I’m going to be out for most of the day so I just wanted to run quickly through a couple of big stories. I’ll be back for more regular updates tomorrow:
A ransomware called “Petya” struck Ukrainian institutions Tuesday morning and seems to be spreading around the world as the day goes on. The attack seems to be an upgrade of the “WannaCry” ransomware attack that hit Europe in mid-May, down to demanding the same $300 in bitcoins to unlock infected machines.
The fact that Ukraine seems to have been the initial target and was hit hardest has raised suspicions of Russian involvement, and earlier this morning there were people actually writing that the attack might be a prelude to some kind of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, though that seemed far-fetched and at this point doesn’t appear to be the case. At this point, in fact, I think you have to question the theory of Russian involvement, because major Russian institutions have also been affected:
Reports of attacks spread quickly on Tuesday afternoon. The Russian oil giant Rosneft and a subsidiary, Bashneft, were also hit, as was the British advertising and marketing multinational WPP. Norway’s National Security Authority said an “international company” there was affected, and Martijn Pols, a spokesman for the Port of Rotterdam, said one shipping company, APM Terminals, was targeted.
The virus even hit systems monitoring radiation at the site of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where computers running Windows were temporarily knocked offline. By midday Tuesday, reports of cyberattacks had spread as far as India and the United States, where the Merck pharmaceutical giant reported on Twitter that “our company’s computer network was compromised today as part of global hack.” The New Jersey-based company said it was investigating the attack.
Oh, ha ha, did I not mention that Chernobyl was hit? Because it was, but um, I’m sure, ah, you know, it’s all fine. Anyway while it’s true that these sorts of attacks can’t be directed once they’ve been launched, it’s hard to believe the Russian government would perpetrate a cyberattack to which one of its largest and most important companies would be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean there aren’t Russian hackers involved, just that I doubt they’re working for the Kremlin.
On Monday, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting the White House, the US State Department designated Kashmiri rebel leader Syed Salahuddin as a terrorist. Salahuddin is 71 and the leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest Kashmiri separatist group. The decision to declare him a terrorist was presumably meant as a gift to Modi but also as a message to Pakistan, against which the Trump administration has been thinking about taking a harder line over its support for insurgent/terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir. There’s a real concern that going too hard at Pakistan will cause Islamabad to move further into China’s orbit, yet in Afghanistan in particular it’s hard to see an end to the instability there without a shift in Pakistani policy. Blacklisting Salahuddin–which, by the way, did not go over well in Pakistan, where he’s seen as a freedom fighter, on Tuesday–may be a shot across Islamabad’s bow, one that sends a message without actually materially impacting the Pakistanis.
This may be nothing, but it doesn’t seem like nothing even if nobody seems to be saying much about it:
Officials and residents in Somalia’s Puntland region say they saw a large ship off the country’s coast explode and gradually begin to sink Monday.
Witnesses in the coastal town of Muranyo describe the ship as looking like a warship, although it was not possible to immediately identify the vessel. They say two other ships in the area came to the aid of the sinking ship and rescued its crew.
The region is frequently patrolled by the European Union Naval Force Somalia to disrupt piracy and protect vulnerable shipping, including World Food Program vessels.
“The ship sank around sunset on Monday. Then, two warships came. Locals saw them evacuating the crew. No one has contacted us and we had no ability to extend a rescue at nighttime,” said Ali Shire Osman, the chairman of the northern Somali port town of Alula.
A spokeswoman for the EU’s Naval Force says that all its ships are fine and none have been called in to assist with any kind of rescue or ship in distress. And that’s really it. I’ve seen nothing else on this story as of mid-day Tuesday. What actually happened? Did anything actually happen? It seems hard to believe that a bunch of people invented an exploding and sinking ship, but what explains the lack of any other news?
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