Mary Bottari, PRWatch: In recent years, there has been an explosion of full-time `virtual' charter schools paid for by the taxpayer. K12 Inc. and ALEC have pushed a national agenda to replace brick-and-mortar classrooms and hands-on teaching with computers and "distance learning." http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/10/12257/junk-bonds-junk-schools-cyber-schools-fleece-taxpayers-phantom-students-and-faili
Every two years I become a county employee, for two days. I work at the polling place as an election judge on the Primary election and the General election. I'm one of those petty bureaucrats that make you stand in line for hours and prevent you from voting. All kidding aside, I'm proud of the fact that at our little polling place, even under heavy loads of people showing up, 95% of the time, people are inside, already having been checked in and are simply waiting to use one of the voting machines. So, anyway, I point out to the other election judges the true reasons why the United States usually holds elections on "The First Tuesday after the First Monday" in the month of the election. Consider that when our forefathers set up this country, they didn't let every one who was over 21 and had a pulse (or even if they don't if you live in Chicago), you had to be a wealthy landholder, which almost always meant you were a rich, white male. Well, that usually meant you had a household to run and if the election fell on the first of the month, you might not have time to saddle your horse or hitch up your horse and buggy and ride for hours all the way to the polls, it was a long trek, and you had bills to pay and accounts to settle. So they wanted the election not to be on the 1st of the month. Now, they also didn't want the election falling on Monday. After a weekend of binge drinking - especially on Sunday, where, if you weren't binge drinking you might have to stay awake on Sunday when you're in church where the preacher would be giving his dull, boring sermon, and if you stayed awake long enough you might realize how really dull and boring he was and pull out your ball and powder pistol and plug him just for the fun of it or to get some excitement in your life - you'd be so hung over Monday morning that you wouldn't be able to see straight, let alone be able to vote. So, that's why elections are held on Tuesday so that hopefully you'd be sober and not suffering too much from a hangover. Those founding fathers were no dummies. Speaking of plugging people, that's also the reason Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote. A couple thousand years ago, the way you moved from Slave or peon to Citizen in Imperial Rome was you raised enough money to afford a sword and shield; you could now show anyone who dared to try to enslave you, a blade. Well, out west, women had to go armed. On the East Coast, this was rare; out west, there were lots of threats from rattlesnakes, both the ones with a tail and the ones on two legs; the best protection against sexual assault was a Colt .45, where it was said, "All men were created equal, but Samuel Colt allowed them to stay that way." and women going armed also made them equal to any man. So, a woman spent several hours to get to the polling place where she walks up to someone like me, rests her hands on her pistols, and declares that she wants to vote. That registrar is not going to tell some woman who's packing heat that she came out there for nothing, he's liable to soon become a permanent resident of Boot Hill. So, women having arms gave them the power to vote, which is usually where people got the power to vote, because they had the power to use violence if they were denied it. Paul Robinson <firstname.lastname@example.org> - http://paul-robinson.us
Serdar Yegulalp | InfoWorld, 4 Oct 2013 Beyond the bottom line: The true cost of patent trolls The costs of patent trolling often aren't directly visible, but the benefits of fighting back are coming to light http://www.infoworld.com/t/intellectual-property/beyond-the-bottom-line-the-true-cost-of-patent-trolls-228170
I noticed a fair amount of discussion today from people dealing with key resources disappearing from government servers: * XML parsers choking on documents which use a DTD maintained by a government organization: https://plus.google.com/u/0/106980687849423472398/posts/b1ubKCPJmy7 (A recurring RISK of an XML implementation anti-pattern: see the 2008 W3C post about the DoS effect of owning popular XML standards: http://www.w3.org/blog/systeam/2008/02/08/w3c_s_excessive_dtd_traffic/) * Dan Chudnov and Becky Yoose created mirrors of key Library of Congress datasets: https://twitter.com/dchud/status/385061127010668544 https://twitter.com/yo_bj/status/385070010965585921 * Ed Summers, a coworker at LC, posted about Linked Open Data disappearing and various challenges in distributed replication: http://inkdroid.org/journal/2013/09/30/preserving-linked-data/ * Code for America mirrored various census.gov datasets: http://forever.codeforamerica.org/Census-API/shutdown-2013.html * The Sunlight Foundation had a good general post talking about how they are impacted by canonical sources disappearing: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/09/30/what-happens-to-gov-in-a-shutdown/ The meta- risk here is assuming that any single point can be too big to fail. Government agencies commonly put considerable resources into making sure that a disaster won't take them offline but it's impossible to deal with a political crisis which prevents you from incurring any new expense whatsoever. That's where the more interesting questions for designing resilient systems come up because questions like replication and trust really need to be considered first-class requirements. Using a protocol like BitTorrent could solve many of the challenges for widely replicating large datasets but it would still require some sort of attestation protocol to decide what copies are trustworthy. One more technical aspect is also the benefit to reusing standard Web technologies where possible: much of the data which currently down can be recovered from the Internet Archive if it's easily accessible to crawlers. An unlinked API or anything with access control will fail much harder.
