Internet Queens by WadeM via Flickr
Internet Queens by WadeM via Flickr

Happy Birthday Internet! Happy Birthday Web!

Several Notable birthdays occurred this week. The World Wide Web celebrated its 25th anniversary on Tuesday. Yesterday marked the 25th birthday of the Linux Foundation as well. The first test of wireless networking and protocols from ARPAnet that would become the Internet were conducted 40 years ago tomorrow.

The Internet was a revelation, and the WWW began the flourishing of a whole new world that more than half of humanity has participated in to some extent. It was hard to imagine any of the technological advancements of 2016 back in 1976, just as it’s hard to imagine where we’d be now if not for those audacious experiments in connection decades ago.

It hasn’t all been pretty. Wired celebrated the birth of the web with an open letter to the Internet itself, reminding us that we’re all responsible for the sorry state of discourse online. Buzzfeed reminds us that hacks are inevitable when cybersecurity itself is broken. And how much does the web still matter if everything is moving into walled gardens like Facebook and phone apps?

Also, the National Park Service celebrated it’s 100th anniversary yesterday. Get outside, you internet nerds! Just kidding, I prefer my screen to the swamps of the Everglades.

Of Course Everyone’s Already Using the Leaked NSA Exploits

Lily Hay Newman, Wired

There’s a reason that it’s important for security vulnerabilities to be responsibly disclosed to the developers of software and hardware. Not doing so can open those applications up to exploitation. Even if you think that you’ve found a vulnerability that no one else will, there’s nothing stopping you from getting hacked yourself and having those exploits stolen. Even if you are the NSA.

Recently a hacking group known as Shadow Brokers announced the acquisition of material from NSA affiliated spies that included a variety of programs, zero days, and other exploits for common pieces of software. As a taste of their wares, they released some of these exploits which have been confirmed as working, do not have patches from the previously unaware victim companies, and are currently being used by hackers with almost no skill required to use following step-by-step instructions.

It’s now a race against time for affected systems to be hardened, and for software makers to patch their programs. Not only will these tools then be rendered moot in their current incarnation for NSA intrusion use, but real damage can be done in the interim, with all of us paying the price for a lack of responsible disclosure.

Word Games: What the NSA Means by “Targeted” Surveillance Under Section 702

Cindy Cohn, EFF

Another bad habit of the NSA? Using confusing verbiage and changing the meaning of existing words internally to claim to follow the letter of the law, if not in spirit. What does targeted mean when the loosely connected people swept up in a targeted account amounts to billions of US communications for millions of citizens each year?

French official threatens lawsuit over widely shared burkini ban photos

Marcus Gilmer, Mashable

I cannot claim to have excellent legal knowledge of public photography rights in France, and assuming that what I’m familiar with in the US will translate would not be wise. Still, I’m not discussing the act of photography and jurisdictions here, but of sharing photos. The president of the French administrative region that Nice is a part of has sent letters threatening lawsuit to individuals who shared photos of a woman being forced to remove a burkini by metro police.

The internet is built on sharing and is fueled by sharing, whether you like it or not. Like the lawyer story below, trying to suppress these images is pointless, as there’s no way to reliably strip any content from the many disparate networks that comprise the shared internet.

The Streisand Estate. Copyright 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project,
The Streisand Estate. Copyright 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project,

Major internet companies support Yelp in case that threatens online reviews

Greg Sterling, Marketing Land

Are you familiar with the Streisand Effect? Named after the singer, it’s the phenomenon of drawing more attention to information that someone tries to keep secret due to the fact that they try to censor it in the first place. Basically, if Streisand didn’t sue a photographer over pictures of her home, almost no one would have seen the pictures, but now they’re available all over the web.

A former client of a California lawyer was sued over a negative Yelp review, and as it wasn’t challenged, the court ordered Yelp to remove the review. Yelp refused as they were never part of the legal proceedings, and wide range of legal scholars and fellow tech companies have submitted letters backing Yelp up for their actions.

Safe Harbor is already under attack. The concept, part of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, ensures growth on the web by protecting site owners from content posted by their users if they responded to legal requests for content removal in a timely manner. The difference here is that the company, Yelp, was not even involved in the altercation, but was commanded to take action on something that wasn’t proven to be libelous at all.

