Monday, September 18, 2017

I’m updating as I type this blog entry.
Hackers Hid Backdoor In CCleaner Security App With 2 Billion Downloads -- 2.3 Million Infected
Users of Avast-owned security application CCleaner for Windows have been advised to update their software immediately, after researchers discovered criminal hackers had installed a backdoor in the tool. The tainted application allows for download of further malware, be it ransomware or keyloggers, with fears millions are affected. According to Avast's own figures, 2.27 million ran the affected software, though the company said users should not panic.
… The malware would send encrypted information about the infected computer - the name of the computer, installed software and running processes - back to the hackers' server. The hackers also used what's known as a domain generation algorithm (DGA); whenever the crooks' server went down, the DGA could create new domains to receive and send stolen data. Use of DGAs shows some sophistication on the part of the attackers.

A good summary, but nothing new.

Social media has to respond to government “requests” to keep operating in that country. There is no higher court to appeal to.
Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia at government’s request
Social media app Snapchat has blocked access to Al Jazeera articles and videos on the platform in Saudi Arabia, following a request from Saudi authorities.
Snapchat said it blocked access to AJ’s Discover Publisher Channel at the request of authorities because it allegedly violated Saudi laws.
Al Jazeera, a Qatari-backed broadcaster, was one of the points of contention in the ongoing dispute between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE on the other. All cut ties with Qatar for allegedly supporting terrorism. Doha denies the accusation.
The complete shutdown of Al Jazeera was included in the list of 13 conditions which Saudi Arabia gave to Qatar in return for the removal of sanctions.

(Related). The law is whatever we say it is.
Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls
… Mr. Tuan’s arrest came just weeks after Facebook offered a major olive branch to Vietnam’s government. Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, met with a top Vietnamese official in April and pledged to remove information from the social network that violated the country’s laws.
While Facebook said its policies in Vietnam have not changed, and it has a consistent process for governments to report illegal content, the Vietnamese government was specific. The social network, they have said, had agreed to help create a new communications channel with the government to prioritize Hanoi’s requests and remove what the regime considered inaccurate posts about senior leaders.
Populous, developing countries like Vietnam are where the company is looking to add its next billion customers — and to bolster its ad business. Facebook’s promise to Vietnam helped the social media giant placate a government that had called on local companies not to advertise on foreign sites like Facebook, and it remains a major marketing channel for businesses there.
The diplomatic game that unfolded in Vietnam has become increasingly common for Facebook. The internet is Balkanizing, and the world’s largest tech companies have had to dispatch envoys to, in effect, contain the damage such divisions pose to their ambitions.
… As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.
And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.

At least they don’t have to record their choices in cursive. Perhaps we will soon need a new acronym: TO;CG (too old, call grandpa)?
LOL Democracy! Young Voters Are Baffled by Mail-In Ballots
Both sides in Australia’s referendum on same-sex marriage wonder if millennials, more accustomed to texting and social media, actually know how to send a letter.
The future of democracy faces an unexpected challenge from within.
Can young voters learn to use a mailbox?
The outcome of a national mail-in vote in Australia this fall on sanctioning same-sex marriage may teeter on the answer. “I don’t really know what the go is with post boxes, stamps, that kind of thing,” says 23-year-old Anna Dennis. Ms. Dennis, a sociology student at the elite Australian National University, says the last time she had to mail a parcel “I took my dad to help.”
… Tiernan Brady was recruited to run the Equality Campaign after heading Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum in 2015. He says he starts campaign events by asking, “How many people have posted a letter in the past year?”
Typically, “only a handful of hands go up,” Mr. Brady says.
“Australians don’t do postal votes,” he says. “The last one was in 1917, so we can safely say no one alive remembers it.”
Like elsewhere, instant-message apps and email have taken their toll. Mail volume has plummeted, according to Australia Post, the national mail service: Australians sent a billion fewer letters last year than a decade ago. Business and government mail account for 95% of all letters.
Postal service appears to have joined the list of habits abandoned by millennials, including paying by check and answering the doorbell, a device that a majority in a recent Twitter poll agreed was “scary weird.”
… Sending a letter is like recalling the times table from grade-school arithmetic, says Yan Zhuang, a 21-year-old politics major at the University of Melbourne. “You sort of remember,” she says, “but not really.”
Australia Post says it doesn’t know how many young people send mail. A 2015 study for the Royal Mail in the U.K. found a third of them believe “writing letters is a thing of the past.” Half said they wrote friends on social media every day; most said they mailed about one letter a year.

Just out of curiosity, I’d like to see the cost projections they based this advertising scheme on.
Verizon disconnecting 8,500 people for being unprofitable
Verizon said it sent notices of disconnection to the affected customers this month and those customers will have until October 17th to find new mobile service. Verizon says that’s plenty of time for people to find new networks as the customers generate more in roaming charges than they generate income for Verizon.
“These customers live outside of areas where Verizon operates our own network. Many of the affected consumer lines use a substantial amount of data while roaming on other providers’ networks and the roaming costs generated by these lines exceed what these consumers pay us each month.”
The interesting part of this story is that Verizon’s letter to customers doesn’t provide any way for them to stick with Verizon by reducing their data use. The letter simply states the October 17 cut-off period. One affected customer contacted Ars Technica and said her family only used 50GB across 4 lines, which is well below the 22GB cut-off.
Verizon maintains that these customers are getting the boot because of their roaming charges, but also fails to mention that it advertised its own unlimited plans directly to these rural customers in order to entice them to get plans. Now that the cost has become more than Verizon can bare, they’re giving those customers the boot.

