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Federal Anti-SLAPP Bill Introduced in the House

EFF Breaking News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 02:43

A bipartisan group of representatives, including Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), recently introduced the SPEAK FREE Act of 2015, a bill that would help protect victims of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, also known as SLAPPs.

Plaintiffs who bring SLAPPS are not primarily interested in winning the lawsuits. Instead, their goal is to harass, intimidate, and ultimately silence critics through the drama, cost and time-consuming nature of litigation. Anti-SLAPP laws provide defendants with a procedural mechanism to quickly dismiss the case and, often, to obtain attorneys fees, thereby creating a disincentive for plaintiffs to file harassing lawsuits that target speech.

EFF has followed for a long time the problem of SLAPPs in the online space, including against speakers who wish to remain anonymous. There are all kinds of SLAPPs brought against all kinds of defendants. In one case, EFF defended the creator of the online comic The Oatmeal after he was sued for defamation for criticizing the rival humor website FunnyJunk.

The most significant aspect of the SPEAK FREE Act is the breadth of its applicability. The bill would authorize the transfer of cases originally brought in state court to federal court. This “removal” authority would be beneficial to defendants who are sued in state court in the 22 states that do not have an anti-SLAPP law, as well as in states with weaker anti-SLAPP laws. Authorizing the removal of cases to federal court would be a powerful means of enabling SLAPP defendants to invoke the federal procedural defense created by the SPEAK FREE Act.

A federal anti-SLAPP law would also significantly advance the free speech interests of defendants originally sued in federal court. A federal anti-SLAPP law is needed because state anti-SLAPP laws do not apply to cases in federal court based on federal law. For cases in federal court that include some or all state law claims, there is a split in precedent: the DC Circuit, for example, said that DC’s local anti-SLAPP law cannot be applied to cases in federal court that are based on state law; whereas, other circuits have said that state anti-SLAPP laws can be applied to state claims in federal court cases. A federal anti-SLAPP law would apply to all relevant cases filed in (or removed to) federal court.

Once a case is in federal court, the SPEAK FREE Act would allow a SLAPP defendant to quickly end the case by filing a special motion to dismiss. Importantly, the bill would also provide protection for a SLAPP defendant who wishes to remain anonymous by authorizing the filing of a motion to quash a plaintiff’s request for the defendant’s personally identifying information (such a request is usually sent to an online service provider).

In the special motion to dismiss, the defendant would have to make “a prima facie showing that the claim at issue arises from an oral or written statement or other expression by the defendant that was made in connection with an official proceeding or about a matter of public concern.”

A “matter of public concern” is broadly defined as an issue related to health or safety; environmental, economic, or community well-being; the government; a public official or public figure; or a good, product, or service in the marketplace. The intent is to protect a wide variety of speakers, including online reviewers who find themselves as defendants in the typical modern SLAPP.

In order to overcome the motion to dismiss and enable the case to move forward, the plaintiff would have to demonstrate that “the claim is likely to succeed on the merits.”

The judge would be able to consider the “pleadings and affidavits stating the facts on which the liability or defense is based,” similar to the summary judgment standard in federal court. The judge would also be permitted to order targeted discovery if needed to decide the motion to dismiss, but full discovery would be paused (“stayed”) during the consideration of the motion.

If the defendant wins the special motion to dismiss, the judge would be required to dismiss the case with prejudice (the plaintiff cannot file the case again) and award the defendant reasonable attorneys fees, litigation costs, and expert witness fees. However, if the defendant loses the motion and the judge finds that it was “frivolous” or was “solely intended to cause unnecessary delay,” the judge would have to award reasonable attorneys fees, litigation costs, and expert witness fees to the plaintiff.

The judge would be required to rule on the special motion to dismiss within 30 days of the motion being briefed or argued. The idea is to force a speedy resolution when a case implicates free speech interests. The party that loses the motion would be permitted to immediately appeal the decision.

The bill includes some exceptions where a defendant would not be permitted to file a special motion to dismiss the case: when the plaintiff brings a claim in the public interest; when the plaintiff is the government in an enforcement action; and when the defendant is a business being sued for speech about its product or service or that of a competitor (such as false advertising).

A federal anti-SLAPP law would be an important addition to existing constitutional and statutory law that protects free speech online, including the Supreme Court’s creation of the higher actual malice standard under the First Amendment for allegations of defamation of public officials and public figures; courts’ application of the First Amendment to protect anonymous speakers; and Section 230, which largely protects Internet intermediaries from being held liable for illegal content posted by their users.

