Business, Technology

TPG to acquire iiNet for AU$1.4 billion

TPG has announced plans to purchase rival, and Australia’s third-largest internet service provider, iiNet.

The deal was announced to the Australian Securities Exchange on Friday morning. TPG will acquire 100 percent of iiNet shares, of which the company already had a significant stake.

The total value of the deal is worth AU$1.4 billion.

The agreement will see the combined TPG company become larger than Australia’s second-largest telecommunications company Optus, increasing TPG’s customer base to 1.7 million.

There will be combined revenues of AU$2.3 billion — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

A Police Insider Says Data Retention Could Be Used To Catch Pirates

Concerned about the scope of the currently proposed data retention legislation currently being considered by Parliament? An ex-police officer says that one day, your metadata could be used to identify whether you’ve been downloading TV shows and movies illegitimately.

A former police officer who has previous experience with metadata and its potential applications has told ABC Radio National’s Download This Show that the oversight that currently exists over even currently retained metadata is minimal, and is ripe for abuse.

Using the example of an officer or other accredited agency user accessing metadata to check up on their ex-girlfriend, the insider told the program that he had never seen a metadata request denied on the basis of its legitimacy, but only cost. He also said that the agency officials talking up the potential of metadata at the moment, and petitioning for more widespread access, have no hands-on experience: …mobiles weren’t invented when they walked the beat.

The extent of even something as basic as smartphone location metadata can be extremely detailed and granular; the huge amount of data that anyone with any kind of online or digital profile generates would be exponentially more useful for any agency with access to the proposed metadata retention regime. Unless there is enough oversight baked into the legislation and restraint exercised in its scope, the potential for abuse is there — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Technology

Inside GOV.UK: ‘CHAOS’ and ‘NIGHTMARE’ as trendy Cabinet Office wrecked govt websites

Poor design and chaotic management by the supposedly crack team at the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service (GDS) left huge swathes of the British government in disarray, internal documents seen by the Register reveal. The documents confirm that GDS knew its flagship initiative to move all government websites under one roof, GOV.UK, was destroying useful online services and replacing them with trendy webpages bereft of useful information.

One internal report is particularly damning. The Home Office Visa and Immigration site transitioned [to GOV.UK] without a good understanding of users and needs … there was quickly a flood of negative feedback … coming from all directions, an insider states for the record. The report details a breakdown in fact checking described by more than one person as general chaos and a total nightmare.

The disclosures paint a picture that contradicts the public image of supremely confident digital gurus modernising the British government’s many websites, and making them more efficient. For all its vaunted skills in website design, GDS had a far poorer understanding of what the public actually needed than the relevant government departments did — this, according to GDS’ own internal analysis — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Entertainment, Technology

Razer: how Triple J de-listicled Buzzfeed over #Tay4Hottest100

Yesterday, global internet company Buzzfeed was handed its own viral arse on a plate prepared by local top-down media. Now, if you’re a grown-up, you might not care that the publisher of omg wtf failed in its attempts to influence a radio music poll. But, if, like me, you’re an ancient twit obsessed with the last stages of a battle between terrestrial and digital values, you probably enjoyed the point scored over the International House of Lol by ABC Radio. Goodness knows, I did.

For some weeks, an internet campaign helmed by the listicles website sought to influence the annual Triple J Hottest 100 music countdown. The push to see Taylor Swift, a platinum-selling Grammy-winning New England blonde best described to the oblivious as a fusion of Grace Kelly with an applicator tampon ad jingle, on what was held as a snobbish and even sexist hit-list was the subject of a hundred feelpinion posts.

The argument for inclusion of the artist, who had never been played on the popular ABC youth network, proceeded roughly thus: many discerning young women enjoy the buoyant anti “Hater” song Shake It Off therefore, the network’s refusal to acknowledge this partiality was an act of naked sexism. Not only did the institution hold fast with rockist orthodoxy by withholding an anthem of free-and-easy feminine freedom, but it maintained top-down principles of Father Knows Best in an age of internet liberty. Omg. Wtf. No one understands millennials and their right to Upvote the Best Viral Content On The Web.

Some of the argument countering this Fuck The Gatekeepers moment missed the mark. Bondi Hipsters, apparently a comedy duo, typify the worst responses with their “open letter” published by News Corp today. Perhaps it’s a clumsy in-joke when the Hipsters characterise Swift fans as bogans — certainly, this Basic Bitch is beloved by a judicious middle class enamoured of their own catholic taste — but it nonetheless captures the nature of the meanest objection to the #Tay4Hottest100. This, in short, was one that held that the old-fashioned cultural distinction between elite and common artefacts — one that pro-Tay commentators said concealed added sexism — was valid.

Of course, this distinction is no longer valid. Frankly, it’s no longer valuable. Cultural capital was once a simple matter and acquired by the most orthodox and simple means: the bourgeoisie enjoyed literary fiction and the working class consumed comic books. It was back in the ’60s that critics decided it was all text and that to declare something outside this category was neither plausible nor chic. Relativism is hardly a novel fucking argument and I can remember being an ’80s teen at pains to define myself through my “democratic” and “un-ironic” appreciation of both pop and politics. It ain’t new.

