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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 22                Email us
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A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

Mixing with the Mercedes and BMWs are carts of every description in the capital. These carts are a tradition centuries old and date from the time when the price of gasoline was not a factor. See our story:

Opposition surfaces to volcano hydro project in park
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opposition is growing against plans to put a hydrothermal power plant in Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja.

Lawmakers are considering legislation now that would allow the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to take over some 1,046 hectares, about 2,584 acres. The park surrounds the Rincón de la Vieja volcano, so there most likely is plenty of heat underground.

The environmental organization Preserve Planet came out against the project Wednesday at the same time Ronit Amit Rojas sent a heavily footnoted letter to Alfonso Pérez Gómez, who heads the legislative environmental committee.

Preserve Planet said there was no way to construct a power plant without disturbing the fragile ecosystem. Amit was identified as an environmental adviser to the organization.
He wrote his letter in his capacity as an advisor to the Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca. He is a doctoral student at the University of Florida.

Amit said that a power plant would disturb the animals there, including the endangered jaguar, which the country has promised to protect in an agreement with the Fundación Panthera, a non-profit organization. The project also would compromise plans for a biological corridor for the wild cats, he said.

He also said that the plant would open up areas for illegal hunting and for more humans. Amit also said that tasking land by the government would increase already existing hard feelings among the human neighbors and perhaps cause them to set forest fires or do other damage.

Legislation is needed for the project because the park is now a protected area off limits to development. So far, the national power company has approval to conduct studies in the area.

Police effort snags Escazú home invader suspects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A complex police operation detained four men Wednesday morning on suspicion that they are home invaders.

One of the suspects is a San José municipal policeman who is on leave.

The invasion was of a home in the Bello Horizonte section of Escazú. One of the victims inside the home managed to call the emergency number, and Fuerza Pública officers showed up with Escazú municipal police.

As police arrived, four would-be, masked robbers fled, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Two ran across the roofs of adjacent properties while one hid in a nearby home. Police detained a fourth suspect hiding in a lot nearby.

The Servicio Especial de Respuesta Táctica
negotiated with the suspect hiding in the home to effect the arrest.

During the melee, shots were fired and an Escazú policeman suffered a wound. Later pistols were recovered. Agents think that one robber managed to flee successfully.

The judicial agency said that the police officer who was detained had worked in 2006 for the owners of the home that was the target of the invasion. He was in possession of a 9-0mm. pistol when detained, they said. Police encountered a laptop, a video game setup and other items in the truck of what was presumed to have been used to bring the robbers to the home.

One suspect was detained carrying a billfold from the house that was targeted.

Bello Horizonte contains areas with upscale homes and is a frequent target of home invaders.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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The Web page
carries the title of a popular song by Malpais.

Government moves to cut
number of forest and field fires

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is embarking on a major publicity campaign to prevent forest fires. In addition, a Web page seeks to raise funds to equip some 1,000 volunteer fire fighters.

President Laura Chinchilla and René Castro Salazar, the environment minister, launched the campaign Wednesday. It is called Un Verano sin Incendios Forestales or "A summer without forest fires." Costa Ricans consider the dry season from December to April to be summer.

The campaign includes a Web page where persons can file complaints or make donations. The name is based on a popular song.

In addition to a media blitz, workers will go door to door in areas near woodlands with the greatest danger to encourage the public to participate.

Officials said that 99 percent of the field and forest fires in Costa Rica are caused by humans. Some are set deliberately.

Some of the money for the campaign comes from the Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, said officials. There will be television and radio spots. Social media also will be used.

Officials said that 2012 saw many forest fires but that 2013 should be worse due to the anticipated reduction in rainfall.

Agricultural engineers says
coffee rust campaign lacking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agricultural engineers say the government has dropped the ball in fighting a coffee disease and production may be cut by half this year.

The statement from Eugenio Porras Vargas, president of the  Colegio de Ingenieros Agrnomos, said the government has not launched an adequate campaign against what he called an old enemy.

The disease is roya de cafe, which is translated in English to "coffee rust." It is a fungus that forms yellow-orange dusty patches on the underside of the leaves.  This causes the coffee plant to lose its leaves, eventually killing the whole plant.

Porras said that the country knew about the fungus before 1970. He wondered in a release how with all the expertise, fungicides and monitoring programs coffee growers are now facing a new crisis. Coffee is one of the country's biggest cash crops.

Porras cited the world depression in 1929, the collapse of coffee prices in 1989 along with the current situation.

