CERN Releases 300TB of LHC Data to the World

Do you remember the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) run by CERN? The device that people feared would create a black hole? In a move that’s rarely done, the organisation has now released terabytes of data onto the web for everyone to use.

The large release is explained by Kati Lassila-Perini, a physicist working on the Compact Muon Solenoid detector, who explained the data release simply by saying “Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly”. That simple, they’ve done what they can with the data and they want to see what others can do, hoping that it can benefit others by “inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow”.

If you want to view the data it’s easy enough to get your hands on from here, but CERN has also provided a bunch of tools to help you analyse the data (both raw data from the detectors within the LHC and the datasets they created). Not stopping there they’ve even provided a custom CERN Linux environment ready for use on a virtual machine, alongside scripts and apps that you can find on Github.

While the data is from 2011, that doesn’t stop it being amazing information that normally you could only read in press releases and journals. So who is going to study the universe and particles this weekend?

Congressman Wants Longstanding Mobile Security Flaw Investigated

When it comes to our technology, we like to think there might be a hint of privacy in their use. Signaling System 7 is a set of protocols used to help route data, messages, and even phone calls through mobile networks but the problem is that such a widely used system is actually flawed. This flaw led to Ted Lieu, a congressman for  the state of California, calling for an investigation into the longstanding mobile security flaw after it was demonstrated to him by a group of hackers based in Germany.

The mobile security flaw was demonstrated on 60 minutes by german security researcher Karsten Nohl, with it initially being revealed all the way back in 2014. Nohl managed to use the exploit after knowing nothing more than just the congressman’s phone number. With just their number Nohl stated that they could track people’s locations, read their texts and even what was said in their phone calls.

Lieu is coming hard at those who might have known about this issue, saying that any government employee that knew about the SS7 problem should be fired because “this affects so much of daily life to your personal phone”. With everyone using their mobile phones people don’t protect them, often being lulled into a false sense of security and risking their personal lives and data on a daily basis.

Uber Shared Data on 13 Million Users With US Government

The Uber mobile application which allows smart phone users to travel to another location by an accredited driver has revolutionized transport and caused a great deal of anger from taxi drivers. These people feel they can’t earn a living due to the huge taxi license expense and lower fees consumers face when using Uber. Clearly, Uber has modernized the taxi system for the interconnected world and offered consumers an additional choice. Recently, the company publicly released a transparency report which discloses how much information is shared with authorities. The data shows Uber shared information on 13 million users including passengers and drivers with the US government. The majority of these requests stem from U.S. transportation regulators. Once the findings were unveiled, Uber released a statement on their thoughts about data requests which reads:

“Regulators will always need some amount of data to be effective, just like law enforcement. But in many cases they send blanket requests without explaining why the information is needed, or how it will be used,”

“And while this kind of trip data doesn’t include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior—and is more than regulators need to do their jobs.”

“We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances,”

Rightfully so, Uber believes the huge scale of these requests isn’t right and it does seem like interference from government bodies. Personal information should be protected if you’re using a commercial service. There’s no reason for the government to get involved and it looks like all they want to do is monitor the behaviour of its citizens. Hopefully, transparency reports like this can help raise the issue of privacy and how many requests are made by government authorities.

Microsoft Is Suing The US Government Over Cloud Data Searches

Microsoft is but one of many technology firms that have recently moved their focus from internal hard drives to the cloud, allowing people to access their data from anywhere in the world given the right details. The problem is other people also have access to this information, both legally and illegally and Microsoft is suing the US government over their attempts to force companies to remain quiet on the matter.

Microsoft has now filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department stating that it’s not just wrong but it’s “unconstitutional” that companies should be forced to remain silent when they are asked to hand over any data you might store in the cloud. In their complaint, Microsoft says that section 2705(b) of the Electronics Communications Privacy Act “sweeps too broadly” and effectively gives the government the power to gag companies, regardless of the reasons they are investigating someone. Microsoft even went so far as to name the number of secrecy orders they’d received in the past 18 months, a huge number sitting at almost 2,600.

The best part of almost 2.6 thousand secrecy orders, was that over two-thirds would never run out thanks to them containing “no fixed end date”. The end result is clear, Microsoft wants section 2705(b) ruled as unconstitutional and removed, a judgment that would affect every technology company based on the internet these days thanks to the broad range of uses that the cloud is utilized for.

Recently Reddit removed their Warrant canary, giving users a legal warning that the government had requested access to at least some of their information (possibly). While other companies, such as Apple has been arguing with the FBI over who and where the line should be drawn for gaining access to devices and the steps they can make companies provide to open the door for them.

