Bionic eye prototype unveiled by Victorian scientists and designers

A team of Australian industrial designers and scientists have unveiled their prototype for the world’s first bionic eye.

It is hoped the device, which involves a microchip implanted in the skull and a digital camera attached to a pair of glasses, will allow recipients to see the outlines of their surroundings.

If successful, the bionic eye has the potential to help over 85 per cent of those people classified as legally blind.

With trials beginning next year, Monash University’s Professor Mark Armstrong says the bionic eye should give recipients a degree of extra mobility — via

Tech giants condemn US spying program PRISM, deny giving authorities back door

Some of the world’s biggest internet giants have condemned online spying and the PRISM surveillance program run by the US’s National Security Agency (NSA).

This week, The Guardian newspaper revealed details of the PRISM program, while The Washingston Post claimed federal authorities have access to the central servers of many technology companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL, Skype (Microsoft), PalTalk and YouTube (Google).

In a number of similarly worded statements the technology companies responded denying US government agencies had direct access to its servers and data.

The bosses of Google and Facebook denied having ever heard of the PRISM program before the Washington Post report — via

US secretly tapping into web giants’ servers: report

US intelligence agencies are accessing the servers of nine Internet giants as part of a secret data mining program likely to fuel fresh debate about government surveillance, it was reported Thursday.

The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI had direct access to servers which allowed them to track an individual’s web presence via audio, video, photographs, emails and connection logs.

Some of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley were involved in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube, reports said.

The newspaper cited details of a briefing on the top secret program — known as PRISM — intended for analysts at the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate in April — via

Australia’s de-facto Internet filter may block 250k sites

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), has told a hearing of the Australian Parliament’s Senate Estimates committee that its attempt to block access to the IP address of one investment scam site could have blocked 250,000 sites in total.

In its opening statement to the committee (Crikey has a copy here), ASIC said that in addition to the blocking of an IP address that took out 1,200 sites hosted at the same address, a similar request in March blocked 250,000 sites. In its defence, the commission said most of the URLs hosted at the target IP appear to contain no substantive content and that fewer than 1,000 active sites had been affected (El Reg presumes that the remaining 249,000 were parked domains) — via

Cashout Service for Ransomware Scammers

There are 1,001 ways to swindle people online, but the hardest part for crooks is converting those ill-gotten gains into cash. A new service catering to purveyors of ransomware — malware that hijacks PCs until victims pay a ransom — levees a hefty fee for laundering funds from these scams, and it does so by abusing a legitimate Web site that allows betting on dog and horse races in the United States.

Ransomware is most often distributed via hacked or malicious sites that exploit browser vulnerabilities. Typically, these scams impersonate the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI (or the equivalent federal investigative authority in the victim’s country) and try to frighten people into paying fines to avoid prosecution for supposedly downloading child pornography and pirated content.

Ransomware locks the victim’s PC until he either pays the ransom or finds a way to remove the malware. Victims are instructed to pay the ransom by purchasing a prepaid MoneyPak card, sold at everything from Walgreens to Wal-Mart (some scams tell victims to pay using a PaySafe or Ukash card). Victims are then told to send the attackers a 14-digit voucher code that allows the bad guys to redeem those MoneyPak vouchers for cash.

Trouble is, taking funds off of a MoneyPak requires either spending it at stores that accept it, or hooking it up to a US bank account, to PayPal, or to a prepaid Visa or Mastercard. What’s more, most miscreants who are even halfway competent at spreading ransomware can expect to collect dozens of MoneyPak codes per day, so cashing out via the above-mentioned methods simply does not scale well for successful bad guys (particularly those who live outside of the United States) — via

Australia, your lack of cyber transparency disturbs me

Australia’s security agencies are amongst the most secretive on the planet, far more so than their counterparts in the US and UK.

Why is this?

Four Corners journalist Andrew Fowler was told that it’s down to Australia’s junior relationship with its historical allies, the UK and then the US.

“We, the Australians, look after other people’s secrets, and so we have to prove we are more able to look after their secrets than anybody else … It’s a way of explaining in some way this rather, I suppose you could say, closed shop,” he told the BCC World Service program World Have Your Say (MP3).

Whether the explanation Fowler was given is true or not, this culture of extreme secrecy leads to an information vacuum.

Is China trying to hack Australian government agencies? Yes, of course. Everyone is hacking everyone else. That’s how espionage is done these days. But how successful were they? Who knows. Does the government have a valid case for more surveillance? Again, who knows.

