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Earth

Ordnance Survey Releases Mapping Tools 16

Posted by samzenpus
from the map-it dept.
rHBa writes The BBC reports that the UK mapping organization Ordnance Survey has added 4 new products to its open data portfolio: OS Local, Names, Rivers and Roads. Perhaps the most interesting of the free data sets is OS Local which provides a base map to identify "hotspots" such as property pricing, insurance risk, and crime. The OS are not creating a new Google Maps-style service of their own but rather are providing their data for use by other third-party apps and online tools. They expect developers and designers to use the data to enhance their own products and improve the information people can access via the web.
Businesses

PayPal To Pay $7.7 Million For Sanctions Violations 66

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-up dept.
jfruh writes PayPal may not be a bank, but it's still legally required to follow regulations on transferring money — but the company has admitted to a number of violations, including allowing transfers to an individual specifically sanctioned by the U.S. State Department for helping proliferate nuclear weapons. From Ars: "On Wednesday afternoon, PayPal reached a settlement with the US Treasury Department, agreeing that it would pay $7.7 million for allegedly processing payments to people in countries under sanction as well as to a man the US has listed as involved in the nuclear weapons black market. The company neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but it voluntarily handed over its transaction data to the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)."
Education

NJ School District Hit With Ransomware-For-Bitcoins Scheme 166

Posted by timothy
from the so-is-there-a-downside? dept.
An anonymous reader sends news that unidentified hackers are demanding 500 bitcoins, currently worth about $128,000, from administrators of a New Jersey school district. Four elementary schools in Swedesboro-Woolwich School District, which enroll more than 1,700 students, are now locked out of certain tasks: "Without working computers, teachers cannot take attendance, access phone numbers or records, and students cannot purchase food in cafeterias. Also, [district superintendent Dr. Terry C. Van Zoeren] explained, parents cannot receive emails with students grades and other information." According to this blog post from security company BatBlue, the district has been forced to postpone the Common Core-mandated PARCC state exams, too. Small comfort: "Fortunately the Superintendent told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter the hackers, using a program called Ransomware, did not access any personal information about students, families or teachers." Perhaps the administrators can take heart: Ransomware makers are, apparently, starting to focus more on product support; payment plans are probably on the way.
Crime

Online "Swatting" Becomes a Hazard For Gamers Who Play Live On the Internet 569

Posted by samzenpus
from the hands-up-controllers-down dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nick Wingfield reports at the NYT that practical jokers who call in bogus reports of violence provoking huge police responses have set their sights on a new set of victims: video gamers who play live on the Internet, often in front of huge online audiences. Last month, several hundred people were watching Joshua Peters as he played RuneScape from his parents' home as video showed Peters suddenly leaving his computer when police officers appeared at the house and ordered him and his family at gunpoint to lie face down on the ground after some had called 911 claiming Peters had just shot his roommate. "With the live-streaming platforms, it amplifies the entire situation," says James Clayton Eubanks who says he has been swatted about a half-dozen times while he streamed his Call of Duty sessions. "Not only do they get to do this and cause this misery, they get to watch it unfold in front of thousands of people."

Game companies like Twitch have publicly said that swatting is dangerous, but that there is little else they can do to prevent the pranks. Tracking the culprits behind the pranks is difficult. While bomb scares and other hoaxes have been around for decades, making threats anonymously has never been so easy. Swatters use text messages and online phone services like Skype to relay their threats, employing techniques to make themselves hard to trace. They obtain personal addresses for their victims through property records and other public databases, or by tricking businesses or customer service representatives at a victim's Internet provider into revealing the information. Brandon Willson, a gamer known online as "Famed God," made up a murder to get police to go to an unsuspecting west suburban resident's home last year and ended up behind bars in Nevada awaiting extradition. As part of the investigation, police traveled to Las Vegas to help local police execute a search warrant at Willson's home. Computers seized there contained evidence of the swatting incident, as well as similar incidents across the country, prosecutors claim. Willson faces up to five years in prison if he is convicted on charges of computer tampering and one count each of intimidation, computer fraud, identity theft and disorderly conduct. His mother, Brenda Willson, says her son is innocent and does not smoke, drink or have tattoos. "He would never swat," she says.
United Kingdom

