Judge Rules That FBI Tor Hack Must Be Revealed to Lawyer

FBI this, FBI that. It would seem that the FBI just can’t help but keep out of the news these days with Apple Vs the FBI seeming to turn companies against the government, but this is not the only case where the FBI is having trouble. The other case is when they were able to hack over 1,000 computers on the infamous Tor network, leading to a series of convictions. The Judge presiding over the case has now stated that the defence lawyer should be provided with the code used to hack their computers.

Colin Fieman is the federal public defender working on the case and has requested that they are given access to a copy of the code used to identify his client. In a response to Motherboard, Fieman stated that the code would include “everything”, including the methods used to bypass security features of the Tor Browser.

Vlad Tsyrklevith is the defence’s consulted expert on code and he has since received the “code” used, but it seems that the FBI were holding out with several key elements missing from the code. This included the exploit used to break into the defendant’s computer, a key feature that should be provided in the case with the agreement that “subject to the terms of the protective order currently in place” they would have access to the code used to identify and potentially, charge, the defendant.

It would seem the FBI can’t stop getting caught short, with this case drawing criticism because of the use of a single warrant to hack an unknown number of computers located around the world. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the FBI hadn’t kept the site which contained illegal materials online, effectively meaning that the FBI were distributing the same thing they are now prosecuting people for.

Russia Has Plans to Nuke Asteroids

We’ve seen the movies. I’m thinking about the one with Bruce Willis in, the asteroid hurtling towards earth and a timer that just won’t stop ticking. I am course referring to Armageddon, a film in which an asteroid could end all life on earth. We’ve heard the chances of asteroids hitting the Earth, NASA even has a task force to deal with the issue. What you probably didn’t know is Russia has a plan for when the asteroids come knocking; nuke them!

A joint country initiative was set up under the European Commission, titled NEOShield. Each country under the scheme was responsible for researching different ways and methods of preventing asteroids and other NEO’s (Near-Earth Objects) from impacting the planet. Russia’s solution has a simple elegance to it, to nuke it. While it may not be able to destroy an asteroid, the scientists believe that a nuclear blast near to the asteroid would burn up its mass, producing a jet thrust effect that would be used to change the asteroid’s path, avoiding the earth.

The announcement of the research details comes alongside the newly stated goals for the Russian Space program, which wants to develop a “space barrier”. A series of satellites that would detect any object that could present a threat to the planet.

With a follow-up program launched (NEOShield-2), even the slightest threat of an object from outer space crashing into the planet is being taken seriously. If it contains just rock or an Alien being, it looks like the world wants to not only know about it, but also how to stop it.

iPhone Unlock Perused After Defendant Pleads Guilty

In recent years, technology has evolved in such a way that the law is often trying to catch up with the technology that comes out. In the last few months, technology companies have come to odds with the government regarding a range of topics but none more so than encryption.
Encryption is the process of messing up information in a logical way so if you just so happen to bump into it (or catch it on purpose), unless you were meant to read it you are unable to (or at least find it difficult). Apple has recently come at odds with the U.S. government as they have been asked to unlock (effectively disabling the protection and encryption on) an iPhone. The case just got more interesting though with them claiming that they should still unlock the phone after the defendant pleaded guilty.

The government quoted a law written in the 18th Century called the All Writs Act. A writ is essentially an order for a company or person to perform an action, and its use has displeased many people, with Ken Dreifach (the attorney representing Apple) clarifying why this is a worrying use of an old power,

“The government could seemingly co-opt any private company it wanted to provide services in support of law enforcement activity, as long as the underlying activity was authorized by a warrant. The All Writs Act does not confer such limitless authority.”

Even though the defendant, Jun Feng, has since pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, the prosecutors are still requesting that Apple unlock the phone just in case it contains information that could help other “ongoing” cases. The iPhone in question is running iOS7, as of iOS 8 Apple have enabled full encryption in an act it has stated would prevent them from complying with such orders.

Do you think Apple should unlock the phone? Should companies be forced to perform any action they can at the request of a court?

Artificial Skin with a Sense Of Touch Being Developed

The technology behind prosthetic limbs has dramatically evolved over time for the benefit of assisting individuals who have had the misfortune of losing a limb. The next step forward to that is a coined Bionic limb that gives the user something akin to natural human skin. This realization looks to be making significant progress after “funding from the U.S. Department of Defence has allowed several researchers to make progress toward  more humanlike prosthetic hands that offer users a sense of control and touch”.  

It’s a strange one that funding is being allocated from the department of defense with the aim of benefiting humanity instead of the standard artillery. Anyway, scientists from Stanford have outlined a new type of pressure sensor in the form of a flat yet flexible material that could in theory serve as a type of artificial skin layer, which would then fit onto prosthetics. This is very much in the vein of human skin that is fitted over the bone and muscle within a human body, this technique would then in theory allow the wearer to both manipulate and also feel objects, though it’s not the evolution form of natural touch, but rather an artificial replication of the sensation.