These days, the middle class defines itself not so much through its attachment to particular artefacts but through its attachment to a combination of artefacts. Pierre Bourdieu, the ’70s foremost critic of cultural capital, would be overwhelmed by the chore of describing the taste of the young modern who must, to maintain her value, appear equally moved by Marvel and Muarkami, by Tay-Tay and Tame Impala.

The charge of cultural stasis is an old injunction and one Triple J heeded years ago and answered with surprising force in its response to the Buzzfeed campaign yesterday. I suspect that their Buzzfeed parody site, which describes in listicles form all the reasons that Swift would not be honoured by the station, was the work of the best creative PR crisis response public money can buy. But, it was worth it. It managed to convey a subtle and brand-building message to an Upvoting demographic in a language they understand — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Effectively using the same magnetic levitation technologies employed in high-speed trains, the MULTI elevator system conveys people horizontally as well as vertically without ropes and at record speeds, all while allowing multiple elevators to traverse the same shafts.

Allowing fast vertical interior transit, the elevator has already revolutionized the shape of cities once — this breakthrough may enable a new version to do it again, not only cutting down on wait and travel times but also by enabling versatile sideways travel through structures. As illustrated above, a single car can go both up or down and then left or right, moving in a three-dimensional fashion within (and eventually perhaps even beyond) a given building — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Secret Malware in European Union Attack Linked to US and British Intelligence

Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by US and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.

The Regin malware, whose existence was first reported by the security firm Symantec on Sunday, is among the most sophisticated ever discovered by researchers. Symantec compared Regin to Stuxnet, a state-sponsored malware program developed by the U.S. and Israel to sabotage computers at an Iranian nuclear facility. Sources familiar with internal investigations at Belgacom and the European Union have confirmed to The Intercept that the Regin malware was found on their systems after they were compromised, linking the spy tool to the secret GCHQ and NSA operations.

Ronald Prins, a security expert whose company Fox IT was hired to remove the malware from Belgacom’s networks, told The Intercept that it was “the most sophisticated malware” he had ever studied.

Having analysed this malware and looked at the [previously published] Snowden documents, Prins said, I’m convinced Regin is used by British and American intelligence services — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Health, Technology

The man who can hear Wi-Fi wherever he walks

Frank Swain has been going deaf since his 20s. Now he has hacked his hearing so he can listen in to the data that surrounds us.

I am walking through my north London neighbourhood on an unseasonably warm day in late autumn. I can hear birds tweeting in the trees, traffic prowling the back roads, children playing in gardens and Wi-Fi leaching from their homes. Against the familiar sounds of suburban life, it is somehow incongruous and appropriate at the same time.

As I approach Turnpike Lane tube station and descend to the underground platform, I catch the now familiar gurgle of the public Wi-Fi hub, as well as the staff network beside it. On board the train, these sounds fade into silence as we burrow into the tunnels leading to central London.

I have been able to hear these fields since last week. This wasn’t the result of a sudden mutation or years of transcendental meditation, but an upgrade to my hearing aids. With a grant from Nesta, the UK innovation charity, sound artist Daniel Jones and I built Phantom Terrains, an experimental tool for making Wi-Fi fields audible.

Our modern world is suffused with data. Since radio towers began climbing over towns and cities in the early 20th century, the air has grown thick with wireless communication, the platform on which radio, television, cellphones, satellite broadcasts, Wi-Fi, GPS, remote controls and hundreds of other technologies rely. And yet, despite wireless communication becoming a ubiquitous presence in modern life, the underlying infrastructure has remained largely invisible

— via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Technology

How did the Enigma machine work?

Like all the best cryptography, the Enigma machine is simple to describe, but infuriating to break.

Straddling the border between mechanical and electrical, Enigma looked from the outside like an oversize typewriter. Enter the first letter of your message on the keyboard and a letter lights up showing what it has replaced within the encrypted message. At the other end, the process is the same: type in the ciphertext and the letters which light are the decoded missive.

Inside the box, the system is built around three physical rotors. Each takes in a letter and outputs it as a different one. That letter passes through all three rotors, bounces off a reflector at the end, and passes back through all three rotors in the other direction.

The board lights up to show the encrypted output, and the first of the three rotors clicks round one position — changing the output even if the second letter input is the same as the first one.

When the first rotor has turned through all 26 positions, the second rotor clicks round, and when that’s made it round all the way, the third does the same, leading to more than 17,000 different combinations before the encryption process repeats itself. Adding to the scrambling was a plugboard, sitting between the main rotors and the input and output, which swapped pairs of letters. In the earliest machines, up to six pairs could be swapped in that way; later models pushed it to 10, and added a fourth rotor — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology, World

Berlin’s digital exiles: where tech activists go to escape the NSA

It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing, Laura Poitras tells me. Not knowing whether I’m in a private place or not. Not knowing if someone’s watching or not. Though she’s under surveillance, she knows that. It makes working as a journalist hard but not impossible. It’s on a personal level that it’s harder to process. I try not to let it get inside my head, but… I still am not sure that my home is private. And if I really want to make sure I’m having a private conversation or something, I’ll go outside.

