Information Technology

Snowden Blames Malware Leak on Russia

Exiled American whistleblower Edward Snowden recently shared his belief that Russia is responsible for leaking a malware that allegedly belonged to the United States National Security Agency.

The hackers responsible for the breach called themselves Shadow Brokers and started auctioning off the malicious software last week after apprehending it.

Security firm Kaspersky has said in a statement that it believes the original files to have come from Equation Group, a group widely assumed to be linked directly to the NSA.

snowdenFormer NSA employee Dave Aitel also shared suspicions that Russia may have been involved. According to Aitel, the breach was likely all part of a diplomatic strategy that ties into Russia being widely blamed for the hack of servers belonging to the United States’ Democratic party earlier this summer.

Yesterday, Snowden tweeted that “This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove US responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server.”

Kaspersky released its findings, which led the company to think “with a high degree of confidence that the tools from the Shadow Brokers leak are related to the malware from the Equation group.”

The hackers released a sample of the malware they stole as a way to verify that their stolen software did indeed share characteristics thought to be unique to the Equation Group. The remainder of the data is still encrypted and can only be decrypted with a key given to the highest bidder in the Shadow Broker’s bitcoin auction.

Ex-NSA employee Aitel listed a variety of reasons why the malware leak was likely to be related to the hacks carried out on the US Democratic party, a leak which resulted in the resignation of the party’s chairwoman. One of the reasons is the auction’s timing; it is occurring around three years after experts believe that the software was originally stolen.

snowden2“High level US political officials seemed quite upset about the DNC hacks, which no doubt resulted in a covert response, which this is then likely a counter-response to,” Aitel explained. He added that the “ability to keep something this big quiet” for this length of time was “probably limited to only those with operational security expertise or desire to leverage those bugs for themselves.”

Snowden tweeted that the “hack of an NSA malware staging server is not unprecedented, but the publication of the take is.” He went on to explain that security services often tried to target each other’s hacking tools so that they could “create ‘fingerprints’ to help us detect them in the future.”

“Why do they do it? No one knows,” he continued, “but I suspect this is more diplomacy than intelligence, related to the escalation around the DNC hack.”

Snowden too suggested that the leak was likely a warning, adding “That could have significant foreign policy consequences. Particularly if any of those operations targeted US allies… particularly if any of those operations targeted elections.”

“Accordingly,” he continued, “this may be an effort to influence the calculus of decision-makers wondering how sharply to respond to the DNC hacks.”

“This leak looks like a somebody sending a message that an escalation in the attribution game could get messy fast,” he concluded.

Wiki Leaks Founder Against Hillary Clinton

In the aftermath of the massive DNC email and voice mail leak, I have become aware of a host of grudges that were either previously unconfirmed or pushed out of the limelight by more “breaking” news.

assange2While the revelation that Democratic National Committee staff members were openly plotting against and mocking Bernie Sanders was hardly surprising, perhaps more interesting is the grudge that has surfaced between Hillary Clinton and Julian Assange. Assange has never been secretive about his disapproval of the highly tenured politician, but his willingness and capability to act openly and powerfully against her campaign is only recently coming to the forefront.

Julian Assange is the founder of Wikileaks, a website dedicated to publishing and indexing hacked information not meant for the public eye, often to the displeasure of politicians. When an undisclosed hacker came to Wikileaks with over 19,000 DNC emails and voice mails, Wikileaks was happy to publish it… just before the Democratic National Convention.

Since the publishing of those emails, the DNC’s head chairwoman has been forced to step down in response to the exposition of what has been seen by many as her unfair treatment of Clinton’s primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. Embarrassing donor information and fundraising processes within the DNC have been revealed to the public, and apologies are being made all around.

But why did Assange choose to publish this information at a time when it would produce the most possible chaos for the Democratic National Convention, during which Clinton was expected to be nominated? What horse does Julian Assange have in the American political race?

julian assangeIt turns out that Assange and Clinton have been on the rocks for a long time now. From his status in exile at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange participated in an interview with ITV’s Preston, during which he maintained that Clinton receives constant updates on his actions.

Clinton has ample reason to be threatened by the Wikileaks founder. Through his website, Assange has made accessible a whole lot of dirt on the Secretary’s problematic past. Wikileaks exposed the connection between Google and Clinton when Jared Cohen, an adviser to Clinton at the State Department, left the department to serve as the director of Google Ideas. Assange says that Cohen participated in black channel diplomacy between Google and the State Department.

