President Barroso has sent his condolences to President Obama:
In the name of the European Commission, as well as on my own behalf, allow me to extend to you and your people our heartfelt condolences.
Message of sympathy from President Barroso to Barack Obama…
Now, since Barroso has included neither me nor the people of the European Union in this message (just the European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union), I should like to express my own sympathy and that of the people of Europe.
But the truth is, Barroso has no right to speak in my name. While the American people had the opportunity to choose or reject Obama as their President, I have never been given the opportunity to accept or reject membership of the European Union; and neither I nor the people of Europe have had the opportunity to vote for Barroso.
Think of that: the most powerful officeholder in the EU is not directly elected by the people of the EU. What does that say about European democracy?
Today, the period for registering herbal medicines within the European Union expires. Please don’t misunderstand this European Directive (adopted in 2004). It has nothing to do with keeping the people of Europe healthy; it is designed to keep the profits of the pharmaceutical companies fat.
Paola Testori Coggi, Director General of DG Health and Consumers explained:
The law on herbal medicine wants to make sure that the herbal medicine which the citizens buy are safe, that they give the beneficial effects which they claim for, and that they are legal.
She makes three points:
- safe: we have been using herbal medicines for thousands of years with fewer side effects, fewer problems, and fewer ‘thalidomides’ than modern drugs. I once asked a doctor who wanted to ‘vaccinate’ me if he would accept personal liability for any irreversible side-effects. He declined. So I declined the vaccination. Why is it one law for herbs and a different law for drugs when it comes to provable safety?
- beneficial effects: only the user can say whether there have been beneficial effects – it is a value judgement that should be made by the user, not something imposed by the Union. If it doesn’t do what it says on the can, we have the option of not buying it again. If only I had redress against the pharmaceutical companies every time their paracetamol, aspirin or codeine failed to relieve a headache; or for every person who ever suffered an ulcer caused by aspirin…
- legal: typical EU gobbledygook. Of course herbal medicines are legal – or at least they were until the EU passed this law to make them illegal.
This is happening in Europe – but the same thing is going on in every country or region with an established pharmaceutical industry. In America there is much current debate over whether the average citizen is or is not vitamin D deficient. The official line is that he/she is not. Many independent experts believe that the average American citizen has insufficient vitamin D. They believe a conspiracy is in progress: stop people addressing the D deficiency until such time as we have patented the solution. At that time ‘realise’ that there is a deficiency and force them to pay through the nose for our patented solution.
It is, in fact, big business that shapes our laws, not the will of the people. This EU law is for the benefit of Big Pharma just as online copyright laws are for the benefit of the entertainment industry. It is time to stop this control of government by business, and return it to the will of the people.
Now I don’t know for certain since I am your bog-standard average monolingual Englishman, but am reliably told (by the Washington Post and Today) that this article on the Iranian website paydarymelli.ir describes a second virus (Stars) specifically targeting Iran (and probably targeting the Iranian nuclear programme).
The United States and Israel are the usual suspects, but it does come just a few weeks after the UK announced that the head of the new Defence Cyber Security Group (which will “also be responsible for developing, testing and validating cyber techniques as a complement to traditional military capabilities”) will be a senior military figure. So if the peace-loving, tree-hugging, morris-dancing Brits are gearing up for offensive cyber capabilities, you can guarantee the rest of the world is doing same.
But the problem is two-fold. Firstly, western governments have already cried wolf once too often and I no longer automatically believe anything I am told. Secondly, government corrupts, and absolute government corrupts absolutely – which means that the Iranian government is probably just a little bit more corrupt than ours. Probably.
So where is the truth? Is this an example of cyberwar in action? Is it the Iranian government making up stories to garner more sympathy from existing or potential sympathisers? Is it the first putative foray of the new Defence Cyber Security Group? Is it the CIA and/or Mossad in action? Is it more designed to increase western cyber security budgets than do serious damage to Iran? Or is it all of these and more.
The western security industry is watching and waiting for more information. PandaLabs’ Technical Director Luis Corrons is somewhat circumspect:
Right now nobody in the security industry has been able to take a look at this piece of malware. As long as there has been a public confirmation of the attack, there are 2 different scenarios:
- It is a real targeted attack, so only a very limited set of people has received the attack, and this explains why nobody in the security industry has seen it. This is something that happens – sadly – on a daily basis, so it is plausible this is the case.
- It is not a real targeted attack, but some specific “VIP” has received the typical malware attack through a spam message, which could contain any kind of malicious code (such as Zeus, Spyeye, some kind of downloader) and there has been an overreaction.
Frank Coggrave, General Manager EMEA, Guidance Software, is less circumspect:
The news that the Iranian government has uncovered an ‘espionage’ virus points to the growing trend of targeted attacks. Whilst the Star virus, and its purpose are still being investigated, the reports from officials that it was intended to target government institutions highlights the effort taken to inflict damage on one particular institution, in one country.
Worryingly, it comes less than a year since the Stuxnet worm was uncovered and the ramifications of this were huge, far beyond the direct damage it inflicted. It highlighted that this new breed of targeted threats were a reality, which poses new challenges for governments and organisations in establishing adequate defences against an ‘unseen’ enemy.
But of one thing we should be certain: cyberwar is coming. It is coming because governments want it and need it and will use it to keep us quiet and acquiescent. And whenever there is war, there is collateral damage. When we take physical war over there, the collateral damage is to them, and all we have to do is witness and cry over the television images. But in a cyberwar, the battle will come to us; and we shall experience collateral damage ourselves. It will be to our data and our networks; and no-one will hear or care when our disk drive screams in cyberspace.