EFF applauds the bipartisan effort of the representatives who introduced the SPEAK FREE Act. We hope Congress will quickly act on this important legislation.

Disclosure: I am on the board of directors of the Public Participation Project, which advocates for a federal anti-SLAPP law.

Related Issues: Free SpeechAnonymityCyberSLAPPRelated Cases: Carreon v. Inman
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Chinese Army newspaper calls for military role in Internet culture war

Ars Technica - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 01:34

An article published today in the People's Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of China's military—and reprinted in part by Qiushi, the official magazine of the Chinese Communist Party—calls the Internet "the ideological 'main front' and 'the main battlefield'" upon which China must fight an ideological war upon the West to defend itself from the creeping evils of Western thought. The article calls for greater restrictions on Internet content and for the People's Liberation Army to "protect ideological and political security on the invisible battleground of the Internet" as it protects the physical security of the country.

"It is said that before the 1960s, who took control of the print media, will have the right to speak; before the 1990s, who controlled the television media, will have more right to speak; and after entering the new century, who control Internet, including mobile Internet, will have the greatest right to speak," the unnamed author of the piece wrote. "In the eyes of Western anti-China forces, the Internet is undoubtedly intended to guide public opinion in China," undermining the authority of the government with "unwarranted charges" and "exaggerating minority conflicts" while presenting democracy as "a cure-all 'recipe for salvation' and presenting the ideas of the Western world as the leading civilized 'universal values'."

In the view of the PLA Daily, Western powers and Chinese "ideological traitors" have used the Internet to wage war on the Party: "Their fundamental objective is to confuse us with 'universal values', disturb us with 'constitutional democracy', and eventually overthrow our country through 'color revolution'," the article stated—an allusion to the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine and other popular uprisings against Communist authoritarian governments in the former Soviet Bloc. "Regime collapse that can occur overnight often starts from long-term ideological erosion."

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Teen pleads guilty to 23 charges of swatting, harassing online game rivals

Ars Technica - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 00:37

On Wednesday, a Canadian 17-year-old pleaded guilty to 23 charges relating to swatting calls and other false police reports, many of which had targeted his online opponents in the video game League of Legends.

According to a lengthy report by Canadian publication Tri-City News, the prosecution's case against the Coquitlam, British Columbia teenager asserted that the teen (whose name wasn't released due to his age) targeted "mostly young, female gamers" who declined or ignored his friend requests on LoL and Twitter.

The most notable example was an University of Arizona in Tucson college student who'd dropped out after she and her family members had been victimized by repeated swatting calls (including this nearly simultaneous attack on both the woman and her parents), financial information theft, "text bombs," false cell phone service orders, and intrusions into her e-mail and Twitter accounts. According to prosecutors, the months of attacks against this woman began on September 16 when the teen called Tucson police as if he were at her address, "claiming he had shot his parents with an AR15 rifle, had bombs, and would kill the police if he saw any marked vehicles," the report stated.

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Dirk Eddelbuettel: BH release 1.58.0-1

Planet Debian - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 23:50

A new released of BH is now on CRAN. BH provides a large part of the Boost C++ libraries as a set of template headers for use by R and Rcpp.

This release both upgrades the version of Boost to the current release, and adds a new library: Boost MultiPrecision .

A brief summary of changes from the NEWS file is below.

Changes in version 1.58.0-1 (2015-05-21)
  • Upgraded to Boost 1.58 installed directly from upstream source

  • Added Boost MultiPrecision as requested in GH ticket #12 based on rcpp-devel request by Jordi Molins Coronado

Courtesy of CRANberries, there is also a diffstat report for the most recent release.

Comments and suggestions are welcome via the mailing list or the issue tracker at the GitHubGitHub repo.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Flawed Android factory reset leaves crypto and login keys ripe for picking

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 23:12

An estimated 500 million Android phones don't completely wipe data when their factory reset option is run, a weakness that may allow the recovery of login credentials, text messages, e-mails, and contacts, computer scientists said Thursday.

In the first comprehensive study of the effectiveness of the Android feature, Cambridge University researchers found that they were able to recover data on a wide range of devices that had run factory reset. The function, which is built into Google's Android mobile operating system, is considered a crucial means for wiping confidential data off of devices before they're sold, recycled, or otherwise retired. The study found that data could be recovered even when users turned on full-disk encryption.

