United States

Trump's Meeting With The Video Game Industry To Talk Gun Violence Could Get Ugly (washingtonpost.com) 498

Anonymous readers share a report: President Trump is set to pit the video game industry against some of its harshest critics at a White House meeting on Thursday that's designed to explore the link between violent games [Editor's note: the Washington Post article may be paywalled], guns and tragedies such as last month's shooting in Parkland, Fla. Following the attack at Marjory Stoneman High School, which left 17 students dead, Trump has said violent games are "shaping young people's thoughts." The president has proposed that "we have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it." Trump has invited video game executives like Robert Altman, the CEO of ZeniMax, the parent company for games such as Fallout; Strauss Zelnick, the chief executive of Take Two Interactive, which is known for Grand Theft Auto, and Michael Gallagher, the leader of the Entertainment Software Association, a Washington-focused lobbying organization for the industry.

Three people familiar with the White House's planning, but not authorized to speak on the record, confirmed those invitees. A spokeswoman for the White House declined to share a full list of participants on Wednesday. ESA confirmed its attendance this week, but the others did not respond to questions. Opposite of them are expected to be some of the video-game industry's toughest critics, including Brent Bozell, the founder of the Parents Television Council, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, the three people said. After another shooting -- the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. -- they each called on government to focus its attention on violent media rather than just pursuing new gun restrictions.


Amazon Launches a Low-Cost Version of Prime For Medicaid Recipients (techcrunch.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Amazon announced this morning it will offer a low-cost version of its Prime membership program to qualifying recipients of Medicaid. The program will bring the cost of Prime down from the usual $12.99 per month to about half that, at $5.99 per month, while still offering the full range of Prime perks, including free, two-day shipping on millions of products, Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Photos, Prime Reading, Prime Now, Audible Channels, and more. The new program is an expansion on Amazon's discounted Prime service for customers on government assistance, launched in June 2017. For the same price of $5.99 per month, Amazon offers Prime memberships to any U.S. customer with a valid EBT card -- the card that's used to disburse funds for assistance programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). Now that same benefit is arriving for recipients of Medicaid, the public assistance program providing medical coverage to low-income Americans. To qualify for the discount, customers must have a valid EBT or Medicaid card, the retailer says.

California Becomes 18th State To Consider Right To Repair Legislation (vice.com) 96

Jason Koebler shares a report from Motherboard: The right to repair battle has come to Silicon Valley's home state: Wednesday, a state assembly member announced that California would become the 18th state in the country to consider legislation that would make it easier to repair your electronics. "The Right to Repair Act will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice, a practice that was taken for granted a generation ago but is now becoming increasingly rare in a world of planned obsolescence," Susan Talamantes Engman, a Democrat from Stockton who introduced the bill, said in a statement. The announcement had been rumored for about a week but became official Wednesday. The bill would require electronics manufacturers to make repair guides and repair parts available to the public and independent repair professionals and would also would make diagnostic software and tools that are available to authorized and first-party repair technicians available to independent companies.

FBI Again Calls For Magical Solution To Break Into Encrypted Phones (arstechnica.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: FBI Director Christopher Wray again has called for a solution to what the bureau calls the "Going Dark" problem, the idea that the prevalence of default strong encryption on digital devices makes it more difficult for law enforcement to extract data during an investigation. However, in a Wednesday speech at Boston College, Wray again did not outline any specific piece of legislation or technical solution that would provide both strong encryption and allow the government to access encrypted devices when it has a warrant. A key escrow system, with which the FBI or another entity would be able to unlock a device given a certain set of circumstances, is by definition weaker than what cryptographers would traditionally call "strong encryption." There's also the problem of how to compel device and software makers to impose such a system on their customers -- similar efforts were attempted during the Clinton administration, but they failed. A consensus of technical experts has said that what the FBI has asked for is impossible. "I recognize this entails varying degrees of innovation by the industry to ensure lawful access is available," Wray said Wednesday. "But I just don't buy the claim that it's impossible. Let me be clear: the FBI supports information security measures, including strong encryption. Actually, the FBI is on the front line fighting cyber crime and economic espionage. But information security programs need to be thoughtfully designed so they don't undermine the lawful tools we need to keep the American people safe."

