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Paul Merrell

'Pardon Snowden' Campaign Takes Off As Sanders, Ellsberg, And Others Join - 0 views

  • Prominent activists, lawmakers, artists, academics, and other leading voices in civil society, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are joining the campaign to get a pardon for National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. “The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has allowed Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights,” Sanders wrote for the Guardian on Wednesday. “Now we must learn from the troubling revelations Mr. Snowden brought to light. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must be given the tools they need to protect us, but that can be done in a way that does not sacrifice our rights.” Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who co-founded the public interest journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation, where Snowden is a board member, also wrote, “Ed Snowden should be freed of the legal burden hanging over him. They should remove the indictment, pardon him if that’s the way to do it, so that he is no longer facing prison.” Snowden faces charges under the Espionage Act after he released classified NSA files to media outlets in 2013 exposing the U.S. government’s global mass surveillance operations. He fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, where he has been living under political asylum for the past three years.
  • The Pardon Snowden campaign, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW), urgespeople around the world to write to Obama throughout his last four months in the White House.
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    If you want to take part, the action page is at https://www.pardonsnowden.org/
Gary Edwards

The Future of Mobile Software - RoughlyDrafted Magazine - 0 views

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    The software business is going mobile. That shift will present new challenges but also new opportunities for developers. Appleboy Daniel Eran Dilger explains how the mobile market has evolved into being today's promising next frontier for new software models. This is a good article even though it falls flat and short comparing "desktop-sync" to the emerging "cloud-sync" model. Cloud-sync is vital to workgroup oriented business processes. The problem with desktop-sync being that any kind of conversion-sync process took documents out of the application centric business process. It's a big issue begging for recognition, but given short shrift by Daniel. He also misses the all important role of the Web in the evolution of smartphones. Without 3G-4G Web wireless, there is no such thing as a "smartphone".
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Daniel Alvarez, Legal Advisor for FCC, on net neutrality | Opensource.com - 0 views

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    "Daniel Alvarez-Legal Advisor for Wireline, Public Safety, and Homeland Security at the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)-spoke at a forum last week with the North Carolina Technology Association about the FCC's deliberations on a framework to "protect and promote Internet openness.""
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    "Daniel Alvarez-Legal Advisor for Wireline, Public Safety, and Homeland Security at the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)-spoke at a forum last week with the North Carolina Technology Association about the FCC's deliberations on a framework to "protect and promote Internet openness.""
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Spotify Reminded of uTorrent Past After Branding Grooveshark 'Pirates' | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Andy on November 12, 2014 C: 0 Breaking Spotify's Daniel Ek has poured fuel onto the raging Taylor Swift controversy. While explaining how less availability of Swift's music will lead some to obtain it without paying, Ek labeled rival Grooveshark a 'pirate' service. Now Grooveshark is biting back by reminding Ek that he was once the CEO of uTorrent. " # ! what a bad memory... # ! ... for not to say #disloyal #competence, # ! ... or morbid envy of others success # ! ... where the first one failed... [# ! Or the fiasco of many so-called legit music services with their limited music supply: a few bucks in royalties will never compensate the broad exposition of artists through 'irregular' sites...]
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    " Andy on November 12, 2014 C: 0 Breaking Spotify's Daniel Ek has poured fuel onto the raging Taylor Swift controversy. While explaining how less availability of Swift's music will lead some to obtain it without paying, Ek labeled rival Grooveshark a 'pirate' service. Now Grooveshark is biting back by reminding Ek that he was once the CEO of uTorrent. "
Paul Merrell