Based on the devices studied, the researchers estimated that 500 million devices may not fully wipe disk partitions where sensitive data is stored and 630 million phones may not wipe internal SD cards where pictures and video are often kept. The findings, published in a research paper titled Security Analysis of Android Factory Resets, are sure to be a wake-up call for individual users and large enterprises alike.

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Yves-Alexis Perez: Followup on Debian grsec kernels for Jessie

Planet Debian - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 21:36

So, following the previous post, I've indeed updated the way I'm making my grsec kernels.

I wanted to upgrade my server to Jessie, and didn't want to keep the 3.2 kernel indefinitely, so I had to update to at least 3.14, and find something to make my life (and maybe some others) easier.

In the end, like planned, I've switched to the make deb-pkg way, using some scripts here and there to simplify stuff.

The scripts and configs can be found in my debian-grsec-config repository. The repository layout is pretty much self-explaining:

The bin/ folder contains two scripts:

  • get-grsec.sh, which will pick the latest grsec patch (for each branch) and applies it to the correct Linux branch. This script should be run from a git clone of the linux-stable git repository;
  • kconfig.py is taken from the src:linux Debian package, and can be used to merge multiple KConfig files

The configs/ folder contains the various configuration bits:

  • config-* files are the Debian configuration files, taken from the linux-image binary packages (for amd64 and i386);
  • grsec* are the grsecurity specifics bits (obviously);
  • hardening* contain non-grsec stuff still useful for hardened kernels, for example KASLR (cargo-culting nonwidthstanding) or strong SSP (available since I'm building the kernels on a sid box, YMMV).

I'm currently building amd64 kernels for Jessie and i386 kernels will follow soon, using config-3.14 + hardening + grsec. I'm hosting them on my apt repository. You're obviously free to use them, but considering how easy it is to rebuild a kernel, you might want to use a personal configuration (instead of mine) and rebuild the kernel yourself, so you don't have to trust my binary packages.

Here's a very quick howto (adapt it to your needs):

mkdir linux-grsec && cd linux-grsec git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git git clone git://anonscm.debian.org/users/corsac/grsec/debian-grsec-config.git mkdir build cd linux-stable ../debian-grsec-config/bin/get-grsec.sh stable2 # for 3.14 branch ../debian-grsec-config/bin/kconfig.py ../build/.config ../debian-grsec-config/configs/config-3.14-2-amd64 ../debian-grsec-config/configs/hardening ../debian-grsec-config/configs/grsec make KBUILD_OUTPUT=../build -j4 oldconfig make KBUILD_OUTPUT=../build -j4 deb-pkg

Then you can use the generated Debian binary packages. If you use the Debian config, it'll need a lot of disk space for compilation and generate a huge linux-image debug package, so you might want to unset CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO locally if you're not interested. Right now only the deb files are generated but I've submitted a patch to have a .changes file which can be then used to manipulate them more easily (for example for uploading them a local Debian repository).

Note that, obviously, this is not targeted for inclusion to the official Debian archive. This is still not possible for various reasons explained here and there, and I still don't have a solution for that.

I hope this (either the scripts and config or the generated binary packages) can be useful. Don't hesitate to drop me a mail if needed.

On-Demand Startups Aren’t Delivering on Promises to Workers

Wired - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 21:20

People are leaving on-demand work after finding out the promised advantages over traditional jobs don't hold up.

The post On-Demand Startups Aren’t Delivering on Promises to Workers appeared first on WIRED.









Colombianos a sus ISPs: ¿Dónde Están Mis Datos?

EFF Breaking News - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 19:37

En la sociedad actual todo está conectado en Internet. La información sobre dónde vivimos o trabajamos, cuáles son nuestros ingresos, nuestros gustos o preferencias, relaciones personales y actividades cotidianas, filiación política, inclinación sexual e identificación religiosa se encuentran en línea, puede ser recogida por terceros y forma parte de la vigilancia que adelantan tanto Gobiernos como otros actores. Mientras las compañías que ofrecen servicios de Internet están sujetos a diversas regulaciones relacionadas con la forma en que manejan nuestros datos personales y confidenciales, sus políticas de privacidad y sus términos de servicio carecen de claridad sobre los protocolos que usan para proteger la información de sus clientes. Por eso vale la pena preguntarse ¿sabe usted dónde están sus datos en este momento?, ¿acaso estas empresas los cuidan?, ¿le cuentan si el Gobierno los pide? Para responder estas preguntas surge el informe “¿Dónde están mis datos?”

