Starting Monday, the internet-connected world was introduced to a new bug, colorfully named Heartbleed, that has exposed about two-thirds of web servers — and probably about a quarter of all sites — to potential pilfering of sensitive, supposedly encrypted information: passwords, credit card numbers, etc. Google engineers discovered the bug last week in the OpenSSL encryption software, then quietly notified OpenSSL, which started secretly helping companies patch the bug before going public amid fears that hackers had discovered the hole, too.
How big of a deal is Heartbleed? "It's easily the worst vulnerability since mass-adoption of the internet," Matthew Prince, CEO of cybersecurity firm CloudFlare Inc., tells The Wall Street Journal. "It's going to be really bad."
How bad? "We don't know to what extent this flaw has been targeted by hackers, we are in the dark here about the extent of how it is been used," David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, tells CNBC. "We can't quantify the scale of the damage."
So, what can you do about it? Unless you're an IT person at a bank or social media service or other websites that relies on OpenSSL encryption, not a whole lot. Those companies have to update their encryption — a process that involves more than just affixing the OpenSSL patch.
Once a vulnerable site is secure again, you should change your password. Seriously, change it. If a site hasn't fixed the encryption problem, changing your password is useless, or worse.
How can you tell? CNET has a list of popular sites and their Heartbleed status. And a company called LastPass has a useful tool where you can enter any website and it will tell you its vulnerability and advise you what to do. For more information about Heartbleed, here's a brief report from CNBC. Good luck. --Peter Weber
She may not run Goop or have an Academy Award, but Brynneth Pawltrow is doing very well for herself.
Following in the esteemed footsteps of Goofy Borneman, Lucy Lou, and Junior, Brynneth — who also goes by Brynn — is the newest mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, population 300. It wasn't even close — the rescue pit bull defeated a donkey, chicken, and cat for the honor, receiving 1,000 more votes than the second place finisher. "I'm so proud of her," owner Jordie Bamfort told Inside Edition.
The hamlet doesn't actually need a mayor, so in the 1990s, someone thought up the idea of electing an animal as a fundraiser — it costs $1 for every vote, and residents are encouraged to stuff the ballot box. The money goes to pay for improvements around Rabbit Hash. As mayor, Brynn's duties include attending fundraisers and going to town events, and when she is unavailable, ambassadors Lady Stone and Bourbon go in her place. While the people of Rabbit Hash do have to worry about their mayor possibly falling asleep on the job and barking at them, at least there won't ever be any corruption scandals or investigations into possible collusion between pit bulls and Siberian huskies. Catherine Garcia
President Trump began Tuesday by retweeting a series of posts and videos from Fox & Friends, including a monologue from Sean Hannity, whose sycophancy toward Trump earned him a rebuke Wednesday from Trump super-fan Ann Coulter. "The Fox & Friends shower Trump with so much praise, they're starting to sound like the helicopter parents of a [censored] private-school kid," Seth Meyers said on Wednesday's Late Night, breaking out his best private-school-helicopter-parent voice: "Our Donny would never collude with Russia! How dare you?! Do you know how much money we give to this school?"
The praise is mutual, even though — as in the case of Hannity — it sometimes does more harm than good. "Trump is apparently so obsessed with praise from the media that, according to The Washington Post, he keeps this framed Time magazine cover hanging at several of is golf clubs," Meyers said, showing the magazine. "Cool cover, flattering photo, just one problem: the Time cover is a fake. That's right, Trump hung a fake Time magazine cover, with his face on it, in his private golf clubs. That is the literal definition of fake news. This would be the saddest thing I've ever heard if it wasn't the funniest thing I've ever heard."
"Now, apparently, Trump didn't like this report from The Washington Post, because today he tore a page out of the strongman playbook and attacked Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post," Meyer explained, showing the tweet. "So Trump is threatening Amazon by implying that he might make them start paying internet taxes. There's just one problem with that — there is no such thing as an internet tax." The closest thing we have to an internet tax, he joked, is that if you go on the internet, you have to read Trump's tweets.
Meyers spent the rest of his "Closer Look" on the GOP's ongoing, very-much-alive plans to push through their health-care bill, including a proposal to get the House to pass whatever the Senate approves, and the GOP's apparent efforts to sideline Trump from the process. Watch below. Peter Weber
The mood inside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus' office was dark on Friday, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unloaded on Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, over a range of issues, four people familiar with the clash told Politico.
Tillerson lost it after months of having his proposed nominees for State Department posts passed over by DeStefano's office, a person with knowledge of the situation told Politico, and "expressed frustration that anybody would know better" than he would over who should be hired. He also accused the White House of leaking unflattering information on him to the media. Tillerson's outburst was witnessed by Priebus, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Tillerson's chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin. Later, Kushner approached Peterlin and said her boss had been unprofessional and they needed to patch things up.
