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Does Google Truly Invade Your Privacy

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

John McAfee has been polled for his opinion on Google. The good news is he has one, it isn’t positive and he is apparently very pleased to give it up.

McAfee is probably at his best when he is passionate about something, and he is obviously passionate about disliking Google. The video, recorded for telly and put on YouTube by John McAfee, shows our man in passionate privacy protection mode.

It’s called “Stop Endangering Our Humanity Or I’m Coming For You,” and is aimed squarely at Google, a firm that he reckons has obsequiously crept its way into our minds, lives and privacy

The good news is, this is just like Invasion USA, the film with Chuck Norris. Though in this case Russia is Google, the USA remains the same and John McAfee is Chuck Norris.

“There is nothing wrong with creating great products, or even building a large company. Success should be rewarded, and never punished. But when success gives way to pure, venal greed we all suffer. Google has become so large, and so powerful, that their greed now threatens to destroy us all,” says the trailer voiceover video description.

“John McAfee has put Google on notice: change your ways or at least one person will be standing in your way. You don’t want to miss this!”

The video, which is something of a tirade, shows McAfee talking about Sentinel a security cure-all that he says could have a switch that turns off Google spiders and its ability to index, and its ability to exist. He does not mince his words.

The video starts with a voiceover clip from mind-bending “I am not a number” show The Prisoner, which sets the tone. Then McAfee compares Google to smoking cigarettes and says that Google has sacrificed privacy on the altar of Mammon and removed his, and your, human dignity.

“I am seriously ticked off about Google’s lack of conscience,” he says. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that the objections of the world are laid squarely at the doorstep of Google.”

McAfee has also posted a photo to Twitter (above) with the message “Are you ready Google.” In it, his tattooed torso is shirtless and he is wearing a scary mask.

We wouldn’t want to be Google.


Court Grants FBI Right To Continue Secret Surveillance Requests

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The FBI will be allowed to continue sending surveillance orders to tech companies and ban them from disclosing those requests, an appeals court ruled Monday.

Internet company Cloudflare and wireless network operator CREDO Mobile sued the federal government to be allowed to disclose public national security letters they have received. They argued that the letters, which are administrative subpoenas issued by the government to gather information for national security purposes, are unconstitutional because they violate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections.

Critics of national security letters — like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented Cloudflare and CREDO in the case — say they “allow the FBI to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens’ private communications and internet activity without any meaningful oversight or prior judicial review.” Companies that receive national security letters, or NSLs, are subject to gag orders, which means they can’t even disclose they’ve received such orders unless the letters become declassified. And those gag orders last indefinitely.

A three-judge panel on a US court of appeals in San Francisco on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that NSLs can remain secret. In their unanimous ruling, they said the Supreme Court “has concluded that some restrictions on speech are constitutional, provided they survive the appropriate level of scrutiny.”

The law behind national security letters considers that disclosing the orders could result in danger to the national security of the US, interference with an investigation, interference with diplomatic relations; or danger to the life or physical safety of any person, the judges said in their opinion.

“We therefore conclude that the 2015 NSL law is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest, both as to inclusiveness and duration,” the opinion said. “Accordingly, we hold that the nondisclosure requirement … survives strict scrutiny.”

Andrew Crocker, an attorney with EFF, said in a statement that he’s disappointed the court “failed to recognize that the NSL statute violates the free speech rights of technology companies that are required to turn over customer data to the FBI and banned indefinitely from ever publicly discussing the requests.”

He added that NSLs prevent companies from being open with their customers.

“Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit avoided addressing the serious First Amendment problems with NSLs, particularly the fact that they are often left in place permanently,” Crocker said. “We’re considering our options for next steps in challenging this unconstitutional authority.”

The US Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.

FCC Tightens Rules Regarding ‘Robocalls’

July 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

The Federal Communications Commission intends to further attack those unwanted “robocalls” and is looking at ways to help consumers block them.

On Thursday, the commission voted unanimously to evaluate a system that would allow phone companies to check if a number calling you is legit. The goal is to deter unscrupulous companies that make these automated calls from “spoofing,” or using a fake phone number to trick you into answering their calls.

A call authentication system could help improve third-party apps that allow consumers to block these calls. It could also open the door to phone companies that may want to offer a service to block unwanted calls.

The FCC has already been considering rules that would allow phone companies to block robocalls from unassigned numbers or from numbers that don’t exist.

Ridding the world of robocalls entirely is tricky since some legitimate communications are made using automated call technology, such as messages from schools, weather alerts, public utilities or political organizations. Phone companies don’t want to block legitimate calls that consumers want to receive.

