SolarWinds Hackers Accessed Microsoft Source Code, Microsoft Says

The hacking group behind the SolarWinds compromise was able to break into Microsoft Corp. and access some of its source code, Microsoft said Thursday. In a blog post, Microsoft said its investigation into the SolarWinds breach had turned up irregularities with a “small number of internal accounts” and that one of the accounts “had been used to view source code in a number of source code repositories.” It added that the account had no ability to modify the code. The disclosure adds to the growing picture of the compromises associated with the SolarWinds hack, which used the Texas-based company’s flagship network monitoring software as a springboard to break into sensitive U.S. government networks and other tech companies. Microsoft had disclosed that, like other firms, it found malicious versions of SolarWinds’ software inside its network, but the source code disclosure is new. FILE – A woman walks in front of the Microsoft stand during the Cybersecurity Conference in Lille, northern France, Jan. 29, 2020.A company’s source code, the underlying set of instructions that run a piece of software or an operating system, is typically among its most closely guarded secrets. It is not clear how many or specifically which source code repositories the hackers were able to access or how long the hackers were lurking in Microsoft’s systems. A Microsoft spokesman declined to elaborate on the blog post. Modifying source code, which Microsoft said the hijacked account could not do, could have potentially disastrous consequences, but experts said that even just being able to review the code could offer hackers insight that might help them subvert Microsoft products or services. “The source code is the architectural blueprint of how the software is built,” said Andrew Fife of Israel-based Cycode, a source code protection company. “If you have the blueprint, it’s far easier to engineer attacks.” Both he and Ronen Slavin, Cycode’s chief technology officer, said a key unanswered question was which source code repositories were accessed. Microsoft has a huge range of products, from its flagship Windows operating system to lesser-known software such as social networking app Yammer and the design app Sway. Slavin said he was also worried by the possibility that the SolarWinds hackers were poring over Microsoft’s source code as prelude for something more ambitious. “To me the biggest question is, ‘Was this recon for the next big operation?’ ” he said. In its blog post, Microsoft said it had found no evidence of access “to production services or customer data.” “The investigation, which is ongoing, has also found no indications that our systems were used to attack others,” it said.  

Tight Restrictions Across Italy for New Year’s Celebrations

Muted New Year’s Eve celebrations were expected in Italy, where tight restrictions are in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government has deployed thousands of police officers to ensure that rules are adhered to and that Italians do not hold large gatherings to celebrate the start of 2021. Adding to an abnormal end to the year is the Vatican’s announcement that Pope Francis will not preside over New Year’s Eve and Day services due to a painful back condition.Italians have grown used to the tight restrictions that come into place when the country is categorized a red zone. A person sits next to the Barcaccia fountain with Spanish steps in the background, as Italy goes back to lockdown as part of efforts put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Dec. 31, 2020.Until January 4, Italians will not be able to leave their homes unless they have filled out a self-declaration that explains where they are going. They will only be allowed to visit someone else’s home with one other person. Only people who need to go to work or have a health motive or an emergency are allowed out.All shops will be closed, except those for food and other urgent necessities like pharmacies. All bars and restaurants across the country will be closed except for carry out service.This restaurant owner said being placed in a red zone has meant working less than half what they were used to. The economic damage suffered by the sector has been significant with many fearful they will not be able to keep their businesses going in the future.Italian authorities have warned against large family gatherings. They have also tried to dissuade anyone from setting off fireworks to avoid accidents that could cause an extra burden on hospitals.While Italians are only too aware this will be a New Year’s Eve like they have never experienced, some are preparing to make the most of it, in their desire to bid this coronavirus-stricken year farewell.This man said, “We will see few friends, a relative or two and during times we are allowed to see each other.”Italy has a curfew in place from 10pm until 7am for the next four days. Travelling out of one’s municipality is also banned. Fines are stiff, so few are expected to take unnecessary risks.The recent news that COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Italy and are being administered has many hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that 2021 will be a better year than the one coming to an end. Still, not everyone in Italy is in favor of getting vaccinated, and many know the road ahead remains a long one.New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will also be quite different at the Vatican. FILE – Pope Francis leads the Mass on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at the Vatican, Dec. 24, 2020. Pope Francis is being forced to skip his traditional services because of a painful back and right leg problem. The Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the pope is suffering from “sciatica” and will not be presiding at a year-end prayer service Thursday evening and will also not be celebrating Mass on New Year’s Day, both inside St. Peter’s Basilica.The pope is expected to deliver his Angelus prayer at noon on Friday, which will be streamed online from the library of the Apostolic Palace.

