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Geelani to meet Pakistan NSA on Aug 24: PDP says talks must go on


New Delhi: Talks between the national security advisors of India and Pakistan must be held as scheduled if terrorism has to be tackled, a leader of Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling People’s Democratic Party leader on Friday. “In order to bring an end to terrorism, the NSA talks must go on.


Asked if Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz’s proposed meeting with Hurriyat leaders could be considered a hurdle to talks with India, he said the engagement between the two countries was more important and talks with Hurriyat should not matter so much. “It is up to Hurriyat to decide whether they act as a bridge between India and Pakistan. They will have to figure out what they will achieve by going or not going to meet Sartaj Aziz,” Parra said. Even as a Pakistan spokesman said in Islamabad that the country would not accept any “precondition” or “advice” that Aziz should not meet Hurriyat leaders ahead of the August 23-24 meeting of the two national security advisors in New Delhi, a spokesman for the separatists group that Hurriyat conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani was scheduled to have a one-on-one meeting with the Pakistan NSA, who is also advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs.

The spokesman, Ayaz Akbar, said the meeting was scheduled for August 24, the day after the two-day NSA talks are to begin in New Delhi. He said that they had received information about timing of the meeting at 8 p.m. on Friday through a mail from the Pakistan High Commission. “The meeting will be held at the residence of the High Commissioner Abdul Basit at 9.30 a.m. on Aug 24. He said Geelani will fly to Delhi on Aug 24 morning to meet Aziz but will not attend the reception hosted by the high commission on Aug 23.

The intimation about the timing of the meeting was conveyed to Geelani even as India declared on Friday that “unilateral imposition of new conditions and distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward” with the NSA level talks with Pakistan but stopped short of calling off the dialogue. Parra said the Hurriyat would help matters more by staying away ahead of the talks. “It is up to them (Hurriyat) to decide whether they want to promote dialogue by absence or discourage it by (their) presence. The Hurriyat Conference, however, says that their talks with Pakistan were “nothing new” and that the BJP-led central government’s approach on Kashmir was unacceptable. “The BJP’s approach in addressing the Kashmir issue is not practical. It is a fanatical approach which is not acceptable,” Akbar said. “Hurriyat has been in talks with Pakistan since long and Pakistan’s invitation over NSA talks is nothing new,” he added.

Talking about the Hurriyat’s agenda for the meeting with the Pakistan NSA, Akbar said: “We will ask for constitutional guarantee over addressing the Kashmir issue from Pakistan.” He said they would also ask Pakistan to make their diplomatic roles “more pro-active in addressing the Kashmir issue. And to ensure that in future Pakistan does not step back from showing serious concern about Kashmir. Leaders of Hurriyat’s both factions, headed by Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, respectively, as well as other separatist leaders Yasin Malik and Naeem Khan, have been invited to the reception being hosted by the high commissioner on August 23 in honour of Aziz.


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Hackers Release documents and files Indicating US National Security Agency (NSA) Monitored Global Bank Transfers

The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity

An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, VOA

April 15, 2017: Hackers released documents and files Friday that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks.

The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity, said Shane Shook, a cyber security consultant who has helped banks investigate breaches of their SWIFT systems.

The documents and files were released by a group calling themselves The Shadow Brokers. Some of the records bear NSA seals, but Reuters could not confirm their authenticity.

The NSA could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Holes in Windows

Also published were many programs for attacking various versions of the Windows operating system, at least some of which still work, researchers said.

In a statement to Reuters, Microsoft, maker of Windows, said it had not been warned by any part of the U.S. government that such files existed or had been stolen.

“Other than reporters, no individual or organization has contacted us in relation to the materials released by Shadow Brokers,” the company said.

The absence of warning is significant because the NSA knew for months about the Shadow Brokers breach, officials previously told Reuters. Under a White House process established by former President Barack Obama’s staff, companies were usually warned about dangerous flaws.

Bangladesh heist

Shook said criminal hackers could use the information released Friday to hack into banks and steal money in operations mimicking a heist last year of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank.

“The release of these capabilities could enable fraud like we saw at Bangladesh Bank,” Shook said.

The SWIFT messaging system is used by banks to transfer trillions of dollars each day. Belgium-based SWIFT downplayed the risk of attacks employing the code released by hackers Friday.

SWIFT said it regularly releases security updates and instructs client banks on how to handle known threats.

“We mandate that all customers apply the security updates within specified times,” SWIFT said in a statement.

SWIFT said it had no evidence that the main SWIFT network had ever been accessed without authorization.

It was possible that the local messaging systems of some SWIFT client banks had been breached, SWIFT said in a statement, which did not specifically mention the NSA.

When cyberthieves robbed the Bangladesh Bank last year, they compromised that bank’s local SWIFT network to order money transfers from its account at the New York Federal Reserve.

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The documents released by the Shadow Brokers on Friday indicate that the NSA may have accessed the SWIFT network through service bureaus. SWIFT service bureaus are companies that provide an access point to the SWIFT system for the network’s smaller clients and may send or receive messages regarding money transfers on their behalf.

“If you hack the service bureau, it means that you also have access to all of their clients, all of the banks,” said Matt Suiche, founder of the United Arab Emirates-based cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies, who has studied the Shadow Broker releases and believes the group has access to NSA files.

The documents posted by the Shadow Brokers include Excel files listing computers on a service bureau network, user names, passwords and other data, Suiche said.

“That’s information you can only get if you compromise the system,” he said.

