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Older News Picks  
  • Tools for breaking out of PRISM
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 10:13 PM EDT
  • A talk given by Christian Grothoff about tools for breaking out of PRISM. "This is the video from the talks given by Christian Grothoff, Carlo von Lynx, Jacob Appelbaum and Richard Stallman in Berlin on August 1st. The talks are in English, even though the welcoming words are in German.

    Disclaimer: The subject of these talks are GNUnet, Secushare, Internet Censorship and Surveillance, and Free Software. While the talks were hosted and recorded by the Pirate Party Berlin, no political statements or endorsements on behalf of the TU Munich or the GNUnet project or its sponsors are implied.

    [PJ: This is just part 1. For the full video, go here. - YouTube

  • One on One with Ginni Rometty
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 07:28 PM EDT
  • Published on Nov 27, 2012
    Ginni Rometty, President, and CEO, IBM
    Interviewer: Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer, Fortune
    Introduction: John Huey, Editor-in-Chief, Time Inc. - Fortune Magazine, YouTube

  • The Pirate Bay Releases Censorship-Busting 'PirateBrowser'
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 06:27 PM EDT
  • "Do you know any people who can't access TPB or other torrents-sites because they are blocked? Recommend PirateBrowser to them. It's a simple one-click browser that circumvents censorship and blockades and makes the site instantly available and accessible. No bundled ad-ware, toolbars or other crap, just a Pre-configured Firefox browser," wrote The Pirate Bay's "Winston" in a blog post yesterday. - David Murphy, PCMag

  • Wikipedia Co-Founder Refuses to Comply With China’s Censorship
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 05:28 PM EDT
  • Wikipedia Co-Founder Jimmy Wales said he would rather have no Wikipedia in China than comply with any form of censorship.

    In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, Mr. Wales said the company will always refuse to comply with government requests to restrict information, calling access to knowledge and education a human right.

    Since early June, in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, China’s Great Firewall has blocked the encrypted version of Wikipedia where users in China could access the site without filters. Now, users can now only access the unencrypted version of the site, where articles on politically sensitive topics are blocked and keyword filtering is common. - WSJ

  • Drama over: Google posts images and binaries for 2013 Nexus 7
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 05:24 PM EDT
  • Android modders who want to get to work supporting the 2013 Nexus 7 can breathe a sigh of relief: Google has released a factory image and driver binaries for the tablet, just as it has done for nearly all of its other Nexus phones and tablets. This news comes a couple of days after former Android Open Source Project technical lead Jean-Baptiste Queru said that he didn't know whether they would be released at all. - Andrew Cunningham, ars technica

  • Lawmakers tasked with overseeing NSA surveillance programs feel “inadequate”
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 05:22 PM EDT
  • “In terms of the oversight function, I feel inadequate most of the time,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. She spoke with The Washington Post on Saturday evening, admitting that while the programs were “approved” by Congress—"Was it approved by a fully knowing Congress? That is not the case."...

    Outside the specific hearings, House intelligence committee staff “must rely on the existing committee staff, many of whom used to work for the spy agencies they are tasked with overseeing” according to The Post. Senate intelligence committee staff, by contrast, can select whomever they like once they have adequate clearance. Those committee members and their staffers can only access classified documents in secure rooms and may not bring in outside notes. - Cyrus Farivar, ars technica

  • An Evening with IBM Research's Dr. John Kelly
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 10:08 AM EDT
  • [Recorded: June 11, 2013]
    Dr. John E. Kelly III is senior vice president and director of IBM Research. In this position he directs the worldwide operations of IBM Research, with approximately 3,000 scientists and technical employees at 12 laboratories in 10 countries around the world, and helps guide IBM's overall technical strategy.

    [PJ: Listening to this interview, particularly the part about how Watson works in dealing with uncertain data, I couldn't help but wonder why the NSA is using the old-fashioned keyword searching. It made me wonder if technology could solve the metadata collection/4th Amendment issue.] - ComputerHistory, YouTube

  • Will PayPal's Face Verification System Kick Off the Future of Payment Technology?
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 08:44 AM EDT
  • When ready to purchase, the user accesses the PayPal app (which is linked to his or her PayPal account), to drag an animated pin down the screen and essentially “check in” to the merchant, similar to the functionality used in Facebook. With that action, the user’s name and electronic headshot appear in the merchant’s payment system. With customer approval, the cashier clicks on the person's photo from the merchant interface, to initiate the “charge” payment. When the transaction is complete, the customer receives an alert via phone with the amount paid, along with PayPal's usual receipt.

