Biotech

Should Zambia Allow The Testing of Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes? (nhregister.com) 133

More than 400,000 lives are lost every year to malaria, reports the New York Post. But Thursday Science published two new studies on promisings ways to fight malaria -- with genetic engineering. The first study focused on whether mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to be more resistant to the malaria-causing parasite would become weaker and less able to mate and breed... The study, led by mosquito vector biologist George Dimopoulos, found that one type of genetically modified mosquito not only bred well, but became more attractive to normal mosquitoes... Within one generation, the mosquito population was becoming 90 percent genetically modified... The results suggest the genetically modified mosquitoes would not just thrive but could possibly drive their genetic immunity to the malaria parasite into mosquito populations to which they are introduced.

The second study published Thursday uses genetic modification of bacteria found inside mosquitoes to fight malaria. Researchers genetically modified a type of bacteria, which caused it to secrete a substance inside the mosquitoes' gut that kills off the malaria-causing parasite before it can develop properly... the genetically modified versions of the bacteria automatically spread to offspring in generation after generation, the researchers found. The next step for both approaches -- the genetically modified mosquitoes and bacteria -- is to test if they work outside the lab in conditions simulating nature. Johns Hopkins has built a "mosquito house" research facility in Zambia designed specifically for such experiments... But the researchers must first convince the Zambian government to allow their genetically modified subjects into its borders.

Privacy

Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders (reuters.com) 138

The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged. From a report: Ten U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates.
EU

EU Court to Rule On 'Right to Be Forgotten' Outside Europe (wsj.com) 182

The European Union's top court is set to decide whether the bloc's "right to be forgotten" policy stretches beyond Europe's borders, a test of how far national laws can -- or should -- stretch when regulating cyberspace. From a report: The case stems from France, where the highest administrative court on Wednesday asked the EU's Court of Justice to weigh in on a dispute between Alphabet's Google and France's privacy regulator over how broadly to apply the right (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), which allows EU residents to ask search engines to remove some links from searches for their own names. At issue: Can France force Google to apply it not just to searches in Europe, but anywhere in the world? The case will set a precedent for how far EU regulators can go in enforcing the bloc's strict new privacy law. It will also help define Europe's position on clashes between governments over how to regulate everything that happens on the internet -- from political debate to online commerce. France's regulator says enforcement of some fundamental rights -- like personal privacy -- is too easily circumvented on the borderless internet, and so must be implemented everywhere. Google argues that allowing any one country to apply its rules globally risks upsetting international law and, when it comes to content, creates a global censorship race among autocrats.
The Internet

NSA 'Traffic Shaping' Can Divert US Internet Traffic For Easier Monitoring (zdnet.com) 78

schwit1 shares an article from ZDNet: A new analysis of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden details a highly classified technique that allows the National Security Agency to "deliberately divert" U.S. internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans. According to the new analysis, the NSA has clandestine means of "diverting portions of the river of internet traffic that travels on global communications cables," which allows it to bypass protections put into place by Congress to prevent domestic surveillance on Americans.

The new findings follow a 2014 paper by researchers Axel Arnbak and Sharon Goldberg, published on sister-site CBS News, which theorized that the NSA, whose job it is to produce intelligence from overseas targets, was using a "traffic shaping" technique to route US internet data overseas so that it could be incidentally collected under the authority of a largely unknown executive order... The research cites several ways the NSA is actively exploiting methods to shape and reroute internet traffic -- many of which are well-known in security and networking circles -- such as hacking into routers or using the simpler, less legally demanding option of forcing major network providers or telecoms firms into cooperating and diverting traffic to a convenient location.

China

China's Unprecedented Cyber Law Signals Its Intent To Protect a Precious Commodity: Data (technologyreview.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: An aggressive new cybersecurity and data protection law in China that goes into effect today will have global ripple effects, and could serve as a model for other governments. But the Chinese government has also left many parts of the law vague -- likely an intentional move meant to allow the country to stake out its own sense of "cyber sovereignty" while waiting to see how the U.S., Europe, and others decide to regulate the flow of data across international borders. The new law is a resounding announcement from China that it intends to be a global player in controlling perhaps the most precious commodity of the digital economy: data. It's hard to know how the law will actually change things because the most controversial aspects of it are so vague. Among them is a requirement that certain companies submit their products to the government for cybersecurity checks, which may even involve reviewing source code. How often it would be required, and how the government will determine which products must be reviewed is unknown. This could come into play as part of China's broader regulatory push to expand law enforcement's power to access data during criminal investigations. Another vague directive calls for companies to store certain data within the country's borders, in the interest of safeguarding sensitive information from espionage or other foreign meddling. The government has delayed the implementation of this change until the end of 2018, however.
EU

