Ex-Uber security chief sentenced for 2016 data-breach cover-up

An Uber sign is displayed at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. (AP)
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Updated 05 May 2023
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Ex-Uber security chief sentenced for 2016 data-breach cover-up

  • Joseph Sullivan sentenced to a three-year term of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000
  • The hackers pleaded guilty in 2019 to computer fraud conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing

SAN FRANCISCO: The former chief security officer for Uber was sentenced to probation Thursday for trying to cover up a 2016 data breach in which hackers accessed tens of millions of customer records from the ride-hailing service.

Joseph Sullivan was sentenced to a three-year term of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000, the US attorney’s office announced.
Sullivan, 54, of Palo Alto was convicted by a federal jury in San Francisco last October of obstructing justice and concealing knowledge that a federal felony had been committed.
It was believed to be the first criminal prosecution of a company executive over a data breach.
Sullivan was hired as Uber’s chief security officer in 2015. In November 2016, Sullivan was emailed by hackers, and employees quickly confirmed that they had stolen records on about 57 million users and also 600,000 driver’s license numbers, prosecutors said.
After learning of the breach, Sullivan began a scheme to hide it from the public and the Federal Trade Commission, which had been investigating a smaller 2014 hack, authorities said.
According to the US attorney’s office, Sullivan told subordinates that “the story outside of the security group was to be that ‘this investigation does not exist,’ ” and arranged to pay the hackers $100,000 in bitcoin in exchange for them signing non-disclosure agreements promising not to reveal the hack. He also never mentioned the breach to Uber lawyers who were involved with the FTC’s inquiry, prosecutors said.
Uber’s new management began investigating the breach in the fall of 2017. Despite Sullivan lying to the new chief executive officer and others, the truth was uncovered, and the breach was made public, prosecutors said.
Sullivan was fired along with Craig Clark, an Uber lawyer he had told about the breach. Clark was given immunity by prosecutors and testified against Sullivan.
Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 15 months in federal prison for Sullivan, who submitted more than 100 letters of support from friends, family and colleagues.
In an April sentencing memo, prosecutors said that showed that Sullivan is “a wealthy, powerful man” with a deep network of family and friends.
“There cannot be two different systems of justice, one for the privileged and another for the rest,” the memo argued. “Any such perception would do grievous damage to public respect for the law.”
His lawyers argued that Sullivan already “has suffered, and will continue to suffer, significant consequences because of this case.”
No other Uber executives were charged in the case.
The hackers pleaded guilty in 2019 to computer fraud conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.


Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 

Updated 9 min 48 sec ago
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Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 

  • Ranjit Singh was first Maharaja of Sikh Empire, which ruled northwest Indian subcontinent in 19th century
  • Death anniversary rituals will be centered around the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal city

ISLAMABAD: Around 447 Sikh pilgrims from India have arrived at the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib shrine in the Pakistani city of Hassan Abdal to attend events marking the 185th death anniversary of Ranjit Singh, the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, state media reported on Sunday.

Sikhs are a small minority mostly based in the Punjab region that is divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India, but several key Sikh holy sites are in Pakistan, including the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib, some 45 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. The shrine is one of Sikhism’s holiest sites and it is believed that the handprint of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, is imprinted on a boulder there.

Nanak was born in what is now called Nankana Sahib in present-day Pakistan. Ranjit Singh, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab or “Lion of Punjab,” was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century.

“As many as 447 Indian Sikh pilgrims have arrived at the Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassan Abdal to participate in rituals in connection with the 185th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” Radio Pakistan said on Sunday. 

The pilgrims were welcomed by officials of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as well as the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a key government department that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after partition.

Group leader Sardar Khushwint Singh thanked the government for allowing a large number of Sikh pilgrims to visit religious sites in Pakistan, the report said.

The Sikh pilgrims arrived in Pakistan by foot on Friday through the Wagha Border, according to the ETPB, where they were welcomed by Additional Secretary Shrines Saif Ullah Khokhar, along with the head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, who is also the provincial minister for minority affairs. 

