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Copyright reformers pan weak legislation on cell phone unlocking | Ars Technica

Copyright reformers pan weak legislation on cell phone unlocking | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A new bill to allow cell phone unlocking is getting low marks from reform groups and online activists. The legislation, introduced by Reps. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would tell the FCC to force cell phone companies to "permit the subscribers of such services, or the agent of such subscribers, to unlock any type of wireless device used to access such services."

 

Significantly, it would not make any changes to the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which critics say is the root cause of the cell phone unlocking fiasco. Public interest in the topic was sparked when the Librarian of Congress ended an exemption to the DMCA for cell phone unlocking that had been in place for the preceding six years. Activists gathered 100,000 signatures on the White House's petition site, leading to the Obama administration endorsing the reversal of the ban on cell phone unlocking.

 

"The root of this problem lies in parts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how easily they are abused at consumers' expense," said Christopher Lewis of Public Knowledge in an emailed statement. "Amending the DMCA itself will ensure stronger competition, and also that consumers can use the devices they've bought in whatever lawful way they choose."

 

"As far as I can tell, it doesn't do anything at all," said Sina Khanifar, who started the White House petition, in an e-mail to Ars. He pointed out that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has already pledged to look into the issue, and might compel wireless providers to allow unlocking anyway.

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Cox Communications close to wrapping up Homelife roll out | Mike Robuck | CED Magazine

Cox Communications close to wrapping up Homelife roll out | Mike Robuck | CED Magazine | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

With Baton Rouge, La. going live last week, Cox Communications is close to having its home automation and security service launched across its entire footprint.

The Cox Homelife service, which was first trialed in Phoenix three years ago, will be completely launched once Cox deploys it in Florida and Georgia in early February.

In addition to providing security, as well as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors, the service also allows customers to keep track of areas of their homes via cameras and to control home lighting and thermostats in order to reduce their monthly bills.

“Customers trust Cox each day to connect them to the things they care about. For most people, home and family are at the top of that list. Just in time for the holidays, Cox Homelife is a natural extension of the communications services we deliver,” said Jacqui Vines, senior vice president and region manager, Cox Southeast Region.

Customers can add additional video monitoring and lighting controls on an a la carte basis to customize the service to their home floor plans. Cox’s system allows viewers to access the service’s controls via the Web or through apps for smartphones as well as pay for all of the Cox services on one bill.


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Edith Ramirez Is Raising the F.T.C.’s Voice | Edward Wyatt | NYTimes.com

Edith Ramirez Is Raising the F.T.C.’s Voice | Edward Wyatt | NYTimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The New England Journal of Medicine is not a common venue for antitrust debates. But it was in that academic journal that Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, warned this month that mergers of physician practice groups could stifle competition.

The essay was vintage Ramirez: precise, astute and quietly forceful, particularly when expounding on the commission’s authority. The essay was also the latest example of Ms. Ramirez flashing the agency’s regulatory teeth.

“Extensive evidence that consolidation of health care providers leads to higher prices without corresponding improvements in quality,” she wrote, “supports the F.T.C.’s continued vigilance over these markets.”

While public debate has raged in recent months over the Federal Communications Commission’s position on net neutrality and the Justice Department’s review of the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the F.T.C. has operated somewhat more in the shadows. But Ms. Ramirez is pushing to regain some of the prominence of the F.T.C., the nation’s top consumer protection enforcer, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary — by focusing particular attention on digital privacy and transactions.

Ms. Ramirez’s efforts could lead to more turf battles, including with the F.C.C. and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which see their mandates as covering much of the same enforcement territory. The agencies say publicly that they are working well together and just divvying up the spoils. Behind the scenes, though, more than a little tension has developed.


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Stupid Costly Patent Nuclear War By Microsoft & Apple Against Android Averted | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Stupid Costly Patent Nuclear War By Microsoft & Apple Against Android Averted | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

We've written a few times about Rockstar Consortium, a giant patent troll that was created when Microsoft and Apple (and a few others) teamed up to outbid Google, Intel (and a few others) in buying thousands of Nortel patents. Nortel admitted that it had bulked up on many of these patents for defensive measures, but once Nortel went bankrupt they went to the highest bidder (and the bidding went pretty damn high).


