United States

FCC Refuses Records For Investigation Into Fake Net Neutrality Comments (variety.com) 142

"FCC general counsel Tom Johnson has told the New York State attorney general that the FCC is not providing information for his investigation into fake net-neutrality comments, saying those comments did not affect the review, and challenging the state's ability to investigate the feds." Variety has more: The FCC's general counsel, in a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, also dismissed his concerns that the volume of fake comments or those made with stolen identities have "corrupted" the rule-making process... He added that Schneiderman's request for logs of IP addresses would be "unduly burdensome" to the commission, and would "raise significant personal privacy concerns."

Amy Spitalnick, Schneiderman's press secretary, said in a statement that the FCC "made clear that it will continue to obstruct a law enforcement investigation. It's easy for the FCC to claim that there's no problem with the process, when they're hiding the very information that would allow us to determine if there was a problem. To be clear, impersonation is a violation of New York law," she said... "The only privacy jeopardized by the FCC's continued obstruction of this investigation is that of the perpetrators who impersonated real Americans."

One of the FCC's Democratic commissioners claimed that this response "shows the FCC's sheer contempt for public input and unreasonable failure to support integrity in its process... Moreover, the FCC refuses to look into how nearly half a million comments came from Russian sources."
Security

Touting Government/Industry 'Partnership' on Security Practices, NIST Drafts Cybersecurity Framework Update (scmagazine.com) 14

Remember NIST, the non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce? Their mission expanded over the years to protecting businesses from cyberthreats, including a "Cybersecurty Framework" first published in 2014. "The original goal was to develop a voluntary framework to help organizations manage cybersecurity risk in the nation's critical infrastructure, such as bridges and the electric power grid," NIST wrote in January, "but the framework has been widely adopted by many types of organizations across the country and around the world." Now SC Media reports: The second draft of the update to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's cybersecurity framework, NIST 1.1, is meant "to clarify, refine, and enhance the Cybersecurity Framework, amplifying its value and making it easier to use," according to NIST. Specifically, it brings clarity to cybersecurity measurement language and tackles improving security of the supply chain. Calling the initial NIST CSF "a landmark effort" that delivered "important benefits, such as providing common language for different models" of standards and best practices already in use, Larry Clinton, president and CEO of the Internet Security Alliance, said "it fell short of some of the most critical demands of Presidential Executive Order 13636, which generated its development...

"To begin with, the new draft makes it clear that our goal is not some undefined metric for use of the Framework, but for effective use of the Framework. Moreover, this use-metric needs to be tied not to some generic standard, but to be calibrated to the unique threat picture, risk appetite and business objective of a particular organization"... Clinton praised the process used by NIST as "a model 'use case' for how government needs to engage with its industry partners to address the cybersecurity issue." The internet's inherent interconnectedness makes it impossible for sustainable security to be achieved through anything other than true partnership, he contended.

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace reminds you that public comments on the draft Framework and Roadmap are due to NIST by 11:59 p.m. EST on January 19, 2018. "If you have an opinion about this, NOW is the time to express it."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

"The FCC Still Doesn't Know How the Internet Works" (eff.org) 275

An anonymous reader writes: The EFF describes the FCC's official plan to kill net neutrality as "riddled with technical errors and factual inaccuracies," including, for example, a false distinction between "Internet access service" and "a distinct transmission service" which the EFF calls "utterly ridiculous and completely ungrounded from reality."

"Besides not understanding how Internet access works, the FCC also has a troublingly limited knowledge of how the Domain Name System (DNS) works -- even though hundreds of engineers tried to explain it to them this past summer... As the FCC would have it, an Internet user actively expects their ISP to provide DNS to them." And in addition, "Like DNS, it treats caching as if it were some specialized service rather than an implementation detail and general-purpose computing technique."

"There are at least two possible explanations for all of these misunderstandings and technical errors. One is that, as we've suggested, the FCC doesn't understand how the Internet works. The second is that it doesn't care, because its real goal is simply to cobble together some technical justification for its plan to kill net neutrality. A linchpin of that plan is to reclassify broadband as an 'information service,' (rather than a 'telecommunications service,' or common carrier) and the FCC needs to offer some basis for it. So, we fear, it's making one up, and hoping no one will notice."

