Communications

Iran Bans State Bodies From Using Telegram App, Khamenei Shuts Account (reuters.com) 38

Iran banned government bodies on Wednesday from using the popular Telegram instant messaging app as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office said his account would shut down to protect national security, Iranian media reported. From a report: ISNA news agency did not give a reason for the government ban on the service which lets people send encrypted messages and has an estimated 40 million users in the Islamic Republic. The order came days after Russia -- Iran's ally in the Syrian war -- started blocking the app in its territory following the company's repeated refusal to give Russian state security services access to users' secret messages. Iran's government banned "all state bodies from using the foreign messaging app," according to ISNA.
China

Huawei To Back Off US Market Amid Rising Tensions (nytimes.com) 91

Huawei is reportedly going to give up on selling its products and services in the United States (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) due to Washington's accusations that the company has ties to the Chinese government. The change in tactics comes a week after the company laid off five American employees, including its biggest American lobbyist. The New York Times reports: Huawei's tactics are changing as its business prospects in the United States have darkened considerably. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to proceed with a new rule that could effectively kill off what little business the company has in the United States. Although the proposed rule does not mention Huawei by name, it would block federally subsidized telecommunications carriers from using suppliers deemed to pose a risk to American national security. Huawei's latest moves suggest that it has accepted that its political battles in the United States are not ones it is likely to win. "Some things cannot change their course according to our wishes," Eric Xu, Huawei's deputy chairman, said at the company's annual meeting with analysts on Tuesday. "With some things, when you let them go, you actually feel more at ease."
Crime

Former FCC Broadband Panel Chair Arrested For Fraud (dslreports.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: The former chair of a panel built by FCC boss Ajit Pai to advise the agency on broadband matters has been arrested for fraud. Elizabeth Ann Pierce, former CEO of Quintillion Networks, was appointed by Pai last April to chair the committee, but her tenure only lasted until September. Pierce resigned from her role as Quintillion CEO last August after investigators found she was engaged in a scam that tricked investors into pouring money into a multi-million dollar investment fraud scheme. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pierce convinced two investment firms that the company had secured contracts for a high-speed fiber-optic system that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. She pitched the system as a way to improve Alaska's connectivity to the rest of the country, but the plan was largely a fabrication, law enforcement officials say. "As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in prepared remarks. "Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counterparty signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce's deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe." Quintillion says it began cooperating with lawmakers as soon as allegations against Pierce surfaced last year. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Facebook

Facebook Admits To Tracking Users, Non-Users Off-Site (theguardian.com) 147

Facebook said in a blog post yesterday that they tracked users and non-users across websites and apps for three main reasons: providing services directly, securing the company's own site, and "improving our products and services." The statement comes as the company faces a U.S. lawsuit over a controversial facial recognition feature launched in 2011. The Guardian reports: "When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you're logged out or don't have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don't know who is using Facebook," Facebook's product management director, David Baser, wrote. "Whether it's information from apps and websites, or information you share with other people on Facebook, we want to put you in control -- and be transparent about what information Facebook has and how it is used."

But the company's transparency has still not extended to telling non-users what it knows about them -- an issue Zuckerberg also faced questions over from Congress. Asked by Texas representative Gene Green whether all information Facebook holds about a user is in the file the company offers as part of its "download your data" feature, Zuckerberg had responded he believed that to be the case. Privacy campaigner Paul-Olivier Dehaye disagreed, noting that, even as a Facebook user, he had been unable to access personal data collected through the company's off-site tracking systems. Following an official subject access request under EU law, he told MPs last month, Facebook had responded that it was unable to provide the information.

Bitcoin

New York's Attorney General Is Investigating Bitcoin Exchanges (theverge.com) 42

The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today that it has launched an investigation into bitcoin exchanges. He's reportedly looking into thirteen major exchanges, including Coinbase, Gemini Trust, and Bitfinex, requesting information on their operations and what measures they have in place to protect consumers. The Verge reports: "Too often, consumers don't have the basic facts they need to assess the fairness, integrity, and security of these trading platforms," Schneiderman said in a statement. His office sent detailed questionnaires to the thirteen exchanges, asking them to disclose who owns and controls them, and how their basic operation and transaction fees work. The questionnaire also asks for specific details on how exchanges might suspend trading or delay orders, indicating Schneiderman is particularly concerned with exchanges manipulating the timing of public orders. The investigation will attempt to shed more transparency on how platforms combat market manipulation attempts and suspicious trading, as well as bots, theft, and fraud. Many of the exchanges Schneiderman is targeting, such as Beijing-based Huobi, have headquarters located outside the U.S., but the attorney general has jurisdiction over any foreign business operating in New York. Coin Center's director of research Peter Van Valkenburgh tells The Verge that the new investigation might be overkill, given the existing rules already in place for bitcoin exchanges. "Far from being unregulated," he says, "these businesses must contend with state money transmission licensing laws, federal anti-money laundering law, CFTC scrutiny for commodities spot market manipulation, SEC scrutiny for securities trading (should any tokens traded be securities), and in this case, state consumer protection investigations from the several attorneys general."
United States

