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Hacker attacks growing bigger, nastier

Could hacker attacks bring millions of connected cameras, thermostats and kids’ toys to their knees? It’s beginning to look that way.

On Friday, epic cyberattacks crippled a major internet firm, repeatedly disrupting the availability of popular websites across the United States. The hacker group claiming responsibility says that the day’s antics were just a dry run and that it has its sights set on a much bigger target. And the attackers now have a secret weapon in the increasing array of internet-enabled household devices they can subvert and use to wreak havoc.

MEET THE FIRE HOSE

Manchester, New Hampshire-based Dyn Inc. Manchester, New Hampshire-based Dyn Inc said its server infrastructure was hit by distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks. These work by overwhelming targeted machines with junk data traffic — sort of like knocking someone over by blasting them with a fire hose. The attack temporarily blocked some access to popular websites from across America and Europe such as Twitter, Netflix and PayPal.

Jason Read, founder of the internet performance monitoring firm CloudHarmony, owned by Gartner Inc., said his company tracked a half-hour-long disruption early Friday affecting access to many sites from the East Coast. A second attack later in the day spread disruption to the West Coast as well as some users in Europe.

Members of a shadowy hacker group that calls itself New World Hackers claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter, though that claim could not be verified. They said they organized networks of connected devices to create a massive botnet that threw a monstrous 1.2 trillion bits of data every second at Dyn’s servers. Dyn officials wouldn’t confirm the figure during a conference call later Friday with reporters.

MAKE THAT, MANY FIRE HOSES

DDoS attacks have been growing in frequency and size in recent months. But if the hackers’ claims are true, Friday’s attacks take DDoS to a new level. According to a report from the cybersecurity firm Verisign, the largest DDoS attack perpetrated during the second quarter of this year peaked at just 256 billion bits per second.

A huge September attack that shut down of security journalist Brian Krebs’ website clocked in at 620 billion bits per second. Research from the cybersecurity firm Flashpoint said Friday that the same kind of malware was used in the attacks against both Krebs and Dyn.

Lance Cottrell, chief scientist for the cybersecurity firm Ntrepid, said while DDoS attacks have been used for years, they’ve become very popular in recent months, thanks to the proliferation of “internet of things” devices ranging from connected thermostats to security cameras and smart TVs. Many of those devices feature little in the way of security, making them easy targets for hackers.

The power of this kind of cyberattack is limited by the number of devices an attacker can connect to. Just a few years ago, most attackers were limited to infecting and recruiting “zombie” home PCs. But the popularity of new internet-connected gadgets has vastly increased the pool of potential devices they can weaponize. The average North American home contains 13 internet-connected devices, according to the research firm IHS Markit.

Since the attacks usually don’t harm the consumer electronics companies that build the devices, or the consumers that unwittingly use them, companies have little incentive to boost security, Cottrell said.

WHAT’S BEHIND THE ATTACKS

Like with other online attacks, the motivation behind DDoS attacks is usually mischief or money. Attackers have shut down websites in the past to make political statements. DDoS attacks have also been used in extortion attempts, something that’s been made easier by the advent of Bitcoin.

For its part, a member of New World Hackers who identified themselves as “Prophet” told an AP reporter via Twitter direct message exchange that collective isn’t motivated by money and doesn’t have anything personal against Dyn, Twitter or any of the other sites affected by the attacks. Instead, the hacker said, the attacks were merely a test, and claimed that the next target will be the Russian government for committing alleged cyberattacks against the U.S. earlier this year.

“Twitter was kind of the main target. It showed people who doubted us what we were capable of doing, plus we got the chance to see our capability,” said “Prophet.” The claims couldn’t be verified.

The collective has in the past claimed responsibility for similar attacks against sites including ESPNFantasySports.com in September and the BBC on Dec. 31. The attack on the BBC marshalled half the computing power of Friday’s attacks.

