Are you under the impression that federal data is pretty much secure? Think again, suggests a new survey by MeriTalk in which it was discovered that employees at many U.S. government agencies are using insecure methods to transfer data. MeriTalk pinged some 200 federal IT and information security professionals and here's what they found:
66 percent use physical media (tapes, CDs, DVDs, USB drives, etc)
60 percent use File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
52 percent email work files through personal email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, etc)
According to the survey's authors, sending unencrypted data over FTP or personal email, or putting it on physical media presents an alarming problem for data security. Taher Elgamal, CSO at Axway and inventor of the Elgamal Cryptosystem agrees.
"What surprise me is [the results] don't surprise me at all," Elgamal said. "The vast majority of people are actually good people. An employee, if you tell them to do something, is just going to get it done. If you don't provide them the right tools, they're still going to get it done."
The survey also found that about 71 percent of respondents admitted to being concerned with the security of file transfers in the U.S. government, but more than half said they don't actively monitor FTP use.
Sources are reporting today that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are wrangling over which one of them should lead a preliminary antitrust investigation of Apple. The action was spurred by Apple's new developer agreement which forces app designers to use only Apple programming tools. The inquiry may be launched in a matter of days, and will seek to determine if the policy damages competition in the mobile app space.
Apple's claim has been that adding a layer of abstraction (i.e. a third-party compiler) results in poorer quality apps; thus requiring specific developer tools is a quality control mechanism. Those on the other side, however, claim that Apple is seeking to force developers to choose Apple's platform instead of porting their code to multiple platforms. The worry is that independent developers won't have the resources to rewrite code for multiple platforms, so they will choose Apple's larger and more lucrative app store be default.
The possible inquiry does not mean anything is about to change. The preliminary analysis will determine if a full investigation is required. Do you think Apple is a fault here? How much control should they be allowed to exercise over their platform?
Specifically, the correspondence encourages Facebook to exercise caution in the use of the new universal 'Like' button. The Senators are concerned that its use as a marketing tool could endanger personal information. Facebook responded immediately saying, " We've developed powerful tools to give our users control over what information they want to share, when they want to share it and with whom."
Facebook has a sordid history of forcing users to opt out of major privacy changes, so it may be a good thing someone in the government is taking notice. Older and less tech savvy individuals often have trouble interpreting Facebook's "powerful tools" for modifying privacy settings. Do you think someone needs to keep Facebook in line, or do you still have trust in them?
The US Department of justice has dropped its case attempting to force Yahoo to hand over private email without a warrant. The DOJ files a two page brief with the court canceling its request for access to Yahoo subscribers' email. The action taken by the DOJ ruffled a lot of feathers including the EFF and Google, who filed their displeasure with the court just recently.
The nature of the crimes being investigated was never disclosed, and that likely had something to do with the governments eventual decision to pull out. Though, the media attention in the last week probably helped as well. The EFF is claiming that the Justice Department dropped the case mainly because they did not want to fight the civil liberties group in court.
Yahoo isn't offering much background, but seems positive saying, "We are pleased with the decision and we continue to be committed to protecting the privacy of users." This decision does not rule out the possibility the government could make another attempt to access email without a warrant in the future, but these accounts are likely safe. How does this make you feel about the privacy of email?
In a statement today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) officially came out in support of Yahoo and their attempt to block a government request for access to a private email account. The sticking point here is that the government is seeking access based on probable cause and does not have a warrant. The nature of the case is unknown as all details are sealed.
The case being made by federal investigators is that since the individual has accessed the email, it is no longer "electronic storage" as defined by the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and therefore no warrant is required. This position does not have legal precedence, and strikes us as a bit nutty. Yahoo is in the process of challenging the government request citing the SCA and Fourth Amendment. The EFF court brief is expected to be of help in the case.
"The government is trying to evade federal privacy law and the Constitution," said EFF Attorney Kevin Bankston. The EFF is also pushing for government action to clarify privacy rights when it comes to technology. The EFF's brief was also signed by Google, NetCoalition, and the Distributed Computing Industry Association among others. If Yahoo is unsuccessful in their defense, this could have serious privacy ramifications for personal data storage.
