Friday, June 20, 2014

A global tragedy?
Facebook global 30-minute outage leaves users frustrated
Facebook today experienced a global outage that left its over 1.2 billion users, including those in India, unable to access the world's largest social networking portal.
For about 30 minutes, users logging into the website saw the message: "Sorry something went wrong. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can."
… With Facebook down, netizens took to microblogging site Twitter to vent their frustration.
While many compared the outage to an "apocalypse", others mocked the situation saying "people may now have to talk to each other face to face".

Attention Ethical Hackers. Imagine the fun you could have if your favorite law professor was on sabbatical in (for example) New Zealand. By the time he returned, you could have emptied his office, his house, and his garage! What (hypothetical) fun!
eBay Launches iOS App Called “eBay Valet” Which Will Sell Your Stuff For You
Have you ever wanted to sell stuff on eBay but found you were too lazy to actually do it? Well eBay has filled that niche by introducing an app for iPhone which will do the actual selling for you, in exchange for a 30% cut. It’s called eBay Valet, and seems to be confined to eBay USA for now.
Think of Valet as one of those consignment stores which were really popular some years back. But being eBay, the scale is obviously much bigger, and the organization is much more efficient. The mobile app is an expansion on the web-based version of the service called Sell For Me, and it seems to be designed to make everything as simple as possible.

Don't think of it as a phone, think of it as a sales tool.
Amazon’s Fire Phone might be the biggest privacy invasion ever (and no one’s noticed)
… There’s a lot of gee-whiz gadgetry in the new Fire Phone: a 3-D screen, head sensors, dynamic perspective shifts as you move, and real-time identification of over 100 million objects. That last part, the real-time identification, is the new Firefly function.
Firefly is a seriously impressive combination of hardware, software, and massive cloud chops that delivers an Apple-like simplicity to identify objects like books, movies, games, and more, just by pointing your Fire Phone’s camera at them and tapping the Firefly button.
Lest you noticed a common denominator to those items and get the crazy idea that Firefly is only for stuff you can buy at Amazon, it also recognizes songs (oh, you can buy those on Amazon too) and TV shows (ditto) as well as phone numbers, printed information, and QR codes.
How do you think it recognizes those things, including text on images, for which Amazon says it will offer language translation features later this year?
Well, the Firefly button and the camera button are one and the same. Meaning that whenever you’re using Firefly, you’re using the camera. Plus, of course, you’re turning on audio sensors that capture ambient sound.
… By storing all the photos you’ll ever take with Firefly, along with GPS location data, ambient audio, and more metadata than you can shake a stick at in Amazon Web Services, Amazon will get unprecedented insight into who you are, what you own, where you go, what you do, who’s important in your life, what you like, and, probably, what you might be most likely to buy.
Babies in your pictures? Sell that dame diapers. Lots of old-school hot rods? See if you can sell Billy Bob some NASCAR shwag, or maybe beef jerky. Outdoorsy, are you, with your pictures of remote mountaintops and idyllic forest meadows? Clearly you need hiking boots and granola. Looking at a business card? Perhaps things she likes will be things you’ll like, too.

There are “information systems” and there are “collections of data” – this sounds like the latter. If you can't access your own data what are you paying IT for?
I meant to post this last week, but hey, I’m old, I forget.
Benjamin Herold reports:
Nevada state education officials recently told a parent it would cost him more than $10,000 to access the data the department has collected on his four children, raising a tangled web of questions about everything from the structure of state educational databases to the interpretation of federal student-privacy laws to the implementation of new Common Core State Standards.
Parents have a right to inspect their children’s educational records at no cost to them under FERPA. But those requests are typically made to the Local Educational Agency (LEA), i.e., the child’s school district. In this case, the parent was querying information the state educational agency held in their databases.
The $10k tag would be for the state to develop a system to produce records responsive to his request as they currently have no means to do so. But should they have the means? What if data in a state database became corrupted after it was correctly transmitted by the LEA? Could that eventually cause difficulty for the student? And even if there was no potential for harm to the student, shouldn’t parents have the right to see what information the state has compiled about their children, which often includes parental and family information?
Read more on Education Week.

This is a settlement, but it looks like the bank was not adequately secured.
Oil Co. Wins $350,000 Cyberheist Settlement
A California oil company that sued its bank after being robbed of $350,000 in a 2011 cyberheist has won a settlement that effectively reimbursed the firm for the stolen funds.
TRC Operating Co. Inc., an oil production firm based in Taft, Calif., had its online accounts hijacked after an account takeover that started late in the day on Friday, November 10, 2011. In the ensuing five days, the thieves would send a dozen fraudulent wires out of the company’s operating accounts, siphoning nearly $3.5 million to accounts in Ukraine.
The oil firm’s financial institution, Fresno-based United Security Bank, successfully blocked or recalled all but one of the wires – for $299,000. Nevertheless, TRC later sued its bank to recover the remaining wire amount, arguing that USB failed to offer a commercially reasonable security procedure because the bank offered little more than a user name and password to help secure the account.
… As we seen time and again, a single virus infection can ruin your company. And I wouldn’t count on the lawyers to save your firm from the very real cost of a cyberheist: These court challenges can just as easily end up costing the victim business well more than their original loss (see Ruling Raises Stakes for Cyberheist Victims).
Businesses do not enjoy the same protections against cyberfraud that are afforded to consumer banking customers. If this is news to you, or if you’d just like some tips how to reduce your exposure to online banking fraud, please take a moment to read my recommendations here: Online Banking Best Practices for Businesses.

(Related) Interesting question.
Are Organizations Ready for PCI DSS 3.0?
Businesses that handle payment card data have to become compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard 3.0 (PCI DSS 3.0) by December 31, 2014, yet many appear to be unprepared for the challenge.
According to a recent study conducted by NTT Com Security, only 30% of organizations have created a plan for compliance after reviewing requirements, with 70% of those surveyed being unaware of the December 31 deadline. Additionally, 41% of the respondents said they have heard of PCI DSS 3.0, but haven’t laid out a plan for compliance.

I see a market among the right wing anti-government types. No one else would put up with 65 “detection alarms” per minute.
Test a Personal Drone Detection System for $500

If they can't blame “The Internet” who will they blame?
New study finds Internet not responsible for dying newspapers
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on June 19, 2014
“[A] recently published study finds that we may be all wrong about the role of the Internet in the decline of newspapers. According to research by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Matthew Gentzkow, assumptions about journalism are based on three false premises. In his new paper, Trading Dollars for Dollars: The Price of Attention Online and Offline, which was published in the May issue of the American Economic Review, Gentzkow notes that the
first fallacy is that online advertising revenues are naturally lower than print revenues, so traditional media must adopt a less profitable business model that cannot support paying real reporters.
The second is that the web has made the advertising market more competitive, which has driven down rates and, in turn, revenues.
The third misconception is that the Internet is responsible for the demise of the newspaper industry…
Several different studies already have shown that people spend an order of magnitude more time reading than the average monthly visitor online, which makes looking at these rates as analogous incorrect… By comparing the amount of time people actually see an ad, Gentzkow finds that the price of attention for similar consumers is actually higher online. In 2008, he calculates, newspapers earned $2.78 per hour of attention in print, and $3.79 per hour of attention online. By 2012, the price of attention in print had fallen to $1.57, while the price for attention online had increased to $4.24. Gentzkow also points out that the popularity of newspapers had already significantly diminished between 1980 and 1995, well before the Internet age, and has dropped at roughly the same rate ever since. “People have not stopped reading newspapers because of the Internet,” Gentzkow notes.”

