Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are these “We may have been hacked” notices part of a preventive legal strategy or are they an attempt to gather further information? I suspect the former, which means that security breaches are finally showing on the legal radar...
WV: City computers possibly hacked
January 20, 2012 by admin
Beth Sergent reports:
The City of Point Pleasant may’ve been hacked.
According to a press release from Mayor Brian Billings on Friday morning, the City of Point Pleasant was notified from an outside agency [i.e. the city had no clue? Bob] of a potential security breach of its computer system. Billings’ statement said the apparent breach was originated from an outside source.
Upon learning of the potential breach, city officials immediately contacted the West Virginia State Police who began an official investigation into the matter.
[From the article:
“At the direction of the West Virginia State Police, no further comment will be made by the City due to the ongoing nature of the investigation,” Billings said. [So it is possible the announcement was to gather information Bob]
It remains unclear what information, if any, was obtained during the apparent breach, whether financial records, employee or customer records, or all of the above.

MA: Retailer says it could have been hit by card info breach
January 20, 2012 by admin
Trevor Jones reports:
Ward’s Nursery & Garden Center may be one of the businesses at the center of a security breach resulting in fraudulent purchases this month made with dozens of locals’ credit and debit cards.
Gregory Ward, co-owner of the South Main Street store, said his company was contacted by a bank regarding the possible security breach, after which Ward’s immediately reached out to law enforcement officials.
The exact number of cardholders who’ve been affected is unknown at this time. But it’s believed dozens of customers from various local and national banks had their credit or debit card information stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases around the world. It’s possible that hundreds of customers’ information was stolen over a two-month period concluding last week. [How could they conclude that the thefts have ended? Bob]
Read more on The Berkshire Eagle.
[From the article:
Ward stressed that he isn't certain if the fraudulent activity can be tied to Ward's, but his company has taken steps to shore up its security systems.
… One local bank official said on Thursday that the breach could be tied to a single business, though the official declined to identify it.
… Investigating officers from the Great Barrington Police Department were unavailable on Friday. [These cops apparently didn't ask for silence... Bob]

Someone knows what happened!
SU shuts down online access after security breach
January 20, 2012 by admin
Anne Ryman reports:
Arizona State University plans to have its online computer system back up by 7 p.m. Thursday at the latest, following a security breach that forced a shutdown.
On Wednesday evening, ASU students and employees were told in a security text alert that the university’s ASURITE computer system may have been compromised and that all online services had been suspended.
This is the university’s main online system, where students and employees put in their passwords to log in and access classes and other services. More than 300,000 people have accounts through the system. [Wikipedia says they have just over 72,000 students, where do the others come form? Alumni? Bob]
ASU officials said an encrypted file containing user names and passwords was downloaded Wednesday by an unknown person outside the university. [Oh look! They know what happened and they encrypt their files! They must actually practice what the teach! Bob] There is no evidence that any information has been compromised, but all online services were shut down as a precaution.
Read more on Tucson Citizen. The system was subsequently restored.
[Quite a complicated password reset schedule, described at:

Amazon again. Poor guys could probably use some help from a Foundation they helped create...
Customer data breach draws federal lawsuit against Nevada-based Zappos, parent company Amazon
January 21, 2012 by admin
Associated Press reports:
Online retailers and are being sued in Kentucky by a Texas woman alleging that she and millions of other customers were harmed by the release of personal account information.
Attorneys for plaintiff Theresa D. Stevens of Beaumont, Texas, are seeking class-action status on behalf of 24 million customers for what the lawsuit alleges was a violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Read more from AP in the Washington Post.
Harmed how? From the story, there’s no actual harm alleged at this point other than an increased risk of harm, which courts have generally not recognized, and emotional distress, which they also have not recognized. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this lawsuit also gets dismissed.

You can probably obscure your involvement if you can make academics and law enforcement hack for you. But then, every security professor needs a trophy subpoena...
Anonymous Tricks Bystanders Into Attacking Justice Department
… A version of Anonymous’ voluntary botnet software, known as LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Canon), was modified to make it not so voluntary, drafting unwary bystanders, journalists and even anons who don’t support DDoS tactics into attacks on the U.S. Justice Department. Thursday’s trickery seems not to have been central to the successful takedown of sites like, and, but not all anons are pleased with forcing unwitting bystanders to join in a potentially illegal action.

They will let me keep all those law professor accounts, won't they? (Or will I have to threaten a Class Action suit – I have enough aliases to form a Class)
Google Abandons Anonymous Accounts With New Signup Form
Google is experimenting with a new signup form that eliminates the ability to create anonymous accounts. The new form is part of an effort to expand the Google+ social network by automatically adding every new Google account to Google+. Because Google+ requires a name and gender the new signup form effectively eliminates the anonymous Google account.
The new account creation page can be found by following the links on Google’s homepage.

