Nation briefs: Hackers take aim at retailers

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WASHINGTON -- Hacking attacks like those that siphoned credit-card data from Target and Neiman Marcus are probably part of an unprecedented assault on a larger number of retailers, according to a security company working with the government.

The assaults on retailers may involve multiple groups of hackers who appear to be working from a sophisticated piece of software code that began circulating on underground websites last June, iSIGHT Partners, a Dallas, Texas-based security company that tracks cyber criminals, said in a report.

The iSIGHT report said the scale and sophistication of the campaign against retailers' point of sale systems -- the terminals on which customers swipe credit and debit cards -- may be the largest ever seen, escaping elaborate industry efforts to secure a system that processes more than $3.3 trillion in U.S. transactions annually.

Cell phone searches

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a pair of cases about whether the police need a warrant to search the cell phones of people they arrest, presenting a major test of the meaning of the Fourth Amendment in the digital age.

The court has long allowed warrantless searches in connection with arrests, saying they are justified by the need to find weapons and to prevent the destruction of evidence. The question for the justices is whether the potentially vast amounts of data held on smartphones warrant a different approach under the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches.

Drought hits California

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed a drought Friday, saying California is in the midst of perhaps its worst dry spell in a century. He made the announcement amid increasing pressure from lawmakers and as firefighters battled flare-ups in a Southern California wildfire that chased thousands of people from their homes.

Farmers and ranchers in the nation's No. 1 farm state already are making hard choices to conserve. Some cities are in danger of running out of water. And the first snow survey of the winter found more bare ground than fluffy white stuff -- a key barometer of future supply.

2 students shot in Phila.

PHILADELPHIA -- A boy and a girl hanging out with a group of fellow students in a high school gym were shot and wounded Friday afternoon, and up to three boys may have been involved in the shooting, police said.

The shooting happened at the Delaware Valley Charter High School in north Philadelphia around 3 p.m., authorities said.

Dangers of smoking

WASHINGTON -- A half century after linking smoking to lung cancer, the United States is confronting stalled progress in kicking the habit of 42 million Americans with new evidence that many common ailments such as diabetes, arthritis and impotence can be tied to tobacco use.

Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak in a report Friday criticized the "fraudulent campaigns" by cigarette companies, weaknesses in regulation and a rebound in smoking depicted in Hollywood films. He said he's considering greater restrictions on sales to achieve "a society free of tobacco-related death and disease."

While a 1964 report on smoking and lung cancer helped cut cigarette use by more than half to 18 percent of U.S. adults, the decline has slowed. And smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death.

-- Compiled from news services


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