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Gary Edwards

Skynet rising: Google acquires 512-qubit quantum computer; NSA surveillance to be turned over to AI machines Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind! - 0 views

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    "The ultimate code breakers" If you know anything about encryption, you probably also realize that quantum computers are the secret KEY to unlocking all encrypted files. As I wrote about last year here on Natural News, once quantum computers go into widespread use by the NSA, the CIA, Google, etc., there will be no more secrets kept from the government. All your files - even encrypted files - will be easily opened and read. Until now, most people believed this day was far away. Quantum computing is an "impractical pipe dream," we've been told by scowling scientists and "flat Earth" computer engineers. "It's not possible to build a 512-qubit quantum computer that actually works," they insisted. Don't tell that to Eric Ladizinsky, co-founder and chief scientist of a company called D-Wave. Because Ladizinsky's team has already built a 512-qubit quantum computer. And they're already selling them to wealthy corporations, too. DARPA, Northrup Grumman and Goldman Sachs In case you're wondering where Ladizinsky came from, he's a former employee of Northrup Grumman Space Technology (yes, a weapons manufacturer) where he ran a multi-million-dollar quantum computing research project for none other than DARPA - the same group working on AI-driven armed assault vehicles and battlefield robots to replace human soldiers. .... When groundbreaking new technology is developed by smart people, it almost immediately gets turned into a weapon. Quantum computing will be no different. This technology grants God-like powers to police state governments that seek to dominate and oppress the People.  ..... Google acquires "Skynet" quantum computers from D-Wave According to an article published in Scientific American, Google and NASA have now teamed up to purchase a 512-qubit quantum computer from D-Wave. The computer is called "D-Wave Two" because it's the second generation of the system. The first system was a 128-qubit computer. Gen two
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    Normally, I'd be suspicious of anything published by Infowars because its editors are willing to publish really over the top stuff, but: [i] this is subject matter I've maintained an interest in over the years and I was aware that working quantum computers were imminent; and [ii] the pedigree on this particular information does not trace to Scientific American, as stated in the article. I've known Scientific American to publish at least one soothing and lengthy article on the subject of chlorinated dioxin hazard -- my specialty as a lawyer was litigating against chemical companies that generated dioxin pollution -- that was generated by known closet chemical industry advocates long since discredited and was totally lacking in scientific validity and contrary to established scientific knowledge. So publication in Scientific American doesn't pack a lot of weight with me. But checking the Scientific American linked article, notes that it was reprinted by permission from Nature, a peer-reviewed scientific journal and news organization that I trust much more. That said, the InfoWars version is a rewrite that contains lots of information not in the Nature/Scientific American version of a sensationalist nature, so heightened caution is still in order. Check the reprinted Nature version before getting too excited: "The D-Wave computer is not a 'universal' computer that can be programmed to tackle any kind of problem. But scientists have found they can usefully frame questions in machine-learning research as optimisation problems. "D-Wave has battled to prove that its computer really operates on a quantum level, and that it is better or faster than a conventional computer. Before striking the latest deal, the prospective customers set a series of tests for the quantum computer. D-Wave hired an outside expert in algorithm-racing, who concluded that the speed of the D-Wave Two was above average overall, and that it was 3,600 times faster than a leading conventional comput
Paul Merrell

Expert System Guns for Expert with Semantic Search, Advertising - 0 views

  • Would-be Google AdSense rival Google System launches its Cogito Semantic Advertiser tool, which discerns the meaning and context of words to provide more relevant ads. By leveraging semantic technologies, Google System joins a cadre of search providers that includes Microsoft-owned Powerset, Hakia, Yedda and Zoomix.
  • The problem is that AdSense relies on keyword frequency but doesn't drill down into the semantics—the meaning in the words. Cogito Semantic Advertiser attempts to go further by using semantic intelligence to analyze the text on each page and ensure that ads are placed appropriately to increase click-through rates.
  • Asher told me Cogito Semantic Advertiser understands content based on four key methodologies: studying the morphology of words; looking at parts of speech; sentence logic, or the reduction of sentences to subject, verb and object; and disambiguation, which in the case of the jaguar story paired with the Jaguar car ad would determine whether or not the text referred to a car or an animal.
Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Just Security - 0 views

