrolled into large groups of devices that mounted the attacks.

Extortion attempt
In the early days of DDoS, cybercrime gangs had used them to extort cash from websites run by betting and gambling firms that could not afford to be knocked offline, said Darren Anstee, a senior analyst at Arbor.

Now, he said, attacks were being mounted by different groups and had grown considerably in size.

In 2011, the biggest attacks had flung about 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) of data at targets, found the report. In 2014 that peak had hit 400Gbps and in the same year there had been four times as many attacks over 100Gbps than in the previous 12 months.

"There's been a massive jump in the number of very large attacks going on out there," said Mr Anstee.

"In 2014 we saw more volumetric attacks, with attackers trying to knock people offline by saturating their access to the internet."

Almost 40% of the organisations Arbor contacted for its report said they were being hit by more than 21 attacks per month, said the report.

The hacking group known as The Lizard Squad reportedly uses hacked home routers to mount some of its attacks
Part of the reason for the shift to the large attacks could be explained by a change in the technologies being used to stage them, he said.

When cybercrime gangs had been behind the majority of attacks, the data barrages had been generated by the thousands of hijacked home computers they had had under their control, he said.

Botnets were still used to mount extortion attacks, he said, and were also used to divert the attention of a company's security team so they did not notice a separate attack on another part of a company's infrastructure.

Figures in the report suggested that companies were getting better at spotting the early stages of an attack and recovering once they were hit, he said.

However, said Mr Anstee, building a botnet was difficult for hacktivists and others, who had instead turned to other net-connected devices and technologies to generate the huge data flows.

Some attacks abused the net's timekeeping system or the domain servers that kept a list of which website was where, he said.

Other groups had found ways to enrol insecure home net gateways and routers into attacks, he added.

Hacktivists, hacker groups such as Lizard Squad and gamers who wanted revenge on other players were the bigger users of these tactics, said Mr Anstee.

It was now easy to find so-called "booter" services online that let gamers kick rivals off a particular gaming network or title by attacking that network, he said.

DDoS was also being used by people keen to use their technical skills express their feelings about a real-world conflict.

"If you look at DDoS attacks and try to tie them up with geopolitical events in the last few years, you will always see those events echoed in cyberspace," he said.

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Task Force to close California's skills gap kicks off their mission

I would like to share coverage of the first meeting of the Board of Governors Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy written by the California Economic Summit on its CAECONOMY Reporting blog.

Coming up next:

· Attend your Regional College Conversation and/or Regional Faculty Conversations.

· Invite external stakeholders who depend on the community colleges for workforce training to aStrong Workforce Town Hall meetings.

· Stay updated on Task Force roll out by subscribing to our eUpdates/eAlerts.


Van Ton-Quinlivan, Vice Chancellor
Workforce & Economic Development Division
Chancellor's Office, California Community Colleges

The Task Force on Workforce meets in Sacramento last week.
(Photo Credit: John Guenther)
Task Force to close California's skills gap kicks off their mission
January 26, 2015 by John Guenther

When asked if there's a skills gap in California's workforce, nearly every hand in the room was raised. The setting was only the very first meeting of a task force created to make sure California workers will actually be trained for jobs available now and in the future. But, there was already a sense of urgency in the room that the future is now and not closing the skills gap will just keep the state's inequality gap wide open.

"If we don't, the students that we teach, the people that we serve, the folks who are trying to get good jobs, won't have pathways to the good jobs now and over the next 10 years," said Tim Rainey, executive director of the California Workforce Investment Board and member of the task force. "If we don't build those bridges, we can't impact poverty, deal with underemployment, we can't provide the kind of economic opportunity that we want to provide. So it's a skills agenda and it's an economic development agenda, all in one. It's a jobs agenda."

The team of Californians appointed to what is formally called the Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy, which was commissioned by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, kicked off their work last week in Sacramento.

Skills Gap Exists
The task force, announced at the end of last year, was also partly born from the California Economic Summit repeatedly identifying workforce and skills issues as big problems in all regions of the state. And there was no shortage of factoids to show the existence of the skills gap.

"So very simply said, 11 million Americans unemployed, 4 million jobs sit unfilled, demonstrating the gulf between the skills that jobseekers currently have and the skills employers need," said Eva Sage-Gavin, executive vice president of Gap Inc. and co-lead of the Aspen Institute's Skills for America's Future advisory board, which has studied labor market needs nationwide. "If you have any question of the depth of the skills gap, literally I sat with chief major officers...who are spending $20,000 a person to get someone through a welding certification."

