jones_supa writes "The most widely used cellphone encryption cipher A5/1 can be easily defeated by the National Security Agency, an internal document shows. This gives the agency the means to intercept most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over radiowaves every day, even when the agency would not have the encryption key. Encryption experts have long known the cipher to be weak and have urged providers to upgrade to newer systems. Consequently it is also suggested that other nations likely have the same cracking capability through their own intelligence services. The vulnerability outlined in the NSA document concerns encryption developed in the 1980s but still used widely by cellphones that rely on 2G GSM. It is unclear if the agency may also be able to decode newer forms of encryption, such as those covered under CDMA."
theodp writes "Code.org, backed by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, boasts in a blog post that thanks to this week's Hour of Code, which featured a Blockly tutorial narrated by Gates and Zuckerberg, 'More students have participated in computer science in U.S. schools in the last three days than in the last 100 years.' Taking note of the impressive numbers being put up on the Hour of Code Leaderboards ('12,522,015 students have done the Hour of Code and written 406,022,512 lines of code'), the Seattle Times adds that 'More African American and Hispanic kids learned about the subject in two days than in the entire history of computer science,' and reports that the cities of Chicago and New York have engaged Code.org to offer CS classes in their schools. So, isn't it a tad hyperbolic to get so excited over kids programming with blocks? 'Yes, we can all agree that this week's big Hour of Code initiative is a publicity stunt,' writes the Mercury News' Mike Cassidy, 'but you know what? A publicity stunt is exactly what we need.'"
cartechboy writes "Autonomous driving is every car manufacturer's immediate R&D project. In car-building terms, even if a new technology isn't due for 10 years — since that's just two full vehicle generations away-- it has to be developed now. So now it is for autonomous car research and testing, and this week Ford revealed a brand new Fusion Hybrid research vehicle built for autonomous R&D with some interesting tech capabilities. Technologies inside the new Fusion Hybrid research vehicle include LIDAR (a light-based range detection), which scans at 2.5 million times per second to create a 3D map of the surrounding environment at a radius of 200 feet. Ford says the research vehicle's sensors are sensitive enough to detect the difference between a small animal and a paper bag even at maximum range. More road-ready differentiations include observation and understanding of pedestrians, cyclists, and plain old stationary objects. Ford is working on this project in cooperation with the University of Michigan."
cold fjord writes "The Washington Examiner reports, 'Oregon ... signed up just 44 people for insurance through November, despite spending more than $300 million on its state-based exchange. The state's exchange had the fewest sign-ups in the nation, according to a new report today by the Department of Health and Human Services. The weak number of sign-ups undercuts two major defenses of Obamacare from its supporters. One defense was that state-based exchanges were performing a lot better than the federal healthcare.gov website servicing 36 states. But Oregon's website problems have forced the state to rely on paper applications to sign up participants. Another defense of the Obama administration has attributed the troubled rollout of Obamacare to the obstruction of Republican governors who wanted to see the law fail as well as a lack of funding. But Oregon is a Democratic state that embraced Obamacare early and enthusiastically.'"
First time accepted submitter Austrian Anarchy writes with this story via Reason (and based on a report at Wired) about a maker of physical Bitcoin tokens. Quoting from Reason's take: "Mike Caldwell ran a business called Casascius that printed physical tokens with a bitcoin digital key on it, key hidden behind a tamper proof strip. He'd charge $50 worth of bitcoin to print a bitcoin key you sent him via computer on this token. Cool stuff--a good friend of mine found one sitting unnoticed in her tip jar from an event at which she sold her artisan lamps from 2011 and was naturally delighted given the nearly 1000x increase in value of a bitcoin since then. So, you're making something fun, useful, interesting, harmless--naturally the federal government is very concerned and wants to hobble you. 'Just before Thanksgiving, [Caldwell] received a letter from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN, the arm of the Treasury Department that dictates how the nation’s anti-money-laundering and financial crime regulations are interpreted. According to FINCEN, Caldwell needs to rethink his business. "They considered my activity to be money transmitting," Caldwell says. And if you want to transmit money, you must first jump through a lot of state and federal regulatory hoops Caldwell hasn't jumped through.'"
