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  • The Executive Order That Redefines Data Collection

    sandbagger writes: " ...it is often the case that one can be led astray by relying on the generic or commonly understood definition of a particular word." That quote apparently applies to words offering constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. TechDirt looks at the redefinition of the term "collection" as redefined by Executive Order 12333 to allow basically every information dragnet, provided no-one looks at it. "Collection" is now defined as "collection plus action." According to this document, it still isn't collected, even if it has been gathered, packaged and sent to a "supervisory authority." No collection happens until examination. It's Schrodinger's data, neither collected nor uncollected until the "box" has been opened. This leads to the question of aging off collected data/communications: if certain (non) collections haven't been examined at the end of the 5-year storage limit, are they allowed to be retained simply because they haven't officially been collected yet? Does the timer start when the "box" is opened or when the "box" is filled?

    52 comments | 5 hours ago

  • Hong Kong Protesters Use Mesh Networks To Organize

    wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: Hong Kong's mass protest is networked. Activists are relying on a free app that can send messages without any cellphone connection. Since the pro-democracy protests turned ugly over the weekend, many worry that the Chinese government would block local phone networks. In response, activists have turned to the FireChat app to send supportive messages and share the latest news. On Sunday alone, the app was downloaded more than 100,000 times in Hong Kong, its developers said. FireChat relies on "mesh networking," a technique that allows data to zip directly from one phone to another via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ordinarily, if two people want to communicate this way, they need to be fairly close together. But as more people join in, the network grows and messages can travel further. Mesh networks can be useful for people who are caught in natural disasters or, like those in Hong Kong, protesting under tricky conditions. FireChat came in handy for protesters in Taiwan and Iraq this year."

    64 comments | 13 hours ago

  • FCC Rejects Blackout Rules

    Today the Federal Communications Commission eliminated its sport blackout rules, which prevented cable and satellite television providers from showing sporting events that were blacked out on a local station. It's common practice in the NFL to black out football games locally if the stadium didn't sell enough tickets. The ruling now removes government protections for the NFL's policies (the NFL can continue to black out local broadcasts). The FCC's decision is based on "significant changes" to the industry over the 40 years since the rules were adopted. Television has replaced ticket sales as the primary source of revenue, and the NFL is incredibly popular. They also don't think there's any chance the NFL will move its games to pay-per-view.

    122 comments | yesterday

  • LTE Upgrade Will Let Phones Connect To Nearby Devices Without Towers

    An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from MIT's Technology Review: A new feature being added to the LTE protocol that smartphones use to communicate with cellular towers will make it possible to bypass those towers altogether. Phones will be able to "talk" directly to other mobile devices and to beacons located in shops and other businesses. Known as LTE Direct, the wireless technology has a range of up to 500 meters, far more than either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It is included in update to the LTE standard slated for approval this year, and devices capable of LTE Direct could appear as soon as late 2015. ... Researchers are, for example, testing LTE Direct as a way to allow smartphones to automatically discover nearby people, businesses, and other information.

    147 comments | yesterday

  • CEO of Spyware Maker Arrested For Enabling Stalkers

    An anonymous reader writes: U.S. authorities have arrested and indicted the CEO of a mobile software company for selling spyware that enables "stalkers and domestic abusers." The U.S. Department of Justice accuses the man of promoting and selling software that can "monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection." The agency pointed out this is the first criminal case based on mobile spyware, and promised to aggressively pursue makers of similar software in the future. Here's the legal filing (PDF). The FBI, with approval from a District Court, has disabled the website hosting the software.

    "The indictment alleges that StealthGenie's capabilities included the following: it recorded all incoming/outgoing voice calls; it intercepted calls on the phone to be monitored while they take place; it allowed the purchaser to call the phone and activate it at any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius; and it allowed the purchaser to monitor the user's incoming and outgoing e-mail messages and SMS messages, incoming voicemail messages, address book, calendar, photographs, and videos. All of these functions were enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone."

