Iulian Capsali, a Romanian Orthodox priest, has gathered the necessary signatures to be registered as independent candidate for the European elections, the Romanian press reports. He presents himself as “the candidate of the Romanian family”, campaigning against abortion and against “homosexual culture”. Capsali admits that the Orthodox Church has helped gathering 120, 000 signatures for his registration as an independent candidate. Romania is one of the seven EU countries where independent candidates are allowed to compete in European elections. These include also Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom. (via EurActiv)
Capsali, who lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his wife and his nine children, say he decided to be a candidate when a Protestant priest of Romanian origin from the USA, Peter Costea, announced his intention to run for MEP.
U.S. Secret Service Agent Matt O’Neill was growing nervous. For three months, he’d been surreptitiously monitoring hackers’ communications and watching as they siphoned thousands of credit card numbers from scores of U.S. retailers. Most every day O’Neill was alerting a credit card company or retailer to an online heist. The result was predictable: the companies canceled hijacked credit and debit cards and the aggravated hackers’ customers began complaining that the stolen card numbers weren’t working as promised. It was only a matter of time before the cyber thieves realized they were being watched. (via Businessweek)
The conspirators hit more than 800 U.S. stores from 2009 to 2011, stealing data from in excess of 150,000 credit card accounts and inflicting losses to financial institutions conservatively tallied at $12.5 million, according to interviews with the agent, his supervisors and U.S. Justice Department prosecutors, as well as a review of court filings.
O’Neill’s green eyes and sly grin mask an intensity for the hunt that relied on a mix of high-tech sleuthing and traditional police work, with some creativity sprinkled in: the agent even went undercover online as an “attractive, independently wealthy waitress.”
“These hackers are sophisticated,” said U.S. Secret Service Agent Ed Lowery, who is in charge of the agency’s criminal division. “The type of individual we are talking about — the highest-level cyber criminal — they don’t leave bread crumbs.”
The son of a former Secret Service agent who investigated counterfeiting rings in Philadelphia, O’Neill joined the service in 1998 after a post-college stint at ESPN. He specialized in cyber crimes, except for four years on Vice President Dick Cheney’s security detail.
American Express reported that 36 compromised credit cards had been used at the Plaistow Subway; Citibank said it had suffered $80,000 in losses tied to cards swiped at the store.
Within days, O’Neill and a New Hampshire state trooper were inspecting the store’s computer. It was clear it had been hacked through the Internet, and the attacker had planted a “key logger” program onto its hard drive. Acting like a vacuum cleaner, the program sucked up the data from credit and debit cards swiped through the store’s magnetic reader.
The investigators determined the stolen data was only stored briefly on the computer before being uploaded to a website, ftp.tushtime.info.
A password embedded in the software code — Carabus05 — provided a clue to its source. When O’Neill Googled the word, he discovered it was Romanian for beetle. Russia, Romania and other Eastern European countries are hotbeds for hackers.
The hackers were careful. They masked their identities by using anonymous e-mail and chat accounts. They hid their location by routing through other servers in Europe.
Even so, O’Neill suspected they were in Romania. They chatted in e-mails in the language, and the agent managed to track some of their computer activity back to the country.
Finally, in late October, agents picked up a solid lead: in an online chat, a hacker mentioned that his computer had been seized and his house raided by Romanian police investigating his cyber activities.
O’Neill called his Romanian counterparts and provided them with the information. In less than a day, they gave O’Neill the hacker’s identity: Adrian Tiberiu Oprea, a 26-year-old who had studied computer science and lived in the Black Sea port city of Constanta. Romanian authorities told O’Neill they were investigating Oprea for hacking retailers in Eastern Europe.
From the hackers’ e-mails and social media postings, O’Neill found the identity of one Oprea’s customers: a Romanian living in France named Cezar Butu, 27.
A third member of the conspiracy was harder to identify. In January 2011, O’Neill was examining more than 15,000 e-mails from an anonymous account when he found two that stood apart. They were from a personal e-mail and had attachments that were core to the scam: a program that masked the hackers’ activities in their victims’ computers, and a trove of stolen credit card numbers.
The hacker had mistakenly used his personal account to forward himself the information. The misstep was enough for O’Neill to finger Iulian Dolan, 25, a third Romanian.
O’Neill and the federal prosecutors still weren’t optimistic that they could put the Romanians on trial. Though the U.S. has an extradition treaty with Romania, getting the country to hand over suspects was far from guaranteed.
“I thought our best case scenario would be that we would approach Romanian law enforcement and hope we could convince them to prosecute these people, assuming we could ever able to identify them,” said Mona Sedky, a prosecutor in the U.S. Justice Department’s computer crimes division. “I never in a million years thought they would see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.”
