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Sun, 02 Jun 2019 13:00:37 +0000
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Internet – Ars Technica
Maybe this is the "Mark Taylor" I seek...

Enlarge / Maybe this is the "Mark Taylor" I seek... (credit: Getty Images | vladru)

After a layoff dumped me into the job market for the first time in more than a decade, I had an all-too-close encounter with a new breed of digital fraudsters who prey on the unemployed. These high-tech predators use a new twist on an old scam to "hire" the victim in order to gain access to their bank account. The scheme was cleverly engineered, but a couple of small irregularities tipped me off to my would-be assailants' plans before they could steal anything more than two days' worth of my time. Once alerted, I was even able to use some of their own tactics to inflict a bit of pain on the folks who sought to scam me.

Embarrassing as it might be, I'm sharing my experiences in the hope that they might help you avoid falling victim to these cyber-vultures and perhaps even turn the tables on them.

The setup

Like most successful cons, this one involved gaining the willing consent of its victim through some combination of greed, fear, or desperation. Having been laid off several months earlier, I fell into the latter category and was ripe for the picking. When I lost the unfulfilling but steady editorial job I'd held down for the past few years, I was confident that my strong credentials and deep collection of contacts I'd made over the years would help me land a better gig within a month or two.

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Sun, 03 Mar 2019 15:00:13 +0000
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“WHAT HAPPENED????” How a remote tech writing gig proved to be an old-school scam

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.

Cranky. Irritable. Anxious. That's how I feel when my home security-camera livestream goes black, when my bank's website goes down and sequesters my money, or when my Twitter feed doesn't refresh automatically. Maybe you feel the same way, maybe you don't. But it's undeniable that most things we interact with today live and die by the Internet and a connection to it. If those connections were to vanish—if the Internet everywhere crashed—life as we know it would come to a standstill. What happens after that is a potentially horrifying mystery that Tim Maughan explores in his new novel Infinite Detail, in which an act of cyberterrorism effectively cancels the Internet.

Maughan divides the story into "before" and "after" chapters, which is a popular structure among recent novels that center on a single significant event. In "before," we learn about a futuristic world that's not too far off from our reality. Everything is connected, and big tech companies trade comfort, convenience, and complacency for data. Everything from messages to trash is tracked, and a pair of "spex" is the most popular (arguably necessary) device.

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Tue, 02 Jan 2018 15:32:17 +0000
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Infinite Detail review: The dystopia that awaits when the Internet goes out
Academic researchers fire latest shots in adblocking arms race

(credit: Shek's Aperture)

Advertising pays much of the budget for most online publishers, making the growth of adblockers an existential threat. As such, adblocking has set off a software-based arms race, with publishers finding software solutions that keep ads appearing or entreat people using adblocking software to white-list them. Adblockers readily respond with modified software that targets these specific responses, triggering the publishers to try again.

Some academics have recently stepped into the middle of this arms race, performing an analysis that allows them to identify the specific methods used by publishers to avoid having ads blocked. And the team has gone on to try a couple of different approaches, both of which modify a webpage's contents to keep the anti-adblocking software from having an effect.

Outside of the economics of it all, there's an interesting computer science problem here. The code on the webpage is attempting to identify software present on a user's browser. How do you recognize when that's happening, and how can you possibly intervene?

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Tue, 24 Oct 2017 11:00:05 +0000
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Academic researchers fire latest shots in adblocking arms race
A balloon launches from Nevada on its way to Puerto Rico.

Enlarge / A balloon launches from Nevada on its way to Puerto Rico. (credit: X)

One of Puerto Ricans' most basic needs in the wake of Hurricane Maria is communication with the outside world. Cell phone companies on the island are still working to repair infrastructure after the hurricane took 95 percent of the island's cell phone towers out of service.

So X, Alphabet's company devoted to technological "moonshots," is sending a fleet of balloons to serve as cell phone towers in the sky. "We are now collaborating with AT&T to deliver emergency Internet service to the hardest hit parts of the island," writes Alastair Westgarth, who leads the company's balloon-based Internet efforts.

The idea of providing Internet service via balloons sounds crazy—indeed it has sounded crazy since Google first announced the effort, dubbed Project Loon, in 2013. But Google—now X—is deadly serious about making balloon-powered Internet access a real thing.

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Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:24:23 +0000
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Balloon navigation breakthrough helps extend cell service in Puerto Rico

Comedian George Carlin's monologue, "Seven words you can never say on television," opened the door for the American Civil Liberties Union to convince the US Supreme Court to nullify legislation outlawing "indecent" online speech.

Twenty years ago today the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision and unanimously overturned congressional legislation that made it unlawful to transmit "indecent" material on the Internet if that content could be viewed by minors. The justices ruled that the same censorship standards being applied to broadcast radio and television could not be applied to the Internet.

"The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal," the high court concluded. "As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that government regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it."

