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Submission + - Scope of FBI National Security Letters Revealed by Lifted Gag Order (

Advocatus Diaboli writes: One of the most striking revelations, Merrill said during a press teleconference, was that the FBI was requesting detailed cell site location information — cellphone tracking records — under the heading of “radius log” information. Traditionally, radius log refers to a user’s attempts to connect to a server or a DSL line — a sort of anachronism given the progress of technology. “The notion that the government can collect cellphone location information — to turn your cellphone into a tracking device, just by signing a letter — is extremely troubling,” Merrill said. The court ruling noted that the FBI is no longer requesting this type of information using NSLs, but wants to maintain the possibility of doing so in the future.

In the newly unredacted ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero wrote that the case “implicates serious issues, both with respect to the First Amendment and accountability of the government to the people.” According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, around 300,000 NSLs have been issued since 2001. By 2008, the Justice Department concluded that the FBI had been abusing its powers with NSLs, even after changing policies in 2006. “I feel vindicated today,” said Merrill. “But there’s a lot more work to be done.”

Comment Re:Sputnik? (Score 3, Interesting) 135

but the development of the Shuttle and the Soviets' failure with their equivalent

Actually, the Soviets succeeded in realizing that an airplane-shaped payload strapped onto the side of a rocket makes no sense after only one flight. It took us over 100 flights before we realized the same thing. I think they won that round.

Submission + - With a heavy heart, I Disable Advertising 3

GerryGilmore writes: As someone with a 6-digit ID, and has been following /. for much longer, I've always wanted to support the site — ideally without coughing up real US$$. Hence, once the ads started, I was fine with it. And, once they started targeting based on recent purchases (yep, I just bought some Gibson Vintage guitar strings and — surprise — here's an ad for GV strings!), I was even OK with that. Recently (how recently I truly can't say, but call it within the last year) however, the number and intrusiveness of the ads has become untenable, so I just Disabled Advertising.

If you want to win my advertising heart back, a couple of suggestions:
No flash!! Too many reasons to list...
No sound!!! How does anyone allow this? Does no one realize how more-than-irritating it is for crap ad music/voiceover to start blasting out??
No javascript!! Look, I know, but — a fella can dream, right? Just like JS developers can dream that their scripts don't hang and lock up the browser. Just like FF developers can dream that FF doesn't consume every byte available. Just like....

Comment Re:Is this really as typical as it seems? (Score 2) 110

New technology market deployments go in stages, including the following:
  1) The underlying technology becomes available and financially viable. The window opens.
  2) An explosion of companies introduce competing products and try to capture market share. They are in a race to jump through the window.
  3) There is a shakeout: A handful become the dominant producers and the rest die off or move on to other things. The window has closed.

We've seen this over and over. (Two examples from a few decades back were the explosions of Unix boxes and PC graphics accelerator chips)

IoT applications recently passed stage 1), with the introduction of $1-ish priced, ultra-low-power (batteries last for years), systems-on-a-chip (computer, radio peripheral, miscellaneous sensor and other device interfaces) from TI, Nordic, Dialog, and others. It's in stage 2) now.

In stage 2) there's a race to get to market. Wait too long and your competitors eat your lunch and you die before deploying at all. So PBHs do things like deploy proof-of-concept lab prototypes as products, as soon as they work at all (or even BEFORE they do. B-b ) They figure that implementing a good security architecture up front will make them miss the window, and (if they think that far ahead at all) that they can fix it with upgrades later, after they're established, have financing, adequate staffing, and time to do it right - or at least well enough.

So right now you're seeing the IoT producucts that came out first - which means mostly the ones that either ignored security entirely or haven't gotten it set up right yet. Give it some time and you'll see better security - either from improvements among the early movers or new entrants who took the time to do it right and managed to survive long enough to get to market. Then you'll see a shakeout, as those who got SOMETHING wrong fail in competition with those who got it right.

If we're lucky, one of the "somethings" will be security. But Microsoft's example shows that's not necessarily a given.

In this case, though, the POINT of the product is security, so getting it wrong - visibly - may be a company killer. (I see that, in the wake of the exposure, the company is promising a field upgrade with this issue fixed in about a month. If it does happen, and comes out before the crooks develop and use an exploit, perhaps this company will become another example for the PHBs to point at when they push the engineers for fast schlock rather than slow solid-as-rocks.)

Comment Re:The HELL they can't! (Score 1) 74

Being in the industry, the reason I was given was (1) the electrolyte is very expensive right now

Vanadium pentoxide (98% pure was about $6/lb and falling as of early Oct and hasn't been above $14 in years) and sulphuric acid?

and (2) investors need a demonstration of return.

Always the bottom line. B-)

Comment Re:How does space elevator save energy? (Score 1) 143

People claim all sorts of things. While there are lots of problems with a space elevator on a world as large as Earth, energy efficiency isn't one of them.

Personally, I doubt that a space elevator will ever be practical on Earth, but it should be on Mars, and it definitely would be on the Moon. For Earth I'd favor something like the pinwheel. You can think of the pinwheel as a rotating space elevator that doesn't reach as far down as the ground. (You'd probably want to not reach further down than the upper stratosphere to minimize frictional losses.) You fly up to meet the descending arm at the bottom, and unload cargo onto it. Descending cargo can be handled the same way, or you could use a combination of parachutes and lifting bodies. You need to balance freight going up and coming down or you get orbital decay...either it lifts too high or comes down too far, but this can be handled by a station keeping ion rocket, possibly of Vasimir design. Reaching a height is a lot cheaper than going into orbit. This does require a large orbital mass.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised (Score 2) 110

No licensing required... but how about making them liable? I'm not a big fan of a litigious society of ambulance chasers (or lawyers in general), and I don't think IT or "security" firms should pay damages for every single thing that can possibly go wrong, but in a case of gross negligence like leaving default passwords or having no encryption whatsoever on links, they should be at least held liable for damages suffered.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised (Score 2) 110

90% of all ADT alarms installed use the zipcode as the installer/backdoor access code.
95% of all alarms installed by companies use the house address as the default code for the customer at install time and NEVER have the code changed.

Alarm systems typically are only used for notification to the homeowner that they need to call the insurance company for a claim.

365 Days of drinking Lo-Cal beer. = 1 Lite-year