Category Archives: Technology

(CNBC) Trump says he talked to Apple CEO Tim Cook about tariffs and Samsung

(CNBC)

  • Trump said Cook made a “good case” that it would be difficult for Apple to pay tariffs, when Samsung does not face the same hurdle because much of its manufacturing is in South Korea.
  • “I thought he made a very compelling argument,” Trump told reporters Sunday.
  • The president said on Friday he was having dinner with Apple’s CEO. 
GP: President Trump Participates In American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., during an American Workforce Policy Advisory board meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said he talked to Tim Cook about tariffs and Apple’s South Korean competitor Samsung.

Trump said Cook made a “good case” that it would be difficult for Apple to pay tariffs, when Samsung does not face the same hurdle because much of its manufacturing is in South Korea.

“I thought he made a very compelling argument,” Trump told reporters Sunday. The president said he was having dinner with Apple’s CEO on Friday. 

Trump has ordered 10% tariffs on an additional $300 billion in goods imported from China. Originally, all of those tariffs were scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1, but Trump delayed some of the import duties until Dec. 15 over concerns about how they would impact the holiday shopping season.

“It’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if it’s competing with a very good company that’s not,” Trump said.

The tariffs delayed until December include consumer electronics such as cell phones. Apple’s stock closed up 4% on Tuesday after Trump made that decision. 

Apple is expected to release its new version of the iPhone in September.

(Mirror) Facebook paid contractors to transcribe voice chats in Messenger app

(Mirror) Facebook claims the contractors were checking the accuracy of its voice-to-text service

Facebook
(Image: Getty)

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Facebook has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe voice chats carried out using the company’s Messenger app, it has emerged.

The contractors – many from outsourcing firm TaskUs – were able to hear Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes including “vulgar content”, according to Bloomberg .

They were not told where the audio was recorded or why it needed to be transcribed, only to transcribe it.

This led some contractors to feel their work was unethical, according to the people with knowledge of the matter.

Woman talking on mobile phone
(Image: Getty)
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Facebook has confirmed the anonymous reports that it has been transcribing users’ audio, and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny of other companies.

“Much like Apple and Google , we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a spokesperson for the company said.

It added that contractors were checking the accuracy of Facebook’s voice-to-text service in Messenger, which uses artificial intelligence to transcribe conversations.

Users who were affected chose to have their voice chats transcribed in Messenger and granted access to their phone’s microphone for this purpose, according to Facebook.

However, they were not informed that clips of their conversations may be subjected to human review.

(Image: Bloomberg)
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Facebook’s data-use  policy states that its systems “automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyse context and what’s in them.”

But it includes no mention of other human beings screening the content. 

The news comes after other major tech firms including Apple, Google and Amazon have all come under fire for their use of human workers to review voice recordings.

They claim that employees listen to these recordings in order to grade the responses of their AI voice assistants, and make them better at understanding and replying to users.

Apple and Google have both now paused their review programmes, and Amazon has given users the ability to opt out of having their voice recordings manually reviewed.

(ST) WhatsApp flaws could allow hackers to alter messages: Cybersecurity firm

(ST)

Check Point Software Technologies, an Israeli company that provides security for computer networks, said its researchers found three potential ways to alter conversations.
Check Point Software Technologies, an Israeli company that provides security for computer networks, said its researchers found three potential ways to alter conversations.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – A cybersecurity firm says it has identified flaws in the popular messaging app WhatsApp that could allow hackers to manipulate messages in both public and private conversations, raising the prospect of misinformation being spread by what appears to be trusted sources.

Check Point Software Technologies, an Israeli company that provides security for computer networks, said its researchers found three potential ways to alter conversations.

One uses the “quote” feature in a group conversation to change the appearance of the identity of a sender. Another lets a hacker change the text of someone else’s reply.

And the other, which has been fixed, would have let a person send a private message to another group participant disguised as a public message to all, so when the targeted individual responded, it was visible to everyone in the conversation.

A WhatsApp spokesman declined to comment.

The flaws could have significant consequences because WhatsApp has about 1.5 billion users, and is used for personal conversations, business communications and political messaging, said Mr Oded Vanunu, Check Point’s head of products vulnerability research.

Check Point said it alerted WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, about the flaws late last year. But the company said only one of the flaws – disguising a private message as one that becomes visible to an entire group – has been addressed.Related Story

WhatsApp tells users to update app after finding flaw that allows commercial-grade spying

Mr Vanunu said his company is working with WhatsApp, but the other problems were difficult to solve because of the messaging app’s encryption.

(CNBC) Trump administration to ban agencies from directly purchasing equipment or services from Huawei

(CNBC)

  • The Trump administration is expected to release a rule Wednesday afternoon that bans agencies from directly purchasing telecom, video surveillance equipment or services from Huawei.
  • The prohibition was mandated by Congress as part of a broader defense bill signed into law last year.
  • The new rule will take effect Tuesday and applies not only to Huawei, but also a list of other telecom companies that have sparked security concerns, such as ZTE and Hikvision.
  • In addition, the law set a deadline of August 2020 for a broader ban on federal contractors doing business with Huawei or the covered firms.

WATCH NOWVIDEO00:51White House to introduce rule stopping government deals with Huawei

The White House is planning to take a big step Wednesday toward preventing government agencies from doing business with Huawei, according to a senior administration official.

The Trump administration is expected to release a rule Wednesday afternoon that bans agencies from directly purchasing telecom, video surveillance equipment or services from Huawei. The prohibition was mandated by Congress as part of a broader defense bill signed into law last year.

“The administration has a strong commitment to defending our nation from foreign adversaries and will fully comply with Congress on the implementation of the prohibition of Chinese telecom and video surveillance equipment, including Huawei equipment,” said Jacob Wood, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget.

The new rule, which will take effect Tuesday, also applies to a list of other telecom companies that have sparked security concerns, such as ZTE and Hikvision. In addition, the law set a deadline of August 2020 for a broader ban on federal contractors doing business with Huawei or the covered firms.

Contractors will be able to seek waivers from individual federal agencies if they do not believe their interaction with those companies poses a security threat.

The congressional mandate is separate from the Trump administration’s own efforts to rein in Huawei’s dominance in the industry.

The Commerce Department has put Huawei on a blacklist that effectively bans the export of goods to the company from the United States. U.S. chipmakers and tech firms can request waivers, and the chief executives of Google, Qualcomm, Micron, Intel and others met with President Donald Trump at the White House last month and urged the administration to issue those decisions quickly.WATCH NOWVIDEO08:13Potential threats to US communications are very real: Security expert

In addition, the White House has proposed a wide-ranging ban on American companies doing business with Huawei. Those rules have yet to be written, and the administration official did not have an update on its status.