Telstra Tested Its Mobile Internet With Terabytes of Downloads

When it comes to the internet, people in Australia are often plagued with bad internet. When they debuted in the speed index almost a year ago now, Australia was placed 18 out of 29 countries. Then back in February mobile internet provider, Telstra offered a day of free internet to say sorry for an outage, resulting in terabytes of downloads and the internet within Australia being affected all over. Now to prove their network can handle it they offered another free data day, and this time, Telstra’s customers met the demand with terabytes of downloads.

When we say terabytes of downloads, we mean quite a few. 2686 terabytes were downloaded, equating to 3.4 million HD movies, and some people took advantage of the deal more than offers. Sydney resident John Szaszvari downloaded a staggering 994GB from his LG G4 Wi-Fi hotspot, reaching download speeds of up to 180Mbps. While downloading Szaszvari also made sure to upload and back up photos, files and videos to the cloud, a clever use of the free data day.

Chief Operations officer Kate McKenzie took notice of this and decided that it actually equates to 40 years worth of a typical users downloads. So what did he download? 24 seasons of the Simpsons, 14 seasons of MythBusters, a “lot of random other stuff” and finished it off with the COMPLETE Wikipedia database.

With Telstra having issues and offering free data days as their way of apologising for the lack of calls or online access but with the data days showing that their network can hold up to the demand (even with some slowing thanks to certain people managing to push the boundaries of downloads), I think their reputation is starting to recover.

Oculus Rift Terms And Conditions Allow Facebook to Deploy Targeted Adverts

Virtual reality headsets have the potential to revolutionize the way we enjoy various entertainment forms and even help train apprentices to learn new skills in a more practical manner. This year has already been significant for developing VR technology and bringing it the consumer market. However, the early adopter pricing for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are well out of the reach of most users. Despite this, VR technology allows developers to start making unique games and there should be a fantastic library when devices become more affordable. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus raised some questions about the headset’s target audience and possible emergence of social media advertising.

The Oculus Rift’s terms and conditions contains a number of interesting clauses about user data. According to The Guardian, Facebook is able to collect:

“Information about your physical movements and dimensions when you use a virtual reality headset”,

Facebook also added:

“We use the information we collect to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our Services,” “We also use this information to measure how users respond to our marketing efforts.”

This means Facebook can use location data to monitor your position and collect information on how you use the Oculus Rift. More worryingly, the terms clearly state that your personal information can be passed onto “related companies”. This refers to other parts of the Facebook brand such as WhatsApp. Consumers concerned about their privacy will find these terms rather intrusive and might be enough to deter them from making a purchase. Facebook’s ability to use the data for advertising purposes isn’t ideal and something which many people anticipated when the company took the helm. Admittedly, it’s fairly common for companies to outline similar data gathering policies but this doesn’t make it acceptable.

Are you concerned by the Oculus Rift’s terms or feel they are being blown out of proportion?

To Play With The Oculus Rift You Pay With Your Privacy

We all love the idea of virtual reality and augmented reality, the idea that technology can send us to the deepest parts of the earth or the farthest reaches of space inspires us to enjoy things we will never get to do in the real world, all from the comfort of our sitting rooms. The question is how much we are willing to give in exchange for this “freedom”, with the enjoyment the Oculus Rift requiring you to pay with your privacy.

What do we mean by “pay with your privacy”? When you first install the software required to run the Rift on your PC a process called “OVRServer_x64.exe” is created, something normal given that it detects when the Rift is connected, on your Facebook and actually turned on. If you check the Privacy Policy (something we all know, including the companies that write them, is rarely checked) there are a few other things that the process can do.

The full section regarding “information collected about you when you use our services” states:

Information Automatically Collected About You When You Use Our Services. We also collect information automatically when you use our Services. Depending on how you access and use our Services, we may collect information such as:

  • Information about your interactions with our Services, like information about the games, content, apps or other experiences you interact with, and information collected in or through cookies, local storage, pixels, and similar technologies (additional information about these technologies is available at https://www.oculus.com/en-us/cookies-pixels-and-other-technologies/);
  • Information about how you access our Services, including information about the type of device you’re using (such as a headset, PC, or mobile device), your browser or operating system, your Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, and certain device identifiers that may be unique to your device;
  • Information about the games, content, or other apps installed on your device or provided through our Services, including from third parties;
  • Location information, which can be derived from information such as your device’s IP address. If you’re using a mobile device, we may collect information about the device’s precise location, which is derived from sources such as the device’s GPS signal and information about nearby WiFi networks and cell towers; and
  • Information about your physical movements and dimensions when you use a virtual reality headset.

