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Government

Comcast Kisses-Up To Obama, Publicly Agrees On Net Neutrality 258

Posted by timothy
from the wormtongues-all-around dept.
MojoKid writes Comcast is one of two companies to have earned Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" title on more than one occasion and it looks like they're lobbying for a third title. That is, unless there's another explanation as to how the cable giant can claim (with straight face) that it's in agreement with President Barack Obama for a free and open Internet. Comcast issued a statement of its own saying they back the exact same things, it just doesn't want to go the utility route. Comcast went on to list specific bullet points that they're supposedly in wholehearted agreement with, such as: Free and open Internet. We agree — and that is our practice. No blocking. We agree — and that is our practice. No throttling. We agree — and that is our practice. Increased transparency. We agree — and that is our practice. No paid prioritization. We agree — and that is our practice. Really? Comcast conveniently fails to address the giant elephant in the room whose name is Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix begrudgingly inked a multi-year deal with Comcast in which the streaming service agreed to pay a toll to ensure faster delivery into the homes of Comcast subscribers, who prior to the deal had been complaining of frequent buffering and video degradation when watching content on Netflix. Comcast would undoubtedly argue that it's not a paid fast lane, but it's hard to see the deal as anything other than that.
The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554

Posted by timothy
from the speak-for-yourself-hummer-buyers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."
The Courts

FCC Says Net Neutrality Decision Delay Is About Courts, Not Politics 60

Posted by timothy
from the distinction-without-a-difference dept.
blottsie writes with this news from The Daily Dot: "The Federal Communications Commission's seemingly suspicious timing in delaying its net neutrality decision has absolutely nothing to do with recent politics, according to an FCC official. Instead, it's a matter of some people in the agency insisting they be more prepared before going to court to defend their eventual plan. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of Verizon, which challenged the FCC's 2010 Open Internet rules, striking down the agency's net neutrality protections. The court found that the FCC did not use the proper legal structure to establish its regulatory authority over broadband service—something that many legal experts say would not be the case if the FCC invokes Title II. The FCC's move to delay the net neutrality decision, which followed President Obama's support of Title II reclassification, was just a coincidence, according to the FCC official:" Before the president weighed in, several of our staff felt like the record was a little thin in areas, and the last thing you want when you go to court for the third time is for a court to say the record was too thin, or you didn't give adequate notice. We are going to be so careful this time that we have crossed every T and dotted every I. Some of the staff felt we're not quite there yet."
Censorship

Cameron Says People Radicalized By Free Speech; UK ISPs Agree To Censor Button 316

Posted by timothy
from the oh-that'll-work-fine dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Techdirt: A few years ago, we mocked then Senator Joe Lieberman's request that internet companies put "report this content as terrorist content" buttons on various types of online content. The plan went nowhere, because it's a really bad idea, prone to massive abuse. Yet, over in the UK, some apparently think it's such a grand idea that they're actually moving forward with it. This isn't a huge surprise — the current UK government has been going on for quite some time about banning "extremist" content, and just recently ramped up such efforts. And now it appears that a bunch of big UK broadband access providers have agreed to play along: The UK's major Internet service providers – BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk – have this week committed to host a public reporting button for terrorist material online, similar to the reporting button which allows the public to report child sexual exploitation. They have also agreed to ensure that terrorist and extremist material is captured by their filters to prevent children and young people coming across radicalising material.
Communications

81% of Tor Users Can Be De-anonymized By Analysing Router Information 136

Posted by timothy
from the keep-him-on-the-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes A former researcher at Columbia University's Network Security Lab has conducted research since 2008 indicating that traffic flow software included in network routers, notably Cisco's 'Netflow' package, can be exploited to deanonymize 81.4% of Tor clients. Professor Sambuddho Chakravarty, currently researching Network Anonymity and Privacy at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, uses a technique which injects a repeating traffic pattern into the TCP connection associated with an exit node, and then compares subsequent aberrations in network timing with the traffic flow records generated by Netflow (or equivalent packages from other router manufacturers) to individuate the 'victim' client. In laboratory conditions the success rate of this traffic analysis attack is 100%, with network noise and variations reducing efficiency to 81% in a live Tor environment. Chakravarty says: 'it is not even essential to be a global adversary to launch such traffic analysis attacks. A powerful, yet non- global adversary could use traffic analysis methods [] to determine the various relays participating in a Tor circuit and directly monitor the traffic entering the entry node of the victim connection.'
United States