EU Passes 'Content Portability' Rules Banning Geofencing (torrentfreak.com) 119

Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo writes: The European Parliament has passed draft rules mandating 'content portability', i.e. the ability to take your purchased content and services across borders within the EU. Freedom of movement rules, which allow EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU, require that the individual is able to take their life with them -- family, property, and services. Under the new rules, someone who pays for Netflix or BBC iPlayer and then moves to another EU country will retain access to those services and the same content they had previously. Separately, rules to prevent geofencing of content within the EU entirely are also moving forward.
Databases

Facial Recognition Database Used By FBI Is Out of Control, House Committee Hears (theguardian.com) 90

The House oversight committee claims the FBI's facial recognition database is out of control, noting that "no federal law controls this technology" and "no court decision limits it." At last week's House oversight committee hearing, politicians and privacy campaigners presented several "damning facts" about the databases. "About 80% of photos in the FBI's network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver's licenses and passports," reports The Guardian. "The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are most likely to misidentify black people than white people." From the report: "Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation," said the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz, adding that in the private sector it can be used to protect financial transactions and prevent fraud or identity theft. "But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public." Furthermore, the rise of real-time face recognition technology that allows surveillance and body cameras to scan the faces of people walking down the street was, according to Chaffetz, "most concerning." "For those reasons and others, we must conduct proper oversight of this emerging technology," he said.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three Privacy Groups Challenge The FBI's Malware-Obtained Evidence (eff.org) 118

In 2015 the FBI took over a Tor-accessible child pornography site to infect its users with malware so they could be identified and prosecuted. But now one suspect is challenging that evidence in court, with three different privacy groups filing briefs in his support. An anonymous reader writes. One EFF attorney argues it's a classic case of an unreasonable search, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. "If the FBI tried to get a single warrant to search 8,000 houses, such a request would unquestionably be denied." But there's another problem, since the FBI infected users in 120 different countries. "According to Privacy International, the case also raises important questions: What if a foreign country had carried out a similar hacking operation that affected U.S. citizens?" writes Computerworld. "Would the U.S. welcome this...? The U.S. was overstepping its bounds by conducting an investigation outside its borders without the consent of affected countries, the group said."
The FBI's evidence is also being challenged by the ACLU of Massachusetts, and the EFF plans to file two more challenges in March, warning that otherwise "the precedent is likely to impact the digital privacy rights of all Internet users for years to come... Courts need to send a very clear message that vague search warrants that lack the required specifics about who and what is to be searched won't be upheld."
United States

Donald Trump To Tech Leaders: 'No Formal Chain Of Command' Here (cnbc.com) 488

A confab of tech titans had a "productive" meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CNBC, as Trump moved to mend fences with Silicon Valley before taking office in January. Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Tesla were among the C-suite executives in attendance, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expected to get private briefings, according to transition staff. From the report: "We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," Trump said. "There's no one like you in the world. ... anything we can do to help this go along, we're going to be there for you. You can call my people, call me -- it makes no difference -- we have no formal chain of command around here." At the meeting, Trump introduced billionaire Wilbur Ross, his Commerce secretary pick, and Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, his choice for director of the National Economic Council. "They're going to do fair trade deals," Trump said. "They're going to make it easier for you to trade across borders, because there are a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems. If you have any ideas on that, that would be great."
Firefox

Mozilla Releases Firefox 50 (softpedia.com) 127

Mozilla has begun seeding the binary and source packages of the final release of Firefox 50 web browser on all supported platforms, including GNU/Linux and macOS. From a report on Softpedia: We have to admit that we expected to see some major features and improvements, but that hasn't happened. The biggest new feature of the Firefox 50.0 release appears to be emoji for everyone. That's right, the web browser now ships with built-in emoji for GNU/Linux distributions, as well as other operating systems that don't include native emoji fonts by default, such as Windows 8.0 and previous versions. Also new, Firefox 50.0 now shows lock icon strikethrough for web pages that offer insecure password fields. Another interesting change that landed in the Mozilla Firefox 50.0 web browser is the ability to cycle through tabs in recently used order using the Ctrl+Tab keyboard shortcut. Moreover, it's now possible to search for whole words only using the "Find in page" feature. Last but not the least, printing was improved as well by using the Reader Mode, which now uses the accel-(opt/alt)-r keyboard shortcut, the Guarana (gn) locale is now supported, the rendering of dotted and dashed borders with rounded corners (border-radius) has been fixed as well.
China

China Adopts Controversial Cybersecurity Law; Experts Say It Will Hurt Businesses (techcrunch.com) 61

