China Bans Supercomputer and UAV Exports Based on National Security Concerns

The Chinese superpower seems to be a bit concerned about its latest tech getting into the wrong hands and has banned the export of unlicensed supercomputers and some UAV models.

The ban seems to forbid any company attempting to export machines capable of outputting eight TFlops of data or more than 2 Gbps of network bandwidth. Taking a look at the Top 500 list of supercomputers, we see China’s Tianhe-2 at the top of it, while the US occupies the 2nd and 3rd place.

The UAV ban comes from news about an Indian drone being shot down in Pakistan, suspected of using Chinese tech. Pakistan has close ties with the US and we all know how the US is keen on getting their hands on Chinese technology, so the word regarding the drone seems to have freaked out some high-ranking officers enough to ban UAV exports from China too.

However, the UAV ban seems to affect only aircraft capable of flying for more than an hour or reaching altitudes of 50,000 feet, so there aren’t many UAVs boasting those kind of specs outside of military use.

There has been no official reason for the ban in question, but speculations point to the ban as a result of the US blocking Intel’s export of high-end x86 chips to China. The race for who has the best tech has been noticed between the US and China for ages now, but signs like this just keep on cropping up. So where is all of this heading? It could be anyone’s guess, but we like to hear your own!

Thank you The Register for providing us with this information

Secret Service Agencies Wanted to Put Malware on Your Android Phones

I don’t think it will be a shock to hear about yet another way government agencies try to spy on people, but they are getting bolder day after day it seems. A recently leaked document by Edward Snowden, dubbed IRRITANT HORN, reveals how agencies from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia wanted to infect your smartphones through Google and Samsung App Stores.

The agencies wanted to use their XKEYSCORE system to trim Internet traffic in order to find smartphone data that goes to and from the Google and Samsung stores. With the latter, they would have performed a man-in-the-middle attack to get your smartphone thinking it was downloading something from the store, but instead it would have downloaded malicious software that would track and record your data.

The document apparently reveals more than just hacking and infecting smartphones. The agencies were also planning to send “selective misinformation” to targeted handsets. This means that the agencies wanted to control and alter more than just a few emails or messages, but rather use the system to control events from underneath the curtain.

Up until now, Google made no comment regarding this matter, while Samsung decided not to comment “at this time”.

Thank you The Intercept for providing us with this information

Samsung Rumoured to Start Making Chips for Nvidia

A week ago, Samsung reportedly won a contract to make chips for Apple’s upcoming iPhones using their latest 14nm FinFET technology. However, it seems that the South Korean manufacturer has been busy scooping up more contracts in the meantime.

The latest points to a “few million dollars” contract between Samsung and Nvidia, allowing both Samsung and GlobalFoundries to make 14nm chips in Korea as well as the US for Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia as per the new contract. As previously reported, GlobalFoundries struck a deal with Samsung to replicate its 14nm FinFET technology.

“The latest agreement between Samsung and Nvidia is another positive factor lifting Samsung’s logic chip business unit. The timing looks good as increased foundry customers justify the Korean chip giant’s moves to find new revenue sources,” a source told Korean Times.

So why the rush to roll out small factor GPU chips? Easy. A GPU takes a lot of workload off the CPU and as we all know, smartphones are requiring new tech to handle better graphics while cutting down on power consumption. However, in order to achieve the perfect balance, a smaller form factor SoC is needed.

Looking at the partnership from another perspective reveals that Samsung and Nvidia are still not on the best of terms. Both companies are reportedly engaged in legal actions, but another source stated that the companies are more focused on business rather than their little disagreements.

“The Samsung-Nvidia deal means that there is no enemy and friend in businesses,”

Neither Samsung nor South Korean-based representatives for Nvidia wanted to shed more light on the new partnership, but stay tuned as we will keep you updated with more information as it unravels.

Thank you Korea Times for providing us with this information

Intelligence Agencies Point to Russian Involvement in Recent White House Hacking

The recent White House power outage has turned into being something more than that. CNN reports that US officials have admitted that the White House’s network has been hacked in the process, but the affected computers were part of a non-classified network serving the executive office.

Still, the attackers were able to access sensitive information, such as the president’s real-time daily schedule. CNN also reports that the attackers used an account on the State Department network to phish their way into the White House.