Lead researcher Zhenan Bao has outlined that “The sensors send pulses that the brain interprets in order to determine a certain sense of touch. “It’s directly mimicking the biological system”

The “skin” itself is constructed from plastic which is then printed with a waffle pattern to make it compressible. Embedded inside are “carbon nanotubes”, these are tiny rods of pure carbon that conduct electricity which in turn squeezes the material and bring the rods closer together, creating more rapid pulses as the pressure increases.

In essence, this is a fascinating step forward that could hopefully benefit and also assist a person’s life. The ability to feel is an essential part of the human condition, any loss of that is worrying when you think of the potential ramifications. But that is not the end, eventually the scientific community hopes to be able to “channel information from artificial sensors into the peripheral nerves that were once connected to the lost hand”.

Human exploration and understanding of science has achieved a great deal and this is another compelling chapter. Hopefully, this work will achieve more answers and enable further development.

Thank you technologyreview for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of gizmodo

Army Wants Automated Defences For Their Bases

Security is of key importance for a lot of people, be it locking your door before you leave for work or having your phone so you can call people if something happens. We all like that kind of security, but some are most vested in developing it beyond what we currently have.

When it comes to the Army, security is even more important where the perimeters of their bases are at stake. A new prototype being tested at Fort Bliss is looking at replacing the three or four guards in a tower by one in a command bunker. The new system, dubbed ‘Tower Hawk’, looks to pack a Browning 50 caliber machine gun and a .338 Lapua sniper rifle atop a tower that can be unpacked in less than an hour by six soldiers.

The system was revealed at the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1, an event that is designed to allow NATO members to share their new technologies. With all the stations wired together it means that one soldier can replace several on lookout duty, with the ability to defend their outposts from the safety of a bunker.

With a person controlling the system, and the ability to look out and defend the output while protecting lives all through a networked system.

Thank you Engadget for the information and image.

A Portable Blood Cleanser Being Developed by Harvard Researchers

Science and tech are compatible with each other when it comes to developing new ideas for a variety of applications. This is certainly evident in the health sector which has seen a wide scope of innovations which in turn have been implemented to save lives.

Portability is essential and Harvard researchers are actively developing a machine which can filter pathogens from the blood, this newly proposed technique could offer hope for faster and more effective treatment for sepsis. This machine is nearing the point to which it could be clinically tested on sets of human control groups, which is crucial to the operation and further development of the device.

A prototype of this device has been tested on rats under lab conditions and the results have so far been rather encouraging, below is the current understanding of this machine.

“ It has been found the device which works in a similar way to the dialysis machines already used to filter the blood of patients with kidney failure, not only efficiently removes pathogenic material from the bloodstream but also works in concert with antibiotics to prevent a harmful immune response that can lead to organ malfunction and even death”.

 The project which is being led by researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, is part of an effort by the U.S. defence department to design a portable machine for treating soldiers in the field.

Sepsis is an incredibly dangerous and life threatening condition which is triggered by an infection, there is currently no effective therapy and the disorder kills millions of people around the world every year.

This device is potentially an exciting breakthrough in the search for a treatment to sepsis, what’s more exciting and potentially revolutionary is the new device removes pathogens regardless of their identity. It does this by using a genetically engineered blood protein that can bind to more than 90 varieties of harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.

Let’s hope this machine can be successfully developed with the aim of rolling out to patients and not stocked for US defence use only. It’s exciting times to watch from afar as the boundaries of human health treatments are being pushed to a whole new technical level.

Thank you MIT and harvard.edu for providing us with this information.

 

Airforce Wants Its Jets To Have Lasers By 2020

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ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 16, 2014) The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Everyone loves a good laser, be it shot into the sky at a festival, or at your favourite hero as they try to save the galaxy. Even the real world is liking them, with more and more of science fiction being created and used in the real world. The Navy have even created and mounted a rail gun onto a ship  while BAE are looking at magnetic force fields.  Now even the Airforce want to get in on the science fiction weapons and mount “lasers” onto their Jets by 2020.

Dubbed Directed-Energy weapon pods, the devices will be mounted onto jets and will use beams of directed energy to ‘burn’ missiles and UAV’s, with the hopes of being powerful enough to even combat other aircraft. With a large contract on the line several companies have come up with solutions, HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defence System), from General Atomics, runs off a single lithium-ion battery and is small enough to fit onto a predator drone.

With the possibilities of being mounted to both land, sea and air vehicles, laser technology could revolutionise the way we act against other weapons. With the ability to shoot down missiles and heat up and melt the components in vehicles laser technology could quickly become the new step in modern warfare.

