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January 9 2016

January 13, 2016



9 January 2016


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Springfield test center gets OK for drone projects

Feds approve work on rock slides, invasive species.

Posted: 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 1, 2016

By Matt Sanctis

DDN Staff Writer


The Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aerial Systems Center in Springfield has received federal permission for projects ranging from scanning for invasive species near Akron to looking for ways to prevent rock slides in southern Ohio.

The news comes at a time when interest in using drones for business and other purposes is expanding rapidly. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to release rules that would detail how businesses could safely use the drones as early as this summer, said David Gallagher, a spokesman for the UAS Test Center in Springfield. In the meantime, the FAA is allowing some businesses and government entities to operates the drones under specific conditions.

“I think we’re out there more than most states,” Gallagher said. “We’re trying to prepare for what people are saying is an economic boom and make sure we’re helping small businesses fly and agencies test this new technology.”

A 2013 report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicted that in the first three years of integration into U.S. airspace, more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the U.S. with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion. Over the next 10 years, the UAS market is expected to be a $114 billion industry nationally, with a potential to create 100,000 jobs over the next decade, according to information from the UAS Test Center.

The FAA’s section 333 exemptions will allow the UAS center to operate statewide, primarily in rural areas, but not near airports. Separate Certificates of Authorization, called COAs, are granted to public entities like cities, and allow operators to fly drones under strict conditions, typically requiring a specific vehicle, airspace and purpose.

Overall, the Springfield center has 17 COAs for projects in Ohio, Gallagher said. The center is working with 14 colleges and universities to conduct research in projects across the state. Clark State and Sinclair community colleges have been heavily involved with work in the emerging field.

Proposals approved by the FAA in the most recent announcement include:

• An exemption allowing the UAS Center to partner with the University of Akron and use drones to map native and invasive plants in the Panzer Wetlands area near Akron.

• An exemption to partner with the University of Cincinnati to test sensors at Wilmington Airpark that might assist emergency responders to predict and prevent forest fires.


• A COA allowing the test center to train ODOT pilots and sensor operators in an area near Deer Creek State Park.

• A COA allowing ODOT to examine erosion on a hill in southern Ohio to help prevent rock slides on a major highway.

• A COA allowing law enforcement officials in London, Ohio, to test drones to see if they can be helpful in investigating traffic accidents and promoting safety.


“Basically it’s just opening some airspace for us to go fly these unmanned aircraft systems,” Gallagher said of the FAA’s decision to approve the Ohio projects.

Just one year ago, no businesses in the state could operate a drone for commercial purposes, Gallagher said. Six months ago that grew to 30, and now there are closer to 70, he said.

“We’re heading in the right direction, and there are 70 companies in Ohio that have 333 exemptions across the state for a variety of purposes, whether it’s just aerial photography or data collection, using it for construction or precision agriculture,” he said.

The ODOT project to prevent rock slides will take place along U.S. 52 in Lawrence County, said Matt Bruning, a spokesman for the agency. The highway runs along a steep rock face, and a boulder fell and shut down the highway as recently as April.

Typically, ODOT crews climb the hill along the cliff face and rappel down to evaluate the rock and determine if sections are chipping away or separating. If so, crews can remove those sections before they cause damage. The COA will allow ODOT officials to try using a drone to evaluate the rock face instead. That would be quicker and could be safer for workers.

It’s not clear if the technology will pan out, but the COA will allow ODOT to test which method is most effective, Bruning said.

“Depending how big of a section they’re inspecting, it could be an all-day affair to go up and down this cliff,” Bruning said of the current method. “If you fly this (drone), you could probably have the whole thing inspected in 20 minutes, review the tape and see if anything warrants a closer look.”



FAA: Drone Serial Number Search Will Reveal Names, Addresses,2817,2496868,00.asp?mailing_id=1528757&mailing=whatsnewnow&mailingID=BE09C25CBC72750FF265210905727D32

By David Murphy

December 19, 2015 04:21pm EST


The move won’t thrill privacy advocates, but at least you’ll be able to know who owns the drone that just flew into your lawn.

We’re not going to encourage you to break the law, but we totally understand why you might want to do so—at least where it concerns the drone you just bought. The Federal Aviation Administration is going to launch its drone registration system this Monday, which means that everyone who owns or purchases a drone will have to cough up their name, mailing address, and $5 or face undisclosed penalties if caught flying an unregistered drone.

The problem? According to the FAA, a person’s name and address are going to be public within its database. You won’t be able to search for John Smith and find out where he lives (well, where all the John Smiths live), but you will be able to look up a person if you happen to know the registration number of a particular drone.

So, while that might be helpful if you need to know who just flew a drone into your backyard, the potential for abuse of this system is certainly high—at least, it feels high to us. The entire situation wasn’t helped by the confusing language the FAA has been using when describing this national drone registry. Initially, the FAA made it sound as if everything in the database would be fairly private:

“The FAA will be able to see the data that you enter. The FAA is using a contractor to maintain the website and database, and that contractor also will be able to see the data that you enter. Like the FAA, the contractor is required to comply with strict legal requirements to protect the confidentiality of the personal data you provide. Under certain circumstances, law enforcement officers might also be able to see the data,” read the FAA’s FAQ.

However, a separate filing from the U.S. Department of Transportation makes the registration system sound a bit less private.

“All records maintained by the FAA in connection with aircraft registered are included in the Aircraft Registry and made available to the public, except email address and credit card information submitted under part 48,” reads a filing from the DOT.

Forbes contributor John Goglia queried the DOT to get a sense of what, exactly, is happen with the registry. After multiple attempts to get some kind of clarification, an FAA spokesperson wrote back with the following:

“Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches.”


Boeing: US Air Force’s Bomber Selection ‘Irreparably Flawed’

Lara Seligman

December 20, 2015


WASHINGTON — Boeing late last week took the next step in its protest of the US Air Force’s decision to award the Long Range Strike-Bomber to Northrop Grumman, saying the service’s selection process was “irreparably flawed.”

