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Paul Merrell

2 million people-and some dead ones-were impersonated in net neutrality comments | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • An analysis of public comments on the FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality rules found that 2 million of them were filed using stolen identities. That's according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process—including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law," Schneiderman said in an announcement today. "Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation."
  • Some comments were submitted under the names of dead people. "My LATE husband's name was fraudulently used after a valiant battle with cancer," one person told the AG's office. "This unlawful act adds to my pain that someone would violate his good name." Schneiderman set up a website where people can search the FCC comments for their names to determine if they've been impersonated. So far, "over 5,000 people have filed reports with the Attorney General's office regarding identities used to submit fake comments," the AG's announcement said.
  • While the 5,000 reports provide anecdotal evidence, the AG's office performed an analysis of the 23 million public comments in order to figure out how many were submitted under falsely assumed identities. Many comments for and against net neutrality rules are identical because advocacy groups urged people to sign form letters, so the text of a comment alone isn't enough to determine if it was submitted by a real person. The AG's office thus examined comment text along with other factors, such as whether names matched lists of stolen identities from known data breaches. Schneiderman's office also told Ars that it looked into whether or not the submission of comments was in alphabetical order, one after another, in short time periods. In general, analysis of formatting and metadata played a role in the analysis. The number of comments believed to be fake has grown as the A.G.'s investigation continues, and it isn't done yet. Schneiderman's office is still analyzing the public comments. We asked Schneiderman's office how many of the fake comments supported net neutrality rules, and how many opposed them, but were told that the information was not available. While fake comments used names and addresses of people from across the nation, more than "100,000 comments per state" came "from New York, Florida, Texas, and California," Schneiderman's announcement said.
Paul Merrell

Long-Secret Stingray Manuals Detail How Police Can Spy on Phones - 0 views

  • Harris Corp.’s Stingray surveillance device has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in law enforcement for more than 15 years. The company and its police clients across the United States have fought to keep information about the mobile phone-monitoring boxes from the public against which they are used. The Intercept has obtained several Harris instruction manuals spanning roughly 200 pages and meticulously detailing how to create a cellular surveillance dragnet. Harris has fought to keep its surveillance equipment, which carries price tags in the low six figures, hidden from both privacy activists and the general public, arguing that information about the gear could help criminals. Accordingly, an older Stingray manual released under the Freedom of Information Act to news website TheBlot.com last year was almost completely redacted. So too have law enforcement agencies at every level, across the country, evaded almost all attempts to learn how and why these extremely powerful tools are being used — though court battles have made it clear Stingrays are often deployed without any warrant. The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department alone has snooped via Stingray, sans warrant, over 300 times.
  • The documents described and linked below, instruction manuals for the software used by Stingray operators, were provided to The Intercept as part of a larger cache believed to have originated with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Two of them contain a “distribution warning” saying they contain “Proprietary Information and the release of this document and the information contained herein is prohibited to the fullest extent allowable by law.”  Although “Stingray” has become a catch-all name for devices of its kind, often referred to as “IMSI catchers,” the manuals include instructions for a range of other Harris surveillance boxes, including the Hailstorm, ArrowHead, AmberJack, and KingFish. They make clear the capability of those devices and the Stingray II to spy on cellphones by, at minimum, tracking their connection to the simulated tower, information about their location, and certain “over the air” electronic messages sent to and from them. Wessler added that parts of the manuals make specific reference to permanently storing this data, something that American law enforcement has denied doing in the past.
  • One piece of Windows software used to control Harris’s spy boxes, software that appears to be sold under the name “Gemini,” allows police to track phones across 2G, 3G, and LTE networks. Another Harris app, “iDen Controller,” provides a litany of fine-grained options for tracking phones. A law enforcement agent using these pieces of software along with Harris hardware could not only track a large number of phones as they moved throughout a city but could also apply nicknames to certain phones to keep track of them in the future. The manual describing how to operate iDEN, the lengthiest document of the four at 156 pages, uses an example of a target (called a “subscriber”) tagged alternately as Green Boy and Green Ben:
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  • In order to maintain an uninterrupted connection to a target’s phone, the Harris software also offers the option of intentionally degrading (or “redirecting”) someone’s phone onto an inferior network, for example, knocking a connection from LTE to 2G:
  • A video of the Gemini software installed on a personal computer, obtained by The Intercept and embedded below, provides not only an extensive demonstration of the app but also underlines how accessible the mass surveillance code can be: Installing a complete warrantless surveillance suite is no more complicated than installing Skype. Indeed, software such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office, which require a registration key or some other proof of ownership, are more strictly controlled by their makers than software designed for cellular interception.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Florida sheriff pledges to arrest CEO Tim Cook if Apple resists crypto cooperation | Ars Technica UK - 1 views

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    "If Apple wouldn't comply with a court order, sheriff vows: "I'll lock the rascal up." by Cyrus Farivar (US) - Mar 12, 2016 8:15pm CET"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Florida Man, Accused of Terrorism Based on Book Collection, Set Free - The Intercept - 1 views

    • Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.
       