“We’re constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system but we’re frankly told to act as if we need not put information that’s sensitive on that system. In other words, if you’re going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system.” Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security adviser, told CNN.

The Secret Service and Intelligence Agencies are already investigating the matter, but it looks like clues point to Russia being behind the attack, or at least the hackers originate from the aforementioned country.

The attackers are said to have covered their tracks by routing their activity through a lot of servers throughout the world.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information

Super Smash Bros Reach 1.5 Million Sales, Amiibo Sitting at 3.5 Million

For those of you who thought Nintendo stopped making profits, prepare to be amazed. Wii U’s mega hit, Super Smash Bros, is making a lot of buzz in the United States with a sales figure of 1.5 million. The rate is based on worldwide sales of the Wii U, but given that the console has around 9.2 million units sold worldwide, Nintendo’s title is able to get a decent attachment rate.

Even Amiibo has had its fair share of success, even if Nintendo gambled a bit with the figurine. It is said that Amiibo sold 3.5 million figurines throughout the United States, making the company a huge profit. This is why Nintendo is now keen on launching another wave of figurines, including the Mario and Mario Party 10 cast.

Thank you TechnoBuffalo for providing us with this information

Iowa Creating App For Digital Driving Licenses

The state of Iowa in the US is developing a smartphone app that will allow citizens to display their driving license on their devices.

The new app is intended to make it easier for drivers to carry their license, as many people simply don’t bother carrying it anyway. Besides driving, the app will also come in useful for other times ID is required, such as at airports and for purchasing age restricted items. Residents will still of course be allowed to carry their conventional license, as the app is not seen as a complete replacement.

Governor Terry Branstand told the Des Moines Register, “We are really moving forward on this”, with the app currently under development and with a pilot program to take place next year. The app will use a pin number and biometric scanner for verification.

Source: BBC News

 

No More FCC Labels on Your Devices

Today President Obama signed into US law the E-Label Act, an act introduced by two Senators earlier in 2015, ending the mandatory requirement for physical FCC labels on devices.

The law allows manufacturers to include the FCC labels in their software rather than having to etch them onto the device’s exterior. It’s said that this will save manufactures money, which can then be passed on to consumers.

This isn’t entirely new, as the FCC already loosened its rules on labelling earlier this year, but today’s ruling brings the changes into law. The labels will be included in software like as can be seen above, on an iPhone 6 Plus.

Still, a lot won’t change, most devices will still have the labels of the European Commission on them, that’s if they don’t change their status on the subject too.

Regardless, we all know who’ll be happy whatever happens, even if it is just one more tiny logo he can remove from his designs – Apple’s Jony Ive.

Source: MacRumors

Comcast and Verizon Lowered Speed to Cogent below 0.5Mbps

New detailed measurements have been released displaying exactly how much throttling of traffic was done by major US ISP’s Comcast and Verizon through to Cogent – a backbone operator of Netflix traffic. As almost everyone in the United States discovered over the span of the last year, traffic through to Netflix got bad – really flipping bad. A new study released by M-Lab data has a detailed analysis of just how terrible the throttling from both Verizon, Time Warner and Comcast made it for traffic passing through to Cogent. The study reveals a detailed insight into traffic through the ISP’s over the span of a 5 year period, of which between late May through to February of this year – traffic trickled down to a ludicrously slow 0.5mbps speed. It’s no wonder Netflix was failing to stream for most US citizens.

“Using Measurement Lab (M-Lab) data, and constraining our research to the United States, we observed sustained performance degradation experienced by customers of Access ISPs AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon when their traffic passed over interconnections with Transit ISPs Cogent Communications (Cogent), Level 3 Communications (Level 3), and XO Communications (XO),” researchers wrote. “In a large number of cases we observed similar patterns of performance degradation whenever and wherever specific pairs of Access/Transit ISPs interconnected. From this we conclude that ISP interconnection has a substantial impact on consumer internet performance—sometimes a severely negative impact—and that business relationships between ISPs, and not major technical problems, are at the root of the problems we observed.”

