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Feds Prep for Cybersecurity Buying Spree
April 18, 2016
The U.S. government's objectives for improving cybersecurity are taking shape in updated contracting procedures, contracts and projected increases in spending. Recent developments have underscored the federal commitment to IT security. The GSA has asked vendors to respond by Wednesday to a research survey on what it should do to expedite federal acquisition of cybersecurity products and services.
Windows Users Warned to Dump QuickTime Pronto
April 16, 2016
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday issued a warning to remove Apple's QuickTime for Windows. The alert came in response to Trend Micro's report of two security flaws in the software, which will never be patched because Apple has ended support for QuickTime for Windows. Computers running QuickTime are open to increased risk of malicious attack or data loss, US-CERT warned.
Microsoft Sues DoJ Over Spying Gag Orders
April 15, 2016
Microsoft on Thursday filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the gag orders that accompany requests to access customers' private emails and other data. The orders prevent the company from notifying affected customers about the government's demands. The case is the fourth public lawsuit it has filed against the Justice Department in three years.
Senate Committee Hears Litany of IRS Cybersecurity Failings
April 15, 2016
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service's cybersecurity measures are woefully inadequate, according to testimony presented this week to the Senate Finance Committee. The hearing was convened to look into how the IRS is safeguarding taxpayer information this filing season and to determine improvements, said Sen. Orrin Hatch. Agencies, tax preparers and Congress have failed taxpayers, Sen. Ron Wyden said.
E2E Encryption Could Make WhatsApp a Spam Magnet
April 15, 2016
Facebook's WhatsApp last week announced it would roll out end-to-end encryption for its users, but the move could make the service more attractive to spammers. While encryption can safeguard information from data thieves, it also can block data protectors. The policy "will not stop the growth of spam on the platform and could make the problem worse," AdaptiveMobile's Simeon Coney said.
FBI Paid Hackers to Defeat Security of Shooter's iPhone
April 14, 2016
The FBI paid hackers to break onto the iPhone of the San Bernardino, California, shooter, according to a news report published Tuesday. The bureau obtained the services of gray hats, insiders said, and apparently did not get help from Cellebrite, as earlier reports had suggested. Gray hats are hackers who sell flaws to governments or companies that make surveillance tools.
Hortonworks Ramps Up Hadoop Security
April 14, 2016
Hortonworks this week announced a series of enterprise security efforts to bolster performance and data safety with its Hortonworks Data Platform. The company announced that Pivotal Software will standardize on Hortonworks' Hadoop distribution. The thrust of the product announcements concerned updates on applying security policies and maintaining data governance.
Officials Named in Panama Papers Cower Behind China's Great Firewall
April 13, 2016
Chinese authorities have issued censorship instructions to the media following the release of the Panama Papers, according to news reports published last week. The leaked documents reportedly listed several top Chinese officials who used Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore companies. The names include President Xi Jinping's brother-in-law Deng Jiagui.
CFPB Asserts Jurisdiction Over E-Commerce Privacy Regulation
April 12, 2016
Another federal agency has entered the arena for regulating e-commerce companies regarding the protection of consumer data. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has closed its first and so far only privacy case with a consent agreement between itself and an online payments processor. The CFPB charged that Dwolla misled consumers that its information was encrypted and stored securely.
Adobe Issues Emergency Patch to Head Off Flash Ransomware Attacks
April 11, 2016
Adobe last week issued an emergency security patch to fix a vulnerability in Flash that could leave users vulnerable to a ransomware attack. The vulnerability exists in Adobe Flash Player 21.0.0.197 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Chrome operating systems. It can cause a crash and leave the computer vulnerable to attackers, the company said.
Illicit Weapons Traders Flock to Facebook
April 8, 2016
Facebook has served as an online marketplace for armed militias in Libya and other war-torn countries, according to a news report published Wednesday. An array of light weapons bought and sold after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi unleashed a torrent of unregulated commerce in Libya, which previously had controlled online communications strictly, according to a study by Armament Research Services.
Reddit's Blocking Tool Balances Free Speech With Right to Ignore
April 8, 2016
Reddit this week announced that it has extended the reach of its blocking tool, which was introduced in 2011 to let users fight harassment. The tool previously focused on blocking private messages; now it can block comments to users' posts. Clicking the Block User button while viewing a reply will hide the blocked user's profile, comments, posts and messages without that user's knowledge.
White House Takes a Pass on Encryption Debate
April 7, 2016
It appears that the Obama administration will refrain from giving its outspoken support to any legislation that aims to compel high-tech companies to help law enforcement agencies crack mobile phone encryption. On the other hand, it won't level any outspoken opposition either. Introduction of such a bill -- sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr -- is expected soon.
Vivaldi Flaunts Its Plus-Size Browser Attributes
April 7, 2016
Vivaldi on Wednesday launched the first release of its eponymously named browser. Vivaldi is the brainchild of CEO Jon von Tetzchner, a cofounder of Opera Software. Aimed at the power user, Vivaldi 1.0 packs in features that were stripped out of Opera 12. However, "Vivaldi is not about a single feature," von Tetzchner said. "Vivaldi is more about a philosophy."
Apple, FBI Tussle Puts Bull's-Eye on iPhone
April 7, 2016
The battle between the FBI and Apple over access to the iPhone of Syed Farook came to an abrupt end last week when the agency announced it no longer needed the company's assistance. Since the Department of Justice delayed a hearing on an order to force Apple to assist the FBI in brute-forcing the password, speculation has spread about how the agency planned to access the data.
