Tuesday February 19, 2019
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Cyber attack on US affected data of 21.5 mn people

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Washington, A cyber-attack on the US government, allegedly by Chinese hackers, was more severe than initial reports, affecting “sensitive” information of millions of people, the Obama administration has said.

The Office of Personnel Management — victim of the attack that was exposed in June — reported on Thursday that “hackers” robbed personal data, including social security numbers and other information of 21.5 million people, according to Efe news agency.

attackOf these, 19.7 million are people who had applied for jobs in administration or the government and other individuals linked to the public sector, on which the government ran security checks.

The remaining 1.8 million are families of some of the above.

In addition to social security numbers, the hackers also accessed addresses, financial and health histories.

The 21.5 million affected also include people who were victims of another “separate, but related” cyber-attack, affecting 4.2 million current and former federal government employees.

The sum of all those affected by these attacks amount to around seven percent of the US population, making it one of the most damaging attacks ever recorded against the US administration, both in terms of the number affected and sensitivity of stolen data.

Although, there is no “scientific evidence”, voices from US media and politics suspect a Chinese hand.

According to The Washington Post, “China is building massive databases of Americans’ personal information”, for “recruiting spies or gaining more information on an adversary”. (IANS)

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US Military Planes Deliver Aid to Venezuela-Colombia Border

The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.

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US, colombia, venezuela, military
FILE - Demonstrators who are against the Venezuelan government chant outside of the Organization of American States during the special meeting of the Permanent Council, in Washington, April 3, 2017, to consider the recent events in Venezuela. VOA

More than 200 tons of US humanitarian aid intended for Venezuela is scheduled to begin arriving just across the border in Colombia Saturday, delivered by US military cargo planes.

The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.

The aid comes at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to ease shortages of food and other essentials in economically troubled Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said the aid is part of Washington’s political maneuvering to get him out of office, and he has blocked off a bridge needed to bring the supplies into Venezuela.

The United States said Maduro’s election was unfair and illegitimate, and U.S. officials and scores of other nations have recognized his rival, Guaido, as the country’s interim leader.

US, Colombia, Venezuela
Sacks containing humanitarian aid are pictured at a warehouse near the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Adding pressure

On Friday, Washington added to the political pressure on Maduro by sanctioning the head of Venezuela’s oil company as well as top intelligence officials.

Earlier Friday, Guiado’s representatives collected aid pledges from many nations at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, where 25 countries promised more than $100 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

“We came to ask for the solidarity of the governments of the world,” said Lester Toledo, coordinator for international help for Venezuela. “We appreciate the diplomatic gestures. We appreciate the letters and the recognition of President Guaidó. But we ask for help, to make the humanitarian aid a reality. That all donations can let us purchase medical supplies that we really need.”

Venezuela, US, Colombia
If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said. Pixabay

Distributing the aid

U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo said Guaidó has a plan.

“I believe that President Guaidó has done everything possible to make Maduro accept the humanitarian aid. Maduro has no argument, the person sitting in power doesn’t let the humanitarian aid reach his people who are dying of hunger,” Trujillo said.

Guaido said the aid will be brought into Venezuela Feb. 23.

Maduro, however, said the aid will not be brought into his nation, and he blames U.S. economic sanctions for Venezuela’s problems.

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“They’re putting pressure on Venezuela’s banks, which are in charge of purchasing and bringing the food and supplies. The White House is pressuring so that none of our bank accounts work. They have frozen billions of dollars that could otherwise buy food and medicine,” he claimed.

If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said.

“We have the necessary experience, we know it is a very complex issue, but we will do our best to coordinate the distribution and organization of this humanitarian aid,” he said. (VOA)