Wednesday Morning: Quelle couleur est-ce?

I think vestigially there’s a synesthete in me, but not like a real one who immediately knows what colour Wednesday is. — A. S. Byatt

A lot of people will ask what day it is today, but few will ask what color.

Ed Walker put up a great post late last evening, one that deserves more oxygen. Do check it out.

Hospital held hostage for millions by ransomware
Hey Hollywood! A hospital in your backyard has been “infected” with ransomware, their enterprise system tied up until administration coughs up $3.6 million.* Didn’t see that coming, huh? Law enforcement is involved, though if they haven’t managed to resolve other smaller ransomware attacks, they won’t solve this before it critically affects patients’ care.

This is a pretty good (if unfortunate) example of business continuity crisis. Remember Y2K and all the hullaballoo about drills and testing for enterprise failure? We still need that kind of effort on a regular basis; how do you run your biz if all electronics go dark, for any reason?

(* US articles say $3.6M; CAN article linked says $5M. Currency difference, or an increase in the demand?)

Google found critical vulnerability in GNU C Library
CVE-2015-7547: glibc getaddrinfo stack-based buffer overflow” Huh? What? If you read Google’s blog post about this yesterday, you were probably scratching your head. Some Googlers struggle with writing in plain English. Here’s what tech news outlets interpreted from that google-degook:

Ars Technica: “Extremely severe bug leaves dizzying number of software and devices vulnerable
BBC: “Glibc: Mega bug may hit thousands of devices
Threatpost: “Critical glibc Vulnerability Puts All Linux Machines at Risk

In a nutshell, if you’re running Linux, patch your systems, stat.

Petroleum’s still a problem

  • Iran’s not going along with Saudi-Russia-OPEC agreement on oil production limits. Iran wants to return to pre-sanction production levels before it makes any concessions.
  • Oil glut and tanked prices creates secondary challenges. Saudi’s youth now have entirely different prospects for employment now that oil cannot guarantee national wealth or careers with good pay. Will this cause political volatility in RSA? Wonder what will happen in smaller oil-producing countries like Venezuela and Ecuador?
  • Weird outliers buck trend: Indian oil producer Chennai had a strong Q3, and First American Bank more than doubled its stake in oil development firm Anadarko. Neither of these stories make sense when oil prices have and are plummeting and show no solid sign of improvement in the next year-plus.

TBTF is still too TBTF
Neel Kashkari, Minneapolis Fed Reserve president, called for the breakup of Too-Big-to-Fail banks yesterday, as they are still a risk to the economy. Didn’t see that coming from a fed president, especially Kashkari.

Biggest tech story today: Judge ordered Apple to help hack San Bernadino gunman’s phone
Apple’s been fighting government pressure on backdoors to its products. The fight intensified after federal judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to cooperate with the FBI to unlock encryption on a county-owned phone used by San Bernadino gunman Syed Farook. Begs the question why any government agency — local, state, or federal — would ever issue a phone with encryption the government could not crack in the first place. Seems like one answer is a government- and/or business-specific encryption patch to iOS: [IF phone = government-issued, THEN unlock with government-issued key]. Same for business-issued phones. Your own personal phone, not issued by a government agency or business? No key, period.

Phew. That’s enough for a Wednesday. Hope we can coast downhill from here.

Paul Kanjorski: Government Can’t Control Multinationals Anymore

I confess. When I read Zach Carter’s account of his interview with Paul Kanjorski, my first response was to wonder why HuffPo had decided an interview with the former Congressman would make for the (admittedly very fascinating) article that resulted.

Turns out the reason is Bank of America’s woes; as one of the champions of breaking up the banks in Dodd-Frank, this ought to be an “I told you so” moment for Kanjorski, because had we already broken BoA up, it would have forestalled some of the difficulties we’re likely to experience in the near term.

And Kanjorski did address that, intimating that regulators who had left the Administration, like Sheila Bair, had been willing to entertain taking such step, but those who remain (Carter notes that Tim Geithner recently decided to stick around) basically made an agreement with the banks not to use Dodd-Frank’s authority to break them up.

But Kanjorski framed all this within the larger question of whether multinational companies have simply become too big for mere governments to control anymore.

“Because [corporations] have become so international and global in nature, it’s highly questionable whether governments can actually control corporations to a sufficient degree to prevent them from controlling governments,” said Kanjorski,

And he then demonstrated that principle in his discussion of discussions about a tax holiday, which would allow tax cheating corporations to bring money back into the US but only pay cut rate taxes.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t adjust our tax code otherwise — there are thing we need to do there — but to give them a free ride, what are you encouraging? The next guy who doesn’t like the law will just do the same thing,” Kanjorski said of the proposed tax holiday. “The reality is, why should we be bargaining with super-national corporations who are actually acting against our interest in avoidance of what our law is? We are impotent to get them to respond.”

This takes the argument of Treasure Islands–that corporations are using secrecy havens to avoid taxes–to the level where a former senior legislator of the world’s economic powerhouse admitting to impotence in the face of the corporations because of their size and multinational status.

And he notes something often forgotten in DC: that these are no longer American companies, and their interests do not coincide with our interests.

Of course, that’s not necessarily going to help us, given that Kanjorski’s watching from the private sector as top financial regulators still do act as if these multinationals’ interests coincide with ours.