Would lawyers use/trust/admit to a free resource?
New on LLRX – The Fight to Bring Legal Research to the Front
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Sep 17, 2017
Via LLRXThe Fight to Bring Legal Research to the Front – Law librarian and professor Brandon Adler identifies core issues to support educating third year law students in a wide range of reliable free and low cost legal resources. Many law librarians acknowledge that there is a lack of awareness and use of alternative legal resources, with the law student community as well across a large swath of attorneys in firms both large and small.

Perhaps not the most comprehensive review, but at least it’s a start.
New on LLRX – AI And The Rule Of Law
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Sep 17, 2017
Via LLRX – AI And The Rule Of Law – Our exposure to and reliance upon an increasingly ubiquitous range of technology is intertwined with issues related to intellectual property law. With smartphone cameras used to capture and share what their respective creators otherwise claim as intellectual property, to the devices, services and applications that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT), Ken Grady raises significant and as yet unresolved concerns about how the rule of law will be applied in response to the use, and misuse, of AI and digital personal assistants.

Why lies work? Why it is hard to change the first thing you learn? The importance of a reliable first source?
Debunking Study Suggests Ways to Counter Misinformation and Correct ‘Fake News’
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Sep 17, 2017
News release: “It’s no use simply telling people they have their facts wrong. To be more effective at correcting misinformation in news accounts and intentionally misleading “fake news,” you need to provide a detailed counter-message with new information – and get your audience to help develop a new narrative. Those are some takeaways from an extensive new meta-analysis [fee req’d] of laboratory debunking studies published in the journal Psychological Science. The analysis, the first conducted with this collection of debunking data, finds that a detailed counter-message is better at persuading people to change their minds than merely labeling misinformation as wrong. But even after a detailed debunking, misinformation still can be hard to eliminate, the study finds. “The effect of misinformation is very strong,” said co-author Dolores Albarracín, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “When you present it, people buy it. But we also asked whether we are able to correct for misinformation. Generally, some degree of correction is possible but it’s very difficult to completely correct…”
“Debunking: A Meta-Analysis of the Psychological Efficacy of Messages Countering Misinformation” was conducted by researchers at the Social Action Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The teams sought “to understand the factors underlying effective messages to counter attitudes and beliefs based on misinformation.” To do that, they examined 20 experiments in eight research reports involving 6,878 participants and 52 independent samples. The analyzed studies, published from 1994 to 2015, focused on false social and political news accounts, including misinformation in reports of robberies; investigations of a warehouse fire and traffic accident; the supposed existence of “death panels” in the 2010 Affordable Care Act; positions of political candidates on Medicaid; and a report on whether a candidate had received donations from a convicted felon. The researchers coded and analyzed the results of the experiments across the different studies and measured the effect of presenting misinformation, the effect of debunking, and the persistence of misinformation.”

(Related). Think this will help?
Bing now shows fact checks in search results
Following Google’s lead earlier this year, Bing has added fact checking tags to search results.

Perspective. You think I would have run into any Social Media tool this big, but strangely I have not.
Slack valued at $5.1 billion after new funding led by SoftBank
Software startup Slack Technologies Inc said it raised $250 million from SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) and other investors in its latest funding round, boosting the company’s valuation to $5.1 billion.
… Slack’s sizeable funding round reflects the trend of a growing number of $100 million-plus checks pouring into technology startups. In the second quarter this year, there were 34 venture capital deals of $100 million or more, nearly triple the 12 such transactions in the first quarter, according to data firm PitchBook Inc.

Perspective. Maybe Apple is not crazy.
How Apple’s Pricey New iPhone X Tests Economic Theory
Thorstein Veblen was a cranky economist of Norwegian descent who coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” and theorized that certain products could defy the economic laws of gravity by stoking more demand with superhigh prices.
His 1899 book, “Theory of the Leisure Class,” made him famous in his time and more than a century later his ideas are embodied in products like Hermès handbags, Bugatti cars and Patek Philippe watches.

For my students? Probably not…
Borrow, Read, and Listen - The Open Library
The Open Library is a part of the Internet Archive. The Open Library is a collection of more than one million free ebook titles. The collection is cataloged by a community of volunteer online librarians. The ebooks in the Open Library can be read online, downloaded to your computer, read on Kindle and other ereader devices, and embedded into other sites. Some of the ebooks, like Treasure Island, can also be listened to through the Open Library.
Much like Google Books, the Open Library can be a great place to find free copies of classic literature that you want to use in your classroom. The Open Library could also be a good place for students to find books that they want to read on their own. The audio option, while very electronic sounding, could be helpful if you cannot locate any other audio copies of the book you desire.

(Related). But, just in case…
eBooks and Texts
The Internet Archive offers over 12,000,000 freely downloadable books and texts. There is also a collection of 550,000 modern eBooks that may be borrowed by anyone with a free account.

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