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CFPB Asserts Jurisdiction Over E-Commerce Privacy Regulation
April 12, 2016
Another federal agency has entered the arena for regulating e-commerce companies regarding the protection of consumer data. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has closed its first and so far only privacy case with a consent agreement between itself and an online payments processor. The CFPB charged that Dwolla misled consumers that its information was encrypted and stored securely.
Adobe Issues Emergency Patch to Head Off Flash Ransomware Attacks
April 11, 2016
Adobe last week issued an emergency security patch to fix a vulnerability in Flash that could leave users vulnerable to a ransomware attack. The vulnerability exists in Adobe Flash Player 21.0.0.197 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Chrome operating systems. It can cause a crash and leave the computer vulnerable to attackers, the company said.
White House Takes a Pass on Encryption Debate
April 7, 2016
It appears that the Obama administration will refrain from giving its outspoken support to any legislation that aims to compel high-tech companies to help law enforcement agencies crack mobile phone encryption. On the other hand, it won't level any outspoken opposition either. Introduction of such a bill -- sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr -- is expected soon.
Vivaldi Flaunts Its Plus-Size Browser Attributes
April 7, 2016
Vivaldi on Wednesday launched the first release of its eponymously named browser. Vivaldi is the brainchild of CEO Jon von Tetzchner, a cofounder of Opera Software. Aimed at the power user, Vivaldi 1.0 packs in features that were stripped out of Opera 12. However, "Vivaldi is not about a single feature," von Tetzchner said. "Vivaldi is more about a philosophy."
Apple, FBI Tussle Puts Bull's-Eye on iPhone
April 7, 2016
The battle between the FBI and Apple over access to the iPhone of Syed Farook came to an abrupt end last week when the agency announced it no longer needed the company's assistance. Since the Department of Justice delayed a hearing on an order to force Apple to assist the FBI in brute-forcing the password, speculation has spread about how the agency planned to access the data.
WhatsApp Encryption Ups Privacy Ante
April 6, 2016
WhatsApp on Tuesday told its 1 billion users that their communications would be better protected from prying eyes with end-to-end encryption. The company always has made data and communication security a priority, according to Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014. End-to-end encryption is accomplished through use of the Signal Protocol.
FBI May Help Local Law Enforcement Agencies Crack Encrypted iPhones
April 4, 2016
Weeks after backing down from its litigation demanding Apple's help to access encrypted data on the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone, the FBI appears to be taking full advantage of its newly discovered forensic prowess by offering assistance to law enforcement agencies across the country. The agency has sent out letters letting local officials know that it has gained access to the encrypted data.
ACLU Finds Widespread Use of All Writs Act to Compel Cooperation
April 1, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday announced that it had identified dozens of criminal cases in which the government has made requests for cooperation in unlocking encrypted phones -- both of Apple and of Google. The government has used the All Writs Act to compel a phone manufacturer to hand over data to law enforcement in a total of 63 cases, the ACLU report shows.
CNBC's Password Security Lesson Fails Spectacularly
March 31, 2016
CNBC earlier this week published a piece with the goal of helping users strengthen their password security, but the attempt backfired badly. An interactive tool provided to help readers detect the strength of their passwords was to blame. Readers were asked to enter potential passwords into a field, and see how long it would take the system to crack them.
Firm Wins Patent for Novel Way to Detect Spearphishing
March 31, 2016
Hackers in recent weeks have stepped up their efforts to steal employee tax information from companies in all kinds of industries. Typically, the information contained on IRS form W-2 is used to file false tax returns or steal someone's identity. The situation has become so bad that the IRS earlier this month issued an alert to human resources and payroll professionals about the subject.
The Calm Before the Next US vs. Apple Storm
March 31, 2016
Apple got a last-minute reprieve last week. The U.S. government no longer is going after the company to break into the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone, for now. It found another way. So Apple dodged a bullet, this time. However, as terrorism rises, this sticky question will rise again -- count on it. Now, when things are quiet, is the best time to debate this issue and come up with a solution.
Feds Crack iPhone, Warn Apple to Keep One Eye Open
March 29, 2016
After a bitter legal battle over encryption and privacy rights, the Department of Justice on Monday announced it would back out of its case against Apple because the FBI was able to crack the code of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters. The department had asked a federal magistrate judge to force Apple to help the FBI crack open the encrypted smartphone.
Ransomware's Aftermath Can Be More Costly Than Ransom
March 24, 2016
Downtime caused by a ransomware attack can cost a company more than paying a ransom to recover data encrypted by the malware, according to a report released last week by Intermedia. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of companies infected with ransomware could not access their data for at least two days because of the incident, and 32 percent couldn't access their data for five days or more.
Hopkins Boffins Break iMessage Encryption
March 22, 2016
A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University has found a way to crack open files sent as encrypted instant messages in Apple's iMessage app, according to news reports published Monday. Although it took months to do, the researchers, led by Professor Matthew Green, were able to brute force a 64-bit encryption key, allowing them to unscramble an image file stored in Apple's iCloud.
Car Computers Are Vehicles for Hacking, Warns FBI
March 22, 2016
The FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week issued a warning about the threat of automobile hacking. Computers that control steering, braking, acceleration and lights, as well as wireless technologies used in keyless entry, ignition control and navigation systems, provide portals for cyberattack, the agencies said.
Malware Exploits Apple DRM to Infect iPhones
March 19, 2016
Security researchers at Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 on Wednesday announced they had discovered in the wild a method of infecting nonjailbroken iPhones with malware by exploiting design flaws in Apple's digital rights management technology. The flaw has been exploited since 2013 largely as a means to pirate iOS software, but this is the first time it's been used to infect iPhones with malware.