Without hard facts, critics and supporters alike are free to assume the worst — either that incompetent security services are riddled with hacks while pursuing a massive power grab, or that Chinese hackers will bring the country to its knees unless we immediately lock down the internet and log everything. The truth is presumably somewhere in the middle, but without facts, a nuanced debate is impossible.

And without facts, we’re free to judge the government’s credibility by the hand-waving cyber language they use. I’ve already given my opinion on all this cybering and the cyberthreat beat-up, but things reached a new low this week with the coining of cybercrisis.

While the government continues to play secret squirrel, the infosec industry is getting into transparency — via

National security matter: Third agency caught unilaterally blocking web sites

The Federal Government has acknowledged that a third agency, beyond ASIC and the Australian Federal Police, has been using the Telecommunications Act to unilaterally block certain websites, with bureaucrats refusing to disclose which agency was involved, apart from stating that the issue was a national security matter.

In Budget Estimates hearings last night in Canberra, broadband department deputy secretary Abul Rizvi revealed under questioning by Greens Senator and Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam that a third agency, “in the Attorney-General’s portfolio” was also using the notices to order websites blocked.

However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy interjected in the questioning and refused to answer further questions about which specific agency or department was involved, requesting that Ludlam pose his questions on the issue to the Attorney-General’s Department directly.

In a separate hearing this morning, Ludlam posed similar questions to the AFP about the issue, at a hearing attended by bureaucrats from the Attorney-General’s Department, such as departmental secretary Roger Wilkins. There’s one other agency also using it, Ludlam said. The full video is available online. Could someone at the table illuminate me as to who that is?

Wilkins replied: We don’t comment on national security matters, Senator. Ludlam replied that he hadn’t asked whether the website blocking was a national security matter. It is a national security matter; we’re not commenting on it, Wilkins added.

The comment is likely to raise fears that spy agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was the agency involved in the blocking activity, as it falls under the purview of the Attorney-General’s Department. However there are also a large number of other agencies under that portfolio; listed here on the website of the department — via

Australia’s de-facto net filter has zero regulation

A couple of weeks back, Australia’s Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) made a mistake: by trying to take down a Website promoting an investment scam, it accidentally blocked 1,200 sites using the same IP address as the scammer.

ASIC was able to attempt the take down thanks to a Section 313 Notice, a legislative instrument that instructs telcos and ISPs to block sites that break Australian laws.

It has now emerged that there is little or no oversight or transparency in how such notices are issued, who’s allowed to request one or when they’re permitted to make such requests. That means, as a Senate Estimates hearing was told, that nobody really knows exactly how many agencies might have the right to use the notices to, as Greens Senator Scott Ludlam put it, knock a site off the Internet.

A Section 313 notice refers to this section of the Telecommunications Act. The act requires carriers to try and prevent their networks being used to commit offenses, and requires them to assist an undefined list of officers and authorities of the Commonwealth, states and territories in preventing crimes using their networks.

Unfortunately, when the legislation was framed, the legislators had in mind telephones and fax machines, not the Internet. Its application to the Internet was the brainchild of Senator Stephen Conroy, as a way to implement the Interpol worst of the worst Internet blacklist (which mainly concerns child pornography) without having to pass new legislation — via

Contributor Sues Newsvine For Failing To Share Ad Revenue

A Web user who contributed to’s citizen journalism site Newsvine has sued the company for allegedly depriving her of money she earned through a revenue share program.

Kathleen Wilkes of Wisconsin says in her lawsuit that she earned around $180 from Newsvine’s prior business model, which paid users 90% of ad revenue associated with material they posted to the site. Wilkes says she requested payment in February, but that the company refused to pay her.

Newsvine quietly revised its revenue-sharing program late last year, and as part of that shift, required contributors to claim any proceeds they were owed by the end of the year, Wilkes alleges. Newsvine informed users about the change by posting an article to its home page, according to the complaint.

But Wilkes says that like many other users, she never saw that article, which ran in November and carried the headline Newsvine Now Supports Google AdSense. She also says the company buried the most critical information at the end of the article. The last two sentences of the article said that November was the last month that users would receive 90% of ad revenue. Newsviners must cash out — or donate — their earnings Monday, December 31st, the article ended — via

IRS sued for seizing 60 million medical records

A healthcare provider has sued the Internal Revenue Service and 15 of its agents, charging they wrongfully seized 60 million medical records from 10 million Americans.

