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Apple to Lawmakers: We'll Help but No Backdoors
April 21, 2016
Apple's top legal official on Tuesday appeared before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and reiterated the company's willingness to help law enforcement on active cases and cooperate on long-term solutions, despite its contentious legal battle with the FBI over the encrypted iPhone used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Apple works daily with law enforcement on a number of cases.
Journalist Gets 2-Years in Prison for Aiding Anonymous Prank
April 19, 2016
A U.S. District Court judge last week sentenced Matthew Keys to two years in prison after he was found guilty of conspiring with the hacker group Anonymous to break into the Los Angeles Times' website and modify a news story. Keys had been site administrator for KTXL Fox 40, which was owned by Tribune, the same company that owned the Times.
Feds Prep for Cybersecurity Buying Spree
April 18, 2016
The U.S. government's objectives for improving cybersecurity are taking shape in updated contracting procedures, contracts and projected increases in spending. Recent developments have underscored the federal commitment to IT security. The GSA has asked vendors to respond by Wednesday to a research survey on what it should do to expedite federal acquisition of cybersecurity products and services.
Microsoft Sues DoJ Over Spying Gag Orders
April 15, 2016
Microsoft on Thursday filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the gag orders that accompany requests to access customers' private emails and other data. The orders prevent the company from notifying affected customers about the government's demands. The case is the fourth public lawsuit it has filed against the Justice Department in three years.
FBI Paid Hackers to Defeat Security of Shooter's iPhone
April 14, 2016
The FBI paid hackers to break onto the iPhone of the San Bernardino, California, shooter, according to a news report published Tuesday. The bureau obtained the services of gray hats, insiders said, and apparently did not get help from Cellebrite, as earlier reports had suggested. Gray hats are hackers who sell flaws to governments or companies that make surveillance tools.
Adobe Issues Emergency Patch to Head Off Flash Ransomware Attacks
April 11, 2016
Adobe last week issued an emergency security patch to fix a vulnerability in Flash that could leave users vulnerable to a ransomware attack. The vulnerability exists in Adobe Flash Player 21.0.0.197 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Chrome operating systems. It can cause a crash and leave the computer vulnerable to attackers, the company said.
Illicit Weapons Traders Flock to Facebook
April 8, 2016
Facebook has served as an online marketplace for armed militias in Libya and other war-torn countries, according to a news report published Wednesday. An array of light weapons bought and sold after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi unleashed a torrent of unregulated commerce in Libya, which previously had controlled online communications strictly, according to a study by Armament Research Services.
Apple, FBI Tussle Puts Bull's-Eye on iPhone
April 7, 2016
The battle between the FBI and Apple over access to the iPhone of Syed Farook came to an abrupt end last week when the agency announced it no longer needed the company's assistance. Since the Department of Justice delayed a hearing on an order to force Apple to assist the FBI in brute-forcing the password, speculation has spread about how the agency planned to access the data.
White House Opens More Doors for Open Source
April 6, 2016
The U.S. government is picking up the pace in its efforts to use open source software as much as possible. Federal CIO Tony Scott last month released details of a proposed policy designed to allow customized software created for one agency to be openly available to other government agencies as well. Industry and government professionals may comment on the proposal by Monday.
WhatsApp Encryption Ups Privacy Ante
April 6, 2016
WhatsApp on Tuesday told its 1 billion users that their communications would be better protected from prying eyes with end-to-end encryption. The company always has made data and communication security a priority, according to Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014. End-to-end encryption is accomplished through use of the Signal Protocol.
Chinese National Cops Plea in Defense Secrets Case
March 29, 2016
A Chinese aviation and aerospace businessman last week pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal sensitive military and export-controlled data from major U.S. defense contractors and send the information to China, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Su Bin, also known as Stephen Su and Stephen Subin, entered the plea before Judge Christina A. Snyder.
Ransomware's Aftermath Can Be More Costly Than Ransom
March 24, 2016
Downtime caused by a ransomware attack can cost a company more than paying a ransom to recover data encrypted by the malware, according to a report released last week by Intermedia. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of companies infected with ransomware could not access their data for at least two days because of the incident, and 32 percent couldn't access their data for five days or more.
Car Computers Are Vehicles for Hacking, Warns FBI
March 22, 2016
The FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week issued a warning about the threat of automobile hacking. Computers that control steering, braking, acceleration and lights, as well as wireless technologies used in keyless entry, ignition control and navigation systems, provide portals for cyberattack, the agencies said.
Malware Exploits Apple DRM to Infect iPhones
March 19, 2016
Security researchers at Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 on Wednesday announced they had discovered in the wild a method of infecting nonjailbroken iPhones with malware by exploiting design flaws in Apple's digital rights management technology. The flaw has been exploited since 2013 largely as a means to pirate iOS software, but this is the first time it's been used to infect iPhones with malware.
Google Reports Web Traffic Encryption Progress
March 18, 2016
Google this week launched a section of its transparency report to track the progress of efforts to encrypt the Web, by both the company and third-party sites estimated to account for about 25 percent of Web traffic. The report will be updated weekly with information about progress the company has made toward implementing HTTPS by default across its services.
Android, iOS on Opposite Sides of Encryption Divide
March 18, 2016
Consumers' understanding of what encryption does apparently doesn't determine whether they use the technology, as iPhone owners are much more likely to use encryption than Android users. Most Android phones are not encrypted, either by user choice or manufacturer design. About 95 percent of all iPhones reportedly are encrypted, compared with less than 10 percent of Android phones.
