Things that happened last week:

1. The Heartbleed Announcement.


It seems that hackers have had full play at our internet passwords for the last two years. A quote from a security expert (probably selected for his dramatic flair):

“On the scale of one to 10, this is an 11.”

About two thirds of all websites use a piece of open-source software called openSSL to encrypt communication between the user computer and the web server. The heartbleed bug (named because the vulnerability is found in an SSL extension called “Heartline”) allowed hackers to eavesdrop and impersonate.

So you should change your passwords. If you’d like to see if a site was affected, here’s a site that will check for you.

As a general aside, I’m wondering if the safest way of storing your passwords is in writing in a small book? At least then you’re just vulnerable to actual theft…

2. The end of support for Windows XP

Windows XP is now 13 years old (makes me feel old). Microsoft will no longer be issuing bug fixes and security patches for it – and there will no longer be any technical support for it.

Unfortunately, 28% of the world’s PCs still run on XP. Including almost all ATMs (the estimate is 95%).

3. The ECB is ready for QE.

Mario Draghi says so. A round of QE is expected to weaken the Euro, which will make the Europeans happy. That said, American QE didn’t have quite the same impact on the dollar – so maybe the optimism is misplaced.

4. France and her (proposed) tax cuts. 

The new French prime minister, Manuel Valls, won a parliamentary confidence vote last Tuesday. During his speech, he announced plenty of fun tax cuts and declared himself “all for respecting commitments,” but “not for austerity.”

So just some commitments then.

He’s proposing to cut payroll taxes as well as a revenue tax on companies. He’s going to abolish a surtax on corporations in 2016, and gradually cut the standard rate   of corporation tax down to 28% from 33%.

And the European partners must just understand.

5. The Four Horsemen of the Wall Street Apocalypse.

The Fed is in the process of announcing new rules for banks. Last week, they proposed their first set of leverage ratios requiring banks (and bank holding companies) to maintain a top-tier capital at 5% of total assets.

What this is really saying: the owners of the bank (the shareholders) must actually have funded 5% of the bank’s assets. Which is a bit of a downer when you’re a shareholder that makes a margin off all the depositors, and now you’re going to make less.

For more on why this is interesting, and how hiking reserve requirements are a form of monetary austerity, here’s an earlier post: Stuff You Should Know About Reserve Requirements.

6. Greece returns to the bond market.

After four years of being shut out, Greece sold €3 billion worth of 5 year bonds last Thursday. The yield on the bonds was 4.95% – for a country whose credit rating is barely higher than “in Default”, and it’s only out of default because of all the money it’s taking from the Troika.

Some are hailing this as a recovery. More likely: it just shows how money has no memory span.