UK Government Admits Intelligence Services Allowed To Break Into Any System 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the whenever-we-feel-like-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes Recently, Techdirt noted that the FBI may soon have permission to break into computers anywhere on the planet. It will come as no surprise to learn that the U.S.'s partner in crime, the UK, granted similar powers to its own intelligence services some time back. What's more unexpected is that it has now publicly said as much, as Privacy International explains: "The British Government has admitted its intelligence services have the broad power to hack into personal phones, computers, and communications networks, and claims they are legally justified to hack anyone, anywhere in the world, even if the target is not a threat to national security nor suspected of any crime." That important admission was made in what the UK government calls its "Open Response" to court cases started last year against GCHQ.
Crime

Hundreds Expelled, Many Arrested, For Cheating In India's School Exams 233

Posted by timothy
from the not-exactly-subtle-about-it dept.
Etherwalk writes Sources conflict, but it looks like as many as 300 people have been arrested for cheating in the Indian state of Bihar after the Hindustan Times published images of dozens of men climbing the walls of a test center to pass answers inside. 500-700+ students were expelled and police had been bribed to look the other way. Xinhau's version of the story omits any reference to police bribery, while The ABC's omits the fact that police fired guns into the air.
Windows

OEMs Allowed To Lock Secure Boot In Windows 10 Computers 361

Posted by Soulskill
from the feel-free-to-do-whatever-we-want-with-your-new-computer dept.
jones_supa writes: Hardware that sports the "Designed for Windows 8" logo requires machines to support UEFI Secure Boot. When the feature is enabled, the core software components used to boot the machine are verified for correct cryptographic signatures, or the system refuses to boot. This is a desirable security feature, because it protects from malware sneaking into the boot process. However, it has an issue for alternative operating systems, because it's likely they won't have a signature that Secure Boot will authorize. No worries, because Microsoft also mandated that every system must have a UEFI configuration setting to turn the protection off, allowing booting other operating systems. This situation may now change. At its WinHEC hardware conference in Shenzhen, China, Microsoft said the setting to allow Secure Boot to be turned off will become optional when Windows 10 arrives. Hardware can be "Designed for Windows 10," and offer no way to opt out of the Secure Boot lock down. The choice to provide the setting (or not) will be up to the original equipment manufacturer.
Crime

Obama: Maybe It's Time For Mandatory Voting In US 1088

Posted by timothy
from the if-there-weren't-all-those-pesky-rights dept.
HughPickens.com writes CNN reports that when asked how to offset the influence of big money in politics, President Barack Obama suggested it's time to make voting a requirement. "Other countries have mandatory voting," said Obama "It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything," he said, adding it was the first time he had shared the idea publicly. "The people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls." At least 26 countries have compulsory voting, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Failure to vote is punishable by a fine in countries such as Australia and Belgium; if you fail to pay your fine in Belgium, you could go to prison. Less than 37% of eligible voters actually voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. That means about 144 million Americans — more than the population of Russia — skipped out. Critics of mandatory voting have questioned the practicality of passing and enforcing such a requirement; others say that freedom also means the freedom not to do something.
Microsoft

Microsoft Blacklists Fake Finnish Certificate 29

Posted by timothy
from the so-that-would-be-a-veneer dept.
jones_supa writes Microsoft has issued a warning that a fraudulent SSL digital certificate has been issued in the name of a Finnish version of its Windows Live service. Although the company says it has revoked the certificate, security experts warn that older software may continue to "trust" the known bad certificate for months or even years, and that attackers could use it to trick users into running malware. "Microsoft is aware of an improperly issued SSL certificate for the domain 'live.fi' that could be used in attempts to spoof content, perform phishing attacks or perform man-in-the-middle attacks," Microsoft says in a March 16 security alert. "It cannot be used to issue other certificates, impersonate other domains or sign code. This issue affects all supported releases of Microsoft Windows. Microsoft is not currently aware of attacks related to this issue."
Communications

Twitter Adds Tool To Report Tweets To the Police 79

Posted by timothy
from the but-first-this-detour-to-fort-meade dept.
itwbennett writes Twitter is ramping up its efforts to combat harassment with a tool to help users report abusive content to law enforcement. The reports would include the flagged tweet and its URL, the time at which it was sent, the user name and account URL of the person who posted it, as well as a link to Twitter's guidelines on how authorities can request non-public user account information from Twitter. It is left up to the user to forward the report to law enforcement and left up to law enforcement to request the user information from Twitter.
Censorship

France Will Block Web Sites That Promote Terrorism 216

Posted by timothy
from the good-luck-with-all-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes In the first use of government powers enacted after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French Interior Ministry on Monday ordered five websites blocked on the grounds that they promote or advocate terrorism. The action raises questions about how governments might counter groups such as the self-declared Islamic State on digital platforms.
Bitcoin

