MIRLN—- 21 Jan - 10 Feb 2018 (v21.02)

MIRLN—- 21 Jan - 10 Feb 2018 (v21.02)—- by Vince Polley and KnowConnect PLLC (supplemented by related Tweets: @vpolley #mirln)



The NSA knows who you are just by the sound of your voice-and their tech predates Apple and Amazon (CNBC, 20 Jan 2018) - For technology users who have marveled at the ability of Siri or Alexa to recognize their voice, consider this: The National Security Agency has apparently been way ahead of Apple or Amazon . The agency has at its disposal voice recognition technology that it employs to identify terrorists, government spies, or anyone they choose - with just a phone call, according to a report by T he Intercept . The disclosure was revealed in a recently published article, part of a trove of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The publication wrote that by using recorded audio, the NSA is able to create a “voiceprint,” or a map of qualities that mark a voice as singular, and identify the person speaking. The documents also suggest the agency is continuously improving its speech recognition capabilities, the publication noted. According to a classified memo obtained by The Intercept , the agency has employed this technology since at least 2006, with the document referencing technology “that identifies people by the sound of their voices.” In fact, the NSA used such technology during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when analysts were able to verify audio thought to be of Saddam Hussein speaking. It suggests that national security operatives had access to high-level voice technology long before Amazon, Apple and Google’s solutions became cultural touchstones. A “voiceprint” is “a dynamic computer model of the individual’s vocal characteristics,” the publication explained, created by an algorithm analyzing features like pitch and mouth shape. Then, using the NSA’s formidable bank of recorded audio files, the agency is able to match the speaker to an identity. top

From public Wi-Fi to encrypted emails, NY panel probes security of lawyer communications (NY Law Journal, 233 Jan 2018) - What happens when a lawyer connects a laptop containing sensitive client information to a public Wi-Fi network or prints out documents from a hotel printer? Those scenarios could put lawyers-and their clients-at an increased risk for data leaks and hacking, said panelists at a Tuesday discussion at the New York State Bar Association’s annual conference in Manhattan. One takeaway from the discussion, which was centered around data security in an attorney’s day-to-day-practice and related ethical obligations, is the importance of using an encrypted communication device in transmitting client information. Encryption is often “client dictated,” not law firm-driven, said panelist James Bernard , a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan who also serves as general counsel to his firm. Many clients, particularly financial services companies that are concerned about unauthorized access to personally identifiable information in their customer base, will use encrypted email, sometimes exclusively, in communications with law firms, Bernard said. * * * Another panelist, Karen Peters , a former presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, said an attorney’s ethical obligations vary depending on the firm. “Are you talking about a large law firm with hundreds of lawyers that has an international presence? Then I would think their obligation to ensure confidentially to client data is a much higher obligation,” said Peters, noting that such a firm’s clients have information that hackers are looking to acquire, unlike a small firm in Plattsburgh, New York, handling family law or Surrogate’s Court work. top

Your sloppy Bitcoin drug deals will haunt you for years (Wired, 26 Jan 2018) - Perhaps you bought some illegal narcotics on the Silk Road half a decade ago, back when that digital black market for every contraband imaginable was still online and bustling. You might already regret that decision, for any number of reasons. After all, the four bitcoins you spent on that bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms would now be worth about as much as an Alfa Romeo. But one group of researchers wants to remind you of yet another reason to rue that transaction: If you weren’t particularly careful in how you spent your cryptocurrency, the evidence of that drug deal may still be hanging around in plain view of law enforcement, even years after the Silk Road was torn off the dark web. Researchers at Qatar University and the country’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University earlier this week published findings that show just how easy it may be to dredge up evidence of years-old bitcoin transactions when spenders didn’t carefully launder their payments. In well over 100 cases, they could connect someone’s bitcoin payment on a dark web site to that person’s public account. In more than 20 instances, they say, they could easily link those public accounts to transactions specifically on the Silk Road, finding even some purchasers’ specific names and locations. top

ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US (The Verge, 26 Jan 2018) - The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month . The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians. The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.” While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups. Vigilant also partners with local law enforcement agencies , often collecting even more data from camera-equipped police cars. The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting. top

First ‘Jackpotting’ attacks hit US ATMs (Krebs on Security, 27 Jan 2018) - ATM “jackpotting” - a sophisticated crime in which thieves install malicious software and/or hardware at ATMs that forces the machines to spit out huge volumes of cash on demand - has long been a threat for banks in Europe and Asia, yet these attacks somehow have eluded U.S. ATM operators. But all that changed this week after the U.S. Secret Service quietly began warning financial institutions that jackpotting attacks have now been spotted targeting cash machines here in the United States. To carry out a jackpotting attack, thieves first must gain physical access to the cash machine. From there they can use malware or specialized electronics - often a combination of both - to control the operations of the ATM. The Secret Service alert explains that the attackers typically use an endoscope - a slender, flexible instrument traditionally used in medicine to give physicians a look inside the human body - to locate the internal portion of the cash machine where they can attach a cord that allows them to sync their laptop with the ATM’s computer. “Once this is complete, the ATM is controlled by the fraudsters and the ATM will appear Out of Service to potential customers,” reads the confidential Secret Service alert. At this point, the crook(s) installing the malware will contact co-conspirators who can remotely control the ATMs and force the machines to dispense cash. “In previous Ploutus.D attacks, the ATM continuously dispensed at a rate of 40 bills every 23 seconds,” the alert continues. Once the dispense cycle starts, the only way to stop it is to press cancel on the keypad. Otherwise, the machine is completely emptied of cash, according to the alert. top

Arizona bar accuses libel lawyers of suing fake defendants (Volokh Conspiracy, 29 Jan 2018) - Friday, the Arizona State Bar filed a disciplinary complaint accusing two lawyers of filing libel lawsuits against fake defendants. Why would anyone do such thing, you might ask? How can you get real money (or real compliance with an injunction) from a fake defendant? Well, say you think some people are libeling you online. You try to get them to take down the libelous material, but you can’t find them, or they refuse. You try to get the hosting site to delete the material, but it refuses. (Under the federal 47 U.S.C. § 230 statute, such intermediaries can refuse without fear of liability.) So you e-mail Google, and ask it to remove the page from Google’s indexes, so that Google users won’t see it. “We don’t know whether it’s actually libelous,” Google responds, “and we aren’t equipped to figure that out. But tell you what: You get a court order against the author that concludes the material is libelous, and then maybe we’ll consider deindexing it.” Now you, or the reputation management company you hired, can get a lawyer and bring that lawsuit. Many people do—but it’s time-consuming and very expensive. And maybe you’ll lose: Maybe the defendant will defend, and will point out that the statement is just nonactionable opinion, or is factually accurate, or (what often happens) was written long enough ago that the statute of limitations runs. So you might be out the money, and without a remedy. That’s where the fake-defendant lawsuits come in. Someone—the plaintiff, the reputation management company, or the lawyer—decides to file suit against a nonexistent defendant. The complaint is filed in court together with a stipulation from the “defendant” (actually filed by whoever is engineering this on the plaintiff’s behalf) agreeing that the statement was false and defamatory, and agreeing to the entry of an injunction ordering the “defendant” to remove the statement. The court sees what appears to be agreement between the parties, and issues the injunction. In one such case, I saw the injunction issued a blazingly fast four days after the filing. Lovely! The only problem, of course, is that it’s a fraud on the court. top

Pentagon reviews GPS policies after soldiers’ Strava tracks are seemingly exposed (NPR, 29 Jan 2018) - Locations and activity of U.S. military bases; jogging and patrol routes of American soldiers - experts say those details are among the GPS data shared by the exercise tracking company Strava, whose Heat Map reflects more than a billion exercise activities globally. The Pentagon says it’s looking at adding new training and policies to address security concerns. “Recent data releases emphasize the need for situational awareness when members of the military share personal information,” Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway of the U.S. Marine Corps said in a statement about the implications of the Strava data that has made international headlines. Strava - which includes an option for keeping users’ workout data private - published the updated Heat Map late last year. The California-based company calls itself “the social network for athletes,” saying that its mobile apps and website connect millions of people every day. * * * Describing what he calls “a security nightmare for governments around the world,” foreign policy columnist Jeffrey Lewis describes for The Daily Beast about how he used the Strava data to explore a missile command center in Taiwan whose location is meant to be secret. top

UK gov will fine infrastructure firms up to £17m for lax cybersecurity safeguards (The Inquirer, 29 Jan 2018) - The UK government has announced that it will fine critical infrastructure organisations to £17m if they fail to implement appropriate cybersecurity safeguards. UK gov issued the warning over the weekend, telling bosses of energy, transport, water and health firms to boost their cyber security defences or risk being slapped with hefty fines under the incoming Network and Information Systems (NIS) directive . It said that, in the future, a regulator will be able to assess the cybersecurity infrastructure of the country’s critical industries to ensure they’re as robust “as possible”. This regulator will have the power to issue legally-binding instructions to improve security, and - if appropriate - impose financial penalties, the government warned. The system will be aimed at ensuring that UK electricity, transport, water, energy, transport, health and digital infrastructure firms are able to deal with cybersecurity threats. It will cover IT threats including power outages, hardware failures and environmental hazards. Under these measures, cybersecurity breaches and system failures such as WannaCry will fall under the NIS directive. top

The shrinking half-life of knowledge, and what that means for KM (KnoCo, 30 Jan 2018) - When John Browne was CEO at BP, he talked about “the shrinking half-life of ideas”. This always struck me as a very interesting concept; one which was fundamental to Browne’s approach to corporate KM. I have since found that he was quoting an older idea from 1962 concerning the shrinking half-life of Knowledge, which has now been popularised and explored by Sam Arbesman (see video) among others. The idea of a half-life comes from nuclear physics, and originally applied to the decay of radioactive nucleii. In knowledge terms it refers to the observation that, as this article tells us: “What we think we know changes over time. Things once accepted as true are shown to be plain wrong. .... But what’s really interesting is that studies of the frequency of citations of scientific papers show they become obsolete at a predictable rate. Just as with radioactive decay, you can’t tell when any one ‘fact’ will reach its expiry date, but you can predict how long it will take for half the facts in any discipline to do so. In medicine, for example, ‘truth’ seems to have a 45-year half-life. Some medical schools teach students that, within a few years, half of what they’ve been taught will be wrong - they just don’t know which half. In mathematics, the rate of decay is much slower: very few accepted mathematical proofs get disproved.” Not all knowledge has a short half-life - sometimes the knowledge is linked to the technology, and if you are running a nuclear power station using 1960s control software, then the half-life of the knowledge of the software has to exceed the life of the power station. However in most other areas, where knowledge is evolving and changing, and your competitive advantage lies (at least partly) in having the best and most valid knowledge, then hanging on to old knowledge which is past it’s half-life can be competitively dangerous. And the faster the speed of change, the shorter the half-life of knowledge and the greater the danger of using obsolete knowledge. Where knowledge has a short half-life, Knowledge Management is not so much about documenting and protecting “what you know”, it is about how fast you can know something new, and how easily you can let go of the old. top

Inserting people into porn movies: The First Amendment textbook problem (2005) (Eugene Volokh, 31 Jan 2018) - I added this problem to the second edition of my First Amendment textbook back in 2005, and accounts suggest that it’s now quite timely: Within ten or twenty years [of 2005], there will probably be consumer-usable software that can easily overlay people’s photographs and voices onto movies that depict someone else. The program would automatically and seamlessly alter multiple scenes in which the character is shown from different angles, with different facial expressions, doing different things. (Of course, one can already do this in some measure with photos, but this hypothetical program would be much more sophisticated.) Naturally, many people, famous or not, will be unhappy knowing that they are depicted without their permission in others’ home sex movies. Imagine that Congress therefore decides to prohibit the distribution and use of the computer program that allows such movies to be made. How would such a law be different for First Amendment purposes from normal obscenity legislation? Do you think the law should be upheld (even if that means changing First Amendment law), and on what grounds? If you think the law should be struck down, what about laws that: (1) prohibit the use of the software to make such pornographic movies without the photographed person’s consent; (2) prohibit the noncommercial distribution of the movies, whether to a small group of friends or on the Internet, or; (3) prohibit the commercial distribution of the movies? Don’t limit yourself to considering whether such laws are constitutional under existing obscenity doctrine. Consider also whether you think there should be an obscenity exception at all, and whether you think it should be broader or narrower than it now is. top

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Personalized fake porn videos are now for sale on Reddit (Motherboard, 6 Feb 2018) - Until last week, people in Reddit’s deepfakes community, which creates fake porn videos of celebrities using a machine learning algorithm, have been content to post their work for free, framing it as their hobby. But increasingly, they’re taking the opportunity to make a buck off of nonconsenting women’s likenesses, by selling face-swapped fake porn creations for cryptocurrency. In the weeks since we first reported on it, the r/deepfakes subreddit-home base for AI-generated fake porn videos, mostly of unconsenting celebrities-has exploded to more than 85,000 subscribers. One of those subreddits, r/deepfakeservice, is dedicated to commissioning deepfake videos from other users. The pinned rules post includes guidelines for formatting requests and service offers: For requests, the seller would ask for a description of the video, price, what they need to work with (images of the celebrity needed to create the fake video), and how much time it will take. Where there’s demand, there are people waiting to turn a profit. The subreddit has been up for about a week and has over 200 subscribers and a handful of requests. It raises the question: If trading fake porn videos for free exists in a legal gray area as we’ve reported , does putting a price tag on these videos change the game? [See also , Reddit bans ‘involuntary porn’ communities that trade AI-generated celebrity videos (Tech Crunch, 7 Feb 2018)] top

Get to know the city of Detroit’s propaganda arm (Metro Times, 31 Jan 2018) - Early this month, in the days after Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he’d be moving forward with a plan to require thousands of Detroit businesses to buy into a costly surveillance program intended to reduce crime, a sponsored post that looked favorably upon the program appeared at the top of our Facebook timeline. The linked content - “Inside the Real Time Crime Center, DPD’s 24-hour monitoring station” - had all of the trappings of a news story. There was a headline, a byline, a mix of quotes and information. It was published at a site called ” theneighborhoods.org ,” suggesting it may have been the work of a community news nonprofit. But the story was not journalism. It was written by the Detroit city government - more specifically, its “Storytelling” department. The department created by Duggan last year is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Staffed by six people, some of them former journalists, its primary objective is to populate a website and cable channel called “The Neighborhoods,” which launched as Duggan was in the midst of a re-election effort that hinged on his ability to thwart perceptions he’d let the city’s neighborhoods languish during his first term. The company line at the time was that the site would “give Detroiters and their neighborhoods a stronger voice,” filling a void department head and “chief storyteller” Aaron Foley claimed traditional media hadn’t. Five months in, the website appears to be fulfilling that mission - in part. The Neighborhoods’ story grid is primarily comprised of features on local businesses, notices on city services, and “things-to-do” listicles that include some neighborhood happenings. But the story posted Jan. 10 did not give Detroiters a “stronger voice” - it omitted their voices almost entirely. In covering the controversial and costly Project Green Light surveillance program following word of a possible mandate, the piece did not include the voices of Detroit business owners who might oppose being forced to buy the technology, nor did it provide quotes from any residents concerned about being filmed - it featured only voices from the law enforcement and counterterrorism intelligence communities. To the undiscerning reader, the report may have seemed innocuous. Project Green Light, a program in which businesses pay for cameras that stream video footage directly into Detroit police headquarters, is generally known for helping drive down crime where it’s present. The Neighborhoods’ story gave readers a glimpse into the Real Time Crime Center where the footage is streamed, and it supplied an anecdote in which police were able to quickly find and arrest a shooting suspect who was caught on tape. The story also did offer a few words about privacy concerns - though only to quickly shoot them down via an officer who said that if people were made to choose between protection and privacy, they’d choose protection. But the program has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and business owners have questioned its benefits . Earlier this month we reported that the expensive technology doesn’t appear to be helping stop crimes in progress, and that some business owners feel they benefit only from the perks of the system , which include “priority 1” police response times of 14 minutes. “It’s more of a ‘pay and we’ll come or don’t pay and we’re not coming,’” Billy Jawad, who runs a gas station on 7 Mile and Meyers, told us. The Neighborhoods story overlooked these dynamics, but it also neglected to mention a glaring news peg. Just days earlier, Duggan had said “the votes in council are there” to pass a law that would require any business open past 10 p.m. to buy the technology - at a cost of at least $4,000, plus monthly fees of $140 and up. The proposal, which the city later said would not come for about a year, could impact up to 4,000 businesses , according to Crain’s Detroit Business . top

Google Search results to give ‘diverse’ answers (BBC, 31 Jan 2018) - Google says it will soon alter its Search tool to provide “diverse perspectives” where appropriate. The change will affect the boxed text that often appears at the top of results pages - known as a Snippet - which contains a response sourced from a third-party site. At present, Google provides only a single box but it will sometimes show multiple Snippets in the future. The change could help Google tackle claims it sometimes spreads lies. But one expert warned the move introduced fresh risks of its own. Google introduced Snippets into its search results in 2014, placing the boxed text below paid listings but above other links. The idea is to provide information that users want without them having to click through to another page. Google acknowledged at the time that “fact quality” would vary depending on the request. But it has been accused of providing “shockingly bad” information in some cases. Google offered a less controversial example of a problem, in a blog detailing its new approach. It said that when users asked if reptiles made “good pets” they were given several reasons why the answer was yes, but if they asked if the animals made “bad pets” they were given contradictory advice. It said this happened because its system was designed to favour content that aligned with the posed question, and suggested that offering different viewpoints would therefore be a better option. “There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspective from multiple sources,” wrote Matthew Gray, Google’s Snippets chief. top

Opinion warns against judges doing online research on facts related to cases (ABA Journal, Feb 2018) - In Formal Opinion 478 , the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility addresses the restrictions imposed by the 2007 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct on a judge searching the internet for information helpful in deciding a case. The ABA opinion concludes that Rule 2.9(C) of the Model Code prohibits a judge from researching adjudicative facts on the internet unless a fact is subject to judicial notice. Rule 2.9(C) clearly and definitively declares that “a judge shall not investigate facts in a matter independently, and shall consider only the evidence presented and any facts that may properly be judicially noticed.” Acknowledging the integral part that search engines play in everyday life, Comment 6 to Rule 2.9 bluntly tells judges that the prohibition “extends to information available in all mediums, including electronic.” While recognizing that the internet, including social networking sites, provides immediate access to a limitless amount of information potentially useful to a judge laboring over difficult case-specific factual issues, the recent ABA opinion highlights two important justifications for the prohibition against electronic factual research. First, information found on the web may be fleeting, biased, misleading and sometimes downright false. Second, unless the narrow judicial-notice exception applies, gathering even trustworthy information from the internet compromises the division of responsibility between the judge and the parties so essential to the proper functioning of the adversarial system. The committee emphasizes this point by describing the “defining feature” of the judicial role as a judge’s duty to base decisions only on evidence presented in court and available to the parties. The limitations on independent factual research by judges are not solely a matter of judicial ethics. Rule 2.9(C) is one of the few provisions of the Model Code that integrates an evidentiary rule into an ethical standard. Rule 2.9(C) permits a judge to consider a fact from sources other than the evidence submitted by the parties as long as the judge abides by his or her jurisdiction’s requirements for taking judicial notice of the fact. Incorporating a rule of evidence into an ethical rule complicates the analysis because, as noted by the committee, judicial notice standards and procedures vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To illustrate how Rule 2.9(C) and the doctrine of judicial notice interface, the committee examines Federal Rule of Evidence 201, which governs judicial notice. * * * top

Freedom of the Press Foundation will preserve Gawker’s archives (Tech Crunch, 1 Feb 2018) - Gawker’s posts will be captured and saved by the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation , following a report that venture capitalist Peter Thiel wants to buy its remaining assets, including archived content and domain names. Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit that led to Gawker’s bankruptcy and eventual shutdown in 2016. In a blog post , Parker Higgins, the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s director of special projects, said it is launching an online archive collection with Archive-It , a service developed by the Internet Archive (the non-profit that runs the Wayback Machine). The archive will focus on preserving the entire sites of “news outlets we deem to be especially vulnerable to the ‘billionaire problem,’” Higgins wrote. Higgins wrote that by archiving news sites, the Freedom of the Press Foundation “seek[s] to reduce the ‘upside’ for wealthy individuals and organizations who would eliminate embarrassing or unflattering coverage by purchasing outlets outright. In other words, we hope that sites that can’t simply be made to disappear will show some immunity to the billionaire problem.” Archive-It takes screenshots of webpages at specific times and is used by universities, libraries, museums and other organizations to preserve sites they consider important historic documents. For example, UCLA used it to archive sites related to the Occupy Wall Street protests , while the Internet Archive made a collection of sites, news coverage, blog entries and documents about the Wikileaks releases . The Freedom of the Press Foundation has already used Archive-It to capture the LA Weekly after it was acquired by Semenal Media , which originally tried to keep the identity of its owners secret, and then fired most of the newspaper’s editorial staff . Preserved content from Gawker will appear in the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s collection, as well as on the Wayback Machine. [ See also, Archiving the alternative press threatened by wealthy buyers (Freedom of the Press Foundation, 31 Jan 2018)] top

