About the author  ⁄ WFIN

the_guitar_mann/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley offered a statement on Wednesday marking the seventh year of civil war in Syria.

“Today marks the beginning of the seventh horrific year of the Syrian crisis,” Haley’s statement read. “Syria’s people are suffering some of the worst forms of cruelty imaginable: air strikes, barrel bombs, sniper fire, chemical weapons attacks targeting civilians, and denial of access to food and water.”

Haley recognizes the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of nearly half of the population. She calls it “shameful” that the conflict has lasted as long as it already has.

“The carnage in Syria must end,” the statement continued. “The United States renews its calls for a negotiated path to peace.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Getty Images/Lisa Werner(NEW YORK) — Two officers with Russia’s intelligence service (at least one who works in a unit designed to fight cybercrime) directed a far-reaching hacking and espionage scheme that targeted Yahoo users, swiping personal information from hundreds of millions of people, including accounts belonging to Russian and U.S. government officials, the U.S. Department of Justice announced this morning.

This marks the first time Russian government officials have been charged by the U.S. for a cyber crime, a breach which officials say affected at least 500 million accounts. Officials said some of the information had intelligence value but some was also leveraged for financial gain.

“The defendants targeted Yahoo accounts of Russian and U.S. government officials, including cyber security, diplomatic and military personnel,” said the head of the DOJ’s National Security Division, Mary McCord. “They also targeted Russian journalists; numerous employees of other providers whose networks the conspirators sought to exploit; and employees of financial services and other commercial entities.”

Just before Wednesday morning’s announcement, McCord attended a cyber event in Washington, D.C., where at least three Russian diplomats were in the audience. When the moderator mentioned “Russian hackers,” the head of the Russian embassy’s military political section, Konstantin Serednyakov, visibly chuckled.

The FSB officers, Dmitry Dokuchaev, and his boss, Igo Suschin, who had cover as the head of info security at a Russian financial firm, allegedly hired two hackers, Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to help carry out the scheme. Baratov, a Canadian and Kazakh national, was arrested in Canada on Wednesday while the three other remain fugitives in Russia.

Belan, who remains a fugitive, has been wanted by the FBI since 2012 for allegedly stealing databases from three companies in 2012 and then helping to negotiate the sale of that information.

In a twist, the FSB unit Dokuchaev works for, the Center for Information Security (a.k.a. Center 18), “is also the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow for cyber-crime matters,” said McCord.

“The involvement and direction of FSB officers with law enforcement responsibilities makes this conduct that much more egregious. There are no free passes for foreign state-sponsored criminal behavior,” she added.

In 2014, at the behest of FSB officers, Belan allegedly led an operation that stole a Yahoo database that contained info on more than 500 million Yahoo user accounts. They were ultimately able to access the full contents of more than 6,500 Yahoo user accounts, DOJ officials said.

At the same time, the FSB officers and Belan allegedly hired Baratov to use the info from the Yahoo accounts to try and access 50 specific Gmail accounts, and another 30 accounts from other companies. Many of these 80 targets were inside Russia.

The DOJ alleged that Dokuchaev and Sushchin “protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere. … They worked with co-defendants Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to obtain access to the email accounts.”

Belan was named one of the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013. Belan has been indicted twice before in the U.S. for intrusions into e-commerce companies, McCord said Wednesday morning. Belan was arrested in Europe in June 2013 on a request from the U.S., but he fled to Russia before he could be extradited.

The Justice Department said that when Belan returned to Russia, instead of detaining him, Russian agents Dokuchaev and Sushchin “used him to gain unauthorized access to Yahoo’s network.

In late 2014, Belan allegedly stole a copy of at least a portion of Yahoo’s User Database(UDB), a Yahoo trade secret that contained, among other data, subscriber information including users’ names, recovery email accounts, phone numbers and certain information required to manually create, or ‘mint,’ account authentication web browser ‘cookies’ for more than 500 million Yahoo accounts.”