The winners of the bidding kept a few of the patents for themselves, but then dumped them all into "Rockstar Consortium" which was a new giant patent troll and which, importantly, was not subject to promises that Apple and Microsoft initially made (to avoid antitrust problems) to license the patents under reasonable terms.

Last year, Rockstar launched its massive patent attack on Android, suing basically all the major Android phone makers and Google. While some have argued that big company v. big company patent attacks aren't a form of patent trolling, some of us disagree. This, like most patent trolling, is just trying to extract money from companies and has nothing to do with actual innovation. In the tech world, some have referred to this kind of thing as "privateering" in which a big company puts the patents into a shell company to hide their trolling activity.

Either way, it appears that a settlement of sorts has been reached, with Rockstar Consortium agreeing to sell its patents to RPX (with Google and Cisco picking up much of the bill). RPX is sort of the "good version of Intellectual Ventures." It's a company that collects a bunch of patents with the goal of using those patents for member companies for defensive purposes. Even though RPX has generally been "good," the business model basically lives because of patent trolling. Its very existence is because of all the patent trolling and abuse out there.


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CLIC Leadership on Gigabit Nation to Talk Breaking Down State Barriers | community broadband networks

CLIC Leadership on Gigabit Nation to Talk Breaking Down State Barriers | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Jim Baller and Joanne Hovis, two leading voices in the drive to restore local authority, recently spoke with Craig Settles on Gigabit Nation.


Baller and Hovis, the President and the CEO, of The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) spent about an hour discussing how CLIC is finding ways to help businesses, individuals, and public entities work with elected officials to retain or regain the right for local authority.

From the Gigabit Nation website:


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Australian Firm Will Help Expand High-Speed Internet Across Kentucky | Devin Katayama | WEKU.fm

Australian Firm Will Help Expand High-Speed Internet Across Kentucky | Devin Katayama | WEKU.fm | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

An Australian private investment company will immediately begin developing a high-speed internet network across Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear announced on Tuesday.

Beshear made the announcement with Kentucky lawmakers and representatives from Macquarie Capital. A team of Macquarie specialists will develop high-speed Internet across the state over the next few years.

“Improved broadband infrastructure is seen as a key to strengthening the region’s ability to build and diversify that economy,” Beshear said in a news conference.

Kentucky lags behind the national average in access to high-speed internet connections.

Kentucky lawmakers have made expanding broadband, primarily in eastern Kentucky, a priority through the group Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

In 2012, two-thirds of Kentucky households had access to broadband internet, according to a report by the University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research.

Nationally, 73 percent of households had access that same year, the report said.


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Privacy analyst: ‘Santa is the ultimate role model for the NSA’ | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Privacy analyst: ‘Santa is the ultimate role model for the NSA’ | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Don't be fooled by the jolly beard and the twinkle in his eye.

Privacy experts are taking aim at Old Saint Nick just hours before his sleigh is expected to arrive in the United States, arguing that Santa's big data operation poses a potential risk to the personal data of millions — if not billions — of parents and children around the world.

"Clearly, somebody who knows if everyone has been bad or good, and what their interests are, and can be in so many places at once, and keeps all-observing eye on everything, is somebody to be watched," said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

It makes sense. The North Pole is the perfect listening post. Santa lives in a remote, easily defensible location. He collects countless letters from children who spill their guts to him about their hopes and desires. He knows which presents the parents have already bought for their kids, meaning he has access to vast troves of data from retailers both online and off. All this data is likely stored in massive servers that, by virtue of being in the Arctic, are efficiently cooled at little to no cost. (Facebook has tried the same thing.)

Although Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have actively scrutinized commercial data brokers that buy and trade consumers' information, so far no lawmakers or regulators have publicly discussed Santa — possibly the biggest data broker of them all.

"Santa is able to collect a lot of information without even having to pry," said Chester, "because people are constantly writing him letters."

Chester speculated that Santa may even be working for the National Security Agency. Father Christmas, Chester said, would serve as an ideal frontman for an organization battered by the press over its surveillance programs.