      [# ! Va Janet Innes-Kirkwood's LinkedIn]
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    [The U.S. government had produced "snippets of information from various sources, out of context, to weave together a narrative of terrorist ideation," a Florida judge said Friday, ordering the release of Marcus Dwayne Robertson, an Orlando-based Islamic scholar who stood accused of supporting terrorism. ...]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Judge: IP-Address Doesn't Identify a Movie Pirate | TorrentFreak - 1 views

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    "In a prominent ruling Florida District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro refused to issue a subpoena, arguing that IP-address evidence is not enough to show who has downloaded a pirated movie."
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    "In a prominent ruling Florida District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro refused to issue a subpoena, arguing that IP-address evidence is not enough to show who has downloaded a pirated movie."
Paul Merrell

China expands Internet backbone to improve speeds, reliability | ITworld - 0 views

  • Even as China cuts access to some foreign online services, it is laying more fiber optic cables to improve its connection to global Internet networks.
  • China recently added seven new access points to the world’s Internet backbone, adding to the three points that connect through Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on Monday. More good reads Google partners up for $60M undersea fiber link between Florida and Brazil Meet the 12 wealthiest people in social media China disrupts some websites linked to US content delivery network To expand its Internet backbone networks, China laid over 3,000 kilometers worth of fiber optic cable, and invested 2.9 billion yuan (US$477 million) in its construction. Driving the project were the country’s three state-owned telecom operators, which provide most of China’s Internet broadband.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Columbia Pictures Wants Anti-Piracy Policies Kept Secret, Indefinitely | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Ernesto on November 13, 2014 C: 1 Breaking Columbia Pictures has asked a Florida federal court to keep its anti-piracy policies secret forever. The records in question are part of the now closed case between Hotfile and the MPAA. Previously, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that the information should be unsealed in the public's interest. " [# ! '#Secret' #policies...? # ! This is proper of long ago past # ! dark mankind ages...]
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    " Ernesto on November 13, 2014 C: 1 Breaking Columbia Pictures has asked a Florida federal court to keep its anti-piracy policies secret forever. The records in question are part of the now closed case between Hotfile and the MPAA. Previously, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that the information should be unsealed in the public's interest. "
Paul Merrell

US pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance - Yahoo News - 0 views

  • WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
  • One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances it's used, it's unclear whether the technology might violate a person's constitutional rights or whether it's a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Interviews, court records and public-records requests show the Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. That pushback has come in the form of FBI affidavits and consultation in local criminal cases.
  • "These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them." Harris Corp., a key manufacturer of this equipment, built a secrecy element into its authorization agreement with the Federal Communications Commission in 2011. That authorization has an unusual requirement: that local law enforcement "coordinate with the FBI the acquisition and use of the equipment." Companies like Harris need FCC authorization in order to sell wireless equipment that could interfere with radio frequencies. A spokesman from Harris Corp. said the company will not discuss its products for the Defense Department and law enforcement agencies, although public filings showed government sales of communications systems such as the Stingray accounted for nearly one-third of its $5 billion in revenue. "As a government contractor, our solutions are regulated and their use is restricted," spokesman Jim Burke said.
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  • Local police agencies have been denying access to records about this surveillance equipment under state public records laws. Agencies in San Diego, Chicago and Oakland County, Michigan, for instance, declined to tell the AP what devices they purchased, how much they cost and with whom they shared information. San Diego police released a heavily censored purchasing document. Oakland officials said police-secrecy exemptions and attorney-client privilege keep their hands tied. It was unclear whether the Obama administration interfered in the AP requests. "It's troubling to think the FBI can just trump the state's open records law," said Ginger McCall, director of the open government project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. McCall suspects the surveillance would not pass constitutional muster. "The vast amount of information it sweeps in is totally irrelevant to the investigation," she said.
  • A court case challenging the public release of information from the Tucson Police Department includes an affidavit from an FBI special agent, Bradley Morrison, who said the disclosure would "result in the FBI's inability to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal activity because through public disclosures, this technology has been rendered essentially useless for future investigations." Morrison said revealing any information about the technology would violate a federal homeland security law about information-sharing and arms-control laws — legal arguments that that outside lawyers and transparency experts said are specious and don't comport with court cases on the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The FBI did not answer questions about its role in states' open records proceedings.
  • But a former Justice Department official said the federal government should be making this argument in federal court, not a state level where different public records laws apply. "The federal government appears to be attempting to assert a federal interest in the information being sought, but it's going about it the wrong way," said Dan Metcalfe, the former director of the Justice Department's office of information and privacy. Currently Metcalfe is the executive director of American University's law school Collaboration on Government Secrecy project. A criminal case in Tallahassee cites the same homeland security laws in Morrison's affidavit, court records show, and prosecutors told the court they consulted with the FBI to keep portions of a transcript sealed. That transcript, released earlier this month, revealed that Stingrays "force" cellphones to register their location and identifying information with the police device and enables officers to track calls whenever the phone is on.
  • One law enforcement official familiar with the Tucson lawsuit, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about internal discussions, said federal lawyers told Tucson police they couldn't hand over a PowerPoint presentation made by local officers about how to operate the Stingray device. Federal officials forwarded Morrison's affidavit for use in the Tucson police department's reply to the lawsuit, rather than requesting the case be moved to federal court. In Sarasota, Florida, the U.S. Marshals Service confiscated local records on the use of the surveillance equipment, removing the documents from the reach of Florida's expansive open-records law after the ACLU asked under Florida law to see the documents. The ACLU has asked a judge to intervene. The Marshals Service said it deputized the officer as a federal agent and therefore the records weren't accessible under Florida law.
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    The Florida case is particularly interesting because Florida is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has just ruled that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant from a court before using equipment to determine a cell phone's location.  
Paul Merrell

