START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
Apr 16, 2012

Cybercriminals and hackers had a big year in 2011, taking on everyone from Sony and the authentication-token maker RSA to the CIA and even a notorious Mexican drug cartel. During the Arab Spring, the headline-hounding hackers in the LulzSec and Anonymous groups showed just how vulnerable anyone’s online presence is, even that of major governments.What can we expect in 2012? More of the same, or a dynamic shift in what crooks want? And how will they go about getting it?

It’s too early for the answers, but 2012 has already seen its share of cybercriminal incidents. Starting with the most recent targets, here’s a list of hackers’ most-daring exploits and the data breaches, compromises, data leaks, thefts, threats and privacy invasions that have made this a year to watch.
Free Web Security Scanner scans web application for 35,000 attacks, SQL & XSS injection.Ads by GoogleFeb. 27: Stratfor WikiLeaks began publishing more than 5 million emails it obtained from the Austin, Texas-based global consulting firm Stratfor. The emails, WikiLeaks said, highlight Stratfor’s dubious financial dealings, global cover-ups as well as coordinated campaigns to subvert WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. It’s not known exactly how WikiLeaks obtained the emails, but signs point to Anonymous, which hacked Stratfor’s servers late last year and made off with emails and credit card numbers.Feb. 14: Nortel Valentine’s Day proved anything but romantic for Nortel, the Canadian telecom company currently in bankruptcy. It turns out that hackers, believed to be operating from China, had been spying on Nortel for at least a decade, the Wall Street Journal reported. Using seven passwords stolen from top executives, the cybercriminals infiltrated Nortel’s servers and downloaded technical papers, research-and-development reports, employee emails, business plans and other confidential data.Feb. 14: Combined Systems Inc. Proudly hoisting the hacktivist flag, the ever-present Anonymous hacking network took credit for knocking Combined Systems Inc., a Jamestown, Pa., security company, offline and stealing personal information from its clients. As reported by the Associated Press, Anonymous said it went after Combined Systems, which sells tear gas and other crowd-control devices to law enforcement and military organizations, to protest “war profiteers” and to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the bloody citizen uprising in Bahrain.Feb. 14: A 17-year-old hacker said he tapped into an inactive forum run by the hard-core porn site Brazzers and used it to expose the personal information of more than 350,000 registered users. The site’s parent company, Luxembourg-based Manwin Holding SARL, said no credit-card data had been compromised. The hacker, based in Morocco, said he leaked the information not to embarrass the site’s customers or to make money, but simply to highlight how vulnerable popular websites are. Not surprisingly, the teen hacker said he had aligned himself with the Anonymous movement.Feb. 10: Central Intelligence Agency For the second time in less than a year, Anonymous launched a distributed denial-of-service attack that temporarily knocked the website of the Central Intelligence Agency offline. The CIA takedown capped a busy week for the hacktivist pranksters; in 10 days, the group went after Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, American Nazi groups, anti-virus maker Symantec and the office of Syria’s president.Feb. 8: Office of the Syrian President During an especially active week of digital daring, Anonymous leaked a cache of emails from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s office, including one particularly candid email in which one of Assad’s media advisers preps him for an interview with Barbara Walters and tells him that the “American psyche can be easily manipulated.”Feb. 8: Foxconn With Apple facing worldwide scrutiny over the questionable working conditions at Foxconn, a Chinese company that assembles iPhones and iPads (as well as devices for Dell, Sony, IBM, Microsoft, Samsung and others), it was only a matter of time before hacktivists took up the cause. In this case, it wasn’t Anonymous but a group called Swagg Security (SwaggSec) that struck the first blow, making off with staff email logins and credentials that could allow an attacker to place a fraudulent order.Feb 7: Hamas The Israeli hacking group IDF Team launched an attack against a Hamas website,, knocking it offline to protest the site’s anti-Israeli stance. This was not an isolated incident; it was instead the latest strike in a calculated monthlong battle between Israeli and Arab hackers that began Jan. 3, when a Saudi Arabian hacker calling himself 0xOmar posted 15,000 Israeli credit-card numbers. 

Visibility: Everyone
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted: Apr 16, 2012 5:02pm
Mar 22, 2012

Micron Technology Inc. (MU) will probably emerge as the top winner from the bankruptcy ofElpida Memory Inc. (6665), whose filing yesterday sidelines the last Japanese maker of computer memory chips and gives rivals the chance to scoop up factories on the cheap.

Elpida filed for Japan’s biggest bankruptcy in two years after chip prices plunged and it failed to win a second government bailout. The elimination of a top maker of dynamic random access memory would give the rest of the industry more control over production, helping to ease the price swings that have left Micron unprofitable for six of the past 10 years.

The headquarters building of Micron Technology Inc. in Boise, Idaho. Micron shares jumped 7.7 percent yesterday amid speculation that the company, the fourth-largest DRAM maker, might seek to acquire some of Elpida’s plants. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Elpida Memory Inc. memory chips are displayed in this arranged photograph in Tokyo, Japan. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Elpida’s creditors will look for ways to recoup losses through the sale of such assets as a plant in Hiroshima valued at $1 billion by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. For potential buyers such as Micron, that price tag would be about a fifth of the cost of building a new equivalent facility. That would fit with Micron’s strategy of trying to buy up capacity cheaply, rather than making acquisitions that outstrip the company’s $1.9 billion in cash and compel it to take on debt.

“Micron is clearly the winner,” said Dan Berenbaum, a New York-based analyst at MKM Partners LP. “Now it’s a question of how much does Micron pay for the assets.”

Micron shares jumped 7.7 percent yesterday amid speculation that the company, the fourth-largest DRAM maker, might seek to acquire some of Elpida’s plants. Dan Francisco, a spokesman for Boise, Idaho-based Micron, declined to comment.

