United Kingdom

Facebook Reopens Probe Into Russian Involvement in Brexit (techcrunch.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Facebook has said it will conduct a wider investigation into whether there was Russian meddling on its platform relating to the 2016 Brexit referendum vote in the UK. Wednesday its UK policy director Simon Milner wrote to a parliamentary committee that's been conducting a wide-ranging enquiry into fake news -- and whose chair has been witheringly critical of Facebook and Twitter for failing to co-operate with requests for information and assistance on the topic of Brexit and Russia -- saying it will widen its investigation, per the committee's request. Though he gave no firm deadline for delivering a fresh report -- beyond estimating "a number of weeks".

It's not clear whether Twitter will also bow to pressure to conduct a more thorough investigation of Brexit-related disinformation. At the time of writing the company had not responded to our questions either. At the end of last year committee chair Damian Collins warned both companies they could face sanctions for failing to co-operate with the committee's enquiry -- slamming Twitter's investigations to date as "completely inadequate", and expressing disbelief that both companies had essentially ignored the committee's requests... Independent academic studies have suggested there was in fact significant tweet-based activity generated around Brexit by Russian bots."

Theresa May has said Russia's attempts to "sow discord" in the West could not go unchallenged, and warned Vladimir Putin, "We know what you are up to."

Facebook's response complained that a new investigation "requires detailed analysis of historic data by our security experts, who are also engaged in preventing live threats to our service."
Space

Rocket Lab Successfully Reaches Orbit and Deploys Its First Satellites (geekwire.com) 62

Long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills writes: Rocket Lab has successfully launched its second Electron rocket from New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, with the rocket reaching orbit for the first time... This follows the company's first launch last May, in which the rocket got to space but did not make it to orbit after range safety officials had to kill the flight.
Just 60 seconds before lift-off yesterday, a "rogue ship" entered their launch-range area, prompting them to postpone the launch until today. GeekWire reports: This mission was nicknamed "Still Testing," but unlike the first mission, the objective was not merely to test Rocket Lab's hardware. The rocket had the additional task of putting three nanosatellites in orbit: an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet, and two Lemur-2 satellites that the Spire space venture would use for tracking ships and monitoring weather... The price tag for a mission is as low as $5 million, thanks to streamlined hardware production techniques. The Electron makes use of carbon composite materials for its rocket core, and 3-D printing techniques for its Rutherford rocket engines.
90 minutes ago Spire tweeted that they'd experienced a "good clean deployment" of their satellites, adding that they were already receiving images and calling it "a huge win" for commercial space, small satellites, the Electron rocket, and New Zealand.

UPDATE: Long-time Slashdot reader Hairy1 shares Rocket Lab's video of their launch.
Twitter

Twitter Says It Exposed Nearly 700,000 People To Russian Propaganda During Election (theverge.com) 295

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Twitter this evening released a new set of statistics related to its investigation on Russia propaganda efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including that 677,775 people were exposed to social media posts from more than 50,000 automated accounts with links to the Russian government. Many of the new accounts uncovered have been traced back to an organization called the the Internet Research Agency, or IRA, with known ties to the Kremlin. The data was first presented in an incomplete form to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee last November, which held hearings to question Facebook, Google, and Twitter on the role the respective platforms and products played in the Russian effort to help elect President Donald Trump. Twitter says it's now uncovered more accounts and new information on the wide-reaching Russian cyberintelligence campaign.

"Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period," writes Twitter's public policy division in a blog post published today. "Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available."

Privacy

Trump Signs Surveillance Extension Into Law (thehill.com) 93

President Trump took to Twitter this afternoon to announce that he has signed a six-year renewal of a powerful government surveillance tool. "Just signed 702 Bill to authorize foreign intelligence collection," Trump tweeted. "This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election. I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!" The Hill reports: Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which the Senate voted to renew with a few small tweaks this week, allows the U.S. to spy on foreigners overseas. The intelligence community says the program is a critical tool in identifying and disrupting terror plots. But the broader surveillance law, which governs U.S. spying on foreigners, has become politically entangled with the controversy over the federal investigation into Trump's campaign and Russia. Some Republicans have claimed that the FBI inappropriately obtained a politically motivated FISA warrant to spy on Trump during the transition and on Friday, Capitol Hill was consumed with speculation about a four-page memo produced by House Intelligence Committee Republicans that some GOP lawmakers hinted contained evidence of such wrongdoing.
Social Networks