The agency also voted to consider how to prevent unwanted calls after a number has been reassigned. There is currently no way for legitimate companies to know if customers who have agreed to receive their marketing calls are still using a particular number. The FCC wants to get public comment on how phone companies should report when a phone number has been reassigned and how the data could be used.

Robocalls are a big nuisance to consumers with an estimated 2.5 billion automated calls being made per month.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said robocalls are a top consumer complaint. “Americans are mad as hell” that they still get these calls in spite of efforts by Congress and the FCC to stop them, he said. The FCC said it gets more than 200,000 complaints each year concerning unwanted calls, and the Federal Trade Commission said it received roughly 5.3 million complaints about telemarketing calls in 2016.

Pai said the FCC’s latest efforts to curb these calls could make a huge difference in the volume of robocalls consumers get.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn,agreed. She said the agency must take a “multi-pronged approach, to address this persistent problem.”

The FCC has also been stepping up its enforcement of illegal robocalls. Separately, it voted 2-1 to fine a New Mexico-based company $2.88 million for making unlawful robocalls. Last month, the FCC fined a Florida resident $120 million for allegedly making almost 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period.

nVidia Jump Into Digital Mining

July 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nvidia hopes to take custom away from its rival AMD by building a chip which is designed for digital currency mining.

 AMD’s new  chips have been taken off the shelves as soon as they arrive because digital currency miners want lots of them to make money.  Nvidia has been doing well off the craze, but AMD is finding it difficult to get enough chips out there and this has caused GPU prices to rocket.

Nvidia wants to release graphics cards specifically designed for cryptocurrency. From a product listing on ASUS’ website: “ASUS Mining P106 is designed for coin mining with high-efficiency components — delivering maximum hash-rate production at minimum cost. ASUS Mining P106 enhances the megahash rate by up to 36 per cent compared cards in the same segment that are not tailored for mining.

The new card is also engineered to be seriously durable, enabling 24/7 operation for uninterrupted coin production.” The ASUS Mining P106 uses an Nvidia chip, according to the specifications page on the website. 

Nvidia, AMD and ASUS have not officially announced the digital currency mining cards, according to their website press pages. It is not certain when the cards will be available for sale. Nvidia is likely making the cards designed for this use so that the surging digital currency demand doesn’t affect its ability to serve the lucrative PC gaming market.


AES Encryption Gets Cracked

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dutch researchers have discovered a way of cracking AES-256 encryption using reasonably cheap gear and wireless tech.

Fox-IT explains that it, and an other company called Riscure, have created a new method for slurping up security that is enabled through proximity and relies on the monitoring of electromagnetic signals in what is known as a side channel attack.

Researchers put together a piece of kit worth less than $200 and were able to wirelessly extract secret AES-256 encryption keys from a distance of one metre. They said that the attack can be carried out by people on all budgets and with all kinds of means.

“The recording hardware can range from extremely high-end radio equipment, down to €20 USB SDRs. We have found that even the cheap USB dongles can be used to attack software implementations!” they said. “This is not a game exclusively for nation states, but also anyone with pocket money and some free time (PDF).”

Usually, such an attack would require direct access and manipulation, but Fox-IT found that it was possible just to swan past the target with a bag of SDR, amplifiers, filters, and an antenna and catch a winner in record time.

“Using this approach only requires us to spend a few seconds guessing the correct value for each byte in turn (256 options per byte, for 32 bytes — so a total of 8192 guesses),” boasts the firm.

“In contrast, a direct brute-force attack on AES-256 would require 2^256 guesses and would not complete before the end of the universe”

The next challenge is distance. Currently, Fox-IT has met reached a goal of 30cm but says that a full meter is a possibility given the right circumstances.

“Our work here has shown a proof of concept for TEMPEST attacks against symmetric crypto such as AES-256. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first public demonstration of such attacks. The low bandwidth requirements have allowed us to perform the attack with surprisingly cheap equipment (€20 radio, modest amplifiers and filters) at significant distances,” it added.

“In practice this setup is well suited to attacking network encryption appliances. Many of these targets perform bulk encryption (possibly with attacker controlled data) and the ciphertext is often easily captured from elsewhere in the network.”


Australia Wants More Access To Encrypted Messages

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Australia has announce that it will seek greater powers to tackle the use of encrypted messaging services used by terrorists and criminals at an upcoming meeting of ministers from the “Five Eyes” intelligence network.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, will meet in the Canadian city of Ottawa next week, where they will discuss tactics to combat terrorism and border protection, two senior Australian ministers said.

Australia has made it clear it wants tech companies to do much more to give intelligence and law enforcement agencies access to encrypted communications.

