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Paul Merrell

The FCC is about to kill the free Internet | PandoDaily - 0 views

  • The Federal Communications Commission is poised to ruin the free Internet on a technicality. The group is expected to introduce new net neutrality laws that would allow companies to pay for better access to consumers through deals similar to the one struck by Netflix and Comcast earlier this year. The argument is that those deals don’t technically fall under the net neutrality umbrella, so these new rules won’t apply to them even though they directly affect the Internet. At least the commission is being upfront about its disinterest in protecting the free Internet.
  • The Verge notes that the proposed rules will offer some protections to consumers: The Federal Communication Commission’s proposal for new net neutrality rules will allow internet service providers to charge companies for preferential treatment, effectively undermining the concept of net neutrality, according to The Wall Street Journal. The rules will reportedly allow providers to charge for preferential treatment so long as they offer that treatment to all interested parties on “commercially reasonable” terms, with the FCC will deciding whether the terms are reasonable on a case-by-case basis. Providers will not be able to block individual websites, however. The goal of net neutrality rules is to prevent service providers from discriminating between different content, allowing all types of data and all companies’ data to be treated equally. While it appears that outright blocking of individual services won’t be allowed, the Journal reports that some forms of discrimination will be allowed, though that will apparently not include slowing down websites.
  • Re/code summarizes the discontent with these proposed rules: Consumer groups have complained about that plan because they’re worried that Wheeler’s rules may not hold up in court either. A federal appeals court rejected two previous versions of net neutrality rules after finding fault in the FCC’s legal reasoning. During the latest smackdown, however, the court suggested that the FCC had some authority to impose net neutrality rules under a section of the law that gives the agency the ability to regulate the deployment of broadband lines. Internet activists would prefer that the FCC just re-regulate Internet lines under old rules designed for telephone networks, which they say would give the agency clear authority to police Internet lines. Wheeler has rejected that approach for now. Phone and cable companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, have vociferously fought that idea over the past few years.
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  • The Chicago Tribune reports on the process directing these rules: The five-member regulatory commission may vote as soon as May to formally propose the rules and collect public comment on them. Virtually all large Internet service providers, such as Verizon Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc., have pledged to abide by the principles of open Internet reinforced by these rules. But critics have raised concerns that, without a formal rule, the voluntary pledges could be pulled back over time and also leave the door open for deals that would give unequal treatment to websites or services.
  • I wrote about the European Union’s attempts to defend the free Internet: The legislation is meant to provide access to online services ‘without discrimination, restriction or interference, independent of the sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application.’ For example, ISPs would be barred from slowing down or ‘throttling’ the speed at which one service’s videos are delivered while allowing other services to stream at normal rates. To bastardize Gertrude Stein: a byte is a byte is a byte. Such restrictions would prevent deals like the one Comcast recently made with Netflix, which will allow the service’s videos to reach consumers faster than before. Comcast is also said to be in talks with Apple for a deal that would allow videos from its new streaming video service to reach consumers faster than videos from competitors. The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality laws don’t apply to those deals, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, so they are allowed to continue despite the threat they pose to the free Internet.
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    Cute. Deliberately not using the authority the court of appeals said it could use to impose net neutrality. So Europe can have net neutrality but not in the U.S.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

The Internet is one step closer to universal HTTPs | Network World - 0 views

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    "The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is on the front lines for protecting digital freedom and preventing censorship of the web, applauded content delivery network provider CloudFlare for the company's recent announcement that it will offer encrypted HTTPs as its default setting for any website it hosts."
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    "The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is on the front lines for protecting digital freedom and preventing censorship of the web, applauded content delivery network provider CloudFlare for the company's recent announcement that it will offer encrypted HTTPs as its default setting for any website it hosts."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Senators opposing net neutrality rake in more campaign cash | Ars Technica - 0 views

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    "Money and the public lining up on opposite sides of the net neutrality debate." [# ! Until #Money were out from #Politics... # ! ... there will be no Politics at all... nor #Democracy]
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    "Money and the public lining up on opposite sides of the net neutrality debate."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Crypto wars redux: why the FBI's desire to unlock your private life must be resisted | Technology | theguardian.com - 1 views

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    "In 1995, the US government tried - and failed - to categorise encryption as a weapon. Today, the same lines are being drawn and the same tactics repeated as the FBI wants to do the same. Here's why they are wrong, and why they must fail again Cory Doctorow
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    "In 1995, the US government tried - and failed - to categorise encryption as a weapon. Today, the same lines are being drawn and the same tactics repeated as the FBI wants to do the same. Here's why they are wrong, and why they must fail again Cory Doctorow
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Patched Android Lockscreen Still a Threat | Mobile | LinuxInsider [MS Note...] - 0 views

    • Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.
       
