Technology

Comcast outage brings down internet, TV service across US

Comcast said Friday it was restoring cable services after a widespread outage impacted customers across the U.S. The outage, triggered by cut fiber lines, brought down internet, television and phone service for Comcast XFINITY customers in markets including New York and Philadelphia. DownDetector.com Opens a New Window. , a website that follows outages, also tracked large outages in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Dallas, Denver and Seattle. In a statement, Comcast said its engineers were restoring service to residential and business customers. “We identified two, separate and unrelated fiber cuts to our network backbone providers,” the Philadelphia-based company said. “Our engineers worked to address the issue immediately and services are now being restored to business and residential internet, video and voice customers. We again apologize to anyone who was impacted.” Comcast directed customers on Twitter to contact the company if they continued to experience service disruptions.

Supreme Court says warrant necessary for phone location data in win for privacy

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of digital privacy. In a 5-4 decision on Friday, the justices said police need warrants to gather phone location data as evidence for trials. That reversed and remanded a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Carpenter v. United States is the first case about phone location data that the Supreme Court has ruled on. That makes it a landmark decision regarding how law enforcement agencies can use technology as they build cases. The court heard arguments in the case on Nov. 29. The dispute dates back to a 2011 robbery in Detroit, after which police gathered months of phone location data from Timothy Carpenter’s phone provider. They pulled together 12,898 different locations from Carpenter, over 127 days. The legal and privacy concern was that police gathered the four months’ worth of Carpenter’s digital footprints without a warrant. A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled that cellphone location data isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore didn’t require a warrant. In the Supreme Court’s ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the government’s searches of Carpenter’s phone records were considered a Fourth Amendment search. “The government’s position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location but also everyone else’s, not for a short period but for years and years,” he wrote. Roberts said allowing government access to historical GPS data infringes on Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment protections and expectation of privacy, by providing law enforcement with an “all-encompassing record” of his whereabouts. He added that historical GPS data presents an “even greater privacy risk” than real-time GPS monitoring.

 

Florida mom says Apple Watch saved teen’s life, sparks response from Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to the mother of a teenage girl in Lithia, Florida, who told him an Apple Watch saved her daughter’s life. In late April, Deanna Recktenwald’s Apple Watch notified her that her resting heart rate jumped to 160 beat per minute — well over the normal range of 60 to 100 beat per minute. “I didn’t know what was going on at all and it was just out of the blue,” Recktenwald, 18, told WFTS-TV. Recktenwald’s mother and registered nurse, Stacey, shared her daughter’s health story in an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook. At first, Stacey explained in the email posted by WFTS-TV, she thought the reading was “just a fluke” because the 18-year-old is a “healthy, athletic young lady with no previous medical conditions.” But the teen’s heart rate continued to rise — eventually reaching 190 beats per minute. At that point, Stacey took her daughter to a local urgent care to confirm the watch’s reading. The urgent care confirmed Recktenwald’s vitals were abnormal and suggested she go to the emergency room. Shortly after, doctors discovered the teen was reportedly suffering from chronic kidney disease and she was in kidney failure. “I didn’t even know that it had the capability of giving us that alert,” Stacey said of the watch. She added in the letter that “if it wasn’t caught now the doctor said that she would have needed a kidney transplant.” “[I] Instantly started to pray and thank God for her having that watch,” Recktenwald’s father, Tom, told the news station. Like most parents, Stacey is nervous about sending her daughter off to college in the fall, though she said it’s comforting to know the teen will have an Apple Watch to help monitor her heart rate. Cook replied to Stacey’s letter on April 26, saying he was glad to hear Recktenwald is doing better and thanked the mother for sharing the story. “This inspires us to keep pushing,” Cook replied.

Indeed..  What a great story!  As someone who has had heart troubles, I’m glad I wear my Apple Watch every day.   🙂

Doomsday AI machines could lead to nuclear war, think tank paper warns

Could the future of artificial intelligence bring about a robot doomsday? In a scenario straight out of apocalyptic science fiction, a leading security think tank is warning that as soon as 2040, AI machines could encourage nations to take apocalyptic risks with their nuclear stashes. A paper commissioned by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit in Santa Monica, Calif., that offers research and analysis to the armed forces on global policy issues, says it’s conceivable that AI — as well as the proliferation of drones, satellites, and other sensors — could lead to nuclear war with overwhelmingly grave consequences for humanity. “Autonomous systems don’t need to kill people to undermine stability and make catastrophic war more likely,” said Edward Geist, an associate policy researcher at RAND, a specialist in nuclear security and co-author of the paper. “New AI capabilities might make people think they’re going to lose if they hesitate. That could give them itchier trigger fingers. At that point, AI will be making war more likely, even though the humans are still, quote-unquote, in control.” The study was based on data collected from experts in nuclear issues, government branches, AI research and policy, and national security. These experts are attempting to envision what the future of security looks like, molded by the effects of political, technological, social, and demographic trends. The report looked at scenarios from the best (the future of AI leads to increased security stability) to the worst (hackers as third-party actors). “Some experts fear that an increased reliance on artificial intelligence can lead to new types of catastrophic mistakes,” added Andrew Lohn, co-author of the paper and associate engineer at RAND. “There may be pressure to use AI before it is technologically mature, or it may be susceptible to adversarial subversion. Therefore, maintaining strategic stability in coming decades may prove extremely difficult, and all nuclear powers must participate in the cultivation of institutions to help limit nuclear risk.”