“The three degraded Access ISPs [Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon] failed to achieve median download throughputs above 4Mbps when connecting over Cogent in New York City for most of the period between Spring 2013 and March 2014,” M-Lab wrote. “While daily median download throughput overall hovered around 4Mbps, performance degradation was much worse during peak use hours. For much of the time between Spring 2013 and March 2014, download speeds during peak use hours remained well below 4Mbps. By January 2014, the download throughput rate during peak use hours for Comcast and Verizon traffic over Cogent’s network was less than 0.5Mbps, the minimum rate necessary for web browsing and email according to the FCC. Note that only between 2:00 AM and 1:00 PM were the three affected Access ISPs able to attain speeds above 4 Mbps across the Transit ISP Cogent.”

The full dataset of information from M-Lab has been published online, and is available for viewing here. One thing is for certain after going through the findings – the internet is in for a bumpy ride if strong net neutrality laws and regulation checks aren’t brought into place. The wild west could start to get a lot wilder.

Thanks to M-Lab for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Slate.

Obama Allows NSA Exploit Internet Flaws All For National Security

Recently reported by the New York Times, President Barack Obama has said that the NSA must reveal any Internet vulnerability that it finds. But there’s a catch. The security agency is not obligated to disclose vulnerabilities whenever there’s “a clear national security or law enforcement need”.

“This process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities,” said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council. Despite the assurance, the exception is being widely viewed as a loophole that will likely allow the NSA to continue to exploit security vulnerabilities.

The decision was made by the President in January when he started working on NSA reforms, but it wasn’t publicly revealed until last Friday when the White House denied that it had any prior knowledge of Heartbleed, a security bug which has reportedly affected almost two-thirds of the internet, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and more.

There is already widespread concern that the security agency may have been secretly using the Heartbleed bug for years to serve its own purposes, something which the agency has denied. On the other hand, documents released by Snowden reveal that the security agency was already looking at ways to accomplish exactly what Heartbleed did through a program code-named ‘Bullrun’.

 

Thank you to the New York Times for providing us with this information.

Weed Vending Machines?

After the first recreational dispensaries opened in Colorado earlier this year, NPR reports that the state has finally reveal its first marijuana vending machine.

Located in Avon, Colorado, the bright green machine sits outside Montana’s Smokehouse and is stocked with a variety of edibles.

Unfortuantely the machine can only be utilized by users with a medical card, who must also scan a valid idea in order to gain access.

However, with Washington and Colorado both legalizing marijuana without any major issues and the latter expecting to earn almost $100 million dollars in tax revenue thanks to the end of prohibition, it would be surprising to see these be a bit more widespread as more and more states begin to relax their laws.

In a few years, maybe you’ll be able to buy your weed in one vending machine and your munchies from the one right next to it.

 

Thanks to NPR for providing us with this information.

Dogecoin Expected To Bring ‘Real Money’ To Owners In The Near Future

Dogecoin is one of the most known cryptocurrency out there, after Bitcoin. It may be pretty easy to pick up some Dogecoin, but, until now, it’s been difficult to convert it into cash. On Wednesday, Canadian electronic currency exchange Vault of Satoshi announced that it will now support Dogecoin, making it far easier to convert the currency into U.S dollars.

Anyone interested in turning their dogecoins into government-backed currency with wider acceptance up until now had to make an individual deal with someone willing to trade for Bitcoin, which could then be exchanged for dollars, Euros, and outer currency. However, this intermediate step not only made the entire process significantly more onerous, but it also inserted an element of risk.

Reports are that Reddit r/DogecoinScamWatch moderator u/goodshibe explained how the majority of the scams posted on the forum involve people having their coins taken from them while trying to convert dollars into dogecoins, or vice versa.

‟Once … [Dogecoin] gets a direct USD/CAD conversion … in place, many of these kinds of scams will fall away,” u/goodshibe predicted.

This newfound ability to easily and safely convert Dogecoin into dollars could change the nature of how the currency is used. According to BitInfoCharts.com, dogecoins with the equivalent of $212,500,000 were said to have been traded over the past 24 hours. To give a sense of how ridiculous that transaction volume is, the total value of every dogecoin in existence is reported to be only around $60,300,000.