The name of the provider is not yet known, United Press International said. But Courthouse News Service said the suit claims the agency violated the Fourth Amendment in 2011, when agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee — and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges.

The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said, as reported by UPI.

Despite knowing that these medical records were not within the scope of the warrant, defendants threatened to ‘rip’ the servers containing the medical data out of the building if IT personnel would not voluntarily hand them over, the complaint states, UPI reported.

The suit also says IRS agents seized workers’ phones and telephone data — more violations of the warrant, UPI reported — via

Yahoo to buy Tumblr for $1.1bn

Yahoo’s board has approved a deal to buy New York-based blogging service Tumblr for $1.1bn (£725m), US media reports say.

The acquisition is expected to be announced as early as Monday.

The deal was a foregone conclusion and was unanimously voted for by the board, tech blog AllThingsD reported, citing sources close to the matter.

If confirmed, it will be CEO Marissa Mayer’s largest deal since taking the helm of Yahoo in July 2012.

Neither Yahoo nor Tumblr responded immediately to requests for comment.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Tumblr would continue to operate as an independent business, the Wall Street Journal said, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

The company is currently run by David Karp, a 26-year-old New Yorker who founded Tumblr in 2007, and he is expected to remain in his role.

Analysts say that by acquiring Tumblr, Yahoo will gain a larger social media presence and enhance its ability to attract younger audiences in its battle with internet rivals Google and Facebook — via

Google Wallet makes payments possible through Gmail

Google is integrating Gmail with Google Wallet so that users can send payments as a mail attachment, even if the recipient doesn’t have a Gmail address.

To send money through Gmail, the user composing the email has to hover over the attachment paperclip, click a $ icon to attach money to the message, enter the amount, and send the mail, Travis Green, Google Wallet product manager, said in a blog post on Wednesday. The recipient will receive an email confirmation that the money was sent immediately after.

The service is free if the user’s bank account is linked to Google Wallet or a Google Wallet balance is used to make the payment. Payments can also be made with linked credit and debit cards for a flat fee of 2.9 percent per transaction, for a minimum of US$0.30 — via

Reckless Oz regulator runs roughshod over rights

…if Section 313 sounds wide ranging, that’s because it is, and its use by ASIC is rather different.

ASIC has warned consumers about the activities of a cold-calling investment scam using the name ‘Global Capital Wealth’ … The scammers offer consumers opportunities to invest in a managed share trading fund, it wrote in a media release dated 22 March.

The scammers operate websites at and, which purport to provide share trading services. ASIC has already blocked access to these websites.

ASIC’s concern is that the scammers, via their websites, promotional material, and cold calling, appear to be fraudulently using the Australian business number (ABN), Australian company number (ACN), and Australian financial services (AFS) licence number of Global Capital Resources Pty Ltd, a licensed financial services business with no connections to Global Capital Wealth.

Life and limb are not under threat here, nor are young children being abused. The only risk is about money — and, even then, the only people at risk are those too greedy or too stupid to realise that the deals being offered are too good to be true. That’s quite a bit of scope creep — especially since ASIC only has concern about what the sites appear to do.

ASIC made the mistake of requesting that access be blocked to the sites’ internet protocol (IP) address. More than 1,200 other sites used the same address — a common situation with commodity-grade shared internet hosting. That ASIC didn’t know this demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of how the internet works. It’s like putting road blocks around an entire suburb because one shop is selling dodgy merchandise. And the problem was compounded by not providing an explanatory web page — via

Interpol filter scope creep: ASIC ordering unilateral website blocks

The Federal Government has confirmed its financial regulator has started requiring Australian Internet service providers to block websites suspected of providing fraudulent financial opportunities, in a move which appears to also open the door for other government agencies to unilaterally block sites they deem questionable in their own portfolios.

The news came tonight in a statement issued by the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, following a controversial event in April which saw some 1,200 websites wrongfully blocked by several of Australia’s major Internet service providers.

On 12 April, Melbourne publication the Melbourne Times Weekly reported that more than 1,200 websites, including one belonging to independent learning organisation Melbourne Free University, might have been blocked by the Australian Government. At the time, Melbourne Free University was reportedly told by its ISP, Exetel, that the IP address hosting its website had been blocked by Australian authorities. The block lasted from 4 April until 12 April.