      [With the announcement that Microsoft would partner with the truly open-source, Android-based Cyanogen OS to provide a bundled suite of apps, both companies made one thing very clear: Android's not just for Google anymore. http://www.wired.com/2015/04/microsoft-google-cyanogen/]
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    Although Google issued a patch for its Nexus line, hackers can have a field day exploiting a recently discovered lockscreen vulnerability on other Android products. "Even when users feel confident about locking their phone with a strong password, if their device is exposed to this exploit, it does not really matter how strong the password is," noted Armando Leon, director of mobile at LaunchKey.
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    Although Google issued a patch for its Nexus line, hackers can have a field day exploiting a recently discovered lockscreen vulnerability on other Android products. "Even when users feel confident about locking their phone with a strong password, if their device is exposed to this exploit, it does not really matter how strong the password is," noted Armando Leon, director of mobile at LaunchKey.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

How Fedora monitors upstream releases - Fedora Magazine - 0 views

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    "Have you updated your Fedora system recently? Hopefully you do this regularly. Updates fix various bugs and even add new features to your most loved applications. An update, to our users, is generally a notification from the Software application. If you're an advanced user and prefer the command line, the process is simple:"
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    "Have you updated your Fedora system recently? Hopefully you do this regularly. Updates fix various bugs and even add new features to your most loved applications. An update, to our users, is generally a notification from the Software application. If you're an advanced user and prefer the command line, the process is simple:"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

How to manage your passwords from the Linux command line - 0 views

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    "Posted by Administrator | Mar 18, 2015 | Linux | 0 comments The authentication with passwords has been quite wide spread these days. This safety measure might be quite good for the security matter, but, eventually, consumers appear in a big need of password management method - a tool, a program or a clever technique - in order to save the used passwords during all of the processes. "
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    "Posted by Administrator | Mar 18, 2015 | Linux | 0 comments The authentication with passwords has been quite wide spread these days. This safety measure might be quite good for the security matter, but, eventually, consumers appear in a big need of password management method - a tool, a program or a clever technique - in order to save the used passwords during all of the processes. "
Paul Merrell

Google Chrome Listening In To Your Room Shows The Importance Of Privacy Defense In Depth - 0 views

  • Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to “we can do that”.It looked like just another bug report. "When I start Chromium, it downloads something." Followed by strange status information that notably included the lines "Microphone: Yes" and "Audio Capture Allowed: Yes".
  • Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room.A brief explanation of the Open-source / Free-software philosophy is needed here. When you’re installing a version of GNU/Linux like Debian or Ubuntu onto a fresh computer, thousands of really smart people have analyzed every line of human-readable source code before that operating system was built into computer-executable binary code, to make it common and open knowledge what the machine actually does instead of trusting corporate statements on what it’s supposed to be doing. Therefore, you don’t install black boxes onto a Debian or Ubuntu system; you use software repositories that have gone through this source-code audit-then-build process. Maintainers of operating systems like Debian and Ubuntu use many so-called “upstreams” of source code to build the final product.Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome, had abused its position as trusted upstream to insert lines of source code that bypassed this audit-then-build process, and which downloaded and installed a black box of unverifiable executable code directly onto computers, essentially rendering them compromised. We don’t know and can’t know what this black box does. But we see reports that the microphone has been activated, and that Chromium considers audio capture permitted.
  • This was supposedly to enable the “Ok, Google” behavior – that when you say certain words, a search function is activated. Certainly a useful feature. Certainly something that enables eavesdropping of every conversation in the entire room, too.Obviously, your own computer isn’t the one to analyze the actual search command. Google’s servers do. Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by… an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.Google had two responses to this. The first was to introduce a practically-undocumented switch to opt out of this behavior, which is not a fix: the default install will still wiretap your room without your consent, unless you opt out, and more importantly, know that you need to opt out, which is nowhere a reasonable requirement. But the second was more of an official statement following technical discussions on Hacker News and other places. That official statement amounted to three parts (paraphrased, of course):
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  • 1) Yes, we’re downloading and installing a wiretapping black-box to your computer. But we’re not actually activating it. We did take advantage of our position as trusted upstream to stealth-insert code into open-source software that installed this black box onto millions of computers, but we would never abuse the same trust in the same way to insert code that activates the eavesdropping-blackbox we already downloaded and installed onto your computer without your consent or knowledge. You can look at the code as it looks right now to see that the code doesn’t do this right now.2) Yes, Chromium is bypassing the entire source code auditing process by downloading a pre-built black box onto people’s computers. But that’s not something we care about, really. We’re concerned with building Google Chrome, the product from Google. As part of that, we provide the source code for others to package if they like. Anybody who uses our code for their own purpose takes responsibility for it. When this happens in a Debian installation, it is not Google Chrome’s behavior, this is Debian Chromium’s behavior. It’s Debian’s responsibility entirely.3) Yes, we deliberately hid this listening module from the users, but that’s because we consider this behavior to be part of the basic Google Chrome experience. We don’t want to show all modules that we install ourselves.
  • If you think this is an excusable and responsible statement, raise your hand now.Now, it should be noted that this was Chromium, the open-source version of Chrome. If somebody downloads the Google product Google Chrome, as in the prepackaged binary, you don’t even get a theoretical choice. You’re already downloading a black box from a vendor. In Google Chrome, this is all included from the start.This episode highlights the need for hard, not soft, switches to all devices – webcams, microphones – that can be used for surveillance. A software on/off switch for a webcam is no longer enough, a hard shield in front of the lens is required. A software on/off switch for a microphone is no longer enough, a physical switch that breaks its electrical connection is required. That’s how you defend against this in depth.
  • Of course, people were quick to downplay the alarm. “It only listens when you say ‘Ok, Google’.” (Ok, so how does it know to start listening just before I’m about to say ‘Ok, Google?’) “It’s no big deal.” (A company stealth installs an audio listener that listens to every room in the world it can, and transmits audio data to the mothership when it encounters an unknown, possibly individually tailored, list of keywords – and it’s no big deal!?) “You can opt out. It’s in the Terms of Service.” (No. Just no. This is not something that is the slightest amount of permissible just because it’s hidden in legalese.) “It’s opt-in. It won’t really listen unless you check that box.” (Perhaps. We don’t know, Google just downloaded a black box onto my computer. And it may not be the same black box as was downloaded onto yours. )Early last decade, privacy activists practically yelled and screamed that the NSA’s taps of various points of the Internet and telecom networks had the technical potential for enormous abuse against privacy. Everybody else dismissed those points as basically tinfoilhattery – until the Snowden files came out, and it was revealed that precisely everybody involved had abused their technical capability for invasion of privacy as far as was possible.Perhaps it would be wise to not repeat that exact mistake. Nobody, and I really mean nobody, is to be trusted with a technical capability to listen to every room in the world, with listening profiles customizable at the identified-individual level, on the mere basis of “trust us”.
  • Privacy remains your own responsibility.
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    And of course, Google would never succumb to a subpoena requiring it to turn over the audio stream to the NSA. The Tor Browser just keeps looking better and better. https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en
Gary Edwards

Cisco buys PostPath: WebEx to compete with Exchange, Outlook, Office? | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com - 0 views