“I will raise the need to address ongoing challenges posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption,” Australian Attorney General Senator Brandis said in a joint statement.

“These discussions will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to ensure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.”

Tech firms such as Apple and Facebook, which owns encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, have been criticized in the United Kingdom and United States for not doing enough to crackdown on so-called dark spaces where extremists can communicate.

Industry involvement in thwarting the encryption of terrorist messaging will be a priority for Australia at the gathering, Senator Brandis said.

Are Connected Cars On The Rise

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Demand for connected cars has been rising and the type of vehicles is expected to account for 29.1 per cent of overall car shipments in 2017 and by 2035, according to beancounters at Fuji Keizai.

In a new report the analyst think that by 2035 90 per cent of cars shipped will be equipped with Internet connectivity. It is pretty likely, and so far in the future that most people will have forgotten about the prediction by then anyway.

Car vendors have already started pushing Internet of Things (IoT) service system for their vehicles such as Toyota’s T-Connect, BMW’s Connected Drive and Ford’s Car-Net-App-Connect.

Connected cars using embedded communication modules will enjoy better growth than models using tethered-type and other-type of communication modules, the outfit claimed.

A tethered-type communication module requires an external device such as a smartphone to connect to the Internet, while an embedded one can directly connect to the Internet via its built-in Sim card support.

One of the key events for next-generation IoT for cars will be the development 5G networks among communication device and component makers is expected to accelerate in order to satisfy high-speed transmission demand from the new IoT infotainment systems.


AIG, IBM Team Up To Develop ‘Smart’ Insurance Policy

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Insurer American International Group Inc has teamed up with International Business Machines Corp to develop a “smart” insurance policy that uses blockchain to manage complex international coverage, the companies said on Wednesday.

AIG and IBM completed a pilot of a so-called “smart contract” multi-national policy for Standard Chartered Bank PLC which the companies said is the first of its kind using blockchain’s digital ledger technology.

The Standard Chartered policy uses blockchain to facilitate sharing of real-time information for a main policy written in the United Kingdom, where the bank is headquartered, and three local policies in the United States, Singapore and Kenya.

Big banks, investors and other financial institutions have invested millions of dollars in blockchain, hoping it could make transactions faster, easier and more secure.

IBM has been partnering with leading companies in various industries, including Danish transport company Maersk, to create blockchain-based products that can streamline complex international dealings across sectors.

Blockchain technology, which powers the digital currency bitcoin, enables data sharing across a network of individual computers. It has gained worldwide popularity due to its usefulness in recording and keeping track of assets or transactions across all industries.

Multinational insurance coverage is often cumbersome because of a maze of international regulations, paperwork, and payment terms.

“There’s a lot of back and forth and it’s all through email chains going around the world, instead of a centralized system,” Carol Barton, President of AIG Multinational said in an interview.

A master policy is typically issued in the country where a company is headquartered, while affiliates often need coverage in other countries that impose varying rules, documentation, and payment terms.

The real-time system allows companies, their units, and insurers, among others, to simultaneously share all data and documents about the policies, the companies said. It also notifies all of those involved about payments.

The territories selected for Standard Chartered’s coverage each introduced a level of complexity for testing the technology, IBM said. For example, a Kenya regulation, known as “cash before cover,” requires policyholders to pay for their coverage before it is valid.

Microsoft Continues Windows XP Patches Over ‘WannaCry’ Concerns

June 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is following May’s unprecedented release of security updates for expired operating systems, including Windows XP, by issuing another dozen patches for the aged OS.

The Redmond, Wash. company cited fears of possible attacks by “nation-states,” a label for government-sponsored hackers or foreign intelligence services, for the updates’ release. “In reviewing the updates for this month, some vulnerabilities were identified that pose elevated risk of cyberattacks by government organizations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors, or other copycat organizations,” said Adrianne Hall, general manager, issues and crisis management, for Microsoft.

The updates for Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003 — which were retired from support in April 2014, June 2016, and July 2015, respectively — made it two months running that Microsoft has delivered fixes for bugs in obsolete software.

In May, Microsoft broke with policy and practice by offering patches to protect the same trio of operating system versions from the fast-spreading “WannaCry” ransomware campaign. This month’s move was taken for a reason less concrete.

“As part of our regular Update Tuesday schedule, we have taken action to provide additional critical security updates to address vulnerabilities that are at [heightened] risk of exploitation due to past nation-state activity and disclosures,” wrote Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), in a post to a company blog.

Hall was somewhat more explicit. “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision [to issue updates for older versions] because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt,” she wrote in a separate post to a company blog. Hall also noted that the additional updates were distributed to all versions of Windows, not just those previously retired.