O’Neill and his Romanian counterparts discussed his options, which amounted to taking the risk of trying to extradite the men, or finding a less official way to arrest them. “They basically said, ’Do whatever you can do legally to get them to the United States,’” O’Neill recalled.
Research showed the thieves had obvious weaknesses: Dolan was an online gambler, and Butu was a ladies’ man. To capture Dolan, O’Neill became “Sarah,” a marketing specialist for a Connecticut casino who invited the Romanian to a poker tournament.
For eight months, O’Neill e-mailed Dolan, sometimes late at night from his home where he was on paternity leave with a baby boy. His wife was understanding: she’s an agent with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Dolan seemed kind of like a lonely guy,” O’Neill said. “And, yes, there was some gentle flirting.” When Dolan finally walked off the plane in Boston on Aug. 13, 2011, he was carrying a gold necklace for “Sarah” and six boxes of grape-flavored condoms.
All three pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges, admitting they hit more than 800 U.S. stores, about 250 of which were Subways. In interviewing Dolan and Oprea, O’Neill determined that they didn’t target Subway. It was just luck that so many got hacked. There are about 25,000 Subways in the U.S. and many had poor online security, O’Neill said.
As for the hackers, they didn’t make much profit — Oprea, the ring leader, made only $40,000. He paid a steep price for the estimated $12.5 million in losses inflicted on financial institutions and the $5 million Subway spent upgrading its cyber security systems. Oprea was sentenced in September to 15 years in federal prison. Butu got 21 months behind bars, and Dolan received a 7-year sentence.
Romania, one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, has shrugged off its physical proximity to turmoil in Ukraine to raise €1.25bn at record-low borrowing costs. The former communist eastern European country issued a 10-year bond, denominated in euros, that was five times subscribed and sold with a yield of 3.7 per cent. (via FT.com)
“This is one of the cheapest financings that Romania has ever got on international markets,” said Liviu Voinea, Romania’s minister delegate for budget. “And it is a result of the fiscal consolidation and structural reforms in the country.”
Peter Charles, head of the European debt syndicate desk at Citi, one of the lead managers in the bond sale, said risk appetite reflected the feeling of investors that the Ukraine situation was containable and they were instead focused on internal economic reforms undertaken by Romania.
Following a €20bn rescue deal from the International Monetary Fund and EU in 2009 Romania has implemented austerity measures so severe that protesters were moved to burn effigies of government ministers in central Bucharest.
Romania’s efforts have been rewarded with lower borrowing costs in international bonds markets. In 2008 the country had to pay a yield of 6.75 per cent a year to investors who bought its 10-year euro denominated bond.
Following an earlier dollar bond sale this year, Romania, which is rated BB+ by Standard & Poors, has now completed its slated foreign financing for 2014, although Mr Voinea said it had not ruled out the possibility of further debt issues this year if market conditions remained favourable.
omanian poet and translator Nina Cassian, who obtained political asylum in the United States after the Communist-era secret police found her critical poems scribbled in a friend’s diary, has died in New York City. She was 89. Her husband, Maurice Edwards, told The Associated Press she died at home Monday from a heart attack. The Securitate found her poems in 1985 in the diary of Gheorghe Ursu, who was questioned and later died after being beaten by a fellow prisoner. Cassian, then visiting the United States, was granted asylum. In 2003, the Securitate officers who ordered Ursu’s beating were sentenced to 11 years in prison. (via Romanian poet, dissident Nina Cassian dies - Newsday)
Romanian authorities confiscated Cassian’s apartment in Bucharest and her assets after she was granted asylum and her books were removed from bookshops.
She married Edwards, an author who was then the Brooklyn Philharmonic orchestra’s artistic director, in New York when they were both in their 70s, he said.
Born into a Jewish family in the Danube port of Galati in 1924, Cassian joined the Communist Youth Wing when it was outlawed by the pro-Nazi government. She said she was attracted by the ideas of equality and lack of racial prejudice.
She debuted with “Scale 1:1” in 1947 which was badly received by the critics because it ran against the Socialist grain of the time. She then wrote a series of books that were flattering to the regime, as did many Romanian writers, arguing it was the only way they could survive artistically.