Worrying parts about this is the mention of “pixels” in the first section, stating that they could find out what you are viewing and even go so far as to take a copy of your interaction. Full information about the games and everything you install are also fair and open to them with information going so far as your physical movements and dimensions being tracked as well, these seem a little bit further than just idle curiosity.

The policy continues to state how this information is used, with one section clarifying their marketing approach with this information:

To market to you. We use the information we collect to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our Services. We also use this information to measure how users respond to our marketing efforts.

With Oculus now in partnership with Facebook, a move that raised concerns when it was first announced, people were concerned about privacy and tracking, something these conditions seems to allow. Going further the agreement states that “third parties may also collect information about you through the Services”, meaning that the agreement doesn’t limit but, in fact, allows apps to be created on the basis of tracking and monitoring your actions.

Thanks to Woofington over at Reddit who spotted this, if you’re interested in finding out how deep this goes you can read the full privacy policy here.

T-Mobile Could Launch Data Only Plans This Month

T-Mobile is known for their data options, with their video on demand service, named Binge, offering people the chance to watch as much Netflix and video streaming sites as they could wish for (if the service has agreed to partner up on as one of Binge supporters). This was until it was revealed that the service was, in fact, throttling other video sites that weren’t on the Binge service. Now it would seem that they want to give you just the data in a new data only plans.

TmoNews managed to obtain a document that seems to reveal the option for Simple Choice Data Only plans, offering people the choice of mobile options without having to pay for the minutes , instead opting to use VoIP (voice over IP) systems like Skype.

The listed release date for the data only bundles is the 30th March, offering the service to GSM devices only (although as a standard this should cover most phones). In addition to the data you receive all of the bundles will also include unlimited texting, giving you the ability to lose the minutes that are rarely used for even more YouTube and Facebook time.

With more and more people using systems like Skype to communicate instead of traditional phone networks, could we see data only plans become an option across the board for mobile providers?

Former CIA Director Thinks EU “Gets in the Way” of Security Services

Security is a big issue with companies and governments alike having issues raised when it comes to people’s data. With the UK soon to take part in a referendum, the EU is at the heart of debates about security, both digital and physical. It would seem that some think the EU doesn’t quite help security services.

Retired General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, seems to think that the EU wasn’t “a natural contributor to national security”. The EU proposed late last year a set of guidelines for its member countries to follow in cybersecurity, with specialist teams designed to help track and address issues, countries would be expected to share information and help each other learn about the new threat that can be found in the digital world.Digital

Digital security became a big topic when Edward Snowden revealed the extent that the US government (and other governments around the world, including the UK) monitored and tracked people’s information. Europe is currently debating how the new data sharing policy it has with the US should look like, a decision that will change how much information both Europe and America will be allowed to store, save and access.

Mr. De Backer of the Belgian Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe has stated that members of the EU need to forget the “old concept of sovereignty” and understand that sharing information and pooling resources could only be beneficial to security services, something that is all too true for global systems like the internet.

Netflix Admits It’s Been Throttling Video for Mobile Streamers for Years

People have always been wary of companies when it comes to mobile data, with rumours T-Mobile was throttling connections for videos that weren’t signed up for their binge service. This seems to be common practise though with Netflix coming out and admitting that it’s been throttling connections for years.

Mobile data is a big topic these days, with more and more people using their phones to connect and browse the web while on the go. These matters only get bigger when people begin watching movies or streaming shows on the morning commute to work.

With companies like Netflix accounting for 35% of internet traffic, you can’t help but feel like they have a responsibility to help people out avoid the large charges that companies place on data use. Netflix admits that it has been throttling streams at 600 Kbps for mobile services, that is unless you are with Sprint and T-Mobile who Netflix state “historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies”.

AT&T weren’t overly happy, releasing the following statement:

“We’re outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent,” said Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs.”

To be fair to the company, Netflix is looking at becoming more data efficient, including the re-encoding of re-encoding of its entire media library entire media library in order to help shave off those extra Kbps that will cost you. If you think this is something new, the company stated that it has been doing this for more than 5 years in order to “protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps”.

No matter what you think of the company, no one seems to have noticed it before (can’t have been that big a deal could it?) and they were doing it for the right reasons so I don’t see how Netflix has done anything wrong other than not inform people before regarding the process.

