Communications

The FCC Is Full Again, With Three Republicans and Two Democrats (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. "As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come," Pai said. "Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I'm pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency's operations."

Carr served as Pai's Wireless, Public Safety and International Legal Advisor for three years. After President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of last year when the Republican-led US Senate refused to re-confirm her for a second five-year term. But Democrats pushed Trump to re-nominate Rosenworcel to fill the empty Democratic spot and he obliged. FCC commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. esides Pai, Carr, and Rosenworcel, the five-member commission includes Republican Michael O'Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

United Kingdom

UK Security Researcher Who Stopped WannaCry Outbreak Arrested in US (zdnet.com) 176

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: A security researcher who in May stopped an outbreak of the WannaCry ransomware has been arrested and detained after attending the Def Con conference in Las Vegas. Marcus Hutchins, 23, a British national, was arrested at Las Vegas airport on Wednesday by US Marshals, several close friends confirmed to ZDNet. A friend told ZDNet that he was "was pulled by Marshals at the lounge" after clearing security. He was briefly detained in a federal facility in Nevada until he was moved. "We went to see him this morning and we had already been moved," said the friend. Hutchins is now understood to be in custody at an FBI field office in the state. Motherboard first broke the story on Thursday. Update: A Motherboard reporter tweets, "Here's the indictment accusing @MalwareTechBlog of running the Kronos banking malware."
Update 2: New DOJ statement: Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on July 11, 2017, following a two-year long investigation, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Marcus Hutchins, also known as "Malwaretech," for his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan.
United States

EPA Reverses Course on Ozone Rule (nytimes.com) 53

The Trump administration said late Wednesday that it would not delay an Obama-era regulation on smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), a move that environmental groups hailed as a victory. From a report: The Environmental Protection Agency decision came a day after 16 state attorneys general, all Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the delay with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It reversed a decision that Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, made in June to put off an Oct. 1 deadline for designating which areas of the country met new ozone standards. In announcing the ozone policy change, the agency appeared to leave the door open to extending the deadline again. But, officials said, the agency will work with states to help them deliver the needed information.
United States

Trump Removes Anthony Scaramucci From Communications Director Role (nytimes.com) 463

Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, and Glenn Thrush reporting for The New York Times: President Trump has decided to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), three people close to the decision said Monday, relieving him just days after Mr. Scaramucci unloaded a crude verbal tirade against other senior members of the president's senior staff. Mr. Scaramucci's abrupt removal came just 10 days after the wealthy New York financier was brought on to the West Wing staff, a move that convulsed an already chaotic White House and led to the departures of Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the president's first chief of staff. From a report: Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director," the statement read. "Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best." Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to brief the press corps, on-camera, at 12:45 pm PST. Scaramucci was given the job on Friday, June 21, and by Thursday, July 27, became something of a national laughingstock when The New Yorker reported his profanity-laced conversation with the magazine's Washington correspondent the night before. He was hired by the president to take charge of a communications operation in disarray, and his hiring coincided with the departure of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Scaramucci, in his conversation with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, was extremely critical of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and predicted, correctly, that then-chief of staff Reince Priebus would be removed from his position. Following the publication of Lizza's article, it became an open question in Washington whether Scaramucci would keep his job.
Facebook

Facebook Funds 'Defending Digital Democracy' Initiative At Harvard (diginomica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes Diginomica: A fresh initiative aimed at information sharing about election threats and dubbed Defending Digital Democracy has the financial support of Facebook and the academic muscle of Harvard behind it. Will the project succeed where similar initiatives have failed...? On 19 July and backed by a $500,000 initial grant from Facebook, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School launched a new, bipartisan initiative called the Defending Digital Democracy Project. The project will be co-led by Robby Mook, Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign manager, and Matt Rhoades, Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager. The hope is that creating a unique and bipartisan team comprised of top-notch political operatives and leaders in the cyber and national security world, the project will be able to to identify and recommend strategies, tools, and technology to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks.
The group will also assess new technologies (including blockchain) to secure elections, and wants to create an information sharing infrastructure modeled "on similar efforts within the tech industry to share tech intelligence." The article says Facebook's chief security officer "hopes that election officials who are wary of cooperating with the federal government will be more receptive to working with an independent group tied to Harvard and the tech industy," and the group also includes Google's director for Information Security and Privacy.