British PM Johnson’s Father Applying for French Citizenship  

The father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he was in the process of applying for a French passport to maintain his ties with the European Union after Brexit. 
Stanley Johnson, a former member of the European Parliament who voted Remain in Britain’s 2016 referendum, told RTL radio he wanted to become a French citizen because of strong family links to France. 
“If I understand it correctly, I am French. My mother was born in France, her mother was totally French as was her grandfather. So for me it is about reclaiming what I already have. And that makes me very happy,” said the 80-year-old Johnson, who was speaking in French. 
“I will always be a European, that’s for sure. One cannot tell the British people: you are not Europeans. Having a tie with the European Union is important,” he added. 
His son Boris was the public face of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum and says Britain can “prosper mightily” as a fully sovereign nation outside what he sees as an overly bureaucratic EU. 
But on Wednesday, the prime minister sounded a more conciliatory note as parliament approved a new trade deal with the EU, saying: “This is not the end of Britain as a European country. We are in many ways the quintessential European civilization … and we will continue to be that.” 
Britain officially leaves the EU’s orbit Thursday night, after an often strained 48-year liaison with the European project.  

Pope Will Not Lead New Year Services Because of Flare Up of Leg Pain

Pope Francis will not lead New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services because of a flare up of his sciatica condition, which produces pain in his right leg, the Vatican said Thursday.  It was the first time in years that Francis, who turned 84 this month, has had to skip a papal event for health reasons. A year-end vespers service the pope was to lead Thursday afternoon will be led by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and the Friday Mass will be said by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.  
The Vatican said the pope would lead his noon prayer Friday as scheduled.  
The pope suffers from sciatica, a condition that causes pain that radiates from the lower back along the sciatic nerve to the lower part of the body.  
He can sometimes be seen walking with difficulty because of the pain and receives regular physical therapy because of the condition.

Istanbul Art Exhibition Brings Light, Hope to City Grappling With COVID

With Istanbul facing further COVID restrictions at the start of the New Year, scores of public spaces across the city have become venues for light installations as part of a major art exhibition. Dorian Jones reports the aim is to lift people’s spirits in these dark times.Producer: Marcus Harton.

US Accuses Ukrainians of Using Misappropriated Funds for Ohio Real Estate

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday accused Ukrainian tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky and another Ukrainian businessman of using misappropriated funds to buy real estate in Ohio, following earlier similar U.S. allegations involving property in Kentucky and Texas.Kolomoisky, one of the most prominent tycoons in Ukraine and regarded as a key political backer of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had denied the previous allegations. Bruce Marks, a U.S. lawyer who represents Kolomoisky, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest complaint.Representatives for the other businessman, Gennadiy Boholiubov, could not be immediately reached for comment. He has not previously commented on the matter.In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged the two men had used misappropriated funds from Ukraine-based PrivatBank to buy commercial real estate in Ohio and that the U.S. was seeing its forfeiture.U.S. prosecutors said that between 2008 and 2016, Kolomoisky and Boholiubov obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit, some of whose proceeds they laundered through shell company accounts at PrivatBank’s Cyprus office before transferring the money to the United States.Altogether, the properties in the three U.S. states are worth more than $60 million, the Justice Department said. 

Vladimir Putin: President for Life?

For Russians, the past year saw a national vote to approve changes to their constitution … including an amendment granting longtime leader Vladimir Putin the right to remain president through the year 2036. And as Charles Maynes reports from Moscow, the question now is … will he?Camera: Ricardo Marquina Montanana  
Producer: Henry Hernandez  

