Social Networks

Thai Activist Jailed For the Crime of Sharing an Article on Facebook (eff.org) 107

An anonymous reader shares a report: Thai activist Jatuphat "Pai" Boonpattaraksa was sentenced this week to two and a half years in prison -- for the crime of sharing a BBC article on Facebook. The Thai-language article profiled Thailand's new king and, while thousands of users shared it, only Jutaphat was found to violate Thailand's strict lese majeste laws against insulting, defaming, or threatening the monarchy. The sentence comes after Jatuphat has already spent eight months in detention without bail. During this time, Jatuphat has fought additional charges for violating the Thai military junta's ban on political gatherings and for other activism with Dao Din, an anti-coup group. While in trial in military court, Jatuphat also accepted the Gwangzu Prize for Human Rights. When he was arrested last December, Jatuphat was the first person to be charged with lese majeste since the former King Bhumibol passed away and his son Vajiralongkorn took the throne. (He was not, however, the first to receive a sentence -- this past June saw one of the harshest rulings to date, with one man waiting over a year in jail to be sentenced to 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family.) The conviction, which appears to have singled Jatuphat out among thousands of other Facebook users who shared the article, sends a strong message to other activists and netizens: overbroad laws like lese majeste can and will be used to target those who oppose military rule in Thailand.
Patents

'Podcasting Patent' Is Totally Dead, Appeals Court Rules (arstechnica.com) 30

A federal appeals court affirmed the April 2015 inter partes review (IPR) ruling -- a process that allows anyone to challenge a patent's validity at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office -- that invalidated the so-called "podcasting patent." "That process was held by a company called Personal Audio, which had threatened numerous podcasts with lawsuits in recent years," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Back in 2013, Personal Audio began sending legal demand letters to numerous podcasters and companies, like Samsung, in an apparent attempt to cajole them into a licensing deal, lest they be slapped with a lawsuit. Some of those efforts were successful: in August 2014, Adam Carolla paid about $500,000. As Personal Audio began to gain more public attention, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, however, stepped in and said that it would challenge Personal Audio's US Patent No. 8,112,504, which describes a "system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence." In the end, EFF raised over $76,000, more than double its initial target.

[T]he history of Personal Audio dates to the late 1990s, when founder Jim Logan created a company seeking to create a kind of proto-iPod digital music player. But his company flopped. Years later, Logan turned to lawsuits to collect money from those investments. He sued companies over both the "episodic content" patent, as well as a separate patent, which Logan and his lawyers said covered playlists. He and his lawyers wrung verdicts or settlements from Samsung and Apple.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

HP Patents 'Reminder Messages' (eff.org) 68

Daniel Nazer reports via the Electronic Frontier Foundation: On July 25, 2017, the Patent Office issued a patent to HP on reminder messages. Someone needs to remind the Patent Office to look at the real world before issuing patents. United States Patent No. 9,715,680 (the '680 patent) is titled "Reminder messages." While the patent application does suggest some minor tweaks to standard automated reminders, none of these supposed additions deserve patent protection. Although this claim uses some obscure language (like "non-transitory computer-readable storage medium" and "article data"), it describes a quite mundane process. The "article data" is simply additional information associated with an event. For example, "buy a cake" might be included with a birthday reminder. The patent also requires that this extra information be input via a "scanning operation" (e.g. scanning a QR code). The '680 patent comes from an application filed in July 2012. It is supposed to represent a non-obvious advance on technology that existed before that date. Of course, reminder messages were standard many years before the application was filed. And just a few minutes of research reveals that QR codes were already used to encode information for reminder messages. The Patent Office reviewed HP's application for years without ever considering any real-world products. Indeed, the examiner considered only patents and patent applications.
Encryption