La Fundación Karisma, una de las principales ONG latinoamericanas que trabajan en la promoción de los derechos humanos en el mundo digital, y la Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), han unido esfuerzos en una iniciativa que busca fomentar mayor transparencia entre los proveedores de servicios de Internet (PSI) en América Latina. Este esfuerzo es coordinado por la EFF en cinco países de la región en alianza con Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales, en México; Hiperderecho, en Perú; InternetLab, en Brasil; TEDIC, en Paraguay y Fundación Karisma, en Colombia.

La Fundación Karisma es pionera en esta iniciativa, publicando el primer informe de este tipo en América Latina bajo el nombre “¿Dónde están mis datos?”. El informe analiza cuál de los proveedores de acceso a Internet apoya a sus clientes y adopta la transparencia como una norma frente a las solicitudes de información del Gobierno. El objetivo es  permitir a los y las usuarias tomar decisiones informadas sobre las empresas con las que hacen negocios. El informe busca promover la adopción de buenas prácticas de transparencia por parte de las empresas en relación con el flujo de datos hacia el Gobierno y pretende también fortalecer su compromiso público con la defensa de los derechos de los y las usuarias.

"Los proveedores de servicios de Internet en Colombia deben ser transparentes respecto a la medida en que proporcionan los datos de sus usuarios al Gobierno", dijo Katitza Rodríguez, Directora de Derecho Internacional de la EFF hoy durante el lanzamiento del evento en Bogotá. "El reporte '¿Dónde Están Mis Datos?' de la Fundación Karisma examina las políticas de privacidad de los proveedores de Internet más populares de Colombia, para ofrecer una visión clara de la transparencia de estas compañías hacia sus usuarios acerca de las peticiones gubernamentales de información. El informe es una herramienta importante para los usuarios que buscan tomar decisiones informadas sobre compañías respetuosas con su información."

Para este informe, la Fundación Karisma examina las políticas y términos y condiciones de uso públicamente disponibles de las cuatro compañías intermediarias de acceso a Internet más importantes del país de acuerdo con el número de suscriptores. Un dato que se basa en el Boletín Trimestral de las TIC Banda Ancha publicado en septiembre de 2014 por el Ministerio de las Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones colombiano que muestra que cerca del 91% de los suscriptores registrados son clientes de una de estas empresas que operan en Colombia: Telmex Colombia S.A. (CLARO), UNE EPM Telecomunicaciones S.A., Colombia Telecomunicaciones S.A. (Telefónica) y Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Bogotá S.A. (ETB). Además, se incluyó una quinta compañía -DIRECTV- puesto que recientemente empezó a ofrecer el servicio de acceso a Internet y es una empresa multinacional de gran impacto en el país. También es necesario mencionar que, aunque UNE y Tigo se fusionaron en el 2014, las dos empresas mantienen políticas independientes, por lo tanto se decidió mantener la evaluación sobre UNE con el fin de revisar una empresa que tiene gran influencia por fuera de la capital del país.

Fundación Karisma realizó una evaluación de la información pública disponible en las páginas web de las cinco empresas. Fueron evaluadas de acuerdo a qué tanto divulgan a sus clientes sus políticas de privacidad y documentos de términos y condiciones de uso.  La evaluación se hizo teniendo en cuenta cinco criterios:

  1. Si el PSI publica informes de transparencia. El informe evalúa si las empresas entregan datos sobre los requerimientos de datos personales del Gobierno y otra información sensible. Estos informes ofrecen a las personas alguna información sobre el alcance y naturaleza de las solicitudes de información de los y las usuarias que hacen los Gobiernos para sus procesos de investigación y vigilancia. Si bien las empresas no están obligadas legalmente a publicar estos informes de transparencia y sí están limitados por los Gobiernos en relación con el alcance de lo que pueden publicar, entregar estos documentos es una buena práctica y demuestra que las empresas se preocupan por sus clientes. Cada día más empresas de Internet y de medios alrededor del mundo están publicando estos informes, así lo hacen Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft y Vodafone. Los informes de transparencia incluyen información con cantidad de solicitudes que una empresa recibe del Gobierno, número de veces que la empresa ha rechazado estas solicitudes (con los argumentos que han esgrimido), detalles sobre las peticiones en relación con las autoridades que las piden, tipo de solicitudes, propósito y número de cuentas afectadas en cada petición, por ejemplo;
  2. Si el PSI notifica a los y las usuarias sobre las solicitudes de datos del Gobierno. Este es un punto importante porque permite a los y las usuarias enfrentar las peticiones de vigilancia o buscar otros mecanismos de defensa;  
  3. Si las políticas de protección de datos del PSI son públicas y de fácil acceso para los y las usuarias. Aunque existe la obligación legal para publicar la política de privacidad, esto no significa que en la práctica estos documentos sean fáciles de encontrar o sean comprensibles para los y las usuarias;
  4. Si el PSI publica manuales de cumplimiento de obligaciones legales que pueden afectar la intimidad de los y las usuarias. Es decir, si tiene manuales que indiquen cómo cumplen con su obligación de entregar datos personales de sus clientes a petición de una autoridad competente, por cuánto tiempo retienen esos datos y cómo los eliminan, si es que lo hacen, y;
  5. Si el PSI es claro con los y las usuarias sobre las formas en que filtra, retira o bloquea contenidos y cancela o suspende servicios. Si bien legalmente los PSI deben bloquear contenidos justificados por pornografía infantil e incluso ellos mismos suelen incluir en sus contratos listados de motivaciones para hacer filtrados, bloqueos y retiros de contenidos, se requiere que tengan más claridad con los y las usuarias respecto del por qué y cómo lo hacen e indiquen qué tipo de acciones pueden realizar cuando consideran que hay abusos.

“¿Dónde están mis datos?” pretende impulsar mejores prácticas empresariales de los PSI para beneficio de los y las usuarias; busca identificar áreas donde es necesaria la transparencia y quiere sensibilizar acerca del uso que los PSI y el Gobierno le están dando a los datos personales de los y las usuarias, para que éstos y éstas puedan tomar decisiones más informadas al elegir un proveedor de servicios de Internet.

Los criterios de análisis se definieron inspirados en la metodología que emplea EFF y otros proyectos similares alrededor del mundo y teniendo en cuenta las particularidades del caso colombiano. Los resultados se pueden visualizar por medio de estrellas o partes de estrellas (dependiendo de si la información consultada se encontraba disponible de manera completa, parcial o nula). Una estrella completa significa que el PSI cumplió con el criterio, media estrella significa que la información encontrada era parcial. En algunos casos se otorgó un cuarto de estrella como reconocimiento al desarrollo de buenas prácticas en sus políticas. No se concedió estrellas cuando no había información.

La Fundación Karisma contactó a las cinco compañías que fueron evaluadas, para explicarles el objetivo del informe, exponerles los resultados preliminares obtenidos por cada una, y darles la oportunidad de retroalimentar el análisis, identificar temas que no se habían contemplado y proporcionar evidencia que pudiera mejorar la evaluación. Las observaciones y comentarios hechos por los PSI fueron considerados en la evaluación final.

Los resultados: Políticas vagas y poco claras, además de ausencia de transparencia acerca del rol que juegan estas empresas en la entrega de información personal al gobierno, dejan mucho espacio para mejorar.

Este año DirecTV fue la única empresa que ganó una estrella completa por publicar su política de protección de datos de forma clara y accesible al público. Desafortunadamente, los resultados del informe ¿Dónde están mis datos? muestran que ésta es la excepción a la regla; lo corriente es que los y las usuarias la tienen difícil para encontrar estos documentos en las páginas oficiales de los PSI, que éstos son vagos y contienen previsiones exageradas como la retención de datos personales incluso después de finalizado el contrato.

Karisma estableció que en la mayoría de los términos y condiciones de uso de los PSI no se establece si estas empresas notifican a sus suscriptores cuando el Gobierno hace solicitudes de información de sus datos, o en caso de hacerlo, no se sabe cómo. Es importante resaltar que esta notificación es esencial para que los usuarios puedan controvertir tales solicitudes o buscar otros recursos legales.

DirecTV es la única empresa que declara públicamente que notifica a sus clientes sobre estas solicitudes, pero tal declaración es discrecional y vaga, no explica la forma en que lo hace. Un resultado alentador es que UNE afirma que analiza la legalidad de tales solicitudes y lleva un registro de la forma en que las atiende, aunque falla al no tomar el siguiente paso y notificar a sus usuarios y usuarias afectados.