Poitras’s documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, has just been released in cinemas. She was, for a time, the only person in the world who was in contact with Snowden, the only one who knew of his existence. Before she got Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian on board, it was just her — talking, electronically, to the man she knew only as Citizenfour. Even months on, when I ask her if the memory of that time lives with her still, she hesitates and takes a deep breath: It was really very scary for a number of months. I was very aware that the risks were really high and that something bad could happen. I had this kind of responsibility to not fuck up, in terms of source protection, communication, security and all those things, I really had to be super careful in all sorts of ways.

Bad, not just for Snowden, I say? Not just for him, she agrees. We’re having this conversation in Berlin, her adopted city, where she’d moved to make a film about surveillance before she’d ever even made contact with Snowden. Because, in 2006, after making two films about the US war on terror, she found herself on a watch list. Every time she entered the US — and I travel a lot — she would be questioned. It got to the point where my plane would land and they would do what’s called a hard stand, where they dispatch agents to the plane and make everyone show their passport and then I would be escorted to a room where they would question me and often times take all my electronics, my notes, my credit cards, my computer, my camera, all that stuff. She needed somewhere else to go, somewhere she hoped would be a safe haven. And that somewhere was Berlin.

What’s remarkable is that my conversation with Poitras will be the first of a whole series of conversations I have with people in Berlin who either are under surveillance, or have been under surveillance, or who campaign against it, or are part of the German government’s inquiry into it, or who work to create technology to counter it. Poitras’s experience of understanding the sensation of what it’s like to know you’re being watched, or not to know but feel a prickle on the back of your neck and suspect you might be, is far from unique, it turns out. But then, perhaps more than any other city on earth, Berlin has a radar for surveillance and the dark places it can lead to.

There is just a very real historical awareness of how information can be used against people in really dangerous ways here, Poitras says. There is a sensitivity to it which just doesn’t exist elsewhere. And not just because of the Stasi, the former East German secret police, but also the Nazi era. There’s a book Jake Appelbaum talks a lot about that’s called IBM and the Holocaust and it details how the Nazis used punch-cards to systemise the death camps. We’re not talking about that happening with the NSA [the US National Security Agency], but it shows how this information can be used against populations and how it poses such a danger. — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Technology

Joan Clarke, woman who cracked Enigma with Alan Turing

Joan Clarke’s ingenious work as a codebreaker during WW2 saved countless lives, and her talents were formidable enough to command the respect of some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, despite the sexism of the time.

But while Bletchley Park hero Alan Turing — who was punished by a post-war society where homosexuality was illegal and died at 41 — has been treated more kindly by history, the same cannot yet be said for Clarke.

The only woman to work in the nerve centre of the quest to crack German Enigma ciphers, Clarke rose to deputy head of Hut 8, and would be its longest-serving member.

She was also Turing’s lifelong friend and confidante and, briefly, his fiancee — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian government warrantless data requests pass 500,000

Requests from government agencies for Australian telecommunications customers’ phone, internet, and address data surpassed 500,000 in the last financial year, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The figure was revealed in the ACMA’s annual report (PDF) released this month. It says that there were 563,012 authorisations granted to government agencies for access to telecommunications metadata in the 2013-14 financial year.

Under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, government agencies can force telecommunications companies to hand over details about their customers, including address, phone number, IP address, call data, SMS data, and other held information without a warrant for the purpose of enforcing the law.

The ACMA recorded that total disclosures amounted to 748,079 for the financial year including to law enforcement for a range of reasons, such as to avert a threat to life, assist the ACMA, or enforce the criminal law of a foreign country.

The number of requests by far exceeds the more than 300,000 requests made in the 2012-13 financial year reported by the Attorney-General’s Department in its Telecommunications (Interception and Access) report last year. The report for this year has yet to be tabled in parliament.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department had not responded to a request for comment on the disparity at the time of writing; however, security agencies such as the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) are not required to publicly report the number of metadata access requests they make.

The department told The Guardian that the difference between the two figures was due to the department only counting the authorisation for a particular person’s details. So if the request is made to multiple telcos for that one person’s information, the access request is only counted as one from that particular government agency. The ACMA has compiled its report based on data from the telcos themselves, leading to the higher figure — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Adobe Spyware Reveals (Again) the Price of DRM: Your Privacy and Security

The publishing world may finally be facing its rootkit scandal. Two independent reports claim that Adobe’s e-book software, Digital Editions, logs every document readers add to their local library, tracks what happens with those files, and then sends those logs back to the mother-ship, over the Internet, in the clear. In other words, Adobe is not only tracking your reading habits, it’s making it really, really easy for others to do so as well.

And it’s all being done in the name of copyright enforcement. After all, the great promise of Digital Editions is that it can help publishers “securely distribute” and manage access to books. Libraries, for example, encourage their patrons to use the software, because it helps them comply with the restrictions publishers impose on electronic lending.

How big is the problem? Not completely clear, but it could be pretty big. First, it appears Adobe is tracking more than many readers may realize, including information about self-published and purchased books. If the independent reports are correct, Adobe may be scanning your entire electronic library. Borrowing a copy of Moby Dick from your public library shouldn’t be a license to scan your cookbook collection.

Adobe claims that these reports are not quite accurate. According to Adobe, the software only collects information about the book you are currently reading, not your entire library. It also collects information about where you are reading that book, how long you’ve been reading it, and how much you’ve read. Still disturbing, if you ask us.