Honestly the only question that I have in this case is why a dentist’s reviews are trashed with blatant lies due to socially unacceptable behavior entirely unrelated to his practice, but how the page of a lawyer embroiled in a frivolous lawsuit has not been likewise attacked.

"GCHQ ! Delete my data!" via Frerk Meyer on Flickr
“GCHQ ! Delete my data!” via Frerk Meyer on Flickr

We Need to Make Digital Data That Dies Like Us

Michael Byrne, Motherboard

There are a lot of services that cater to those who want to have a final say in their digital lives. Is deleting that data on demand the best option? It’s a task that is sudden and abrupt, final and absolute. This is not how most people treat death, and some time thinking about how we treat our digital lives is in order.

Florida’s state senate approved a bill in February that would allow people to appoint data custodians for after their death. Facebook, Google, and other major platforms already have death policies, but this is meant to codify that. Digital death is on the minds of a lot of lawmakers lately.

You Won’t Believe What Facebook Is Giving Away for Free Now

Klint Finley, Wired

Clickbait title? Exactly. Facebook is open sourcing some artificial intelligence software that classifies texts that it sees. This would allow people using the software to determine the meaning of content programmatically, and to filter spam and clickbait more easily.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – The Privacy Debate is On

Connie Guglielmo, CNet

I’ve already seen the movie about Edward Snowden. ‘Citizenfour’ came out two years ago and won best documentary at the 2015 Academy Awards. Similar to the dramatized version of ‘Man on a Wire’ that came out earlier this year, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is turning a best-doc into his shot at best actor.

The nice thing about reading interviews with JGL is that he sounds like he’s both interested in the ideals of the person who he’s portraying (easy to believe for the transparency and open collaboration part with his long-running HitRecord production company), as well as committed to getting it as right as possible in a confusing situation.

A Gary Johnson Super PAC Spent $30,000 on “Internet Web Memes”

Hudson Hongo, Gawker

The internet has been a driver of politics for the past decade and is only becoming more important. A Super PAC for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is being clear in tax filings exactly where that money is going. We don’t know what $30k in memes is (none of their ads have aired/displayed yet), but I hope it’s not things that were old five years ago.

It’d Be Crazy Easy for Brazil to Block the Web Right Now

April Glaser, Wired

The world is watching Brazil right now due to the whirlwind of (partly literal) garbage surrounding the Olympics. That might be enough to deter them from shutting down the internet in the country (and the impeachment proceedings of their president may take precedence), but it’s not unheard of for the country.

Three times in the past seven months the country has shut down internet service in an attempt to block WhatsApp and force the company to reveal customer information that it may not even have, thanks to the end-to-end encryption that the service now employs. The intimidation hasn’t worked yet but has left a negative mark on the country that is having the pile on under the global attention.

We Vibe  connected vibrator
We Vibe connected vibrator

Hackers can spy on you through your ‘smart’ sex toy

Patrick Howell O’Neill, The Daily Dot

Is no Internet of Things device sacred? Even if it’s a thing that you stick inside your body? A presentation at DefCon last week showed how easy it was to gather data via unsecured Bluetooth from the We-Vibe remote vibrator. That information included, among other things, the vibration intensity of the devices, as well as readings from the chip’s temperature sensor.

The creators of the device were quick to respond and note that the temperature readings are not sensitive enough to determine which orifice the vibrator was placed in. Be that as it may, we can discuss codes of ethics around popular games like Pokémon Go, and a discussion about the security of personal devices in which hacking is more of a grey-crime. If someone takes control of your connected dildo and uses it when you think that your significant other is using it would that be harassment? Cheating? Rape?

Artmotion Data Risk Map

Hosting Riskmap: Data danger zones


Why is Switzerland ranked the #1 country in the world for hosting data security and the US at an embarrassing #38? ArtMotion has put together a whitepaper detailing their scoring criteria and rankings, but to save you a click (though it’s worth a gander), the risks of corruption, disasters, conflict unstable infrastructure, terrorism, and politics all play a role in determining where the best place to keep your data secure are.

Internet or Splinternet?

Joseph S. Nye, Project Syndicate

Once again everybody, the US does not own the internet, so handing oversight of the IANA (an address book of the internet) to the ICANN (an international body of phone books, in my terrible analogy) isn’t making our country weaker. It does mean that we can make the internet more stable, and potentially avoid a stunted growth problem, which is still a likely scenario given the penchant for countries like the aforementioned Brazil or the largest online cohort in the world, China, to block information from their citizens.

