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RISKS Digest 29.72

Wednesday 24 August 2016

CALTRANS, the FCC, and the GAO on inter-auto comms

S Candice Hoke <shoke@me.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 01:34:52 +0000 (GMT)

CALTRANS filed a submission to the FCC asking that the Fed agency not delay its approval of wireless communications between autos, disputing that the security & privacy risks are significant. Law360 presented this yesterday:

Caltrans Says FCC Mustn't Delay 'Life-Saving' Car Tech. California's Department of Transportation warned the Federal Communications Commission on Friday against agreeing to delay a technology allowing vehicles to communicate with each other over shared wireless spectrum, saying security concerns are unfounded.

I'm also attaching [*] the CALTRANS submission to FCC. As you can see, CALTRANS spends most of its time assessing that human error causes vast numbers of lives to be lost and injuries sustained on an annual basis, and then devotes all of 1 paragraph on page 8 to assertions that security need not be a concern. The GAO report differs on security & privacy risks: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-775

This expert review differs as well: Glancy (attached *) at 16, 17, 19-21, 35-40; the GAO also used her as an expert for its report. I thought you and RISK readers would want to know what CALTRANS is pursuing-- and ignoring.

[* Attachment omitted for RISKS. PGN]

'Smart' Power Outlets Are Now Botnets

techdirt via Al Mac <macwheel99@wowway.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 13:33:36 -0500

Your 'Smart' Power Outlets Are Now Botnets Thanks To The Internet of Broken Things, from the I-just-hacked-your-stapler department

Making fun of The Internet of Things has become a sort of national pastime <https://twitter.com/internetofshit?langen>, made possible by a laundry list of companies jumping into the space without the remotest idea what they're actually doing. When said companies aren't busy promoting some of the dumbest ideas imaginable, <http://ovens.reviewed.com/features/this-absurd-smart-toaster-serves-up-the-forecast-on-rye> they're making it abundantly clear that the security of their "smart," connected products is absolutely nowhere to be found <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150824/06411532041/internet-not-so-smart-things-samsungs-latest-smart-fridge-can-expose-your-gmail-password.shtml>. And while this mockery is well-deserved, it's decidedly less funny once you realize these companies are introducing thousands of new attack vectors <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160725/09460835061/internet-things-is-security-privacy-dumpster-fire-check-is-about-to-come-due.shtml> in home and business network the world over.

Overshadowed by the lulz is the width and depth of incompetence on display. Thermostats that fail to heat <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160606/08335334635/nest-may-be-first-major-casualty-hollow-internet-things-hype.shtml> your home. Door locks that don't protect you <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160809/13113235201/like-rest-internet-things-most-smart-locks-are-easily-hacked.shtml> . Refrigerators that leak Gmail credentials <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150824/06411532041/internet-not-so-smart-things-samsungs-latest-smart-fridge-can-expose-your-gmail-password.shtml>. Children's toys that listen to your kids' prattle, <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20151130/13194232947/toy-maker-vtech-hacked-revealing-kids-selfies-chat-logs-even-voice-recordings.shtml> then (poorly) secure said prattle in the cloud. Cars that could, potentially, result in your death <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150721/08391831712/newsflash-car-network-security-is-still-horrible-very-dangerous-joke.shtml> . The list goes on and on, and it grows exponentially by the week.

The latest gift of The Internet of Things industry, revealed last week by security researchers at Bitdefender, is smart electrical sockets <http://motherboard.vice.com/read/smart-electrial-sockets-could-be-the-next-botnet> that can be hacked to hand over e-mail credentials, create a botnet, or (potentially) burn your house down by firing up connected appliances. The devices are sold as an amazing new tool to help create a connected home, allowing users to manage any device plugged into them via a smartphone and/or The Internet. The problem, as usual, is an (unspecified) company that treated security as an afterthought. [From the full Bitdefender research paper] <https://labs.bitdefender.com/2016/08/hackers-can-use-smart-sockets-to-shut-down-critical-systems/>

* Bitdefender researchers observed that the hotspot is secured with a weak username and password combination. Furthermore, the application does not alert the user to risks associated with leaving default credentials unchanged. Changing them can be done by clicking 'Edit' on the name of the smart plug from the main screen and choosing a new name and a new password.

* Secondly, researchers noticed that, during configuration, the mobile app transfers the Wi-Fi username and password in clear text over the network. Also, the device-to-application communication that passes through the manufacturer's servers is only encoded, not encrypted. Encoding can be easily reversed using a scheme that is publicly available, while encryption keeps data secret, locked with a key available for a selected few. [...]

http://www.bitdefender.com/box/> home cyber-security solution designed for IoTs.

[I must comment on AlMac's use of "IoTs". Note that if an initialism or acronym relates to a singular form, then the plural needs the "s" after the appropriate literal, as in ACLs and RNGs! So, if we were talking about the multiple (plural) internets of things, the would-be plural initialism would have to be "isot" or "IsoT" to distinguish "internets" from "internet"—*but not* "isots" or "isoTs" or even "IoTs" because the "T" for things is already substituting for a plural form! Ugly, but we almost never see a plural internal to an acronym or initialism. Irrelevant note: in a discussion I had long ago with David Huffman, he jokingly suggested using the relation "but not" in logical expressions. PGN]

"New Approach Needed to IT, Says NIST's Top Cyber Scientist"

ACM TechNews <technews-editor@acm.org>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 11:56:02 -0400 (EDT)

ACM TechNews, Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ron Ross, the top cybersecurity scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, on Tuesday told the U.S. Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity the coming cybersecurity crisis can only be addressed by building "more trustworthy secure components and systems." He said it is clear existing security measures are ineffective, given the rising number of successful attacks and breaches despite record cybersecurity investment. "You cannot protect that which you do not understand," Ross said. "Increased complexity translates to increased attack surface." He said existing cybersecurity strategies "fail to address the fundamental weaknesses in system architecture and design," and the solution is to apply well-defined security design precepts in a life cycle-based systems engineering process. Safety, reliability, and other strengths must be incorporated into systems from the outset, much like structurally sound bridges and safe aircraft are designed via a "disciplined and structured approach," Ross said. Such solutions may not be suitable for every scenario, but he noted "they should be available to those entities that are critical to the economic and national security interests of the U.S.," such as the electric grid, manufacturing facilities, financial institutions, transportation vehicles, water treatment plants, and weapons systems. He stressed partnerships between government, industry, and academia are essential to the success of this approach. http://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/trk/click?ref=znwrbbrs9_6-10f18x2fa30x074185&

In India users may get 3-yrs in jail for viewing torrent site, blocked URL

SoftLinkWeb <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2016 09:39:09 -0700

via NNSquad http://softlinkweb.com/are-you-a-criminal-now-users-may-get-3-yr-in-jail-for-viewing-torrent-site-blocked-url-in-india-news-news/

The Indian government, with the help of Internet service providers, and presumably under directives of court, has banned thousands of websites and URLs in the last five odd years. But until now if you somehow visited blocked all was fine. However, now if you try to visit such URLs and view the information, you may get three-year jail sentence as well as invite a fine ...

Meanwhile, rapists go free or get a slap on the wrist.

Airlines' reservation systems

Werner U <werneru@gmail.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:12:19 +0200

The airlines' reservation system appears to have evolved based on some 1960's technology IBM software marketed since the 70's as "Transaction Processing Facility" (TPF, last updated 10 years ago) with varied customers' add-on software bolted on top by each airline. Recovering from a crash (i.e., restarting and resynchronizing with the rest of the networked aviation world 'out there') must be "a nightmare" --WU

France, Germany Want Encrypted App Makers to Help Stop IS

NYT <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 09:30:18 -0700

*The New York Times* via NNSquad http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/08/23/world/europe/ap-eu-europe-security.html

He and German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere insisted they're not pushing to ban encrypted services. Instead, Cazeneuve said they want to work with companies that offer such apps or services to ensure they can't be abused by militants. They also expect those companies to give investigators access to encrypted messages when needed.

