Politics, Rights, Technology

Dob in your tweeting mate at work? So much for free speech

There is no case, none, to limit debate about the performance of national leaders. The more powerful people are, the more important the presumption must be that less powerful people should be able to say exactly what they think of them.

That’s the Tony Abbott of 2012, addressing his friends at the Institute for Public Affairs. What a difference a couple of years makes.

New guidelines from the department of prime minister and cabinet threaten employees with discipline if they are critical or highly critical of the department, the minister or the prime minister on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, blogs, or anywhere much else.

Note that the policy applies to posts in a personal capacity — even those made anonymously — and that public servants are urged to dob in any colleagues they might recognise.

If an employee becomes aware of another employee who is engaging in conduct that may breach this policy, the edict explains, there is an expectation that the employee will report the conduct to the ­department.

Tim Wilson, then head of the IPA, was in the audience for Abbott’s freedom wars speech. Surely our self-proclaimed freedom commissioner will denounce measures muzzling public servants?

Not so much, no.

There is nothing inconsistent with free speech and having codes of conduct or policies as a condition of employment that require professional, respectful behaviour in their role and the public domain, Wilson told the Daily Telegraph.

Elsewhere, Wilson explicitly rejects the charge that he cares only about the rights of the most powerful. Free speech is for everyone, he says. But his support for the restrictions on employees illustrates that, by everyone, he means something more like everyone I know — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

Mozilla boss Brendan Eich resigns after gay marriage storm

The chief executive of Mozilla — the company best known for its Firefox browser — has stepped down.

Brendan Eich was appointed just last month but came in for heavy criticism for his views on same-sex marriage.

Mozilla’s executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced the decision in a blog post.

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it, she wrote.

We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

“We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Mr Eich has also stepped down from the board of the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation which owns the for-profit Mozilla Corporation — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Entertainment, Technology

Terminator-maker ‘Cyberdyne Inc’ lists on Tokyo stock exchange

El Reg readers of a more fatalistic disposition may be dismayed, but probably not surprised, to hear that Cyberdyne — the company that invented Skynet and ultimately the murderous Terminator machines – has just listed on the Tokyo stock exchange.

Of course, it’s not the shadowy defence firm of the iconic Arnie films, which unwittingly brings about the virtual destruction of mankind.

No, this one is a maker of exoskeleton suits and supports designed to help those with serious muscular, nerve or cerebral damage recover movement.

The firm also produces support gear which can be worn by carers to lift heavy loads and even markets a radiation-shielding disaster recovery suit for emergency workers.

Innocuous enough, you may think, although so were the origins of the cybermen — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Gordon Sands Threatens Seattle Bubble with Google Disavow in Misguided Attempt to Clean Up BankruptcyAction.com Comment Spam

Last week I got an email from Gordon Sands, a principal of BankruptcyAction.com — a website I’d never heard of — claiming that Seattle Bubble contains link(s) to BankruptcyAction.com. The claimed reason for this random email was to remove a link on my site because the links are not in the same niche as our site, but the real reason was obviously that the proprietors of this site had previously engaged in link-spamming, were punished by Google, and are now scrambling to get publishers to remove their comment spam links — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Chilling Effects DMCA Archive is ‘Repugnant’, Copyright Group Says

If it wasn’t for the Chilling Effects DMCA clearing house the actions of those abusing the DMCA would go largely unreported. Still, the Copyright Alliance doesn’t like the site, this week describing the information resource as repugnant to the DMCA. Unsurprisingly, Chilling Effects sees things differently.

Thanks to Google’s Transparency Report we have the clearest picture yet of the battle taking place between content owners and the indexing and linking of allegedly infringing content online. The search engine takes down millions of URLs every week, a not insignificant amount by any standard.

Fortunately we don’t simply have to take Google’s statistics at face value. The notices received by the company are processed and later sent to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. There they are input into a searchable database so that the public can cross reference Google’s reports (along with others from companies such as Twitter) with the actual takedown notices, thus bringing accountability to the process.

It is through both of these database that TorrentFreak has been able to unearth dozens of serious errors and abuses carried out by the automated takedown systems operated by the world’s largest copyright holders. While there can be little doubt that Chilling Effects is an invaluable resource for those reporting on piracy issues or tracking DMCA abuses, not everyone is happy with the service being offered by the site– via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian government departments want to keep power to censor websites

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC), and one unnamed agency have indicated to the government that they would likely seek to keep using powers in the Telecommunications Act to force ISPs to block websites.

In April 2013, following a bungle by ASIC that resulted in accidentally blocking customer access to 250,000 websites for at least two ISPs — when the agency was just seeking to block websites associated with investment fraud — it was revealed that three Commonwealth government agencies had been using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to compel ISPs to block customer access to websites on their behalf.

Following public backlash, and amid cries of censorship and criticism over the lack of transparency over the power, the then-Labor government promised to review the power, and improve the oversight and transparency of the process.

At the time, despite the controversy, it seems that internally, agencies had indicated to the government that they intended to continue using the power. A briefing document from a meeting convened by the Department of Communications in May 2013, and published online yesterday under Freedom of Information revealed that the three agencies the department had discovered to be using section 313 to block websites indicated their intention to use Section 313(3) in a similar way in the future.