O Canada
Our home and profitable land
Anthem of Canadian Class Action Lawyers...
Ca: Welcome to the new tort of ‘intrusion upon seclusion’
January 20, 2012 by Dissent
Heather Gardiner reports:
The Ontario Court of Appeal has opened a Pandora’s box by recognizing a privacy tort of “intrusion upon seclusion,” says one intellectual property lawyer.
In Jones v. Tsige, Sandra Jones and Winnie Tsige worked at different branches of the Bank of MontrĂ©al but did not know each other. Tsige began a relationship with Jones’ former husband and over a period of four years, Tsige accessed Jones’ personal bank accounts 174 times. Jones sued Tsige for invasion of privacy and breach of fiduciary duty, and sought $20,000 in damages.
The Ontario Superior Court dismissed Jones’ claim because there was no law in Ontario that recognized a tort of invasion of privacy prior to the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
By accepting this new “intrusion upon seclusion” tort into Ontario law, Mark Hayes, of Hayes eLaw LLP, says the court has opened the floodgates for all kinds of invasion of privacy cases that were not previously recognized. [Cool! Bob]
Read more on Legal Feeds.
[From the article:
… “The key features of this cause of action are, first, that the defendant’s conduct must be intentional, within which I would include reckless; second that the defendant must have invaded, without lawful justification, the plaintiff’s private affairs or concerns; and third, that a reasonable person would regard the invasion as highly offensive causing distress, humiliation or anguish,” Justice Robert Sharpe wrote in the ruling.
… The court also placed a $20,000 limit on the damages to be awarded to any individual under this new tort. In this case, Jones was awarded damages of $10,000.
Although a $20,000 cap seems relatively low, Hayes says it opens the floodgates for privacy class actions seeking a much higher amount. “What’s going to happen is you’re going to have claims that are being brought in respect of organizations or individuals who are alleged to have committed this tort against hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions of people through data breaches, through investigations, through other things, and class action lawyers will be then asserting claims on the basis of $20,000 for each of those people.”

Interesting idea. What would you compare it to? Is “best software available” sufficient or should we shoot for “actually works, usually?” Should there be certification of all Medical Device software?
"Lawyer Karen Sandler's heart condition means she needs a pacemaker to ward off sudden death. Instead of trusting that the vendor will create a flawless platform for the device to operate, Sandler has demanded to see the device's source code. Sandler's reasoning brings into question the device's reliably, stability, and oddly enough, security."

Interesting. I think the larger map of Colorado proves beyond doubt that Kansas sucks...
January 19, 2012
DOE provides detailed onshore wind resource map
"Wind Powering America (a DOE program initiative) publishes an onshore wind resource map for the United States, at 80 meters above ground and with resolution down to 2.5 meters. This map was updated in March 2010, the first comprehensive update of U.S. wind energy potential since 1993. The 2010 update to the wind resource map raised the height at which the measurements were taken from 50 to 80 meters above ground, addressing updates in turbine technology and showing an increase in the total wind capacity resource of the continental United States."

For my Statistics students.
January 19, 2012
Bizjournals - Men hold educational advantage in 485 markets, women in 431
"Bizjournals On Numbers compared the educational attainment of men and women in 942 metropolitan and micropolitan areas, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey. The percentage of men possessing four-year college degrees is higher than the comparable percentage of women in 485 markets. But women hold the educational edge in 431 metros and micros. The two sexes broke even in the remaining 26 markets. The accompanying database (scroll to end of article) contains complete breakdowns for all 942 areas. Use the tab to isolate a single state, or simply hit Search to see the top-to-bottom rankings. The list can be re-sorted by clicking any column header. (Click a second time to reverse the sort.)"

For all my future lawyers (God help them)
January 20, 2012
Winter 2012 Law School Transparency Index Report
  • "As a new year unfolds and the debate about legal education reform continues, efforts in furtherance of law school transparency remain critical. While transparency of law schools' post-graduation employment data will not solve all of legal education’s problems, it can put pressure on the current law school model and thereby act as a catalyst for broader legal education reform. This is true whether it occurs through the process of seeking transparency or because of the information that such disclosure ultimately reveals. Having had their long-standing practice of withholding basic consumer information called into question, law schools have responded with new attempts at disclosure in advance of the ABA’s new requirements. Adequate disclosure should be easy to achieve; law schools have possessed ample information, in an easy publishable format, for many months. But as the findings of this report show, the vast majority of U.S. law schools are still hiding critical information from their applicants.
  • This report reflects LST’s analysis of the class of 2010 employment information available on ABA-approved law school websites in early January 2012."

Internet Economics: Are we talking cash or “box tops?”
"Facebook's 27-year-old founder, Mark Zuckerberg, isn't usually mentioned in the same breath as Ben Bernanke, the 58-year-old head of the Federal Reserve. But Facebook's early adventures in the money-creating business are going well enough that the central-bank comparison gets tempting. ... Initially, the Credits-based economy was confined to the virtual world’s trifles. Credits could be spent to buy imaginary gold bars for aficionados of Mafia Wars, or bouquets of virtual flowers for birthday postings on friends’ Facebook accounts. This new form of digital money was cute but essentially useless for mainstream activities. Lately Credits have become more intriguing. Warner Brothers this summer offered movie-goers a chance to watch Harry Potter and The Dark Knight for 30 Credits apiece. Miramax and Paramount countered with film-viewing offers, too. In a provocative post this week on Inside Facebook, guest blogger Peter Vogel argues that Credits in the next few years will become more of a true currency. Facebook's 800 million worldwide users represent a lot of buying power. He figures Credits could evolve into commercial mainstays for digital movies and music."

