Beware of Bitcoin Malware

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

How Secure Are Your Passwords?

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. . . .

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. 
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:
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 . . .

What Will the World Be Like Post-Keyboard?

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.

The Digital Public Library of America: Information Wants to Be Free

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.

How Long Will It Be Before Americans' Data and Information Privacy Is Protected by Law?

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 . . .

Court: You Cannot Sell Your MP3s

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.

Is Facebook the Next Friendster?

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 . . .