The Air Force had until Dec. 6 to file a report to the Government Accountability Office on Boeing’s protest of the award. In response, Boeing on Dec. 17 submitted a 133-page brief to the GAO reaffirming its argument that the selection process for the LRS-B was “fundamentally flawed.”

“The Boeing and Lockheed Martin team believe that the Air Force’s selection process was irreparably flawed and therefore have decided to continue with their protest before the GAO,” according to a Dec. 18 Boeing statement.

Boeing, which along with partner Lockheed Martin submitted the losing bid, takes issue with the cost evaluation performed by the government, saying it did not properly reward the team’s cost-savings initiatives, and did not properly evaluate the comparative risk of Northrop’s ability to perform.

The GAO has until Feb. 14 to issue a decision.

Northrop Grumman also filed comments with the GAO in support of the Air Force’s contract award, according to a Dec. 19 statement from company spokesman Randy Belote. Northrop is now “even more confident” that the Air Force followed a careful selection process in picking a winner, Belote said.

“Northrop Grumman remains confident that we offered an inherently more affordable solution, reflecting our long and successful record of innovation, and that the GAO will affirm the Air Force’s decision,” Belote said. “The Air Force made the right choice in selecting Northrop Grumman to produce America’s new bomber and we look forward to getting back to work to fulfill this vital mission.”


United Nations Seeks to Head off Rise of Killer Robots

Dec 20, 2015 |

by Bryant Jordan


Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.

Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.

Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.

“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”

But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.

Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.

“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”

When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”

The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.

“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”

During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.

Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models

Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.

“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.

Nearly a billion PCs run this notoriously insecure software. Now Oracle has to clean it up.

By Brian Fung December 21 at 12:42 PM


Oracle, one of the nation’s largest tech companies, is settling federal charges that it misled consumers about the security of its software, which is installed on roughly 850 million computers around the world.

The company won’t be paying a fine, and it isn’t admitting to any wrongdoing or fault in its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. But Oracle will be required to tell consumers explicitly if they have outdated, insecure copies of the software — and to help them remove it.

The software, known as Java SE, helps power many of the features consumers expect to see when they browse the Web, from browser-based games to online chatrooms. But security experts say Java is notoriously vulnerable to attack. It has been linked to a staggering array of security flaws that can enable hackers to steal personal information from users, including the login information for people’s financial accounts, the FTC said.

When Oracle bought Java in 2010, it knew that Java was insecure, the FTC alleged in its initial complaint. Internal corporate records seized by the FTC noted that the “Java update mechanism is not aggressive enough or simply not working.”

Although the company issued updates to fix the vulnerabilities as they were discovered, the updates didn’t uninstall the older, problematic versions of Java, leaving them on the customer’s computer. Oracle never informed users of the fact, the FTC alleged, enabling hackers take advantage of those unpatched flaws.

“When a company’s software is on hundreds of millions of computers, it is vital that its statements are true and its security updates actually provide security for the software,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

As a result, the FTC said, Oracle ran afoul of federal rules aimed at discouraging unfair or deceptive conduct. Oracle is being required to tell users if they have outdated versions of Java on their computers and to “give them the option to uninstall it,” according to the FTC. If Oracle violates the terms of its settlement, the company could be subject to fines from the FTC.

An Oracle spokesperson declined to comment.

In a blog post by Nicole Fleming, the FTC’s Consumer Education Specialist, the agency recommended consumers to visit to remove older versions of the program. The post was published under the headline: “What’s worse than stale coffee? Stale Java.”



Iranian Hackers Infiltrated New York Dam in 2013

Cyberspies had access to control system of small structure near Rye in 2013, sparking concerns that reached to the White House

By Danny Yadron

Dec. 20, 2015 8:49 p.m. ET


Iranian hackers infiltrated the control system of a small dam less than 20 miles from New York City two years ago, sparking concerns that reached to the White House, according to former and current U.S. officials and experts familiar with the previously undisclosed incident.

The breach came amid attacks by hackers linked to Iran’s government against the websites of U.S. banks, and just a few years after American spies had damaged an Iranian nuclear facility with a sophisticated computer worm called Stuxnet. In October 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called out Iran’s hacking, prompting fears of cyberwar.

The still-classified dam intrusion illustrates a top concern for U.S. officials as they enter an age of digital state-on-state conflict. America’s power grid, factories, pipelines, bridges and dams—all prime targets for digital armies—are sitting largely unprotected on the Internet. And, unlike in a traditional war, it is sometimes difficult to know whether or where an opponent has struck. In the case of the dam hack, federal investigators initially thought the target might have been a much larger dam in Oregon.

Many of the computers controlling industrial systems are old and predate the consumer Internet. In the early digital days, this was touted as a security advantage. But companies, against the advice of hacking gurus, increasingly brought them online in the past decade as a way to add “smarts” to U.S. infrastructure. Often, they are connected directly to office computer networks, which are notoriously easy to breach.

These systems control the flow in pipelines, the movements of drawbridges and water releases from dams. A hacker could theoretically cause an explosion, a flood or a traffic jam.

The U.S. has more than 57,000 industrial-control systems connected to the Internet, more than any other country, according to researchers at Shodan, a search engine that catalogs each machine online. They range from office air-conditioning units to major pipelines and electrical-control systems.

Security experts say companies have done little to protect these systems from would-be hackers.

“Everything is being integrated, which is great, but it’s not very secure,” said Cesar Cerrudo, an Argentine researcher and chief technology officer at IOActive Labs, a security-consulting firm. At a hacker conference last year in Las Vegas, Mr. Cerrudo wowed the audience when he showed how he could manipulate traffic lights in major U.S. cities.

Operators of these systems “don’t think about security,” he said.

The threat of physical damage is real. Last winter, the German government said in a report that hackers broke into the control system at a domestic steel plant and caused “massive” damage to a blast furnace.