The heavily redacted briefing document showed that the AFP had used the power 21 times between June 2011 and February 2013 to request ISPs to block websites listed on the Interpol worst of child abuse websites, and would continue to do so in the future.

The document also stated that the AFP may have also used the power to combat some spam and phishing sites. AFP deputy commissioner Michael Phelan said last year that this is not an efficient method of dealing with malware sites.

ASIC was also listed as intending to use the power again — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Tim Cook Soundly Rejects Politics of the NCPPR, Suggests Group Sell Apple’s Stock

In an emotional response to the National Centre for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), Apple CEO Tim Cook soundly rejected the politics of the group and suggested it stop investing in Apple if it doesn’t like his approach to sustainability and other issues.

Mr Cook’s comments came during the question and answer session of Apple’s annual shareholder meeting, which the NCPPR attended as shareholder. The self-described conservative think tank was pushing a shareholder proposal that would have required Apple to disclose the costs of its sustainability programs and to be more transparent about its participation in “certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability.”

As I covered in depth yesterday, the proposal was politically-based, and rooted in the premise that humanity plays no role in climate change. Other language in the proposal advanced the idea that profits should be the only thing corporations consider.

That shareholder proposal was rejected by Apple’s shareholders, receiving just 2.95 percent of the vote. During the question and answer session, however, the NCPPR representative asked Mr Cook two questions, both of which were in line with the principles espoused in the group’s proposal — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Melbourne IT to purchase Netregistry in AU$50.4m deal

Melbourne IT announced today that it has entered into an agreement with competitor Netregistry to purchase the company in a deal worth AU$50.4 million.

The payment for the purchase will be made in two parts, with 4.99 percent to 9.99 percent of outstanding Melbourne IT shares offered to Netregistry shareholders, and the remainder paid in cash. This will see Melbourne IT part with 4.3 million to 9.3 million shares and between AU$38 million to AU$45 million in cash, subject to regulatory approval.

The proposed transaction will bring together two of Australia’s leading web services businesses, generating significant benefits for customers, employees, and shareholders of both companies, said acting CEO of Melbourne IT Peter Findlay — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Australia’s ongoing online retail fiasco

The continuing inability of Myer and David Jones to deliver customers a decent online brand experience disqualifies them from complaining about digital competitors eating their lunch, argues Tim Burrowes.

All credit to Myer. It’s not many retailers who can make a Boxing Day sale last for three weeks.

But thanks to comments from unhappy customers on the company’s Facebook page, it is possible to monitor in real time the continuing erosion of brand value.

I must declare an interest here. I am myself an amused and bemused consumer of that online experience. Not that Myer’s main rival David Jones has done much better, but more on that later.

Being something of a misanthrope when it comes to bricks and mortar retail sales, I actually decided to give the stores’ online sales a shot.

As it will have been hard to miss, Myer’s site crashed within hours of its Christmas night launch and remained offline for the next eight days.

In a world where Google being down for eight seconds would be remarked upon, Australia’s biggest retail brand was down for eight days.

But most curious was how unconcerned Myer boss Bernie Brookes seemed.

The nice folk at partner IBM were hard at work fixing it, he told the market.

And online was, he reassured his investors, only responsible for about one per cent of the company’s revenues. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you wonder whether the fact that it’s only at one per cent is because the store hasn’t been doing enough to catch up with its competitors.

Still, when the Myer site came back, and lured by the offer of free delivery, I gave it a shot — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Turkish police fire tear gas, rubber bullets in protests against internet control, corruption

Riot police in Turkey have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and used water cannons on demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara protesting against government plans to impose curbs on the internet.

Rights groups say the proposals, which were approved by parliament last week, amount to censorship and will increase government control of the internet.

Up to 2,000 protesters chanted government resign and all united against fascism at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, some of them hurling fireworks and stones at police.

Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance, they shouted, using the slogan of last June’s anti-government protests that first erupted in the square.

The demonstration was organised in protest at plans to impose curbs on the internet and over the graft scandal rocking the government.

It broke up after the police action without any immediate reports of injuries or arrests — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Teen Reported to Police After Finding Security Hole in Website

A teenager in Australia who thought he was doing a good deed by reporting a security vulnerability in a government website was reported to the police.

Joshua Rogers, a 16-year-old in the state of Victoria, found a basic security hole that allowed him to access a database containing sensitive information for about 600,000 public transport users who made purchases through the Metlink web site run by the Transport Department. It was the primary site for information about train, tram and bus timetables. The database contained the full names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and a nine-digit extract of credit card numbers used at the site, according to The Age newspaper in Melbourne.

Rogers says he contacted the site after Christmas to report the vulnerability but never got a response. After waiting two weeks, he contacted the newspaper to report the problem. When The Age called the Transportation Department for comment, it reported Rogers to the police.

It’s truly disappointing that a government agency has developed a website which has these sorts of flaws, Phil Kernick, of cyber security consultancy CQR, told the paper. So if this kid found it, he was probably not the first one. Someone else was probably able to find it too, which means that this information may already be out there.

The paper doesn’t say how Rogers accessed the database, but says he used a common vulnerability that exists in many web sites. It’s likely he used a SQL injection vulnerability, one of the most common ways to breach web sites and gain access to backend databases — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Internet Archive puts classic 70s and 80s games online

Classic video games from the 1970s and 1980s have been put online by the Internet Archive and can be played within a web browser for nothing.

