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Wired Profiles John Brooks, the Programmer Behind Ricochet

timothy posted 13 hours ago | from the bouncy-bouncy dept.

Encryption 44

wabrandsma writes with this excerpt from Wired: John Brooks, who is just 22 and a self-taught coder who dropped out of school at 13, was always concerned about privacy and civil liberties. Four years ago he began work on a program for encrypted instant messaging that uses Tor hidden services for the protected transmission of communications. The program, which he dubbed Ricochet, began as a hobby. But by the time he finished, he had a full-fledged desktop client that was easy to use, offered anonymity and encryption, and even resolved the issue of metadata—the "to" and "from" headers and IP addresses spy agencies use to identify and track communications—long before the public was aware that the NSA was routinely collecting metadata in bulk for its spy programs. The only problem Brooks had with the program was that few people were interested in using it. Although he'd made Ricochet's code open source, Brooks never had it formally audited for security and did nothing to promote it, so few people even knew about it.

Then the Snowden leaks happened and metadata made headlines. Brooks realized he already had a solution that resolved a problem everyone else was suddenly scrambling to fix. Though ordinary encrypted email and instant messaging protect the contents of communications, metadata allows authorities to map relationships between communicants and subpoena service providers for subscriber information that can help unmask whistleblowers, journalists's sources and others.

Secret Service Critics Pounce After White House Breach

timothy posted yesterday | from the owen-wilson-has-the-president-well-protected dept.

Government 187

HughPickens.com writes On Friday evening, a man jumped the White House fence, sprinted across the North Lawn toward the residence, and was eventually tackled by agents, but not before he managed to actually enter the building. Now CBS reports that the security breach at the White House is prompting a new round of criticism for the Secret Service, with lawmakers and outside voices saying the incident highlights glaring deficiencies in the agency's protection of the president and the first family. "Because of corner-cutting and an ingrained cultural attitude by management of 'we make do with less,' the Secret Service is not protecting the White House with adequate agents and uniformed officers and is not keeping up to date with the latest devices for detecting intruders and weapons of mass destruction," says Ronald Kessler. "The fact that the Secret Service does not even provide a lock for the front door of the White House demonstrates its arrogance." But the Secret Service must also consider the consequences of overreaction says White House correspondent Major Garrett. "If you have a jumper and he is unarmed and has no bags or backpacks or briefcase, do you unleash a dog and risk having cell phone video shot from Pennsylvania Avenue of an unarmed, mentally ill person being bitten or menaced by an attack dog?" But Kessler says Julia Pierson, the first woman to head the Secret Service, has some explaining to do. "If the intruder were carrying chemical, biological or radiological weapons and President Obama and his family had been in, we would have had a dead president as well as a dead first family."

Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

timothy posted yesterday | from the well-the-name-is-magical-to-start dept.

Businesses 107

lpress writes Alibaba is this weeks hot news — they have had a lengthy PR campaign (preceded by a documentary film) followed by a record-setting stock offering. After a day of trading Alibaba's market capitalization was comparable to that of established tech giants. But, there are cultural and structural differences between Alibaba and U.S. companies. Alibaba is tightly woven into a complex fabric of personal, corporate and government organization relationships. The same can be said of information technology companies in Singapore. Is owning a share of, say, Apple, conceptually the same as owning a share of Alibaba?

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

timothy posted yesterday | from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.

Democrats 354

An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."

Is Google's Non-Tax Based Public School Funding Cause For Celebration?

timothy posted yesterday | from the more-the-merrier dept.