Danny O'Brien, EFF, 2 Oct 2013 (via Dave Farber) <https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/10/lowering-your-standards> On Monday, the W3C announced that its Director, Tim Berners-Lee, had determined that the "playback of protected content" was in scope for the W3C HTML Working Group's new charter, overriding EFF's formal objection against its inclusion. This means the controversial Encrypted Media Extension (EME) proposal will continue to be part of that group's work product, and may be included in the W3C's HTML5.1 standard. If EME goes through to become part of a W3C recommendation, you can expect to hear DRM vendors, DRM-locked content providers like Netflix, and browser makers like Microsoft, Opera, and Google stating that they can now offer W3C standards compliant "content protection" for Web video. We're deeply disappointed. We've argued before as to why EME and other protected media proposals are different from other standards . By approving this idea, the W3C has ceded control of the "user agent" (the term for a Web browser in W3C parlance) to a third-party, the content distributor. That breaks a—perhaps until now unspoken—assurance about who has the final say in your Web experience, and indeed who has ultimate control over your computing device. EFF believes that's a dangerous step for an organization that is seen by many as the guardian of the open Web to take. We have rehashed this argument many times before, in person with Tim Berners-Lee, with staff members and, along with hundreds of others, in online interactions with the W3C's other participants. But there's another argument that we've made more privately. It's an argument that is less about the damage that sanctioning restricted media does to users, and more about the damage it will do to the W3C. At the W3C's advisory council meeting in Tokyo, EFF spoke to many technologists working on Web standards. It's clear to us that the engineering consensus at the consortium is the same as within the Web community, which is the same almost anywhere else: that DRM is a pain to design, does little to prevent piracy, and is by its nature user-unfriendly. Nonetheless, many technologists have resigned themselves to believing that until the dominant rights holders in Hollywood finally give up on it (as the much of the software and music industry already has), we're stuck with implementing it. The EME, they said, was a reasonable compromise between what these contracts demand, and the reality of the Web. A Web where movies are fenced away in EME's DRM-ridden binary blobs is, the W3C's pragmatists say, no worse than the current environment where Silverlight and Flash serve the purpose of preventing unauthorized behavior. We pointed out that EME would by no means be the last "protected content" proposal to be put forward for the W3C's consideration. EME is exclusively concerned with video content, because EME's primary advocate, Netflix, is still required to wrap some of its film and TV offerings in DRM as part of its legacy contracts with Hollywood. But there are plenty of other rightsholders beyond Hollywood who would like to impose controls on how their content is consumed. Just five years ago, font companies tried to demand DRM-like standards for embedded Web fonts. These Web typography wars fizzled out without the adoption of these restrictions, but now that such technical restrictions are clearly "in scope," why wouldn't typographers come back with an argument for new limits on what browsers can do? Indeed, within a few weeks of EME hitting the headlines, a community group within W3C formed around the idea of locking away Web code, so that Web applications could only be executed but not examined online. Static image creators such as photographers are eager for the W3C to help lock down embedded images. Shortly after our Tokyo discussions, another group proposed their new W3C use-case: "protecting" content that had been saved locally from a Web page from being accessed without further restrictions. Meanwhile, publishers have advocated that HTML textual content should have DRM features for many years. In our conversations with the W3C, we argued that the W3C needed to develop a clearly defined line against the wave of DRM systems it will now be encouraged to adopt. ... Dewayne-Net RSS Feed: <http://dewaynenet.wordpress.com/feed/>
To fight texting and driving means confronting a bigger problem, say experts: our technology is reprogramming us. Leon Neyfakh, *The Boston Globe*, 6 Oct 2013 DRIVE FOR LONG ENOUGH in America, and you're bound to see someone texting behind the wheel. Maybe it'll be the guy ahead of you, his head bobbing up and down as he tries to balance his attention between his screen and his windshield. Or maybe it'll be the woman weaving into your lane, thumbing at her phone while she holds it above the dashboard. Maybe it'll be you. A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that drivers who are texting are twice as likely to crash, or almost crash, as those who are focused on the road. It's a disturbingly common habit: According to a survey analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of American adults had e-mailed or texted on their phones while driving at least once during the previous month. And while most get away with it unscathed, many do not. The National Safety Council estimates that 213,000 car crashes in the United States in 2011 involved drivers who were texting, up from 160,000 the year before. ... http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/10/06/why-you-can-stop-checking-your-phone/rrBJzyBGDAr1YlEH5JQDcM/story.html?s_campaign15
