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Cyber threats front and center for Vermont’s biggest organizations

Cyber Threats Front And Center For Vermont's Biggest Organizations CLOSECyber Threats Front And Center For Vermont's Biggest Organizations

Heather Roszkowski, the University of Vermont Medical Center’s network chief information security officer, discusses cyber-threats in Burlington on Monday, June 26, 2017. GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS

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Heather Roszkowski, the University of Vermont Medical Center’s network chief information security officer, with a monitor displaying a graph of a recent increase in spam email at the hospital’s IT security offices in Burlington on Monday, June 26, 2017. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)Buy Photo

Two of Vermont’s biggest businesses the University of Vermont Medical Center and GlobalFoundries were hit with recent phishing attacks, a reminder of the relentless efforts by hackers to break into information systems where they don’t belong. At UVM Medical Center, the email accounts of two employees were accessed in late May and mid-June by third parties after the employees accidentally opened phishing messages that mimicked an official company communication. A hospital spokesman said this was the first time the email system was penetrated in this way, “despite thousands of phishing attempts every day.”


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Michael Carrese said the hospital has no evidence the hackers attempted to access the electronic medical record system, or systems that contain Social Security numbers and other information that can be used to identify people. Carrese said those systems are separate from the hospital’s email accounts.

“We’re doing a thorough investigation of the two email accounts to determine their contents with the assistance of a firm that specializes in these matters,” he said in an interview Monday with the Burlington Free Press. “At this point, our investigation indicates that the inappropriate access was limited to these two accounts, and it appears the accounts were used to send spam.”

Cyber Threats Front And Center For Vermont's Biggest OrganizationsBuy Photo


Vermont Public Radio first reported the attack on GlobalFoundries on Friday, saying a virus infected a number of manufacturing tools at the microchip facility in Essex Junction. A GlobalFoundries spokesman said the tools were taken offline to isolate them and prevent the virus from spreading. Some of the tools were back online last week. GlobalFoundries took over a contract working for the Department of Defense when it replaced IBM as the owner of the Essex plant, known as a fab, in 2015. The sensitive nature of GlobalFoundries’ work for the government raises the level of concern where cyber security matters are concerned. Monday, GlobalFoundries spokesman Jim Keller told the Burlington Free Press in an email the company is now confident it was not the target of the virus found on its network last week.

“Therefore, while we certainly will protect any DOD information we have, if we were not the target, they were not the target as our customer,” Keller wrote.

Cyber Threats Front And Center For Vermont's Biggest OrganizationsBuy Photo

Heather Roszkowski, the University of Vermont Medical Center’s network chief information security officer, looks at a monitor displaying a graph of a recent increase in spam email at the hospital’s IT security offices in Burlington on Monday, June 26, 2017. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

Heather Roszkowski, network chief information security officer for the UVM Health Network of six hospitals, said Monday that phishing is common. She said the hospital filters out about 65 percent of the 275,000 emails the system receives every day.

“Inbound messages are stripped out before they reach the user’s box, because they’re deemed malicious, containing a virus, phishing content or other unwanted content,” Roszkowski said. “An incredible amount of attempts come through email.”


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Roszkowski, who spent 11 years guarding data for the U.S. Army before joining the hospital in 2012, said she prepares for everything.

“The medical industry, as well as every other industry we’re all connected to the same internet,” Roszkowski said. “Just because we’re a hospital and we provide care to our patients doesn’t mean we are not susceptible to every type of cyberattack that’s out there.”

Roszkowski said there were more than 22 cyberattacks against hospitals worldwide in 2016, a number of which took down the entire electronic health record system to hold for ransom. In February 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid 40 Bitcoins, equivalent to about $17,000, to regain access to some of its computer systems. Bitcoin is an untraceable online currency that can be spent on the so-called darknet for illegal drugs, stolen identities or even to hire hackers to launch a ransomware attack.

Roszkowski worries most about what she doesn’t know. Viruses are constantly mutating, not unlike their counterparts in the biological world.

