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CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Despite two deadly crashes within a space of five months airlines told it was safe to fly 737 MAX 8 planes on Monday as investigators found two black box recorders that will help piece together the final moments of an Ethiopian Airlines jet before it plunged to the ground on Sunday.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has told airlines it believes Boeing’s 737 Max 8 model to be airworthy, after two fatal crashes inside six months. An Ethiopian Airlines plane en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed six minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.
China, Ethiopi and Indonesia grounded their fleets of 737 MAX 8 aircraft earlier on Monday, citing safety concerns, contributing to a drop in Boeing Co shares that wiped billions of dollars off the market value of the world’s biggest plane maker.
Late on Monday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a “continued airworthiness notification” to assure operators of the plane that it was safe to fly. It said it was collecting data on the crash and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities and would take immediate action if it identified any safety issues.
Southwest Airlines Co, which operates the largest fleet of 737 MAX 8s, said it remained confident in the safety of all its Boeing planes even as it received a rush of queries from customers wanting to know if they were booked to fly on a 737 MAX 8.
“Our customer relations team is responding to these customers individually, emphasizing our friendly, no-change fee policy,” the No. 4 U.S. airline said in a statement.
Investigators in Ethiopia found two black box recorders early on Monday that will help piece together the final moments of the plane before it plunged, trailing smoke and debris, and crashed killing 157 people. The disaster came just months after a jet of the same model came down in Indonesia killing 189 people.
The discovery of black box recorders means the cause of the crash may be quickly understood, as long as recordings are not damaged, although it typically takes a year for a full detailed investigation to be completed.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said he was confident in the safety of the 737 MAX in an email to employees which was seen by Reuters.
The planemaker, the airline and its insurers face big claims after the crash, industry sources said. The insured value of the plane itself was likely around $50 million.
On top of that, Boeing may face lawsuits from victims’ families in the United States, where legal compensation payments for people killed in plane crashes could run around $2 million to $3 million per person, depending on the law applied, compared to about $200,000 in Ethiopia, according to Justin Green, a New York-based aviation lawyer who has represented families in cases against Boeing.
Boeing declined to comment on its insurance cover.
The company’s share price briefly had its biggest one-day drop since the attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, falling as much as 13.5 percent early on Monday on fears that two crashes in such a short time could reveal flaws in the new plane.
Some investors saw that dip as an opportunity to buy Boeing shares, which have tripled in value over the past three years, sparking a recovery. The shares closed down 5.3 percent at $400.01. They hit a record high of $446 last week.
ADDIS ABABA/BEIJING (Reuters) – China, Indonesia and Ethiopia grounded their Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 fleets on Monday while investigators found the black box from a crash that killed 157 people in the second disaster involving that airplane model in six months.
The Ethiopian Airlines jet bound for Nairobi came down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all on board. The victims came from 33 nations and included 22 United Nations’ staff.
The discovery of the black box with both the cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data, reported by Ethiopian state TV, should shed light on the cause of the crash.
At the scene, men in Red Cross jackets picked through the dirt, putting items in black paper bags, while investigators hunted for the black box voice recorders.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the crash, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution,” Ethiopian Airlines said. It has four other 737 MAX 8 jets, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
The 737 line is the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft and viewed as one of the industry’s most reliable.Airplane engine parts are seen at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
CHINA’S ‘ZERO TOLERANCE’
China on Monday also ordered its airlines to suspend operations of their 737 MAX 8 jets by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) following the second crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jet since one run by Indonesia’s Lion Air went down in October.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said it would notify airlines when they could resume flying the jets, after contacting Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during take-off phase, they have some degree of similarity,” the CAAC said, adding the step was in line with its principle of zero tolerance of safety hazards. The 737 MAX 8 is sometimes referred to as the 737-8.
New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital city in 2018, two groups monitoring air pollution said on Tuesday in a study of the amount of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 in 61 capital cities around the world.