Second, sending this information in plain text undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers. (Adobe does not deny transmitting the information unencrypted.) Indeed, in 2011 EFF and a coalition of companies and public interest groups helped pass the Reader Privacy Act, which requires the government and civil litigants to demonstrate a compelling interest in obtaining reader records and show that the information contained in those records cannot be obtained by less intrusive means. But if readers are using Adobe’s software, it’s all too easy for folks to bypass those restrictions.

Third and most depressing: this flaw may have been unintentional, but we probably should have seen it coming. As our friend Cory Doctorow has been explaining for years, DRM for books is dangerous for readers, authors and publishers alike. Whether or not Adobe actually intended to create this particular vulnerability, if your computer is collecting information about you, and then transmitting it in ways you can’t control, chances are you’ve got a security problem — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian Government Scrambles to Authorise Mass Surveillance

This week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used recent terrorist threats as the backdrop of a dire warning to Australians that for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others.

This pronouncement came as two of a series of three bills effecting that erosion of freedoms made their way through Australia’s Federal Parliament. These were the second reading of a National Security Amendment Bill which grants new surveillance powers to Australia’s spy agency, ASIO, and the first reading of a Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill that outlaws speech seen as advocating terrorism. A third bill on mandatory data retention is expected to be be introduced by the end of the year.

Whilst all three bills in this suite raise separate concerns, the most immediate concern—because the bill in question could be passed this week — is the National Security Amendment Bill. Introduced into Parliament on 16 July, it endured robust criticism during public hearings last month that led into an advisory report released last week. Nevertheless the bill was introduced into the Senate this Tuesday with the provisions of most concern still intact.

In simple terms, the bill allows law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to access data from a computer—so far, so good. But it redefines a computer to mean not only one or more computers but also one or more computer networks. Since the Internet itself is nothing but a large network of computer networks, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that the bill may stealthily allow the spy agency to surveil the entire Internet with a single warrant.

Apart from allowing the surveillance of entire computer networks, the bill also allows the addition, deletion or alteration of data stored on a computer, provided only that this would not materially interfere with, interrupt or obstruct a communication in transit or the lawful use by other persons of a computer unless … necessary to do one or more of the things specified in the warrant. Given the broad definition of computer, this provision is broad enough to authorise website blocking or manipulation, and even the insertion of malware into networks targeted by the warrant — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Google’s Doubleclick ad servers exposed millions of computers to malware

Last night, researchers at Malwarebytes noticed strange behaviour on sites like Last.fm, The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post. Ads on the sites were being unusually aggressive, setting off anti-virus warnings and raising flags in a number of Malwarebytes systems. After some digging, researcher Jerome Segura realized the problem was coming from Google’s DoubleClick ad servers and the popular Zedo ad agency. Together, they were serving up malicious ads designed to spread the recently identified Zemot malware. A Google representative has confirmed the breach, saying our team is aware of this and has taken steps to shut this down.

Malware served through ad units (or malvertising) is nothing new, but this incident is notable because of the unusually broad reach of the attack. It was active but not too visible for a number of weeks until we started seeing popular sites getting flagged in our honeypots, Segura says. That’s when we thought, something is going on. The first impressions came in late August, and by now millions of computers have likely been exposed to Zemot, although only those with outdated antivirus protection were actually infected — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology, World

New Zealand denies it was planning mass domestic spying

New Zealand was preparing to conduct national covert surveillance last year, a US investigative journalist has said.

The claims by former Guardian newspaper reporter Glenn Greenwald were denied by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

The report was based on information disclosed by former US National Security Authority (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who said the government had planned to exploit new spying laws.

The revelations come just days ahead of a New Zealand general election — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

WikiLeaks names NSW Police as FinFisher malware customer

WikiLeaks has today released parts of the FinFisher surveillance suite, as well as a customer list that it claims includes the police forces of the Netherlands and New South Wales, and the intelligence arms of the Hungarian, Qatari, Italian, and Bosnian governments.

Based on the price list it released, WikiLeaks has estimated that FinFisher licence sales brought in between €48 to €98 million, with total revenue said to be higher with FinFly ISP licences not being counted, nor the costs for support.

Of the customers listed, the NSW Police is listed as having purchased €1.8 million in FinFisher software, as well as submitting support requests relating to wanting to categorise keylogged conversations to avoid hot water by intruding on legal privilege, asking for reporting features to meet warrant requirements, and problems with FinSpy updates — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Craft, Technology

Evan Kuester, like many students, found his course work to be less than inspiring. However, he did have access to some really cool tools, such as a large 3D printer that started his mind wandering. Evan had noticed a fellow student on campus a few times. The thing that he noticed was that she had no left hand. Knowing that he had a 3D printer at his disposal, Evan found the inspiration he needed to embark on something wonderful. One day he worked up the nerve to simply walk up and introduce himself and propose an idea: Why not 3D print an aesthetically pleasing prosthetic? From that point forward, Evan and Ivania Castillo have been friends — via MAKE

Business, Politics, Rights, Technology

Copyright infringement is terrorism, screech the revolution’s losers

You might have thought that Australia’s debate over online copyright infringement couldn’t get any sillier. But this week the journalists’ union came out as a fan of internet censorship, only to withdraw when they realised what they’d done. And Village Roadshow equated copyright infringement with terrorism and paedophilia, and came out in support of, oh, moonbats or something. Hard to say.