Verizon Enterprise Breach Leads to 1.5 Million Customers Records Up For Sale

It’s not been a good year for Verizon. Earlier this month we reported on the fact that the company had been fined by the FCC for “supercookie” tracking, and now it would seem that Verizon Enterprise has been breached resulting in 1.5 million customer records being put up for sale.

The revelation comes as a seller has begun advertising the sale of a database with information for 1.5 million customers of Verizon entertainment, all being offered for the price of $100,000. If you feel like that is a little much you can buy 100,000 records for just $10,000. The thread also contains the option to buy information about security vulnerabilities in Verizon’s website, leading people to question just how safe their data is.

In response, Verizon stated that they had “recently discovered and remediated a security on our enterprise client portal”. Regarding the data itself they state that “an attacked obtained basic contact information on a number of our enterprise customers”.

This would appear to authenticate that the data is real although it may not be as juicy and chock filled with information as some might hope it is. This only looks bad for Verizon Enterprise as they are the ones commonly finding flaws and reporting on breaches like these every year. If you were wondering just how much that could have an impact on people, Verizon’s Enterprise client list includes 99% of Fortune 500 companies.

Scientists Use Fibre Optic Cable to Transmit 57Gbps

How fast is your internet? 1Mbps? 10Mbps? Are you lucky enough to get a 1Gbps? With governments all over the world now racing to deliver the best internet to everyone, the speed of your internet is quickly becoming a topic of hot debate. For those with speed hate, I am sorry. It would now seem that it is possible to transmit 57Gbps down a fibre optic cable. Sorry.

I apologise because like many I am someone who has been promised great speeds, but more often than not you find those speeds don’t seem to exist and you can almost hear that digital bleeping from dial-up coming to haunt you as you call it a night, letting your movie buff or your game download.

Researchers from the University of Illinois have pushed fibre optic technology to a new level by transmitting 57 gigabytes of data per second through a fibre optic cable, a whole 17 Gbps extra compared to those reported last year. What’s better about this you ask? The speed was achieved with no errors and then to prove the point they went and send 50Gbps while at temperatures of 85 degrees celsius.

The reason the temperature is important is because electrical components get warm over time (like the bottom of the laptop you’ve had resting on your lap while watching Netflix in bed), which can lead to reduced performance and damaged components. The team behind the idea hope that by showing that these speeds are available from room temperature to 85 degrees, companies will have no reason to push these systems out to the public.

You can read the paper that’s been published on the experiments here and begin to imagine how many games you could delete and download at 50 Gbps. So many games.

Anonymous Leak Trumps “Private” Data

Donald Trump is listed as one of the favourites for winning the run for president this year and while some are behind him others are strongly against his actions. With violence erupting at his rally’s and his claims about “closing up the internet“, some are worried about the steps he may take if he gets into the seat of power. Some of those people are leaders of companies like Apple, Alphabet and even Tesla, it would even seem that Anonymous aren’t too keen on the guy as they leak Trumps “private” data online in an act dox the presidential candidate.

Doxxing is the act of releasing someone’s private data online, often reserved for celebrities and those who then go on and SWAT streamers. As part of their ongoing operation against Donald Trumps presidential campaign, OpWhiteRose, Anonymous have leaked personal information about the presidential candidate, including phone numbers, addresses and even his social security number. Included in the release are details of Trumps personal agents and legal representatives, a move that is sure to attract attention (either positive or negative).

This seems to be the start of something bigger with Anonymous declaring “total war” on the presidential candidate while promising future attacks in April. In early March, the group released voicemail messages from back in 2012 which showed several media groups supporting the billionaire.

With a large group like Anonymous asking for support from everyone who is willing in front of a computer, the group seems to be pushing hard against the candidate who has not only had his details revealed but also had Trump Towers website taken down, alongside a petition within the UK to ban Trump’s entry after his continuous use of “hate speech”.

With the operation seeming to only gain momentum and big actions promised in April, the next stage from Anonymous could see even more damaging information revealed and handicaps placed on Trump’s digital platform for the presidency.

Ads Could Account For More Than 50% Of Your Mobile Data Usage

So you’ve got a free minute and decide to read some news on your phone, but you’ve got no wi-fi so load up your mobile data roaming. A few minutes later you close down your browser after reading two maybe three articles, but there is one thing you don’t know about all that data you just used. The scary fact being those ads could account for well over 50% of the mobile data you just used.

In what was described as a “small-scale” study, a group explored six “popular publishers”, with the intention of finding out just how much data you use on your phone when it comes to online advertisements.