  • Less than a week after the attacks in Paris — while the public and policymakers were still reeling, and the investigation had barely gotten off the ground — Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, released a policy paper calling for legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the first concrete proposal of this type since September 2014, when FBI Director James Comey reignited the “Crypto Wars” in response to Apple’s and Google’s decisions to use default encryption on their smartphones. Though Comey seized on Apple’s and Google’s decisions to encrypt their devices by default, his concerns are primarily related to end-to-end encryption, which protects communications that are in transit. Vance’s proposal, on the other hand, is only concerned with device encryption, which protects data stored on phones. It is still unclear whether encryption played any role in the Paris attacks, though we do know that the attackers were using unencrypted SMS text messages on the night of the attack, and that some of them were even known to intelligence agencies and had previously been under surveillance. But regardless of whether encryption was used at some point during the planning of the attacks, as I lay out below, prohibiting companies from selling encrypted devices would not prevent criminals or terrorists from being able to access unbreakable encryption. Vance’s primary complaint is that Apple’s and Google’s decisions to provide their customers with more secure devices through encryption interferes with criminal investigations. He claims encryption prevents law enforcement from accessing stored data like iMessages, photos and videos, Internet search histories, and third party app data. He makes several arguments to justify his proposal to build backdoors into encrypted smartphones, but none of them hold water.
  • Before addressing the major privacy, security, and implementation concerns that his proposal raises, it is worth noting that while an increase in use of fully encrypted devices could interfere with some law enforcement investigations, it will help prevent far more crimes — especially smartphone theft, and the consequent potential for identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 there were more than two million victims of smartphone theft, and nearly two-thirds of all smartphone users either took no steps to secure their phones or their data or failed to implement passcode access for their phones. Default encryption could reduce instances of theft because perpetrators would no longer be able to break into the phone to steal the data.
  • Vance argues that creating a weakness in encryption to allow law enforcement to access data stored on devices does not raise serious concerns for security and privacy, since in order to exploit the vulnerability one would need access to the actual device. He considers this an acceptable risk, claiming it would not be the same as creating a widespread vulnerability in encryption protecting communications in transit (like emails), and that it would be cheap and easy for companies to implement. But Vance seems to be underestimating the risks involved with his plan. It is increasingly important that smartphones and other devices are protected by the strongest encryption possible. Our devices and the apps on them contain astonishing amounts of personal information, so much that an unprecedented level of harm could be caused if a smartphone or device with an exploitable vulnerability is stolen, not least in the forms of identity fraud and credit card theft. We bank on our phones, and have access to credit card payments with services like Apple Pay. Our contact lists are stored on our phones, including phone numbers, emails, social media accounts, and addresses. Passwords are often stored on people’s phones. And phones and apps are often full of personal details about their lives, from food diaries to logs of favorite places to personal photographs. Symantec conducted a study, where the company spread 50 “lost” phones in public to see what people who picked up the phones would do with them. The company found that 95 percent of those people tried to access the phone, and while nearly 90 percent tried to access private information stored on the phone or in other private accounts such as banking services and email, only 50 percent attempted contacting the owner.
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  • Vance attempts to downplay this serious risk by asserting that anyone can use the “Find My Phone” or Android Device Manager services that allow owners to delete the data on their phones if stolen. However, this does not stand up to scrutiny. These services are effective only when an owner realizes their phone is missing and can take swift action on another computer or device. This delay ensures some period of vulnerability. Encryption, on the other hand, protects everyone immediately and always. Additionally, Vance argues that it is safer to build backdoors into encrypted devices than it is to do so for encrypted communications in transit. It is true that there is a difference in the threats posed by the two types of encryption backdoors that are being debated. However, some manner of widespread vulnerability will inevitably result from a backdoor to encrypted devices. Indeed, the NSA and GCHQ reportedly hacked into a database to obtain cell phone SIM card encryption keys in order defeat the security protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a hacker or a nation state actor, is very real. Even if companies go the extra mile and create a different means of access for every phone, such as a separate access key for each phone, significant vulnerabilities will be created. It would still be possible for a malicious actor to gain access to the database containing those keys, which would enable them to defeat the encryption on any smartphone they took possession of. Additionally, the cost of implementation and maintenance of such a complex system could be high.
  • Privacy is another concern that Vance dismisses too easily. Despite Vance’s arguments otherwise, building backdoors into device encryption undermines privacy. Our government does not impose a similar requirement in any other context. Police can enter homes with warrants, but there is no requirement that people record their conversations and interactions just in case they someday become useful in an investigation. The conversations that we once had through disposable letters and in-person conversations now happen over the Internet and on phones. Just because the medium has changed does not mean our right to privacy has.
  • In addition to his weak reasoning for why it would be feasible to create backdoors to encrypted devices without creating undue security risks or harming privacy, Vance makes several flawed policy-based arguments in favor of his proposal. He argues that criminals benefit from devices that are protected by strong encryption. That may be true, but strong encryption is also a critical tool used by billions of average people around the world every day to protect their transactions, communications, and private information. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists rely on encryption to protect their clients, patients, and sources. Government officials, from the President to the directors of the NSA and FBI, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cybersecurity and data security. There are far more innocent Americans who benefit from strong encryption than there are criminals who exploit it. Encryption is also essential to our economy. Device manufacturers could suffer major economic losses if they are prohibited from competing with foreign manufacturers who offer more secure devices. Encryption also protects major companies from corporate and nation-state espionage. As more daily business activities are done on smartphones and other devices, they may now hold highly proprietary or sensitive information. Those devices could be targeted even more than they are now if all that has to be done to access that information is to steal an employee’s smartphone and exploit a vulnerability the manufacturer was required to create.
  • Vance also suggests that the US would be justified in creating such a requirement since other Western nations are contemplating requiring encryption backdoors as well. Regardless of whether other countries are debating similar proposals, we cannot afford a race to the bottom on cybersecurity. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cybersecurity is the top threat to our national security. Strong encryption is our best defense against cyber threats, and following in the footsteps of other countries by weakening that critical tool would do incalculable harm. Furthermore, even if the US or other countries did implement such a proposal, criminals could gain access to devices with strong encryption through the black market. Thus, only innocent people would be negatively affected, and some of those innocent people might even become criminals simply by trying to protect their privacy by securing their data and devices. Finally, Vance argues that David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, supported the idea that court-ordered decryption doesn’t violate human rights, provided certain criteria are met, in his report on the topic. However, in the context of Vance’s proposal, this seems to conflate the concepts of court-ordered decryption and of government-mandated encryption backdoors. The Kaye report was unequivocal about the importance of encryption for free speech and human rights. The report concluded that:
  • States should promote strong encryption and anonymity. National laws should recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. … States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate. States should avoid all measures that weaken the security that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows. Additionally, the group of intelligence experts that was hand-picked by the President to issue a report and recommendations on surveillance and technology, concluded that: [R]egarding encryption, the U.S. Government should: (1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.
  • The clear consensus among human rights experts and several high-ranking intelligence experts, including the former directors of the NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and DHS, is that mandating encryption backdoors is dangerous. Unaddressed Concerns: Preventing Encrypted Devices from Entering the US and the Slippery Slope In addition to the significant faults in Vance’s arguments in favor of his proposal, he fails to address the question of how such a restriction would be effectively implemented. There is no effective mechanism for preventing code from becoming available for download online, even if it is illegal. One critical issue the Vance proposal fails to address is how the government would prevent, or even identify, encrypted smartphones when individuals bring them into the United States. DHS would have to train customs agents to search the contents of every person’s phone in order to identify whether it is encrypted, and then confiscate the phones that are. Legal and policy considerations aside, this kind of policy is, at the very least, impractical. Preventing strong encryption from entering the US is not like preventing guns or drugs from entering the country — encrypted phones aren’t immediately obvious as is contraband. Millions of people use encrypted devices, and tens of millions more devices are shipped to and sold in the US each year.
  • Finally, there is a real concern that if Vance’s proposal were accepted, it would be the first step down a slippery slope. Right now, his proposal only calls for access to smartphones and devices running mobile operating systems. While this policy in and of itself would cover a number of commonplace devices, it may eventually be expanded to cover laptop and desktop computers, as well as communications in transit. The expansion of this kind of policy is even more worrisome when taking into account the speed at which technology evolves and becomes widely adopted. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not even exist. Who is to say what technology will be commonplace in 10 or 20 years that is not even around today. There is a very real question about how far law enforcement will go to gain access to information. Things that once seemed like merely science fiction, such as wearable technology and artificial intelligence that could be implanted in and work with the human nervous system, are now available. If and when there comes a time when our “smart phone” is not really a device at all, but is rather an implant, surely we would not grant law enforcement access to our minds.
  • Policymakers should dismiss Vance’s proposal to prohibit the use of strong encryption to protect our smartphones and devices in order to ensure law enforcement access. Undermining encryption, regardless of whether it is protecting data in transit or at rest, would take us down a dangerous and harmful path. Instead, law enforcement and the intelligence community should be working to alter their skills and tactics in a fast-evolving technological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Paul Merrell