Gynecologists in Southern Romania won’t perform abortions around Easter. Medicii ginecologi din cadrul Spitalului Judeţean de Urgenţă Târgu Jiu au luat decizia să nu mai efectueze întreruperi de sarcină în Săptămâna Patimilor şi în Săptămâna Luminată. (via Alin Ion in adevarul.ro)
„Personalul medical de la Secţia Obstetrică-Ginecologie respectă ceea ce a făcut şi în anii trecuţi. Astfel, cu o săptămână înainte de Paşte şi în săptămâna următoare nu se fac chiuretaje la Spitalul Judeţean de Urgenţă“, a spus Vasile Stănculete, directorul medical al Spitalului Judeţean de Urgenţe Târgu Jiu. Medicii vor efectua avorturi doar în cazurile mai speciale, atunci când viaţa mamei este pusă în pericol. Femeile sunt de acord cu măsura luată de conducerea Spitalului împreună cu medicii ginecologi. „Nu este bine să se facă avorturi în Săptămâna Patimilor şi în cea Luminată. Este o măsura înţeleaptă. Viaţa trebuie ocrotită măcar în această săptămână“.
calming words from Romania re: Russian territorial expansion
România va avea o poziție complet coordonată, identică cu cea a partenerilor internaționali – UE și NATO. Adversarii politici ai șefului Guvernului de la București îi cer, însă lui Ponta acțiuni concrete și îl acuză de lașitate. (via Moldova.org)
„Nu am văzut în declarațiile domnului Ponta nicio mențiune cu privire la încălcarea dreptului internațional de către Rusia, domnul Ponta se ferește să pronunțe numele Putin. Îl invit să o facă, nu i se întâmpla nimic, să nu-i fie frică, să nu se comporte ca un pudel al domnului Putin! Domnul Ponta (…) în cazul Ucrainei e mut ca o lebăda. Îi cerem să iasă din buncăr să înceapă să vorbească și sa spună clar ca Guvernul României va lua toate aceste măsuri de sprijinire a Republicii Moldova”, declarat Cătălin Predoiu, citat de HotNews.ro
Romania’s Competition Council applied EUR 20 million in fines last year, almost triple the amount in 2012, but 15 times lower than the fines in 2011, according to its activity report. The Council fined 35 companies for anti-competitive practices in 2013. The year 2011 brought a peak in fines as it was the end of several cases which involved companies with high turnovers – the telecom anti-competitive fines for Orange and Vodafone. (via The full report from the Competition Council is here (in English, 133 pages, in pdf document),ri)
Among the highest fines given last year were the EUR 12.7 million for the 14 companies in the ROREC and ECOTIC associations, on their anti-competitive buy-back campaigns for IT&C products.
EUR 3.8 million in fines were also applied to the National Company Romanian Lottery, and to Intralot SA Integrated Lottery Systems and Services, Intracom Holdings for anti-competitive agreements.
The Council applied most of the fines – 80 percent – for horizontal anti-competitive agreements, meaning between companies operating at the same level of production or distribution in the market. The rest were vertical agreements, meaning between companies at different levels in the supply chain.
The Competition Council started 18 new investigations last year, including 12 for potential competition breech, and 6 sectoral investigations. The Council finalized 23 investigations in 2013, one less than in 2012. Only four of these were sectoral investigations.
Romanian officials have reacted to the recent statement by the Swedish Minister for European Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson, who said the Romanian Government has refused the proposal of external help in sending EU funds dedicated to the Roma minority. The Romanian EU Funds Minister Eugen Teodorovici expressed his concern, and said the approach was totally unfair, and lacked diplomacy towards Romania. “Romania has never refused and will never refuse a proposal to collaborate from another member state! Romania was and stays open to any sort of cooperation. The Government I represent has said it countless times: the statements of good intentions need to turn into concrete actions, and it is true. So, there is not only interest, but political will as well on behalf of Romania authorities in the use of EU funds, in all areas,” said the minister in an official statement. Teodorovici added that discussions with all other countries on the Roma problem were never ‘furious’, as he labeled the Swedish reaction, and that dialogue has always been constructive. He added that the statements follow a series of recent meetings with a Swedish delegation, all of which were ‘nice and peaceful’. (via ri)
Romania has supported around 131,000 Roma individuals via EU – funded projects so far, out of the total declared Roma population in Romania, or 621,000, according to the most recent census. This means 20 percent of the Roma population in Romania benefited from EU funding via the Sectoral Program for Human Resources – POS DRU.
Sweden’s Birgitta Ohlsson said in a recent interview that Romania refused help on using EU funds for Roma, and shared her indignation, in an interview for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. She said Romania in fact opposed the creation of a group of experts from the EU which would make sure the EU funds actually benefit the Roma.
If you have a prepaid SIM card in Romania, now you need to register with the government!
“În calitate de membru al CSAT, vreau să vă spun că astăzi am adoptat în Guvern proiectul de lege pentru modificarea și completarea Ordonanței de Urgență nr. 111/2011 privind comunicațiile electronice. În ultima ședință a CSAT s-a luat decizia de a promova urgent un act normativ pentru prevenirea și contracararea riscurilor la adresa securității naționale. Ce prevede, în esență, acest act normativ: este vorba despre obligația deținătorilor de cartele prepay de a le înregistra, de a depune un act de identitate. Și, de asemenea, obligații pentru operatorii de telefonie mobilă”, a declarat ministrul Justiției. (via AGERPRES)