Twitter Hits Back Again at Claims That Its Employees Monitor Direct Messages (techcrunch.com) 160

From a report on TechCrunch: Twitter is pushing back against claims made by conservative activist group Project Veritas that its employees monitor private user data, including direct messages. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a Twitter representative said "we do not proactively review DMs. Period. A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees." Last week, Project Veritas, which produces undercover sting operations that purportedly expose liberal biases at media companies and other organizations, posted footage that appeared to show Twitter engineers claiming that teams of employees look at users' private data. One engineer seemed to say that Twitter can hand over President Donald Trump's data, including deleted tweets and direct messages, to the Department of Justice.
The Almighty Buck

Hackers Hijack DNS For Lumens Cryptocurrency Site 'BlackWallet', Steal $400,000 (bleepingcomputer.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Unknown hackers (or hacker) have hijacked the DNS server for BlackWallet.co, a web-based wallet application for the Stellar Lumen cryptocurrency (XLM), and have stolen over $400,000 from users' accounts. The attack happened late Saturday afternoon (UTC timezone), January 13, when the attackers hijacked the DNS entry of the BlackWallet.co domain and redirected it to their own server. "The DNS hijack of Blackwallet injected code," said Kevin Beaumont, a security researcher who analyzed the code before the BlackWallet team regained access over their domain and took down the site. "If you had over 20 Lumens it pushes them to a different wallet," Beaumont added...

According to Bleeping Computer's calculations, as of writing, the attacker collected 669,920 Lumens, which is about $400,192 at the current XML/USD exchange rate. The BlackWallet team and other XLM owners have tried to warn users via alerts on Reddit, Twitter, GitHub, the Stellar Community and GalacticTalk forums, but to no avail, as users continued to log into the rogue BlackWallet.co domain, enter their credentials, and then see funds mysteriously vanish from their wallets.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Calls to Action on the Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Aaron Swartz (eff.org) 151

On the fifth anniversary of the death of Aaron Swartz, EFF activist Elliot Harmon posted a remembrance: When you look around the digital rights community, it's easy to find Aaron's fingerprints all over it. He and his organization Demand Progress worked closely with EFF to stop SOPA. Long before that, he played key roles in the development of RSS, RDF, and Creative Commons. He railed hard against the idea of government-funded scientific research being unavailable to the public, and his passion continues to motivate the open access community. Aaron inspired Lawrence Lessig to fight corruption in politics, eventually fueling Lessig's White House run... It's tempting to become pessimistic in the face of countless threats to free speech and privacy. But the story of the SOPA protests demonstrates that we can win in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
He shares a link to a video of Aaron's most inspiring talk, "How We Stopped SOPA," writing that "Aaron warned that SOPA wouldn't be the last time Hollywood attempted to use copyright law as an excuse to censor the Internet... 'The enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared... We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom. They threw themselves into it. They did whatever they could think of to do.'"

On the anniversary of Aaron's death, his brother Ben Swartz, an engineer at Twitch, wrote about his own efforts to effect change in ways that would've made Aaron proud, while Aaron's mother urged calls to Congress to continue pushing for reform to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

And there were countless other remembrances on Twitter, including one fro Cory Doctorow, who tweeted a link to Lawrence Lessig's analysis of the prosecution. And Lessig himself marked the anniversary with several posts on Twitter. "None should rest," reads one, "for still, there is no peace."
Social Networks

Snapchat's Big Redesign Bashed In 83 Percent of User Reviews (techcrunch.com) 113

The new Snapchat redesign that jams Stories in between private messages is not receiving a whole lot of praise. "In the few countries including the U.K., Australia, and Canada where the redesign is widely available, 83 percent of App Store reviews (1,941) for the update are negative with one or two stars, according to data by mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower," reports TechCrunch. "Just 17 percent, or 391 of the reviews, give it three to five stars." From the report: The most referenced keywords in the negative reviews include "new update," "Stories," and "please fix." Meanwhile, Snapchat's Support Twitter account has been busy replying to people who hate the update and are asking to uninstall it, noting "It's not possible to revert to a previous version of Snapchat," and trying to explain where Stories are to confused users. Hopes were that the redesign could boost Snapchat's soggy revenue, which fell short of Wall Street earnings expectations in Q3 and led to a loss of $443 million. The redesign mixes Stories, where Snapchat shows ads but which have seen stagnation in sharing rates amidst competition from Instagram Stories, into the more popular messaging inbox, where Snapchat's ephemeral messaging is more differentiated and entrenched.
Power

