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Monthly Archives: November 2017

If you want to see what America would be like if it ditched net neutrality, just look at Portugal

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.. with the Republican-majority FCC likely to vote on December 14 in favor of rolling back the order, what might the American internet look like without net neutrality? Just look at Portugal.

The country’s wireless carrier Meo offers a package that’s very different from those available in the US. Users pay for traditional “data” — and on top of that, they pay for additional packages based on the kind of data and apps they want to use.

(internet net neutrality portugal English translation via Google Translate)

 

Really into messaging? Then pay €4.99 ($5.86 or £4.43) a month and get more data for apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime. Prefer social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, and so on? That’ll be another €4.99 a month.

Video apps like Netflix and YouTube are available as another add-on, while music (Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play Music, etc.) is another, as is email and cloud (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, etc.).

Net-neutrality advocates argue that this kind of model is dangerous because it risks creating a two-tier system that harms competition — people will just use the big-name apps included in the bundles they pay for, while upstart challengers will be left out in the cold.

For example: If you love watching videos, and Netflix is included in the video bundle but Hulu isn’t, you’re likely to try to save money by using only Netflix, making it harder for its competitors.

And without net neutrality, big-name apps could theoretically even pay telecoms firms for preferential access, offering them money — and smaller companies just couldn’t compete with that. (It’s not clear whether any of the companies named above have paid for preferential access.) An ISP could even refuse to grant access to an app at all unless they paid up.

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California originally shared the Meo example on Twitter in October.

“In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages,” he wrote. “A huge advantage for entrenched companies, but it totally ices out startups trying to get in front of people which stifles innovation. This is what’s at stake, and that’s why we have to save net neutrality.”

Technically, Portugal is bound by the European Union’s net-neutrality rules, but loopholes allow certain kinds of pricing schemes like the one outlined above.

Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee, recently retweeted Khanna’s tweet, adding: “This isn’t even the worst part of ending net neutrality. The worst part happens when ISPs say ‘we don’t like this site’s politics,’ or ‘this site competes with us,’ and block or throttle it.”

Getting Bad Things Done – On Trump, FCC, Net Neutrality, ….

Simply put, Team Trump didn’t want the average American to have good information about what is fast becoming the defining feature of our 45th presidency: It doesn’t want the public to have good information. …The cloud of chaos emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days makes it easy to lose the big picture. ..

But behind the smoke and mirrors, Trump World is getting stuff done — bad stuff, like the gutting of many major regulations that once protected our environment, or the toxic police-state culture created by “taking the gloves off” ICE enforcement agents or your local cops, or installing regressive judges across the land. But the defining feature of Donald Trump’s presidency is its all-encompassing war on the truth. The tactic is the stream of lies that the president spews — sometimes dozens in a week. But the broader strategy is equally alarming: Trump hopes to extend and expand his reign of dishonesty by remaking the media landscape with fewer. diminished sources of valid facts, elevating the handful of outlets that worship our Dear Leader (Sinclair, Fox) while seeking to destroy the credibility and reputation of everyone else.

Trump’s big, bad idea is so universal it can embrace ideas that seem to be contradictions — until you look a little closer. How else to explain the fact that the FCC — controlled by a majority of pro-Trump commissioners — is, with its all-but-a-done-deal rollback of net neutrality, giving the gift of a lifetime to monster communication companies like Philadelphia-based Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Yet at the same time Trump’s Justice Department seems to be taking an anti-big-business stance in opposing the planned merger of AT&T and Time-Warner without the spin-off of key assets like Time-Warner’s CNN, the bete noir of Trump’s rabid fan base.

But a thousand Alabamas and a thousand Roy Moores will blossom across America’s political landscape in an era when the flow of information is even more tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can and will be bullied and intimidated by the White House. It’s critical for the future of American free speech and democracy that the net neutrality rollback be stopped, but with the rubber-stamp FCC preparing to vote on Dec. 14, there are few good options and virtually no time to stop this dictator move. The war on factual information and the truth is repulsive, but it’s not the most outrageous thing about the Trump presidency. The most outrageous thing is that Trump is winning.