A cybersecurity tip sheet for U.S. campaign officials is gaining traction, usage in field (CyberScoop, 1 Feb 2018) - A prominent nonprofit research organization has begun distributing tip sheets to campaign officials in an effort to safeguard the 2018 midterm elections from hackers. Alison Lundergan, Kentucky’s secretary of state, and Mac Warner, West Virginia’s secretary of state, are now sharing the ” Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook ” with candidates seeking office in their states. Kentucky and West Virginia represent the first two states in the country to distribute and leverage these guidelines. The playbook was created by Defending Digital Democracy (DDD) - a bipartisan initiative focused on providing tools and strategies to protect the democratic process from cyberattacks. The initiative was launched last summer at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. It is led by two former campaign managers who were involved in leading failed presidential campaigns for 2016 democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and 2012 republican candidate Mitt Romney, respectively. The DDD playbook is intended for campaigns that don’t have the means to hire professional cybersecurity staff. The recommendations are supposed to be easily digestible for people without technical training. The document was created with the goal of providing political campaigns, candidates and their staff with the basic information to prevent digital attacks. It will be used to “provide campaign operatives with bipartisan and commonsense steps on cybersecurity,” Colin Reed, senior vice presidents of public affairs at DDD told CyberScoop. top

3 million Americans live in higher education deserts (InsideHigherEd, 2 Feb 2018) - Roughly three million Americans live more than 25 miles from a broad-access public college and do not have the sort of high-speed internet connection necessary for online college programs, according to a report from the Urban Institute’s education policy program. The institute used data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission to identify these education “deserts,” cross-referencing that information with data from the Census Bureau to determine who lives in them. The report found that 17.6 million adults live in a physical higher education desert, with 3.1 million (1.3 percent of adults in the U.S.) lacking access to online and physical college programs. The report also tracked the demographics of people who live in education deserts. “This study demonstrates what many Native Americans, rural Americans and other Americans living in education deserts already know: the internet has not untethered all of us from our geographic locations,” said the report. “As long as broadband access depends on geography, place still plays an important role in access to higher education.” top

NIST issues “Blockchain Technology Overview” (Ride The Lightning, 5 Feb 2018) - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a report titled ” Blockchain Technology Overview .” The report is intended to provide a high-level technical overview and discusses the application of blockchain technology to electronic currency in depth as well as broader applications. “We want to help people understand how blockchains work so that they can appropriately and usefully apply them to technology problems,” said NIST computer scientist Dylan Yaga, who is one of the authors of the report. “It’s an introduction to the things you should understand and think about if you want to use blockchain.” According to Yaga, blockchain technology is a powerful new paradigm for business. “Because the market is growing so rapidly, several stakeholders, customers and agencies asked NIST to create a straightforward description of blockchain so that newcomers to the marketplace could enter with the same knowledge about the technology,” according to the NIST press release. The NIST draft report is open to public comments from January 24 to February 23, 2018. top

Businesses with Apple and Cisco products may now pay less for cybersecurity insurance (Tech Crunch, 5 Feb 2018) - Apple and Cisco announced this morning a new deal with insurer Allianz that will allow businesses with their technology products to receive better terms on their cyber insurance coverage, including lower deductibles - or even no deductibles, in some cases. Allianz said it made the decision to offer these better terms after evaluating the technical foundation of Apple and Cisco’s products, like Cisco’s Ransomware Defense and Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac. Allianz found Apple and Cisco’s products offered businesses a “superior level of security,” Apple said in its own announcement about the new deal. The new cyber security insurance solution will involve Aon’s cyber security professionals assessing potential customers’ current cyber security situation and recommendations on how to improve their defenses. And participating organizations will have access to Cisco and Aon’s Incident Response teams in the event of a malware attack. top

