Runefox writes "Cerulean Studios, the company behind the long-lived Trillian instant messaging client, has released preliminary specifications to their proprietary "Astra" protocol, now named IMPP (Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol), which provides continuous client functionality as well as mandatory TLS encryption for clients. According to their blog, Cerulean Studios' motivation for the release is to promote interoperability among the throngs of IM services and clients available by allowing others to also use the protocol. Future concepts include federation with XMPP. While the documentation is in an early state and the protocol is claimed to still be in development, it is hoped that it will help decentralize the very heavily fragmented messaging ecosystem. It's implied that, in turn, greater options for privacy may become available in the wake of the PRISM scandal via privately-run federated servers, unaffiliated with major networks, yet still able to communicate with them."
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benrothke writes "It's said that truth is stranger than fiction, as fiction has to make sense. Had The Chinese Information War: Espionage, Cyberwar, Communications Control and Related Threats to United States Interests been written as a spy thriller, it would have been a fascinating novel of international intrigue. But the book is far from a novel. It's a dense, well-researched overview of China's cold-war like cyberwar tactics against the US to regain its past historical glory and world dominance." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
An Ominous Cow Erred writes "In an odd approach to reaching out to otherwise shut-in sufferers of mental distress, an organization called Anxiety Gaming is betting that online intervention is the best way to reach people with emotional difficulties. Their argument is that the social nature of modern gaming makes it a valid means of reaching people who might not otherwise seek help through more traditional channels. According to their Facebook page, their future intentions seem to include distributing consoles to homes for foster youth, to encourage them to look to games for positival interpersonal communication."
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia's government, after banning Viber within the kingdom, is poised to prohibit at least two other such communication apps: Skype and WhatsApp. Says the article: "Conventional international calls and texts are a lucrative earner for telecom operators in Saudi Arabia, which hosts around nine million expatriates. These foreign workers are increasingly using Internet-based applications such as Viber to communicate with relatives in other countries, analysts say." With fewer legal options, a wide-scale Internet censorship regime would be easier to implement, too.
Writing "Wow, this is going to really set the cat amongst the pigeons once this gets around," an anonymous reader links to a story at The Guardian about some good old fashioned friendly interception, and the slide-show version of what went on at recent G20 summits in London: "Foreign politicians' calls and emails intercepted by UK intelligence; Delegates tricked into using fake internet cafes; GCHQ analysts sent logs of phone calls round the clock; Documents are latest revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden."
First time accepted submitter TigerPlish writes "AT&T has rolled out Wireless Emergency Alerts for iPhones. The alerts are for huge catastrophes (a Presidential Alert), for weather / natural calamities, and for AMBER alerts. One can turn off the latter two, but the Presidential alert cannot be turned off. The article mentions only 4S and 5 get this update. That said, I have a 4 and it got the update this morning. This was enacted in 2006, for those keeping track of such things. I, for one, do not care for this any more than I like the idea of them reading my communications to begin with. Oh, I'm sorry, the "metadata" from my communications." As promised.
bill_mcgonigle writes with this news from from CNET: "Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D NY) disclosed that NSA analysts eavesdrop on Americans' domestic telephone calls without court orders during a House Judiciary hearing. After clearing with FBI director Robert Mueller that the information was not classified, Nadler revealed that during a closed-door briefing to Congress, the Legislature was informed that the spying organization had implemented and uses this capability. This appears to confirm Edward Snowden's claim that he could, in his position at the NSA, 'wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.' Declan McCullagh writes, 'Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler's disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.' The executive branch has defended its general warrants, claiming that 'the president had the constitutional authority, no matter what the law actually says, to order domestic spying without [constitutional] warrants,' while Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney at EFF claims such government activity 'epitomizes the problem of secret laws.'" Note that "listening in" versus "collecting metadata" is a distinction that defenders of government phone spying have been emphasizing. Tracking whom you called and when, goes the story, doesn't impinge on expectations of privacy. Speaking of the metadata collection, though, reader Bruce66423 writes "According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration took 'bulk metadata' from the phone companies under voluntary agreements for more than four years after 9/11 until a court agreed they could have it compulsorily." Related: First time accepted submitter fsagx writes that Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive has calculated the cost to store every phone call made in the U.S. over the course of a year: "It's surprisingly inexpensive. It puts the recent NSA stories (and reports from the Boston bombings about the FBI's ability to listen to past phone conversions) into perspective."
New submitter afarhan writes "India will pull the plug on its 160-year-old telegram service on 14 July, this year. This will probably be the last telegram ever sent in the world. However, telegrams are still relevant in this vast country. More than 500 million people are still without access to a phone or Internet. For these people, telegram still remains the only digital communication available. 'At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India's 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers.' In India, telegram is also considered a legal correspondence."