ExposeFacts - For Whistleblowers, Journalism and Democracy - 0 views

  • Launched by the Institute for Public Accuracy in June 2014, ExposeFacts.org represents a new approach for encouraging whistleblowers to disclose information that citizens need to make truly informed decisions in a democracy. From the outset, our message is clear: “Whistleblowers Welcome at ExposeFacts.org.” ExposeFacts aims to shed light on concealed activities that are relevant to human rights, corporate malfeasance, the environment, civil liberties and war. At a time when key provisions of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments are under assault, we are standing up for a free press, privacy, transparency and due process as we seek to reveal official information—whether governmental or corporate—that the public has a right to know. While no software can provide an ironclad guarantee of confidentiality, ExposeFacts—assisted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and its “SecureDrop” whistleblower submission system—is utilizing the latest technology on behalf of anonymity for anyone submitting materials via the ExposeFacts.org website. As journalists we are committed to the goal of protecting the identity of every source who wishes to remain anonymous.
  • The seasoned editorial board of ExposeFacts will be assessing all the submitted material and, when deemed appropriate, will arrange for journalistic release of information. In exercising its judgment, the editorial board is able to call on the expertise of the ExposeFacts advisory board, which includes more than 40 journalists, whistleblowers, former U.S. government officials and others with wide-ranging expertise. We are proud that Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was the first person to become a member of the ExposeFacts advisory board. The icon below links to a SecureDrop implementation for ExposeFacts overseen by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and is only accessible using the Tor browser. As the Freedom of the Press Foundation notes, no one can guarantee 100 percent security, but this provides a “significantly more secure environment for sources to get information than exists through normal digital channels, but there are always risks.” ExposeFacts follows all guidelines as recommended by Freedom of the Press Foundation, and whistleblowers should too; the SecureDrop onion URL should only be accessed with the Tor browser — and, for added security, be running the Tails operating system. Whistleblowers should not log-in to SecureDrop from a home or office Internet connection, but rather from public wifi, preferably one you do not frequent. Whistleblowers should keep to a minimum interacting with whistleblowing-related websites unless they are using such secure software.
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    A new resource site for whistle-blowers. somewhat in the tradition of Wikileaks, but designed for encrypted communications between whistleblowers and journalists.  This one has an impressive board of advisors that includes several names I know and tend to trust, among them former whistle-blowers Daniel Ellsberg, Ray McGovern, Thomas Drake, William Binney, and Ann Wright. Leaked records can only be dropped from a web browser running the Tor anonymizer software and uses the SecureDrop system originally developed by Aaron Schwartz. They strongly recommend using the Tails secure operating system that can be installed to a thumb drive and leaves no tracks on the host machine. https://tails.boum.org/index.en.html Curious, I downloaded Tails and installed it to a virtual machine. It's a heavily customized version of Debian. It has a very nice Gnome desktop and blocks any attempt to connect to an external network by means other than installed software that demands encrypted communications. For example, web sites can only be viewed via the Tor anonymizing proxy network. It does take longer for web pages to load because they are moving over a chain of proxies, but even so it's faster than pages loaded in the dial-up modem days, even for web pages that are loaded with graphics, javascript, and other cruft. E.g., about 2 seconds for New York Times pages. All cookies are treated by default as session cookies so disappear when you close the page or the browser. I love my Linux Mint desktop, but I am thinking hard about switching that box to Tails. I've been looking for methods to send a lot more encrypted stuff down the pipe for NSA to store. Tails looks to make that not only easy, but unavoidable. From what I've gathered so far, if you want to install more software on Tails, it takes about an hour to create a customized version and then update your Tails installation from a new ISO file. Tails has a wonderful odor of having been designed for secure computing. Current
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Docker security in the future | Opensource.com - 0 views

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    Daniel J Walsh "When I began this series of writing about Docker security on Opensource.com, I stated that "containers do not contain." One of the main goals at both Red Hat and at Docker is to make this statement less true. My team at Red Hat is continuing to try to take advantage of other security mechanisms to make containers more secure."
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    Daniel J Walsh "When I began this series of writing about Docker security on Opensource.com, I stated that "containers do not contain." One of the main goals at both Red Hat and at Docker is to make this statement less true. My team at Red Hat is continuing to try to take advantage of other security mechanisms to make containers more secure."
Gary Edwards