“Belan used his relationship with the two FSB officers and his access to Yahoo to commit additional crimes to line his own pockets with money,” McCord said. “Specifically, Belan used his access to Yahoo to search for and steal financial information, such as gift card and credit card numbers, from users’ email accounts. He also gained access to more than 30 million Yahoo accounts, whose contacts were then stolen to facilitate an email spam scheme.”

The DOJ said, “When Dokuchaev and Sushchin learned that a target of interest had accounts at webmail providers other than Yahoo, including through information obtained as part of the Yahoo intrusion, they tasked their co-conspirator, Baratov, a resident of Canada, with obtaining unauthorized access to more than 80 accounts in exchange for commissions.”

The Department of Justice said that during the conspiracy, the two FSB officers furthered “Belan’s other criminal activities, by providing him with sensitive FSB law enforcement and intelligence information that would have helped him avoid detection by U.S.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Wall Street climbed towards milestone numbers on Wednesday as the Federal reserve announce an interest rate hike.

The Dow Jones closed the day at 20,950, up 112.73 from its open.

The Nasdaq gained 43.23 to a finish of 5,900.05, while the S&P 500 ended the session at 2,385, 21.86 higher than it began the day.

Earlier Wednesday, the Federal Reserve bumped interest rates up by 0.25 percent. That brings rates to between 0.75 percent and one percent. In a press release, the Fed says that a strengthening labor market and expanding economic activity led to the decision.

In a trip to Michigan, President Donald Trump announced that the White House will re-examine federal fuel economy requirements for vehicle manufacturers. The regulation was part of former President Barack Obama’s administration’s efforts to fight global warming.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday it has hiked interest rates by 0.25 percent to a new range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent.

The move marks the second increase in three months.

“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in February indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has continued to expand at a moderate pace,” the Fed said in a press release.

The Fed also said it expects to raise interest rates two more times this year.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Summer is always an expensive time to fly, but not all days are created equal.

July 9 is the No. 1 day to avoid, according to data from CheapAir.com. The booking site analyzed hundreds of thousands of summer fares and found that Sunday to be most expensive day of the season to fly.

While average airfare for the summer is $384, according to Jeff Klee, CEO of ChepaAir.com, the average fare on July 9 is nearly $100 more.

Sundays in general are expensive, Klee said, because they’re popular with both business and leisure travelers.

“Leisure travelers who want to squeeze every last minute out of their summer vacations often choose Sunday afternoon and evening return flights. The already higher priced flights tend to sell out their lower fares faster,” he said.

He added: “Business travelers who need to be able to report for work or a conference on Monday morning will often choose to come in the day before.”

July 9 is particularly popular because it’s the Sunday following July 4, which falls on a Wednesday this year. Many travelers will look to make an extended weekend out of the mid-week holiday.

Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, said there’s another reason July 9 may be so pricey.

“July domestic prices [for flights] are the most expensive behind Christmas and Thanksgiving,” he said.

There is some good news for fliers, according to Klee.

“At the moment, 2017 summer fares are tracking slightly cheaper than they were last year at this time, about $20 less per ticket,” he said.

But, he warns, prices are likely to climb as summer draws near.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation Wednesday that seeks 2,500 additional visas for Afghans who assisted U.S. forces by working as interpreters.

Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul stopped interviewing Afghans who had applied for Special Immigrant Visas — intended for interpreters who risked their lives by working alongside Americans — because of a shortage of remaining visas.

A State Department bulletin posted online warned of the shortage, saying the number of visas allocated by Congress under the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 would run out by June 1 of this year, so no further interviews for applicants would be conducted after March 1.

The bill introduced Wednesday that seeks to increase available visas is sponsored by four senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee: Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

“This legislation would ensure the continuation of this vital Special Immigrant Visa program, and send a clear message that America will not turn its back on those — who at great personal risk — stand with us in the fight against terror,” McCain said in a statement.