The collection has launched with games from five early home consoles, including the Atari 2600 and Colecovision.

The games do not have sound, but will soon, the Internet Archive said.

In coming months, the playable software collection will expand greatly, archivist Jason Scott wrote.

Making these vintage games available to the world, instantly, allows for commentary, education, enjoyment and memory for the history they are a part of.

The other machines included are the Atari 7800, the Magnavox Odyssey (known as the Philips Videopac G7000 in Europe) and the Astrocade.

Well-recognised titles such as Pacman, Space Invaders and Frogger are all in the archive — with more consoles and games expected soon — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

How Anti-Piracy Trolls Tried and Failed to Ruin Christmas

Copyright trolls do not care about people. Copyright trolls do not care about family life. Copyright trolls do not care if they ruin someone’s reputation. What copyright trolls care about is money, as much money as they can get their greedy hands on. Nevertheless, some people have been standing up to them and today they will enjoy the fruits of their patience, sharing Christmas day with family and spending their money on those who matter.

For the last couple of years TorrentFreak has run semi-regular articles on the efforts of GoldenEye International, an adult movie outfit affiliated with the Ben Dover porn brand and one that realized there’s money to be made from the bullying game.

Just like most other trolls their business model is simple. Send threatening letters to ISP account holders telling them that they have been caught watching some pretty embarrassingly titled movies and inform them that paying a cash settlement is the only way to remedy the situation.

TorrentFreak invited people targeted by the company to contact us and over the past year we’ve had a steady stream of terribly worried individuals email us with requests for information. The more of these emails you read, the more you appreciate the scale of the heartbreak for all of those involved.

At this point we should be clear — some people we spoke with clearly knew more than they were prepared to admit and some probably did download some content without permission. However, many others obviously did not and when you come across these cases you can see that companies like GoldenEye really do not give a damn about who they hurt, and they will brush off collateral damage like it doesn’t exist — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Technology

Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

It overturns his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that proved critical to the Allies in World War II.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

How much did NSA pay to put a backdoor in RSA crypto? Try $10m

The mystery of why RSA would use a flawed, NSA-championed algorithm as the default random number generator for several of its encryption products appears to be solved, and the answer is utterly banal, if true: the NSA paid it to.

Reuters reports that RSA received $10m from the NSA in exchange for making the agency-backed Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator (Dual EC DRBG) its preferred random number algorithm, according to newly disclosed documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

If that figure sounds small, that’s because it is. Tech giant EMC acquired RSA for $2.1bn in 2006 — around the same time as the backroom NSA deal — so it seems odd that RSA would kowtow to the g-men so cheaply.

But according to Reuters, at the time, things weren’t looking so good for the division of RSA that was responsible for its BSafe encryption libraries. In 2005, those tools brought in a mere $27.5m of RSA’s $310m in annual revenue, or just 8.9 per cent.

By accepting $10m from the NSA, as Reuters claims, the BSafe division managed to increase its contribution to RSA’s bottom line by more than a third — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Trust Me (I’m a kettle)

The internet of things may be coming to us all faster and harder than we’d like.

Reports coming out of Russia suggest that some Chinese domestic appliances, notably kettles, come kitted out with malware — in the shape of small embedded computers that leech off the mains power to the device. The covert computational passenger hunts for unsecured wifi networks, connects to them, and joins a spam and malware pushing botnet. The theory is that a home computer user might eventually twig if their PC is a zombie, but who looks inside the base of their electric kettle, or the casing of their toaster? We tend to forget that the Raspberry Pi is as powerful as an early 90s UNIX server or a late 90s desktop; it costs £25, is the size of a credit card, and runs off a 5 watt USB power source. And there are cheaper, less competent small computers out there. Building them into kettles is a stroke of genius for a budding crime lord looking to build a covert botnet.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

TPG buys AAPT from Telecom NZ for AU$450m

Telecom New Zealand is set to sell off AAPT at a fraction of the price it paid for the company back in 1999, with TPG stepping out to buy the company for AU$450 million.

Telecom NZ this morning confirmed to the Australian Securities Exchange that TPG would pick up the business telecommunications and cloud company by the end of February 2014.

The transaction was said to be free of conditions precedent.

It had been reported that Telecom NZ had been looking to sell the Australian business since at least October, with Goldman Sachs recruited to manage the transaction.

Including the AU$60 million iiNet paid for AAPT’s consumer division in 2010, the total value for AAPT is significantly lower than the AU$2.2 billion that Telecom New Zealand paid for it in the peak of the dot com boom in 1999.

AAPT’s revenue has declined over the last few years, with the company this year reporting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation of AU$57 million, down by AU$10 million on the previous financial year — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Science, Technology

Polymer gel, heal thyself: Engineering team proposes new composites that can regenerate when damaged

When a chair leg breaks or a cell phone shatters, either must be repaired or replaced. But what if these materials could be programmed to regenerate — themselves, replenishing the damaged or missing components, and thereby extend their lifetime and reduce the need for costly repairs?

That potential is now possible according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, who have developed computational models to design a new polymer gel that would enable complex materials to regenerate themselves — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Photographer wins $1.3m payout from companies that took images from Twitter

A US federal jury has ordered two media companies to pay $US1.2 million ($1.3m) to a freelance photojournalist for their unauthorised use of photographs he posted to Twitter.