Subsequently, the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a media release linking the issue to the Labor Federal Government’s various Internet filtering initiatives, especially the voluntary filtering scheme currently implemented by a number of major ISPs including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone — via

Jail Terms For Unlocking Cellphones Shows The True Black Heart Of The Copyright Monopoly

There is a weak copyright monopoly reform bill happening in the United States Congress at the moment.

This bill is not about the copyright monopoly at all, and at the same time, about everything that the monopoly actually is. It is the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013.

The bill, which was presented to the US Congress three days ago, makes it legal to unlock devices such as phones that you own, and do what you like with them. Let’s take that again, because it is jaw-dropping: the bill reforms the copyright monopoly to make it legal to tinker with objects that you own. It has nothing to do with BitTorrent, MKVs, streaming, or what we normally associate with the activity of sharing culture outside of the copyright monopoly distributions.

The bill is about your ability to take your phone to a different wireless operator. Your own phone, that you bought and paid for. Your legal ability to bring your own property wherever you like, without breaching criminal law and risking jail. How on Odin’s green Earth did this come to have to do with the copyright monopoly?

Few contemporary discussions put the spotlight like this one on how the copyright monopoly is not about rewarding artists, but is a political war on property — on our ability to own the things we paid for. (I won’t say bought, as that implies we actually own them.) The copyright monopoly is dividing the population into a corporate class who gets to control what objects may be used for what purpose, and a subservient consumer class that don’t get to buy or own anything — they just get to think they own things that can only be used in a predefined way, for a steep, monopolised, fixed price, or risk having the police sent after them — via

Worst File-Sharing Pirates Spend 300% More on Content Than Honest Consumers

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has just published a study into the state of online copyright infringement in the UK, with some very interesting conclusions. The researchers found that 10% of the country’;s most prolific infringers are responsible for almost 80% of all infringements carried out online, but with a bonus. These plus an additional 10% of infringers spend 300% more than ‘honest’ consumers who don’t infringe copyright at all — via

Demonoid Resurrected? An Interview With the Admins of

Yesterday the torrent world lit up with news that Demonoid had somehow been resurrected under the new domain However, the site was quickly taken offline by its host in the US who claimed that it was serving up malware. With the site now back online with a new host, TorrentFreak caught up with its admins who tell us they have no malicious intent and simply want to bring a community back to together. While there is still uncertainty, one thing is absolutely clear — they do have the old Demonoid database — via

Light-Up Angler Fish Embroidery / Adafruit Learning System

Light-Up Angler Fish Embroidery / Adafruit Learning System

This is a very simple FLORA project with no soldering — a single NeoPixel lights up on an embroidered angler fish on a pair of shorts. The main board is stitched on the front of the design, in the belly of the fish. A snap is used on the fin as a digital switch, triggering a colour change in the pixel in the angler’s lure. Follow the circuit diagram to stitch up this circuit, and tuck the battery in the pocket — via Adafruit Learning System

Game of Thrones Controversy Ambassador Was Copyright Lawyer

During the past few weeks the US Ambassador to Australia has courted controversy with his opinions of those who download Game of Thrones without paying. Now it’s been revealed that he has more than just a passing interesting in copyright infringement.

Last month US Ambassador Jeffrey L Bleich kicked up a storm when he jumped aboard the Game of Thrones downloading controversy. He singled-out citizens in Australia and appealed to them to stop stealing the show.

Then just a few days later Bleich was back, responding to criticisms from people who felt that an ambassador should have better things to do than worry about a bit of downloading.

Actually, given the overwhelming response to the topic, maybe I haven’t talked about internet piracy enough, he said at the start of a second lengthy Facebook posting on the issue.

Now, thanks to, we have a clearer idea why Bleich might have such a keen interest in the issue of illegal downloading — via

Cray descends to midrange HPC shops with baby XC30 supers

Supercomputer maker Cray had been hinting that it would deliver a new cut-down version of its Cascade XC30 system, and the machine is being unveiled on Tuesday at the Cray User Group meeting in Napa Valley, California.

The XC30-AC machines go into more standard cabinets like those used with the XE5 and XE6 predecessors to the Cascade boxes, but are based on the same Intel Xeon E5 processors and Aries Dragonfly interconnect that the larger XC30-LC machines that were announced last November. The LC is short for liquid-cooled, and you will recall that the big bad Cascade boxes had liquid cooling in the racks and an interesting transverse cooling system — via

Adobe goes all in on the cloud, ditches Creative Suite

The latest version of Adobe’s Creative Suite — the exceedingly popular design, web and multimedia software suite that includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver and Acrobat — will be its last, the company announced at its MAX conference in Los Angeles.