Bless George Lucas for allowing this. A great way to waste 2 hours...
Finally! The 'Star Wars Uncut' director's cut is here
This is "Star Wars Uncut," a project to remake George Lucas' 1977 classic, entirely from fan-made scenes. And while the in-progress results have been available all along for all to see, the project's developers had never publicly released their finished product. Until now.

You know you might be a geek when:

Useful MindMap?
Friday, January 20, 2012
A few months ago I wrote Playing With Pearltrees - A Great Way to Organize the Web. Last night I was exploring Pearltrees again when I came across a Pearltree titled Free Technology for Teachers. While the name is the same as my blog, I did not have anything to do with creating that particular Pearltree. That said, many of the resources cataloged in the Free Technology for Teachers Pearltree are excellent resources that I have used and or written about here in the past. If you're looking for a good visual collection of technology resources, take a look at the Pearltree embedded below.

I expect a ton of heated back and forth, pro and con, and even outright fisticuffs on this topic. Here a just a few of the stories...
iPad a Solid Education Tool, Study Reports
More and more schools are jumping on the digital bandwagon and adopting iPads for daily use in the classroom. Apple’s education-related announcements yesterday will no doubt bolster the trend, making faculty tools and student textbooks more engaging and accessible.
But today another data point emerged, demonstrating that the iPad can be a valuable asset in education. In a partnership with Apple, textbook publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt performed a pilot study using an iPad text for Algebra 1 courses, and found that 20 percent more students (78 percent compared to 59 percent) scored ‘Proficient’ or ‘Advanced’ in subject comprehension when using tablets rather than paper textbook counterparts.
… In the public school sector, more than 600 school districts have adopted a 1:1 iPad program. [There are about 15,000 public school districts in the United States Bob]

How Will Teachers Pay For Apple's New iBooks? Sites Like DonorsChoose.Org
… While the new books will be much cheaper than regular textbooks, iPad prices remain $499 to $829, depending on connectivity options and amount of storage.
One way to help bridge the gap: nonprofits like, which matches donors with teachers in need of supplies.
[Might be easier to start “The Institute for Teaching Technologies” and look for Grants Bob]

(Related) I told you there would be a flip side...
Opinion: Why Apple’s iBooks Initiatives Won’t Revolutionize Education
… The core focus of business is to address a problem. And the problem in education when it comes to the digital space isn’t a lack of content or publishing solutions; the problem is discovering quality.
Education has enough content. There is more generic content out there for any individual subject than is possible to know. There are digitally proficient teachers who customize and repackage that content and those tools in ways that are appropriate for the students in their classes — from kindergartens and high schools into colleges and universities. Anyone in education knows there is a fast-growing community of teachers online doing their best to share the best tools, the best content and the best news ideas that they can. But what educators and parents alike are asking is, “Where do I find the best-quality content?”

Useful to have?

Friday, January 20, 2012

“Can't we all just get along?” Rodney King
"Father of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee called for Americans to protest SOPA and PIPA, laws he says violate human rights and are unfit for a democratic country. Sir Tim's condemnation came on the day an editorial in Australia's leading broadsheet newspapers pointed out that although the laws ostensibly applied to U.S. interests they could overreach to impact those in other countries."

(Related) Is this the future under SOPA? (But, why do we need SOPA if we can shut down websites based in other countries ?)
Feds Shutter Megaupload, Arrest Executives
… Seven individuals connected to the Hong Kong-based site were indicted on a variety of charges, including criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Four of the members of what the authorities called a five-year “racketeering conspiracy” were arrested Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand, the authorities said.
… Unsealed Thursday, the five-count indictment from the Eastern District of Virginia came as the Justice Department said it seized 18 domains in all connected to Megaupload. The agency said it executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight countries, seizing $50 million in assets.

(Related) This is going to be one for the textbooks...
Megaupload assembles worldwide criminal defense
… In an interview with CNET, Ira Rothken, an attorney well known in the tech sector for defending Web sites accused of copyright violations, said that his clients are assembling a team of crack copyright, criminal and technology attorneys to defend them in courts across the globe.
"There are significant issues of due process," Rothken said early this morning. "The government has taken down one of the world's largest storage providers and have done so without giving Megaupload an opportunity to be heard in court."
Rothken dismissed the government's attempt to file criminal charges against his clients. "Many of the allegations made are similar to those in the copyright case filed against YouTube and that was a civil case....and YouTube won."

