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United States

Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-what-you-demand dept.
Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.
Privacy

Amnesty International Releases Tool To Combat Government Spyware 90

Posted by timothy
from the doing-the-right-thing dept.
New submitter Gordon_Shure_DOT_com writes Human rights charity Amnesty International has released Detekt, a tool that finds and removes known government spyware programs. Describing the free software as the first of its kind, Amnesty commissioned the tool from prominent German computer security researcher and open source advocate Claudio Guarnieri, aka 'nex'. While acknowledging that the only sure way to prevent government surveillance of huge dragnets of individuals is legislation, Marek Marczynski of Amnesty nevertheless called the tool (downloadable here) a useful countermeasure versus spooks. According to the app's instructions, it operates similarly to popular malware or virus removal suites, though systems must be disconnected from the Internet prior to it scanning.
Supercomputing

Does Being First Still Matter In America? 217

Posted by timothy
from the by-jingo dept.
dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.
The Courts

US Gov't Seeks To Keep Megaupload Assets Because Kim Dotcom Is a Fugitive 157

Posted by timothy
from the them-as-has-gits-by-law dept.
mrspoonsi writes with this excerpt from Billboard: 'On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice told a Virginia federal judge that Kim Dotcom and cohorts have no business challenging the seizure of an estimated $67 million in assets because the Megaupload founder is evading prosecution. The government brought criminal charges against Dotcom in early 2012, but he's been holed up in New Zealand awaiting word on whether he'll be extradited. The government got antsy and this past July, brought a civil complaint for forfeiture in rem, a maneuver to firmly establish a hold over money from bank accounts around the world, luxury cars, big televisions, watches, artwork and other property allegedly gained by Megaupload in the course of crimes. Dotcom is fighting the seizures by questioning the government's basis for asserting a crime, saying "there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement," as well as challenging how the seized assets are tied to the charges against Dotcom. But according to the U.S. government, Dotcom doesn't get the pleasure of even making the arguments. In a motion to strike, the government cites the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement, which bars a person from using the resources of the court if that person is aware of prosecution and is evading it.
United States

Number of Coders In Congress To Triple (From One To Three) 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the small-steps dept.
jfruh writes Last weekend, Tim Berners-Lee said that the UK needs more members of parliament who can code. Well, the most recent U.S. congressional election has obliged him on this side of the Atlantic: the number of coders in Congress has tripled, with the downside being that their numbers have gone from one to three.
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 415

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Government

Sweden Considers Adding "Sexism" Ratings To Video Games 635

Posted by samzenpus
from the including-everyone dept.
An anonymous reader writes A government-funded agency in Sweden is considering creating special labels for video games based on whether or not the games' portrayals of women are sexist. From the article: "Avoiding sexism and gender stereotypes in video games produced in Sweden will become a key goal for the association, which has been given a 272,000 kronor ($36,672) grant by Sweden's government-funded innovation agency, Vinnova. Inspired by the Bechdel test, which looks at whether fictional films or books feature at least two women talking about a topic other than men, Dataspelsbranchen will work with several game developers to analyze how Swedish video games portray female characters and gender issues.
United States

State Department Joins NOAA, USPS In Club of Hacked Federal Agencies 54

Posted by timothy
from the more-funding-next-year dept.
Hot on the heels of recent cyber attacks on NOAA, the USPS, and the White House, the New York Times reports that the U.S. State Department has also suffered an online security breach, though it's not clear who to blame. “This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main unclassified system,” said one senior State Department official, adding that the department expected its systems to be up soon. ....The breach at the White House was believed to be the work of hackers in Russia, while the breaches at NOAA and the Postal Service were believed to the work of hackers inside China. Attributing attacks to a group or nation is difficult because hackers typically tend to route their attack through compromised web servers all over the world. A senior State Department official said the breach was discovered after “activity of concern” was detected on portions of its unclassified computer system. Officials did not say how long hackers may have been lurking in those systems, but security improvements were being added to them on Sunday.
Supercomputing

US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer 127

Posted by timothy
from the who-is-this-we-paleface? dept.
dcblogs writes U.S. officials Friday announced plans to spend $325 million on two new supercomputers, one of which may eventually be built to support speeds of up to 300 petaflops. The U.S. Department of Energy, the major funder of supercomputers used for scientific research, wants to have the two systems – each with a base speed of 150 petaflops – possibly running by 2017. Going beyond the base speed to reach 300 petaflops will take additional government approvals. If the world stands still, the U.S. may conceivably regain the lead in supercomputing speed from China with these new systems. How adequate this planned investment will look three years from now is a question. Lawmakers weren't reading from the same script as U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz when it came to assessing the U.S.'s place in the supercomputing world. Moniz said the awards "will ensure the United States retains global leadership in supercomputing." But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) put U.S. leadership in the past tense. "Supercomputing is one of those things that we can step up and lead the world again," he said.
Censorship