"Facebook plans to host state and local election officials at its D.C. office later this year to discuss the information sharing organization, and launch the organization in early 2018."
Security

US Voting Machines Cracked In 90 Minutes At DEFCON (thehill.com) 171

An anonymous reader quotes The Hill: Hackers at at a competition in Las Vegas were able to successfully breach the software of U.S. voting machines in just 90 minutes on Friday, illuminating glaring security deficiencies in America's election infrastructure. Tech minds at the annual "DEF CON" in Las Vegas were given physical voting machines and remote access, with the instructions of gaining access to the software. According to a Register report, within minutes, hackers exposed glaring physical and software vulnerabilities across multiple U.S. voting machine companies' products. Some devices were found to have physical ports that could be used to attach devices containing malicious software. Others had insecure Wi-Fi connections, or were running outdated software with security vulnerabilities like Windows XP.
Though some of the machines were out of date, they were all from "major U.S. voting machine companies" like Diebold Nixorf, Sequoia Voting Systems, and WinVote -- and were purchased on eBay or at government auctions. One of the machines apparently still had voter registration data stored in plain text in an SQLite database from a 2008 election, according to event's official Twitter feed.

By Saturday night they were tweeting video of a WinVote machine playing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."
United States

Congress Asks US Agencies For Kaspersky Lab Cyber Documents (reuters.com) 28

Reuters reports: A U.S. congressional panel this week asked 22 government agencies to share documents on Moscow-based cyber firm Kaspersky Lab, saying its products could be used to carry out "nefarious activities against the United States," according to letters seen by Reuters. The requests made on Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology are the latest blow to the antivirus company, which has been countering accusations by U.S. officials that it may be vulnerable to Russian government influence. The committee asked the agencies for all documents and communications about Kaspersky Lab products dating back to Jan. 1, 2013, including any internal risk assessments. It also requested lists of any systems that use Kaspersky products and the names of any U.S. government contractors or subcontractors that do so. Kaspersky has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and said it would not help any government with cyber espionage. It said there is no evidence for the accusations made by U.S. officials. The committee "is concerned that Kaspersky Lab is susceptible to manipulation by the Russian government, and that its products could be used as a tool for espionage, sabotage, or other nefarious activities against the United States," wrote the panel's Republican chairman, Lamar Smith, in the letters.
Government

Calibri Font Plays Its Role: Pakistan Now Sans Sharif as Prime Minister is Disqualified (neowin.net) 93

Usama Jawad, writing for Neowin: A few weeks ago, we reported that Microsoft's Calibri font has been used as evidence against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in a corruption case. Today, Sharif has been disqualified from his position as a part of the court's final verdict of the case. The case concerns the "Panama Papers", which is a collection of 11.5 million documents detailing information related to over 200,000 offshore accounts. Ever since the Panama Papers were anonymously leaked back in 2015, there has been a major shift in the political situation in many countries. One such country is Pakistan, where the names of numerous members of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family were spotted in the papers. If you aren't aware of the Calibri controversy, it is as follows: Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz submitted photocopies of several documents in order to deny any corruption, but it appears that the documents contained Microsoft's Calibri font, even though they were dated February 6, 2006. It is important to note that the font wasn't commercially available until much later. Despite being created in 2004, the font did not reach the general public until January 30, 2007.
Government

Intelligence Chairman Accuses Obama Aids of Hundreds of Unmasking Requests (thehill.com) 330

mi writes: When American spies capture our communications with foreigners, the identities of Americans on the other side of the conversation are generally protected -- if not by bona-fide laws, then certainly by rules and regulations. A transcript of the conversation should have their name replaced with labels like "U.S. person 1". The citizen involved can only be "unmasked" with a good reason. In 2011, Obama relaxed these rules, making it much simpler even for officials without any intelligence role to obtain the identities. Predictably, certain top officials of the Obama Administration abused their access to get this information: "The [House Intelligence] committee has learned that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration," [Intelligence Chairman Devin] Nunes wrote. "Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate."
Communications

