The Untold Story of the Man That Made Mainstream Encryption Possible

from One Zero Bailey Whitfield Diffie, born June 5, 1944, was always an independent sort. As one early friend remarked, “The kid had an alternative lifestyle at age five.” Diffie didn’t read until he was 10 years old. There was no question of disability, he simply preferred that his parents read to him, which seemingly they did, quite patiently. Finally, in the fifth grade, Diffie spontaneously worked his way through a tome called The Space Cat, and immediately progressed to the Oz books. Later that year his teacher at P.S. 178 — “Her name was Mary Collins and if she […]

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Why Is South Korea a Global Broadband Leader?

from EFF A universal fiber network that was completed years ago. Millions of 5G users. Some of the world’s fastest and cheapest broadband connections. South Korea has all of these, while other nations that have the same resources lag behind. How did South Korea become a global leader in the first place? EFF did a deep dive into this question and has produced the following report. The key takeaway: government policies that focus on expanding access to telecommunications infrastructure were essential to success. More here.

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Think You Can’t Escape Google? You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet

from Fast Company More than any designer this side of Cupertino, Matias Duarte has made phones easy to use. During his tenure at Google — first overseeing the design of Android — the vice president of design watched Google’s operating system capture more than 85% of the global smartphone market. Duarte has likened his own work in mainstreaming these addictive devices to that of an arms dealer — “I just make the guns! I didn’t make you guys shoot each other!” — but he’s also not slowing down. After pioneering Material Design — a user interface metaphor that’s helped de-uglify […]

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Coronavirus Forces Universities Online

from Inside Higher Ed After celebrating the Lunar New Year earlier this month, thousands of students at U.S. universities in China have resumed classes. But the campuses are eerily quiet, and classrooms remain empty. That’s because classes have moved online in the wake of the coronavirus. The transition from face-to-face to fully online wasn’t one leaders at institutions such as Duke Kunshan University and New York University Shanghai had planned for. Preparing to teach a course online for the first time usually takes several months. Faculty at institutions in China have done it in less than three weeks — a […]

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Signal Is Finally Bringing Its Secure Messaging to the Masses

from Wired Last month, the cryptographer and coder known as Moxie Marlinspike was getting settled on an airplane when his seatmate, a Midwestern-looking man in his sixties, asked for help. He couldn’t figure out how to enable airplane mode on his aging Android phone. But when Marlinspike saw the screen, he wondered for a moment if he was being trolled: Among just a handful of apps installed on the phone was Signal. Marlinspike launched Signal, widely considered the world’s most secure end-to-end encrypted messaging app, nearly five years ago, and today heads the nonprofit Signal Foundation that maintains it. But […]

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Stop. Stop the Presses.

from Medium At the end of an exceptional first week for our new program in News Innovation and Leadership at the Newmark J-school, the students — five managing editors, a VP, a CEO, and many directors among them — said they learned much from teachers and speakers, yes, but the greatest value likely came from each other, from the candid lessons they all shared. When I first proposed this program about four years ago, I suggested it should offer a smorgasbord of courses to be taken at will. Then I was fortunate enough to recruit Anita Zielina, the ideal news […]

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Facial Recognition Moves Into a New Front: Schools

from NYTs Jim Shultz tried everything he could think of to stop facial recognition technology from entering the public schools in Lockport, a small city 20 miles east of Niagara Falls. He posted about the issue in a Facebook group called Lockportians. He wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times. He filed a petition with the superintendent of the district, where his daughter is in high school. But a few weeks ago, he lost. The Lockport City School District turned on the technology to monitor who’s on the property at its eight schools, becoming the first known public school […]

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FCC Accuses Carriers Of Being “Gateways” For Foreign Robocallers

from ars technica The Federal Communications Commission is asking phone carriers for help blocking robocalls made from outside the US and is implementing a congressionally mandated system to trace the origin of illegal robocalls. The FCC yesterday sent letters to seven US-based voice providers “that accept foreign call traffic and terminate it to US consumers.” Tracebacks conducted by the USTelecom trade group and the FCC found that each of these companies’ services is “being used as a gateway into the United States for many apparently illegal robocalls that originate overseas,” the FCC’s letters to the companies say. The FCC letters […]

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New Ransomware Doesn’t Just Encrypt Data. It Also Meddles With Critical Infrastructure

from ars technica Over the past five years, ransomware has emerged as a vexing menace that has shut down factories, hospitals, and local municipalities and school districts around the world. In recent months, researchers have caught ransomware doing something that’s potentially more sinister: intentionally tampering with industrial control systems that dams, electric grids, and gas refineries rely on to keep equipment running safely. A ransomware strain discovered last month and dubbed Ekans contains the usual routines for disabling data backups and mass-encrypting files on infected systems. But researchers at security firm Dragos found something else that has the potential to […]

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Oh Sure, Big Tech Wants Regulation—on Its Own Terms

from NYTs Last week, a global gaggle of billionaires, academics, thought leaders, and other power brokers gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s signature annual event. Climate change! The global economy! Health! The agenda was packed with discussion of the most pressing issues of our time. True to form, much of the musing ventured away from root causes. Climate change—barring strong words from Greta Thunberg and other activists—was customarily discussed in the context of financial markets and the economy. Rising inequality was predictably repackaged as a threat to “already-fragile economic growth.” It was an echo of Davos 2019, […]

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We’re Banning Facial Recognition. We’re Missing the Point.