Ross William Ulbricht (a.k.a. Dread Pirate Roberts, a name well known from The Princess Bride) arrested in San Francisco, charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, computer hacking, money laundering, after at least two years of running an online black market for drugs. Silk Road is a service hidden by Tor's anonymization and operated as an "eBay for illegal goods and services." CNN reports that he had successfully been using Tor, but that his apprehension resulted after he posted his Gmail address online! [In the movie, Dread Pirate Roberts was not a unique identity, with multiple people taking on that alias. It is of course conceivable that there might be other DPRs lurking. PGN] Tim Hume, CNN, 5 Oct 2013 http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/04/world/americas/silk-road-ross-ulbricht/index.html Thomas Claburn, Information Week, 2 Oct 2013 http://www.informationweek.com/security/vulnerabilities/silk-road-founder-arrested/240162165 Brian Krebs on Security http://www.krebsonsecurity.com [no longer the first item. PGN]
EFF and CDT submitted a public comment to the NSA Review Group on behalf of 47 leading technologists (including yourself, of course!). It emphasizes the need for technical input into oversight processes, that the NSA is making everyone unsafe by planting backdoors and subverting encryption, and, finally, that U.S. commitments to privacy and civil liberties require honoring the human rights of non-U.S. people online. CDT blog post: https://www.cdt.org/tech-comment-nsa-review EFF blog post: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/10/47-prominent-technologists-nsa-review-panel-we-need-better-technical-oversight PDF of comment: https://www.cdt.org/files/pdfs/nsa-review-panel-tech-comment.pdf CDT and EFF coordinated this effort on behalf of the following 47 technologists: Ben Adida Ross Anderson, University of Cambridge Dan Auerbach, Electronic Frontier Foundation Brian Behlendorf, Board Member at EFF, Mozilla, and Benetech Steven M. Bellovin, Columbia University Matt Blaze, University of Pennsylvania Scott Bradner, Harvard University Eric Burger, Georgetown University L. Jean Camp, Indiana University Stephen Checkoway, Johns Hopkins University Nicolas Christin, Carnegie Mellon University Alissa Cooper, Center for Democracy & Technology Lorrie Faith Cranor, Carnegie Mellon University Nick Doty, University of California, Berkeley/World Wide Web Consortium Jeremy Epstein, SRI International David Evans, University of Virginia David Farber, Carnegie Mellon University/University of Pennsylvania Stephen Farrell, Trinity College Dublin Joan Feigenbaum, Yale University Edward W. Felten, Princeton University Bryan Ford, Yale University Daniel Kahn Gillmor Matthew D. Green, Johns Hopkins University J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Center for Democracy & Technology James Hendler, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Nadia Heninger, University of Pennsylvania David Jefferson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Micah Lee, Electronic Frontier Foundation Morgan Marquis-Boire, Citizen Lab, University of Toronto Siobhan MacDermott, AVG Technologies Jonathan Mayer, Stanford University Sascha Meinrath, Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation Peter G. Neumann, SRI International M. Chris Riley, Mozilla Phillip Rogaway, University of California, Davis Runa A. Sandvik, Independent Researcher Jeffrey I. Schiller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bruce Schneier, BT Seth Schoen, Electronic Frontier Foundation Micah Sherr, Georgetown University Christopher Soghoian, American Civil Liberties Union Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher Brad Templeton, Electronic Frontier Foundation/Singularity University Dan S. Wallach, Rice University Nicholas Weaver, International Computer Science Institute Philip Zimmermann, Silent Circle LLC https://josephhall.org/
Jonathan S. Shapiro's statement that The only questions were *who* would leak it and *how soon*. It happened to be Snowden, but if not for Snowden it would have been somebody else. is optimistic. Snowden was the first one to reveal some of NSA's activities to responsible journalists, but there's no reason to believe that there were not earlier leakers of the NSA-induced vulnerabilities, leaking to less savory recipients than the NYT and the Guardian. Robert R. Fenichel, M.D. http://www.fenichel.net