Huawei is a telecom giant and the largest privately held company in China, but hawks on Capitol Hill and in the White House have warned of the company’s close ties to the Beijing government and the risks of surveillance.

In an interview on CNBC, Huawei chief security officer Andy Purdy defended the company’s track record. He argued that leaders in the United Kingdom and Germany had been told by U.S. officials there were no allegations of a cybersecurity threat from Huawei.

“We have tested the products of all vendors to international standards so that there’s trust through verification,” Purdy said.

(BF) Israel A Rising Star In Artificial Intelligence

(BF) Israel has emerged as a leading player in Artificial Intelligence and Tel Aviv has been named as an Emerging AI Hub in Business Facilities’ 15th Annual Rankings Report.

Israel has emerged as a leading player in Artificial Intelligence and Tel Aviv has been named as an Emerging AI Hub in Business Facilities’ 15th Annual Rankings Report.

Israel finished sixth in BF’s global ranking for Artificial Intelligence, with the U.S., China and the UK topping the chart, respectively. Tel Aviv finished seventh in the magazine’s Emerging AI Hubs category, behind Beijing, San Francisco, London, Shanghai, New York and Toronto, respectively.

“If you factor in the size of the country, Israel’s appearance in the top 10 in AI is even more impressive,” said BF Editor in Chief Jack Rogers. “On a per capita basis, Israel is head and shoulders above everyone else.”

According to StartupHub.ai, which tracks funding rounds for artificial intelligence, Israeli startups raised $319 million in June.

“Israel’s cluster of AI startups is expanding exponentially,” Rogers said, noting that Israeli AI startups cumulatively have raised an estimated $7 billion and are proliferating in sub-sectors ranging from machine learning and computer vision to speech recognition.

China, the United States and Germany are the top three, respectively, in BF’s global ranking for Renewable Energy Leaders, based on installed capacity in megawatts.

“China is still the biggest polluter by far in terms of carbon emissions, but the PRC has laid the foundation to lead the world in renewable energy for years to come,” Rogers said.

(ECO) Instagram e WhatsApp vão mudar de nome

(ECO) O Facebook vai acrescentar o seu próprio nome à designação das duas aplicações, que passarão a chamar-se “Instagram from Facebook” e “WhatsApp from Facebook”.

O Instagram e o WhatsApp vão ter uma ligeira alteração nos respetivos nomes. As aplicações controladas por Mark Zuckerberg vão passar a chamar-se “Instagram from Facebook” e “WhatsApp from Facebook”. As novas designações vão passar a estar no interior das aplicações, mas também na Play Store do Android e na App Store dos iPhones.

A notícia foi avançada pelo The Information e confirmada pela Business Insider.Segundo Bertie Thomson, porta-voz do Facebook, a mudança de nome torna “mais claro” que produtos fazem parte do grupo Facebook, numa altura em que uma cada vez maior percentagem da população mundial recorre diariamente a estes serviços.FacebookMais sobre a empresa Ver Perfil

Apesar da mudança, os utilizadores vão continuar a ver o nome “Instagram” e “WhatsApp” nos respetivos ícones das aplicações. A alteração, no entanto, surge numa altura em que se sabe que a empresa está a planear fundir os chats das três aplicações (Instagram, WhatsApp e Facebook Messenger), pelo que a nova estratégia representa um aproximar de todos os serviços debaixo de uma mesma chancela.

As aplicações Instagram e WhatsApp têm, até certo ponto, escapado às polémicas em torno do Facebook, que envolvem o uso dos dados pessoais dos utilizadores para fins comerciais. Nos últimos meses, alguns utilizadores têm optado por eliminar a conta que possuem no Facebook, continuando, no entanto, a usar o WhatsApp e o Instagram. Desta forma, com os novos nomes, não restarão dúvidas sobre quem manda naqueles serviços.

(TNW) NSO Group’s WhatsApp spyware can now snoop on your Facebook, Google, and iCloud data too

(TNW)

NSO Group’s WhatsApp spyware can now snoop on your Facebook, Google, and iCloud data too

The Israeli company behind WhatsApp hack earlier this May has developed new technology that can clandestinely steal a user’s data from Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

According to The Financial Times — which reported the development — NSO Group’s Pegasus malware “has now evolved to capture the much greater trove of information stored beyond the phone in the cloud, such as a full history of a target’s location data, archived messages or photo.”Tired of cleaning your room? This robot does it for youEverybody hates tidying up, so this Japanese company made a robot that can do it for you. Now you can just chill while this bot turns your pile of shame into a liveable space.

Upon installation on the target’s phone, the new capability works by copying the login credentials of various services like Facebook Messenger, Google Cloud, iCloud, and others, and then using a separate server to mimic the phone, including its location.

This server then syncs all the information, including messages, photos, and location history, from the ‘connected’ device, and relays them back to the surveillance operators.

The report further states that the number of people whose cloud accounts may have been targeted by this latest technique is not yet known, although it appears NSO’s parent company Q-Cyber pitched the service to the government of Uganda.

NSO Group is known for working with governments to install Pegasus spyware. It features advanced capabilities to jailbreak or root an infected mobile device, turn on the phone’s microphone and camera, scan emails and messages, and collect all sorts of sensitive information.

In May, the FT discovered a vulnerability in WhatsApp’s audio call feature that allowed attackers to inject iPhones and Androids with Pegasus. This prompted the Facebook-owned messaging service to issue a server-side update to patch the exploit.

The company maintains that its software is only sold to responsible governments to help foil terrorist attacks and crimes. But Pegasus has been found to be misused to track human rights activists and journalists around the world.

The report further states that while NSO Group denied building hacking or mass-surveillance tools for cloud services, it did not specifically deny that it had developed the new surveillance feature. Some of the big tech companies mentioned in the report are now said to be investigating the claims at their end.

The new revelations come at a time when cloud adoption is accelerating at a rapid pace, with security and privacy emerging a top priority for major service providers. Risks from data loss and leakage remains a huge barrier to wider cloud adoption.

Cybersecurity firm Check Point’s 2019 Cloud Security Report early this week cited unauthorized cloud access and account hijacking as some of the major cloud vulnerabilities, stressing the need for stronger authentication mechanisms to safeguard users against such stealth attacks.

With passwordless authentication gaining momentum in recent years, it’s possible more systems will incorporate such secure standards in the future.

(EUobserver) EU satellite system temporarily offline

(EUobserver)

Services of the EU’s satellite navigation system Galileo, offline since Thursday, have been interrupted by “a technical incident related to its ground infrastructure”, the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency said Sunday. Its search and rescue service remained operational, the agency added. Galileo is still in its pilot phase, and is due to be fully operational next year. The €10bn project is an alternative to US-owned GPS.

