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Communications

Trump Renominates Ajit Pai For Five More Years at the FCC (theverge.com) 57

According to Axios, Bloomberg, and several other publications, President Trump has nominated FCC chairman Ajit Pai for a second five-year term at the commission. "Pai's current term ended last June, though he's been able to stick around through the end of the year even without reconfirmation," reports The Verge. From the report: The nomination comes just days after Pai sat down with the president for a meeting, during which they're said to have "reconnected" but without actually discussing anything the commission is actively considering. Pai will need confirmation from the Senate for the nomination to be approved. He was first nominated in 2012 to fill the slot of a commissioner. With approval, he'll be able to stick around through at least the entirety of Trump's current term. The question now is when Trump will nominate people to fill the two slots still vacant at the commission. The FCC remains short staffed, with only three out of five seated leaders, which somewhat limits how quickly Pai is able to get through his agenda.
Businesses

Sprint 'Betting Big On Trump,' Could Merge With T-Mobile Or Comcast (arstechnica.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Speculation that Sprint will merge with T-Mobile USA or another competitor has ramped up since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. That continued Friday when a report from The New York Times suggested that Sprint could be combined with either T-Mobile or Comcast, the nation's largest cable company. Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Sprint owner SoftBank, "and his financial advisers are weighing several major possible deals for Sprint," the Times wrote. "Be it a tie-up with T-Mobile U.S., Sprint's closest competitor, or a more ambitious marriage with the cable colossus Comcast, a transaction would allow Mr. Son to fulfill a long-held ambition to invest aggressively in wireless networks in the United States and enable next-generation mobile technology." Titled "The World's Top Tech Investor Is Betting Big on Trump," the Times report says that "the Trump administration's push for lighter regulation and lower taxes has been a powerful lure for cash-rich investors the world over." SoftBank, which is based in Japan, had several of its executives "spen[d] a day in Washington talking to senior members of Mr. Trump's economic team" last month, according to bankers who were briefed on the meetings, the Times report said. U.S. regulators opposed wireless consolidation during the Obama administration, preventing potential mergers between AT&T and T-Mobile and later between Sprint and T-Mobile. With four major nationwide carriers, U.S. wireless competition recently led to an expansion of unlimited data plans.
Government

US Suspends 'Expedited' H-1B Visas (sfgate.com) 295

"Starting April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions," read Friday's announcement, which says the suspension "may last up to 6 months." Slashdot reader elrous0 sees it as part of the "ongoing efforts to curb abuses in the controversial H-1B program." The San Francisco Chronicle reports: While it could be difficult to divorce the move Friday from the Trump administration's broader immigration crackdown, some experts believed the agency's decision to be apolitical. "It has everything to do with an understaffed, overworked, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," said Jason Finkelman, an Austin, Texas, immigration attorney, adding that the wait time for an H-1B visa in California is currently about eight months. However, Vivek Wadhwa, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus in NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, said the suspension seems like a message from the government that you "can't buy your way into America."
Whatever the motivation, Engadget believes this will impact large tech companies. "Financial Times quotes a lawyer saying that 'close to 100 percent' of applications from companies like Microsoft utilize the option."
America Online

Mike Pence Used His AOL Email For Indiana State Business -- and It Got Hacked (theverge.com) 445

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Vice President Mike Pence used a personal AOL email account to conduct sensitive state business -- including issues related to homeland security -- as the governor of Indiana, according to a report from The Indianapolis Star. Not only that, but Pence's email account was also compromised last year, the report reveals. Because personal email accounts are not subject to same types of public transparency laws, it's up to the official and his or her transition staff to hand over any sensitive state-related messages for archiving. Emails from a state account are automatically stored on state servers and subject to public records requests. Pence's office claims the contents of his personal AOL account used for state business are in fact in the process of being archived. A larger concern, however, is security. By using a private AOL account to conduct sensitive state matters, Pence could have exposed sensitive state business. In the hacking incident last year, Pence's email account was compromised by a scammer who used it to try and extort money from members of his contact list by claiming Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines, The Indianapolis Star reports. This hack didn't appear to have had been designed specifically to breach Pence's office, which made clear that his AOL account could be compromised by relatively benign breaching techniques designed by spammers and low-level hackers. It is not illegal in Indiana to own and use a personal account while in office, nor is it against the law to handle work-related matters from a personal account -- so long as those emails are in some way archived. However, the Star reports that Pence made no efforts to preserve his AOL emails under after he left office and is only just now doing months after public records requests were first made. "Similar to previous governors, during his time as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account," reads a statement given to the The Indianapolis Star. "As governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana's Access to Public Records Act."
Privacy