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Scrooges strike: Xbox Live, Playstation Network both down | Kevin Tofel | GigaOM Tech News

Scrooges strike: Xbox Live, Playstation Network both down |  Kevin Tofel | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Bad news if there was an Xbox or Playstation under the tree this Christmas Day: You won’t likely get to use either console online for a bit. Why? Both system networks are experiencing issues, reportedly due to a denial of service attack, says Neowin.

Sony indicated on Twitter that it is aware of an issue that’s impacting its network:

We're aware that some users are having issues logging into PSN – engineers are investigating

— PlayStation (@PlayStation) December 25, 2014

A search on Twitter for “Playstation network” shows that at time of writing, there are many people impacted and complaining. The same can be said for Microsoft‘s Xbox Live service; here’s one example I found on Twitter:

Go figure I get my Xbox today, get it all hooked up, and Xbox live goes completely down �� just my luck

— Courtney ✨ (@courtneywynona_) December 25, 2014

I also checked Microsoft’s official Xbox Live status page and it shows that service is indeed limited:


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Minneapolis, MN: Ultrafast’ 10Gbps internet to be rolled out in the US | TeleGeography.com

Parts of Minneapolis are receiving ‘the world’s fastest’ internet speeds from fibre-optic broadband provider US Internet as of yesterday. The Minnetonka-based operator is using its network, currently serving around 30,000 homes in southwest Minneapolis, to offer subscribers access to speeds of 10Gbps, around 400 times faster than the average (25Mbps) in Minnesota.


Joe Caldwell, co-CEO at US Internet says: ‘The fastest internet in the world is going to be here in Minneapolis starting this afternoon … We’re talking about a game-changing speed.’ The provider intends to expand the 10Gbps speeds eastwards in mid-2015, with services costing USD399 per month.

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Yes, North Korea has the internet. Here's what it looks like. | Max Fisher | Vox.com

North Korea is so paranoid about its citizens accessing the internet that merely owning a computer requires permission from local government authorities, and all personal computers are registered with the police, as if they were shotguns. Private ownership of fax machines is banned outright, and sending a single fax requires high-level authorization.


Meanwhile, pirated DVDs of South Korean TV dramas are so illegal that North Koreans caught in regular police sweeps for them can be sentenced to years in labor camps. So you can imagine how tightly restricted internet access would be in the Hermit Kingdom.

Still, North Korea does have the internet. That small web of internet connections between North Korea and the outside world collapsed entirely on Monday, under an apparent mass cyber attack. (The US is not claiming responsibility for the attack, though President Obama warned just days earlier of a "proportional response" to North Korea's hack against Sony.)

In the US, one common reaction to this news has been surprise. Could one of the world's poorest countries, which has placed itself under voluntary isolation, really have the internet? How does it work? Who can access it? And why would North Korea allow any internet access at all?


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As Comcast merger enters final phase, deal may be on thin ice | Jeff John Roberts | GigaOM Tech News

As Comcast merger enters final phase, deal may be on thin ice | Jeff John Roberts | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

When telecom giant Comcast announced plans in February to swallow its largest rival, Time Warner Cable, the consensus in Washington and on Wall Street was that regulators would let the deal go through. Now, as the final phase of an FCC comment period draws to a close, all bets are off.

Recently, views of the merger have shifted amid growing public concern over the state of U.S. broadband, which is rapidly eclipsing pay TV as consumers’ go-to source for entertainment and information. Meanwhile, Comcast’s rivals have gained momentum in their quest to stop the deal.

The final outcome of the review process involves many wild cards — from the fate of net neutrality to Republican control of Congress — but it’s safe to say for now, based on evidence and experts, that the merger’s chances of passing are lower than they were a few months ago.

A shift in sentiment over Comcast’s proposed merger has been reflected in both stock market activity and by the behavior of the deal’s opponents.

Investors’ doubt about the merger’s fate can be seen in the fact that share prices of Comcast and Time Warner Cable are still valued as if the companies are separate entities. As the New York Times noted in November, the adjusted share price of two firms should move toward the same value as the close of the merger approaches — but that is not happening.

Corporate opponents, such as Netflix and smaller telecom firms, have recently ramped up their lobbying game, and launched a new anti-merger campaign.