The U.S. and other governments use cyberweapons, too. In the early years of President Barack Obama’s term, the U.S. and Israel used a sophisticated computer program to disable centrifuges at Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz, according to former U.S. officials. The virus unintentionally self-replicated and spread to other networks, including systems at Chevron Corp. Executives at the oil company said no damage occurred.

The Department of Homeland Security has publicly warned industrial companies since 2011 to be more judicious in how they connect these systems to the Internet. One 2014 missive said the devices are poorly protected, “further increasing the chances of both opportunistic and targeted” hacking attempts.

For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, the department had received and responded to reports of 295 industrial-control-system hacking incidents, up from 245 for fiscal year 2014, according to agency statistics shared with The Wall Street Journal. The problem doesn’t appear to be getting better. In June, the department said a “critical infrastructure asset owner” who suspected a breach hadn’t kept records of devices on its network, hindering the investigation.

Most of the time, the hackers appear to be probing systems to see how they are laid out and where they can get in, investigators familiar with the incidents said.

The incident at the New York dam was a wake-up call for U.S. officials, demonstrating that Iran had greater digital-warfare capability than believed and could inflict real-world damage, according to people familiar with the matter. At a congressional hearing in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called Iranian hackers “motivated and unpredictable cyber actors.” Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The 2013 dam hack highlighted another challenge for America’s digital defenses: the fog of cyberwar. Amid a mix of three-letter agencies, unclear Internet addresses and rules governing domestic surveillance, U.S. officials at first weren’t able to determine where the hackers had infiltrated, three of the people familiar with the incident said.

Hackers are believed to have gained access to the dam through a cellular modem, according to an unclassified Homeland Security summary of the case that doesn’t specify the type of infrastructure by name. Two people familiar with the incident said the summary refers to the Bowman Avenue Dam, a small structure used for flood control near Rye, N.Y.

Investigators said hackers didn’t take control of the dam but probed the system, according to people familiar with the matter.

Homeland Security said it doesn’t comment on specific incidents. Spokesman S.Y. Lee said the department’s “Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team responds to cyber incidents, vulnerabilities and threats” to critical infrastructure across the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies noticed the intrusion as they monitored computers they believed were linked to Iranian hackers targeting American firms, according to people familiar with the matter. U.S. officials had linked these hackers to repeated disruptions at consumer-banking websites, including those of Capital One Financial Corp. , PNC Financial Services Group and SunTrust Banks Inc., the Journal reported at the time.

Intelligence analysts then noticed that one of the machines was crawling the Internet, looking for vulnerable U.S. industrial-control systems. The hackers appeared to be focusing on certain Internet addresses, according to the people.

Analysts at the National Security Agency relayed these addresses to counterparts at Homeland Security, the people said.


Eventually, investigators linked one address to a “Bowman” dam. But there are 31 dams in the U.S. that include the word “Bowman” in their name, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers records.

Officials feared that hackers breached the systems at the Arthur R. Bowman Dam in Oregon, a 245-foot-tall earthen structure that irrigates local agriculture and prevents flooding in Prineville, Ore., population: 9,200. The White House was notified of the discovery, on the belief that it was a new escalation in the ongoing digital conflict with Iran, three people familiar with the incident said.

In response to a request for comment, the White House referred The Wall Street Journal to Homeland Security.

Eventually, the trail led to the Bowman Avenue Dam, the people said, near the village of Rye Brook, N.Y., a 20-foot-tall concrete slab across Blind Brook, about 5 miles from Long Island Sound. It was built in the mid-20th century for ice production, according to municipal documents.

“It’s very, very small,” said Marcus Serrano, the manager of the neighboring larger city of Rye. In 2013, Mr. Serrano said, several FBI agents appeared at city offices and wanted to speak to the city’s information-technology manager about a hacking incident at the dam. “There was very little discussion,” Mr. Serrano said.

Chris Bradbury, administrator for the village of Rye Brook, said, “I couldn’t comment on that.”

The FBI declined to comment.



Report: DoD needs big cuts in civilian, contract spending in next budget

Aaron Boyd, Senior Staff Writer 4:42 p.m. EST December 30, 2015


The Department of Defense has been following a congressional directive to reduce spending on civilian and contract employees, the department told the Government Accountability Office. However, GAO investigators say they can’t find the data to back this up.

GAO looked into whether the DoD has been complying with a mandate in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to bring down staffing levels and reduce expenses on the civilian side on par with similar reductions to military personnel, which total about 7 percent since 2012.

The DoD’s civilian staff is currently made up of about 756,000 full-time employees and at least 641,000 contractors — though that number is likely significantly higher, according to the GAO — compared with some 2.1 million military employees.

Congress also gave DoD authority to exempt certain critical civilian roles, reducing the pool for potential cuts by almost 70 percent. Under a plan submitted to Congress in February, DoD would bring the total civilian workforce — minus exclusions — from 238,000 in 2012 to 221,000 by 2017.

DoD has been tracking staff reductions since the 2013 NDAA, during which time the civilian workforce has come down by 3.3 percent, putting the department halfway to its goal. The congressional mandate was twofold, however, and DoD failed to track cost reductions in conjunction with the staff cuts.

During that same period, budget records show civilian personnel costs — payroll and benefits — have dropped 0.9 percent, far short of the military side, which has dropped 8.1 percent. GAO investigators said that, since the cost reductions are not specifically pegged to personnel cuts, it’s impossible to determine what effect those cuts are having on the bottom line.

Furthermore, DoD’s 2016 budget includes an increase in spending on contractors, which will only make it more difficult to make up the other half of the congressional mandate with only one more fiscal year to hit the mark, currently estimated to be about $4.1 billion.

An increase in 2016 spending means DoD only has one

An increase in 2016 spending means DoD only has one more year to account for half of its cost reduction goals. (Photo: GAO)

“At a time when the entire federal government is facing fiscal challenges that are likely to continue, DoD must plan strategically for reductions to its civilian and contractor workforces to achieve savings,” the GAO report concludes. “Fully meeting all of the requirements of [the NDAA provision] would be a step in the right direction in this regard and would provide Congress with assurance that the department is making progress.”