The results are shocking, to say the least. When comparing visits to the site, both with and without an ad blocker, the group found that somewhere between 18% and 79% of the data downloaded for the pages accounted to ads. If that surprises you, maybe knowing that anywhere between 6% and 68% of that came from JavaScript providing interactive elements.

With mobile provider Three blocking adverts at a network level you can see why if pages are swarmed with ad’s that do nothing but eat up your data.

Do you use an adblocker? If so what made you first start using it and are there sites that you don’t block ads to? Do you have rules for when to block a site and when you want to give them their revenue from adverts. I, for example, block any site that decides to play video adverts. I didn’t come to watch them and I don’t want to search a page to click pause only to have it load a new one a few seconds later. Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Internet Service Providers Can’t Use Targeted Adverts Without Customers Permission

When you go online, you will often find yourself surrounded by targeted adverts that seem to want you browsing every site and buying every product on the planet. More often than not you will find that these products and sites somehow know about what you’ve been looking at. Targeted adverts have long been the pain of many people, with information about you being used in selling you everything under the sun. This may change though with Internet Service Providers being told they can’t target ads without customers permission in recent legislation.

ISP’s are the central point for all your internet traffic, with everything you do online going through their systems. From your location in the world to the very content of your websites (including medical or financial details). While the new legislation, targeted adverts wouldn’t be illegal but instead the data used to create them would be more heavily controlled, not by the companies but by the people the data is about.

AT&T currently do this, offering a $29 discount per month if their customers agree to data collection and targeted ads. With the Federal Communications Commission looking to hear the public’s opinion about being charged for not opting into targeted ads, you may get a little bit of control back over your details.

DOJ Appealing Order Found in Favor of Apple

Apple is everywhere in the news these days. From the rumoured features of their next generation of phones to the courtrooms. In a case that recently came to light in New York, the judge ruled that Apple could not be forced to unlock an iPhone by the All Writs Act. This didn’t sit well with the DOJ who are now appealing the order.

The case in New York features another iPhone, again locked by a passcode. Repeatedly trying different passcode risks the data on the phone, thanks to a security measure put in place that states when you fail to put in the passcode 10 times, it will erase the phone. With so many combinations, the FBI are looking to enlist Apple’s help to type in passcodes through software, without the data being erased.

I say looking to enlist, but the act used (the All Writs Act) has been deemed as some as an order from a judge where no legal precedent is available for the request. A judge in New York recently ruled that Apple couldn’t be forced to remove these settings or extract the data by use of the All Writs Act.

The DOJ don’t seem happy though with this ruling, asking the court to review the decision by the Magistrate Judge, with the hopes that they can get the iPhone unlocked and the continued in a similar fashion to the one currently taking place in California.

Microsoft Supports Apple in FBI Encryption Case

Speaking at a hearing today, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith announced that the company ‘wholeheartedly’ support one of their competitors, Apple in the long-running case between Apple and the FBI.

In case you’ve not heard about the ongoing battle, the FBI have ordered Apple to remove the security blocks that the tech giant has put into place on their devices in order for the FBI to be able to access it.

This has all been sparked by the incident where Farook Malik and his wife, Tashfeen killed 14 people in an attack last year. The FBI want access to the encrypted iPhone as it may have evidence to support the investigation.

Apple spoke at today’s hearing The Verge told us, Smith used an adding machine made in 1912 when the law was passed.

“We do not believe that courts should seek to resolve issues of 21st century technology with a law that was written in the era of the adding machine,”

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook spoke out too, he said that the decision to refuse the FBI was hard, but he feels that it was the correct thing to do.

The FBI has argued that Apple is overstating the security risk to its devices. FBI Director James Comey said Apple had the technical know-how to break into Farook’s device only in a way that did not create a so-called “backdoor” into every Apple device.

The law that has been used in this case is the All Writs act of 1789, of which the Department of Justice has used twice against Apple to open a smartphone. Both cases are still open. The law itself is very brief and broad.

“The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

The act is one of last resort. All other avenues have to be exhausted before the All Writs Act can be invoked.

Apple Would Have Given Government Data But Someone Changed The Passcode

It seems like every time I look at the news another company has put in their chips on the Apple vs FBI discussion. From being told to allow the FBI access, to finding a way to give them access, Apple made it clear that they want to avoid removing protection on a phone as it could set a “dangerous precedent” for the industry. Even the White house has stepped forward to try to clarify that it didn’t want a “backdoor”, but Apple wants to help the government without risking their iPhones. That help may have come a little too late, though.