Earlier this month, Assange accused Google of colluding with Clinton even further:

“Google is directly engaged with Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” Assange said in a video. “Of course, when she is in power… she is a problem for freedom of speech. We know what she is going to do. She made the chart for the destruction of Libya- she was involved in the process of taking the Libyan armory and sending it to Syria.”

“I have had years of experience in dealing with Hillary Clinton and have read thousands of her cables. Hillary lacks judgement and will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism. Her personality combined with her poor policy decisions have directly contributed to the rise of ISIS,” he said last February. “She’s a war hawk with bad judgement who gets an unseemly emotional rush out of killing people.”

Hackers Threaten Ted Cruz

A few weeks back, hacker-vigilante group Anonymous issued an eerie warning to Ted Cruz demanding that he drop out of the presidential race or else face a damning revolution regarding him and a dark past involving prostitution.

“Mr. Cruz,” the narrator of a chilling video stated, “we are not demanding that you exit this race within 24 hours, or Anonymous will release all of the information we have found. It’s time that we tell America what’s hiding behind the curtain.”

ted“Have you heard of the expression ‘candy wrappers’?” asks the narrator, referring to a colorful term for a male contraceptive. “Do you recall visiting prostitutes?” the narrator continues, more to the point.

“Your so-called underground acts that you think were done in the dark, will be brought out for all the public to see. It will be sent to every media outlet to publicize your disgusting behavior. We assure you it will go viral on every social media platform in a matter of minutes. Mr. Cruz, your disgusting campaign ends now; your campaign to gain power with ulterior motives that include your wife will also be exposed.”

To end this chilling tirade, the narrator closes: “There is nothing from your past that won’t haunt you.”

Keep in mind that this all occurred over a week before the Enquirer came out with its articles regarding Cruz’s extramarital affair, and even before the #CruzSexScandal came to be.

Cruz of course claimed that the prostitution ring reports published by the National Enquirer were baseless and embellished, and even claimed that these accusations were all part of a larger and secretive attack planned by Donald Trump (who was already attacking Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi) and Cruz’s former consultant, Roger Stone.

It has since been concluded that the Enquirer‘s claims were false, but Anonymous has stated that it despite the report’s frivolous and incorrect details about Cruz’s secret affairs, there is legitimate evidence that these affairs occurred.

Anonymous claims to have incriminating evidence to prove that one affair, which allegedly occurred between Cruz and a Cuban mistress, legitimately occurred. Anonymous also revealed that the sex scandal claims are also more linked to Marco Rubio than to Donald Trump.

On the 22nd of this month, Anonymous released a video implying that they have acquired evidence regarding a prostitution ring secret and involves Ted Cruz, hoping to force Cruz to suspend his presidential campaign.

heidi cruzShortly after the video was released, the Breitbart News shared that it had been approached with a scandalous sex story regarding Ted Cruz but had decided not to run it due to a general lack of details regarding the circumstances surrounding the accusations. The News did reveal that the story came from a “Rubio ally.”

“It was too thin, so [Breitbart‘s Washington politcal editor Matt Boyle] decided not to runit. There was no way to verify the claims,” explained a source from the news outlet.

Despite this, Anonymous continues to claim that it has collected the accurate evidence to support their theories regarding Ted Cruz’s extramarital affairs.

New Pact Saves Data Storage Companies After Safe Harbor Decision

Back in October, an agreement was reached between the United States and the European Union regarding American companies handling the personal data of overseas citizens.

This agreement created a “Safe Harbor” for U.S. businesses by decreeing that an American company could simply give its word that it planned to properly protect the data of Europeans (and would need no other form of assurance).

Promises are not generally taken at face value in the world of business, especially when it comes to data protection. However, this decision was more a symptom of desperate circumstances than thoughtful negotiation.

facebookBecause the European Union has passed much stronger sanctions protecting the data of its citizens than the United States has ever bothered to create, issues began to spring up regarding American companies (functioning under more lax American law) becoming responsible for data belonging to people who expect their privacy to be better protected. 

The European Court of Justice believed that the Safe Harbor Agreement was a band-aid solution to a deeper problem regarding world tensions around surveillance, terrorism, and privacy. In light of Edward Snowden’s outing of the United States government’s collection of massive, indiscriminate amounts of personal data via snooping on cloud service providers, the European court ruled that the Safe Harbor protections were not acceptable.

The court believed that there was a real threat that the United States government would ignore the Safe Harbor sanctions meant to protect the data of European citizens. The court also cited the fact that neither European individuals nor European privacy authorities had any real way to punish U.S. government agencies for snooping if they were caught in the act.

Accordingly, the ECJ declared the agreement invalid.

eu2This came as a shock for many European and American tech companies. The agreement was invalidated without the implication of any grace period, so a lot of company leaders are being forced to choose between shutting down their companies or risking potential liability.

HyTrust  Senior Vice President Fred Kost was skeptical about the decision:

“If companies want to completely comply, it likely means that they must examine what data they have from nations in the EU and begin moving the data to infrastructure housed in those nations or demonstrate that it is inaccessible if stored on infrastructure outside those nations via encryption or access controls,” Kost claimed. “The risk to companies lies in how quickly enforcement or legal action is taken.”

Accordingly, just yesterday the United States and the European Union made official a pact known as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which asserts that:

  • “Strong obligations on how Europeans’ personal data is handled and individual rights are guaranteed. The U.S. Commerce Department will monitor compliance with the obligations, and the Federal Trade Commission provide enforcement.
  • “A promise that access by U.S. law enforcement and national security agencies to Europeans’ personal data will be subject to clear limitations, safeguard and oversight mechanisms.
  • “Establishment of several forms of redress for Europeans who believe their data has been misused.”

The glaring issue is, of course, that American government agencies will monitor their own country’s compliance with the obligations.


Police Use Software to Calculate “Threat Score”

In Fresno, CA, police officers have begun to use software that determines a person’s potential for violence much like a bank might run a client’s credit. Its program scours data regarding arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social-media postings. With this information inputted, the man’s threat level was calculated to be the highest of three gradients the span from green to orange to red.

If a man has a firearm conviction, for example, or a gang association, that information is taken into consideration when determining his score. Police can then calculate his score upon being alerted of an issue and know whether or not they should send a negotiator or a squad unit to the scene of the crime.

fresnoThe algorithm used is all part of the Beware software, a tool being used by Fresno police that gives them unprecedented surveillance power. This makes many citizens uncomfortable, but police argue for its necessity given the Paris and San Bernadino terrorist attacks’ proof that more data must be collected to prevent mass shootings and equip officers with the information they need in times of emergency.

Civil libertarians and activists disagree. They claim that the Beware software is an intrusion on people’s privacy and has been deployed with little to know public oversight, meaning it has the potential to be abused.

In general, people don’t like discovering that law enforcement has been snooping on their lives without notifying them or, in some cases, having the proper warrants. People are just realizing that many departments were collecting massive amounts of cellphone data without search warrants. Some Authorities in Oregon are now facing an internal investigation after using social-media monitoring software to keep tabs on the activists involved in the Black Lives Matter protest. The software allegedly tracked hashtags related to the movement and who was saying them.

“This is something that’s been building since September 11,” claimed Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Lynch is a senior staff attorney dedicated to protecting civil liberties in the digital era. “First funding went to the military to develop this technology, and now it has come back to domestic law enforcement. It’s the perfect storm of cheaper and easier-to-use technologies and money from the state and federal governments to purchase it.”

Although most police departments refuse to discuss what surveillance tools they’re using, the Fresno police department was remarkably open about their Beware software, among other advances.

fresno2The Fresno cops also use something ShotSpotter, which can triangulate the location of a gunshot using microphones strung around the city. Media Sonar allows cops to leave social media scanning to programs, which turn up whatever illicit activity they find. Apparently it’s been incremental in helping Police, to monitor individuals, threats to schools and hashtags related to certain gangs. They can also dial up feeds from school and traffic cameras to try to search for particular license plates or criminals on the move. Apparently there are 200 police cameras and 800 feeds from city’s schools and traffic cameras, plus there will be 400 more streams once officers get body cameras.

Major Social Media Companies Agree to Remove Hate Speech in Germany

facebook3On Tuesday Germany announced that popular social networking and media websites YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all agreed to remove any hate speech that appears on their networks within 24 hours of a removal request.

Unfortunately, the stream of over one million immigrants seeking refuge in Germany has triggered a sharp spike in anti-foreigner statements on the internet.

The regulation will not impede free speech so long as the speaker (or writer) is expressing an opinion that is “legitimate”, even if some might find it objectionable.