Evolution Market's Admins Are Gone, Along With $12M In Bitcoin 254

Posted by Soulskill
from the digital-golden-parachute dept.
tsu doh nimh writes: The Evolution Market, an online black market that sells everything contraband — from marijuana, heroin and ecstasy to stolen identities and malicious hacking services — appears to have vanished in the last 24 hours with little warning. Much to the chagrin of countless merchants hawking their wares in the underground market, the curators of the project have reportedly absconded with the community's bitcoins — a stash that some Evolution merchants reckon is worth more than USD $12 million.
Crime

Fraud Rampant In Apple Pay 269

Posted by timothy
from the play-money dept.
PvtVoid writes with this report from the New York Times, excerpting: An industry consultant, Cherian Abraham, put the fraud rate [for Apple Pay] at 6 percent, compared with a traditional credit card fraud rate that is relatively minuscule, 10 cents for every $100 spent. [i.e. one tenth of one percent]. The vulnerability in Apple Pay is in the way that it — and card issuers — "onboard" new credit cards into the system. Because Apple wanted its system to have the simplicity for which it has become famous and wanted to make the sign-up process "frictionless," the company required little beyond basic credit card information about a user. Nor did it provide much information to the banks, like full phone numbers and addresses, that might help them detect fraud early. The banks, desperate to become their customers' default card on Apple Pay — most add only one to their iPhones — did little to build their own defenses or to push Apple to provide more detailed information about its customers. Some bank executives acknowledged that they were were so scared of Apple that they didn't speak up.
Crime

$56,000 Speeding Ticket Issued Under Finland's System of Fines Based On Income 759

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-I-just-do-the-jail-time? dept.
HughPickens.com writes Joe Pinsker writes at The Atlantic that Finish businessman Reima Kuisla was recently caught going 65 miles per hour in a 50 zone in his home country and ended up paying a fine of $56,000. The fine was so extreme because in Finland, some traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on earnings—and Kuisla's declared income was €6.5 million per year. Several years ago another executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle. Finland's system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier. Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have some sliding-scale fines, or "day-fines," in place, but in America, flat-rate fines are the norm. Since the late 80s, when day-fines were first seriously tested in the U.S., they have remained unusual and even exotic.

Should such a system be used in the United States? After all, wealthier people have been shown to drive more recklessly than those who make less money. For example Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates. But more importantly, day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor. Last week, the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on how fines have been doled out in Ferguson, Missouri. "Ferguson's law enforcement practices are shaped by the City's focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs," it concluded. The first day-fine ever in the U.S. was given in 1988, and about 70 percent of Staten Island's fines in the following year were day-fines. A similar program was started in Milwaukee, and a few other cities implemented the day-fine idea and according to Judith Greene, who founded Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research organization, all of these initiatives were effective in making the justice system fairer for poor people. "When considering a proportion of their income,people are at least constantly risk-averse. This means that the worst that would happen is that the deterrent effect of fines would be the same across wealth or income levels," says Casey Mulligan. "We should start small—say, only speeding tickets—and see what happens."
United States

How To Execute People In the 21st Century 1080

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept.
HughPickens.com writes Matt Ford writes in The Atlantic that thanks to a European Union embargo on the export of key drugs, and the refusal of major pharmaceutical companies to sell them the nation's predominant method of execution is increasingly hard to perform. With lethal injection's future uncertain, some states are turning to previously discarded methods. The Utah legislature just approved a bill to reintroduce firing squads for executions, Alabama's House of Representatives voted to authorize the electric chair if new drugs couldn't be found, and after last years botched injection, Oklahoma legislators are mulling the gas chamber.

The driving force behind the creation and abandonment of execution methods is the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life. Arizona, for example, abandoned hangings after a noose accidentally decapitated a condemned woman in 1930. Execution is also prone to problems as witnesses routinely report that, when the switch is thrown, the condemned prisoner "cringes," "leaps," and "fights the straps with amazing strength." The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands. The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted. The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and "rest on [his] cheeks." The physical effects of the deadly hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber are coma, seizures and cardiac arrest but the time lag has previously proved a problem. According to Ford one reason lethal injection enjoyed such tremendous popularity was that it strongly resembled a medical procedure, thereby projecting our preconceived notions about modern medicine—its competence, its efficacy, and its reliability—onto the capital-punishment system. "As states revert to earlier methods of execution—techniques once abandoned as backward and flawed—they run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen in the same terms."
United Kingdom