(ZH) Zucked Again! Facebook’s Founder Admits To Interfering In Political Speech

(ZH)

Censorship is alive and well! Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the social media giant actively interfered with political speech leading up to the Irish abortion referendum.  Facebook systematically deleted posts it didn’t like while promoting those it did.

During a recent talk, Zuckerberg admitted that the social media network banned a number of pro-life advertisements ahead of the Irish abortion referendum. According toPJ Media, during a recent interview at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, Zuckerberg began to explain how the social media firm is attempting to work with the governments of other countries to determine what political speech should be allowed on the site. Zuckerberg gave an example of Facebook’s interaction with the Irish government ahead of a 2018 referendum on the legalization of abortion in the country.

Big Tech has officially taken sides, and they’ve sided with tyranny. According to Breitbart News, Zuckerberg explained that American pro-life groups wanted to run Facebook ads targeted towards Irish citizens. Not wanting to allow free speech and buckling like a slave to the government, Facebook reached out to the Irish “authorities” to determine whether or not the ads should be allowed at the time. Zuckerberg stated: “Their response at the time was, ‘we don’t currently have a law, so you need to make whatever decision you want to make.’”

So Facebook’s CEO “Zucked” pro-lifers. “We ended up not allowing the ads,” Zuckerberg stated. Pro-life activist Lila Rose commented on how Silicon Valley tech executives have reacted towards the issue of abortion in a tweet which can be seen below:

Lila Rose@LilaGraceRose

FB CEO @MarkZuckerburg blocked pro-life ads ahead of Ireland’s abortion vote

FB COO @sherylsandberg donated $2M to Planned Parenthood

Twitter CEO @Jack banned my & @LiveAction’s pro-life ads, allows @PPFA ads, & says legal protections for preborn babies are “bad for business”5,10012:36 AM – Jul 9, 20193,969 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Arthur Packard@apackcltReplying to @LilaGraceRose and 5 others

Scum. They really don’t care about free speech – only their speech. Liberal speech. Culture of death speech. And of course anything to elect democratic speech.3212:39 AM – Jul 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Arthur Packard’s other Tweets

The narrative has been chosen and the government and their accomplices in Big Tech and Big Pharma will decide what you hear, read, and see. Almost everything is now manipulated.  But it isn’t just Facebook that’s teamed up to control the narrative. Twitter, Google, and YouTube are also complicit.

Violent Antifa Accounts Don’t Violate Twitter’s Rules: Conservatives Banned And Censored

Google Manipulated YouTube Search Results To Program Users’ Behavior

People are being fed their own slavery and attaching their own chains at this point. Regardless of what side of the abortion debate you come down on, squashing speech you don’t like from the other side certainly isn’t helping make you look like you’re “right.” It makes you look like you’re hiding information you don’t want anyone to think about because you’ve already made the decision for them. Just like the “Russian meddling” situation: who cares what others say? Are people really so afraid of information that disagrees with their already cemented bias that they can’t handle free speech?

Whether Russia created ads to influence an election or not, and whether pro-life groups created ads to influence an election or not, it’s not Zuckerberg’s job to dictate what information people see. Free speech is the enemy to misinformation and that’s likely why authoritarians are actively trying to kill it.

(JN) Facebook suspende estreia da Libra até ter aprovação regulatória

(JN) O responsável pela empresa que vai gerir a Libra, a moeda virtual criada pelo Facebook em conjunto com dezenas de entidades, declarou que o lançamento da divisa só irá ocorrer após todas as questões regulatórias estarem asseguradas.

O Facebook deverá suspender o lançamento da criptomoeda Libra, um projeto que tem em parceria com dezenas de empresas, pois pretende, primeiro, solucionar as questões regulatórias que se impõem e obter o aval das entidades competentes.

“Sabemos que precisamos de levar algum tempo para que (o lançamento) se concretize com sucesso. E quero ser claro: o Facebook não irá oferecer a divisa digital Libra até ter solucionado por completo as dúvidas regulatórias e ter recebido as aprovações adequadas”, declarará o presidente da Calibra, David Marcus, num discurso ao Senado que é antecipado pela Bloomberg. A Calibra é a empresa responsável pela gestão da criptomoeda.

O objetivo da empresa liderada por Mark Zuckerberg é estrear a Libra em 2020, não sendo claro se a intenção de clarificar os aspetos regulatórios deverá afetar, ou não, os prazos.

Desde que os planos de Zuckerberg foram anunciados, já a Reserva Federal norte-americana se declarou preocupada com os efeitos que esta moeda poderá ter no mercado. No mesmo discurso, Marcus afirma que a nova moeda não pretende competir com as divisas nacionais ou com a política monetária das instituições centrais.

Também Trump mostrou resistência quanto aos planos de criação desta moeda virtual. O presidente dos Estados Unidos considera que as empresas que criam e gerem moedas como a Bitcoin ou a Libra deveriam estar sujeitas a regulaçãobancária, “tal como os outros bancos”. Criticas feitas através da respetiva conta Twitter. “Não sou fã da Bitcoin e de outras criptomoedas, que não são dinheiro e cujo valor é altamente volátil e baseado em [critérios arbitrários]”, começou por escrever Trump. E continuou: “As criptomoedas sem regulação podem facilitar comportamentos ilegais, incluindo tráfico de droga e outras atividades ilegais”.

Até ao momento, os detalhes conhecidos apontam para que a Libra seja lançada apoiada na tecnologia Blockchain e seja regulada pelas autoridades financeiras na Suíça.

(Reuters) Wall Street finds blockchain hard to tame after early euphoria

(Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two years ago Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) announced a new blockchain system they said would make payments of private securities transactions more efficient. Nasdaq Chief Executive Adena Friedman called it “a milestone in the global financial sector.”A Wall St. street sign is seen near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

But the companies did not move forward with the project, a person familiar with it said, because while it worked in testing, the cost to fully adopt it outweighed the benefits.

Blockchain, the person added, “is a shiny mirage” and its wide-scale adoption may still “take a while.”

In a joint statement, the companies said the pilot was successful and they were “happy to partner” on other initiatives. Both companies are also working on other projects.

Companies, including banks, large retailers and technology vendors, are investing billions of dollars to find uses for blockchain, a digital ledger used by cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Just last month, Facebook Inc (FB.O) revealed plans for a virtual currency and a blockchain-based payment system.

But a review of 33 projects involving large companies announced over the past four years and interviews with more than a dozen executives involved with them show the technology has yet to deliver on its promise.

At least a dozen of these projects, which involve major banks, exchanges and technology firms, have not gone beyond the testing phase, the review shows. Those that have made it past that stage are yet to see extensive usage.