    For users and merchants, the face verification technology may signal a greater potential for convenience, and operational constraints.

    [PJ: Not to mention the surveillance efficiencies.] - Stephanie Taylor Christensen, Minyanville

  • Obama Got $308,081 from Apple, $1,000 from Samsung
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 04:28 AM EDT
  • Obama got $308,081 from Apple in 2012 []

    Obama got $1,000 from Samsung in 2012 (as $250 [] and $750 [])

    Even disallowing the home team advantage, I really would be surprised if Obama does Samsung the same favour he extended to Apple last week and overturns this ban. - Comment by meehawl, Slashdot

  • The Most Powerful Dissent in American History
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 02:44 AM EDT
  • It's a passage written 94 years ago that both explains and preserves our op-ed pages and the Internet, talk-radio shows, and blogs, in the brilliant blending of two American institutions that were not always destined to go together: the free market and free speech. It's a passage that both acknowledges human weakness and strives to master it, that recognizes the roiling diversity of American thought and seeks to make something clear and profound from it. From United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his dissent in Abrams v. United States:

    "Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition....

    "But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.

    "That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country." - Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic

  • I regret my first reaction ...
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 02:06 AM EDT
  • I regret my first reaction to Silent Circle shutting down. It's not self-censorship. It's common sense. - John Perry Barlow, Twitter

  • Twitter joins Washington’s influence economy, forms PAC
  • Sunday, August 11 2013 @ 12:07 AM EDT
  • The company said its PAC, to be named Twitter#PAC, and an in-house lobbyist will help it campaign for its policy objectives in Washington. The PAC will allow the firm to pool donations for its causes.

    “We expect to continue to play an active role in speaking up on issues related to Internet freedom, government access to user data, patent reform and freedom of expression,” Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser said in a statement. - Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

  • in terms of alterntives to Lavabit...
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 11:44 PM EDT
  • in terms of alternatives to Lavabit, I've been reminded there's , based in #switzerland, and using #freesw - Glyn Moody, Twitter

  • Crypto experts blast German e-mail providers’ “secure data storage” claim
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 07:37 PM EDT
  • In the wake of the shutdown of two secure e-mail providers in the United States, three major German e-mail providers have banded together to say that they’re stepping forward to fill the gap. There’s just one problem: the three companies only provide security for e-mail in transit (in the form of SMTP TLS) and not actual secure data storage....

    Germany has notoriously strong data protection laws—likely the strongest in the world. But those laws do have law enforcement exceptions for security agencies, like the BND, Germany’s equivalent to the National Security Agency. The BND likely can easily access e-mails stored unencrypted on German servers with little legal or technical interference. Clearly, forcing users (particularly less tech-savvy ones) to use SMTP TLS provides a modicum of better protection for data in transit, but it's hardly anywhere close to improved security for stored data.- Cyrus Farivar, ars technica

  • The free Web program that got Bradley Manning convicted of computer fraud
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 07:30 PM EDT
  • Investigators found that, when Manning downloaded vast numbers of U.S. diplomatic cables and other files from the computer network he regularly accessed for his Army intelligence job, he’d used wget to do it. This doesn’t mean he used wget to hack into the system – Manning already had access to the files. It means that he used this tool to download the files more efficiently. Illegally taking and distributing the files are covered under separate charges.

    How does using wget qualify as computer fraud? U.S. prosecutors pointed out that wget was not on the list of “approved” programs for use in facility where Manning worked. They argued that, although Manning was allowed to access the files, using an unauthorized program to do it amounted to a digital “trespass” and thus computer fraud. They also used the fact that wget was not permitted on Manning’s computer as further evidence that using it amounted to illegal computer access. - Max Fisher, Washington Post

  • E-mail's Big Privacy Problem: Q&A With Silent Circle Co-Founder Phil Zimmermann
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 07:27 PM EDT
  • Zimmerman: We didn’t have a PGP client that could run on a smartphone, and our market is primarily smartphone users. So how [could] we get it? Get a server side implementation of PGP, a Symantec product called PGP Universal, meant for enterprise customers who want to manage keys on the servers. So that’s what we were using. But if someone comes to us and forces us to hand over the keys, [we're in trouble.]