The generosity seems to be related to the fact that a single dogecoin is worth a tiny fraction of a penny, so handing out a few dogecoins takes only slightly more commitment. However, it’s likely also a function of there not being a whole lot of things someone could easily do with a wallet full of dogecoins other than hand them out just like that. Now that converting dogecoins into dollars is no more difficult than exchanging any other cryptocurrency, there’s the chance that the community surrounding Dogecoin may come to more closely resemble that of any other cryptocurrency

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information

Lenovo Aims To Crush Apple and Samsung Following Motorola Mobility Acquisition

Following the acquisition of Motorola Mobility from Google along with its share of patents, Chinese manufacturer Lenovo now reveals some big plans. Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yang gave an interview with Fortune regarding the deal where he talked about his plans to over take his biggest competitors, Apple and Samsung.

By acquiring Motorola Mobility, Lenovo became the third largest smartphone maker worldwide, and when asked how he feels about catching up to his top-seated competitors, Yang said his company’s “mission is to surpass them.” It sounds as though Lenovo will market its smartphones with the Motorola brand, likely a smart choice considering Motorola’s pedigree.

However, Yang also mentioned there was some uncertainty regarding this issue still, saying the company will most likely “leverage the Motorola brand, but it could be something like ‘Motorola by Lenovo.'” Yang also told Fortune a little bit about how Lenovo became interested in Motorola when it split into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions back in 2011, as well other plans regarding branding in certain countries.

There will still be a waiting period while US regulatory groups finally green light the deal, according to reports the purchase will go through a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a group responsible for ensuring there are no national security risks taken through deals of this nature.

Thank you Tech Spot for providing us with this information

US Government Stikes $1.5 Billion Deal With BlackBerry For 80,000 Smartphones

It appears that BlackBerry has a guardian angel, the US Government. The smartphone giant has been bailed out by US Taxpayers, where The Pentagon has made a purchase of more than 80,000 BlackBerry handsets from the Canadian manufacturer.

This comes as a project by the US Department of Defense, where they are reportedly going to install a new wireless system. And why BlackBerry you ask? Simple. The network will use primarily BlackBerry features. The handset has always been known for one of the most securely encrypted devices, and there were reports in the past where some countries even banned the use of BlackBerry handsets inside the country. The harsh decision was made after the countries’ secret service departments were unable to crack their encryption protocols, therefore making it one of the best portable espionage devices.

The big purchase was rumored for a few weeks, since BlacBerry’s stocks have doubled from the $5.75 rate per share record just six weeks ago. The deal will really help BlackBerry get up on its feet, something that they have been doing since last year. When it comes to numbers, more specifically what the deal is worth, nothing concrete can be said at this time. However, it is expected to be in the $800 million to $1.5 billion range since we are taking about a lot of handsets here.

Thank you TweakTown for providing us with this information

Barack Obama Redesigns The Way Private Information Is Collected

US president Barack Obama has made a decision to remake how NSA will spy on phones in the future. He said in a press statement that the NSA will now need court permission to get stored data from mobile phones, this including calls, text, sensitive information, etc. and they will not be able to store the information themselves.

Instead, the metadata will reportedly be collected by a third-party organization. Who that organization is or will be has yet to be determined. Obama’s NSA review group came up with the idea after Edward Snowden revealed details of how the NSA is spying on regular people. This initiative will, theoretically, lead to a way of guarding the collected information against government abuse.

“It is not enough for leaders to say, ‘Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect,'” Obama said during the speech, “for history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends upon the law to constrain those in power.”

Spying on US allies, namely on heads of state, has been terminated as well, having set a deadline up to the end of March to cease all surveillance activity. Obama has also requested input from the Congress in order to make some possible modifications in the legislation regarding such actions. Also, a public advocacy panel has been created to handle privacy concerns which can be aired before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Obama is truly attempting to make things more transparent in what government agencies do with people’s private information, as well as offer them a way to defend themselves against misuse of their private data. But given all of what Snowden has uncovered, will it be enough?

Thank you Cnet for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Cnet

GLONASS Could Be Halted In The US

Russia’s version of the widely-used Global Positioning System could be all but halted in the US due to the nation’s latest defence budget bill, according to The New York Times. The bill, signed into law on Thursday, would require the US secretary of defense and the director of national intelligence to provide a waiver ensuring that data transfer between the Glonass stations is not encrypted, and certify that they pose no threat to national security, among other requirements. “The idea was to make it next to impossible, if not impossible, to do this,” a House Republican aide told the Times.

Several nations in Asia and the EU have been working to compete with the dominance of American GPS. The efforts echo similar ambitions by some nations to reduce the United States’ power over the global internet, especially in the wake of this year’s NSA revelations.