(Related) At least, according to Anonymous...
"Shortly after a federal raid today brought down the file sharing service Megaupload, hackers aligned with the online collective Anonymous have shut down sites for the Department of Justice, Universal Music Group and the RIAA. 'It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on,' Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon."

It is probably too much to expect Industry to react quickly, but is it too much to ask them to employ basic security practices and techniques that have been around for decades? Why didn't DHS sound this warning?
Hoping to Teach a Lesson, Researchers Release Exploits for Critical Infrastructure Software
A group of researchers has discovered serious security holes in six top industrial control systems used in critical infrastructure and manufacturing facilities and, thanks to exploit modules they released on Thursday, have also made it easy for hackers to attack the systems before they’re patched or taken offline.
… The vulnerabilities, which vary among the products examined, include backdoors, lack of authentication and encryption, and weak password storage that would allow attackers to gain access to the systems. The security weaknesses also make it possible to send malicious commands to the devices in order to crash or halt them, and to interfere with specific critical processes controlled by them, such as the opening and closing of valves.
As part of the project, the researchers worked with Rapid7 to release Metasploit exploit modules to attack some of the vulnerabilities. Metasploit is a tool used by computer security professionals to test if their networks contain specific vulnerabilities. But hackers also use the same exploit tool to find and gain access to vulnerable systems.
Peterson, speaking Thursday at the annual S4 conference that he runs, said he hoped the presentation would serve as a “Firesheep moment” for the SCADA community.
Firesheep refers to a Wi-Fi hacking tool that was released by a security researcher last year to call attention to how easy it is to hijack accounts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and web e-mail services. The release of Firesheep forced some companies to begin encrypting customer sessions by default so that attackers on a Wi-Fi network couldn’t sniff their credentials and hijack their accounts.

Once more the government demonstrates that they can't manage their own projects...
$356 Million Later, the Justice Department’s Wireless Network Still Sucks
After 9/11, three federal law enforcement agencies planned a massive project to replace a mishmash of aging and obsolete radios used by thousands of federal agents. A decade and $356 million later, the program has made “minimal progress” and the Department of Homeland Security, one of the project’s key partners, wants little to do with it.

Gosh, I'm sure it sounded like a good idea at the time...
Damning Evidence Emerges In Google-Apple “No Poach” Antitrust Lawsuit
Next week a class-action civil lawsuit will be heard in San Jose to determine if Google, Apple, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Intel, and Intuit conspired to eliminate competition for skilled labor. In anticipation of the hearing, TechCrunch has attained evidence from the Department of Justice’s investigation in 2010 which was made public this evening for the first time. It appears to support the plaintiff’s case that the defendant companies tried to suppress employee compensation by entering into “no poach” agreements.

Because free is good!
In the tech world, some of the most useful books available are from the O’Reilly collection. So, what could be better for your ebook collection than getting some of these great O’Reilly ebooks for free?

Attention Geeks: Another technology to master...
Amazon Goes Back to the Future With ‘NoSQL’ Database
Amazon helped start the “NoSQL” movement. And now it’s giving the cause another shot in the arm.
NoSQL is a widespread effort to build a new kind of database for “unstructured” information — the sort of information that comes spilling off the internet with each passing second. Five years ago, Amazon introduced a NoSQL database service called SimpleDB, and now, it’s offering what you might think of as Amazon NoSQL Mark II. It’s called DynamoDB.
As part of AWS’s Free Usage Tier, AWS customers can get started with Amazon DynamoDB for free. DynamoDB customers get 100 MB of free storage, as well 5 writes/second and 10 reads/second of ongoing throughput capacity.
Developer Guide

Research/Data gathering tool?
Services like Citelighter (which let you highlight web content and have it all indexed) are certainly powerful and flexible, but just in case you need an easier alternative to saving and retrieving online information then this new application will do. Hopper lets you save content such as texts, images and links by copying and pasting it (using Ctrl + V), or just by dragging it into the webpage. That will let you get the content back whenever you need it later on. Any device that can access the Internet will let you get it back again, right as if it were on your HD or ZIP drive.
And in addition to being incredible easy to use, Hopper has got the great plus of working without registration. Accounts can be created if you want to organize your data and have it tidied up, but the service can be used without having to sign up for it first. Which turns it into a great tool for capturing content on the fly, of course. You see something you like, you open Hopper on a separate tab and then drag the images or texts there. End of the story.