Bruce Schneier, theguardian.com, 4 October 2013 Why the NSA's attacks on the Internet must be made public By reporting on the agency's actions, the vulnerabilities in our computer systems can be fixed. It's the only way to force change. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/04/nsa-attacks-internet-bruce-schneier Today, the Guardian is reporting on how the NSA targets Tor users, along with details of how it uses centrally placed servers on the Internet to attack individual computers. This builds on a Brazilian news story from last week that, in part, shows that the NSA is impersonating Google servers to users; a German story on how the NSA is hacking into smartphones; and a Guardian story from two weeks ago on how the NSA is deliberately weakening common security algorithms, protocols, and products. The common thread among these stories is that the NSA is subverting the Internet and turning it into a massive surveillance tool. The NSA's actions are making us all less safe, because its eavesdropping mission is degrading its ability to protect the US. Among IT security professionals, it has been long understood that the public disclosure of vulnerabilities is the only consistent way to improve security. That's why researchers publish information about vulnerabilities in computer software and operating systems, cryptographic algorithms, and consumer products like implantable medical devices, cars, and CCTV cameras. It wasn't always like this. In the early years of computing, it was common for security researchers to quietly alert the product vendors about vulnerabilities, so they could fix them without the "bad guys" learning about them. The problem was that the vendors wouldn't bother fixing them, or took years before getting around to it. Without public pressure, there was no rush. This all changed when researchers started publishing. Now vendors are under intense public pressure to patch vulnerabilities as quickly as possible. The majority of security improvements in the hardware and software we all use today is a result of this process. This is why Microsoft's Patch Tuesday process fixes so many vulnerabilities every month. This is why Apple's iPhone is designed so securely. This is why so many products push out security updates so often. And this is why mass-market cryptography has continually improved. Without public disclosure, you'd be much less secure against cybercriminals, hacktivists, and state-sponsored cyberattackers. The NSA's actions turn that process on its head, which is why the security community is so incensed. The NSA not only develops and purchases vulnerabilities, but deliberately creates them through secret vendor agreements. These actions go against everything we know about improving security on the Internet. It's folly to believe that any NSA hacking technique will remain secret for very long. Yes, the NSA has a bigger research effort than any other institution, but there's a lot of research being done—by other governments in secret, and in academic and hacker communities in the open. These same attacks are being used by other governments. And technology is fundamentally democratizing: today's NSA secret techniques are tomorrow's PhD theses and the following day's cybercrime attack tools. It's equal folly to believe that the NSA's secretly installed backdoors will remain secret. Given how inept the NSA was at protecting its own secrets, it's extremely unlikely that Edward Snowden was the first sysadmin contractor to walk out the door with a boatload of them. And the previous leakers could have easily been working for a foreign government. But it wouldn't take a rogue NSA employee; researchers or hackers could discover any of these backdoors on their own. This isn't hypothetical. We already know of government-mandated backdoors being used by criminals in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere. We know China is actively engaging in cyber-espionage worldwide. A recent Economist article called it "akin to a government secretly commanding lockmakers to make their products easier to pick—and to do so amid an epidemic of burglary." The NSA has two conflicting missions. Its eavesdropping mission has been getting all the headlines, but it also has a mission to protect US military and critical infrastructure communications from foreign attack. Historically, these two missions have not come into conflict. During the cold war, for example, we would defend our systems and attack Soviet systems. But with the rise of mass-market computing and the Internet, the two missions have become interwoven. It becomes increasingly difficult to attack their systems and defend our systems, because everything is using the same systems: Microsoft Windows, Cisco routers, HTML, TCP/IP, iPhones, Intel chips, and so on. Finding a vulnerability—or creating one—and keeping it secret to attack the bad guys necessarily leaves the good guys more vulnerable. Far better would be for the NSA to take those vulnerabilities back to the vendors to patch. Yes, it would make it harder to eavesdrop on the bad guys, but it would make everyone on the Internet safer. If we believe in protecting our critical infrastructure from foreign attack, if we believe in protecting Internet users from repressive regimes worldwide, and if we believe in defending businesses and ourselves from cybercrime, then doing otherwise is lunacy. It is important that we make the NSA's actions public in sufficient detail for the vulnerabilities to be fixed. It's the only way to force change and improve security. Bruce Schneier writes about security, technology, and people. His latest book is Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive. He is a member of the EFF's board of directors.