White House Supports Renewal of Spy Law Without Reforms (reuters.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security. The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. The FISA law has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications. Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.
Businesses

NSA Risks Talent Exodus Amid Morale Slump, Trump Fears (reuters.com) 251

Dustin Volz and Warren Strobel, writing for Reuters: The National Security Agency risks a brain-drain of hackers and cyber spies due to a tumultuous reorganization and worries about the acrimonious relationship between the intelligence community and President Donald Trump, according to current and former NSA officials and cybersecurity industry sources. Half-a-dozen cybersecurity executives told Reuters they had witnessed a marked increase in the number of U.S. intelligence officers and government contractors seeking employment in the private sector since Trump took office on Jan. 20. One of the executives, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, said he was stunned by the caliber of the would-be recruits. They are coming from a variety of government intelligence and law enforcement agencies, multiple executives said, and their interest stems in part from concerns about the direction of U.S intelligence agencies under Trump. Retaining and recruiting talented technical personnel has become a top national security priority in recent years as Russia, China, Iran and other nation states and criminal groups have sharpened their cyber offensive abilities. NSA and other intelligence agencies have long struggled to deter some of their best employees from leaving for higher-paying jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
Businesses

Samsung Chief Charged With Bribery and Embezzlement (npr.org) 22

After a three-month investigation, the acting head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, has been charged with bribery and embezzlement in connection with the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korea's president Park Geun-hye. NPR reports: NPR's Elise Hu reported from Seoul that prosecutors announced the indictment after a three-month investigation: "Samsung acting head Lee Jae-Yong got ensnared after documents showed Samsung funneled some $36 million to the president's close confidant. Prosecutors say the money was paid to win government support of a controversial 2015 company merger. The merger did go through, after a vote of support from the government. In a statement, Samsung says it has not paid bribes or made improper requests to the government. Lee is currently in jail awaiting further proceedings in his case." Lee was arrested on Feb. 17, two months after President Park Geun-hye was impeached over allegations of corruption, influence-peddling and cult ties, as we reported. Those corruption allegations were directly tied to the charges brought against Lee, who also goes by the name Jay Y. Lee.
AT&T

FCC Chairman Says His Agency Won't Review AT&T's Time Warner Purchase (engadget.com) 104

Today, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai confirmed that his agency would not review AT&T's Time Warner purchase, clearing the way for the Justice Department to likely approve the deal. Engadget reports: Last month, AT&T revealed how it might structure its deal to acquire Time Warner without having to go through FCC review. The communications giant noted that it "anticipated that Time Warner will not need to transfer any of its FCC licenses ... after the closing of the transaction." That means that the FCC wouldn't need to review the transaction. "That is the regulatory hook for FCC review," Pai said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "My understanding is that the deal won't be presented to the commission." The WSJ notes that this would leave the Justice Department as the only governmental agency reviewing the potential deal. Time Warner has said that it has "dozens" of FCC licenses, but the company believes those won't need to be transferred to AT&T as part of the merger, thus keeping the FCC out of the deal. The report notes that the deal still might not go through even if the FCC won't review the transaction. There's a lot of opposition to it from consumer advocacy groups, and President Donald Trump has said he opposes the deal.
Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 116

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Government

FCC To Halt Rule That Protects Your Private Data From Security Breaches (arstechnica.com) 119

According to Ars Technica, "The Federal Communications Commission plans to halt implementation of a privacy rule that requires ISPs to protect the security of its customers' personal information." From the report: The data security rule is part of a broader privacy rulemaking implemented under former Chairman Tom Wheeler but opposed by the FCC's new Republican majority. The privacy order's data security obligations are scheduled to take effect on March 2, but Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent that from happening. The data security rule requires ISPs and phone companies to take "reasonable" steps to protect customers' information -- such as Social Security numbers, financial and health information, and Web browsing data -- from theft and data breaches. The rule would be blocked even if a majority of commissioners supported keeping them in place, because the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau can make the decision on its own. That "full commission vote on the pending petitions" could wipe out the entire privacy rulemaking, not just the data security section, in response to petitions filed by trade groups representing ISPs. That vote has not yet been scheduled. The most well-known portion of the privacy order requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The opt-in rule is supposed to take effect December 4, 2017, unless the FCC or Congress eliminates it before then. Pai has said that ISPs shouldn't face stricter rules than online providers like Google and Facebook, which are regulated separately by the Federal Trade Commission. Pai wants a "technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world" based on the FTC's standards. According to today's FCC statement, the data security rule "is not consistent with the FTC's privacy standards."
Communications