UK Police and PRS Shut Down Karaoke Torrent Site 75

Posted by timothy
from the when-they-came-for-the-tune-hummers-I-was-silent dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Torrent Freak, from which he quotes: The City of London's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and copyright and royalty group PRS for Music have teamed up for what appears to be a first-of-its-kind action. Arresting a 46-year-old man, this week police shut down one of the Internet's few karaoke-focused BitTorrent trackers. While at some stages wildly popular in the East, to most in the West a night at a karaoke bar is probably more closely associated with too many beers and individuals belting out classics wearing the aural equivalent of beer goggles. The pastime is considered by some as a bit of a joke but karaoke is big business. According to the people behind the web-based Playstation software SingOn, the global karaoke market could be worth as much as $10 billion.
Crime

Wikipedia Entries On NYPD Violence Get Some Edits From Headquarters 135

Posted by timothy
from the trust-the-police dept.
First reported by Capital, and picked up by Reason, it seems that "Computers operating on the New York Police Department’s computer network at its 1 Police Plaza headquarters have been used to alter Wikipedia pages containing details of alleged police brutality." Computer users identified by Capital as working on the NYPD headquarters' network have edited and attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police altercations, including entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Capital identified 85 NYPD addresses that have edited Wikipedia, although it is unclear how many users were involved, as computers on the NYPD network can operate on the department’s range of IP addresses. Besides edits to entries about specific instances of misconduct, edits from the same NYPD IP blocks were discovered in Wikipedia entries about the city's stop-and-frisk program and about NYPD misconduct more generally.
Botnet

Obama Administration Wants More Legal Power To Disrupt Botnets 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopefully-does-not-involve-drone-strikes dept.
Trailrunner7 writes: The Obama administration has proposed an amendment to existing United Stated federal law that would give it a more powerful tool to go after botnets such as GameOver Zeus, Asprox and others. In recent years, Justice, along with private security firms and law enforcement agencies in Europe, have taken down various incarnations of a number of major botnets, including GameOver Zeus and Coreflood. These actions have had varying levels of success, with the GOZ takedown being perhaps the most effective, as it also had the effect of disrupting the infrastructure used by the CryptoLocker ransomware.

In order to obtain an injunction in these cases, the government would need to sue the defendants in civil court and show that its suit is likely to succeed on its merits. "The Administration's proposed amendment would add activities like the operation of a botnet to the list of offenses eligible for injunctive relief. Specifically, the amendment would permit the department to seek an injunction to prevent ongoing hacking violations in cases where 100 or more victim computers have been hacked. This numerical threshold focuses the injunctive authority on enjoining the creation, maintenance, operation, or use of a botnet, as well as other widespread attacks on computers using malicious software (such as "ransomware" )," assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell wrote.
Crime

LAPD Police Claim Helicopters Stop Crimes Before They Happen 160

Posted by samzenpus
from the bear-in-the-air dept.
HughPickens.com writes True Angelenos don't even bother to look up when one of the LAPD's 17 helicopters rattles their windows searching for a car-jacked Camry or an assault suspect hiding under a jacaranda but few doubt that more bad guys would get away without the nation's largest police helicopter fleet to help chase them. Now the LA Times reports that data shows that LA's helicopters are stopping crimes before they happen. Tapping into the data-driven policing trend, the department uses heat maps, technology and years of statistics to identify crime "hot spots." Pilots then use their downtime to fly over them, on the theory that would-be criminals tend to rethink their nefarious plans when there's "ghetto birds," as Ice Cube calls them, hovering overhead [explanatory video with annoying sound]. Months of data show that the number of serious crimes reported in the LAPD's Newton Division in South L.A. fell during weeks when the helicopters conducted more flights. During the week of Sept. 13, when the helicopter unit flew over Newton 65 times, the division recorded 90 crimes. A week later, the number of flights dropped to 40 and the number of reported crimes skyrocketed to 136, with rises seen among almost all types of crime, including burglary, car theft and thefts from vehicles. "It's extremely cutting edge," says Capt. Gary Walters, who heads the LAPD's air support unit. "It's different. It's nothing that we've ever done before with this specificity."

But Professor Geoffrey Alpert. a policing expert who has studied the use of police helicopters in Miami and Baltimore, says the choppers can deter crime in the short-term but criminals will likely return when they're not around (PDF). "You are deterring the criminals but you aren't getting rid of them and their intent. Those criminals could strike in a different time and place," says Alpert. "I mean that's the whole thing about random patrol. You see a police car and it's the same thing. You hide, he goes around the block and you go back to your breaking and entering."