Saturday, October 24, 2015

Strange actions for a “bug.” Debit cards would be an interesting infrastructure target for someone testing CyberWar tools. Just saying...
Federal Consumer Watchdog Investigating Russell Simmons’ RushCard
The federal consumer watchdog said Friday that it has launched an investigation into RushCard, a prepaid debit-card business co-founded by hip-hop music producer Russell Simmons after thousands of customers lost access to funds in their accounts.
Mr. Simmons has said on RushCard’s Facebook page that a technology update on Oct. 12 triggered a series of problems that cut off some customers’ access to their money. Some customers’ cards were deactivated and others saw the same transaction appear twice in their statements, he said.
In a post on Wednesday, Mr. Simmons said the company had been debugging its systems and that most customers’ cards should be working normally.
… Prepaid cards, which target low-income consumers who lack regular checking accounts or credit cards, are among the fastest-growing financial products in the U.S., with an estimated 16 million cards in circulation.
Customers load cash or receive direct deposits from employers, and use them to make payments, store funds or get cash at ATMs.

Lots of interesting angles to this one. Is the ransom demand from the hacker or someone pretending to be the hacker. Are we headed toward “security by contract?” I guess we'll have to stay tuned.
TalkTalk attack: government urged to do more on cyber crime
… Police are investigating a ransom demand sent to the telecoms company after its chief executive, Dido Harding, said a person claiming to be the hacker had contacted her directly and demanded money in exchange for the data.
Oliver Parry, the Institute of Directors’ senior corporate governance adviser, told the BBC that police should make cybercrime an urgent priority, but added that companies “are ultimately responsible for protecting their customers’ data”.
There have been questions about how well TalkTalk secured its customers’ data after Harding admitted she did not know whether details including names, addresses and bank account numbers were encrypted. It was the company’s third major data breach in the past year.
Proof of adequate cyber security could be made a condition of government contracts, said Hazel Blears, the former MP who has been counter-terrorism minister and a member of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
She said the UK had been “a little bit tardy” in waking up to the scale of the threat but must now seek tougher rules to ensure data was protected.

Seems to be a rather soft response to the OPM hack.
After OPM hack, spy agencies warn staffers to keep quiet on social media
Intelligence agencies are warning their staffers about keeping safe on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites following the massive theft of government personnel files.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released two videos and a poster on Friday as part of an effort to keep intelligence agency staffers secure from foreign spies.
The poster was released along with two YouTube videos.
One shows a man presumably working at an intelligence agency who unknowingly passes information along to a “foreign intel ops center” by looking for a new job on Facebook. Another encourages intelligence officials to protect themselves from “social media deception.”

Could this change how software is licensed?
Justice Department Wants Court To Force Apple To Decrypt iPhones Because Apple Licenses, Not Sells, iOS
… The feds want access to an iPhone 5s owned by a man who's now a defendant in a drug case and currently facing accusations of possessing and distributing meth. Apple has declined to hand over the keys to iOS, stating that, among several reasons, any backdoor access creates new vulnerabilities.
… Apple argued that giving the government special access into iOS, which it touts as being out of reach of federal snoops, would "tarnish the Apple brand."
"Absent Apple's assistance, the government cannot access that evidence without risking its destruction. But Apple can," states the court brief (PDF).
Apple has assisted in federal cases before by extracting the requested data and passing it along to law enforcement agencies, the DOJ reasoned in the brief.
So with Apple unwilling to budge and court orders falling flat, thus far, the department changed its tactics and is now arguing that the company "is not far removed from this matter."
Apple designed, built and sold the iPhone 5s in question. But that's just the beginning, the government stated.
"Apple wrote and owns the software that runs the phone, and this software is thwarting the execution of the warrant," the justice department added. "Apple's software licensing agreement specifies that iOS 7 software is 'licensed, not sold' and that users are merely granted 'a limited non-exclusive license to use the iOS Software.'"
From there, the DOJ calls into question the legal protection of Apple as a licensor of software.
… For privacy watchdogs, the above argument might invoke goosebumps. If the DOJ's reasoning stands, it could take up that strategy with other companies giving out licenses to software.