Many of Tillerson's proposed nominees have been rejected by DeStefano's office because they have the audacity of being Democrats or Republicans who didn't support Trump during his campaign, Politico reports. That's not the only thing that has Tillerson in a tizzy, people close to him said; the 65-year-old former CEO of ExxonMobil isn't thrilled about being ordered around by political aides with barely any experience who are decades younger than him, and he's also not a fan of Trump's incessant tweeting. A spokesman for the State Department, R.C. Hammond, told Politico that "colleagues are capable of frank exchanges," and "evaluating nominees did get off to a slow start, but it is now moving along at a pretty good clip." Catherine Garcia
Harvard University scientists who studied more than 60 million American senior citizens found that long-term exposure to ozone and fine particulate matter, two main air pollutants, is linked to premature death.
Even when the pollutants measured below the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, there was still an increased risk of dying early, the scientists said. Fine particulate matter is tiny specks of pollution that can stick to the lungs and is linked to cardiovascular disease, while ozone, found in warm-weather smog, can cause respiratory illness; build-ups of both are caused by emissions from vehicles and power plants.
The researchers developed a new computer model that used air-monitoring data from the ground and satellite measurements to estimate pollution levels in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reports. They paired that information with health data from Medicare beneficiaries living in the continental United States from 2000 to 2012, and found that it only took being exposed to as little as five micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter, the lowest amount measured, to have an increased risk of premature death. If fine particulate pollution was decreased by one microgram per cubic meter across the United States, it would save about 12,000 lives annually, and if ozone pollution was lowered by one part per billion, an additional 1,900 lives would be saved every year, the researchers determined.
This study will be published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, accompanied by an editorial urging the government to tighten regulation on fine particulate matter and ozone. Read more about the new study — and how EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is delaying implementing the federal ozone standard because of "increased costs to businesses" — at the Los Angeles Times. Catherine Garcia
Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Vatican, responsible for the Holy See's finances, is facing at least three sexual assault charges related to historic abuse allegations, Australian police said Thursday.
Pell's legal representatives in Melbourne were served the charges, and he will appear in court July 18. Police say there are "multiple complainants," but would not reveal the allegations; The Sydney Morning Herald reports he is being charged with at least one count of rape. Pell, 75, was made a cardinal in 2003, and has served as the archbishop of both Sydney and Melbourne. He is expected to return to Australia to face the charges, and when rumors of the allegations first surfaced, Pell told reporters he is innocent. Catherine Garcia
The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday it is enacting new enhanced security and screening measures for every commercial flight traveling to the United States.
Since March, passengers flying to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries have been barred from bringing electronic devices bigger than a cellphone into the cabin, and if the new security protocols are adopted by the affected airlines and airports, the ban will be lifted, The Washington Post reports. Due to safety concerns, the Department of Homeland Security did not give any details on the new measures.
"It is time we raise the global baseline of aviation security," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said. "We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat." Catherine Garcia
Republicans are trying to cast their health-care proposal in a positive light, saying that cuts to Medicaid actually do the opposite, slowing the program's growth in order to preserve it, and everyone from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway to President Trump himself is getting involved.
On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office said the GOP Senate bill would reduce Medicaid spending by $772 billion over 10 years, and by 2026, enrollment would drop by 16 percent among people under the age of 65. Over the weekend, Conway said Republicans "don't see" these as cuts, and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said the bill would "codify and make permanent the Medicaid expansion" put in place by the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, former House Speaker and Trump ally Newt Gingrich said on Fox & Friends that "after all the news media talking about cutting Medicaid in the House Republican bill, I did some research. It actually goes up 20 percent over the next 10 years."
That's a touch misleading, PolitiFact says. The CBO report found that the House bill that passed in May would cut Medicaid spending by $834 billion over 10 years. His office didn't respond to PolitiFact's calls, but they concluded it is likely Gingrich was referring to the rate at which Medicaid will grow over the next decade, which will happen if the law passes or not. Medicaid spending will increase because health care costs are going up, and the CBO report found that under the House bill it limits the increase to 20 percent; if nothing changes, it will require a 60 percent increase.
One of Trump's major campaign promises was that "there will be no cuts" to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, which is likely why he tweeted this graph Wednesday evening:
Democrats purposely misstated Medicaid under new Senate bill - actually goes up. pic.twitter.com/necCt4K6UH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2017
None of these talking points are swaying David Kamin, a law professor at New York University and former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, who told The New York Times: "The question of whether it's an increase or a cut is really about how people experience health care and whether people will be covered. From my perspective, it would best be described as a cut." Catherine Garcia