Sunday, August 28, 2016

US to spend $2.5bn on rail expansion; Oil price hike gives near-term relief for GCC; Car hacking a looming threat

1 US to spend $2.5bn in rail expansion (BBC) US vice president Joe Biden has announced plans to lend railway operator Amtrak $2.45bn to expand services and make upgrades.Amtrak's plans include expanding high-speed trains between Washington DC and Boston.

Rail infrastructure in the US lags many other developed countries, particularly in terms of high-speed trains. The new trains, which Amtrak expects to begin running in 2021, will have initial speeds of up to 160mph, but will be capable of speeds up to 186mph. Amtrak recorded 11.7 million riders along that route in 2015 - its highest number on record..

2 Oil price hike gives near-term relief for GCC (Issac John in Khaleej Times) The GCC countries will face some near-term relief from the current higher oil prices, but the hike is unlikely to have a major impact on GCC sovereigns' creditworthiness, Moody's Investors Service said.

The ratings agency said the near-term would led to narrower fiscal and current account deficits than it previously expected. "In particular, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman are set to be the main beneficiaries of higher oil prices in the short term, given the larger reliance on oil for government revenues," it said.

Moody's now forecasts a deficit of three per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) for Kuwait, 5.5 per cent for Qatar and 15.1 per cent for Oman in 2016. On the external side, higher oil prices will benefit Kuwait, the UAE and Oman the most by reducing the current account deficits by an average of four to seven per cent of GDP, followed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, it said.

Moody's expects oil prices to remain low, moving within a $40 to $60 per barrel range over the medium term. In June, Moody's raised its nearer term oil price estimates for Brent crude to $40 per barrel in 2016 and $45 in 2017.

It pointed out that the oil market's recent rise has been supported by transitory factors, including temporary supply disruptions in Canada and violence in Nigeria which has curtailed production, as well as technical factors such as a weaker US dollar and financial market activity.

3 Car hacking a looming threat (Alex Hern in The Guardian) “Car companies are finally realising that what they sell is just a big computer you sit in,” says Kevin Tighe, a senior systems engineer at the security testing firm Bugcrowd.

It’s meant to be a reassuring statement: proof that the world’s major vehicle manufacturers are finally coming to terms with their responsibilities to customers, and taking the security of vehicles seriously.

But it’s hard not to be slightly uneasy about the idea that it’s normal to sit inside a massive computer and trust it with your life. We’re meeting at Defcon, the world’s largest hacking conference, just outside the “car-hacking village”, a recent addition to the convention’s lineup, where enthusiasts meet to trade tips on how to mess about with those same computers for fun and profit.

In a previous Defcon, Twitter’s Charlie Miller and IOActive’s Chris Valasek demonstrated they were able to wirelessly take over a Jeep. They used a laptop connected to the internet miles from the vehicle to seize control of it, cutting the brakes and transmission at the flick of a switch.

It sparked a worldwide recall for the affected cars – which included much of Fiat Chrysler’s range. It also exposed serious problems with how the car companies planned to handle such software flaws.

Even though the hack could be executed remotely, it could only be fixed with physical access to the car, forcing Fiat Chrysler to post USB keys to affected owners, or ask them to bring their cars in for maintenance. Posting USB keys brought its own problems: plugging an untrusted USB key into anything, whether car or computer, carries serious risks. It’s also hard for anyone to easily verify that a drive received in the post is malware-free.

The group of people united by the motivation to push computer security to its absolute limit seem to agree on one thing, at least: car hacking is here to stay, and sooner or later, you’ll be hit too.

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