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17-year-old Russian likely designer of Target malware

Best Buy’s strategy stumble; Ortman challenges Franken record; airport expanding gambling; Dakota County’s fitness efforts; outdoor winter baseball; one stadium lawsuit dropped; and more.

MinnPost photo by Rita Kovtun

How old were you thinking he was? Beth Stebner of the New York Daily News reports: “A 17-year-old Russian national from St. Petersburg was responsible for the malicious programing that allowed for data from Target and Neiman Marcus to be compromised, according to a California-based security firm. IntelCrawler said in a blog post Friday that it identified the creator, who they said wasn’t responsible for the security breaches of the two retailers, but rather sold the software to cybercriminals throughout Eastern Europe. The company’s CEO, Andrew Komarov, said … the software tried several easy passwords to remotely hack the stores’ registers, and added that the malware, called BlackPOS, has been downloaded some 60 times.”

Jeremy Kirk at IT World writes:IntelCrawler is ‘90 percent’ sure of its finding, based on the forum postings and sources it communicated with. The forum posts indicate the teenager sold the malware for US$2,000 or for a share of the profits that came from monetizing stolen payment card details, Clements said. BlackPOS was also sold to ‘carding’ websites such as .rescator, and that trade in stolen card details, according to IntelCrawler. BlackPOS was originally called Kaptoxa, which is Russian slang for potato … .” The cash stream will probably be called “vodka.”

A Seattle Times story by a quartet of reporters says: “For months, an amorphous group of Eastern European hackers had been poking around the networks of major U.S. retailers, searching for loose portals that would take them deep into corporate systems. In early November, before the holiday-shopping season began, the hackers found what they had been looking for: a wide path into Target and beyond. Entering through a digital gateway, the criminals discovered that Target’s systems were astonishingly open, lacking the virtual walls and motion detectors found in secure networks like many banks.”

On another major local business, John Tobey in Forbes writes: “Best Buy BBY -8.95%’s shocking 2014 news negated its 2013 growth status. Management’s strategy stumbled, turning hoped-for sales and earnings growth into confirmed declines in both. Last year’s resurrected growth story evaporated and with it, almost two-thirds of 2013’s outstanding rise (from $12 to $44, now down to $24).” So the Hubert Joly, Savior/Savant stories were premature?

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Mike O’Rourke of the Brainerd Dispatch covers GOP Senate candidate Julianne Ortman passing through town: “Ortman said [Al] Franken voted to raise the debt ceiling in October of 2013 and was silent or possibly consenting when it came to National Security Administration (NSA) spying on our telephones. Ortman said Minnesota needs to elect a leader who can balance the budget without raising taxes. … She said Minnesota needed a very different voice to change the conversation and stand up for principles and budget reforms.” What exactly those principles and reforms are can, you know, evolve over time.

Not just e-pulltabs … Pat Doyle of the Strib says: “MinneapolisSt. Paul International Airport is poised to greatly expand gambling by offering Minnesota lottery games on thousands of electronic tablets at gates. A concessions firm would share the new gambling earnings with another contractor and the lottery … The airport already offers electronic pulltabs on tablets at six other locations, but they lack the popularity of the lottery games that would be installed on 2,500 tablets that passengers now use for ordering food and drinks.”

Get paid to avoid fat. Says Laurie Blake in the Strib: “Dakota County, taking a cue from private-sector efforts to control health costs, will dole out about $440,000 in financial rewards to employees who score well on such health and fitness key metrics as weight, body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. While wellness programs have become increasingly common in the workplace, officials believe Dakota may be the first Minnesota county to reward employees who adopt healthier lifestyles.”

A Winter Carnival baseball game. Kevin Duchschere of the Strib says: “One of the new events for this year’s carnival — scheduled to begin Thursday night with the downtown Moon Glow pedestrian parade — will be a five-inning ballgame between local teams at Midway Stadium. Yes, that means turning double plays outside in February. … Underscoring the festival’s ‘winter playground’ aspect, other new features among the carnival’s 50-plus events this year include a giant snowslide for kids of all ages, and the (hoped-for) World’s Largest Snowball Fight at the State Fairgrounds.”

One of the lawsuits against the stadium has been dropped. Matt Sepic of MPR writes: “Two former Minneapolis City Council members and a former mayoral candidate have dropped their lawsuit over the Downtown East project near the new Vikings stadium. … It’s illegal for the city to help finance the purchase of land for parks because that’s the domain of the park board, said Paul Ostrow, a former council president. But Ostrow said he’s dropping the lawsuit because a judge ordered him to post a $10 million bond to keep the litigation going.” If that shtick can work once …