Thank you Engadget for the information.

Image courtesy of LiveScience.

Ransomware Locks Your Android Phone Pin And Asks For Cash

Ransomware is akin to the booming stock market of yesteryear for hackers, the notion of locking an individual’s infected device is a powerful reality for today’s modern day connected gadgets. As such it can be no surprise that a new technique has surfaced which implements a free app on third-party app stores which changes the device’s locking PIN and then asks for $500 as a kind of screw you post it.

Technique of this ransomware.

Let’s take a look at the details; it may take a while so make yourself comfortable. Security firm ESET has detected this threat as a Android/Lockerpin.A, users have no effective way of regaining access to their device without root privileges or without some other form of security management solution installed, apart from a factory reset, but this would delete all data as a consequence.

After successful installation, this type of malware attempts to obtain user admin privileges by attempting to trick users, it does this by overlaying the activation window with the Trojan’s malicious window which pretends to be an “Update patch installation”. As the user clicks through this innocuous-looking installation they also unknowingly activate the Device Administrator privileges in the hidden underlying window.

This is lethal considering the moment you click “continue” within the installation activation window, your device has fallen victim, the Trojan app has now obtained Administrator rights and has silently locked your device by setting a new PIN for the lock screen. Not long after this has happened, the user will be prompted to pay a $500 dollar ransom for allegedly viewing and harbouring forbidden pornographic material, below is a screenshot of this warning notice.

The device is then locked after the warning screen is displayed within the standard Android lock screen. The new PIN is generated randomly and not sent to the attacker. The only practical way to unlock is to reset to factory defaults.

Lockpin’s self defence mechanism part 2.

Not only does this type of ransomeware acquire device admin privileges it also stops users from attempting to deactivate Device Admin for the malware, they will fail because the Trojan will have registered a call-back function to reactivate the privileges when removal is attempted.

There’s more, this locker also attempts to kill running AV processes when the user tries to deactivate its Device Admin rights. The Trojan tries to protect itself from three mobile anti-virus applications which include ESET, Avast and Dr Web as well as the com.android.settings which prevents standard uninstallation through the application manager.

ESET state that its own self-protection mechanisms will prevent the malware from removing this vendor’s AV. Software.

Distribution of this malware

This Ransomware pretends to be an app for viewing adult/porn videos. In all cases, the application calls itself “Porn Droid”, giggity. 75% of so far infected devices have originated from the US; this is because malware coders are attempting to attack citizens of the US with the aim of collecting bigger payouts.

Unlocking the device

The only way to unlock your device without implementing a factory reset is to root your device; the user can connect to the device by ADB and remove the file where the PIN is stored. For this to work, the device needs to have debugging enabled otherwise it’s not possible (Settings -> Developer options -> USB Debugging) before using the commands

> adb shell
> su
> rm /data/system/password.key

The only crumb of comfort is that you cannot download this malicious app from the official Google Play Store, ESET recommends keeping your mobile AV software up to date if you have one. If not, be careful what you download, if you stick to official routes and be cautious of both unknown and suspicious apps which purport to be too good to be true. Back up any sensitive data and always update legitimate software, tech is becoming more advanced and so are the attackers.

Thank you eset for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of xperiaseries

UK Solicitor Will Defend You Free Against Copyright Trolls

More and more customers of UK ISPs have received letters from copyright trolls in recent weeks, demanding settlement fees for alleged illegal downloads and threatening with lawsuits if not paid. Both Sky Broadband and Virgin Media customers are affected, but not exclusively.

The companies behind it all, GoldenEye International also known as Mircom, had monitored torrents and then forced the ISPs to hand out the personal details based on those logs and now they hope that the people receiving the letters will be too scared to go to court and just pay up to get peace. But that’s generally a bad idea, as paying is the same as admitting guilt and they’ll drag you into the courtroom anyway.

But there is good news for the receivers of these letters as the Southampton-based Micheal Coyle of the Lawdit Solicitors told TorrentFreak that he would give his time free to defend them. Coyle is one of the most experienced UK-based solicitors in the file-sharing arena. Since 2008 he has spoken with or acted for more than 700 individuals who have received so-called Letters of Claim, including those involved in the infamous ACS:Law case that ended with solicitor Andrew Crossley being severely disciplined.

“I am a Copyright Solicitor and regularly enforce copyright where it has been infringed. People should respect the copyright of third parties. However, are some copyright holders abusing the great British public?” Micheal Coyle questions. “The amounts are quite staggering. In the most recent campaign 2500 letters were sent out. Typical sums demanded are in the range of £500 to £1000. If everyone pays say £700.00 this would generate £1,750,000 which is not bad even for the porn industry.”