Leaked Files Show How the NSA Tracks Other Countries' Hackers (theintercept.com) 66

An analysis of leaked tools believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) gives us a glimpse into the methods used by the organization to detect the presence of other state-sponsored actors on hacked devices, and it could also help the cybersecurity community discover previously unknown threats. The Intercept: When the mysterious entity known as the "Shadow Brokers" released a tranche of stolen NSA hacking tools to the internet a year ago, most experts who studied the material honed in on the most potent tools, so-called zero-day exploits that could be used to install malware and take over machines. But a group of Hungarian security researchers spotted something else in the data, a collection of scripts and scanning tools the National Security Agency uses to detect other nation-state hackers on the machines it infects. It turns out those scripts and tools are just as interesting as the exploits. They show that in 2013 -- the year the NSA tools were believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers -- the agency was tracking at least 45 different nation-state operations, known in the security community as Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs. Some of these appear to be operations known by the broader security community -- but some may be threat actors and operations currently unknown to researchers.

The scripts and scanning tools dumped by Shadow Brokers and studied by the Hungarians were created by an NSA team known as Territorial Dispute, or TeDi. Intelligence sources told The Intercept the NSA established the team after hackers, believed to be from China, stole designs for the military's Joint Strike Fighter plane, along with other sensitive data, from U.S. defense contractors in 2007; the team was supposed to detect and counter sophisticated nation-state attackers more quickly, when they first began to emerge online. "As opposed to the U.S. only finding out in five years that everything was stolen, their goal was to try to figure out when it was being stolen in real time," one intelligence source told The Intercept. But their mission evolved to also provide situational awareness for NSA hackers to help them know when other nation-state actors are in machines they're trying to hack.


Sri Lanka Blocks Facebook, Instagram To Prevent Spread of Hate Speech (lankabusinessonline.com) 123

Sri Lanka has blocked social media websites Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to avoid the spread of hate speech in the country, local media reported on Wednesday. From the report: Even though there is no official confirmation from the authorities, the Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne on Wednesday said the government has decided to block access to certain social media. Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC) has started to monitor all social media platforms to curb hate speech related to communal riots escalated in Kandy district. Telecommunication service providers (ISPs) have also restricted internet access in Kandy district on the instructions of the TRC.
United States

US Calls Broadcom's Bid For Qualcomm a National Security Risk (nytimes.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The United States government said Broadcom's proposed acquisition of rival chipmaker Qualcomm could pose a national security risk and called for a full investigation into the hostile bid. The move complicates an already contentious deal and increases the likelihood that Broadcom, which is based in Singapore, will end its pursuit of Qualcomm. Such an investigation is often a death knell for a corporate acquisition. A government panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, noted, in part, that the potential risk was related to Broadcom's relationships with foreign entities, according to a letter from a United States Treasury official. It also said that the deal could weaken "Qualcomm's technological leadership," giving an edge to Chinese companies like Huawei. "China would likely compete robustly to fill any void left by Qualcomm as a result of this hostile takeover," the official said in the letter. The letter and the public call for an investigation reflects a newly aggressive stance by Cfius. In most cases, the panel operates in secret and weighs in after a deal is announced. In this instance, Cfius, which is made up of representatives from multiple federal agencies, is taking a proactive role and investigating before an acquisition agreement has even been signed.

Google Is Helping the Pentagon Build AI for Drones (gizmodo.com) 95

Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google's involvement, Gizmodo reported on Tuesday. From the report: Google's pilot project with the Defense Department's Project Maven, an effort to identify objects in drone footage, has not been previously reported, but it was discussed widely within the company last week when information about the project was shared on an internal mailing list, according to sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the project. Some Google employees were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations, sources said, while others argued that the project raised important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning.

Microsoft To Offer Governments Local Version of Azure Cloud Service (reuters.com) 28

Microsoft on Monday said it will soon make it possible for government clients to run its cloud technology on their own servers as part of a concerted effort to make Azure more appealing to local and federal agencies. From a report: The pairing of Azure Stack, Microsoft's localized cloud product, and Azure Government, the government-tailored version of Microsoft's cloud, comes as competition against Amazon.com Inc for major clients in the public sector ramps up. The new offering, which will be made available in mid-2018, is designed to appeal to governments and agencies with needs for on-premise servers, such as in a military operation or in an embassy abroad, said Tom Keane, Microsoft Azure's head of global infrastructure.