Without having the right data on hand, the GAO warned it could not make a proper recommendation to Congress about where cuts should be made to achieve those savings.

GAO recommended including a more comprehensive plan — including proposed staff cuts and specific cost reductions — in the president’s 2017 budget proposal.


Putin names United States among threats in new Russian security strategy


Sat Jan 2, 2016 6:30am EST

MOSCOW | By Vladimir Soldatkin


A new appraisal names the United States as one of the threats to Russia’s national security for the first time, a sign of how relations with the west have deteriorated in recent years.

The document, “About the Strategy of National Security of Russian Federation”, was signed by President Vladimir Putin on New Year’s Eve. It replaces a 2009 version, endorsed by then- President Dmitry Medvedev, the current prime minister, which mentioned neither the United States not NATO.

It says Russia has managed to heighten its role in solving global problems and international conflicts. That heightened role has caused a reaction by the West, it says.

“The strengthening of Russia happens against the background of new threats to the national security, which has complex and interrelated nature,” the document says.

Conducting an independent policy, “both international and domestic” has caused “counteraction from the USA and its allies, which are striving to retain their dominance in global affairs.”

That in turn is likely to lead to “political, economical, military and informational pressure” on Russia, the document says.”

Relations between Russia and the West reached a low after Russian forces annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014, after protests in Ukraine forced its pro-Moscow president to flee to Russia.


Since then, the West has accused Russia of aiding insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies actively assisting the rebels.

The United States and the European Union have since imposed wide-ranging sanctions against Russian individuals and companies. Moscow has reacted by restricting food and other goods from the EU.

The document says that the United States and the EU have supported an “anti-constitutional coup d’etat in Ukraine”, which led to a deep divide in Ukrainian society and a military conflict.

It also names the expansion of NATO as a threat to Russia’s national security and said that the United States has expanded its network of military-biological laboratories in neighbouring to Russia countries.

The document, which serves as a basis for planning strategy related to national security by different state bodies, does not mention Syria. On Sept. 30, Russia began air strikes against anti-government rebels opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally.


First known hacker-caused power outage signals troubling escalation

Highly destructive malware creates “destructive events” at 3 Ukrainian substations.

by Dan Goodin – Jan 4, 2016 3:36pm EST


Highly destructive malware that infected at least three regional power authorities in Ukraine led to a power failure that left hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity last week, researchers said.

The outage left about half of the homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine without electricity, Ukrainian news service TSN reported in an article posted a day after the December 23 failure. The report went on to say that the outage was the result of malware that disconnected electrical substations. On Monday, researchers from security firm iSIGHT Partners said they had obtained samples of the malicious code that infected at least three regional operators. They said the malware led to “destructive events” that in turn caused the blackout. If confirmed it would be the first known instance of someone using malware to generate a power outage.

“It’s a milestone because we’ve definitely seen targeted destructive events against energy before—oil firms, for instance—but never the event which causes the blackout,” John Hultquist, head of iSIGHT’s cyber espionage intelligence practice, told Ars. “It’s the major scenario we’ve all been concerned about for so long.”

Researchers from antivirus provider ESET have confirmed that multiple Ukrainian power authorities were infected by “BlackEnergy,” a package discovered in 2007 that was updated two years ago to include a host of new functions, including the ability to render infected computers unbootable. More recently, ESET found, the malware was updated again to add a component dubbed KillDisk, which destroys critical parts of a computer hard drive and also appears to have functions that sabotage industrial control systems. The latest BlackEnergy also includes a backdoored secure shell (SSH) utility that gives attackers permanent access to infected computers.


“Perfectly capable”

Until now, BlackEnergy has mainly been used to conduct espionage on targets in news organizations, power companies, and other industrial groups. While ESET stopped short of saying the BlackEnergy infections hitting the power companies were responsible for last week’s outage, the company left little doubt that one or more of the BlackEnergy components had that capability. In a blog post published Monday, ESET researchers wrote:

Our analysis of the destructive KillDisk malware detected in several electricity distribution companies in Ukraine indicates that it is theoretically capable of shutting down critical systems. However, there is also another possible explanation. The BlackEnergy backdoor, as well as a recently discovered SSH backdoor, themselves provide attackers with remote access to infected systems. After having successfully infiltrated a critical system with either of these trojans, an attacker would, again theoretically, be perfectly capable of shutting it down. In such case, the planted KillDisk destructive trojan would act as a means of making recovery more difficult.

Over the past year, the group behind BlackEnergy has slowly ramped up its destructive abilities. Late last year, according to an advisory from Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team, the KillDisk module of BlackEnergy infected media organizations in that country and led to the permanent loss of video and other content. The KillDisk that hit the Ukrainian power companies contained similar functions but was programmed to delete a much narrower set of data, ESET reported. KillDisk had also been updated to sabotage two computer processes, including a remote management platform associated with the ELTIMA Serial to Ethernet Connectors used in industrial control systems.

In 2014, the group behind BlackEnergy, which iSIGHT has dubbed the Sandworm gang, targeted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Ukrainian and Polish government agencies, and a variety of sensitive European industries. iSIGHT researchers say the Sandworm gang has ties to Russia, although readers are cautioned on attributing hacking attacks to specific groups or governments.

According to ESET, the Ukrainian power authorities were infected using booby-trapped macro functions embedded in Microsoft Office documents. If true, it’s distressing that industrial control systems used to supply power to millions of people could be infected using such a simple social-engineering ploy. It’s also concerning that malware is now being used to create power failures that can have life-and-death consequences for large numbers of people.

Ukrainian authorities are investigating a suspected hacking attack on its power grid, the Reuters news service reported last week. ESET has additional technical details about the latests BlackEnergy package here.