His organization considered a government decree issued in December as less than what is needed. He called the potential reduction in the harvest this year alarming.

The rust fungus, Hemileia vastatrix, is spread by the wind and rain.

Tourism chamber joins
chorus over dollar decline

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national tourism chamber said that a proposal in the legislature to prevent future erosion of the dollar's value is insufficient. It urged strong action.

The chamber is the Cámara Nacional de Turismo. It gave many of the same complaints aired by the hotel chamber earlier in the week regarding the decline in the value of the dollar.

The chamber also called on the central government to attack its staggering fiscal deficit. It also sought a special exchange rate for small businesses.

The measure in the legislature would give the board of the Central Bank power to assess a 30 percent surcharge on money leaving the country. The idea is to reduce the inflow of what the government considers speculative capital, money invested here because of the relatively high interest rate on colons.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 22
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Men who check out the trash to recycle generally decorate their carts with unusual items
They have wheels, but the motor is just one peoplepower
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Carretas in Costa Rica come in many shapes and sizes that range from a bicycle with a basket affixed at the front to refrigerated systems on wheels.  There are even large wooden buggies with wheelbarrow-style handles.

These manpowered machines serve the same purpose as large trucks, to deliver goods to clients.  However, it is done with more convenience and ease, said local cart pushers.

In the case of Edwin Rodrigo, a citizen from Alajuelita, it is a way to bring the farmer's market to the home.  He travels from his dwelling to San José where he keeps his cart.  Once there, he loads it with fresh goods like bananas, strawberries, avocados, onions, green beans and pineapples, and pushes it to different parts of the city.

Rodrigo follows a weekly schedule. He comes to Barrio Aranjuez on Wednesdays. Residents have become accustomed to his visits. At the sight of the man and the cart, neighbors come to the doors waving money and lists.  Rodrigo fills the order quickly.

Those walking by purchase fresh coconuts.  Rodrigo machetes off the top and places a straw inside so the customer can enjoy the natural water.  Once finished, he chops the fruit open and cuts off a small piece from the outer shell so the person can eat the meat.

Everything is sold at a different price, he explains, depending on what the item is and how much he paid for it before so he can make a profit.

A few streets away Javier Altamirana cuts the top off a coconut and pours the liquid into a container.  With a juicer attached to his cart, he can fill a plastic glass with orange juice or simply pour coconut milk for anyone at the price of 400 colons, about 80 cents. 
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Javier Altamirana specializes in cold drinks

Although he serves both drinks, his favorite is orange juice, he said.

Altamirana, who lives in Barrio México, is a unique vendor in that he is the only one in the area with his type of equipment selling juice, he said.  His vehicle is a bicycle with a metal ice box unit on the front that keeps the beverages cold.

These men have their own routes, but they are not alone in the streets.  A man with an elaborately adorned cart carries and sorts through trash on the street.  Persons pedal deliveries to downtown markets, bars and restaurants. 

Also, vendors with ice cream treats travel around ringing a bell to let community members know they are near.

However, according to Rodrigo, there are fewer carts in the street than before, and the numbers are declining.  Still, he pushes on with a smile, keeping the tradition alive for now.

selected carts
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
All sorts of muscle-powered whee led vehicles can be found on the streets of the nation's cities.

Police will enforce new bike and motorcycle laws at schools
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the start of school less than a week away, traffic police are ready to enforce new laws, including one that says persons riding a bicycle must wear a helmet and reflective vest.

And there is another law that prohibits more than one person riding on a bike unless the design permits this. For example, the bike may have a second seat.

Traffic police also said they will be looking for parents transporting a child 5 or under on a motorcycle. That is illegal now. So is carrying more than an extra persona on a motorcycle.

Traffic police note that in rural areas the tradition has been to put three to five persons on a motorcycle at times. This is illegal now.
The traffic police director, German Marín, said that officers will be paying special attention Wednesday and thereafter at some 79 schools that are in high traffic areas. Some 180 traffic policemen will be assigned to this job on two shifts, he said.

The police director also called upon parents to be good examples to their children. He urged them to use pedestrian bridges and noted that the bridge over Ruta 32 at the  Contraloría General de la República in Sabana Sur frequently is avoided by adults who dash across the six traffic lanes there.

He also said parents should avoid the practice of stepping off a bus before it has stopped completely.

Traffic officers also will be dealing with the annual chaos brought about by the operators of vehicles that transport students. Each year many do not have all the full permissions.