The Department of Justice filed a motion stating that Apple has to comply with the FBI’s request to access the phone, even if that means bypassing the phone’s passcode. The problem being is that Apple offered them an alternative, that they now can’t make use of. Apple offered suggestions including triggering an automatic backup by plugging the phone in and connecting to known wifi, meaning it would then back up to the iCloud, a place where Apple can provide them with the data they are so keen to gain access to.

When the government stated that the automatic backups weren’t working, it was discovered, as listed in the motion, that a county employee in San Bernardino changed the ID passcode online after the shooting incident. San Bernardino county are the owners of the iPhone in question, having given it to Farook as one of their employees. The problem being that the reset occurred hours after the attack Farook was responsible for, raising the question of whom reset the passcode.

With Apple looking to help the government they are definitely appearing as the good guys, and with the news that the Government is already looking at ways to bypass encryption the fact that they are requesting the modification of the iOS to gain access seems to ring more than a few warning bells for companies and users alike.

Free Data Day Went Bad for Mobile Carrier

People use their mobile phones for a lot of things, from texting and playing games to browsing and downloading. The problem with using something like your mobile or even your computer is that when the networks go down, you lose everything. Not being able to watch your latest show can be troublesome and so Telstra, an Australian provider, offered a day of free data to say sorry for an outage only to find it had a bad impact on the more than just their network.

With no restrictions on what the data could be used for, the “Free Mobile Data Sunday” promotion showed everyone just how much restrictions make us hold back, with users going as far as using 1.8 thousand terabytes in less than 24 hours. If this wasn’t enough of a figure to startle you, it equates to someone downloading an episode of Games of Thrones 5.1 million times.

While this may not seem like much, it was reported that the traffic was so high it even slowed down network speeds in parts of Australia.

Do you use your mobile phone for browsing the internet? How much do you use and would removing restrictions change how often you use it? Some users even used as much as 421 gigabytes, over 52 times the normal monthly cap of 8GB.

FBI Employees Details Published by Hacker

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are known for being involved in all kinds of work, from exposing corrupt judges to fighting malware. They have also been known to take part in some hacking, from using ethically questionable equipment to zero-day exploits. Imagine the irony then when hackers threatened to release information about twenty thousand FBI employees, only to then carry out that threat and expose the FBI employees details online.

The hackers, who posted from the twitter account @DotGovs, claimed that by hacking the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) database, they were able to obtain the information. This information was released only a day after posting similar information on 10,000 Department of Homeland Security employees.

Listing their names, phone numbers and emails addresses the information, if revealed to be true, could be dangerous to both the government and the employees listed in the data breaches. Peter Carr, speaking on behalf of the Department, told CNN the following.

“The department is looking into the unauthorized access of a system operated by one of its components containing employee contact information. “This unauthorized access is still under investigation; however, there is no indication at this time that there is any breach of sensitive personally identifiable information. The department takes this very seriously and is continuing to deploy protection and defensive measures to safeguard information. Any activity that is determined to be criminal in nature will be referred to law enforcement for investigation.”

Stating that there was no “sensitive personally identifiable information” is one thing but if it reveals names, numbers and emails, that’s personal enough for me. The hackers tweeted saying “When will the US government realize we won’t stop until they cut relations with Israel”. This following on from their initial boast of “FBI and DHS info is dropped and that’s all we came to do, so now its time to go, bye folks! #FreePalestine.”.

If this information is found to be genuine it represents a clear breach of the DOJ’s systems and the employees of several major governmental organisations.

France Gives Facebook Deadline to Act on User Data

Facebook is one of the world’s largest social networks, containing information about people from all over the world from their names and dates of births to pet hobbies and the messages they’ve sent to their friends. with companies raising concerns about the new ‘Snooper charter’ in the UK, data security awareness is at an all-time high with countries looking to protect their users from breaches like that affecting the Juniper’s hardware. In the latest move, the French Data protection authority has given Facebook a deadline on when they need to take action on several areas of data security.

The first issue the French data authority had was with Facebook’s tracking of non-users on its site, without any warning or notice to the user. This means that even if you went and viewed a public profile, it was recorded that you had viewed the account. The second issue is related to transferring information abroad, a political minefield when it comes to data security.

The second issue is related to transferring information abroad, a political minefield when it comes to data security. In the next three months, Facebook is to stop transferring some data to the United States. This move is not a surprise given that the EU and the U.S. are currently negotiating the successor to the transatlantic safe harbour pact, an agreement that created a legal framework for transferring information from the EU to America. The previous agreement was struck down following the fear that the U.S. government could use it to spy on EU countries similar to its mass surveillance program.

