When a product’s packaging tells you that you’re going to get a certain amount of storage there’s an expectation that it will deliver something close to that amount for you to use. With Android phones, it’s common to simply not warn buyers that the available storage is partially used by the system and pre-loaded apps. If built-in storage is a big deal to you, the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 may not be your best choice.
If you head to the Storage section of the Settings on a new Galaxy S4, you’ll find that only 8.82GB is available to the user. That’s the total space available to you, so applications that were pre-loaded by your carrier and anything you sync over during account creation will pull from that amount. The rest of that 16GB you can’t even see as the user — Android tells you that the phone only has 8.82GB total, entirely cutting out the space used by the system itself.
Thinking about getting a new smartphone? Be sure to double check the amount of storage space it offers and cross check that with the amount of space already taken up when you turn it on for the first time. Geek.com reports that, because of preloaded apps, the new 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 actually only has about 8GB of free space on it. Excerpt:
Governments are among the greatest threats to data privacy and information security on the internet. Law enforcement groups in the United States are now effectively demanding that the privacy and security of all online communications be compromised because there might be criminals using those means of communications. From the Washington Post:
A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort.The thing is, when you have a means of communication that actually is secure, there is no way to wiretap or intercept it, that is the point of a secure means of communication. The article continues:
Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders — court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications.
There is currently no way to wiretap some of these communications methods easily . . . the companies argue that they have no means to facilitate the wiretap . . .What government agencies want is a backdoor into these secure means of communications. In other words, they want to compromise the security of all means of communication. Excerpt:
Susan Landau, a former Sun Microsystems distinguished engineer, has argued that wiring in an intercept capability will increase the likelihood that a company’s servers will be hacked. “What you’ve done is created a way for someone to silently go in and activate a wiretap,” she said. Traditional phone communications were susceptible to illicit surveillance as a result of the 1994 law, she said, but the problem “becomes much worse when you move to an Internet or computer-based network.”This case is especially interesting because the FBI and other government agencies have no qualms about illegally wiretapping the communications of Americans citizens. Here, they have legal authority to do so, but they are incapable of doing so because the technology is secure. What's their solution? To make the technology insecure.
From All Things D:
LivingSocial, the daily deals site owned in part by Amazon, has suffered a massive cyber attack on its computer systems, which an email from CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy — just sent to employees and obtained by AllThingsD.com — said resulted in “unauthorized access to some customer data from our servers.”
The hack includes customer names, emails, birthdates and encrypted passwords. The breach has impacted 50 million customers of the Washington, D.C.-based company, who will now be required to reset their passwords.
The US government along with allied corporations represent a threat not only to the data privacy rights of Americans, they are going after the Europeans too. From Info World:
Some of the proposed changes to Europe's data protection laws would strip citizens of their privacy rights, a coalition of international civil liberties organizations said Thursday. The European Parliament is currently considering proposals from the European Commission for a complete overhaul of the E.U.'s data protection laws . . .See Naked Citizens for more information.
Creating one regulation to replace national data protection and privacy laws in the 27 E.U. countries obviously requires compromise, but many parliamentarians report never seeing lobbying on such a scale before. In an effort to reach some sort of consensus, more than 4,000 changes to the draft text have been proposed. . . .
The civil liberties coalition, which includes Access, Bits of Freedom, EDRI, La Quadrature du Net and Privacy International, has set up a website, nakedcitizens.eu, to help concerned citizens contact their representatives in the Parliament. The groups have also presented a report based on their analysis of the proposed amendments.
"Among the thousands of amendments tabled are a large number that threaten to severely weaken privacy rights in the U.K.," the report said. "These damaging amendments are largely the result of an unprecedented lobbying storm by big U.S. tech companies, the U.S. government and the advertising industry."
It is quite likely that many if not most people are under the false impression that their email is private and secure. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. In many ways, an email is akin to a postcard. While it is in transit from the sender to the addressee, it can be read by anyone who sees it or otherwise intercepts it along the way. Numerous government agencies, including law enforcement and even the IRS, claim that they do not need a warrant if they want to comb through your emails. Some lawmakers are slowly beginning to recognize that this represents a threat to the Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. From Techdirt:
Today, in a markup for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee very quickly (like 10 minutes after it started) approved an amendment offered by Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee, which would amend the law to make it so that law enforcement needs to get a warrant if it's accessing your email.However, the Orwellians among us need not fear. The Justice Department is already working to help internet service providers to evade illegal wiretapping laws. From The Verge:
Internal government documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center have revealed that the US Department of Justice is secretly helping AT&T and other service providers evade wiretapping laws so that the US government can conduct surveillance on parts of their networks. The legal immunity comes from authorizations granted by the Justice Department through special "2511" letters that absolve carriers in the event that the surveillance is found to run afoul of federal law. . . .
