DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 241

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
China

John McAfee Said Top Executives From the Major Bitcoin Exchanges Weren't Allowed To Leave China (wsj.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report: China's widening crackdown on bitcoin trading resulted in a travel ban of sorts for two executives from the country's largest commercial bitcoin exchanges, which regulators are closing down. From a report: On Thursday, top executives of two Chinese digital currency exchanges who were scheduled to speak at an industry conference in Hong Kong didn't show up and their sessions were canceled. The event's organizer, a bitcoin-trading firm called Bitkan, didn't provide a reason. The two executives were Lin Li, chief executive of Huobi, and Justin Pan, who the event organizer listed as being the chief operating officer of OKCoin. The two-day conference was originally supposed to be held in Beijing but its organizers last week decided to shift the venue to Hong Kong after Chinese regulators earlier this month ordered digital-currency exchanges to wind down their operations. Software pioneer and former fugitive John McAfee -- a high-profile but controversial character in the bitcoin industry -- told conference attendees on Wednesday that top executives from the major bitcoin exchanges are currently not allowed to leave China.
Microsoft

Bill Gates Says He's Sorry About Control-Alt-Delete (qz.com) 314

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum today, Carlyle Group co-founder and CEO David Rubenstein asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates to account for one of the most baffling questions of the digital era: Why does it take three fingers to lock or log in to a PC, and why did Gates ever think that was a good idea? Grimacing slightly, Gates deflected responsibility for the crtl-alt-delete key command, saying, "clearly, the people involved should have put another key on to make that work." Rubenstein pressed him: does he regret the decision? "You can't go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk," Gates said. But: "Sure. If I could make one small edit I would make that a single key operation." Gates has made the confession before. In 2013, he blamed IBM for the issue, saying, "The guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button."
Privacy

Popular Steam Extension 'Inventory Helper' Spies On Users, Says Report (windowsreport.com) 66

SmartAboutThings shares a report from Windows Report: If you installed the "Steam Inventory Helper" on your computer, you may want to uninstall it as soon as possible. Recent reports suggest that this extension used to buy and sell digital goods on Steam is spying on its users. Redditor Wartab made a thorough analysis of the tool and reached the following conclusions: The spyware code tracks your every move starting from the moment you visit a website until you leave. It also tracks where you are coming from on the site; Steam Inventory Helper tracks your clicks, including when you are moving your mouse and when you are having focus in an input; When you click a link, it sends the link URL to a background script; Fortunately, the code does not monitor what you type. Apparently, the purpose of this spyware is to collect data about gamers for promotional purposes.
The Courts

Pepe the Frog's Creator Is Sending Takedown Notices To Far-Right Sites (vice.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie has made good on his threat to "aggressively enforce his intellectual property." The artist's lawyers have taken legal action against the alt-right. They have served cease and desist orders to several alt-right personalities and websites including Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, and the r/the_Donald subreddit. In addition, they have issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to Reddit and Amazon, notifying them that use of Pepe by the alt-right on their platforms is copyright infringement. The message is to the alt-right is clear -- stop using Pepe the Frog or prepare for legal consequences. Furie originally created Pepe as a non-political character for his Boy's Club comic, but Pepe later became an internet meme and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election the alt-right movement appropriated the frog in various grotesque and hateful memes.
China

China Orders Bitcoin Exchanges In Capital City To Close (bbc.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities. All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September. The move follows the Chinese central bank's decision to ban initial coin offerings in early September. Top exchange BTCC said it would stop trading at the end of the month. Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks. All exchanges are required to send regulators a detailed "risk-free" plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September. The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities. Shareholders, controllers, executives, and core financial and technical staff of exchanges are also required to remain in Beijing during the shutdown and to co-operate fully with authorities.
Privacy

In a 'Plot Twist', Wikileaks Releases Documents It Claims Detail Russia Mass Surveillance Apparatus (techcrunch.com) 166

WikiLeaks, believed by many to be a Kremlin front, surprised some observers Tuesday morning (Snowden called it a "plot twist") when it released documents linking a Russian tech company with access to thousands of citizens' telephone and internet communications with Moscow. From a report: Writing a summary of the cache of mostly Russian-language documents, Wikileaks claims they show how a long-established Russian company which supplies software to telcos is also installing infrastructure, under state mandate, that enables Russian state agencies to tap into, search and spy on citizens' digital activity -- suggesting a similar state-funded mass surveillance program to the one utilized by the U.S.'s NSA or by GCHQ in the U.K. (both of which were detailed in the 2013 Snowden disclosures). The documents which Wikileaks has published (there are just 34 "base documents" in this leak) relate to a St. Petersburg-based company, called Peter-Service, which it claims is a contractor for Russian state surveillance. The company was set up in 1992 to provide billing solutions before going on to become a major supplier of software to the mobile telecoms industry.
Security

