Cyber attacks top US threat list; Facebook claims 2m advertisers; Punishing big banks

1 Cyber attacks top US threat list (BBC) US intelligence agencies have placed cyber attacks from foreign governments and criminals at the top of their list of threats to the country. Online assaults would increasingly undermine US economic competitiveness and national security, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

A report issued by his office said Russia’s military was setting up a cyber command to carry out attacks. The report also describes China, Iran and North Korea as leading threats. In testimony to a congressional committee, Mr Clapper said he no longer believed the US faced “cyber Armageddon”. The idea that major infrastructure such as financial networks or power grids could be disabled by hackers now looked less probable, he said.

However he warned: “We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on US economic competitiveness and national security.” Over the past year there have been a series of high-profile cyber attacks against US targets.

2 Facebook claims 2m advertisers (San Francisco Chronicle) Facebook has said it has more than 2 million active advertisers, double its amount from a year and a half ago. “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected, and an important part of that is helping people connect with businesses,” said Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a blog post.

Facebook has tried to woo small businesses, encouraging them to pay to promote their posts on the social network, narrowing their audience by interests, location and age. In 2013, it got complaints from small businesses upset that the network’s algorithms made it harder for their posts to be seen on Facebook’s news feed without paying for an ad.

Facebook continues to grab global digital ad revenue. Last year, it had nearly 8 percent market share in this category, up from about 6 percent in 2013, according to research firm eMarketer. Rob Enderle of the advisory services firm Enderle Group, warned that Facebook does face challenges from smaller, niche social networks such as Nextdoor, which focuses on neighborhoods, or LinkedIn for business people.

3 Punishing big banks (Khaleej Times) Often claimed to be too big to fall (or to fail), the world’s biggest banks are now in the eyes of the public too big to be honest. And that absence of honesty is why HSBC chairman Douglas Flint has failed to take responsibility for the bank’s alleged criminal transgressions in Switzerland.

More infuriating still for the British public, who have followed the workings of a Treasury Select Committee taking evidence about HSBC and its possible role in tax evasion, is that neither Flint nor the bank’s CEO, Stuart Gulliver, have mentioned personal responsibility for the transgressions.

HSBC is Britain’s largest — and the world’s second largest — bank, and has been caught quite red-handed facilitating industrial-scale tax evasion, committed by some of its wealthiest clients. In keeping with the appalling absence of honesty, integrity and responsibility that HSBC has displayed from at least 2008 the bank’s chairman initially denied HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary had facilitated tax avoidance.

There is now a clear signal that the latest transgression by HSBC, and the widespread vociferous public reaction to the leak, has moved the authorities in the UK to act. Under the circumstances, better late than never may be some comfort to the public in Britain and elsewhere. The impunity of big banks has indeed been galling. The Libor scandal was exposed in 2012, implicating a cartel of banks in the fraudulent manipulation of the average interest rate of London banks.

And, in November 2014 five of the world’s biggest banks — JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Citigroup, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and HSBC — were collectively fined US$4.25bn by British, Swiss and American authorities for fixing foreign exchange rates. It is well past high time for strict, long-lasting penalties on those who keep the hard-earned monies of the public.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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