Perspective If they wanted to look better they should have included more family and friends than a mere 7%.
Congress hits new low: Only 7% have confidence in the institution

Perspective. Not what I expected. (mostly graphics, I'd like to see the raw data)
The Most Popular Social Network for Young People? Texting

Apparently, I've been going about this all wrong! I need to dumb down my Apps!
App Raises $1M In Funding For Simply Sending The Message 'Yo' Back And Forth
… Allow me to introduce you to new chat app, Yo.
You may have heard of it recently, it has been dominating headlines over the last 24 hours for two reasons. Firstly, its simplicity. The app allows you to message friends with the word “Yo” and that’s it. Nothing else can be said other than sending this innocuous greeting.
Secondly, it has just raised $1m in seed funding from CEO of Mobli, Moshe Hogeg’s angel fund.
… The founder Or Abel told the Financial Times that he coded the app in eight hours, after being asked by his then boss Moshe Hogeg, to make a notification app that could summon his secretary.

For my students. Think outside the box.
Distracted By Google Search? 4 “Search Engines” You Should Not Ignore
Alternative search engines look at search in different ways. Some tout privacy… while some go for specialization.
The four below have a common factor – they are all user-curated platforms. They may not be search engines by the strictest definition, but they are huge reserves of data.

For my students. Start telling your elected officials what you want/need/demand/wish for... And most importantly, where they screwed up!
Sunlight Foundation Announcement – We finally gave Congress email addresses
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on June 19, 2014
Via Tom Lee: “On OpenCongress, you can now email your representatives and senators just as easily as you would a friend or colleague. We’ve added a new feature to OpenCongress. It’s not flashy. It doesn’t use D3 or integrate with social media. But we still think it’s pretty cool. You might’ve already heard of it. Email. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s been a long time coming. A lot of people are surprised to learn that Congress doesn’t have publicly available email addresses. It’s the number one feature request that we hear from users of our APIs. Until recently, we didn’t have a good response. That’s because members of Congress typically put their feedback mechanisms behind captchas and zip code requirements. Sometimes these forms break; sometimes their requirements improperly lock out actual constituents. And they always make it harder to email your congressional delegation than it should be. This is a real problem. According to the Congressional Management Foundation, 88% of Capitol Hill staffers agree that electronic messages from constituents influence their bosses’ decisions. We think that it’s inappropriate to erect technical barriers around such an essential democratic mechanism. Congress itself is addressing the problem. That effort has just entered its second decade, and people are feeling optimistic that a launch to a closed set of partners might be coming soon. But we weren’t content to wait. So when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) approached us about this problem, we were excited to really make some progress. Building on groundwork first done by the Participatory Politics Foundation and more recent work within Sunlight, a network of 150 volunteers collected the data we needed from congressional websites in just two days. That information is now on Github, available to all who want to build the next generation of constituent communication tools. The EFF is already working on some exciting things to that end. But we just wanted to be able to email our representatives like normal people. So now, if you visit a legislator’s page on OpenCongress, you’ll see an email address in the right-hand sidebar that looks like or
You can also email to email both of your senators and your House representatives at once. The first time we get an email from you, we’ll send one back asking for some additional details. This is necessary because our code submits your message by navigating those aforementioned congressional webforms, and we don’t want to enter incorrect information. But for emails after the first one, all you’ll have to do is click a link that says, “Yes, I meant to send that email.” One more thing: For now, our system will only let you email your own representatives. A lot of people dislike this. We do, too. In an age of increasing polarization, party discipline means that congressional leaders must be accountable to citizens outside their districts. But the unfortunate truth is that Congress typically won’t bother reading messages from non-constituents — that’s why those zip code requirements exist in the first place. Until that changes, we don’t want our users to waste their time. So that’s it. If it seems simple, it’s because it is. But we think that unbreaking how Congress connects to the Internet is important. You should be able to send a call to action in a tweet, easily forward a listserv message to your representative and interact with your government using the tools you use to interact with everyone else.”

(Related) Here's something Congress could address.
Study: People Harassed Online Have Few Legal Protections
… No doubt there are police out there who have used social media. Still, according to a recent paper from the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School, Hess’s experience is not unusual. "Although online harassment and hateful speech is a significant problem, there are few legal remedies for victims," authors Alice Marwick and Ross Miller wrote. Victims who go to the police often find what Hess found; most law enforcement agencies have neither the resources nor the expertise to deal with harassment, and are ill-equipped to even understand the problem, much less take it seriously.

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