While Saudi Arabia’s largest gas producer was also infected by destructive malware in 2012, there’s no confirmation it affected production. iSIGHT’s report suggests a troubling escalation in malware-controlled conflict that has consequences for industrialized nations everywhere.


Program Seeks Ability To Assemble Atom-Sized Pieces Into Practical Products

DARPA selects 10 performers to develop technologies that bridge the existing manufacturing gap between nano-scale pieces and millimeter-scale components


December 29, 2015

DARPA recently launched its Atoms to Product (A2P) program, with the goal of developing technologies and processes to assemble nanometer-scale pieces—whose dimensions are near the size of atoms—into systems, components, or materials that are at least millimeter-scale in size. At the heart of that goal was a frustrating reality: Many common materials, when fabricated at nanometer-scale, exhibit unique and attractive “atomic-scale” behaviors including quantized current-voltage behavior, dramatically lower melting points and significantly higher specific heats—but they tend to lose these potentially beneficial traits when they are manufactured at larger “product-scale” dimensions, typically on the order of a few centimeters, for integration into devices and systems.

DARPA recently selected 10 performers to tackle this challenge: Zyvex Labs, Richardson, Texas; SRI, Menlo Park, California; Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts; University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana; HRL Laboratories, Malibu, California; PARC, Palo Alto, California; Embody, Norfolk, Virginia; Voxtel, Beaverton, Oregon; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The ability to assemble atomic-scale pieces into practical components and products is the key to unlocking the full potential of micromachines,” said John Main, DARPA program manager. “The DARPA Atoms to Product Program aims to bring the benefits of microelectronic-style miniaturization to systems and products that combine mechanical, electrical, and chemical processes.”

The program calls for closing the assembly gap in two steps: From atoms to microns and from microns to millimeters. Performers are tasked with addressing one or both of these steps and have been assigned to one of three working groups, each with a distinct focus area.

To view summary descriptions of each performer’s planned work within the three working groups click here at



FAA: 181,000 drones registered in two weeks

Jan 6, 2016, 2:43pm EST

Tristan Navera

Staff Reporter

Dayton Business Journal


The Federal Aviation Administration says 181,000 drones were registered in its new system in the two weeks since it launched.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said the number is a strong one considering the program started Dec. 21. Under its rules, all craft of a certain size must be registered to fly outdoors by Feb. 19 or face civil or criminal penalties.

In pushing for drone registration, the FAA said it “supports the safety mission of the FAA” and “unites UAS users and traditional aviation safety values.” This comes as it has pushed hard on a new mobile application, B4UFLY, aimed at educating drone pilots before they take off.

“We expect B4UFLY will help raise public awareness about what it means to operate unmanned aircraft safely,” Huerta said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “It is another important part of our education and awareness efforts to foster a culture of safety and accountability for the UAS community.”

The project is a comparative drop in the bucket compared to how many drones are in consumer hands — an estimated 1 million were sold last year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. But the program targets craft between about hald a pound and 55 pounds in weight — covering the great majority of kinds that would be used hobbyists and small drone businesses.

This marks a much larger effort by Huerta and the FAA to corral the fast-growing world of unmanned systems — which has accelerated especially in the past two years as hundreds of thousands of new craft have landed in the hands of consumers in the United States.

Drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are expected to create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact over the next decade, but safety and privacy concerns have dogged the development of the industry, where Dayton leaders have pushed to play a role.


Air Force to trim civilian workforce in 2016

By Phillip Swarts and Aaron Boyd, Staff writers 2:45 p.m. EST January 6, 2016


The Air Force is likely to cut its civilian workforce in 2016, the service said Wednesday in a news release.

“In a continuing effort to meet Defense Department funding targets and rebalance the civilian workforce, some Air Force installations will implement civilian reduction in force authorities effective through April 4,” a Pentagon statement said.

An assessment in August identified that the service had 1,000 civilian “overages” at 48 installations.

“Voluntary efforts to balance the civilian workforce since fiscal year 2014 have moved us significantly closer to our target manning levels,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “We have reduced the number of affected employees through several rounds of voluntary separation and retirement programs as well as reassignments to vacant positions.”

The Air Force is also attempting to reassign civilians to other positions, which could mean a drop in grade for some.

“The remaining employees will be offered registration in the DoD Priority Placement Program and receive consideration for future vacancies according to their registration,” the release said.

Debra Warner, director of civilian force management policy, said that “the Air Force recognizes and strives to balance the invaluable contributions of our civilian workforce with the fiscal realities under which the DoD and the government as a whole are operating.”

Under a plan submitted to Congress in February, the Defense Department is attempting to bring the total civilian workforce — minus exclusions for certain positions — from 238,000 in 2012 to 221,000 by 2017, according to Federal Times, a sister publication of Air Force Times.

Ever since Congress mandated cuts in spending with the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon has been trying to have civilian reductions match similar reductions to military personnel — about 7 percent since 2012, Federal Times said.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ top watchdog, noted in a 2015 report that “at a time when the entire federal government is facing fiscal challenges that are likely to continue, DoD must plan strategically for reductions to its civilian and contractor workforces to achieve savings.”

“Fully meeting all of the requirements of [the NDAA provision] would be a step in the right direction in this regard and would provide Congress with assurance that the department is making progress,” the GAO report concluded.


Tablet Shipments Seen Falling 8% in 2015

Market looks to be transitioning to detachable tablets, according to data tracker IDC

By Ezequiel Minaya

Dec. 1, 2015 10:10 a.m. ET


Global tablet shipments are expected to fall 8.1% in 2015 from a year ago, as a shift to detachable tablets hasn’t yet been enough to offset a decline in the overall market, according to data tracker International Data Corp.

Tablet shipments will reach 211.3 million units in 2015, IDC said Tuesday, but have declined in three consecutive quarters this year. Tablet sales have been hurt, in part, by the growing size and sophistication of smartphones.

