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The Fallout From the NSA's Backdoors Mandate
January 13, 2015
The United States National Security Agency (NSA) is widely believed to have mandated high-tech vendors build backdoors into their hardware and software. Reactions from foreign governments to the news are harming American businesses and, some contend, may result in the breakup of the Internet. For example, Russia is moving to paper and typewriters in some cases to move certain types of information.
Data Breach Law Tops Obama Privacy Initiatives
January 12, 2015
A proposed national data breach reporting law, aimed primarily at protecting consumer privacy, headlined several initiatives the Obama administration announced Monday. The Personal Data Notification & Protection Act clarifies the obligations of companies when there's been a data breach. It includes a requirement to notify customers within 30 days of the discovery of a breach.
BlackBerry Jingles Its Keys to Recovery
January 08, 2015
BlackBerry has been hurting over the last several years, but recently it's starting to look like the stars may be lining up for recovery. If BlackBerry does make a comeback, it will be a very different company. This time, the focus will be on security -- plus one more important factor. BlackBerry succeeded years ago. It was the first successful smartphone maker.
Thieves Take $5M Bite Out of Bitcoin Exchange
January 07, 2015
An estimated $5.2 million was stolen over the weekend from Bitstamp, a digital currency exchange. It has suspended services pending an investigation. The company assured its customers that bitcoins held with Bitstamp prior to suspension of services were completely safe and would be honored in full. Bitstamp on Sunday discovered that some of its operational wallets had been compromised.
Fingerprint Theft Just a Shutter Click Away
January 07, 2015
Ever since smartphone makers started incorporating fingerprint scanners as a means of unlocking mobile phones, the Chaos Computer Club has attacked the technology with vigor. Not long after Apple added Touch ID to its iPhones, the German hackers demonstrated how to lift prints from a surface and create a flexible pad containing the print that could be used to break into a phone.
Google Outs Unpatched Windows 8.1 Kernel Flaw
January 06, 2015
Microsoft got a fiery start to 2015 when Google last week publicized a kernel vulnerability in Windows 8.1 Update. Google Project Zero's James Forshaw, who discovered the flaw, ranked it as a high-severity issue. Although Forshaw reported it to Microsoft last September, the company had not yet fixed the problem when Google published it. The vulnerability lets people falsely pose as administrators.
Writers Worldwide Chilled by Government Surveillance
January 06, 2015
Concern over government surveillance has been so heightened by confidential information leaked by former intelligence hand Edward Snowden that writers in free countries are as worried as those in autocratic nations, according to a new report. Three-quarters of writers in countries classified as "free" told researchers they were "worried" or "somewhat worried" about surveillance.
Yikes! Ransomware Could Take Over Your Hard Drive
January 05, 2015
Malware is running rampant on the Internet, affecting smartphones, tablets and PCs. Relatively new malware allows bad guys to encrypt devices until a ransom is paid. Usually the ransom is required in bitcoin, rather than U.S. currency, as it cannot be traced. What are the legal and other risks associated with ransomware? Ransomware is largely directed at personal devices and small businesses.
Hackers Give Touch ID the Finger
December 29, 2014
Hacker Jan Krissler, aka "Starbug," this weekend told attendees at the 31st Chaos Computer Club convention that he had replicated the fingerprints of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leven using a standard photo camera and commercially available software. Krissler used a close-up of a photo of the minister's thumb and other pictures taken at different angles during a press event in October.
Misfortune Cookie Crumbles Millions of Security Systems
December 29, 2014
Check Point Software Technologies recently revealed a flaw in millions of routers that allows the devices to be controlled by hackers. The company detected 12 million Internet-connected devices that have the flaw. The vulnerability, which Check Point dubbed "Misfortune Cookie," can be found in the code of a commonly used embedded Web server, RomPager from AllegroSoft.
The Big Tech Stories of 2015
December 29, 2014
Last week, we looked back at the largely untold, or under told, stories of 2014. This week, let's look ahead to some of the stories that are coming in 2015. We'll have robots, self-driving cars, armed autonomous drones, the professional proliferation of head mounted cameras, some scandals, and some interesting political implications. I'll close with my product of the year, which even surprised me.
Fraud-Proofing Credit Cards Through Quantum Physics
December 26, 2014
Researchers at the University of Twente and the Eindhoven University of Technology have come up with what they claim is an unprecedentedly secure way to authenticate credit cards, IDs, biometrics, and parties involved in quantum cryptography. The method -- quantum-secure authentication of optical keys -- basically consists of sending a beam of light at cards treated with a special paint.