For all my Math students!
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wolfram Alpha has offered free lesson plans for a couple of years now. Today, Wolfram announced the launch of the new Wolfram Education Portal. The Wolfram Education Portal is an etextbook for Algebra and Calculus. The etextbook includes interactive demonstrations built using Wolfram Mathematica. In the Wolfram Education Portal teachers will have access to lesson plans. While not terribly detailed, the lesson plans do have clear objectives as well as all of the resources a teacher needs to conduct the lesson.
To access all of features of the Wolfram Education Portal you do have to register for a Wolfram account (it's free) and download the Wolfram CDF Player for your computer. Registering and installing the player takes just a couple of minutes.
Applications for Education
The Wolfram Education Portal could be an excellent resource for middle school and high school Algebra and Calculus teachers. The aspect of the Wolfram Education Portal that I find most appealing is the interactive demonstrations accompanying the text.
[From Wolfram Education:
Once you install CDF Player, you'll be able to...
  • View all course materials from the Education Portal
  • Interact with sliders and controls in Demonstrations
  • Manipulate 2D and 3D graphics in Demonstrations

This time next year I'll be using an iPad? (I'll also need a Mac to create the iBooks) I do see a number of possible businesses being spun from this model...
Apple’s iPad Textbooks: Everything You Need to Know About iBooks 2
… iBooks 2 is great, especially if you have the iPad 2 (on the iPad 1 they can get slow sometimes).
Apple's new iBooks are as impressive as they said in the presentation. They are beautifully crafted. Their use of videos, timelines, animations, embedded presentations, integrated review questions and quizzes and their highlighting and study card system are extremely good. They work and they are enjoyable.
Unfortunately, they are not perfect. The lack of sharing features is a major killer with actual school work, in which collaboration is a must.
… Apple's biggest strength in the whole iBooks 2 proposition is not the book themselves. It is how easily they are created using their iBook Author application. This development tool is free and it's so drag-and-drop easy that it can be used by anyone. It has the potential of truly democratizing the publication of advanced books which, in a way, act like applications.
… And while getting into the iBooks store isn't as easy as hitting submit, some people have raised an important concern: with greater accessibility come bad teaching. Will the iPad textbook landscape be a wasteland of absurd teaching? Who filters through all these books?
[Also see:
Apple in Education

Thursday, January 19, 2012

For my Ethical Hackers: May be easier than hacking into each site...
"A new service in the cyber underground aims to be the Google search of underground Web sites, connecting buyers to a vast sea of shops that offer an array of dodgy goods and services, from stolen credit card numbers to identity information and anonymity tools. From the story: 'A glut of data breaches and stolen card numbers has spawned dozens of stores that sell the information. The trouble is that each shop requires users to create accounts and sign in before they can search for cards. Enter MegaSearch, which lets potential buyers discover which fraud shops hold the cards they're looking for without having to first create accounts at each store.'"

TED talk
Mikko Hypponen: Three types of online attack
Cybercrime expert Mikko Hypponen talks us through three types of online attack on our privacy and data -- and only two are considered crimes. "Do we blindly trust any future government? Because any right we give away, we give away for good."

I am not sure there is a reasonable debate on this topic. I am certain this is not a solution.
SOPA, Internet Regulation and the Economics of Piracy
Earlier this month, I detailed at some length why claims about the purported economic harms of piracy, offered by supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), ought to be treated with much more skepticism than they generally get from journalists and policymakers.
My own view is that this ought to be rather secondary to the policy discussion: SOPA and PIPA would be ineffective mechanisms for addressing the problem, and a terrible idea for many other reasons, even if the numbers were exactly right. No matter how bad last season’s crops were, witch burnings are a poor policy response. Fortunately, legislators finally seem to be cottoning on to this: SOPA now appears to be on ice for the time being, and PIPA’s own sponsors are having second thoughts about mucking with the Internet’s Domain Name System.
That said, I remain a bit amazed that it’s become an indisputable premise in Washington that there’s an enormous piracy problem, that it’s having a devastating impact on US content industries, and that some kind of aggressive new legislation is needed tout suite to stanch the bleeding. Despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office recently concluded that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole,” our legislative class [i.e. those who dictate to common citizens Bob] has somehow determined that—among all the dire challenges now facing the United States—this is an urgent priority. Obviously, there’s quite a lot of copyrighted material circulating on the Internet without authorization, and other things equal, one would like to see less of it.

Khan Academy explains SOPA in a short video...
SOPA and PIPA : What SOPA and PIPA are at face value and what they could end up enabling

(Related) Next, Congress will move to Copyright the Constitution so no citizen can argue that it protects them without paying a “reasonable” fee...
Supreme Court Says Congress May Re-Copyright Public Domain Works
Congress may take books, musical compositions and other works out of the public domain, where they can be freely used and adapted, and grant them copyright status again, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
In a 6-2 ruling, the court said that, just because material enters the public domain, it is not “territory that works may never exit.” (.pdf)
… Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Ginsburg said “some restriction on expression is the inherent and intended effect of every grant of copyright.” But the top court, with Justice Elena Kagan recused, said Congress’ move to re-copyright the works to comport with an international treaty was more important.
… In dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito said the legislation goes against the theory of copyright and “does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work.” Copyright, they noted, was part of the Constitution to promote the arts and sciences.

(Related) Just to be fair, here's another view...
Why I pirate
Why is the United States Congress trying to enact SOPA and PIPA? Because I am a pirate.