Internet Giants Erect Barriers to Spy Agencies - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • As fast as it can, Google is sealing up cracks in its Google that Edward J. Snowden revealed the N.S.A. had brilliantly exploited. It is encrypting more data as it moves among its servers and helping customers encode their own emails. Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo are taking similar steps.
  • After years of cooperating with the government, the immediate goal now is to thwart Washington — as well as Beijing and Moscow. The strategy is also intended to preserve business overseas in places like Brazil and Germany that have threatened to entrust data only to local providers. Google, for example, is laying its own fiber optic cable under the world’s oceans, a project that began as an effort to cut costs and extend its influence, but now has an added purpose: to assure that the company will have more control over the movement of its customer data.
  • A year after Mr. Snowden’s revelations, the era of quiet cooperation is over. Telecommunications companies say they are denying requests to volunteer data not covered by existing law. A.T.&T., Verizon and others say that compared with a year ago, they are far more reluctant to cooperate with the United States government in “gray areas” where there is no explicit requirement for a legal warrant.
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  • Eric Grosse, Google’s security chief, suggested in an interview that the N.S.A.'s own behavior invited the new arms race.“I am willing to help on the purely defensive side of things,” he said, referring to Washington’s efforts to enlist Silicon Valley in cybersecurity efforts. “But signals intercept is totally off the table,” he said, referring to national intelligence gathering.“No hard feelings, but my job is to make their job hard,” he added.
  • In Washington, officials acknowledge that covert programs are now far harder to execute because American technology companies, fearful of losing international business, are hardening their networks and saying no to requests for the kind of help they once quietly provided.Continue reading the main story Robert S. Litt, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all 17 American spy agencies, said on Wednesday that it was “an unquestionable loss for our nation that companies are losing the willingness to cooperate legally and voluntarily” with American spy agencies.
  • Many point to an episode in 2012, when Russian security researchers uncovered a state espionage tool, Flame, on Iranian computers. Flame, like the Stuxnet worm, is believed to have been produced at least in part by American intelligence agencies. It was created by exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s operating systems. Companies argue that others could have later taken advantage of this defect.Worried that such an episode undercuts confidence in its wares, Microsoft is now fully encrypting all its products, including Hotmail and Outlook.com, by the end of this year with 2,048-bit encryption, a stronger protection that would take a government far longer to crack. The software is protected by encryption both when it is in data centers and when data is being sent over the Internet, said Bradford L. Smith, the company’s general counsel.
  • Mr. Smith also said the company was setting up “transparency centers” abroad so that technical experts of foreign governments could come in and inspect Microsoft’s proprietary source code. That will allow foreign governments to check to make sure there are no “back doors” that would permit snooping by United States intelligence agencies. The first such center is being set up in Brussels.Microsoft has also pushed back harder in court. In a Seattle case, the government issued a “national security letter” to compel Microsoft to turn over data about a customer, along with a gag order to prevent Microsoft from telling the customer it had been compelled to provide its communications to government officials. Microsoft challenged the gag order as violating the First Amendment. The government backed down.
  • Hardware firms like Cisco, which makes routers and switches, have found their products a frequent subject of Mr. Snowden’s disclosures, and their business has declined steadily in places like Asia, Brazil and Europe over the last year. The company is still struggling to convince foreign customers that their networks are safe from hackers — and free of “back doors” installed by the N.S.A. The frustration, companies here say, is that it is nearly impossible to prove that their systems are N.S.A.-proof.
  • In one slide from the disclosures, N.S.A. analysts pointed to a sweet spot inside Google’s data centers, where they could catch traffic in unencrypted form. Next to a quickly drawn smiley face, an N.S.A. analyst, referring to an acronym for a common layer of protection, had noted, “SSL added and removed here!”
  • Facebook and Yahoo have also been encrypting traffic among their internal servers. And Facebook, Google and Microsoft have been moving to more strongly encrypt consumer traffic with so-called Perfect Forward Secrecy, specifically devised to make it more labor intensive for the N.S.A. or anyone to read stored encrypted communications.One of the biggest indirect consequences from the Snowden revelations, technology executives say, has been the surge in demands from foreign governments that saw what kind of access to user information the N.S.A. received — voluntarily or surreptitiously. Now they want the same.
  • The latest move in the war between intelligence agencies and technology companies arrived this week, in the form of a new Google encryption tool. The company released a user-friendly, email encryption method to replace the clunky and often mistake-prone encryption schemes the N.S.A. has readily exploited.But the best part of the tool was buried in Google’s code, which included a jab at the N.S.A.'s smiley-face slide. The code included the phrase: “ssl-added-and-removed-here-; - )”
Paul Merrell