New submitter BrokenHalo writes "Google has revealed that it has 30 balloons floating over New Zealand in a project to bring free Wi-Fi to earthquake-stricken, rural or poor areas. They're calling it Project Loon. '[W]e’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters.' Eventually, as the balloons move across the stratosphere, consumers in participating countries along the 40th parallel in the Southern Hemisphere could tap into the service. The technology will be trialled in Australia next year, possibly in Tasmania. If the latter happens to be true, then you'll probably hear the telcos' screams in New York."
cold fjord writes "There are new developments in the ongoing controversy engulfing the NSA as a result of the Snowden leaks. From The Hill: 'Emerging from a hearing with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel, said Edward Snowden simply wasn't in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he's claimed. "He was lying," Rogers said. "He clearly has over-inflated his position, he has over-inflated his access and he's even over-inflated what the actual technology of the programs would allow one to do. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do." ... "He's done tremendous damage to the country where he was born and raised and educated," Ruppersberger said. ... "It was clear that he attempted to go places that he was not authorized to go, which should raise questions for everyone," Rogers added.'" U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has also told the E.U. justice commissioner that media reports surrounding PRISM are wrong: "The contention it [PRISM] is not subject to any internal or external oversights is simply not correct. It's subject to an extensive oversight regime from executive, legislative and judicial branches and Congress is made aware of these activities. The courts are aware as we need to get a court order. ... We can't target anyone unless appropriate documented foreign intelligence purpose for the prevention of terrorism or hostile cyber activities." Meanwhile, Bloomberg has gone live with a report (based on unidentified sources, so take it with a grain of salt) saying that private sector cooperation with snooping government agencies extends far beyond the ones listed in the PRISM report. "Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said." Whatever PRISM turns out to be, the NY Times is reporting that at least Yahoo, and probably other tech companies as well, tried to fight participation in it. Other reports suggest Twitter refused to participate, though there's been no official confirmation.
McGruber writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has the news that American Association of University Professors (AAUP) believes that faculty members' copyrights and academic freedom are being threatened by colleges claiming ownership of the massive open online courses their instructors have developed. The AAUP plans this year to undertake a campaign to urge professors to get protections of their intellectual-property rights included in their contracts and faculty handbooks. According to former AAUP President Cory Nelson, 'If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it's over. Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity,' and faculty members will instead essentially find themselves working in 'a service industry.' [Just like their graduate students?]"
chicksdaddy writes "In the days since stories based on classified information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden hit the headlines, a string of reports and editorials claim that he had his facts wrong, accuse him of treason – or both. Others have accused journalists like Glen Greenwald of The Guardian of rushing to print before they had all the facts. All of these criticisms could be valid. Technology firms may not have given intelligence agencies unfettered and unchecked access to their users' data. Edward Snowden may be, as the New York Times's David Brooks suggests, one of those 20-something-men leading a 'life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society.' All those critiques may be true without undermining the larger truth of Snowden's revelation: in an age of global, networked communications and interactions, we are all a lot less free than we thought we were. I say this because nobody has seriously challenged the basic truth of Snowden's leak: that many of the world's leading telecommunications and technology firms are regularly divulging information about their users' activities and communications to law enforcement and intelligence agencies based on warrantless requests and court reviews that are hidden from public scrutiny. It hasn't always been so." Bruce Schneier has published an opinion piece saying that while Snowden did break the law, we need to investigate the government before any prosecution occurs. (Schneier's piece is one in a series on the subject.) Snowden himself said in an interview today that the U.S. government has been pursuing hacking operations against China for years.
schwit1 writes with a followup to a story we discussed in April about how using voice-activated texting while driving was no safer than using your hands. Now, a study by AAA has found that using voice commands to send texts is more dangerous than simply talking on your cellphone. "Texting a friend verbally while behind the wheel caused a 'large' amount of mental distraction compared with 'moderate/significant' for holding a phone conversation or talking with a passenger and 'small' when listening to music or an audio book, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in a report released today. Automakers have promoted voice-based messaging as a safer alternative to taking hands off the wheel to place a call and talk on a handheld phone. About 9 million infotainment systems will be shipped this year in cars sold worldwide, with that number projected to rise to more than 62 million by 2018, according to a March report by London-based ABI Research. 'As we push towards these hands-free systems, we may be solving one problem while creating another,' said Joel Cooper, a University of Utah assistant research professor who worked on the study. 'Tread lightly. There's a lot of rush to develop these systems.' The findings from the largest U.S. motorist group bolster National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman's call to ban all phone conversations behind the wheel, even with hands-free devices."