It's a long way from “The Emperor's New Clothes” (thank God) but it may be a start...
January 18, 2012
House of Representatives House Launches Transparency Portal
Sunlight Foundation: "Making good on part of the House of Representative's commitment to increase congressional transparency, today the House Clerk's office launched, a one stop website where the public can access all House bills, amendments, resolutions for floor consideration, and conference reports in XML, as well as information on floor proceedings and more. Information will ultimately [Translation: We should think about planning a future schedule to consider the need to address this, maybe... Bob] be published online in real time and archived for perpetuity. The Clerk is hosting the site, and the information will primarily come from the leadership, the Committee on House Administration, the Rules Committee, and the Clerk's office. The project has been driven by House Republican leaders as part of an push for transparency.

If not perfect, at least it's a start...
January 18, 2012
Google Launches Good to Know Campaign for Internet Safety
"Google’s Good to Know campaign aims to help people stay safe on the Internet and manage the information they share online. The website and ads provide easy to use tips and advice on online security, help on understanding the data users share and tools they can use to manage their data. Written in clear language and featuring practical examples to illustrate complex security and privacy issues, the website and advertising campaign aim to empower users to tackle their online security concerns and make more informed decisions about their internet use. The U.S. campaign includes adverts in newspapers, on public transport and online. Download all print ads – (PDF)."

Clearly, this is where we are heading. Also clear, I don't like it.
Sci-Fi-Infused Videos Show Off Keiichi Matsuda’s Vision of the Future

From a live blog of the Apple education event introducing “iBooks 2”
why books are not good. Not portable, not searchable, not current, not interactive.
Integrating databases into textbooks, being able to search LexisNexus for example inside a textbook could be a very powerful academic tool and has great business potential.
Very interactive. But what if you want to focus on reading text? Going into portrait mode changes layout.
Will be interesting to see what Apple comes up with for citations. With variable layout and text size, pin point citations are a problem - one Amazon is trying to cope with still on Kindle.
In the iBooks store, there's a new textbook category
iBooks 2 is an app you download from app store to iPad. It's free.
But how do you create these books? He says t here's a new application called iBooks Author
There are templates, like math or science books.
We know alot of people have great content already written, he says, so you can drag word files into the system, it scans through, looks at styles, and fills out pages from book.
If you can write code in javascript and html you can create your own interactive widgets.
Students keep textbooks forever. [If the “books” point to sites on the Internet, the textbook can be constantly updated!!! Bob]
Apple turned to many partners to make it great, he says. Pearson, McGraw Hill Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My concern is that blocking sites (for any reason) causes end users to try to find a workaround. Some of the “bypass tools” have been built into browsers, some are available from the State Department or from Harvard – until all those sites are blocked too. (Treating symptoms is easy – cures are difficult.)
A SOPA/PIPA Blackout Explainer

This has been done before and if the crooks can find another poorly secured bank, it will happen again.
"A perfectly planned and coordinated bank robbery was executed during the first three days of the new year in Johannesburg, and left the targeted South African Postbank — part of the nation's Post Office service — with a loss of some $6.7 million. The cyber gang behind the heist was obviously very well informed about the post office's IT systems, and began preparing the ground for the heist a few months before, by opening accounts in post offices across the country and compromising an employee computer in the Rustenburg Post Office."
[From the article:
Once the offices were closed for the New Year holidays, the gang put their plan in motion. They accessed the computer from a remote location and used it to break into Postbank's server system and transfer money from various accounts into the ones they opened.
Having also raised the withdrawal limits on those accounts, money mules had no problem withdrawing great amounts of money from ATMs in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State during the next few days, stopping completely when the offices were opened again on January 3.

Another attempt to treat symptoms? If teachers can't teach, should librarians do their job?
January 17, 2012
LLRX - National Digital Library System - Early Childhood Education and Family Literacy
Via LLRX: David H. Rothman's latest commentary on the DPLA states his position clearly: Priority One of a national digital library system should be early childhood education, bolstered by family literacy. Other areas also count, but early childhood education is dearest to him and among those especially likely to give the taxpayers the most for their investment. We could use tablet computers and good old-fashioned tutoring and mentoring from librarians, educators, and volunteers to help the disadvantaged--parents as well as children.

Geeky stuff
Microsoft Pitches Private Cloud To IT With System Center 2012
Microsoft’s System Center 2012 is available today as a Release Candidate, the last milestone before a final release. Along with Hyper-V and Windows Server, the upgraded System Center forms the key building blocks for Microsoft’s private cloud strategy, providing management tools for desktops, mobile devices, both physical and virtual servers, and a mix of resources across private data centers and public clouds such as Windows Azure.
While Release Candidates for some pieces of System Center 2012 were already out, as of today all eight components of the suite are free for anyone to download at this link, with final versions out in the first half of 2012.

Attention TSA agents! (Just saying...)

Not everyone wants their copyrighted material locked up...
… Things are changing, and artists have amazing tools for reaching listeners directly these days.
We, as listeners and fans, only stand to gain. One of the best tools on the scene today, for artists and listeners both, is Bandcamp. We have mentioned Bandcamp before, when Tina listed the site as one of 5 Resources Used To Find Free MP3 Albums For Sound Sunday. Today, I’d like to take you in for a closer look at the site from the listener perspective.