An ‘iceberg’ of unseen crimes: Many cyber offenses go unreported (NYT, 5 Feb 2018) - Utah’s chief law enforcement officer was deep in the fight against opioids when he realized that a lack of data on internet sales of fentanyl was hindering investigations. So the officer, Keith D. Squires, the state’s public safety commissioner, created a team of analysts to track and chronicle online distribution patterns of the drug. In Philadelphia, hidebound ways of confronting iPhone thefts let thrive illicit networks to distribute stolen cellphones. Detectives treated each robbery as an unrelated street crime - known as “apple picking” - rather than a vast scheme with connected channels used by thieves to sell the stolen phones. And in Nashville, investigators had no meaningful statistics on a nasty new swindle of the digital age: the “cheating husband” email scheme. In it, anonymous extortionists mass-email large numbers of men, threatening to unmask their infidelities. The extortionists have no idea if the men have done anything wrong, but enough of them are guilty, it turns out, that some pay up, sometimes with Bitcoin. Each case demonstrates how the tools used to fight crime and measure crime trends in the United States are outdated. Even as certain kinds of crimes are declining, others are increasing - yet because so many occur online and have no geographic borders, local police departments face new challenges not only fighting them, but also keeping track of them. Politicians often promote crime declines without acknowledging the rise of new cybercrimes. Many of the offenses are not even counted when major crimes around the nation are tallied. Among them: identity theft; sexual exploitation; ransomware attacks ; fentanyl purchases over the dark web; human trafficking for sex or labor; revenge porn; credit card fraud; child exploitation; and gift or credit card schemes that gangs use to raise cash for their traditional operations or vendettas. In a sense, technology has created an extraordinary moment for industrious criminals, increasing profits without the risk of street violence. Digital villainy can be launched from faraway states, or countries, eliminating physical threats the police traditionally confront. Cyberperpetrators remain unknown. Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, ask themselves: Who owns their crimes? Who must investigate them? What are the specific violations? Who are the victims? How can we prevent it? top

The NYT debuts its first augmented reality-enhanced story on iOS (Tech Crunch, 6 Feb 2018) - Apple’s investment in AR technologies has been ushering in a new wave of apps , from those that let you perform more practical tasks - like visualizing furniture placement in rooms - to those with mass consumer appeal - like AR gaming, including Niantic’s upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite . But AR can also be used to create unique experiences within more traditional apps, too, as The New York Times is showcasing with today’s launch of its first-ever AR experiment for storytelling . In The NYT’s iOS app for iPhone and iPad, the company is debuting its first AR-enabled article, offering a preview of the Winter Olympics . The article focuses on top Olympic athletes, including figure skater Nathan Chen, snowboarder Anna Gasser, short track speed skater J.R. Celski, and hockey goalie Alex Rigsby. In the app, NYT readers can view the athletes appear in the room beside them, zoom in and out, and walk around in 360 degrees to see them from every side. This lets you get up close and personal with the Olympians, where you’re able to see things like how high Chen’s skates are off the ice when performing a jump, the offset of Celski’s skates, or how far open Alex Rigsby’s glove is when making a save. * * * [ Polley : quite impressive - the athletes appear in high-def, right in the middle of my living room; they’re frozen in time, and I can walk entirely around them, and approach/back-away to see more detail, close-up. Impressive.] top

An AI that reads privacy policies so that you don’t have to (Wired, 9 Feb 2018) - You don’t read privacy policies. And of course, that’s because they’re not actually written for you, or any of the other billions of people who click to agree to their inscrutable legalese. Instead, like bad poetry and teenagers’ diaries, those millions upon millions of words are produced for the benefit of their authors, not readers-the lawyers who wrote those get-out clauses to protect their Silicon Valley employers. But one group of academics has proposed a way to make those virtually illegible privacy policies into the actual tool of consumer protection they pretend to be: an artificial intelligence that’s fluent in fine print. Today, researchers at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan announced the release of Polisis -short for “privacy policy analysis”-a new website and browser extension that uses their machine-learning-trained app to automatically read and make sense of any online service’s privacy policy , so you don’t have to. In about 30 seconds, Polisis can read a privacy policy it’s never seen before and extract a readable summary, displayed in a graphic flow chart, of what kind of data a service collects, where that data could be sent, and whether a user can opt out of that collection or sharing. Polisis’ creators have also built a chat interface they call Pribot that’s designed to answer questions about any privacy policy, intended as a sort of privacy-focused paralegal advisor. Together, the researchers hope those tools can unlock the secrets of how tech firms use your data that have long been hidden in plain sight. “What if we visualize what’s in the policy for the user?” asks Hamza Harkous, an EPFL researcher who led the work, describing the thoughts that led the group to their work on Polisis and Pribot. “Not to give every piece of the policy, but just the interesting stuff… What if we turned privacy policies into a conversation?” Plug in the website for Pokemon Go, for instance, and Polisis will immediately find its privacy policy and show you the vast panoply of information that the game collects, from IP addresses and device IDs to location and demographics, as well as how those data sources are split between advertising, marketing, and use by the game itself. It also shows that only a small sliver of that data is subject to a clear opt-in consent. (See how Polisis lays out those data flows in the chart below.) Feed it the website for DNA analysis app Helix, and Polisis shows that health and demographic information is collected for analytics and basic services, but, reassuringly, none of it is used for advertising and marketing, and most of the sensitive data collection is opt-in. top