RELATED COVERAGE

Regulatory hurdles have often slowed down implementation, some executives said. Scrutiny is likely to only increase after Facebook’s plans drew global backlash from regulators and politicians. (For a sample of these projects, click on)

The euphoria that surrounded the early days of Wall Street’s interest in blockchain is giving way to pragmatism, as companies realize that it will likely take years before it takes off in a substantial way.

“This is a transformation of the market. It isn’t a big bang,” said Hyder Jaffrey, head of strategic investments for UBS AG’s (UBSG.S) investment bank.

It could take three-to-seven years before major projects have significant impact, he said.

One UBS-backed project, a digital cash system for financial transactions called Utility Settlement Coin, is expected to be commercialized next year after more than five years of work, said Rhomaios Ram, head of a separate entity created for the project.

But Ram said that for the system to be transformational, it will require other market processes to move to blockchain-based systems as well.

“There is a recognition now that it is a journey, rather than something with a short time frame,” Ram said.

BLOCKCHAIN’S PROMISE

Blockchain was created about a decade ago as a way to keep track of bitcoin transactions. As cryptocurrencies became more mainstream following a 2013 rally and crash in bitcoin’s price, consultants, analysts and other proponents said their underlying technology could be transformational, especially for the financial industry.

It could help trades settle instantly, accelerate international payments and remove the need for costly intermediaries, potentially saving the industry tens of billions of dollars, they said.

Investment followed. Last year the capital markets and banking sectors allocated $1.7 billion on blockchain initiatives, up 70% from 2016, according to estimates by research and advisory firm Greenwich Associates.

By 2022, blockchain investment across industries is expected to reach $12.4 billion, according to research firm IDC. 

Some big companies have rushed in. International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) has around 1,500 people working on the new technology for use in several different sectors. In an ad released during the Academy Awards this year it called for the use of blockchain “to help reduce poverty”.

A system IBM was developing along with the London Stock Exchange Group Plc (LSE.L) to issue private shares did not move beyond testing, the companies said. But a trade finance platform developed by numerous banks along with IBM has been commercialized.

“I certainly think there has been a share of hype associated with blockchain,” said Marie Wieck, a general manager at IBM.

BUSINESS BENEFITS

But Wieck and other industry executives said they remain bullish about the prospect of the technology and their companies continue to invest in it. “To me the business benefits of blockchain are clear,” Wieck said.

John Whelan, Banco Santander SA’s (SAN.MC) head of digital investment banking, said blockchain projects need to work on three areas at the same time: technology, demand and compliance.

“Those of us who were involved in blockchain early on maybe did not appreciate the extent to which the three parts have to move together,” Whelan said. Santander is involved in numerous blockchain projects, including the Utility Settlement Coin.

Around the time the project with Citi was announced in 2017, Nasdaq also started testing a proxy voting system in Estonia that automates a manual and lengthy process.

Lars Ottersgard, Nasdaq’s head of market technology, said demand has been limited for the product.

“To be honest, the value differentiation using blockchain from using traditional technology has not been obvious,” he said.

A Nasdaq spokesman said the exchange operator has since developed the system further with South Africa’s central securities depository, which plans to launch it later this year.

(Independent) GOOGLE ADMITS WORKERS LISTEN TO PRIVATE AUDIO RECORDINGS FROM GOOGLE HOME SMART SPEAKERS

(Independent)Google claims listening to recordings is ‘critical’ to improving its AI voice assistant

Google employees listen to customers’ audio recordings on Google Home smart speakers, the technology giant has admitted.

Language experts are employed to analyse “snippets” of recordings made by users, which Google claims helps improve its voice recognition technology.

This is then used to develop the Google Assistant artificial intelligence system, which is used in its Google Home smart speakers and Android smartphones.

The assistant understands and responds to voice commands given to it, answering queries about the news and weather as well as being able to control other internet-connected devices around the home.

In a statement, the company said a small number of anonymous recordings were transcribed by its experts, and revealed that an investigation had been launched after some Dutch audio data had been leaked.

“We partner with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by transcribing a small set of queries – this work is critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant,” Google said.

“Language experts only review around 0.2% of all audio snippets, and these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process.”

Hexa drone lifts off

The statement continued: “We just learned that one of these reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data.

“Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action.

“We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.”

An attendee passes a display of Nest products during Google I/O 2016 at Shoreline Amphitheatre on 19 May, 2016 in Mountain View, California (Getty Images)

Earlier this year, a report from Bloomberg revealed fellow tech giant Amazon also listens to some recordings of customer interactions with its voice-based assistant Alexa.

Amazon confirmed the process and said it did so with a small number of recordings in order to help train the artificial intelligence’s responses.

The firm said users are also able to review and delete recordings linked to their account via the Alexa companion app.

On Monday, the NHS announced a new partnership with Amazon that will see verified health information based on the NHS website provided via Alexa.

Privacy campaigners claimed it was a “data protection disaster waiting to happen, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS needed to embrace technology.

(JN) Trump exige regulação bancária para criptomoedas

(JN)

O presidente dos Estados Unidos critica moedas como a Bitcoin ou a Libra, do Facebook, e exige que as empresas que criam estas moedas obtenham uma licença bancária.

As criptomoedas foram o novo alvo de Donald Trump esta semana. O presidente dos Estados Unidos considera que as empresas que criam e gerem moedas como a Bitcoin ou a Libra, a nova moeda que o Facebook pretende lançar, deveriam estar sujeitas a regulação bancária, “tal como os outros bancos”.

As críticas foram feitas, como habitualmente, na sua conta oficial de Twitter. “Não sou fã da Bitcoin e de outras criptomoedas, que não são dinheiro e cujo valor é altamente volátil e baseado em [critérios arbitrários]”, começou por escrever Trump. E continuou: “As criptomoedas sem regulação podem facilitar comportamentos ilegais, incluindo tráfico de droga e outras atividades ilegais”.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity….43,5 mil01:15 – 12 de jul de 2019Informações e privacidade no Twitter Ads26,1 mil pessoas estão falando sobre issoAssim, defende, deve ser criada regulação. “Se o Facebook e outras empresas querem tornar-se num banco, devem procurar uma nova licença bancária e tornar-se sujeitos a todas as regulações bancárias, tal como os outros bancos, tanto nacionais como internacionais”.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · 12h

I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity….

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

….Similarly, Facebook Libra’s “virtual currency” will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National…32,9 mil01:15 – 12 de jul de 2019Informações e privacidade no Twitter Ads9.645 pessoas estão falando sobre issoO presidente norte-americano concluiu com elogios ao dólar. “Só temos uma moeda real nos Estados Unidos e está mais forte do que nunca, é tanto segura quanto fiável. É, de longe, a moeda mais dominante do mundo e assim será para sempre”.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · 12hRespondendo a @realDonaldTrump

….Similarly, Facebook Libra’s “virtual currency” will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National…

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

…and International. We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!35,6 mil01:15 – 12 de jul de 2019Informações e privacidade no Twitter Ads12,6 mil pessoas estão falando sobre issoOs investidores ignoram, para já, as declarações de Donald Trump. A Bitcoin segue, por esta altura, a valorizar perto de 5%, negociado acima dos 11.660 dólares e mantendo-se nos níveis mais elevados desde fevereiro de 2018.