Perspective. My students will go where the money is.
The Cloud Is Raining Cash on Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, Google, and Microsoft all topped profit estimates last quarter, highlighting the widening gulf between companies that deliver computing via server-laden warehouses and a generation of latecomers to the cloud boom. Together, the three companies added $86 billion in market cap following their earnings reports on Thursday.
The trio shares a reliance on technology that comes from powerful machines lashed together in bunkers the size of football fields. These data centers are capable of providing a broad range of services at a low cost—be it Microsoft's personal and business software, Amazon's e-commerce and computing power, or Google's Web search and advertising algorithms. Contrast that with technology firms, such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, EMC, and Oracle, which are suffering from slowing growth or declines as cloud operators shun traditional hardware, software, and services.

Perspective. One site to rule them all? (Sorry J.R.R.)
72 Hours With Facebook Instant Articles
On Tuesday, Facebook debuted its long-awaited Instant Articles feature to all users of its iPhone app. Now, when someone taps a story in their News Feed from a select group of publications—including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and The Atlanticthey access a version stored directly on Facebook’s servers, not on the publication’s own. The company has started to test the feature on Android phones as well.
With the formal release of the feature, Facebook formally ends one era in the platform wars and begins another.
Since August 2013, when it adjusted the algorithm of its News Feed to favor “quality content,” Facebook has been the major referrer to news sites—either the fastest-growing or the just-plain biggest. Over the summer, the analytics company Parsely said that its proprietary data confirmed that Facebook now directs more traffic to news sites than Google. “The list is a lot longer than is publicly known of those that have Facebook delivering half to two-thirds of their traffic right now,” said Justin Smith, the CEO of Bloomberg Media, in February of this year.
… Very soon, every digital publisher, journalistic or non, that wants to be a serious online player will host a large portion of their content on Facebook’s servers. The Instant Articles is just too good to resist, and I think the penalty for resisting will be too high. And then we all, Facebook and the media sector alike, will have to deal with the consequences—whether the comparisons to feudalism are correct or not.

Amusing. I don't always have the time to read the longer articles, but I know where to look when I do. It's in my RSS feed.
JSTOR Daily – free online magazine
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Oct 23, 2015
JSTOR Daily offers a fresh way for people to understand and contextualize their world. Our writers provide insight, commentary, and analysis of ideas, research, and current events, tapping into the rich scholarship on JSTOR, a digital library of more than 2,000 academic journals, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs, and other material. In addition to weekly feature articles, the magazine publishes daily blog posts that provide the backstory to complex issues of the day in a variety of subject areas, interviews with and profiles of scholars and their work, and much more. Our idea of a good story is one that:
  • tells thought-provoking stories that appeal to a general reader
  • draws on scholarly research to provide fresh insight into the news media and current affairs
  • deepens our understanding of our world
  • highlights the amazing content found on JSTOR
  • exposes the work of scholars who are using JSTOR to conduct their research”

The weekly low-lights.
Hack Education Weekly News
Via Vox: “What Scotland learned from making college tuition free.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “On Wednesday 72 women’s and civil rights organizations urged the U.S. Education Department to tell colleges that they must monitor anonymous apps like Yik Yak – frequently the source of sexist and racist comments about named or identifiable students – and do something to protect those students who are named. The groups said they view anonymous online abuse as an emerging issue under provisions of the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
Via Inside Higher Ed: “The University of Kentucky is asking a small distillery, Kentucky Mist Moonshine, to stop using the word ‘Kentucky’ on T-shirts and other materials, saying that the word is covered by a university trademark.”
… From a paper titled “Changing Distributions: How Online College Classes Alter Student and Professor Performance”: “Using an instrumental variables approach and data from DeVry University, this study finds that, on average, online course-taking reduces student learning by one-third to one-quarter of a standard deviation compared to conventional in-person classes. Taking a course online also reduces student learning in future courses and persistence in college.”

Wally illustrates “objection to change #47.”

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