Their apparent goal: Only terrorists will have strong crypto—they'll just use their own strong crypto apps—while honest citizens like us will be left exposed to terrorists and other criminals by weak crypto. Sixth-graders could do a better job on this one than these "world leaders."

Closely Watched Ballots

Jon Grinspan <neumann@csl.sri.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:13:57 -0700

Jon Grinspan, *The New York Times*, 24 Aug 2016

Graf: There's a long history of partisan poll observers, most of it quite ugly.

End: So we might occasionally pause to look back at what worked, and what didn't. We tried election observers. There's a reason we left them in the past.

Which Way Do you Vote? Facebook Has an Idea

Jeremy Merrill <neumann@csl.sri.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 13:49:54 -0700

Jeremy Merrill, *The New York Times*, 24 Aug 2016 Categorizing Users' Political Leanings http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/24/us/politics/facebook-ads-politics.html

"Facebook has come up with its own determination of your political leanings."

If you are a Facebook user, go to "Facebook.com/ads/preferences" . Under "Interests" click on "Lifestyle and Culture" . Then click on "US Politics" (or "See More" first if necessary.)

NSA-linked Cisco exploit poses bigger threat than previously thought

Ars Technica <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:45:50 -0700

via NNSquad http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/08/nsa-linked-cisco-exploit-poses-bigger-threat-than-previously-thought/

Recently released code that exploits Cisco System firewalls and has been linked to the National Security Agency can work against a much larger number of models than many security experts previously thought. An exploit dubbed ExtraBacon contains code that prevents it from working on newer versions of Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA), a line of firewalls that's widely used by corporations, government agencies, and other large organizations. When the exploit encounters 8.4(5) or newer versions of ASA, it returns an error message that prevents it from working. Now researchers say that with a nominal amount of work, they were able to modify ExtraBacon to make it work on a much newer version. The finding means that ExtraBacon poses a bigger threat than many security experts may have believed.

Three relevant items on NSA hacking

PGN <neumann@csl.sri.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 8:50:56 PDT

Bruce Schneier: http://www.vox.com/2016/8/24/12615258/nsa-security-breach-hoard

Steve Bellovin's blog: https://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb/blog/2016-08/2016-08-24.html

Margo Schlanger: Intelligence Legalism and the National Security Agency's Civil Liberties Gap http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Schlanger.pdf

Lawyer: Dark Web Child Porn Site Ran Better When It Was Taken Over by the FBI

Motherboard <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 10:39:52 -0700

via NNSquad https://motherboard.vice.com/read/lawyer-dark-web-child-porn-site-ran-better-when-it-was-taken-over-by-the-fbi

Newly filed court exhibits now suggest that the site performed substantially better while under the FBI's control, with users commenting on the improvements. The defense for the man accused of being the original administrator of Playpen claims that these improvements led to the site becoming even more popular. "The FBI distributed child pornography to viewers and downloaders worldwide for nearly two weeks, until at least March 4, 2015, even working to improve the performance of the website beyond its original capability," Peter Adolf, an assistant federal defender in the Western District of North Carolina, writes in a motion to have his client's indictment thrown out. "As a result, the number of visitors to Playpen while it was under Government control [increased] from an average of 11,000 weekly visitors to approximately 50,000 per week. During those two weeks, the website's membership grew by over 30%, the number of unique weekly visitors to the site more than quadrupled, and approximately 200 videos, 9,000 images, and 13,000 links to child pornography were posted on the site," he continues.

In other words, the FBI was actively engaged in causing massive additional harm to exploited children, irrespective of their stated goals.