British Lawmakers Approve Trade Deal with EU

Britain’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a trade deal with the European Union, the last major step in London’s yearslong split from the continent’s 27-member governing body. With a day to spare, lawmakers voted 521-73 in favor of the Brexit deal that Britain reached with the EU last week. It will become British law after passing through the unelected House of Lords and gets a formal royal assent from Queen Elizabeth. Britain left the EU almost a year ago, but its economic split will be finalized Thursday at midnight in Brussels. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, left, and European Council President Charles Michel show signed EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreements at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 30, 2020.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signed the agreement in Brussels early Wednesday. The documents were then flown by a Royal Air Force plane to London for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to add his signature. “The agreement that we signed today is the result of months of intense negotiations in which the European Union has displayed an unprecedented level of unity,” Michel said. “It is a fair and balanced agreement that fully protects the fundamental interests of the European Union and creates stability and predictability for citizens and companies.” Johnson heralded the pact as “a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals.” UK chief trade negotiator David Frost looks on as Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement at 10 Downing Street, London, Dec. 30, 2020.It has been 4 1/2 years since Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the bloc it joined in 1973. Starting Friday on New Year’s Day, the trade deal ensures that Britain and the EU can continue to trade goods without tariffs or quotas. That should help protect the $894 billion in annual British-EU trade, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it. But Brexit will also bring inconvenience, such as the need for tourists to have insurance when traveling between the EU and Britain and for companies to fill out millions of new customs declarations. But Johnson said Brexit would turn Britain from “a half-hearted, sometimes obstructive member of the EU” into “a friendly neighbor — the best friend and ally the EU could have.” He said Britain would now “trade and cooperate with our European neighbors on the closest terms of friendship and goodwill, whilst retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny.” 

Migrants from Bosnia Camp Kept in Buses as Relocation Halted

Hundreds of migrants from a burned-out tent camp in northwest Bosnia on Wednesday remained packed in buses where they had spent the night after an attempt to relocate them failed, reflecting confusion in the Balkan country’s handling of the crisis.  
Bosnian authorities sent buses on Tuesday to transfer the migrants from the much-criticized Lipa camp to an army barracks in central Bosnia. The mass move was canceled after local residents organized protests to prevent the relocation. On Wednesday morning and later in the day, migrants were still inside the buses, local media reported.  
The Lipa camp near Bosnia’s border with Croatia was demolished in a fire last week and lacked basic facilities such as running water or heating. Some 1,000 migrants were stranded there for days during a spate of snowy and windy winter weather that followed the fire.  
The situation has prompted EU officials and aid groups to warn of a looming humanitarian disaster and increased pressure on Bosnia to act to move the migrants away from the camp.  
The troubled Balkan country that went through a devastating war in the 1990s has been struggling with the influx of thousands of people seeking to reach Western Europe. Bickering among Bosnia’s ethnically divided authorities has prevented an organized response to the crisis, leaving some 3,000 migrants sleeping rough or in makeshift tents.  
The head mufti of the Islamic Community of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, called Wednesday for better treatment of migrants, describing the situation as “shameful” for both the country and the rest of Europe.
“We do not treat people in need in such a way,” he said in a statement.  
Most migrants are staying in the northwest corner of Bosnia, where they hope to cross into European Union member Croatia before moving on toward wealthy EU nations. To get to Croatia, migrants use mountainous illegal routes and often face pushbacks and alleged violence at the hands of Croatia’s police.

Putin Signs Amendments to ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation that human rights watchdogs and opposition politicians have said will undermine democratic processes.The legislation, which came into force on December 30, included a series of amendments to the controversial law on “foreign agents” to allow individuals and public entities to be recognized as “foreign agents” if they are considered to be engaged in political activities “in the interests of a foreign state.”Entities that have received the label will be required to report their activities and face financial audits.Putin Signs Amendments Allowing Large Fines for ‘Foreign Agents’ Law ViolationsCritics say law is used to muzzle dissent, discourage the free exchange of ideas and a free pressPutin signed a separate bill imposing penalties of up to five years in prison to those identified as “foreign agents” who do not register as such or fail to report on their activities.Grounds for being recognized as a “foreign agent” could be holding rallies or political debates, providing opinions on state policies, actions promoting a certain outcome in an election or referendum, or participation as an electoral observer or in political parties if they are done in the interest of a foreign entity.Amnesty International has slammed the proposed legislation, saying it would “drastically limit and damage the work not only of civil society organizations that receive funds from outside Russia but many other groups as well.”Critics say the “foreign agent” law, originally passed in 2012 and since expanded through amendments, has been arbitrarily applied to target Russian civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and political activists.Putin also signed a bill allowing media regulator Roskomnadzor to partially or fully restrict or slow access to foreign websites that “discriminate against Russian media.”The legislation is expected to affect major social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.