Online Tax Filers Will Get Extension After IRS Payment Website Outage (cnbc.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The IRS will give last-minute filers additional time to file their tax returns after the page for paying their tax bills using their bank accounts crashed, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Associated Press. The IRS "Direct Pay" page allows filers to transfer funds from their checking or savings account to pay what they owe. As of 5 p.m. ET on April 17 -- Tax Day -- the page was still unavailable. Direct Pay is a free service. The "Payment Plan" page, where filers can pay their tax bill in installments also appears to have crashed. "I'd strongly advise folks who owe any federal taxes and cannot pay online to mail a check or money order to the IRS to the appropriate address," said Patrick Thomas, director of Notre Dame Law School's Tax Clinic. According to a TurboTax spokesperson, the IRS's technical difficulties are affecting all tax preparers and tax returns. "Taxpayers should go ahead and continue to prepare and file their taxes as normal with TurboTax," the spokesperson said. "TurboTax has uninterrupted service and is available and accepting e-filed returns," she said. "We will hold returns until the IRS is ready to begin accepting them again." H&R Block said it will continue to accept returns from filers.
Facebook

Former Cambridge Analytica Employee Says Facebook Users Affected Could Be 'Much Greater Than 87 million' (theverge.com) 45

Cambridge Analytica and its partners used data from previously unknown "Facebook-connected questionnaires" to obtain user data from the social media service, according to testimony from a former Cambridge Analytica employee. From a report: Brittany Kaiser provided evidence to the British Parliament today as part of a hearing on fake news. Kaiser, who worked on the business team at Cambridge Analytica's parent company until January of this year, wrote in a statement that she was "aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys" used by Cambridge Analytica or its partners, and she said she believes the number of people whose Facebook data may have been compromised is likely higher than the widely reported 87 million.
Government

IRS 'Direct Pay' Option Not Working on Tax Day (cbsnews.com) 138

An anonymous reader shares a report: Online payments on IRS.gov are partially down. But the government still expects its money. A page on the IRS website that allows taxpayers to make a payment is not working for many as of Tuesday morning. Clicking on "Make a payment" on the payments page redirects the user to a page titled "unplannedOutagePage. Note that your tax payment is due although IRS Direct Pay may not be available," the page notes. UPDATE 04/17/18: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Associated Press that online tax filers will get an extension due to today's website outage.
Businesses

Cybersecurity Tech Accord: More Than 30 Tech Firms Pledge Not to Assist Governments in Cyberattacks (cybertechaccord.org) 67

Over 30 major technology companies, led by Microsoft and Facebook, on Tuesday announced what they are calling the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, a set of principles that include a declaration that they will not help any government -- including that of the United States -- mount cyberattacks against "innocent civilians and enterprises from anywhere."

The companies that are participating in the initiative are: ABB, Arm, Avast, Bitdefender, BT, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cloudflare, DataStax, Dell, DocuSign, Facebook, Fastly, FireEye, F-Secure, GitHub, Guardtime, HP Inc., HPE, Intuit, Juniper Networks, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Nielsen, Nokia, Oracle, RSA, SAP, Stripe, Symantec, Telefonica, Tenable, Trend Micro, and VMware.

The announcement comes at the backdrop of a growing momentum in political and industry circles to create a sort of Digital Geneva Convention that commits the entire tech industry and governments to supporting a free and secure internet. The effort comes after attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya hobbled businesses around the world last year, and just a day after the U.S. and U.K. issued an unprecedented joint alert citing the threat of cyberattacks from Russian state-sponsored actors. The Pentagon has said Russian "trolling" activity increased 2,000 percent after missile strikes in Syria.

Interestingly, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Twitter are not participating in the program, though the Tech Accord says it "remains open to consideration of new private sector signatories, large or small and regardless of sector."
Canada

19-Year-Old Archivist Charged For Downloading Freedom-of-Information Releases (www.cbc.ca) 420

Ichijo writes: According to CBC News, a Canadian teen "has been charged with 'unauthorized use of a computer,' which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence, for downloading approximately 7,000 freedom-of-information releases. The provincial government says about 250 of those contain Nova Scotians' sensitive personal information."

