Privacy

In a 'Plot Twist', Wikileaks Releases Documents It Claims Detail Russia Mass Surveillance Apparatus (techcrunch.com) 51

WikiLeaks, believed by many to be a Kremlin front, surprised some observers Tuesday morning (Snowden called it a "plot twist") when it released documents linking a Russian tech company with access to thousands of citizens' telephone and internet communications with Moscow. From a report: Writing a summary of the cache of mostly Russian-language documents, Wikileaks claims they show how a long-established Russian company which supplies software to telcos is also installing infrastructure, under state mandate, that enables Russian state agencies to tap into, search and spy on citizens' digital activity -- suggesting a similar state-funded mass surveillance program to the one utilized by the U.S.'s NSA or by GCHQ in the U.K. (both of which were detailed in the 2013 Snowden disclosures). The documents which Wikileaks has published (there are just 34 "base documents" in this leak) relate to a St. Petersburg-based company, called Peter-Service, which it claims is a contractor for Russian state surveillance. The company was set up in 1992 to provide billing solutions before going on to become a major supplier of software to the mobile telecoms industry.
United States

Americans Plan Massive 'Net Neutrality' Protest Next Week (theguardian.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: A coalition of activists, consumer groups and writers are calling on supporters to attend the next meeting of the Federal Communications Commission on September 26 in Washington DC. The next day, the protest will move to Capitol Hill, where people will meet legislators to express their concerns about an FCC proposal to rewrite the rules governing the internet... The activist groups are encouraging internet users to meet their lawmakers and tell them how a free and open internet is vital to their lives and their livelihoods...

"The FCC seems dead set on killing net neutrality, but they have to answer to Congress, and Congress has to answer to us, their constituents," said Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, one of the protest's organisers. "With this day of advocacy, we're harnessing the power of the web to make it possible for ordinary internet users to meet directly with their senators and representatives to tell their stories, and make sure that lawmakers hear from the public, not just lobbyists for AT&T and Verizon," she said.

Monday Mozilla and the Internet Archive are also inviting the public to a free panel discussion featuring former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on ways the American public can act to preserve net neutrality.
Networking

Scientists Explore A Light Bulb-Based Based 10Gbps Li-Fi/5G Home Network (ispreview.co.uk) 11

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at Brunel University in London have begun to develop a new 10 Gbps home wireless network using both Li-Fi (light fidelity) and 5G based mmWave technology, which will fit inside LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs on your ceiling.

In simple terms, the Visible Light Communication (VLC) based Li-Fi technology works by flicking a LED light off and on thousands of times a second (by altering the length of the flickers you can introduce digital communications).

The article says it'd be more energy efficient (and faster) than a standard Wi-Fi network -- though both technologies have trouble penetrating walls, so "you'd have to buy lots of pricey new bulbs in order to cover your home..."

"It's probably not something that an ordinary home owner would want to install; unless you're happy with running lots of optical fibre cable around your various light fittings."
AT&T

Hundreds of AT&T Wireless Workers and Supporters Plan To Protest at iPhone 8 Launch at Apple HQ 103

Hundreds of AT&T wireless workers and members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) will protest outside the launch of the iPhone 8 at Apple HQ on Tuesday, we were told. "Marking the start of a critical sales period that's expected to bring in billions for the telecom giant, workers are calling out AT&T's pay cuts for its retail employees and the company's rampant outsourcing and offshoring that undermine their job security and ability to provide quality customer service," the Communications Workers of America said in a press statement. Over the years, AT&T has increasingly handed over the operations of its retail operations to third-party dealers that now represent over 60 percent of all AT&T branded stores. On top of this, AT&T retail employees allege that they are seeing their pay decline by thousands of dollars because the company manipulates their commission structure.
Government

Should Congress Force Social Media To Investigate Foreign Propaganda Trolls? (politico.com) 266

