Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data

2017.07.18 02

Facebook is fighting a court order that prohibits it from letting users know when law enforcement investigators ask to search their political communications — a ban that Facebook contends tramples First Amendment protections of the company and individuals.

Most of the details of the case in the nation’s capital are under wraps, but the timing of the investigation, and references in public court documents, suggest the search warrants relate to demonstrations during President Trump’s inauguration. More than 200 people were detained and many have been charged with felony rioting in the Jan. 20 protests that injured police and damaged property in an area of downtown Washington.

Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data

Why emojis may be the best thing to happen to language in the digital age

2017.07.18 01

The fourth annual World Emoji Day (yes, it’s a thing) is Monday, celebrating the explosion in use of the little characters that have changed the way people around the world communicate.

Some have despaired that the symbols are the harbingers of the end of the written word. But experts say that far from destroying language, emoji are enhancing people’s ability to fully express themselves as text-based communication increasingly replaces face-to-face interaction.

“Emoji is making us better communicators in the digital age,” said linguist Vyv Evans, author of The Emoji Code. “Saying that emoji is a backward step would be like saying when you speak to someone you’re not allowed to make any facial expression.”

Why emojis may be the best thing to happen to language in the digital age

With New Digital Tools, Even Nonexperts Can Wage Cyberattacks

2017.05.15 01

SAN FRANCISCO — Hackers are discovering that it is far more profitable to hold your data hostage than it is to steal it.

A decade-old internet scourge called ransomware went mainstream on Friday when cybercriminals seized control of computers around the world, from the delivery giant FedEx in the United States to Britain’s public health system, universities in China and even Russia’s powerful Interior Ministry.

Ransomware is nothing new. For years, there have been stories of individuals or companies horrified that they have been locked out of their computers and that the only way back in is to pay a ransom to someone, somewhere who has managed to take control.

You don’t even need to have any skills to do this anymore,” said Jason Rebholz, a senior director at the Crypsis Group who has helped dozens of victims of ransomware.

Ransomware has allowed people who are not computer experts to become computer thieves. It used to be that hackers had to be a little creative and skilled to get money out of people. There were fake antivirus scams that promised to clean up your computer — for a fee.

With New Digital Tools, Even Nonexperts Can Wage Cyberattacks

What you need to know about the massive hack that hit the British health-care system and elsewhere

2017.05.13 06

It was first reported in England — hackers gained access to the National Health Service computers, effectively shuttering the entire system. Patients were told to stay home; doctors and nurses were unable to access email or medical records and had to take notes by hand. The hackers demanded a ransom, to be paid in bitcoin.

By Friday afternoon, though, it was clear that this was not a limited attack. Businesses in at least 11 other countries reported similar cyberattacks. Many were paralyzed.

According to Britain’s Independent newspaper, these attacks may stretch around the globe, from Portugal to Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Germany and Russia. It “is much larger than just the NHS,” Travis Farral, director of security strategy for cybersecurity firm Anomali Labs, told the Independent. “It appears to be a giant campaign that has hit Spain and Russia the hardest.”

If you run a business, back up every computer in your office and have a plan for what to do if your system goes down for a while. Be smart about setting up your network, so that most users don’t have complete access to the system. This makes it harder for a ransomware attack to infect everything. And make sure your users are educated about the common kinds of attacks.

What you need to know about the massive hack that hit the British health-care system and elsewhere

FCC website hit by attacks after ‘net neutrality’ proposal

2017.05.13 04

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Monday that its website was hit by deliberate denial of service attacks after the telecommunications regulator was criticized by comedian John Oliver for its plan to reverse “net neutrality” rules.

The attacks came soon after Oliver on Sunday urged viewers to file electronic comments with the FCC opposing the plan unveiled by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reverse rules implemented under President Barack Obama that boosted government regulatory powers over internet service providers.

Pai’s plan faces an initial vote on May 18.

FCC website hit by attacks after ‘net neutrality’ proposal

Google Drive Search Just Got a Lot Smarter

2016-09-21-12

Google Drive is making finding your documents a lot easier and faster by unleashing the full power of the Google search engine. You can now search the way you talk, get spelling corrected, and more.