"When he was around eight [...] his Grade 3 class adopted an animal at a shelter, receiving an electronic adoption certificate," reports CBC. "That lead to a discovery on the classroom computer. 'The website had a number at the end, and I was able to change the last digit of the number to a different number and was able to see a certificate for someone else's animal that they adopted,' he said. 'I thought that was interesting.' The teenager's current troubles arose because he used the same trick on Nova Scotia's freedom-of-information portal, downloading about 7,000 freedom-of-information requests."
The teen is estimated to have around 30 terabytes of online data on his hard drives, which equates to "millions" of webpages. "He usually copies online forums such as 4chan and Reddit, where posts are either quickly erased or can become difficult to locate."
The Courts

Supreme Court Set To Hear Landmark Online Sales Tax Case (gizmodo.com) 246

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could at least somewhat clarify Donald Trump's complaints about Amazon "not paying internet taxes." It will also decide if those cheap deals on NewEgg are going to be less of a steal. The case concerns the state of South Dakota versus online retailers Wayfront, NewEgg, and Overstock.com in a battle over whether or not state sales tax should apply to all online transactions in the U.S., regardless of where the customer or retailer is located. It promises to have an impact on the internet's competition with brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as continue to address the ongoing legal questions surrounding real-world borders in the borderless world of online.
United States

Facebook Must Face Class-Action Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition, Says Judge (kfgo.com) 79

U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled on Monday that Facebook must face a class-action lawsuit alleging that the social network unlawfully used a facial recognition process on photos without user permission. Donato ruled that a class-action was the most efficient way to resolve the dispute over facial templates. KFGO reports: Facebook said it was reviewing the ruling. "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously," the company said in a statement. Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment. Facebook users sued in 2015, alleging violations of an Illinois state law about the privacy of biometric information. The class will consist of Facebook users in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored facial recognition algorithms after June 7, 2011, Donato ruled. That is the date when Facebook launched "Tag Suggestions," a feature that suggests people to tag after a Facebook user uploads a photo. In the U.S. court system, certification of a class is typically a major hurdle that plaintiffs in proposed class actions need to overcome before reaching a possible settlement or trial.
Businesses

New Child Protection Nonprofit Strikes Back At Sex-Negative Approach of FOSTA-SESTA (youcaring.com) 212

qirtaiba writes: When the FOSTA-SESTA online sex trafficking bill passed last month, it sailed through Congress because there were no child protection organizations that stood against it, and because no member of Congress (with the brave exceptions of Ron Wyden and Rand Paul) wanted to face re-election having opposed a bill against sex trafficking, despite its manifest flaws. In the wake of the law's passage, its real targets -- not child sex traffickers, but adult sex workers and the internet platforms used by them -- have borne the brunt of its effects. Websites like the Erotic Review and Craigslist's personals section have either shut down entirely or for U.S. users, while Backpage.com has been seized, leaving many adult sex workers in physical and financial peril.

A new child protection organization, Prostasia Foundation, has just been announced, with the aim of taking a more sex-positive approach that would allow it to push back against laws that really target porn or sex work under the guise of being child protection laws. Instead, the organization promotes a research-based approach to the prevention of child sexual abuse before it happens. From the organization's press release: "Prostasia Director Jaylen MacLaren is a former child prostitute who used a website like this to screen her clients. She now recognizes those clients as abusers, but she does not blame the website for her suffering. 'I am committed to preventing child sexual abuse, but I don't believe that this should come at the cost of civil liberties and sexual freedom,' Jaylen said. 'I have found ways to express my sexuality in consensual and cathartic ways.'" Nerea Vega Lucio, a member of the group's Advisory Council, said, 'Child protection laws need to be informed by accurate and impartial research, and ensuring that policy makers have access to such research will be a top priority for Prostasia.'"

Businesses

California Bill Would Restore, Strengthen Net Neutrality Protections (mercurynews.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Mercury News: With the FCC order to repeal net neutrality rules set to take effect next week, a bill that would restore those regulations in California will get its first hearing Tuesday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). SB 822, written by State Sen. Scott D. Wiener, D-San Francisco, is backed by big names including Tom Wheeler, the Obama-appointed former Federal Communications Commission chairman who wrote the 2015 Open Internet Order. Wheeler is joined by former FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Gloria Tristani in advocating for SB 822, which would in some ways be stronger than the net neutrality rules put in place under President Obama's administration after more than a decade of legal and political wrangling. Those rules required equal treatment of all internet traffic, and prohibited the establishment of internet slow and fast lanes. Wiener's bill would also prohibit "zero rating," in which internet providers exempt certain content, sites and services from data caps. In addition, it would prohibit public agencies in the state from signing contracts with ISPs that violate net neutrality principles, and call for internet service providers to be transparent about their practices and offerings.
United Kingdom

State-Sponsored Russian Hackers Actively Seeking To Hijack Essential Internet Hardware, US and UK Intelligence Agencies Say (bbc.com) 170

State-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet hardware, US and UK intelligence agencies say. BBC reports: The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security issued a joint alert warning of a global campaign. The alert details methods used to take over essential network hardware. The attacks could be an attempt by Russia to gain a foothold for use in a future offensive, it said. "Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyber-space, so dealing with their attacks is a major priority for the National Cyber Security Centre and our US allies," said Ciaran Martin, head of the NCSC in a statement. The alert said attacks were aimed at routers and switches that directed traffic around the net. Compromised devices were used to look at data passing through them, so Russia could scoop up valuable intellectual property, business information and other intelligence.

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