"We noticed," their editorial ends, urging Americans "to tell your lawmakers: Don't let the FCC sell the Internet out."
Earth

Toyota's New Power Plant Will Create Clean Energy From Manure (usatoday.com) 73

schwit1 shares a report from Futurism: Japanese automobile giant Toyota is making some exciting moves in the realm of renewable, clean energy. The company is planning to build a power plant in California that turns the methane gas produced by cow manure into water, electricity, and hydrogen. The project, known as the Tri-Gen Project, was unveiled at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show. The plant, which will be located at the Port of Long Beach in California, will be "the world's first commercial-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation plant," writes USA Today. Toyota is expecting the plant to come online in about 2020.

The plant is expected to have the capability to provide enough energy to power 2,350 average homes and enough fuel to operate 1,500 hydrogen-powered vehicles daily. The company is estimating the plant to be able to produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day. The facility will also be equipped with one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world. Toyota's North America group vice president for strategic planning, Doug Murtha, says that the company "understand[s] the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society."

Businesses

'Face Reality! We Need Net Neutrality!' Crowd Chants Across the Country (arstechnica.com) 290

ArsTechnica staff took to the streets in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco to capture rallies in support for net neutrality, a week before the FCC is scheduled to take a historic vote rolling back network neutrality regulations. From their report: Protestors say those regulations, which were enacted by the Obama FCC in 2015, are crucial for protecting an open Internet. Organizers chose to hold most of the protests outside of Verizon cell phone stores. Ajit Pai, the FCC Chairman who is leading the agency's charge to repeal network neutrality, is a former Verizon lawyer, and Verizon has been a critic of the Obama network neutrality rules. The protest that got the most attention from FCC decision makers took place on Thursday evening in Washington DC. The FCC was holding a dinner event at the Hilton on Connecticut Avenue, just north of the city's Dupont Circle area. Protestors gathered on the street corner outside the hotel, waving pro-net neutrality posters to traffic, blaring chants, projecting pro-net neutrality messages on a building across the street, and telling personal stories about what net neutrality meant to them via a megaphone. The FCC's two Democratic commissioners also joined the demonstration, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel. They both gave brief speeches to the protestors, rallying for the cause and discussing the importance of a neutral Internet.
United States

November Jobs Report: Economy Adds 228,000 Jobs; Unemployment Steady (npr.org) 118

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent, unchanged from October. "Employment growth has averaged 174,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016," the agency's Acting Commissioner William J. Wiatrowski said of the report. The number of unemployed people was "essentially unchanged at 6.6 million," the bureau said. Of that number, 1.6 million are considered to be long-term unemployed -- workers who have not had jobs for 27 weeks or more. "Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers increased to 15.9 percent in November," the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Other groups saw little change from the previous month. As for wages, the agency says, "In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $26.55. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 64 cents, or 2.5 percent."
The Military

The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles (vox.com) 212

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: According to an NBC News report, the weapon -- which is still under development -- could be put on a cruise missile and shot at an enemy country from a B-52 bomber. It's designed to use microwaves to target enemy military facilities and destroy electronic systems, like computers, that control their missiles. The weapon itself wouldn't damage the buildings or cause casualties. Air Force developers have been working with Boeing on the system since 2009. They're hoping to receive up to $200 million for more prototyping and testing in the latest defense bill. There's just one problem. It's not clear that the weapon is entirely ready for use -- and it's not clear that it would be any more effective than the powerful weapons the U.S. already possesses. The weapon, which has the gloriously military-style name of Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, isn't quite ready for action, but it could be soon. Two unnamed Air Force officials told NBC that the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.
Bitcoin

Bank of America Wins Patent For Crypto Exchange System (coindesk.com) 51

New submitter psnyder shares a report from CoinDesk: [The patent] outlined a potential cryptocurrency exchange system that would convert one digital currency into another. Further, this system would be automated, establishing the exchange rate between the two currencies based on external data feeds. The patent describes a potential three-part system, where the first part would be a customer's account and the other two would be accounts owned by the business running the system. The user would store their chosen cryptocurrency through the customer account. The second account, referred to as a "float account," would act as a holding area for the cryptocurrency the customer is selling, while the third account, also a float account, would contain the equivalent amount of the cryptocurrency the customer is converting their funds to. That third account would then deposit the converted funds back into the original customer account for withdrawal. The proposed system would collect data from external information sources on cryptocurrency exchange rates, and use this data to establish its own optimal rate. The patent notes this service would be for enterprise-level customers, meaning that if the bank pursues this project, it would be offered to businesses.
Government

Volkswagen Executive Sentenced To Maximum Prison Term For His Role In Dieselgate (arstechnica.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, a U.S. District judge in Detroit sentenced Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive, to seven years in prison for his role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal of 2015. Schmidt was also ordered to pay a criminal penalty of $400,000, according to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release. The prison term and the fine together represent the maximum sentence that Schmidt could have received under the plea deal he signed in August. Schmidt, a German citizen who lived in Detroit as an emissions compliance executive for VW, was arrested in Miami on vacation last January. In August, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. Schmidt's plea deal stated that the former executive could face up to seven years in prison and between $40,000 and $400,000 in fines.

Last week, Schmidt's attorneys made a last-minute bid requesting a lighter sentence for Schmidt: 40 months of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. Schmidt also wrote a letter to the judge, which surfaced over the weekend, in which the executive said he felt "misused" by his own company and claimed that higher-ranked VW executives coached him on a script to help him lie to a California Air Resources Board (CARB) official. Instead, Schmidt was sentenced to the maximum penalties outlined in the plea deal. Only one other VW employee has been sentenced in connection with the emissions scandal: former engineer James Liang, who received 40 months in prison and two years of supervised release as the result of his plea deal. Although six other VW Group executives have been indicted, none is in U.S. custody.

Businesses

Kaspersky To Close Washington Office But Expand Non-State Sales (bloomberg.com) 65

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Russian software-maker, whose products are banned for use in federal information systems by the U.S. government, is seeking to remain in the North American market and prove its products have no hidden capabilities. Kaspersky Lab Inc. will close its Washington D.C. office that was selling to the government and will keep working with non-federal customers in the U.S. via its remaining offices in the country, vice-president Anton Shingarev said in an interview in Moscow. The company also committed in October to open its product's source code to an independent third-party review and plans to open new offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto next year. "This allows independent experts to verify that our software has no hidden functionality, that it doesn't send your files to third parties, doesn't spy on you and fully complies with the end-user agreement," Shingarev said. The U.S. banned government use of Kaspersky software in September, citing founder Eugene Kaspersky's alleged ties to Russian intelligence and the possibility its products could function as "malicious actors" to compromise federal information systems. The move caused concern about the company's products in other markets, including the U.K.
United States

San Francisco To Restrict Goods Delivery Robots (bbc.com) 114

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, in a blow for the burgeoning industry. From a report: Start-ups will have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas. Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban. A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods. They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes. Robotics company Marble - which describes its machines as "friendly, neighbourhood robots" - began testing in San Francisco earlier this year.
Earth

The Firestorm This Time: Why Los Angeles Is Burning (wired.com) 217

The Thomas Fire spread through the hills above Ventura, in the northern greater Los Angeles megalopolis, with the speed of a hurricane. Driven by 50 mph Santa Ana winds -- bone-dry katabatic air moving at freeway speeds out of the Mojave desert -- the fire transformed overnight from a 5,000-acre burn in a charming chaparral-lined canyon to an inferno the size of Orlando, Florida, that only stopped spreading because it reached the Pacific. Several readers have shared a Wired report: Tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes in Ventura; 150 buildings burned and thousands more along the hillside and into downtown are threatened. That isn't the only part of Southern California on fire. The hills above Valencia, where Interstate 5 drops down out of the hills into the city, are burning. Same for a hillside of the San Gabriel Mountains, overlooking the San Fernando Valley. And the same, too, near the Mount Wilson Observatory, and on a hillside overlooking Interstate 405 -- the flames in view of the Getty Center and destroying homes in the rich-people neighborhoods of Bel-Air and Holmby Hills. And it's all horribly normal. [...] Before humans, wildfires happened maybe once or twice a century, long enough for fire-adapted plant species like chapparal to build up a bank of seeds that could come back after a burn. Now, with fires more frequent, native plants can't keep up. Exotic weeds take root. Fires don't burn like this in Northern California. That's one of the things that makes the island on the land an island. Most wildfires in the Sierra Nevadas and northern boreal forests are slower, smaller, and more easily put out, relative to the south. Trees buffer the wind and burn less easily than undergrowth. Keeley says northern mountains and forests are "flammability-limited ecosystems," where fires only get big if the climate allows it -- higher temperatures and dryer conditions providing more fuel. Climate change makes fires there more frequent and more severe.
Medicine

Victims of Mystery Attacks In Cuba Left With Anomalies In Brain Tissue (arstechnica.com) 230

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: American victims of mysterious attacks in Cuba have abnormalities in their brains' white matter, according to new medical testing reported by the Associated Press. But, so far, it's unclear how or if the white-matter anomalies seen in the victims relate to their symptoms. White matter is made up of dense nerve fibers that connect neurons in different areas of the brain, forming networks. It gets its name from the light-colored electrical insulation, myelin, that coats the fibers. Overall, the tissue is essential for rapidly transmitting brain signals critical for learning and cognitive function.

In August, U.S. authorities first acknowledged that American diplomats and their spouses stationed in Havana, Cuba, had been the targets of puzzling attacks for months. The attacks were carried out by unknown agents and for unknown reasons, using a completely baffling weaponry. The attacks were sometimes marked by bizarrely targeted and piercing noises or vibrations, but other times they were completely imperceptible. Victims complained of a range of symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, headaches, balance problems, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), nosebleeds, difficulty concentrating and recalling words, permanent hearing loss, and speech and vision problems. Doctors have also identified mild brain injuries, including swelling and concussion. U.S. officials now report that 24 Americans were injured in the attacks but wouldn't comment on how many showed abnormalities in their white matter.

Government

Warrantless Surveillance Can Continue Even If Law Expires, Officials Say (theverge.com) 68

According to a New York Times report citing American officials, the Trump administration has decided that the National Security Agency and the FBI can lawfully keep operating their warrantless surveillance program even if Congress fails to extend the law authorizing it before an expiration date of New Year's Eve. The Verge reports: The White House believes the Patriot Act's surveillance provisions won't expire until four months into 2018. Lawyers point to a one-year certification that was granted on April 26th of last year. If that certification is taken as a legal authorization for the FISA court overall -- as White House lawyers suggest -- then Congress will have another four months to work out the details of reauthorization. There are already several proposals for Patriot Act reauthorization in the Senate, which focus the Section 702 provisions that authorize certain types of NSA surveillance. Some of the proposals would close the backdoor search loophole that allows for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, although a recent House proposal would leave it in place. But with Congress largely focused on tax cuts and the looming debt ceiling fight, it's unlikely the differences could be reconciled before the end of the year.
Businesses

Facebook Tops List of Best Places To Work -- Again (cnet.com) 102

From a report: If you work at Facebook, count yourself pretty lucky. And not just for the free meals, on-site health care or new-parent benefits. But those things probably factor into the social-networking giant being named the best place to work in 2018 by jobs site Glassdoor. And it's probably been a good experience for a while, seeing how this is the third year in a row Facebook has been atop Glassdoor's list of 100 best places to work. If you don't work at Facebook, there might still be hope for you. Glassdoor said there were 40 newcomers on this year's list, including video game maker Blizzard Entertainment (at No. 28 on the list) and wireless carrier T-Mobile (No. 79). There are also three veterans that have made the list every year since it was introduced 10 years ago, including management-consulting firm Bain & Company (No. 2), search giant Google (No. 5) and Apple (No. 84).
Encryption

US Says It Doesn't Need a Court Order To Ask Tech Companies To Build Encryption Backdoors (gizmodo.com) 248

schwit1 shares a report from Gizmodo: According to statements from July released this weekend, intelligence officials told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that there's no need for them to approach courts before requesting a tech company help willfully -- though they can always resort to obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order if the company refuses. The documents show officials testified they had never needed to obtain such an FISC order, though they declined to tell the committee whether they had "ever asked a company to add an encryption backdoor," per ZDNet. Other reporting has suggested the FISC has the power to authorize government personnel to compel such technical assistance without even notifying the FISC of what exactly is required. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives authorities additional powers to compel service providers to build backdoors into their products.
Bitcoin