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Sala IV rejects claim of unconstitutionality against mining ban
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has upheld a law that prohibited all but small-scale gold mining in the country. The measure specifically prohibited open pit mining.

The Poder Judicial released a summary of the Tuesday decision.

The case is brought by the Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Minera, which said that the prohibition was  unconstitutional because it prevents the renewal of concessions granted by previous governments.

Two magistrates said that the association did not have standing to bring the case. Five magistrates said they could see no constitutional flaw.

They said that lawmakers have the right to pass such a restriction and that the prohibition does not apply only to a
Canadian corporation but to any entity regardless of country of origin, said the summary. In addition, the prohibition was justified to protect the environment.

The reference was to Industrias Infinito S.A, which had a concession to operate an open-pit mine near the country's northern border. The Las Crucitas property is estimated to contain 12 million ounces of gold.  That is about $1.9 billion. Environmentalists oppose the mine because of the extraction method that might cause heavy metals to seep into the nearby Río San Juan.

Infinito is a subsidiary of a Canadian mining firm. The company has support from former president Óscar Arias Sánchez, but the current administration opposes mining, except for small-scale, underground hard rock activities.

The Canadian firm is believed to be preparing an international arbitration case against Costa Rica for terminating its concession.

ear and hnads
These are some of the works in wood by David Villalobos.
Wood is the medium for sculptor who has opening Saturday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

David Villalobos is a lover of the human form, face and body. He express them easily in the wood, and this is what keeps him with an inspiration to do his art, he said.

The wood materials he uses are discards. "Cutting down trees for art is a sacrilege," said Villalobos. "We must strive to protect the forest and rivers, to keep in one with nature."

Working with a peaceful order and harmony in nature is crucial for Villalobos. "It inspires my naturalistic figurative technique as I seek compositions of movement and the dynamics of life," he said

The artists works will be on display starting Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery west of Liberia.

Villalobos is from the province of Alajuela, and he started to show his talent at a young age. He expanded his knowledge of sculpture and technique studying under other sculptors from whom he learned the importance of finding his own style to exhibit his artistic language, he said. 
 "Over time, with the perseverance of those who were guiding my process, I managed to acquire knowledge that gave me my own character and independence," said Villalobos.

His  earlier exhibits conveyed messages which gave homage to those with the power of giving life and dialogue about time and life, where the most important characteristics were the movement and shapes in abstracts. David expresses curves and lines in his sculptures, which means that life itself is not flat or constant -- it moves and turns undetectable, and so are his expressions, observers say.

In his new exhibit, "Amigos," Villalobos explores the circle of friendship, the bonds of companionship and solidarity.

The opening starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Hidden Garden Art Gallery is five kilometers west of Daniel Oduber airport on the road to the Pacific.

For more information those interested can contact the gallery by telephone, 2667-0592 / 8386-6872, or by email

Caribbean coral study says reef growth appears to be stunted
By the University of Exeter news service

Many Caribbean coral reefs have either stopped growing or are on the threshold of starting to erode, new evidence has revealed.

Coral reefs build their structures by both producing and accumulating calcium carbonate, and this is essential for the maintenance and continued vertical growth capacity of reefs. An international research team has discovered that the amount of new carbonate being added by Caribbean coral reefs is now significantly below rates measured over recent geological timescales, and in some habitats is as much as 70 percent lower.

Coral reefs form some of the planet's most biologically diverse ecosystems, and provide valuable services to humans and wildlife. However, their ability to maintain their structures and continue to grow depends on the balance between the addition of new carbonate, which is mostly produced by corals themselves, set against the loss of carbonate through various erosional processes. Scientists have long known that reef ecosystems are in decline and that the amount of live coral on reefs is dwindling. But the paper, published on DATE TBC in Nature Communications, is the first evidence that these ecological changes are now also impacting on the growth potential of reefs themselves.

Chris Perry of the University of Exeter, who led the research, said: "Our estimates of current rates of reef growth in the Caribbean are extremely alarming. Our study goes beyond only examining how much coral there is, to also look at the delicate balance of biological factors which determine whether coral
reefs will continue to grow or will erode. Our findings clearly show that recent ecological declines are now suppressing the growth potential of reefs in the region, and that this will have major implications for their ability to respond positively to future sea level rises.

"It is most concerning that many coral reefs across the Caribbean have seemingly lost their capacity to produce enough carbonate to continue growing vertically, while others are already at a threshold where they may start to erode. At the moment there is limited evidence of large-scale erosion or loss of actual reef structure, but clearly if these trends continue, reef erosion looks far more likely. Urgent action to improve management of reef habitats and to limit global temperature increases is likely to be critical to reduce further deterioration of reef habitat."

