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An anonymous reader writes A recent incident at the White House showed that small aerial vehicles (drones) present a specific security problem. Rahul Sasi, a security engineer at Citrix R&D, created MalDrone, the first backdoor malware for the AR drone ARM Linux system to target Parrot AR Drones, but says it can be modified to target others as well. The malware can be silently installed on a drone, and be used to control the drone remotely and to conduct remote surveillance. Meanwhile, the Chinese company that created the drone that crashed on the White House grounds has announced a software update for its "Phantom" series that will prohibit flight within 25 kilometers of the capital.
79 comments | 6 hours ago
WheezyJoe writes: In seeking more support for its mega-merger with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast has been going across the country giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, this turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000 in overdue franchise fees, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment.
"Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions (PDF) the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. The article notes that getting any kind of refund out of a cable company is not easy.
Part of the deal with Minneapolis involves the spinoff of a new cable company called GreatLand Connections that will serve 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, including Minnesota. After the deal, Comcast's franchises in those areas would be transferred to GreatLand. Such goodwill concessions may seem impressive as Comcast seeks to foster goodwill, but one wonders how Comcast/Time Warner will behave after the merger.
76 comments | yesterday
alphadogg writes: The FCC on Tuesday warned that it will no longer tolerate hotels, convention centers or others intentionally interfering with personal Wi-Fi hotspots. This issue grabbed headlines last fall when Marriott International was fined $600,000 for blocking customer Wi-Fi hotspots, presumably to encourage the guests to pay for pricey Internet access from the hotel.
117 comments | yesterday
WheezyJoe writes Verizon agreed to a $5 million settlement after admitting that it failed to investigate whether its rural customers were able to receive long distance and wireless phone calls. The settlement is related to the FCC's efforts to address what is known as the rural call completion problem. Over an eight-month period during 2013, low call answer rates in 39 rural areas should have triggered an investigation, the FCC said. The FCC asked Verizon what steps it took, and Verizon said in April 2014 that it investigated or fixed problems in 13 of the 39 areas, but did nothing in the other 26.
"Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications," the FCC said in its order on the Verizon settlement today. "They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications." Verizon has been accused of letting its copper landline network decay while it shifts its focus to fiber and cellular service. The FCC is working a plan to protect customers as old copper networks are retired.
94 comments | 2 days ago
eldavojohn writes A turnover in the Greek government resulted from recent snap elections placing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) in power — just shy of an outright majority by two seats. Atheist, and youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, Alexis Tsipras has been appointed the new prime minister and begun taking immediate drastic steps against the recent austerity laws put in place by prior administrations. One such step has been to appoint Valve's economist Yanis Varoufakis to position of Finance Minister of Greece. For the past three years Varoufakis has been working at Steam to analyze and improve the Steam Market but now has the opportunity to improve one of the most troubled economies in the world.
318 comments | 2 days ago
mi (197448) writes You heard the scare-mongering, you heard the governors and mayors closing public transit and declaring driving on public roads a crime. But it turned out to have been a mistake. Boston may have been hit somewhat, but further South — NYC and Philadelphia — the snowfall was rather underwhelming. Promised "2-3 feet" of snow, NYC got only a few inches. Is this an example of "better safe than sorry," or is government's overreach justified by questionable weather models exceeding the threshold of an honest mistake?
390 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes The Washington Post reports that the intrusion by a recreational drone onto the White House lawn has exposed a security gap at the compound that the Secret Service has spent years studying but has so far been unable to fix. Commercial technology is available that can use a combination of sensitive radar and acoustic trackers to detect small drones, though coming up with an effective way to stop them has been more elusive. "To do something about the problem, you have to find it, you have to track it, you have to identify it and you have to decide what to do with it," says Frederick F. Roggero. "But especially in an urban environment, it would be tough to detect and tough to defeat kinetically without shooting it down and causing collateral damage." Most recreational drones, like the one that crashed Monday, weigh only a few pounds and lack the power to do much harm. Larger models that can carry payloads of up to 30 pounds are available on the market and are expected to become more common. The FAA imposes strict safety regulations on drones flown by government agencies or anyone who operates them for commercial purposes. In contrast, hardly any rules apply to people who fly drones as a hobby, other than FAA guidelines that advise them to keep the aircraft below 400 feet and five miles from an airport. "With the discovery of an unauthorized drone on the White House lawn, the eagle has crash-landed in Washington," says Senator Charles Schumer. "There is no stronger sign that clear FAA guidelines for drones are needed."
234 comments | 2 days ago
Trailrunner7 writes Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered shared code and functionality between the Regin malware platform and a similar platform described in a newly disclosed set of Edward Snowden documents 10 days ago by Germany's Der Spiegel. The link, found in a keylogger called QWERTY allegedly used by the so-called Five Eyes, leads them to conclude that the developers of each platform are either the same, or work closely together. "Considering the extreme complexity of the Regin platform and little chance that it can be duplicated by somebody without having access to its source codes, we conclude the QWERTY malware developers and the Regin developers are the same or working together," wrote Kaspersky Lab researchers Costin Raiu and Igor Soumenkov today in a published report. (Here is the Spiegel article.)
94 comments | 2 days ago
itwbennett writes: A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program set up in 2008 to keep tabs on cars close to the U.S.-Mexican border has been gradually expanded nationwide and is regularly used by other law enforcement agencies in their hunt for suspects. The extent of the system, which is said to contain hundreds of millions of records on motorists and their journeys, was disclosed in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
152 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: Internet connections remain illegal for Cuban households, but many of the country's citizens still want to tap into the power of networked information exchange. A group of tech-savvy young Cubans has set up a network comprising thousands of computers to serve as their own miniature version of the internet. They use chat rooms, play games, and connect to organize real-life activities. Cuban law enforcement seems willing to tolerate it (so far), but the network polices itself so as not to draw undue attention.
One of the engineers who helped build the network said, "We aren't anonymous because the country has to know that this type of network exists. They have to protect the country and they know that 9,000 users can be put to any purpose. We don't mess with anybody. All we want to do is play games, share healthy ideas. We don't try to influence the government or what's happening in Cuba ... We do the right thing and they let us keep at it."
140 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a detailed, global strategy for ridding ourselves of mass surveillance. They stress that this must be an international effort — while citizens of many countries can vote against politicians who support surveillance, there are also many countries where the citizens have to resort to other methods. The central part of the EFF's plan is: encryption, encryption, encryption. They say we need to build new secure communications tools, pressure existing tech companies to make their products secure against everyone, and get ordinary internet-goers to recognize that encryption is a fundamental part of communication in the surveillance age.
They also advocate fighting for transparency and against overreach on a national level. "[T]he more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data." The EFF references a document created to apply the principles of human rights to communications surveillance, which they say are "our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn't the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate."
276 comments | 2 days ago
Freshly Exhumed writes: Growing income inequality was one of the top four issues at the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, ranking alongside European adoption of quantitative easing and geopolitical concerns. Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion, said there was a consensus that global inequality is getting worse, fueling overriding pessimism at the gathering. The result, he said, could be that the next big revolution will be in regulation rather than innovation. With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people's mind, the world's super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. "I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway," he said. Looking at studies like NASA's HANDY and by KPMG, the UK Government Office of Science, and others, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, warns that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a "perfect storm" within about fifteen years.
333 comments | 2 days ago
v3rgEz writes with this story of a top secret Cold War plan which would have brought the U.S. under martial law. Starting on April 19, 1956, the federal government practiced and planned for a near-doomsday scenario known as Plan C. When activated, Plan C would have brought the United States under martial law, rounded up over ten thousand individuals connected to 'subversive' organizations, implemented a censorship board, and prepared the country for life after nuclear attack. There was no Plan A or B....Details of this program were distributed to each FBI field office. Over the following months and years, Plan C would be adjusted as drills and meetings found holes in the defensive strategy: Communications were more closely held, authority was apparently more dispersed, and certain segments of the government, such as the U.S. Attorneys, had trouble actually delineating who was responsible for what. Bureau employees were encouraged to prepare their families for the worst, but had to keep secret the more in-depth plans for what the government would do if war did break out. Families were given a phone number and city for where the relocated agency locations would be, but not the exact location.