Department of Justice Harvests Cell Phone Data Using Planes 201

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-can-hear-you-now dept.
Tyketto writes The US Department of Justice has been using fake communications towers installed in airplanes to acquire cellular phone data for tracking down criminals, reports The Wall Street Journal. Using fix-wing Cessnas outfitted with DRT boxes produced by Boeing, the devices mimic cellular towers, fooling cellphones into reporting "unique registration information" to track down "individuals under investigation." The program, used by the U.S. Marshals Service, has been in use since 2007 and deployed around at least five major metropolitan areas, with a flying range that can cover most of the US population. As cellphones are designed to connect to the strongest cell tower signal available, the devices identify themselves as the strongest signal, allowing for the gathering of information on thousands of phones during a single flight. Not even having encryption on one's phone, like found in Apple's iPhone 6, prevents this interception. While the Justice Department would not confirm or deny the existence of such a program, Verizon denies any involvement in this program, and DRT (a subsidiary of Boeing), AT&T, and Sprint have all declined to comment.
Government

Internet Voting Hack Alters PDF Ballots In Transmission 147

Posted by timothy
from the don't-let-the-nice-man-borrow-your-router dept.
msm1267 (2804139) writes Threats to the integrity of Internet voting have been a major factor in keeping the practice to a bare minimum in the United States. On the heels of the recent midterm elections, researchers at Galois, a computer science research and development firm in Portland, Ore., sent another reminder to decision makers and voters that things still aren't where they should be. Researchers Daniel M. Zimmerman and Joseph R. Kiniry published a paper called 'Modifying an Off-the-Shelf Wireless Router for PDF Ballot Tampering' that explains an attack against common home routers that would allow a hacker to intercept a PDF ballot and use another technique to modify a ballot before sending it along to an election authority. The attack relies on a hacker first replacing the embedded Linux firmware running on a home router. Once a hacker is able to sit in the traffic stream, they will be able to intercept a ballot in traffic and modify code strings representing votes and candidates within the PDF to change the submitted votes.
The Internet

No, You Can't Seize Country TLDs, US Court Rules 118

Posted by timothy
from the you'll-have-to-settle-for-sabotage-and-eavesdropping dept.
itwbennett writes A U.S. court has quashed an attempt to seize Iran's, Syria's and North Korea's domains as part of a lawsuit against those countries' governments. The plaintiffs in the case wanted to seize the domains after they successfully sued Iran, Syria and North Korea as state sponsors of terrorism. But the court found the domains have the nature of a contractual right, and ruled that rights arising under a contract cannot be seized as part of a judgment.
Privacy

Carmakers Promise Not To Abuse Drivers' Privacy 98

Posted by timothy
from the how-far-can-you-throw-this-vehicle? dept.
schwit1 provides this excerpt from an Associated Press report: "Nineteen automakers accounting for most of the passenger cars and trucks sold in the U.S. have signed onto a set of principles they say will protect motorists' privacy in an era when computerized cars pass along more information about their drivers than many motorists realize. The principles were delivered in a letter Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission, which has the authority to force corporations to live up to their promises to consumers. Industry officials say they want to assure their customers that the information that their cars stream back to automakers or that is downloaded from the vehicle's computers won't be handed over to authorities without a court order, sold to insurance companies or used to bombard them with ads for pizza parlors, gas stations or other businesses they drive past, without their permission. The principles also commit automakers to 'implement reasonable measures' to protect personal information from unauthorized access." Also at the Detroit News. Adds schwit1: "It's a meaningless gesture without being codified into law. A greedy car manufacturer or NSL trumps any 'set of principles'." The letter itself (PDF) isn't riveting, but it's more readable than some such documents, and all the promises it makes are a good reminder of just how much data modern cars can collect, and all the ways that it can be passed on.
Advertising