In the U.S., hate speech refers to any speech, gesture, conduct, writing or display that is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.

The Germans’ definition of hate speech was not outlined at the time of the announcement, and the particular methods by which “objectionable” opinions and hate speech will be differentiated have not yet been disclosed.

The terms of this agreement make Google, Facebook and Twitter responsible for providing user-friendly mechanisms for the submission of removal requests. They will also need to review specific reports of hateful content and incitement to violence via community guidelines and German law.

twitter3Although the specific “community guidelines” of each site may vary, they will need to be in concordance with section 130 of the German code which states, “Whoever disseminates, publicly displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes accessible written material (section 11(3)) capable of serving as an instruction for an unlawful act named in section 126(1) and intended by its content to encourage or cause others to commit such an act, shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine.”

Additionally, the statute states, “Whosoever

  1. disseminates publicly, displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes accessible written material (Section ww(3)) capable of serving as an isntruaciton for an unlawful act named in section 126(1); or
  2. gives instructions for an unlawful act named in section 126(1) publicly or in a meeting,

in order to encourage or cause others to commit such an act, shall incur the same penalty.”

As stated before, when a removal request is received, dedicated teams at whichever respective company must review it and make a decision within 24 hours. They will have access to German experts and expert legal specialists if necessary.

Users can also have their accounts suspended if warranted.

Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, had this to say:

“While we understand companies’ compliance with the law, this sets a bad precedent in that it likely implements systems that could be used by other governments with less noble intentions.”

She continued to retort that such a ruling would never occur in the United States, where even hate speech has not been made illegal. According to York, even popular politicians espouse hate speech all the time.

The companies feel that they are doing the right thing by complying.

“There’s no place for content such as hate speech, incitement or glorification of violence on Facebook,” claimed company spokesperson Tine Kulow. “We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.”


Get the Most Out of Google Calendar

From business executives to busy parents, an organized online calendar can make life a lot simpler. There are a variety of calendar programs available to the interested potential client, but Google Calendar may be the best option for you.

gcGoogle Calendar is free with a Google account, plus you don’t even need to download any programs or software because it is accessible via your web browser. Your information regarding appointments, birthdays, etc. are all stored within Google’s cloud computing system, so you don’t have to worry about losing all your info during a hard drive failure.

Another plus: because you’re storing your calendar on the internet, you can easily share your appointment information with other users. You can also schedule an event and create invitations online and have the event automatically appear on your friends’ online calendars should they RSVP. If you and your friends all share calendars, you can know exactly when they are free and schedule your friendship accordingly.

The Google Calendar is outfitted with a fairly simple interface that most users find intuitive enough. You can see a small, traditional calendar lay out on the leftmost bar of the screen that displays the current month and highlights the day. The majority of the rest of the screen is made up of a list of a calendar with the days of the current month listed top to bottom, starting with the current day. In this format, users can see their appointments listed chronologically for each day of the month.

Users can also choose to view their calendar by day, week, month, or a view that simply displays the next four days. An “agenda” lists all your events chronologically as opposed to day.

text notificationOnce you pick your favorite view, you can block out time on the calendar by clicking on the appropriate day and dragging it down. In the rectangle that forms, Google Calendar then allows you to fill in details about the appointment you’re creating. You can put in a subject header, or include the location as well as short description (name of person you’re meeting, parking info, directions, etc). You can also use a repeating function if the event happens every day, week, month or year such as a piano lesson, a yoga class, or a birthday. Through the month view, you can even block out time for multiple days, a useful feature for trips and vacations.

To be honest, most calendar programs actually offer all of these services. However, Google Calendar understands that and has taken steps to differentiate itself from the rest of its competitors. For example, it includes a search function that allows for you to search through not only your own calendar, but all public calendars that use Google’s system. This allows you to synchronize your own calendar with that of your favorite comedy club, a work conference, a sports team’s game schedule, whatever. The search function is also helpful if you like to have your own private calendar as well as several public ones; it makes it so you can quickly and efficiently sift through all of them.

Google Calendar can also send you text message reminders of appointments, attach photos and Google Maps directions to events, comment on public event entries and receive comments.