Moving forward, the company will double down on its Creative Cloud software-as-a-service offering, introduced last year.

Creative Suite 6 — the current version of the desktop-based offering — will still be available for purchase, but it is the final version and will not be updated beyond routine maintenance.

Goodbye, CS. Hello, CC — via

Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

The real capabilities and behaviour of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counter-terrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgement of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.

Over the past couple days, cable news tabloid shows such as CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett have been excitingly focused on the possible involvement in the Boston Marathon attack of Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As part of their relentless stream of leaks uncritically disseminated by our Adversarial Press Corps, anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way.

On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:

BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?

CLEMENTE: No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

BURNETT: So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

CLEMENTE: No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.

All of that stuff — meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant — is being captured as we speak — via

Anti-Abuse Ad Uses Lenticular Printing to Show Alternate Photo to Kids

This is a clever awareness campaign by the Mexican organisation Save the Children, which showed the cycle of abuse through powerful, hard-to-stomach photos of children growing into future abusers. The ads were meant to illustrate the statistic that 70 percent of abused children turn into abusing adults.

Spanish organisation the ANAR Foundation (Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk) recently released a campaign that makes similarly powerful use of photography, only they’re taking advantage of the process of lenticular printing to send an offer of help to abused children without alerting their abusers, even if they’re walking together — via

UK.Gov passes Instagram Act: All your pics belong to everyone now

Have you ever uploaded a photo to Facebook, Instagram or Flickr?

If so, you’ll probably want to read this, because the rules on who can exploit your work have now changed radically, overnight.

Amateur and professional illustrators and photographers alike will find themselves ensnared by the changes, the result of lobbying by Silicon Valley and radical bureaucrats and academics. The changes are enacted in the sprawling Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which received Royal Assent last week, and it marks a huge shift in power away from citizens and towards large US corporations.

How so? Previously, and in most of the world today, ownership of your creation is automatic, and legally considered to be an individual’s property. That’s enshrined in the Berne Convention and other international treaties, where it’s considered to be a basic human right. What this means in practice is that you can go after somebody who exploits it without your permission – even if pursuing them is cumbersome and expensive.

The UK coalition government’s new law reverses this human right. When last year Instagram attempted to do something similar, it met a furious backlash. But the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act has sailed through without most amateurs or semi-professionals even realising the consequences — via

Mozilla: government spyware disguising itself as Firefox

Mozilla has called on a commercial spyware company to stop masquerading as its Firefox browser to avoid detection on people’s computers.

The action comes after a report from human rights group Citizen Lab claimed that Gamma International, a controversial surveillance software company, was using Firefox as a mask to hide its FinSpy software, which is used by governments to snoop on citizens.

British-based Gamma disguises its surveillance tool — which can be installed covertly, and then access key-strokes, activate webcams and record Skype calls — as Firefox so that users don’t delete it, Mozilla said.

We’ve sent Gamma a cease and desist letter today demanding that these illegal practices stop immediately, Mozilla said in a blog.

We cannot abide a software company using our name to disguise online surveillance tools that can be — and in several cases actually have been — used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy.

Mozilla stressed that the two software packages remained separate and that FinSpy did not affect Firefox itself or the way the browser operated. Gamma’s software is entirely separate, and only uses our brand and trademarks to lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion, Mozilla said — via

How Many Domain Names Should You Protect?

Right-wing lobbyist group the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) undoubtedly isn’t thrilled that the domain name has been registered by Australian Cat Ladies, a group which shares the same initials but vocally supports marriage equality, a cause the Christian ACL has repeatedly argued against. I’m very willing to enjoy any embarrassment heaped on the narrow-minded bigots at the Christian ACL, but the situation doesn’t demonstrate that all organisations need to register every possible URL associated with their cause.

Advising businesses to register URL variations of their name is a commonplace, often couched in terms of trademark protection. However, it’s not a cost-free business. While .org and .com domain names are relatively cheap, the same isn’t true of country domains.

The value of multiple domains is questionable in a world where the most common search terms include common sites. For many people, the domain name simply isn’t something that registers. In that scenario, registering minor variants seems like a pointless waste of time — via

Google says content removal requests are way up in Russia, Brazil

From July to December of 2012, Google received a record number of content removal requests, both from the United States government and countries such as Russia and Brazil.