“It’s imperative that Congress act quickly to approve more visas,” Shaheen added. “This is a matter of life and death for interpreters and other support staff. As we speak, many of them are being hunted down by the Taliban and other terrorists. We have a moral obligation to protect the thousands of Afghans who put themselves, and their families, at risk to help our soldiers and diplomats. To abandon them now would be a stain on our nation’s honor. There’s no excuse for Congress to not act in a bipartisan way to approve these additional visas as it has done in the past.”

The National Defense Authorization Act passed in December added 1,500 additional visas for Afghan interpreters. At that time, The New York Times reported that 13,000 applications were pending.

The White House announced last week that it was reviewing the U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Getty Images/Lisa Werner(NEW YORK) — Two officers with Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, are among four people facing charges in a massive Yahoo hacking attack, in which they are accused of stealing the personal information of hundreds of millions of users.

The defendants are three Russian nationals and residents, and one Canadian and Kazakh national who lives in Canada, the Department of Justice said.

The breach affected at least 500 million Yahoo accounts, the Department of Justice said. The hackers are accused of accessing personal accounts belonging to those including Russian journalists, Russian government officials, U.S. government officials, U.S. financial services and private equity firms, and a U.S. airline, the Justice Department said.

The DOJ announced the charges Wednesday morning, calling the Yahoo hacks one of the largest data breaches in history.

The Justice Department said, “FSB officer defendants, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere. … They worked with co-defendants Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to obtain access to the email accounts.”

Belan was named one of the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013.

The alleged crime began at least as early as 2014. The defendants lost access to Yahoo’s networks in September 2016 but continued to use stolen information until at least December 2016, according to the DOJ.

“The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cybercrime matters, is beyond the pale,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said in a statement.

“Once again, the Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world can and will be exposed and held accountable. State actors may be using common criminals to access the data they want, but the indictment shows that our companies do not have to stand alone against this threat,” she added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Getty Images/Lisa Werner(NEW YORK) — Officers with Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, are among those facing charges in a massive Yahoo hacking attack, in which they are accused of stealing the personal information of hundreds of millions of users.

The U.S. Department of Justice is expected Wednesday morning to announce charges against four people accused of hacking Yahoo.

The four people have suspected ties to the Russian government, sources told ABC News. Of those four, three are in Russia and one is in Canada, sources said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Australian Transportation Safety Board(CANBERRA, Australia) — A woman suffered burns to her face after the battery-operated headphones she was using on a recent flight caught fire, Australian safety officials announced Wednesday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau did not say how severe the woman’s injuries were, but she later told investigators that she heard a loud explosion while sleeping.

The agency did not reveal the name, age or nationality of the woman.

“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face,” the woman was quoted as saying in a statement from the agency. “I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck.”

The woman threw the headphones on to the ground while they continued to spark and emit flames, she told investigators. A flight attendant soon appeared with a bucket of water to pour on the fire.

The headphones were placed in the bucket and moved to the back of the plane where “the battery and cover were both melted and stuck to the floor of the aircraft,” the agency said in the statement.

Passengers would smell melted plastic, burnt electronics and charred hair for the remainder of the flight.

“People were coughing and choking the entire way home,” the woman was quoted as saying in the statement.

The ATSB concluded the batteries within the woman’s headphones caught fire. The agency did not specify the type of headphones or batteries.

The ATSB did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for more information on the incident.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) — A bomb blast ripped through the main judicial building in Syria’s capital city Wednesday, killing dozens, according to various media reports.

Syria’s state-owned television reported that at least 25 people were killed and many others wounded when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest inside the “old building” of the Palace of Justice in central Damascus, not far from the famous and crowded Souq al-Hamidiyah market.

Soon after, state media reported a second suicide bomber detonated a device at a restaurant in the city’s Rabweh district, killing several people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the death toll from the first attack to be at least 39, including 24 civilians and seven police officers and guards. It’s unclear whether the remaining eight casualties were civilians, the U.K.-based monitoring group said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →