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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The Windows 10 Privacy Settings You Should Check Right Now

from Wired If you’re at all concerned about the privacy of your data, you don’t want to leave the default settings in place on your devices—and that includes anything that runs Windows 10. Microsoft’s operating system comes with a variety of controls and options you can modify to lock down the use of your data, from the information you share with Microsoft to the access that individual apps have to your location, camera, and microphone. Check these privacy-related settings as soon as you’ve got your Windows 10 computer set up—or now, in case you’re a longtime user who hasn’t gotten […]

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Fearing 2020 ‘Deepfakes,’ Facebook Will Launch Industry AI ‘Challenge’

from Fast Company Facebook wants to be ready for a deepfake outbreak on its social network. So the company has started an industry group to foster the development of new detection tools to spot the fraudulent videos. A deepfake video presents a realistic AI-generated image of a real person saying or doing fictional things. Perhaps the most famous such video to date portrayed Barack Obama calling Donald Trump a “dipshit.” Facebook is creating a “Deepfake Detection Challenge,” which will offer grants and awards in excess of $10 million to people developing promising detection tools. The social network is teaming up with Microsoft and […]

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An Artificial-Intelligence First: Voice-Mimicking Software Reportedly Used In A Major Theft

from WaPo Thieves used voice-mimicking software to imitate a company executive’s speech and dupe his subordinate into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account, the company’s insurer said, in a remarkable case that some researchers are calling one of the world’s first publicly reported artificial-intelligence heists. The managing director of a British energy company, believing his boss was on the phone, followed orders one Friday afternoon in March to wire more than $240,000 to an account in Hungary, said representatives from the French insurance giant Euler Hermes, which declined to name the company. The request was “rather […]

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