United States

DoD Ditches Open Source Medical Records System In $4.3B Contract 7 7

dmr001 writes: The US Department of Defense opted not to use the Department of Veterans Affairs' open source VistA electronic health record system in its project to overhaul its legacy systems, instead opting for a consortium of Cerner, Leidos and Accenture. The initial $4.3 billion implementation is expected to be the first part of a $9 billion dollar project. The Under Secretary for Acquisition stated they wanted a system with minimum modifications and interoperability with private sector systems, though much of what passes for inter-vendor operability in the marketplace is more aspirational than operable. The DoD aims to start implementation at 8 sites in the Pacific Northwest by the end of 2016, noting that "legacy systems are eating us alive in terms of support and maintenance," consuming 95% of the Military Health Systems IT budget.
China

China To Impose Export Control On High Tech Drones and Supercomputers 24 24

hackingbear writes: Following similar hi-tect export restriction policies in the U.S. (or perhaps in response to the U.S. ban on China,) China will impose export control on some drones and high performance computers starting on August 15th, according to an announcement published on Friday by China's Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs. The ban includes (official documents in Chinese) drone that can take off in wind speed exceeding 46.4km/hour or can continuously fly for over 1 hour as well as electronic components specifically designed or modified for supercomputers with speed over 8 petaflops. Companies must acquire specific permits before exporting such items. Drones and supercomputers are the two areas where China is the leader or among the top players. China is using its rapidly expanding defense budget to make impressive advances in (military) drone technology, prompting some to worry that the United States' global dominance in the market could soon be challenged. The tightening of regulations comes two weeks after an incident in disputed Kashmir in which the Pakistani army claimed to have shot down an Indian "spy drone", reportedly Chinese-made. China's 33-petaflops Tianhe-2, currently the fastest supercomputer in the world, while still using Intel Xeon processors, makes use of the home-grown interconnect, arguably the most important component of modern supercomputers.
Communications

Questioning the Dispute Over Key Escrow 81 81

Nicola Hahn writes: The topic of key escrow encryption has once again taken center stage as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has spoken out against key escrow both at this year's Aspen Security Forum and in an op-ed published recently by the Washington Post. However, the debate over cryptographic back doors has a glaring blind spot. As the trove of leaks from Hacking Team highlights, most back doors are implemented using zero-day exploits. Keep in mind that the Snowden documents reveal cooperation across the tech industry, on behalf of the NSA, to make products that were "exploitable." Hence, there are people who suggest the whole discussion over key escrow includes an element of theater. Is it, among other things, a public relations gambit, in the wake of the PRISM scandal, intended to cast Silicon Valley companies as defenders of privacy?
ISS

Video Urthecast Brings You Earth Images and Videos from the ISS (Video) 16 16

Most of us probably won't ever visit the International Space Station (ISS) and look down at the Earth (motto: "The only planet we know has beer, so let's not ruin it"). Looking at pictures and videos made by cameras mounted on the ISS is about as close as we're going to get. There's already an ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment on Ustream, but Urthecast is putting out higher-definition images than what you see on Ustream, and has plans to put out even clearer images and video before long. While Urthecast is likely to accumulate plenty of "oohs" and "aahhs" as it rolls along, according to CEO Scott Larson their real objective is to sell imagery -- and not necessarily just from the visible light band of the overall spectrum -- to industrial and government users. People like us are still invited to look at (and marvel at) lovely images of our planetary home.

NOTE: Today's video is about 4:30 long. If you want to watch and listen to more of Mr. Larson, we have a second "bonus" (Flash) video for you. Or you can read the transcript, which covers both videos.
United States

Germany Won't Prosecute NSA, But Bloggers 104 104

tmk writes: Despite plenty of evidence that the U.S. spied on German top government officials, German Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range has declined to investigate any wrongdoings of the secret services of allied nations like the NSA or the British GCHQ. But after plans of the German secret service "Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz" to gain some cyper spy capabilities like the NSA were revealed by the blog netzpolitik.org, Hange started an official investigation against the bloggers and their sources. They are now being probed for possible treason charges.
Piracy

Interviews: Kim Dotcom Answers Your Questions 88 88

Kim Dotcom was the founder of Megaupload, its successor Mega, and New Zealand's Internet Party. A while ago you had a chance to ask him about those things as well as the U.S. government charging him with criminal copyright violation and racketeering. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
Power

Britain Shuts Off 750,000 Streetlights With No Impact On Crime Or Crashes 293 293

Flash Modin writes: English cities are hard up for cash as the national government dolls out cuts. And in response, the country's councils — local governing bodies — have slashed costs by turning off an estimated 750,000 streetlights. Fans of the night sky and reduced energy usage are happy, but the move has also sparked a national debate. The Automobile Association claims six people have died as a direct result of dimming the lights. But a new study released Wednesday looked at 14 years of data from 63 local authorities across England and Wales and found that residents' chances of being attacked, robbed, or struck by a car were no worse on the darker streets.
China

What Federal Employees Really Need To Worry About After the Chinese Hack 122 122

HughPickens.com writes: Lisa Rein writes in the Washington Post that a new government review of what the Chinese hack of sensitive security clearance files of 21 million people means for national security is in — and some of the implications are quite grave. According to the Congressional Research Service, covert intelligence officers and their operations could be exposed and high-resolution fingerprints could be copied by criminals. Some suspect that the Chinese government may build a database of U.S. government employees that could help identify U.S. officials and their roles or that could help target individuals to gain access to additional systems or information. National security concerns include whether hackers could have obtained information that could help them identify clandestine and covert officers and operations (PDF).