(OBS) “Deixem o Facebook. Para sempre”, avisa fundador da Apple Steve Wozniak

(OBS)

“Quem sabe se o meu telemóvel está a ouvir o que eu estou a dizer, neste momento?”. Não é paranóia, diz Steve Wozniak, fundador da Apple que defende que as pessoas deviam sair das redes sociais.Partilhe

A maioria das pessoas que usam redes sociais como o Facebook devia “encontrar uma forma de sair”, de forma definitiva, para proteger a sua privacidade. Em declarações feitas de mochila às costas, no aeroporto, o fundador da Apple (que já não está na empresa mas continua ligado ao setor tecnológico) diz que a maioria das pessoas — com exceção para aquelas cujo benefício de estar no Facebook supera os riscos — devia fazer como fez Wozniak há cerca de um ano, isto é, sair da rede social.

“Tudo sobre aquilo que você é… Quero dizer, é possível medir o batimento cardíaco de alguém por meio de lasers, eles conseguem ouvi-lo usando vários dispositivos. Quem sabe se o meu telemóvel está a ouvir o que eu digo, neste momento? A Alexa [da Amazon] tem estado nas notícias frequentemente”, refere Wozniak, ouvido pela TMZ, em alusão às notícias sobre a forma como os novos dispositivos de assistentes pessoais gerem a informação que recolhem.

O investidor conhecido como “Woz” diz que “existem muitos tipos de pessoas, e para algumas os benefícios do Facebook valem a pena quando comparados com a perda de privacidade”. Mas todas as outras devem estar conscientes da forma como as empresas de redes sociais vendem os dados das pessoas a anunciantes, incluindo, potencialmente, o conteúdo de conversas privadas.

Já em novembro, Steve Wozniak tinha recomendado a Mark Zuckerberg, o fundador e presidente do Facebook, que deixasse de “colocar o dinheiro à frente dos valores morais”. Isso passava, concretamente, por tornar o Facebook (e as outras redes sociais afiliadas, como o Instagram) mais transparente a respeito das práticas publicitárias da empresa — desde logo informar as pessoas, com clareza, sobre a quais empresas é que os dados foram vendidos (e que dados).

Uma proposta ainda mais ambiciosa seria que Mark Zuckerberg aceitasse que as pessoas fossem “donas” dos seus dados, ou seja, permitir que cada um pudesse, facilmente, “exportar” toda a informação que o Facebook tem sobre si, para que se pudesse carregar essa informação para outras empresas de redes sociais. Mas esse é um passo, em prol da concorrência, que Wozniak duvida que Mark Zuckerberg admita dar.

(CNBC) The future of connectivity: Introducing Wi-Fi 6

(CNBC)

  • The newest generation of Wi-Fi technology is set to launch in late 2019 and is expected to transform experiences for consumers and institutions.
  • As of March this year, nearly 57% of the world population is connected to the internet, according to Internet World Stats.
  • The need for increased bandwidth and faster internet speed is a response to the world’s growing demand for connectivity.
GP: WiFi illustration

JJD | Cultura RM | Getty Images

Most have heard about 5G, the soon-to-be-adopted standard for mobile data. But that’s just half of the picture for the next generation of high-speed internet.

The future for homes, business and many public places will be using a different technological innovation: Wi-Fi 6.

The combination of that new wireless tech and 5G will represent the next big shift in connectivity and data, said Irving Tan, senior vice president and chief of operations at Cisco.

The new internet technology will be a huge speed boost to the existing Wi-Fi and it will allow users to access the internet in congested areas without compromising the battery life of their devices.

As of March this year, nearly 57% of the world’s population is connected to the internet, according to Internet World Stats. The future of digital connectivity is seen as an important strategic asset, and many countries — especially including China and the U.S. — are competing for control.

Countries are fighting each other over cellular equipment for wireless carriers around the globe, and companies are going head-on in competition to deliver the faster networks for consumers.

As for how the next version of Wi-Fi fits into the equation, Tan said it will work in conjunction with the new and improved data networks.

“Service providers will want to be able to offload peak traffics on 5G, onto Wi-Fi 6 in order to remove congestion … and create a seamless experience for customers,” he explained.

Tan added that the main difference between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 compared to the current networks is the ability to upgrade “experiences such as industrial automation, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, (and) augmented reality capabilities.”Adaption of the technology

The need for wider bandwidth and faster internet speed is a response to the world’s growing demand for connectivity. The newest generation of Wi-Fi technology is reportedly set to launch in late 2019 and is set to not only transform experiences for consumers but also institutions.

One of the most significant applications for the new standard will be the so-called Internet of Things. That will connect physical devices — such as home appliances and cars — to the internet, allowing them to talk with each other and for users to control everything seamlessly.

The faster internet will enable “very advanced IoT applications,” Tan projected.

And all of that, according to the Cisco exec, will mean more internet usage than ever before: “We anticipate that, by 2022, the amount of traffic generated in the single year will represent the entire last 32 years of the internet combined.”

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“It is no longer about human-to-device connectivity. It’s going to be driven by a lot of machine-to-machine connectivity,” he added.

By 2020, there will be 6.58 network-connected devices per person around the globe, according to research firm Statista. With a total world population of over 7.5 billion people, that means there could be nearly 50 billion such devices by 2020.

But beyond specific applications, he said, “it’s all about data at the end of the day.”

The adaption of the fast-speed internet technology will enable businesses and governments to collect extensive data, and thereby improve their services, Tan explained. The real challenge, he added, will be finding ways to make money out of all that information.

(Reuters) Inside the West’s failed fight against China’s ‘Cloud Hopper’ hackers

(Reuters)

Eight of the world’s biggest technology service providers were hacked by Chinese cyber spies in an elaborate and years-long invasion, Reuters found. The invasion exploited weaknesses in those companies, their customers, and the Western system of technological defense.

LONDON – Hacked by suspected Chinese cyber spies five times from 2014 to 2017, security staff at Swedish telecoms equipment giant Ericsson had taken to naming their response efforts after different types of wine.

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Pinot Noir began in September 2016. After successfully repelling a wave of attacks a year earlier, Ericsson discovered the intruders were back. And this time, the company’s cybersecurity team could see exactly how they got in: through a connection to information-technology services supplier Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Teams of hackers connected to the Chinese Ministry of State Security had penetrated HPE’s cloud computing service and used it as a launchpad to attack customers, plundering reams of corporate and government secrets for years in what U.S. prosecutors say was an effort to boost Chinese economic interests.