Security Experts Oppose Government Access to Encrypted Communication - The New York Times - 0 views

  • An elite group of security technologists has concluded that the American and British governments cannot demand special access to encrypted communications without putting the world’s most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger.A new paper from the group, made up of 14 of the world’s pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists, is a formidable salvo in a skirmish between intelligence and law enforcement leaders, and technologists and privacy advocates. After Edward J. Snowden’s revelations — with security breaches and awareness of nation-state surveillance at a record high and data moving online at breakneck speeds — encryption has emerged as a major issue in the debate over privacy rights.
  • That has put Silicon Valley at the center of a tug of war. Technology companies including Apple, Microsoft and Google have been moving to encrypt more of their corporate and customer data after learning that the National Security Agency and its counterparts were siphoning off digital communications and hacking into corporate data centers.
  • Yet law enforcement and intelligence agency leaders argue that such efforts thwart their ability to monitor kidnappers, terrorists and other adversaries. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to ban encrypted messages altogether. In the United States, Michael S. Rogers, the director of the N.S.A., proposed that technology companies be required to create a digital key to unlock encrypted data, but to divide the key into pieces and secure it so that no one person or government agency could use it alone.The encryption debate has left both sides bitterly divided and in fighting mode. The group of cryptographers deliberately issued its report a day before James B. Comey Jr., the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Sally Quillian Yates, the deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the concerns that they and other government agencies have that encryption technologies will prevent them from effectively doing their jobs.
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  • The new paper is the first in-depth technical analysis of government proposals by leading cryptographers and security thinkers, including Whitfield Diffie, a pioneer of public key cryptography, and Ronald L. Rivest, the “R” in the widely used RSA public cryptography algorithm. In the report, the group said any effort to give the government “exceptional access” to encrypted communications was technically unfeasible and would leave confidential data and critical infrastructure like banks and the power grid at risk. Handing governments a key to encrypted communications would also require an extraordinary degree of trust. With government agency breaches now the norm — most recently at the United States Office of Personnel Management, the State Department and the White House — the security specialists said authorities could not be trusted to keep such keys safe from hackers and criminals. They added that if the United States and Britain mandated backdoor keys to communications, China and other governments in foreign markets would be spurred to do the same.
  • “Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend,” the report said. “The costs would be substantial, the damage to innovation severe and the consequences to economic growth hard to predict. The costs to the developed countries’ soft power and to our moral authority would also be considerable.”
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    Our system of government does not expect that every criminal will be apprehended and convicted. There are numerous values our society believes are more important. Some examples: [i] a presumption of innocence unless guilt is established beyond any reasonable doubt; [ii] the requirement that government officials convince a neutral magistrate that they have probable cause to believe that a search or seizure will produce evidence of a crime; [iii] many communications cannot be compelled to be disclosed and used in evidence, such as attorney-client communications, spousal communications, and priest-penitent communications; and [iv] etc. Moral of my story: the government needs a much stronger reason to justify interception of communications than saying, "some crooks will escape prosecution if we can't do that." We have a right to whisper to each other, concealing our communicatons from all others. Why does the right to whisper privately disappear if our whisperings are done electronically? The Supreme Court took its first step on a very slippery slope when it permitted wiretapping in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L. Ed. 944 (1928). https://goo.gl/LaZGHt It's been a long slide ever since. It's past time to revisit Olmstead and recognize that American citizens have the absolute right to communicate privately. "The President … recognizes that U.S. citizens and institutions should have a reasonable expectation of privacy from foreign or domestic intercept when using the public telephone system." - Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Advisor, National Security Decision Memorandum 338 (1 September 1976) (Nixon administration), http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsdm-ford/nsdm-338.pdf   
Gary Edwards