Despite the decline, IDC said the market was transitioning to detachable tablets, which come with optional keyboards. The detachable segment was seen growing 75% in 2015 and nearly doubling in size in 2016, IDC said.

“We’re starting to see the impact of competition within this space as the major platform vendors—Apple, Google and Microsoft —now have physical product offerings,” said Jean Philippe Bouchard, the research director of IDC’s tablets division.

The transition to detachables will help stoke two other trends, IDC said, including the growth of the Windows operating system and a turnaround for Apple’s iPad line.

“Though early reviews for the iPad Pro have been mixed, we believe the Pro to be the only reason for Apple to gain tablet market share in the coming years,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst of IDC’s world-wide mobile device trackers. “At the same time we expect Windows-based devices—slates and detachables combined—to more than double its market share by 2019.”

The iPad Pro was unveiled in September and included a keyboard cover, a processor that Apple says is more powerful than 80% of notebook computers shipped in the past year, and an ultra high-resolution screen with the same dimensions as a notebook computer.


US Presidential Candidates Want a Sunni Arab Coalition to Fight ISIS. They Need a Reality Check.

America deems ISIS a major threat, but to Saudi Arabia and Gulf states the priority is Iran.

By Joe Gould


WASHINGTON — Several US presidential candidates from both parties share a bullet point in their plans to fight the Islamic State group while limiting American ground troops’ involvement: Build a coalition of Sunni Arab nations to help shoulder the effort.

Unfortunately, there is a wide gap between this attractive idea and the muddy reality of Middle Eastern politics.

Candidates differ on the number of US ground troops to send, if any, and the establishment of a US-patrolled no-fly zone in Syria, or whether the US should force out President Bashar al-Assad.

But Sunni Arab involvement in the fight — a key tenet of the Obama administration’s plan — has also been voiced by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, and by Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul on the Republican side. (Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who quit the race Dec. 21, also voiced this view.)

“It’s not surprising that politicians of all stripes would seize on the idea of a coalition, but the question is, what would that coalition consist of,” said Council on Foreign Relations fellow Elizabeth Saunders. “The members of this coalition will have a diverse set of goals; combating ISIS is just one of them. But it may not be in their interest to defeat ISIS. It’s not clear who the best set of actors might be. It’s a very complicated question.”

There are political and practical reasons for presidential candidates to voice this view. While the crowded race highlights schisms in both parties about how much force to commit to the fight, it has become untenable after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, not to have a plan to defeat the group.

In a recent AP-GfK poll, 56 percent of Americans felt the military response from countries that have joined the US against the group has been inadequate. The poll also revealed that while more Americans than ever support sending US ground troops to fight the Islamic State, the number is still less than half.

On a practical level, maintaining a Sunni Arab face in the fight against the Islamic State would skirt the radical group’s apocalyptic narrative of a civilizational struggle of Islam versus the West and allow the US to potentially expend less blood and treasure.

“There’s a lot out there that says significant US ground troops going into action against ISIS is their dream,” Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon, told Defense News. “We should have some very serious conversations with the Saudis and others before we commit to any such thing. If they’re straight with us, they would say it’s a hideously bad idea.”

Enlisting greater involvement from Sunni Arab nations is easier said than done, Crocker said. The main obstacle to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States assuming a large role in such a coalition is that these countries view the Islamic State group as less of a threat than Iran and what they see as Iran’s proxies: Assad, the Baghdad government and Shia militias in Iraq, as well as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“That’s the real danger for these [Arab Gulf] capitals,” Crocker said. “It doesn’t resonate with them when we say you have to go after the Islamic State, and Assad can stay. Well, he is the extension of Iranian influence, backed by the Shiite militias, backed by Hazzara elements out of Afghanistan and supported by the Russians. We’re asking [Sunni Arab nations] to forget about all that and they think we’re nuts.”

“It doesn’t resonate with them when we say you have to go after the Islamic State, and Assad can stay. Well, he is the extension of Iranian influence, backed by the Shiite militias, backed by Hazzara elements out of Afghanistan and supported by the Russians. We’re asking [Sunni Arab nations] to forget about all that and they think we’re nuts.”

The sectarian-tinged rancor between the Gulf states and Iran has only grown since Riyadh executed a Shiite cleric and 46 prisoners on Jan. 2, sparking an attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia, followed by Bahrain, Somalia and Sudan, have since severed diplomatic relations with Iran, and the United Arab Emirates announced it was downgrading relations with Iran.

Speaking soon after a trip to the Mideast, though before the recent escalation of tensions, Crocker said the US is broadly viewed as allying itself with Iran, Russia, Bashar al-Assad and the Kurds against Sunni Arabs. “And until we shift that, nothing good is going to happen,” Crocker said.


“The Saudis, the Emiratis and others know how the dynamics in Syria and Iraq and perceived, that we are effectively siding with Iran and its allies, so they know if they come in a robust way, they’re going to get tarred by their own populations as effectively siding with the Washington-Tehran axis,” Crocker said.

To these Gulf states, who agree that Assad must go, the recent softening of the US stance on regime change in Syria will only alienate them more. US Secretary of State John Kerry in mid-December followed a day of meetings in Moscow with remarks suggesting the US wasn’t committed to a policy of regime change in Syria.

One positive sign in recent days has been the partnership of Sunni tribesmen, the Iraqi Army and American airstrikes in the retaking of Ramadi, populated by Sunnis and the capital of Anbar.

Speaking days ahead of this big victory, Crocker said the key will be whether the force that holds the city will be made up of Shia militiamen or include indigenous tribal elements. Will Ramadi become another Tikrit, liberated by the Iraqi Army and tribal forces last March only to descend into sectarian violence?

But what of Sunni Arab states in the region? As difficult as it would be to re-engage them, is it worth the effort? Yes, said Crocker, who believes US political and military disengagement in recent years “left the show to the Iranians.”