CRS says that if the fingerprints in the background investigation files are of high enough quality, "depending on whose hands the fingerprints come into, they could be used for criminal or counterintelligence purposes." Fingerprints also could be trafficked on the black market for profit — or used to blow the covers of spies and other covert and clandestine officers, the research service found. And if they're compromised, fingerprints can't be reissued like a new credit card, the report says, making "recovery from the breach more challenging for some."
vivaoporto Also points out that these same hackers are believed to be responsible for hacking United Airlines.
Government

Two Years Later, White House Responds To 'Pardon Edward Snowden' Petition 592 592

An anonymous reader writes: In June of 2013, a petition was posted to Whitehouse.gov demanding that Edward Snowden receive a full pardon for his leaks about the NSA and U.S. surveillance practices. The petition swiftly passed 100,000 signatures — the point at which the White House said it would officially respond to such petitions. For two years, the administration was silent, but now they've finally responded. In short: No, Edward Snowden won't be receiving a pardon.

Lisa Monaco, the President's Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said, "Mr. Snowden's dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it. If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions."
Transportation

Fiat Chrysler Hit With Record $105 Million Fine Over Botched Recalls 83 83

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has levied a record fine against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to punish them for failing to adequately recall and fix defective cars. (If Fiat sounds familiar, it's the same company that issued a 1.4 million-vehicle recall on Friday over a remote hack.) The NHTSA's $105 million fine is half-again as much as the next biggest fine (given to Honda last year over faulty airbags). Fiat Chrysler "admitted to violating federal rules requiring timely recalls and notifications to vehicle owners, dealers and regulators." The company will be forced to buy back hundreds of thousands of vehicles (at the owners' discretion, of course) that have problems with the suspension that could lead to a loss of control. A million more Jeep owners will be given a chance to trade in their vehicle at a higher rate than market value because of rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to catching fire.
United States

Modernizing the Copyright Office 49 49

An anonymous reader writes: Joshua Simmons has written a new article discussing the growing consensus that it is time to modernize the Copyright Office. It reviews the developments that led to the last major revision of the Copyright Act; discusses Congress's focus since 1976 on narrower copyright bills, rather than a wholesale revision of U.S. copyright law, and the developments that have led to the review hearings; and considers the growing focus on Copyright Office modernization.
Google

Plan To Run Anti-Google Smear Campaign Revealed In MPAA Emails 256 256

vivaoporto writes: Techdirt reports on a plan to run an anti-Google smear campaign via the Today Show and the WSJ discovered in MPAA emails. Despite the resistance of the Hollywood studios to comply with the subpoenas obtained by Google concerning their relationship with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (whose investigation of the company appeared to actually be run by the MPAA and the studios themselves) one of the few emails that Google have been able to get access to so far was revealed this Thursday in a filling. It's an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood's top lawyers in the Mississippi AG's office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google.

The lawyers from Hood's office flat out admit that they're expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories. One email reads: "Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed."

As Google notes in its legal filing about this email, the "plan" states that if this effort fails, then the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. This makes it pretty clear that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works.
Education

Senate Passes 'No Microsoft National Talent Strategy Goal Left Behind Act' 132 132

theodp writes: Microsoft is applauding the Senate's passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the move will improve access to K-12 STEM learning nationwide. The legislation elevates Computer Science to a "core academic subject", opening the door to a number of funding opportunities. The major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system, adds Microsoft on the Issues, also "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy," its "two-pronged" plan to increase K-12 CS education and tech immigration. Perhaps Microsoft is tackling the latter goal in under-the-radar White House visits with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, like this one, attended by Microsoft's William "It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway" Kamela and FWD.us President Joe "Save Us From Just-Sort-of-OK US Workers" Green.
Japan

Olympic Organizer Wants To Feed Athletes Fukushima Produce 128 128

New submitter Grady Martin writes: Toshiaki Endo, Japan's government-appointed parliament member in charge of planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has expressed hopes of supplying the Olympic/Paralympic village with foods grown in Fukushima [Google's autotranslation], stating, 'Using foods from Fukushima in the village is another possibility. I wish to strengthen ties with ground zero in numerous ways.' Would you eat it?
Communications

