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Anonymous takes over neo-nazi site The Daily Stormer [Update: could be a hoax]

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Update: Anonymous took to its Twitter account to say that its members may not have been involved in the takeover of The Daily Stormer. We’ve contacted the group to learn more and will update this post as new information surfaces.

Following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the violence that subsequently ensued over the weekend, neo-nazi site The Daily Stormer thought it appropriate to smear 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed on Saturday when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.

The drama didn’t end there: the site was booted off GoDaddy’s hosting platform over the article. Now, hacktivist group Anonymous has taken over the site and has vowed to shut it down entirely after 24 hours.

At the time of writing, The Daily Stormer’s site is still up, with a new article heralding the takeover by Anonymous and its previous original content (including the post about Heyer) intact.

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Contributors

My time at the White House convinced me of the urgency of reforming surveillance

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Around the time Edward Snowden began working for as a computer specialist for the intelligence community in 2006, I decided to leave my job as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union to go inside America’s growing surveillance state. Congress had created a new office: an office of privacy and civil liberties to advise the head of the intelligence community on how to improve oversight of intelligence programs.

Much to my surprise, senior intelligence officials took a chance on hiring me — an ACLU lawyer — to become the office’s first deputy. While I am proud of the work we did, it is fair to say our success was limited. The main reason was that the law was woefully out of date. The law was focused mainly on preventing abusive domestic wiretaps, and did little to restrain the kind of global surveillance the NSA was conducting in the digital age.

When Barack Obama took office in 2009, I moved to the White House. Obama had promised a fresh approach to the “war on terror,” including a review of NSA surveillance programs, so I was hoping for deeper reforms. Yet when Obama learned of mistakes in the way the NSA was running programs, he left it to the lawyers to sort things out. Little changed… until Snowden came along.

The Snowden leaks

In the summer of 2013, a series of embarrassing stories about United States government surveillance began appearing in major news outlets, based on leaked documents stolen by Edward Snowden. While the Snowden stories were news to the American people and many members of Congress, they were not news to me. They showed how the Bush and Obama administrations had built mass surveillance programs that took advantage of America’s privileged position as the hub of the global internet.  

While my work inside the government had brought about modest improvements in oversights, Snowden’s unauthorized leaks prompted far more significant reforms. The Obama administration launched a transparency drive, declassifying thousands of documents about mass surveillance — more documents, in fact, than Snowden had leaked. Congress ended bulk collection of telephone records, after a federal court had declared it illegal. The federal court that reviews surveillance began to hear arguments from outside lawyers.

The Snowden leaks also enlarged the way the United States government thinks about privacy.  When I was in government, it went without saying that the only privacy that mattered was the privacy of American citizens and residents — “U.S. persons,” in the jargon of the intelligence community.

Obama, under pressure from allies and the US technology industry, required intelligence agencies to adopt new rules for handling the personal information of foreigners. These rules, while modest in practice, were a major shift for intelligence agencies that had never before been required to worry about the privacy rights of the rest of the world’s citizens.

Be on guard

This year, Congress will review the law that allows the NSA to obtain the digital communications of people it believes are outside the United States from a switch or server inside the United States, with a secret court order directed at American communications companies.

More than 100,000 targets were subject to such surveillance last year. While the NSA follows rules to ensure these targets are foreign, the database can also be searched for the names of Americans. Over 30,000 such searches took place in 2016 — all without a warrant.  

The post-Snowden reforms are a good first step, but there is much more to do. Congress should demand warrants for Americans, and strong privacy protections for everyone. It should give the federal court that reviews surveillance the technical experts and staff it needs to do its job. The reforms adopted after 2013 have shown that when NSA does its job with more openness, the results are good not only for civil liberties, but for national security as well.  

Presidents have abused surveillance powers in the past. Despite reform, it remains too easy for a reckless president to do so again. “I want surveillance,” Donald Trump said bluntly on the campaign trail. When Trump took office, he accused his predecessor of ordering his “‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower,” showing his profound ignorance of the limits of presidential power.

Still, Trump and his supporters are right to worry about the “deep state.” Leaked intelligence reports based on the constitutionally-protected communications of Trump officials are a clear civil liberties abuse.

Americans shouldn’t wait for another damaging leak of classified surveillance programs to force the next round of surveillance reform. Reforming surveillance has never been more urgent.

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Facebook, Google, and Twitter to appear before Congress in election tampering investigation

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Representatives for Facebook, Google, and Twitter will appear in front of congress on November 1st to provide testimony on Russian election interference.

The congressional hearing is one of many government probes into Russian election interference, this one turns its focus on social media’s involvement.

All three tech companies found evidence of ad tampering over the course of internal investigations this year, and subsequently reported those findings to congress.

Facebook reported hundreds of Pages and advertisers tied to a Russian troll farm, which had purchased over 3000 advertisements totaling over $100,000.