"I fought foreign propaganda for the FBI," writes a former special agent from its Counterintelligence Division. Now an associate dean at Yale Law School, he's warning that "the tools we had won't work anymore." An anonymous reader quotes Politico: The bureau is now faced with huge private companies, like Facebook and Twitter, which are ostensibly neutral and have no professional or ethical obligation to vet the material they distribute. Further, foreign intelligence service propaganda agents are no longer human operatives on American soil -- they are invisible "trolls," often operating from a foreign country and behind social media accounts that make them impossible for the FBI to approach directly. Or, in the case of so-called bots -- software programs designed to simulate humans -- they might not even be people at all... [S]ocial media platforms can reach an almost limitless audience, often within days or hours, more or less for free: Russia's Facebook ads alone reached between 23 million and 70 million viewers.

Without any direct way to investigate and identify the source of the private accounts that generate this "fake news," there's literally nothing the FBI can do to stop a propaganda operation that can occur on such a massive scale... But Congress could pass legislation that requires social media companies to cooperate with counterintelligence in the same ways they do with law enforcement. For example, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requires telecommunications companies to design their digital networks in such a way that would permit wiretaps for criminal cases. Similarly, requiring social media platforms to develop ways to vet and authenticate foreign users and proactively report potential bots to the FBI would enable the FBI to identify perception management operations as they are occurring. In addition to monitoring these specific FIS-based accounts, the FBI could publicly expose the source of particular accounts, ads or news...

"At this point, we have no choice: It's clear that our current counterintelligence strategy hasn't caught up to the age of asymmetrical information warfare," the former counterintelligence agent concludes. "Until it does, we'll be silently allowing our freedoms to be manipulated...."
AI

Hackers Can Take Control of Siri and Alexa By Whispering To Them in Frequencies Humans Can't Hear (fastcodesign.com) 116

Chinese researchers have discovered a vulnerability in voice assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei. It affects every iPhone and Macbook running Siri, any Galaxy phone, any PC running Windows 10, and even Amazon's Alexa assistant. From a report: Using a technique called the DolphinAttack, a team from Zhejiang University translated typical vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear, but perfectly decipherable by the microphones and software powering our always-on voice assistants. This relatively simple translation process lets them take control of gadgets with just a few words uttered in frequencies none of us can hear. The researchers didn't just activate basic commands like "Hey Siri" or "Okay Google," though. They could also tell an iPhone to "call 1234567890" or tell an iPad to FaceTime the number. They could force a Macbook or a Nexus 7 to open a malicious website. They could order an Amazon Echo to "open the backdoor." Even an Audi Q3 could have its navigation system redirected to a new location. "Inaudible voice commands question the common design assumption that adversaries may at most try to manipulate a [voice assistant] vocally and can be detected by an alert user," the research team writes in a paper just accepted to the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.
Earth

A Powerful Solar Storm Is Bringing Hazards and Rare Auroras Our Way (fastcompany.com) 72

tedlistens shares a report from Fast Company: The Space Weather Prediction Center has upgraded a geomagnetic storm watch for September 6 and 7 to a level only occasionally seen, but scientists say it's nothing to be too alarmed about. They do recommend looking for an unusual display of the aurora -- the northern lights caused by a disturbance of the magnetosphere -- in areas of the U.S. not used to seeing them: "really in the upper tier of the United States," says Robert Rutledge, lead of operations at the center, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The storm could pose an "elevated radiation risk to passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at far north or south latitudes," a NOAA warning says, and intermittently impact high frequency RF communications, which may require some transpolar flight routes to divert to lower geomagnetic latitudes (a shift that would cost the airlines more). There's a slim chance of isolated interfere with high-precision GPS readings, but those issues usually only tend to arise with stronger storms.

The so-called G3 level storm is the result of what's called a coronal mass ejection, where magnetic interactions on the sun launch part of its outer atmosphere of superheated plasma into space. When that burst of radiation gets near earth -- barreling toward us at a million miles per hour, it takes about two days to make the journey -- its magnetic field interacts with Earth's, Rutledge says. Northern U.S. and Canadian residents hoping to catch a glimpse of the aurora will get their best shot on Wednesday night and early Thursday, and the Space Weather Prediction Center posts 30-minute forecasts of the colorful sky phenomenon's intensity.