Should you buy enterprise applications from a startup? - 0 views

  • The biggest advantage of startups, in Mueller's opinion? "They have no technical historical burden, and they don't care about many technical dependencies. They deliver easy-to-use technology with relatively simple but powerful integration options."
  • "The model we've used to buy on-premises software for 20-plus years is shifting," insists Laping. "There are new ways of selecting and vetting partners."
  • Part of that shift is simple: The business side sees what technology can do, and it's banging on IT's door, demanding ... what? Not new drop-down menus in the same-old ERP application, but rather state-of-the-art, cutting-edge, ain't-that-cool innovation. The landscape is wide open: Innovation can come in the form of new technologies, such as the Internet of Things, or from mobility, the cloud, virtualization -- in fact, from anywhere an enterprise vendor isn't filling a need. The easiest place to find that? Startups.
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  • "The number one reason to consider a startup is that the current landscape of Magic Quadrant vendors is not serving a critical need. That's a problem."
  • Ravi Belani is managing partner at Alchemist Accelerator, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating startups whose revenue comes from enterprises rather than consumers. He says, "The innovation that used to come out of big software houses isn't there anymore, while the pace of innovation in technology is accelerating."
  • He acknowledges that there has been a longtime concern with startups about the ability of their applications to scale, but given startups' ability to build their software on robust infrastructure platforms using IaaS or PaaS, and then deploy them via SaaS, "scalability isn't as big a deal as it used it be. It costs $50,000 today to do what you needed $50 million to do ten years ago. That means it takes less capital today to create the same innovation. Ten years ago, that was a moat, a barrier to entry, but software vendors don't own that moat anymore."
  • he confluence of offshore programming, open source technologies and cloud-based infrastructures has significantly lowered the barriers to entry of launching a new venture -- not to mention all those newly minted tech millionaires willing to be angel investors.
  • "In the new paradigm, [most software] implementations are so much shorter, you don't have to think about that risk. You're not talking about three years and $20 million. You're talking about 75 days and $50,000. You implement little modules and get big wins along the way."
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    "The idea of buying an enterprise application from a startup company might sound like anathema to a CIO. But Chris Laping, CIO of restaurant chain Red Robin, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., disagrees. He believes we're in the middle of a significant shift that favors startups -- moving from huge applications with extensive features to task-based activities, inspired by the apps running on mobile devices. Featured Resource Presented by Scribe Software 10 Best Practices for Integrating Data Data integration is often underestimated and poorly implemented, taking time and resources. Yet it Learn More Mirco Mueller concurs. He is an IT architect for St. Gallen, Switzerland-based Helvetia Swiss Life Insurance Co., which -- having been founded in 1858 -- is about as far from a startup as possible. He recently chose a SaaS tool from an unnamed startup over what he calls "a much more powerful but much more complex alternative. Its list of features is shorter than the feature list of the big companies, but in terms of agility, flexibility, ease of use and adjustable business model, it beat" all of its competitors. The biggest advantage of startups, in Mueller's opinion? "They have no technical historical burden, and they don't care about many technical dependencies. They deliver easy-to-use technology with relatively simple but powerful integration options." There's certainly no lack of applications available from new players. At a recent conference focusing on innovation, Microsoft Ventures principal Daniel Sumner noted that every month for the last 88 months, there's been a $1 billion valuation for one startup or another. That's seven years and counting. But as Silicon Valley skeptics like to point out, those are the ones you hear about. For every successful startup, there are at least three that fail, according to 2012 research by Harvard Business School professor Shikhar Ghosh. So why, then, would CIOs in their right mind take the risk of buying enterprise applic
Paul Merrell

Emergence of Cloud Technology Raises Complex Copyright Issues, Lawyers Say | BNA - 1 views

  • NEW YORK—The emergence of cloud technology as an electronic content infrastructure in the entertainment industry raises complex copyright issues, attorneys said at a Sept. 15 panel discussion.Increased reliance on cloud-based distribution platforms and business models in the industry “creates novel and inevitably ambiguous copyright issues,” according to Daniel E. Schnapp, who moderated the discussion at a Copyright Society of the U.S.A. luncheon.At stake is the balance between copyright holders' exclusive rights to reproduce and publicly perform their works versus the ability of consumers and service providers to make lawful use of the content through emerging technologies without infringement, he suggested.
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    The recording industry is worried about cloud computing. Hollywood was probably there too. 
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    Entertainment Industry should care more about quality, accessibility and price of their productions instead of being always blaming technology and forcing restrictive legislation...
Paul Merrell