Microsoft tagged last month’s malware as “WannaCrypt;” most settled on the alternate “WannaCry” as the name.

Although owners of unmanaged Windows XP and Windows 8 systems must manually retrieve the updates from Microsoft’s download website or the cumbersome Update Catalog, enterprises and organizations using WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) or another patch management platform can automate the downloading and installation of the older editions’ updates as if they were for editions still in support.

U.S. Congress Working On Federal Legislation For Self-driving Cars

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Congress is developing national self-driving vehicle legislation that may replace state-by state rules and make it easier for automakers to test and deploy the technology, senior U.S. House and Senate lawmakers told Reuters on Tuesday.

The chairman of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee said he planned to unveil a package of legislation to overhaul federal rules governing self-driving vehicles.

“We’re getting very close. I think it’s a good package. We’ve put a lot of work into it,” Representative Greg Walden of Oregon said in an interview, adding that there was “good bipartisan agreeement” and he hoped to unveil and take up the package in the next month or two.

Senator John Thune, a Republican who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, is also working on a legislative self-driving proposal with Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat. “We’re not there yet but we are getting closer,” Thune said.

Thune and Walden spoke to Reuters on Tuesday after getting a ride in a self-driving Audi, a unit of Volkswagen AG.

Companies such as Alphabet Inc and Ford Motor Co are aggressively pursuing automated technologies and want unified federal regulations to replace outdated rules and make it simpler to develop and eventually sell the technology across the country.

This spring, Republican staff drafted a summary of 16 potential legislative proposals on federal reforms and regulations that they circulated to automakers and which was seen by Reuters.

Among proposals under consideration is one to allow the U.S. Transportation Department to exempt up to 100,000 autonomous vehicles from current safety standards, which were written on the assumption responsibility for a car’s operation rested with the human driver.

The existing motor vehicle safety standards bar the sale of vehicles without steering wheels and gas pedals, for example. Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit has called for those rules be changed.

Another proposal would prohibit a state from restricting testing by a manufacturer of up to 250 vehicles and comes as automakers have sparred with California over revisions to its self-driving car testing rules.

Thune said he planned to hold a hearing on June 14 about self-driving car issues but did not put a specific timetable on introducing legislation. He said he wanted to avoid a “patchwork” of regulations from 50 different states on self-driving cars and look at cybersecurity and other issues.

“The key thing is to make sure we stay in the lead on the innovation that there aren’t unnecessary roadblocks in the way, balancing that with safety,” Walden said.

On Monday, the U.S. Transportation Department said it would unveil revised self-driving guidelines within the next few months, responding to automakers’ calls for regulations to sanction costly efforts to put autonomous vehicles on the road.

The voluntary guidelines would provide direction to states on self-driving cars as Congress works to set more permanent rules to oversee autonomous vehicles. But legislation might not be approved this year and states and automakers are eager for guidance from regulators in the interim.

Vehicle crashes annually kill more than 35,000 people on U.S. roads and injure 2.4 million.

Walden said the goal was to get self-driving cars on the roads in big numbers so in a generation people would say: “‘What a bunch of barbarians – they drove themselves? Are you kidding me? And look at how many died every year and they thought that was acceptable?'”

Dish Network Ordered To Pay $280 For ‘Robocall’ Violations

June 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

US District Judge Sue Myerscough for the Central Illinois District ordered the satellite television provider to pay $168 million to the US government and $112 million to four states for running afoul of laws regarding the national Do Not Call registry. The number of calls amounted to “millions and millions,” Myerscough wrote in her 475-page ruling.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that the pressure needs to be maintained to keep Dish’s marketing personnel from reverting to their practice of trying to get around the rules,” Myerscough wrote.

The Federal Trade Commission sued Dish in 2009, alleging the company’s “robocalls,” or automated messages, violated the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule. The agency’s complaint was filed jointly with attorneys general from California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Dish didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but told Reuters in a statement it “respectfully disagrees with today’s decision by the Court,” and said that it will appeal the ruling. Dish added that the penalties “radically and unjustly exceed, by orders of magnitude, those found in the settlements in similar actions.”

Myerscough said in her decision that the award was “not onerous,” amounting to about one-fifth of Dish’s 2016 after-tax profits.

The judge also ruled that Dish should create a long-term plan to ensure its compliance with the Do Not Call laws.

Flying Car Maker Aims For 2020 Tokyo Olympics Debut

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Engineers, known for collaborating with Toyota Motor Corp, demonstrated their flying car on Saturday, which they hope will be able to light up the Olympic flame for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

“Cartivator”, a start-up group of about 30 engineers including some young Toyota employees, started to develop a flying car “SkyDrive” in 2014 with the help of crowdfunding.