Avast's CCleaner Free Windows Application Infected With Malware (bleepingcomputer.com) 156

Reader Tinfoil writes: Cisco Talos announces that malware cleaning app, CCleaner, has been infected with malware for the past month. Version 5.33 of the CCleaner app offered for download between August 15 and September 12 was modified to include the Floxif malware, according to a report published by Cisco Talos a few minutes ago. Cisco Talos believes that a threat actor might have compromised Avast's supply chain and used its digital certificate to replace the legitimate CCleaner v5.33 app on its website with one that also contained the Floxif trojan. The company said more 2.27 million had downloaded the compromised version of CCleaner.
Privacy

Illinois Tests A Blockchain-Based Birth Registry/ID System (illinoisblockchain.tech) 151

An anonymous reader quotes Government Technology: The state of Illinois, which has six blockchain pilots underway, will partner with Utah-based Evernym for a birth registry pilot meant to individualize and secure identities... The endeavor, one of six distinct blockchain explorations Illinois began last summer with a working group, is expected to utilize the Sovrin Foundation's publicly available distributed identity ledger and expand upon accomplishments of the W3C Verifiable Claims Task Force, the state said... Recognizing that identity -- and, now, digital identity -- begin at birth, the state will explore using these technologies to create "a secure 'self-sovereign' identity for Illinois citizens during the birth registration process," it said in the announcement.
More from the Illinois Blockchain Initiative site: Self-sovereign identity refers to a digital identity that remains entirely under the individual's control. A self-sovereign identity can be efficiently and securely validated by entities who require it, free from reliance on a centralized repository. Jennifer O'Rourke, Blockchain Business Liaison for the Illinois Blockchain Initiative commented, "To structurally address the many issues surrounding digital identity, we felt it was important to develop a framework that examines identity from its inception at child birth... Identity is not only foundational to nearly every government service, but is the basis for trust and legitimacy in the public sector."

In the proposed framework, government agencies will verify birth registration information and then cryptographically sign identity attributes such as legal name, date of birth, sex or blood type, creating what are called "verifiable claims" or attributes. Permission to view or share each of these government-verified claims is stored on the tamper-proof distributed ledger protocol in the form of a decentralized identifier... This minimizes the need for entities to establish, maintain and rely upon their own proprietary databases of identity information.

Evernym's "Chief Trust Officer" sees the program as "a major contribution to the larger effort of solving the online identity problem."
Businesses

Is Online Advertising Worthless? (zerohedge.com) 289

turkeydance shares a story from ZeroHedge: Category 1 storm clouds are gathering over what has traditionally been one of the most lucrative, and perhaps only profitable, sectors to come out of Silicon Valley in decades: online advertising. Two months ago, it was P&G which fired the first shot across the "adtech" bow when not long after it announced it was slashing its digital ad spending because it thought it was not getting the kind of return on investment it desired, it made a striking discovery: "We didn't see a reduction in the growth rate." CFO Jon Moeller said "What that tells me is that that spending that we cut was largely ineffective"...

So fast forward to last week, when during Thursday's Global Retailing Conference organized by Goldman Sachs, Restoration Hardware delightfully colorful CEO, Gary Friedman, divulged the following striking anecdote about the company's online marketing strategy, and the state of online ad spending in general... What Friedman revealed - in brief - was the following: "we've found out that 98% of our business was coming from 22 words. So, wait, we're buying 3,200 words and 98% of the business is coming from 22 words. What are the 22 words? And they said, well, it's the word Restoration Hardware and the 21 ways to spell it wrong, okay?"

Stated simply, the vast, vast majority of online ad spending is wasted, chasing clicks that simply are not there....One wonders how long before all retailers - most of whom are notoriously strapped for revenues and profits courtesy of Amazon - and other "power users" of online advertising, do a similar back of the envelope analysis, and find that they, like RH, are getting a bang for only 2% of their buck?

Networking

Scientists Explore A Light Bulb-Based Based 10Gbps Li-Fi/5G Home Network (ispreview.co.uk) 12

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at Brunel University in London have begun to develop a new 10 Gbps home wireless network using both Li-Fi (light fidelity) and 5G based mmWave technology, which will fit inside LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs on your ceiling.

In simple terms, the Visible Light Communication (VLC) based Li-Fi technology works by flicking a LED light off and on thousands of times a second (by altering the length of the flickers you can introduce digital communications).

The article says it'd be more energy efficient (and faster) than a standard Wi-Fi network -- though both technologies have trouble penetrating walls, so "you'd have to buy lots of pricey new bulbs in order to cover your home..."