A SHIFTING GLOBAL ASSAULT

Dyn said it first became aware of an attack around 7 a.m. local time, focused on data centers on the East Coast of the U.S. Services were restored about two hours later. But then attackers shifted to offshore data centers, and the latest wave of problems continued until Friday evening Eastern time.

“Prophet” told the AP that his group actually had stopped its attacks by Friday afternoon, but that others, including members of the hacker collective known as Anonymous, had picked up where they left off. Anonymous didn’t respond to a request for comment via Twitter.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is monitoring the situation, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday. He said he had no information about who may be behind the disruption.

Cottrell noted that there are several firms that offer protection against DDoS attacks, by giving companies a way to divert the bad traffic and remain online in case of an attack. But monthly subscription fees for these services are generally equal to a typical DDoS extortion payment, giving companies little incentive to pay for them.

Meanwhile not much is required in the way of resources or skill to mount a botnet attack, he said, adding that would-be attackers can rent botnets for as little as $100. Cottrell said the long-term solution lies in improving the security of all internet-connected devices.

 

 

Out football player Michael Sam makes NFL history with draft by the St. Louis Rams

Michael Sam was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday, becoming the first openly gay player drafted by a pro football team, according to The Associated Press.

Sam, who played at Missouri, came out as gay in media interviews earlier this year. His team and coaches already knew about his sexual orientation and kept it secret during his final college season. He went on to have the best season of his career, ultimately earning the title of defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference.

When Mike Kensil, the NFL’s vice president of game operations, walked to the podium at Radio City Music Hall in the draft’s final minutes to announce the Rams’ second-to-last pick, the crowd got a sense something was up. Very few of the last day picks were announced at the podium.

When Kensil said: “The St. Louis Rams select … Michael Sam.” the fans gave a hearty cheer, chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and “Michael Sam!”

Sam was in San Diego watching with friends and family at the home of his agent. ESPN and the NFL Network had cameras there to capture Sam’s emotional reaction.

Sam was on the phone bending over, with his boyfriend hugging him and rubbing his left bicep. When Sam got off the phone, the tears started. He gave his boyfriend a big kiss and a long hug as the tears flowed and his eyes reddened.

Sam will start his professional career not far from the place where he played his college ball, with three former Missouri teammates.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Sam was considered a mid-to-late round pick, far from a sure thing to be drafted. He played defensive end in college, but he’s short for that position in the NFL and slower than most outside linebackers, the position he’ll need to transition to at the professional level.

He was taken with the 249th overall pick out of 256.

AP reports that the impact of Sam’s selection goes far beyond football. It’s a huge step toward the integration of gay men into professional team sports, which have lagged behind the rest of society in accepting equality.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said Sam would be welcome in the league and judged solely on his ability to play. A few wondered whether teams would be reluctant to draft Sam because of all the media attention that would come with it.

Coming off a season in which a bullying scandal involving players on the Miami Dolphins was one of the biggest stories in sports — the NFL was looking at a possible public relations disaster if Sam was not drafted. He would likely have been signed as a free agent and given a chance to make a team in training camp, but to many it would have looked as if he was being rejected.

His selection can be seen as an opportunity for the NFL to show that crass locker room culture is not as prevalent as it might have looked to those who followed the embarrassingly racist Dolphins scandal.

ESPN regrets reporter’s comment about Jason Collins

ESPN says that it regrets the “distraction” caused by one of its reporters who described Jason Collins as a sinner after the NBA center publicly came out as gay.

Chris Broussard, who covers the NBA for ESPN, said on the air that Collins and others in the NBA who engage in premarital sex or adultery were “walking in open rebellion to God, and to Jesus Christ.” Broussard, a former reporter for The New York Times, spoke during ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program discussing Collins’ announcement.

In an article in Sports Illustrated, Collins became the first athlete in one of the country’s four major male sports leagues to come out as gay.

ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz said the network regrets that a discussion of personal viewpoints became a “distraction.” The network offered its own view of Collins’ news: “ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement,” he said.

During his on-the-air discussion, Broussard described himself as a Christian.

“I don’t agree with homosexuality,” he said. “I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”

Broussard in an online message said that he had previously discussed his point of view about homosexuality publicly.