Cybercrime, walled gardens, and fragmentation of service are also issues outlined in a recent report by the Global Commission on Internet Governance that could cause an imbalance in internet freedoms. It’s estimated that more than 8% of global GDP is directly tied to the internet (a number that I find rather low), and this will only continue to grow if it is allowed. The freedom of the internet must be maintained to allow growth and prosperity, and will not thrive under consolidation and traffic discrimination.

Easter Eggs in Applications──Konami Code, ASCII art, and more!

Daniel Mullins, Code Mentor

This is an old post, but there’s still some web easter eggs that I’ve not seen. The most impressive ones are those listed below the main post. The Konami code is pretty popular, but imagine hiding ASCII art in banking software.

Open Source Won. So, Now What?

Klint Finley, Wired

The push for the digital future has been working its way through the federal government slowly but steadily over the past few years. Considering the adoption of Linux as a standard OS, modern (less than a decade old, that is) phones to replace the stalwart Blackberry for elected officials, and the formation of the US Digital Services and 18F, it looks like the government is learning what the private sector has been discovering over the past few years: open source is a winning solution.

The White House has put forth a policy that requires departments to release 20% of software that they commission henceforth as open source software. The goal is to help find security flaws and remediate them, share this knowledge with others that might find it useful, including other departments, and ultimately save money.

Pokemon Go Signup
Pokemon Go Registration, photo by Eduardo Woo

PokĂ©mon Go. Or Don’t.

I uninstalled Pokémon Go this week. I share the opinion of Eevee himself that the game is inherently broken.

Don’t get me wrong. The game works at what it does really, really well. It’s a testament to the power of the franchise and the gamification system that even without servers always up, users are willing to wait and reload through game crashes.

That goodwill has itself started to crash down, with the frustration of issues with the app, how it’s getting used in the real world, and the broken distance counter, which if pushing some players over the edge..

It’s one thing for a useful feature to not work and get removed while it’s being worked on. It’s another thing for player workarounds to be called cheating when players are trying to be more involved with their gameplay.

When the game gets updated I may give it another shot. Until then, I’ll have more fun spending time with my friends who are playing and walking around, and in general being that old man who is aging out of the popular internet.

International Olympic Committee bans GIFs

Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

The International Olympic Committee, which somehow gets away with corruption much better than FIFA, is ridiculously protective of its brand. To the point that they’ve expressly forbidden the creation of GIFs or other internet content around Olympic broadcasts.

Considering how much people still care about these games despite the mismanagement of an entire operation that was ostensibly created to celebrate competition and global unity, the IOC will get its way. If you’re a journalist and want to share a Vine of one of the events, you’ve been put on notice.

Meet Moxie Marlinspike, the Anarchist Bringing Encryption to All of Us

Andy Greenberg, Wired

I’ve never known much about the creator of Signal, but this Wired feature paints him as the consummate counter-culture hacker. The Signal protocol has been integrated into WhatsApp, and is getting added to other major chat platforms this year. Some of his views border on extremism, but he’s got the chops to back them up.

One of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges lost $65 million in a hack

Josh Horwitz, Quartz

Bitcoin can’t seem to catch a break. All of the major exchanges have been attacked and most have suffered hacks or lost Bitcoin to thieves. Bitfinex, the third largest exchange in the world, suffered a loss of 119,756 coins, totalling about $65 million dollars.

Considering how many humps in the road that Bitcoin has had on the way to growing up into an adult currency, these issues are a testament to how resilient it is. The value fluctuates, but considering they’re even more made up than other currencies, the $590.83 USD value of each Bitcoin at time of writing is pretty impressive.

Apple joins the bug bounty party with $200,000 top prize

Iain Thomson, The Register

Yesterday at Black Hat, a security and hacker con in Las Vegas, Apple announced a bug bounty program aimed at iOS. Specifically, they want to have select researchers attempt to run arbitrary code on boot on iOS, infiltrate iCloud, or use sandbox data in a real world environment on an iOS device, all combined for a $200,000 pot.

This is very clearly a reaction to the claims that the FBI had outside help in hacking the iPhone 5C of the San Bernadino shooter, after Apple refused to write exploits themselves. Apple will probably never get to know for sure how the FBI did it, or if they even did, but this is a step in the right direction for the company to further secure the data of their customers.