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No, North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony | The Daily Beast

No, North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony | The Daily Beast | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FBI and the President may claim that the Hermit Kingdom is to blame for the most high-profile network breach in forever. But almost all signs point in another direction.

So, “The Interview” is to be released after all.

The news that the satirical movie—which revolves around a plot to murder Kim Jong-Un—will have a Christmas Day release as planned, will prompt renewed scrutiny of whether, as the US authorities have officially claimed, the cyber attack on Sony really was the work of an elite group of North Korean government hackers.

All the evidence leads me to believe that the great Sony Pictures hack of 2014 is far more likely to be the work of one disgruntled employee facing a pink slip.

I may be biased, but, as the director of security operations for DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker conference, and the principal security researcher for the world's leading mobile security company, Cloudflare, I think I am worth hearing out.

The FBI was very clear in its press release about who it believed was responsible for the attack: “The FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” they said in their December 19 statement, before adding, “the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information”.

With that disclaimer in mind, let’s look at the evidence that the FBI are able to tell us about.


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How to watch The Interview on Apple TV, Roku, iPad and iPhone | Kevin Fitchard | GigaOM Tech News

How to watch The Interview on Apple TV, Roku, iPad and iPhone | Kevin Fitchard | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Interview got a surprise online release Wednesday just in time for the holidays — but watching it on the device of your choice can be a challenge.


Case in point: Google is releasing it for rent and purchase on both YouTube and Play in the U.S., but Apple is sitting on the sidelines, leaving Apple TV and iPad owners wondering what to do.


And Microsoft is streaming it on its Xbox console — but how can you watch it on Roku’s streaming boxes?

For answers, check our guide below:


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FL: Leesburg's $20 million smart-grid boondoggle gets worse | Lauren Ritchie | Orlando Sentinel

FL: Leesburg's $20 million smart-grid boondoggle gets worse | Lauren Ritchie | Orlando Sentinel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Time to readjust thinking about Leesburg's $20 million smart-grid boondoggle.

Remember how it was sold to the public as a way to cut the average power bill by $25 or $30 a month? Nah, forget that.

Remember how it was to be "off the ground" by March 2010, nearly five years ago? Nope-nopey. It still isn't functioning fully.

Remember how the fellow running the operation came up with plan to reduce energy use at the peak — read that: most expensive — time of the month by running generators instead of using power? Uh-uh. That plan turned out to be just a little too clever and created a $3 million blow-back on Leesburg last year.

A look at the progress of getting this expensive project to work last appeared in this column in January 2014.

Now it's a year later, and not much is different — except that the project has moved incrementally closer to functioning, and managers of smart grid have had to change their thinking entirely about what might make it "worth" the millions it is costing taxpayers, whose rates have gone up 10 percent in a year.

Leesburg officials have had to scale back their expectations and look for fresh ways to get the most of smart grid, which is dismally behind in rolling out to the public.

What the city pays for power varies — electric is most expensive during peak times of usage — and the biggest single goal is to reduce use during those times.

Here's how smart grid was supposed to work: The city would install "smart" meters to measure the electric use of its 23,000 customers through a wireless system that talked both to computers at headquarters and to the customer's thermostat.

The electric customer would allow the city to control either the thermostat in any given home by lowering or raising temperatures to reduce use, or to control the flow of power to the entire house, cutting power for multiple short periods during high-use times. A third key to conservation was to set rates that vary by the time the power is used and allow the customer to control his own usage.

That was supposed to be done through a computer program that allowed electric users to access a portal online, figure out when they are using power and then change their habits to reduce their bills by up to $30 a month.

The second piece of the plan to "shave the peak," as it is dubbed, called for the city to reduce power use, too, along with its biggest customers: Cutrale, a citrus-processing plant, two Publix stores, two locations of Leesburg Regional Medical Center and Wal-Mart.

The first part of the plan, involving customers, still is mired in computer glitches, which is why people in Leesburg haven't heard a peep this year about what they need to do to save power.

The second piece prompted the other municipalities with which the city is in the power business to cry foul, leaving Leesburg to pay about $3 million more annually for electric than it has in the past several years.