The team examined rates of carbonate production across 19 reefs in the four Caribbean countries of the Bahamas, Belize, Bonaire and Grand Cayman.

They discovered that declines in rates of carbonate production were especially evident in shallow water habitats, where many fast growing branching coral species have been lost. The study compared modern day rates with those measured in the region over approximately the last 7,000 years. In key habitats around the Caribbean, the findings suggested that in waters of around five meters in depth, reef growth rates are now reduced by 60-70 percent compared to the regional averages taken from historical records. In waters of around 10 meters in depth, the rates are reduced by 25 percent.

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Legislative hearing airs
both sides of gun dispute

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

America’s collective horror over gun violence has not forged an overwhelming consensus on how to curb the bloodshed, a fact illustrated by a contentious hearing at the U.S. Capitol. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard starkly divergent views from impassioned advocates in the debate over gun control.
Mass slaughters of children in Connecticut, movie-goers in Colorado, college students in Virginia, and congressional constituents in Arizona have amplified calls for action.
First to speak at the hearing: former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during the 2011 Arizona shooting rampage.
“We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act," she said.
Gun control advocates want to ban military-style assault weapons, limit the size of ammunition magazines, and require background checks for all gun purchases.
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said, "Allowing 40 percent of those acquiring guns to bypass checks is like allowing 40 percent of passengers to board a plane without going through security. Would we do that?”
But gun rights defenders say new firearms regulations and restrictions are not the answer.
Wayne LaPierre, who  heads the National Rifle Association, said, “Proposing more gun laws while failing to enforce the thousands we already have is not a serious solution for reducing crime. Nor do we believe that government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.”
At times, the hearing dissolved into chaos.
Some argued a balance must be struck: preserving the right of Americans to bear arms while ensuring public safety. 
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said, “Lives are at risk when responsible people fail to stand up for laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who use them to commit murder, especially mass-murders.”
Others fear Congress will react impulsively to the Connecticut school shootings.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, said, “Unfortunately, in Washington, emotion often leads to bad policies.”

Brazil's president faces
calls for more safety

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

For a gruff, no-nonsense technocrat known for intimidating even her closest aides, the tears rolling down President Dilma Rousseff's face were especially striking.
After receiving a phone call at 7 a.m. Sunday notifying her of a nightclub fire that killed 235 people in southern Brazil, Ms. Rousseff cut short a visit to Chile and was on the scene by midday.
One photo showed her in a Santa Maria gym that had been turned into a makeshift morgue, cradling the head of a victim's mother with both hands as the two women cried.
The hundred or so corpses created an overpowering, acrid smell but Ms. Rousseff stayed for about half an hour, consoling the families of the survivors one by one before flying to Brasilia. An aide said she was emotionally devastated.
Those close to the president say the tragedy has hit her hard for two main reasons.
First, the high death toll, magnified by the fact it occurred in her adopted home state of Rio Grande do Sul. Second, because Ms. Rousseff has staked her presidency on battling the reckless, anything-goes legal and political culture often seen in Brazil, which many blame for the high number of deaths.
"It seems this tragedy could have been minimized if Brazil had better, more responsive institutions, and that's what this president has consistently and vigorously pushed for, more than many other leaders," said Eliana Calmon, a federal judge who has gained nationwide fame for battling corruption.
Police investigations have pointed to a number of breakdowns that led to the disaster at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, a relatively wealthy university city of about 250,000 people.
The club's safety permit had expired last year, and some lawyers say city and fire department officials shouldn't have allowed it to continue to operate while it sought a renewal.
Other questions remain about whether the club was operating above capacity and if it broke the law by only having one working exit at the moment a band started a pyrotechnics show that set the roof ablaze and filled the room with toxic smoke.
Many Brazilians doubt the Santa Maria disaster will lead Ms. Rousseff or other leaders to push for better safety or regulatory enforcement. They point to past incidents such as a 1972 fire in a Sao Paulo skyscraper that killed 16 people. Despite angry cries for reform, just two years later a fire at another skyscraper a few blocks away left 179 people dead.