While Glonass is not widely used in the United States, some phone makers have embraced its benefits. Last year, Sony added Glonass positioning to several of its Xperia handsets, claiming that the additional data offered by Russia’s satellites compliment the US GPS system. A Sony and Qualcomm test in San Francisco found that accuracy could be improved by up to 50 percent with Glonass and GPS combined.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information

CISPA Back For Third Time

C.I.S.P.A. is back again? As I told you in April, it hasn’t quite made it out of the press room. DemandProgress.org shared this information with us today.

Apparently Congress leaders seem to want to keep Anti-Piracy, Censorship, and Internet Security on the top of their todo list. Though the people have told them that this is not something that they want, Congress seems to think otherwise. It is probably because Big Business keeps lining Congress members pockets trying to pass these ridiculous laws.

It has been rumored that California Senator Diane Feinstein and Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, are working on a ‘Companion’ bill for CISPA, both leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both Senators are strong supporters of NSA mass surveillance.

Apparently the senators did not get the memo that CISPA failed to win support from the US Senate earlier this year, though after the issues with Edward Snowden, CISPA may have a bit more leverage. Though I don’t know how private companies sharing information about their users to the United States Government could have stopped the massive leak of information about the Government using the law to spy people.

CYBERSECURITY, CYBERSECURITY, CYBERSECURITY!!!

Yeah, I don’t really think so, right now in the cyber world you want to be very careful about what you type on the internet, in blogs, even in chat messages on facebook, as I feel you never know who really is watching. A few months ago I found a really funny site, which can be found HERE that gives you a random sentence for you to email, tweet or otherwise share to the internet to screw with NSA. Where you might get a quote like this

In one possible future, terrorists exploited the weapons grade plutonium the Doc stashed in his DeLorean.

Though there has been little information released about the new bill, we will need to keep you updated. Hopefully the actual text will be publicly released soon.

The Snowden Leaks about NSA is spying on people it makes me worry about what I am posting on the internet. Am I going to get someone knocking at my door from some no-named agency of the United States Government because I said something that they felt was some sort of threat?

Our private data needs to be kept PRIVATE, if we post something on the internet and it is not accessible from the random public, that makes it PRIVATE!

Thank you DemandProgress.org for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of LifeHacker.com

Justin Carter Out On Bail After Anonymous Person Posted $500,000 Bail

When does your online life become your real life? Always, apparently. As a bonus anything you do in your life, especially any felony actions will stay to haunt you forever! Justin Carter, 19 and a gamer at heart was placed in jail and given a $500,000 bail for making a comment.

“Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head,” “I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.” Making this comment on Facebook after a League of Legends match.

Not only is the comment considered a “Terroristic Threat” or “Criminal Threat” in some places, it can carry a 10 year prison sentence. Carter has already spent nearly four months in jail awaiting trial. Making a comment, sometimes even taking a single action could place the title of Felon over your name for the rest of your life in the United States, there are no second chances.

For those of you who are gamers, most likely know that what he said is just trash talk, and anyone in their right mind would likely know that he was not serious. After making the comments Carter supposedly followed the comment with “lol” and “JK”, which stand for Laugh Out Loud, and Just Kidding.

Much trash talk from gamers or anyone online for that matter, many times consist of homophobic, racist, threatening and sexist remarks. While many websites, and even games give you a feature to report said comments, or even posts, someone felt the need to report this comment to the police.

For those of you who have heard about this before, and are following the case, you might be interested in learning that Carter has been released from jail. According to Kotaku an anonymous person posted the $500,000 bail. If found guilty, Carter could spend up to 10 years in prison, and carry the lifetime title of felon, not a title that you earn from a video game, but a title you earn in real life. One that will likely haunt him for the rest of his life. If he does earn this title, he will likely be forced to work a dead end job, and be judged by everyone he meets for the rest of his life.

In the State of Texas a “Terrorist Threat” is a third-degree felony.

Do you feel that Carter deserves to earn the title of a felon, and serve a lengthy prison sentence. Or do you think he should be free?

Image courtesy of Christian Post.

