NEWS of the Day - July 30, 2013
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...

Could your car be hacked? US-funded experts reveal how

by Jim Finkle

Master Diagnostic Technician Kurt Juergens, of Foxborough, Mass., uses a laptop computer to diagnose and repair the brake system on a 2010 Toyota Prius in the repair shop of a Toyota dealership, in Norwood, Mass., Feb. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

BOSTON - Car hacking is not a new field, but its secrets have long been closely guarded. That is about to change, thanks to two well-known computer software hackers who got bored finding bugs in software from Microsoft and Apple.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek say they will publish detailed blueprints of techniques for attacking critical systems in the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape in a 100-page white paper, following several months of research they conducted with a grant from the U.S. government.

The two "white hats" - hackers who try to uncover software vulnerabilities before criminals can exploit them - will also release the software they built for hacking the cars at the Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas this week.

They said they devised ways to force a Toyota Prius to brake suddenly at 80 miles an hour (128 kph), jerk its steering wheel, or accelerate the engine. They also say they can disable the brakes of a Ford Escape traveling at very slow speeds, so that the car keeps moving no matter how hard the driver presses the pedal.

"Imagine what would happen if you were near a crowd," said Valasek, director of security intelligence at consulting firm IOActive, known for finding bugs in Microsoft Corp's Windows software.

But it is not as scary as it may sound at first blush.

They were sitting inside the cars using laptops connected directly to the vehicles' computer networks when they did their work. So they will not be providing information on how to hack remotely into a car network, which is what would typically be needed to launch a real-world attack.

The two say they hope the data they publish will encourage other white-hat hackers to uncover more security flaws in autos so they can be fixed.

"I trust the eyes of 100 security researchers more than the eyes that are in Ford and Toyota," said Miller, a Twitter security engineer known for his research on hacking Apple Inc's App Store.

Toyota Motor Corp spokesman John Hanson said the company was reviewing the work. He said the carmaker had invested heavily in electronic security, but that bugs remained - as they do in cars of other manufacturers.

"It's entirely possible to do," Hanson said, referring to the newly exposed hacks. "Absolutely we take it seriously."

Ford Motor Co spokesman Craig Daitch said the company takes seriously the electronic security of its vehicles. He said the fact that Miller's and Valasek's hacking methods required them to be inside the vehicle they were trying to manipulate mitigated the risk.

"This particular attack was not performed remotely over the air, but as a highly aggressive direct physical manipulation of one vehicle over an elongated period of time, which would not be a risk to customers and any mass level," Daitch said.


Miller and Valasek said they did not research remote attacks because that had already been done.

A group of academics described ways to infect cars using Bluetooth systems and wireless networks in 2011. But unlike Miller and Valasek, the academics have kept the details of their work a closely guarded secret, refusing even to identify the make of the car they hacked. ()

Their work got the attention of the U.S. government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun an auto cybersecurity research program.

"While increased use of electronic controls and connectivity is enhancing transportation safety and efficiency, it brings a new challenge of safeguarding against potential vulnerabilities," the agency said in a statement. It said it knew of no consumer incident where a vehicle was hacked.

Still, some experts believe malicious hackers may already have the ability to launch attacks.

"It's time to shore up the defenses," said Tiffany Strauchs Rad, a researcher with Kaspersky Lab, who previously worked for an auto security research center.

A group of European computer scientists had been scheduled to present research on hacking the locks of luxury vehicles, including Porsches, Audis, Bentleys and Lamborghinis, at a conference in Washington in mid-August.

But Volkswagen AG obtained a restraining order from a British high court prohibiting discussion of the research by Flavio D. Garcia of the University of Birmingham, and Roel Verdult and Baris Ege of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

A spokeswoman for the three scientists said they would pull out of the prestigious Usenix conference because of the restraining order. Both universities said they would hold off on publishing the paper, pending the resolution of litigation.

Volkswagen declined to comment.



Ark. District Arming Teachers, Staff With Guns


As Cheyne Dougan rounded the corner at Clarksville High School, he saw three students on the floor moaning and crying. In a split-second, two more ran out of a nearby classroom.

"He's got a gun," one of them shouted as Dougan approached with his pistol drawn. Inside, he found one student holding another at gunpoint. Dougan aimed and fired three rounds at the gunman.

