Bloated: Pre-loaded Apps Take Up 50% of Smartphone Storage Capacity

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. reports that, because of preloaded apps, the new 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 actually only has about 8GB of free space on it.  Excerpt:
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.

Las Enforcement Takes Stand Against Secure Online Communication

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.

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. 
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:
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.  

Over 50 Million User Accounts Compromised at LivingSocial

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 — 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.

US Government and Corporations Lobby Against European Data Privacy Rights

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 . . .

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,, 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."
See Naked Citizens for more information.

Why is it still legal for the government to access and read your email without a warrant?

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.

Fake Tweet Causes Stock Market Plunge

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.

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."
Do Wall Street types actually believe everything they read on the internet?  lol

BitTorrent Launches Secure Alternative to Cloud Storage

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.