• In our Wi-Fi world, the internet still depends on undersea cables

    Not many people realize that undersea cables transport nearly 100 percent of transoceanic data traffic. These lines are laid on the very bottom of the ocean floor. They’re about as thick as a garden hose and carry the world’s Internet, phone calls and even TV transmissions between continents at the speed of light. A single cable can carry tens of terabits of information per second. The cables we all rely on to send everything from e-mail to banking information across the seas remain largely unregulated and undefended. Any single cable line has been and will continue to be susceptible to disruption. And the only way around this is to build a more diverse system, because the thing that protects global information traffic is the fact that there’s some redundancy built into the system. But as things are, even though individual companies each look out for their own network, there is no economic incentive or supervisory body to ensure the global system as a whole is resilient. If there’s a vulnerability to worry about, this is it.

  • Leading tech companies get failing grade for their privacy policies

    The Ranking Digital Rights’ report, 2015 Corporate Accountability Index, find that the world’s leading technology companies deserve a failing grade for their privacy policies and the level of protection they offer their users. Some of the companies have also been found lacking for their freedom of expression practices. “Even the companies that ranked highest are missing the mark in some ways, and improvements are needed across the board to demonstrate a greater commitment to users’ freedom of expression and privacy,” the report says.

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  • Stealing encryption keys on Amazon’s Cloud servers

    Cloud computing is a service that enables companies and organizations to store information and run computer applications without making their own investments in actual computer hardware or employing IT staff. Researchers have demonstrated that RSA encryption keys, which are used by thousands of companies and organizations to protect the data and processes they entrust to cloud-based services, can be obtained using a sophisticated side-channel attack — despite recent efforts by cloud service providers and cryptography software developers to eliminate such vulnerabilities.

  • Search in Illinois, Indiana for missing canister holding radioactive materials

    Teams from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) are continuing their search in Illinois and neighboring Indiana for a missing steel canister containing radioactive material. The locked steel canister was last believed to be in a custom oil well logging truck. The nuclear material was used by an Illinois company specializing in surveying oil wells.

  • Amendment to CISA: U.S. courts could pursue foreigners for crimes abroad against other foreigners

    A controversial amendment to an already-controversial cybersecurity bill will allow U.S. courts to pursue, convict, and jail foreign nationals in cases in which these foreigners committed crimes against other foreigners on foreign soil. The amendment to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) cleared a key Senate hurdle on Thursday. It aims to lower the barrier for prosecuting crimes committed abroad.

  • EFF leads privacy advocates in opposing CISA

    Privacy advocates have intensified their campaign against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which the Senate will vote on sometime next week. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says it vehemently opposes the bill, as well as amendments which would expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. EFF says that CISA is fundamentally flawed. The bill’s broad immunity clauses, vague definitions, and what EFF describes as “aggressive spying powers” combine to “make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise.”

  • Ruling shows Europe still vexed over NSA spying, leaving U.S. companies in legal limbo

    For over fifteen years, the Data Transfer Pact between the European Union and the United States, more commonly known as Safe Harbor, had ensured that companies with EU operations could transfer online data about their employees and customers back to the United States despite stark differences between U.S. and European privacy law. Earlier this month, U.S. companies operating in Europe got some unwelcome news: Safe Harbor had been ruled invalid. The European court’s ruling has serious implications for these companies’ business models and profitability, leaving many scrambling to find solutions. But it also exposes a fundamental cultural rift between the U.S. and Europe’s conceptions of privacy – one that a new agreement won’t be able to paper over.

  • New tool allows users to see how their personal information is used on the Web

    Navigating the Web gets easier by the day as corporate monitoring of our e-mails and browsing habits fine-tune the algorithms that serve us personalized ads and recommendations. But convenience comes at a cost. In the wrong hands, our personal information can be used against us, to discriminate on housing and health insurance, and overcharge on goods and services, among other risks. “The Web is like the Wild West,” says one researcher. “There’s no oversight of how our data are being collected, exchanged and used.”

  • Climate change will reshape global economy: Study

    Unmitigated climate change is likely to reduce the income of an average person on Earth by roughly 23 percent in 2100, according to estimates contained in a new study. The findings indicate climate change will widen global inequality, perhaps dramatically, because warming is good for cold countries, which tend to be richer, and more harmful for hot countries, which tend to be poorer. In the researchers’ benchmark estimate, climate change will reduce average income in the poorest 40 percent of countries by 75 percent in 2100, while the richest 20 percent may experience slight gains.

  • Will the Supreme Court kill the smart grid?

    On 30 April, Tesla’s Elon Musk took the stage in California to introduce the company’s Powerwall battery energy storage system, which he hopes will revolutionize the dormant market for household and utility-scale batteries. A few days later, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case during its fall term that could very well determine whether Tesla’s technology gamble succeeds or fails. At issue is an obscure federal policy known in the dry language of the electricity business as “Order 745,” which a lower court vacated last year. Order 745 allowed electricity customers to be paid for reducing electricity usage from the grid — a practice known as “demand response.” It also stipulated that demand response customers would be paid the market price for not using the grid — like the power industry’s version of paying farmers not to grow corn. This case, ultimately, is far more significant than getting paid for not using electricity. It’s about who gets to set the rules of the road for emerging technology in the electricity sector — the states or the federal government — and whether the United States will be able to modernize its energy policy the same way that it would like to modernize its power grid.

  • Court allows ads for “The Muslims are coming!' on New York subway

    A federal judge las week allowed the posting of light-hearted subway advertisements promoting a documentary about American Muslim comedians, ruling that a transportation agency improperly labeled them political in nature. Judge Colleen McMahon said the advertisements created by two Muslim comedians – one including the line: “The Ugly Truth about Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes” — were not primarily political. “That the advertisements at issue gently mock prejudice and employ Islamophobia as a comedic device does not make their message ‘prominently or predominantly’ political,” she wrote.

  • Tackling the under-representation of British Muslims in top professions

    A new report finds that British Muslims are least likely to hold professional or managerial jobs of any religious group in Britain — at only half the average level (16 to 30 percent) — and that more likely to be unemployed or living in poverty. The report calls for urgent action from government, employers, universities, and within the Muslim community to encourage economic participation and prevent conscious or unconscious discrimination.

  • Two new projects tackle e-mail security

    In the early, halcyon days of the Internet, researchers were more interested in sharing information rather than securing it. Now, decades later, securing the world’s most widely used medium for business communication is a full-time job for researchers and IT specialists around the globe. The modern working world cannot exist without e-mail, but hackers exploit this vital service to steal money and valuable information. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is tackling this threat with two new projects.

  • FAA proposes $1.9 million civil penalty for unmanned drone operations

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the other day announced the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a drone operator for endangering the safety of U.S. airspace. The FAA proposes a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, Inc. of Chicago. The FAA says that SkyPan conducted sixty-five unauthorized operations in some of the U.S. most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules.

  • European Court of Justice: U.S. data systems expose users to state surveillance

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg has ruled that U.S. digital data storage systems fail to provide sufficient privacy from state surveillance. The ECJ declared the American so-called safe harbor scheme “invalid.” The ruling, which is binding on all EU members states, stated that: “The United States … scheme thus enables interference, by United States public authorities, with the fundamental rights of persons…” The ruling will have far-reaching ramifications for the online industry and would likely lead many companies to relocate their operations.