Village Roadshow’s submission (PDF) to the government’s copyright infringement discussion paper is the loopiest, with so much shouting and whining that it’s hard to take their hyperbole seriously.

The dangers posed by piracy are so great, the goal should be total eradication or zero tolerance. Just as there is no place on the internet for terrorism or paedophilia, there should be no place for theft that will impact the livelihoods of the 900,000 people whose security is protected by legitimate copyright, the submission says.

Oh get a grip.

The tone is clearly that of Village Roadshow’s co-CEO Graham Burke, whose manner at the best of times can most generously be described as eccentric. But to equate the abstract problem of a reduction in your profit margin with the damage done to the victims of child sexual abuse and the slaughter of innocents? That takes some chutzpah — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Android security mystery – ‘fake’ cellphone towers found in US

There have been many comments to this story from people who are assuming that these towers are physical installations. There’s no reason to assume this is the case: it’s far likelier that they are mobile installations of the kind used not only by law enforcement and government agencies, but also by scammers and other criminals — David Harley

Seventeen mysterious cellphone towers have been found in America which look like ordinary towers, and can only be identified by a heavily customized handset built for Android security — but have a much more malicious purpose, according to Popular Science.

The fake towers — computers which wirelessly attack cellphones via the baseband chips built to allow them to communicate with their networks, can eavesdrop and even install spyware, ESD claims. They are a known technology — but the surprise is that they are in active use — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Humans Need Not Apply / CGP Grey

This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply — via Youtube

Politics, Rights, Technology

Leaked paper reveals Australia’s obsessive metadata secrecy

Last Friday, the Australian Attorney-General’s Department sent internet service providers (ISPs) a confidential discussion paper — subsequently leaked to Fairfax Media — that attempts to clarify exactly what metadata they’ll be required to store under the government’s proposed mandatory data-retention scheme. The detailed requirements are presumably designed to feed into the statutory specification of metadata that will be included in legislation to be introduced to parliament in coming weeks.

Until now, the only official government description of metadata we’d seen — apart from that breathtakingly confused TV performance by Australia’s favourite Attorney-General Senator George Brandis QC — was the hilariously inadequate one-pager (PDF) that the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) tabled in Senate Estimates on October 15, 2012, after much prodding by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

You might therefore think that the description of the government’s metadata needs in Friday’s document was a recent development.

You’d be wrong.

A confidential document obtained by ZDNet shows that even more detailed descriptions of the government’s data-collection ambitions had been discussed with ISPs as far back as early 2010.

The document, Carrier-Carriage Service Provider Data Set Consultation Paper version 1.0 (PDF), is a 16-page PDF file created on 9 March 2010, at 14:49. Its core sections are similar in structure to the nine-page document obtained by Fairfax Media this week, with the addition of tables of sample data to further illustrate the expected type of data to be retained for each specific retention requirement from the data set, discussion questions for industry to answer, and an introductory background section rather than an executive summary.

The 2010 version of the document was quite specific about the data to be collected. For mobile calls, for example, the data would include the IMSI and IMEI of both the calling party’s and called party’s devices, whereas the current version simply specifies the identifier(s) of the devices. This is in line with the government’s intention to make the legislation technology neutral.

References to web-browser sessions and file transfers that were in the 2010 version have vanished, too, in line with such ideas being dropped as the data-retention debate has evolved — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Crypto Daddy Phil Zimmerman says surveillance society is DOOMED

A killer combination of rapidly advancing technology and a desire for greater privacy among the public should condemn current surveillance state to an historical anachronism, according to PGP creator Phil Zimmermann.

In an extended talk at Defcon 22 in Las Vegas, Zimmermann said it might seem as though the intelligence agencies have the whip hand at the moment but mankind had faced this situation before. He also said the abolition of slavery and absolute monarchy, and the achievement for civil rights, also once looked unlikely but were achieved.

Zimmermann praised the release of information by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying his efforts have alerted the populace to the real state of affairs and made people much more concerned about privacy. The revelations had also forced the technology industry to up its game and provide products to meet that demand, he opined — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Service Drains Competitors’ Online Ad Budget

The longer one lurks in the Internet underground, the more difficult it becomes to ignore the harsh reality that for nearly every legitimate online business there is a cybercrime-oriented anti-business. Case in point: Today’s post looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.

AdWords is Google’s paid advertising product, displaying ads on the top or the right side of your screen in search results. Advertisers bid on specific keywords, and those who bid the highest will have their ads show up first when Internet users search for those terms. In turn, advertisers pay Google a small amount each time a user clicks on one of their ads.

One of the more well-known forms of online ad fraud (aka click fraud) involves Google AdSense publishers that automate the clicking of ads appearing on their own Web sites in order to inflate ad revenue. But fraudsters also engage in an opposite scam involving AdWords, in which advertisers try to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day.

Enter GoodGoogle, the nickname chosen by one of the more established AdWords fraudsters operating on the Russian-language crime forums. Using a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, GoodGoogle promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors’ ads.

Are you tired of the competition in Google AdWords that take your first position and quality traffic? reads GoodGoogle’s pitch. I will help you get rid once and for all competitors in Google Adwords.