It won't be the first time that AT&T cooperated so directly with law enforcement. It was given retroactive immunity for its role in NSA surveillance programs under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. That law was passed two years after AT&T technician Mark Klein revealed evidence that the telecom had cooperated with the NSA, installing routing equipment inside a secret room at a network hub in San Francisco.
The professional hysterics and security fetishists are a threat to the financial stability of the United States. A fake tweet from a hacker who had obtained control of the Associated Press's Twitter feed caused stock markets to lose billions of dollars in value in a matter of minutes yesterday. From USA Today:
A hacked Twitter account of a major news organization Tuesday dispelled any lingering notion that tweets are mere 140-character missives that harmlessly fly off into the ether.
The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the security breach that momentarily sent stocks into free fall Tuesday, erasing some $200 billion from the market's value.Do Wall Street types actually believe everything they read on the internet? lol
At 1:07 p.m. ET, a tweet from the Associated Press exclaimed: "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured." Within seconds, Wall Street was in panic mode and the Dow Jones industrial average and other benchmark indexes plummeted.
The Associated Press quickly revealed its Twitter account was a hacked fake, and the White House issued assurances that the president was safe. "The president is fine," spokesman Jay Carney said. "I was just with him."
From Torrent Freak:
BitTorrent Inc. has opened up its Sync app to the public today. The new application is free of charge and allows people to securely sync folders to multiple devices using the BitTorrent protocol. Complete control over the storage location of the files and the absence of limits is what sets BitTorrent’s solution apart from traditional cloud based synchronization services.
Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Mega are just a few examples of the many file-storage and backup services that are available today. All these services rely on external cloud based hosting to back up and store files. This means that you have to trust these companies with your personal and confidential files, and that your storage space is limited . . .
BitTorrent Sync’s functionality is comparable to services such as Dropbox and Skydrive, except for the fact that there’s no cloud involved. Users sync the files between their own computers and no third-party has access to it.
Besides increased security, BitTorrent sync transfers also tend to go a lot faster than competing cloud services. Another advantage is that there are no storage or transfer limits, so users can sync as many files as they want, for free.
From the Wall Street Journal:
As early as Monday, the Senate will vote on a bill that was introduced only last Tuesday. The text of this legislation, which would fundamentally change interstate commerce, only became available on the Library of Congress website over the weekend. . . .
For Senators curious about what they're voting on, it is the same flawed proposal that Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) introduced in February. It has been repackaged to qualify for a Senate rule that allows Majority Leader Harry Reid to bypass committee debate and bring it straight to the floor.
Mr. Enzi's Marketplace Fairness Act discriminates against Internet-based businesses by imposing burdens that it does not apply to brick-and-mortar companies. For the first time, online merchants would be forced to collect sales taxes for all of America's estimated 9,600 state and local taxing authorities.
We're all well aware of the fact that governments and corporations routinely employ individuals to spread propaganda messages online. But the military may soon be automating the process. From The Guardian:
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.
A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.
The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.
The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.
Major technology and Web companies — not limited to Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft — will not be allowed to promise to protect users' privacy should CISPA pass Congress. For those out of the loop, CISPA will allow private sector firms to search personal and sensitive user data of ordinary U.S. residents to identify this so-called "threat information", and to then share that information with each other and the US government — without the need for a court-ordered warrant. . . . those who signed up to services under the explicit terms that data would not be shared — with perhaps the exception of the U.S. government if a valid court order or subpoena is served — would no longer have such rights going forward.
From The Guardian:
If you are eligible to vote in the United States, please take a break from whatever you're doing today and call your member of the US House of Representatives. Tell the staff member who answers the phone that you value your privacy. And tell him or her that you are deeply unhappy that the House seems poised to destroy everyone's online – and by extension offline – privacy by passing the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa) . . . [The bill] invites companies like internet service providers to share information so they can coordinate defenses.
Worthy ideas in the abstract, but horrible in the details: cyber-security is a genuine concern, as we've seen repeatedly. But this bill is easily the worst attack on the open internet since the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), an online censorship bill that was killed in the wake of widespread opposition early last year. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Mark Jaycox put it in an open forum on Reddit last week, here are some of Cispa's consequences:
Companies have new rights to monitor user actions and share data – including potentially sensitive user data – with the government without a warrant.