Communications

European Court Rules Companies Must Tell Employees of Email Checks (reuters.com) 103

Companies must tell employees in advance if their work email accounts are being monitored and such checks must not unduly infringe workers' privacy, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday. From a report: In a judgment in the case of a man fired 10 years ago for using a work messaging account to communicate with his family, the judges found that Romanian courts failed to protect Bogdan Barbulescu's private correspondence because his employer had not given him prior notice it was monitoring his communications. Email privacy has become a hotly contested issue as more people use work addresses for personal correspondence even as employers demand the right to monitor email and computer usage to ensure staff use work email appropriately. Courts in general have sided with employers on this issue.
Businesses

Will Millennials Be Forced Out of Tech Jobs When They Turn 40? (ieeeusa.org) 247

dcblogs shared an interesting article from IEEE-USA's "Insight" newsletter: Millennials, which date from the 1980s to mid-2000s, are the largest generation. But what will happen to this generation's tech workers as they settle into middle age? Will the median age of tech firms rise as the Millennial generation grows older...? The median age range at Google, Facebook, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Amazon, Salesforce, Apple and Adobe, is 29 to 31, according to a study last year by PayScale, which analyzes self-reported data... Karen Panetta, the dean of graduate engineering education at Tufts University and the vice president of communications and public relations at the IEEE-USA, believes the outcome for tech will be Logan's Run-like, where age sets a career limit... Tech firms want people with the current skills sets and those "without those skills will be pressured to leave or see minimal career progression," said Panetta...

The idea that the tech industry may have an age bias is not scaring the new college grads away. "They see retirement so far off, so they are more interested in how to move up or onto new startup ventures or even business school," said Panetta. "The reality sets in when they have families and companies downsize and it's not so easy to just pick up and go on to another company," she said. None of this may be a foregone conclusion. Millennials may see the experience of today's older workers as a cautionary tale, and usher in cultural changes...

David Kurtz, a labor relations partner at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, suggests tech firms should be sharing age-related date about their workforce, adding "The more of a focus you place on an issue the more attention it gets and the more likely that change can happen. It's great to get the new hot shot who just graduated from college, but it's also important to have somebody with 40 years of experience who has seen all of the changes in the industry and can offer a different perspective."
Communications

New Qualcomm Auto Chipset Advances Vehicle-To-Everything Communications (zdnet.com) 24

Qualcomm has introduced a new Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) chipset and reference design that aims to bring automakers one step closer to deploying the communications systems necessary for fully autonomous vehicles. Ford, Audi, the PSA Group and SAIC are all endorsing the new chipset. ZDNet reports: The Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset, expected to be available for commercial sampling in the second half of 2018, is based on specs from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a collaboration between groups of telecommunications associations. Meanwhile, Qualcomm's C-V2X reference design will feature the 9150 C-V2X chipset, an application processor running the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) V2X stack, as well as a Hardware Security Module (HSM). C-V2X technology encompasses two transmission modes: direct communications and network-based communications. It's key for both safety features and for implementing autonomous driving capabilities.

For instance, its direct communications capabilities improve a vehicle's situational awareness by detecting and exchanging information using low latency transmissions. Relying on the globally harmonized 5.9 GHz ITS band, the 9150 C-V2X chipset can relay information on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) scenarios without the need for a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM), cellular subscription or network assistance. On top of that, C-V2X network-based communications (designed for 4G and emerging 5G wireless networks) supports telematics, connected infotainment and a growing number of advanced informational safety use cases.