FCC Is Not Complying With Freedom of Information Act Requests, Alleges Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 105

burtosis writes: The FCC is being sued for failure to turn over documents related to "correspondence, e-mails, telephone call logs, calendar entries, meeting agendas," between chairman Ajit or his staff and ISPs. Given the FCCs recent transparency issues, which appear to be directly ignoring the vast majority of feedback from Americans that are pro net neutrality, a nonprofit group called American Oversight is trying to force the real conversations the FCC is holding into public view. They are also asking for any communications with the media, Congress, and congressional staff. Two extensions for missed deadlines have been given, but the third extension was denied on July 24th. The FCC also ignored a FOiA request by Ars for the DDoS attack during the public comment period on net neutrality. With the current administration's attitude toward transparency and catering only to the largest corporate donors, will the American people have any meaningful influence in how the country is run anymore?
Businesses

Tech Leaders Speak Out Against Trump Ban on Transgender Troops (axios.com) 517

Technology executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai took to social media to voice their displeasure over President Donald Trump's latest stance on transgendered people in the military.

"I am grateful to the transgender members of the military for their service," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back."
Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer said, "We honor and respect all who serve, including the transgender members of our military."
Salesforce said it "believes in equality for all. We support and thank all U.S. service members, including transgender Americans."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "Everyone should be able to serve their country -- no matter who they are."
Veteran entrepreneur Max Levchin urged support for transgender people across party lines. "Trans kids, soldiers etc need our support today and to know they are valued & respected regardless of politics. Let us not be divided."
Uber told news outlet Axios, "We owe the deepest debt of gratitude to all those who volunteer to serve in the US Armed Forces and defend our values. These patriotic Americans deserve to be honored and respected, not turned away because of who they are."
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, "Discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us."
Government

Apple-Supplier Foxconn To Announce New Factory in Wisconsin in Much-needed Win For Trump and Scott Walker (washingtonpost.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a Washington Post report: Foxconn, one of the world's largest electronics manufacturers, will unveil plans Wednesday evening to build a new factory in southeastern Wisconsin (alternative source), delivering a much-needed win for President Trump and Gov. Scott Walker, according to four officials with knowledge of the announcement. The facility will make flat-screen displays and will be located in Southeast Wisconsin within House Speaker Paul Ryan's congressional district. It is not clear how many jobs would be created. Shortly after Trump was elected, Foxconn's chairman Terry Gou said his company would invest at least $7 billion in the United States and create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. If it follows through with that commitment, Foxconn would become a major employer on par with Chrysler. In April, Gou spent more than two hours at the White House.
Government

Donald Trump Says US Military Will Not Allow Transgender People To Serve (theguardian.com) 904

Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not allow transgender individuals to serve in the US military in any capacity. From a report: The US president tweeted: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ... transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." He added: "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Trump's decision marks a sharp reversal of a policy initiated under Barack Obama, in which the Pentagon ended a longtime ban on transgender people from serving openly in the military. As a candidate, Trump cast himself as a supporter of LGBT rights and indicated he would uphold certain Obama-era policies designed to protect transgender people.
Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Government

Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary After Objecting To Scaramucci Hire (cnbc.com) 543

CNBC reports: White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Friday after opposing President Donald Trump's appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. The president asked Spicer to stay in his role, but Spicer said appointing Scaramucci was a major mistake, The New York Times, citing a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. NBC News confirmed the resignation with two people familiar with the matter. Spicer tweeted later that he will continue to serve through August. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was said to have advocated naming Spicer as press secretary. The two worked at the Republican National Committee before joining the administration. Following Spicer's resignation, Priebus said he supports Scaramucci "100 percent," according to news reports.

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