Are you a Guru? This site is new enough that you can be the first in a category...
a live video chat marketplace that connects anybody that wants to learn, seek advice, or get a service, from somebody willing to provide it. We call our experts and service providers “gOOrus”
Users can search a database of gOOrus that teach a variety of subjects and learn from those them directly!
… meetOOu also allows anyone to sign up as an expert that can charge a specific rate for their knowledge!
Our Mission is two fold.
First, we want to allow any user to learn anything they want, anytime.
Second, we want to give every person the opportunity to make money doing the things they already know and love.

A perfect bookend to the first article in today's blog. How do you tell the difference between blocked data and the results of a weak search?
January 17, 2012
LLRX - Deep Web Research 2012
Via LLRX - Deep Web Research 2012: Marcus P. Zillman's extensive research over the years into the "invisible" or "deep" web indicates that it covers somewhere in the vicinity of 1 trillion plus pages of information located throughout the Internet in various files and formats that current search engines either cannot locate, or have difficulty accessing. The current search engines find hundreds of billions of pages at the time of this publication. His guide provides extensive and targeted resources to facilitate both a better understanding of the history of deep web research as well to effectively and productively search for and locate these often undiscovered but critical documents.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This relates to the back and forth between Saudi and Israeli hackers...
Facebook denies that “Hannibal” has hacked Arabs’ Facebook accounts
January 16, 2012 by admin
In a series of posts on Pastebin, a hacker who calls himself “Hannibal” (for Hannibal Lecter), has dumped thousands of e-mail addresses and plain-text passwords that he claims are from Arabs’ Facebook accounts. Yesterday, he posted 20,000. Today, he posted 30,000 more.
I contacted Facebook for a statement on the allegations that they have been hacked. In response, a spokesperson provided the following statement to
This does not represent a hack of Facebook or anyone’s Facebook profiles. We have spent time investigating the information and have determined fewer than a third of the credentials were valid and almost half weren’t associated with Facebook accounts.
Additionally, we have built robust internal systems that validate every single login to our site, regardless if the password is correct or not, to check for malicious activity. By analyzing every single login to the site we have added a layer of security that protects our users from threats both known and unknown. Beyond our engineering teams that build tools to block malicious activity, we also have a dedicated enforcement team that seeks to identify those responsible for threats and works with out legal team to ensure appropriate consequences follow.
People can protect themselves by never clicking on strange links and reporting any suspicious activity they encounter on Facebook. We encourage our users to become fans of the Facebook Security Page ( (<>) for additional security information.
Hannibal did not respond to an e-mail request sent by this site last night inviting him o respond to Facebook’s denial or to provide proof that Facebook was actually hacked. If he does provide a statement, I will update this entry.

Clearly they can block content (just claim to own the copyright) but India wants it blocked without intervention on their part.
"Facebook and Google told the Delhi High Court today they cannot block offensive content that appears on their services. The two Internet giants are among 21 companies that have been asked to develop a mechanism to block objectionable material in India, and the Indian government has given the green light for their prosecution. Although India is democratic (in fact, it's the world's largest democracy), many fear the country will resort to censorship."

Good marketing: Brag about your massive failure! (You can learn from autopsy records, but can RSA?)
"Last year's industry-shaking RSA Security breach has resulted in customers' CEOs and CIOs engaging much more closely with the vendor to improve their organizations' security, according to the head of RSA. Discussing the details of the attack that compromised its SecurID tokens has made RSA sought after by companies that want to prevent something similar from happening to them, Executive Chairman Art Coviello said in an interview with Network World. 'If there's a silver lining to the cloud that was over us from April through over the summer it is the fact that we've been engaged with customers at a strategic level as never before,' Coviello says, 'and they want to know in detail what happened to us, how we responded, what tools we used, what was effective and what was not.'"

Wow! You don't often see a politician admitting to being completely clueless. But still, it's an arrogant ignorance...
Ken Clarke: ‘I see no case for privacy law’
January 17, 2012 by Dissent
PA Mediapoint reports:
Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke yesterday told MPs he saw no case for introducing a specific privacy law to curb the activities of the press in the wake of the phone-hacking affair.
Giving evidence to the joint parliamentary Committee on Privacy and Injunctions Clarke said: “I don’t think at the moment we are very clear what a statute would say.”
Read more on Press Gazette.
[From the article:
I couldn't draft a law myself that I thought would be much use and I therefore don't see the case for one."
Clarke acknowledged there were problems in enforcing the law as it related to such matters as court injunctions on the internet - an issue raised by some newspaper editors.
He suggested that one solution was to make the "providers" who provided the platforms for the information legally responsible.
… "The reason that the Prime Minister and I have hesitated to say that we want to keep self-regulation is because self-regulation is very often characterised as something which is very similar to the current system [Translation: it IS the current system Bob] and clearly some very significant failings have emerged on that."

