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


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


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


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


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

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

Politics, Rights, Technology

Australian opposition vows to implement internet filter by default

A Liberal National government in Australia would adopt the abandoned its plans for mandatory internet filtering, and three years after the Coalition announced that it would not support a policy for mandatory internet filtering.

The announcement, buried in an AU$10 million online safety policy published online today (PDF) announces that under a Tony Abbott government, Australians would have adult content filters installed on their phone services and fixed internet services unless they opt out — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Business, Technology

Microsoft to buy Nokia’s devices, services unit for $7.2B

Microsoft announced on Monday it will acquire Nokia’s devices and services unit in a bid to accelerate the software giant’s Windows ecosystem.

The deal is set to go ahead for about $5 billion (€3.79bn), with an additional $2.17 billion (€1.65bn) to be spent on licensing Nokia’s patents.

Boards of both companies agreed the transaction, which will see the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant purchase the Espoo, Finland-based company’s phone making unit, patents, and license and use its mapping services — via redwolf.newsvine.com


A Data Broker Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain

It can be disconcerting to learn what, not to mention how much, marketers know about us. Consider a consumer like Scott E Howe.

The Acxiom Corporation, a marketing technology company that has amassed details on the household make-up, financial means, shopping preferences and leisure pursuits of a majority of adults in the United States, knows that Mr Howe is 45, married with children, the owner of a house in the 2,500-square-foot range, and is interested, among other things, in tennis, domestic travel, cooking, crafts, sweepstakes and contests. Those intimate details, Mr Howe says, are entirely accurate.

I am crazy about that stuff, he says of the sweepstakes and contests.

Mr Howe is one of the first Americans to get a detailed glimpse of his own marketing profile because he happens to be the chief executive of Acxiom. But most consumers never learn the specific pieces of information that have been compiled about them by marketers.

That is about to change. Acxiom, one of the most secretive and prolific collectors of consumer information, is embarking on a novel public relations strategy: openness. On Wednesday, it plans to unveil a free Web site where United States consumers can view some of the information the company has collected about them, just as Mr Howe did.

The data on the site, called AbouttheData.com, includes biographical facts, like education level, marital status and number of children in a household; homeownership status, including mortgage amount and property size; vehicle details, like the make, model and year; and economic data, like whether a household member is an active investor with a portfolio greater than $150,000. Also available will be the consumer’s recent purchase categories, like plus-size clothing or sports products; and household interests like golf, dogs, text-messaging, cholesterol-related products or charities.

Each entry comes with an icon that visitors can click to learn about the sources behind the data — whether self-reported consumer surveys, warranty registrations or public records like voter files. The program also lets people correct or suppress individual data elements, or to opt out entirely of having Acxiom collect and store marketing data about them — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Parallels Access recreates Windows and Mac software as tablet apps for the iPad

Parallels has released an app that allows Windows and Mac OS X software to be used on the iPad.

Parallels Access customises the way apps are launched and how they respond to make them better suited to a touchscreen device.

Mac and Windows apps are run through a launcher, which presents each one as a large touchscreen icon. The launcher is automatically populated but apps can be added or removed.

Apps launch in full screen, with Access adding support for touchscreen taps and swipes, and a magnifying glass. When a user fails to tap squarely on a screen button, the app makes a best guess at the most likely intended action, making it easier to use touch with tiny buttons and other UI features designed for a mouse pointer.

Users can switch between running apps by tapping to bring up a quick bar.

Words and graphics can also be copied from within apps and pasted to other iPad apps or between Mac and Windows apps, using iPad-native select and drag copying.

Access works by streaming applications from a Mac or Windows PC over a network to the iPad. The machine can’t be used while the connection is active. Parallels Access can operate on both 3G and wi-fi networks but Parallels recommends using a broadband wi-fi network for a more stable connection — via redwolf.newsvine.com

New Zealand bans software patents

New Zealand has finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents after five years of debate, delay and intense lobbying from multinational software vendors.

Aptly-named Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernisation of patents law, saying it marked a significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand.

By clarifying the definition of what can be patented, we are giving New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations, Foss said.

The nearly unanimous passage of the Bill was also greeted by Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) chief executive Paul Matthews, who congratulated Foss for listening to the IT industry and ensuring software patents were excluded — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Hackers Controlled The New York Times By Breaking Into A Leading Australian Web Service

A group claiming to be the Syrian Electronic Army was able to take down the New York Times on Tuesday by hacking into a web site in Australia, The New York Times said in a statement.

The group gained control of the Times’ domain name registrar, Melbourne IT. A domain name registrar is a site that sells domain names and controls a domain name server (DNS). DNS is the server that sends you to a web page when you type a URL address into your browser, such as nytimes.com.