Blackberry bets all
on two new devices

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Canadian smartphone maker Research In Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, says it's back.  The company is trying to reclaim a market it once dominated by introducing two new devices.  The last few years have been a painful time for the company as customers deserted its platform in favor of newer, more popular devices. This may be the company's last chance to remain a vital player in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Two brand new devices might mean a fresh start for a company that has seen its global market share plummet from 20 percent three years ago to just over 3 percent today.
For BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, it's another chance to remake a faded brand.
"We have definitely been on a journey of transformation, a journey to not only transform our business and our brand but one which I truly believe will transform mobile communications into true mobile computing," he said.
The company promises the same high level of network security the BlackBerry is known for along with a fast new browser, a more intuitive operating system, and a revamped library featuring more than 70,000 apps.  The Z10 looks much like the touchscreen phones popularized by its rivals, but the Q10 maintains the "qwerty" keyboard that has become BlackBerry's trademark.
Besides the technical and cosmetic updates, Heins says the company will no longer be called RIM or Research in Motion. 
"Our customers use a BlackBerry, our employees work for BlackBerry and our shareholders are owners of BlackBerry. From today on, we are BlackBerry everywhere in the world," he said.
Shareholders will be watching if customers adopt the new devices.  The company's stock has dropped as much as 90 percent in the last four years as it lost ground to competitors.  But company shares have doubled in the last four months as anticipation grew for the new models.
Analysts say the new devices could make or break a company that many credit for starting the technological revolution in smartphones.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 22
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Top cultural award goes
to a professor and author

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After persons who work in the arts become published and well known, the next big honor is receiving an award that acknowledges the merit of their work.

The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud created such an award in 1992, called the Premio Nacional de Cultura, to recognize the hard work, tenacity and excellence of persons from different artists, performers and community organizations.

Out of all awards given, the most coveted prize is the Magón which the the ministry announced Monday will go this year to Yadira Calvo Fajardo for her contributions in the national culture in the field of literature.

The Magón is the highest culture award that the nation awards yearly to either a writer, artist, or Costa Rican scientist, for the creative and research work that they have done in the field.

Ms. Calvo has a degree in literature and language science.  She has served as an associate professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica and a professor at Universidad Autónoma de Centroamérica.

The writers work in which he is most known for are essays that depict and promote women.  She has published several books that include “Poesía en Jorge Debravo," "La mujer víctima y cómplice," "Ángela Acuña, forjadora de estrellas," "A la mujer por la palabra," "Las líneas torcidas del derecho," "De diosas a dragonas," "La canción olvidada" and "Éxtasis y ortigas."

Her latest work, "Terminología feminista," was published in 2012.

The ministry also announced that the Cultura Popular Tradicional will be awarded to Georgina Acevedo López for her work in the rescue, dissemination and projection of traditional popular culture in Cañas, Guanacaste and at the national level.

Ms. Acevedo has worked for decades to promote culture and lead cultural projects in Cañas, Guanacaste.

“The jury noted the active and committed participation of Ms. Acevedo, with the different cultural organizations where she stressed a commitment, delivery and implementation of cultural projects in Guanacaste,” said a release.

The traditional Popular Culture prize is awarded to individuals, folkloric groups, popular performers, or institutions, agencies or communities, who have made a significant contribution to the study and recovery of the Costa Rican native and popular demonstrations.

Manuel Obregón, the cultural minister, praised both women especially Ms. Calvo for her work to transform what he called a conservative, sexist and patriarchal society and dedicating her entire life to fight for gender equality. 

"In the very similar case of Doña Georgina Acevedo, stands a knowledge and a tradition inherited from her grandparents, her ancestors, and she managed to transmit that knowledge and multiply it into many generations,” he continued.

The announcement of other national culture Awards, in categories of Visual Arts, theatre, dance, music, among others, will be released on Feb. 7.

The official ceremony of all the national awards for culture, will be held May 13 at 7 p.m.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 22
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Computer bug draws a major warning

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security urged computer users this week to disable a common networking technology feature, after researchers warned that hackers could exploit flaws to gain access to tens of millions of vulnerable devices.
The U.S. government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team, on its Web site, advised consumers and businesses to disable a feature known as Universal Plug and Play or UPnP, and some other related features that make devices from computers to printers accessible over the open Internet.
UPnP, a communications protocol, is designed to let networks identify and communicate with equipment, reducing the amount of work it takes to set up networks. Dave Marcus, chief architect of advanced research and threat intelligence with Intel's McAfee unit, said hackers would have a field day once the vulnerability in network devices is exposed.
"Historically, these are amongst the last to be updated and protected properly which makes them a gold mine for potential abuse and exploitation,'' said Marcus, who advises government agencies and corporations on protections against sophisticated attacks.
Disabling UPnP once networks have already been set up, will have little impact on the operation of the devices.
The new security bugs were initially brought to the attention of the government by computer security company Rapid7, in Boston, which released a report on the problem on Tuesday.

