Technology as a way of life

Life is the art of drawing without an eraser...

Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to appear in a November 1st briefing about Russian involvement on their platforms.

According to reports, some Russian-backed Pages sent users Messenger invitations and posted within the service nearly every day. Facebook reported last month that Russian-linked accounts purchased $150,000 in political ads from June 2015 to May 2017 in a push to circulate divisive content. Facebook removed the accounts last month on the basis that they were fake. According to reports, the accounts gained followers by getting users to click on controversial ads. Once users followed the fake Pages, their feeds could be filled with additional unpaid political content such as posts, videos and photos.

Last month, Twitter said it found 201 accounts on its site linked to the fraudulent accounts Facebook had previously identified. Twitter also reported that the Russian-backed news site RT, which a U.S. intelligence report said attempted to meddle in the U.S. election, bought $274,100 of ads on Twitter last year. Under federal law, foreign governments and foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions or spending money to influence a federal, state or local election in the U.S.

The issue of Russia's use of social platforms to interfere in the U.S. election has engulfed various tech giants, most notably Facebook, which has come under withering criticism for its failure to effectively police content and ads on its site. Senate leaders have endorsed earlier findings by the U.S. intelligence community that the Russian president Vladimir Putin led a coordinated campaign to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. Russian election meddling doesn’t appear to be limited to the U.S. Russian efforts may also have extended to France, the Netherlands and Germany, according to the Senate leaders. Russia may try to meddle in upcoming U.S. elections this year and next, the Senate committee said.

Many thousands of alleged movie pirates in Sweden have been hit with demands for cash settlements in recent weeks. The 'fines', which amount to around $550 each, are being sent by Njord Law, a law firm acting on behalf of international copyright trolls active in several different countries, including the United States. 

In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law was found to be at the helm of a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget. Some 42-pages of court documents revealed that thousands of IP addresses had been harvested, potentially linking to thousands of subscribers.
After receiving permission from the courts to obtain the personal details of alleged pirates, things went a little quiet. However, according to local news outlet IDG, the floodgates have now been opened, with several thousand ISP subscribers receiving cash demands from Njord Law in recent weeks.

“We have sent out a few thousand letters, but we have been given the right to obtain information behind many more IP addresses that we are waiting to receive from the telecom operators. So there are more, ” lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen told the publication.
Indeed, an indication of the scale of the operation can be found in the order obtained to target customers of ISP Telia. In that batch alone the court granted permission for Njord Law to obtain the identities behind 25,000 IP addresses.

Earlier this year, Clausen said that after identifying the subscribers he wanted to “enter into non-aggressive dialogue” with them. As we predicted, this apparently friendly introduction would simply lead to inevitable demands for cash.
“Have you, or other people with access to the aforementioned IP address, such as children living at home, viewed or tried to watch [a pirate movie] at the specified time?” Njord Law now writes in its letters to alleged pirates.

“If so, the case can be terminated by paying 4,500 SEK [$550].”

According to IDG, lots of movies are involved, both from local and international distributors. Earlier this year, CELL, IT, London Has Fallen, Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal and September of Shiraz were named as possible titles.

The inclusion of these titles come as no surprise since several have turned up in similar trolling cases all over Europe and the United States. In common with schemes elsewhere, BitTorrent tracking was carried out by MaverickEye, a German-based company that is part of the notorious Guardaley trolling operation.

Like most ‘trolling’ cases, figures on how many people are paying up in Sweden are hard to come by. Clausen won’t say how many have parted with cash, but the lawyer says that 60% of the letters have elicited some kind of response. In previous similar projects in the UK, around a fifth of targets paid some sort of settlement, with no contested cases reaching the courts.

Njord Law insists, however, that those who don’t pay in Sweden may have to face the legal system.
“Yes, we will [go to court],” says Clausen. “We wish to resolve matters as much as possible through education and dialogue without the assistance of the court though. It is very expensive both for the rights holders and for plaintiffs if we go to court.”