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NY Judge Laments The Lack Of A 'Right To Be Forgotten'; Suggests New Laws Fix That | Mike masnick | Techdirt

NY Judge Laments The Lack Of A 'Right To Be Forgotten'; Suggests New Laws Fix That | Mike masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A NY state judge, Milton Tingle, has apparently decided that Europe's troubling right to be forgotten concept should be imported into the US (possible registration/paywall). The case he was dealing with -- the rather impressively an vaguely named "Anonymous v. Anonymous Jane Does" -- touches on an issue we've discussed for many years. What happens when you have defamatory content posted to a site, where the site is protected by Section 230 of the CDA, and the original posters cannot be found.

In those cases, as we've noted, there may be no effective remedy for the defamatory speech. The site cannot be forced to take it down, because if they're just a platform, they have no liability for someone else's speech. And since the person or people who are responsible can't be found, not much can be done. That appears to be the situation in this case:

Claiming they were prostitutes, anonymous commentators with the handles "JennaVixen," "Emma NYC Escort" and "Anonymous," posted opinions about the plaintiff's sexual habits.

One of the commentators said he or she also was "an ex-employee owed money who is suing [the plaintiff]."

The plaintiff sued in 2013, claiming the comments were defamatory per se. He said he never engaged in the sexual activity described, nor was he an employer who failed to pay employees.

Since the commenters were anonymous, and there was no way to track them down, the judge initially allowed the commenters to be "served" by posting the summons on the same site where the comments were made, Dirtyphonebook.com. Not surprisingly, posting the summons on the site didn't make the commenters show up in court (whether or not they even saw the summons). Thus, the plaintiff won in a default judgment. But, again, nothing specifically could then be done -- which the judge appears to understand. However, he's troubled by this lack of a remedy, and appears to use the opportunity to muse on importing the "right to be forgotten" in such cases:


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Can you Satirize Poor Customer Service from Big Cable Companies - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 130 | community broadband networks

Can you Satirize Poor Customer Service from Big Cable Companies - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 130 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Given all the horrible experiences people have had over the telephone with massive cable companies, it isn't clear that one can design a skit to parody such a conversation. Each time someone calls one of these companies is a parody in and of itself. However, given that this is a holiday week, we decided to have some fun and record two such conversations using some of real interactions we have had.

The first call is reflective of many attempts we have had in trying to ascertain prices for common services from cable and telephone companies. The second call, starting at about 10:30 into the show, involves someone calling in to have a repair scheduled, this was inspired by and fairly closely mimics what he went through after a neighbor's tree fell on his cable line, severing it from his house.

Just before posting this show, a colleague shared a hilarious comic from Pearls and Swine covering cable sales practices.

Next week, we will have a year-end conversation that itself ends with some predictions for 2015. After that, we will back to normal guests and our normal format. Enjoy the holidays!


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Who’s listening? Skype on Android flaw may allow eavesdropping | Kevin Tofel | GigaOM Tech News

Who’s listening? Skype on Android flaw may allow eavesdropping | Kevin Tofel | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Heads up if you use Skype on an Android device: A reported flaw in the software allows another Skype user to listen to you through your phone without you even knowing.

First reported on Reddit and later by Neowin, here’s how it works at a high level. A Skype caller starts a connection to your device over Skype by calling but hangs up before the call is actually connected. Skype will attempt to reconnect and then will access both your microphone and camera. Effectively, this lets the caller hear and see what’s going on around your Android phone or tablet, leaving you relatively unaware.


The original Reddit poster says that he reached out to Microsoft and that the company responded, saying it’s aware of the issue and is working on a fix. As of time of writing, the last Skype update for Android took place on December 9 in the Google Play Store, so I’d stay tuned and watch for an update; then again, we’re just about ready to enter the holiday week, which could affect any development work on Skype.

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As NYC shooting unfolded, police tried to communicate about the suspect by fax | Nancy Scola | WashPost.com

As NYC shooting unfolded, police tried to communicate about the suspect by fax | Nancy Scola | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As details emerge about the shocking shooting deaths of two New York City police officers in Brooklyn on Saturday, they are raising questions about whether there were glitches in how information flowed between the police departments of two of the east coast's biggest cities more than a dozen years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks revealed fatal weaknesses in law enforcement's information-sharing capacities.