"It's probably not something that an ordinary home owner would want to install; unless you're happy with running lots of optical fibre cable around your various light fittings."
Youtube

PewDiePie Is Inexcusable But DMCA Takedowns Are Not the Way To Fight Him (vice.com) 506

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the most popular YouTuber in the world. He's gotten himself into another controversy, this time for shouting the n-word while livestreaming a video game. The 27-year-old Swede has repeatedly been criticized for hate speech, and just last month said he would no longer make Nazi jokes after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. But while playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on Sunday, Kjellberg, who has over 57 million subscribers on YouTube, called another player the n-word before erupting into laughter. "What a fucking n****r," he said. "Jeez, oh my god. What the fuck? Sorry, but what the fuck? What a fucking asshole. I don't mean that in a bad way." Kjellberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and has yet to publicly acknowledge the incident.

In response to Kjellberg's use of a racial slur, a number of video game players and developers have condemned the creator. Sean Vanaman, the co-founder of video game company Campo Santo, decided to use copyright law to push back against Kjellberg. On Twitter, he said he was filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request against the famous YouTuber regarding a video in which Kjellberg plays Campo Santo's game Firewatch. There are compelling reasons to [remove hate speech from major internet platforms] by any means necessary, but DMCA overreach is among the least compelling options, considering that it unilaterally puts power into the hands of what are essentially uninvolved parties and allows for little arbitration or defense on the part of those who have their content removed.

AI

South Park's Season Premier Sets Off Everyone's Amazon Echo (maxim.com) 290

SonicSpike writes: It's hard to believe that Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't know exactly what they were doing with Wednesday night's season premiere of South Park. This episode marked the beginning of the show's 21st season and as usual, South Park took on current issues like tiki torch-wielding white supremacists and... home digital assistants. The latter meant lots of gags in which Cartman and other characters addressed Amazon Echo's Alexa and Google Home as well. And that ended up being a problem for viewers who own those devices. (Editor's note: example 1, 2) South Park writers absolutely knew their lines would do this and probably had a hilarious time coming up with funny commands for the home assistants.
Safari

Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser (adweek.com) 442

The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will "sabotage" the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari. Marty Swant, reporting for AdWeek: Six trade groups -- the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A's and two others -- say they're "deeply concerned" with Apple's plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called "Intelligent Tracking Prevention," limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting. In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as "opaque and arbitrary," warning that the changes could affect the "infrastructure of the modern internet," which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more "generic and less timely and useful."
Movies

Disney Is Lone Holdout From Apple's Plan to Sell 4K Movies for $20 (wsj.com) 148

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple has signed new deals to sell movies in ultra high-definition with every major Hollywood studio except the one with which it has long been closest: Walt Disney. At an event Tuesday where he announced the new Apple TV 4K, the tech giant's head of software and services, Eddy Cue, said the device will offer Hollywood movies in the high-resolution format, called either 4K or UHD, for ultra-high definition. Logos for most major studios briefly flashed on a screen behind Mr. Cue, including Time Warner's Warner Bros and Comcast's Universal Pictures. Mr. Cue said those studios' movies will be available in UHD at the same price as high-definition movies. Participating studios have agreed to a maximum price of $19.99 for 4K movies, currently the highest price for HD movies, according to a person with knowledge of the deal making. Apple had pushed studios not to raise film prices above that threshold. The one absence from Apple's list of big studios selling movies in UHD is Disney. It wasn't immediately clear why the company behind Star Wars and Marvel couldn't reach an arrangement with Apple. It currently sells its films in 4K on other digital stores, such as Wal-Mart Stores' Vudu, for $24.99.
Bitcoin

North Korea Is Dodging Sanctions With a Secret Bitcoin Stash (bloomberg.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: North Korea appears to be stepping up efforts to secure bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which could be used to avoid trade restrictions including new sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council. Hackers from Kim Jong Un's regime are increasing their attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea and related sites, according to a new report from security researcher FireEye Inc. They also breached an English-language bitcoin news website and collected bitcoin ransom payments from global victims of the malware WannaCry, according to the researcher. Kim's apparent interest in cryptocurrencies comes amid rising prices and popularity. The same factors that have driven their success -- lack of state control and secretiveness -- would make them useful fund raising and money laundering tools for a man threatening to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. With tightening sanctions and usage of cryptocurrencies broadening, security experts say North Korea's embrace of digital cash will only increase. The 15-member Security Council on Monday approved sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea for its latest missile and nuclear tests. U.S. officials said the new measures would cut the country's textile exports by 90 percent, restricting its ability to get hard currency.
Botnet

At Least 1.65 Million Computers Are Mining Cryptocurrency For Hackers So Far This Year (vice.com) 37