By hacking into the DNS server, the group could redirect the traffic going to nytimes.com. The Syrian Electronic Army also said it hacked Twitter. Twitter reportedly also uses Melbourne IT.

Melbourne IT is the dominant provider of domain name services in Australia, partly because it long had the monopoly on allowing the registration of .com.au site names. It claims to have more than 350,000 worldwide customers. It current CEO announced plans to step down yesterday — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Forced Exposure

The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.

There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.

What to do?

What to do? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure it out. And the conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it’s good to be realistic. And the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Cameron Proves Greenwald Right

Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.

What has kept me from embracing it entirely has been the absence of any real proof than any deliberate abuse has taken place and arguments that it has helped prevent terror attacks. This may be too forgiving a standard. If a system is ripe for abuse, history tells us the only question is not if such abuse will occur, but when. So it is a strange and awful irony that the Coalition government in Britain has today clinched the case for Glenn — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship

How to turn a democracy into a STASI authoritarian state in 10 easy steps:

  1. Misuse the concept of a Top Secret government document (say, the date of D-Day) and extend classification to trillions of mundane documents a year
  2. Classify all government crimes and violations of the Constitution as secret
  3. Create a class of 4.5 million privileged individuals, many of them corporate employees, with access to classified documents but allege it is illegal for public to see leaked classified documents
  4. Spy on the public in violation of the Constitution
  5. Classify environmental activists as terrorists while allowing Big Coal and Big Oil to pollute and destroy the planet
  6. Share info gained from NSA spying on public with DEA, FBI, local law enforcement to protect pharmaceuticals & liquor industry from competition from pot, or to protect polluters from activists
  7. Falsify to judges and defence attorneys how allegedly incriminating info was discovered
  8. Lie and deny to Congress you are spying on the public
  9. Criminalise the revelation of government crimes and spying as Espionage
  10. Further criminalise whistleblowing as Terrorism, have compradors arrest innocent people, detain them, and confiscate personal effects with no cause or warrant (i.e. David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald)

Presto, what looks like a democracy is really an authoritarian state ruling on its own behalf and that of 2000 corporations, databasing the activities of 312 million innocent citizens and actively helping destroy the planet while forestalling climate activism — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Jetpack cleared by New Zealand authorities to carry a pilot

The New Zealand makers of a one-person jetpack hope to have it on sale by the middle of next year.

The Martin Aircraft company says its jetpack can reach speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour and soar 1 kilometre high.

The Christchurch-based firm has been testing its prototype 12 via remote control.

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority said the jetpack has now been issued with an experimental flight permit for development test flying, which allows someone to pilot the aircraft.

Martin Aircraft says it has had 10,000 enquiries from people keen to take to the skies, but it is likely to first sell the jetpacks to government and emergency agencies involved in search and rescue and defence.

Chief executive Peter Coker said a simpler model aimed at the general public is expected to be on the market in 2015 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation

At 6:30 am this morning my time — 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US — I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a security official at Heathrow airport. He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been detained at the London airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the security official called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official — who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 — said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. The Guardian has the full story here — via redwolf.newsvine.com

NSA breached privacy rules thousands of times, leaked documents show

The US National Security Agency (NSA) broke privacy rules thousands of times in the past two years, according to an internal audit leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The internal documents, cited in the Washington Post, cast fresh doubts on pledges from US president Barack Obama to prevent abuses and protect Americans’ civil rights.

The documents were leaked by Snowden, a former NSA contractor who has exposed the massive scale of America’s surveillance of phone records and internet traffic in recent leaks to the media.

Snowden, who describes himself as a whistleblower for civil liberties, has obtained asylum in Russia, despite appeals from Washington for extradition on espionage charges — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Storm Rages After Google Argues Against Gmail Privacy

Privacy? What privacy? That attitude by Google in a recent court filing is causing a storm of controversy that shows at least some users have not yet given up on their right to privacy.

In a motion to dismiss a class-action suit in which Google was accused of violating federal and state wiretap laws because its ad service automatically scans e-mails to determine targeting, the technology giant seemed to have put its foot into it.

Google said that just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based e-mail today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery. ECS stands for electronic communications service — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Study finds online commentards easily duped, manipulated

Internet forums often use reader moderation to determine which comments are the best, but new research suggests that tallying up and down votes for online comments is a poor measure of those comments’ actual quality.

Oh, you may think you know who’s brilliant and who’s a troll in our forums, dear Reg reader — but according to a paper published in the journal Science on Friday, the so-called wisdom of crowds can often be misleading.

When you rate things online, you are often exposed to others’ ratings (either aggregated or listed individually), Sean Taylor, one of the paper’s authors, wrote in a blog post describing the research. “It turns out that this does impact rating decisions and creates path dependence in ratings.”