Is Linux dead for the desktop? - 1 views

  • Linux never had the apps
  • Charles King, an IT analyst who follows enterprise trends, says the big change is in IT. At one time, executives in charge of computing services were mostly concerned with operating systems and applications for massive throng of traditional business users. Those users have now flocked to mobile computing devices, but they still have a Windows PC sitting on their desk.
  • Today, Microsoft's lock (on the desktop, anyway) remains secure, even in the face of Apple's surge," King says. "Ironically enough, though, the open source model remains alive and well but mostly in the development of new standards and development platforms."
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  • David Johnson
  • What corporate end users really need is familiarity, consistency and compatibility - something Apple, Microsoft and Google seem more adept at offering."
  • Can desktop Linux OS be saved? Johnson says the best example of how to save Linux OS is the Chrome OS, an all-in-one laptop and desktop offering available through major consumer electronics companies such as LG (with their Chromebase all-in-one) and the Samsung Chromebook 2
  • The problem is that Chrome OS and Android aren't the same as Linux OS on the desktop. It's a complete reinvention. There are few Windows-like productivity apps and no knowledge worker apps designed for keyboard and mouse.
  • All of experts agree - Windows won every battle for the business user.
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    "For executives in charge of desktop deployments in a large company, Linux OS was once hailed as a saviour for corporate end users. With incredibly low pricing - free, with fee-based support plans, for example - distributions such as Ubuntu Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise offered a "good enough" user interface, along with plenty of powerful apps and a rich browser. A few years ago, both Dell and HP jumped on the bandwagon; today, they still offer "developer" and "workstation" models that come pre-loaded with a Linux install. Plus, anyone who follows the Linux market knows that Google has reimagined Linux as a user-friendly tablet interface (the wildly popular Android OS) and a browser-only desktop variant (Chrome OS). Linux also shows up on countless connected home gadgets, fitness trackers, watches and other low-cost devices, mostly because OS costs are so low. The desktop computing OS for end users has failed to capture any attention lately, though. Al Gillen, the programme vice president for servers and system software at IDC, says the Linux OS as a computing platform for end users is at least comatose - and probably dead. Yes, it has reemerged on Android and other devices, but it has gone almost completely silent as a competitor to Windows for mass deployment. As they say, you can hear the crickets chirping."
Paul Merrell

Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community | Security & Privacy - CNET News - 0 views

  • One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr's co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, "Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backdoor. We said, 'No.'" The mistrust runs deep. "Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs," said Marlinspike, "How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?" Where does security innovation go next? The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that doesn't mine you for personal data.
  • Wickr's Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn't store user data. "[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there's no way," she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users' texts or metadata. "Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they're going to use [your data] correctly," Sell said, "Do you trust that they're going to be able to keep it safe from hackers? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?" To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don't currently provide it. Calling it "social networks 2.0," she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer's privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy. Abine's recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn't have access to its own users' data.
  • The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. "They've been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls," he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and systems. Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. Security researcher Brandon Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship. "I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world," such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic. It's hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. "I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that's going to be the future."
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  • Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. "If they want to stay competitive, they're going to have to," he said. But, he cautioned, "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service." Soghoian added, "The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money." This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.
  • Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they've been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see "lots of resignations and maybe publicly," he said. "It wouldn't hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory." Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon's 21st anniversary. "As hackers, we don't have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that's something that we can focus our energy on," he said.
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    NSA as the cause of the next major disruption in the social networking service industry?  Grief ahead for Google? Note the point made that: "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service" where the encryption/decryption takes place on the client side. 
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies - 1 views

  • On the 21st floor of a high-rise hotel in Cleveland, in a room full of political operatives, Microsoft’s Research Division was advertising a technology that could read each facial expression in a massive crowd, analyze the emotions, and report back in real time. “You could use this at a Trump rally,” a sales representative told me. At both the Republican and Democratic conventions, Microsoft sponsored event spaces for the news outlet Politico. Politico, in turn, hosted a series of Microsoft-sponsored discussions about the use of data technology in political campaigns. And throughout Politico’s spaces in both Philadelphia and Cleveland, Microsoft advertised an array of products from “Microsoft Cognitive Services,” its artificial intelligence and cloud computing division. At one exhibit, titled “Realtime Crowd Insights,” a small camera scanned the room, while a monitor displayed the captured image. Every five seconds, a new image would appear with data annotated for each face — an assigned serial number, gender, estimated age, and any emotions detected in the facial expression. When I approached, the machine labeled me “b2ff” and correctly identified me as a 23-year-old male.
  • “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a software tool that connects web applications to Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Through Microsoft’s emotional analysis API — a component of Realtime Crowd Insights — applications send an image to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft’s servers then analyze the faces and return emotional profiles for each one. In a November blog post, Microsoft said that the emotional analysis could detect “anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, neutral, sadness or surprise.” Microsoft’s sales representatives told me that political campaigns could use the technology to measure the emotional impact of different talking points — and political scientists could use it to study crowd response at rallies.
  • Facial recognition technology — the identification of faces by name — is already widely used in secret by law enforcement, sports stadiums, retail stores, and even churches, despite being of questionable legality. As early as 2002, facial recognition technology was used at the Super Bowl to cross-reference the 100,000 attendees to a database of the faces of known criminals. The technology is controversial enough that in 2013, Google tried to ban the use of facial recognition apps in its Google glass system. But “Realtime Crowd Insights” is not true facial recognition — it could not identify me by name, only as “b2ff.” It did, however, store enough data on each face that it could continuously identify it with the same serial number, even hours later. The display demonstrated that capability by distinguishing between the number of total faces it had seen, and the number of unique serial numbers. Photo: Alex Emmons
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  • Instead, “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an example of facial characterization technology — where computers analyze faces without necessarily identifying them. Facial characterization has many positive applications — it has been tested in the classroom, as a tool for spotting struggling students, and Microsoft has boasted that the tool will even help blind people read the faces around them. But facial characterization can also be used to assemble and store large profiles of information on individuals, even anonymously.
  • Alvaro Bedoya, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on privacy and facial recognition, has hailed that code of conduct as evidence that Microsoft is trying to do the right thing. But he pointed out that it leaves a number of questions unanswered — as illustrated in Cleveland and Philadelphia. “It’s interesting that the app being shown at the convention ‘remembered’ the faces of the people who walked by. That would seem to suggest that their faces were being stored and processed without the consent that Microsoft’s policy requires,” Bedoya said. “You have to wonder: What happened to the face templates of the people who walked by that booth? Were they deleted? Or are they still in the system?” Microsoft officials declined to comment on exactly what information is collected on each face and what data is retained or stored, instead referring me to their privacy policy, which does not address the question. Bedoya also pointed out that Microsoft’s marketing did not seem to match the consent policy. “It’s difficult to envision how companies will obtain consent from people in large crowds or rallies.”
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    But nobody is saying that the output of this technology can't be combined with the output of facial recognition technology to let them monitor you individually AND track your emotions. Fortunately, others are fighting back with knowledge and tech to block facial recognition. http://goo.gl/JMQM2W
Paul Merrell