When time was of the essence, the systems in place, technological and otherwise, did not move critical data where it was needed, in the formats in which it was needed, in time for it to be useful.

New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, on Saturday night, described the shooting of the officers as happening "without warning." Indeed, the two officers who were killed had no notice they were under attack. Police in Baltimore County, though, where the eventual Brooklyn shooter, 28-year-old Isamaaiyl Brinsley, was a suspect in an early-morning shooting, have pointed out that they attempted to alert their colleagues to the north of the threat Brinsley posed -- though that perhaps represented only minutes of advance warning.

Here, the timeline is key.


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Judge: Facebook has to face lawsuit over scanning user messages | Jonathan Vanian | GigaOM Tech News

Judge: Facebook has to face lawsuit over scanning user messages | Jonathan Vanian | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Facebook will have to deal with a class-action lawsuit that alleges that the company violated privacy laws by scanning the private messages of users for better advertising, according to a Tuesday ruling by U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton.

In January, two men filed a complaint against Facebook that claimed the social network looks at private messages to discover what websites its users are sharing with each other. After learning of the websites, the complaint alleges that Facebook bumps up those sites’ “Likes,” making Facebook more attractive to advertisers.

As Gigaom’s Jeff John Roberts reported, “the process is similar to Google’s automated practice of scanning Gmail messages in order to serve relevant ads — a practice that a federal judge appeared to consider a violation of the Wiretap Act (Google is appealing).”

While Reuters reported that Facebook argued that the message-scanning allegation “was covered by an exception under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act,” Judge Hamilton apparently wasn’t swayed and “denied Facebook’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit.”


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Some experts don’t believe North Korea was involved in Sony hack | Mathew Ingram | GigaOM Tech News

Some experts don’t believe North Korea was involved in Sony hack | Mathew Ingram | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Now that Sony’s controversial movie The Interview is being streamed online via Google Play and other services, many are celebrating this as a gesture of defiance towards North Korea, and the dictatorship’s threats related to the film’s release — allegedly the reason for the hack that hit Sony earlier this month. But do we know for a fact that North Korea was the mastermind behind this attack? A number of prominent security analysts aren’t so sure.

There was much debate about the actual culprit following the release of Sony’s hacked emails, until the FBI said that it had conclusive evidence that North Korea was involved. But security experts like Bruce Schneier and Marc Rogers — a security analyst for the content-delivery network Cloudflare — say they don’t see the federal agency’s evidence as being all that persuasive. Here’s a look at what the FBI claims, and what skeptics like Schneier and Rogers argue:

Re-use of similar code: The bureau said one of the elements of the hack that suggested North Korea was involved was the use of code fragments that have been used in other cyber-attacks or hacking attempts in which the dictatorship was proven to be involved. As the FBI release described it:

“Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.”

But Rogers says this isn’t really a smoking gun — the code he believes the FBI is talking about, known as Shamoon, is known to have been leaked widely and is now available for any criminal hacker to use, so it can’t really tie Sony conclusively to North Korea. Schneier, meanwhile, said that re-use of code is actually a fairly compelling argument for it not being the work of the North Korean government — although he said the North Korean regime may have stepped in later to take advantage of the hack for PR purposes.


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This Linux grinch could put a hole in your security stocking | Joab Jackson | NetworkWorld.com

This Linux grinch could put a hole in your security stocking | Joab Jackson | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A grinch may be snatching away some year-end holiday time, forcing Linux system administrators to fill a gaping security hole in their systems.

Named after the proverbially grumpy Dr. Seuss character, the grinch vulnerability could affect all Linux systems, potentially providing attackers with unfettered root access, according to security service provider Alert Logic, which introduced grinch to the world Tuesday via a blog post.

Grinch could be as severe as the Shellshock Linux shell flaw that roiled the Internet in September, the company warned.

The fundamental flaw resides in the Linux authorization system, which can inadvertently allow privilege escalation, granting a user “root,” or full administrative access.

With full root access, an attacker would be able to completely control a system, including the ability to install programs, read data and use the machine as a launching point for compromising other systems.

To date, Alert Logic has not seen any exploits that harness this vulnerability, nor did the research team find any existing mention of this hole in the vulnerability database maintained by the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), according to Stephen Coty, Alert Logic’s director of threat research.

