An Example of Deterrence in Cyberspace
In 2016, the US was successfully deterred from attacking Russia in cyberspace because of fears of Russian capabilities against the US.
I have two citations for this. The first is from the book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Here's the quote:
… The second is from the book The World as It Is, by President Obama's deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes. Here's the New York Times writing about the book.
… When people try to claim that there's no such thing as deterrence in cyberspace, this serves as a counterexample.
“We just don’t put too much effort into these obsolete technologies...”
Landline Phone Service, Which Still Exists, Goes Down Across the U.S.
Comcast’s Xfinity landline service has been experiencing issues across the U.S. since this morning, with thousands of problems still being reported this afternoon, according to DownDetector.com. The outage map indicates that customers throughout the U.S. have encountered issues, with the most recent reports coming from San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Mountain View, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, New York, and Philadelphia.
… But perhaps most troubling are emergency responder lines impacted by the massive outage. The Epping Police Department and Kingston Fire Department in New Hampshire have said their phone lines were down, and while Schuylkill County Emergency Management in Pennsylvania and Greater Spokane Emergency Management in Washington said they weren’t having trouble fielding calls, both informed locals to use their mobile phones in the event of an emergency while the landlines were down.
I have my students design data centers. None of them have thought of this angle.
The newest green-tech idea: drown data centers at sea
In a bid to save the planet while making some money, Microsoft just drowned one of its data centers at sea. Project Natick is now operating at about 100 ft below the surface of the North Sea near the UK’s Orkney islands, fully powered by renewable energy.
The logic is sound: Bringing data centers close to hubs of computing power benefits customers, enabling smoother web surfing or game playing by cutting down the back-and-forth between users and servers. Microsoft says nearly half the world’s population lives within 150 km (120 miles) of the ocean. And because oceans are uniformly cool below a certain depth, keeping the machines under the sea would cut down the cooling costs that make up a large chunk of the operating budget of data centers.
The Project Natick data center is made up of 864 servers packed in a 40 foot container that now sits about 22 km (14 miles) from the coast. That’s a tiny fraction of some of the huge servers—covering hundreds of thousands of square feet—that tech companies like Microsoft operate. But it may be enough to do a pilot test, and prove that the server could be deployed at commercial scale.
So, what is “inadequate security?”
BREAKING NEWS: Eleventh Circuit vacates FTC order against LabMD
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has vacated the Federal Trade Commission’s order:
This is an enforcement action brought by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) against LabMD, Inc., alleging that LabMD’s data- security program was inadequate and thus constituted an “unfair act or practice” under Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (the “FTC Act” or “Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 45(a).1 Following a trial before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), the Commission issued a cease and desist order directing LabMD to create and implement a variety of protective measures. LabMD petitions this Court to vacate the order, arguing that the order is unenforceable because it does not direct LabMD to cease committing an unfair act or practice within the meaning of Section 5(a). We agree and accordingly vacate the order.I haven’t had time to read it yet, but this is huge news. Here’s the opinion:
This sounds very strange to my ears. Do they mean to say they want access to Unencrypted data? Digital requires new tools, but not new laws.
Australia drafts laws forcing Facebook and Google to reveal encrypted data
Technology companies such as Facebook and Google would be forced to give Australian security agencies access to encrypted data under legislation to be introduced by the Turnbull government.
But the government has refused to say how the security agencies would access the data.
… On ABC radio on Wednesday, the cyber security minister, Angus Taylor, said the bill would “modernise” existing laws to give security agencies access to information transferred through encrypted messaging apps. [That would be the encrypted data. Bob]
… “Those laws were developed during an analogue era decades ago and they are now out of date. Much data and information is transferred through messaging apps and it’s digital not analogue. There’ve been very substantial changes in the technology and we need to update the powers.”
Taylor has said the legislation will avoid introducing “weaknesses” in encrypted data devices by avoiding using “backdoor” methods of accessing data, such as a so-called “key” to de-encrypt data.
… But Taylor hopes to avoid those roadblocks by legislating to allow alternate access to data. [I have no idea what that would mean. Bob]
… What he is proposing though is unclear. On Wednesday he dodged multiple questions about whether the legislation would mean forcing companies to include surveillance codes in devices, so that agencies could access data before it is encrypted.
… But Nigel Phair, from the Centre for Internet Safety at the University of Canberra, said if the legislation avoided having to use a backdoor entry to encrypted data then it was likely that it would use a “frontdoor”, a means of accessing the information before it was encrypted.
Is “no ads” better than a few Russian ads? Is this a “baby with the bath water” moment? (Should all laws give enough lead time for technology companies to comply?)
Google will pause election ads in Washington state in unprecedented response to new law
Google says it will stop running state and local election ads in Washington state, citing new rules that require what amounts to real-time disclosure of detailed information about election ads in response to public records requests.
The company has never before paused election ads in a U.S. state. Google says it wants to comply with the law, but its systems aren’t prepared for the rules as implemented. Starting Thursday, Google AdWords won’t accept ads for candidates or ballot measures in the state.
Google’s decision was announced Wednesday evening in an AdWords policy update. The new state rules go into effect Thursday, less than a month after they were approved by the state Public Disclosure Commission as part of implementing HB 2938.
… The company did not provide a timeline for resuming political ads in the state.