The Indian capital, home to more than 20 million people, was followed by the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka and Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, according to the study by IQ AirVisual, a Swiss-based group that gathers air-quality data globally, and Greenpeace.
The Indian capital, home to more than 20 million people, was followed by the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka and Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, according to the study by IQ AirVisual, a Swiss-based group that gathers air-quality data globally, and Greenpeace.
New Delhi’s toxic air is caused by vehicle and industrial emissions, dust from building sites, smoke from the burning of rubbish and crop residue in nearby fields.
The city’s average annual concentration of PM2.5 in a cubic meter of air was 113.5 in 2018, the groups said in their report, more than double the level of Beijing, which averaged 50.9 during the year, making it the eighth most polluted in the world.
PM2.5, or particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, is so dangerous because it lodges deep in the lungs.
The World Health Organization sets a daily mean air quality guideline of 25 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.
China struggled for years to enforce environment rules and crack down on polluting industries, but it has benefited in recent years from vastly improved legislation and greater political will to combat poor air quality.
“In mainland China, in particular, this has led to significant improvements in year-on-year reductions in PM2.5 levels,” the groups said in their joint study.
India is home to 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, they said.
“The question which remains to be answered is whether there is enough political will to aggressively fight the health emergency India faces today and move away from polluting fuels and practices,” said Pujarini Sen, spokeswoman for Greenpeace India.
Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani
US journalists were abruptly booted from the hotel where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is staying ahead of his summit with President Donald Trump.
Kim, who was booked into the Melia Hanoi Hotel, arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday local time to a throng of journalists eagerly anticipating his arrival to the city.
“They had about an hours notice that they all had to get out,” CNN correspondent Will Ripley reported on Tuesday. “Kim Jong Un understandably didn’t like the idea of sharing a hotel with a large group of American reporters.”
|AIWA! NO!|North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump where they will try to reach agreement on how to implement a North Korean pledge to give up its nuclear weapons.
Trump is due in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Tuesday evening.
They will meet for a brief one-on-one conversation on Wednesday evening, followed by a dinner, at which they will each be accompanied by two guests and interpreters, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One.
The two leaders would meet again on Thursday, she said.
Their talks come eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
There is likely to be pressure on both sides to move beyond the vaguely worded commitment they made in Singapore to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Domestic critics have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, urging specific, verifiable North Korean action to abandon the nuclear weapons that threaten the United States.
In return, Kim would expect significant U.S. concessions such as relief from punishing sanctions and a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is at last formally over.
Kim, who travelled from the North Korean capital by train, arrived at the station in the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang after crossing over the border from China.
Vietnamese officials were on hand to receive him at the station with a red-carpet welcome, including a guard of honour and fluttering North Korean and Vietnamese flags.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has emerged as an important aide, arrived with him.
About a dozen bodyguards ran along side Kim’s car as he departed for the two-hour journey to the capital, Hanoi.
Roads were closed off with Vietnamese security forces equipped with armoured-personnel carriers guarding the route to the city’s Melia hotel where he is staying.
Both Kim Jong Un and Trump are also due to hold separate talks with Vietnamese leaders.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also arrived in Hanoi, on Tuesday. He has been Trump’s top envoy in his efforts to improve ties with the reclusive North and has made several trips to Pyongyang to negotiate an ending of its nuclear programme.
Pompeo was due to meet U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in Hanoi later.
Trump told reporters before he left the and Kim would have “a very tremendous summit”.
Tweeting on Monday, he stressed the benefits to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons. “With complete Denuclearisation, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!” Trump said.
In a speech late on Sunday, Trump, however, appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough in Hanoi, saying he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing.
“I’m not in a rush,” he said. “I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”
North Korea conducted its last nuclear test in September 2017 and last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.
Analysts say the two leaders have to move beyond summit symbolism.