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    Once you add in better email and calendar support WebEx could become more appealing to the enterprise. PostPath has a Linux based collaboration system built on an AJAX client that doesn't need a browser. Cisco added that the company's strategy is to develop "an integrated collaboration platform designed for how we work today and into the future. And better yet: PostPath's pitch is that it is an Exchange alternative and a "Linux-based corporate email server." Let's read between the lines: Doesn't this sound a lot like an end-run around Microsoft Office, Outlook and Exchange just like Google is trying to do with Google Apps? Cisco probably has no desire to compete head on with Microsoft (or at least admit it), but the company obviously sees something here and coupling PostPath with WebEx could be a threat to Redmond. In fact, Cisco could be a bigger threat to Microsoft in the enterprise than Google. Why? Cisco already sells enterprises a lot of stuff. Isn't a collaboration suite really just an extension of the network?
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Linux Command Line Cheat Sheet by DaveChild - Cheatography.com: Cheat Sheets For Every Occasion - 0 views

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    "A cheat sheet of the commands I use most for Linux, with popup links to man pages." [# ! Bacause a Huge #Memory... # ! ...is not all # ! that makes a (#Free) #Techie... # ! ✌☺]
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    "A cheat sheet of the commands I use most for Linux, with popup links to man pages."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Save, Create and run your own pirate bay - 0 views

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    [... Create and run your own pirate bay We, the team that brought you Isohunt.to and oldpiratebay.org, are bringing you the next step in the torrent evolution. Open Pirate Bay source code. History of torrent sites such as Isohunt and The Pirate Bay gives us a lesson that would be a crime not to learn. The era of individual torrent sites is over. That is why we created Pirate Bay open source. It's free for everyone. Now you can create your own copy of The Pirate Bay! Update and change this code to make it better for everyone. We give you three simple options: ...] [# ! While... # ! … there were Pe@ple, computers and #networks, there is #hope. # ! #Life is #Share.]
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    [... Create and run your own pirate bay We, the team that brought you Isohunt.to and oldpiratebay.org, are bringing you the next step in the torrent evolution. Open Pirate Bay source code. History of torrent sites such as Isohunt and The Pirate Bay gives us a lesson that would be a crime not to learn. The era of individual torrent sites is over. That is why we created Pirate Bay open source. It's free for everyone. Now you can create your own copy of The Pirate Bay! Update and change this code to make it better for everyone. We give you three simple options: ...]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Publishers Are Lining Up Behind 'Netflix for Books' Services. But Why? | WIRED [# Note in Lead... CHK] - 0 views

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    [# ! we are 'The Product'. Don't we deserve a 'commission' (like free sharing, for example...)] "The money may not be the real reason publishers are coming around, however. The greatest value of these "Netflix for books" services could be that these startups share valuable reader data, says James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research."
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    [# ! we are 'The Product'. Don't we deserve a 'commission' (like free sharing, for example...)] "The money may not be the real reason publishers are coming around, however. The greatest value of these "Netflix for books" services could be that these startups share valuable reader data, says James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

List Of Tools To Monitor The Health Of Your Linux System | Unixmen - 1 views

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    "Introduction Achieving good performance from a computer or network is an important part of system administration.The monitoring and maintenance of the system is the most important task listed in the checklists for daily tasks of a system and network administrator. There are many commands line utilities created for this purpose."
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    "Introduction Achieving good performance from a computer or network is an important part of system administration.The monitoring and maintenance of the system is the most important task listed in the checklists for daily tasks of a system and network administrator. There are many commands line utilities created for this purpose."
Paul Merrell

FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on National Security Letters - The Intercept - 0 views

  • Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter. FBI agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national security purposes. The FBI at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day. The letters look like this:
  • Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:
  • That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well. More than a year ago, President Obama announced that he was ordering the Justice Department to terminate gag orders “within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.” And on Feb. 3, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a handful of baby steps resulting from its “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance [its] privacy and civil liberty protections” one of the most concrete was — finally — to cap the gag orders: In response to the President’s new direction, the FBI will now presumptively terminate National Security Letter nondisclosure orders at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close. Continued nondisclosures orders beyond this period are permitted only if a Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant Director determines that the statutory standards for nondisclosure continue to be satisfied and that the case agent has justified, in writing, why continued nondisclosure is appropriate.
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  • Despite the use of the word “now” in that first sentence, however, the FBI has yet to do any such thing. It has not announced any such change, nor explained how it will implement it, or when. Media inquiries were greeted with stalling and, finally, a no comment — ostensibly on advice of legal counsel. “There is pending litigation that deals with a lot of the same questions you’re asking, out of the Ninth Circuit,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told me. “So for now, we’ll just have to decline to comment.” FBI lawyers are working on a court filing for that case, and “it will address” the new policy, he said. He would not say when to expect it.
  • There is indeed a significant case currently before the federal appeals court in San Francisco. Oral arguments were in October. A decision could come any time. But in that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is representing two unnamed communications companies that received NSLs, is calling for the entire NSL statute to be thrown out as unconstitutional — not for a tweak to the gag. And it has a March 2013 district court ruling in its favor. “The gag is a prior restraint under the First Amendment, and prior restraints have to meet an extremely high burden,” said Andrew Crocker, a legal fellow at EFF. That means going to court and meeting the burden of proof — not just signing a letter. Or as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez put it, “To have such a low bar for denying persons or companies the right to speak about government orders they have been served with is anathema. And it is not very good for accountability.”
  • In a separate case, a wide range of media companies (including First Look Media, the non-profit digital media venture that produces The Intercept) are supporting a lawsuit filed by Twitter, demanding the right to say specifically how many NSLs it has received. But simply releasing companies from a gag doesn’t assure the kind of accountability that privacy advocates are saying is required by the Constitution. “What the public has to remember is a NSL is asking for your information, but it’s not asking it from you,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “The vast majority of these things go to the very large telecommunications and financial companies who have a large stake in maintaining a good relationship with the government because they’re heavily regulated entities.”
  • So, German said, “the number of NSLs that would be exposed as a result of the release of the gag order is probably very few. The person whose records are being obtained is the one who should receive some notification.” A time limit on gags going forward also raises the question of whether past gag orders will now be withdrawn. “Obviously there are at this point literally hundreds of thousands of National Security Letters that are more than three years old,” said Sanchez. Individual review is therefore unlikely, but there ought to be some recourse, he said. And the further back you go, “it becomes increasingly implausible that a significant percentage of those are going to entail some dire national security risk.” The NSL program has a troubled history. The absolute secrecy of the program and resulting lack of accountability led to systemic abuse as documented by repeated inspector-general investigations, including improperly authorized NSLs, factual misstatements in the NSLs, improper requests under NSL statutes, requests for information based on First Amendment protected activity, “after-the-fact” blanket NSLs to “cover” illegal requests, and hundreds of NSLs for “community of interest” or “calling circle” information without any determination that the telephone numbers were relevant to authorized national security investigations.
  • Obama’s own hand-selected “Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” recommended in December 2013 that NSLs should only be issued after judicial review — just like warrants — and that any gag should end within 180 days barring judicial re-approval. But FBI director James Comey objected to the idea, calling NSLs “a very important tool that is essential to the work we do.” His argument evidently prevailed with Obama.
  • NSLs have managed to stay largely under the American public’s radar. But, Crocker says, “pretty much every time I bring it up and give the thumbnail, people are shocked. Then you go into how many are issued every year, and they go crazy.” Want to send me your old NSL and see if we can set a new precedent? Here’s how to reach me. And here’s how to leak to me.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Pass, an open source password manager | Opensource.com - 1 views

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    "It's basically a simple command-line utility that helps you manage passwords. It uses GnuPG-encrypted files to save and manage user passwords."
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    "It's basically a simple command-line utility that helps you manage passwords. It uses GnuPG-encrypted files to save and manage user passwords."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

YouTube Flags Cat Purring as Copyright Infringing Music | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " Ernesto on February 11, 2015 C: 0 Breaking YouTube's automated takedown tool is known for its flaws, but this week it crossed a line by attacking a purring cat."
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    " Ernesto on February 11, 2015 C: 0 Breaking YouTube's automated takedown tool is known for its flaws, but this week it crossed a line by attacking a purring cat."
Paul Merrell