Power Outage Brings CES To a Standstill For Nearly 2 Hours (cnet.com) 58

A major power outage brought a major portion of the Consumer Electronics Show in the Las Vegas Center to a standstill for nearly 2 hours today. The lights went out at around 11:13 a.m. PT, just as the second day of CES 2018 was ramping up, and didn't turn back on until around 12:34 p.m. PT. CNET reports: It came a day after more than an inch of rain fell in Las Vegas, which caused flash flooding in the desert city. (Wednesday's weather is clear and warm, and it's unclear if the power outage was at all related.) The first reports of the blackout came from the convention center's Central Hall, which houses the giant booths for show mainstays including Sony, Samsung, LG and Intel -- though Samsung's booth still had limited electricity thanks to its own private backup power. By noon, security guards were refusing entry to parts of the Convention Center. The website of Nevada Energy, the power provider, listed the cause of the problem as "customer-owned electrical equipment."
Communications

FCC Plan To Lower Broadband Standards Is Met With 'Mobile Only Challenge' (arstechnica.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband consumer advocates have launched a "Mobile Only Challenge" to show U.S. regulators that cellular data should not be considered an adequate replacement for home Internet service. The awareness campaign comes as the Federal Communications Commission is considering a change to the standard it uses to judge whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hasn't released his final plan yet, the FCC may soon declare that America's broadband deployment problem is solved as long as everyone has access to either fast home Internet or cellular Internet service with download speeds of at least 10Mbps. That would be a change from current FCC policy, which says that everyone should have access to both mobile data and fast home Internet services such as fiber or cable.

"The FCC wants to lower broadband standards," organizers of the Mobile Only Challenge say on the campaign's website. "Pledge to spend one day in January 2018 accessing the Internet only on your mobile device to tell them that's not OK." The Mobile Only Challenge was organized by Public Knowledge, Next Century Cities, New America's Open Technology Institute, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), and other groups. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences using the #MobileOnly hashtag.

Bitcoin

Kodak Announces Its Own Cryptocurrency, Watches Stock Price Skyrocket (theverge.com) 135

Kodak has joined the cryptocurrency craze by launching its own KodakCoin, a cryptocurrency for photographers. As soon as the news was announced, Kodak's stock (KODK) jumped more than 60 percent. The Verge reports: KodakCoins will work as tokens inside the new blockchain-powered KodakOne rights management platform. The platform will supposedly create a digital ledger of rights ownership that photographers can use to register and license new and old work. Both the platform and cryptocurrency are supposed to "empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management," according to the press release. The digital currency is meant to create a new economy for photographers to receive payment and sell work on a secure platform. But while Kodak's proposed blockchain-powered platform and virtual coin sound good on paper, it's not clear why the photography company needs to use blockchain to achieve its goals, rather than just create another social media platform instead. It appears that Kodak, like the other tea and vape companies that received media attention last month for making the abrupt leap to blockchain, could just be trying to capitalize on the current cryptocurrency mania.
Government

Snowden Joins Outcry Against World's Biggest Biometric Database (bloomberg.com) 36

Former U.S. intelligence-contractor-turned whistleblower Edward Snowden joined critics of India's digital ID program as the nation's top court is due to decide on its legality. From a report: Snowden on Tuesday tweeted in support of an Indian journalist who faces police charges after she reported that personal details of over a billion citizens enrolled in the program could be illegally accessed for just $8 paid through a digital wallet. Named Aadhaar, the program is backed by the world's biggest biometric database, which its operator Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, says wasn't breached. Snowden tweeted, "The journalists exposing the Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation. If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians. Want to arrest those responsible? They are called @UIDAI."
The Internet