The hacking campaign, known as “Cloud Hopper,” was the subject of a U.S. indictment in December that accused two Chinese nationals of identity theft and fraud. Prosecutors described an elaborate operation that victimized multiple Western companies but stopped short of naming them. A Reuters report at the time identified two: Hewlett Packard Enterprise and IBM.

Yet the campaign ensnared at least six more major technology firms, touching five of the world’s 10 biggest tech service providers.

WANTED: An FBI poster citing Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong as Chinese hackers. Both were indicted on identify theft and other charges. Federal Bureau of Investigation/Handout via REUTERS.

Also compromised by Cloud Hopper, Reuters has found: Fujitsu, Tata Consultancy Services, NTT Data, Dimension Data, Computer Sciences Corporation and DXC Technology. HPE spun-off its services arm in a merger with Computer Sciences Corporation in 2017 to create DXC.

Waves of hacking victims emanate from those six plus HPE and IBM: their clients. Ericsson, which competes with Chinese firms in the strategically critical mobile telecoms business, is one. Others include travel reservation system Sabre, the American leader in managing plane bookings, and the largest shipbuilder for the U.S. Navy, Huntington Ingalls Industries, which builds America’s nuclear submarines at a Virginia shipyard.

“This was the theft of industrial or commercial secrets for the purpose of advancing an economy,” said former Australian National Cyber Security Adviser Alastair MacGibbon. “The lifeblood of a company.”

PENETRATED: Cyber spies attacked Hewlett Packard Enterprise. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
VICTIMIZED: IBM was among those compromised by Cloud Hopper hackers. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Reuters was unable to determine the full extent of the damage done by the campaign, and many victims are unsure of exactly what information was stolen.

Yet the Cloud Hopper attacks carry worrying lessons for government officials and technology companies struggling to manage security threats. Chinese hackers, including a group known as APT10, were able to continue the attacks in the face of a counter-offensive by top security specialists and despite a 2015 U.S.-China pact to refrain from economic espionage.

The corporate and government response to the attacks was undermined as service providers withheld information from hacked clients, out of concern over legal liability and bad publicity, records and interviews show. That failure, intelligence officials say, calls into question Western institutions’ ability to share information in the way needed to defend against elaborate cyber invasions. Even now, many victims may not be aware they were hit.

The campaign also highlights the security vulnerabilities inherent in cloud computing, an increasingly popular practice in which companies contract with outside vendors for remote computer services and data storage.

“For those that thought the cloud was a panacea, I would say you haven’t been paying attention,” said Mike Rogers, former director of the U.S. National Security Agency.

 ‘NO PANACEA:’ Former National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers said the case shows cloud computing can be compromised. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Reuters interviewed 30 people involved in the Cloud Hopper investigations, including Western government officials, current and former company executives and private security researchers. Reporters also reviewed hundreds of pages of internal company documents, court filings and corporate intelligence briefings.

HPE “worked diligently for our customers to mitigate this attack and protect their information,” said spokesman Adam Bauer. “We remain vigilant in our efforts to protect against the evolving threats of cyber-crimes committed by state actors.”

A spokesman for DXC, the services arm spun off by HPE in 2017, said the company put “robust security measures in place” to protect itself and customers. “Since the inception of DXC Technology, neither the company nor any DXC customer whose environment is under our control have experienced a material impact caused by APT10 or any other threat actor,” the spokesman said.

NTT Data, Dimension Data, Tata Consultancy Services, Fujitsu and IBM declined to comment. IBM has previously said it has no evidence sensitive corporate data was compromised by the attacks.

The Chinese government has denied all accusations of involvement in hacking. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing opposed cyber-enabled industrial espionage. “The Chinese government has never in any form participated in or supported any person to carry out the theft of commercial secrets,” it said in a statement to Reuters.

Break-ins and evictions

For security staff at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the Ericsson situation was just one dark cloud in a gathering storm, according to internal documents and 10 people with knowledge of the matter.

For years, the company’s predecessor, technology giant Hewlett Packard, didn’t even know it had been hacked. It first found malicious code stored on a company server in 2012. The company called in outside experts, who found infections dating to at least January 2010.

Hewlett Packard security staff fought back, tracking the intruders, shoring up defenses and executing a carefully planned expulsion to simultaneously knock out all of the hackers’ known footholds. But the attackers returned, beginning a cycle that continued for at least five years.

The intruders stayed a step ahead. They would grab reams of data before planned eviction efforts by HP engineers. Repeatedly, they took whole directories of credentials, a brazen act netting them the ability to impersonate hundreds of employees.

The hackers knew exactly where to retrieve the most sensitive data and littered their code with expletives and taunts. One hacking tool contained the message “FUCK ANY AV” – referencing their victims’ reliance on anti-virus software. The name of a malicious domain used in the wider campaign appeared to mock U.S. intelligence: “nsa.mefound.com”

Then things got worse, documents show.

After a 2015 tip-off from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation about infected computers communicating with an external server, HPE combined three probes it had underway into one effort called Tripleplay. Up to 122 HPE-managed systems and 102 systems designated to be spun out into the new DXC operation had been compromised, a late 2016 presentation to executives showed.

An internal chart from mid-2017 helped top brass keep track of investigations codenamed for customers. Rubus dealt with Finnish conglomerate Valmet. Silver Scale was Brazilian mining giant Vale. Greenxmass was Swedish manufacturer SKF, and Oculus covered Ericsson.

Projects Kronos and Echo related to former Swiss biotech firm Syngenta, which was taken over by state-owned Chinese chemicals conglomerate ChemChina in 2017 – during the same period as the HPE investigation into Chinese attacks on its network. 

Ericsson said it does not comment on specific cybersecurity incidents. “Our priority is always to ensure that our customers are protected,” a spokesman said. “While there have been attacks on our enterprise network, we have found no evidence in any of our extensive investigations that Ericsson’s infrastructure has ever been used as part of a successful attack on one of our customers.”

A spokesman for SKF said: “We are aware of the breach that took place in conjunction with the ‘Cloud Hopper’ attack against HPE … Our investigations into the breach have not found that any commercially sensitive information was accessed.”

Syngenta and Valmet declined to comment. A spokesman for Vale declined to comment on specific questions about the attacks but said the company adopts “the best practices in the industry” to improve network security.

‘Drunken burglars’

The companies were battling a skilled adversary, said Rob Joyce, a senior adviser to the U.S. National Security Agency. The hacking was “high leverage and hard to defend against,” he said.

According to Western officials, the attackers were multiple Chinese government-backed hacking groups. The most feared was known as APT10 and directed by the Ministry of State Security, U.S. prosecutors say. National security experts say the Chinese intelligence service is comparable to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, capable of pursuing both electronic and human spying operations.