But there’s been widespread (and seemingly informed) speculation that the government’s merger move has little to do with its usually pro-business ideology and everything to do with old-fashioned revenge against the news outlet that Trump has called “the Fake News Network” and accused of treating him so unfairly (despite considerable evidence of the exact opposite). There’s no smoking gun, but pro-Trump news outlets like the Daily Caller and the New York Post have quoted sources that Trump would love to oust CNN chief Jeff Zucker, and other journalists have labored to find a reason for trying to block the merger other than presidential spite. So basically Team Trump wants fewer outlets controlling the news — and it wants those that survive to, in the immortal words of Omarosa Manigault, “bow down to President Trump.”

Hatred for, and the stifling of, a free press and free flow of information is the glue that holds the Trump presidency — and the 36 percent who support him — together. Consider these droplets:

In addition to its net neutrality push, the FCC has also adopted a series of rules that will dramatically expand the reach of Sinclair Broadcasting into a coast-to-coast behemoth (including, at least for now, Philadelphia’s Channel 17) and allow it to reshape your local TV news away from community journalism and toward its relentlessly pro-Trump political agenda, with one-size-fits-all Trumpian commentary and inane “terrorism alert desk.”
Trump’s Justice Department seems to be sending a chilling message to rank-and-file journalists — and especially alternative journalists on the left more likely to be critical of the president — by its shocking decision to pursue felony “rioting” charges that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence for a Texas photojournalist named Alexei Wood. Wood covered a destructive melee on Trump’s inauguration day and his apparent “crime” was going “wooo” as he filmed an act of vandalism, not very smart but not anywhere near the ballpark of criminality.
These official acts come against a constant drumbeat from Trump seeking to delegitimatize journalism and the First Amendment at least in the eyes of his own supporters, calling hard-working reporters “the enemy of the American people,” threatening to relax libel laws amid the dream of forcing more outlets to go out of business like Gawker, and disrupting the news cycle with increasingly off-his-meds 6 a.m. tweets.

But the end of net neutrality would mean Trump and his allies are going nuclear in their war on information. Without the controls adopted by past incarnations of the FCC, your internet carrier would be free to charge you more for certain content; imagine if Comcast or Verizon started charging you for packages of accelerated and accessible websites — a “news” package with CNN.com and Philly.com or a “sports” package with league websites or Deadspin. (That’s how they do it now in countries like Portugal that don’t have net neutrality.)

There’s more. An internet provider would have the power to slow down the delivery of sites (presumably ones that don’t pay or offer other perks in return for high speed) and it could block some altogether — like, for example, that sites that are dedicated to complaints from customers of Comcast or other telecoms. To civil liberties groups like the ALCU, ending net neutrality isn’t just a way for billion-dollar companies to squeeze a few extra bucks from consumers, but “also one of the foremost free speech issues of our time.” In explaining its opposition, the ACLU writes: “After all, freedom of expression isn’t worth much if the forums where people actually make use of it are not themselves free.”

Vice Motherboard’s Sam Gustin recently reported on why net neutrality is shaping up as the free speech issue of the Trump era, quoting Steven Renderos, an organizer for the Center for Media Justice: “Net neutrality is not simply about technology. It’s about the everyday people who use it and whether they will have the right to be heard online.”

The stifling of good information creates a world in which citizens decide which version of “the truth” they want to believe, often with disastrous consequences — the fantasy world that Trump and his true believers covet. If you want to go to Ground Zero for the war on information, go to Alabama, where as much as half or more of the electorate won’t believe Senate candidate Roy Moore is a sexual predator because the allegations were reported in the Washington Post, one of the news outlets that our Oval Office authoritarian has decreed as “fake.”

But a thousand Alabamas and a thousand Roy Moores will blossom across America’s political landscape in an era when the flow of information is even more tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can and will be bullied and intimidated by the White House. It’s critical for the future of American free speech and democracy that the net neutrality rollback be stopped, but with the rubber-stamp FCC preparing to vote on Dec. 14, there are few good options and virtually no time to stop this dictator move. The war on factual information and the truth is repulsive, but it’s not the most outrageous thing about the Trump presidency. The most outrageous thing is that Trump is winning.

FCC stonewalled investigation of net neutrality comment fraud, NY AG says

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Net neutrality fraudsters likely impersonated “hundreds of thousands” of people.

New York’s attorney general has been trying to investigate fraud in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s anti-net neutrality plan but alleges that the FCC has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that “hundreds of thousands of Americans” were likely impersonated in fake comments on the net neutrality docket. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s office would not provide information needed for New York’s investigation, Schneiderman wrote yesterday in an open letter to Pai:

[T]he process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.

Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities. Such conduct likely violates state law—yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed.

The FCC received 22 million comments on its plan to repeal net neutrality rules and deregulate broadband providers, but many were fraudulent. In May, some of the people who were impersonated by anti-net neutrality spammers asked the Federal Communications Commission to notify other victims of the impersonation and remove fraudulent comments from the net neutrality docket.

But the FCC has seemingly taken no action to remove fraudulent comments or to prevent them from being filed.

On Twitter, Schneiderman described “a massive scheme that fraudulently used real Americans’ identities” in order to “drown out the views of real people and businesses.”

Here is New York State Attorney General’s Letter Eric Schneiderman’s Letter

F.C.C. Plans Net Neutrality Repeal in a Victory for Telecoms

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The Federal Communications Commission released a plan on Tuesday to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for internet service companies to charge users more to see certain content and to curb access to some websites.

The proposal, made by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibit high-speed internet service providers, or I.S.P.s, from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites. They also prevent the companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services.

The announcement set off a fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom titans like AT&T and Verizon against internet giants like Google and Amazon. The internet companies warned that rolling back the rules could make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment. The telecom companies say that the existing rules prevent them from offering customers a wider selection of services at higher and lower price points.

Nothing to see here folks, just normal government for big business, by big business, and all for the best democracy that money can buy.

Big Cable’s pillow talk with FCC to forbid US states from writing own net neutrality rules

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The stomach-churning love-fest between the American cable industry and FCC Ajit Pai continues apace with Big Cable now pillow talking the federal regulator into how to prevent individual US states forming their own net neutrality protections.

Pai is expecting to call for a vote on dismantling net neutrality rules on December 14 – despite widespread opposition to the idea – but cable companies are worried that state legislators will simply write their own laws to effectively reintroduce them.

And so, joining a determined campaign by cable giants Verizon and Comcast to lobby against such actions, the wireless comms trade association CTIA has joined the fray, sending a letter to the FCC informing it how it can usurp such state efforts.

The CTIA even has its own simple anecdote to explain why it makes sense for the FCC to set the rules across the entire US: a train journey.

“A passenger riding on Amtrak between Washington D.C. and New York City travels through five different jurisdictions during the course of a 3.5-hour trip,” the letter argued. “If each of these jurisdictions were permitted to enforce its own rules regarding (for example) traffic prioritization, the rider’s mobile broadband usage during the trip would be subject to five different legal regimes, even if the rider spent the entire trip watching a single movie. This would be impracticable, and only underscores the risks inherent in a patchwork quilt of broadband regulation.”

The argument is, of course, gibberish: internet users pull content from all over the world every second of every day with it passing through hundreds of jurisdictions. And yet somehow the internet continues to function. How? Because internet traffic is not road or rail traffic.

Whether Pai and the other FCC commissioners are able to see through such obvious, false manipulation or get seduced by the appeal to their own importance, we will have to see. Or perhaps the bigger question: how far is Pai willing to go to please the cable industry? And is he prepared to make a fool of himself doing so? Infatuation is a difficult thing to judge.

As The FCC Guts Net Neutrality, Comcast Again Falsely Claims You Have Nothing To Worry About

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With the FCC formally confirming its plan to kill existing net neutrality protections December 15, Comcast is back again insisting that you have absolutely nothing to worry about. In a new blog post, top Comcast lobbyist “Chief Diversity Officer” David Cohen once again claims that net neutrality harmed industry investment (independent analysis and executive statements have repeatedly shown this to be a lie), that Comcast will be able to self-regulate in the absence of real oversight, and that gutting the Title II foundation underpinning the agency’s rules just isn’t that big of a deal:

“As we have said previously, this proposal is not the end of net neutrality rules. With the FCC transparency requirement and the restoration of the FTC‘s role in overseeing information services, the agencies together will have the authority to take action against any ISP which does not make its open Internet practices clearly known to consumers, and if needed enforce against any anti-competitive or deceptive practices. Comcast has already made net neutrality promises to our customers, and we will continue to follow those standards, regardless of the regulations in place.”

Monoplists

Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data

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The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

For a few years, Facebook’s developer platform hosted a thriving ecosystem of popular social games. Remember the age of Farmville and Candy Crush? The premise was simple: Users agreed to give game developers access to their data in exchange for free use of addictive games.