Let's Encrypt Criticized Over Speedy HTTPS Certifications (threatpost.com) 207

100 million HTTPS certificates were issued in the last year by Let's Encrypt -- a free certificate authority founded by Mozilla, Cisco and the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- and they're now issuing more than 100,000 HTTPS certificates every day. Should they be performing more vetting? msm1267 shared this article from Kaspersky Lab's ThreatPost blog: [S]ome critics are sounding alarm bells and warning that Let's Encrypt might be guilty of going too far, too fast, and delivering too much of a good thing without the right checks and balances in place. The primary concern has been that while the growth of SSL/TLS encryption is a positive trend, it also offers criminals an easy way to facilitate website spoofing, server impersonation, man-in-the-middle attacks, and a way to sneak malware through company firewalls... Critics do not contend Let's Encrypt is responsible for these types of abuses. Rather, because it is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to issuing basic domain validation certificates, critics believe Let's Encrypt could do a better job vetting applicants to weed out bad actors... "I think there should be some type of vetting process. That would make it more difficult for malicious actors to get them," said Justin Jett, director of audit and compliance at Plixer, a network traffic analytics firm...

Josh Aas, executive director of the Internet Security Research Group, the organization that oversees Let's Encrypt, points out that its role is not to police the internet, rather its mission is to make communications secure. He added that, unlike commercial certificate authorities, it keeps a searchable public database of every single domain it issues. "When people get surprised at the number of PayPal phishing sites and get worked up about it, the reason they know about it is because we allow anyone to search our records," he said. Many other certificate authorities keep their databases of issued certificates private, citing competitive reasons and that customers don't want to broadcast the names of their servers... The reason people treat us like a punching bag is that we are big and we are transparent. "

The criticism intensified after Let's Encrypt announced they'd soon offer wildcard certificates for subdomains. But the article also cites security researcher Scott Helme, who "argued if encryption is to be available to all then that includes the small percent of bad actors. 'I don't think it's for Signal, or Let's Encrypt, to decide who should have access to encryption."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

American ISPS Are Now Fighting State Broadband Privacy Proposals (eff.org) 74

The EFF complains that "the very companies who spent millions of dollars lobbying in D.C. to repeal our federal broadband privacy rights are now fighting state attempts to protect consumers because they supposedly prefer a federal rule." The EFF urges Californians to phone their state senator ahead of a crucial back-to-back committee hearings on Tuesday. An anonymous reader writes: "Congress stole your online privacy. Let's seize it back," begins an email that the EFF is sending to California supporters. It warns that "Big Telecom has massive amounts of money to spend on an army of lobbyists. But if Internet users from across California unite with one voice, we can defeat their misinformation campaign... Don't let the big ISPs coopt our privacy."

The EFF's site points out that more than 83% of Americans support the privacy regulations which were repealed in March by the U.S. Congress, according to a new poll released last week. That's even more than the 77% of Americans who support keeping current net neutrality protections in place, according to the same poll. The EFF now hopes that California's newly-proposed legislation could become a model for privacy-protecting laws in other states. And back in Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News writes that California "has an obligation to take a lead in establishing the basic privacy rights of consumers using the Internet. Beyond being the right thing to do for the whole country, building trust in tech products is an essential long-term business strategy for the industry that was born in this region."

The EFF has also compiled an interesting list of past instances where ISPs have already tried to exploit the personal information of their customers for profit.
DRM

EFF Officially Appeals Tim Berners-Lee Decision On DRM In HTML (techdirt.com) 149

Last week, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) decided to officially recommend the use of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) for protecting copyrighted video on the internet. This will enable web surfers to watch media in a browser that requires Digital Rights Management copy protection without the need for browser-based plugins. "It moves the responsibility for interaction from plugins to the browser," the consortium states at the time. "As such, EME offers a better user experience, bringing greater interoperability, privacy, security, and accessibility to viewing encrypted video on the web." TechDirt shares an update: It's been a foregone conclusion that EME was going to get approved, but there was a smaller fight about whether or not W3C would back a covenant not to sue security and privacy researchers who would be investigating (and sometimes breaking) that encryption. Due to massive pushback from the likes of the MPAA and (unfortunately) Netflix, Tim Berners-Lee rejected this covenant proposal. In response, W3C member EFF has now filed a notice of appeal on the decision. The crux of the appeal is the claimed benefits of EME that Berners-Lee put forth won't actually be benefits without the freedom of security researchers to audit the technology -- and that the wider W3C membership should have been able to vote on the issue. This appeals process has never been used before at the W3C, even though it's officially part of its charter -- so no one's entirely sure what happens next.
Privacy