HTTPS and OpenVPN face new attack that can decrypt secret cookies

Ars Technica <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 09:03:02 -0700

via NNSquad http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/08/new-attack-can-pluck-secrets-from-1-of-https-traffic-affects-top-sites/

Despite the difficulty in carrying out the attack, the researchers said it works in their laboratory and should be taken seriously. They are calling on developers to stop using legacy 64-bit block-ciphers. For transport layer security, the protocol websites use to create encrypted HTTPS connections, that means disabling the Triple DES symmetric key cipher, while for OpenVPN it requires retiring a symmetric key cipher known as Blowfish. Ciphers with larger block sizes, such as AES, are immune to the attack.

Why you *still* can't trust password strength meters

Naked Security <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:16:59 -0400

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/08/17/why-you-still-cant-trust-password-strength-meters/

"When Hiding Passwords Is Stupid -- or Worse!"

LW's blog <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:46:17 -0700

https://lauren.vortex.com/2016/08/when-hiding-passwords-is-stupid-or-worse

As I've noted a number of times previously, the fact that we still have accounts "secured" by passwords this far into the 21st century is pretty much a security abomination. Adding on multiple-factor security tokens and such is a big help, but passwords themselves remain a weak link in the chain of security, and a vast number of sites and apps rely on passwords without any additional authentication measures at all.

Since the dawn of online systems, it has been standard practice to obscure the display of entered passwords by one means or another.

There are basically two reasons for this. One is the obvious issue of someone looking over your shoulder while you're logging in.

The other is steeped in computing history.

Early online systems were primarily accessed with paper printing terminals (e.g. Teletype Model 33, IBM 2741, etc.), and leaving around or carelessly disposing of a printout with your password visible could be a serious mistake.

The earliest printing terminal systems were often "half-duplex" in design, meaning that typed characters were echoed locally. To obscure passwords in this instance, the common technique was for the system to overprint a bunch of characters a number of times before the user entered their password over the resulting black blob of ink. This wasn't foolproof, but was remarkably effective at the time.

For printers on full-duplex circuits, it was possible simply to suppress any echoing of the user password at all, or to print a character like asterisk in place of each typed character.

This same basic model continues today on the Web and in app ecosystems.

Entered passwords either aren't echoed, or commonly are replaced with asterisks. Some app systems will give you a brief glimpse of the input character before replacing it with an asterisk.

Unfortunately, these kinds of techniques have become decreasingly useful as users have been encouraged or required to use ever longer, ever more complex passwords and passphrases, because the probability of mistyping these entries increases with their complexity.

And it isn't just a matter of having problems logging in.

The same obscuration techniques are often employed when setting or changing passwords, typically combined with the ever-popular "enter it again" prompt or field, based on the flawed theory that you'd never type the same obscured input in error twice and so set your password incorrectly (and locking yourself out) as a result.

For that matter, even typing the same complex password twice in a row in an obscured field to set the password correctly can be an exercise in frustration.

Recently, the trend toward obscuring input fields has been spreading to all manner of other entries as well, including check account data, credit card numbers, even dates of birth—and much more. I've seen forms where even the fields for inputting your first and last names were obscured with asterisks!

Such obfuscations wouldn't be such a significant problem if there existed a routine way for the user to disable them on demand.

It's stupid—bordering on insane—to force users to jump through the hoops of blindly entering complicated passwords or other data when they're alone and there's no risk of anyone surreptitiously peering at their screen.

And for users with poor typing abilities, motor skill or visual limitations, or other related issues, these input methodologies can be downright abusive. This is one of the most common complaints showing up in my inbox about interface issues.

But wait, it gets even worse!

Many user interface designers, laboring under a twisted misconception of security, purposely make it even more difficult for users to enter their passwords, by rigging their pages or apps to prevent copy/pasting of passwords, and/or by blocking the use of password managers, field autofill systems, and so on.

This really isn't rocket science.

Except in crucial enterprise environments or especially elevated security situations, it should be common practice for user interfaces to provide a method for the user to see their passwords or other data as they enter it if they choose to do so—a simple enabling checkbox with an appropriate warning would suffice. And this would be the display of the entire password or other input, not just a flash of each letter as it's being typed.