New Privacy Bill Seeks To Reform FISA And Patriot Act, More Transparency On Surveillance

The NSA PRISM scandal has caused outrage across the USA and the world, you can check our extensive coverage of developments with PRISM here. The latest development comes from within the USA itself and seeks to prevent such a scandal happening again. The new bill which has been presented to the Senate is called “the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013“. This legislation seeks to reform the FISA and Patriot Acts in a way that prevents the government from exploiting them so much for surveillance purposes.

Multiple reforms include seeking to narrow the scope of section 215 of the Patriot Act by requiring the government to show both relevance to an authorised investigation and a link to a foreign group or power. This was needed because Section 215 was criticised for being used to obtain private information about people who have no links to any sort of terrorist activity. Another reform is allowing people to challenge non-disclosure or gag orders in court and expanding public reporting on the use national security letters. Furthermore, the bill will advance the “sunset date” of the FISA Amendments Act to June 2015 from June 2017 which enables it to align with the Patriot Act sunset. Finally the bill will increase oversight by forcing the inspector general of the intelligence community to conduct a comprehensive review of the FISA Amendments Act and its impact on the privacy rights of Americans.

Senator Leahy pushed for similar reforms last year which the Senate rejected but given the current political climate we could see such measures passed this time around.

Image courtesy of EFF

The Pirate Party Demands European Response To PRISM Scandal

The PRISM “scandal” originating the USA has triggered public outcry in the USA as well as across the world. The Pirate Party who are very much anti-American due to the long history of copyright battles have today revealed their AntiPRISM website and call to action against PRISM.

The Pirate Party firstly state that they are appalled by the PRISM program and have applauded Edward Snowden for his actions in revealing these things. They have then also demanded that European countries treat Edward Snowden sympathetically and allow him Asylum.

“In light of this situation, it is important that the European Union, rather than remaining complicit with this abuse of powers that comes at an untenable cost to society, becomes a worldwide beacon for digital rights and privacy protection, government protection and whistleblower protection”

Furthermore they demand to know the extent of European involvement in PRISM and request a European Parliament Committee to investigate the extent of PRISM and which EU bodies had knowledge of and active involvement in the PRISM program. As you might expect they Pirate Party also demanded any European surveillance programs be scrapped and that we need an international treaty on the freedom of the internet and appropriate data protection.

Image courtesy of AntiPRISM

Microsoft Follows Facebook In Releasing Government Request Data To The Public

Microsoft, Google and Facebook all joined together recently to demand more transparency about government data requests and being able to reveal details of these to their user base. Facebook recently revealed that it had to release data on some some 19,000 individuals at the legal request of the American government. Yet it was disappointed by being relatively constrained in what data it could release, it was still unable to release details on secret/spy requests that everyone really wants to know about.

Microsoft finds itself in a more or less identical situation as it has been given permission to reveal basic details about government data requests, although nothing on spy requests. Microsoft revealed it received between 6000 and 7000 criminal and national security warrants. It received a further 31,000 to 32,000 subpoenas and orders on consumer accounts. All of this took place in the last 6 months of 2012.

Essentially Microsoft has been able to clump national security with criminal warrants. National security warrants would mean anything to do with PRISM or FISA so we know that the U.S government made less than 7000 PRISM or FISA data requests to Microsoft. Obviously if you account for the criminal warrants then the PRISM/FISA requests are probably much smaller, I would hazard a guess at less than 1000, but we cannot truly know until Microsoft publish (or are allowed to publish) the details.

Microsoft’s statement read:

“This afternoon, the FBI and DOJ have given us permission to publish some additional data, and we are publishing it straight away. However, we continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues. We are permitted to publish data on national security orders received (including, if any, FISA Orders and FISA Directives), but only if aggregated with law enforcement requests from all other U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; only for the six-month period of July 1, 2012 thru December 31, 2012; only if the totals are presented in bands of 1,000; and all Microsoft consumer services had to be reported together”

While Microsoft is jumping on the privacy bandwagon let us not forget that Microsoft is accused of using its Skype VoIP service to spy on its users, monitor their calls and scan their text chats. In fact this is why Skype has been so wrapped up in the PRISM program because the opportunity to voice chat spy on millions of users has clearly been very useful to the NSA.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

Kim Dotcom Does Interview With Australian News Station

Megaupload Limited was a fairly large website, which provided a single service, cloud storage. Kim Dotcom founded the website in 2005, active for almost seven years before the United States FBI seized the website. But not only that, they froze all his assets, confiscating computers and equipment.  It has been a year and a half since Megaupload was seized, but that won’t stop people who want to illegally obtain software, movies and more.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0Wvn-9BXVc[/youtube]

The F.B.I. “Charges Leaders of Megaupload with Widespread Online Copyright Infringement”, which is just the start to a laundry list of charges.