To drive the point home on the urgency of the task force's charge, researchers showed the group more data on how California has a worse skills gap problem than the rest of the country, despite having half a million middle-skill job openings last year in areas like manufacturing, IT, health care, purchasing and HR.

"These jobs turn out to be--even though they turn out to be vital to American competitiveness-- they take a long time to fill and that's a good indicator that there's a gap," said Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm. "They take 20 percent longer to fill in California than they take elsewhere in the nation."

While California's high-tech sector is booming, Sigelman and others said schools could have good bang for their buck in combating the erosion of the middle class with programs to train for those middle-skill jobs that don't require four-year degrees but some post-secondary education.

"What we really want to do, between 2015 and 2025, is close the gap on credentials and degrees and higher education exposure for the citizens of California that we've been told repeatedly by every think tank in the country exists. And that's why you're here." said Brice Harris, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Community Colleges Ideal for the Process

The focus of the task force's energy will be wielding the strengths of the 112-school California Community College system, which has schools that cover the state and have strong potential for implementing change on a regional, collaborative level.

"Clearly the colleges are on the forefront of helping California policymakers understand that in addition to state and county and city and special district governance, we have regional governance in California," said task force member and CA Fwd President and CEO Jim Mayer who noted he himself was a "product of the community colleges."

Recently, the community colleges--and workforce training in general--have been spotlighted by the $1.2 billion in workforce training funds included in Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget and by President Obama calling for free tuition for two years of community college.

While funding that White House proposal will probably be a bit of a hurdle, Task Force members made it clear more people are rethinking the community college system as an essential workforce tool for getting a diverse group of Californians into the middle class, instead of just transferring students out to other schools.

"Community colleges are the vehicle for the residents of California who are disenfranchised to have the skills to have employable, family-supporting jobs," said Bill Scroggins, president and CEO of Mt. San Antonio College. "It's really essential for California to do that because we invest so much in the social support network that is very costly and doesn't allow people to have the dignity of work."

What's Next

The Task Force's ultimate job will be approving a list of recommendations in a tight timeframe of eight months by looking through a range of options. Suggested through eight regional listening sessions the Chancellor's office conducted, those options included:

· creating more industry-valued credentials

· increasing STEM skills that matter to employers and career pathways for jobs in the regions

· encouraging more employer co-investment through programs like apprenticeships.

All of the suggestions will require some industry input to make sure curriculum, which can take considerable time to be altered, aligns with the rapidly changing needs of an industry, like say manufacturing.

"We describe ourselves as the industry that can answer California's middle class crisis," said Nicole Rice, policy director at the California Manufacturing & Technology Association and also a task force member. "We provide those jobs that have way-above average wages that have benefits, retirement security, and opportunity to mobility. We can provide those jobs but manufacturing is changing. We deal with globalization on an everyday basis and we have to remain competitive not only domestically but also globally."

The meeting closed out with members telling the team what success would look like from their perspective interest.

"The way funding works for community colleges is one-size-fits-all," said Kuldeep Kaur, chief business officer at Yuba Comm College District. "And with [career technical education] there's very special needs, special talents, professional development needs for faculty, facilities that we need to have funding that goes along with meeting the needs of the state. It's definitely a great investment to make as we all acknowledge, based on this gap in skills. To me, that's what I see success looks like, is having the resources shifted from unemployment or other resources into something worthy to invest in and enhance the economy of the state."

The task force will come together again in April to refine the list of recommendations. Before that meeting, there also will be five town halls held across the state in the coming weeks to discuss how to better connect the colleges with key industry sectors in those regions.

"Through this process, I see hope for changing the perspective of my membership when it comes to working collaboratively, innovatively into the future with the community colleges to get the workforce that they need to have," said Cathy Martin, vice president, workforce at the California Hospital Association.

You can check out the calendar of events for the Task Force here and read more about the process on the Colleges' Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy site. The conversation continues on Twitter with the hashtag#StrongWorkforce.

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YouTube begins defaulting to HTML5 video

Summary:Users in select browsers will now see cat videos in an HTML5 video player, rather than the standard Flash player that YouTube has traditionally relied upon.

By Chris Duckett | January 28, 2015 -- 06:36 GMT (22:36 PST) ZDNet

Users of Chrome and Internet Explorer 11, and current beta users of Firefox, have one less reason to use Flash as YouTube begins to serve up its HTML5 player by default.