Twitter uncovered at least 200 accounts tied to similar ones flagged by Facebook, and hundreds of bots spamming propaganda.

Google, for its part, found thousands of dollars in ads were purchased by Russian agents, and continues to investigate over $50,000 in questionable ad purchases from accounts that haven’t been confirmed to be bad actors yet.

And, to make matter worse, there’s more to worry about than just ad sales or bots. The same meddlers are using malware to hijack our browsers and use our Facebook accounts to like ads and fake-news stories — with us none the wiser.

McAfee labs recently reported “Faceliker” binaries comprised approximately nine percent of malware it detected. That’s nine percent of 52 million – meaning nearly 4.7 million instances of Faceliker were detected.

Vincent Weafer, VP of McAfee Labs, told TNW:

This is unusual because this one isn’t like most other malware. Faceliker is manipulating likes, which is a very specific kind of browser hijacking.

While some government officials – and members of the media – have called on Facebook, Twitter, and Google to do something about Russian interference, there’s an argument to be made that fighting propaganda is, well, everyone’s job.

We asked Weafer how an average Joe or Jane can protect themselves from unwittingly becoming a pawn in the real-life version of “Game of Thrones” that is Russian politics; his answer was terrifying:

Make sure you’re keeping up with patches. Research any tools or anti-virus you’re considering using. Don’t download the first “free tool” you find in the search engine just because its free.

Basically, the same novice IT security tips we’ve been hearing for the last 20 or so years. The reason that’s scary is because it shows we Americans can be counted on to download enough malware to potentially influence an election.

The real problem here is the Russian propaganda plays both sides of the fence. Meddling agents play issues like Black Lives Matter and The 2nd Amendment to anger both liberals and conservatives — just to stoke the divide. As long as American citizens are pissed off at each other the bad actors are accomplishing their mission.

Former State Representative Raj Goyle, CEO of Bodhala, told TNW that the problem wasn’t an easy fix, saying lawmakers have been “asleep at the switch for 20 years.” Goyle also said:

You’ve got this election overseas and there’s evidence that Russians have interfered in that one as well. Facebook and Google are having to explain why they allowed this to happen, but why the hell is a private company in charge of ensuring the integrity of a national election?

The solution to the problem won’t become apparent until we understand the depth of it. It’s not so infuriating that Facebook, Twitter, and Google allowed this to happen – but we need to speed up the investigation and get the cards on the table.

It’s time for the government to get educated on technology and start working with the companies behind it. The current status quo is a system of lobbyists preaching the future and a squad of politicians litigating from the past — and that’s not helping the problem at all today.

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Politics

Former Equifax CEO faces Congressional probe into data breach

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Equifax today admitted that an additional 2.5 million people may be affected by an August data breach. This is in addition to the 143 million people already known to be exposed. Meanwhile the company’s former CEO Richard Smith is in the Capitol testifying before congress live on YouTube.

Representative Greg Walden, addressing Smith, said:

Today we expect answers. After all, the buck does stop with you as CEO.

Hopefully some of those answers will shed some light on how Smith ended up with what TNW originally reported to be a $15 million golden-parachute, but in actuality will turn out to be closer to $90 million.

It’s shameful that he’s still entitled to his full salary (which was over a million annually) despite the fact that his leadership was clearly a liability to everyone whose data is now exposed. The rest of his millions will come from cashing out stock over the next few years.

Congress wanted to make it clear that Smith’s apology and the new CEO’s sympathetic plan for the future weren’t adequate. The suggestion that a one-year “life lock” was in any way sufficient to help victims is repulsive.

Representative Frank Pallone, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said:

Equifax’s response to this breach has been unacceptable. So to has Equifax’s lax attitude when it comes to protecting consumer’s data. It’s been four weeks since the breach was made public and at least ten since it was discovered by Equifax’s employees, yet Equifax’s customer service has been confusing and unhelpful. Equifax even tweeted a link to fake website.

In the wake of the breach Equifax has, evidently, done nothing to work with other companies in addressing the potential for identity fraud. For it’s own system they offer a one year life-lock on data, which is the weakest form of protection they could implement. A full freeze would help, but only if the other credit reporting sites also adopted the freeze, which would require Equifax to be completely transparent with other companies.

In essence Equifax has done nothing for consumers in the wake of the breach because any steps it might take to protect us would likely result in further financial losses for the company.

Rep. Pallone goes on to state:

If Equifax wants to stay in business it’s entire corporate culture needs to change to one that values security and transparency.

In his opening statement the former CEO continued his apology tour by stating he was “truly and deeply sorry for what happened.”

His apology and four quarters will get you a dollar in the US, but don’t spend it all just yet – you’ll need to hang on to your pocket change in case your identity gets stolen.

Read next: Instagram realizes its potential for impulse shopping

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