The jury found Agence France-Presse and Getty Images wilfully violated the Copyright Act when they used photos Daniel Morel took in his native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people, Mr Morel’s lawyer, Joseph Baio, said.

The case is one of the first to address how images that individuals make available to the public through social media can be used by third parties for commercial purposes.

We believe that this is the first time these defendants, or any other major digital licensor of photography, have been found liable for wilful violations of the Copyright Act, Mr Baio said in an email.

Lawyers for AFP and Getty did not immediately respond to requests for comment — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Hosting what the Govt won’t: Delimiter establishes AGD FoI mirror

Technology media outlet Delimiter today revealed it would establish a free file-serving mirror of PDF documents published under Freedom of Information laws by the Attorney-General’s Department and relevant to the technology sector, in the wake of confirmation by the department that it has removed such documents from its website.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, all government departments and agencies covered by the legislation must provide a way for the public to access documents which any party has requested under the legislation. This means that if individuals make FoI requests of government organisations, that that information will eventually reach the public domain and be accessible to all.

Almost all Federal Government organisations — including some government business enterprises such as NBN Co — interpret the act to mean that they must publish documents released under the FoI act in a disclosure log on their website. The Attorney-General’s Department, which contains FoI oversight as part of its portfolio, has historically done this.

However, the department recently removed PDF documents relating to FoI requests from its website, forcing those seeking access to the documents to email or otherwise communicate with it directly. This has substantially reduced access to a number of sensitive documents — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

New Research Says Aussie Retailers Suck At Online Shopping

Australian consumers are embracing digital commerce, but Australian retailers are failing to build long-term relationships with their customers online, according to new research.

More than 50 per cent of Australians have been described as digital buyers who prefer to buy online where possible, a statistic that puts Australians among the top digital consumers in the world.

But the Australian retail sector is late to the party. A recent Deloitte survey found that Australian retailers are going digital at a snail’s pace.

More than 50 per cent of respondents expect to generate less than 2 per cent of their Christmas sales online.

And while David Jones’ 1000 per cent quarterly increase in online sales recently made headlines, this increase comes from a very low base, with digital commerce now accounting for a mere 1% of the retail giant’s total sales figure — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

3D-printed guns can explode, injure users, tests show

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) last week released videos of tests of plastic guns made with 3D printers that show some exploding on the first shot. The explosions could injure users, the testing found.

The ATF has been testing guns made with 3D printers using two commonly used thermoplastic materials over the past year to determine how safe the weapons are.

Guns made using one of the two thermoplastics tested, a polymer from VisiJet, never lasted more than one shot before exploding. The other material, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), could produce a gun that fired eight times without incident.

The agents stopped shooting after eight bullets, an ATF spokesperson said.

It depends on the material as well as the quality of the printer. Those variables both go into it, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson wouldn’t identify 3D printers used or which computer-assisted drawing (CAD) files were downloaded to create the weapon — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

UK spies continue ‘quantum insert’ attack via LinkedIn, Slashdot pages

According to a new report by Der Spiegel, the British signals intelligence spy agency has again employed a quantum insert technique as a way to target employees (Google Translate) of two companies that are GRX (Global Roaming Exchange) providers.

The lead author of the story in the German magazine is Laura Poitras, one of the journalists known to have access to the entire trove of documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

GRX is roughly analogous to an IX (Internet Exchange), and it acts as a major exchange for mobile Internet traffic while users roam around the globe. There are only around two dozen such GRX providers globally. This new attack specifically targeted administrators and engineers of Comfone and Mach (which was acquired over the summer by Syniverse), two GRX providers.

Der Spiegel suggests that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British sister agency to the NSA, used spoofed versions of LinkedIn and Slashdot pages to serve malware to targets. This type of attack was also used to target nine salaried employees of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the global oil cartel.

This new revelation may be related to an attack earlier this year against Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS), a subsidiary of the Belgian telecom giant Belgacom. BICS is another one of the few GRX providers worldwide — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

How to roll your own VPN

If you need to encrypt traffic from your computer or mobile device, you have many options. You could buy a commercial VPN solution, or you could sign up for a VPN service and pay a monthly fee. Or for less money, you could create your own VPN and gain the use of a Linux VPS (Virtual Private Server) anywhere in the world. This roll-your-own option is made possible through the use of the open source OpenVPN project, Linux, and a few open source client-side applications. The VPS-based setup described here is designed to encrypt all the traffic from your laptop, desktop, or mobile phone to your VPN server, which then unencrypts that traffic and passes it on to its destination. This can be very useful if you’re using the Internet from a coffee shop, a hotel, or a conference and you do not trust the network — via ITworld

Technology

Meet badBIOS, the mysterious Mac and PC malware that jumps airgaps

Three years ago, security consultant Dragos Ruiu was in his lab when he noticed something highly unusual: his MacBook Air, on which he had just installed a fresh copy of OS X, spontaneously updated the firmware that helps it boot. Stranger still, when Ruiu then tried to boot the machine off a CD ROM, it refused. He also found that the machine could delete data and undo configuration changes with no prompting. He didn’t know it then, but that odd firmware update would become a high-stakes malware mystery that would consume most of his waking hours.