The service, which appears to have been in the offering since at least January 2012, provides customers both a la carte and subscription rates. The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle’s software and service to sideline a handful of competitors’s ads indefinitely. Fees are paid up-front and in virtual currencies (WebMoney, eg), and the seller offers support and a warranty for his work for the first three weeks — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Brandis proposes website blocking and piracy crackdown

A leaked discussion paper from both Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has floated the possibility of websites being blocked, and measures to compel ISPs to take steps to prevent their customers infringing on copyright online.

Five months after first flagging a crackdown was on its way, Brandis appears to be pushing ahead with plans to crack down on Australians using programs such as BitTorrent to obtain copyright-infringing content such as TV shows, music, and films.

The discussion paper, leaked to Crikey, had been expected to be released this month, following Brandis meeting with representatives in the US and UK governments on their respective copyright infringement deterrence schemes.

It outlines a number of potential legislative measures the government can implement to deter what the paper said is a long standing issue with Australians having high illegal download rates.

The government states in the document that it believes even if an ISP doesn’t have a direct power to prevent its users from infringing on copyright, there are reasonable steps it can take to deter infringement.

In a move to undo the 2012 High Court judgment that iiNet did not authorise its users’ copyright infringement, the paper proposes amending the Copyright Act to extend authorisation of copyright infringement and the power to prevent infringement would just be one factor the courts would consider in determining whether an ISP was liable for infringement — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Technology

Wikipedia blocks US Capitol computers from editing online encyclopaedia after ‘disruptive’ revisions

Wikipedia has imposed a ban on page edits from computers at the US House of Representatives after anonymous changes were made to entries about politicians, businesses and historical events.

In response to what it calls disruptive revisions, Wikipedia has a 10-day ban blocking any editing from an IP address at the US Capitol, which is shared among a number of computers.

One entry referred to former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld as an alien lizard who eats Mexican babies.

Another said that John F Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted on behalf of Fidel Castro.

The ban came after unusual revisions were pointed out by Twitter account @congressedits, which describes itself as a bot that tweets anonymous Wikipedia edits that are made from IP addresses in the US Congress.

The account was created by a software developer named Ed Summers — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Art, Technology

Gregor Czaykowski at the webcomic Loading Artist did a makeover of the website and did several comics about the process. This one should be familiar to anyone who ever launched a new website. It’s one of the reasons why millions of bloggers don’t stick with it more than a few weeks — via Neatorama

Rights, Technology

Quora’s misogyny problem: A cautionary tale

Quora’s misogyny problem is a tempest out of the teapot, and it’s a perfect example of why user based websites need to change the way they think about targeted users.

What women have been going through on Quora is harrowing: Harassment and threats, stalking on and off the site, and an atmosphere that enables ongoing targeting with moderators that don’t understand, or help.

That’s because Quora’s baseline of normal behavior around gender is all screwed up — and it was made that way — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Washington Post, New York Times and Mozilla team up for new Web site comment system

In an unusual partnership, The Washington Post, the New York Times and software developer Mozilla will team up to create digital tools that will make it easier for readers to post comments and photos on news sites and to interact with journalists and each other.

The two-year development project will be funded by a $3.89 million grant from the John S and James L Knight Foundation, the Miami-based philanthropic organization that specialises in media and the arts.

As described by its developers, the as-yet-unnamed system aims to standardize the many different community engagement systems that Web sites now use to collect and publish outside contributions, especially reader comments and photos — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

A hue angle of 270 degrees, a saturation of 50% and a lightness of 40%

Eric Meyer is an expert on the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) system used to control the appearance of web documents. He’s the author of multiple books on CSS, and the chaperone of the css-discuss mailing list. His daughter, Rebecca, passed away, and her family asked that those attending memorial services wear purple, her favourite color. Dominique Hazaël-Massieux requested that a purple be added to the CSS color list be named Becca Purple in her memory. Eric suggested that it be named rebeccapurple because his daughter wanted everyone to call her Rebecca after she turned six, and she was six for almost twelve hours. Today, a co-chair of the CSS Working Group announced approval of the change. From now on, rebeccapurple means #663399 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, Technology

Electrical engineer Bruce Campbell lives in a retired Boeing 727-200 that he has parked on his rural property in Hillsboro, Oregon. Campbell bought the plane back in 1999 for $100,000, and has spent the intervening years converting it to a modest living space. The plane-home features one working lavatory, a futon, a simple kitchen, and nine emergency exits. He estimates he has spent a total of $220,000 on the project — via Laughing Squid

Photo: John Brecher/MSNBC

Business, Technology

Liam F1 Turbine / The Archimedes

Small wind turbines scaled to the right size for residential and urban areas have so far lived in the shadows of their larger wind-farm-sized counterparts. The power output has been too low for a reasonable return on investment through energy savings and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with.

A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes is working to solve both of those problems in a new class of small-scale wind turbine — one that is almost silent and is far more efficient at converting wind into energy. The company states that the Liam F1 turbine could generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, enough to cover half of an average household’s energy use.

When used in combination with rooftop solar panels, a house could run off grid. When there is wind you use the energy produced by the wind turbine; when the sun is shining you use the solar cells to produce the energy, The Archimedes CEO Richard Ruijtenbeek said.