He argues for a renewed diplomatic effort to hear out potential allies, and in Iraq, aimed at disentangling Baghdad from the influence of Iran and its Shia militia proxies.

“It would take John Kerry going to Baghdad and sitting there for a week or two, engaging, not just the prime minister, but all the political leaders,” Crocker said. “It would also take the president working the phones, and I don’t think he’s inclined to do that.”

Another former public official who favors engaging Sunni Arabs, former Defense Secretary and Sen. Bill Cohen, agreed that a complicated diplomatic effort is necessary to succeed. First, Baghdad must be convinced to include Sunnis in its government if it ever hopes to enlist them in the fight, and then Kerry must reach an agreement with Assad’s ally Russia for his transition out.

“The problem to date is that unless the Sunnis see a role for themselves in Iraq, they are not going to take on ISIS, and that leaves it to the West,” Cohen said. “They can’t resolve it on their own, they need to have the West involved, but it can’t look as if this is the West driving into the heart of the Arab world.”


Navy looks to remove ‘man’ from all job titles

By Mark D. Faram, Staff writer

January 7, 2016


The Navy secretary has ordered the service to review and possibly rename all Navy job titles that include the word “man.”

It could spell the end of time-honored Navy titles like fireman and seaman.

The Navy secretary has ordered the service to review all job titles and consider removing any reference to “man” in them, a move that could force name-changes to nearly two dozen specialties, from airman to yeoman. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the scrub as the force prepares to open the last remaining billets to women sailors in Marine ground combat elements and the Navy SEALs.

“Lastly, as we achieve full integration of the force … this is an opportunity to update the position titles and descriptions themselves to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these positions,” Mabus wrote, according to sources who quoted directly from the letter. “Ensure they are gender-integrated as well, removing “man” from their titles, and provide a report to me as soon as is practicable and no later than April 1, 2016.”

Mabus sent the directive to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. A similar memo and mandate was sent to the Marine Corps commandant, asking for the same job title review.

Some hallowed titles like seaman could be tough to replace, but others could be swapped with gender neutral descriptors as the service has done before. In 2005, for example, officials changed personnelman, a rating where many women had served, to personnel specialist.

There are at least 20 job titles that include the word “man.” Aviation has the most to review, with five of their 12 enlisted rating descriptions ending with “man.” Surface engineering includes eight.

Those don’t include the traditional entry-level designations for non-rated sailors as well as designated strikers. How the Navy finds gender neutral titles for airman, seaman and fireman is likely to prove challenging, as well as for the Seabee and medical titles of constructionman and hospitalman for non-rated sailors.

Mabus hasn’t mandated that any titles go away, according to a source familiar with the memo. He simply wants to see options for making titles as gender neutral, as part of persuading more women to make the Navy a career.

“This isn’t a isn’t a draconian edict to get rid of all references to the word ‘man,’ ” said the official, who asked not to be identified publicly while internal deliberations continue. “But it is an opportunity to look at position descriptions and change them where it makes sense.”

Nearly all of the Navy’s jobs with “man” in the title have been opened to women for decades, and without interruption since the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was enacted in 1948.

Women were allowed on active duty briefly during and after World War I as “yeomanettes” and again in a greater number of enlisted ratings as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) during World War II.

But since the 1948 change in law, women have served permanently in the armed forces, and have been serving in nearly all enlisted ratings ever since.

The job of coming up with these options — or justifications to keep things unchanged — will likely fall to Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran and the enlisted community managers he oversees. He’ll most likely delegate the job to his enlisted community managers.

“We are in the beginning stages of this review and are working to comply with the Secretary’s direction,” said Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for CNP told Navy Times on Jan. 7.

As the Navy has merged or created new ratings, it has opted for gender neutral titles. In 1999, the radioman rating was merged into information systems technician.

Take fire controlman. This surface fleet specialty could be renamed to match their counterparts in the submarine force, the fire control technicians.

Barring unforeseen technical reasons, adopting the sub designation Navy-wide could be an easy solution, sources say.

“Simply removing ‘man’ and replacing it with technician or specialist works in many cases,” said the source familiar with the memo.

But the toughest to alter will be long-standing titles like seaman and airman, both practically and culturally, according to senior enlisted leaders familiar with the review.

Fireman could be easily changed to engineer, the sources say, which is technically a better description today anyway with fires less common than before.


The Navy has 21 rating designations that could get changed as a result of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ mandated review of job descriptions. The job titles include “man” in the title and could be removed:

Apprentice, non-rate designations:

  • Airman
  • Constructionman
  • Fireman
  • Hospitalman
  • Seaman

General and compression Ratings:


  • Yeoman
  • Legalman


  • Aircrew Survival Equipmentman
  • Aviation Ordnanceman
  • Aviation Support Equipmentman
  • Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 
  • Master Chief Constructionman

Surface Engineering

  • Damage Controlman
  • Engineman
  • Machinery Repairman


  • Utilitiesman
  • Master/Senior Chief Constructionman

Surface Warfare/Ops

  • Fire Controlman
  • Mineman


  • Hospital Corpsman


  • Ships Serviceman




Drones vs. FAA

by Press • 8 January 2016


RC grounded in DC, federal court weighs cases

The nation’s second highest court now has two cases before it challenging recent actions taken by the FAA to regulate aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and flown by hobbyists.

The legal tug of war between the FAA and enthusiasts (including the world’s largest model aircraft hobbyist organization) may be decided about 30 miles from the nearest place a hobbyist can legally fly a small unmanned aircraft, as of Sept. 2. That’s when the FAA expanded the Washington, D.C., no-drone zone far beyond its original size, which was bounded by the Flight Restricted Zone, extending up to 15 nautical miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The FAA notified the Academy of Model Aeronautics hours before updating a 1981 advisory circular on model aircraft rules to include new language that made the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area—covering everything within a 30-nm radius of the DCA VOR—a no-fly zone for model aircraft, or unmanned aircraft, terms that are defined inconsistently in various laws and regulations.