Chinese Phones Identified as Security Risk Sold at U.S. Military Bases

Stars & Stripes reports that smartphones made by the Chinese company Huawei are being sold to U.S. military personnel at exchanges on military bases in Germany. Defense officials explained that until Huawei products are explicitly banned by statute or regulation, they will remain available. A bill that would bar U.S. government contractors from using Huawei equipment is currently making its way through Congress. In a February briefing for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the heads of six U.S. intelligence and security agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, advised all American citizens to avoid using Huawei electronics. They expressed similar reservations about Chinese telecom company ZTE. “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” said FBI Director Chris Wray. “That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage,” Wray said. Huawei figures prominently in a new report on cyber espionage risks commissioned by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Huawei executives rejected the concerns expressed at the Senate hearing, accusing American government agencies of conspiring to provide U.S. companies with an unfair advantage by keeping Chinese companies out of the market. “Where is U.S. President Donald Trump’s belief in fair trade when he keeps shutting out Chinese companies and products from the U.S. market?” said China’s state-run Xinhua news service in February. “Setting up trade barriers at the excuse of national security might be the worst option to build a prosperous and free market.” Huawei maintained its products are employed by governments around the world, a point echoed by critics of the U.S. intelligence advisory who noted that security-conscious Europeans appear to be as comfortable with using equipment from the Chinese company as they are with suppliers from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. Huawei has grown into the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, surpassed only by Samsung. Also, in a point that would later be echoed by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review report, critics pointed out that Chinese chips can now be found in so many cell phones that it’s difficult to tell which are potentially compromised and which are relatively “clean.”

For more, click on the text above..

Hackers are going after your online bank account, report says

Banking and finance sites have the greatest risk for getting hacked, a new report says. The worst vulnerabilities were found in banking and finance web applications tested by Positive Technologies, a firm that provides Internet security products for businesses. “Greater complexity results in more opportunities” for hackers, according to the Positive Technologies report, which said banking applications are some of the most complex. The hackers primary target is the average user. “The number-one threat is attacks that target web application users,” the report said. A whopping 87 percent of banking web applications tested by Positive Technologies were susceptible to these attacks. Government app users are also big targets because they tend to be less security-savvy, making them easy victims, the report said. “We gained access to personal data of 20 percent of the applications that process user information, including bank and government websites,” the report added. The most common vulnerability was Cross-Site Scripting, which allows attackers to perform phishing attacks, which can result in malware infection. In a phishing attack, the hacker sends, for instance, an email pretending to be a trusted entity like a bank or major shopping site, hoping to dupe you into clicking on the malicious link. Denial of service (DOS) attacks – which block access to a web site or service – are common. In 75 percent of e-commerce web applications, there are vulnerabilities enabling DoS attacks, Positive Technologies said. “Denial of service is especially threatening…High-profile e-commerce web applications receive large amounts of daily visits, increasing the motivation for attackers to find vulnerabilities to turn against users,” the report said. In separate report released earlier this month, Positive Technologies said employees are often the gateway for attacks. An alarmingly high percentage of employees download malicious files, click phishing links, and even correspond with hackers, the report said. Positive Technologies testers pretended to be hackers by sending emails to employees with links to websites or forms that required password entry, the report said. Of the 3,332 messages sent, 17 percent of these messages would have led to a compromise of the employee’s computer, and possibly, the entire company. The most effective method was to send an email with a phishing link. In that case, 27 percent of recipients clicked on the link. “Users often glance over or ignore the address, leaving them unaware that they are visiting a fake website,” the report said.

China engaged in massive theft of US technology, analysts reveal

China is engaged in large-scale theft of American research and technology from universities, using spies, students, and researchers as collectors, experts told Congress on Wednesday. Compounding the technology theft, the administration of President Barack Obama weakened U.S. counterintelligence efforts against foreign spies by curbing national-level counterspy efforts, a former counterintelligence official disclosed during a House hearing. Michelle Van Cleave, former national counterintelligence executive, said shortly after the creation of the office of the director of national intelligence in 2004, a national counterspy program against foreign spies was restricted during the administration of President George W. Bush. “Unfortunately, the backsliding continued under President Obama,” Van Cleave told two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Van Cleave said a directive issued by then-DNI James Clapper in 2013 and still in force reduced the national counterintelligence program authority by directing all counterspy programs to be run by individual departments or agencies. “The national head of counterintelligence was rebranded director of a security and CI center, his duties further dissipated by the fixation on leaks and insider threats driven by the grievous harm done by Snowden, Manning, et al,” Van Cleave said, referring to intelligence leakers Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, and Army Sgt. Bradley Manning. “Gone was any dedicated strategic [counterintelligence] program, while elite pockets of proactive capabilities died of neglect,” she said. “Read between the lines of existing CI guidance and you will not find a whiff of a national-level effort left, other than caretaker duties such as taking inventory and writing reports.” Several intelligence and security experts testified during the hearing that China poses the most significant threat of technology theft from an estimated $510 billion spent annually on U.S. research and development. “China has a government-directed, multi-faceted secret program whose primary task is technology acquisition, as well as a highly refined strategy to develop and exploit access to advantageous information through the global telecommunications infrastructure,” Van Cleave said. Along with Russian intelligence agents, Chinese technology spies have developed specific lists of technology for theft. Beijing uses clandestine agents, front companies, and joint research ventures in the theft program. “Indeed, the United States is a spy’s paradise,” Van Cleave said. “Our free and open society is tailor-made for clandestine operations.”

Indeed..  To read more of this outstanding, yet shocking, analysis by best-selling author Bill Gertz, click on the text above.  Bill knows his stuff..