“We’re trying to stay on top of it, but as you can see it’s a pretty amazing cyber world out there,” Roszkowski said. “The same thing goes for cyber viruses as flu viruses. You’e trying to detect what you think is going to be that next threat.”

Contact Dan D Ambrosio at 660-1841 or [email protected]

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Alabama death row inmate to get new hearing on challenge to witness

Alabama Death Row Inmate To Get New Hearing On Challenge To Witness CLOSEAlabama Death Row Inmate To Get New Hearing On Challenge To Witness

Alabama uses midazolam in its three-drug execution procedure. The drug has been present in botched executions and drawn controversy. Wochit

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ordered a new hearing in the case of Alabama death row inmate Toforest Johnson, sentenced to death in 1998 over the 1995 murder of a Jefferson County deputy sheriff.

Alabama Death Row Inmate To Get New Hearing On Challenge To Witness

Toforest Johnson (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)

It was a decision both Johnson s attorneys and the Alabama Attorney General s Office sought, though for different reasons. Hardy was working as a private security guard at a Birmingham hotel when he was shot and killed in the hotel’s parking lot early in the morning of July 19, 1995. Johnson, who maintains his innocence, was arrested a few hours later. No physical evidence linked Johnson, now 44, to the murder. Yolanda Chambers, a witness who was with Johnson the night of the murder, claimed to have seen the shooting but changed her story many times, at some points claiming Johnson or other men killed Hardy and at others denying that she had been at the hotel.

The defendant s attorneys targeted the testimony of Violet Ellison and her daughter Katrina. Both testified that Katrina Ellison had conducted three-way phone conversations in the summer of 1995 to speak with a friend incarcerated at the time. According to court records, Ellison began listening in to her daughter s conversations and at one point heard a man who identified himself as Toforest say he shot the deputy and I saw his head go back and he fell. The jury could not reach a decision in Johnson’s first trial. A jury convicted Johnson at the second, in which his defense attorneys put Chambers on the stand. Johnson’s current attorneys wrote in a brief filed in federal court last year that the decision to put Chambers on the stand was “inexplicable,” because of the inconsistencies in her story and the fact she contradicted alibi witnesses called by the defense. According to court records, Johnson s attorneys found after the trial that Violet Ellison approached the police in response to a reward offered for information on Hardy s shooting, and that the state later paid her $5,000. The defense filed a motion known as a Brady claim; a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brady v. Maryland, held that prosecutors cannot withhold evidence that might exonerate the defendant.

If defense counsel had known that Violet Ellison came forward and testified with the expectation that she would receive a substantial cash reward if Johnson were convicted, they would have used that information to undermine Ellison s credibility and cast doubt on her motivations, Johnson s attorneys wrote in their brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the Brady claim, ruling that evidence to impeach a witness was not enough to allow the claim to go forward. Later, though, the Alabama Supreme Court decided in a separate case, In re Beckworth, that courts must consider Brady claims under a different rule than the one that led to the dismissal of Johnson s. The Alabama Attorney General s Office sought rehearing because of the state Supreme Court s ruling, saying there could be other reasons to deny Johnson s claim.

The trial court also suggested that, based on the fact-specific record in this case, there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different had the information been known, the office wrote in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in May. The state appellate court should have the opportunity to evaluate whether any alternative grounds support the post-conviction court s decision to deny the Brady claim.”

Despite the defense and the state both seeking a new hearing, the U.S. Supreme Court divided 5-4 over the issue, along partisan lines. In a brief dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts — joined by justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — wrote that the state courts declined to upset the decision in Johnson s case despite the Beckworth ruling, and said the majority s decision to vacate Johnson s conviction was truly extraordinary. Justices Stephen Breyer; Ruth Bader Ginsberg; Elena Kagan; Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor ordered the new hearing. The majority did not issue a separate opinion.

The high court last week ordered a new hearing in the case of James McWilliams, convicted and sentenced to death in the 1984 rape and murder of Patricia Vallery Reynolds. The majority held that McWilliams did not have the chance to use a psychiatric evaluation in his defense[1].