Education 85

theodp (442580) writes "Google's "flash-funding" of teachers' projects via DonorsChoose continues to draw kudos from grateful mayors of the nation's largest cities. The latest comes from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (fresh from a Google-paid stay at the Google Zeitgeist resort), who joined Google officials at Taylor Allderdice HS, where Google announced it was 'flash funding' all Pittsburgh area teachers' crowd-funding campaigns on DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose reports that Google spent $64,657 to fund projects for 10,924 Pittsburgh kids. While the not-quite-$6-a-student is nice, it does pale by comparison to the $56,742 Google is ponying up to send one L.A. teacher's 34 students to London and Paris and the $35,858 it's spending to take another L.A. teacher's 52 kids to NYC, Gettysburg, and DC. So, is Google's non-tax based public school funding — which includes gender-based funding as well as "begfunding" — cause for celebration?"

Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the get-out-of-the-mine dept.

Privacy 231

HughPickens.com writes When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: "Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us." Now Jeff John Roberts writes at Gigaom that Apple's warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company's last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the "canary" language is no longer there suggesting that Apple is now part of FISA or PRISM proceedings.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request. This may also give some insight into Apple's recent decision to rework its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police.

Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the keep-it-to-yourself-bub dept.

Encryption 126

An anonymous reader writes The same day that Apple announced that iOS 8 will encrypt device data with a local code that is not shared with Apple, Google has pointed out that Android already offers the same feature as a user option and that the next version will enable it by default. The announcements by both major cell phone [operating system makers] underscores a new emphasis on privacy in the wake of recent government surveillance revelations in the U.S. At the same time, it leaves unresolved the tension between security and convenience when both companies' devices are configured to upload user content to iCloud and Google+ servers for backup and synchronization across devices, servers and content to which Apple and Google do have access.

Once Vehicles Are Connected To the Internet of Things, Who Guards Your Privacy?

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the I-hope-it's-rob-ford dept.

Networking 130

Lucas123 (935744) writes Carmakers already remotely collect data from their vehicles, unbeknownst to most drivers, but once connected via in-car routers or mobile devices to the Internet, and to roadway infrastructure and other vehicles around them, that information would be accessible by the government or other undesired entities. Location data, which is routinely collected by GPS providers and makers of telematics systems, is among the most sensitive pieces of information that can be collected, according to Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Not having knowledge that a third party is collecting that data on us and with whom they are sharing that data with is extremely troubling," Cardozo said. in-vehicle diagnostics data could also be used by government agencies to track driver behavior. Nightmare scenarios could include traffic violations being issued without law enforcement officers on the scene or federal agencies having the ability to track your every move in a car. That there could be useful data in all that personally identifiable bits made me think of Peter Wayner's "Translucent Databases."

Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the just-what-they-want-you-to-think-part-827398 dept.

Encryption 502

SternisheFan writes with this selection from a story at the Washington Post: Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user data. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal dilemma: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company – or anyone else but the device's owner – to gain access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers. The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails, recordings or other documents. Apple once kept possession of encryption keys that unlocked devices for legally binding police requests, but will no longer do so for iOS8, it said in a new guide for law enforcement. "Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," Apple said on its Web site. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."

Snowden's Leaks Didn't Help Terrorists

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the what-they-want-you-to-think dept.

Government 182

HughPickens.com writes The Intercept reports that contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of Edward Snowden's revelations on NSA surveillance that examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups has found no correlation in either measure to Snowden's leaks about the NSA's surveillance techniques. According to the report "well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them (PDF)." In fact, concerns about terrorists' use of sophisticated encryption technology predates even 9/11.

Earlier this month former NSA head Michael Hayden stated, "The changed communications practices and patterns of terrorist groups following the Snowden revelations have impacted our ability to track and monitor these groups", while Matthew Olsen of the National Counterterrorism Center would add "Following the disclosure of the stolen NSA documents, terrorists are changing how they communicate to avoid surveillance." Snowden's critics have previously accused his actions of contributing from everything from the rise of ISIS to Russia's invasion of the Ukraine. "This most recent study is the most comprehensive repudiation of these charges to date," says Murtaza Hussain. "Contrary to lurid claims to the contrary, the facts demonstrate that terrorist organizations have not benefited from the NSA revelations, nor have they substantially altered their behavior in response to them."

