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NSA Talking Points On Utah Data Center: We're Teaming Up With Tech Companies To 'Protect' The Internet | Techdirt

NSA Talking Points On Utah Data Center: We're Teaming Up With Tech Companies To 'Protect' The Internet | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Last year, well before all of the revelations concerning the NSA's surveillance program, reporter James Bamford, who has a long history of reporting on the NSA's questionable activities, revealed the details of the NSA's massive data center in Bluffdale, Utah, which it was building to host all of this information that it's been hoovering up for years.

 

Michael Morisy, from Muckrock, used a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get the media talking points that the NSA used upon the groundbreaking of the building. As reported in Bamford's piece, there had been a "public" groundbreaking, with press there, and Morisy wondered how the NSA framed the building's purpose when it first discussed it. And, the answer, it appears, was to play down anything having to do with the massive data collection.

The talking points play up the fact that there's so much data online, but rather than talking about how the NSA is collecting all of it, they say that they're setting up this operation to help "protect" your data. From everyone... except the NSA, of course.

 

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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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HBO GO Lands on the Fire TV, Stick, and Amazon Celebrates With $20 Price Cut | Quinten Plummer | TechTimes.com

HBO GO Lands on the Fire TV, Stick, and Amazon Celebrates With $20 Price Cut | Quinten Plummer | TechTimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Shoring up its streaming services to continue its hardware war with Roku and Google, Amazon and HBO are making a deal to bring HBO GO to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.

The inclusion of HBO GO comes roughly a month after Google Chromecast announced integration with Showtime Anytime, a service Amazon's Fire streaming family already offered. The Fire TV's streaming service has quadrupled since its launch, according to Peter Larsen, vice president of Amazon Devices.

"We're thrilled to add HBO GO, the most requested service, to Fire TV in time for the holidays," says Larsen. "HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking and award-winning TV shows and movies, and we are excited to bring this amazing content to our customers, all of which is accessible via voice search on your Fire TV remote."

Support for HBO GO gives Fire TV and Fire TV Stick users access to more than 1,700 movies, miniseries, TV shows and documentaries. As always, consumers will need to have an HBO subscription through their cable or satellite TV provider to access HBO GO's content.


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Google in tussle with state attorney general after Sony leaks | Grant Gross | CIO.com

Google in tussle with state attorney general after Sony leaks | Grant Gross | CIO.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The recent data breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment has prompted a war of words between Google and the U.S movie industry, with the Internet giant accusing a state attorney general of collaborating with movie studios in a copyright enforcement campaign against it.

The dispute has spilled over into the U.S. court system. On Monday, Judge Henry Wingate of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi gave Google an additional two months to respond to a 79-page subpoena filed in October by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, according to an Associated Press report. Hood had originally given Google until Jan. 5 to respond.

Google on Friday asked the court to throw out the subpoena, days after the company accused Hood of using Motion Picture Association of America lawyers to draft a letter accusing Google of profiting from online piracy and illegal drug sales.

The movie studios have long accused Google of not doing enough to stop online distribution of pirated films. But the latest tiff started after emails released by Sony hackers showed the MPAA, Sony and five other large movie studios working together to attack a company code-named Goliath, widely believed to be Google.

The multi-year campaign by the studios would “rebut Goliath’s public advocacy” and “amplify negative Goliath news,” the Verge reported in mid-December. The campaign included an effort to work with state attorneys general and major ISPs to control the flow of data online, the Verge reported.

News reports about the MPAA’s Goliath campaign prompted Google general counsel Kent Walker, in a blog post last Thursday, to accuse the MPAA and Hood of trying to revive the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act [SOPA], the antipiracy bill killed in the U.S. Congress in early 2012 after massive online protests.

In the Friday filing asking the Mississippi court to kill Hood’s subpoena, Google’s lawyers argue that Hood’s investigation of Google is trumped by federal laws, including legal protections in the Communications Decency Act for Web-based services that publish third-party content.


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Canada unveils plans for ‘unprecedented’ release of mobile spectrum | TeleGeography.com

Canada’s government has announced plans to release an ‘unprecedented amount of mobile spectrum’ in 2015, with Industry Canada claiming that by May 2015 the amount of spectrum available to provide mobile services to consumers will have increased by almost 60% against early 2014.

As part of its plans, the state has confirmed it will launch an auction of ‘Advanced Wireless Spectrum-3’ (‘AWS-3’) frequencies (1755MHz-1780MHz, 2155MHz-2180MHz) on 3 March 2015, with it saying these will ‘enable the delivery of fast, reliable service on the latest smartphones, tablets and mobile devices and to encourage sustained competition’.


In addition, the government said it will seek views on plans to make spectrum in the 600MHz band available for mobile use, and plans to provide a path for mobile use in the 3500MHz frequency band, while maintaining existing fixed-wireless internet services in rural areas.


