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Government

Obama Changed Rules Regarding Raw Intelligence, Allowing NSA To Share Raw Data With US's Other 16 Intelligence Agencies (schneier.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Schneier on Security: President Obama has changed the rules regarding raw intelligence, allowing the NSA to share raw data with the U.S.'s other 16 intelligence agencies. The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches. The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people. Here are the new procedures. This rule change has been in the works for a while. Here are two blog posts from April discussing the then-proposed changes.
Chrome

Latest Adobe Acrobat Reader Update Silently Installs Chrome Extension (bleepingcomputer.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: The latest Adobe Acrobat Reader security update (15.023.20053), besides delivering security updates, also secretly installs the Adobe Acrobat extension in the user's Chrome browser. There is no mention of this "special package" on Acrobat's changelog, and surprise-surprise, the extension comes with anonymous data collection turned on by default. Bleeping Computer reports: "This extension allows users to save any web page they're on as a PDF file and share it or download it to disk. The extension is also Windows-only, meaning Mac and Linux Chrome users will not receive it. The extension requests the following permissions: Read and change all your data on the websites you visit; Manage your downloads; Communicate with cooperating native applications. According to Adobe, extension users 'share information with Adobe about how [they] use the application. The information is anonymous and will help us improve product quality and features,' Adobe also says. 'Since no personally identifiable information is collected, the anonymous data will not be meaningful to anyone outside of Adobe.'"

Submission + - President Obama Signs Legislation Establishing Information Control Agency

stephenmac7 writes: President Obama has recently signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which "authorizes FY2017 appropriations and sets forth policies regarding the military activities of the Department of Defense (DOD), military construction, and the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DOE)." Perhaps more notably, it establishes a new Department of State agency, the Global Engagement Center, that some claim may be the beginning of an Orwellian propaganda agency. Its task is to “understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation aimed at undermining United States national security interests" and support “the development and dissemination of fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at the United States and” its partners and allies. It is also authorized to gather information from intelligence agencies and financially support various groups, apparently of its own choosing, including “civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions.”
Education

What's Happening As The University of California Tries To Outsource IT Jobs To India (pressreader.com) 483

Long-time Slashdot reader Nova Express shares an epic column by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik. It details what's happening now as the University of California tries to outsources dozens of IT jobs -- about 20% of their IT workforce -- by February 28th. Some of the highlights:
  • The CEO of UCSF's Medical Center says he expects their security to be at least as good as it is now, but acknowledges "there are no guarantees."
  • Nine workers have filed a complaint with the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing arguing they're facing discrimination.
  • California Senator Feinstein is already complaining that the university is tapping $8.5 billion in federal funding "to replace Californian IT workers with foreign workers or labor performed abroad."
  • Representative Zoe Lofgren (from a district in Silicon Valley) is arguing that the university "is training software engineers at the same time they're outsourcing their own software engineers. What message are they sending their own students?"
  • 57-year-old sys-admin Kurt Ho says his replacement spent just two days with him, then "told me he would go back to India and train his team, and would be sending me emails with questions."
  • The university's actions will ultimately lower their annual $5.83 billion budget by just 0.1%.

Communications

Norway To Become First Country To Switch Off FM Radio (reuters.com) 303

Norway is set to become the first country to switch off its FM radio network next week, as it takes the unpopular leap to digital technology. Reuters reports: Critics say the government is rushing the move and many people may miss warnings on emergencies that have until now been broadcast via the radio. Of particular concern are the 2 million cars on Norway's roads that are not equipped with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) receivers, they say. Sixty-six percent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 percent in favor and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month. Nevertheless, parliament gave the final go-ahead for the move last month, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more radio channels. By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favor of DAB, which backers say carries less hiss and clearer sound throughout the large nation of 5 million people cut by fjords and mountains. Torvmark said cars were the "biggest challenge" - a good digital adapter for an FM car radio costs 1,500 Norwegian crowns ($174.70), he said. For the same cost, digital radio in Norway allows eight times more radio stations than FM. The current system of parallel FM and digital networks, each of which cost about 250 million crowns ($29 million), saps investments in programs.
Microsoft

Rumors of Cmd's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (microsoft.com) 202

Senior Program Manager at Microsoft has responded to speculations that Command Prompt is going away. He writes: The Cmd shell remains an essential part of Windows, and is used daily by millions of businesses, developers, and IT Pro's around the world. In fact:
1. Much of the automated system that builds and tests Windows itself is a collection of many Cmd scripts that have been created over many years, without which we couldn't build Windows itself!
2. Cmd is one of the most frequently run executables on Windows with a similar number of daily launches as File Explorer, Edge and Internet Explorer!
3. Many of our customers and partners are totally dependent on Cmd, and all its quirks, for their companies" existence!
In short: Cmd is an absolutely vital feature of Windows and, until there's almost nobody running Cmd scripts or tools, Cmd will remain within Windows.

