Biden, Gates, Obama among Twitter accounts hacked in Bitcoin scam

Unidentified hackers broke into the Twitter accounts of technology moguls, politicians, celebrities and major companies on Wednesday in an apparent Bitcoin scam.

The ruse included bogus tweets from former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked. The fake tweets tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.

There is no evidence that the owners of these accounts were targeted themselves. Instead, the hacks appeared designed to lure their Twitter followers into sending money to an anonymous Bitcoin account. The Biden campaign, for instance, said that Twitter’s integrity team “locked down the account within a few minutes of the breach and removed the related tweet”.

Obama’s office had no immediate comment. The FBI said it was aware of Twitter’s security breach, but declined further comment.

The apparently fake tweets were all quickly deleted, although the Associated Press was able to capture screenshots of several before they disappeared.

In several tweets, Twitter said it believes the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. They were then used to take control of many high-profile and verified accounts and tweet from them.

The company said it immediately locked down the affected accounts and removed the tweets posted by the attackers. It also temporarily blocked verified users from tweeting while the company investigated the issue.

Among the political figures targeted, the hack mostly appeared to target Democrats or other figures on the left, drawing comparisons to the 2016 campaign. US intelligence agencies established that Russia engaged in coordinated attempts to interfere in those US elections through social media tampering and various hacks, including targeting the various campaigns and major party organisations.

The hack might also be a simple demonstration of Twitter’s weak security controls as the US heads into the 2020 presidential election, a contest in which the service is likely to play an influential role.

The Bitcoin account mentioned in the fake tweets appears to have been created on Wednesday. By the end of the day, it had received almost 12.9 bitcoins, an amount currently valued at slightly more than $114,000. At some point during the day, roughly half that sum in bitcoin was withdrawn from the account.

Bezos, Gates and Musk are among the 10 richest people in the world, with tens of millions of followers on Twitter. The three men are worth a combined $362 billion, according to the latest calculations by Forbes magazine.

The same bogus offer cropped up a second time on Musk’s account, which has a history of sometimes befuddling tweets from the eccentric billionaire. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gates, who has become one of the world’s leading philanthropists since stepping down as Microsoft CEO, confirmed the tweet wasn’t from him. “This appears to be part of a larger issue that Twitter is facing,” a spokesperson for the billionaire said in a statement.

This is hardly the first time hackers have created mischief on Twitter. Just last year, the account of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was broken into and used to tweet racist and vulgar comments.

The latest security breach prompted Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, to send a letter to Dorsey urging him to work with the FBI and the Justice Department on ways to improve Twitter’s security.

“A successful attack on your system’s servers represents a threat to all of your users’ privacy and data security,” Hawley wrote.

Investors also appeared to be concerned about potential fallout from the hack affecting Twitter’s usage. Twitter’s shares fell 3 per cent in extended trading after news of the hack broke.

SCBA seeks deletion of SC directives in Isa case ruling

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday a review petition seeking deletion of the court’s directives in its June 19 majority judgement requiring verification by the tax authorities of three offshore properties in the name of the wife and children of Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

“These directives, observations and contents from paragraphs three to 11 are unnecessary, superfluous, contradictory, excessive and unlawful and thus liable to be deleted from the short order,” pleaded the petition filed through SCBA president Syed Qalb-e-Hassan.

In the earlier round, the SCBA was represented before a 10-judge SC bench by senior counsel Hamid Khan.

“It appears from paragraphs three to 11 that the majority of judges on the bench wanted to bring the wife and children of the judge before the tax authorities to fulfil the requirements of due process of law and accountability,” the review petition contended, adding that this purpose had adequately been served through paragraphs 13 to 14 authored by three judges of the apex court in their minority order. “Thus the directives and observations contained in paragraphs three to 11 are superfluous, unnecessary and therefore liable to be struck out,” it argued.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

Apex court formally frames charges against cleric in contempt case; judge’s wife files affidavit raising 24 questions

The review petition pleaded that timelines or deadlines given to the income tax authorities with regard to the proceedings against the wife and children of Justice Faez Isa of the Supreme Court were clearly illegal because the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 2001 and other related laws have no such provisions for holding the proceedings purportedly to be held under Section 116 or other related provisions of the ITO.