Worst Passwords of 2015 Revealed

Security provider SplashData has released its annual “Worst Password List” for 2015, and the results are as depressing – and predictable – as ever. While last year’s entries boast some of the longest bad passwords ever featured during SplashData’s five years of compiling its worst password lists, they are certainly no more secure.

The top-25 worst passwords have not changed much in the last 12 months, though the revised list – which has lost “batman” and “superman”, but gained “starwars”, “solo”, and “princess”, which could delight J.J. Abrams at the expense of Zack Snyder – does offer an interesting glimpse into the cultural zeitgeist. Though, “trustno1” has faded from view since last year, which surprises considering the recent revival of The X-Files.

The reigning champions, in first and second place, respectively, are “123456” and “password”, retaining their positions from 2014, while new, terrible entries include “welcome”, “1qaz2wsx” (the first two lines of keyboard characters, vertically), and “login”. While “dragon” has dropped 7 places, it remains curiously popular.

Rank Password Change from 2014
1 123456 Unchanged
2 password Unchanged
3 12345678 Up 1
4 qwerty Up 1
5 12345 Down 2
6 123456789 Unchanged
7 football Up 3
8 1234 Down 1
9 1234567 Up 2
10 baseball Down 2
11 welcome New
12 1234567890 New
13 abc123 Up 1
14 111111 Up 1
15 1qaz2wsx New
16 dragon Down 7
17 master Up 2
18 monkey Down 6
19 letmein Down 6
20 Login New
21 princess New
22 qwertyuiop New
23 Solo New
24 passw0rd New
25 starwars New

“We have seen an effort by many people to be more secure by adding characters to passwords, but if these longer passwords are based on simple patterns they will put you in just as much risk of having your identity stolen by hackers,” Morgan Slain, CEO of SplashData, said. “As we see on the list, using common sports and pop culture terms is also a bad idea. We hope that with more publicity about how risky it is to use weak passwords, more people will take steps to strengthen their passwords and, most importantly, use different passwords for different websites.”

Image courtesy of Wired.

Internet Traffic Soon to Reach a Zettabyte

We use the internet every day, from checking your emails to watching the latest shows, the internet has become a default part of using a computer for a lot of people. With more and more using the internet, for even more complex reasons, it comes as no surprise that companies are looking at ways to share content with less traffic, such as Netflix re-encoding their library. Even with all these steps, Cisco imagines that for the first time the global internet traffic will reach a zettabyte.

A zettabyte is 909,494,701 terabytes, or if that’s too small you could always think of it as a trillion gigabytes. This estimate comes after Cisco has calculated that the internet traffic has increased fivefold in the last five years, with it set to continue to grow.

Cisco attributes this increase to the popularity of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime video, with video streaming services accounting for roughly 41% of all internet traffic. With more mobile devices connecting every year and phone companies looking to promote cheaper video streaming for your mobiles, watching videos online contributes more than most people think.

With internet speeds set to rise and video streaming, gaming and music services looking to increase their online presence it will come as no surprise that people will be sending and receiving more information over the internet.

Energy-Friendly Chip Could Boost Neural Networks

The quest to gain a greater insight into artificial Intelligence has been exciting and has also opened up a range of possibilities that have included “convolutional neural networks”, these are large visual networks of simple information-processing units which are loosely modelled on the anatomy of the human brain.

These networks are typically implemented using the more familiar graphics processing units (GPUs). A mobile GPU might have as many as 200 cores or processing units, this means that it is suited to “simulating a network of distributed processors”. Now, a further development in this area could lead to the potential for a specifically designed chip that has a sole purpose of implementing a neural network.

MIT researchers have presented the aforementioned chip at the “International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco”. The advantages of this chip include the notion that it is 10 times more efficient than an average mobile GPU, this could lead, in theory, to mobile devices being able to run powerful artificial intelligence algorithms locally, rather than relying on the cloud to process data.

The new chip, coined “Eyeriss” could, lead to the expansion of capabilities that includes the Internet of things, or put simply, where everything from a car to a cow, (yes apparently) would have sensors that are able to submit real-time data to networked servers. This would then open up horizons for artificial intelligence algorithms to make those important decisions.

Before I sign off I wanted to further delve into the workings of a neural network, the workings are that it is typically organised into layers, each of these layers contains a processing node. Data is then divided up among these nodes within the bottom layer, each node then manipulates the data it receives before passing it on to nodes within the next layer. This process is then repeated until “the output of the final layer yields the solution to a computational problem.” It is certainly fascinating and opens up a world of interesting avenues with which to explore, when you combine science and tech, the outcome is at the very least educational with the potential for it to be life changing.         .