In a transparency report issued today, Google’s legal director, Susan Infantino, noted that 2,285 government requests were issued in the second half of last year, up steeply from 1,811 requests in the six months prior. This is the seventh transparency report released by Google, Infantino added.

As we’ve gathered and released more data over time, it’s become increasingly clear that the scope of government attempts to censor content on Google services has grown, Infantino wrote in the report. In more places than ever, we’ve been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services. In this particular time period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticizing government officials or their associates — via

Nick Clegg: Snooper’s Charter isn’t going to happen

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has strongly rejected Home Office plans to massively ramp up surveillance of Brits’ internet activity in a very public rebuttal of Theresa May’s proposals this morning.

The ‘Snooper’s Charter’ isn’t going to happen — the idea that there would be a record kept of all your online activity, Clegg told listeners on his weekly LBC radio show. It won’t happen while Lib Dems are in government. Of course we need to support the police, they have significant powers already which I support them in using.

He added:

This idea of a ‘Snooper’s Charter’ — I think it isn’t workable or proportionate, before repeating it isn’t going to happen — via

Finnish Websites Go Dark to Support a Fair Copyright Law

Since last year the Finnish public had the option to suggest what laws they want to live under.

A recent modification of the national Constitution allows for citizens to make legislative proposals for the Parliament to vote on, providing it gets 50,000 supporters within 6 months.

One of the proposals that has submitted since calls for a fairer copyright law.

Termed To Make Sense of the Copyright Act, the proposal wants to reduce penalties for copyright infringement, increase fair use, and ease the ability for people to make copies of items they already own (for format shifting, or backups) — via

Web’s Most Popular JavaScript Library Drops Support for Older Versions of IE

The popular jQuery JavaScript library has hit a major milestone with the release of jQuery 2.0. The 2.0 release is some 12 percent smaller than its predecessor, but the big news is that jQuery 2.0 drops support for Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8.

Created to simplify the process of writing JavaScript and manipulating HTML, jQuery began life a mere seven years ago, but quickly found favor with developers sick of dealing with cross-browser JavaScript hassles. According to one survey published last year, jQuery turns up on roughly half of all sites on the web.

Will dropping support for older versions of IE change that? Probably not. If your site needs to maintain support for IE 8 and below (or even IE 9 and 10 running in compatibility mode) you’ll just need to stick with jQuery 1.9 or below — via

Excite Mobile found guilty of outrageous customer deception

South Australian mobile phone provider Excite Mobile has been found guilty of false, misleading and unconscionable conduct by the Federal Court after the ACCC took action against the company for faking a debt collection agency, creating a fictional complaints body, and misrepresenting scope of mobile coverage.

The Federal Court ruled Excite acted unconscionably in getting customers onto a 24 month phone contract, and used “undue coercion” when sending fake debt collection letters to 1074 customers, according to a statement by the competition watchdog.

The phone number included on the fake debt collection letters was answered by Excite Mobile staff.

The ACCC said the company had falsely stated on the letters that a court would make the customers pay 20 percent of the debt for failing to pay on time, and would order the repossession of all valuable assets owned by the customer, including children’s toys, to force late-paying customers to hand over the owed amount.

Excite Mobile directors Obie Brown and David Samuel were also found to have created a fake complaints company, called Telecommunications Industry Complaints, to deceive customers into believing their complaints were being handled externally and independently.

Additionally, the company told customers mobile service was available at their premises when it wasn’t, including in indigenous communities — via

Lesley Kemp faces libel suit over Twitter comments

A woman who complained about an unpaid £146 invoice is facing a libel battle that could cost her more than £100,000.

Lesley Kemp, 55, took to Twitter claiming that a company based in the Middle East had failed to pay her promptly for transcription work.

Now the firm is suing Mrs Kemp, of Milton Keynes, for defamation, claiming up to £50,000 in damages and a further £70,000 in costs.

The company, Resolution Productions, based in Qatar, has yet to comment — via

Small blogs to be exempt under press regulation plans

Blogs with a turnover of less than £2m and those with fewer than 10 employees will not be subject to new press regulation, the government says.

The amendments — to go before MPs on Monday — also exempt small firms for whom news is not their core business.

A press watchdog is to be established in England and Wales by royal charter and backed by legislation following the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.