Communications

Millions of Time Warner Cable Customer Records Exposed in Third-Party Data Leak (gizmodo.com) 30

About four million Time Warner Cable records containing details of its customers were found unsecured on an Amazon server last month, tech website Gizmodo reported on Friday. From a report: The files, more than 600GB in size, were discovered on August 24 by the Kromtech Security Center while its researchers were investigating an unrelated data breach at World Wrestling Entertainment. Two Amazon S3 buckets were eventually found and linked to BroadSoft, a global communications company that partners with service providers, including AT&T and TWC. The 4 million TWC records are not all tied to unique customers, meaning 4 million individual people were not exposed by the breach. Due to the sheer size of the cache, it was not immediately clear precisely how subscribers were affected. The leaked data included usernames, emails addresses, MAC addresses, device serial numbers, and financial transaction information -- though it does not appear that any Social Security numbers or credit card information was exposed.
Communications

Apple Calls For FCC To Keep 'Strong, Enforceable' Net Neutrality Protections (appleinsider.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple has written to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in support for the concept of net neutrality, with its four-page commentary arguing for the government agency to "retain strong, enforceable open internet protections" instead of rolling back the rules forbidding "fast lane" internet connections. "An open internet ensures that hundreds of millions of consumers get the experience they want, over the broadband connections they choose, to use the devices they love, which have become an integral part of their lives," starts the comment signed by Cynthia Hogan, Apple's Vice President of Public Policy for the Americas. Citing a "deep respect" for its customers' privacy, security, and control over personal information, Apple believes this extends to their internet connection choices as well. "What consumers do with those tools is up to them -- not Apple, and not broadband providers," the statement claims, before urging the FCC to keep advancing the key principles of net neutrality. Based on a belief of consumer choice with regards to connectivity, Apple insists broadband providers should not "block, throttle, or otherwise discriminate against lawful websites and services," and not create "paid fast lanes on the internet." Lifting current FCC bans on these restrictions could allow broadband providers to favor one service over another's, "fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today -- to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation." Allowing such fast lanes could result in an internet with heavily distorted competition, caused through online providers being forced to make deals or risk losing customers from providing a hampered service. Apple suggests the practice could "create artificial barriers to entry for new online services, making it harder for tomorrow's innovations to attract investment and succeed," effectively turning broadband providers into a king-maker based on its priorities.
Television

Mayweather-McGregor Streaming Glitches Prompt Lawsuit Against Showtime (hollywoodreporter.com) 118

Customers who paid $99.99 to watch the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight are suing Showtime due to the quality of their stream and buffering issues. From a report via Hollywood Reporter: Portland, Ore., boxing fan Zack Bartel paid to stream the fight in high-definition through the Showtime app but says all he saw was "grainy video, error screens, buffer events, and stalls." Bartel is suing Showtime for unlawful trade practices and unjust enrichment, alleging the network rushed its pay-per-view streaming service to the market without securing the bandwidth necessary to support the scores of cable-cutting fans. The complaint, which is largely composed of screenshots and tweets, is seeking for each member of the class actual damages or $200 in statutory damages, whichever is greater. The proposed class includes Oregon consumers who viewed Showtime's app advertisement on iTunes and paid $99.99 to stream the fight, but were unable to view the fight live on the app "in HD at 1080p resolution and at 60 frames per second, and who experienced ongoing grainy video, error screens, buffer events, and stalls instead." Showtime senior vp sports communications director, Chris DeBlasio, says: "We have received a very limited number of complaints and will issue a full refund for any customer who purchased the event directly from Showtime and were unable to receive the telecast." DeBlasio recommends users contact their cable or satellite provider if they experienced any issues.
Bitcoin