Data Storage

Scientists Turn Memory Chips Into Processors To Speed Up Computing Tasks (sciencedaily.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: A team of international scientists have found a way to make memory chips perform computing tasks, which is traditionally done by computer processors like those made by Intel and Qualcomm. This means data could now be processed in the same spot where it is stored, leading to much faster and thinner mobile devices and computers. This new computing circuit was developed by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) in collaboration with Germany's RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Juelich, one of the largest interdisciplinary research centers in Europe. It is built using state-of-the-art memory chips known as Redox-based resistive switching random access memory (ReRAM). Developed by global chipmakers such as SanDisk and Panasonic, this type of chip is one of the fastest memory modules that will soon be available commercially. However, instead of storing information, NTU Assistant Professor Anupam Chattopadhyay in collaboration with Professor Rainer Waser from RWTH Aachen University and Dr Vikas Rana from Forschungszentrum Juelich showed how ReRAM can also be used to process data. This discovery was published recently in Scientific Reports. By making the memory chip perform computing tasks, space can be saved by eliminating the processor, leading to thinner, smaller and lighter electronics. The discovery could also lead to new design possibilities for consumer electronics and wearable technology.

Submission + - Mozilla Will Support Firefox For XP And Vista Until At Least September 2017

Krystalo writes: Mozilla today announced that it will continue to support Firefox for Windows XP and Windows Vista until September 2017. In March 2017, XP and Vista users will automatically be moved to the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) and in mid-2017 the company will reassess user numbers to announce a final support end date for the two operating systems.

Submission + - How Social Isolation Is Killing Us (nytimes.com) 1

schwit1 writes: Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.

About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. Those without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters.

A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.

Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.

Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.

Submission + - U.S. government begins asking foreign travelers about social media (politico.com)

schwit1 writes: Since Tuesday, foreign travelers arriving in the United States on the visa waiver program have been presented with an “optional” request to “enter information associated with your online presence,” a government official confirmed Thursday. The prompt includes a drop-down menu that lists platforms including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites.

Submission + - Court Rejects Government's Secrecy Claims in EFF's Hemisphere Suit (eff.org)

schwit1 writes: As a result, the federal government must submit roughly 260 pages of previously withheld or heavily redacted records to the court so that it can review them and decide whether to make more information about Hemisphere public.

Hemisphere is a partnership between AT&T and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that allows police almost real-time access to telephone call detail records. The program is both extremely controversial—AT&T requires police to hide its use from the public—and appears to violate our First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Windows

Microsoft Exec Admits They 'Went Too Far' With Aggressive Windows 10 Updates (softpedia.com) 254

It's no secret that Microsoft has been aggressively pushing Windows 10 to users. Over the past year and a half, we have seen users complain about Windows 10 automatically getting downloaded to their computer, and in some cases, getting installed on its own as well. The automatic download irked many users who were on limited or slow data plans, or didn't want to spend gigabytes of data on Windows 10. A company executive has admitted for the first time that they may have went overboard with Windows 10 updates. From a report on Softpedia: Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, said in the latest edition of the Windows Weekly that this was the moment when the company indeed went too far, pointing out that the two weeks between the moment when users started complaining about the unexpected behavior and the one when a patch was released were "very painful." "We know we want people to be running Windows 10 from a security perspective, but finding the right balance where you're not stepping over the line of being too aggressive is something we tried and for a lot of the year I think we got it right, but there was one particular moment in particular where, you know, the red X in the dialog box which typically means you cancel didn't mean cancel," he said. "And within a couple of hours of that hitting the world, with the listening systems we have we knew that we had gone too far and then, of course, it takes some time to roll out the update that changes that behavior. And those two weeks were pretty painful and clearly a lowlight for us. We learned a lot from it obviously."

Submission + - Russians Used Malware On Android Devices to Track and Target Ukraine Artillery (reuters.com)

schwit1 writes: The malware was able to retrieve communications and some locational data from infected devices, intelligence that would have likely been used to strike against the artillery in support of pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, the report from cyber security firm CrowdStrike foundThe hacking group, known commonly as Fancy Bear or APT 28, is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to work primarily on behalf of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.

        The implant leveraged a legitimate Android application developed by a Ukrainian artillery officer to process targeting data more quickly, CrowdStrike said.

        Its deployment “extends Russian cyber capabilities to the front lines of the battlefield”, the report said, and “could have facilitated anticipatory awareness of Ukrainian artillery force troop movement, thus providing Russian forces with useful strategic planning information”.

Government

Congressional Report Claims Snowden In 'Contact With Russian Intelligence' (cnn.com) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Edward Snowden has been in contact with Russian intelligence officials since arriving in Russia in 2013, according to a new report from Congress. "Since Snowden's arrival in Moscow, he has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services," the 33-page report, issued Thursday by the bipartisan House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media, settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted asylum to Snowden shortly thereafter. Large portions of the pertinent section, entitled "foreign influence," are redacted, but one paragraph reveals the Russian link, saying that Frants Klintsevich, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's defense and security committee, "publicly conceded that 'Snowden did share intelligence' with his government." Snowden immediately took to Twitter following the report's release to dispute the accusations, writing "they claim without evidence that I'm in cahoots with the Russians." The report cites classified material in the section linking Snowden to Russian intelligence. The investigation also noted that Snowden left encrypted hard drives containing classified information in Hong Kong and that the CIA had refused to grant Snowden access to sensitive information years before he began working with the NSA, documenting numerous issues that Snowden had with supervisors and co-wokers during his various jobs in the intelligence community.

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