Mysterious $15,000 'GrayKey' Promises To Unlock iPhone X For The Feds (forbes.com) 106

Thomas Fox-Brewster, reporting for Forbes: Just a week after Forbes reported on the claim of Israeli U.S. government manufacturer Cellebrite that it could unlock the latest Apple iPhone models, another service has emerged promising much the same. Except this time it comes from an unkown entity, an obscure American startup named Grayshift, which appears to be run by long-time U.S. intelligence agency contractors and an ex-Apple security engineer. In recent weeks, its marketing materials have been disseminated around private online police and forensics groups, offering a $15,000 iPhone unlock tool named GrayKey, which permits 300 uses. That's for the online mode that requires constant connectivity at the customer end, whilst an offline version costs $30,000. The latter comes with unlimited uses. Another ad showed Grayshift claiming to be able to unlock iPhones running iOS 10 and 11, with iOS 9 support coming soon. It also claims to work on the latest Apple hardware, up to the iPhone 8 and X models released just last year. In a post from one private Google group, handed to Forbes by a source who asked to remain anonymous, the writer indicated they'd been demoed the technology and that it had opened an iPhone X.

Australia Considers Making It Illegal For ISPs To Advertise Inflated Speeds (vice.com) 70

The Australian government is currently considering a bill that would make it illegal for internet service providers to exaggerate speeds, or else face a fine of up to $1 million. "One constituent says he's being charged for a 25 megabit per second download speed and a five megabit per second upload and he's actually getting less than one tenth of that," said Andrew Wilkie, the Member of Parliament who introduced the bill. "In other words, people are getting worse than dial-up speed when they've been promised a whizz-bang, super-fast connection." Motherboard reports: Internet speeds can vary based on how many people are on the network and even the hardware you use, but while we can't expect ISPs to deliver maximum speed 100 percent of the time, previous probes into their performance have shown many ISPs in the U.S. aren't delivering even the minimum advertised speeds a majority of the time for the average user. Under the proposed Australian law, ISPs are simply required to be more transparent about what consumers can expect with a specific plan. Rather than advertising only the maximum speeds, they would have to include typical speeds for the average user, indicate busy periods, and clearly list any other factors that might impact service. The bill was only introduced this week, so it's yet to be seen if it will gain traction.

Germany Says Government Network Was Breached (bbc.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): German authorities said on Wednesday they were investigating a security breach of the government's highly protected computer network. The country's intelligence agencies were examining attacks on more than one government ministry, the interior ministry said, adding that the affected departments had been informed and that the attack had been isolated and brought under control. Earlier on Wednesday, the German news agency DPA reported that German security services had discovered a breach of the government's IT network in December and traced it back to state-sponsored Russian hackers. German companies have been the target of sustained attacks by state-sponsored hackers, mainly believed to be Chinese. In 2015, the Bundestag, parliament's lower house, suffered a extensive breach, leading to the theft of several gigabytes of data by what German security officials believe were Russian cyberthieves. Hackers believed to be part of the Russia-linked APT28 group sought to infiltrate the computer systems of several German political parties in 2016, Germany's domestic intelligence agency said in 2016.

China Bans Letter N From Internet as Xi Jinping Extends Grip on Power (theguardian.com) 196

Speaking of things the Chinese government has been censoring in the country, The Guardian reports: It is the 14th letter in the English alphabet and, in Scrabble, the springboard for more than 600 8-letter words. But for the Communist party of China it is also a subversive and intolerable character that was this week banished from the internet as Chinese censors battled to silence criticism of Xi Jinping's bid to set himself up as ruler for life. The contravening consonant was perhaps the most unusual victim of a crackdown targeting words, phrases and even solitary letters censors feared might be used to attack Beijing's controversial decision to abolish constitutional term limits for China's president. The Communist party has painted the move -- which experts say paves the way for Xi to become a dictator for life -- as an expression of overwhelming popular support for China's strongman leader. However, there has been widespread online push-back in China since it was announced on Sunday on the eve of an annual political congress in Beijing.

China Censors Social Media Responses To Proposal To Abolish Presidential Terms (theverge.com) 163

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Negative social media reactions in China toward the government's interest in abolishing presidential term limits have sparked a crackdown on memes since Sunday evening. China's constitution currently restricts the president and vice-president to 10 years of leadership, meaning that President Xi Jinping would have been out of power by 2023. The Party's Central Committee proposed removing a phrase in the constitution that stated the two leaders would "serve no more than two consecutive terms," according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Authorities will vote on the proposal in March. Many took to social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo with Winnie the Pooh memes, as the animated bear resembles President Xi Jinping to some degree. Winnie the Pooh has been associated with Xi for years and this week, he donned a crown and sat on a throne, enjoying his honey pot. These memes and social media posts were then taken down, hours after the Committee's announcement, signaling that the public's reaction was more unfavorable than authorities predicted. An assortment of phrases have been filtered out by new censors, including "constitution amendment," "re-elected," "proclaim oneself as emperor," and "two term limit." The lag time between the censorship and the initial proposal indicates authorities expected the public to react less critically.
The Internet