How the NSA Identified Satoshi Nakamoto (medium.com) 427

An anonymous reader shares a report: The 'creator' of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, is the world's most elusive billionaire. Very few people outside of the Department of Homeland Security know Satoshi's real name. In fact, DHS will not publicly confirm that even THEY know the billionaire's identity. Satoshi has taken great care to keep his identity secret employing the latest encryption and obfuscation methods in his communications. Despite these efforts (according to my source at the DHS) Satoshi Nakamoto gave investigators the only tool they needed to find him -- his own words. Using stylometry one is able to compare texts to determine authorship of a particular work. Throughout the years Satoshi wrote thousands of posts and emails and most of which are publicly available. According to my source, the NSA was able to the use the 'writer invariant' method of stylometry to compare Satoshi's 'known' writings with trillions of writing samples from people across the globe. By taking Satoshi's texts and finding the 50 most common words, the NSA was able to break down his text into 5,000 word chunks and analyse each to find the frequency of those 50 words. This would result in a unique 50-number identifier for each chunk. The NSA then placed each of these numbers into a 50-dimensional space and flatten them into a plane using principal components analysis. The result is a 'fingerprint' for anything written by Satoshi that could easily be compared to any other writing. The NSA then took bulk emails and texts collected from their mass surveillance efforts. First through PRISM and then through MUSCULAR, the NSA was able to place trillions of writings from more than a billion people in the same plane as Satoshi's writings to find his true identity. The effort took less than a month and resulted in positive match.
Google

Google Takes Blame For Internet Disruption Across Japan (theregister.co.uk) 59

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google on Saturday accepted responsibility for the widespread internet disruptions Japan experienced the previous day. The search engine giant apologized for the trouble, saying it was caused by an errant network setting that was corrected within eight minutes of its discovery. Google did not say whether human error or a technical malfunction was to blame. The disrupted services used internet connections provided by NTT Communications Corp. and KDDI Corp., both of which said Friday that the issues were caused by a change in the flow of data traffic. From a report on The Register: The trouble began when Google 'leaked' a big route table to Verizon, the result of which was traffic from Japanese giants like NTT and KDDI was sent to Google on the expectation it would be treated as transit. Since Google doesn't provide transit services, as BGP Mon explains, that traffic either filled a link beyond its capacity, or hit an access control list, and disappeared. The outage in Japan only lasted a couple of hours, but was so severe that Japan Times reports the country's Internal Affairs and Communications ministries want carriers to report on what went wrong.
China

China Plans To Launch the World's First 'Unhackable' Quantum Communication Network (phys.org) 72

An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org: China is about to launch the Jinan Project, the world's first unhackable computer network, and a major milestone in the development of quantum technology... the network is planned to be fully operational by the end of August 2017... By launching the network, China will become the first country worldwide to implement quantum technology for a real life, commercial end. It also highlights that China is a key global player in the rush to develop technologies based on quantum principles, with the EU and the United States also vying for world leadership in the field.

The network, known as a quantum key distribution (QKD) network, is more secure than widely used electronic communication equivalents. Unlike a conventional telephone or internet cable, which can be tapped without the sender or recipient being aware, a QKD network alerts both users to any tampering with the system as soon as it occurs. This is because tampering immediately alters the information being relayed, with the disturbance being instantly recognisable. Once fully implemented, it will make it almost impossible for other governments to listen in on Chinese communications... It will be the world's longest land-based quantum communications network, stretching over 2,000 km.

AT&T

AT&T's Slow 1.5Mbps Internet In Poor Neighborhoods Sparks Complaint To FCC (arstechnica.com) 213

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T is facing a complaint alleging that it discriminates against poor people by providing fast service in wealthier communities and speeds as low as 1.5Mbps in low-income neighborhoods. The formal complaint filed today with the Federal Communications Commission says that AT&T is violating the Communications Act's prohibition against unjust and unreasonable discrimination. That ban is part of Title II, which is best known as the authority used by the FCC to impose net neutrality rules. But as we've explained before, Title II also contains important consumer protections that go beyond net neutrality, such as a ban on discrimination in rates, practices, and offerings of services.

"This complaint, brought by Joanne Elkins, Hattie Lanfair, and Rachelle Lee, three African-American, low-income residents of Cleveland, Ohio alleges that AT&T's offerings of high-speed broadband service violate the Communications Act's prohibition against unjust and unreasonable discrimination," the complaint says. AT&T is not immune to the ban on discrimination "merely because its discrimination is based on investment decisions," the complaint also says.