According to new statistics released on Tuesday by Kaspersky Lab, a prominent Russian information security firm, 2017 is on track to beat 2016 -- and every year since 2011 -- in terms of the sheer number of computers infected with malware that installs mining software. From a report: So far in 2017, the company says it has detected 1.65 million infected machines. The total amount of infected computers for all of the previous year was roughly 1.8 million. The infected machines are not just home computers, the firm stated in a blog post, but company servers as well. "The main effect for a home computer or organization infrastructure is reduced system performance," Anton Ivanov, a security researcher for Kaspersky, wrote me in an email. "Also some miners could download modules from a threat actor's infrastructure, and these modules could contain other malware such as Trojans [malware that disguises itself as legitimate software]." Ivanov said that the firm doesn't know how much money has been made overall with this scheme, but a digital wallet for one mining botnet that the company identified currently contains over $200,000 USD.
China

Bitcoin Price Falls Again On Reports that China is Shutting Down Local Exchanges (cnbc.com) 115

China's clampdown on cryptocurrencies has reportedly taken a new direction -- to close down local bitcoin exchanges. From a report: Initial reports from Chinese media that the government plans to close down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges have seen the virtual coin shed more than $100 since Friday. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal also reported Monday that that the country is planning to shut down digital currency exchanges. Bitcoin sunk to a low of $4,241 in late trading in the U.K. Friday, and reached a low of $4,108 on Monday, according to Coindesk data. It climbed to a record high of $5,000 dollars a little over a week ago, and has shot up by nearly 350 percent since the start of the year. The latest reported crackdown follows a decision by Chinese regulators -- including the People's Bank of China (PBOC) -- to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs). ICOs are a means of raising funds by selling off new digital tokens. A crackdown on ICOs would not affect the original cryptocurrency directly, but bitcoin still dropped more than $1,000 over a period of three days. China's latest move to shut down local exchanges would mark a new direction for the country in its efforts to regulate the market.
Security

Equifax Breach Provokes Calls For Serious Data Protection Reforms (wired.com) 193

Equifax's data breach was colossal -- but what should happen next? The Guardian writes: The problem is that companies like Equifax are able to accumulate -- essentially, without limit -- as much sensitive, personal data as they can get their hands on. There is an urgent need for strict regulations on what types of data companies can collect and how much data a company can possess, both in aggregate and about individuals. At the very least, this will lessen the severity and size of (inevitable) data breaches... Without putting hard limits on the data capitalists who extract and exploit our personal information, they will continue to reap the benefit while we bear the risks.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, adds, "we need to penalize companies that collect SSNs but can't protect [them]." Wired reports: Experts across numerous privacy and security fields agree that the solution to the over-collection and over-use of SSNs isn't one particular replacement, but a diverse array of authentications like individual codes (similar to passwords), biometrics, and even physical tokens to create more variation in the ID process. Some also argue that the government likely won't be the driving force behind the shift. "We have a government that works at a glacial pace in the best of times," says Brenda Sharton, who chairs the Privacy & Cybersecurity practice at the Goodwin law firm, which has worked on data privacy breach investigations since the early 2000s. "There will reach a point where SSN [exposure] becomes untenable. And it may push us in the direction of having companies require multi-factor authentication."
Meanwhile TechCrunch argues, "This crass, callow, and lazy treatment of our digital data cannot stand...": We must create new, secure methods for cryptographically securing our data... These old organizations -- Equifax was founded in 1899 and hasn't changed much since inception -- must die, to be replaced by solutions that (and I shudder to say this) are blockchain-based.
Music

Can Blockchain Save The Music Industry? (wired.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes Wired: Last fall, a group of music industry heavyweights gathered in New York City to do something they'd mostly failed to do up to that point: work together. Representatives from major labels like Universal, Sony, and Warner sat next to technologists from companies like Spotify, YouTube, and Ideo and discussed the collective issues threatening their industry... The participants of that confab would later form a group called the Open Music Initiative... "Pretty early on it was obvious that there's an information gap in the industry," says Erik Beijnoff, a product developer at Spotify and a member of the OMI.

That "information gap" refers to the data around who helped create a song. Publishers might keep track of who wrote the underlying composition of a song, or the session drummer on a recording, but that information doesn't always show up in a digital file's metadata. This disconnect between the person who composed a song, the person who recorded it, and the subsequent plays, has led to problems like writers and artists not getting paid for their work, and publishers suing streaming companies as they struggle to identify who is owed royalties. "It's a simple question of attribution," says Berklee College of Music's vice president of innovation and strategy, Panos A. Panay. "And payments follow attribution."

Over the last year, members of the OMI -- almost 200 organizations in total -- have worked to develop just that. As a first step, they've created an API that companies can voluntarily build into their systems to help identify key data points like the names of musicians and composers, plus how many times and where tracks are played. This information is then stored on a decentralized database using blockchain technology -- which means no one owns the information, but everyone can access it.

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