Prepare to Hang Up the Phone, Forever - WSJ.com - 0 views

  • At decade's end, the trusty landline telephone could be nothing more than a memory. Telecom giants AT&T T +0.31% AT&T Inc. U.S.: NYSE $35.07 +0.11 +0.31% March 28, 2014 4:00 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 24.66M AFTER HOURS $35.03 -0.04 -0.11% March 28, 2014 7:31 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): 85,446 P/E Ratio 10.28 Market Cap $182.60 Billion Dividend Yield 5.25% Rev. per Employee $529,844 03/29/14 Prepare to Hang Up the Phone, ... 03/21/14 AT&T Criticizes Netflix's 'Arr... 03/21/14 Samsung's Galaxy S5 Smartphone... More quote details and news » T in Your Value Your Change Short position and Verizon Communications VZ -0.57% Verizon Communications Inc. U.S.: NYSE $47.42 -0.27 -0.57% March 28, 2014 4:01 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 24.13M AFTER HOURS $47.47 +0.05 +0.11% March 28, 2014 7:59 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): 1.57M
  • The two providers want to lay the crumbling POTS to rest and replace it with Internet Protocol-based systems that use the same wired and wireless broadband networks that bring Web access, cable programming and, yes, even your telephone service, into your homes. You may think you have a traditional landline because your home phone plugs into a jack, but if you have bundled your phone with Internet and cable services, you're making calls over an IP network, not twisted copper wires. California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio are among states that agree telecom resources would be better redirected into modern telephone technologies and innovations, and will kill copper-based technologies in the next three years or so. Kentucky and Colorado are weighing similar laws, which force people to go wireless whether they want to or not. In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents.
  • New Jersey's legislature, worried about losing data applications such as credit-card processing and alarm systems that wireless systems can't handle, wants a one-year moratorium to block that switch. It will vote on the measure this month. (Verizon tried a similar change in Fire Island, N.Y., when its copper lines were destroyed, but public opposition persuaded Verizon to install fiber-optic cable.) It's no surprise that landlines are unfashionable, considering many of us already have or are preparing to ditch them. More than 38% of adults and 45.5% of children live in households without a landline telephone, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means two in every five U.S. homes, or 39%, are wireless, up from 26.6% three years ago. Moreover, a scant 8.5% of households relied only on a landline, while 2% were phoneless in 2013. Metropolitan residents have few worries about the end of landlines. High-speed wire and wireless services are abundant and work well, despite occasional dropped calls. Those living in rural areas, where cell towers are few and 4G capability limited, face different issues.
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  • Safety is one of them. Call 911 from a landline and the emergency operator pinpoints your exact address, down to the apartment number. Wireless phones lack those specifics, and even with GPS navigation aren't as precise. Matters are worse in rural and even suburban areas that signals don't reach, sometimes because they're blocked by buildings or the landscape. That's of concern to the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees all forms of U.S. communications services. Universal access is a tenet of its mission, and, despite the state-by-state degradation of the mandate, it's unwilling to let telecom companies simply drop geographically undesirable customers. Telecom firms need FCC approval to ax services completely, and can't do so unless there is a viable competitor to pick up the slack. Last year AT&T asked to turn off its legacy network, which could create gaps in universal coverage and will force people off the grid to get a wireless provider.
  • AT&T and the FCC will soon begin trials to explore life without copper-wired landlines. Consumers will voluntarily test IP-connected networks and their impact on towns like Carbon Hills, Ala., population 2,071. They want to know how households will reach 911, how small businesses will connect to customers, how people with medical-monitoring devices or home alarms know they will always be connected to a reliable network, and what the costs are. "We cannot be a nation of opportunity without networks of opportunity," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in unveiling the plan. "This pilot program will help us learn how fiber might be deployed where it is not now deployed…and how new forms of wireless can reach deep into the interior of rural America."
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