Microsoft to Google: Get Off of My Cloud - BusinessWeek - 0 views

  • Microsoft's newest facility is drawing lots of oohs and ahs from experts in this specialized field. Most data centers are open, warehouse-style buildings filled with racks of gear. But the first floor of this vast 700,000-square-foot facility looks more like an indoor parking lot, with gear packed into preconfigured shipping containers. Suppliers such as Sun Microexpert (JAVA) and Rackable expert (RACK) have been advocating similar approaches for years, but this is by far the most ambitious implementation. Each of the containers can hold 2,500 servers, and the floor can hold up to 224 containers. That's a potential maximum of 560,000 servers. "They're pushing the concept to the extreme," Cappuccio says.
  • Microsoft's newest facility is drawing lots of oohs and ahs from experts in this specialized field. Most data centers are open, warehouse-style buildings filled with racks of gear. But the first floor of this vast 700,000-square-foot facility looks more like an indoor parking lot, with gear packed into preconfigured shipping containers. Suppliers such as Sun Microexpert (JAVA) and Rackable expert (RACK) have been advocating similar approaches for years, but this is by far the most ambitious implementation. Each of the containers can hold 2,500 servers, and the floor can hold up to 224 containers. That's a potential maximum of 560,000 servers. "They're pushing the concept to the extreme," Cappuccio says.
Gary Edwards

Siding with HTML over XHTML, My Decision to Switch - Monday By Noon - 0 views

  • Publishing content on the Web is in no way limited to professional developers or designers, much of the reason the net is so active is because anyone can make a website. Sure, we (as knowledgeable professionals or hobbyists) all hope to make the Web a better place by doing our part in publishing documents with semantically rich, valid markup, but the reality is that those documents are rare. It’s important to keep in mind the true nature of the Internet; an open platform for information sharing.
  • XHTML2 has some very good ideas that I hope can become part of the web. However, it’s unrealistic to think that all web authors will switch to an XML-based syntax which demands that browsers stop processing the document on the first error. XML’s draconian policy was an attempt to clean up the web. This was done around 1996 when lots of invalid content entered the web. CSS took a different approach: instead of demanding that content isn’t processed, we defined rules for how to handle the undefined. It’s called “forward-compatible parsing” and means we can add new constructs without breaking the old. So, I don’t think XHTML is a realistic option for the masses. HTML 5 is it.
    • Gary Edwards
       
      Great quote from CSS expert Hakon Wium Lie.
  • @marbux: Of course i disagree with your interop assessment, but I wondered how it is that you’re missing the point. I think you confuse web applications with legacy desktop – client/server application model. And that confusion leads to the mistake of trying to transfer the desktop document model to one that could adequately service advancing web applications.
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    A CMS expert argues for HTML over XHTML, explaining his reasons for switching. Excellent read! He nails the basics. for similar reasons, we moved from ODF to ePUB and then to CDf and finally to the advanced WebKit document model, where wikiWORD will make it's stand.
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    See also my comment on the same web page that explains why HTML 5 is NOT it for document exchange between web editing applications. .
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    Response to marbux supporting the WebKit layout/document model. Marbux argues that HTML5 is not interoperable, and CSS2 near useless. HTML5 fails regarding the the interop web appplications need. I respond by arguing that the only way to look at web applications is to consider that the browser layout engine is the web application layout engine! Web applications are actually written to the browser layout/document model, OR, to take advantage of browser plug-in capabilities. The interoperability marbux seeks is tied directly to the browser layout engine. In this context, the web format is simply a reflection of that layout engine. If there's an interop problem, it comes from browser madness differentials. The good news is that there are all kinds of efforts to close the browser gap: including WHATWG - HTML5, CSS3, W3C DOM, JavaScript Libraries, Google GWT (Java to JavaScript), Yahoo GUI, and the my favorite; WebKit. The bad news is that the clock is ticking. Microsoft has pulled the trigger and the great migration of MSOffice client/server Google to the MS WebSTack-Mesh architecture has begun. Key to this transition are the WPF-.NET proprietary formats, protocols and interfaces such as XAML, Silverlight, LINQ, and Smart Tags. New business processes are being written, and old legacy desktop bound processes are being transitioned to this emerging platform. The fight for the Open Web is on, with Microsoft threatening to transtion their entire business desktop monopoly to a Web platfomr they own. ~ge~
Paul Merrell