Senate Will Force Vote On Overturning Net Neutrality Repeal (theverge.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has mustered the 30 votes necessary to force a vote on the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced that she's signed onto Markey's request to overturn the new rules, under the Congressional Review Act -- which lets Congress nullify recently passed regulations with a simple majority. Markey announced his intention to file a resolution of disapproval in December, just after the FCC voted on new rules that killed net neutrality protections from 2015. These new rules were officially published last week, and with 30 sponsors, Markey can make the Senate vote on whether to consider overturning them. If this happens, it would lead to a debate and final vote. That's not remotely the end of the process: if it's approved, the resolution will go to the House, and if it passes there, the desk of Donald Trump, who seems unlikely to approve it.
Crime

Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Had Already Been To Prison For Fake Bomb Threats (go.com) 315

More details are emerging about an online gamer whose fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting:
  • "After phoning in a false bomb threat to a Glendale, California TV station in 2015, Tyler Barriss threatened to kill his grandmother if she reported him, according to local reports and court documents." -- The Wichita Eagle
  • "The Glendale Police Department confirmed to ABC News that Tyler Barriss made about 20 calls to universities and media outlets throughout the country around the time he was arrested for a bomb threat to Los Angeles ABC station KABC in 2015... He was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail, court records show." -- ABC News
  • "Within months of his release in August, he had already become the target of a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into similar hoax calls... LAPD detectives were planning to meet with federal prosecutors to discuss their investigation..." -- The Los Angeles Times
  • The Wichita Eagle reports that even after the police had fatally shot the person SWauTistic was pretending to be, he continued his phone call with the 911 operator for another 16 minutes -- on a call which lasted over half an hour.
  • Brian Krebs reports that police may have been aided in their investigation by another reformed SWAT perpetrator -- adding that SWauTistic privately claimed to have already called in fake emergencies at approximately 100 schools and 10 homes.

Just last month SWauTistic's Twitter account showed him bragging about a bomb threat which caused the evacuation of a Dallas convention center, according to the Daily Beast -- after which SWauTistic encouraged his Twitter followers to also follow him on a second account, "just in case twitter suspends me for being a god." Later the 25-year-old tweeted that "if you can't pull off a swat without getting busted you're not a leet hacking God its that simple."

Barriss remains in jail in Los Angeles with no bond, though within three weeks he's expected to be extradited to Kansas for his next trial.


The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Debit Cards Suspended After Upstream Visa Rules Infraction (thenextweb.com) 76

At least four pre-paid debit cards that accept cryptocurrencies abruptly suspended service on Friday. An anonymous reader quotes TheNextWeb: Speaking to their customers on Twitter, the affected companies have said the move is the result of actions from their card issuer, [WaveCrest], who was acting on behalf of Visa Europe... A statement from Visa Europe obtained by The Daily Beast reporter Joseph Cox said the action was taken due to WaveCrest's "non-compliance" with VISA's membership regulations... In its statement, Visa makes clear that this isn't a crackdown on cryptocurrencies, but rather action against one company that broke its rules.
"All funds stored on cards are safe and will be returned to your Cryptopay accounts ASAP," one of the affected debit card companies assured users on Twitter, adding "Sorry for all the inconvenience caused..."

According to the article, "Some users on Twitter are reportedly stranded abroad without funds."
Twitter

Why Twitter Hasn't Banned President Trump (theverge.com) 449

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amid vocal calls for the company to act, Twitter today offered its first explanation for why it hasn't banned President Donald Trump -- without ever saying the man's name. "Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society," the company said in a blog post. "Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions." In its blog post, Twitter reiterated its previous statement that all accounts still must follow the company's rules. The statement seemed to leave open the possibility that it might one day take action against Trump's account, or the accounts of other world leaders who might use the platform to incite violence or otherwise break its rules. "We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly," it said. In response to the claims that Twitter doesn't ban President Trump because he draws attention -- and ad revenue -- to the company, Twitter said: "No one person's account drives Twitter's growth, or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind."
AI

Ex-NSA Hacker Is Building an AI To Find Hate and Far-Right Symbols on Twitter and Facebook (vice.com) 509

Motherboard reporter Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai has interviewed Emily Crose, a former NSA hacker, who has built NEMESIS, an AI-powered program that can help spot symbols that have been co-opted by hate groups to signal to each other in plain sight. Crose, who has also moderated Reddit in the past, thought of building NEMESIS after the Charlottesville, Virginia incident last year. From the report: Crose's motivation is to expose white nationalists who use more or less obscure, mundane, or abstract symbols -- or so-called dog whistles -- in their posts, such as the Black Sun and certain Pepe the frog memes. Crose's goal is not only to expose people who use these symbols online but hopefully also push the social media companies to clamp down on hateful rhetoric online. "The real goal is to educate people," Crose told me in a phone call. "And a secondary goal: I'd really like to get the social media platforms to start thinking how they can enforce some decency on their own platforms, a certain level of decorum." [...]