(credit: Oyez Project )

The Supreme Court had decided a challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the section of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) at issue could criminalize too broad a swath of speech. The ACLU maintained that the CDA did not define what "indecent" meant and that the law would dumb-down the Internet in the same manner as the censorship requirements imposed on broadcasters that transmit over public spectrum. The ACLU won its case on June 26, 1997. The decision, in conjunction with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other surviving parts of the CDA, has provided one of the strongest legal tools for crafting today's Internet as we know it.

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Tue, 14 Feb 2017 11:12:55 +0000
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How 7 words unfit for TV fostered an open Internet 20 years ago today
Playboy is a porn mag again

Enlarge (credit: Playboy)

Playboy, after declaring nudity "passé" and going PG-13 on its website and magazine in March 2016, has returned to stuffing its pages with full-frontal nakedness. Presumably sales of the porn-free porno mag were floppier than expected.

Hugh Hefner's flagship publication, which published its first nude centrefold way back in 1953, originally blamed the Internet for its decision to pull out of porn. "You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture," said Playboy CEO Scott Flanders in October 2015, when the no-nudes policy was first announced.

When Playboy first banished nudes from its website in 2014 it was apparently accompanied by an explosive uplift in traffic. The company said that the number of users quadrupled from 4 million to 16 million, and that the average age of those users dropped from 47 to "just over 30"—one of the most valuable marketing demographics.

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Wed, 08 Feb 2017 19:05:15 +0000
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Playboy is a porn mag again
A Comcast Xfinity logo and Wi-Fi symbol.

Enlarge (credit: Comcast)

Comcast should stop saying in advertisements that it “delivers the fastest Internet in America” and the “fastest in-home Wi-Fi," according to the advertising industry's self-regulation body. The evidence Comcast uses to substantiate those claims is not sufficient, ruled the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

Verizon had challenged Comcast's advertising claims, leading to today's ruling. Comcast said today that it disagreed with the findings but will comply with the decision.

Comcast used crowdsourced speed test data from Ookla to make its claim about Xfinity Internet speeds.

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Fri, 06 Jan 2017 21:00:38 +0000
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Not so fast—Comcast told to stop claiming it has “fastest Internet”
Man who says he invented e-mail sues Techdirt for disputing claim

(credit: Dennis Yang)

Shiva Ayyadurai

Shiva Ayyadurai (credit: Darlene DeVita)

Techdirt founder Mike Masnick often takes no prisoners when it comes to his writings about intellectual property, net neutrality, the law, and everything in between. But now Masnick finds himself the target of the same lawyer who brought down Gawker on behalf of Hulk Hogan.

That lawyer, Charles Harder of Beverly Hills, is representing Shiva Ayyadurai, the man who claims to have invented e-mail. Ayyadurai is seeking $15 million in a federal libel suit (PDF) against Masnick and Techdirt parent company Floor64. The suit is over blog posts that labeled Ayyadurai a "fraud" and a "liar" because he claims to have invented e-mail in 1978 as a teenager in New Jersey.

Ayyadurai also sued Gawker for ridiculing him with headlines that said Ayyadurai has "pretended to invent Email" and "The Inventor of Email did Not Invent Email." After losing the Hulk Hogan case, Gawker went bankrupt, disappeared those Ayyadurai stories from the site, and agreed to pay $750,000 to Ayyadurai to settle his libel lawsuit.

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Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:50:28 +0000
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Man who says he invented e-mail sues Techdirt for disputing claim
If elected, Clinton would support an “Encryption Commission” to help feds

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign team released a plan to address "the cyber," as the candidate had promised to do in a speech he gave earlier this month.

Like most of his other policies, Trump's cybersecurity plan is frustratingly thin on details. It calls for an "immediate review of all US cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector."

What that would look like in practice, how much it would cost, how it would be funded, and how it would be different from what the government already does remains murky.

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Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:08:07 +0000
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If elected, Clinton would support an “Encryption Commission” to help feds
65Tbps over a single fibre: Nokia sets new submarine cable speed record


The recently agglomerated networking juggernaut Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent has managed to squeeze 65 terabits per second—about 8 terabytes per second—over a single fibre measuring 4,100 miles (6,600km).

To put that 65Tbps figure into perspective, the Faster submarine cable between the US and Asia, which is co-owned by Google and some Asian telecoms giants, pushes 60Tbps over 12 optical fibres. As of mid-2016 Faster is the fastest (!) commercially operated submarine cable, and yet it's about 13 times slower per-fibre (65Tbps vs. 5Tbps) than the Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent demo.

Another cable, Marea, being laid between the US and Spain, will carry 160Tbps over 16 fibres (10Tbps per fibre) when it's inaugurated sometime in 2017-2018. If Marea upped its per-fibre speed to 65Tbps its total capacity would be around 520Tbps, or 65 terabytes per second. That would let you transfer about 16,250 4GB Blu-ray rips per second.

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Wed, 03 Aug 2016 12:13:55 +0000
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65Tbps over a single fibre: Nokia sets new submarine cable speed record
China now has more than 700 million Internet users

(credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2010, China had 420 million citizens connected to the Internet. Just six years later, that figure has soared past 710 million, according to an official government source.