Some systems already provide this to one degree or another, but this is relatively unusual to find.

Android for example has a little "eye" symbol next to where you enter Wi-Fi passwords, that can be clicked to display the password. This is good, though I've had many users tell me that they had no idea of what that symbol meant and so didn't realize that they could view their Wi-Fi passwords in that manner.

But again, this is an exception to the more general situation of user interfaces across the Web and app worlds that don't provide such options.

We should be striving to completely eliminate passwords from our systems, replacing them with more robust authentication and security models.

For now though, we still must live with passwords in most cases, and the option should be routinely provided for users to display entered passwords or other obscured data when they choose to do so.

And as for those user interface designers who purposely and unnecessarily block tools and techniques that would make it simpler for users to enter complex passwords—well, since this is a family-friendly blog I won't mention here what I feel should really happen to them!

Private lives are exposed as WikiLeaks spills its secrets

BigStory <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 09:42:14 -0700

via NNSquad http://bigstory.ap.org/article/b70da83fd111496dbdf015acbb7987fb/private-lives-are-exposed-wikileaks-spills-its-secrets

WikiLeaks' global crusade to expose government secrets is causing collateral damage to the privacy of hundreds of innocent people, including survivors of sexual abuse, sick children and the mentally ill, The Associated Press has found. In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web. In two particularly egregious cases, WikiLeaks named teenage rape victims. In a third case, the site published the name of a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay, an extraordinary move given that homosexuality is punishable by death in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

Julian Assange cares about only one thing: Julian Assange. [...]

Secret cameras record Baltimore's every move from above

Bloomberg <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:37:59 -0700

NNSquad http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-baltimore-secret-surveillance/

Since January, police have been testing an aerial surveillance system adapted from the surge in Iraq. And they neglected to tell the public.

With Windows 10, Microsoft Blatantly Disregards User Choice and Privacy: A Deep Dive

EFF <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2016 07:17:18 -0700

via NNSquad https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/08/windows-10-microsoft-blatantly-disregards-user-choice-and-privacy-deep-dive

The trouble with Windows 10 doesn't end with forcing users to download the operating system. Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft, particularly if users opt in to "personalize" the software using the OS assistant called Cortana. Here's a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long.

Self-driving motorcycle

WiReD via Al Mac <macwheel99@wowway.com>

Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2016 18:16:20 -0500

https://www.wired.com/2016/08/get-know-aboard-self-driving-motorcycle/

I was not aware that wireless power transfer had been perfected. Can that be used to power space ships into orbit? How about aid to rescue of ships at sea.

When a consumer sells some electricity excess, via wireless, to another consumer, how are the sales taxes measured?

In the real world, motorists fail to give adequate air space when passing 2 & 3 wheelers, and because of this, 2 & 3 wheelers are banned from some high speed highways, and need special lanes in big cities.

Do the designers of self-drive-assist vehicle recognize this need to provide added safety margins for 2 & 3 wheelers?

Re: Self-driving cars, accepting the moral dilemma

Martyn Thomas <martyn@thomas-associates.co.uk>

Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2016 17:01:58 +0100

> If the car is really autonomous, then any "fault" belongs to the > manufacturer—who will have to pay the damages.

And who holds the data and expertise to determine whether an accident was caused by a "fault"?

I think that the real issue is that fully automated vehicles will be in widespread use before there is enough evidence to be confident that they are safer, and that if they appear safer they will rapidly become too widespread to withdraw or to remediate if their software turns out to be as insecure and buggy as most other software is. It's a very rare programmer who delivers fewer than 1 defect in a thousand lines of code—so that's at least 100,000 defects in the software in a typical car. Testing will find the most common failures, so those that remain will be the more obscure ones. How will the accident investigators ever be able to attribute cause and effect? Especially when much of the required information will be proprietary to the manufacturers and they are not likely to want to prove their own liability.

