Saturday, September 07, 2013

I normally don't stray from my professional topics (Security, Privacy and other geeky things) but this has me confused and concerned. We have known for some time who has chemical weapons in the middle east and I assume we have made our concerns known to each of them. What I don't see in this “debate” is any indication that Israel knew about these weapons. In fact, Israel hasn't come up at all. If you were the Israeli high command, wouldn't you believe those weapons existed in the first place to gas their citizens (and only a mad man would use them against their own people?) If we don't take action to censor Syria, do the gloves come off?
Where Lawmakers Stand on Military Action in Syria

A cryptographer's take on the “NSA decrypts everything” story.
On the NSA
I was totally unprepared for today's bombshell revelations describing the NSA's efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it's true on a scale I couldn't even imagine. I'm no longer the crank. I wasn't even close to cranky enough.

(Related) Of course, there is plenty that is not encrypted...
Google accelerates encryption project
Google has kicked into high gear a plan to encrypt data sent between its data centers, in the wake of the National Security Agency spying scandal.
The Washington Post reports that Google's plan was devised last year, but was put on the front burner to help safeguard the company's reputation in the wake of the surveillance documents leaked by former NSA tech worker Edward Snowden.
… The report follows another Google plan to encrypt data stored on its servers

About time. Now you try to look virtuous.
Yahoo fights NSA worries, issues first transparency report
Yahoo has issued its first-ever global transparency report, joining other tech companies that are trying to quell suspicions of overzealous cooperation with government surveillance agencies.
The report covers the six-month period from January 1, 2013, through June 30, 2013,
… During that period, according to the report, Yahoo's US arm received 12,444 government data requests
… The company said it was not allowed to break that figure down to show, for example, how many of those requests were specifically made by the US National Security Agency.

For my Statistics, Data Mining and Data Analysis students. Because having billions and billions of intercepted phone calls and emails is worthless unless you can pull actionable information out of it all. Also, note the business applications!
How A 'Deviant' Philosopher Built Palantir, A CIA-Funded Data-Mining Juggernaut
… “It’s easy to be the focal point of fantasies,” he says, “if your company is involved in realities like ours.”
Palantir lives the realities of its customers: the NSA, the FBI and the CIA–an early investor through its In-Q-Tel venture fund–along with an alphabet soup of other U.S. counterterrorism and military agencies. In the last five years Palantir has become the go-to company for mining massive data sets for intelligence and law enforcement applications, with a slick software interface and coders who parachute into clients’ headquarters to customize its programs. Palantir turns messy swamps of information into intuitively visualized maps, histograms and link charts. Give its so-called “forward-deployed engineers” a few days to crawl, tag and integrate every scrap of a customer’s data, and Palantir can elucidate problems as disparate as terrorism, disaster response and human trafficking.

(Related) A white paper worth reading. (I missed this back in January)
Analytics/Big Data strategies, challenges and implementation priorities
Analytics/Big Data strategies, challenges and implementation priorities. Big Data Priorities 2013. Copyright ©2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.
“Data has become a critical commodity in the 21st century economy. Recent new technologies have accelerated the growth in sheer volume of data collected, and devices such as sensors, smart phones and tablets are fueling the data explosion, leading to a doubling of the world’s digital data in just the past two years. At the same time, the latest data warehouses, distributed file systems, analytical tools and affordable cloud-sourced computing power provide ways to find meaning and value in the mountains of data.”

(Related) Google does their own analysis. What does that “User Agreement” say again?
Julia Love reports:
As lawyers for Google Inc. fought to dismiss a spate of privacy claims, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh pressed them to explain how scanning messages sent through Gmail to target advertisements falls under the company’s “ordinary course of business” as an email provider.
Google lawyers urged Koh on Thursday to dispense with multi-district litigation that accuses the company of mining personal data from emails without users’ consent, violating the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act and a handful of state privacy laws.
Read more on The Recorder.
[From the article:
"Is anything that enhances Google's ad revenue 'ordinary course of business'?" Koh interjected. "That seems how it's being defined … It seems awfully broad."
Plaintiffs lawyer Sean Rommel of Texas-based Wyly Rommel argued that if email providers like Google are given free rein to define their businesses beyond transmitting messages, there would be few limits to what they could do with users' information.

I consider Bruce a “wise man” when it comes to security matters. Now I need to motivate my students...
Bruce Schneier has a must-read piece in The Guardian in response to yesterday’s revelations about the NSA has cracked most encryption.

Interesting business model.
Amazon will reportedly give away its smartphone for free
The phone would be free, no wireless contract necessary, and sold on or through wireless carriers, according to unnamed sources.
Amazon is going to give away its long-rumored smartphone for free, according to a report

One for my App developing students. Incorporates Big Data, analytics and visualizations. Could we do a Colorado only version? Estimating skiing conditions for example?
One Map, A World of Temperatures
… this week, one of the more interesting recent online weather data products opened to the public and explained itself.
It’s called Quicksilver. Quicksilver aims to provide the highest-resolution, most up-to-date map of global temperatures ever created. Click around its maps or zoom in, and it paints hot reds, frigid blues, and temperate greens at a more detailed, more local level than any previous planetary* temperature map ever has.
It does all this without adding any new sensors to the world: Humanity’s raw observational power wasn’t increased to make the Quicksilver map work. Rather, the Quicksilver team merged and correlated existing data, from different public sources, for the map.

Yes, I am easily amused.
… The Los Angeles USD has plans to shell out a billion dollars for their new iPad initiative that’ll (eventually) give every student in the district a device. But they forgot to budget for keyboards – “recommended for students when they take new state standardized tests” – something that could cost an additional $38 million. Oops.
The Brookings Institution has released a report titled “The Algebra Imperative: Assessing Algebra in a National and International Context.” And the battle over Algebra II wages on.
Nielsen has released a survey on “connected devices” with details about students usage of tablets at school and at home. Among the activities students are using tablets for in the classroom: 51% say “searching the Internet,” but just 30% say “completing school assignments.”

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