For some time, YouTube has offered its HTML5 beta, but not all videos were able to be served with it. In particular, support in HTML5 for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) has allowed YouTube to provide a ubiquitous digital rights management solution.

The last holdout on EME, Mozilla, folded on the issue in May last year.

"Encrypted Media Extensions separate the work of content protection from delivery, enabling content providers like YouTube to use a single HTML5 video player across a wide range of platforms," said YouTube Engineering manager Richard Leider in a blog post.

"Combined with common encryption, we can support multiple content protection technologies on different platforms with a single set of assets, making YouTube play faster and smoother."

The move to HTML5 video element has also allowed YouTube to begin deprecating its old object-based embed code, and move to iframes.

"We encourage all embedders to use the <iframe> API, which can intelligently use whichever technology the client supports," Leider said.

The HTML5 player replaces YouTube's video player based on Adobe's Flash plugin, which has once again fallen foul of a cascade of zero-day attacks.

YouTube is also touting the use of its VP9 codec, which YouTube said it has served up "hundreds of billions" of times already, and adaptive bitrate streaming as mechanisms to reduce the bandwidth needed to stream high-quality video with less buffering.

"These advancements have benefited not just YouTube's community, but the entire industry. Other content providers like Netflix and Vimeo, as well as companies like Microsoft and Apple, have embraced HTML5 and been key contributors to its success," said Leider.

"By providing an open standard platform, HTML5 has also enabled new classes of devices like Chromebooks and Chromecast."

About Chris Duckett

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

California Schools to Get Help with Broadband Infrastructure

The state grants provide the last step needed to connect an additional 63,000 students to the state education network and give them access to technology, helping close the digital divide.

BY DOANE YAWGER, MERCED SUN-STAR / JANUARY 26, 2015 Government Technology


(TNS) Four area schools will benefit from part of $27 million awarded to 227 California campuses to help enhance their broadband infrastructure, according to the state Department of Education.

El Nido and Plainsburg elementary schools, Romero Elementary School in Santa Nella and Lake Don Pedro Elementary School in Mariposa County are getting Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grants from the state. They are intended to help isolated schools administer the new Smarter Balance state achievement tests.

Rae Ann Jimenez, El Nido superintendent-principal, called the state grant a huge step in the right direction for her district 15 miles south of Merced. They applied for funding last fall.

“Our students deserve to be connected to the outside world,” Jimenez said. “We will get better connectivity to the outside through fiber optics and internal hardware connections so eventually we can move to one-to-one computer learning. It’s expensive to advance. We are taking it one step at a time.”

The El Nido district has 173 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Jimenez hopes El Nido students will have access to high school and college opportunities.

Kristi Kingston, Plainsburg School superintendent-principal, said her district’s goal is to have all students learning by computer at the end of this school year. The state money will help with necessary cabling and other infrastructure along with computer devices.

“Our infrastructure is out of date and we lean on the Merced County Office of Education a lot,” Kingston said. “With new Common Core standards, we want kids to be involved and so they can be connected to the outside world. That’s always a blessing when we get some funding.”

Roberta Plazola, health aide with the Gustine Unified School District, said her district applied for the grants in October, with help from MCOE administrators. There are 245 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at the Santa Nella school.

Robin Hopper, Mariposa County Unified School District superintendent, said the district is very excited to have this opportunity to bring enhanced technology capability to that part of the county, where it is sorely needed.

“This grant will help us close the digital divide for our students and families in the north part of Mariposa County,” Hopper said.

Ron Henderson, principal at Lake Don Pedro Elementary, said the school is looking forward to having increased broadband so students can become 21st-century leaders.

Mariposa County Unified submitted proposals for its three most Internet-needy schools, Lake Don Pedro, El Portal and Yosemite Valley School.

Coulterville High School, Mariposa County High School, Woodland and Mariposa elementary schools along with alternative education schools have excellent Internet bandwidth capacity, thanks to a previous state grant from a year ago.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release that these state grants provide the critical last step needed to connect an additional 63,000 students to the state education network and give them access to technology, which will prepare them for college and careers. It also will let them take the new computer-based California assessment tests.

“Getting all school sites connected is critical because the new online system provides teachers more resources to improve instruction, improves students’ test-taking experience, and ensures that results are available to teachers, parents, and students much sooner than ever before,” state Board of Education President Dr. Michael Kirst said in the release.

©2015 the Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)