In the following months, Ruiu observed more odd phenomena that seemed straight out of a science-fiction thriller. A computer running the Open BSD operating system also began to modify its settings and delete its data without explanation or prompting. His network transmitted data specific to the Internet’s next-generation IPv6 networking protocol, even from computers that were supposed to have IPv6 completely disabled. Strangest of all was the ability of infected machines to transmit small amounts of network data with other infected machines even when their power cords and Ethernet cables were unplugged and their Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards were removed. Further investigation soon showed that the list of affected operating systems also included multiple variants of Windows and Linux.

We were like, ‘Okay, we’re totally owned,’ Ruiu told Ars. ‘We have to erase all our systems and start from scratch,’ which we did. It was a very painful exercise. I’ve been suspicious of stuff around here ever since.

In the intervening three years, Ruiu said, the infections have persisted, almost like a strain of bacteria that’s able to survive extreme antibiotic therapies. Within hours or weeks of wiping an infected computer clean, the odd behaviour would return. The most visible sign of contamination is a machine’s inability to boot off a CD, but other, more subtle behaviours can be observed when using tools such as Process Monitor, which is designed for troubleshooting and forensic investigations.

Another intriguing characteristic: in addition to jumping airgaps designed to isolate infected or sensitive machines from all other networked computers, the malware seems to have self-healing capabilities — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

So many cyberspying hackers about… and most of you are garbage

Cyber-espionage groups are too numerous to count and are often far less skilled than their reputation suggests, according to threat-trackers.

Costin Raiu, director of global research at Kaspersky Lab, estimated that anything between 100 to 200 hacking crews operate in China alone.

Despite the hype abut zero-day attacks, many successful assaults relied on rudimentary attacks that successfully took advantage of poor patching practices and other rudimentary security mistakes, Raiu said during a panel session at the RSA Europe Conference — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Ditch Microsoft Office or take a pay cut: Which would you choose?

The strongest driver for free software adoption in a public administration? Fear of layoffs.

If you don’t believe it, ask the autonomous province of South Tyrol, in Northern Italy. The local government has just begun implementing a plan that will have most public sector organisations in the region using LibreOffice by 2016. Really.

And why did they do it? Because the austerity measures passed by the national government meant the region was left facing a €16m cut to its personnel budget. In order to avoid cutting employees (or, more likely, their pay), management and unions had to find a creative solution. Which they did: a mass migration from Microsoft Office to an open source equivalent.

The savings are mandatory, so it was either us or the proprietary software, said Erwin Pfeifer, not entirely joking. Pfeifer is a member of the autonomous province’s IT department and one of the people managing the project — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Technology

FTTP NBN ‘wacko’, claims Mad Monk PM

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described the previous Labor Federal Government’s attempt to extend fibre broadband to most Australian homes and businesses as wacko, despite the fact that Labor’s Fibre to the Premises model is seen as the long-term future of most fixed telecommunications networks globally.

Under Labor’s NBN policy, some 93 percent of Australian premises were to have received fibre directly to the premise, delivering maximum download speeds of up to 1Gbps and maximum upload speeds of 400Mbps. The remainder of the population was to have been served by a combination of satellite and wireless broadband, delivering speeds of up to 25Mbps.

Originally, the Coalition’s policy was to have seen fibre to the premises deployed to a significantly lesser proportion of the population — 22 percent — with 71 percent covered by fibre to the node technology, where fibre is extended to neighbourhood nodes and the remainder of the distance to premises covered by Telstra’s existing copper network. The Coalition’s policy was also continue to use the HFC cable network operated by Telstra and will also target the remaining 7 percent of premises with satellite and wireless.

However, the possibility of a different style of rollout has been raised by Turnbull in the several weeks since the Liberal MP became Communications Minister. In late September, Turnbull appeared to have drastically modified the Coalition’s policy stance on the NBN just weeks after the Federal Election, declaring the Coalition was not wedded to its fibre to the node model and was thoroughly open-minded about the technology to be used in the network. NBN Co is currently conducting a strategic review into its operations and model that will inform Turnbull’s decisions regarding the project’s future.

However, in a new interview with the Washington Post published this week, Abbott directly stated that Labor’s FTTP model was irrational — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Surprise! Coalition re-kindles anti-piracy talks

The new Coalition Federal Government has reportedly signalled plans to restart long-running talks between the telecommunications and content industries to deal with the issue of Internet piracy, despite the fact that a previous round of talks between the two sides under the previous Labor administration proved pointless.

The Australian newspaper reported this morning that the Attorney-General’s Department has sent letters to the nation’s top telcos and content creators seeking their participation in a series of industry roundtables to resolve the online piracy issue as a matter of urgency.

It is not yet clear precisely what new Attorney-General George Brandis or the Attorney-General’s Department is seeking from the talks. as neither has issued a statement on the issue. Delimiter has filed a Freedom of Information request this morning with the department seeking the text of any letters sent by Brandis or the Department to telcos on the issue since Brandis took office. In addition, comment is being sought from Brandis on the issue — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Science, Technology

A Case Study in Closed Access

One of the core messages of Open Access Week is that the inability to readily access the important research we help fund is an issue that affects us all—and is one with outrageous practical consequences. Limits on researchers’ ability to read and share their works slow scientific progress and innovation. Escalating subscription prices for journals that publish cutting-edge research cripple university budgets, harming students, educators, and those of us who support and rely on their work.

But the problems don’t stop there. In the digital age, it is absurd that ordinary members of the public, such as healthcare professional and their patients, cannot access and compare the latest research quickly and cheaply in order to take better care of themselves and others.