Further, the state intends to develop a plan to enable use of the AWS-4 spectrum band (2000MHz-2020MHz and 2180MHz-2200MHz) in order to enable the launch of a new operator, with a view to increasing ‘[the] choice to Canadians, especially those in rural and remote areas’.


Rounding out the plans, Industry Canada said an additional 2100MHz of spectrum will be made available, while it intends to establish a ‘more efficient and consistent process’ for new concessions in the 24GHz, 28GHz and 38GHz bands.


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The year in tech: Net neutrality, IoT grows up, Uber turns heads | Tom Krazit | GigaOM Tech News

The year in tech: Net neutrality, IoT grows up, Uber turns heads | Tom Krazit | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As 2014 draws to a close, the tech world seems a little weary. It was a draining year if you were plugged into social media, with conflicts at home and overseas juxtaposed against the soaring wealth of the San Francisco Bay Area, home to an industry that has become one of the dominant forces in the world. As we inch closer to what will likely be the top of the Third Tech Boom-Bust Cycle since the web changed the world, technology has never been more present in our day-to-day lives, for better or worse.

But for all the conflict that marked the year in tech — a blatant power grab by the company that was actually voted “Worst Company in America,” the uneasiness that FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler might finally reward his old buddies in the cable industry with favorable internet regulation, and a series of public-relations disasters by Uber that left a black mark on the next dominant tech company — there were plenty of bright spots, especially among the areas that Gigaom follows closely.

Big Data has turned into big money and the rise of deep learning and artificial intelligence could transform computing. The cloud is the norm, and the largest companies in tech are going all-in on cloud computing as new startups promise to make complex app development even simpler. The internet of things, a concept we have evangelized for years, went from buzzword-just-around-the-corner to the cornerstone of planning from tech companies big and small heading into 2015.

The king of the hill — Apple — unveiled what could be its next-generation product category breakthrough amid the growing popularity of wearable computers. Microsoft showed that it is at last ready to enter the mobile computing era with the refreshing emergence of Satya Nadella as its third-ever CEO. And Tesla proved that the electric car is alive and well, and just getting started as the vehicle of the 21st century.

I asked our writers to pick the most important, most notable, and most influential developments on their beats in 2014, and here’s what they came up with. We’re looking forward to the holiday break as much as the rest of you are, because 2015 promises to be a landmark year for the tech industry.


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Free Press Builds Upon Mountain of Evidence Against Proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger | Tim Karr | FreePress.net

Free Press Builds Upon Mountain of Evidence Against Proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger | Tim Karr | FreePress.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In a filing to the Federal Communications Commission today Free Press defended its petition to deny the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, building upon the mountain of evidence already amassed against the proposed $45 billion merger. If approved, the merger would result in a communications colossus that would dominate high-speed telecommunications services in more than 60 percent of the country.

Free Press' filing (available online) urges the agency to reject the proposed merger for three primary reasons:

1) It would lead to no merger-specific benefits but ample transaction-specific harms;
2) It would occur in a market already trending towards a nationwide cable monopoly; and
3) It would give Comcast the market power and incentive to discriminate against and control the emerging high-speed online services market.

Comcast has used its already overwhelming market power to stifle innovation in the growing online video market, according to Free Press' filing. That harmful dominance would be greatly enhanced if regulators allowed Comcast to consummate its merger with Time Warner Cable.

Despite the fact that Comcast markets its broadband connections as capable of delivering content at certain speeds, its customers have been unable to access services and websites, streaming data at only a fraction of the capacity they purchased. "Content owners were more than willing to bring this content to Comcast’s front door, and did not ask for any special treatment," according to Free Press' filing. " All they wanted to do was hand over the data requested by Comcast (via its customers). Instead of accepting this traffic, Comcast engaged in a cynical game of brinksmanship and exercised its market power [in ways that have] harmed millions of consumers."


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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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Comcast, NBC Have Learned Little, Still Cling Tightly To Broken 'TV Everywhere' Mindset | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Comcast, NBC Have Learned Little, Still Cling Tightly To Broken 'TV Everywhere' Mindset | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For years the cable and broadcast industry has tried to pretend it's keeping pace with the times via an initiative called "TV Everywhere." TV Everywhere essentially lets cable subscribers watch a selection of limited content on limited devices -- if you have a traditional cable connection.


The idea is that if you've got TV Everywhere, there's simply no need to wander off campus to enjoy streaming services from the likes of Netflix. But as we noted years ago, the idea was unlikely to accomplish much given it's based on DRM'd, restrictive walled gardens and unskippable ads -- precisely the sort of things that drive users to streaming alternatives and piracy in the first place.

Our skepticism appears warranted. A study from earlier this year indicated that 82% of consumers have no idea what TV Everywhere even is. While polite about it, the study concluded that this was because TV Everywhere as a concept just isn't implemented very well, and inconsistently across carriers.