Re: The Internet

Richard S. Russell <RichardSRussell@tds.net>

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2016 09:59:37 -0500

With regard to whether to capitalize "Internet", I think your Dutch correspondent, Richard Bos, hits the nail on the head with the distinction between a unique institution (capitalize) and a general category (lower case). Back when I was copy editor for my college paper and we were setting up our own style manual, we had the same conversation about personal titles like "pope" and "president". We went with what appeared to be the standard (at least as it seemed in the late 1960s) of lower case when referring to the office, however unique it was ("the pope"), but upper case for a specific individual ("President Johnson").

But my concern is less with the capitalization of the noun than with the preceding article: “the”. I ardently believe that the great virtue of the Internet is its universality. There *should* be only the one ("*The* Internet", not "*an* internet"), accessible to all people everywhere. That's why I loathe the very concept of parallel, duplicative, competing systems like China's Baidu, America's Facebook, or whatever godawful thing ISIS is inflicting on its captive populations. They contribute all too heavily to the commercialization and siloization of information and culture, when the whole planet should be moving in the direction of data democracy.

Richard S. Russell, 7350 Old Sauk Road, Madison WI 53717-1213 608+841-1174 RichardSRussell@tds.net http://richardsrussell.livejournal.com/

["Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of sQFFch, or the right of the people peaceably to BTTemble, and to peUJUion the government for a redress of grievances (but your ISP might)." RSR PGN-ed for cryptographic purity. RSR had the same XYZ for all 3 three-letter upper-case strings, which overloaded the hidden message.)]

Re: Snowden Junior

John Levine <johnl@iecc.com>

Date: 22 Aug 2016 16:38:48 -0000

>"It's Snowden Junior" - Former NSA Employees Say NSA Hack Is The Work Of A > "Rogue Insider"

Well, duh.

I've always wondered why people assume that Snowden was the only person to do what he did. The access he had was not unusual for NSA contractors, and he didn't need any great technical skill to collect the material he did.

What we do know is that he's the only one to collect all that material, and then tell the press about it. I assume the others quietly sold it to whichever of Russia or China paid better.

Re: "Android malware being spread via Google AdSense"

John Levine <johnl@iecc.com>

Date: 22 Aug 2016 16:33:37 -0000

> [I like to quote a relevant portion so RISKS readers can determine > whether > they should go to the full article. Neowin disables cut-and-paste on the > article on my computer. Let InfoWorld get the hits.]

Odd, I had no problem copying text in Chrome on a Mac:

It was found that the malware can actually be contracted via AdSense, Google's own advertising network. What is also very alarming is that millions of websites on The Internet, from news sites, to the smallest blog websites utilize the network, in order to monetize their content. Moreover, Svpeng is downloaded automatically as soon as the page with the advertisement is visited.

The Kaspersky researchers found the malware on state-owned news company Russia Today (RT), as well as the Meduza news portal. In light of the discovery, the latter has already disabled AdSense advertising on their pages. Svpeng will disguise itself as a browser update, shown on the screenshot, in order to trick users into thinking that the download is safe.

Re: Facebook bypass adblockers/ Google ad settings/ need for ad-blockers/ growing impossibility of using ad-blockers

Jay Libove <libove@felines.org>

Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:37:10 +0000

I agree almost completely with Richard (on 3rd party cookies, Google opt-out -- although the Google no-analytics plug-in is a valid solution, and the general need for ad-blockers/ tracker-blockers). The caveat is that more and more websites incorrectly (or, if I were to be cynical - what, me? cynical?? - deliberately) tie core functionality to 3rd party cookies and analytics and other data collection scripts working. (That's illegal in Europe and anywhere else in the world following Europe's Data Protection Directive/ upcoming GDPR model, by the way, but allowable - if commercially stupid - in the US). It's one thing for a newspaper to pop up "we see you're using an ad-blocker, so how would you like to pay today?" (although, there's still the total lack of transparency of how much the tracking and ads are worth to the web property vs. how much we're asked to pay to not suffer the intrusions), and quite another for logins to fail unless 3rd party cookies and/or analytics scripts are permitted. -Jay

Should You Charge Your Phone Overnight?