from NYTs Communities across the United States are starting to ban facial recognition technologies. In May of last year, San Francisco banned facial recognition; the neighboring city of Oakland soon followed, as did Somerville and Brookline in Massachusetts (a statewide banmay follow). In December, San Diego suspended a facial recognition program in advance of a new statewide law, which declared it illegal, coming into effect. Forty major music festivals pledged not to use the technology, and activists are calling for a nationwide ban. Many Democratic presidential candidates support at least a partial ban on the technology. These efforts are well […]

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Researchers Want Guardrails to Help Prevent Bias in AI

from Wired Artificial intelligence has given us algorithms capable of recognizing faces, diagnosing disease, and of course, crushing computer games. But even the smartest algorithms can sometimes behave in unexpected and unwanted ways—for example, picking up gender bias from the text or images they are fed. A new framework for building AI programs suggests a way to prevent aberrant behavior in machine learning by specifying guardrails in the code from the outset. It aims to be particularly useful for nonexperts deploying AI, an increasingly common issue as the technology moves out of research labs and into the real world. The […]

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Whatsapp ‘Hack’ Is Serious Rights Violation, Say Alleged Victims

from The Guardian More than a dozen pro-democracy activists, journalists and academics have spoken out after WhatsApp privately warned them they had allegedly been the victims of cyber-attacks designed to secretly infiltrate their mobile phones. The individuals received alerts saying they were among more than 100 human rights campaigners whose phones were believed to have been hacked using malware sold by NSO Group, an Israeli cyberweapons company. WhatsApp launched an unprecedented lawsuit against the surveillance company earlier this week, claiming it had discovered more than 1,400 of its users were targeted by NSO technology in a two-week period in May. […]

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Canadian-Made ‘Invisibility Shield’ Could Hide People, Spacecraft

from CTV News It’s more likely to camouflage military troops than boy wizards, but a new Canadian prototype is perhaps the technology that comes closest to mimicking the fictional Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp’s invisibility shield, officially dubbed “Quantum Stealth,” is light-bending material that could be used to obscure objects of varying sizes. “It can hide a person, a vehicle, a ship, spacecraft and buildings,” the company said in a news release earlier this month, suggesting that the patent-pending material is versatile and could be easily implemented. “There is no power source. It is paper-thin and inexpensive,” they […]

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Google Play Apps Laden With Ad Malware Were Downloaded By Millions Of Users

from ars technica This week, Symantec Threat Intelligence’s May Ying Tee and Martin Zhang revealed that they had reported a group of 25 malicious Android applications available through the Google Play Store to Google. In total, the applications—which all share a similar code structure used to evade detection during security screening—had been downloaded more than 2.1 million times from the store. The apps, which would conceal themselves on the home screen some time after installation and begin displaying on-screen advertisements even when the applications were closed, have been pulled from the store. But other applications using the same method to […]

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Recent Decision: D.C. Circuit Rules That OPM Breach Victims Have Standing to Sue

from Lawfare With data breach incidents on the rise, federal courts are grappling with the issue of standing in class action lawsuits arising from data breaches. As Lawfare has covered previously, there is arguably a circuit split over whether plaintiffs can establish an “injury in fact,” one of three constitutional standing requirements, on the grounds that a breach has put them at a heightened risk of identity theft. In a 2-1 decision this past summer titled In re: U.S. Office of Personnel Management Data Security Breach Litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit weighed in on that […]

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Encrypted DNS Could Help Close the Biggest Privacy Gap on the Internet. Why Are Some Groups Fighting Against It?

from EFF Thanks to the success of projects like Let’s Encrypt and recent UX changes in the browsers, most page-loads are now encrypted with TLS. But DNS, the system that looks up a site’s IP address when you type the site’s name into your browser, remains unprotected by encryption. Because of this, anyone along the path from your network to your DNS resolver (where domain names are converted to IP addresses) can collect information about which sites you visit. This means that certain eavesdroppers can still profile your online activity by making a list of sites you visited, or a […]

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Google Antitrust Investigation Outlined by State Attorneys General

from NYTs The state attorneys general from four dozen states officially declared on Monday that they were beginning investigations into the market power and corporate behavior of big tech companies. The formal declaration, delivered from the steps of the United States Supreme Court by a bipartisan group of state officials, adds investigative muscle and political momentum to the intensifying scrutiny of the tech giants by federal watchdog agencies and Congress. The states are focusing on two targets: Facebook and Google. More here.

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A Simple Way to Make It Harder for Mobile Ads to Track You

from Wired If you’re not careful, most of what you do online and in mobile apps will wind up fueling targeted advertising, all that data feeding into a composite profile of your likes, dislikes, and demographic information. But increasingly, even careful web users can’t avoid being swept up in the digital marketing dragnet. While it’s ridiculously difficult to get a handle on all this tracking, there is a simple step you can take right now to throw a tiny wrench in those industry-wide gears. Both Android and iOS force apps to use a special “ad ID” for tracking smartphones, which […]

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Google Reportedly Attains ‘Quantum Supremacy’

from c|net Google has reportedly built a quantum computer more powerful than the world’s top supercomputers. A Google research paper was temporarily posted online this week, the Financial Times reported Friday, and said the quantum computer’s processor allowed a calculation to be performed in just over 3 minutes. That calculation would take 10,000 years on IBM’s Summit, the world’s most powerful commercial computer, Google reportedly said. Google researchers are throwing around the term “quantum supremacy” as a result, the FT said, because their quantum computer can solve tasks that can’t otherwise be solved. “To our knowledge, this experiment marks the […]

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