Overbilled Customer Sues Time Warner Cable For False Advertising 223

Posted by timothy
from the my-twc-bill-went-up-this-week-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes According to a lawsuit filed Friday in a New York court, when Jeremy Zielinski signed up for Time Warner Internet service after seeing an ad that it was $34.99 a month, he didn't expect his first bill to be more than $94. He didn't expect he'd have to fight for weeks to resolve it. And he didn't expect that, Time Warner's next step would be to sell him faster speeds, not bother to tell him his modem couldn't handle them, send him a bill anyway, then demand that he drive to the local office at his own expense to get a compatible modem. So he's taking the cable giant to court, accusing it of false advertising and deceptive business practices. While a lone individual fighting in court against the second largest cable company in the world certainly doesn't have the odds in his favor, this could get interesting. According to the complaint, he opted out of TWC's binding arbitration clause a few days after he opened his account, so he might have a shot of keeping this issue in real court. Stay tuned for more.
United States

Senate May Vote On NSA Reform As Soon As Next Week 127

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-looking-at-me dept.
apexcp writes Senate Majority Leader (for now) Harry Reid announced he will be taking the USA FREEDOM Act to a floor vote in the Senate as early as next week. While the bill, if passed, would be the first significant legislative reform of the NSA since 9/11, many of the act's initial supporters have since disavowed it, claiming that changes to its language mean it won't do enough to curb the abuses of the American surveillance state
EU

European Parliament Considers Sharing Passenger Information By Default 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-book dept.
An anonymous reader writes The EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) proposal which was defeated in April of last year has returned to consideration in the European Parliament today. The law would require that airlines provide extensive personal details of anyone flying into or out of Europe. The information would include name, address, phone numbers, credit card information and travel itinerary. Director of Europol Rob Wainwright says that PNR is within the bounds of "reasonable measures" in the struggle against terrorism, and that possible threats against Europe have increased in the more than 12 months since the law was last rejected. Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veld is arguing that the Data Protection Directive should be put into place before any such systematized disclosure be ratified. "They want unlimited powers," she said. "they don't want to be bound by rules or data protection authorities and that's the reality."
The Internet

AT&T To "Pause" Gigabit Internet Rollout Until Net Neutrality Is Settled 306

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-see-what-happens dept.
An anonymous reader writes AT&T says it will halt its investment on broadband Internet service expansion until the federal rules on open Internet are clarified. "We can't go out and just invest that kind of money, deploying fiber to 100 cities other than these two million [covered by the DirecTV deal], not knowing under what rules that investment will be governed," AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson said during an appearance at a Wells Fargo conference, according to a transcript provided by AT&T. "And so, we have to pause, and we have to just put a stop on those kind of investments that we're doing today."
United States

Hacker Builds a Dark Net Version of the FBI Tip Form 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-a-tip dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes A London-based programmer has set up a new hidden service for anyone using Tor to submit anonymous tips to the FBI. With the new .onion hidden service link, which accesses the FBI's tips page through a reverse proxy, Mustafa Al-Bassam told me in an IRC chat that he's engineered a "proof-of-concept," demonstrating how the bureau might go about setting up a more secure system for receiving crime tips.
China

How Baidu Tracked the Largest Seasonal Migration of People On Earth 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-you-going? dept.
KentuckyFC writes During the Chinese New Year earlier this year, some 3.6 billion people traveled across China making it the largest seasonal migration on Earth. These kinds of mass movements have always been hard to study in detail. But the Chinese web services company Baidu has managed it using a mapping app that tracked the location of 200 million smartphone users during the New Year period. The latest analysis of this data shows just how vast this mass migration is. For example, over 2 million people left the Guandong province of China and returned just a few days later--that's equivalent to the entire population of Chicago upping sticks. The work shows how easy it is to track the movement of large numbers of people with current technology--assuming they are willing to allow their data to be used in this way.
The Almighty Buck