While it’s impossible to predict how these cases will go, the usual tactic is to attack the low-hanging fruit first. People who admit some form of guilt can expect the most pressure while those who deny the allegations flat out (subscribers aren’t necessarily infringers) are likely to be placed in a file to be dealt with last, if at all.

An anti-piracy outfit, whose members include major international studios and record labels, has been welcomed as a member of the organization with overall responsibility for Denmark's top-level domain. Rights Alliance, which is behind the blocking of dozens of leading torrent and streaming sites, says it wants to create a "more secure internet" for companies doing business online. All around the world, content creators and rightsholders continue to protest against the unauthorized online distribution of copyrighted content.While pirating end-users obviously share some of the burden, the main emphasis has traditionally been placed on the shuttering of illicit sites, whether torrent, streaming, or hosting based. Over time, however, sites have become more prevalent and increasingly resilient, leaving the music, movie and publishing industries to play a frustrating game of whac-a-mole. With this in mind, their focus has increasingly shifted towards Internet gatekeepers, including ISPs and bodies with influence over domain availability.

While most of these efforts take place via cooperation or legal action, there’s regularly conflict when Hollywood, for example, wants a particular domain rendered inaccessible or the music industry wants pirates kicked off the Internet.
As a result, there’s nearly always a disconnect, with copyright holders on one side and Internet technology companies worried about mission creep on the other. In Denmark, however, those lines have just been blurred in the most intriguing way possible after an infamous anti-piracy outfit joined an organization with significant control over the Internet in the country.

RettighedsAlliancen (or Rights Alliance as it’s more commonly known) is an anti-piracy group which counts some of the most powerful local and international movie companies among its members. It also operates on behalf of IFPI and by extension, most of the world’s major recording labels.
The group has been involved in dozens of legal processes over the years against file-sharers and file-sharing sites, most recently fighting for and winning ISP blockades against most major pirate portals including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Torrentz, and many more.
In a somewhat surprising new announcement, the group has revealed it’s become the latest member of DIFO, the Danish Internet Forum (DIFO) which “works for a secure and accessible Internet” under the top-level .DK domain. Indeed, DIFO has overall responsibility for Danish internet infrastructure.

Looking at DIFO’s membership, Rights Alliance certainly stands out as unusual. The majority of the members are made up of IT-based organizations, such as the Internet Industry Association, The Association of Open Source Suppliers and DKRegistrar, the industry association for Danish domain registrars.

A meeting around a table with these players and their often conflicting interests is likely to be an experience for all involved. However, all parties seem more than happy with the new partnership.
“We want to help create a more secure internet for companies that invest in doing business online, and for users to be safe, so combating digital crime is a key and shared goal,” says Rights Alliance chief, Maria Fredenslund. “I am therefore looking forward to the future cooperation with DIFO.”

Only time will tell how this partnership will play out but if common ground can be found, it’s certainly possible that the anti-piracy scene in Denmark could step up a couple of gears in the future.

Ukrainian government authorities are once again warning its citizens to brace themselves for next wave of "large-scale" NotPetya-like cyber attack.

According to a press release published Thursday by the Secret Service of Ukraine (SBU), the next major cyber attack could take place between October 13 and 17 when Ukraine celebrates Defender of Ukraine Day.

Authorities warn the cyber attack can once again be conducted through a malicious software update against state government institutions and private companies.
The attackers of the NotPetya ransomware also used the same tactic—compromising the update mechanism for Ukrainian financial software provider called MeDoc and swapping in a dodgy update including the NotPetya computer virus. The virus then knocked computers in Ukrainian government agencies and businesses offline before spreading rapidly via corporate networks of multinational companies with operations or suppliers in eastern Europe.
Presentation by Alexander Adamov, CEO at NioGuard Security Lab
The country blamed Russia for the NotPetya attacks, while Russia denied any involvement.