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "Google has fixed a vulnerability, first discovered by researcher Gergely Kalman, which let users search for credit card numbers by using hex number ranges. However, Google should have acknowledged or at least responded to the original bug finder (and possibly even paid him a bounty for it), and should have been more transparent about the process in general." Read on for the rest of the story.
mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. 'We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,' the group said in an open letter published on its website."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post that morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency's surveillance activities and officials are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support. 'It is not clear whether or when Obama might travel the 23 miles up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to visit Fort Meade, the NSA's headquarters in Maryland,' writes Nakashima, 'but agency employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.' Though Obama has asserted that the NSA's collection of virtually all Americans' phone records is lawful and has saved lives, the administration has not endorsed legislation that would codify it. And his recent statements suggest Obama thinks some of the NSA's activities should be constrained. 'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. 'They feel they've been hung out to dry, and they're right.' Former officials note how President George W. Bush paid a visit to the NSA in January 2006, in the wake of revelations by the New York Times that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. soil beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on morale was tremendous,' Brenner said. 'There's been nothing like that from this White House.' Morale is 'bad overall' says another former NSA official. 'It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'"
walterbyrd sends this news from Techworld: "A Microsoft storage patent that was used to get a sales ban on products from Google-owned Motorola Mobility in Germany has been invalidated by the German Federal Patent Court. Microsoft's FAT (File Allocation Table) patent, which concerns a 'common name space for long and short filenames' was invalidated on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Federal Patent Court said in an email Friday. She could not give the exact reasons for the court's decision before the written judicial decision is released, which will take a few weeks."
sfcrazy writes "A team of extremely creative people have created a really inexpensive bullet time set-up using Raspberry Pis — and the whole set-up costs less than a professional DSLR camera. The rig looks more like the LHC at CERN using nearly half a kilometre of network cables, 48 Raspberry Pis fitted with cameras and PiFace Control. The rig worked perfectly — in terms of doing what a bullet time set-up should do. Raspberry Pis achieved the Hollywood's 'frozen time' effect at a much lesser cost."
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have announced that measles cases in the U.S. spiked this year, rising to three times their recent average rate. It's partly due to a greater number of people traveling to the U.S. when they're infectious, but also because a frustrating number of people are either failing to have their children vaccinated, or are failing to do so in a timely manner. Dr. Thomas Friedman said, 'Around 90 percent of the people who have had measles in this country were not vaccinated either because they refused, or were not vaccinated on time.' Phil Plait adds, 'In all three of these outbreaks, someone who had not been vaccinated traveled overseas and brought the disease back with them, which then spread due to low vaccination rates in their communities. It's unclear how much religious beliefs themselves were behind the outbreaks in Brooklyn and North Carolina; it may have been due to widespread secular anti-vax beliefs in those tight-knit groups. But either way, a large proportion of the people in those areas were unvaccinated.'"
David Gerard writes "Elsevier, in final desperation mode, is going after authors sharing their own papers online. Academia.edu has told several researchers that Elsevier 'is currently upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing their own papers online.' This is the sounds of a boycott biting."
chicksdaddy writes "The Federal Trade Commission announced on Thursday that it settled with the maker of 'Brightest Flashlight Free,' a popular Android mobile application, over charges that the company used deceptive advertising to collect location and device information from Android owners. The FTC says the company failed to disclose wanton harvesting and sharing of customers' locations and mobile device identities with third parties. Brightest Flashlight Free, which allows Android owners to use their phone as a flashlight, is a top download from Google Play, the main Android marketplace. Statistics from the site indicate that it has been downloaded more than one million times with an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. The application, which is available for free, displays mobile advertisements on the devices it is installed on. However, the device also harvested a wide range of data from Android phones which was shared with advertisers, including what the FTC describes as 'precise geolocation along with persistent device identifiers.' As part of the settlement with the FTC, Goldenshores is ordered to change its advertisements and in-app disclosures to make explicit any collection of geolocation information, how it is or may be used, the reason for collecting location information and which third parties that data is shared with."
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft announced yesterday their plans to encrypt customer data to prevent government snooping. Free Software Foundation executive director John Sullivan questions the logic of trusting non-free software, regardless of promises or even intent. He says, 'Microsoft has made renewed security promises before. In the end, these promises are meaningless. Proprietary software like Windows is fundamentally insecure not because of Microsoft's privacy policies but because its code is hidden from the very users whose interests it is supposed to secure. A lock on your own house to which you do not have the master key is not a security system, it is a jail. ... If the NSA revelations have taught us anything, it is that journalists, governments, schools, advocacy organizations, companies, and individuals, must be using operating systems whose code can be reviewed and modified without Microsoft or any other third party's blessing. When we don't have that, back doors and privacy violations are inevitable.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Josh Gerstein writes on Politico that President Barack Obama told Chris Matthews in an interview recorded for MSNBC's 'Hardball' that he'll be reining in some of the snooping conducted by the NSA, but he did not detail what new limits he plans to impose on the embattled spy organization. 'I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. And...to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,' said the President who insisted that the NSA's work shows respect for the rights of Americans, while conceding that its activities are often more intrusive when it comes to foreigners communicating overseas. 'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.' During the program, Matthews raised the surveillance issue by noting a Washington Post report on NSA gathering of location data on billion of cell phones overseas. 'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' With some at the NSA feeling hung out to dry by the president, Obama also went out of his way to praise the agency's personnel for their discretion. 'I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening.'"