Morning Security Brief: Crimes Against Humanity Allegations, Russian Aid Denied, Firmware Vulnerabilities, and More

By Holly Gilbert Stowell

► Human Rights Watch has released a report outlining that Egyptian security forces most likely committed “crimes against humanity” when it carried out the mass killings of anti-government protesters last summer in Cairo. The 188-page report from the New York-based human rights group alleges that “Egyptian authorities presided over ‘one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history’ when they unleashed security forces to disperse two large pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on Aug. 14, leaving between 800 to 1,100 people dead.” The dossier says Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi “should be investigated for his atrocities,” according to the Washington Post, and calls on the United Nations to investigate at least nine other security officials “under the principle of universal jurisdiction,” which allows national courts to prosecute under international law.

► Fox News reports that Ukrainian officials have denied crossing to 280 trucks purportedly carrying humanitarian aid across the country’s border with Russia to the war-torn eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. According to a Ukrainian national security and defense council spokesperson, the convoy would not be allowed to pass because it had not been Red Cross-certified. It was reported on Russian television Tuesday morning that “ trucks carrying 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid were headed to Ukraine. NTV television showed hundreds of white trucks gathered at a depot outside Moscow, and said they were carrying everything from baby food to sleeping bags.” However, the Ukrainian government wants any kind of aid crossing to happen at a government-controlled border station, and fears that the delivery of such aid could spark Russian ground-troop operations. Russian officials say they have not yet decided where the trucks would cross the border, and it could take several days before it reaches Ukraine.

► Firmware, a fundamental type of software that exists on all kinds of computer hardware, is littered with poor encryption and backdoors that could allow hackers to more easily infiltrate the “Internet of things,” according to a new study. The research comes out of Eurecom, a technology-focused graduate school in France. Firmware is the software that communicates between computer programs and the underlying hardware, and is found on everything from security cameras to printers and Web routers. According to InfoWorld, researchers “found a variety of security issues, including poorly-protected encryption mechanisms and backdoors that could allow access to devices. More than 123 products contained some of the 38 vulnerabilities they found, which they reported privately to vendors.” Firmware is different from software in that it does not receive regular security patches, and often relies on third-party software “that may not be current” to stay clean of vulnerabilities. The researchers are set to unveil their findings next week at the 23rd Usenix Security Symposium in San Diego.

► In other news, Police have fired teargas and rubber bullets at crowds in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests continue following the shooting death by police of an unarmed 18 year-old on Saturday; ⇒ London’s financial district is beefing up its cybersecurity and intelligence operations, according to the Wall Street Journal; ⇒ and the most recent ceasefire agreement is holding between Hamas and Israel, which began on Sunday and is set to last 72-hours.


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