“I realize that some people disagree with my opinion, and I accept and respect that,” he wrote. “As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement … and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.”

Collins, in an interview with The New York Times this week, noted that he is a Christian, too.

“This is all about tolerance and acceptance and America is the best country in the world because we’re all entitled to our opinions and beliefs but we don’t have to agree,” he said. “And obviously I don’t agree with his statement.”

Video of Rutgers coach hurling gay slurs prompts outcry, dismissal

Updated: April 3, 10:15 a.m.

Rutgers officials had already seen the video showing coach Mike Rice shoving, grabbing and throwing basketballs at players during practice and yelling gay slurs at them before it was aired by ESPN on April 2.

The school punished Rice in December 2012, suspending him for three games and fining him $50,000.

On April 3, the school announced Rice had been fired.

“Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice,” the school’s athletic department tweeted.

The video, which went viral, had many – including the governor of New Jersey – are wondering why Rutgers had let Rice keep his job.

The videotape, broadcast April 2 on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged comments as well as sharp criticism from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Miami Heat star LeBron James. The head of New Jersey Assembly called for Rice to be fired.

Rutgers’ AD received a copy of the video in late November 2012 by a former employee. In addition to the suspension and fine, Pernetti ordered Rice to attend anger management classes.

In an interview with WFAN Radio in New York, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.

But ESPN’s broadcast prompted an outcry.

“Governor Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior,” spokesman Michael Drewniak said. “It’s not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University.”

James weighed in with a tweet: “If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I’m still gone whoop on him afterwards! C’mon.”

The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard screaming obscenities and gay slurs at players.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex/Passaic, called Rice’s conduct “unacceptable not only at our state university, but in all circumstances. It is offensive and unbecoming of our state.”

“Mike Rice should no longer be employed by Rutgers University,” Oliver said. “He must go. Meanwhile, the decision not to dismiss him last year needs a complete and thorough review.”

“You have to be always cautious about public reaction, because the reaction the public is having is the same I had when I saw it (the film),” Pernetti told the radio station. “I am factoring everything into what we do going forward. The most important thing I am factoring in is trying to make sure that we don’t do harm to Rutgers University, because we are a small slice of the pie here at this great place. I don’t want to put any negatively on the university when we have a lot of real good things going on.”

Pernetti said he understands why many are asking why Rice wasn’t fired after the initial investigation.

“I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option,” he said. “At the same the results of the investigation where we ended up, the determination was made to suspend him. My biggest concern as the AD is that I am always trying to protect the interests and reputation of the university and that’s what makes this one so difficult. There is a lot of hindsight … that there will be no other option than to terminate Mike. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it.”

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) called Rice’s conduct indefensible, and said he should have been fired in December, after the tape was given to Pernetti.

Gusciora also said Pernetti’s decision deserved a full review.

“If the university does not act, I will seek to add a provision to the state budget defunding Mr. Rice’s salary,” Gusciora said. “Taxpayers should not be paying for this behavior.”

Early on April 3, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, called for Rice’s discharge.

“Mike Rice’s despicable behavior is completely unacceptable and Rutgers should fire him immediately.  What a disgrace for Rice to use such offensive and disturbing language as a means to intimidate players he is meant to lead,” said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign.

“The pattern of behavior in this video is deplorable, inexcusable, in direct violation of the state’s anti-bullying laws, and it’s indefensible that Rutgers hasn’t fired Coach Rice as a result,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s statewide LGBT group. “Further, why did the university wait months to disclose this disturbing footage? The apology and fine issued do not go nearly far enough.”

On the Web…

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/9125796/practice-video-shows-rutgers-basketball-coach-mike-rice-berated-pushed-used-slurs-players 

NFL prospect says scouts asking about sexual orientation

An NFL prospect says scouts at a league combine in advance of the April draft were asking athletes about sexual orientation and sexual interests.

At the weekend event, players underwent physical and mental tests and participated in interviews with NFL team representatives.