Specifically, forum comments that receive positive votes are disproportionately more likely to be up-voted again, while comments that receive negative votes usually have those votes negated by positive ones shortly thereafter.

In other words, when people see that a comment has been up-voted, they tend to go along with the moderation in a herd-like fashion. When a comment has been down-voted, on the other hand, they tend to want to correct the moderation, producing an asymmetrically skewed snapshot of opinion — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Email service thought used by Edward Snowden shuts down amid fight over customer information

An encrypted email service believed to have been used by American fugitive Edward Snowden has shut down abruptly, amid a legal fight that appeared to involve US government attempts to win access to customer information.

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison wrote in a letter posted on the Texas-based company’s website.

Mr Levison said he has decided to suspend operations but was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision.

That matches the period since Snowden went public as the source of media reports detailing secret electronic spying operations by the US National Security Agency.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States, Mr Levison wrote — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Blogs with weakest of the weak passwords hijacked for bot army

Cybercrooks are running a wide-ranging password-guessing attack against some of the most widely used blogging and content management systems on the net.

The so-called Fort Disco cracking campaign began in late May this year and is still ongoing, DDoS mitigation firm Arbor Networks warns. Arbor has identified six command-and-control (C&C) systems associated with Fort Disco that collectively control a botnet of over 25,000 infected Windows servers. More than 6,000 Joomla, WordPress, and Datalife Engine installations have been the victims of password guessing.

Four strains of Windows malware are associated with the campaign, each of which caused infected machines to phone home to a hard-coded command and control domain — via redwolf.newsvine.com

End of an era as Firefox bins blink tag

The blink element, a feature of early web browsers that made text blink on and off, has been banished in the latest version of Firefox.

The element had already been removed from Internet Explorer, was never implemented in Chrome and was ignored by most browser-makers because it never made it into a W3C HTML spec. The W3C even went so far as to add a Blink-killing requirement to its web accessibility guidelines.

Your correspondent has fond memories of using blink in Front Page 95, and may therefore join other blink nostalgia freaks by downloading this Chrome extension that restores its functions to Google’s browser. Or perhaps this code on GitHub that does the same job is a better choice — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Campaign to kill CAPTCHA kicks off

The use of CAPTCHA to combat spam bots is also blocking people with disabilities and the feature should be removed from websites, argues a group of disability organisations.

The completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart, abbreviated as CAPTCHA, is a popular measure deployed by webmasters around the world to prevent spammers from automatically sending unsolicited commercial messages to sites and users. It requires people to interpret characters and numbers that are difficult for machines to parse, and enter these as part of logging in to a site, for instance.

However, the dark side of CAPTCHA is that it hinders people with vision impairments to the point that they cannot use sites. Screen readers and other accessibility tools used by blind people often fail on distorted and illegible CAPTCHA text.

Now, disability groups such as Blind Citizens Australia, Able Australia, Media Access Australia and the Australian Deaf-Blind Council are calling on organisations to stop using CAPTCHA, setting up a petition with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network — via redwolf.newsvine.com

How to Setup Your Own Web Proxy Server For Free with Google App Engine

Do a simple Google search like proxy servers and you’ll find dozens of PHP proxy scripts on the Internet that will help you create proxy servers in minutes for free. The only limitation with PHP based proxies is that you require a web server to host the proxy scripts and second, you also need a domain name to act as an address for your proxy site. If you don’t own a domain or server space, you can still create a personal proxy server for free and that too without requiring any technical knowledge

Why Audio CAPTCHA Doesn’t Solve Accessibility

The biggest issue with audio CAPTCHA is actually the same as with the visual version: just as it’s often hard to see which individual letters are being used, it’s hard to distinguish individual sounds. One of the problems with audio CAPTCHA that I’ve found is similar to the visual CAPTCHA: there’s so much noise behind the words that are being spoken you can’t identify what they are, Hawkins said.

That noise is added to block automated recognition systems, but in this case the cure seems worse than the problem. I pride myself on being a pretty good listener, Hawkins said. Because I’m blind I need to use my hearing in different ways and I find even with that very acute hearing that these audio CAPTCHAs are really difficult to understand.

A secondary problem is that audio CAPTCHAs often use numbers, but doesn’t distinguish them, so it’s impossible to know if you have to type 1 or one or won.

The solution, as we said yesterday, is to ditch CAPTCHA altogether. Sending a verification email is one solution, though that adds an extra step. Another good alternative is asking site users to solve a simple maths problem — an option that works well with screen readers, Hawkins said — via Lifehacker Australia

Amazon.com Founder to Buy The Washington Post

The Washington Post, the venerable newspaper whose reporting ended a presidency and inspired a generation of journalists, is being sold to the founder of Amazon.com, Jeffrey P Bezos, in a surprise deal that has shocked the industry.

