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Friday, February 14, 2020

Just Married T-Mobile and Sprint

How the T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Legitimizes Monopoly
A federal judge has just deepened Americas corporate concentration crisis.

By Sandeep Vaheesan
Washington Monthly
February 11, 2020

Judge Victor Marreros Tuesday ruling that let T-Mobile take over Sprint just deepened America’s already dire CORPORATE CONCENTRATOIN crisis. By allowing the nations third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers to combine, Marrero has dealt a clear blow to competition in the wireless market and empowered all corporations seeking dominance through mergers and acquisitions.

The Obama administration wisely said no to consolidation that would reduce the number of national wireless carriers to just three. Indeed, the deal will effectively create a new carrier with more than 100 million users. As the states in the case argued, that will likely cost subscribers roughly $4.5 billion annually, as the market will effectively be concentrated between just T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration - and now a federal judge - have rejected the Obama-era policy and permitted a dangerous new level of CONCENTRATION. Tuesday’s decision underscores the need for bright-line rules that deter harmful mergers and acquisitions and instead direct business strategies toward product improvement and investment in new capacity.

Equally disconcerting, the judges decision subverts the Clayton Act, the principal federal anti-merger statute. Passed in 1914 and strengthened in 1950, the law expanded the scope of business activities covered by the Sherman Antitrust Act and outlawed mergers that threaten to reduce competition or tend to create a monopoly.

Judge Marrero’s ruling permits otherwise illegal mergers if the merging corporations can establish productive efficiencies or show that one of the corporations involved is a weakened competitor.

But the Supreme Court clearly rejected these defenses in a series of rulings in the 1960s because they are contrary to the text and purpose of the Clayton Act. While there is a limited failing firm defense - which allows a merger that would create a less competitive market if the company is in danger imminent business failure - Sprint didn’t satisfy its requirements, nor did Marrero purport to apply it. Sprint may not be doing as well as its executives and shareholders would like, but it is not on the verge of collapse or insolvency.

Marrero’s ruling, therefore, leaves it to state attorneys general to keep anti-merger law alive and protect the public. Theyre now the best positioned to take a stand and appeal this decision to the Second Circuit - the most important thing they can do. It is critical they send a strong message to all corporations that they will uphold the law. Powerful firms in concentrated markets shouldn’t be allowed to consolidate even further.

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Posted by Elvis on 02/14/20 •
Section Dying America
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Friday, February 07, 2020

Bad Moon Rising Part 80 - Infrastructure Cyber-Threat IV

image: computer chip

Researcher says millions of IoT and surveillance devices that use HiSilicon chips have a trivial backdoor
The Chinese giant has another hot potato on its hands

By Adrian Potoroaca
Techspot
February 7, 2020

In brief: Huawei is mostly known for its mobile products and telecom equipment, but its HiSilicon subsidiary produces chips that end up in many IoT products, including surveillance systems. A Russian researcher found that most of the companies that use HiSilicon chips use firmware that makes it trivial to take complete control of millions of DEVICES that are currently in use around the world.

Back in December, Huawei SAID it had reached record revenues of $122 billion, even as the US greatly restricted its ability to do business with American companies. Between the optimistic lines in its report, the Chinese giant warned that 2020 would be a challenging year, with lots of bumps in the road.

However, the company probably didn’t expect to see yet another security vulnerability affecting one of its products be disclosed just as it’s tackling CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS.

Recently, Russian security researcher Vladislav Yarmak published a worrying analysis of backdoor mechanism discovered in Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology firmware, which makes it trivial to take control of millions of security cameras, DVRs, NVRs, and other IoT devices using HiSilicon chips.

For those of you who don’t know, HiSilicon is a Huawei subsidiary that makes the chips that go in all of its products, including the fancy foldable Mate X smartphone that costs $2,400 and is reportedly selling better than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. To put things in context, HiSilicon is the largest of the Chinese silicon giants, with many companies relying on its integrated circuits for their various products.

Yarmak says the backdoor mechanism is actually using a mix of exploits that take advantage of bugs that were discovered years ago, in 2017 and even as far back as March 2013. And since reporting those previous vulnerabilities led to no actual fix being deployed by HiSilicon, the researcher recommends owners of devices using HiSilicon chips switch as soon as possible to alternative solutions.

You can find a list of known brands affected HERE. If you can’t afford the hardware switch, Yarmak noted you should bolster security by restricting access to device ports 9530/TCP, 9527/TCP, and 23/TCP - all of which can be exploited using the proof of concept code he published on GitHub.

The way it works is that some older versions of the firmware used in products that are based on HiSilicon SoCs rely on access to telnet for remote connections. Telnet is enabled by default on these, so an attacker can get full access to these devices by using “a static root password which can be recovered from the firmware image with relatively little computation effort.”

Newer versions of the firmware come with telnet access disabled by default, but also have TCP port 9530 open for special commands, a feature which Yarmak says was intentionally baked in by HiSilicon, who didn’t bother to fix the new exploit published for it in 2017. Add to that the questionable practice of keeping a short list of static passwords that act as a backdoor to millions of IoT and surveillance products used worldwide, and you have a security nightmare.

To be fair, HiSilicon isn’t directly responsible here, as the vulnerability only affects products that use firmware developed by Xiongmai Technology and XMtech. The Huawei subsidiary published a security notice explaining that its SDKs don’t have the vulnerability presented by Yarmak in his report. The company noted that “Huawei (and its affiliates worldwide, including HiSilicon) has long committed that it has not and will never place backdoors nor allow anyone else to do so.”

As far as Huawei is concerned, the Telnet services were deleted on all devices it distributes directly to end users. Also, the overall narrative hasn’t changed - last year, the Chinese giant insisted that backdoors found by Vodafone in critical network equipment were “weaknesses.” To this day, the company is still fighting for the right to supply equipment to rural carriers in the US, even though its chances remain low.

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Posted by Elvis on 02/07/20 •
Section Bad Moon Rising
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