“The most basic yet urgent task is to come to a shared understanding of what denuclearisation would entail,” said Gi-Wook Shin, director of Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center.
“The ambiguity and obscurity of the term ‘denuclearisation’ only exacerbates the scepticism about both the U.S. and North Korean commitments to denuclearisation.”
While the United States is demanding that North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programmes, North Korea wants to see the removal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea.
A South Korean presidential spokesman told reporters in Seoul on Monday the two sides might be able to agree to a formal end of the Korean War, which was concluded with an armistice not a peace treaty, a move North Korea has long sought.
While a formal peace treaty may be a long way off, the two sides have discussed the possibility of a political declaration stating that the war over.
Protesters in Seoul tore up photographs of Kim and threw them to the ground to highlight their dismay that North Korea’s grim record on human rights was not expected to figure in the discussions.
About half of 451 North Korean defectors questioned in a survey endured physical violence at the hands of North Korean authorities before they fled, a rights group.
Rights group Amnesty International said Trump had disregarded human rights to gain favour with Kim.
“His silence in the face of relentless and grave human rights violations has been deafening,” it said.
KIEV|AIWA! NO!| — To see the warfare of the future, head to the top floor of a nondescript office tower on a potholed street on the scruffy outskirts of Ukraine’s capital. There, next to a darkened conference room, engineers sit at dark gray monitors, waging war with lines of code.
“Attacks are happening every day,” says Oleh Derevianko, founder of the Ukrainian cybersecurity firm that employs them, Information Systems Security Partners. “We never thought we were going to be the front line of cyber and hybrid war.”
There may be no better place to witness cyber conflict in action than Ukraine today. Open warfare with Russia, a highly skilled, computer-literate pool of talent and a uniquely vulnerable political, economic and IT environment have made the country the perfect sandbox for those looking to test new cyberweapons, tactics and tools.
“Ukraine is live-fire space,” says Kenneth Geers, a veteran cybersecurity expert and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who advises NATO’s Tallinn cyber center and spent time on the ground in Ukraine to study the country’s cyber conflict. Much like global powers fought proxy wars in the Middle East or Africa during the Cold War, Ukraine has become a battleground in a cyberwar arms race for global influence.
Derevianko’s outfit works closely with the Ukrainian government and its U.S. and European allies to fend off onslaughts against the country’s networks. On the other side of the virtual front line: Not just sophisticated Russian-affiliated hacker groups like Fancy Bear, Cozy Bear and Sandworm — the group behind “NotPetya,” the most devastating cyberattack to date — but also hosts of other governmental, nongovernmental and criminal players testing out their capabilities on the country’s networks.
“They’re not only testing destruction but also testing your reflexes” — Oleh Derevianko, founder of Information Systems Security Partners
Activity has spiked ahead of presidential elections in March, says Derevianko. Since November, hacker groups have been shelling Ukrainian magistrates, government officials, attorneys and others with emails that contain attachments with malware and viruses — sometimes disguised as Christmas greetings, or as messages from the prime minister’s office — in what Derevianko describes as “mass phishing.”
Russian hacker groups are repeatedly attempting to get into the country’s systems, Ukraine’s national security service told POLITICO. Critical infrastructure and election systems are under constant stress, it said.
“They’re not only testing destruction but also testing your reflexes,” says Derevianko.
The war in eastern Ukraine has given Russian-affiliated hackers the opportunity to perfect their ability to launch cyberattacks with a series of major intrusions in Ukraine over the past few years.
“The annexation of Crimea and war in Donbas, it has created a volatile political environment,” says Merle Maigre, the former head of NATO’s cyberdefense center in Tallinn who is now executive vice president at the Estonian cybersecurity firm CybExer.
Even as Russian tanks crossed the physical border into eastern Ukraine in the spring of 2014, Russian-affiliated hackers were sending malicious code onto Ukraine’s IT systems, providing political chaos as a smokescreen.