Preparing for such scenarios has become common for police after a school shooting in Connecticut last December left 20 children and six teachers dead. But Dougan is no policeman. He's the assistant principal of this school in Arkansas, and when classes resume in August, he will walk the halls with a 9 mm handgun.

Dougan is among more than 20 teachers, administrators and other school employees in this town who will carry concealed weapons throughout the school day, making use of a little-known Arkansas law that allows licensed, armed security guards on campus. After undergoing 53 hours of training, Dougan and other teachers at the school will be considered guards.

"The plan we've been given in the past is 'Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'" Superintendent David Hopkins said. But as deadly incidents continued to happen in schools, he explained, the district decided, "That's not a plan."

After the Connecticut attack, the idea of arming schoolhouses against gunmen was hotly debated across the country. The National Rifle Association declared it the best response to serious threats. But even in the most conservative states, most proposals faltered in the face of resistance from educators or warnings from insurance companies that schools would face higher premiums.

In strongly conservative Arkansas, where gun ownership is common and gun laws are permissive, no school district had ever used the law to arm teachers on the job, according to the state Department of Education. The closest was the Lake Hamilton School District in Garland County, which for years has kept several guns locked up in case of emergency. Only a handful of trained administrators — not teachers — have access to the weapons.

Clarksville, a community of 9,200 people about 100 miles northwest of Little Rock, is going further.

Home to an annual peach festival, the town isn't known for having dangerous schools. But Hopkins said he faced a flood of calls from parents worried about safety after the attack last year at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

Hopkins said he and other school leaders didn't see why the district couldn't rely on its own staff and teachers to protect students rather than hire someone.

"We're not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won't have to have unless something happens. We've got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas," Hopkins said. "Hopefully we'll never have to use them as a security guard."

State officials are not blocking Clarksville's plan, but Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell is opposed to the idea of arming teachers and staff. He prefers to hire law enforcement officers as school resource officers.

There are other dissenters, too. Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, called the idea of arming teachers "awful." The risk of a student accidentally getting shot or obtaining a gun outweighs any benefits, she said.

"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," Morey said.

Participants in the program are given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. Hopkins said the district is paying about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.

The Nighthawk training includes drills like the one Dougan participated in, with various role-playing scenarios involving shooters on campus. Dougan and other teachers in the program practiced using "airsoft" pellet guns, with students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.

"There's pressure on you, because you're shooting real bullets if this actually happened," said Dougan, who has three children attending Clarksville schools. "I was nervous to start, but once it started and I was going through what they had taught us, it just took over."

The training is narrowly tailored for teachers to respond to shooters on campus.

"That teacher is going to respond to one thing and one thing alone, and that's someone is in the building either actively or attempting to kill people," Jon Hodoway, director of training for Nighthawk. "That's it. They're not going to enforce the law. They're not going to make traffic stops. If somebody is outside acting the fool, they're going to call the police."

Using students as actors helps trainers re-create the environment that teachers and staff would face in a typical school shooting, Hodoway explained. The students who participated in the exercise were children of the teachers and staff who were being trained.

Sydney Whitkanack, who will enter seventh grade this fall, said she's grown up around firearms and doesn't mind if teachers or staff are armed at school.

"If they're concealed, then it's no big deal," said Whitkanack, who was an actor in the training scenario. "It's not like someone's going to know 'Oh, they have a firearm.'"

The district will post signs at each school about the armed guards, but the identities of faculty and staff carrying weapons will be kept secret, Hopkins said.

Those who participate in the program will continue to receive regular training, he said.

Sherry Wommack said the program is one reason she's taking her son, an incoming eighth-grader, out of Clarksville's schools before the school year begins. Wommack said she doesn't believe teachers should make life-or-death choices involving students.

"I think police officers are trained to make those decisions, not teachers," Wommack said.



FBI says it doesn't need warrant to use drones

by Stephen Dinan

The FBI has told Congress it does not need to get a warrant to conduct surveillance with drones, in a letter laying out some of the top federal law enforcement agency's policies for how it uses unmanned aerial vehicles.

In a July 19 letter to Sen. Rand Paul, Stephen D. Kelly, assistant director for the FBI's congressional liaison office, said the agency has used drones in 10 instances, including twice for "national security" cases and eight times for criminal cases. The FBI authorized the use of drones in three other criminal cases but didn't deploy them.