Elpida has facilities that are responsible for about 18 percent of DRAM industry output, making it the No. 3 supplier. A push to take the plants offline or use them for other kinds of chips would help ease oversupply and stem industrywide losses.

Falling Demand

The computer-memory industry has been grappling with a decline in demand, brought on by a global consumer shift to smartphones and tablet computers, which need less memory and typically use a different type of chip.

Elpida’s troubles were exacerbated by DRAM prices falling below the cost of production. Industry sales last year dropped 26 percent to $29.2 billion, according to an estimate by Gartner Inc. That followed a 72 percent surge in 2010.

The Japanese chipmaker was the product of a 1999 merger between the memory businesses of NEC Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., which exited the industry.

‘Ten-Foot Pole’

If Micron makes a bid for some DRAM facilities, Elpida’s creditors will get an offer that’s “tough to swallow,” because the U.S. company knows it’s not likely to face any competition, said Hans Mosesmann, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates Inc.

“Nobody else is going to touch DRAM with a ten-foot pole,” said Mosesmann, who has a “strong buy” rating on Micron shares. “Micron is very practical. They don’t want all of Elpida.”

Earlier this month, Micron’s management told Mosesmann and other analysts the company is monitoring events in Japan to see if there are opportunities. Executives declined to comment on whether Elpida is one of them and what the company might do.

“It just doesn’t feel like there’s going to be any fresh capital put into the DRAM business,” Micron President Mark Adams said in an interview on Feb. 9. “If we’re right, then the industry is mature enough that consolidation could make a lot of sense.”

Elpida has total debt of about $4 billion and has reported five straight quarters of losses. Micron, which has been making acquisitions and driving industry consolidation for more than 10 years, has about $1.95 billion of debt, approximately equal to its cash reserves. The company has a target range for its debt- to-capital ratio of 20 percent to 25 percent. Its current cash plus market capital of $8.4 billion give it a debt-to-capital ratio of about 18 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Debt Guidelines

If Micron stays within those guidelines -- giving it the latitude to borrow about another $500 million -- it’s not going to have enough leeway to buy its Japanese rival, said Daniel Amir, a San Francisco-based analyst at Lazard Capital Markets LLC.

“They probably won’t just buy out Elpida,” Amir said. “They are not willing to break the bank. It’s not like they’re going to spend $2 billion.”

Samsung Electronics Co., which dominates the memory-chip business and is the only consistently profitable company in the industry, has said it will concentrate on running its own business, making it an unlikely bidder for Elpida’s assets.

“Samsung is not going to come to their rescue,” said Raymond James’s Mosesmann.

Profit Struggle

Excluding Samsung -- which is also the world’s second- largest maker of mobile phones and the biggest maker of liquid crystal displays -- DRAM makers have struggled to make money.

Matching supply with demand poses a constant challenge in the market for DRAM for personal computers, where plants take years to come online and can’t be shut down cheaply. With factories costing billions of dollars to build, companies such as Elpida have found themselves facing debts they have trouble repaying.

In six of the past 10 years, industry companies have spent more cash than their operations have generated. Even including Samsung, whose share price has more than tripled, memory makers as a group have lost 40 percent of their market value since October 2002.

If output from Elpida’s plants is slowed down or halted, all of its rivals will benefit as supply gets closer to demand and prices stabilize, according to Shawn Webster, an analyst at Macquarie Capital USA Inc.

“Any time a competitor is in distress, it’s a positive for everybody else,” said Webster. “If you pull supply offline, that could help everybody in the DRAM industry.”

Micron CEO

Earlier this month, Micron lost longtime Chief Executive Officer Steve Appleton, who died in a plane crash. Mosesmann and other analysts speculated that his death might slow any possible negotiations for industry consolidation, because Appleton had been the driving force behind previous transactions.

Micron, which got its start with an investment from local potato magnate J.R. Simplot, became one of the largest makers of computer memory when it bought the memory operations of Texas Instruments Inc. in 1998. Since then, it has acquired plants from Toshiba Corp., bought control of a Japanese joint venture, and formed partnerships with Taiwan’s Nanya Technology Corp. and Intel Corp. to secure access to more production.

In 2008, as Germany’s Qimonda AG headed for bankruptcy and sought investments, Micron bought out its interest in Inotera Memories Inc. (3474) Qimonda subsequently went out of business, and its chipmaking equipment was sold off.

Micron has also walked away from opportunities. In April 2002, it abandoned a transaction under which it would have acquired the memory operations of South Korea’s Hynix Semiconductor Inc., the second-largest DRAM maker, after the companies couldn’t agree on terms.

‘In No Rush’

One way that Micron might consider a purchase of Elpida would be if it could get cheap financing for a transaction from Elpida’s creditors, which are facing the dilemma of knowing that restructuring the company’s debt wouldn’t be enough to make it competitive again, according to Betsy Van Hees, a San Francisco- based analyst at Wedbush Securities. Elpida needs more money to invest in making its production more efficient, she said.

When asked on Feb. 10 whether he would take Micron’s debt level above 25 percent of its capital to make an acquisition that would consolidate the industry, Chief Executive Officer Mark Durcan told analysts he was going to be “very careful about putting the company in a position where we’re not confident we can deal with any additional debt.”

Still, he would consider taking the debt ratio higher if there was a good enough opportunity, he said.

Visibility: Everyone
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted: Mar 22, 2012 6:59pm


Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.


Dagmar Irvine
, 0
United Kingdom
Shares by Type:
All (25) | Blog (25)

Showing shares tagged with: biggest [show all]
No shares