Desafortunadamente ninguno de los PSI analizados publica manuales o guías donde se explique la forma en que cumplen con su obligación legal de entregar información personal al Gobierno. De otra parte, tampoco los términos y condiciones de uso de estas empresas describen la forma en que el contenido es filtrado, bloqueado o removido, o lo que sucede si un servicio es cancelado o suspendido.

Los PSI en Colombia aún tienen mucho que mejorar en relación con la protección de los derechos de los y las usuarias y en la transparencia sobre la entrega de datos de sus clientes. Esperamos publicar este informe anualmente para incentivar a las empresas a mejorar sus prácticas de transparencia y protección de la intimidad de sus usuarios. De esta manera todos los colombianos tendrán acceso a información acerca de cómo están siendo usados y controlados sus datos personales por las PSI, y puedan tomar decisiones de consumo inteligentes. Desde Karisma se espera que el próximo año la tabla de resultados brille con muchas más estrellas.

Haga clic aquí para descargar el PDF.

Files:  Informe Dónde Están Mis DatosRelated Issues: InternationalSurveillance and Human Rights
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There’s an app for that: How NSA, allies exploit mobile app stores

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 19:28

In 2011 and 2012, the NSA and the communications intelligence agencies of its "Five Eyes" allies developed and tested a set of add-ons to their shared Internet surveillance capability that could identify and target communications between mobile devices and popular mobile app stores—including those of Google and Samsung. According to an NSA document published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the targeting capability could have been used to launch "man-in-the-middle" attacks on mobile app downloads, allowing the NSA and other agencies to install code on targeted devices and gather intelligence on their users.

The document—a 2012 National Security Agency presentation obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden—details efforts by the NSA, Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and the other "Five Eyes" allies to identify the "fingerprints" of communications between mobile devices and app stores. The capabilities were developed during two collaborative workshops: one in November 2011 hosted by the Australian Signals Directorate, and the other hosted by Canada's CSE in February 2012. The February workshop was attended by analysts from all of the Five Eyes communications intelligence agencies, the NSA slides joked, as "everyone wanted to experience a Canadian winter!"

These fingerprints were turned into "mini-plugins" for XKeyscore, the NSA's worldwide distributed Internet surveillance system. XKeyscore can apply these plugin rules to search through streams of Internet traffic for matching data. It has been used as a targeting system for various types of network exploitation attacks—including the "Quantum" man-in-the-middle attacks that allow the agencies to hijack or modify traffic between a computer or device of interest and various Web services to decrypt it, insert malware into the stream, or present altered versions of the content.

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Audio Visuals: Taylor Swift Is the Center of the Pop Culture Universe

Wired - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 19:10

This week's music video roundup is a special edition, special because Taylor Swift and Beyoncé each put out new videos.

The post Audio Visuals: Taylor Swift Is the Center of the Pop Culture Universe appeared first on WIRED.









House of Representatives approves bill cutting Earth science, energy funding

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 18:48

The full House has now passed a new America COMPETES Act, which sets funding priorities for scientific research at several government agencies. While ostensibly intended to make US research more globally competitive, the bill would take some budgeting decisions out of the hands of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and instead allow Congress to set its research priorities.

In keeping with previous Congressional attacks on research, this one would target the social sciences at the NSF, cutting its budget by nearly half. Also targeted are the Earth sciences, which would take a 12 percent hit (a separate bill is contemplating even more drastic cuts to geoscience research at NASA). Environmental research at the Department of Energy would take a 10 percent cut, as would the Advanced Research Projects Agency‐Energy, a high-risk research body modeled on DARPA.

A Nature News report on the passage also notes some unusual provisions. All federal agencies would be prohibited from using DOE research on fossil fuels to set government regulations, undermining the ability of the government to generate an evidence-based foundation for action. And the bill singles out climate change when calling for agencies to avoid funding research that overlaps with any done by other departments.

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Grand Theft Auto parent company sues BBC over upcoming docu-drama

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 18:37

It wouldn't be a Grand Theft Auto-related movie without some controversy, but the BBC's upcoming dramatic, 90-minute retelling of the series' genesis has come under fire not from Jack Thompson but from the game's parent company. A Thursday announcement confirmed that Take Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games, has filed a lawsuit against the BBC over its still-in-production TV movie Game Changer.