FCC Votes To Lift Net Neutrality Transparency Rules For Smaller Internet Providers (theverge.com) 115

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to lift transparency requirements for smaller internet providers. According to The Verge, "Internet providers with fewer than 250,000 subscribers will not be required to disclose information on network performance, fees, and data caps, thanks to this rule change. The commission had initially exempted internet providers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers with the intention of revisiting the issue later to determine whether a higher or lower figure was appropriate." From the report: The rule passed in a 2-1 vote, with Republicans saying the reporting requirements unfairly burdened smaller ISPs with additional work. Only Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn opposed. Clyburn argued that the disclosures were an important consumer protection that was far from overbearing on businesses, particularly ones this large. Clyburn also argued that the rule would allow larger internet providers to avoid disclosing information by simply breaking their service areas up into different subsidiaries. Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly voted in favor of the change, saying he actually would have preferred the subscriber exemption to be even higher. And commission chairman Ajit Pai said the rules were necessary to protect "mom and pop internet service providers" from "burdensome requirements [...] that impose serious and unnecessary costs."
Facebook

'Social Media Needs A Travel Mode' (idlewords.com) 144

Maciej CegÅowski, a Polish-American web developer, entrepreneur, and social critic, writes on a blog post: We need a 'trip mode' for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home. Both Facebook and Google make lofty claims about user safety, but they've done little to show they take the darkening political climate around the world seriously. A 'trip mode' would be a chance for them to demonstrate their commitment to user safety beyond press releases and anodyne letters of support. What's required is a small amount of engineering, a good marketing effort, and the conviction that any company that makes its fortune hoarding user data has a moral responsibility to protect its users. To work effectively, a trip mode feature would need to be easy to turn on, configurable (so you can choose how long you want the protection turned on for) and irrevocable for an amount of time chosen by the user once it's set. There's no sense in having a 'trip mode' if the person demanding your password can simply switch it off, or coerce you into switching it off.
The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 516

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

Government

Wyden To Introduce Bill To Prohibit Warrantless Phone Searches At Border (onthewire.io) 193

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A senator from Oregon who has a long track record of involvement on security and privacy issues says he plans to introduce a bill soon that would prevent border agents from forcing Americans returning to the country to unlock their phones without a warrant. Sen. Ron Wyden said in a letter to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that he is concerned about reports that Customs and Border Patrol agents are pressuring returning Americans into handing over their phone PINs or using their fingerprints to unlock their phones. DHS Secretary John Kelly has said that he's considering the idea of asking visitors for the login data for their various social media accounts, information that typically would require a warrant to obtain. "Circumventing the normal protection for such private information is simply unacceptable," Wyden said in the letter, sent Monday. "There are well-established procedures governing how law enforcement agencies may obtain data from social media companies and email providers. The process typically requires that the government obtain a search warrant or other court order, and then ask the service provider to turn over the user's data."
Android

Congressman Calls For Probe Into Trump's Unsecured Android Phone (cnet.com) 507

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: President Donald Trump regularly makes news because of his tweets. Now a congressman is making news because of the device the president reportedly uses to tweet. On Friday, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee requesting an investigation into Trump's cybersecurity practices. In particular, he calls out Trump's apparent decision to keep using his personal Android phone instead of a secured phone the Secret Service issued him for his inauguration. The letter is also signed by 14 other members of Congress and calls for a public hearing to discuss the issues. "The device President Trump insists on using -- most likely the Samsung Galaxy S3 -- has particularly well documented vulnerabilities," the letter says. "The use of an unsecured phone risks the president of the United States being monitored by foreign or domestic adversaries, many of whom would be happy to hijack the president's prized Twitter account causing disastrous consequences for global security. Cybersecurity experts universally agree that an ordinary Android smartphone, which the president is reportedly using despite repeated warnings from the Secret Service, can be easily hacked."

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