  • Engaging in a racketeering conspiracy
  • Conspiring to commit copyright infringement
  • Conspiring to commit money laundering
  • Two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement

If found guilty of all charges, each individual could easily spend the rest of their life in prison. Racketeering conspiracy and money laundering both carry a 20 year sentence, while copyright infringement carries a 5 year sentence, each charge of substantive criminal copyright infringement caries a 5 year sentence.

Cloud storage is getting more and more popular, many websites use cloud storage, allowing you to store and share your files, and many of the services tell users right in their “Terms of Service” that you are not allowed to upload copyrighted material, just not in so many words. For example Dropbox says “Dropbox respects others’ intellectual property and asks that you do too.” As websites and services offered are not able to monitor everyone on the internet, unless you are the F.B.I. & N.S.A. and have PRISM doing all of your work. Megaupload received over 15 million takedown notices for copyright materials, in which they complied faster than the law requires.

Mega, the successor to Megaupload was launched January 19, 2013, advertised to be “BIGGER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER. SAFER” is hosted in Dotcom’s home country of New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom stated in an interview with the Australian Public Television station, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  “Let me make one thing crystal clear. I haven’t uploaded any copyright infringing material, I haven’t shared any copyright infringing material”

If you would like to see the full interview, produced by ABC, you can check it out HERE. During his interview he stated that he would upload video of the raid to YouTube.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmObwguVmEI[/youtube]

One theory is that the reason for the takedown of Megaupload is that the New Zealands Prime Minister handed the U.S. Government on a silver platter as part of negotiations with Warner Brothers executives for filming “The Hobbit in New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload charged for users uploaded content, do you think he should be held accountable?

I would like to give a special thank you to Australian Broadcasting Corporation News for sharing this interview.

Image from http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk

Facebook Released 19,000 Users Data To Spy Requests From The American Government

A couple of days ago we told you that Facebook, Microsoft and Google were demanding permission to reveal spy requests. Today Facebook claimed a minor victory in being able to partially reveal some information about American government data requests. In the last 6 months of 2012 the U.S government made some 9000 to 10000 requests to get information for around 18000-19000 users.

Facebook had previously denied any involvement in PRISM as they were bound by law not to say anything but now they have been granted permission they were able to disclose these details. However, this data isn’t that useful to us as it is aggregated heavily. This means it is difficult to dinstinguish between the type of requests and at what level of government they occurred. Obviously a lot of people are more interested in Federal enquiries of a more “spy-like” nature.

Facebook is still currently pursuing permission to release data on how many secret requests that had to respond to. Apparently Facebook only complied with around 79% of government requests. In the grand scheme of things this data collection on 19,000 people out of Facebook’s 1.1 billion users is pretty insignificant, although in my opinion it is still 19,000 people too many given that none of the individuals were contacted for permission to have their data investigated.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s data requests?

Image courtesy of Facebook

“StopWatching.Us” Passes 100,000 Signatures Already

We brought you the news that Mozilla and others had launched their “StopWatching.Us” campaign just a few days ago and it has already managed to achieved 100,000 signatures of support in quite a short space of time. The marks the beginning of what could be a long and draw out battle between activists in the USA and the government.

The “StopWatching.Us” campaign was launched by Mozilla and a very long list of other important individuals and organisations. As of writing the campaign currently has around 120,000 signatures – a number that is rising rapidly every hour. With just over 48 hours passed and 120,000 signatures progress is looking pretty good for the campaign but no doubt much more is needed before the political clout exists to challenge the U.S government.

The whole PRISM scandal has really put liberty back on the public agenda and the quick pace of change is largely reflective of the general outrage of a large proportion of the American population.

Currently the “StopWatching.Us” organisation is firmly pressing ahead with enlisting more support and challenging the U.S government. You can read their full letter to the U.S congress below or check out the site here.