Rockstar representatives offered a statement to Ars Technica—the same one that was originally reported by IGN. It described Take Two's filing against the BBC as a "trademark infringement" lawsuit over the Grand Theft Auto franchise and insisted that neither Take Two nor Rockstar had anything to do with the film's creation. "Our goal is to ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC's pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games," the statement said. "We have attempted multiple times to resolve this matter with the BBC without any meaningful resolution. It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property, and unfortunately in this case litigation was necessary."

The statement did not clarify where the suit was filed, nor what specific trademarks may have been violated to make the British TV movie production worth filing suit against. A Rockstar representative confirmed that the suit had been filed this morning in London but declined to comment on our other questions.

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Comcast ends an interconnection fight before net neutrality takes effect

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 18:30

Comcast has signed an interconnection agreement with Internet backbone operator Level 3 with just a few weeks to go until the Federal Communications Commission starts taking complaints under its new net neutrality regime.

Comcast and Level 3 fought as early as 2010 over the amount of Netflix traffic that Level 3 was sending into Comcast's network. Level 3 agreed to pay Comcast for network interconnection at the time "under protest." Level 3 and Comcast announced another agreement in 2013 in a brief press release containing no details, but there was apparently still some tension between the companies.

Netflix traffic isn't a problem for Level 3 and Comcast anymore since Netflix last year began paying Comcast for a direct network connection to improve video quality. But network operators like Level 3 and Cogent have threatened to complain to the FCC about Internet service providers demanding money for upgrades needed to ensure good quality for other Internet services.

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Jonathan McDowell: I should really learn systemd

Planet Debian - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 18:20

As I slowly upgrade all my machines to Debian 8.0 (jessie) they’re all ending up with systemd. That’s fine; my laptop has been running it since it went into testing whenever it was. Mostly I haven’t had to care, but I’m dimly aware that it has a lot of bits I should learn about to make best use of it.

Today I discovered systemctl is-system-running. Which I’m not sure why I’d use it, but when I ran it it responded with degraded. That’s not right, thought I. How do I figure out what’s wrong? systemctl --state=failed turned out to be the answer.

# systemctl --state=failed UNIT LOAD ACTIVE SUB DESCRIPTION ● systemd-modules-load.service loaded failed failed Load Kernel Modules LOAD = Reflects whether the unit definition was properly loaded. ACTIVE = The high-level unit activation state, i.e. generalization of SUB. SUB = The low-level unit activation state, values depend on unit type. 1 loaded units listed. Pass --all to see loaded but inactive units, too. To show all installed unit files use 'systemctl list-unit-files'.

Ok, so it’s failed to load some kernel modules. What’s it trying to load? systemctl status -l systemd-modules-load.service led me to /lib/systemd/systemd-modules-load which complained about various printer modules not being able to be loaded. Turned out this was because CUPS had dropped them into /etc/modules-load.d/cups-filters.conf on upgrade, and as I don’t have a parallel printer I hadn’t compiled up those modules. One of my other machines had also had an issue with starting up filesystem quotas (I think because there’d been some filesystems that hadn’t mounted properly on boot - my fault rather than systemd). Fixed that up and then systemctl is-system-running started returning a nice clean running.

Now this is probably something that was silently failing back under sysvinit, but of course nothing was tracking that other than some output on boot up. So I feel that I’ve learnt something minor about systemd that actually helped me cleanup my system, and sets me in better stead for when something important fails.

Google Tracker 2015 (I/O edition): Android M, Chromecast 2, and lots more

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 18:00

Google I/O will be here in mere days, and that means it's time for the 2015 edition of our Google Tracker. If you're new to the series, Google Tracker is a running list of all the projects going on at Google HQ. We do bi-annual installments—one at the beginning of the year and one just before I/O—making this the fourth edition on Ars.

The benefit of a pre-I/O Tracker? A lot of these projects will probably launch! We at least have the Google I/O schedule to work from, and we try to tie what we're talking about into that as much as possible. While we're not guaranteeing everything on here will be released at the big show, this is a definite list of possibilities, and we'll mention what ranks high on the "plausibility" scale. So if you're not glued to Google news 24/7, this is a great way to catch up on everything you missed.ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);

Table of Contents Android M

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Large Hadron Collider records first collisions at new, record energy

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 17:21

In another key step toward the return of experiments to the Large Hadron Collider, the machine's operators ran the first collisions at its new top energy: 13 Tera-electronVolts. This is the planned energy for all experiments in the coming year, and it's a level that's 60 percent higher than any previous collisions performed there.