NYT <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 01:00:24 -0400

Leaving your phone plugged in when its battery is already fully charged shouldn't be bad for it. Except that the act of charging can itself hurt our phones. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/22/technology/personaltech/charge-phone-overnight.html

Sleep 'resets' brain connections crucial for memory and learning

Ian Sample <dewayne@warpspeed.com>

Date: August 24, 2016 at 1:21:52 AM GMT+9

Ian Sample, *The Guardian*, 23 Aug 2016 Discovery that sleeplessness causes neurons to become muddled with electrical activity could help develop new treatments for mental health disorders.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/23/sleep-resets-brain-connections-crucial-for-memory-and-learning-study-reveals

For Jules Verne it was the friend who keeps us waiting. For Edgar Allan Poe so many little slices of death. But though the reason we spend a third of our lives asleep has so far resisted scientific explanation, research into the impact of sleepless nights on brain function has shed new light on the mystery - and also offered intriguing clues to potential new treatments for depression.

In a study published on Tuesday, researchers show for the first time that sleep resets the steady build-up of connectivity in the human brain which takes place in our wakeful hours. The process appears to be crucial for our brains to remember and learn so we can adapt to the world around us.

The loss of a single night's sleep was enough to block the brain's natural reset mechanism, the scientists found. Deprived of rest, the brain's neurons seemingly became over-connected and so muddled with electrical activity that new memories could not be properly laid down.

But Christoph Nissen, a psychiatrist who led the study at the University of Freiburg, is also excited about the potential for helping people with mental health disorders. One radical treatment for major depression is therapeutic sleep deprivation, which Nissen believes works through changing the patient's brain connectivity. The new research offers a deeper understanding of the phenomenon which could be adapted to produce more practical treatments.

“Why we sleep is a fundamental question. Why do we spend so much of our lives in this brain state? This work shows us that sleep is a highly active brain process and not a waste of time. It's required for healthy brain function,'' said Nissen.

The results are a boost for what is called the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis of sleep, which was developed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003. It explains why our brains need to rest after a day spent absorbing all manner of information, from the morning news and the state of the weather, to a chat over lunch and what we must buy for tea.

Known more simply as SHY, the hypothesis states that when we are awake, the synapses that form connections between our brain cells strengthen more and more as we learn and eventually saturate our brains with information. The process requires a lot of energy, but sleep allows the brain to wind down its activity, consolidate our memories, and be ready to start again the next morning.

Writing in the journal *Nature Communications*, Nissen describes a series of tests that 11 men and nine women aged 19 to 25 took part in, either after a good night's sleep, or after a night without sleep. On the sleepless night, participants played games, went for walks and cooked food, but were not allowed caffeine. Staff watched them throughout to make sure they stayed awake.

In the first round of experiments, Nissen used magnetic pulses to make neurons fire in the volunteers' brains and cause a muscle in the left hand to twitch. When sleep deprived, far weaker pulses were sufficient to make the muscles move. This implied that sleepless brains are in a more excitable state, with their neurons more strongly connected than they are after a good night;s sleep.

Nissen next turned to another form of brain stimulation to mimic the way neurons fire when memories are laid down. He found it harder to get the neurons to respond in sleep-deprived people, a sign that the process of writing memories was impaired by sleep loss. [...]

[Why is this RISKS-relevant? Perhaps because people are trying to create computerized models of the brain? Perhaps because many people are trying to understand and learning through AI and other approaches? Perhaps because some folks have been reportedly trying to control other people's minds (MK-Ultra)? Perhaps become some of us are so addicted to our computers that we are actually losing a lot of sleep? I don't know, but this item somehow seems relevant to me. PGN]