EFF's Latest Privacy Report Criticizes Amazon and WhatsApp Over Policies That 'Fall Short' (betanews.com) 12

An anonymous reader shares a report: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the latest edition of its "Who has your back" privacy report. This is the seventh report from the digital rights group, and this year it criticizes both WhatsApp and Amazon for having policies that "fall short of other similar technology companies." Four big telecom companies -- AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon -- performed very poorly, while at the other end of the scale Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and WordPress were all praised. In all, the report rates 26 technology companies in five key areas relating to privacy and government data requests: "Follows industry-wide best practices," "Tells users about government data requests," "Promises not to sell out users," "Stands up to NSL gag orders" and "Pro-user public policy: Reform 702." While the report points out that some progress has been made, generally speaking, in the technology world, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon were all awarded a single star out of a possible five. Amazon and WhatsApp both scored just two out of five, leading the Electronic Freedom Foundation to say: "We urge both Amazon and WhatsApp to improve their policies in the coming year so they match the standards of other major online services."
DRM

FSF Sees Hopeful Signs Before Sunday's 'Day Against DRM' (defectivebydesign.org) 124

The Free Software Foundation's anti-DRM initiative "Defective By Design" argues that since last year's annual Day Against DRM, "we've seen cracks appearing in the foundation of the DRM status quo." The companies that profit from Digital Restrictions Management are still trying to expand the system of law and technology that weakens our security and curtails our rights, in an effort to prop up their exploitative business models. But since the last International Day Against DRM, the TPP trade agreement -- a key pro-DRM initiative -- crashed and burned. And our allies at the Electronic Frontier Foundation brought major legal and regulatory challenges against DRM in Washington DC... If we play our cards right, this may be the beginning of the end of DRM.

On Sunday, July 9, 2017, we will channel this momentum into the International Day Against DRM. We'll be gathering, protesting, and making -- showing the world that we insist on a future without Digital Restrictions Management. Will you join us? Here's what you can do now:

They're asking supporters to plan a protest, translate their fliers into more languages, voice support in videos and blog posts, or make endorsements. And you can also join the "DRM Elimination crew" mailing list or their Freenode IRC channel #dbd for year-round conversation and collaboration with the anti-DRM movement -- or simply make a donation to show your support.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

The EFF's 'Let's Encrypt' Plans Wildcard Certificates For Subdomains (letsencrypt.org) 111

Long-time Slashdot reader jawtheshark shares an announcement from the EFF's free, automated, and open TLS certificate authority at LetsEncrypt.org: Let's Encrypt will begin issuing [free] wildcard certificates in January of 2018... A wildcard certificate can secure any number of subdomains of a base domain (e.g. *.example.com). This allows administrators to use a single certificate and key pair for a domain and all of its subdomains, which can make HTTPS deployment significantly easier.
58% of web traffic is now encrypted, Let's Encrypt reports, crediting in part the 47 million domains they've secured since December of 2015. "Our hope is that offering wildcards will help to accelerate the Web's progress towards 100% HTTPS," explains their web page, noting that they're announcing the wild card certificates now in conjunction with a request for donations to support their work.
Businesses

Tim Berners-Lee Approves Web DRM, But W3C Members Have Two Weeks To Appeal (defectivebydesign.org) 137

Reader Atticus Rex writes: A high controversial Web standard has received a seal of approval from Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web and its chief technical decision-maker. Opponents like the Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation say that the standard, Encrypted Media Extensions, is a step backwards for freedom, privacy, and a host of other rights on the Web.