Mozilla Sets New Plans for Do Not Track Browser | Adweek - 0 views

  • Much to the disappointment of the digital advertising establishment, Mozilla is going ahead with plans to automatically block third-party cookie tracking in its Firefox browser. Mozilla first announced its Do Not Track browser in February, only to back off in May saying it needed to do more testing. But that didn't stop a growing chorus of loud protests from the advertising community, which argued that the browser would choke off the ad-supported Internet. The Interactive Advertising Bureau's general counsel Mike Zaneis called Mozilla's browser nothing less than a "nuclear first strike" against the ad community. No date has been set for when Firefox will turn on the feature, but advertisers, which have been regularly meeting with Mozilla and were hopeful for a compromise, are already lashing back at Mozilla.
  • "It's troubling," said Lou Mastria, the managing director for the Digital Advertising Alliance, which manages an online self-regulatory program called Ad Choices that provides consumers with the choice to opt-out of targeted ads. "They're putting this under the cloak of privacy, but it's disrupting a business model," Mastria said. Advertisers are worried that Mozilla's plans could be the death knell to thousands of small Web publishers that depend on third-party targeted ads to stay in business. Nearly 1,000 signed a petition urging Mozilla to change its plans.  "One publisher said that 20 percent of their business would go away. That's huge," said Mastria. "Mozilla is really picking business model winners and losers."
  • Not all cookies will be blocked under Mozilla's latest plans for its proposed browser; there will be exceptions. Through a partnership with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, the two are launching a Cookie Clearinghouse. Overseen by a six-person panel, it will determine a list of undesirable cookies and then block those. "The Cookie Clearinghouse will create, maintain and publish objective information," Aleecia McDonald, director of privacy at CIS, said in a statement. "Web browser companies will be able to choose to adopt the lists we publish to provide new privacy options to their users." But others say the approach is far from objective. "What these organizations and the privacy groups that back them are really saying is 'let us choose for you because we know best,' " said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. "The proponents of this model have claimed they are empowering users. ... This is basically Sarah Palin's 'Death Panels' but for the Internet."
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  • Advertisers have so far resisted some of the Do Not Track proposals advocated by privacy groups arguing they are technological solutions that could quickly be rendered obsolete by the fast-moving Internet economy. When Micosoft launched its Do Not Track default browser, advertisers said they would not honor it. Meanwhile, members of the World Wide Web Consortium's tracking group, represented by advertisers, privacy groups and other stakeholders, have been unable to reach consensus about a universal Do Not Track browser solution. In Congress, where baseline privacy legislation has moved at a glacial pace, Mozilla's news gave Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) more ammunition for his Do Not Track Online Act. Introduced earlier this year, the bill hasn't gotten much traction and only has one co-sponsor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "With major Web browsers now starting to provide privacy protections by default, it's even more important to give businesses the regulatory certainty they need and consumers the privacy protections they deserve," Rockefeller said in a statement. "I hope this will end the emerging back and forth so we can act quickly to pass new legislation."
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    Cookie Clearinghouse. Overseen by a six-person panel, it will determine a list of undesirable cookies and then block those.
Paul Merrell

Obama administration opts not to force firms to decrypt data - for now - The Washington Post - 1 views

  • After months of deliberation, the Obama administration has made a long-awaited decision on the thorny issue of how to deal with encrypted communications: It will not — for now — call for legislation requiring companies to decode messages for law enforcement. Rather, the administration will continue trying to persuade companies that have moved to encrypt their customers’ data to create a way for the government to still peer into people’s data when needed for criminal or terrorism investigations. “The administration has decided not to seek a legislative remedy now, but it makes sense to continue the conversations with industry,” FBI Director James B. Comey said at a Senate hearing Thursday of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • The decision, which essentially maintains the status quo, underscores the bind the administration is in — balancing competing pressures to help law enforcement and protect consumer privacy. The FBI says it is facing an increasing challenge posed by the encryption of communications of criminals, terrorists and spies. A growing number of companies have begun to offer encryption in which the only people who can read a message, for instance, are the person who sent it and the person who received it. Or, in the case of a device, only the device owner has access to the data. In such cases, the companies themselves lack “backdoors” or keys to decrypt the data for government investigators, even when served with search warrants or intercept orders.
  • The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting Oct. 1. “As the president has said, the United States will work to ensure that malicious actors can be held to account — without weakening our commitment to strong encryption,” National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said. “As part of those efforts, we are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services.” But privacy advocates are concerned that the administration’s definition of strong encryption also could include a system in which a company holds a decryption key or can retrieve unencrypted communications from its servers for law enforcement. “The government should not erode the security of our devices or applications, pressure companies to keep and allow government access to our data, mandate implementation of vulnerabilities or backdoors into products, or have disproportionate access to the keys to private data,” said Savecrypto.org, a coalition of industry and privacy groups that has launched a campaign to petition the Obama administration.
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  • To Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager for Access, one of the groups signing the petition, the status quo isn’t good enough. “It’s really crucial that even if the government is not pursuing legislation, it’s also not pursuing policies that will weaken security through other methods,” she said. The FBI and Justice Department have been talking with tech companies for months. On Thursday, Comey said the conversations have been “increasingly productive.” He added: “People have stripped out a lot of the venom.” He said the tech executives “are all people who care about the safety of America and also care about privacy and civil liberties.” Comey said the issue afflicts not just federal law enforcement but also state and local agencies investigating child kidnappings and car crashes — “cops and sheriffs . . . [who are] increasingly encountering devices they can’t open with a search warrant.”
  • One senior administration official said the administration thinks it’s making enough progress with companies that seeking legislation now is unnecessary. “We feel optimistic,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “We don’t think it’s a lost cause at this point.” Legislation, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), is not a realistic option given the current political climate. He said he made a recent trip to Silicon Valley to talk to Twitter, Facebook and Google. “They quite uniformly are opposed to any mandate or pressure — and more than that, they don’t want to be asked to come up with a solution,” Schiff said. Law enforcement officials know that legislation is a tough sell now. But, one senior official stressed, “it’s still going to be in the mix.” On the other side of the debate, technology, diplomatic and commerce agencies were pressing for an outright statement by Obama to disavow a legislative mandate on companies. But their position did not prevail.
  • Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said absent any new laws, either in the United States or abroad, “companies are in the driver’s seat.” He said that if another country tried to require companies to retain an ability to decrypt communications, “I suspect many tech companies would try to pull out.”
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    # ! upcoming Elections...
Paul Merrell