Head of Cartivator, Tsubasa Nakamura, said that while the car was still at an early stage of development, the group expects to conduct the first manned-flight by the end of 2018.

During their demonstration, the current test model was able to get off and float on the ground for a few seconds. Nakamura said the design needed more stability so the prototype would be able to fly long and high enough to reach the Olympic flame.

Engineers of Cartivator are aiming to make their flying car the world’s smallest electric vehicle, which can be used in small urban areas, and hopes to commercialize the car in 2025.

Last month, Toyota Motor and its group of companies agreed to invest 42.5 million yen ($385,000) in the project for the next three years. Nakamura said the group is working hard to improve the design, hoping to receive further investment from the company.

Companies in the world have been competing to develop the first flying car or vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles. Uber Technologies Inc announced its plan to deploy its flying taxi service by 2020 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai. Airbus Group is also working on developing its flying car under its division called Urban Air Mobility.

But makers of “flying cars” still face hurdles, including convincing regulators and the public that their products can be used safely. Governments are still grappling with regulations for drones and driverless cars.

Netflix Suddenly Not So Supportive Of Net Neutrality

June 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Netflix is willing to concede defeat when it comes to the war over net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission want to end the rules governing an open internet that were put in place under the Obama administration. While Netflix has been a vocal proponent of the rules in the past, CEO Reed Hastings said it isn’t his company’s fight anymore.

“We’re big enough to get the deals we want,” he said during Recode’s Code Conference.

Netflix once stood alongside internet giants like Google, consumer advocates and Democrats in pushing for harder rules that ensured internet providers treated traffic equally. Republicans, pro-business advocates and companies like Comcast and Verizon argue the rules are too onerous and stifle innovation and investment.

One concern over prioritizing traffic was the idea that smaller players wouldn’t be able to compete against larger companies who could afford priority access. That’s no longer the case with Netflix, which is one of the largest drivers of video traffic on the internet.

It’s an issue that would have been more important to “the Netflix of 10 years ago,” he said.

Netflix, which was founded in 1997, now has about 93 million subscribers across 190 countries, watching about 1 billion hours of video a week. Whereas Netflix once focused on mailing DVDs to subscribers, the company’s branched out over the years, getting into streaming and producing original content through Netflix Originals. The price tag for creating new content in 2017 is about $6 billion, according to the company’s first quarter earnings report.

Hastings said Netflix is still supportive of other companies fighting against the net neutrality rollback— and that in a sense, it’s their turn to do so.

Plus, all that battling might be for naught.

“I think Trump’s FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what happens,” Hastings said. He also expressed some optimism that perhaps internet providers will continue to play fair, even if there are no longer regulations in place.

China Defends Controversial New Cyber Security Law

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China’s top cyber authority is pushing back on claims that it is targeting foreign firms with a controversial national cyber law set to come into effect today.

More than 50 overseas companies and business groups have lobbied against the law, which includes stringent data storage and surveillance requirements.

“The purpose is to safeguard [China’s] national cyberspace sovereignty and national security… rather than to restrict foreign enterprises,” the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement on its website.

The law, which was passed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament in November, requires local and overseas firms to submit to security checks and store user data within the country. Business groups argue the regulations are vague, and leave foreign firms vulnerable to abstract interpretations of the law.

Earlier this month Reuters reported that the CAC met foreign business groups in a closed-door meeting to try to allay fears over the law and discuss an 18-month phase-in of the regulations, according to attendees.

The notice on Wednesday made no mention of a phase-in period. It added that the law is not designed to hinder international trade or the flow of data across the Chinese border.

Mandatory reviews of outbound data have been a particular point of contention for foreign groups, which say the rules are more restrictive than regulations in other markets.

China maintains a strict censorship regime, banning access to foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including Google and Facebook.

China To Adopt Controversial Cyber Security Law

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

China, fighting growing threats from cyber-terrorism and hacking, will adopt a controversial law that mandates strict data surveillance and storage for firms working in the country, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The law, passed in November by the country’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, bans online service providers from collecting and selling users’ personal information, and gives users the right to have their information deleted, in cases of abuse.

“Those who violate the provisions and infringe on personal information will face hefty fines,” the news agency said, without elaborating.

Reuters reported this month that overseas business groups were pushing Chinese regulators to delay implementation of the law, saying the rules would severely hurt activities.

Until now, China’s data industry has had no overarching data protection framework, being governed instead by loosely defined laws.

However, overseas critics say the new law threatens to shut foreign technology companies out of sectors the country deems “critical”, and includes contentious requirements for security reviews and data stored on servers in China.

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