German Parliament Says No More Software Patents | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The German Parliament recently took a huge step that would eliminate software patents (PDF) when it issued a joint motion requiring the German government to ensure that computer programs are only covered by copyright. Put differently, in Germany, software cannot be patented. The Parliament's motion follows a similar announcement made by New Zealand's government last month (PDF), in which it determined that computer programs were not inventions or a manner of manufacture and, thus, cannot be patented.
  • The crux of the German Parliament's motion rests on the fact that software is already protected by copyright, and developers are afforded "exploitation rights." These rights, however, become confused when broad, abstract patents also cover general aspects of computer programs. These two intellectual property systems are at odds. The clearest example of this clash is with free software. The motion recognizes this issue and therefore calls upon the government "to preserve the precedence of copyright law so that software developers can also publish their work under open source license terms and conditions with legal security." The free software movement relies upon the fact that software can be released under a copyright license that allows users to share it and build upon others' works. Patents, as Parliament finds, inhibit this fundamental spread.
  • Just like in the New Zealand order, the German Parliament carved out one type of software that could be patented, when: the computer program serves merely as a replaceable equivalent for a mechanical or electro-mechanical component, as is the case, for instance, when software-based washing machine controls can replace an electromechanical program control unit consisting of revolving cylinders which activate the control circuits for the specific steps of the wash cycle This allows for software that is tied to (and controls part of) another invention to be patented. In other words, if a claimed process is purely a computer program, then it is not patentable. (New Zealand's order uses a similar washing machine example.) The motion ends by calling upon the German government to push for this approach to be standard across all of Europe. We hope policymakers in the United States will also consider fundamental reform that deals with the problems caused by low-quality software patents. Ultimately, any real reform must address this issue.
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    Note that an unofficial translation of the parliamentary motion is linked from the article. This adds substantially to the pressure internationally to end software patents because Germany has been the strongest defender of software patents in Europe. The same legal grounds would not apply in the U.S. The strongest argument for the non-patentability in the U.S., in my opinion, is that software patents embody embody both prior art and obviousness. A general purpose computer can accomplish nothing unforeseen by the prior art of the computing device. And it is impossible for software to do more than cause different sequences of bit register states to be executed. This is the province of "skilled artisans" using known methods to produce predictable results. There is a long line of Supreme Court decisions holding that an "invention" with such traits is non-patentable. I have summarized that argument with citations at . 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Creative Commons licences under scrutiny: What does "noncommercial" mean? | Ars Technica UK [# ! Note] - 0 views

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    "Commercial v. noncommercial use of CC licences. Where's the line of demarcation? David Kravets (US) - Sep 19, 2016 7:35 am UTC"
Paul Merrell

Commentary: Don't be so sure Russia hacked the Clinton emails | Reuters - 0 views

