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US Government demands details about all visitors to an anti-Trump site

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Web-hosting company Dreamhost revealed this week that it was locked in a legal battle with the US Department of Justice over a protest site — and the DoJ wants all the information it can get on the site’s visitors — all 1.3 million of them.

The DoJ served Dreamhost with the warrant in July, but Dreamhost wrote a blog post about the suit yesterday, titled “We Fight for the Users” (I like anyone who can throw in an apropos Tron reference). According to the post, it filed legal arguments in opposition to the warrant this week. It said that such requests are not uncommon, and are frequently challenged by their legal team, but this one was especially galling:

Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution.

The site in question, distruptj20.org, was allegedly used by anti-Trump protesters to coordinate inauguration day protests. The Department of Justice seeks to obtain the information of over 1 million people who merely visited the website.

Dreamhost is steadily resisting the demand, though it did provide the government with some information about the site’s owner when it was originally served the subpoena.

US government demands details on all visitors to anti-Trump protest website on The Guardian

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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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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.

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Senate set to approve self-driving cars for US roadways

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The US Senate today announced it had reached an agreement internally concerning self-driving car technology. The Senate is expected to pass legislation on October 4th that would clear regulations and restrictions for manufacturers, in essence providing a clear path to putting driverless cars on the road.

The House passed legislation this summer in a bipartisan effort to ensure the US remains at the cutting-edge of driverless car development. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune and Senator Gary Peters told The Hill:

Ultimately, we expect adoption of self-driving vehicle technologies will save lives, improve mobility for people with disabilities, and create new jobs

It’s expected that the Senate bill will feature the same language as the House bill, indicating directives for manufacturers allowing them to field up to 25,000 vehicles initially, and upon proving that AI-powered vehicles are at least as safe as human-driven cars, an increase to 100,000 thereafter. This paves the way for millions of autonomous vehicles to be on the roadways within a couple of years.

Language in both bills seems to suggest that states will still be in control of licensing and registration, but little else.

Earlier this year the the US Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, released its updated guidelines for self-driving cars. In the document, a series of safety considerations are provided to manufacturers with explicit mention that State governments should not regulate self-driving cars:

NHTSA strongly encourages States not to codify this Voluntary Guidance (that is, incorporate it into State statutes) as a legal requirement for any phases of development, testing, or deployment of ADSs. Allowing NHTSA alone to regulate the safety design and performance aspects of ADS technology will help avoid conflicting Federal and State laws and regulations that could impede deployment.

The US continues to throw its full support behind driverless cars as we inch ever-closer to the world of tomorrow.

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