Monthly Archives: February 2018

Trump says an armed person could have prevented Pulse, except a security guard was there

click image President Donald Trump continues to be wrong about what happened during the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse, almost two years after it happened.

While making the argument against having "gun-free zones," Trump said the massacre of 49 people by a gunman at Pulse could have been stopped if someone had been armed during the attack. "As an example, you take Pulse nightclub," Trump told a bipartisan group of lawmakers during a meeting on school and community safety. "If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn't have happened, or certainly not to the extent it did, where he was just in there shooting, and shooting and shooting and they were defenseless." Except someone was armed during the attack at Pulse - an off-duty Orlando Police officer who was working at the nightclub as a security guard.

Omar Mateen opened fire on a crowd of about 300 people inside Pulse using a semi-automatic Sig Sauer MCX rifle (military-style rifle) and a Glock 17 handgun. Within milliseconds, Officer Adam Gruler saw Mateen outside, exchanged gunfire with him and called for help on the police radio, but did not initially go inside, according to a review from the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Police Foundation.

The report says OPD estimated from listening to 911 calls that Mateen fired about 200 rounds in less than five minutes and only stopped to reload. In those initial minutes, backup officers from various agencies breached Pulse and tried to find Mateen while also rescuing victims. Law enforcement managed to corner Mateen in one of Pulse's bathrooms, along with victims who were severely injured.

This isn't the first time Trump has claimed no one at Pulse had a weapon.

Days after the Pulse attack, then candidate Trump made a similar claim twice, including once at a campaign rally in Atlanta, according to the fact-checking organization run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

"If some of those great people that were in that club that night had guns strapped to their waist or strapped to their ankle, and if the bullets were going in the other direction, aimed at this guy who was just open target practice, you would've had a situation, folks," Trump told the crowd. Trump and other guns rights activists have often used this claim that "gun-free zones" are dangerous to advance the idea that people should be able to carry arms everywhere because shooters target those areas. But this claim often ignores the armed security guards or law enforcement in these spaces.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a shooter killed 17 students and teachers two weeks ago, wasn't a gun-free zone - the school had its own armed sheriff's deputy.

It's one thing for candidate Trump to get the facts wrong, but after becoming president, he could at least take 10 minutes to learn what actually happened before basing policy changes on fake claims.

There's a difference between weapons of war and personal protection. Conservatives need to figure it out.

When Confederate soldiers surrendered at Appomattox, they voluntarily handed over their muskets - tens of thousands of them. But they were allowed to keep their side arms. Why?

Because Northern generals considered the former to be instruments of war and the latter personal property. It's a distinction that the right should embrace as it seeks a more sensible stance in the aftermath of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Some guns are for mayhem; others for recreation or protection.

It's time to stop confusing those purposes.

bill whalen new.jpg

Bill Whalen Last week, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked for her thoughts post-Parkland. She's no fan of arming teachers, and she's open to a dialogue on updating a constitutional protection written nearly 230 years ago.

"I think it's time for us to have a conversation about what the right to bear arms means in the modern world," Rice told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. "I don't understand why civilians need to have access to military weapons." In California, a GOP statewide candidate could stick to their guns (pun intended) and get elected. But it would require the votes of practically every Second Amendment proponent, assuming they're all registered and willing to cast a ballot.

There are 6 million gun-owners in California; Jerry Brown was elected governor eight years ago with 5.4 million votes. Obviously, that's not going to happen. A more practical approach is what worked for Republican Pete Wilson in the 1980s and 1990s.

He won four Senate and gubernatorial contests as a proponent of the Brady Bill's waiting period and assault weapon bans, all the while drawing a distinction between long guns for hunting and personal guns for protection. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, the embodiment of cinematic gun violence (a website that tracks on-screen kills claims he is Hollywood's all-time "deadliest actor"), strived for a balancing act. He called himself "a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but also wanted to close gun show loopholes.

The state already is light years ahead of Congress (and Florida) on gun control. There's a statewide ban on the sale of assault rifles. A 2016 law prohibits the sale of "bullet-buttoned" semiautomatic rifles with ammunition magazines that can be quickly replaced.

So what should California conservatives do on guns? First, they should look to the courts. Gun-rights advocates have challenged a state law requiring Californians who own high-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds of ammo) to get rid of them or face criminal penalties.