Memo to Potential Whistleblowers: If You See Something, Say Something | Global Research - 0 views

  • Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing creates a moral frequency that vast numbers of people are eager to hear. We don’t want our lives, communities, country and world continually damaged by the deadening silences of fear and conformity. I’ve met many whistleblowers over the years, and they’ve been extraordinarily ordinary. None were applying for halos or sainthood. All experienced anguish before deciding that continuous inaction had a price that was too high. All suffered negative consequences as well as relief after they spoke up and took action. All made the world better with their courage. Whistleblowers don’t sign up to be whistleblowers. Almost always, they begin their work as true believers in the system that conscience later compels them to challenge. “It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience,” Matthew Hoh recalled this week.“It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy.”
  • Hoh describes his record this way: “After over 11 continuous years of service with the U.S. military and U.S. government, nearly six of those years overseas, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as positions within the Secretary of the Navy’s Office as a White House Liaison, and as a consultant for the State Department’s Iraq Desk, I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of war in 2009.” Another former Department of State official, the ex-diplomat and retired Army colonel Ann Wright, who resigned in protest of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, is crossing paths with Hoh on Friday as they do the honors at a ribbon-cutting — half a block from the State Department headquarters in Washington — for a billboard with a picture of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Big-lettered words begin by referring to the years he waited before releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. “Don’t do what I did,” Ellsberg says on the billboard.  “Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.
  • The billboard – sponsored by the ExposeFacts organization, which launched this week — will spread to other prominent locations in Washington and beyond. As an organizer for ExposeFacts, I’m glad to report that outreach to potential whistleblowers is just getting started. (For details, visit ExposeFacts.org.) We’re propelled by the kind of hopeful determination that Hoh expressed the day before the billboard ribbon-cutting when he said: “I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.” The journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has astutely covered a range of whistleblower issues for years, pointed this week to the imperative of opening up news media. “There is an important role for ExposeFacts to play in not only forcing more transparency, but also inspiring more media organizations to engage in adversarial journalism,” he wrote. “Such journalism is called for in the face of wars, environmental destruction, escalating poverty, egregious abuses in the justice system, corporate control of government, and national security state secrecy. Perhaps a truly successful organization could inspire U.S. media organizations to play much more of a watchdog role than a lapdog role when covering powerful institutions in government.”
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  • Overall, we desperately need to nurture and propagate a steadfast culture of outspoken whistleblowing. A central motto of the AIDS activist movement dating back to the 1980s – Silence = Death – remains urgently relevant in a vast array of realms. Whether the problems involve perpetual war, corporate malfeasance, climate change, institutionalized racism, patterns of sexual assault, toxic pollution or countless other ills, none can be alleviated without bringing grim realities into the light. “All governments lie,” Ellsberg says in a video statement released for the launch of ExposeFacts, “and they all like to work in the dark as far as the public is concerned, in terms of their own decision-making, their planning — and to be able to allege, falsely, unanimity in addressing their problems, as if no one who had knowledge of the full facts inside could disagree with the policy the president or the leader of the state is announcing.” Ellsberg adds: “A country that wants to be a democracy has to be able to penetrate that secrecy, with the help of conscientious individuals who understand in this country that their duty to the Constitution and to the civil liberties and to the welfare of this country definitely surmount their obligation to their bosses, to a given administration, or in some cases to their promise of secrecy.”
  • Right now, our potential for democracy owes a lot to people like NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, and EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. When they spoke at the June 4 news conference in Washington that launched ExposeFacts, their brave clarity was inspiring. Antidotes to the poisons of cynicism and passive despair can emerge from organizing to help create a better world. The process requires applying a single standard to the real actions of institutions and individuals, no matter how big their budgets or grand their power. What cannot withstand the light of day should not be suffered in silence. If you see something, say something.
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    While some governments -- my own included -- attempt to impose an Orwellian Dark State of ubiquitous secret surveillance, secret wars, the rule of oligarchs, and public ignorance, the Edward Snowden leaks fanned the flames of the countering War on Ignorance that had been kept alive by civil libertarians. Only days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in a case where a reporter had been ordered to reveal his source of information for a book on the Dark State under the penalties for contempt of court (a long stretch in jail), a new web site is launched for communications between sources and journalists where the source's names never need to be revealed. This article is part of the publicity for that new weapon fielded by the civil libertarian side in the War Against Ignorance.  Hurrah!
Paul Merrell