The Chinese government today passed new cybersecurity regulations that will put stringent new requirements on technology companies operating in the country. The proposed Cybersecurity Law comes with data localization, surveillance, and real-name requirements. From a TechCrunch report:The regulation would require instant messaging services and other internet companies to require users to register with their real names and personal information, and to censor content that is "prohibited." Real name policies restrict anonymity and can encourage self-censorship for online communication. The law also includes a requirement for data localization, which would force "critical information infrastructure operators" to store data within China's borders. According to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organization that is opposing the legislation, the law does not include a clear definition of infrastructure operators, and many businesses could be lumped into the definition. "The law will effectively put China's Internet companies, and hundreds of millions of Internet users, under greater state control," said Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch's China director. HRW maintains that, while many of the regulations are not new, most were informal or only laid out in low-level law -- and implementing the measures on a broader level will lead to stricter enforcement.
Canada

Canada Wants To Keep Federal Data Within National Borders (thestack.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Canada has released its latest federal cloud adoption strategy, now available for public comment, which includes policy concerning the storing of sensitive government information on Canadian citizens within national borders. The newly-published [Government of Canada Cloud Adoption Strategy] requires that only data which the government has categorized as "unclassified," or harmless to national and personal security, will be allowed outside of the country. This information will still be subject to strict encryption rules. The new strategy, which has been in development over the last year, stipulates that all personal data stored by the government on Canadian citizens, such as social insurance numbers and critical federal information, must be stored in Canada-based data centers in order to retain "sovereign control."
The Military

Russia's Rise To Cyberwar Superpower (dailydot.com) 79

"The Russians are top notch," says Chris Finan, an ex-director at DARPA for cyberwar research, now a CEO at security firm Manifold Technology, and a former director of cybersecurity legislation in the Obama administration. "They are some of the best in the world... " Slashdot reader blottsie quotes an article which argues the DNC hack "may simply be the icing on the cyberwar cake": In a flurry of action over the last decade, Russia has established itself as one of the world's great and most active cyber powers. The focus this week is on the leak of nearly 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee... The evidence -- plainly not definitive but clearly substantial -- has found support among a wide range of security professionals. The Russian link is further supported by U.S. intelligence officials, who reportedly have "high confidence" that Russia is behind the attack...

Beyond the forensic evidence that points to Russia, however, is the specter of President Vladimir Putin. Feeling encircled by the West and its expanding NATO alliance, the Kremlin's expected modus operandi is to strike across borders with cyberwar and other means to send strong messages to other nations that are a real or perceived threat.

The article notes the massive denial of service attack against Estonia in 2007 and the "historic and precedent-setting" cyberattacks during the Russian-Georgian War. "Hackers took out Georgian news and government websites exactly in locales where the Russian military attacked, cutting out a key communication mode between the Georgian state and citizens directly in the path of the fight."
Microsoft

Court Ruling Shows The Internet Does Have Borders After All (csoonline.com) 47

itwbennett writes: Microsoft's recent victory in court, when it was ruled that the physical location of the company's servers in Ireland were out of reach of the U.S. government, was described on Slashdot as being "perceived as a major victory for privacy." But J. Trevor Hughes, president and CEO of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) has a different view of the implications of the ruling that speaks to John Perry Barlow's vision of an independent cyberspace: "By recognizing the jurisdictional boundaries of Ireland, it is possible that the Second Circuit Court created an incentive for other jurisdictions to require data to be held within their national boundaries. We have seen similar laws emerge in Russia -- they fall under a policy trend towards 'data localization' that has many cloud service and global organizations deeply concerned. Which leads to a tough question: what happens if every country tries to assert jurisdictional control over the web? Might we end up with a fractured web, a 'splinternet,' of lessening utility?"
Google

The Geek Behind Google's Takeover of the Map (fastcompany.com) 97

tedlistens writes: Google's map isn't just a map. It's a living, complex manifestation of the data that billions of users and a team of thousands of engineers and designers feed it every day. The public face of the company's mapping effort is Ed Parsons, a gregarious Briton and geographer who as Google's Geospatial Technologist evangelizes for its mission of organizing the world's geographic information. He also works on building the trust the company needs to make Google Maps and Google Earth more detailed, useful, and increasingly, 3-D and interactive -- what he describes as "a selfie for the planet."

The terrain isn't easy: that mission faces challenges from cartographical purists, hoping to preserve the art of cartography, and the democratic mappers of OpenStreetMap ("it's become almost a parody"); from governments seeking to police sensitive borders; from a host of tech companies fighting over the map business; and from privacy defenders concerned about what Google does with that data. "We're kind of looking at what to do with it. We've got a very rich source of data there, but also one that we have to be very careful of," he says. "Your location on the planet is one of the most sensitive pieces of information that anyone can hold on you."