    There is no way to do encrypted e-mail where the content is protected. No way where the metadata is protected. Assuming that the e-mail is based in the country that can apply pressure to the mail provider… Almost any government has the ability to pressure a mail provider in that country to hand over what it has....We [also] plan to put some servers in Switzerland.

    Q: Why Switzerland?

    Zimmerman: They don’t have the data retention laws that the European Union have. All of the EU countries are subject to EU data retention laws. In that respect Europe is worse than the U.S. We don’t really have the same data retention laws here, although we seem to be heading in that direction. We’re working on [building servers to base in Switzerland] now. It takes time [due to] complicated agreements with European carriers. [Note: Silent Circle essentially wants to build gateways in Europe to the region's public switch network, so that someone using the Silent Circle calling or texting app outside of Europe, could call into someone without the service in the region.] That’s where we’re getting the customer demand. If you’re doing end-to-end encryption, the servers we have in Canada are just fine for that. - Parmy Olson, Forbes

  • Math Advances Raise the Prospect of an Internet Security Crisis
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 07:23 PM EDT
  • “Our conclusion is there is a small but definite chance that RSA and classic Diffie-Hellman will not be usable for encryption purposes in four to five years,” said Stamos, referring to the two most commonly used encryption methods.

    Any hints that those methods could be undermined must be taken seriously, said Stamos. They are used to protect banking, online commerce, and e-mail, as well as the mechanisms that ensure that updates downloaded by operating systems such as Windows and OSX are genuine. The result of the two encryption methods being broken would be, said Stamos, “a total failure of trust on the Internet.”

    [PJ: Quaint. Trust on the Internet. Anyway, if it's so that the NSA retains encrypted email for five years, now we see why five.] - Tom Simonite, MIT Technology Review

  • Lavabit's Ladar Levison: 'If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It'
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 07:06 PM EDT
  • Levison’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, who is based in Northern Virginia — the court district where Levison needed representation — added that it’s “ridiculous” that Levison has to so carefully parse what he says about the government inquiry. “In America, we’re not supposed to have to worry about watching our words like this when we’re talking to the press,” Binnall said. “As a Dallas company, we weren’t really equipped to respond to this inquiry. The government knew that,” said Levison, who drew parallels with the prosecutorial bullying of Aaron Swartz. “The same kinds of things have happened to me. The government tried to bully me, and [my lawyer] has been instrumental in protecting me, but it’s amazing the lengths they’ve gone to to accomplish their goals.”...

    He doesn’t have the technological capability to decrypt his customer’s data but if someone could intercept the communication between the Lavabit’s Dallas-based servers and a user, they could get the user’s password and then use that to decrypt their data....“I’m taking a break from email,” said Levison. “If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it either.” - Kashmir Hill, Forbes

  • Reflections of the Judge Who Sentenced Future-D.C.-Circuit-Clerk Shon Hopwood
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 05:57 PM EDT
  • What I discovered today was a remarkable blog post by Judge Richard Kopf, the Nebraska district judge who sentenced Hopwood many years ago. Kopf reflects on his instincts at the time:

    "...Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk — all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong." - Will Baude, Volokh Conspiracy

  • NSA: Keeping Us Safe From…Dope Peddlers
  • Saturday, August 10 2013 @ 05:51 PM EDT
  • Thus if a terror suspect’s cousin (one hop) calls a drug dealer (two hops), the phone records of that dealer’s suppliers (three hops) might automatically end up in the secondary database. There doesn’t appear to be anything stopping NSA analysts from then running algorithms against that database designed to detect call patterns characteristic of narcotics rings on behalf of their friends at DEA. From there, it is probably not too hard for government lawyers to justify the dissemination of the results to law enforcement: narcotics trafficking, after all, often funds the activities of foreign cartels engaged in “narco-terrorism,” and so ordinary enforcement of domestic drug laws can be classified as serving a “counterterrorism purpose” to the extent it disrupts those flows of funds....

    This should serve as a crucial reminder that you can’t build a massive architecture of surveillance “just for terrorism” and expect it to remain limited to that function: once the apparatus exists, there will inevitably be incredible pressure from other interests within government to expand its use. Once the data is already begin collected, after all, it seems a waste not to exploit its full potential. - Julian Sanchez, Cato Institute

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