Google Reports Web Traffic Encryption Progress
March 18, 2016
Google this week launched a section of its transparency report to track the progress of efforts to encrypt the Web, by both the company and third-party sites estimated to account for about 25 percent of Web traffic. The report will be updated weekly with information about progress the company has made toward implementing HTTPS by default across its services.
Android, iOS on Opposite Sides of Encryption Divide
March 18, 2016
Consumers' understanding of what encryption does apparently doesn't determine whether they use the technology, as iPhone owners are much more likely to use encryption than Android users. Most Android phones are not encrypted, either by user choice or manufacturer design. About 95 percent of all iPhones reportedly are encrypted, compared with less than 10 percent of Android phones.
ProtonMail Launches Encrypted Email for iOS, Android
March 18, 2016
ProtonMail, which offers encrypted email, on Thursday launched free iOS and Android mobile apps worldwide, through the iTunes App Store and Google Play, respectively. They have been in beta since August, company CEO Andy Yen said. The email service features end-to-end encryption; emails stored on ProtonMail's servers also are encrypted and thus can't be accessed.
Apple Ransomware Reveals Cert Problem
March 17, 2016
Researchers last week discovered the first ransomware in the wild aimed at Apple's hardware platform. While the threat was subdued quickly, it exposed the weakness of digital certificates in authenticating software to devices. The ransomware appeared as a legitimate application because it contained a digital certificate stolen from a bona fide Mac developer in Turkey.
Apple Channels Founding Fathers in Legal Brief
March 17, 2016
Lawyers for Apple on Tuesday argued in a federal District Court filing that the founding fathers would be appalled by the demands the Department of Justice has made in seeking a backdoor to iPhone encryption. The DoJ and the FBI want "Apple to create exactly the kind of operating system that Congress has thus far refused to require," the lawyers wrote.
Amazon May Let You Pay With a Wink and a Nod
March 16, 2016
Amazon has applied for a patent for selfie-based authentication for online purchases, according to a patent application published last week. Using the technology, a prospective purchaser would take a selfie, and the image would be authenticated against an image database using facial recognition software. The buyer then would perform an action to verify that the image is of a live human being.
WhatsApp Case May Be New Encryption Battleground
March 15, 2016
A new front may have opened up between the Department of Justice and Silicon Valley in the ongoing legal battle over government access to encrypted data, this time involving WhatsApp, the electronic messaging and voice system owned by Facebook. DoJ officials reportedly have been debating how to proceed in a criminal case in which a court-ordered wiretap has been hindered by WhatsApp encryption.
Senators Aim to Lay Down the Law on Encryption Cooperation
March 11, 2016
Lawmakers this week sent to the White House the draft version of a bill that would penalize technology companies if they failed to cooperate on encryption cases, according to Capitol Hill sources. The bill would open up tech companies to contempt orders and other penalties if they refused to comply with a law enforcement request involving encrypted communications.
Home Alone? Now Nest Can Tell
March 10, 2016
Nest on Thursday announced two new features, Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist. Family Accounts would let up to 10 people access the Nest products in a connected home from their Android or iOS devices. Home/Away Assist was designed to track the patterns of household members, utilizing learning algorithms and activity sensors that are built into products such as the Nest Learning Thermostat.
Facebook Exec's Brazilian Misadventure Signals Bigger Problem
March 10, 2016
The jailing last week of Facebook Regional Vice President Diego Dzoda in Brazil may have been the tip of an iceberg. Frustrated police made the arrest after Facebook failed to produce WhatsApp messages connected to a drug trafficking case. The incident is one of a growing heap of examples that highlight the difficulties law enforcement agencies face when trying to collect digital evidence.
Ransomware Plague Spreads to Macs
March 8, 2016
Researchers at Palo Alto Networks last week announced that they had found the first ransomware in the wild aimed at Macintosh computers, but Apple and one of its developers quickly neutered it. The ransomware -- a malware program that scrambles data on a computer and won't unscramble it unless a ransom is paid -- was embedded in software for installing an OS X app for sharing files on BitTorrent.
Amazon Flip-Flop Lands Fire OS Back in Encryption Camp
March 7, 2016
Amazon last week announced that it had reversed a previous decision to drop support for local encryption on version 5 of its Fire tablet operating system. The disclosure came one day after the company joined 14 others to support Apple in its fight against the FBI, which wants the company to create a tool or code to unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino, California, terrorists.
UN Commissioner: Human Rights at Stake in FBI, Apple Struggle
March 5, 2016
UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra'Ad Al-Hussein weighed in on the Apple-FBI dispute, asking U.S. authorities to proceed with great caution. The legal fight centers on a court's order that Apple help the FBI access encrypted iPhone data to aid its investigation of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Such a move could lead to crackdowns in various authoritarian countries, Al-Hussein said.
Google's Hands Free Puts Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
March 3, 2016
Google on Wednesday announced that it has begun testing an app dubbed "Hands Free," which lets Android and iOS smartphone users make purchases via their devices without taking them out of their pockets or purses. Early adopters in Silicon Valley can use the system at some McDonald's, Papa John's and other eateries. The app offers connectivity via Bluetooth Low Energy, WiFi and location services.
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Google just announced Home, a voice-activated speaker similar to Amazon's Echo. What do you think of these devices?
I have an Echo and I love it.
I have an Echo but rarely use it.
I plan to buy an Echo or Home.
Google's Home will be much better than Echo.
They're expensive novelties.
They're intrusive and creepy.