22nd Dec, 2020

SolarWinds Hack: A cyberattack discovered in the USA

The ‘SolarWinds hack’, a cyberattack recently discovered in the USA.

It has emerged as one of the biggest ever targeted against the US government, its agencies and several other private companies. 

It is likely a global cyberattack.

This is being called a ‘Supply Chain’ attack. 

Instead of directly attacking the federal government or a private organisation’s network, the hackers target a third-party vendor, which supplies software to them.

In this case, the target was an IT management software called Orion, supplied by the Texas-based company SolarWinds.

Orion has been a dominant software from SolarWinds with clients, which include over 33,000 companies.

The hackers gained “access to victims via trojanized updates to SolarWinds’ Orion IT monitoring and management software. 

Once installed, the malware gave a backdoor entry to the hackers to the systems and networks of SolarWinds’ customers.

India pledges a sum of USD 1 million to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 

India has pledged a sum of USD 1 million to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) towards the agency’s scientific research budget. 

It will allow WADA to develop innovative anti-doping testing and detection methods.

The World Anti-Doping Agency 

It is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports.

The agency’s key activities include monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code, whose provisions are enforced by the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport.

Headquarters: Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Established in: 1999.

GPS-Based Toll Collection System

The Government has finalised GPS-based (Global Positioning System) toll collection to ensure seamless movement of vehicles across the country.

Ministry: Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways

This will ensure India becomes ‘toll booth free’ in next two years.

The toll amount will be deducted directly from the bank account based on the movement of vehicles. 

While now all commercial vehicles are coming with vehicle tracking systems, the Government will come up with some plan to install GPS technology in old vehicles.

The Minister expressed hope that the toll collections may reach Rs 34 thousand crore by March 2021. 

By using GPS technology for toll collection, the toll income in next five years will be Rs 1.34 lakh crore.

Winter session Of Parliament cancelled this year due to Covid-19 

Due to Covid-19, the Winter session of the Parliament has been cancelled this year. 

Budget Session shall be held in January, 2021.

The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government.

The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which currently comprises nine ministers, including Defence, Home, Finance, and Law Ministers.

The decision of the Committee is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.

The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution. 

This provision specified that the central legislature had to be summoned to meet at least once a year, and that not more than 12 months could elapse between two sessions.

India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar. 

By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approves proposals to procure equipment 

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in its meeting approved proposals to procure equipment worth Rs 28,000 crore.

Ministry: Ministry of Defence 

Acquisition proposals approved include the DRDO designed and developed Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Systems for the Indian Air Force, Next Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Indian Navy and Modular Bridges for the Indian Army.

This is the first meeting of the DAC under the new regime of Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. 

These are the first set of Acceptance of Necessity (AoNs) accorded. 

Majority of AoNs are being accorded in the highest categorization of Buy Indian (IDDM).

6 of the 7 proposals for which AoNs were granted will be sourced from the Indian industry to give a boost to the “Make in India” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiatives of the Government.

Election Commission proposes to extend the facility of postal ballots to overseas and NRIs

The Election Commission of India (ECI) wrote to the Law Ministry, proposing to extend the facility of postal ballots to (eligible) overseas, non-resident Indians (NRIs) for the Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in 2021.

The ECI proposed amending the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, in order to allow this facility. 

The postal ballots will be sent to NRIs electronically and they will send these ballots after choosing their candidate via post.

This partially electronic facility is now available for service voters (being a member of the armed Forces of the Union; or a member of a force to which provisions of the Army Act, 1950) through the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System, or ETPBS. 

How can overseas voters currently vote in Indian elections?

Prior to 2010, an Indian citizen who is an eligible voter and was residing abroad for more than six months owing to employment, education or otherwise, would not have been able to vote in elections.

After the passing of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, eligible NRIs who had stayed abroad beyond six months have been enabled to vote, but only in person at the polling station where they have been enrolled as an overseas elector.

Order issued for Matru Sahyogini Samiti in MP

The Madhya Pradesh government has issued an order for the appointment of committees led by mothers to ensure better monitoring of services delivered at anganwadi or day care centres across the State.

It will be called ‘Matru Sahyogini Samiti’ or Mothers’ Cooperation Committees,

These will comprise 10 mothers at each anganwadi representing the concerns of different sets of beneficiaries under the Integrated Child Development Services, or National Nutrition Mission. 

The committees will include mothers of beneficiary children as well as be represented by pregnant women and lactating mothers who are enrolled under the scheme.

The Committees will also include a woman panch, women active in the community and eager to volunteer their support to the scheme, teachers from the local school, and women heads of self-help groups (SHG).

These mothers will keep a watch on weekly ration distribution to beneficiaries as well as suggest nutritious and tasteful recipes for meals served to children at the centres.

The move is being taken as per the mandate of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).

Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP)

According to satellite images, Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordow amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic programme.

Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) is an Iranian underground uranium enrichment facility located 20 miles northeast of the Iranian city of Qom, near Fordow village.

It is the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility, the other one being that of Natanz.

Iran has not publicly acknowledged any new construction at Fordow. 

Areas suitable for grassland restoration and conservation identified in Tropical Montane Grasslands (TMG)

Tropical montane grasslands (TMG) in the Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats have suffered big reductions due to invasions by exotic trees. 

However, researchers have now identified areas suitable for grassland restoration and conservation to reverse the decline.

TMG are high elevation grasslands forming only 2% of all grasslands in the world.

Function: Regulating the global carbon cycle and serving as a source of water to downstream communities.

In India, TMG have been classified as wastelands in forest management plans since they are unlikely to generate revenue, contrary to the timber found in forests.

In the Western Ghats, 23% of montane grasslands were reportedly converted into invasive exotic tree cover over a period of 44 years.

B.1.1.7 Lineage: New variant of SARS-CoV-2

Recently, India suspended all flights from and to the UK until December 31, amid concerns about a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that is spreading & growing rapidly there.

Last week, the new SARS-CoV-2 variant was revealed to be the reason behind the rapid surge in Covid-19 cases in South and East England.

It is being referred to as VUI (Variant Under Investigation) 202012/01, or the B.1.1.7 lineage.

The variant is the result of multiple mutations in the spike protein of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, as well as mutations in other genomic regions of the RNA virus.

Preliminary analysis suggests that it is more transmissible than previously circulating variants.

However,   it          is          not       deadlier.

India-Vietnam Leaders’ Virtual Summit

Indian Prime Minister held a Virtual Summit with H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam.

A ‘Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People’ document was adopted during the Summit, to guide the future development of the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Both leaders also welcomed the signing of a Plan of Action for period 2021-2023 for further implementation of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to implement the Joint Vision.

Announcements made:

Implementation of the High Speed Guard Boat (HSGB) Manufacturing Project for Vietnam Border Guard Command under the US$ 100 million Defence Line of Credit extended by Government of India to Vietnam;

Completion and handing over of seven Development Projects with Indian ‘Grant-in-Aid’ Assistance of US$ 1.5 million for the benefit of local community in Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province.

Enhancing the number of annual Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) from currently five to ten commencing FY 2021-2022.

Three new Development Partnership projects in heritage conservation in Vietnam (F-block of Temple at My Son; Dong Duong Buddhist Monastery in Quang Nam province; and Nhan Cham Tower in Phu Yen province).

Launch of bilateral project for preparing an Encyclopaedia on India – Vietnam Civilizational and Cultural Relations.