The vulnerability could span the range of all Linux systems, including versions of Linux running on cloud services such as Amazon’s and Microsoft’s. Approximately 65 percent of all web servers on the Internet utilize a Unix/Linux based operating system, a W3Techs survey estimated. It could also affect Android phones, which run the Linux kernel.


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Sony Hack Reveals That MPAA's Big '$80 Million' Settlement With Hotfile Was A Lie | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Sony Hack Reveals That MPAA's Big '$80 Million' Settlement With Hotfile Was A Lie | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For years, we've pointed out that the giant "settlements" that the MPAA likes to announce with companies it declares illegal are little more than Hollywood-style fabrications. Cases are closed with big press releases throwing around huge settlement numbers, knowing full well that the sites in question don't have anywhere near that kind of money available.


At the end of 2013, it got two of these, with IsoHunt agreeing to 'pay' $110 million and Hotfile agreeing to 'pay' $80 million. In both cases, we noted that there was no chance that those sums would ever get paid.


And now, thanks to the Sony hack, we at least know the details of the Hotfile settlement. TorrentFreak has been combing through the emails and found that the Hotfile settlement was really just for $4 million, and the $80 million was just a bogus number agreed to for the sake of a press release that the MPAA could use to intimidate others.


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What is Kernel? The Stealth Startup Sony Tapped to Stream 'The Interview' (Exclusive) | Andrew Wallenstein Variety.com

What is Kernel? The Stealth Startup Sony Tapped to Stream 'The Interview' (Exclusive) | Andrew Wallenstein Variety.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The digital distribution of “The Interview” has become the coming-out party for an interesting new venture operating in stealth mode in partnership with Sony Pictures.

The branding for Kernel is prominently displayed on the website on Seetheinterview.com, one of the digital homes Sony announced Wednesday would be streaming the controversial film day and date with hundreds of independent movie theaters.

But Kernel actually isn’t just what it appears to be on the website it built with Sony and other vendors, including online payment processor Stripe. The startup stepped into the crucial role of hosting the stream because of a pre-existing relationship with the movie studio to handle a very different task: To launch an innovative marketing campaign for “The 5th Wave,” a new action franchise starring Chloe Grace Moretz that Sony just began promoting Tuesday night even though it doesn’t bow in theaters until January 2016.

In an interview Wednesday with Variety, Kernel CEO David Harvilicz disclosed that Sony reached out because of his company’s streaming capabilities. “Sony has been working very hard to get this film out,” he said. “They believe in defending the freedom of expression.”

Sony declined comment on Kernel, referring an inquiry to the company’s website.

While Harvilicz declined to discuss specifics of the arrangement, he made clear that cybersecurity experts conducted a risk assessment of Sony’s streaming efforts and concluded that it would be safe from any hack attack. While he acknowledged seetheinterview.com was a little buggy in the first 20 minutes of its launch, the site wasn’t experiencing any difficulties in its first few hours of operation.

The link to Kernel on Seetheinterview.com is now also serving as an unintentional showcase for the effort Sony hired the company approximately one year ago to undertake: Begin the buzz for “The 5th Wave,” the first in a series of books from author Rick Yancey about a teenage girl (played by Moretz) fighting the end of the world.

But what Kernel attempts to do is not only get the buzz going but convert it into revenues by pre-selling theater tickets to the movie, along with various other bonus features like digital downloads, exclusive behind-the-scenes content, scripts and posters. The presold packages–known as a KernelPass–begin at $35 and go all the way up to a limited $1,000 offering that comes with two tickets to the movie’s premiere.


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Irony: Sony Turns To Google, The Company It Was Plotting Against, To Stream 'The Interview' | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Irony: Sony Turns To Google, The Company It Was Plotting Against, To Stream 'The Interview' | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

To me, the biggest story to come out of the Sony Hack remains how the MPAA and the major studios were conspiring to attack Google by paying for state Attorneys General to drum up silly investigations of the company. Most everyone else in the press seems much more focused on the gossip and, of course, what happens to The Interview, the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie that some think was the reason for the hack in the first place (even if the evidence on that remains questionable).