The Liam’s blades are shaped like a Nautilus shell. The design allows it to point into the wind to capture the most amount of energy, while also producing very little sound. The inventor of the turbine Marinus Mieremet says that the power output is 80 percent of the theoretical maximum energy that could be harnessed from the wind — via treehugger

Politics, Rights, Technology

Rise Up Against Govt Anti-Piracy Plans, ISP Urges

Last month Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis labeled his citizens the worst pirates on the planet and vowed to help content holders turn that position around. But Brandis’ industry-leaning position soon became clear as he repeatedly refused to answer questions as to whether he’d properly consulted with consumer groups.

Brandis has, however, consulted deeply with the entertainment industries. His proposals for solving the piracy issue are straight out of the MPAA and RIAA cookbook – three strikes and account terminations for errant Internet users plus ISP blockades of torrent and similar sites.

The reason why the debate over these measures has dragged on so long is down to the defeat of the studios in their legal battle against ISP iiNet. That case failed to render the ISP responsible for the actions of its subscribers and ever since iiNet has provided the most vocal opposition to tough anti-piracy proposals. Today, iiNet Chief Regulatory Officer Steve Dalby underlined that stance with a call for consumers to fight back against foreign interests.

The Hollywood Studios have been relentlessly lobbying the Australian Government on a range of heavy-handed solutions, from a three strikes proposal, through to website filtering — none of which take consumers’ interests into account, Dalby explains.

On three strikes, Dalby notes that even though customers will be expected to pick up the bill for its introduction, there’s no evidence that these schemes have curtailed piracy or increased sales in any other country — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Thieves Planted Malware to Hack ATMs

A recent ATM skimming attack in which thieves used a specialized device to physically insert malicious software into a cash machine may be a harbinger of more sophisticated scams to come.

Authorities in Macau — a Chinese territory approximately 40 miles west of Hong Kong — this week announced the arrest of two Ukrainian men accused of participating in a skimming ring that stole approximately $100,000 from at least seven ATMs. Local police said the men used a device that was connected to a small laptop, and inserted the device into the card acceptance slot on the ATMs.

Armed with this toolset, the authorities said, the men were able to install malware capable of siphoning the customer’s card data and PINs. The device appears to be a rigid green circuit board that is approximately four or five times the length of an ATM card.

According to local press reports (and supplemented by an interview with an employee at one of the local banks who asked not to be named), the insertion of the circuit board caused the software running on the ATMs to crash, temporarily leaving the cash machine with a black, empty screen. The thieves would then remove the device. Soon after, the machine would restart, and begin recording the card and PINs entered by customers who used the compromised machines.

The Macau government alleges that the accused would return a few days after infecting the ATMs to collect the stolen card numbers and PINs. To do this, the thieves would reinsert the specialized chip card to retrieve the purloined data, and then a separate chip card to destroy evidence of the malware — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Vodafone’s Disclosure Report reveals global scale of mobile phone surveillance

The world’s second largest mobile phone company, Vodafone, says at least six unnamed governments can use its phone system to monitor customers whenever they want.

The company’s Disclosure Report says most governments need legal notices to access its networks, but there are six nations — which is says it cannot name for legal reasons — that have direct access.

It says in those countries authorities have inserted their own equipment into the network or have diverted all data through government systems so they can permanently access customers’ communications.

In a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator’s network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator, the company said.

It added that in Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey it could not disclose any information related to wiretapping or interception — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

MP3, DVD and CD Copying is Now Legal in The UK (For Some)

Most people in the UK may not have realised it, but every time they backed up an MP3 or made a copy of a CD or DVD for personal use, they were breaking the law.

Starting today this is no longer the case for the disabled, thanks to a revision of copyright law that just went into effect. Disabled citizens can now copy and publish copyrighted material if there’s no commercial alternative available.

Disabled people and disability groups can now make accessible copies of copyright material (eg music, film, books) when no commercial alternative exists, the Government announced today.

Previously the Government also said that all private copying for personal use would be legal starting in June, but this has apparently been delayed pending Parliament approval.

However, following a thorough inspection of local copyright legislation the UK Government has already committed to change current laws in favor of consumers — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Australia sees rise in cyber attacks, competitors to blame: CERT

The main motivation behind rising online security attacks in Australia is competitors seeking commercial information and advantage, according to the latest Cyber Crime and Security Survey Report by Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) — part of the Attorney-General’s Department.

The main motivation for cyber-attacks is considered to be competitors seeking commercial advantage, said George Brandis, Australia’s Attorney General and Minister for the Arts. This aligns with the cyber threat of most concern to businesses, which is theft or breach of confidential information or intellectual property.

This of course has recently come to prominence through the US indicting Chinese officials for the theft of IP from US companies by cyber means.

While many of the companies surveyed reported the computer security incidents, others didn’t, raising concerns they don’t know what’s really happening on their networks — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Mozilla begrudgingly decides to adopt Adobe’s DRM

Like it or not, a new era of DRM began on the internet overnight. Mozilla, the last major holdout to the W3C’s endorsed DRM extensions known as Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), reluctantly decided to reverse its previous position and implement EME in the desktop versions of Firefox.

We have come to the point where Mozilla is not implementing the W3C EME specification means that Firefox users have to switch to other browsers to watch content restricted by DRM, wrote Mozilla’s new CTO Andreas Gal in a blog post.