Flaws in Ancient Standard Enable Wireless Eavesdropping, Spying
December 23, 2014
Vulnerabilities in Signaling System 7, telephony signaling protocols used by carriers worldwide, allow third parties to listen to people's cellphone calls and intercept text messages despite encryption, The Washington Post reported last week. German cybersecurity researchers Tobias Engel of Sternraute and Karsten Nohl of Security Research Labs separately discovered these vulnerabilities.
Boeing Picks BlackBerry to Brace Black's Security
December 22, 2014
Boeing has enlisted BlackBerry to help bolster the security of its Black smartphone by providing "secure mobile solutions for Android devices utilizing their BES-12 platform," said Boeing spokesperson Andrew Lee. BES 12 provides cross-platform enterprise mobile management that gives organizations strict control of devices, while letting users keep personal data private.
The Untold Stories of 2014
December 22, 2014
It is time to look back at 2014, so I'll focus here on a series of stories I thought were interesting but didn't seem to catch much or any real air. Some, like what is really behind Sony's decision to pull The Interview still might take off. Hadoop analytics is one of the most powerful platforms to come to market, and one vendor stands out above all others: Cloudera.
Experts Forecast the End of Privacy as We Know It
December 18, 2014
Privacy's future appears muddy at best, judging from a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center. More than 2,500 Internet experts and analysts were narrowly divided on whether policy makers and technology innovators would create a secure, popularly accepted and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025.
Tech Industry Rallies Around Microsoft in Data Privacy Battle With US
December 18, 2014
A coalition of supporting organizations filed 10 amicus briefs with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case challenging a U.S. government search warrant for Microsoft customer data stored on a server based in Ireland. The coalition includes 28 technology and media companies, 35 computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations.
Terrorist Threats May Blow Up 'The Interview's' Box Office
December 17, 2014
The now-notoriously controversial action comedy The Interview, which was expected to deliver profits of $90-$95 million for Sony, may have become a financial black hole. The movie's Thursday premiere in New York has been cancelled, and several movie theater chains have scrapped plans to screen it, following a hacker message referencing 9/11 and threatening physical attacks on theaters.
BlackBerry Bucks Up Its Loyal Base With Classic Comeback
December 17, 2014
BlackBerry has unveiled the BlackBerry Classic, a handset with a full QWERTY physical keyboard, physical navigation keys, and a design that can be best described as "retro," in that its appearance is virtually identical to the BlackBerry Bold. The Classic, which is smaller than the company's recently launched Passport smartphone, targets users who still long for the traditional BlackBerry handset.
FIDO Pursues Vision of a Password-Free World
December 17, 2014
A group of some 150 companies last week moved closer to eliminating the bane of many an online user: the ubiquitous password. The FIDO Alliance, which counts among its members Microsoft, PayPal, Google, Bank of America, Visa and MasterCard, released version 1.0 of its open specifications for strong authentication on the Internet without the use of passwords.
Sony May Have Succumbed to DDoS Temptation
December 15, 2014
Sony reportedly has used Amazon Web Services to launch distributed denial of service attacks on sites carrying files stolen from its network. Those attacks apparently involved "hundreds of computers" in Tokyo and Singapore. Amazon reportedly issued a statement denying the claim, but the language it used was vague: "The activity being reported is not currently happening on AWS."
Berners-Lee Sounds Clarion Call for Universal Web Access
December 15, 2014
The Internet should be a basic human right, but access to it is increasingly unequal around the globe, said World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee last week. The Web has the potential to be a great equalizer, he asserted, but only "if we hard-wire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access and Net neutrality into the rules of the game."
Iowa to Lead Digital Driver's License Movement
December 12, 2014
Iowa plans to issue digital drivers' licenses in the form of a smartphone app by next year, Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, said earlier this week at a public state agency budget hearing. The digital license will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops, as well as by security officers who screen travelers at Iowa's airports.
No Respite for Sony
December 12, 2014
Since the hacker group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" announced its attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment late last month, things have gone downhill for the company. After confidential documents were leaked to the Internet over several days, a denouement of sorts was reached last week, when a security company examining the stolen data discovered nearly 50,000 Social Security numbers.

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