There is one minor string attached, but it’s a good one. Coyle is a regular runner of the London Marathon and has raised thousands for children’s charities while doing so. If people want his help in these cases they’re going to have to get generously via this year’s donation page.

Thanks to TorrentFreak for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of DieTrollDie

Facebooks Emotion Study Now Linked to the Military

But wait, there’s more!

Recently we wrote about how Facebook users were outraged when they found out that 689,003 users news feeds were altered to display overly positive or negative content.

Since then, more information has surfaced showing that this emotion manipulation study also has possible ties to the military. As read on Mashable, an Army spokesman stated that in 2008 Cornell University sent a funding application to the military for a similar project, but was denied.

Controversy surrounding this 2012 research project pointed to the fact that the military had helped fund this possible unethical study, which Cornell has distanced itself from. The University originally issued a press release on June the 10th which confirmed military funding involvement in the emotion manipulation study from the Army Research Office. However as the military involvement became a common topic of discussion, Cornell chose to remove this acknowledgement.

On the first of July, SCG News reported that one of the studies authors, Jeffery Hancock, had previously received funding from the Department of Defense for other research projects including “Cornell: Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes” which included this visualization program that depicts the spread of beliefs and disease.

The simple solution to solving this issue seems to be going straight to the source, but unfortunately when asked most parties declined to comment

“When asked whether Cornell University had ever sought any external funding, and in particular from the Army Research Office, a University spokesman declined to comment. The study’s authors, Hancock and Jamie Guillory, as well as a Facebook spokesperson, did not answer Mashable’s requests for comment either.” Mashable

However, Army Spokesman Wayne Hall has stated that they did not provide any funding to Cornell University and has never asked for them to make amendments to their press release.

With this information in hand, why was the Army credited in the first place? NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen commented on this issue through a public Facebook post:

“Why do I call this strange? Any time my work has been featured in an NYU press release, the PR officers involved show me drafts and coordinate closely with me, for the simple reason that they don’t want to mischaracterize scholarly work. So now we have to believe that Cornell’s Professor of Communication and Information Science, Jeffrey Hancock, wasn’t shown or didn’t read the press release in which he is quoted about the study’s results (weird) or he did read it but somehow failed to notice that it said his study was funded by the Army when it actually wasn’t (weirder).
I think I would notice if my university was falsely telling the world that my research was partially funded by the Pentagon… but, hey, maybe there’s an innocent and boring explanation that I am overlooking.” Facebook

The last few lines of his quote ring the most truth about this whole ordeal.

Image courtesy of SCG news

Google Robot Pulled out of Military Service, Aims to Develop Consumer Model

Schaft was working on developing some truly impressive robotics hardware for the military as part of the $2 million Robotics Challenge. This was an incentive setup by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to seek the most advanced robotics in the world. With barely half of the three year campaign underway, Google owned Schaft have pulled out of the running.

Schaft were already competing prior to Google buying them out, as the company was formed exclusively to work on this project. However, Schaft was accepting money from the Defense Department, which obviously meant that Google was then a defence contractor, not exactly their angle. Schaft announced earlier this year that it was renouncing DARPA funding now that it had Google writing the cheques, but have now elected to withdraw from the finals completely.

Now it looks like the company and Google, who also own Boston Dynamics, will be pushing for commercially viable products, so expect Google Android to take a whole new and somewhat literally meaning in the next couple of years.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/diaZFIUBMBQ[/youtube]

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of YouTube.

8″ Floppy Marked “Top Secret” An Integral Part Of US Nuclear Security!?

This week saw CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl with a look of surprise on her face after discovering that part of the computer system for Minuteman III requires data from an 8-inch floppy disk. What is wrong with that you ask? Well Minuteman III is the intercontinental ballistic missile defence system, a core component to the US nuclear deterrent system.

The 8-inch floppy disk format has been out of use for a very long time now, even it’s smaller and sleeker brothers such as the 3.5″ floppy drive you may have had on your computer 10 years ago has now become all but extinct. What’s even funnier is that the disk was marked with “Top Secret”, and the data on the disc is a vital component for the launch command delivery system for US missile forces. In fact, many of the systems that Stahl saw at the Wyoming US Air Force launch control center (LCC) are as old as the 8-inch floppy, dating way back to the 60’s and 70’s. Of course the lesson here is that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

“A few years ago we did a complete analysis of our entire network,” said CBM forces commander Major General Jack Weinstein when speaking with 60 Minutes. “Cyber engineers found out that the system is extremely safe and extremely secure in the way it’s developed.” he added.

The Air Force base is currently upgrading their systems with a $19 million budget, with an additional $600 million next year. The old equipment has been doing a great job so far, but I’m not so sure I would want to keep sensitive information on such an ageing format, especially not information that is so important to national security and defense.

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Arstechnica.