    193 comments | yesterday

  • Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market

    CowboyRobot writes: HTTPS has evolved into the de facto standard for secure Web browsing. Through the certificate-based authentication protocol, Web services and Internet users first authenticate one another ("shake hands") using a TLS/SSL certificate, encrypt Web communications end-to-end, and show a padlock in the browser to signal that a communication is secure. In recent years, HTTPS has become an essential technology to protect social, political, and economic activities online. At the same time, widely reported security incidents (such as DigiNotar's breach, Apple's #gotofail, and OpenSSL's Heartbleed) have exposed systemic security vulnerabilities of HTTPS to a global audience. The Edward Snowden revelations (notably around operation BULLRUN, MUSCULAR, and the lesser-known FLYING PIG program to query certificate metadata on a dragnet scale) have driven the point home that HTTPS is both a major target of government hacking and eavesdropping, as well as an effective measure against dragnet content surveillance when Internet traffic traverses global networks. HTTPS, in short, is an absolutely critical but fundamentally flawed cybersecurity technology.

    185 comments | 4 days ago

  • Google Quietly Nixes Mandatory G+ Integration With Gmail

    An anonymous reader writes Back in 2012, Google had made it mandatory for new Gmail users to simultaneously create Google+ (G+) accounts. This is no longer so. Following the departure of G+ founder Vic Gundotra in April 2014, Google has been quietly decoupling its social media site from its other services. First, YouTube was freed, then Google+ Photos. Now, anyone who wants to create a new Gmail account unencumbered with a G+ profile can also do so.

    137 comments | about a week ago

  • Wired Profiles John Brooks, the Programmer Behind Ricochet

    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.

    49 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

    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."

    504 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Snowden's Leaks Didn't Help Terrorists

    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."

    183 comments | about two weeks ago

  • US Military Aware Only Belatedly of Chinese Attacks Against Transport Contractor

    itwbennett writes The Senate Armed Service Committee released on Wednesday an unclassified version of a report (PDF) commissioned last year to investigate cyberattacks against contractors for the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). The report alleges that the Chinese military successfully stole emails, documents, login credentials and more from contractors, but few of those incidents were ever reported to TRANSCOM. During a one-year period starting in June 2012, TRANSCOM contractors endured more than 50 intrusions, 20 of which were successful in planting malware. TRANSCOM learned of only two of the incidents. The FBI, however, was aware of 10 of the attacks.

    13 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Scientists Twist Radio Beams To Send Data At 32 Gigabits Per Second

    concertina226 writes Scientists from three international universities have succeeded in twisting radio beams in order to transfer data at the speed of 32 gigabits per second, which is 30 times faster than 4G LTE wireless technology in use today. The researchers, led by Alan Willner, an electrical engineering professor with the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, successfully demonstrated data transmission rates of 32 gigabits per second across 2.5m of free space in a basement laboratory.

    122 comments | about two weeks ago

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

    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.

    191 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Browser To Facilitate Text Browsing In Emergencies

    Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Programmers at Fast Company are developing the Cosmos browser to allow text browsing from Android phones when networks are buckling under the load of local disasters. A common phenomenon when disaster strikes is the overloading of cell and data networks by massively increased traffic. The Cosmos browser is intended to facilitate using SMS text messages, which often still get through in such circumstances. To quote one developer, "We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it." Sort of a Lynx comes to Android affair. The Smithsonian contemplates the possibilities, here."

    40 comments | about two weeks ago

  • A 16-Year-Old Builds a Device To Convert Breath Into Speech

    stephendavion writes A 16-year-old from India has designed a device that converts breath into speech. High-school student Arsh Shah Dilbagi invented TALK as a portable and affordable way to aid people suffering from ALS, locked-in syndrome, and anyone else speech-impaired or paralyzed. Prototyped using a basic $25 Arduino microcontroller, Dilbagi's invention costs only $80, or about a hundred times less than the sort of Augmentative and Alternative Communication device used by Stephen Hawking. TALK works by translating breath into electric signals using a MEMS Microphone, an advanced form of listening tech that uses a diaphragm etched directly onto a silicon microchip. The user is expected to be able to give two distinguishable exhales, varying in intensity or time, so that they can spell words out using Morse code.