Cispa overrides existing privacy law, and grants broad immunities to participating companies.Information provided to the federal government under Cispa would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other state laws that could otherwise require disclosure (unless some law other than Cispa already requires its provision to the government).Cispa's authors argue that the bill contains limitations on how the federal government can use and disclose information by permitting lawsuits against the government. But if a company sends information about a user that is not cyberthreat information, the government agency does not notify the user, only the company.
Maplight reports that CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known to its critics as the internet censorship act, has picked up nearly three dozen co-sponsors in the US House following a corporate lobbying effort of IBM executives to their puppets in the legislature. From Maplight:
On Monday, the same day that IBM flew nearly 200 executives to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress in support of CISPA, 35 members of the House signed onto the bill as new co-sponsors. Proir to Monday, CISPA had only 2 co-sponsors since being introduced in February.The EFF and the ACLU have organized a campaign to defeat CISPA. From the EFF:
On Tuesday, the Obama Administration issued a veto threat against the bill in its current form citing privacy concerns.
Data: MapLight analysis of reported contributions to the 35 new CISPA co-sponsors and the entire House from interest groups supporting and opposing CISPA.
CISPA is a dangerous "cybersecurity" bill that would grant companies more power to obtain "threat" information (such as from private communications of users) and to disclose that data to the government without a warrant -- including sending data to the National Security Agency.
CISPA was recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives. EFF is joining groups like ACLU and Fight for the Future in combating this legislation. Last year, tens of thousands of concerned individuals used the EFF action center to speak out against overbroad and ineffective cybersecurity proposals. Together, we substantially changed the debate around cybersecurity in the U.S., moving forward a range of privacy-protective amendments and ultimately helping to defeat the Senate bill.
It is widely known that in comparison with other countries, people in the United States pay more money for slower internet connections. Yesterday, Sony unveiled the world's fastest internet in Japan. From Engadget:
Google Fiber might be making waves with its 1Gbps speeds, but it's no match for what's being hailed as the world's fastest commercially-provided home internet service: Nuro. Launched in Japan yesterday by Sony-supported ISP So-net, the fiber connection pulls down data at 2 Gbps, and sends it up at 1 Gbps.Why is the US lagging so far behind in this important technological metric? You know the answer: the collusion of big business and big government. From Reuters:
The backbone of the Internet — fiber, cables, and copper wires – sounds boring. But these physical structures enable the bits and bytes that increasingly define our lives to flow to and from computers around the world. Without them, there’s no Internet. If they’re slow or outdated, they handicap our access to the digital world. Which means these boring pieces of hardware are a new battleground for access in our digital age.
In this interview, I speak with telecom policy expert Susan Crawford about the state of this backbone. She explains the technologies involved, the players who control them, and how the U.S. has already fallen well behind other developed nations when it comes to speeds and connectivity. Finally we talk about her prescription for how America can regain its preeminence — not just as the creators, but as the leaders — of the Internet.
Admins beware. Make sure you've got a secure password. From the BBC:
Wordpress has been attacked by a botnet of "tens of thousands" of individual computers since last week, according to server hosters Cloudflare and Hostgator. The botnet targets Wordpress users with the username "admin", trying thousands of possible passwords. The attack began a week after Wordpress beefed up its security with an optional two-step authentication log-in option. The site currently powers 64m websites read by 371m people each month.
The NYPD has been experimenting with a smart phone app that allows officers to track, and surveil citizens and communities in real time. Excerpt:
The Police Department has distributed about 400 dedicated Android smartphones to its officers, part of a pilot program begun quietly last summer. The phones, which cannot make or receive calls, enable officers on foot patrol, for the first time, to look up a person’s criminal history and verify their identification by quickly gaining access to computerized arrest files, police photographs, and state Department of Motor Vehicles databases.The technology offers extraordinary levels of detail about an individual, including whether the person has ever been “a passenger in a motor vehicle accident,” a victim of a crime or in one instance, a drug suspect who has been known by the police to hide crack cocaine “in his left sock,” according to Officer Donaldson.
The app provides:
access to the names of every resident with an open warrant, arrest record or previous police summons; each apartment with a prior domestic incident report; all residents with orders of protection against them; registered gun owners; and the arrest photographs of every parolee in the building. The officers could even find every video surveillance camera, whether mounted at the corner deli or on housing property, that was directed at the building.
If police are going to have access to this kind of information on the taxpayer's dime, then the public should have access to it as well.
Among the greatest dangers to the rights and liberties of the people of the United States is the sustained assault on the Fourth Amendment being waged by agencies and individuals at all levels of the government. For example, the IRS claims it can read your email without a warrant, because you have no expectation of privacy. From CNET:
The Internal Revenue Service doesn't believe it needs a search warrant to read your e-mail. Newly disclosed documents prepared by IRS lawyers say that Americans enjoy "generally no privacy" in their e-mail, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and similar online communications -- meaning that they can be perused without obtaining a search warrant signed by a judge.Police take the very same liberties with your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. From the EFF:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the Washington State Supreme Court Monday to recognize that text messages are "the 21st Century phone call" and require that law enforcement officers obtain a warrant before reading texts on someone's phone. . . . In this case, police seized a cell phone during a drug investigation and monitored incoming messages. Officers responded to several texts, setting up meetings that resulted in two arrests, without first getting a warrant. Prosecutors have argued that no warrant was required because there should be no expectation of privacy in text messages, as anyone can pick up someone else's phone and read what's stored there.If you do not see a problem with a government that believes it has the right to monitor all of your electronic communications, perhaps you should re-read the constitution and brush up on the history of totalitarianism.
From Talking Points Memo:
A few weeks ago, Yahoo made headlines when it acquired Summly, a startup run by a 17-year-old CEO named Nick D’Aloisio for $30 million. Summly is a news aggregation app. We thought the deal was weird. . . .What could be going on here? Is this just incompetence? Or is it something more nefarious?
Now we’ve learned another piece of information that makes the deal stranger. Not only did the Summly team not invent the app’s technology, they also did not build the app. A company called Somo did . . . So here is what Yahoo did: It “aqui-hired” a team of people, led by a 17-year-old living in London, that cannot claim to have invented a cool technology OR to have built a cool app.
One month ago, one bitcoin was worth around $50. Today, Bitcoin has surged past the $200 mark, and, as if this writing, is trading at $218 on MtGox, the most popular bitcoin exchange. There are many different theories floating around out there to explain this explosive growth in price. By far the most common is the claim that we are in the midst of a massive bubble. As new money pours into the system – and these days that new money is big money from professional investors – the incentives for scammers, hackers, crooks and the like grow accordingly. If you are relatively new to Bitcoin, are are relatively new to it, make sure you do your due diligence to secure your wallet and coins, it is certain that there are a great many people out there salivating at the idea of making off with a great deal of coin. Even if you have no interest in Bitcoin whatsoever, or even think that it is nothing more than a pyramid scheme, as some skeptics do, you should also be cognizant of these potential threats. From The Next Web:
A new piece of malware propagating across Skype has been discovered that tries to convince the recipient to click on a link. What makes this particular threat different is that it drops a Bitcoin miner application to make the malware author money. While malware has spread on Skype and mined Bitcoins before, putting the two together could be an effective new strategy. Security firm Kaspersky discovered the threat, which it names Trojan.Win32.Jorik.IRCbot.xkt
In an increasingly digitized world, the importance of information security arguably expands at an exponential rate. Many people and institutions still take a cavalier attitude toward the security of the information about them own and their clients lives that is both theoretically and practically accessible to anyone who is determined to get access to it. CNN reports on Shodan, a search engine that provides access to information on half a million devices and services connected to the internet. Excerpt:
Shodan navigates the Internet's back channels. It's a kind of "dark" Google, looking for the servers, webcams, printers, routers and all the other stuff that is connected to and makes up the Internet. . . .What can you do to make sure your information is secure online? The answer is actually quite simple. Take password protections seriously. From Three Twelve:
It's stunning what can be found with a simple search on Shodan. Countless traffic lights, security cameras, home automation devices and heating systems are connected to the Internet and easy to spot.
Shodan searchers have found control systems for a water park, a gas station, a hotel wine cooler and a crematorium. Cybersecurity researchers have even located command and control systems for nuclear power plants and a particle-accelerating cyclotron by using Shodan.
Eight-character passwords are simply not effective enough. According to Wikipedia:"As of 2011, commercial products are available that claim the ability to test up to 2,800,000,000 passwords per second on a standard desktop computer using a high-end graphics processor." Guess how long your 8-character password can stand up against that attack? If you made it to a few minutes, you'd be lucky. The computer can guess EVERY SINGLE COMBINATION of eight lowercase letters in 22 seconds at that rate. Throwing in special characters, uppercase, and numerals greatly increases the complexity, of course. In reality, though, people have pre-computed ALL 8-digit passwords into databases called "rainbow tables" and can just look up (in something like .001 seconds) whether your password has been computed already. . . .
So What Does a Good Password Look Like? XKCD gives a great example: "correct horse battery staple" Check it out--it's incredibly easy to remember, yet its length is 28 or 25 characters, depending on whether you use spaces. This would take the same computer above centuries or millenia to break . . .
Because you have dozens of accounts all across the web, you will need dozens of UNIQUE passwords. For an easy, repeatable way to do that, come up with a system that generates a password for you . . .