US House Passes Bill To Penalize Websites For Sex Trafficking (trust.org) 190

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation News: The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to make it easier to penalize operators of websites that facilitate online sex trafficking, chipping away at a bedrock legal shield for the technology industry. The bill's passage marks one of the most concrete actions in recent years from the U.S. Congress to tighten regulation of internet firms, which have drawn heavy scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties over the past year due to an array of concerns regarding the size and influence of their platforms. The House passed the measure 388-25. It still needs to pass the U.S. Senate, where similar legislation has already gained substantial support, and then be signed by President Donald Trump before it can become law.

Several major internet companies, including Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc, had been reluctant to support any congressional effort to dent what is known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that protects them from liability for the activities of their users. But facing political pressure, the internet industry slowly warmed to a proposal that gained traction in the Senate last year, and eventually endorsed it after it gained sizable bipartisan support. The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on the online classified site backpage.com, which is used for sex advertising. It would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.


Google Releases Info On 2.4 Million 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests (engadget.com) 69

According to Google's latest transparency report, the company has received 2.4 million "right to be forgotten" requests since 2014, most of which came from private individuals. Engadget reports: Europe's biggest court passed the right to be forgotten law in 2014, compelling the tech titan to remove personal info from its search engine upon request. In the report, Google has revealed that it complied with 43.3 percent of all the requests it's gotten and has also detailed the nature of those takedown pleas. France, Germany and the UK apparently generated 51 percent of all the URL delisting appeals. Overall, 89 percent of the takedown pleas came from private individuals: Non-government figures such as celebrities submitted 41,213 of the URLs in Google's pile, while politicians and government officials submitted 33,937. As Gizmodo noted, though, there's a small group of law firms and reputation management services submitting numerous pleas, suggesting the rise of reputation-fixing business in the region.

Out of those 2.4 million requests, 19.1 percent are directory URLs, while news websites and social networks only make up 17.6 and 11.6 percent of them. Majority of the URLs submitted for removal are random online destinations that don't fall under any of the previous categories. As for the takedown's reasons, it looks 18.1 percent of the submissions want their professional info scrubbed, 7.7 percent want info they previously posted online themselves to be removed and 6.1 percent want their crimes hidden from search.


Bill Gates: Cryptocurrency Is 'Rare Technology That Has Caused Deaths In a Fairly Direct Way' (cnbc.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: During a recent "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, the Microsoft co-founder said that the main feature of cryptocurrencies is the anonymity they provide to buyers, and Gates thinks that can actually be harmful. "The government's ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing," he wrote. "Right now, cryptocurrencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs, so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way." When a Reddit user pointed out that plain cash can also be used for illicit activities, Gates said that crypto stands out because it can be easier to use. "Yes -- anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things, but you have to be physically present to transfer it, which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult," he wrote. Gates also warned that the wave of speculation surrounding cryptocurrencies is "super risky for those who go long."

Supreme Court Wrestles With Microsoft Data Privacy Fight (reuters.com) 163

Supreme Court justices on Tuesday wrestled with Microsoft's dispute with the U.S. Justice Department over whether prosecutors can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas, with some signaling support for the government and others urging Congress to pass a law to resolve the issue. From a report: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both conservatives, hinted during an hour-long argument in the case at support for the Justice Department's stance that because Microsoft is based in the United States it was obligated to turn over data sought by prosecutors in a U.S. warrant. As the nine justices grappled with the technological complexities of email data storage, liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court needed to act in the data privacy case in light of Congress now considering bipartisan legislation that would resolve the legal issue. A ruling is due by the end of June.

China To Crack Down on Cryptocurrency Trading Loophole (bloomberg.com) 41

China is opening a new front in its battle against cryptocurrencies, targeting platforms that allow the nation's investors to trade digital assets on overseas exchanges, Bloomberg reported Tuesday citing people familiar with the matter said. From a report: Regulators are planning to scrutinize the Chinese bank and online-payment accounts of businesses and individuals suspected of facilitating trades on offshore cryptocurrency venues, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The accounts' owners could have their assets frozen or be blocked from the domestic financial system, the people said. The measures are designed to cut off one of the few remaining avenues for Chinese citizens to buy digital assets. While the country was once home to the world's most active cryptocurrency exchanges, authorities banned the venues last year and have since moved to block access to platforms that offer exchange-like services.

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