Three days before the presidential election in May 2014, hackers broke into Ukraine’s Central Election Commission and disabled parts of the network using advanced cyberespionage malware, according to a report by the International Foundation of Electoral Systems funded by the U.S. and U.K. and seen by POLITICO. The Central Election Commission was hit again later that year, when hackers took down its website ahead of a parliamentary vote in October.
Large-scale attacks followed the next year, and again in 2016. The targets, this time, were companies running Ukraine’s power grid. In 2015, hackers used so-called BlackEnergy malware, dropped on companies’ networks using spear phishing attacks that tricked employees into downloading from mock emails. So-called KillDisk malware later destroyed parts of the grid.
The resulting blackouts — the world’s first known successful cyberattack on an energy company at scale — affected about 230,000 Ukrainians for up to six hours. A year later, in December 2016, hackers relied on even more sophisticated tools to successfully turn off the lights in large parts of the Ukrainian capital yet again.
But the widest-reaching attack — and the world’s most financially damaging to date — took place in 2017, when hackers combined code tested in the power grid attacks with malware known as “Petya” and a security vulnerability initially discovered by the U.S. National Security Agency called EternalBlue.
The resulting malware — “NotPetya” — compromised the software of a small tech firm called Linkos Group, providing it access to the computers of utility companies, banks, airports and government agencies in Ukraine. It also crippled multinationals like the Danish shipping giant Maersk, logistics giant FedEx, pharma company Merck and other major corporations.
The NotPetya attack — which cost an estimated $10 billion to clean up — was “as close to cyberwar” as we’ve come, says Geers. “This was the most damaging attack in history, of a scale and cost that would far exceed a missile fired from the Donbas into Kiev.”
The free-for-all environment of a country at war has turned Ukraine into a magnet for players of all types looking to test their cyber capabilities. In addition to hostile Russian hackers, the country has attracted cybersecurity firms looking to get close to the action, Western intelligence agencies seeking to understand the nature of modern conflict and criminals looking to make a buck.
“Donbas is basically lit up with malware. That’s intelligence services trying to figure out what Russia is going to do next in Donbas, trying to figure out what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is up to,” says Geers, the Atlantic Council’s cybersecurity expert. “The U.S., China, Russia, Israel, Turkey, Iran — it’s coming from everywhere.”
In addition to the ongoing military conflict, Ukraine offers a tempting target because so many of the country’s computers run pirated software, which doesn’t receive standard security patches. And, because it is well integrated with Western European internet networks, the country offers a backdoor to hack the rest of Europe.
Constant attempted attacks by hacker groups such as Fancy Bear, Cozy Bear and Turla are putting critical infrastructure and election systems under constant stress, Ukraine’s national security told POLITICO.
The goal, say experts, is to test the West’s defenses. The U.S. and other intelligence agencies have responded by moving into the Ukrainian networks to pick up the signals.
“Getting intelligence ahead of time is important,” says Dymtro Shymkiv, the former head of Microsoft in Ukraine and President Petro Poroshenko’s chief adviser on cyber between 2014 and 2018. “Some of the viruses and malware in the energy blackouts in Ukraine were later found in the U.S. and Israel.”
Ukrainian authorities, he says, exchange cyber intel for help in fending off the hackers.
“Whenever we identified malware, we uploaded it to special services where manufacturers of anti-virus could analyze it,” says Shymkiv. His cyber team sometimes worked with expert communities on platforms like Hybrid Analysis or ANY.RUN, a technique known as “cloud-based sandboxing,” where researchers can access the data and get in touch with those affected by malware, he says.
“U.S. counterparts, they are requesting a lot of information and interacting very productively” — Roman Boyarchuk, head of Ukraine’s State Cyber Protection Center
Washington has invested heavily in cyber resilience in Ukraine since 2014. USAID alone freed up a pot of $10 million (€8.9 million) for cybersecurity defenses, and a sizeable part of its much larger budget to support Ukraine goes to securing IT systems in the country.