As a result, 14 AMA clubs were grounded in an instant by a single advisory circular, and the FAA added more than 2,000 square miles of Virginia and Maryland to the no-fly zone for drones, more than tripling its size.

AMA advised its members in December to comply with the September directive, noting that litigation was already underway, and that the organization was also negotiating with the FAA to resolve this particular impasse.

Caught by surprise

Being lumped in with those who fly quadcopters thousands of feet in the air near busy airports, fit them with guns, or crash them into crowds, came as a surprise to AMA members including Scott Strimple. The 44-year model aircraft enthusiast is also a captain for a major airline with more than 25,000 flight hours, and an authorized commercial operator of many of the larger camera-toting drone models used by civilians. Strimple is often called on by media organizations and others seeking education in the safe operation of small unmanned aircraft systems.

He is also out of luck if he wants to fly a radio-controlled aircraft within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Strimple, in a telephone interview, said he and fellow model aircraft enthusiasts “are just sitting here with our mouths hanging open, saying, ‘What’s this all about?'”

Hobbyists had, until June 2014, assumed that Congress had them covered, having directed the FAA in 2012 to keep its regulatory hands off hobbyists. There was, however, one exclusion within the 2012 law to that “hands off” directive, a caveat that the FAA seized upon amid growing alarm over reckless drone operators.

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.”

That sentence, vague as it may be, is shaping up to be one of the key points of debate in a legal and regulatory battle that could spill over into the manned aircraft world, in the view of Jonathan Rupprecht, a Florida attorney who has built a busy practice around unmanned aircraft. An outspoken critic of FAA drone policy, Rupprecht has authored books and blogs on the subject, and he is also a certificated flight instructor and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“I think pilots need to realize that the drone community is kind of like their crazy black sheep rebellious brother,” Rupprecht told AOPA. He likened the drone world to the “canary in the coal mine” and the “first to feel FAA overreach.”

Rupprecht, who is not representing parties in the cases now being litigated in a federal courtroom (though he noted he’s doing the research, and is available), said that if the FAA is allowed to circumvent the rulemaking process and force hobbyists to register drones (and traditional model aircraft whose operators long-believed they were exempt from FAA regulation), “what happens when the FAA starts changing it around and starts going after manned aircraft pilots?”

Flying into the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area, he noted, could get more difficult for every pilot.

“It’s not manned versus unmanned. (We) really should phrase it as, everybody should follow the law,” Rupprecht said. “The FAA did not follow the law. They’re kind of making up law, and pushing it off on one group.”

Read more


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

in Politics

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Look for more debates next week, the Republicans on Thursday night, the Democrats on Sunday. More of the same or are these races in flux?

Our first Trump Change survey of the new year finds that belief among Republicans that Donald Trump will be the next GOP presidential nominee ties its highest level ever, and among all likely voters, more than ever agree.  

As the hopefuls for the Republican presidential nomination whale away at each other in TV ads in key states, most Americans continue to say negative ads are not necessary and actually backfire on the candidates who air them.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Republicans are looking forward to this year’s presidential contest. Among Democrats, 50% are looking forward to the presidential race, but nearly as many (44%) have had enough of it already.

Following the most recent debate in mid-December, the race between the top two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination is closer than ever, but Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite among voters who are already certain of their vote in 2016.

Trump remains tied with Clinton in a hypothetical 2016 matchup.

Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife this past week in New Hampshire, but only 36% of voters now think the former president will help her run for the White House, down from 54% two years ago.

President Obama says in an op-ed in Friday’s New York Times that he will not support any presidential candidate who does not approve of his gun control efforts. Sixty percent (60%) of Democrats told Rasmussen Reports last October that an Obama endorsement is the most important to their vote. Among all voters, however, just 29% said an endorsement from the president is the one most likely to make them vote for a candidate.

Obama held a town hall on CNN Thursday to promote the new federal gun control initiatives he has put in place by executive order because he can’t get his plans through Congress. Voters don’t approve of the president’s decision to go it alone and don’t believe his actions will reduce the number of mass killings the country has experienced recently.

The president is already being challenged in federal court for his executive actions changing Obamacare and protecting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. He’s also expected to try to independently implement some of the measures in the recently concluded international climate change agreement despite strong congressional opposition.

While most voters think global warming merits immediate action, they also believe the government should only do what Congress and the president agree on. They do not want Obama going it alone on global warming or any other issue.

Also on Friday, the president vetoed a bill from Congress repealing major portions of the national health care law. It was the first time since Democratic majorities in the House and Senate passed Obamacare in 2010, that both chambers of Congress – now led by Republicans – have voted to repeal the controversial law. But Republicans don’t have the numbers to override his veto.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of voters think Congress and the president should repeal the health care law and start over again, but 49% say they should go through the law piece-by-piece to improve it. Only 11% favor keeping Obamacare as it is.

Reducing costs remains voters’ top health care priority, and they continue to believe that keeping government out of the health care market is the best way to achieve that goal.

Voters aren’t happy with Obama or Congress.   They want them to work together but are far more likely to blame Congress than the president for preventing that from happening. 

Still, the president’s monthly job approval rating was at a 2015 low in December. His daily job approval ratings remain in the mid- to high negative teens.

Voters here are worried about the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran but think America needs to mind its own business. Just 37% think U.S. involvement in Middle Eastern politics is good for the United States.

More voters than ever see a worsening relationship between the United States and the Islamic world.

In other surveys last week:

— For the third week in a row, just 26% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Our latest Consumer Spending Update finds that while consumers anticipate less retail spending this month after an expensive holiday season, look for them to be out and about more.

— Americans are more disappointed with last year than they expected to be but are more confident about 2016.

— Sixty-nine percent (69%) of adults under 40 say they have gone a week without using cash or coins.

— The older the adult, the less likely he or she is to bank online.

— One-in-five Americans (21%) now have at least one tattoo. That figure jumps to 38% among those under 40.


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