Saturday, August 11, 2012

The economics of security (another way to view risk)
Why It Pays to Submit to Hackers
Every big online security breach seems to end in a big lecture. Use strong passwords, users are told. Make fresh logins for every website. Back up your data. Encrypt all your stuff.
… The lectures clearly aren’t working and that, behavioral economists say, is because we already know how we should protect ourselves online, we just choose not to do so. Hardening your internet identity, whether through new passwords, a backup regimen, or other means, costs time and energy in the present, and pays dividends only in some far-off hypothetical future. Humans are already hard-wired to prefer small near-term pleasures over big long-term benefits; throw in the possibility you might not ever actually need a strong password or a computer backup, and it’s no wonder people are so lax about security.
… It’s not only individuals who are susceptible to this kind of negative feedback loop around low-probability events. Dan Ariely, the Duke behavioral economist we interviewed in June, says that organizations are lulled into complacency as well. Apple and Amazon, for example, appear to have routinely allowed customer-support callers to authenticate using minimal information and in some cases without knowing the answers to their own security questions. Ariely likens this to the driver who learns to run stop signs.

“Most reported” does not equal “convicted” but When you want to make a movie deal... (Should my Ethical Hackers claim they hold the Copyright on all the IRS tax forms?)
An anonymous reader sends word of a change Google will be making to its search algorithms. Beginning next week, the company will penalize the search rankings of websites who are the target of many copyright infringement notices from rightsholders. Quoting The Verge:
"Google says the move is designed to 'help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily' — meaning that it's trying to direct people who search for movies, TV shows, and music to sites like Hulu and Spotify, not torrent sites or data lockers like the infamous MegaUpload. It's a clear concession to the movie and music industries, who have long complained that Google facilitates piracy — and Google needs to curry favor with media companies as it tries to build an ecosystem around Google Play. Google says it feels confident making the change because because its existing copyright infringement reporting system generates a massive amount of data about which sites are most frequently reported — the company received and processed over 4.3 million URL removal requests in the past 30 days alone, more than all of 2009 combined. Importantly, Google says the search tweaks will not remove sites from search results entirely, just rank them lower in listings."

Look up the license plate registration information and you have a complete dossier. How long before something like it comes to the US?
"Brazil's National Traffic Council (CNT) published Friday a resolution that institutes the National System of Automatic Vehicle Identification (Siniav). According to the Q&A published (Google translation from Portuguese), only 'visible and public' information will be available (vehicle year or fabrication, make, model, combustible, engine power and license plate number), without any personal information about the owner or registration data. This system will be mandatory for all vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc) and should cost vehicle owners approximately R$5 (less than US$3)."

(Related) Trick question...
"The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Minneapolis police used automated scanning technology to log location data for over 800,000 license plates in June alone, with 4.9 million scans having taken place this year. The data includes the date, time, and location where the plate was seen. Worse, it appears this data is compiled and stored for up to a year and is disclosed to anyone who asks for it."

Perhaps Google is too large for the FCC to comprehend. Or perhaps too large a fine would reduce the PAC contribution?
Google $22.5 Million FTC Fine Has No Teeth
The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday revealed that Google has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle charges that the company misrepresented its claim that it would not place cookie tracking files on the computers of users of Apple's Safari browser.
… For the FTC, the main issue is that Google's actions violated an earlier privacy settlement. Thus the fine is largely about saving face. Agency chairman Jon Leibowitz notes that the penalty is "record-setting."
However, FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch in a dissenting statement said the amount is a pittance as far as Google is concerned. "$22.5 million represents a de minimis amount of Google's profit or revenues," he said, using the legal term for too small to matter in a given context.
… The settlement is a win for Google. The "record-setting" fine is less than Google's average daily profit in 2011 (about $32 million).

(Related) No money mentioned in the settlement.
August 10, 2012
FTC Approves Final Settlement With Facebook
News release: "Following a public comment period, the FTC has accepted as final a settlement with Facebook resolving charges that Facebook deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public. The settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including by giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining their express consent before sharing their information beyond their privacy settings, by maintaining a comprehensive privacy program to protect consumers' information, and by obtaining biennial privacy audits from an independent third party.

(Related) Has the government deliberately reduced their responsibilities?
By Dissent, August 10, 2012
An interesting federal case in the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division reminds us that the HIPAA statute does not provide for a private cause of action. And so, when the Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry sought to compel a former employee to return patient information she had allegedly removed improperly, the court had to deny their request. On the other hand, though, the court held that it did have the authority to bar the nurse from using the information in her court case.

It sometimes amazes me that people (Congress-people in particular) don't seems to understand the stock market. If you won't allow me to hedge by short selling, I'll dump my stock now, signaling that I have no faith in the future of that company. If short selling does result in “artificially low stock prices” I'll buy. Still Econ 101...
August 11, 2012
Short-Selling Bans Failed to Prevent U.S. Stock Price Declines
"Bans on short-selling imposed during the financial crisis in the belief that short sales were driving United States stock prices below fundamental values did little to stabilize those prices, according to a new study by New York Fed economists. In addition, the bans had the unwanted effects of lowering market liquidity and boosting trading costs. In Market Declines: What Is Accomplished by Banning Short-Selling? New York Fed economist Hamid Mehran and Notre Dame finance professors Robert Battalio and Paul Schultz investigate the link between short-selling and market downturns. The authors first evaluate evidence on the bans’ effectiveness in limiting share price declines in 2008. To provide additional evidence, the three then consider the market effects of short-selling in August 2011, when the debt-rating agency Standard and Poor’s lowered the U.S. sovereign long-term credit rating, prompting the S&P 500 to fall 6.66 percent on the next trading day. At the time, there was no short-selling ban in place in the U.S."

My tax dollars at work? An old Schwinn and a 9-volt Duracell gets me $2500? Or does that put me in the Manufacturer category where the potential to make campaign contributions qualifies me for really big tax credits?
$2,500 Tax Break for Electric Bicycles, Motorcycles Approved by Feds
Electric-vehicle production just got another boost from Uncle Sam. The Senate Finance Committee has approved a $2,500 tax credit for electric bicycles and electric motorcycles. The goal of the bill, backers say, is to create and keep U.S. jobs by encouraging growth of American manufacturers like BRD and Zero through consumer incentives.
Under the bill, electric bicycles and motorcycles will be eligible for a 10 percent federal tax credit of up to $2,500.


Do people still have VHS players?
Transfer VHS tapes to your computer
In this CNET How To video, and in the gallery below, I'll walk you through the process of transferring those VHS home movies over to your computer using a simple, relatively inexpensive method.

Still not exactly Emily Post, but my friend Dr. Post might be interested...
For more information on annoying your Facebook friends, check out Dave Parrack’s article,

Another indication of the future of education? (Note that they must have figured out how to confirm understanding and award a grade, right?)
High school offers credit for Udacity classes; Challenge expands winning teams
Fueled by student momentum, the STEMx network of high schools and Ohio's eSTEM Academy in Reynoldsburg have announced that they will be enrolling 41 students in Udacity's Intro to Statistics class and 49 students in Udacity's Intro to Physics class for fall semester credit. This will allow eSTEM to tap into off-site teaching talent and help drive high school students to excel in college-level courses.

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