Feds Shut Down Allegedly Fraudulent Cryptocurrency Offering (arstechnica.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday announced that it was taking action against an initial coin offering (ICO) that the SEC alleges is fraudulent. The announcement represents the first enforcement action by the SEC's recently created cyber fraud unit. In July, the agency fired a warning shot. It announced that a 2016 fundraising campaign had run afoul of securities law, but that the SEC would decline to prosecute those responsible. The hope was to get the cryptocurrency world to take securities laws more seriously without doing anything drastic. Now the SEC is taking the next step by prosecuting what it considers to be one of the most egregious scams in the ICO world. The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in New York, is against Dominic Lacroix, whom the SEC describes as a "recidivist securities law violator." The SEC considers Lacroix's cryptocurrency project, PlexCoin, to be a "fast-moving Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fraud that raised up to $15 million from thousands of investors since August by falsely promising a 13-fold profit in less than a month." The PlexCoin website has a hilariously vague description of this supposedly revolutionary cryptocurrency. "The PlexCoin's new revolutionary operating structure is safer and much easier to use than any other current cryptocurrency," the site proclaims. "One of the many features of PlexBank will be to secure your cryptocurrency from market variation, which is highly volatile, and invest your money in a place where you can get interesting guaranteed returns." According to Ars, "The SEC isn't impressed and is arguing that PlexCoin has 'all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam.' The agency is seeking to freeze the assets of the PlexCoin project in hopes of getting investors' funds back to them."
Television

40 Percent of America Will Cut the Cord By 2030, New Report Predicts (vice.com) 114

bumblebaetuna shares a report from Motherboard: By 2030, as many as 40 percent of Americans will have cut the cord, according to predictions in a new report by market analyst TDG Research. The percent of U.S. households still shelling out for cable has dropped every year since 2012. If the trend continues on the current path, TDG predicts the percent of U.S. households subscribing to pay TV will drop to 60 percent in the next 13 years. Cost is a major driver of this shift: the cost of bundling a few favorite streaming services together still pales in comparison to the average cable bill. TDG found that two thirds of cord cutters and "cord nevers" (people who have never paid for cable) said service expense was the key reason they do not use legacy pay TV services. There's also a generational shift: 61 percent of adults aged 18-29 say online streaming services are the primary way they watch TV.
Privacy

Trump Is Looking at Plans For a Global Network of Private Spies (vice.com) 481

David Gilbert, writing for Vice: The White House is reportedly looking at a proposal to create a ghost network of private spies in hostile countries -- a way of bypassing the intelligence community's "deep state," which Donald Trump believes is a threat to his administration. The network would report directly to the president and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and would be developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, according to multiple current and former officials speaking to The Intercept. "Pompeo can't trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him," a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals told the website. Described as "totally off the books," the network would be run by intelligence contractor Amyntor Group and would not share any data with the traditional intelligence community.
The Internet

FCC Won't Delay Vote, Says Net Neutrality Supporters Are 'Desperate' (arstechnica.com) 347

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission will move ahead with its vote to kill net neutrality rules next week despite an unresolved court case that could strip away even more consumer protections. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says that net neutrality rules aren't needed because the Federal Trade Commission can protect consumers from broadband providers. But a pending court case involving AT&T could strip the FTC of its regulatory authority over AT&T and similar ISPs. A few dozen consumer advocacy groups and the City of New York urged Pai to delay the net neutrality-killing vote in a letter today. If the FCC eliminates its rules and the court case goes AT&T's way, there would be a "'regulatory gap' that would leave consumers utterly unprotected," the letter said. When contacted by Ars, Pai's office issued this statement in response to the letter: "This is just evidence that supporters of heavy-handed Internet regulations are becoming more desperate by the day as their effort to defeat Chairman Pai's plan to restore Internet freedom has stalled. The vote will proceed as scheduled on December 14."

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