David Segal, *The New York Times*, 5 Oct 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/business/mugged-by-a-mug-shot-online.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emcíit_th_20131006&_r=0 [This is a relatively long but remarkably well researched article on how mug shots persist even if the would-be culprit is exonerated, how a blackmail-like industry has developed to supposedly remove mug shots, how some real perps are able to get their mug shots removed, and much more. It is mandatory reading for RISKS readers. PGN]
David Kocieniewski, *The New York Times*, 3 Oct 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/technology/adobe-announces-security-breach.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emcíit_th_20131004&_r=0 Hackers infiltrated the computer system of the software company Adobe, gaining access to credit card information and other personal data from 2.9 million of its customers, the company acknowledged on Thursday. The security breach, which Adobe called a part of a "sophisticated attack," also allowed hackers to obtain encrypted passwords and other personal information from customers. Hackers also illegally took copies of the source code of some of the company's widely used products, which are run on personal computers and businesses servers around the world. There was no indication that the attackers obtained unencrypted credit card numbers, Adobe said in a statement. As a precaution, however, the company said it had notified customers and credit card companies about the breach and reset customer passwords to prevent further unauthorized access. "Cyberattacks are one of the unfortunate realities of doing business today," Adobe's chief security officer, Brad Arkin, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "Given the profile and widespread use of many of our products, Adobe has attracted increasing attention from cyberattackers." The breach at Adobe is one of a recent spate of hacking episodes at prominent organizations. Already this year, hackers have infiltrated database aggregators like Lexis-Nexis and Dun & Bradstreet and the security firm Kroll Associates, as well as the National White Collar Crime Center, which helps businesses protect their computer systems. Concerns about the security of data at Adobe were first raised last week, when a technology researcher and an independent journalist investigating the hacking episodes discovered copies of Adobe source code on a server that was believed to have been used in the previous attacks. Brian Krebs, the journalist, informed Adobe about his findings, and on Thursday publicly reported the hacking on his site, krebsonsecurity.com. One of the products that had its source code stolen is ColdFusion, which, according to Adobe, is used by the United States Senate, 75 of the Fortune 100 companies and more than 10,000 other companies worldwide. Adobe security officials said they were not aware of any specific risks to customers. But because the source code contains the DNA of the software program, computer experts said it could allow hackers to find and exploit any other potential weaknesses in its security.
North Carolina standardized a new process that allows for notarization to be completed electronically. Some state officials are calling the program the first and most robust move to e-notarizations on a statewide level. Notarizations are traditionally completed manually with paper documents and require an authorized "notary public" to approve, sign and seal official documents—often for legal purposes. Laws require that when documents are notarized, both the notary public and the parties involved with the documents are physically present for the notarization. Although notarizations can now be completed electronically in North Carolina, often with the help of laptops or other mobile devices, the state still requires that both the notary and involved parties be physically present when the e-notarization transaction is completed. The move to digital notarizations was spearheaded by the Secretary of State's office and its current Secretary Elaine Marshall to enhance the signature value on official documents while still upholding statewide standards. http://www.govtech.com/computing/Notarizations-Go-Digital-in-North-Carolina.html Aside from the usual "What could go wrong?" query, it's not really clear what's happening, since notary and involved parties must still be physically present. So only the documents can be electronic? Not a word about how they're presented, authenticated, protected, disabled from changes...
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