writes "from Wired:
The National Security Agency has some of the brightest minds working on its sophisticated surveillance programs, including its metadata collection efforts. But a new chat program designed by a middle-school dropout in his spare time may turn out to be one of the best solutions to thwart those efforts.
John Brooks, who is just 22 and a self-taught coder who dropped out of school at 13, was always concerned about privacy and civil liberties. Four years ago he began work on a program for encrypted instant messaging that uses Tor hidden services for the protected transmission of communications. The program, which he dubbed Ricochet, began as a hobby. But by the time he finished, he had a full-fledged desktop client that was easy to use, offered anonymity and encryption, and even resolved the issue of metadata—the “to” and “from” headers and IP addresses spy agencies use to identify and track communications—long before the public was aware that the NSA was routinely collecting metadata in bulk for its spy programs. The only problem Brooks had with the program was that few people were interested in using it. Although he’d made Ricochet’s code open source, Brooks never had it formally audited for security and did nothing to promote it, so few people even knew about it.
Then the Snowden leaks happened and metadata made headlines. Brooks realized he already had a solution that resolved a problem everyone else was suddenly scrambling to fix. Though ordinary encrypted email and instant messaging protect the contents of communications, metadata allows authorities to map relationships between communicants and subpoena service providers for subscriber information that can help unmask whistleblowers, journalists’s sources and others."Link to Original Source
writes "from The Verge:
Last night, researchers at Malwarebytes noticed strange behavior on sites like Last.fm, The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post. Ads on the sites were being unusually aggressive, setting off anti-virus warnings and raising flags in a number of Malwarebytes systems. After some digging, researcher Jerome Segura realized the problem was coming from Google's DoubleClick ad servers and the popular Zedo ad agency. Together, they were serving up malicious ads designed to spread the recently identified Zemot malware. A Google representative has confirmed the breach, saying "our team is aware of this and has taken steps to shut this down.""Link to Original Source
writes "from New Scientist:
The vast majority of people think we have free will and are the authors of our own life stories. But if neuroscientists were one day able to predict our every action based on brain scans, would people abandon this belief in droves? A new study concludes that such knowledge would not by itself be enough to shake our confidence in our own volition.
If people lost their belief in their own free will, that would have important consequences for how we think about moral responsibility, and even how we behave. For example, numerous studies have shown that when people are led to reject free will they are more likely to cheat, and are also less bothered about punishing other wrongdoers.
For those who argue that what we know about neuroscience is incompatible with free will, predicting what our brain is about to do should reveal the illusory nature of free will, and lead people to reject it. Experimental philosopher Eddy Nahmias at Georgia State University in Atlanta dubs this view "willusionism". He recently set out to test it.
For Nahmias, this suggests that, when it comes to free will, people are "theory-lite", which renders the fact that our behaviour is generated by the brain, whose actions can predicted like the weather, largely irrelevant. "People don't have detailed metaphysical views about what underlies free will," says Nahmias. "What people care about is that their own conscious reasoning makes a difference to their behaviour – and nothing in neuroscience suggests it doesn't.""Link to Original Source
writes "From New Scientist:
Can a robot learn right from wrong? Attempts to imbue robots, self-driving cars and military machines with a sense of ethics reveal just how hard this is
In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.
At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole.
Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions. Winfield admits he once thought it was not possible for a robot to make ethical choices for itself. Today, he says, "my answer is: I have no idea".
As robots integrate further into our everyday lives, this question will need to be answered. A self-driving car, for example, may one day have to weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk of harming other motorists or pedestrians. It may be very difficult to program robots with rules for such encounters."Link to Original Source
writes "from Der Spiegel:
According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. In pursuing that goal, they have broken into networks belonging to Deutsche Telekom.
The document that Der Spiegel has seen shows a map with the name 'Treasure Map'. On the map are the names of Deutsche Telekom and NetCologne and their networks highlighted in red, where the legend says that within the networks 'access points' exist for 'technical observation'.
Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.
Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.
The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to "map the entire Internet — Any device, anywhere, all the time."
Treasure Map allows for the creation of an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time," the document notes. Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.