The US And Europe Can’t Agree On Data Sharing

It’s been well-known for a while now that information, online and offline, has always been searched for and monitored. From GCHQ to the NSA, it sometimes seems like the entire alphabet is watching your every move online. With items like the ‘snooper charter’ making changes to digital monitoring, many countries are yet to see eye to eye when it comes to whom and what people should be able to see.

Sunday came and went without an agreement between American and European officials regarding how data should be transferred between the two areas. With information on the internet being sent around the world before reaching you at your computer, handling private and sometimes confidential information is a sensitive topic.

One of the key areas of debate is how European’s data would be protected against surveillance from the American government, with legal support for anyone to settle disputes in the American courts relating to their information.

With big companies like Facebook and Google operating around the world, although with large bulks of their companies based in America, you can see why they are interested in how this discussion will end.

This negotiation began three months ago, with a 15-year-old data transfer pact (also known as a safe harbour agreement), being invalidated due to Europeans data not being protected well enough when transferred to the United States.

With some people arguing that the standards in the US match those present in Europe, the deadline for a resolution is slowly creeping in, putting pressure on every party involved to resolve the matter.

Garmin Unveils The “Quatix 3” Luxury Watch

The humble watch is seen as somewhat old-fashioned compared to the digital life that nearly all consumers live these days, tech companies on the other hand, have been looking to integrate various digital features within so-called smart watches with the aim of marketing the product for the 21st century. Global GPS brand Garmin who are synonymous with Sat Navs have unveiled a new watch by the name of the Quatix 3.

Below is a quick rundown of the announced specifications.

  • Physical dimensions – 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.6” (51.5 x 51.5 x 16.0 mm)
  • Display Size – 1.2” (30.4 mm) diameter
  • Display resolution – WxH – 218 x 218 pixels; transflective MIP colour; sapphire lens
  • Weight – 3.0 oz (85 g)
  • Battery life – Up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 20 hours in GPS training mode; up to 6 weeks in watch mode

The watch also comes equipped with a “protective stainless steel EXO bezel and buttons”.

If you happen to be a fisherman or an avid race boat enthusiast, the Quatix 3 has you covered, below is a quick summary of these targeted features.

  • Saltwater fishermen – Will have features available to them that include navigational as well as NMEA 2000 data including depth, speed, water temperature etc.
  • Sailors – Will have the option to receive data that includes a virtual starting line feature that lets you set up a starting line between 2 marked GPS waypoints, e.g., a buoy and the committee boat
  • The watch also contains an Altimeter, Barometer and Compass.

The watch is expected to be released within the first quarter of April 2016, prices are expected to be $599.99 (£420.54).

It will be interesting to see if this watch has a great appeal within the general consumer market when you consider many of the features are targeted at a specific audience. Garmin will hope this watch will be able to hold its own, it makes sense for Garmin to implement its knowledge within a new smartwatch.

The Human Brain Capable of Holding 1 Petabyte of Data

A new study suggests that the human brain may be capable of storing as much as 1 petabyte of data, and yes that is a lot; it’s even ten times more information that was previously believed. With so much data, it’s no wonder I struggle to find the bit of information in my brain that knows where my car keys are, but that’s a whole different story.

“This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience,” Salk Institute for Biological Studies researcher Terry Sejnowski said. “Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.”

The team reconstructed a rat’s hippocampus in 3D, allowing them to study the memory center of the brain. Through this process, they realised that the brain synapses are capable of changing dimensions, altering their memory capacity. While other synapses were duplicating, allowing the reconstruction of connectivity, shapes and volumes of the brain tissue. This also led to the idea that there may be as many as 26 categories of synapses, far more than previously thought.

“This is roughly an order of magnitude of precision more than anyone has ever imagined,” Sejnowski said. “The implications of what we found are far-reaching. Hidden under the apparent chaos and messiness of the brain is an underlying precision to the size and shapes of synapses that was hidden from us.”

The research can now help advance deep learning and neural networking computer techniques, as we discover how the brain can process with unmatched abilities while consuming just 20 watts of power. With a petabyte, and maybe even more at its disposal, the human brain is an amazing thing. If you can’t grasp just how much data that is, just imagine downloading the entire internet, literally all of it, and storing it in your head with room left over! Although I can’t imagine how big the piracy fine would be for doing so.