Defining Internet users as anyone who has gone online at least once in the past six months, the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) also says that more 20 million Chinese have started using the Internet since December alone, a 3.1 percent rise, as the country continues a determined push to get its citizens online.

There are now more than twice as many Internet users in China as there are citizens in the US—of whom just under 287 million are online. Around 11.5 percent (37 million) of Americans remain stubbornly offline, while China, with its population of 1.38 billion, now has just over half of its citizens using the Web. As you'd expect, the country's massive rural population is the sticking point; less than a third of these are Internet users. The rest either have no knowledge of computers, or no interest in them.

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Wed, 22 Jun 2016 13:01:51 +0000
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China now has more than 700 million Internet users
Global Internet commission: Leave crypto alone, ditch opaque algorithms

Crypto backdoors, the overuse of opaque algorithms, turning companies into law enforcement agencies, and online attacks on critical infrastructure have all been attacked by the Global Commission on Internet Governance in a new report published on Wednesday.

The body, which was set up in 2014 by UK-based Chatham House and the Canadian Centre for International Governance Innovation, has presented its 140-page-long One Internet report to provide "high-level, strategic advice and recommendations to policy makers, private industry, the technical community, and other stakeholders interested in maintaining a healthy Internet."

It comes out in favour of strict legal controls on the aggregation of personal metadata, net neutrality, open standards, and the mandatory public reporting of high-threshold data breaches. Along the way, it offers opinions on areas such as the sharing economy, blockchains, the Internet of Things, IPv6, and DNSSEC.

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Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:31:26 +0000
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Global Internet commission: Leave crypto alone, ditch opaque algorithms
Internet used in eight child sex abuse cases daily in the UK, warns NSPCC

(credit: Adikos)

The Internet is used more and more in the UK by child sex abuse criminals and police must be better equipped to tackle the problem, a leading charity has warned.

Roughly 3,000 cases—or eight per day—were reported in 2015, the NSPCC said on Tuesday as it revealed the findings based on so-called "cyber-flagging" figures.

The mandatory cyber flag system was implemented by the government in April 2015. It requires police forces in England and Wales to record any sexual crime committed against a child that involved use of the Internet.

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Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:11:24 +0000
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Internet used in eight child sex abuse cases daily in the UK, warns NSPCC
Googling medical symptoms may no longer convince you that you’re dying

(credit: Google)

If you ask the Internet what’s wrong with you when you’re not feeling well, it’s bound to break the news that you’ve probably got cancer or perhaps some rare, terminal disease. It doesn’t matter that you just have a mundane, generic symptom. You likely only have a few months left and you should start getting your affairs in order. Sincere condolences, poor Internet user.

With the Web brimming with such bum medical advice—alarming patients and irking doctors worldwide—Google is now rolling out new search tools to try to strip away the medical malarkey or at least shove it down deep in search results.

In the next few days, the Internet giant will be adding in new digital cards that should pop up above common results when you search for terms like “stomach ache” and “skin rash.” The cards are said to contain accurate medical information about common ailments, created with the help of doctors from Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic.

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Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:17:13 +0000
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Googling medical symptoms may no longer convince you that you’re dying
The Parliament House in Singapore.

The Parliament House in Singapore. (credit: TteckK)

Singapore is planning to take 100,000 government computers off the Internet in order to boost security, according to several news reports. Government employees who need Internet connectivity to do their jobs will have access to "dedicated Internet-linked terminals," but by default the civil servants won't be able to go online using government-issued devices, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported today.

Government employees have received a memo about the change, which is being phased in over the course of a year. "There are some 100,000 computers in use by the public service and all of them will be affected," The Straits Times wrote.

Singapore government websites were hacked by Anonymous in 2013, apparently in response to censorship regulations imposed on news sites. The latest security measure is reportedly aimed at preventing similar attacks and the spread of malware through e-mail.

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Thu, 17 Mar 2016 18:40:10 +0000
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Singapore—with world’s fastest Internet—is taking government PCs offline
Despite all appearances, Comcast Business wasn't available at SmartCar's address.

Despite all appearances, Comcast Business wasn't available at SmartCar's address. (credit: Comcast)

Nearly a year ago, a Silicon Valley startup called SmartCar signed up for Comcast Internet service. SmartCar founder and CEO Sahas Katta was moving the company into new office space in Mountain View, California, and there was seemingly no reason to think Comcast might not be able to offer him Internet access.

But Comcast never fulfilled its promise to hook up the business, blaming the delay on construction and permitting problems. Katta discovered that neighboring businesses were making do with painfully slow and unreliable DSL Internet from AT&T, and ultimately SmartCar reluctantly signed up for AT&T as well.

After hearing Comcast excuses for months, Katta finally got fed up and decided that he would find a new office building once his 12-month lease expires on April 20 of this year. Katta told Comcast he wanted to “cancel” his nonexistent service and get a refund for a $2,100 deposit he had paid. Instead, Comcast told him he’d have to pay more than $60,000 to get out of his contract with the company.

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