Donald E Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Company, told the newspaper’s staff about the sale late Monday afternoon. They had gathered together in the newspaper’s auditorium at the behest of the publisher, Katharine Weymouth.

I, along with Katharine Weymouth and our board of directors, decided to sell only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders), Mr Graham said.

The announcement stressed that Mr Bezos would purchase The Post in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of Amazon, the Internet retailer. The deal includes all of the publishing businesses owned by The Washington Post Company, including the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.

The Washington Post company plans to hold onto Slate magazine, The Root.com and Foreign Policy. According to the release, Mr Bezos has asked Ms. Weymouth to remain at The Post along with Stephen P Hills, president and general manager; Martin Baron, executive editor; and Fred Hiatt, editor of the editorial page — via redwolf.newsvine.com

iiNet to buy Adam Internet for $60 million

Internet company iiNet is to buy Adam Internet for $60 million, after an Adam deal with Telstra fell through last month.

Telstra abandoned the Adam deal after after nearly a year of negotiations and concern expressed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

iiNet said the ACCC already had approved its purchase of Adam and it expected certain conditions on the acquisition to be met by the end of this month.

Adam has about 70,000 broadband subscribers across South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The deal is expected to take iiNet’s broadband customer numbers beyond 900,000 — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Rupert Murdoch Wants To Destroy Australia’s National Broadband Network

With the Australian Federal Election looming, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Australia’s biggest newspapers, is looking to unseat the incumbent Labor government over its centerpiece National Broadband Network policy. The media mogul sees the NBN as a threat to his media empire and has ordered newspapers to attack the project at every opportunity. The NBN seeks to bring 100Mbps Fibre-To-The-Premises internet to 93% of the country with wireless and satellite for the remainder. It currently reaches 4% of the population and is slated to complete in 2021. The conservative opposition has promised to dramatically scale back the project — via Slashdot

The Ecuadorian Library

Back in distant, halcyon 2010, I was asked to write something about Wikileaks and its Cablegate scandal. So, I wrote a rather melancholy essay about how things seemed to me to be going — dreadfully, painfully, like some leaden and ancient Greek tragedy.

In that 2010 essay, I surmised that things were going to get worse before they got any better. Sure enough, things now are lots, lots worse. Much worse than Cablegate ever was.

Cablegate merely kicked the kneecap of the archaic and semi-useless US State Department. But Edward Snowden just strolled out of the Moscow airport, with his Wikileaks personal escort, one month after ripping the pants off the National Security Agency.

You see, as it happens, a good half of my essay The Blast Shack was about the basic problem of the NSA. Here was the takeaway from that essay back in 2010:

One minute’s thought would reveal that a vast, opaque electronic spy outfit like the National Security Agency is exceedingly dangerous to democracy. Really, it is. The NSA clearly violates all kinds of elementary principles of constitutional design. The NSA is the very antithesis of transparency, and accountability, and free elections, and free expression, and separation of powers — in other words, the NSA is a kind of giant, grown-up, anti-Wikileaks. And it always has been. And we’re used to that. We pay no mind.

Well, dear readers, nowadays we do pay that some mind. Yes, that was then, while this is now.

So, I no longer feel that leaden discontent and those grave misgivings that I felt in 2010. The situation now is frankly exhilarating. It no longer has that look-and-feel of the Edgar Allen Poe House of Usher. This scene is straight outta Nikolai Gogol.

This is the kind of comedic situation that Russians find hilarious. I mean, sure it’s plenty bad and all that, PRISM, XKeyScore, show trials, surveillance, threats to what’s left of journalism, sure, I get all that, I’m properly concerned. None of that stops it from being hilarious.

Few geopolitical situations can ever give the Russians a full, free, rib-busting belly laugh. This one sure does — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Seizing personal data without reasonable suspicion

How would you feel if the police stopped you on a whim, took your phone, your laptop, your digital camera, your MP3 player, your USB sticks and your memory cards then copied everything on them?

How would you feel if they told you they were going to keep all your photographs, your documents, your address book, your financial data, your browsing history, your emails, your chat logs, your electronic diary, your music and recordings and anything else they liked for at least six years — indeed maybe they’d keep them until you reached the age of a hundred in case they might prove useful one day?

How would you feel if they then demanded all of your passwords and threatened you with years in jail if you refused to hand them over?

Welcome to Britain.

These are the rights granted to the police at the border controls of this country.

Within the UK, police officers are authorized to seize phones and download information only after making an arrest. The border control officers have no such limitations.

Anyone entering or leaving the UK faces this possible treatment under port powers contained in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000. No prior authorization is needed to stop you and there does not need to be any suspicion. Your data can be kept even if you are not arrested and the police can find no evidence of any crime — via redwolf.newsvine.com