The BRICS "Independent Internet" Cable. In Defiance of the "US-Centric Internet" | Global Research - 0 views

  • The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff announces publicly the creation of a world internet system INDEPENDENT from US and Britain ( the “US-centric internet”). Not many understand that, while the immediate trigger for the decision (coupled with the cancellation of a summit with the US president) was the revelations on NSA spying, the reason why Rousseff can take such a historic step is that the alternative infrastructure: The BRICS cable from Vladivostock, Russia  to Shantou, China to Chennai, India  to Cape Town, South Africa  to Fortaleza, Brazil,  is being built and it’s, actually, in its final phase of implementation. No amount of provocation and attempted “Springs” destabilizations and Color Revolution in the Middle East, Russia or Brazil can stop this process.  The huge submerged part of the BRICS plan is not yet known by the broader public.
  • Nonetheless it is very real and extremely effective. So real that international investors are now jumping with both feet on this unprecedented real economy opportunity. The change… has already happened. Brazil plans to divorce itself from the U.S.-centric Internet over Washington’s widespread online spying, a move that many experts fear will be a potentially dangerous first step toward politically fracturing a global network built with minimal interference by governments. President Dilma Rousseff has ordered a series of measures aimed at greater Brazilian online independence and security following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted her communications, hacked into the state-owned Petrobras oil company’s network and spied on Brazilians who entrusted their personal data to U.S. tech companies such as Facebook and expert.
  • BRICS Cable… a 34 000 km, 2 fibre pair, 12.8 Tbit/s capacity, fibre optic cable system For any global investor, there is no crisis – there is plenty of growth. It’s just not in the old world BRICS is ~45% of the world’s population and ~25% of the world’s GDP BRICS together create an economy the size of Italy every year… that’s the 8th largest economy in the world The BRICS presents profound opportunities in global geopolitics and commerce Links Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil – the BRICS economies – and the United States. Interconnect with regional and other continental cable systems in Asia, Africa and South America for improved global coverage Immediate access to 21 African countries and give those African countries access to the BRICS economies. Projected ready for service date is mid to second half of 2015.
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    Undoubtedly, construction was under way well before the Edward Snowden leaked documents began to be published. But that did give the new BRICS Cable an excellent hook for the announcement. With 12.8 Tbps throughput, it looks like this may divert considerable traffic now routed through the UK. But it still connects with the U.S., in Miami. 
Paul Merrell

Public transit in Beverly Hills may soon be driverless, program unanimously approved - RT America - 0 views

  • An uncontested vote by the Beverly Hills City Council could guarantee a chauffeur for all residents in the near future. However, instead of a driver, the newly adopted program foresees municipally-owned driverless cars ready to order via a smartphone app. Also known as autonomous vehicles, or AV, driverless cars would appear to be the next big thing not only for people, but local governments as well – if the Beverly Hills City Council can get its AV development program past a few more hurdles, that is. The technology itself has some challenges ahead as well.
  • In the meantime, the conceptual shuttle service, which was unanimously approved at an April 5 city council meeting, is being celebrated.
  • Naming Google and Tesla in its press release, Beverly Hills must first develop a partnership with a manufacturer that can build it a fleet of unmanned cars. There will also be a need to bring in policy Googles. All of these outside parties will have a chance to explore the program’s potential together at an upcoming community event.The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will host a summit this fall that will include Google lectures, discussions, and test drives. Er, test rides.Already in the works for Beverly Hills is a fiber optics cable network that will, in addition to providing high-speed internet access to all residents and businesses, one day be an integral part of a public transit system that runs on its users’ spontaneous desires.Obviously, Beverly Hills has some money on hand for the project, and it is also an ideal testing space as the city takes up an area of less than six square miles. Another positive factor is the quality of the city’s roads, which exceeds that of most in the greater Los Angeles area, not to mention California and the whole United States.“It can’t find the lane markings!” Volvo’s North American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, complained to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last month, according to Reuters. “You need to paint the bloody roads here!”Whether lanes are marked or signs are clear has made a big difference in how successfully the new technology works.Unfortunately, the US Department of Transportation considers 65 percent of US roads to be in poor condition, so AV cars may not be in the works for many Americans living outside of Beverly Hills quite as soon.
Paul Merrell