Take that, zoomies! (Because we have to provide more data than analysts can possibly sift through?)
Every Day, Army’s Panopticon Drone Will Collect 80 Years’ Worth of HD Video
… By the spring, soldiers will remotely pilot Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird helo — ... — to see across vast swaths of Afghanistan, thanks to the ultra-powerful Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System, or ARGUS. [I should have copyrighted that phrase... Bob]

Ready, Fire, Aim! If this is ineffective and overly costly, but we were forced to buy it anyway, should we unleash the Class Action Lawyers?
"With a stoichiometric ratio far lower than that of gasoline (much lower than the price difference), buying the E85 ethanol fuel blend instead of gasoline was already hard to justify. Unless you raced your car on a track where E85 provided a great alternative to race fuel, it really didn't make financial sense. And there are other reasons not to buy E85, too. Like the impact corn-based ethanol is having on food prices or the questionable emissions results (PDF). So, now that the ethanol subsidies provided by the U.S. federal government are scheduled to end this summer, it's going to be even harder to justify E85 (at least in the U.S.). This change will basically make a gallon of E85 cost the same or slightly more than gasoline. With so many things working against it, are the days numbered for readily available E85 at your local gas station? And should it have ever even been made available to begin with? How much did all that government-backed R&D and tax credits cost us for something that was pretty clearly questionable to begin with?"

There is good and bad here. Fast, easy way to raise money but also looks like a real target for hackers (fast, easy way to steal money)
January 15, 2012
Pew - Real Time Charitable Giving
Real Time Charitable Giving - Why mobile phone users texted millions of dollars in aid to Haiti earthquake relief and how they got their friends to do the same - Aaron Smith, Pew Internet Project, Senior Research Specialist
  • "Charitable donations from mobile phones have grown more common in recent years. Two thirds (64%) of American adults now use text messaging, and 9% have texted a charitable donation from their mobile phone. And these text donors are emerging as a new cohort of charitable givers. The first-ever, in-depth study on mobile donors—which analyzed the “Text to Haiti” campaign after the 2010 earthquake—finds that these contributions were often spur-of-the-moment decisions that spread virally through friend networks. Three quarters of these donors (73%) contributed using their phones on the same day they heard about the campaign, and a similar number (76%) say that they typically make text message donations without conducting much in-depth research beforehand. Yet while their initial contribution often involved little deliberation, 43% of these donors encouraged their friends or family members to give to the campaign as well. In addition, a majority of those surveyed (56%) have continued to give to more recent disaster relief efforts—such as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan—using their mobile phones. These are among the findings of a new study produced by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society, in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the mGive Foundation."

Perhaps this will help me understand the ethics of CyberWar...
"The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Yale's Stephen L. Carter entitled 'The Iraq War, the Next War, and the Future of the Fat Man.' He provides a retrospective on the War in Iraq and discusses the ethical and legal implications of the War on Terror and 'anticipatory self-defense' in the form of drones and targeted killings going forward. He writes: 'Iraq was war under the beta version of the Bush Doctrine. The newer model is represented by the slaying of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen deemed a terror threat. The Obama Administration has ratcheted the use of remote drone attacks to unprecedented levels — the Bush Doctrine honed to rapier sharpness. The interesting question about the new model is one of ethics more than legality. Let us assume the principal ethical argument pressed in favor of drone warfare — to wit, that the reduction in civilian casualties and destruction of property means that the drone attack comports better than most other methods with the principle of discrimination. If this is so, then we might conclude that a just cause alone is sufficient to justify the attacks. ... But is what we are doing truly self-defense?'"

If I collected and published all the TSA stories circulating, I'd never be allowed to fly again. Fortunately, I always fly under an assumed name, using the credentials of a certain Law School Professor that I know.
Cleared for Takeoff: Rhode Island Bakery Creates TSA ‘Compliant Cupcake’
An ingenious business plan has developed out of the turbulent saga the TSA has christened Cupcakegate. It all began last month when security agents confiscated a “cupcake in a jar” at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, citing its gel-like icing as a potential national security threat.
The incident inspired Kelly Colgan, owner of Silver Spoon Bakery in Providence, R.I., to create a travel-friendly treat: the TSA Compliant Cupcake. The $4 confection is topped with exactly 3 ounces of frosting and sold in a TSA-mandated clear, quart-size plastic blag. The decorative photo of Richard Nixon with the parodied words “I am not a gel” comes optional.

Heads up! I've been suggesting that textbooks were going interactive – looks like a few people actually listened! (I'll take full credit if this takes off...)
Apple To Announce Tools, Platform To ‘Digitally Destroy’ Textbook Publishing
Apple is slated to announce the fruits of its labor on improving the use of technology in education at its special media event on Thursday, January 19. While speculation has so far centered on digital textbooks, sources close to the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to help create interactive e-books—the “GarageBand for e-books,” so to speak—and expand its current platform to distribute them to iPhone and iPad users.
… Apple is expected to announce support for the ePub 3 standard for iBooks going forward.
… The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would make a simple app that makes the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand.
Our sources say Apple will announce such a tool on Thursday.