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In one instance, a developer appeared to be using Facebook data to automatically generate profiles of children, without their consent. When I called the company responsible for the app, it claimed that Facebook’s policies on data use were not being violated, but we had no way to confirm whether that was true. Once data passed from the platform to a developer, Facebook had no view of the data or control over it. In other cases, developers asked for permission to get user data that their apps obviously didn’t need — such as a social game asking for all of your photos and messages. People rarely read permissions request forms carefully, so they often authorize access to sensitive information without realizing it.

At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data. But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers. When I proposed a deeper audit of developers’ use of Facebook’s data, one executive asked me, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used.

This makes for a dangerous mix: a company that reaches most of the country every day and has the most detailed set of personal data ever assembled, but has no incentive to prevent abuse. Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data. The company won’t protect us by itself, and nothing less than our democracy is at stake.

Indeed. And users, including businesses, need to get serious about privacy and the damage the likes of facebook are doing and flee Facebook and their ilk in droves. Will this happen? I doubt it. As long as it is free they will come. As the increased popularity of Alexa, and other personal assistants that listen in shows, people are continuing to invite these modern forms of big brother into their private lives.

Thousand-dollar iPhone X’s Face ID wrecked by ‘$150 3D-printed mask

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Apple’s facial-recognition login system in its rather expensive iPhone X can be, it is claimed, fooled by a 3D printed mask, a couple of photos, and a blob of silicone.

Bkav Corporation, an tech security biz with offices in the US and Singapore, specializes in bypassing facial-recognition systems, and set out to do the same with Face ID when it got hold of a $999 iPhone X earlier this month. The team took less than a week to apparently crack Cupertino’s vaunted new security mechanism, demonstrating that miscreants can potentially unlock a phone with a mask of the owner’s face.

“Everything went much more easily than you expect. You can try it out with your own iPhone X, the phone shall recognize you even when you cover a half of your face,” the biz said in an advisory last updated on Saturday.

The team is still researching how to crack the system more easily and refining their methods. In the meantime the biz advises sticking to fingerprints for biometric security. ®

More Holes than Swiss Cheese

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Microsoft and Adobe are getting into the holiday spirit this month by gorging users and admins with a glut of security fixes.

The November of Patch Tuesday brings fixes for more than 130 bugs between the two software giants for products including IE, Edge, Office, Flash Player and Acrobat.

Microsoft’s patch dump addresses a total 53 CVE-listed vulnerabilities, including three that already have been publicly detailed. Those include CVE-2017-11827, a memory corruption flaw in Edge and IE that lets webpages achieve remote code execution, CVE-2017-8700, a flaw in ASP.NET that lets web apps access restricted memory contents, and CVE-2017-11848, a flaw in IE that allows webpages to track users when they leave the website.

As usual, memory corruption and scripting engine flaws in IE and Edge make up the bulk of what Microsoft considers to be the highest risk flaws.

Those include a total of 17 CVE entries (CVE-2017-11837,CVE-2017-11839, CVE-2017-11841, CVE-2017-11861, CVE-2017-11862, CVE-2017-11870, CVE-2017-11836, CVE-2017-11838, CVE-2017-11840, CVE-2017-11843, CVE-2017-11846, CVE-2017-11859, CVE-2017-11871, CVE-2017-11873) described as browser scripting engine memory corruption holes that would allow attackers to execute arbitrary evil code on vulnerable PCs by crafting webpages that exploit the programming blunders.

Three other flaws, CVE-2017-11845, CVE-2017-11855, CVE-2017-11856, concern similar remote code execution holes in other components of Edge and Internet Explorer that can be exploited by malicious webpages.

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And then there’s Adobe

Elsewhere, Adobe’s Flash Player has once again earned its moniker of The Internet’s Screen Door as the Windows, macOS and Linux versions of the browser plugin received fixes for five remote-code execution vulnerabilities.

The largest Adobe patch load, however, was reserved for Acrobat and Reader this month. The PDF readers were the subject of a whopping 62 CVE entries, most of which are remote code execution flaws triggered by opening a malformed PDF file.

Remember Shockwave Player? It got an update to fix CVE-2017-11294, a memory corruption flaw that would let a malformed Shockwave file achieve remote code execution.

Adobe also released updates for Photoshop CC, Connect, DNG Converter, InDesign, and Digital Editions, and Experience Manager