Then, in a follow-up letter Mr. Paul released Monday, Mr. Kelly said they don't believe they ever need to obtain a warrant to conduct drone surveillance as long as it's done within guidelines.

He said they take their lead from several Supreme Court cases that don't deal directly with drones but do cover manned aerial surveillance. In those cases the court ruled that a long as the areas observed were in public view and no law enforcement officer was trespassing, no privacy rights were violated.

In one case a concurring opinion by one of the justices said that there could be a problem if an agency were conducting long-term warrantless surveillance of someone in public, because that could constitute an unreasonable search in violation of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

"We do not use UAVs to undertake such surveillance," Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Paul had been holding up the nomination of James B. Comey Jr. to become the new FBI director, using the blockade as a way to try to force the administration to divulge more information on the FBI's drone surveillance.

Current Director Robert S. Mueller III revealed the agency's use of drones in a congressional hearing earlier this summer.




Police to discuss neighborhood involvement at northwest Omaha park

OMAHA, Neb. —A Dundee Neighborhood Watch group is making its streets safer, and now police are trying to get residents in northwest Omaha to do the same.

The residents of Dundee are committed to keeping criminals off their streets. Brent Ruswick said it starts with people being good neighbors.

“I haven't felt any reason to be concerned about myself or my possessions here,” Ruswick said.

A robbery Friday night had the community talking. Police said two men in a white sedan held up another man near 49th and Cass streets around 11 p.m.

Laurie Morris, block captain for one of Dundee's Neighborhood Watch groups, learned Monday that the car may have been spotted in Dundee within the last two weeks.

“Hopefully, we can catch the people doing the crimes and keep it safe,” Morris said.

Omaha police know community policing can make a difference, which is why they are trying to get residents near Greentree Park involved.

Police said they have received several reports of fights and vandalism at the park near 129th Street and Meredith Avenue. They want to address their concerns to the community at the park at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“To say, ‘Hey, look, it's park. Let's work together to take it back,'” said Bridget Fitzpatrick, OPD crime prevention specialist.

Fitzpatrick said police can only do so much.

“We can't be there 24-7, so we need the neighbors to police their park as well as calling us when necessary,” he said.




Sandy Springs' Citizens on Patrol: Why They Do It

Citizens on Patrol is a component of the community policing initiated by former Police Chief and now Public Safety Director Terry Sult. The first Citizens on Patrol class graduated in 2011.

by Adrianne Mrchison

An Amberidge neighbor waved from her driveway when she saw the Citzens on Patrol car pass by, last week. You may have occasionally noticed a Citizens on Patrol vehicle driving through your neighborhood too. They look similar to the Sandy Springs Police cars.

“It's kind of nice to drive through and see if anything looks out of the ordinary,” said Mark Thomas, a Citizens on Patrol volunteer. “After a while you get a feel for what looks normal and what doesn't. Like if you see a cargo van backed into a driveway.

With the August graduating class, Citizens on Patrol will have a total of 42 volunteer members. Thomas coordinates the program with Officer Jeff Holmes, who is in charge of the SSPD Volunteer Unit.

Citizens on Patrol is a component of the community policing initiated by former Police Chief and now Public Safety Director Terry Sult. The first Citizens on Patrol class graduated in 2011.

“We have to be very careful about what we actively do because we are not the police,” said Rick Stafford, who trains members. “We are looking at something and reporting it and being what we call situationally aware. If you are aware of what's going on around you, you would be amazed at what you see.”

Thomas recalled a suspicious man walking through the Amberidge neighborhood when there was a spike in break-ins. The man had a clipboard and appeared to be a solicitor, Thomas said.

“Something just didn't look right. We didn't see him going down any driveways and knocking on doors. So we circled around and looked at him again. We got a description and radioed it in and the officers descended on him. He didn't have a license to solicit. The officers suggested that he might not want to do that in this area,” Thomas said.

Volunteers patrol at their convenience during day or night hours. They do residence and business checks and sometimes relieve police directing traffic following an accident or detained by down trees.

Joan Pressman is one of 12 women in Citizens on Patrol. She goes on patrol about once per week. One of her riding partners is Mary Paulson, wife of City Councilman John Paulson. “I fell in love with the police when I took the [Citizens Police Academy] class,” she said. “All that they do for us; I thought what can I do. We are giving back to them to make their job easier.”