Khokhar told media the pilgrims would be provided free accommodation, meals, transportation and medical facilities during their stay in Pakistan. 

“After completing immigration and customs formalities, the sikh pilgrims departed for Gurdwara Panja Sahib on special buses,” the ETPB said. “The main ceremony for Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary will be held on June 29 at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.”

Pakistan’s government has taken significant steps in recent years to make Sikh holy sites more accessible to devout Sikhs, particularly those from India. In 2019, Pakistan established the Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free border crossing and religious corridor that devotees from India can use to visit a famous gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometers from the India-Pakistan border on the Pakistani side.


Russian attack on Ukraine’s Kharkiv kills two: rescuers

Updated 18 min 19 sec ago
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Russian attack on Ukraine’s Kharkiv kills two: rescuers

KYIV: A Russian strike on a residential building in Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv killed two people and injured more than 50, rescuers said on Sunday, revising down a previous death toll.
Russia has stepped up attacks in the northeastern Kharkiv region after launching a new offensive there last month, seeking to break a largely static front line as the invasion grinds through its third year.
A five-story residential building was damaged when guided bombs hit Kharkiv city on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said, with the state emergency service announcing the completion of rescue work by Sunday morning.
“As a result of this aerial bomb strike, 2 people have been killed and 53 others were injured, including 3 children,” it wrote on Telegram.
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday had announced three deaths and condemned Russia’s “calculated terror.”
An engineer wounded in a Russian strike on an energy facility in the southern Zaporizhzhia region died in hospital, regional governor Ivan Fedorov said on Sunday.


Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

Updated 23 June 2024
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Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

  • Electric minibuses have been introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada
  • Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services

ISTANBUL: Ibrahim Aycan has been waging all-out war against the electric minibuses newly introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada, which he says threaten his corner of paradise on the southern shores of Istanbul.
“We live a peaceful life here,” said Aycan, a lawyer and head of the Association of Friends of the Island.
“These vehicles sadden us. Let people walk and cycle!”
Buyukada is one of the Princes’ Islands, a popular destination for tourists and a retreat for many of Istanbul’s 16 million inhabitants.
Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services, and even horse-drawn carriages were banned in 2020 to protect the local wildlife.
But the controversial new minibuses, with a capacity of 12 people, went into service on June 15, driving through the narrow alleys of the islands.
As one of the protest leaders against the new mode of transport, Aycan uses his body as a roadblock whenever he comes across one of these “monstrobuses” — a name given by islanders in Buyukada — the largest of the Princes’ Islands, in the Sea of Marmara.
“I saw a bus on the way to my home yesterday. I had an appointment but I froze in front of it for half an hour,” Aycan said.
Eight protesters were detained on the first day, and locals have staged demos daily and spontaneously since.
Kamer Alyanakyan, 58, has spent every summer on Buyukada since his childhood, which is home to white wooden villas with gardens filled with colorful Bougainvillea plants.
“Nobody asked our opinion. The island’s streets are pedestrian, and we don’t want to lose that identity,” said Alyanakyan.
He has been knocking on doors to persuade residents to sign a petition calling for the removal of the minibuses.
Mehmet Can, whose cafe is a 40-minute walk from the pier, admits the new buses could have been “smaller” but he says they are “more comfortable.”
Above all, he sees them as “necessary in summer” because tens of thousands of people flock to the islands daily.
“(Authorities) will not throw them away just because a bunch of people are barking,” he said.
Istanbul Municipality, run by the opposition CHP party, has defended the minibuses and said that public transport is “indispensable for the island’s inhabitants,” especially the elderly.
It also argued that these minibuses are accessible to people with disabilities, unlike the existing small electric shuttle service.
Istanbul’s city council, a non-profit body that is in close dialogue with the municipality, has opposed minibuses.
“We support the islanders who want to defend their pedestrian streets,” the council said.
In the 1930s, cars were banned on the islands and since 1984, it has been a pedestrian zone and a protected area.
Alyanakyan is convinced that the municipality will eventually back down.
The activist will join a festival in July on Mackinac Island near Detroit — America’s car capital — which is known for its car-free roads.
“I’m going to talk to people, to the authorities over there,” he said.
“I will ask them: ‘How did you hold up? How did you resist the pressure?’”


Deaths from Indian toxic alcohol rise to more than 50

Updated 23 June 2024
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Deaths from Indian toxic alcohol rise to more than 50

  • Locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, killing 37 within hours after they drank the illegal alcohol
  • Tamil Nadu is not a dry state, but liquor traded on the black market comes at a lower price than alcohol sold legally

BENGALURU, India: The death toll from a batch of toxic illegal alcohol in India has risen to 53, media reported Sunday, as more victims in hospital succumbed to the poisonous brew.
Tamil Nadu state Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has said the locally brewed arrack drink was laced with poisonous methanol, killing 37 within hours after they drank the illegal alcohol on Tuesday.
More than 100 people were rushed to hospital, but some were too sick for medics to save.
Hundreds of people die every year in India from cheap alcohol made in backstreet distilleries, but this poisoning is one of the worst in recent years.
To increase its potency, the liquor is often spiked with methanol which can cause blindness, liver damage and death.
The Indian Express newspaper on Sunday quoted a local councilor, Palraj, describing how poor laborers in Kallakurichi district regularly bought the liquor in plastic bags costing 60 rupees ($0.70), which they would drink before work.
Some went blind and were rushed to hospital.
Others died rapidly, collapsing in the street.
“The men work just to drink, and the women run the family,” motorized rickshaw driver Shankar, who lives on a street where 23 people died, told the Indian Express.
M.S. Prasanth, the top government official in the state’s Kallakurichi district, said “53 people have passed away,” according to the latest figures on Saturday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Other Indian media on Sunday put the toll as high as 55, but there was no immediate official confirmation.
Prasanth said that seven people had been arrested in connection with the “spurious liquor tragedy,” PTI added.
Tamil Nadu is not a dry state, but liquor traded on the black market comes at a lower price than alcohol sold legally.
The Indian Express also spoke to Kolanji, a domestic helper whose husband died on Thursday after drinking a packet of the tainted brew.
She said people drank the moonshine “because they cannot afford” alcohol from the government-run shops.
“They start buying packets early in the morning,” she said.
Selling and consuming liquor is prohibited in several other parts of India, further driving the thriving black market for potent and sometimes lethal backstreet moonshine.
Last year, poisonous alcohol killed at least 27 people in one sitting in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, while in 2022, at least 42 people died in Gujarat.


Russian lawmaker warns Moscow may change timing for use of nuclear weapons

Updated 23 June 2024
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Russian lawmaker warns Moscow may change timing for use of nuclear weapons

  • Russia’s 2020 nuclear doctrine sets out when its president would consider using a nuclear weapon

Moscow may change the timing for use of its nuclear weapons if threats against Russia increase, the RIA state news agency cited Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the Russian lower house’s defense committee, as saying on Sunday.
The former general’s comments follow recent warnings by President Vladimir Putin that Moscow may change its nuclear doctrine, which lays out the conditions in which such weapons could be used.
“If we see that the challenges and threats increase, it means that we can correct something in (the doctrine) regarding the timing of the use of nuclear weapons and the decision to make this use,” the agency quoted Kartapolov as saying.
“But of course, it’s too early to talk about specifics now.”
Russia’s 2020 nuclear doctrine sets out when its president would consider using a nuclear weapon: broadly as a response to an attack using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, or conventional weapons “when the very existence of the state is put under threat.”
Putin has also said Russia could test a nuclear weapon, if necessary, though he saw no need to do so at the present time.
The heightened rhetoric on nuclear weapons comes as both Russian and US diplomats say that Russia’s war in Ukraine, launched against its smaller neighbor in 2022, is in the most dangerous phase yet.