Cris Thomas, a prominent security researcher with the cybersecurity firm Tenable, said the documents and files released by the Shadow Brokers show “the NSA has been able to compromise SWIFT banking systems, presumably as a way to monitor, if not disrupt, financial transactions to terrorists groups.”

Thwarting terrorists

Since the early 1990s, interrupting the flow of money from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere to al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other militant Islamic groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries has been a major objective of U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.

Mustafa Al-Bassam, a computer science researcher at University College London, said on Twitter that the Shadow Brokers documents show that the “NSA hacked a bunch of banks, oil and investment companies in Palestine, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, more.”

He added that NSA “completely hacked” EastNets, one of two SWIFT service bureaus named in the documents that were released by the Shadow Brokers.

Reuters could not independently confirm that EastNets had been hacked. And EastNets, based in Dubai, denied it had been hacked in a statement, calling the assertion “totally false and unfounded.”

EastNets ran a “complete check of its servers and found no hacker compromise or any vulnerabilities,” according to a statement from EastNets’ chief executive and founder, Hazem Mulhim.

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Snowden documents

In 2013, documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said the NSA had been able to monitor SWIFT messages.

The agency monitored the system to spot payments intended to finance crimes, according to the documents released by Snowden.

Reuters could not confirm whether the documents released Friday by the Shadow Brokers, if authentic, were related to NSA monitoring of SWIFT transfers since 2013.

Some of the documents released by the Shadow Brokers were dated 2013, but others were not dated. The documents released by the hackers did not clearly indicate whether the NSA had actually used all the techniques cited for monitoring SWIFT messages.

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Need concrete assurances from centre on alliance agenda: Mehbooba Mufti


Srinagar: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said on Sunday that she needs effective, time-bound assurances on implementation of the agenda of alliance from the central government to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Noting the Narendra Modi government will have to reach out to the state’s people with decisive political and economic confidence-building measures (CBMs), she said her father, late chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, “took a courageous, although unpopular, decision of aligning with BJP”, hoping its government will take decisive measures to address the “core political and economic issues” concerning the state and its people.

“Unfortunately, instead of partnering with and implementing Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s vision of bringing peace, stability and prosperity to Jammu and Kashmir, certain quarters, both within J&K and in New Delhi, started overtly and covertly triggering frequent controversies over avoidable contentious issues resulting in wastage of the state government’s energies in firefighting and propitiation,” she said in a statement after her party’s core group meeting here.

“In such violative circumstances around, we will have to reassess whether we can absorb the shocks which Mufti Sahab had to do so frequently in his effort to forge reconciliation between the regions and the people of the state,” she said.

“PDP can’t form a government just for the sake of power but, if it does, it will be, as envisioned by Mufti Sahab, with the objective of addressing the core political and economic issues confronting J&K as was done by the PDP-led government between 2002 and 2005,” she asserted.

She said the Modi government will have to take substantive measures towards implementation of the PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance and her PDP “needs a set timeframe to be worked out”.

“The PDP will have to reassess whether the central government is ready to trust the people of Jammu and Kashmir and carry out implementation of ‘Agenda of Alliance’ with sincerity of purpose,” she said, noting it makes clear that the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to the state including on special status.

She said the agenda made it clear that the coalition government will seek to support and strengthen the approach and initiatives taken “to create a reconciliatory environment and build stakes for all in the peace and development within the sub-continent including normalisation of relations with Pakistan”.

Mehbooba Mufti noted though real progress was made during the past 10 months towards the implementation of good governance practices listed in the agenda of alliance, there was little movement forward on implementation of political and economic initiatives.

“Instead there were some recurrent unsettling developments which led to lack of congenial atmosphere and had a negative impact even on the good work done on the governance front,” she said, adding the Sayeed government’s “some pioneering developmental and welfare initiatives could not make a mark among the people because of some unsettling issues being raised by certain quarters repeatedly”.

“Amid recurring contestations and controversies, Mufti Sahab worked tirelessly and tried his best to carry everybody along and bring some relief to the people on the governance front and unfortunately, this taxing overdoing ultimately took a heavy toll on his health.

“Jammu and Kashmir today needs the political will and statesmanship to pull the state out of the morass, which no government in the state could do amid recurrent rumblings over the issues that have already been settled in the constitution,” she said. (IANS)

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Doval creating confusion, says Congress


New Delhi: The Congress on Monday accused National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval of creating confusion over sensitive issues of national security.

“The NSA is reported to have said in an interview that ‘no peace talks now till Pakistan takes action against Pathankot terrorists and India is satisfied with Pakistan’s efforts’.

“Later, he denied having given an interview to the publication. This self-contradictory statement was in reference to the foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for January 15,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told media persons here.


“The NSA has further compounded and confounded the confusion that seems to have become this government’s hallmark as far as dealing with extremely serious and sensitive issues of national security is concerned,” he added.

He also sought to know from the government whether the foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for January 15 were happening or not.

Posing a few more questions to the government, Singhvi asked: “What are the ‘actionable proofs and evidences’ that they have given to Pakistan?

“Has the government of Pakistan acted on these evidences and to what extent?

“Is the government satisfied by Pakistan’s actions on the actionable evidences?”

He further asked: “Are these actions sufficient enough to surmount the earlier stand of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that entails ‘talks and terror can’t go ahead simultaneously? Can the nation expect a clear statement by the external affairs minister or its spokesperson on this issue?”