There's still a two-week window in which members of the W3C can appeal the decision, and the Free Software Foundation is asking people to email and encourage them to do so.
Update: The W3C has announced that it would publish its DRM standard with no protections and no compromises at all.
The Internet

NSA 'Traffic Shaping' Can Divert US Internet Traffic For Easier Monitoring (zdnet.com) 78

schwit1 shares an article from ZDNet: A new analysis of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden details a highly classified technique that allows the National Security Agency to "deliberately divert" U.S. internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans. According to the new analysis, the NSA has clandestine means of "diverting portions of the river of internet traffic that travels on global communications cables," which allows it to bypass protections put into place by Congress to prevent domestic surveillance on Americans.

The new findings follow a 2014 paper by researchers Axel Arnbak and Sharon Goldberg, published on sister-site CBS News, which theorized that the NSA, whose job it is to produce intelligence from overseas targets, was using a "traffic shaping" technique to route US internet data overseas so that it could be incidentally collected under the authority of a largely unknown executive order... The research cites several ways the NSA is actively exploiting methods to shape and reroute internet traffic -- many of which are well-known in security and networking circles -- such as hacking into routers or using the simpler, less legally demanding option of forcing major network providers or telecoms firms into cooperating and diverting traffic to a convenient location.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Zillow Drops Complaint Against Blogger After Backlash Over Copyright Claim (geekwire.com) 118

The blog "McMansion Hell" is back up and running days after Zillow threatened the site's creator, Kate Wagner, into taking it down. Zillow's decision to withdraw their complaint came soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced it would defend Wagner pro bono. GeekWire reports: "We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell," a statement from the company said Thursday. "We've had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won't use photos from Zillow moving forward. It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate's freedom of expression. We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners -- the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients' homes."

The Zillow response came in the wake of the week's events and a strongly worded letter to Zillow general counsel Brad Owens on Thursday (PDF here). EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer said, "Our client has no obligation to, and thus will not, comply with Zillow's demands. Zillow's legal threats are not supported and plainly seek to interfere with protected speech." EFF said McMansion Hell was relaunching and no posts would be deleted, but that "in the interests of compromise, and because Wagner no longer wishes to use Zillow's website, she will no longer source photographs from Zillow for her blog."

Businesses

More Than 40 ISPs Across the Country Tell Chairman Pai to Not Repeal Network Neutrality (eff.org) 61

An anonymous reader shares a report: One excuse FCC Chairman Ajit Pai regularly offers to explain his effort to gut net neutrality protections is the claim that open Internet rules have harmed ISPs, especially small ones. During a speech earlier this year, he stressed that 22 small ISPs told him that the 2015 Open Internet Order hurt their ability to invest and deploy. In reality, though, many more ISPs feel very differently. Today, more than 40 ISPs told the FCC that they have had no problem with the Open Internet Order (PDF) and that it hasn't hurt their ability to develop and expand their networks. What is more, that they want the FCC to do its job and address the problem Congress created when it repealed the broadband privacy rules in March.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Launches New AI Progress Measurement Project (eff.org) 48

Reader Peter Eckersley writes: There's a lot of real progress happening in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and also a lot of hype. These technologies already have serious policy implications, and may have more in the future. But what's the ratio of hype to real progress? At EFF, we decided to find out.

Today we are launching a pilot project to measure the progress of AI research. It breaks the field into a taxonomy of subproblems like game playing, reading comprehension, computer vision, and asking neural networks to write computer programs, and tracks progress on metrics across these fields. We're hoping to get feedback and contributions from the machine learning community, with the aim of using this data to improve the conversations around the social implications, transparency, safety, and security of AI.