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by an intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

  1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
  2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
  3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Image courtesy of the EFF

PRISM Whistleblower Stole NSA Documents On A USB Thumb Drive

Who would of thought that stealing documents from America’s NSA would be as easy as dragging and dropping the files straight onto a USB thumb drive? Well PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden says it was literally as easy as that and that is how he stole the NSA documents that exposed PRISM.

Apparently U.S officials have been doing plenty of investigating and they now know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from according to a report by the L.A Times. All organisations that deal with classified information typically enforce a ban on flash drives and are supposed to have software in place that prevents them from working. However, given that Edward Snowden was a system administrator he went more or less unnoticed and his position gave him access to the NSA computer networks and the knowledge of how the networks are monitored for unauthorized downloads.

A former NSA official commented on Snowden’s actions by saying “Of course, there are always exceptions. There are people who need to use a thumb drive and they have special permission”. Edward Snowden is currently facing an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S authorities.

Image courtesy of the Guardian

PRISM Whistleblower Has Evidence That The USA Has Hacked China Since 2009

Edward Snowden is today a world icon in the spotlight after leaking details of the top secret American PRISM surveillance program. He reiterated the sentiment that the USA is “hacking everyone everywhere” today in an interview with the South China Morning Post. Apparently the USA has conducted over 61,000 global hacking operations of which China and Hong Kong have been regular targets since 2009.

“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one”

The evidence he has doesn’t prove that the USA has been hacking the Chinese military but does prove that they have been hacking Chinese universities, public officials, businesses and so on. He stated that hundreds of the hacking operations were targeted at the Chinese and at Hong Kong.

We have seen the cyber security war between China and the USA spark off in recent times with revelations that the NSA had a special “TAO” complex that had been hacking China for 15 years, and since both Chinese and U.S government officials had thrown many accusations back and forth.

U.S President Barack Obama and General Secretary of the Chinese Community part Xi Jinping recently had a meeting where cyber security was pretty high up the agenda. Both countries are worried the cyber war might impact economic relations but neither side are worried enough to want to back down.

What are your thoughts on the USA-China “cyber war”?

Image courtesy of the Guardian

NSA Director Claims They Stopped Dozens Of Attacks With PRISM

General Keith Alexander is the head of the American National Security Agency. You can only imagine how much pressure he has come under recently due to the emergence of the PRISM scandal and he was recently brought before Congress to defend the PRISM program.

General Alexander stood before the U.S congress and talked about how PRISM had helped them defend against dozens of possible terrorist attacks. He went on to say that the exposure of the PRISM program has compromised national security as well as the security of other countries.

“It’s dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent. Both here and abroad, in disruption or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks,”

Furthermore he backed up the head of National Intelligence, James Clapper, by saying that the leaks in the media had jeopardised the safety of the United States and its allies.

“Great harm has already been done by opening this up. There is no doubt in my mind that we will lose capabilities as a result of this and that not only the United States but those allies that we have helped will no longer be as safe as they were two weeks ago”

What are your thoughts on his comments? To me it sounds like the U.S Government is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does it relax surveillance programs and potentially risk being blamed for not stopping future terrorist attacks? Or does it maintain surveillance programs to combat terrorism but continue to face intense opposition and lobbying from the public against the surveillance?

Image courtesy of the EFF

Facebook, Microsoft & Google Demand Permission To Reveal Spy Requests

In the wake of being subject to bad press due to the whole “PRISM” data collection scandal, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have all been adamant to get permission to reveal details of secret FISA (foreign intelligence surveillance act) requests, according to Softpedia. This is because Facebook, Microsoft and Google want to be transparent about the fact they are being forced to give data over to the unconstitutional FISA requests. You could also argue there is in an attempt to cash in on some good press while everyone bashes the U.S government and the NSA.

While Microsoft has questioned the privacy practices of Google in the past, it is nice to see three leading “internet” based corporations leading the way against PRISM. The U.S government still maintains that all its surveillance, including but not limited to the Verizon scandal, is constitutional under the Patriot Act. Although what’s ironic is that the writer of the Patriot Act, James Sensenbreener, has claimed the U.S government is exploiting an “overbroad interpretation of the Act”.

It would certainly be interesting to see how many requests these companies have been forced to respond to, but it seems unlikely this information will ever get the go ahead unless the U.S government is put under more pressure. What are your thoughts on Facebook, Microsoft and Google demanding transparency?

Image courtesy of ComputerWorld.com