White House Opens More Doors for Open Source
April 6, 2016
The U.S. government is picking up the pace in its efforts to use open source software as much as possible. Federal CIO Tony Scott last month released details of a proposed policy designed to allow customized software created for one agency to be openly available to other government agencies as well. Industry and government professionals may comment on the proposal by Monday.
WhatsApp Encryption Ups Privacy Ante
April 6, 2016
WhatsApp on Tuesday told its 1 billion users that their communications would be better protected from prying eyes with end-to-end encryption. The company always has made data and communication security a priority, according to Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014. End-to-end encryption is accomplished through use of the Signal Protocol.
Qubes' Xen-Like Security Requires a Leap of Faith
April 6, 2016
If you want an effective and different approach to computer platform security, turn to the Qubes OS. Be prepared to adjust your expectations and your computing comfort zone, however. The Qubes OS does not work the way other Linux distros work in adding extra layers of security. It is based on the Fedora Linux desktop but goes well beyond Fedora's approach.
Lawrence Livermore Lab Buys Brainy IBM Supercomputer
April 5, 2016
IBM last week announced that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has purchased its TrueNorth processor-based cognitive computing platform. The purchase included an end-to-end ecosystem and a multisocket host node. The lab will build a supercomputer based on the platform to see how neural networks might be used in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's cybersecurity program.
FBI May Help Local Law Enforcement Agencies Crack Encrypted iPhones
April 4, 2016
Weeks after backing down from its litigation demanding Apple's help to access encrypted data on the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone, the FBI appears to be taking full advantage of its newly discovered forensic prowess by offering assistance to law enforcement agencies across the country. The agency has sent out letters letting local officials know that it has gained access to the encrypted data.
Oculus' Controversial ToS a Stark Reminder of Its Facebook Parentage
April 4, 2016
Oculus last week updated its terms of service to accompany the release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, raising privacy and content ownership concerns. Software will be installed to monitor how the device is used, and the usage data will be sent back to Oculus and its parent company, Facebook, according to the terms of service. Collected data could be shared with third parties.
DC Healthcare Provider Limps On After Malware Attack
April 1, 2016
Despite its computer systems being infected with malware since Monday, MedStar Health, which operates 10 hospitals and more than 250 outpatient facilities in and around Washington, D.C., has continued to provide patient care at near normal levels, according to several updates released this week. Since the malware attack occurred, MedStar Health has treated an average of 3,380 patients a day.
ACLU Finds Widespread Use of All Writs Act to Compel Cooperation
April 1, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday announced that it had identified dozens of criminal cases in which the government has made requests for cooperation in unlocking encrypted phones -- both of Apple and of Google. The government has used the All Writs Act to compel a phone manufacturer to hand over data to law enforcement in a total of 63 cases, the ACLU report shows.
CNBC's Password Security Lesson Fails Spectacularly
March 31, 2016
CNBC earlier this week published a piece with the goal of helping users strengthen their password security, but the attempt backfired badly. An interactive tool provided to help readers detect the strength of their passwords was to blame. Readers were asked to enter potential passwords into a field, and see how long it would take the system to crack them.
Firm Wins Patent for Novel Way to Detect Spearphishing
March 31, 2016
Hackers in recent weeks have stepped up their efforts to steal employee tax information from companies in all kinds of industries. Typically, the information contained on IRS form W-2 is used to file false tax returns or steal someone's identity. The situation has become so bad that the IRS earlier this month issued an alert to human resources and payroll professionals about the subject.
Feds Crack iPhone, Warn Apple to Keep One Eye Open
March 29, 2016
After a bitter legal battle over encryption and privacy rights, the Department of Justice on Monday announced it would back out of its case against Apple because the FBI was able to crack the code of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters. The department had asked a federal magistrate judge to force Apple to help the FBI crack open the encrypted smartphone.
FCC Privacy Proposal Troubles Broadband Internet Providers
March 29, 2016
Broadband Internet service providers are wary of a government plan to impose consumer privacy protection regulations on the sector. The Federal Communications Commission likely will issue the proposed regulations by Friday. It will accept public comment on the proposal before taking final action. The program would require ISPs to meet privacy standards similar to those covering phone companies.
Chinese National Cops Plea in Defense Secrets Case
March 29, 2016
A Chinese aviation and aerospace businessman last week pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal sensitive military and export-controlled data from major U.S. defense contractors and send the information to China, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Su Bin, also known as Stephen Su and Stephen Subin, entered the plea before Judge Christina A. Snyder.
Ransomware's Aftermath Can Be More Costly Than Ransom
March 24, 2016
Downtime caused by a ransomware attack can cost a company more than paying a ransom to recover data encrypted by the malware, according to a report released last week by Intermedia. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of companies infected with ransomware could not access their data for at least two days because of the incident, and 32 percent couldn't access their data for five days or more.
FBI Would Rather Crack Terrorist's iPhone Itself
March 23, 2016
On the eve of a court showdown with Apple over unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, the FBI put its case on pause Monday to pursue an attack method that could allow it to crack the phone without Apple's assistance. After reviewing the FBI's request for postponement of oral arguments in the case, a U.S. District Court in California granted the delay.
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On texting and driving:
It's dangerous and I never do it.
I know it's dangerous but I do it anyway.
I do it but I'm extra careful.
It's only dangerous if you're a bad driver.
It's less dangerous than many other driver distractions.