Moreover, it said, when the reference had been quashed, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) became functus officio for the purpose of this case. “Thus it is beyond the jurisdiction of SJC to take notice of any future report against the judge when admittedly assets and properties of the judge are no more in question and there is no misconduct alleged by anybody against the judge. Therefore, the June 19 majority order is void being unconstitutional and is liable to be reviewed in the interest of justice,” the review petition said.

The SCBA asked under what provision of law and the Constitution the matter relating the assets and properties of the spouse and children of the judge had been referred to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by the court, when they were neither a party to the proceedings before the SJC nor before the apex court in the proceedings under Article 184(3).

“The Supreme Court has referred the matter to the FBR without assigning any reasons,” the petition contended, adding that under Section 122 of the ITO certain substantive and procedural safeguards had been provided for the protection of taxpayers, including a period of limitation for amending an assessment.

Charges framed against cleric

A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed formally framed charges against Rawalpindi-based cleric Mirza Iftikharuddin for committing contempt of the court.

“Certified that the charge has been framed, read over and explained to the accused in the open court,” said the one-page charge read out to the accused, asking him whether he heard and understood the charge, did he plead guilty to the charge and did he have any defence.

Sarkar Abbas, the counsel for Mirza Iftikhar, sought time to consult his client whether he pleads guilty or not to the charge.

Meanwhile, Serena Isa, wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, also filed an affidavit raising 24 questions and alleging that the manner in which this crime had been dealt with confirms that a more direct method to remove her husband has now been planned.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, however, said he would go through the contents of the affidavit and furnish his response when the case would be taken up again next week.

In her affidavit, Ms Isa asked why no FIR had been registered by police on her complaint regarding death threats to her husband and said she was convinced that the guilty was being protected.

“Is every FIR in this country registered after taking instructions from the interior ministry? Why her application was sent to FIA after a day with the excuse of some minor crime having been committed but by ignoring the serious crime of terrorism? Why the accused cleric was not arrested when he entered the Supreme Court on June 26 in the contempt of the court case?” she asked.

She said that had the cleric been arrested immediately and his cell phones, computers and cameras taken into possession, he would not have had an opportunity to wipe out information which would have shown who he worked for.

“Why was a ‘terrorist’ given six days to remove this vital information? Why his residence and office were not searched, what is his source of livelihood and why did this man malign the army and display the photographs of the army chief in his video clip?” the affidavit asked.

Ms Isa also asked why Mirza Shahzad Akbar, head of the Assets Recovery Unit, was not questioned and why the complainant in the reference against Justice Isa was not questioned. “Was the head of the ISI contacted in respect of such a serious threat? Will these questions be answered or was it permissible to paint a target on apex court judge?” she asked.

Novartis to provide ‘no profit’ Covid-19 drugs to low-income countries

Novartis’s Sandoz division will not make a profit on 15 generic drugs it is making available to developing countries to treat symptoms of Covid-19, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday.

Novartis said it would provide medicines ranging from antibiotics and steroids to diarrhea pills to 79 countries on the World Bank’s list of low- and lower-middle income nations.

The Basel-based drugmaker plans to maintain the zero-profit programme until the pandemic ends or a vaccine or cure is found, Novartis Global Health Chief Operating Officer Lutz Hegemann said in an interview.

While Novartis has not seen supply-chain shortages despite increasing demands for Covid-19 medicines, Hegemann said this new programme aimed to help to keep vulnerable healthcare systems in Africa, Asia, South America and European countries Ukraine and Moldova from becoming overloaded.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

“We shouldn’t underestimate the stress that Covid puts particularly on fragile health systems,” Hegemann told Reuters, adding Novartis hopes to work with health authorities, faith-based organisations and NGOs to eliminate big markups.

“We are not targeting classical commercial distribution channels, but very direct channels, to influence that to the extent we can,” he said.

Novartis’s brand-name drugs have had little application in treating the new coronavirus, but Sandoz generics are among medicines commonly used to treat symptoms of those hospitalised.

The list includes antibiotics amoxicillin, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, vancomycin and levofloxacin, steroids dexamethasone, prednisone and prednisolone, gout treatment colchicine, heart failure drug dobutamine, antifungal fluconazole, blood thinner heparin, anti-diarrhoea drug loperamide, reflux medicine pantoprazole and lung drug salbutamol.