At a glance, the way NEMESIS works is relatively simple. There's an "inference graph," which is a mathematical representation of trained images, classified as Nazi or white supremacist symbols. This inference graph trains the system with machine learning to identify the symbols in the wild, whether they are in pictures or videos. In a way, NEMESIS is dumb, according to Crose, because there are still humans involved, at least at the beginning. NEMESIS needs a human to curate the pictures of the symbols in the inference graph and make sure they are being used in a white supremacist context. For Crose, that's the key to the whole project -- she absolutely does not want NEMESIS to flag users who post Hindu swastikas, for example -- so NEMESIS needs to understand the context. "It takes thousands and thousands of images to get it to work just right," she said.

Businesses

Leading Lobbying Group for Amazon, Facebook, Google and Other Tech Giants is Joining the Legal Battle To Restore Net Neutrality (recode.net) 77

A leading lobbying group for Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and other tech giants said Friday that it would be joining the coming legal crusade to restore the U.S. government's net neutrality rules. From a report: The Washington, D.C.-based Internet Association specifically plans to join a lawsuit as an intervening party, aiding the challenge to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's vote in December to repeal regulations that required internet providers like AT&T and Comcast to treat all web traffic equally, its leader confirmed to Recode. Technically, the Internet Association isn't filing its own lawsuit. That task will fall to companies like Etsy, public advocates like Free Press and state attorneys general, all of which plan to contend they are most directly harmed by Pai's decision, as Recode first reported this week. As an intervener, though, the Internet Association still will play a crucial role, filing legal arguments in the coming case. And in formally participating, tech giants will have the right to appeal a judge's decision later if Silicon Valley comes out on the losing end. "The final version of Chairman Pai's rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers," said the group's chief, Michael Beckerman, in a statement. "This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet."
Desktops (Apple)

Intel Memory Access Design Flaw Partially Addressed by Apple in macOS 10.13.2 [Unconfirmed] (macrumors.com) 49

An anonymous reader shares a report: A serious design flaw and security vulnerability discovered in Intel CPUs has reportedly already been partially addressed by Apple in the recent macOS 10.13.2 update, which was released to the public on December 6. According to developer Alex Ionescu, Apple introduced a fix in macOS 10.13.2, with additional tweaks set to be introduced in macOS 10.13.3, currently in beta testing. AppleInsider also says that it has heard from "multiple sources within Apple" that updates made in macOS 10.13.2 have mitigated "most" security concerns associated with the KPTI vulnerability. A Bloomberg reporter pointed out that Apple has not officially commented on the story.
The Courts

Spotify Hit With $1.6 Billion Copyright Lawsuit (spin.com) 132

The Wixen Music Publishing company, which administers song compositions by Tom Petty, Dan Auerbach, Rivers Cuomo, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, and others, has hit Spotify with a copyright lawsuit seeking $1.6 billion in damages. The publishing company filed the lawsuit on December 29, alleging the streaming giant is using Petty's "Free Fallin" and tens of thousands of other songs without license or compensation. SPIN reports: Back in September, Wixen objected to a $43 million settlement Spotify had arranged over another class action lawsuit brought by David Lowery (of Cracker and Camper van Beethoven) and Melissa Ferrick, stating it was "procedurally and substantively unfair to Settlement Class Members because it prevents meaningful participation by rights holders and offers them an unfair dollar amount in light of Spotify's ongoing, willful copyright infringement of their works." A judge has yet to rule on that settlement, and in the meantime, Wixen has moved to file its own lawsuit, which purports "as much as 21 percent of the 30 million songs on Spotify are unlicensed," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement," the complaint reads. "Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief."

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