SEC Cybersecurity Guidelines: Insights Into the Utility of Risk Factor Disclosures for Investors (ABA Business Law Section, Jan 2018) - In October 2011, the SEC issued new guidelines for disclosure of cybersecurity risks. Some firms responded to these guidelines by issuing new risk factor disclosures. This article examines the guidelines and cybersecurity disclosures in the context of existing laws governing securities regulation. It then examines empirical results from firm disclosures following the new guidelines. Evidence shows a relatively small proportion of firms chose to modify their risk factor disclosures, with most firms choosing not to disclose any specific cybersecurity risk. Moreover, disclosing firms generally experienced significant negative stock market price effects on account of making new disclosures. Rather than viewing disclosure as a positive signal of management attentiveness, investors apparently viewed it as a cautionary sign. top

The Cyberlaw Guide to Protest Art: Roadmap (Harvard Berkman/Klein, 22 Jan 2018) - Art plays a significant role in American democracy. Across the political spectrum, protest art - posters, songs, poems, memes, and more -inspires us, gives us a sense of community, and provides insight into how others think and feel about important and often controversial issues. While protest art has been part of our culture for a very long time, the Internet and social media have changed the available media and the visibility of protest artists. Digital technologies make it easy to find existing works and incorporate them into your own, and art that goes viral online spreads faster than was ever possible in the analog world. Many artists find the law that governs all of this unclear in the physical world, and even murkier online. The authors of this guide are a collection of lawyers and creative folks. We have seen how the law can undermine artists, writers, and musicians when they’re caught unaware, and distract them from the work they want to do. But we’ve also observed how savvy creators use the law to enhance their work and broaden their audiences. This guide is intended to ensure that you, the reader, can be one of the savvy ones. top


(note: link-rot has affected about 50% of these original URLs)

Sharper aerial pictures spark privacy fears (The Guardian, 24 Jan 2008) - If you were up to no good in the London open air last winter, start working up excuses: you might be on the web. This week, a company launches an online map of central London which includes aerial photography at four times the resolution of existing online maps: the equivalent of looking down from the 10th floor. The map, from 192.com, publishes aerial photography at a resolution of 4cm for London and 12.5cm for the rest of the UK. In the right conditions, images at this resolution are enough to identify individuals - a step that existing online mapping ventures such as Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth have so far been careful to avoid. Alastair Crawford, 192’s chief executive, makes no apologies for the possibilities: “We’re considering holding a competition. We want to challenge people to find out how much naughty stuff is happening. If you’re having an affair in London, you’d better be careful!” The mapping venture is likely to heat up the debate about the extent to which information about individuals is available on the web - especially as 192.com, which specialises in providing data about individuals gleaned from official sources has announced plans to attach estimated ages to every person in its database of 27 million Britons. top

GOP halts effort to retrieve White House e-mails (Washington Post, 27 Feb 2008) - After promising last year to search its computers for tens of thousands of e-mails sent by White House officials, the Republican National Committee has informed a House committee that it no longer plans to retrieve the communications by restoring computer backup tapes, the panel’s chairman said yesterday. The move increases the likelihood that an untold number of RNC e-mails dealing with official White House business during the first term of the Bush administration - including many sent or received by former presidential adviser Karl Rove - will never be recovered, said House Democrats and public records advocates. The RNC had previously told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it was attempting to restore e-mails from 2001 to 2003, when the RNC had a policy of purging all e-mails, including those to and from White House officials, after 30 days. But Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) disclosed during a hearing yesterday that the RNC has now said it “has no intention of trying to restore the missing White House e-mails.” “The result is a potentially enormous gap in the historical record,” Waxman said, including the buildup to the Iraq war. Spokesman Danny Diaz said in a statement that the RNC “is fully compliant with the spirit and letter of the law.” He declined further comment. top