Two of APT10’s alleged members, Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, were indicted in December by the United States on charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. In the unlikely event they are ever extradited and convicted, the two men would face up to 27 years in an American jail.

Reuters was unable to reach Zhu, Zhang or lawyers representing the men for comment. China’s Foreign Ministry said the charges were “warrantless accusations” and it urged the United States to “withdraw the so-called lawsuits against Chinese personnel, so as to avoid causing serious harm to bilateral relations.”

The U.S. Justice Department called the Chinese denials “ritualistic and bogus.”

“The Chinese Government uses its own intelligence services to conduct this activity and refuses to cooperate with any investigation into thefts of intellectual property emanating from its companies or its citizens,” DOJ Assistant Attorney General John Demers told Reuters.

APT10 often attacked a service provider’s system by “spear-phishing” – sending company employees emails designed to trick them into revealing their passwords or installing malware. Once through the door, the hackers moved through the company’s systems searching for customer data and, most importantly, the “jump servers” – computers on the network which acted as a bridge to client systems.

After the attackers “hopped” from a service provider’s network into a client system, their behavior varied, which suggests the attacks were conducted by multiple teams with different skill levels and tasks, say those aware of the operation. Some intruders resembled “drunken burglars,” said one source, getting lost in the labyrinth of corporate systems and appearing to grab files at random.

Hotels and submarines

It’s impossible to say how many companies were breached through the service provider that originated as part of Hewlett Packard, then became Hewlett Packard Enterprise and is now known as DXC.

The HPE operation had hundreds of customers. Armed with stolen corporate credentials, the attackers could do almost anything the service providers could. Many of the compromised machines served multiple HPE customers, documents show.

One nightmare situation involved client Sabre Corp, which provides reservation systems for tens of thousands of hotels around the world. It also has a comprehensive system for booking air travel, working with hundreds of airlines and 1,500 airports.

CYBER CENTER: A building registered to Huaying Haitai Science and Technology Development Co in Tianjin, China, the alleged employer of two Chinese nationals indicted by the United States on hacking charges. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A thorough penetration at Sabre could have exposed a goldmine of information, investigators said, if China was able to track where corporate executives or U.S. government officials were traveling. That would open the door to in-person approaches, physical surveillance or attempts at installing digital tracking tools on their devices.

In 2015, investigators found that at least four HP machines dedicated to Sabre were tunneling large amounts of data to an external server. The Sabre breach was long-running and intractable, said two former HPE employees.

HP management only grudgingly allowed its own defenders the investigation access they needed and cautioned against telling Sabre everything, the former employees said. “Limiting knowledge to the customer was key,” one said. “It was incredibly frustrating. We had all these skills and capabilities to bring to bear, and we were just not allowed to do that.”

“The security of HPE customer data is always our top priority,” an HPE spokesman said.

Sabre said it had disclosed a cybersecurity incident involving servers managed by an unnamed third party in 2015. Media reports at the time said the hackers were linked to the Chinese government but did not name HP.

A Sabre spokeswoman said an investigation of the breach “concluded with the important finding that there was no loss of traveler data, including no unauthorized access to or acquisition of sensitive protected information, such as payment card data or personally identifiable information.” The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether any non-traveler data was compromised.

Uninvited guests

The threat also reached into the U.S. defense industry.

In early 2017, HPE analysts saw evidence that Huntington Ingalls Industries, a significant client and the largest U.S. military shipbuilder, had been penetrated by the Chinese hackers, two sources said. Computer systems owned by a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls were connecting to a foreign server controlled by APT10.

BIG WORRY: Huntington Ingalls feared hackers accessed data from its biggest operation, the Newport News shipyard where it builds nuclear-powered subs. It’s not clear if data was stolen. U.S. Navy/John Whalen/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Handout via REUTERS

During a private briefing with HPE staff, Huntington Ingalls executives voiced concern the hackers could have accessed data from its biggest operation, the Newport News, Va., shipyard where it builds nuclear-powered submarines, said a person familiar with the discussions. It’s not clear whether any data was stolen.

Huntington Ingalls is “confident that there was no breach of any HII data” via DXC or HPE, a spokeswoman said.

Another target was Ericsson, which has been racing against China’s Huawei Technologies to build infrastructure for 5G networks expected to underpin future hyper-connected societies. The hacking at Ericsson was persistent and pervasive, said people with knowledge of the matter.

Logs were modified and some files were deleted. The uninvited guests rummaged through internal systems, searching for documents containing certain strings of characters. Some of the malware found on Ericsson servers was signed with digital certificates stolen from big technology companies, making it look like the code was legitimate so it would go unnoticed.

TELECOMS GIANT: Worker Chris Viens installs an Ericsson 5G antenna system in San Diego. Ericsson fought a long battle against hackers. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Like many Cloud Hopper victims, Ericsson could not always tell what data was being targeted. Sometimes, the attackers appeared to seek out project management information, such as schedules and timeframes. Another time they went after product manuals, some of which were already publicly available.

“The reality is that most organizations are facing cybersecurity challenges on a daily basis, including Ericsson,” Chief Security Officer Pär Gunnarsson said in a statement to Reuters, declining to discuss specific incidents. “In our industry, and across industries, we would all benefit from a higher degree of transparency on these issues.”

White Wolf

In December 2018, after struggling to contain the threat for years, the U.S. government named the hackers from APT10 – Advanced Persistent Threat 10 – as agents of China’s Ministry of State Security. The public attribution garnered widespread international support: Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, Australia and other allies all issued statements backing the U.S. allegations against China.

Even so, much of Cloud Hopper’s activity has been deliberately kept from public view, often at the urging of corporate victims.

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In an effort to keep information under wraps, security staff at the affected managed service providers were often barred from speaking even to other employees not specifically added to the inquiries.

In 2016, HPE’s office of general counsel for global functions issued a memo about an investigation codenamed White Wolf. “Preserving confidentiality of this project and associated activity is critical,” the memo warned, stating without elaboration that the effort “is a sensitive matter.” Outside the project, it said, “do not share any information about White Wolf, its effect on HPE, or the activities HPE is taking.”

The secrecy was not unique to HPE. Even when the government alerted technology service providers, the companies would not always pass on warnings to clients, Jeanette Manfra, a senior cybersecurity official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told Reuters.

“We asked them to notify their customers,” Manfra said. “We can’t force their hand.”

(Reuters) U.S. explores requiring domestic 5G equipment to be made outside China: WSJ

(Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to require next-generation 5G cellular equipment used in the United States to be designed and manufactured outside China, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

As part of a 150-day review that started after cybersecurity concerns in the United States, officials are asking telecom equipment makers if they can develop U.S.-bound hardware including cellular-tower electronics as well as routers and switches, and software outside of China, the WSJ reported.