Crime

Robin Hood Hacker Donates $11,000 of Stolen Bitcoin to Help Fight ISIS (newsweek.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: A Kurdish region of Syria that borders territory held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has received an $11,000 donation in allegedly stolen bitcoin from a vigilante hacker. (paywalled, alternate source) The pseudonymous Phineas Fisher donated 25 bitcoins to a crowdfunding campaign set up by members of the Rojava region's economic committee, described by Fisher as "one of the most inspiring revolutionary projects in the world." Fisher claims that the bitcoin donation, recorded publicly on the blockchain ledger and listed on the crowdfunding campaign page, came from hacking into a bank. "The money did come from robbing a bank," Fisher said. "Bank robbing is more viable than ever, it's just done differently these days."Phisher adds: "Unfortunately, our world is backwards. You get rich by doing bad things and go to jail for doing good."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Confronts World Copyright Committee (eff.org) 32

The EFF debated delegates on WIPO's Standing Committee on Copyright this week, joking the whole week could be summarized as "proposals for a broadcasting treaty continue to edge forward, while rich countries remain at loggerheads with users and poorer countries about copyright exceptions for education and libraries."

An anonymous reader writes: The EFF continued to push for more rights for libraries, for example to preserve "orphaned" works and to lend works across national borders. But they also report that at an EFF-sponsored side-meeting, one independent recording artist made an interesting suggestion about Mycelia, an open and distributed "verified" database of music metadata that's blockchain-enabled. "Although it remains mostly a vision for now, the widespread adoption of Mycelia-enabled services could, in theory, provide better transparency to artists about how and where their works are being used, as well as enabling many new innovative uses of music, both free and paid." (One audience member even asked whether it could resurrect Napster's model of peer-to-peer music-sharing with a mechanism for artist micropayments.)
Meanwhile, the EFF characterized the music industry's stance as "Blaming online content platforms for the low returns that artists receive, and moves to target them with additional responsibilities or obligations." But they added, "As frustrating as the long-winded discussions at WIPO often are, our ability to participate in them is a key advantage that this multilateral forum has over the secretive, closed-door negotiations over copyright that take place in trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership."
Piracy

After Netflix Crackdown On Border-Hopping, Canadians Ready To Return To Piracy (www.cbc.ca) 438

An anonymous reader shares an article on CBCNews: Many Canadians are enraged by Netflix's declared war on cross-border watchers, who skirt the company's rules by sneaking across virtual borders to stream Netflix shows and movies restricted to other countries. Sometimes it's hard to be satisfied with Netflix Canada's library when our American neighbours have, it's estimated, access to almost double the content. But this big and bold clampdown may backfire -- at least in Canada. Turns out, Canadians are big pirates at heart. Apparently, we feel somewhat entitled to download illegal content when we don't have cheap and easy access. Instead of shelling out $10 for a Netflix subscription, some people now may opt to pay nothing at all to get what they want.
Medicine

Malaria Has Been Eliminated In Europe (qz.com) 126

An anonymous reader writes: Quartz reports that "Malaria cases in Europe have dropped from a peak of over 90,000 in 1995 to zero in 2015, according to the World Health Organization," who calls the "extraordinary but fragile" achievement a step towards eliminating malaria everywhere. Nine European countries had reported malaria cases, but agreed to focus their efforts on a full elimination of the mosquito-borne disease. "The WHO attributes success to improved surveillance systems, better mosquito control, and greater collaboration across borders," reports Quartz, noting it now provides a blueprint for other countries fighting the disease -- and a boost in morale.
Transportation

A Fleet of Trucks Just Drove Themselves Across Europe (qz.com) 156

An anonymous reader shares a report on Quartz: About a dozen trucks from major manufacturers like Volvo and Daimler just completed a week of largely autonomous driving across Europe, the first such major exercise on the continent. The trucks set off from their bases in three European countries and completed their journeys in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. One set of trucks, made by the Volkswagen subsidiary Scania, traveled more than 2,000 km and crossed four borders to get there. The trucks were taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by the Dutch government as one of the big events for its 2016 presidency of the European Union. While self-driving cars from Google or Ford get most of the credit for capturing the public imagination, commercial uses for autonomous or nearly autonomous vehicles, like tractors from John Deere, have been quietly putting the concept to work in a business setting.In related news, as tipped to us by a reader, "Swedish automaker Volvo is planning on bringing a fleet of 100 self-driving vehicles to China from next year, in a project which will see local drivers test autonomous cars on public roads in everyday driving conditions. Dangerous driving and congestion in Chinese cities will likely prove a difficult challenge for the fleet." I am particularly interested in learning how this autonomous truck is controlled. From the article, it appears that these vehicles utilize Wi-Fi. Based on so many security incidents we continue to come across, perhaps these companies should first work on solving the technical challenges to make these trucks safe -- that is, bolstering the hardware and software security.

Slashdot Top Deals