NFL prospect Nick Kasa, a senior at the University of Colorado, told ESPN Radio Denver said the interviews included questions about sexual orientation. Kasa played tight end for the Pac-12 team. His profile on NFL.com says he’s a “draftable player” with a grade of 60 – “A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.”

The senior told ESPN Radio Denver that the scouts asked questions like “‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ Are you married?’ Do you like girls?’ Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird. But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”

Others, including Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, have said NFL team reps are especially curious about Manti Te’o and whether the Notre Dame player is gay.

“Here’s the elephant in the room for the teams and it shouldn’t matter, but we have to step aside from the rest of reality and walk into the unique industry that is the NFL,” Floria said in another radio interview on Feb. 25. “Teams want to know whether Manti Te’o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it’s a different world. It shouldn’t be that way.”

ESPN survey finds 62 percent of professional athletes back equality

An anonymous poll of 62 professional athletes from different sports conducted by ESPN Magazine found that 59 percent support same-sex marriage. The poll questioned players with the NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball on a variety of social issues.

ESPN found that NHL players are the most supportive of equality, with 92 percent of those polled saying they support same-sex marriage. Sixty-one percent of NFL players, 46 percent of NBA players and 45 percent of Major League Baseball players agreed.

The low number of respondents prevents the poll from having statistical validity. But the findings were consistent in showing differing level of support for progressive social issues in different sports. For example, baseball players consistently expressed more conservative views. They were the only group in which a majority did not support the legalization of marijuana, for instance.

Meanwhile, the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team recently created a You Can Play video to support LGBT people in sports. The You Can Play project is modeled after the It Gets Better Project that supports struggling LGBT youth with videos of people expressing words of encouragement. You Can Play was launched about six months ago, inspired by the death of openly gay Miami University hockey manager Brendan Burke in a tragic accident.

Sports figures have become increasingly involved in fighting homophobia. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe became a flash point in the LGBT civil rights struggle after he penned a blistering open letter to a Maryland state lawmaker who criticized another NFL player, Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, for supporting gay marriage.

Constitutional amendments involving same-sex marriage are on the Election Day ballots in both Minnesota and Maryland.

Syracuse University fires basketball coach accused of molesting boys

Bernie Fine was fired Sunday by Syracuse University after a third man accused the assistant basketball coach of molesting him nine years ago.

Fine, 65, was in his 36th season and had the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one school among assistant coaches in Division I.

Zach Tomaselli, 23, of Lewiston, Maine, told The Associated Press that he’d informed police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room. He said Fine touched him “multiple” times in that one incident.

He was the third accuser to come forward in the investigation of child molestation allegations against Fine.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he supported the university’s decision to fire his longtime assistant and expressed regret for his initial statements that might have been insensitive to victims of abuse.

“The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling,” Boeheim said in a statement released by the school. “I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged.”

Two former Syracuse ball boys were the first to accuse Fine. He has called the allegations “patently false.”

Tomaselli, who faces sexual assault charges in Maine involving a 14-year-old boy, told AP that he signed an affidavit accusing Fine following a meeting with Syracuse police last week in Albany.

Tomaselli told the Post-Standard that his father allowed him to go to a party and spend the night at Fine’s house after a Syracuse-Pitt game on Feb. 1, 2003. Tomaselli told AP that while he was there, Fine asked him to get into bed with him. He said Fine’s wife Laurie was there when it happened.

“I told them (police) that Laurie was standing right there when Bernie asked me to sleep in a bed. Laurie knew all about it,” he said.

Tomaselli’s father, however, says his son is lying.

Perhaps the most damaging allegation against Fine is from Bobby Davis. Now 39, Davis told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 when he was a ball boy and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27.

Davis’ stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him while he was in fifth or sixth grade.

On Sunday, ESPN played an audiotape, obtained and recorded by Davis, of an October 2002 telephone conversation between him and Laurie Fine.