Its malaria generic, hydroxychloroquine, is not included after some Covid-19 trials concluded it did not work and the United States cancelled emergency authorisation, though Novartis continues to provide it for trials and on government requests.

Hegemann did not give specifics on the drugs’ eventual costs, compared to commercial prices. The drugs have been around for decades and are comparatively cheap to make.

All licences issued to pilots are genuine: CAA

KARACHI: In what appears to be a direct contradiction to the aviation minister’s allegation that almost 40 per cent of Pakistani pilots possessed ‘fake licences’, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said that all commercial/airline transport pilots licences (CPL/ATPL) it issued “are genuine and validly issued”.

“It is important to clarify that all CPL/ATPL pilot licences issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority are genuine and validly issued. None of the pilot licences are fake, rather the matter has been misconstrued and incorrectly highlighted in the media/social media,” wrote CAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy in a letter dated July 13 to a high-ranking aviation official of Oman.

The letter, a copy of which is provided to Dawn, was addressed to Mubarak Saleh Al Gheilani, the acting DG of Civil Aviation Regulation, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in response to his July 2 letter and July 9 email with regard to safety concerns over licences of Pakistani pilots working with his country’s airline.

Mr Jamy, who is also the secretary of aviation division, told the Omani official that the CAA had already verified/cleared “96 Pakistani pilots out of 104 names received from various civil aviation authorities/foreign airlines (UAE/GACA, Vietnam Airlines, Bahrain Air, Civil Aviation Malaysia, Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and Turkish Airlines)”.

Regulator’s confirmation contradicts aviation minister’s claim about ‘fake licences’; Palpa terms development an endorsement of its stance

Last month, while furnishing before the National Assembly a preliminary report on the May 22 Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash in Karachi, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had claimed that 40 per cent of the country’s pilots held “fake licences”.

He later said that 262 airlines’ pilots had falsified their credentials and of them 141 belonged to the PIA, nine from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Air. The remaining pilots were affiliated with flying clubs, chartered plane services or foreign airlines, he said.

The CAA suspended the licences of only 34 pilots of the PIA and issued them a show-cause notice to explain as to how they performed flying duty and appeared in a written exam on a same date.

However, Mr Jamy tried to downplay the damning statement of the aviation minister when he stated in his letter that “some concerns” were raised about the validity of the licences of “some pilots”. “The federal government immediately took notice and embarked upon the process of verifying the credentials of all licensed pilots through a forensic scrutiny,” he stated.

“During this process, it occurred that there were discrepancies pertaining to the computer-based examination, which is one of the steps in the licensing process. Immediately upon completion of the process, the pilots falling in this category were treated as ‘suspects’ till clearance. They were taken off from flying duties, if any, and were grounded pending formal process, after providing them opportunity to explain their position,” he explained.

“Pakistan has always maintained a strong regulatory oversight mechanism for safety of skies all over. It has been ensured that only those pilots and aircrew with valid qualification, credentials and unblemished record shall be allowed to fly. I hope this letter is convincing evidence of Pakistan’s continued commitment towards aviation safety. It is highlighted that as a responsible regulator we have voluntarily raised the subject matter,” Mr Jamy added.

A CAA official said that several similar letters were written to civil aviation authorities and airlines of different countries to control the damage the aviation minister’s statement had caused.

Palpa stance vindicated

The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) said on Wednesday that the CAA’s letter in which it admitted that the ATPL licence of any pilot in Pakistan was neither dubious nor fake was an endorsement of their stance.

“The whole episode has caused damage to the reputation of the nation, its airline and its pilots worldwide,” Palpa secretary Imran Narejo said in a statement.

He said the issue of licences had been mishandled by the aviation minister, PIA management and CAA, which proved very damaging for the pilots of the national airline as well as others working at the international level.

The issue of ‘fake’ licences drew world attention after the aviation minister’s statement last month and the European Union Air Safety Agency suspended PIA authorisation to operate to the EU member states for six months, while the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also shared its concern over the serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.

The US Department of Transportation had also revoked permission for the PIA to conduct charter flights to the United States.

According to Reuters, the US Federal Aviation Administration also downgraded Pakistan’s air safety rating after the agency raised concerns about pilot certifications.