The company said it discovered between 40 million and 50 million devices that were vulnerable to attack due to three separate sets of problems that the firm's researchers have identified with the UPnP standard.
The flaws could allow hackers to access confidential files, steal passwords, take full control over PCs as well as remotely access devices such as webcams, printers and security systems, according to Rapid7.
Rapid7 has alerted electronics makers about the problem through the CERT Coordination Center, a group at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute that helps researchers report vulnerabilities to affected companies.
"This is the most pervasive bug I've ever seen,'' said HD Moore, chief technology officer for Rapid7.
CERT in turn has tried to contact the more than 200 companies whose products Rapid7 have identified as being vulnerable to attack, including Belkin, D-Link, Cisco Systems Inc's Linksys division and Netgear.

Linksys said it is aware of the problem. ``We recommend Linksys customers visit our website to understand if their home router is affected, and learn how to disable UPnP through the user interface to avoid being impacted,'' Linksys said in a statement.
Belkin, D-Link and Netgear did not respond to requests for comment.

Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer of security software firm Veracode, said he believed that publication of Rapid7's findings would draw widespread attention to the still emerging area of UPnP security, prompting other security researchers to search for more bugs in UPnP.
"This definitely falls into the scary category,'' said Wysopal, who reviewed Rapid7's findings ahead of their publication. "There is going to be a lot more research on this. And the follow-on research could be a lot scarier.''
Andres Andreu, chief architect at networking security company Bayshore Networks said they expect an increase in cybercrime as hackers begin to figure out ways to take advantage of the newly identified vulnerabilities.
"Simple targets such as home routers now become targets of greater interest,'' he said.

Moore said that there were bugs in most of the devices that Rapid7 tested and that device manufacturers will need to release software updates to remedy the problems.
He said that was unlikely to happen quickly.
In the meantime, he advised computer users to quickly use a free tool released by Rapid7 to identify vulnerable gear, then disable the UPnP functionality in that equipment.

NY Times blames China for cyber attack

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The New York Times says Chinese hackers have repeatedly launched cyber attacks against its Web site and journalists in the four months since the paper angered Beijing by posting an article exposing the wealth of a senior politician.

In a detailed report published Thursday, the newspaper said hackers used tactics known to be employed by the Chinese military to break into its network and steal the email passwords of several senior reporters and other employees.

The paper said the attacks began about the same time it published a blockbuster October story detailing $2.7 billion allegedly accumulated by the family of outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

At the time, China reacted angrily to the story, which threatened the reputation of a leader known for his clean image. It immediately blocked the Times' English and Chinese Web sites. The paper says the government also promised unspecified consequences.

As a result, the paper hired Mandiant, a computer security company, which alerted the Times to the cyber attacks just one day after the Wen Jiabao article was published.

The Times does not know how the hackers broke into its network, but it suspects they used an email to employees containing malicious links or attachments. It says they were soon able to steal the corporate passwords for "every Times employee."

The hackers then used the passwords to access dozens of employees' personal computers, with the apparent aim of finding the sources of information for the article. The primary target, it said, was Shanghai bureau chief David Barboza, who wrote the article.

Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, said hackers were not able to access sensitive emails or files from the article on Wen, which relied on publicly available records such as corporate documents. The paper also said no customer data was stolen.

The paper said when Mandiant security officials became aware of the attack, they allowed the hackers to spin a digital web for four months in an effort to discover their identity. The investigation showed that hackers tried to conceal their activities by routing their attacks through computers at universities in the United States. They also tried to hide their location by continually switching IP addresses, a code that identifies computers on a network.

Other details suggested that the source of the attacks was China. The paper said hacker teams regularly attacked the system beginning at 8 a.m. Beijing time, continuing for a standard work day.

Mandiant, the security company, says those methods are consistent with previous cyber attacks associated with the Chinese military, which observers say regularly outsources cyber attacks and uses other ways to conceal its activities.

The Times says it has expelled the attackers by blocking the compromised outside computers, changing every employee password, and undertaking other security measures. But it said it expects more hacking attempts in the future.

When confronted by the New York Times about the attack, Chinese defense officials denied any involvement, calling it unprofessional and baseless.

Chinese censors later deleted conversations about the hacking controversy on domestic social media sites.
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