In May, the Trump administration took aim at China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, banning the firm from buying vital U.S. technology without special approval and effectively barring its equipment from U.S. telecom networks on national security grounds.

The talks are still in informal stages, the WSJ said, and any executive order calls for only a list of proposed rules and regulations by the 150-day deadline, in October, so any decision could take years to adopt.

(ZH) Google’s Chrome Web Browser “Has Become Spy Software”

(ZH)

Google’s Chrome is essentially spy software according to Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey Fowler, who spent a week analyzing the popular browser and concluded that it “looks a lot like surveillance software.” 

Fowler has since switched to Mozilla’s Firefox because of its default privacy settings, and says that it was easier than one might imagine. 

My tests of Chrome vs. Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of Web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality.

Chrome welcomed trackers even at websites you would think would be private. I watched Aetna and the Federal Student Aid website set cookies for Facebook and Google. They surreptitiously told the data giants every time I pulled up the insurance and loan service’s log-in pages.

And that’s not the half of it.

Look in the upper right corner of your Chrome browser. See a picture or a name in the circle? If so, you’re logged in to the browser, and Google might be tapping into your Web activity to target ads. Don’t recall signing in? I didn’t, either. Chrome recently started doing that automatically when you use Gmail. –Washington Post

When you use Chrome, signing into Gmail automatically logs in the browser to your Google account. When “sync” is also on, Google receives your browsing history. (Geoffrey Fowler/The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, Chrome is even worse when it comes to mobile devices – reporting the precise location of Android users unless location sharing is turned off, in which case it will send out your rough coordinates. 

Cookie monsters

According to one study, tracking cookies from third-parties are on 92% of websites. The Washington Post, for example, uses around 40 – which the company said is “average for a news site,” and says they are designed to deliver better-targeted ads and track ad performance. 

But cookies can also be found on websites with no advertising. 

Both Aetna and the FSA service said the cookies on their sites help measure their own external marketing campaigns.

The blame for this mess belongs to the entire advertising, publishing and tech industries. But what responsibility does a browser have in protecting us from code that isn’t doing much more than spying? –Washington Post

Mozilla to the rescue?

For the past four years or so, Firefox browser has had a built-in anti-tracking feature for the past four or so years in its “private” browsing mode. Earlier this month, Mozilla activated this feature for normal browsing mode. While ads will still appear, Firefox is now separating cookies in real time to determine which ones are required for a website to function correctly, and which ones are simply spies. 

Applebegan to block cookies on their Safari mobile browser starting in 2017, using an algorithm the company calls “intelligent tracking protection.”

Chrome, meanwhile, continues to welcome cookies onto your computer and phone with open arms. That said, the company announced last month that it would require third-party cookies to better identify themselves, which will supposedly allow them to apply better controls. That said, the company did not offer The Post a timeline or say whether it would employ default tracking blockers. 

I’m not holding my breath. Google itself, through its Doubleclick and other ad businesses, is the No. 1 cookie maker — the Mrs. Fields of the Web. It’s hard to imagine Chrome ever cutting off Google’s moneymaker. –Washington Post

“Cookies play a role in user privacy, but a narrow focus on cookies obscures the broader privacy discussion because it’s just one way in which users can be tracked across sites,” according to Chrome’s director of product management, Ben Galbraith. “This is a complex problem, and simple, blunt cookie blocking solutions force tracking into more opaque practices.” 

Giving up on Google

In his decision to kick Chrome to the curb, Fowler cites a blog post by Johns Hopkins associate professor Matthew Green, who said last year he was “done” with the browser. 

Like Green, I’ve chosen Firefox, which works across phones, tablets, PCs and Macs. Apple’s Safari is also a good option on Macs, iPhones and iPads, and the niche Brave browser goes even further in trying to jam the ad-tech industry.

What does switching to Firefox cost you? It’s free, and downloading a different browser is much simpler than changing phones.

In 2017, Mozilla launched a new version of Firefox called Quantum that made it considerably faster. In my tests, it has felt almost as fast as Chrome, though benchmark tests have found it can be slower in some contexts. Firefox says it’s better about managing memory if you use lots and lots of tabs. 

Switching means you’ll have to move your bookmarks, and Firefox offers tools to help. Shifting passwords is easy if you use a password manager. And most browser add-ons are available, though it’s possible you won’t find your favorite. –Washington Post

Perhaps Fowler can reach out to some of his Washington Post colleagues to see what their many sources in the US intelligence community think of Chrome vs. Firefox… 

(Verge) Facebook’s cryptocurrency to debut next week backed by Visa, Mastercard, Uber, and others: WSJ

(Verge)

Facebook has secured the backing of over a dozen companies for its upcoming Libra cryptocurrency set to be announced next week, The Wall Street Journal reports. These companies include major financial organizations like Visa and Mastercard, and internet darlings like PayPal, Uber, Stripe, and Booking.com. Each will invest around $10 million to fund development of the currency, and will become part of the Libra Association, an independent consortium that will govern the digital coin independently of Facebook.

The involvement of major financial firms like Visa and Mastercard is interesting, because cryptocurrencies are typically seen as providing a cheaper alternative to these payment networks. The WSJ speculates that these companies want to get involved so they can monitor Facebook’s payment ambitions, as well as benefit from the popularity of the currency should it take off with Facebook’s 2.4 billion monthly active users.

For Facebook, establishing an independent body is thought to provide cover with users and regulators, who have grown increasingly wary of both the amount of power Facebook wields, and its cavalier attitude towards the responsibilities this brings.THE CURRENCY FACES NUMEROUS REGULATORY HURDLES

The cryptocurrency, which will reportedly be called Libra, will be unveiled on June 18th, according to TechCrunchwith a full release planned for 2020. It’s expected to function as a “stablecoin,” meaning it will be pegged to a basket of government-issued currencies in order to limit the volatility typically associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Stability is a key concern, since Facebook is hoping to attract users in developing countries with an alternative to more volatile local currencies.

As well as allowing users to send money over Facebook’s messaging products like WhatsApp and Messenger, Facebook hopes that its partnerships with e-commerce firms will allow users to spend the currency online. The company is reportedly also looking into developing ATM-like physical terminals for people to convert their money into Libra.

Facebook will need to overcome numerous regulatory hurdles before it’s able to launch the currency, and will need to address concerns around fraud and money laundering (a concern within the consortium). Facebook has reportedly met with the Bank of England governor Mark Carney to discuss the currency’s opportunities and risks, as well as the US Treasury and money transfer firms like Western Union. Getting the regulatory aspects of the currency right will be of crucial importance if the currency is to succeed in key markets like India, which has taken a hostile attitude towards cryptocurrencies in recent years.