Perilous Plane Landings at Airport in Spain

From Sully Sullenberger emergency landings to air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, the U.S. aviation has been no stranger to scary risks over the past few years. But check out these perilous plane landings from last week at an airport in Spain. According to the U.K.’s Telegraph, crosswinds were a steady 40 mph at this Bilbao tarmac in northern Spain where gusts reached upwards of 80 mph. Amazingly, no flights were cancelled.

What’s Next for Walmart

In the wake of the massive bribery scheme that allegedly allowed one of the world’s largest companies to expand throughout Mexico and dominate its retail industry, many are left wondering what will happen next to Walmart.

The Week has a few ideas of what’s possible:

  1. U.S. authorities will go after Walmart aggressively 
The Justice Department may treat the Walmart scandal as “a prominent case to demonstrate the need for vigorous enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” which prohibits U.S. corporations from bribing foreign officials, says Peter J. Henning at The New York Times. The government encourages American companies to disclose possible violations of the law, and rewards their honesty by reducing fines and dropping criminal charges. If the Justice Department finds that Walmart did cover up the scheme, it could come down even harder on the retailer.
  2. The investigation could spread to other countries 
Walmart “faces an uphill battle to convince U.S. regulators that its problems are confined to Mexico,” say Jessica Wohl and Carlyn Kolker at Reuters. Walmart has major operations in Brazil and China, and is banking on emerging markets in India and Africa to boost its profits in the coming decades. A wide-ranging global investigation, which could last as long as four years, will likely hamper its overseas growth.
  3. Executives could face dismissal and even prison
Walmart will likely face “pressure from shareholders to take action against any executives who didn’t act on the bribery allegations sooner,” say David Welch and Thom Weidlich at Bloomberg News. Indeed, cleaning house could be a prerequisite for any out-of-court settlement with the U.S. authorities. And experts aren’t ruling out “potential jail time for Walmart executives,” says Roland Jones at MSNBC.
  4. Congress will get involved 
Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) have already announced that they are launching an investigation into the scandal, requesting a face-to-face meeting with CEO Duke and other Walmart officials so that they “can respond to these allegations.”
  5. Walmart stocks are being hammered… 
Walmart’s share price fell by 5% the day after the story broke, as investors weighed the numerous factors that could hurt Walmart in the future, such as large legal fees and stunted international growth.
  6. …And so is its reputation — perhaps most damaging of all is the public relations hit the company is taking. This is a “huge black eye” for Walmart, “which prides itself on its reputation for integrity and transparency,” says Henry Blodget at Business Insider. The report undermines a years-long “campaign to improve its reputation as a good corporate citizen by changing its practices in such areas as labor relations,” says Ben W. Heneman Jr. at The Atlantic.
  7. Still, Walmart could fight back with legal technicalities 
The retail giant could argue that the bribes were “facilitating payments,” which, for example, are made to speed up the approval of permits, says Nathan Vardi at Forbes, and that such payments are technically legal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Because the alleged bribery scheme unfolded in the mid-2000s, Walmart could also foil the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute, by invoking the FCPA’s five-year statute of limitations.

That’s a pretty good summation of what’s likely to occur. But let’s not forget about the questions this event has has raised regarding Dodd Frank and the FCPA. Does the Dodd Frank act’s whistleblower provision apply to foreigners? And can foreigners qualify as eligible whistleblowers under the FCPA and, in turn, qualify for a monetary reward? There is a definite grey area in terms of both acts and it remains to be seen if this Walmart event will clear up anything.

“Brogrammers” Giving Silicon Valley a Bad Name?

According to a recent article, Silicon Valley tech firms are using marketing tactics geared more towards fraternity brothers than programming savants. The problem? Not only is it sexist at times, but it is alienating a large chunk of qualified tech professionals. Here are a few examples:

Of course, this is only a snipet of what’s going on as many of the antics are never publicized. Barbaic events like these may not only cost companies money (several businesses pulled their sponsorship from the Sqoot event), but it alienates those who may be talented programmers, but don’t adhere to the frat boy mentality.

There’s also an audience that feels left out of the joke. Women made up 21% of all programmers in 2010, down from 24% in 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Anything that encourages the perception of tech as being male-dominated is likely to contribute to this decline, says Sara Chipps, founder of Girl Develop It, a series of software development workshops. “This brogramming thing would definitely turn off a lot of women from working” at startups, says Chipps.

But is this really a serious problem in Silicon Valley or just young men being young men? I’ve heard both sides of the argument. Some companies that have taken this seriously, such as Etsy, have decided to do something about it. The e-commerce website is donating $5,000 to at least 10 women in an attempt to lure female coders to New York’s Hacker School this summer.

Whether this is an epidemic that should cause concern or merely programmers acting their age, one thing is for sure — having a working envrionment void of diversity is aiken to siloed idea generation. Silicon Valley should know this.

DDoS Attacks “Have Never Been Easier to Launch”

As was heard throughout the speeches, sessions and networking chatter at the recent RIMS 2012 Annual Conference & Exhibition in Philadelphia, the biggest worry to business owners, CEOs and managers is that of cyber threats. And rightly so. It seems like each day we are inundated with reports of a new way hackers can gain control of company information and/or take down systems. Today is no exception.

This morning, Prolexic Technologies released a threat advisory on the use of booter shells, which allow hackers to readily launch DDoS attacks without the need for vast networks of infected zombie computers.

“Increased use of techniques such as booter shells is creating an exponential increase in the dangers posed by DDoS attacks,” said Neal Quinn, chief operating officer at Prolexic. “For hackers, DDoS attacks have never been easier to launch, while for their victims, the power and complexity of attacks is at an all-time high. The threat of a DDoS attack has never been more likely or its potential impact more severe. We’ve entered the age of DDoS-as-a-Service.” The increased use of dynamic web content technologies, and the rapid deployment of insecure web applications, has created new vulnerabilities — and opportunities — for hackers to use infected web servers (instead of client machines) to conduct DDoS attacks. Traditional DDoS attacks make use of workstations infected with malware, typically infected through spam campaigns, worms or browser-based exploits. With these traditional tactics, hackers needed multitudes of infected machines, to mount successful DDoS attacks.

Where boot scripts differ is in the fact that they are standalone files, meaning DDoS attacks can be launched more readily and can cause more damage, with hackers using far fewer machines. Even more alarming, people don’t need as much skill to launch such attacks. A DDoS booter shell script can be easily deployed by anyone who purchases hosted server resources or makes use of simple web application vulnerabilities (i.e., RFI, LFI, SQLi and WebDAV exploits). This, in essence, puts attacks within reach of even novice hackers. Companies should take note, especially financial firms.

According Prolexic’s quarterly global DDoS attack report released a few weeks ago, there was an almost threefold increase in the number of attacks against its financial services clients during Q1 compared to Q4 2011. “This quarter was characterized by extremely high volumes of malicious traffic directed at our financial services clients,” said Neal Quinn, Prolexic’s vice president of Operations. “We expect other verticals beyond financial services, gaming and gambling to be on the receiving end of these massive attack volumes as the year progresses.”

So what should companies do to protect their information and IT infrastructure? Though organizations can never be 100% protected from an attack, they can help by continuously testing proprietary web applications, as well as constantly testing known vulnerabilities in commercial apps.