The study also noted that just 4% even knew what their cable credentials are. Companies like Sling have seized on the TV Everywhere dysfunction, going so far as to launch entire ad campaigns mocking the concept for being overly restrictive and just kind of annoying.

In an amusing attempt to right the TV Everywhere ship, Comcast and NBC Universal appear poised to launch a new TV Everywhere brand awareness effort. This will include, reports indicate, promoting the service via ads running the tagline "watch TV without a TV":


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Setting the Record Straight on Open Internet Comments | Gigi Sohn & David Bray | FCC.gov

Over the past week, there have been two reports raising questions about the number of Open Internet comments that were included in a set of XML files the FCC released to the public on October 22. We made available these XML files so members of the public could analyze the approximately 2.5 million comments filed during the reply comment period of July 19-September 15. In light of these questions, the Commission undertook a fresh accounting of the comments, and, consistent with our commitment to transparency throughout this process, we wanted to share the results of our analysis.

Before sharing those results, we think it’s important that people understand that much of the confusion stems from the fact that the Commission has an 18-year-old Electronic Comment Filing system (ECFS), which was not built to handle this unprecedented volume of comments nor initially designed to export comments via XML. This forced the Commission’s information technology team to cobble solutions together MacGyver-style. Thanks to these creative efforts, we have been able to accommodate the surge in comments and release the comments as XML files for the first time in the FCC’s history, but not without some glitches that we will explain in this post.

Here are some key takeaways from our inquiry:


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Is the NSA Responsible for N. Korea's Hack of Sony Pictures? | Juan Cole Blog

Is the NSA Responsible for N. Korea's Hack of Sony Pictures? | Juan Cole Blog | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In all the discussions of what is alleged to be North Korea’s horrible cyber-vandalism against Sony Pictures, I haven’t seen anyone bring up a key issue: The National Security Agency has been for two decades a powerful behind-the-scenes lobby for weak internet encryption and privacy protocols.

I don’t know enough of the details of how Sony was hacked to be able to prove that specific weaknesses derived from the NSA anti-privacy lobbying and bribing. But it is certainly the case that the US government is implicated in exposing millions of consumers to such invasions of privacy.

Just this year, I wrote of a Reuters story:

“ Reuters gets the scoop: the National Security Agency gave internet security firm RSA some $10 million to use an NSA encryption formula in its BSafe software. RSA is now a subsidiary of the EMC corporation, and they have urged customers not to use BSafe since the revelations by Edward Snowden made clear that the NSA’s formula in fact allowed the agency access to all the information supposedly encrypted with it.

This story should be a huge scandal, but I fear it won’t be. This is like the FDA paying a pharmaceutical company to carry a drug that does not work and could therefore leave patients open to dying from an untreated illness after taking medication they are assured will cure it. If the NSA could exploit weaknesses in the encryption formula, so could hackers. The NSA subverted the will of millions of customers around the world who used RSA software precisely in a quest to be safe from the prying eyes of government officials and other peeping Toms.

Moreover, the $10 million has to be seen as a bribe (it was a third of that RSA’s income that year). Isn’t it illegal for government officials to bribe private companies? Isn’t it moreover illegal for intelligence officials to give out money like candy to a private company in order to spy on Americans on American soil?

I’d like to know what NSA official or officials were involved in this sting operation on the American people. I’d like to know if Barack Obama knew about it. I’d like to know if the corporate officials who accepted the “contract” with these strings attached knew they were screwing us all over.


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First high-speed train trip through WMass' 'Knowledge Corridor' | Anthony Fay & David McKay | WWLP.com

First high-speed train trip through WMass' 'Knowledge Corridor' | Anthony Fay & David McKay | WWLP.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Monday marks the beginning of a new era in transportation for western Massachusetts, as Amtrak’s high-speed Vermonter trains made their first run through the Pioneer Valley. The new trains, which travel at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, made stops at some new stations: the high-speed rail project is bringing rail service to Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield, as well as Springfield, which is already served by the Vermonter.

The transition to the high-speed trains also means the end to the Vermonter’s current route, which runs east from Springfield to Palmer, and then north to stop at Amherst before continuing on to Brattleboro.

Monday’s trip was an “inaugural run” for the high-speed trains, and Congressmen Richard Neal and James McGovern, as well as Governor Deval Patrick were among the state, local, and federal officials who took part in the afternoon ride through the “Knowledge Corridor” line. It gave them a first hand look at how the train rides, how the tracks have been improved, and even quieted down.

Neal said that the often controversial American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is to thank for this improvement in local rail service.

“This is the result of the stimulus money vote we took in a highly controversial and charged atmosphere about six years ago. Sometimes, there’s a considerable lag between the actual vote, the groundbreak, and the ribbon cutting, but today you see the end result of the Vermonter,” said the Springfield Democrat.

Regular high-speed Vermonter service will officially begin on Monday, December 29.


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