These collisions were an accidental byproduct of work meant to test out the LHC's hardware, specifically devices called collimators. Collimators are pieces of metal that extend to the outside edges of the beams of protons that circulate through the LHC. They shave off any protons that have strayed from the main line of the beam, keeping them from hitting and possibly damaging the equipment.

To fully test the hardware, the people running the LHC had to check whether the collimators performed properly while the proton beams were operating in collision mode. A necessary byproduct of these were actual collisions. And if you're reading this, it appears nothing bad happened at the new energies.

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Global warming means fewer—but more powerful—hurricanes

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 17:15

Hurricanes, and tropical cyclones more generally, are dangerous forces of nature that damage even the most well-developed societies. In the US, the devastation caused by hurricanes can last for years. When it comes to the conditions required for hurricanes to develop, some scientists are concerned that an increase in ocean warmth caused by climate change could have unforeseen consequences. But there has been debate over precisely what those consequences will be. Fewer or more hurricanes? Greater hurricane strength?

A team of scientists has performed a new exploration of the global tropical cyclone response to ocean warming. This study specifically examines the frequency, intensity, and activity of cyclones with a lifetime-maximum wind speed exceeding 17 m/s (about 37 mph—well below the 75 mph threshold for a category 1 hurricane).

The scientists analyzed the influence of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which indicates naturally fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial pacific (El Niño), as well as the overall sea surface temperature (SST), which indicates global ocean warmth. Overall, the global mean SST has increased by 0.3°C over the past 30 years.

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What was the effect of Rand Paul’s 10-hour “filibuster?”

Ars Technica - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 17:03

"There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as he began speaking on the Senate floor at 1:18pm Eastern time yesterday. "That time is now, and I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged."

Paul held the floor for more than 10 hours, preventing any votes from being held. Paul was ultimately joined by a group of 10 other Senators, seven of them Democrats, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). While the speeches caused a delay of any other business, it technically wasn't a "filibuster" of the Patriot Act reauthorization, since that bill wasn't on the Senate floor. The Associated Press called the series of speeches a "lengthy Senate talk," with no clear outcome. A vote on a trade bill scheduled for this morning was not delayed, since the speeches ended just before midnight last night.

The question of what the "filibuster" did is fundamentally unknown because it would require reading the mind of Rand's fellow Kentuckian, Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If McConnell was going to push for a quick vote on his bill for a "clean" reauthorization of the Patriot Act, then Paul gummed up the works. But that probably wouldn't have happened anyway, since the House is departing for the holiday weekend at 3:00pm today.

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Michal Čihař: Translating Sphinx documentation

Planet Debian - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 17:00

Few days ago, I've started writing Odorik module to manipulate with API of one Czech mobile network operator. As usual, the code comes with documentation written in English. Given that vast majority of users are Czech, it sounds useful to have in Czech language as well.

The documentation itself is written in Sphinx and built using Read the Docs. Using those to translate the documentation is quite easy.

First step is to add necessary configuration to the Sphinx project as described in their Internationalization Quick Guide. It's matter of few configuration directives and invoking of sphinx-intl and the result can be like this commit.

Once the code in repository is ready, you can start building translated documentation on the Read the docs. There is nice guide for that as well. All you need to do is to create another project, set it's language and link it from master project as translation.

The last step is to find some translators to actually translate the document. For me the obvious choice was using Weblate, so the translation is now on Hosted Weblate. The mass import of several po files can be done by import_project management command.

And thanks to all these you can now read Czech documentation for python Odorik module.

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Announcing qboot, a minimal x86 firmware for QEMU

LWN.net - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 16:57
The announcement of Clear Containers (which guest author Arjan van de Ven described in an LWN article from this week) seems to have sparked some interesting work on QEMU that resulted in qboot: "a minimal x86 firmware that runs on QEMU and, together with a slimmed-down QEMU configuration, boots a virtual machine in 40 milliseconds on an Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor." Paolo Bonzini announced the project (code is available at git://github.com/bonzini/qboot.git), which is quite new: "The first commit to qboot is more or less 24 hours old, so there is definitely more work to do, in particular to extract ACPI tables from QEMU and present them to the guest. This is probably another day of work or so, and it will enable multiprocessor guests with little or no impact on the boot times. SMBIOS information is also available from QEMU."
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