Take the case of Cortney Grove, a speech-language pathologist based in Chicago, who posted this on Facebook:

In my field we are charged with using scientific evidence to make clinical decisions. Unfortunately, the most pertinent evidence is locked up in the world of academic publishing and I cannot access it without paying upwards of $40 an article. My current research project is not centred around one article, but rather a body of work on a given topic. Accessing all the articles I would like to read will cost me nearly a thousand dollars. So, the sad state of affairs is that I may have to wait 7-10 years for someone to read the information, integrate it with their clinical opinions (biases, agendas, and financial motivations) and publish it in a format I can buy on Amazon. By then, how will my clinical knowledge and skills have changed? How will my clients be served in the meantime? What would I do with the first-hand information that I will not be able to do with the processed, commercialised product that emerges from it in a decade? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service

An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.

In November 2011, this publication ran a story about an underground service called Superget.info, a fraudster-friendly site that marketed the ability to look up full Social Security numbers, birthdays, drivers license records and financial information on millions of Americans. Registration was free, and accounts were funded via WebMoney and other virtual currencies that are popular in the cybercriminal underground — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology, Weird

3D-printed ‘gun part’ are actually spare parts for the printer

Police in Manchester have arrested a man for 3D printing the components to a gun — but some have suggested the objects actually appear to be spare printer parts.

Police raided the home in Baguley, Manchester yesterday, finding what they described as a 3D printer, a plastic magazine and trigger, which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.

It they are found to be viable components for a 3D gun, it would be the first ever seizure of this kind in the UK, the police said in a statement. The parts are now being forensically examined by firearms specialists to establish if they could construct a genuine device.

However, some — including Gigaom — have pointed out that the parts may be more benign, noting the item the police say is a trigger looks similar to part of a component listed on Thingiverse, a database of 3D printable designs — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Internet Explorer 11 Breaks Google, Outlook Web Access

The Windows 8.1 rollout has hit more hurdles: the new version 11 of Internet Explorer that ships with the operating system does not render Google products well and is also making life difficult for users of Microsoft’s own Outlook Web Access webmail product.

The latter issue is well known: Microsoft popped out some advice about the fact that only the most basic interface to the webmail tool will work back in July. It seems not every sysadmin got the memo and implemented Redmond’s preferred workarounds, but there are only scattered complaints out there, likely because few organisations have bothered implementing Windows 8.1 yet — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

3D printer creates light-weight titanium horse shoes

Australian scientists have created a customized set of purple titanium shoes for a Melbourne race horse using 3D printing.

The horse, nicknamed Titanium Prints, had its hooves scanned with a 3D scanner.

Using 3D modelling software, scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) then used the scan to design the racing shoe.

CSIRO’s Titanium expert John Barnes says it takes less than 24 hours to print four customised shoes for a horse and it costs approximately $600 for all of them — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Why Microsoft Word must Die

I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burning, fiery passion. I hate Microsoft Word the way Winston Smith hated Big Brother. Our reasons are, alarmingly, not dissimilar …

Microsoft Word is a tyrant of the imagination, a petty, unimaginative, inconsistent dictator that is ill-suited to any creative writer’s use. Worse: it is a near-monopolist, dominating the word processing field. Its pervasive near-monopoly status has brainwashed software developers to such an extent that few can imagine a word processing tool that exists as anything other than as a shallow imitation of the Redmond Behemoth. But what exactly is wrong with it? — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Technology

Australian universities create ‘photons on demand’ optical chip

Research conducted at the University of Sydney has delivered photonic chips that slow down light, creating the ability to produce a single photon of light with increased reliability, which allows for more scalable and smaller optical hardware.

The research is published in the Nature Communications journal, with the team responsible made up of members from Macquarie University, the University of St Andrews, the University of York, and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) based at the University of Sydney, as well as the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

It is easy for us to generate photons at high rates, but it’s much harder to ensure they come out one by one, because photons are gregarious by nature and love to bunch together, said lead author of the research article Matthew Collins, a PhD student at CUDOS.

For that reason, the quantum science community has been waiting over a decade for a compact optical chip that delivers exactly one photon at a time at very high rates — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Rights, Technology

Palantir Technologies defence contracts in Canberra

On the fourth floor of an office building on Northbourne Avenue, in what passes for Canberra’s CBD, is an outpost of a much talked-about company that has so far gone under the radar in Australia. It is, however, unlikely that many Australians have avoided the company’s forensic gaze.

Palantir Technologies was established in 2002 by a clutch of US information analysts to explore the potential of datamining tools developed for Paypal. The CIA was a foundation investor, providing $2 million, and for several years its only customer. However, unusually for a company that has become a key vendor to the US military-industrial complex, its senior ranks are almost entirely men (and they’re pretty much all men) with Silicon Valley-style IT or financial backgrounds; the revolving door to the US military and foreign policy establishments that typifies most defence and intelligence companies doesn’t appear to be in full operation (yet).