The government said the amendments clarify the position — via

The Search Engine More Dangerous Than Google

Shodan is a search engine that is designed to look for devices on the net that are not really intended to be viewed and used by the general public. Devices include pool filters, skating rink cooling system, and other goodies. Shodan runs 24/7 and collects information on about 500 million connected devices and services each month. It’s stunning what can be found with a simple search on Shodan. Countless traffic lights, security cameras, home automation devices and heating systems are connected to the Internet and easy to spot. Shodan searchers have found control systems for a water park, a gas station, a hotel wine cooler and a crematorium. Cybersecurity researchers have even located command and control systems for nuclear power plants and a particle-accelerating cyclotron by using Shodan … A quick search for default password reveals countless printers, servers and system control devices that use admin as their user name and 1234 as their password. Many more connected systems require no credentials at all — all you need is a Web browser to connect to them — via Slashdot

Sydney train tunnels get phone reception

The NSW government has been working with Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone to install more than 10 kilometres of cabling to provide reception for mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.

The service is undergoing live testing, and will be switched on as early as Monday, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said.

The lack of coverage in our CBD tunnels has been an ongoing concern for customers over many years, and quite frankly an embarrassment for our city, she said — via

Hacked WordPress Plug-in Put On Double, Secret Probation

A plug-in that was pulled from the official WordPress plug-in directory has been restored, but will be monitored closely, after the plug-in’s owner claimed a rogue contractor introduced malicious code into the popular web publishing add-on.

Social Media Widget, a free plug-in for the WordPress blogging platform with more than a million downloads, was restored to the official plugin directory on Thursday, days after it was found injecting WordPress websites with spam links to web sites offering Pay Day Loans. In a post on a support forum for Social Media Widget, Samuel Wood, a WordPress administrator, said that was willing to give the owner and the plug-in, Brendan Sheehan, a second chance — via

French spies do a Barbara Streisand over secret nuke radio base

A Wiki page about a French military base has gone viral after Gallic spooks tried to censor it.

French internal spies at the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur called in a volunteer Wiki editor to their Paris office and ordered him to spike an entry about the Station hertzienne militaire de Pierre-sur-Haute, a military radio base in central France.

The volunteer, named in the French media (en Francais) as Pierre-Carl Langlais, a 30-year-old curator at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, quickly agreed to their demands even though he did not write the original entry.

However, despite his warnings on a discussion thread that anyone who reposted it would be engaging in criminality, the page was quickly uploaded again by another Wikimedia volunteer before being translated into several languages.

The page, which apparently contains very little (or nothing) in the way of sensitive information, had been almost unvisited up to that point.

Following its reinstatement by enraged French Wiki users the page received 120,000 views over the weekend of 6/7 April, according to some reports — via

Sky Email Avalanche Angers Customers

Sky customers are complaining they were bombarded with literally thousands of old email messages when the company switched email provider from Google to Yahoo last week.

Sky has been looking into the issue since Friday, but has so far failed to find a solution — so on Monday afternoon, users are still reporting a flood of old messages. The company’s only advice so far has been to delete the unwanted emails through Yahoo’s cloud client — via

The British Library saves the .uk web, starting 20 years too late

A long-running scandal finally ended on Friday with the signing into law of new legislation that allows the British Library and other legal deposit libraries to archive around 5 million websites in the .uk domain. British content on other domains, such as .com and .org, will be added later.

While the legislation is to be applauded, it’s two decades too late to capture the early history of web development in the UK. Massive amounts of valuable data have presumably been lost forever, and there will always be a digital black hole in British history. The consolation is that the Internet Archive, founded by American digital activist Brewster Kahle in 1996, scooped up and preserved some of it in its Wayback Machine.

The British Library has been one of the UK’s copyright libraries since 1662, which means publishers have been legally obliged to give it free copy of everything they print. This has resulted in a priceless archive, albeit one that takes up 500 miles of shelf space.

It would have been logical to make the BL similarly responsible for storing copies of web-based publications as well. If it didn’t feel it had the legal right, or the money, the British government should speedily have provided both — via

Waiting for a train that has yet to be built

Gen Okajima is waiting for a train. He knows it won’t arrive soon, not even in the next few years, but he isn’t feeling anxious or impatient. He says it will come once Australia is ready for it.

Mr Okajima, general manager of the Sydney office of Japan’s biggest railway company, is waiting for the day Australia builds a high-speed rail line between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the subject of a federal government study.

It is his job to ensure that when or if that happens, Australia uses Shinkansen, the bullet trains that carry hundreds of millions along Japan’s great network of high-speed rail lines.