Nerval's Lobster writes "If those newspaper reports are accurate, the NSA's surveillance programs are enormous and sophisticated, and rely on the latest in analytics software. In the face of that, is there any way to keep your communications truly private? Or should you resign yourself to saying or typing, 'Hi, NSA!' every time you make a phone call or send an email? Fortunately there are ways to gain a measure of security: HTTPS, Tor, SCP, SFTP, and the vendors who build software on top of those protocols. But those host-proof solutions offer security in exchange for some measure of inconvenience. If you lose your access credentials, you're likely toast: few highly secure services include a 'Forgot Your Password?' link, which can be easily engineered to reset a password and username without the account owner's knowledge. And while 'big' providers like Google provide some degree of encryption, they may give up user data in response to a court order. Also, all the privacy software in the world also can't prevent the NSA (or other entities) from capturing metadata and other information. What do you think is the best way to keep your data locked down? Or do you think it's all a lost cause?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "In an open letter addressed to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, Google chief legal officer David Drummond again insisted that reports of his company freely offering user data to the NSA and other agencies were untrue. 'However,' he wrote, 'government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.' In light of that, Drummond had a request of the two men: 'We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.' Apparently Google's numbers would show 'that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.' Google, Drummond added, 'has nothing to hide.'" Another open letter was sent to Congress from a variety of internet companies and civil liberties groups (headlined by Mozilla, the EFF, the ACLU, and the FSF), asking them to enact legislation to prohibit the kind of surveillance apparently going on at the NSA and to hold accountable the people who implemented it. (A bipartisan group of senators has just come forth with legislation that would end such surveillance.) In addition to the letter, the ACLU sent a lawsuit as well, directed at President Obama, Eric Holder, the NSA, Verizon and the Dept. of Justice (filing, PDF). They've also asked (PDF) for a release of court records relevant to the scandal. Mozilla has also launched Stopwatching.us, a campaign to "demand a full accounting of the extent to which our online data, communications and interactions are being monitored." Other reactions: Tim Berners-Lee is against it, Australia's Foreign Minister doesn't mind it, the European Parliament has denounced it, and John Oliver is hilarious about it (video). Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked the information about the NSA's surveillance program, is being praised widely as a hero and a patriot. There's already a petition on Whitehouse.gov to pardon him for his involvement, and it's already reached half the required number of signatures for a response from the Obama administration.
colinneagle writes "The first developer preview of Ubuntu Touch – aka 'Ubuntu for Phones and Tablets' – was unveiled just a few short months ago. And, just a few weeks back, it was announced that the team was shooting for having a fully functional (aka "can use it as your actual phone, on a daily basis") version by the end of May. May is now over, so Bryan Lunduke published some screenshots and analysis of the core features of the Ubuntu OS for smartphones and tablets."
anagama writes "NSA officials have repeatedly denied under oath to Congress that even producing an estimate of the number of Americans caught up in its surveillance is impossible. Leaked screenshots of an NSA application that does exactly that, prove that the NSA flat out lied (surprise). Glenn Greenwald continues his relentless attacks with another bombshell this time exposing Boundless Informant. Interestingly, the NSA spies more on America than China according to the heat map. Representative Wyden had sought amendments to FISA reauthorization bill that would have required the NSA to provide information like this (hence the NSA's lies), but Obama and Feinstein demanded a pure reauthorization of FISA, which they got at the end of 2012." And if you don't mind that you might have your name on yet another special list, you might enjoy this Twitter-based take on the ongoing news.
Lauren Weinstein writes "Now, what's really going on with PRISM? The government admits that the program exists, but says it is being 'mischaracterized' in significant ways (always a risk with secret projects sucking up information about your citizens' personal lives). The Internet firms named in the leaked documents are denying that they have provided 'back doors' to the government for data access. Who is telling the truth? Likely both. Based on previous information and the new leaks, we can make some pretty logical guesses about the actual shape of all this. Here's my take."
benrothke writes "Phil Lapsley calls his book 'the untold story of the teenagers and outlaws who hacked Ma Bell.' The story is an old one, going back to the early 1960's. Lapsley was able to track down many of the original phone phreaks and get their story. Many of them, even though the years have passed, asked Lapsley not to use their real names." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
JonZittrain writes "Projects like the New American Foundation's Commotion are designing ad hoc mesh networking to keep communications open when governments want to censor. Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and I argue that mutual-aid-based networks can be helpful for public safety, too, after attacks or natural disasters. There should be easy practices for anyone to open up an otherwise-closed Wi-Fi access point if it's still connected to broadband and is near people in trouble, and separately, to develop delay- and fault-tolerant fallback ad hoc networks so users' devices can communicate directly with one another and in a mesh. This can happen even while full packet-based ad hoc mesh is being figured out. The ideas have been developed a little in workshops at Harvard's Berkman Center and the FCC. Why not bring the human rights and public safety communities together towards a common goal?"