Palantir does datamining, and does it very, very well. So well, in fact, that the US government and major companies have hungrily devoured its data search tools (for an account of what exactly its products can do, try this). As we’ve since learnt courtesy of Edward Snowden, agencies like the NSA are compiling vast amounts of personal information on most of the planet’s internet users. Palantir’s products help agencies effectively search through huge amounts of different information and collate them with other agencies’ data. It has rapidly become a key player in the establishment of the US surveillance state and a poster boy for what smart people and lots of computing power can do to strip away privacy and garner intelligence down to the individual level. And it has rapidly become an attractive investment: two weeks ago the company, now estimated to be worth $8 billion, announced it had raised nearly $200 million in capital.

And behind a unicorns-and-rainbows façade (Palantir is a Lord of the Rings reference; its California headquarters is called the Shire) is a ruthless player in cybersecurity. In 2011, as Crikey reported at the time, the company joined with Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal to develop a multi-million dollar plant to disrupt WikiLeaks and discredit journalist Glenn Greenwald. The plan, only revealed when Anonymous hacked into the IT system of HBGary Federal’s Aaron Barr, involved proposals to feed false information to WikiLeaks, break into its servers and wage a media campaign against it and Greenwald — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology, World

The most embarrassing news interview ever

This must be the most cringe-inducing interview by a senior journalist I’ve ever seen.

It’s conducted by Kirsty Wark, one of the BBC’s top presenters, and takes places on Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship nightly current affairs programme.

It truly makes me more ashamed of the profession of journalism than I already was — and I didn’t think that was possible.

Throughout the interview, Wark abandons even the pretence of doing what journalism is supposed to be about: interrogating the centres of power and holding them to account.

Instead Wark mimics adversarial journalism by interrogating the US journalist Glenn Greenwald about his role in the NSA leaks, as though she’s a novice MI5 recruit. To do this she has to parrot British government misinformation and fire at him questions so childish even she seems to realise half way through them how embarrassing they are — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

Google’s Gmail scanning unclear to users, judge finds

A US federal judge allowed a class-action suit against Google to proceed, saying the company’s terms of service are unclear when describing how it scans Gmail content in order to deliver advertisements.

Google had filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which alleges that the company intercepted and read email while in transit in order to deliver advertisements and create user profiles and models since 2008. The plaintiffs alleged the company violated federal and state wire-tapping laws.

The suit, which is being heard in US District Court for the Northern District of California, further contends non-Gmail users who sent email to Gmail users were also subject to illegal interception.

In her ruling Thursday, US District Judge Lucy H Koh wrote that Google’s terms of service and privacy policies do not explicitly say that the company intercepts users’ email to create user profiles or deliver targeted advertising.

Although Google revised its terms of service and privacy policy in 2012, Koh wrote that a reasonable Gmail user who read the Privacy Policies would not have necessarily understood that her emails were being intercepted to create user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, Technology

A central cooling plant in Google’s Douglas County, Georgia, data centre — via Wired.com

Photo: Connie Zhou

Politics, Rights, Technology

The corrosive effect of surveillance secrecy

When surveillance and national security supporters look back on the last three years at some remove, one of the lessons they may learn is that the reflexive obsession with secrecy cruelled the capacity of security institutions and governments to obtain any sort of social licence for surveillance, or even of basic trust.

The obsession of the United States government with secrecy has long since reached Kafkaesque proportions — but if you’re the victim of one of its campaigns, it is nightmarish.

Two weeks ago the US Department of Justice sought and obtained a gag order to prevent American journalist and sometime Crikey contributor Barrett Brown and his legal team from discussing his prosecution. Brown, who revealed many connections between the US government and the growing cyber military-industrial complex in the US, faces an array of charges with sentences totalling over 100 years in prison, including for sharing a link online.

At the point where even the US mainstream media had worked out that the prosecution of Brown was another example of the Obama administration’s war on investigative journalism, the administration decided enough was enough and secured a gag order to undermine the growing profile of Brown’s case. The prosecution argued the gag order was necessary because Brown was manipulating the public. This is Barack Obama’s America, where telling the world about your Kafkaesque prosecution for sharing a link is manipulating the public.

The gag order is symptomatic of the way this administration does business: it imposes secrecy requirements on others, while of course retaining the right to reveal whatever secret information it feels is in its own interests. An Obama administration gag order is routine in cases where it has pursued journalists and whistle-blowers, or its agencies have demanded the co-operation of IT and communications companies to spy on Americans, or provide back doors into their products to allow spying.

One of the genuinely amusing moments in the Obama administration’s hysterical overreaction to Edward Snowden was when Obama claimed in all seriousness that he had been planning to initiate a debate about the extensive powers that enabled the National Security Agency to spy on both Americans and the rest of us, but Edward Snowden came along and ruined his plans by revealing the true extent of surveillance — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Health, Science, Technology

Bionic eye testing moves into the field

A backpack computer has been developed to let people test a bionic eye so the implant can be perfected for those needing it.

The bionic eye project aims to give some vision to people who have lost their sight by transmitting images from a pair of glasses which have been fitted with a video camera.

Those images go to the implant, which stimulates the optic nerve.

The prototype computer will simulate the experience for testers and help researchers develop the algorithms required for mobility and orientation.

The head of the wearable computer laboratory at the University of South Australia, Bruce Thomas, says the testing project involves equipment readily available which has been modified and made easy to use for practical medical research — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Craft, Technology

Tooth Fairy Tooth Transport / Jeff Highsmith

When my older son discovered his first wiggly tooth, I realised that I had the chance to define the Tooth Fairy experience for another generation. As I pondered how the Tooth Fairy would collect our family’s teeth, it occurred to me that she has an awful lot of teeth to gather, especially considering the ever-rising world population. It seemed prudent to figure out a way to send the teeth to her for processing, rather than make her visit the homes of all 7,103,000,000 people on Earth. As such, I installed a pneumatic transport system (as at the bank drive-through) in my house, for the purpose of sending teeth to the Tooth Fairy, and receiving renumeration back from her.