U.S. companies, such as tech giant Microsoft, have also beefed up their presence in the country. Hardware leader Cisco has a strong foothold that includes its renowned cyberintelligence unit Talos. And U.S. cyber firm CrowdStrike, known for bullishly calling out state-sponsored hacks, is also active in the country, as are many others.
The U.S. and Europe are also investing in seminars and training for Ukrainian cybersecurity staff, and are involved in day-to-day assistance via the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), an international organization backed by democracies worldwide to help out with holding elections, and other channels.
“U.S. counterparts, they are requesting a lot of information and interacting very productively,” says Roman Boyarchuk, the head of Ukraine’s State Cyber Protection Center, the authority tasked with fending off attackers from government networks. American and European cybersecurity authorities regularly ask for more details about his agency’s analysis of major threats, he says.
Activity has increased ahead of Ukraine’s national election in March, experts say, as smaller groups and individual hackers and criminals look for financial gain.
“They’re scanning the networks and sending a lot of malware in order to find the breaches, the vulnerabilities,” says Boyarchuck, of the national cyber emergency team. “They are taking control, recording this control, putting it into databases and selling it.”
The hackers then find buyers for these credentials or access into confidential networks. Large data sets are sold on dark web marketplaces to anyone willing to pay the price.
“Everyone is buying it,” says Boyarchuk. “Corporate competitors, state actors, anybody.”
Fears of contagion
For Kiev’s cyber helpers, the goal is not just to help out a developing country under pressure. As Ukraine becomes ever more integrated with the West, there’s a strong fear of contagion. A successful cyberattack in Kiev, they fear, can easily slip the country’s borders and infect computers across the globe.
That’s become especially true following Ukraine’s shift toward the West, which triggered Russia’s aggression. The country’s 2014 Association Agreement with the EU came with a “deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement” in place since 2016 that has strengthened economic ties. And with the increase in trade has come added data flows and interactions in its internet networks.
The 2017 “NotPetya” attack was a painful example of the risks that come with this kind of entanglement: An attack starting in a small tech firm in Ukraine spread to companies and government agencies across the world, grinding the business of international heavy-hitters to a halt.
“We provided them with political support, we’ve supported Ukraine in providing guns and ammo. Now we’re moving to cyber” — Edvinas Kerza, Lithuania’s vice minister of national defense
NotPetya “was when everybody realized how vulnerable we are when Ukraine gets hit,” says Maigre, the former head of NATO’s cyberdefense center. “It easily blows over to Europe and beyond.”
For the EU, in particular, the attack underlined the urgency of beefing up Ukraine’s cyberdefenses.
Since then, European countries have set up bilateral assistance deals. Estonia, for example, is heavily involved in helping Ukrainian authorities set up a secure electoral IT system. Lithuania is also active, according to Edvinas Kerza, the country’s vice minister of national defense.
“We provided them with political support, we’ve supported Ukraine in providing guns and ammo,” says Kerza. “Now we’re moving to cyber.”
The EU’s eye is now on securing the upcoming presidential election at the end of March.
“We strongly expect Russia will try to influence the course of Ukraine’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019,” Ukraine’s security service said in an email, adding that the greatest threat comes from special services launching “purposeful, long-term cyberattacks with state interests in mind.”
Above all, the March vote could provide valuable insight for the EU, as it braces for cyberattacks on its European election at the end of May. That vote — in which voters in 27 countries will choose a new European Parliament and by extension decide who sits at the helm of the EU’s top institutions — is uniquely vulnerable to interference.
What happens in Kiev today could easily happen in Berlin, Rome or Amsterdam tomorrow, experts say. Ukraine “is sort of like a litmus test,” says Maigre. The stream of phishing emails, the data sold on the dark web, the new types of malware — all of it can pop up west of Ukraine at any time. “That’s why it is interesting to see how it all plays out in the elections,” she says.