    67 comments | about two weeks ago

  • The FCC Net Neutrality Comment Deadline Has Arrived: What Now?

    blottsie writes After months of heated debate, viral campaigns, deliberate "slowdowns" and record-breaking public responses, the Federal Communications Commission is finally set to decide how "net neutrality"—the principle that all data must be treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs)—should look in the U.S., or if it should exist at all. Today, Sept. 15, the FCC officially closes its public comment period on its latest net neutrality proposal. The plan enables ISPs to discriminate against certain types of data, in certain circumstances, by charging extra for broadband “fast lanes” between content providers—like Netflix or YouTube—and users.

    131 comments | about two weeks ago

  • New Data Center Protects Against Solar Storm and Nuclear EMPs

    dcblogs writes "In Boyers, Pa., a recently opened 2,000-sq.-ft. data center has been purpose-built to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a solar storm or a nuclear event. The company that built the facility isn't disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection. Betting against an EMP event is a gamble. In 1859, the so-called Carrington solar storm lit the night skies and disrupted the only telegraph communications. William Murtagh, program coordinator at U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said there is ongoing concern that the earth may see an solar storm that could impact electronics on the ground. "We're concerned that can happen," A 2012 solar storm, that missed the earth, "was very powerful, and some have suggested it would have been on par with a Carrington-level event." One researcher put the odds of a catastrophic solar storm by 2020 as one in eight.

    59 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Chinese City Sets Up "No Cell Phone" Pedestrian Lanes

    An anonymous reader writes The Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too caught up in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going. "There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here," said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district's property management company. However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.

    46 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Oculus Rift CEO Says Classrooms of the Future Will Be In VR Goggles

    jyosim writes "Oculus Rift isn't just for gaming. Brendan Iribe, CEO of the VR company, says the immersive tech will be "one of the most transformative platforms for education of all time." In an interview with Chronicle of Higher Education, he imagined laser-scanning every object in the Smithsonian for students to explore, and collaborating in shared virtual spaces rather than campuses. "The next step past that is when you have shared space, and not only do you believe that this object is right there in front of me, but I look around and I see other people just like we see each other now, and I really, truly believe that you’re right in front of me. We can look at each others’ eyes. If you look down at something, I can look down at the same time. And it’s every bit as good as this. And if we can make virtual reality every bit as good as real reality in terms of communications and the sense of shared presence with others, you can now educate people in virtual classrooms, you can now educate people with virtual objects, and we can all be in a classroom together [virtually], we can all be present, we can have relationships and communication that are just as good as the real classroom," he says.

    182 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

    An anonymous reader writes: While legislators and police try to tackle the epidemic of distracted driving through education, regulation, and enforcement, Scott Tibbitts is trying to solve it through engineering. He developed a small device which, when plugged into a vehicle, would determine which phone belonged to the driver and shut off its texting and voice call capabilities. "The telematics box sends a wireless message that the car is moving. The phone sends its own message about its location. Both sets of information — from the car and phone — are sent to Katasi's servers. Then, an algorithm weighs the incoming data with other information, like the location of the phones belonging to all the people who drive the car and the starting point of the trip; if the trip starts at Junior's high school, and mom and dad's phones are at work, the driver has been identified — Junior is driving."

    The problem is that Tibbitts can't get anyone interested in setting up a system to make these devices ubiquitous. Consumers can't be sold on such a product: all evidence suggests people are increasingly unwilling to be cut off from constant communication. So, he tried working with carriers. Sprint partnered with Tibbitts long enough to test the device, but they were afraid of the legal risks involved. Now, Tibbitts is nursing the technology along, looking for a way to get it into cars and make people safer.

    326 comments | about two weeks ago

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