The Raspberry Pi serves up an interface that I built using Hype, which allowed me to quickly animate the movement of the capsule on the map and the spinning tooth on the Under Review page. I expect to eventually use the pneumatic transport system to exchange messages and objects with the other creatures that come at night, as my son calls them, so I included buttons for Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. The HTML5 interface can play sounds, too, if it is Added to Home Screen as a web app — via Youtube

Rights, Technology

The Child Exchange

Reuters investigative reporter Megan Twohey spent 18 months examining how American parents use the Internet to find new families for children they regret adopting. Reporters identified eight online bulletin boards where participants advertised unwanted children, often international adoptees, as part of an informal practice that’s called private re-homing. Reuters data journalist Ryan McNeill worked with Twohey and reporter Robin Respaut to analyse 5,029 posts from one of the bulletin boards, a Yahoo group called Adopting-from-Disruption.

Separately, Reuters examined almost two dozen cases from across the United States in which adopted children were privately re-homed. Twohey reviewed thousands of pages of records, many of them confidential, from law enforcement and child welfare agencies. In scores of interviews, reporters talked with parents who gave away or took in children, the facilitators who helped them, organisations that participated in re-homing, and experts concerned about the risks posed to the children and the legality of the custody transfers. Twohey also interviewed children themselves. They talked about being brought to America, discarded by their adoptive parents and moved from home to home — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Politics, Rights, Technology

Whistleblower reveals Australia’s spy agency has access to internet codes

Australia’s electronic spy agency reportedly has access to a top secret program that has successfully cracked the encryption used by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their emails, phone calls and online business transactions.

Documents disclosed by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal the program run by the US National Security Agency, codenamed Bullrun, has been used to secretly descramble high-level internet security systems globally.

They show the NSA and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have successfully cracked the encryption used in personal communications such as email and telephone calls as well as global commerce and banking systems.

An undated briefing sheet on the program, provided to British analysts when they are cleared for access to Bullrun, was published on Friday in The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers.

It states that the Australian Signals Directorate — until recently called the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) – was expected to be granted access — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Nokia is dead, Newkia rises from its ashes

Nokia’s fate would have been a lot different today if it had taken the Android route, and this is what freshly minted company — aptly named Newkia — plans to do by acquiring as much of Nokia’s know-how as possible.

Speaking to ZDNet in an interview Thursday, Thomas Zilliacus, executive chairman and founder of Mobile FutureWorks, did not mince his words when asked about his views on Microsoft’s US$7.2 billion deal to buy out Nokia’s devices and services unit. The deal reflects the complete failure of the Windows strategy Stephen Elop chose when he was appointed Nokia CEO some two years ago.

Nokia, which only three years ago was the world’s runaway market leader in mobile phones, is today a small and insignificant brand, he said, noting that the purchase price announced yesterday represented just 2 percent of Nokia’s market cap over 10 years ago — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rights, Technology

NSA Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the NSA wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the NSA invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own back door in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.

The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, super-fast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.

The NSA hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door. And the agency used its influence as the world’s most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world.

For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies, said a 2010 memo describing a briefing about NSA accomplishments for employees of its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.

When the British analysts, who often work side by side with NSA officers, were first told about the program, another memo said, those not already briefed were gobsmacked!

An intelligence budget document makes clear that the effort is still going strong. We are investing in ground-breaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit Internet traffic, the director of national intelligence, James R Clapper Jr, wrote in his budget request for the current year — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Entertainment, Rights, Technology

Just call the NSA / Bahram Sadeghi

The NSA is in dire need of customer service training — at least in the case of Bahram Sadeghi, a Dutch-Iranian filmmaker who decided to call the surveillance agency for help after one of his e-mails was accidentally deleted. In a three-minute exchange with NSA spokespeople, Sadeghi manages to confound one with his request (you can almost hear the relief in her voice when Sadeghi asks to speak to someone else) and gets a curt reply from another — via The Washington Post

Politics, Rights, Technology

Coalition backflips on internet filtering policy

Less than five hours after releasing the policy (now deleted but original PDF here), the Coalition is seeking to deny that a policy around opt-out internet filtering is the current Coalition policy, despite Liberal MP, and author of the policy, Paul Fletcher speaking to ZDNet confirming the policy.

Fletcher confirmed to ZDNet tonight that the reason the Coalition had decided to go down this path was to take out the confusion for parents who are unsure who or where to get filtering products from.

What we intend to do is work with the industry to arrive at an arrangement where the default is that there is a filter in the home device, the home network, that is very similar to the filters that are available today. This is very much about protecting children from inappropriate content, particularly pornography, he said.

The key thing is it is an opt-out, so it will be open to the customer to call up and say ‘look I don’t want this’ and indeed we will work with the industry to make this a streamlined and efficient process, he said.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said tonight that opt-out internet filtering is not the policy of the Coalition

The Coalition has never supported mandatory internet filtering. Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it, he said — via redwolf.newsvine.com