Mozilla would have preferred to see the content industry move away from locking content to a specific device (so called node-locking), and worked to provide alternatives.

To implement its DRM solution, the browser maker has teamed up with Adobe to provide a Content Decryption Module (CDM) — unlike the rest of Mozilla’s codebase, the CDM has a proprietary licence. Rather than directly loading the CDM, Mozilla have decided to place the CDM in an open source sandbox, and removed permissions for the CDM to access a user’s hard drive or network. The only data passed to the CDM will be decoding DRM-wrapped data, with the CDM returning its frame results for display to the user — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Glenn Greenwald: how the NSA tampers with US-made internet routers

But while American companies were being warned away from supposedly untrustworthy Chinese routers, foreign organisations would have been well advised to beware of American-made ones. A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA’s Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives — or intercepts — routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.

The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!).

Eventually, the implanted device connects back to the NSA. The report continues: In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure. This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.

It is quite possible that Chinese firms are implanting surveillance mechanisms in their network devices. But the US is certainly doing the same — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Technology

Australian government likely to standardise on Drupal

The federal government is eyeing the introduction of a government-wide content-management system. The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has indicated its preference is to use the open-source Drupal Web platform and to have the CMS delivered as a cloud service.

The Government Content Management System (GovCMS) is envisaged as an important service offering for Australian Commonwealth Government agencies, the Australian government CTO, John Sheridan, wrote in a blog entry.

GovCMS is intended to support more effective web channel delivery functions within Government, and enable agencies to redirect effort from non-core transactional activities, towards higher-value activities that are more aligned with core agency missions, a draft statement of requirements issued by AGIMO states.

An analysis by AGIMO found that between 182 and 450 websites could be transitioned to GovCMS over four years. The use of an open source solution means that Drupal modules could be shared between public sector agencies and the community, the draft states.

A transition to GovCMS will begin with Australia.gov.au and Finance.gov.au, the document states. The target go-live date is September this year — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Programming Sucks / Peter Welch

Every friend I have with a job that involves picking up something heavier than a laptop more than twice a week eventually finds a way to slip something like this into conversation: Bro,1 you don’t work hard. I just worked a 4700-hour week digging a tunnel under Mordor with a screwdriver.

They have a point. Mordor sucks, and it’s certainly more physically taxing to dig a tunnel than poke at a keyboard unless you’re an ant. But, for the sake of the argument, can we agree that stress and insanity are bad things? Awesome. Welcome to programming — via Still Drinking

Technology

Huge floppy disks and other old tech is common at Air Force nuclear missile silos

You’d probably expect to encounter all sorts of crazy technology in a US Air Force nuclear silo. One you might not expect: floppy disks.

Leslie Stahl of CBS’s 60 Minutes reported from a Wyoming nuclear control center for a segment that aired on Sunday, and the Cold War-era tech she found is pretty amazing. But it also makes sense. The government built facilities for the Minuteman missiles in the 1960s and 1970s, and though the missiles have been upgraded numerous times to make them safer and more reliable, the bases themselves haven’t changed much. And there isn’t a lot of incentive to upgrade them. ICBM forces commander Major General Jack Weinstein told Stahl that the bases have extremely tight IT and cyber security, because they’re not Internet-connected and they use such old hardware and software — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Almost 100 hate-crime murders linked to single website, report finds

People charged with the murders of almost 100 people can be linked to a single far-right website, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The White Nationalist web forum Stormfront.org says it promotes values of the embattled white minority, and its users include Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 massacre in Norway, and Wade Michael Page, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.

After a two-year investigation, the SPLC said (pdf) that since Stormfront became one of the first hate sites on the internet in 1995, its registered users have been disproportionately responsible for major killings. The report was released a month early after white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, was accused of killing three people at a Jewish center in Kansas City on Sunday.

We know that the people who are going to commit the kinds of crimes, like the kinds of crimes Miller committed last weekend, this is where they live, said Heidi Beirich, report author and a director at the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. The report, released on Thursday, calls Stormfront the largest hate site in the world and a magnet and breeding ground for the deadly and deranged.

Of the site’s more than 286,000 users, only a small sliver are highly active, the report found, with fewer than 1,800 people logging in each day. While the SPLC only identified 10 murderers out of this large user base, researchers think the murderers’ connection to the site is important because it shows how the website offers a community for people who commit these crimes — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

‘Heartbleed’ Bug Exposes Passwords, Web Site Encryption Keys

Researchers have uncovered an extremely critical vulnerability in recent versions of OpenSSL, a technology that allows millions of Web sites to encrypt communications with visitors. Complicating matters further is the release of a simple exploit that can be used to steal usernames and passwords from vulnerable sites, as well as private keys that sites use to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data.

From Heartbleed.com:

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users

— via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Border Protection forces Facebook content removal through Twitter

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has succeeded in having a member of the public remove a post from her Facebook wall that a spokesperson has said targeted a staff member within the department.

On Friday, in a series of Tweets from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s official Twitter account, the department asked Vanessa Powell, a teacher and a volunteer on community radio, to remove a Facebook post that “contains an offensive remark directed at a staff member” from a man named George Georgiadis — via redwolf.newsvine.com