  • By James Bamford Last summer, cyber investigators plowing through the thousands of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee uncovered a clue.A user named “Феликс Эдмундович” modified one of the documents using settings in the Russian language. Translated, his name was Felix Edmundovich, a pseudonym referring to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, the chief of the Soviet Union’s first secret-police organization, the Cheka.It was one more link in the chain of evidence pointing to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man ultimately behind the operation.During the Cold War, when Soviet intelligence was headquartered in Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow, Putin was a KGB officer assigned to the First Chief Directorate. Its responsibilities included “active measures,” a form of political warfare that included media manipulation, propaganda and disinformation. Soviet active measures, retired KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin told Army historian Thomas Boghart, aimed to discredit the United States and “conquer world public opinion.”As the Cold War has turned into the code war, Putin recently unveiled his new, greatly enlarged spy organization: the Ministry of State Security, taking the name from Joseph Stalin’s secret service. Putin also resurrected, according to James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, some of the KGB’s old active- measures tactics. On October 7, Clapper issued a statement: “The U.S. Intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” Notably, however, the FBI declined to join the chorus, according to reports by the New York Times and CNBC.A week later, Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that "we're sending a message" to Putin and "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact." When asked if the American public would know a message was sent, Biden replied, "Hope not." Meanwhile, the CIA was asked, according to an NBC report on October 14, “to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging ‘clandestine’ cyber operation designed to harass and ‘embarrass’ the Kremlin leadership.”But as both sides begin arming their cyberweapons, it is critical for the public to be confident that the evidence is really there, and to understand the potential consequences of a tit-for-tat cyberwar escalating into a real war. 
  • This is a prospect that has long worried Richard Clarke, the former White House cyber czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s highly likely that any war that began as a cyberwar,” Clarke told me last year, “would ultimately end up being a conventional war, where the United States was engaged with bombers and missiles.”The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction. Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment. After the Democratic committee discovered the potential hack last spring, it called in the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in May to analyze the problem.
  • CrowdStrike took just a month or so before it conclusively determined that Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Russian military intelligence organization, GRU, were behind it. Most of the other major cybersecurity firms quickly fell in line and agreed. By October, the intelligence community made it unanimous. That speed and certainty contrasts sharply with a previous suspected Russian hack in 2010, when the target was the Nasdaq stock market. According to an extensive investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014, the NSA and FBI made numerous mistakes over many months that stretched to nearly a year. “After months of work,” the article said, “there were still basic disagreements in different parts of government over who was behind the incident and why.”  There was no consensus­, with just a 70 percent certainty that the hack was a cybercrime. Months later, this determination was revised again: It was just a Russian attempt to spy on the exchange in order to design its own. The federal agents also considered the possibility that the Nasdaq snooping was not connected to the Kremlin. Instead, “someone in the FSB could have been running a for-profit operation on the side, or perhaps sold the malware to a criminal hacking group.” Again, that’s why it’s necessary to better understand the role of Guccifer 2.0 in releasing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails before launching any cyberweapons.
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  • t is strange that clues in the Nasdaq hack were very difficult to find ― as one would expect from a professional, state-sponsored cyber operation. Conversely, the sloppy, Inspector Clouseau-like nature of the Guccifer 2.0 operation, with someone hiding behind a silly Bolshevik cover name, and Russian language clues in the metadata, smacked more of either an amateur operation or a deliberate deception.Then there’s the Shadow Brokers, that mysterious person or group that surfaced in August with its farcical “auction” to profit from a stolen batch of extremely secret NSA hacking tools, in essence, cyberweapons. Where do they fit into the picture? They have a small armory of NSA cyberweapons, and they appeared just three weeks after the first DNC emails were leaked. On Monday, the Shadow Brokers released more information, including what they claimed is a list of hundreds of organizations that the NSA has targeted over more than a decade, complete with technical details. This offers further evidence that their information comes from a leaker inside the NSA rather than the Kremlin. The Shadow Brokers also discussed Obama’s threat of cyber retaliation against Russia. Yet they seemed most concerned that the CIA, rather than the NSA or Cyber Command, was given the assignment. This may be a possible indication of a connection to NSA’s elite group, Tailored Access Operations, considered by many the A-Team of hackers.“Why is DirtyGrandpa threating CIA cyberwar with Russia?” they wrote. “Why not threating with NSA or Cyber Command? CIA is cyber B-Team, yes? Where is cyber A-Team?” Because of legal and other factors, the NSA conducts cyber espionage, Cyber Command conducts cyberattacks in wartime, and the CIA conducts covert cyberattacks. 
  • The Shadow Brokers connection is important because Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, claimed to have received identical copies of the Shadow Brokers cyberweapons even before they announced their “auction.” Did he get them from the Shadow Brokers, from Guccifer, from Russia or from an inside leaker at the NSA?Despite the rushed, incomplete investigation and unanswered questions, the Obama administration has announced its decision to retaliate against Russia.  But a public warning about a secret attack makes little sense. If a major cyber crisis happens in Russia sometime in the future, such as a deadly power outage in frigid winter, the United States could be blamed even if it had nothing to do with it. That could then trigger a major retaliatory cyberattack against the U.S. cyber infrastructure, which would call for another reprisal attack ― potentially leading to Clarke’s fear of a cyberwar triggering a conventional war. President Barack Obama has also not taken a nuclear strike off the table as an appropriate response to a devastating cyberattack.
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    Article by James Bamford, the first NSA whistleblower and author of three books on the NSA.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

How to access your Google Drive account from Linux command line using Gdrive - 0 views

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    "While Google Drive is no doubt one of the most popular (if not the most popular) cloud storage services available today, what's really sad is that there is no official Drive client available for Linux. But that doesn't mean there are no alternatives - in fact the awesome Linux/open-source community has developed several unofficial Google Drive clients, some of which we've already discussed here at HowtoForge."
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