FCC Chairman: Americans Shouldn't Subsidize Internet Service Under 10Mbps

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the reasonable-speed dept.

United States 324

An anonymous reader writes On Wednesday at a hearing in front of the US House Committee on Small Business, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated that for ISPs to be eligible for government broadband subsidies, they would have to deliver speeds of at least 10 Mbps. Said Wheeler: "What we are saying is we can't make the mistake of spending the people's money, which is what Universal Service is, to continue to subsidize something that's subpar." He further indicated that he would remedy the situation by the end of 2014. The broadband subsidies are collected through bill surcharges paid for by phone customers.

Airbnb To Start Collecting Hotel Tax On Rentals In San Francisco

samzenpus posted 4 days ago | from the paying-the-price dept.

The Almighty Buck 71

An anonymous reader writes Airbnb announced that it will begin collecting a 14% occupancy tax on behalf of its San Francisco hosts October 1. "This is the culmination of a long process that began earlier this year when we announced our intent to help collect and remit occupancy taxes in San Francisco," wrote Airbnb public policy leader David Owen. The company already collects taxes in Portland, and has discussed the possibility of collecting taxes in New York.

Obama Presses Leaders To Speed Ebola Response

samzenpus posted 4 days ago | from the wipe-it-out dept.

Medicine 221

mdsolar writes with the latest plan from the U.S. government to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and a call for more help from other nations by the President. President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to accelerate the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers were swiftly deployed, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives. "This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better," Mr. Obama said here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. The world, he said, "has the responsibility to act, to step up and to do more. The United States intends to do more." Even as the president announced a major American deployment to Liberia and Senegal of medicine, equipment and 3,000 military personnel, global health officials said that time was running out and that they had weeks, not months, to act. They said that although the American contribution was on a scale large enough to make a difference, a coordinated assault in Africa from other Western powers was essential to bringing the virus under control.

ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the control-through-indoctrination dept.

Education 950

mpicpp sends this news from CNN: In swaths of Syria now controlled by ISIS, children can no longer study math or social studies. Sports are out of the question. And students will be banned from learning about elections and democracy. Instead, they'll be subjected to the teachings of the radical Islamist group. And any teacher who dares to break the rules "will be punished." ISIS revealed its new educational demands in fliers posted on billboards and on street poles. The Sunni militant group has captured a slew of Syrian and Iraqi cities in recent months as it tries to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Sunni parts of both countries. Books cannot include any reference to evolution. And teachers must say that the laws of physics and chemistry "are due to Allah's rules and laws." Update: 09/18 16:26 GMT by S : CNN has pulled the story over "concerns about the interpretation of the information provided." They promise to update it when they get the facts straight.

Farmers Carry Multidrug-Resistant Staph For Weeks Into Local Communities

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the part-of-the-farmhand-insurrection dept.

Medicine 122

An anonymous reader writes: Fresh research out of the UNC Gillings and JHU Bloomberg schools of public health shows industrial farm workers are carrying livestock-associated, multidrug-resistant staph into local communities for weeks at a time. "Among the [22 people tested], 10 workers carried antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria in their noses for up to four days. Another six workers were intermittent carriers of the bacteria. The 10 workers found to carry the bacteria persistently had strains associated with livestock that were resistant to multiple drugs, and one also carried MRSA. Three more of the workers tested positive for strains of S. aureus that were not resistant to antibiotics. So in total, 86 percent of the workers in the study carried the S. aureus bacteria, compared with about one-third of the population at large, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." This problem has grown since its last mention on Slashdot. Unfortunately, massive industrial lobbying continues to neuter government action.

NSA Director Says Agency Is Still Trying To Figure Out Cyber Operations

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the i-don't-think-the-mr-magoo-routine-is-going-to-work dept.

