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Trump says he does not see white nationalism rising after New Zealand mosque shooting

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President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Olivier Douliery | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump said on Friday he does not see a rise in white nationalism but it may be an issue in New Zealand, where a gunman who is believed to espouse those views killed 49 people at two mosques.

Asked by a reporter if he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said: “I don’t really. I think its a small group of people.”

Trump also said he had not seen a manifesto in which the suspected gunman denounced immigrants and praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Trump’s comment come after news that at least 49 people were killed and more than 40 people are being treated for injuries after at least one shooter opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, according to New Zealand police.

A 28-year-old man was charged with murder and is set to appear in Christchurch District Court, while two others remain in police custody.

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Like WhatsApp, most messaging apps have vulnerabilities: Expert

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The WhatsApp messaging app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on May 14, 2019 in San Anselmo, California. Facebook owned messaging app WhatsApp announced a cybersecurity breach that makes users vulnerable to malicious spyware installation iPhone and Android smartphones. WhatsApp is encouraging its 1.5 billion users to update the app as soon as possible.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

It’s not just WhatsApp, almost everything connected to the internet is at risk of cyberattacks. That’s what experts are emphasizing following news that the messaging platform had been targeted by spyware.

The vulnerability in the world’s most popular messaging platform, which was first reported by the Financial Times, allegedly allowed an Israel-based company to install malware onto both iPhone and Android phones. The security weakness reportedly could have been used to tap calls made with the app.

A spokeswoman said Facebook-owned WhatsApp encouraged users to update the application in order to protect against “potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices.”

But even after the patch, users should keep in mind that there will always be vulnerabilities on mobile applications.

“It’s definitely possible or even likely that at least some other apps will have similar vulnerabilities,” said Tom Uren, a senior analyst in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre. “Pretty much the entire suite of apps that ‘talk’ over the internet could be vulnerable.”

That’s because the apps are “constantly updated” to introduce new features, said Ori Sasson, founder of cyber-intelligence firm S2T.

“While updates can fix known defects and vulnerabilities, they can insert new unknown ones,” he said. In software development and testing, engineers can identify weaknesses, but it is “literally impossible” to prove the absence of a vulnerability in a “non-trivial application,” he added.

Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer of U.S.-based cybersecurity firm Carbon Black, echoed that sentiment.

“The unfortunate reality is that most messaging apps have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by sophisticated cyber spies,” he said. “No messaging service is bulletproof.”

Such platforms usually secure the transmission of messages between users, but that’s not a “panacea,” Kellermann said.

Most security ratings for such platforms relate to encryption, which implies reduced risk of eavesdropping on messages and calls, explained Sasson. He noted that WhatsApp, like BBMe and other apps that are “considered secure,” has end-to-end encryption.

In the case of the WhatsApp attack, however, it was about “secure application development” rather than how well the app protects privacy and security, said Uren of ASPI, a Canberra-based think tank.

Security shouldn’t be an ‘afterthought’

The onus is on developers to create secure apps, said experts, although one added it may not be realistic to expect a group to identify all vulnerabilities.

“For a consumer, there is very little you can do except update your apps and operating system as bug fixes and updates get released,” said Uren.

“Developers making apps need to dedicate the effort to build secure apps and use secure coding principles,” he said. “But in general, security is an afterthought.”

He added that he likes messaging app Signal, in part because its philosophy is about building secure and private messaging, though that doesn’t make it “immune.”

A spokeswoman for BlackBerry told CNBC that its app provides a “circle of trust” where users have to accept an invite before they can receive calls or messages from other users. Hence, what happened to WhatsApp “could not happen” with BBM Enterprise, claimed BlackBerry Head of Corporate Communications Sarah McKinney.

Carbon Black’s Kellermann said the “largest burden of responsibility” is on software creators to develop with cybersecurity in mind and conduct “vulnerability assessments.”

Security researchers with expertise in finding defects could also help to protect apps, Sasson said. But given the potential complexity of large software applications, “this may not be practical,” he added.

In the case of WhatsApp, he said “significant research and effort” is required in order to identify and exploit a vulnerability. Defects in the operating system may also have been needed.

“What this implies (is) that there is a high entry barrier to creating the means for such an attack,” Sasson said.

A good target?

Given the amount of effort to find such a vulnerability, attackers are unlikely to put in the effort for apps that are not widely used, explained Sasson.

WhatsApp was likely targeted because of its “large user base” and the fact that attackers were able to find a weakness, he added.

Popular apps are the ones that will be targeted, said Uren, because “that is where the users are.”

But he also suggested that the people who use the app matter. “Ironically, the apps that are perceived as more secure will probably be more highly targeted because they’ll be used by people that are of interest to intelligence agencies,” Uren said.

Sasson, meanwhile, said there’s a “trade-off between convenience and security.” An app with fewer users could have more vulnerabilities because it is “less tested,” but cyber spies are unlikely to try to exploit the defect.

He added: “So you are likely to be safer from attacks, but less likely to be able to communicate with your contacts because many of them might not be using the same app.”

— CNBC’s Kate Fazzini contributed to this report.

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US trade chief Lighthizer expected to discuss China with Japan, EU

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks during a meeting on trade held by U.S. President Donald Trump with governors and members of Congress at the White House on April 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will meet with officials from the European Union and Japan in Paris on Thursday regarding joint efforts to address the non market-oriented policies and practices of other countries, his office said.

The meeting, which is expected to focus largely on Chinese subsidies, will take place on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the 36-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris on Wednesday and Thursday.

Lighthizer will also hold several bilateral meetings with key trading partners, and attend an informal ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, his office said in a statement.

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US says signs Syria’s Assad regime may be using chemical weapons

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An affected baby receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces conduct an allegedly poisonous gas attack on Sakba and Hammuriye districts of Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria on March 07, 2018.

Dia Al Din Samout | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The United States sees signs the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria, the State Department said on Tuesday, warning that Washington and its allies would respond “quickly and appropriately” if this were proven.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19, ” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately,” she said.

Ortagus said the alleged attack was part of a violent campaign by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces violating a ceasefire that has protected several million civilians in the greater Idlib area.

“The regime’s attacks against the communities of northwest Syria must end,” the statement said. “The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region.”

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has twice bombed Syria over Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018. In September, a senior U.S. official said there was evidence showing chemical weapons were being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

The State Department statement accused Russia and Assad’s forces of “a continuing disinformation campaign … to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks.”

“The facts, however, are clear,” the statement said. The Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria — a conclusion the United Nations has reached over and over again.”

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Syrian government had a history of resorting to chemical weapons when fighting intensified. The official, however, was not aware of any confirmation of what substance was allegedly used, if at all, and said the U.S. government was still gathering information.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government on the U.S. statement.

In March, Syrian state media cited a hospital in government-held Hama as saying 21 people suffered choking symptoms from poison gas after rebels shelled a village.

In January, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton warned the Syrian government against using chemical weapons again. 

“There is absolutely no change in the U.S. position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we’ve done twice before,” Bolton said at the time. 

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