In an effort to curb crime, the Mexican government has been mandated that all mobile phones users must register their identities with federal authorities. Individuals can do so by sending the necessary information via text message. Mexican officials have been scrambling to get users to register by the deadline this Saturday. If people fail to do so, the law says their lines must be disconnected.
The goal of the law is to avoid the anonymous number that many organized crime syndicates utilize to commit crime. Most of Mexico's 84 million mobile phones are prepaid handsets that can be purchased cheaply and require no contract. Critics of the law say that the criminal element will simply register phones under other people's names.
As of today, 30 million lines remain unregistered. It is unclear if the government will extend the deadline, or proceed with disconnection. The country's largest mobile carrier America Movil is urging lawmakers to hold off. How would you feel if you were subject to this law?
Will Google's departure from China prove to be a harbinger of things to follow? Going by a report in a leading Indian newspaper, the answer is quite likely to be found in the vicinity of a “yes.” A report on Google's exit from China in the Hindustan Times carries a quote from the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the prospect of another American tech giant shutting shop in China. The Indian premier is reported to have told the country's Planning Commission that Dell is about to shutter its China operations.
The Indian head of government is quoted as having told the Planning Commission,“This morning I met the chairman of Dell Corporation. He informed me that they are buying equipment and parts worth $25 billion from China. They would like to shift to safer environment with climate conducive to enterprise with security of legal system." Although it is difficult to discount anything that quotes a country's leader as its source, it is still wise to wait for a clearer picture to emerge.
But there is no denying the fact that the Chinese government has plenty to ponder in the aftermath of Google's exit. The Chinese economy may not be under any real threat of a collapse, for the dragon can only founder in the face of an exodus of foreign companies, but it will surely have its hand forced if a few more foreign businesses grow a conscience or leave in search of a more stable environment. It now knows that businesses are not entirely shy of moving out in search of “safer” alternatives, where they are immune from the whims of a government adamant on making everyone fall in line.
We had previously heard that Google may be announcing an exit from the Chinese market today. As it turns out, they’re taking a slightly different approach. The Google.cn domain now redirects users to the uncensored Hong Kong version of the search engine. Google says they plan to retain most of their operations in China including R&D teams and sales.
The move seems to be a direct challenge to the Chinese government, which could easily block access to Google on mainland China. Google’s David Drummond claims the move is “entirely legal” and went on to say, “We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision.”
Beijing has not yet responded to Google’s action, but the government has become increasingly harsh over the weeks. Some analysts pointed out that Google’s plan could backfire, leaving their sites blocked even in Hong Kong. For now it’s a waiting game for the Big G.
Are you worried Fermi is going to make your GeForce 8800 look a bit long in the tooth? Well just be glad you're not stuck trying to run Crysis on the Secret Service's mainframe featuring state of the art technology from the 1980's. A classified review of the aging computer system has revealed that the system is now only operational about 60 percent of the time, and frequently prevents them from accessing the master database of mission critical information and apps.
"We have here a premiere law enforcement organization in our country which is responsible for the security of the president and the vice president and other officials of our government, and they have to have better IT than they have," said Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Currently the NSA runs 42 mission-oriented applications on a 1980s IBM mainframe, and are hideously underpowered based on the agencies current requirements.
The price tag for updating the system is a mere $187 million, and far below the $33 million they currently have in the budget. If I were president, I would probably check the seat cushions on Air Force One to make up the difference, they are charged with saving his life after all.
All the recent buzz may be centered around, um, Google Buzz, but don't go writing Twitter's obituary. The mico-blogging service has attracted yet another high-profile poster - White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
"I opened it today," Gibbs told the Associated Press. "I was watching a Twitter feed while the President visited the briefing room last week." Gibbs added that he "thought it was fascinating to watch and see what people were thinking, doing, and writing."
And speaking of watching others, Gibbs notes in his bio that his is an official White House Twitter account, and that messages received through such pages are subject to the Presidential Records Act and may be archived.
If you still want to follow him -- and so far, over 18,600 Twitter users do -- you can find his Twitter page here (PressSec).