Communications

Engineers Discover How To Make Antennas For Wireless Communication 100x Smaller Than Their Current Size (sciencemag.org) 129

Engineers have figured out how to make antennas for wireless communication 100 times smaller than their current size, an advance that could lead to tiny brain implants, micro-medical devices, or phones you can wear on your finger. Science Magazine reports: The new mini-antennas play off the difference between electromagnetic (EM) waves, such as light and radio waves, and acoustic waves, such as sound and inaudible vibrations. EM waves are fluctuations in an electromagnetic field, and they travel at light speed -- an astounding 300,000,000 meters per second. Acoustic waves are the jiggling of matter, and they travel at the much slower speed of sound -- in a solid, typically a few thousand meters per second. So, at any given frequency, an EM wave has a much longer wavelength than an acoustic wave. Antennas receive information by resonating with EM waves, which they convert into electrical voltage. For such resonance to occur, a traditional antenna's length must roughly match the wavelength of the EM wave it receives, meaning that the antenna must be relatively big. However, like a guitar string, an antenna can also resonate with acoustic waves. The new antennas take advantage of this fact. They will pick up EM waves of a given frequency if its size matches the wavelength of the much shorter acoustic waves of the same frequency. That means that that for any given signal frequency, the antennas can be much smaller. The trick is, of course, to quickly turn the incoming EM waves into acoustic waves.

The team created two kinds of acoustic antennas. One has a circular membrane, which works for frequencies in the gigahertz range, including those for WiFi. The other has a rectangular membrane, suitable for megahertz frequencies used for TV and radio. Each is less than a millimeter across, and both can be manufactured together on a single chip. When researchers tested one of the antennas in a specially insulated room, they found that compared to a conventional ring antenna of the same size, it sent and received 2.5 gigahertz signals about 100,000 times more efficiently, they report in Nature Communications.

News

We Can't Stop Checking the News Either. Welcome to the New FOMO (wired.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares an article: Countless studies have shown that social-driven FOMO (fear of missing out) stems from a person's primitive desire to belong to a group, with each snap, tweet, or post a reminder of what separates you from them. This other type of FOMO, the all-news, all-the-time kind, is new enough that nobody has really studied it much, yet of the half-dozen experts in sociology, anthropology, economics, and neurology I spoke to, all quickly recognized what I was describing, and some even admitted to feeling it themselves. "We scroll through our Twitter feeds, not seeking anything specific, just monitoring them so we don't miss out on anything important," says Shyam Sundar, a communications researcher at Pennsylvania State University. This impulse could stem from the chemical hits our brains receive with each news hit, but it could also derive from a primitive behavioral instinct -- surveillance gratification-seeking, or the urge that drove our cave-dwelling ancestors to poke their heads out and check for predators. In times of perceived crisis, our brains cry out for information to help us survive. Maybe this alarm stems from steady hits of @realDonaldTrump. Maybe it's triggered by left-wing Resistance types. Or could it be #FakeNews, ISIS, guns, police violence, or street crime, all propagated through our social media bubbles with headlines that are written specifically to grab our attention? This feels like a processing problem. "One thing we learn about human beings: We're meaning-making machines," Kross says. And social mania may be ideal for mainlining breaking news, but it's not great at providing meaning and context.
United Kingdom

Energy Firm Slapped With $65,000 Fine For Making 1.5 Million Nuisance Calls (theregister.co.uk) 67

A UK firm offering people energy-saving solutions has been fined after making almost 1.5 million unsolicited calls without checking if the numbers were registered on the UK's opt-out database. From a report: Southampton-based Home Logic used a dialler system to screen the telephone numbers that it planned to call against the Telephone Preference Service register, which allows people to opt out of receiving marketing calls. This system was unavailable for at least 90 days out of the 220 between April 2015 and March 2016 due to technical issues -- but that didn't stop Home Logic from continuing to make phone calls. Some 1,475,969 were made in that time. And, as a result, Blighty's data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office received 133 complaints about the firm from people who had registered with the TPS and did not expect to be picking up the phone to marketeers. It ruled that the biz had breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and duly fined it 50,000 pound ($64,500).

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