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Wicker urges Congress to increase number of Navy ships

Wicker Urges Congress To Increase Number Of Navy Ships

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., are pushing for the Navy to have 355 ships.(Photo: Deborah Barfield Berry, USA TODAY)

WASHINGTON With increasing threats around the world, including China and Russia, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said the U.S. should increase the number of ships in the Navy by nearly 80 to a fleet of 355.

We have a serious threat situation that we haven t faced in the previous decades, Wicker, chairman of the Senate Armed Services’ Seapower subcommittee, told reporters Thursday. We re not doing this to be fanciful. We re doing this to meet an expanding threat a situation we didn t see a few years ago. Wicker and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., introduced a bipartisan measure earlier this month they called a statement of purpose. The Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas or SHIPS would state the policy of the United States on the minimum number of available battle force ships, the bill reads.

We think this is an extraordinarily important message to send, to communicate, to the citizens across the nation, but also to the industry who we will need to make sure that we get to the 355 ships, said Wittman, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. Lawmakers don t have total cost estimates yet and funding would have to be approved by Congress. Gulf Coast Republican Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Luther Strange of Alabama are co-sponsors.

Wicker, who has held several hearings on the issue, including one last Wednesday on Navy shipbuilding programs, said the Navy’s 276 ships is not enough. He said defense officials have said the need is urgent that they take it seriously, that they mean it when they say 355 ships as a minimum requirement.


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It s not the first time Mississippi lawmakers have pushed efforts to boost the number of ships in the Navy or Coast Guard. Ray Mabus, a former Democratic governor of Mississippi, has touted his efforts to increase ship building when he was secretary of the Navy.

We re the Navy. We need ships,” Mabus, who served as secretary from 2009 to 2017, said last fall. “We need enough ships to do every job that we re given.”

Mabus also told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense chaired by Cochran in 2015 that the Navy’s ships are key to military readiness. That same year Cochran, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, pushed to add $640 million to a spending bill for a ninth Coast Guard National Security Cutter to be built in Mississippi, even though the agency said it didn t need another ship. Cochran said he pushed to include the money in the fiscal 2016 Homeland Security appropriations bill because it s important to our national security.”

Taxpayers for Common Sense and other watchdog groups have complained about lawmakers pushing for costly and sometimes unnecessary projects that benefit their home states.

This is essentially a $640 million earmark for Huntington Ingalls to build another cutter, Steve Ellis, the group’s vice president, said then.

Mississippi is home to several shipbuilding-related businesses, including Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, the largest private employer in the state. Wicker acknowledged Mississippi could benefit from increasing the number of Navy ships.

No question about it. We do get a twofer,” he said. Let me stress, we re taking about protecting the nation and allowing commerce to go unfettered around the globe But yes, the added benefit is thousands of thousands of new manufacturing jobs. Wicker said parts for the ships come from across the country.

We re happy to help the manufacturing base also, but this is about national security, he said.

Wicker Urges Congress To Increase Number Of Navy Ships

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., (right), chats with Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., after Thursday’s press conference. (Photo: Deborah Barfield Berry, USA TODAY)

Wittman said part of the effort is to project power and influence around the world.”

It s not just about being able to engage in conflict,” he said. It s about being able to make sure that we re effective diplomatically and that we can respond on a humanitarian basis when necessary around the world. We can not do that without a Navy fleet of at least 355 ships. And we can t get there overnight. Wittman cited estimates that it could take 20 to 25 years.

We want to make sure we re doing everything we can to try to get there sooner,” he said. We do not have the luxury of time. Wicker said he s confident the measure will garner support, particularly since members on the Seapower subcommittee support the bill.

There s no question we ve seen the need, and yes it s bipartisan, he said. But when you get the entire Democrat and Republican membership of the Seapower subcommittee on board in a day you ve got yourself a proposal that has bipartisan support.

Follow Deborah Barfield Berry on Twitter: @dberrygannett.

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