New legislation proposed on April 1st will give a whole new meaning to geeks who like to joke that the President has his finger on the button. If the proposed legislation comes to pass, the president will have the ability to shut down public and private networks, including internet traffic should the need arise. This power is part of a new cybersecurity emergency plan that is designed to help protect the US against attack, but also gives the government unprecedented control over our networks.
The critics of this bill however are lining up, and are voicing their concerns over how this power could be abused. According to Leslie Harris of the Center for Democracy and Technology, “This is pretty sweeping legislation. Seems the President could turn off the Internet completely or tell someone like Verizon to limit or block certain traffic. There is a lot to worry about in this bill.”
Since the bill is still in its early stages, it is unclear what amendments will be made, or if it will even be passed at all. West Virginia Democratic Senitor John Rockefeller made it clear to the media that this is the first draft of the proposal, and that they will be in close contact with internet-centric companies who obviously have a lot more at stake here than the average user.
Obama may soon have the power to nuke the real world, and World of Warcraft. Are you comfortable with this?
The Kiwi government seems to have been somewhat precipitate in formalizing a controversial “three strikes” rule meant to discourage copyright usurpation. The anti-P2P law, which was originally scheduled to come into force on February 28, has been pushed back to March in the face of some stiff resistance from a group called the Creative Freedom Foundation and country’s ISPs.
An internet blackout organized by the group has forced the government to reconsider the controversial legislation. The Kiwi government plans to bring it into effect on March 27. However, the government wants the ISPs and copyright holders to see eye to eye on the issue before enforcing the law.
The ISPs are opposing the legislation, which makes repeat copyright infringers liable for disconnection, because they want tainted users to be able to defend themselves (using counter-notices).
It looks as though the United States will not only get its first Chief Technology Officer (CTO), but according to the Agenda for Homeland Security, the Obama administration also plans to hire a new national cyber advisor. The report, which was released on Wednesday, lists several goals for combating terrorism, including ways to protect information networks.
Chief among the goals of protecting information networks is to "declare the cyber infrastructure a strategic asset and establish the position of national cyber advisor who will report directly to the president and will be responsible for coordinating federal agency efforts and development of national cyber policy."
Other related goals listed in the report include initiating a safe computing R&D effort, protect the IT infrastructure, prevent corporate cyber-espionage, develop a cyber crime strategy to minimize the opportunities for criminal profit, and mandate standards for securing personal data and require companies to disclose personal information data breaches.
Vivek Kundra is a strong contender as he has relevant experience. He is currently the CTO of the government of Washington, D.C. Indian-born Kundra spent a fair amount of his childhood in Tanzania before his parents brought him to Maryland at the age of 11.
Cisco’s CTO, Padmasree Warrior, is the other candidate. She has also served as a chief technology officer at Motorola. Warrior was also born in India and studied at the much vaunted Indian Institute of Technology. “President-elect Obama and his team fully understand the importance of digital infrastructure to further our technology leadership as a nation”, she told BusinessWeek.
Everyone knows that technology is an important part of the world that we live in (well, just about everyone), and that includes the Democratic nominee for President, Barack Obama.
Should Obama be elected President of the United States (please, don’t let the comments turn into partisan bickering!), he lists in his plan for the country the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer. The CTO would primarily be responsible for getting broadband Internet access into more American homes (shockingly, only 23 out of every 100 homes have such access, putting us in 15th place among nations on that particular statistic). They’d also be responsible for advancing green tech, thanks to a $50 billion venture capital fund.
As mundane as the job might sound, there are some pretty big names being thrown around for the position. The likes of Vint Cerf (Google), Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Ed Felten (Princeton) are all potentials. But who cares what that one thinks, who would you want sitting in the biggest tech seat in America?
With some news that is sure to surprise absolutely nobody, the Department of Homeland Security is currently in the process of developing a new way to spy on you. The new technology, called “Future Attribute Screening Technology,” or FAST (catchy, huh?) will use crowd-monitoring body sensors that detect individuals’ pulses, body language, breathing rates and facial temperatures to determine threats.
FAST is said to have had accurate results, identifying suspicious behavior in four out of five scenarios. One such scenario, run at a ranch in Maryland involved roughly 140 participants. They were told to walk through FAST’s sensors, with a small group of them instructed to act suspicious or hostile. The effective accuracy rate of FAST was 78% on mal-intent detection, and 80% on deception.
The Department of Homeland Security is said to still be relatively early in their research, but say it looks very promising.
Criticism comes in the form of John Verdi of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He states that FAST is “substantially more invasive in airports,” referring to it as a medical exam that the government has no right to conduct. There’s also concern that FAST could improperly identify physical conditions heart murmurs, breathing problems, and high stress levels as threats.
Should FAST be implemented, it might be a common sight at concerts, sporting events and other public gatherings, right alongside the mobile toilets or catering trucks.
Be warned, a cabal of Russian cyber criminals is on the loose and actively pillaging vast expanses of the internet. The gang slyly assumes the administrative responsibilities of large corporate and government networks and then quickly plants malicious tools on thousands of computers in that network. Security analysts reckon this to be the most well coordinated, systematic use of administrative tools for malicious purposes.
The group’s activities came to light when Joe Stewarts of Atlanta-based computer security firm SecureWorks found that a central program belonging to the Russian bandits was running at a Wisconsin-based Internet hosting facility. He estimated that 100,000 computers had been compromised. He promptly notified a federal law enforcement agency that proceeded to boot of the central program. But the gang, unfazed, quickly relocated the tool to a network in Ukraine.