Protocols of the Hackers of Zion? « LobeLog - 0 views

  • When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday afternoon, he boasted about Israel’s “robust hi-tech and cyber industries.” According to The Jerusalem Post, “Netanyahu also noted that ‘Israel was making great efforts to diversify the markets with which it is trading in the technological field.'” Just how diversified and developed Israeli hi-tech innovation has become was revealed the very next morning, when the Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Labs, which claims more than 400 million users internationally, announced that sophisticated spyware with the hallmarks of Israeli origin (although no country was explicitly identified) had targeted three European hotels that had been venues for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, one of the first news sources to break the story, reported that Kaspersky itself had been hacked by malware whose code was remarkably similar to that of a virus attributed to Israel. Code-named “Duqu” because it used the letters DQ in the names of the files it created, the malware had first been detected in 2011. On Thursday, Symantec, another cyber-security firm, announced it too had discovered Duqu 2 on its global network, striking undisclosed telecommunication sites in Europe, North Africa, Hong Kong, and  Southeast Asia. It said that Duqu 2 is much more difficult to detect that its predecessor because it lives exclusively in the memory of the computers it infects, rather than writing files to a drive or disk. The original Duqu shared coding with — and was written on the same platform as — Stuxnet, the computer worm  that partially disabled enrichment centrifuges in Iranian nuclear power plants, according to a 2012 report in The New York Times. Intelligence and military experts said that Stuxnet was first tested at Dimona, a nuclear-reactor complex in the Negev desert that houses Israel’s own clandestine nuclear weapons program. While Stuxnet is widely believed to have been a joint Israeli-U.S. operation, Israel seems to have developed and implemented Duqu on its own.
  • Coding of the spyware that targeted two Swiss hotels and one in Vienna—both sites where talks were held between the P5+1 and Iran—so closely resembled that of Duqu that Kaspersky has dubbed it “Duqu 2.” A Kaspersky report contends that the new and improved Duqu would have been almost impossible to create without access to the original Duqu code. Duqu 2’s one hundred “modules” enabled the cyber attackers to commandeer infected computers, compress video feeds  (including those from hotel surveillance cameras), monitor and disrupt telephone service and Wi-Fi, and steal electronic files. The hackers’ penetration of computers used by the front desk would have allowed them to determine the room numbers of negotiators and delegation members. Duqu 2 also gave the hackers the ability to operate two-way microphones in the hotels’ elevators and control their alarm systems.
Paul Merrell

Use Tor or 'EXTREMIST' Tails Linux? Congrats, you're on the NSA's list * The Register - 0 views

  • Alleged leaked documents about the NSA's XKeyscore snooping software appear to show the paranoid agency is targeting Tor and Tails users, Linux Journal readers – and anyone else interested in online privacy.Apparently, this configuration file for XKeyscore is in the divulged data, which was obtained and studied by members of the Tor project and security specialists for German broadcasters NDR and WDR. <a href="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/jump?iu=/6978/reg_security/front&sz=300x250%7C300x600&tile=3&c=33U7ZK6qwQrMkAACSrTugAAAP1&t=ct%3Dns%26unitnum%3D3%26unitname%3Dwww_top_mpu%26pos%3Dtop%26test%3D0" target="_blank"> <img src="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ad?iu=/6978/reg_security/front&sz=300x250%7C300x600&tile=3&c=33U7ZK6qwQrMkAACSrTugAAAP1&t=ct%3Dns%26unitnum%3D3%26unitname%3Dwww_top_mpu%26pos%3Dtop%26test%3D0" alt=""></a> In their analysis of the alleged top-secret documents, they claim the NSA is, among other things:Specifically targeting Tor directory servers Reading email contents for mentions of Tor bridges Logging IP addresses used to search for privacy-focused websites and software And possibly breaking international law in doing so. We already know from leaked Snowden documents that Western intelligence agents hate Tor for its anonymizing abilities. But what the aforementioned leaked source code, written in a rather strange custom language, shows is that not only is the NSA targeting the anonymizing network Tor specifically, it is also taking digital fingerprints of any netizens who are remotely interested in privacy.
  • These include readers of the Linux Journal site, anyone visiting the website for the Tor-powered Linux operating system Tails – described by the NSA as "a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums" – and anyone looking into combining Tails with the encryption tool Truecrypt.If something as innocuous as Linux Journal is on the NSA's hit list, it's a distinct possibility that El Reg is too, particularly in light of our recent exclusive report on GCHQ – which led to a Ministry of Defence advisor coming round our London office for a chat.
  • If you take even the slightest interest in online privacy or have Googled a Linux Journal article about a broken package, you are earmarked in an NSA database for further surveillance, according to these latest leaks.This is assuming the leaked file is genuine, of course.Other monitored sites, we're told, include HotSpotShield, FreeNet, Centurian, FreeProxies.org, MegaProxy, privacy.li and an anonymous email service called MixMinion. The IP address of computer users even looking at these sites is recorded and stored on the NSA's servers for further analysis, and it's up to the agency how long it keeps that data.The XKeyscore code, we're told, includes microplugins that target Tor servers in Germany, at MIT in the United States, in Sweden, in Austria, and in the Netherlands. In doing so it may not only fall foul of German law but also the US's Fourth Amendment.
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  • The nine Tor directory servers receive especially close monitoring from the NSA's spying software, which states the "goal is to find potential Tor clients connecting to the Tor directory servers." Tor clients linking into the directory servers are also logged."This shows that Tor is working well enough that Tor has become a target for the intelligence services," said Sebastian Hahn, who runs one of the key Tor servers. "For me this means that I will definitely go ahead with the project.”
  • While the German reporting team has published part of the XKeyscore scripting code, it doesn't say where it comes from. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden would be a logical pick, but security experts are not so sure."I do not believe that this came from the Snowden documents," said security guru Bruce Schneier. "I also don't believe the TAO catalog came from the Snowden documents. I think there's a second leaker out there."If so, the NSA is in for much more scrutiny than it ever expected.
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