Internet Sales Tax Bill Dead In Congress 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-everybody-loves-new-taxes dept.
jfruh writes: Last year, a bipartisan coalition helped get the Main Street Fairness Act approved by the U.S. Senate. The bill would have allowed state and local governments to collect sales taxes on Internet sales by companies in different jurisdictions. But House Speaker John Boehner, a longtime opponent of Internet taxes, won't bring the matter to a vote in the House before the end of the year, which should kill it for the immediate future.
Earth

U.S. and China Make Landmark Climate Deal 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-scratch-our-back-and-i'll-scratch-ours dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After extended talks on the issue of climate change, the U.S. and China have reached a landmark accord to curb emissions in the near future. The two countries are the top carbon polluters, so their actions are likely to have a major effect on world pollution levels and also set the standard for other countries. The agreement includes China's first-ever commitment to stop the growth of its emissions by 2030. They plan on shifting a big chunk of their energy production to renewables in that time. The U.S. agreed to emit 26-28% less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. Their efforts could spur greater enthusiasm for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Reader jones_supa adds details of another interesting part of the U.S.-China talks: Technology products look likely to gain more access to international markets as a result of upgrade between the U.S. and China on a 1996 tariff-eliminating trade agreement that President Obama announced Tuesday in Beijing. The agreement is expected to lower prices on a raft of new technology products by eliminating border tariffs — a price impact that's expected to be larger outside the United States, since U.S. tariffs on high-tech goods are generally lower than those overseas. "This is a win-win-win agreement for information and communication technology industries in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China, for businesses and consumers who purchase IT products and for the global economy."
The Internet

After Silk Road 2.0 Shutdown, Rival Dark Net Markets Grow Quickly 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-the-calm-before-your-storm dept.
apexcp writes: A week ago, Silk Road 2.0 was theatrically shut down by a global cadre of law enforcement. This week, the dark net is realigning. "In the wake of the latest police action against online bazaars, the anonymous black market known as Evolution is now the biggest Dark Net market of all time. Today, Evolution features 20,221 products for sale, a 28.8 percent increase from just one month ago and an enormous 300 percent increase over the past six months."
Encryption

ISPs Removing Their Customers' Email Encryption 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the aggressively-anticonsumer dept.
Presto Vivace points out this troubling new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Recently, Verizon was caught tampering with its customer's web requests to inject a tracking super-cookie. Another network-tampering threat to user safety has come to light from other providers: email encryption downgrade attacks. In recent months, researchers have reported ISPs in the U.S. and Thailand intercepting their customers' data to strip a security flag — called STARTTLS — from email traffic. The STARTTLS flag is an essential security and privacy protection used by an email server to request encryption when talking to another server or client.

By stripping out this flag, these ISPs prevent the email servers from successfully encrypting their conversation, and by default the servers will proceed to send email unencrypted. Some firewalls, including Cisco's PIX/ASA firewall do this in order to monitor for spam originating from within their network and prevent it from being sent. Unfortunately, this causes collateral damage: the sending server will proceed to transmit plaintext email over the public Internet, where it is subject to eavesdropping and interception.
The Internet

FCC Confirms Delay of New Net Neutrality Rules Until 2015 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-extra-lame-duckiness dept.
blottsie writes: The Federal Communications Commission will abandon its earlier promise to make a decision on new net neutrality rules this year. Instead, FCC Press Secretary Kim Hart said, "there will not be a vote on open internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalized in 2015." The FCC's confirmation of the delay came just as President Barack Obama launched a campaign to persuade the agency to reclassify broadband Internet service as a public utility. Opensource.com is also running an interview with a legal advisor at the FCC. He says, "There will be a burden on providers. The question is, 'Is that burden justified?' And I think our answer is 'Yes.'"

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