Former Police Officer Indicted For Teaching How To Pass a Polygraph Test 328

Posted by timothy
from the government-hates-competition dept.
George Maschke (699175) writes On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment (2.6 mb PDF) of Douglas Gene Williams, a 69-year-old former Oklahoma City police polygraphist turned anti-polygraph activist for teaching two undercover agents posing as federal law enforcement applicants how to pass (or beat) a polygraph test. Williams offers instruction on how to pass polygraph tests through his website, Polygraph.com, which remains online. Marisa Taylor of McClatchy, who has been covering polygraph policy issues for several years, has written an informative report. This appears to be a case where an individual was targeted for criminal prosecution to suppress speech that the U.S. government dislikes. AntiPolygraph.org, which may also have been the target of an attempted entrapment, has a commentary.
Government

Comcast Kisses-Up To Obama, Publicly Agrees On Net Neutrality 257

Posted by timothy
from the wormtongues-all-around dept.
MojoKid writes Comcast is one of two companies to have earned Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" title on more than one occasion and it looks like they're lobbying for a third title. That is, unless there's another explanation as to how the cable giant can claim (with straight face) that it's in agreement with President Barack Obama for a free and open Internet. Comcast issued a statement of its own saying they back the exact same things, it just doesn't want to go the utility route. Comcast went on to list specific bullet points that they're supposedly in wholehearted agreement with, such as: Free and open Internet. We agree — and that is our practice. No blocking. We agree — and that is our practice. No throttling. We agree — and that is our practice. Increased transparency. We agree — and that is our practice. No paid prioritization. We agree — and that is our practice. Really? Comcast conveniently fails to address the giant elephant in the room whose name is Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix begrudgingly inked a multi-year deal with Comcast in which the streaming service agreed to pay a toll to ensure faster delivery into the homes of Comcast subscribers, who prior to the deal had been complaining of frequent buffering and video degradation when watching content on Netflix. Comcast would undoubtedly argue that it's not a paid fast lane, but it's hard to see the deal as anything other than that.
The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554

Posted by timothy
from the speak-for-yourself-hummer-buyers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."
Censorship

Cameron Says People Radicalized By Free Speech; UK ISPs Agree To Censor Button 316

Posted by timothy
from the oh-that'll-work-fine dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Techdirt: A few years ago, we mocked then Senator Joe Lieberman's request that internet companies put "report this content as terrorist content" buttons on various types of online content. The plan went nowhere, because it's a really bad idea, prone to massive abuse. Yet, over in the UK, some apparently think it's such a grand idea that they're actually moving forward with it. This isn't a huge surprise — the current UK government has been going on for quite some time about banning "extremist" content, and just recently ramped up such efforts. And now it appears that a bunch of big UK broadband access providers have agreed to play along: The UK's major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation. They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material.
IOS

US Gov't Issues Alert About iOS "Masque Attack" Threat 98

Posted by timothy
from the that'll-teach-'em dept.
alphadogg writes Three days after security company FireEye warned of an iPhone/iPad threat dubbed "Masque Attack", the U.S. government has issued a warning of its own about this new risk by malicious third-party apps to Apple iOS devices. US-CERT warned: "This attack works by luring users to install an app from a source other than the iOS App Store or their organizations' provisioning system. In order for the attack to succeed, a user must install an untrusted app, such as one delivered through a phishing link." Revelations of Masque came on the heels of a related exploit (that also threatens Macs) called WireLurker.
Government

Internet Voting Hack Alters PDF Ballots In Transmission 147

Posted by timothy
from the don't-let-the-nice-man-borrow-your-router dept.
msm1267 (2804139) writes Threats to the integrity of Internet voting have been a major factor in keeping the practice to a bare minimum in the United States. On the heels of the recent midterm elections, researchers at Galois, a computer science research and development firm in Portland, Ore., sent another reminder to decision makers and voters that things still aren't where they should be. Researchers Daniel M. Zimmerman and Joseph R. Kiniry published a paper called 'Modifying an Off-the-Shelf Wireless Router for PDF Ballot Tampering' that explains an attack against common home routers that would allow a hacker to intercept a PDF ballot and use another technique to modify a ballot before sending it along to an election authority. The attack relies on a hacker first replacing the embedded Linux firmware running on a home router. Once a hacker is able to sit in the traffic stream, they will be able to intercept a ballot in traffic and modify code strings representing votes and candidates within the PDF to change the submitted votes.
Technology

