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Submission + - The Kid-Friendly Faces of the NSA

guttentag writes: “It is never too early to start thinking about what you want to do when you grow up.” To enter the “How Can I Work for N.S.A.?” section of the NSA's CryptoKids site, children click on a picture of a bucktoothed rabbit, who says in his biography that he likes listening to hip-hop and rock. In his free time, the bunny says, he participates in cryptography competitions with other cartoon characters named Decipher Dog and CryptoCat. The turtle wearing a hat backward, baggy jeans and purple sunglasses looks just like other cartoon characters that marketers use to make products like cereal and toys appealing to children. But the reptile, known as T. Top, who says creating and breaking codes is really “kewl,” is pushing something far weightier: the benefits of the National Security Agency.

The New York Times notes that the site has existed for nine years and that other government agencies have sites aimed at kids, but none of those they list are pushing cartoon animals to market themselves. Unless you count the Counterterrorism Center's cartoon eagle, Beaker.

Submission + - NSA's "TAO" Intercepting Packages to Install Backdoors, Exploiting Crash Reports

guttentag writes: German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reports that the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) intercepts computer or accessory shipments and carefully opens the packages to install hardware backdoors or malware. It also intercepts Windows crash reports to learn what software vulnerabilities may exist on target computers. Its internal documentation on this includes a joke at Microsoft's expense, showing the usual error message with the words "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine." The report also claims the FBI helps the NSA attack isolated networks that are not connected to the Internet, making an FBI jet available to ferry a TAO team to its target so it can quickly appear, conduct its work in as little as half an hour and disappear undetected.

Submission + - U.S. Postal Service to Make Sunday Deliveries for Amazon

guttentag writes: The New York Times is reporting The USPS has struck a deal to deliver Amazon’s packages on Sundays — a first for both. The Postal Service, which lost nearly $16 billion last year, often loses money on first-class mail delivery, but package delivery is profitable. The Postal Service said it expected to make more such deals with other merchants, seeking a larger role in the $186 billion e-commerce market. For this holiday shopping season, Sunday delivery of Amazon products will be limited to the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas. In 2014 it is expected to expand to other cities including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix.

Submission + - Snowden: Microsoft's NSA Cooperation Closer than Acknowledged

guttentag writes: Classified documents Edward Snowden has released to the Guardian newspaper show Microsoft helped the NSA circumvent its encryption on, worked with the FBI to allow Prism access to SkyDrive and to study how users create email aliases. The NSA documents claim that Prism tripled its collection of Skype video calls nine months after Microsoft bought the service, and that the NSA shares data from Prism with the FBI and CIA as a "team sport." Microsoft launched a new "Your Privacy Is Our Priority" marketing campaign just days before Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong. The NY Times also has a story on the release.

Submission + - Employers Switching from Payroll Checks to Prepaid Cards with Fees 1

An anonymous reader writes: The New York Times reports a growing number of American workers are being paid by prepaid "payroll card." The cards often have fees attached to basic services like making a cash withdrawal or for inactivity. Some employees report that the employers pay by card by default, with paperwork barriers to opting out, and some report that their employers refuse to pay them by check or direct deposit. The issuing banks pitch the cards to employers as a cost-cutting payroll alternative, and sometimes even offer a financial reward for each employee they sign up.

Submission + - AT&T Quietly Adds Charges to All Contract Cell Plans (

guttentag writes: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T Mobility, the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., has added a new monthly administrative fee of 61 cents to the bills of all of its contract wireless lines as of May 1, a move that could bring in more than a half-billion dollars in annual revenue to the telecom giant.

An AT&T spokeswoman said the fee covers "certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance." The increased cost to consumers comes even though AT&T's growth in wireless revenue last year outpaced the costs to operate and support its wireless business. The company has talked of continuing to improve wireless profitability. Citigroup analyst Michael Rollins noted that the new administrative fee is a key component for accelerating revenue growth for the rest of the year. He said the fee should add 0.30 of a percentage point to AT&T's 2013 revenue growth; he predicts total top-line growth of about 1.5%.

Normally, consumers could vote with their wallets by taking their business elsewhere. AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a "surcharge," effectively forcing millions of people to either pay more money per month or pay the ETF.

Submission + - Horse Meat Found in IKEA's Swedish Meatballs

guttentag writes: Last month we discussed the implications of horse meat in European foods that were labelled as beef. The Czech State Veterinary Administration has now reported finding horse meat in IKEA's 1-lb packages of Swedish meatballs, which are sold in the retailer's stores and served in its restaurants around the world. IKEA has only one supplier for these meatballs, a family owned company in southwestern Sweden, and has pulled meatballs from shelves in Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland out of concern for "potential worries among our customers." However, it said it saw no reason to extend that action to other countries, including the U.S., where deceptive trade practices involving horse meat have not been as prominent in the news.

Submission + - Microsoft to Announce New iTunes Rival: Xbox Music ( 1

guttentag writes: On Monday, Microsoft plans to announce a service called Xbox Music that will offer access to a global catalog of about 30 million songs. The service will let consumers listen free to any song on computers and tablets running the latest version of its Windows software, as well as on the Xbox console. Microsoft will not initially limit how much music can be streamed, though that could change over time.

The service is part of a broad set of bets Microsoft is making this fall to help regain ground it has lost to competitors Apple, Google, Amazon, Pandora and Spotify. In addition to Windows 8, which will start shipping Oct. 26, the company is close to releasing a new version of its Windows Phone operating system and the tablet device called Surface.

Data Storage

Submission + - Hitachi Creates Quartz Glass Storage Medium

guttentag writes: Hitachi has announced (original press release in Japanese, translated to English) a new storage medium that uses a laser to imprint dots on a piece of quartz glass that correspond to binary code. The dots can be read with an optical microscope and appropriate software. The company says this medium is resistant to extreme heat, radiation, radio waves and should still be readable after a few hundred million years. It's intended as an archival format with data density similar to a music CD (40MB per square inch with 4 layers). Additional stories at Tom's Hardware and ZDNet.

Submission + - India Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile That Could Reach Beijing 2

guttentag writes: The New York Times reports that India said Thursday it had successfully launched a missile with nuclear capability and a 3,100-mile range, giving it the ability to strike Beijing and Shanghai. It is suggested that this intended as a "deterrent" against attack by China. One hopes that China will not respond by announcing plans to deter India from using this.

Submission + - ACLU Obtains Cell Phone Tracking Training Materials

guttentag writes: The New York Times has published a large collection of law enforcement training documents obtained by the ACLU. The documents describe in detail what kind of information can be obtained from cell phones and cell phone carriers, and how to obtain it. The 189-page PDF also contains dozens of invoices from the major carriers for their services to law enforcement that describe the fees for those services.

Submission + - Netflix Streaming Down ( 1

guttentag writes: The Huffington Post is reporting that Netflix streaming has been down since about 5 p.m. EST. This comes just days after Netflix announced price increases for the service, prompting outrage among subscribers. Calls to Netflix's "24/7" customer service number were initially answered by a machine that hung up on the caller after advising them to call back later, but they are now met only by a busy signal. DownRightNow has a graph of when reports of trouble started to come in.

Pascal is a language for children wanting to be naughty. -- Dr. Kasi Ananthanarayanan