Government 103

Trailrunner7 writes: In a keynote speech at a security conference in Washington on Tuesday, new NSA Director Mike Rogers emphasized a need to establish behavioral norms for cyber war. "We're still trying to work our way through distinguishing the difference between criminal hacking and an act of war," said Rogers. "If this was easy, we would have figured it out years ago. We have a broad consensus about what constitutes an act of war, what's an act of defense." Rogers went on to explain that we need to better establish standardized terminology and standardized norms like those that exist in the realm of nuclear deterrence. Unfortunately, unlike in traditional national defense, we can not assume that the government will be able to completely protect us against cyber-threats because the threat ecosystem is just too broad.

The Case For a Federal Robotics Commission

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the heading-up-the-anti-singularity-committee dept.

Robotics 70

New submitter hmcd31 writes: In a new paper for Brookings' series on the future of civilian robotics, University of Washington Law Professor Ryan Calo argues the need for a Federal Robotics Commission. With advancements such as driverless cars and drones taking to the roads and skies, Calo sees a need for a government agency to monitor these changes. His paper details many benefits a robotics commission could bring, from funding to assisting in law and policy issues. The policies developed by this FRC are argued to be particularly important, as their impact in creating an early infrastructure for robotics could create an environment that lets the technology grow even more.

FBI Completes New Face Recognition System

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the they-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.

Privacy 129

Advocatus Diaboli writes: According to a report from Gizmodo, "After six years and over one billion dollars in development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of tens of millions of U.S. citizen's faces will be captured by the national system on a daily basis. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will logs all of those faces, and will reference them against its growing database in the event of a crime. It's not just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database dubbed the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year, collecting identified faces from mug shots and some job applications." Techdirt points out that an assessment of how this system affects privacy was supposed to have preceded the actual rollout. Unfortunately, that assessment is nowhere to be found.

Two recent news items are related. First, at a music festival in Boston last year, face recognition software was tested on festival-goers. Boston police denied involvement, but were seen using the software, and much of the data was carelessly made available online. Second, both Ford and GM are working on bringing face recognition software to cars. It's intended for safety and security — it can act as authentication and to make sure the driver is paying attention to the road.

Tim Cook Says Apple Can't Read Users' Emails, That iCloud Wasn't Hacked

timothy posted 5 days ago | from the our-cooperation-was-strictly-reluctant dept.

Cloud 191

Apple CEO Tim Cook insists that Apple doesn't read -- in fact, says Cook, cannot read -- user's emails, and that the company's iCloud service wasn't hacked. ZDNet presents highlights from Cook's lengthy, two-part interview with Charlie Rose. One selection of particular interest: Apple previously said that even it can't access iMessage and FaceTime communications, stating that such messages and calls are not held in an "identifiable form." [Cook] claimed if the government "laid a subpoena," then Apple "can't provide it." He said, bluntly: "We don't have a key... the door is closed." He reiterated previous comments, whereby Apple has said it is not in the business of collecting people's data. He said: "When we design a new service, we try not to collect data. We're not reading your email." Cook went on to talk about PRISM in more detail, following the lead from every other technology company implicated by those now-infamous PowerPoint slides.

AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the you-aim-the-gun,-we'll-pull-the-trigger dept.

The Internet 239

An anonymous reader writes: The net neutrality debate has been pretty binary: ISPs want the ability to create so-called "fast lanes," and consumers want all traffic to be treated equally. Now, AT&T is proposing an alternative: fast lanes under consumer control. Their idea would "allow individual consumers to ask that some applications, such as Netflix, receive priority treatment over other services, such as e-mail or online video games. That's different from the FCC's current proposal, which tacitly allows Internet providers to charge content companies for priority access to consumers but doesn't give the consumers a choice in the matter."

AT&T said, "Such an approach would preserve the ability of Internet service providers to engage in individualized negotiations with [content companies] for a host of services, while prohibiting the precise practice that has raised 'fast lane' concerns." It's not perfect, but it's probably the first earnest attempt at a compromise we've seen from either side, and it suggests the discussion can move forward without completely rejecting one group's wishes.

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