The New York Times reported on the existence of Treasure Map last November. What it means for Germany can be seen in additional material in the Snowden archive that SPIEGEL has examined."Link to Original Source
writes "The Economist:
The patent system, which was developed independently in 15th century Venice and then in 17th century England, gave entrepreneurs a monopoly to sell their inventions for a number of years. Yet by the 1860s the patent system came under attack, including from The Economist. Patents, critics argued, stifled future creativity by allowing inventors to rest on their laurels. Recent economic research backs this up."Link to Original Source
writes "PayPal has frozen more than $275,000 in donations to ProtonMail, claiming the email encryption startup may be illegal. A PayPal alert told ProtonMail that was unsure if ProtonMail has the necessary U.S. government approval to encrypt emails, as though anyone who encrypts needs a license to do so. Of course, it is absolutely legal to encrypt email. The freeze remains in place."
writes "Notable security vulnerability has been discovered which impacts both OAuth and OpenID, which are software packages that provide a secure delegated access to websites. Wang Jing, a Ph.D student at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, discovered that the 'Covert Redirect' flaw can masquerade as a login popup based on an affected site's domain. Covert Redirect is based on a well-known exploit parameter. For example, someone clicking on a malicious phishing link will get a popup window in Facebook, asking them to authorize the app. Instead of using a fake domain name that's similar to trick users, the Covert Redirect flaw uses the real site address for authentication. If a user chooses to authorize the login, personal data will be released to the attacker instead of to the legitimate website. Wang did already warn a handful of tech giants about the vulnerability, but they mostly dodged the issue. In all honesty, it is not trivial to fix, and any effective remedies would negatively impact the user experience. Users who wish to avoid any potential loss of data should be careful about clicking links that immediately ask you to log in to Facebook or Google, and be aware of this redirection attack."Link to Original Source
writes "The case, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, poses huge risks for both sides. If the court upholds the patent or rules only narrowly against it without affecting most others, the problem of too many patents — and patent lawsuits — will continue. In that case, Justice Stephen Breyer said, future competition could move from price and quality to "who has the best patent lawyer.""Link to Original Source
writes "From NewScientist:
Google may be a master at data wrangling, but one of its products has been making bogus data-driven predictions. A study of Google's much-hyped flu tracker has consistently overestimated flu cases in the US for years. It's a failure that highlights the danger of relying on big data technologies.
Evan Selinger, a technology ethicist at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, says Google Flu's failures hint at a larger problem with the algorithmic approach taken by technology companies to deliver services we all want to use. The problem is with the assumption that either the data that is gathered about us, or the algorithms used to process it, are neutral.
Google Flu Trends has been discussed at slashdot before: When Google Got Flu Wrong."Link to Original Source
writes "What goes around comes around – quite literally in the case of smog. The US has outsourced many of its production lines to China and, in return, global winds are exporting the Chinese factories' pollution right back to the US."Link to Original Source
writes "Text analysis indicates BitCoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto is (probably) Nick Szabo"Link to Original Source
writes "In the ever-longer wake of the NSA scandal, much-respected Dutch newspaper NRC today reveals, in English, as mandated by the gravity of the occasion, that the Dutch secret service, the AIVD, hacks internet forums. And yes, that is gross misconduct against Dutch law. The service, whose headquarters are in Zoetermeer, did not yet comment upon the divulgation of the document from Edward Snowden's collection. Incensed Dutch parliamentaries are calling for an enquiry."Link to Original Source
writes "Two Israeli computer scientists say they may have uncovered a puzzling financial link between Ross William Ulbricht, the recently arrested operator of the Internet black market known as the Silk Road, and the secretive inventor of bitcoin, the anonymous online currency, used to make Silk Road purchases."Link to Original Source
writes "From NewScientist:
A bacterium has had its genome recoded so that the standard language of life no longer applies. Instead, one of its words has been freed up to impart a different meaning, allowing the addition of genetic elements that don't exist in nature.
The work has been described as the first step towards a new biology because the techniques used should open the door to reinventing the meaning of several genetic words simultaneously, potentially creating new types of biomaterials and drugs."Link to Original Source