299 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes with news about a new project to test autonomous vehicles in Germany. "The German government wants to convert part of the A9 Autobahn in Bavaria into a test-field for advanced car technology. The project is key to ensuring the country's 'digital sovereignty,' according to its transport minister. The track, part of the 'Digitales Testfeld Autobahn' project, would be launched this year, Alexander Dobrindt said on Monday in an interview (in German) with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The plan involves equipping the road with infrastructure to allow cars to communicate with each other and the road's own sensors to provide necessary data on traffic. 'Cars with assisted driving and later fully-automated cars will be able to drive there,' Dobrindt said. Germany, a major European car producer, wants to have robotic car technology that's not dependent on foreign companies, the minister said. Domestic producers 'won't rely on Google' he stressed."
90 comments | 2 days ago
Ariastis writes Google took almost three years to disclose to the open information group WikiLeaks that it had handed over emails and other digital data belonging to three of its staffers to the FBI under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge. WikiLeaks were told last month of warrants which were served in March 2012. The subjects of the warrants were the investigations editor of WikiLeaks, the British citizen Sarah Harrison; the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and Joseph Farrell, one of its senior editors. When it notified the WikiLeaks employees last month, Google said it had been unable to say anything about the warrants earlier as a gag order had been imposed.
194 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, (in)famous computer security researcher Ed Felten responds to the State of the Union cybersecurity proposal. He doesn't mince words: "The odds of clearing Congress: low. The odds of materially improving security: even lower. "What he suggests as an alternative, though, is a surprise. "California," he writes, "could blaze a trail for effective cybersecurity policy." He calls for the state government to protect critical infrastructure and sensitive data, relying on outside auditors and experts. It's an interesting idea. Even if it doesn't go anywhere, at least it's some fresh thinking in this area of backward policy. From Felten's essay: Critical infrastructure increasingly relies on industrial automation systems. And those systems are often vulnerable – they keep a default password, for instance, or are accessible from the public Internet. These are not subtle or sophisticated errors. Fixing them requires basic due diligence, not rocket science. Requiring the state’s critical infrastructure providers to undergo regular security audits would be straightforward and inexpensive – especially relative to the enormous risks. Areas of sensitive data are also low-hanging cyber fruit. In health care, education and finance, California already imposes security and privacy requirements that go beyond federal law. Those legal mandates, though, are mostly enforced through after-the-fact penalties. Much like critical infrastructure, sectors that rely upon sensitive data would benefit from periodic outside auditing. Of any state government's, California's policies also have the chance to help (or harm) the most people: nearly 39 million people, according to a 2014 U.S. Census estimate.
80 comments | 3 days ago
hypnosec writes The US Air Force and private space flight company SpaceX have settled their dispute involving the military's expendable rocket program, thereby paving the way for SpaceX to join the spy satellite launch program known as Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The settlement opens doors for SpaceX to compete with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for launch of spy satellites. ULA is a joint Boeing-Lockheed venture – the only private player to have received clearance for launching black ops satellites.
80 comments | 3 days ago
New submitter AlCapwn writes [Fark founder] Drew Curtis announced on Friday that he will be running for governor of Kentucky. "We have a theory that we're about to see a huge change in how elections and politics work. Across the country, we have seen regular citizens stepping up and challenging the status quo built by political parties and career politicians. They have been getting closer and closer to victory and, here in Kentucky, we believe we have a chance to win and break the political party stronghold for good."
120 comments | 3 days ago
mrspoonsi writes The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is adding crash imminent braking and dynamic braking support to its list of recommended advanced safety features for new cars. The former uses sensors to activate the brakes if a crash is imminent and the driver already hasn't. Dynamic braking support, on the other hand, increases stopping power if you haven't put enough pressure on the brake pedal. Like lane-departure and front collision warning systems, these features are available on some models already — this move gives them high-profile attention, though. And for good reason: As the NHSTA tells it, a third of 2013's police-reported car accidents were the rear-end crashes and a "large number" of the drivers either didn't apply the brakes at all (what?!) or fully before impact.
304 comments | 4 days ago
jaa101 writes The Register (UK) and the Global Times (China) report that foreign VPN services are unavailable in China. A quote sourced to "one of the founders of an overseas website which monitors the Internet in China" claimed 'The Great Firewall is blocking the VPN on the protocol level. It means that the firewall does not need to identify each VPN provider and block its IP addresses. Rather, it can spot VPN traffic during transit and block it.' An upgrade of the Great Firewall of China is blamed and China appears to be backing the need for the move to maintain cyberspace sovereignty.
212 comments | 5 days ago