Printer

Researcher Wants To Protect Whistleblowers Against Hidden Printer Dots (bleepingcomputer.com) 218

An anonymous reader writes: "Gabor Szathmari, a security researcher for CryptoAUSTRALIA, is working on a method of improving the security of leaked documents by removing hidden dots left behind by laser printers, which are usually used to watermark documents and track down leakers," reports Bleeping Computer. "Szathmari's work was inspired by the case of a 25-year-old woman, Reality Leigh Winner, who was recently charged with leaking top-secret NSA documents to a news outlet." According to several researchers, Winner might have been caught after The Intercept had shared some of the leaked documents with the NSA. These documents had the invisible markings left behind by laser printers, which included the printer's serial number and the date and time when the document was printed. This allowed the NSA to track down Winner and arrest her even before she was able to publish the leaked documents. Now, Szatmari has submitted a pull request to the PDF Redact Tools, a project for securely redacting and stripping metadata from documents before publishing. Szathmari's pull request adds a code routine to the PDF Redact Tools project that would allow app operators to convert documents to black and white before publishing. "The black and white conversion will convert colors like the faded yellow dots to white," Szathmari said in an interview. Ironically, the project is managed by First Look Media, the parent company behind The Intercept news outlet.
Mozilla

Amazon, Mozilla, Kickstarter, and Reddit Are Staging a Net Neutrality Online Protest (washingtonpost.com) 70

An anonymous reader shares a report: Some of the Internet's biggest names are banding together for a "day of action" to oppose the Federal Communications Commission (alternative source), which is working to undo regulations for Internet providers that it passed during the Obama administration. Among the participants are Etsy, Kickstarter and Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox Web browser. Also joining the day of protest will be Reddit, the start-up incubator Y Combinator, and Amazon. On July 12, the companies and organizations are expected to change their websites to raise awareness of the FCC effort, which is aimed at deregulating the telecom and cable industries. Mozilla, for example, will change what users see on their screens when they open a new browser window. Other participants include Demand Progress, Etsy, Vimeo, Private Internet Access, Fight for the Future, EFF, DreamHost, Creative Commons, BitTorrent, American Library Association, ACLU, GreenPeace, Open Media, and Patreon. Find more details here.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Sues FBI For Records About Paid Best Buy Geek Squad Informants (eff.org) 147

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the FBI for records "about the extent to which it directs and trains Best Buy employees to conduct warrantless searches of people's devices." The lawsuit stems around an incident in 2011 where a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy's Geek Squad. The repair technician was a paid FBI informant that found child pornography on the doctor's computer, ultimately resulting in the doctor being charged with possessing child pornography. From the EFF's report: A federal prosecution of a doctor in California revealed that the FBI has been working for several years to cultivate informants in Best Buy's national repair facility in Brooks, Kentucky, including reportedly paying eight Geek Squad employees as informants. According to court records in the prosecution of the doctor, Mark Rettenmaier, the scheme would work as follows: Customers with computer problems would take their devices to the Geek Squad for repair. Once Geek Squad employees had the devices, they would surreptitiously search the unallocated storage space on the devices for evidence of suspected child porn images and then report any hits to the FBI for criminal prosecution. Court records show that some Geek Squad employees received $500 or $1,000 payments from the FBI. At no point did the FBI get warrants based on probable cause before Geek Squad informants conducted these searches. Nor are these cases the result of Best Buy employees happening across potential illegal content on a device and alerting authorities. Rather, the FBI was apparently directing Geek Squad workers to conduct fishing expeditions on people's devices to find evidence of criminal activity. Prosecutors would later argue, as they did in Rettenmaier's case, that because private Geek Squad personnel conducted the searches, there was no Fourth Amendment violation. The judge in Rettenmaier's case appeared to agree with prosecutors, ruling earlier this month that because the doctor consented both orally and in writing to the Geek Squad's search of his device, their search did not amount to a Fourth Amendment violation. The court, however, threw out other evidence against Rettenmaier after ruling that FBI agents misstated key facts in the application for a warrant to search his home and smartphone. We disagree with the court's ruling that Rettenmaier consented to a de-facto government search of his devices when he sought Best Buy's help to repair his computer. But the court's ruling demonstrates that law enforcement agents are potentially exploiting legal ambiguity about when private searches become government action that appears intentionally designed to try to avoid the Fourth Amendment.
Transportation