How Hard Disk Drives Use Magnetism to Store Information

Of all of the crazy things about our modern world, I’ve always been most amazed by the way that so many gadgets have become normalized to the point that society completely depends on them, yet only a tiny percentage of people have any idea how those gadgets function. For the most part, people don’t even know how their dimmers work, much less how their laptop accesses the internet. Of course, part of how our society works is by having individuals specialize, and then share the benefit of their knowledge (for a price). Just for the sake of being well-rounded then, here’s a little information about how your hard disk drive stores information.

magnetized nailInherent to your hard drive’s ability to store information is the physical concept of magnetism. You’ve probably fooled around with magnets some, and may have even done that experiment in school where you rub a magnet back and forth on an iron nail, effectively magnetizing it.

Magnetism has been harnessed by humans for a long time. A rather simple example is in the common junk yard, where large magnets are used to pick up large piles of scrap metal.

A use that is just as prevalent but less understood involves sending messages. Whether or not something is magnetized can imply information. Because computers store information using binaries, binary code can be matched to magnetized or not-magnetized microscopically small pieces of metal.

In your computer’s hard drive, these “pieces of metal” are actually magnetized areas embedded in the hard drive’s circular plate or “platter.” Each area can be independently magnetized (to store a 1) or demagnetized (to store a 0).

The platters are by far the most crucial aspect of the hard disk drive. They are generally made of glass or aluminum that is then coated with a thin layer of metal that can be magnetized or demagnetized. Smaller hard drives have only one platter, while larger drives could have entire series of platters staked on a central spindle with a small gap in between them. Platters need to rotate extremely quickly (up to 10,000 revolutions per minute) for the read-write heads to access the information stored on them.

hard drive2Once the 0’s and 1’s are stored, an arm mechanism moves a tiny magnet (called a read-write head) back and forth over the platters to either record or store information and act as a link between the hard drive and the rest of your computer.

Regardless of how many platters there are, there will always be two read-write heads for each platter. One is designated for reading the top surface of the platter and the other is designated to read the bottom surface. The read-write heads are mounted on an arm that can move from the center of the drive to the outermost parts. The read-write heads never touch the platter; there is always a layer of fluid or air maintained between them, at least in a functioning drive.

That’s all for now, but here’s a fun fact: magnetism is an excellent power to harness for computer storage because even when the power is shut off the data continues to be stored.

Information Technology – Life Became Simpler

Present day, Information technology is the main purpose of applications in computers and telecommunications, which help to store, retrieve and transmit the data. Almost all the industries are tied up with the information technology. The computer, software, electronics, semiconductors, internet, engineering and many others industries used information technology. Information technology has helped humans to store the data, retrieve it .The information technology has three definitions in three categories. It is the technique for processing, the application with the use of statistical methods, the use of mathematics for decision making and the use of computer programs for simulation. The Information technology was distinguished as pre mechanical, mechanical, electromechanical and electronic phases. The electronic phase began around 1940.

Information technology in present day and current generation

The current world information technology is used in almost all the fields. Right from the day we get up till we sleep. Information technology had made simple alarms which wake up a man. So that he does not get late. The mobile phones which we use are a part of electronic systems which use chips which are a part of information technology. We communicate each other with mobile phones without which life is really difficult for communication. It made the communication simpler with messages and other applications which are developed like whatsapp, etc. People all round the world can be connected with each other with social media like face book, LinkedIn and twitter. Not only a person can speak with each other, but they can even see each other with the help of information technology.

The GPRS system which are placed in cars which provide directions, made driving simple and the driver need not worry if he don’t know the route. The mobiles also have the direction telling applications and they even show alternative routes for their destination. The storage of data and retrieving the data is also simple and can also be carried with the person. Simple pen drives and data cards have made this simple and have replaced bundles of papers and files. Laptops which can be carried anywhere and can be used anywhere made life easier.

Today’s generation kids also use the technology. They use touch pads or ipad for playing games. Students can get the information of any topic in seconds by using the search engines and can prepare any topic easily. The use of information technology has its application even in cooking. Videos which are available, one can easily cook any dish. Even in automobile sector the use of information technology plays an important role. Chips and few data transmitters are used in automobile sectors. The use of micro chips for storing data and giving instructions and programming a robot, had made the robots perform the task quickly and in less time. The robots can perform complex tasks in few hours and this decreases human efforts. Online banking services helped public and also the employees, funds can easily be transferred and any bills can be paid in minutes. There is no need to wait hours in the bank or billing payment centers.

So, information technology has an important role in many industries and made life easy.