Drone Sightings Near Other Aircraft Up Dramatically 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-fly-so-close-to-me dept.
schwit1 writes The government is getting near-daily reports — and sometimes two or three a day — of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission, federal and industry officials tell The Associated Press. It's a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual. Many of the reports are filed with the Federal Aviation Administration by airline pilots. But other pilots, airport officials and local authorities often file reports as well, said the officials, who agreed to discuss the matter only on the condition that they not be named because they weren't authorized to speak publicly. Michael Toscano, president of a drone industry trade group, said FAA officials also have verified the increase to him. While many of the reports are unconfirmed, raising the possibility that pilots may have mistaken a bird or another plane in the distance for a drone, the officials said other reports appear to be credible.
China

US Weather System and Satellite Network Hacked 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-your-weather-are-belong-to-us dept.
mpicpp writes with this story about Chinese hackers breaching the federal weather network. "Hackers attacked the U.S. weather system in October, causing a disruption in satellite feeds and several pivotal websites. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, said that four of its websites were hacked in recent weeks. To block the attackers, government officials were forced to shut down some of its services. This explains why satellite data was mysteriously cut off in October, as well as why the National Ice Center website and others were down for more than a week. During that time, federal officials merely stated a need for "unscheduled maintenance." Still, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen insisted that the aftermath of the attack "did not prevent us from delivering forecasts to the public." Little more is publicly known about the attack, which was first revealed by The Washington Post. It's unclear what damage, if any, was caused by the hack. But hackers managed to penetrate what's considered one of the most vital aspects of the U.S. government. The nation's military, businesses and local governments all rely on nonstop reports from the U.S. weather service."
Earth

U.S. and China Make Landmark Climate Deal 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-scratch-our-back-and-i'll-scratch-ours dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After extended talks on the issue of climate change, the U.S. and China have reached a landmark accord to curb emissions in the near future. The two countries are the top carbon polluters, so their actions are likely to have a major effect on world pollution levels and also set the standard for other countries. The agreement includes China's first-ever commitment to stop the growth of its emissions by 2030. They plan on shifting a big chunk of their energy production to renewables in that time. The U.S. agreed to emit 26-28% less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. Their efforts could spur greater enthusiasm for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Reader jones_supa adds details of another interesting part of the U.S.-China talks: Technology products look likely to gain more access to international markets as a result of upgrade between the U.S. and China on a 1996 tariff-eliminating trade agreement that President Obama announced Tuesday in Beijing. The agreement is expected to lower prices on a raft of new technology products by eliminating border tariffs — a price impact that's expected to be larger outside the United States, since U.S. tariffs on high-tech goods are generally lower than those overseas. "This is a win-win-win agreement for information and communication technology industries in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China, for businesses and consumers who purchase IT products and for the global economy."
The Internet

FCC Confirms Delay of New Net Neutrality Rules Until 2015 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-extra-lame-duckiness dept.
blottsie writes: The Federal Communications Commission will abandon its earlier promise to make a decision on new net neutrality rules this year. Instead, FCC Press Secretary Kim Hart said, "there will not be a vote on open internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalized in 2015." The FCC's confirmation of the delay came just as President Barack Obama launched a campaign to persuade the agency to reclassify broadband Internet service as a public utility. Opensource.com is also running an interview with a legal advisor at the FCC. He says, "There will be a burden on providers. The question is, 'Is that burden justified?' And I think our answer is 'Yes.'"
Microsoft

Microsoft Patches OLE Zero-Day Vulnerability 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the putting-right-what-once-went-wrong dept.
msm1267 writes: Microsoft today released a patch for a zero-day vulnerability under active exploit in the wild. The vulnerability in OLE, or Microsoft Windows Object Linking and Embedding, enables a hacker to remotely execute code on an infected machine, and has been linked to attacks by the Sandworm APT group against government agencies and energy utilities. Microsoft also issued a massive Internet Explorer patch, but warned organizations that have deployed version 5.0 of its Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) to upgrade to version 5.1 before applying the IE patches. Version 5.1 resolves some compatibility issues, in addition to several mitigation enhancements.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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