Davis told ESPN he made the recording, which also has been given to Syracuse police, without her knowledge because he knew he needed proof for the police to believe his accusations. ESPN said it hired a voice recognition expert to verify the voice on the tape and the network said it was determined to be that of Laurie Fine.

Davis also acknowledged in an interview with ESPN that he and Laurie Fine had a sexual relationship when he was 18, and that he eventually told Bernie Fine about it.

“I thought he was going to kill me, but I had to tell him,” Davis said. “It didn’t faze him one bit.”

During the call to the woman, Davis repeatedly asks her what she knew about the alleged molestation.

“Do you think I’m the only one that he’s ever done that to?” Davis asked.

“No … I think there might have been others but it was geared to … there was something about you,” the woman on the tape said.

On the tape, she also says she knew “everything that went on.”

“Bernie has issues, maybe that he’s not aware of, but he has issues. … And you trusted somebody you shouldn’t have trusted …”

During the call, Davis tells her he asked her husband in the late 1990s for $5,000 to help pay off his student loans.

“When he gave you the money, what does he want for that?” she asked.

He tells her that Fine wanted to engage in sexual activity in several ways.

“… And I’d try to go away, and he’d put his arm on top of my chest. He goes, ‘If you want this money, you’ll stay right here,’” Davis said.

‘Right. Right,” she said. “He just has a nasty attitude, because he didn’t get his money, nor did he get what he wanted.”

When the accusations from Davis first became public Nov. 17, Boeheim adamantly defended his lifelong friend. In an interview that day with the Post-Standard, Boeheim attacked Davis’ reasons for going public with his accusations.

“The Penn State thing came out, and the kid behind this is trying to get money,” Boeheim said. “He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. … That’s what this is about – money.”

Fine was an integral part of the staff that guided Syracuse to the national championship in 2003. During his tenure the Orange also made two other appearances in the NCAA title game, losing in 1987 to Indiana and in 1996 to Kentucky.

He also guided the U.S. Maccabiah team to a silver medal at the 1993 World Maccabiah Games in Israel and has served as director of a successful basketball camp in the Northeast.

On Friday, federal authorities carried out a search at his Fine’s suburban Syracuse home but declined to comment on what they were looking for.

New York State Police spokesman Jack Keller said troopers were called to assist the U.S. attorney’s office at the search. At least six police vehicles were parked on the street during the search, which lasted around nine hours. Officers carted away three file cabinets and a computer for further examination.

Phoenix Suns CEO Rick Welts comes out as gay

Tired of the emotional toll of sidelining his personal life, Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts took a jump shot out of the closet in an article appearing May 15 in The New York Times.

“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” Welts (pictured) told the newspaper. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

Welts is believed to be the first man in a prominent position in men’s sports to come out publicly as gay, according to ESPN.

In addition to acknowledging his sexual orientation to NYT, Welts met recently with friends and sports associates to let them know what was coming. All expressed strong support.

NBA commissioner David Stern was not surprised by the revelation.

“What I didn’t say at the time was: I think there’s a good chance the world will find this unremarkable,” Stern told The Times. “I don’t know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes.”

Welts also talked to Suns guard Steve Nash, Hall of Famer Bill Russell and founding WNBA president Val Ackerman.

“Anyone who’s not ready for this needs to catch up,” Nash said. “He’s doing anyone who’s not ready for this a favor.”

Welts told the Times he wants to mentor other gay people who seek to pursue a career in sports.

 

Served-up

“Unmatched,” a new documentary on ESPN, examines the off-court friendship and on-court rivalry between tennis champs Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. They played one another more than 80 times – often for the big prizes on grass or clay. The media fed on the competitive nature of their game and helped manufacture their public images – America’s blonde sweetheart vs. Czechoslovakia’s bratty defector.

The hour-long film offers a more sophisticated and sensitive profile of the true pals, along with a lot of chuckles. Of the first time she saw the 16-year-old Navratilova, Evert says, “I remember that she was fat. She was very emotional on the court, whining if she didn’t feel she was playing well. But I remember thinking, if she loses weight, we’re all in trouble.”

She lost weight.