Since the Shinkansen technology is a world-class system, we are proud as a nation, Mr Okajima said. And Australia is such an important friend to Japan we are looking to share its benefit.

This partnership would include sharing research and development costs with the Central Japan Railway Company, Mr Okajima’s employer. But the company has been waiting 26 years for high-speed rail to come to Australia. It opened its Sydney office in 1988. For now, its main line of business is exporting Australian wine and snacks such as beef jerky to Japan to be sold on the Shinkansen — via


Who Wrote the Flashback OS X Worm?

A year ago, I published a series that sought to identify the real-life hackers behind the top spam botnets. Using much the same methodology, I was able to identify and locate a young man in Russia who appears (and privately claims) to be the author of Flashback. As it happens, this individual hangs out on many of the same forums as the world’s top spammers (but more on that at another time).

Given Flashback’s focus on gaming Google’s ad networks, I suspected that the worm’s author probably was a key member of forums that focus on so-called black hat SEO, (search engine optimisation), or learned in illicit ways to game search engines and manipulate ad revenues. Sure enough, this individual happens to be a very active and founding member of, a closely guarded Russian language forum dedicated to this topic.

Below is a screen shot taken from a private message between a VIP user named Mavook and a top forum member on The conversation took place on 14 July 2012. A rough translation of their conversation is superimposed on the redacted screen grab, but basically it shows Mavook asking the senior member for help in gaining access to, a fairly exclusive English-language cybercrime forum (and one that I profiled in a story earlier this week).

Mavook asks the other member to get him an invitation to Darkode, and Mavook is instructed to come up with a brief bio stating his accomplishments, and to select a nickname to use on the forum if he’s invited. Mavook replies that the Darkode nick should be not be easily tied back to his BlackSEO persona, and suggests the nickname Macbook. He also states that he is the Creator of Flashback botnet for Macs, and that he specialises in finding exploits and creating bots — via Krebs on Security

Create infographics and online charts is a free webapp that ingests spreadsheets and .csv files, and spits out gorgeous, interactive infographics. If your job involves distilling and presenting data, might be your new best weapon. Once you’ve imported your data, you can illustrate it with standard bar, line, and pie charts, as well as a dizzying selection of customizable templates and interactive elements. For example, if your data has a geographical element, you can incorporate a zoomable map. If it involves sorting people into different groups or demographics, you can do that with a cloud of color-coded human outlines. The finished product beats the pants off of anything you could make in Excel, and you easily share it on social networks or embed it on your own site

The Executive / Datamancer

The Executive / Datamancer

The Executive is an all aluminium polished keyboard with a clean black and silver theme. The elements of this wonderfully hand crafted keyboard declare confidence and boldness — traits typically reserved for people of great attainment. Just as a company’s executive defines the success of the business, the Executive keyboard defines the success of one’s work space — via Etsy

Amazon Is Buying Goodreads

Noted online bookstore and retailer Amazon is buying the excellent online books-related social network and information portal Goodreads. Well, that’s a deal that makes a lot of sense.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Goodreads, the online books portal is a place where users can connect with each other and keep track of the books they’re reading as well as what they’d like to read. So, you know, it’s exactly the type of service that Amazon would want to acquire, given that it’s in the business of selling books — via

Biggest DDoS Attack Ever Hits Internet

It’s one for the history books. In what security experts are describing as the largest cyberattack in history, the world’s Internet is being slowed down by a battle over spam.

At least five countries reportedly have investigators looking at the slowdown, and there is growing concern that the impact could affect worldwide commerce. Geneva-based Spamhaus, a non-profit organisation that fights spam, recently put on its blacklists a Dutch hosting service, called Cyberbunker.

Spamhaus’ blacklists are intended to help e-mail providers and others filter out spam by identifying the hosting sources. The non-profit organization said that it is under a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by Cyberbunker, as reprisal for the blacklists — via

Want faster fibre? Get rid of the glass

One of the most irritating expressions people can use, broadband at the speed of light, is a little closer to coming true thanks to researchers from the University of Southampton, who have demonstrated air-filled fibres with propagation happening at 99.7 percent of c.

By getting propagation speed up to 99.7 percent from 70 percent of light-speed, the best-case trip from Australia to the US would be cut from about 43 milliseconds to about 30 milliseconds (ignoring router hops and regeneration). In the world of long-distance communications, the lower latency would be beloved of gamers, and also in the world of high-speed financial trading — via