Apple Ransomware Reveals Cert Problem
March 17, 2016
Researchers last week discovered the first ransomware in the wild aimed at Apple's hardware platform. While the threat was subdued quickly, it exposed the weakness of digital certificates in authenticating software to devices. The ransomware appeared as a legitimate application because it contained a digital certificate stolen from a bona fide Mac developer in Turkey.
Apple Channels Founding Fathers in Legal Brief
March 17, 2016
Lawyers for Apple on Tuesday argued in a federal District Court filing that the founding fathers would be appalled by the demands the Department of Justice has made in seeking a backdoor to iPhone encryption. The DoJ and the FBI want "Apple to create exactly the kind of operating system that Congress has thus far refused to require," the lawyers wrote.
DoJ, Apple Butt Heads in Latest Encryption Go-Round
March 14, 2016
The legal battle between Apple and the Department of Justice over access to encrypted iPhone data got a little more personal last week after lawyers for Apple blasted a government filing that accused the company of collaborating with the Chinese government. The DOJ's filing was a smear campaign, Apple attorney Bruce Sewell argued in a conference call with reporters.
Senators Aim to Lay Down the Law on Encryption Cooperation
March 11, 2016
Lawmakers this week sent to the White House the draft version of a bill that would penalize technology companies if they failed to cooperate on encryption cases, according to Capitol Hill sources. The bill would open up tech companies to contempt orders and other penalties if they refused to comply with a law enforcement request involving encrypted communications.
Facebook Exec's Brazilian Misadventure Signals Bigger Problem
March 10, 2016
The jailing last week of Facebook Regional Vice President Diego Dzoda in Brazil may have been the tip of an iceberg. Frustrated police made the arrest after Facebook failed to produce WhatsApp messages connected to a drug trafficking case. The incident is one of a growing heap of examples that highlight the difficulties law enforcement agencies face when trying to collect digital evidence.
White House Proposes $3B IT Update Fund
March 10, 2016
The Obama administration is seeking $3.1 billion for a modernization fund to update federal IT resources that need to be replaced with more efficient systems. The fund would bolster the government's annual spending on IT, which is set for a modest increase to $89.8 billion in the administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2017. Upgrading older systems has been a concern for some time.
Tech Titans Tackle the Trump Problem
March 9, 2016
High-profile Silicon Valley executives last week attended a secret summit with GOP leaders at the American Enterprise Institute's World Forum in a bid to put the brakes on the political campaign of Donald Trump, according to a report published Monday. Trump has dominated the Republican presidential race with highly charged rhetoric and out-of-the-box campaign promises.
Ransomware Plague Spreads to Macs
March 8, 2016
Researchers at Palo Alto Networks last week announced that they had found the first ransomware in the wild aimed at Macintosh computers, but Apple and one of its developers quickly neutered it. The ransomware -- a malware program that scrambles data on a computer and won't unscramble it unless a ransom is paid -- was embedded in software for installing an OS X app for sharing files on BitTorrent.
FBI Would Hurtle Us Back to Encryption Jurassic, Apple Warns
March 8, 2016
The FBI's efforts to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the slain San Bernardino terrorists could threaten national security, charged Craig Federighi, Apple's SVP of engineering, in an op-ed piece published Monday. Terrorists and criminals could launch attacks on vital infrastructure through access "to just one person's smartphone," he maintained.
Malvertisers Use Digital Fingerprints to Avoid Detection
March 4, 2016
In the world of computer security, fingerprints are found in more places than where the tips of hands touch. That's because the term is applied to any data set that can be used to make a unique identification. Antifraud programs online retailers use can identify customers by the structure of the files on their computers. In fact, the technique works so well, malicious actors use it.
The Flip Side of the Shiny Internet Coin
March 3, 2016
There are two sides to every coin -- a good side and a bad side. One side helps you and the other side hurts you. The Internet is a great example: The good side lets you learn anything, about anything, anytime, any place. The bad side targets you with scams. They are running rampant, and there is not a damn thing we can do about it. How can this be, you may ask? Isn't this illegal?
Apple Lawyer Pushes Back Against FBI Testimony to Judiciary Committee
March 2, 2016
Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell on Tuesday testified before the House Judiciary Committee that his company should not be required write new code for software that would weaken the security of the iPhone in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attacks. The FBI wants Apple to take action that would put the privacy and security of millions of customers at risk, he said.
Report: 3.5 Million HTTPS Servers Vulnerable to DROWN
March 2, 2016
A report released Tuesday on the DROWN vulnerability raises concerns about possible attacks that could expose encrypted communications. DROWN is a serious vulnerability that affects HTTPS and other services using SSL version 2, according to the team of security researchers who compiled the report. The protocols affected are some of the essential cryptographic protocols for Internet security.
FBI Director Makes Case for Security Trade-Off in Congressional Hearing
March 2, 2016
FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the government has the legal right to gain limited access to the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters and other suspected terrorists. Congress and the judicial system can create a mechanism to protect the safety of the American people while preserving constitutional rights, he said.
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What do you think of digital assistants like Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa?
They're part of my daily life -- very helpful.
I use them, but they're not all that smart.
They're like lurking spies -- I don't like them.
It's annoying that all the assistants are predominantly "female."
I've never used one.