One of the more interesting, and often overlooked anachronisms of the everyday world today is how many 21st century technologies rely on a 19th century invention: the keyboard. But this may soon be a thing of the past. From Yahoo News:
Typing text messages on a mobile phone via the tiny soft keyboard is very cumbersome. How about simply writing your words in the air? This idea drove the development of “airwriting” developed by computer scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. Sensors attached to a glove record hand movements, a computer system captures relevant signals and translates them into text, which can then create an email, text message, or any other type of mobile app. “Our Airwriting glove fits on the back of the hand. It has motion sensors, accelerometers and angular rate sensors – technologies used in modern smartphones – and signals are just recorded and transmitted via Bluetooth, for example, in this case to a laptop," says computer scientist Christoph Amma.
If, as Thomas Jefferson famously stated, a well-informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will, then free public access to repositories of information and the wealth of human knowledge is a prerequisite of self government. Next month, a great step forward in this regard will be taken with the launch of the Digital Public Library of America. The New York Review of Books provides some background and context on this massive project. Excerpt:
The Digital Public Library of America, to be launched on April 18, is a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge. How is that possible? In order to answer that question, I would like to describe the first steps and immediate future of the DPLA. But before going into detail, I think it important to stand back and take a broad view of how such an ambitious undertaking fits into the development of what we commonly call an information society.
Around the world, it is considered common sense that the law should protect how individuals' information and data are gathered, accessed and used by state and private sector actors and agents. In the United States, on the other hand, a concern for data protection and privacy is likely rather to be considered a form of pathological paranoia. You'd think this would change as more and more people become victims of identity theft, but some people never learn. Fortunately, however, some lawmakers are beginning to get it. A new bill proposed in California would require companies to reveal what information they have stored on an individual when requested to do so by that individual. From the EFF:
Let’s face it: most of us have no idea how companies are gathering and sharing our personal data. Colossal data brokers are sucking up personal facts about Americans from sources they refuse to disclose. Digital giants like Facebook are teaming up with data brokers in unsettling new ways. Privacy policies for companies are difficult to read at best and can change in a heartbeat. And even savvy users are unlikely to fend off the snooping eyes of online trackers working to build profiles of our interests and web histories.
So what can we do about it? A new proposal in California, supported by a diverse coalition including EFF and the ACLU of Northern California, is fighting to bring transparency and access to the seedy underbelly of digital data exchanges. The Right to Know Act (AB 1291) would require a company to give users access to the personal data the company has stored on them—as well as a list of all the other companies with whom that original company has shared the users' personal data—when a user requests it. It would cover California residents and would apply to both offline and online companies. If you live in California, click here to support this bill . . .
From the BBC:
A company which allowed customers to resell their digital music "second hand" breached copyright, a US judge has ruled. ReDigi billed itself as the first legal way to resell music bought online - but soon provoked the ire of record labels. It was sued by Capitol Records in January 2012, and on Monday a New York judge said ReDigi was making unauthorised copies of music.
The ruling could have broad implications for digital reselling. Unlike physical music CDs, Judge Richard Sullivan ruled that the "first sale doctrine" did not apply. The doctrine is a long-established rule which allows the reselling of goods to a new owner. In other words, selling a CD once you no longer want it.
But in the digital world, where duplication is much easier, the first sale doctrine was not appropriate, the judge said. "It is simply impossible that the same 'material object' can be transferred over the internet," he wrote in his ruling.
Some of you out there probably will not remember Friendster, and that is probably for the best. When Facebook first started to become popular, it was often referred to as the next Friendster, and people quickly dropped out of Friendster and similar sites, such as Myspace, in favor of the new social network. Now it appears young people are opting out of Facebook for phone-based messaging apps. This was likely inevitable. From Reuters:
hundreds of millions of tech-savvy young people have instead turned to a wave of smartphone-based messaging apps that are now sweeping across North America, Asia and Europe.
The hot apps include Kik and Whatsapp, both products of North American startups, as well as Kakao Inc's KakaoTalk, NHN Corp's LINE and Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat, which have blossomed in Asian markets.
Combining elements of text messaging and social networking, the apps provide a quick-fire way for smartphone users to trade everything from brief texts to flirtatious pictures to YouTube clips - bypassing both the SMS plans offered by wireless carriers and established social networks originally designed as websites.
Facebook Inc, with 1 billion users, remains by far the world's most popular website, and its stepped-up focus on mobile has made it the most-used smartphone app as well. Still, across Silicon Valley, investors and industry insiders say there is a possibility that the messaging apps could threaten Facebook's dominance over the next few years . . .