… Earlier this week, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against Facebook and Google, alleging that they hadn’t followed existing state law for disclosing campaign finance information.
… The new rules approved by the Public Disclosure Commission add extra requirements to state campaign finance law. They say digital communication platforms must provide information including “approximate description of the geographic locations and audiences targeted, and total number of impressions generated by the advertisement or communication” in response to public disclosure requests.
The rules say the information “must be made available as of the time when the advertisement or communication has initially received public distribution or broadcast.”
Facial recognition, starting with the biggest crooks?
How The New York Times Uses Software To Recognize Members of Congress
Even if you’ve covered Congress for The New York Times for a decade, it can be hard to recognize which member you’ve just spoken with. There are 535 members, and with special elections every few months, members cycle in and out relatively frequently. So when former Congressional Correspondent Jennifer Steinhauer tweeted “Shazam, but for House members faces” in early 2017, The Times’s Interactive News team jumped on the idea.
Our first thought was: Nope, it’s too hard! Computer vision and face recognition are legitimately difficult computer science problems. Even a prototype would involve training a model on the faces of every member of Congress, and just getting the photographs to train with would be an undertaking.
But we did some Googling and found the Amazon Rekognition API. This service has a “RecognizeCelebrity” endpoint that happens to include every member of Congress as well as several members of the Executive branch.
… To use the prototype, a congressional reporter could snap a picture of a congress member, text it to a our app, and get back an annotated version of the photograph identifying any members and giving a confidence score.
… If you’re interested in running your own version, the code for Who The Hill is open sourced under the Apache 2.0 license.
Not sure this is significant, yet.
People Are Changing the Way They Use Social Media
I try to include a little history of technology in all of my classes and these tools could help.
5 Tools to Help You Search the Archived Internet
My students have been asking.
Why Microsoft Is Willing to Pay So Much for GitHub
Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub is a perfect illustration of how value is ascribed differently in Silicon Valley than in the rest of the world. GitHub was acquired for close to 30x annual recurring revenue (an astronomical multiple). To put this in perspective, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion in 2016 (7.2x revenue), in what was considered one of the richest tech deals ever.
… In Silicon Valley there are basically two ways of creating shareholder value: financial and strategic. Financial value is the stuff of business school and stock markets. It’s about multiples of revenue or earnings, sales growth, profit margins, and management theory.
… Strategic value, on the other hand, has little to do with any of those things and almost everything to do with how a company’s product and/or market position help or hinder another company’s (usually a bigger one’s) ability to be successful. Strategic value is realized not by a business’s ability to make money independently, but by its ability to generate (or in some cases protect) profit for someone else.
… In other words, Microsoft is not paying $7.5 billion for GitHub for its ability to make money (its financial value). It’s paying for the access it gets to the legions of developers who use GitHub’s code repository products on a daily basis (the company’s strategic value) — so they can be guided into the Microsoft developer environment, where the real money is made.
No doubt all these locations are low on the tourist wish list.
Investigative report – Murder with impunity: Where killings go unsolved
“The Post has mapped more than 50,000 homicides in major U.S. cities over the past decade and found that the nation’s urban areas contain pockets of impunity — places where killings routinely go unpunished. The analysis goes beyond what is known nationally about unsolved homicides, revealing block by block where police fail to make arrests… The data, which The Post is making public, is more precise than the national homicide data published annually by the FBI. The federal data fails to distinguish whether a case was closed due to an arrest or other circumstances, such as the death of the suspect, and does not have enough detail to allow for the mapping of unsolved homicides…” [This is outstanding work that reveals critical disparities in the rate of unsolved homicides specific to neighborhoods throughout America.]
Explore The Post’s homicide database – Out of 52,179 homicides in 50 cities over the past decade, 51 percent did not result in an arrest.
For my students.
5 Streaming Sites for People Who Want More Than Netflix
Consumer Reports – These alternatives will appeal to fans of British TV, classic movies, horror, or other niche content: “When it comes to streaming video services, Netflix clearly looms large over its competitors, accounting for more than one-third of all peak-time downstream traffic, according to research firm Sandvine. Maybe that explains why you never hear anyone say they’re going to a friend’s house to “Hulu and chill.” But that doesn’t mean there are no worthy streaming alternatives. Here are five services for people with a taste for something different. Many offer free plans and access via computers, mobile devices, smart TVs, and streaming devices such as Apple TV and Roku. (You should also check our guide to all the major streaming services.)…”
Kentucky Fake Chicken? Kentucky Fried Cauliflower?
KFC Plans to Test Out Vegetarian Fried Chicken in the U.K.
As fast food chains scramble to provide healthier alternatives to traditional menus known for high caloric fries and sugary sodas, KFC U.K. shared its plans to add vegetarian fried chicken to the registry.
The creation of a new meat-free, chicken-inspired option is part of KFC U.K.’s mission to cut their calories per serving by 20%.
… In April, White Castle added the option to switch for a vegan Impossible Burger on any of their sliders. Burger King also offers alternative options such as a Morningstar veggie burger, vegan apple pie, and vegan French toast sticks.
At the start of the year, TGI Fridays introduced its first plant-based burger, the Beyond Meat Cheeseburger.
If only I could convince my students that this was a fatal disease.