Drive’s update, starting to roll out today, includes Google Search’s Natural Language Processing, which lets you search with natural phrasing. For example, you can type things like “find my budget spreadsheet from last December” instead of trying to remember what you named it. You can also narrow down results with phrases like “show me presentations from [person],” so you can quickly find everything they’ve shared with you. Drive also has an autocorrect feature now that suggests search terms that you may have misspelled. Other features of the update include a way to split documents into multiple columns in Docs, and Drive will now save an original copy of any file you convert and edit in Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

Google Drive Search Just Got a Lot Smarter

A Screenshot Tour of Allo, Google’s New Smart Messaging App

2016-09-21-10

Google just launched Allo, a new smart messaging app that comes with stickers, emoji, and a powerful assistant who can answer all your questions. Let’s take a look at its biggest features, and see if it’s worth moving all your conversations over to it.

A Screenshot Tour of Allo, Google’s New Smart Messaging App

Attack-for-Hire Teens Collared in Israel

2016-09-21-07

At the request of the FBI, Israeli authorities last week arrested Itay Huri and Yarden Bidani, both 18 years old, for operating vDOS, a DDoS-for-hire service that raked in more than half a million dollars in two years.

DDoS attacks flood websites with garbage data in order to disrupt their operation and deny users access.

The pair were questioned and released after posting bond of about US$10,000 each, according to TheMarker, an Israeli news site. In addition, the duo’s passports were seized, they were placed under house arrest for 10 days, and they were barred from using the Internet or any telecommunications equipment for 30 days.

The arrests occurred at around the same time that Krebs on Security published a report on vDOS.

vDOS revenues for the past two years exceeded $600,000, and the service launched more than 150,000 DDoS attacks on behalf of its customers, Krebs reported.

Attack-for-Hire Teens Collared in Israel

Steam Blows Off Aggrieved Indie Dev

2016-09-21-05Independent video game developer Digital Homicide Studios on Monday posted a response to its ban from Valve Corporation’s digital distribution platform Steam.

Valve banned the development studio this weekend, after Digital Homicide reportedly initiated legal action against 100 users who had posted negative reviews of its games.

Digital Homicide resorted to lawsuits after Steam failed to resolve abuse issues that had arisen concerning those users of the Steam community, according to the Digital Homicide post. The game developer further accused Valve of ignoring threats posted on Steam’s forums.

Valve has delisted all of Digital Homicide’s games from Steam — including Paranormal Psychosis, Gnarltoof’s Revenge and Krog Wars.

Valve claimed Digital Homicide had been hostile to Steam customers, noting that the lawsuit against Steam users demands approximately $18 million in damages.

The digital distribution platform apparently is sticking with its customers, even if not directly defending their alleged actions.

In its lawsuit, Digital Homicide claims that the defendants’ actions resulted in lost business, among other negative consequences.

User reviews have become a staple of e-commerce in recent years, and that typically means accepting the good with the bad. The question in this case appears to be whether the defendants’ actions constituted cyberbullying or other illegal forms of online harassment.

Steam Blows Off Aggrieved Indie Dev

Google fixes two serious Android security flaws

2016-09-21-02

Google’s mobile security team has definitely been busy cleaning house this week. The company has released an Android update that closes two security holes that could pose a major threat if intruders found a way to exploit them. The first was only designed for “research purposes” and would only have been malicious if modified, Google tells Ars Technica, but it wouldn’t have been hard to detect or weaponize.

The other flaw behaved similarly to the well-known Stagefright exploit, letting an attacker send an altered JPEG image through Gmail or Google Talk to hijack your phone. The issue, as SentinelOne researcher Tim Strazzere explains to Threatpost, is that it’s both easy to find and capitalize on this vulnerability.

There’s more. Security company Check Point also revealed that Google Play had been hosting apps containing two forms of malware (CallJam and DressCode). CallJam both steered phones to websites that made bogus ad revenue and, if you granted permission, would call paid phone numbers. DressCode would also visit shady ad sources, but it could also compromise local networks. Google has since removed the offending apps, but the infection rate may have been high when users downloaded the software hundreds of thousands (or in a few cases, millions) of times.

Google fixes two serious Android security flaws