EFF Pries More Information on Zero Days from the Government's Grasp | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • Until just last week, the U.S. government kept up the charade that its use of a stockpile of security vulnerabilities for hacking was a closely held secret.1 In fact, in response to EFF’s FOIA suit to get access to the official U.S. policy on zero days, the government redacted every single reference to “offensive” use of vulnerabilities. To add insult to injury, the government’s claim was that even admitting to offensive use would cause damage to national security. Now, in the face of EFF’s brief marshaling overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the charade is over. In response to EFF’s motion for summary judgment, the government has disclosed a new version of the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, minus many of the worst redactions. First and foremost, it now admits that the “discovery of vulnerabilities in commercial information technology may present competing ‘equities’ for the [government’s] offensive and defensive mission.” That might seem painfully obvious—a flaw or backdoor in a Juniper router is dangerous for anyone running a network, whether that network is in the U.S. or Iran. But the government’s failure to adequately weigh these “competing equities” was so severe that in 2013 a group of experts appointed by President Obama recommended that the policy favor disclosure “in almost all instances for widely used code.” [.pdf].
  • The newly disclosed version of the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) also officially confirms what everyone already knew: the use of zero days isn’t confined to the spies. Rather, the policy states that the “law enforcement community may want to use information pertaining to a vulnerability for similar offensive or defensive purposes but for the ultimate end of law enforcement.” Similarly it explains that “counterintelligence equities can be defensive, offensive, and/or law enforcement-related” and may “also have prosecutorial responsibilities.” Given that the government is currently prosecuting users for committing crimes over Tor hidden services, and that it identified these individuals using vulnerabilities called a “Network Investigative Technique”, this too doesn’t exactly come as a shocker. Just a few weeks ago, the government swore that even acknowledging the mere fact that it uses vulnerabilities offensively “could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.” That’s a standard move in FOIA cases involving classified information, even though the government unnecessarily classifies documents at an astounding rate. In this case, the government relented only after nearly a year and a half of litigation by EFF. The government would be well advised to stop relying on such weak secrecy claims—it only risks undermining its own credibility.
  • The new version of the VEP also reveals significantly more information about the general process the government follows when a vulnerability is identified. In a nutshell, an agency that discovers a zero day is responsible for invoking the VEP, which then provides for centralized coordination and weighing of equities among all affected agencies. Along with a declaration from an official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, this new information provides more background on the reasons why the government decided to develop an overarching zero day policy in the first place: it “recognized that not all organizations see the entire picture of vulnerabilities, and each organization may have its own equities and concerns regarding the prioritization of patches and fixes, as well as its own distinct mission obligations.” We now know the VEP was finalized in February 2010, but the government apparently failed to implement it in any substantial way, prompting the presidential review group’s recommendation to prioritize disclosure over offensive hacking. We’re glad to have forced a little more transparency on this important issue, but the government is still foolishly holding on to a few last redactions, including refusing to name which agencies participate in the VEP. That’s just not supportable, and we’ll be in court next month to argue that the names of these agencies must be disclosed. 
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