Delta Airlines Tests Facial Recognition To Speed Up Baggage Check-In (cnn.com) 57

Would you let Delta airlines scan your face if it meant you could skip the line to check-in your baggage? An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Delta is testing a face-scanning kiosk for baggage check... It uses facial recognition technology to match your identity to your passport photo. You tag your own bags, pay the fee and drop your luggage on a conveyor belt... Delta will test four of the machines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer. The airline spent $600,000 on the four kiosks.
A senior staff attorney at the EFF warns this could be a slippery slope -- at what point this morphs into airline surveillance? But a Delta spokerspeson insists the images won't be stored, that they're complying with privacy laws, and that the kiosks could double the number of passengers whisking through their check-in procedures.
Communications

FCC Suspends Net Neutrality Comments, As Chairman Pai Mocks 'Mean Tweets' (gizmodo.com) 184

An anonymous reader writes:Thursday the FCC stopped accepting comments as part of long-standing rules "to provide FCC decision-makers with a period of repose during which they can reflect on the upcoming items" before their May 18th meeting. Techdirt wondered if this time to reflect would mean less lobbying from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, but on Friday Pai recorded a Jimmy Kimmel-style video mocking mean tweets, with responses Gizmodo called "appalling" and implying "that anyone who opposes his cash grab for corporations is a moron."

Meanwhile, Wednesday The Consumerist reported the FCC's sole Democrat "is deploying some scorched-earth Microsoft Word table-making to use FCC Chair Ajit Pai's own words against him." (In 2014 Pai wrote "A dispute this fundamental is not for us five, unelected individuals to decide... We should also engage computer scientists, technologists, and other technical experts to tell us how they see the Internet's infrastructure and consumers' online experience evolving.") But Pai seemed to be mostly sticking to friendlier audiences, appearing with conservative podcasters from the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, the AEI think tank and The Daily Beast.

The Verge reports the flood of fake comments opposing Net Neutrality may have used names and addresses from a breach of 1.4 billion personal information records from marketing company River City Media. Reached on Facebook Messenger, one woman whose named was used "said she hadn't submitted any comments, didn't live at that address anymore and didn't even know what net neutrality is, let alone oppose it."

Techdirt adds "If you do still feel the need to comment, the EFF is doing what the FCC itself should do and has set up its own page at DearFCC.org to hold any comments."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Warns Most Of Intel's Chipsets Contain 'A Security Hazard' (eff.org) 158

The EFF is issuing a warning about the "tiny homunculus computer" in most of Intel's chipsets -- the largely-undocumented "Management Engine" which houses more than just the AMT module. An anonymous reader quotes their report: While AMT can be disabled, there is presently no way to disable or limit the Management Engine in general. Intel urgently needs to provide one....vulnerabilities in any of the other modules could be as bad, if not worse, for security. Some of the other modules include hardware-based authentication code and a system for location tracking and remote wiping of laptops for anti-theft purposes... It should be up to hardware owners to decide if this code will be installed in their computers or not. Perhaps most alarmingly, there is also reportedly a DRM module that is actively working against the user's interests, and should never be installed in a Management Engine by default...

While Intel may put a lot of effort into hunting for security bugs, vulnerabilities will inevitably exist, and having them lurking in a highly privileged, low-level component with no OS visibility or reliable logging is a nightmare for defensive cybersecurity. The design choice of putting a secretive, unmodifiable management chip in every computer was terrible, and leaving their customers exposed to these risks without an opt-out is an act of extreme irresponsibility... EFF believes that Intel needs to provide a minimum level of transparency and user control of the Management Engines inside our computers, in order to prevent this cybersecurity disaster from recurring. Unless that happens, we are concerned that it may not be appropriate to use Intel CPUs in many kinds of critical infrastructure systems.

TLDR: "We have reason to fear that the undocumented master controller inside our Intel chips could continue to be a source of serious vulnerabilities in personal computers, servers, and critical cybersecurity and physical infrastructure."

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