The latest warning by the Ukrainian secret service told government and businesses to make sure their computers and networks were protected against any intrusion.
"SBU notifies about preparing for a new wave of large-scale attack against the state institutions and private companies. The basic aim—to violate normal operation of information systems, that may destabilize the situation in the country," the press release reads. 
"The SBU experts received data that the attack can be conducted with the use of software updating, including public applied software. The mechanism of its realization will be similar to cyber-attack of June 2017."
To protect themselves against the next large-scale cyber attack, the SBU advised businesses to follow some recommendations, which includes:
  • Updating signatures of virus protection software on the server and in the workstation computers.
  • Conducting redundancy of information, which is processed on the computer equipment.
  • Providing daily updating of system software, including Windows operating system of all versions.
Since the supply chain attacks are not easy to detect and prevent, users are strongly advised to keep regular backups of their important files on a separate drive or storage that are only temporarily connected for worst case scenarios.

(Reuters) - Microsoft is buying N-trig, an Israeli provider of digital pens and chips for touch screens, for at least $200 million, the Calcalist financial news website said on Thursday.
Most of N-trig's 190 workers will be integrated into Microsoft Israel and will be part of a new research and development center, Calcalist said, without citing sources.
Officials at N-trig and Microsoft in Israel could not be reached for comment.

Customers for N-trig's technology include Sony, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo for use in smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks.

N-trig was valued at $75 million when it raised money privately last February.
N-trig had revenue of $36.7 million in 2013, up 38 percent from 2012. Revenue totaled $20.6 million in the first half of 2014, when it sold 1.3 million digital pens, more than three times the amount it sold in the same period of 2013.

Microsoft, which owns 6.1 percent of the company, signed a deal last year to integrate N-trig' s pen in its Surface Pro 3 tablets. Other investors in the company include Evergreen Venture Partners, Canaan Partners and Tamares.

NASA's newest robotic explorer rocketed into space in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia that dazzled sky watchers along the East Coast of the U.S.

LADEE, which is the size of a small car, is expected to reach the moon on Oct. 6.
Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon's ever-so-delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another puzzle, dating back decades, is whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.

The $280 million moon-orbiting mission will last six months and end with a suicide plunge into the moon for LADEE. The 844-pound (380-kilogram) spacecraft has three science instruments as well as laser communication test equipment that could revolutionize data relay. NASA hopes to eventually replace its traditional radio systems with laser communications, which would mean faster bandwidth using significantly less power and smaller devices.

"There's no question that as we send humans farther out into the solar system, certainly to Mars," that laser communications will be needed to send high-definition and 3-D video, said NASA's science mission chief, John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Leaks by former security contractor Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency has cracked into Internet communications previously believed to be protected by the use of encryption.

The New York Times, Pro Publica and The Guardian, working in partnership on the story, reported that documents obtained from Snowden show that the NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) successfully broke through encryption barriers in 2010.
"Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable," the reports said, citing one of the GCHQ documents.

The documents reportedly show that the NSA's anti-encryption methods are closely guarded, and analysts are told, "Do not ask about or speculate on sources or methods," The Guardian reported.
The leaked documents also reveal that -- aside from using supercomputers and court orders -- the NSA would spend as much as $250 million per year to "covertly influence" tech companies to create loopholes in their products so the U.S. agency can easily access user information.
The latest revelations follow months of ongoing leaks from Snowden, who is now in Russia on a temporary asylum visa, exposing the NSA's efforts to collect data on civilians in the U.S. and abroad by tapping phone calls and Internet activity.

The NSA, for its part, told in an emailed statement that "it should hardly be surprising that our intelligence agencies seek ways to counteract our adversaries' use of encryption. Throughout history, nations have used encryption to protect their secrets, and today terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers and others also use code to hide their activities. Our intelligence community would not be doing its job if we did not try to counter that."

The agency said that its deciphering of encrypted communications "is not a secret, and is not news," and that "anything that yesterday's disclosures add to the ongoing public debate is outweighed by the road map they give to our adversaries about the specific techniques we are using to try to intercept their communications in our attempts to keep America and our allies safe."