An Interview With Hacking Team's CEO 80 80

Alastair Stevenson writes: I talked to the leader of the world's most hated surveillance company about its path to recovery and morals, following a massive attack on its systems. CEO David Vincenzetti, as you might expect, thinks that his company "deserves the protection of law and order," and disclaims (also as you'd expect) responsibility for what its clients do with the privacy-unraveling software it provides: Law enforcement must have a way to do what it has always done, that is to track criminals and prevent or prosecute crime. With the development of global terrorism and especially the ‘lone wolf’ terrorist, this requirement is even more important. Hacking Team has helped fight crime by providing a surveillance tool to law enforcement. The company believes this is a small step toward a more secure world for all who wish to used the Internet and digital tools lawfully.
The Internet

Secret Service Agents Stake Out the Ugliest Corners of the Internet 169 169

HughPickens.com writes: Josephine Wolff reports at The Atlantic that Secret Service Internet Threat Desk is a group of agents tasked with identifying and assessing online threats to the president and his family. The first part of this mission — finding threats — is in many ways made easier by the Internet: all you have to do is search! Pulling up every tweet which uses the words "Obama" and "assassinate" takes mere seconds, and the Secret Service has tried to make it easier for people to draw threats to its attention by setting up its own Twitter handle, @secretservice, for users to report threatening messages to. The difficulty is trying to figure out which ones should be taken seriously.

The Secret Service categorizes all threats, online and offline alike, into one of three categories. Class 3 threats are considered the most serious, and require agents to interview the individual who issued the threat and any acquaintances to determine whether that person really has the capability to carry out the threat. Class 2 threats are considered to be serious but issued by people incapable of actually follow up on their intentions, either because they are in jail or located at a great distance from the president. And Class 1 threats are those that may seem serious at first, but are determined not to be. The overall number of threats directed at the first family that require investigation has stayed relatively steady at about 10 per day — except for the period when Obama was first elected, when the Secret Service had to follow up on roughly 50 threats per day. "That includes threats on Twitter," says Ronald Kessler, author of In the President's Secret Service. "It makes no difference to [the Secret Service] how a threat is communicated. They can't take that chance of assuming that because it's on Twitter it's less serious."
Government

Don't Bring Your Drone To New Zealand 272 272

NewtonsLaw writes: Personal drones are changing the way some people experience vacations. Instead of toting along a camcorder or a 35mm DSLR, people are starting pack a GoPro and, increasingly, a drone on which to mount it. This is fine if you're going to a drone-friendly country, but be warned that your drone will get you into big trouble in Thailand (where all use of drones by the public is banned outright) and now in New Zealand, where strict new laws regarding the operation of drones (and even tiny toys like the 20g Cheerson CX10) come into effect on August 1.

Under these new rules, nobody can operate a drone or model aircraft without getting the prior consent of the owner over which property it is intended to fly — and (this is the kicker) also the permission of the occupiers of that property. So you can effectively forget about flying down at the local park, at scenic locations or just about any public place. Even if you could manage to get the prior permission of the land-owner, because we're talking "public place," you'd also have to get the permission of anyone and everyone who was also in the area where you intended to fly.

Other countries have produced far more sane regulations — such as limiting drone and RC model operators to flying no closer than 30m from people or buildings — but New Zealand's CAA have gone right over the top and imposed what amounts to a virtual death-sentence on a hobby that has provided endless, safe fun for people of all ages for more than 50 years. Of course if you are prepared to pay a $600 fee to become "Certified" by CAA then the restrictions on where you can fly are lifted and you don't need those permissions.
Communications

Criminal Inquiry Sought Over Hillary Clinton's Personal Email Server 434 434

cold fjord writes: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Inspectors General from the State Department and intelligence agencies have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server while she was U.S. Secretary of State. At issue is the possible mishandling of sensitive government information. Dozens of the emails provided by Hillary Clinton have been retroactively classified as part of the review of her emails as they are screened for public release. So far 3,000 of 55,000 emails have been released. The inspectors general found hundreds of potentially classified emails. "The Justice Department has not decided if it will open an investigation, senior officials said. ... The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations."
Government

France To Reduce Reliance On Nuclear Power 483 483

AmiMoJo writes: French lawmakers have approved a bill to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. The policy was one of President Francois Hollande's campaign pledges. The legislation also includes a target of reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to the level in 1990. The new law aims to eventually halve France's energy consumption by 2050 from the 2012 level. The ambitious goal came in the lead-up to the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris later this year. France will chair the meeting.
United States

"Breaking Bad" At the National Institute of Standards and Technology 98 98

sciencehabit writes: Police are investigating whether an explosion inside a Maryland federal laboratory was the result of an effort to make drugs. Authorities who responded to the explosion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt and other materials associated with the manufacture of meth. Federal and local law enforcement agencies are investigating the cause of the explosion and if a security guard injured in the blast might have been involved. Sciencemag reports: "Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chairman at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, got involved today, expressing grave concern over the incident in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. NIST is part of the Commerce Department. 'I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility. It is essential that we determine exactly where the breakdown in protocol occurred and whether similar activities could be ongoing at other federal facilities,' wrote Smith in an accompanying press release. He has requested a briefing with NIST no later than 29 July."