The right should denounce this challenge; target practice and a 25-shot weapon aren't synonymous. Second, conservatives should look to a most unlikely partner -- a San Francisco Democrat. Assemblyman Phil Ting is reintroducing legislation that would expand California's gun violence restraining order system.

The bill would add employers, co-workers, high school and college staff, and mental health workers to those who can seek the orders. Republicans in the Legislature should join a bipartisan solution that the governor could sign. The third option would be to do nothing, but that ignores shifting political ground.

In 2016, voters in California, Nevada and Washington approved gun-control ballot measures. Post-Parkland, the Trump White House has signaled that it's for improving the federal background system and banning bump-stocks. Over the past five years, there have been more than 1,600 shootings with four or more casualties in the U.S., with California accounting for about 10 percent of them.

The math is dizzying -as are the excuses for not giving ground and helping to stem the violence. Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson.

Whalen can be reached at [email protected]

“RedDrop” Mobile Malware Records Ambient Audio

A newly detailed mobile malware can do more than steal data from infected devices: it can also record ambient audio and send the recordings to cloud storage accounts controlled by attackers. Dubbed RedDrop, the malware can also inflict financial costs on victims by sending SMS messages to premium services, security firm Wandera says. The U.K.-based company has discovered 53 malware-ridden apps that are exfiltrating sensitive data from infected devices.

RedDrop-infected applications are being distributed through a network of more than 4,000 domains and range from tools such as image editors and calculators to recreational apps. Every observed application offers the expected functionality, thus hiding the malicious content stored within. Once the user installs an application from the RedDrop family, invasive permissions are requested, so that the next steps of the attack would be performed without additional user interaction, the security researchers reveal.

The malware even asks for permissions that allow it to persist between reboots and to continuously communicate with its command and control (C&C) servers. To lure victims to their malicious network, the attackers even display ads on the popular Chinese search engine Baidu. One such ad would take the user to huxiawang.cn, the primary distribution site for the attack, which encourages users to download one of the 53 malicious apps.

Once the user installs a RedDrop-infected application, 7 additional APKs are silently downloaded and executed on the device, each meant to enable additional malicious functionality. The downloaded components are stored dynamically into the device's memory. One of the observed applications (CuteActress) was designed to send an SMS message to a premium service each time the user would touch the screen to interact with the app's legitimate functionality.

The threat would also delete all of these messages, thus erasing any evidence of these premium SMS. The RedDrop malware family also includes a set of spyware tools capable of extracting valuable and damaging data from the victim's device. The Wandera researchers associated encrypted and unencrypted data, encoded data and TCP streams to RedDrop's exfiltration activities.

Stolen data includes locally saved files (such as photos and contacts), device-related information (IMEI, IMSI, etc), SIM info (MNC, MCC, etc), application data, and information on nearby Wi-Fi networks. More disturbing is the fact that RedDrop can also record an audio of device's surroundings. According to Wandera, RedDrop is one of the most sophisticated Android malware families, given the range of functioning malicious applications it hides behind and its complex distribution network.

The malware is expected to remain active even after the applications are flagged as malicious, and new variants are expected to emerge in the coming months. "This multifaceted hybrid attack is entirely unique. The malicious actor cleverly uses a seemingly helpful app to front an incredibly complex operation with malicious intent.

This is one of the more persistent malware variants we've seen," Dr Michael Covington, VP of Product Strategy at Wandera, says. According to Craig Young, computer security researcher for Tripwire, this is not the first time Android malware that includes such extensive spyware capabilities has been discovered and the research appears exaggerated. "This looks more like a very amateur trial run of Android malware rather than "one of the most sophisticated pieces of Android malware" as claimed by Wandera," Young told SecurityWeek in an emailed comment.

He also pointed out that the malware's ability to record and upload calls "provides minimal value outside of targeted attacks and potentially makes the malware more apparent by draining a victim's battery quickly." Young recommends paying extra attention to the permissions applications may request, as this is a great means to stay safe from infections. "With Android 6 (released 2015), apps will request permissions at runtime which should make it abundantly obvious when a malicious app wants to do something like sending SMS or recording audio.

Users of older Android releases must rely instead on reviewing the requested permissions at install time to confirm that they are appropriate for the app," Young concluded.

Related: 3 Million New Android Malware Samples Discovered in 2017

Related: Android Malware Developed in Kotlin Programming Language Found in Google Play