Either way, as you know, Sony briefly shelved the plans to release the movie (which has fairly dreadful reviews from those who have seen it), but then decided to allow a few independent theaters to show it, followed by the announcement this morning that it would stream the movie via YouTube.

There are lots of bizarre story lines related to this -- including, apparently, Apple turning Sony down when approached with a similar deal for iTunes. Or the whole idea of how this might actually show the Hollywood studios the value of releasing movies online at the same time as in theaters (a message many have been trying to send Hollywood for ages, which Hollywood is quite resistant to). And, of course, there's the whole story line about a giant company being bullied by a few stray threats about showing the film in theaters, which almost no one thinks were serious.


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Public-private partnership will create 3,000-mile fiber network throughout Kentucky, improve broadband access in mountains | Kevin Wheatley | CN2.com

Public-private partnership will create 3,000-mile fiber network throughout Kentucky, improve broadband access in mountains | Kevin Wheatley | CN2.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Congressman Hal Rogers’ vision of a “silicon holler” in eastern Kentucky came closer to reality Tuesday after officials announced a wide-ranging effort to provide high-speed Internet access throughout the state, with Appalachia getting some early attention.

Rogers, Gov. Steve Beshear and others touted the public-private partnership between Kentucky and Australia-based Macquarie Capital to develop a fiber infrastructure as a godsend for the impoverished mountain region.

“Eastern Kentucky will be equal to the world in limitless technology — no more boundaries sketched by our terrain, no more boundaries for high-tech work,” said Rogers, R-Somerset. “In the past we were limited by rough terrain and a shortage of modern highways. We can truly create a ‘silicon holler’ and compete with the rest of the world because the cable levels those mountains and gives every county worldwide access.”


Eastern Kentucky is a priority in the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway plan, as officials hope to complete work on a fiber infrastructure “spine” from northern Kentucky to Williamsburg along Interstate 75 by spring 2016.


Also in that timeframe, Macquarie Capital will build a fiber “ring” branching from Fayette County east to Boyd County, south through Floyd and Perry counties and culminating in Pulaski County, as seen in the diagram below. The red portion indicates in first phase of the project and the remaining blue lines show the second phase, which will cover the rest of the state and be completed by fall 2016. The fiber network is expected to be fully operational by 2018.


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Throwing Tax Breaks At AT&T And Verizon Shockingly Not Creating Promised Jobs, Investment | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Throwing Tax Breaks At AT&T And Verizon Shockingly Not Creating Promised Jobs, Investment | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Time and time again we're told by incumbent ISPs that if lawmakers give them "X," we'll soon be awash in all manner of miraculous network investment and job creation. Sometimes "X" is an acquisition, as when AT&T promised to magically increase competition if it was allowed to remove T-Mobile from the marketplace. Often "X" is broad deregulation. Other times it's significant regulation of the other guy. Sometimes it's just subsidies.


Lately we've been told that if we only don't apply net neutrality rules, we'll be awash in amazing network investment and next-generation broadband in no time.

Of course, if you stop and actually pay attention, time and time again you'll shockingly find that these repeated telecom Utopias never arrive, and by giving your favorite lumbering telecom duopolist everything it wants, things generally only get worse.


Deregulate AT&T broadly in California under promise that you'll see lower rates and greater competition, for example, and watch miraculously how things actually get worse (and nobody wants to talk about it).


AT&T's currently telling state lawmakers that if they gut all regulations requiring it maintain DSL and POTS networks (so AT&T can hang up on users it doesn't want to upgrade) we'll soon be awash in the technology miracles of tomorrow. Downgrades are upgrades, you see.

"X" is also all-too-frequently tax breaks and incentives. You might recall that Verizon promised the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania it would deliver fiber broadband to every home in exchange for billions in tax cuts. After getting the incentives Verizon simply threw money at the States, and a decade later neither State ( got the upgrades and both) were willing to forget Verizon's obligations entirely.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal recently dug through the history books, and found that bonus depreciation -- imposed as part of the 2008 Stimulus Act and pushed for by the telcos to spur job creation and investment -- also never delivered the goods. Essentially an interest-free loan that lets companies defer tax obligations, the Journal notes that, once again, the promised job growth and investment spikes never actually happened:


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