Facebook will alert you if you liked a fake Russian account

As part of its ongoing transparency efforts on Russian activity, Facebook today revealed that it will soon let users find out if they liked or followed pages created by the Internet Research Agency between January 2015 and August 2017. The company sa…

Facebook will alert you if you liked a fake Russian account

As part of its ongoing transparency efforts on Russian activity, Facebook today revealed that it will soon let users find out if they liked or followed pages created by the Internet Research Agency between January 2015 and August 2017. The company sa…

Sci-Hub Loses Domain Names, But Remains Resilient

While Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe the site from the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages earlier this month.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, which have the power to suspend domains worldwide if needed.

Yesterday, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable. While the site had some issues in recent weeks, several people noticed that the present problems are more permanent.

Sci-hub.io, sci-hub.cc, and sci-hub.ac now have the infamous “serverhold” status which suggests that the responsible registries intervened. The status, which has been used previously when domain names are flagged for copyright issues, strips domains of their DNS entries.

Serverhold

This effectively means that the domain names in question have been rendered useless. However, history has also shown that Sci-Hub’s operator Alexandra Elbakyan doesn’t easily back down. Quite the contrary.

In a message posted on the site’s VK page and Twitter, the operator points out that users can update their DNS servers to the IP-addresses 80.82.77.83 and 80.82.77.84, to access it freely again. This rigorous measure will direct all domain name lookups through Sci-Hub’s servers.

Sci-Hub’s tweet

In addition, the Sci-Hub.bz domain and the .onion address on the Tor network still appear to work just fine for most people.

It’s clear that Ukraine-born Elbakyan has no intention of throwing in the towel. By providing free access to published research, she sees it as simply helping millions of less privileged academics to do their work properly.

Authorized or not, among researchers there is still plenty of demand and support for Sci-Hub’s service. The site hosts dozens of millions of academic papers and receives millions of visitors per month.

Many visits come from countries where access to academic journals is limited, such as Iran, Russia and China. But even in countries where access is more common, a lot of researchers visit the site.

While the domain problems may temporarily make the site harder to find for some, it’s not likely to be the end for Sch-Hub.

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Apple could use machine learning to shore up LiDAR limitations in self-driving

 Apple has a new paper published in Cornell’s arXiv open directory of scientific research, describing a method for using machine learning to translate the raw point cloud data gathered by LiDAR arrays into results that include detection of 3D objects, including bicycles and pedestrians, with no additional sensor data required. The paper is one of the clearest looks yet we’ve had… Read More

Minted rolls out an on-demand photography service for around $100 per session

 When you go through a big life event — say a milestone birthday for a parent or a wedding — there are probably going to be a lot of mini-events that happen before and after the big one. But you might not think to hire a professional photographer for them and stick with a couple phone cameras because it can be tough to find those photographers. So Minted, a company that’s… Read More

Thirty years later, “Max Headroom” TV pirate remains at large

Enlarge / Not creepy at all.

Thirty years ago today, a person or persons unknown briefly hijacked the signal of two Chicago television stations, broadcasting a bizarre taped message from a man wearing a Max Headroom mask. The “broadcast intrusion” interrupted a primetime news broadcast from Chicago’s WGN, and then (more successfully) the 11:00pm broadcast of Dr. Who on the Chicago public television station WTTW. To this day, the perpetrators of the television hack remain unknown.

The hack was made possible by the analog television broadcast technology of the day—the attacker was able to overpower the signals sent by the television studios to a broadcast antenna atop the John Hancock building in Chicago with his or her own signals. In the case of the WGN news broadcast, engineers were able to change the frequency used in the uplink to the John Hancock tower after a brief interruption, and the audio from the pirate transmission was drowned in static. But the WTTW takeover lasted a full 90 seconds, and the pirate TV broadcast’s audio, while distorted, was audible to anyone who happened to be tuned in.

Broadcast intrusions were not rare in the 1980s. The first major one took place in 1977, when someone interrupted the audio of an ITV Southern Television broadcast from a tower in Hannington, England, with a message purported to be from an alien representative of an “Intergalactic Association.” The message warned, “All your weapons of evil must be removed… You have but a short time to learn to live together in peace.”

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FCC stonewalled investigation of net neutrality comment fraud, NY AG says

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Nicholas Rigg)

New York’s attorney general has been trying to investigate fraud in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s anti-net neutrality plan but alleges that the FCC has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that “hundreds of thousands of Americans” were likely impersonated in fake comments on the net neutrality docket. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s office would not provide information needed for New York’s investigation, Schneiderman wrote yesterday in an open letter to Pai:

 [T]he process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.

Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities. Such conduct likely violates state law—yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed.

The FCC received 22 million comments on its plan to repeal net neutrality rules and deregulate broadband providers, but many were fraudulent. In May, some of the people who were impersonated by anti-net neutrality spammers asked the Federal Communications Commission to notify other victims of the impersonation and remove fraudulent comments from the net neutrality docket.

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How to Use Microsoft OneNote for Work

use-onenote-work

Microsoft OneNote is a powerful free tool to capture your digital and handwritten notes. However, it can do so much more than that. OneNote is particularly useful for workplace productivity. Below, we’ll look at five ways you can use OneNote to get more done at work. 1. Use Quick Notes to Save Your Best Ideas Like many people, you probably get some of your brightest work-related ideas at the most unexpected times. Maybe they pop into your head during a commute or when you’re in the shower. Work is something individuals think about a lot. Fortunately, OneNote has a built-in…

Read the full article: How to Use Microsoft OneNote for Work

[Question] Could someone please help with weirdly specific Flex question, please?

Thank you for reading.

I am looking to use Flex to get rid of the white gradient (for lack of a better term) on the video player on the YouTube app I have an album of screenshots here to show what I'm referring to. I have Eclipse turned on to help easily identify what I'm referring to.

I downloaded all the libraries for YT on Flex and tried searching keywords like "Overlay" and "Gradient" but I couldn't find anything and I don't know what else to search.

Anybody have any ideas or guesses?

Again, I appreciate you reading this!

iOS 10.2, iPhone 6S, Flex 3

submitted by /u/themedic143
[link] [comments]

Macy’s Launches Apple Watch Series 1 Black Friday Discount: 38mm for $180 and 42mm for $210

The latest Black Friday deal has gone live today, and this time it’s for the Apple Watch Series 1, which debuted alongside the Series 2 in September 2016. The Series 1 models lack the advancements of 2017’s Series 3 — like LTE and a faster processor — but the older Apple Watch is still a reliable device, and now with a cheaper entry price over at Macy’s, it makes for a great holiday gift.

The retailer has the Apple Watch Series 1 discounted by $70 beginning today, with 38mm models running for $179.00 and 42mm models priced at $209.00. In terms of overall Black Friday deals, we know that Target will match this $70 off Series 1 deal beginning tomorrow when sales there go live. So if you’re looking to get some shopping done a little early, Macy’s offer is the first notable Apple Watch Series 1 deal happening this holiday season.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with LivingSocial. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Here’s every Apple Watch Series 1 device available in Macy’s sale:

As a point of comparison, the new non-LTE Apple Watch Series 3 models are priced at $329 (38mm) and $359 (42mm). Sales on Series 2 models have been appearing frequently throughout the fall, with the most recent dropping 38mm cases to $229 and 42mmm cases to $259. Until Black Friday sales, no notable deals had yet to arrive for the Series 1 devices following the launch of Series 3 in September.

If you purchase the Series 1, be aware that in comparison to higher-cost versions it has a slower S1P processor, lower water resistance (so it is not suitable for swimming), a display that doesn’t get as bright, slightly lower battery life, and no LTE or GPS support. Otherwise, you’ll be able to access all of the expected Apple Watch features like activity tracking, notification and phone call support with a connected iPhone, and more.

Also of note is an Apple Music deal going on at LivingSocial, where you can get a four month subscription to Apple’s streaming music service for free. This deal essentially adds one extra month (priced at $9.99/month) onto Apple Music’s existing three month free trial, and is only available to new subscribers signing up for an individual membership plan.

As always, you can visit our Black Friday Roundup to keep track of the latest deals going on heading into Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Some sales will begin going online a bit early today, but the bulk will see activation when retailers first open their doors tomorrow night between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. local time.

Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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Jony Ive to discuss the future of design at Washington, DC’s Hirshorn Museum

Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive is scheduled to make an appearance at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington D.C. next Wednesday, November 29 at 3pm local time to hold a talk titled “The Future of Design” with Steve Jobs biography author Rick Tetzeli…. Read the rest of this post here


Jony Ive to discuss the future of design at Washington, DC’s Hirshorn Museum” is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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iPhone SE 2 Again Rumored to Launch in First Half of 2018

Apple will release a second-generation iPhone SE in the first half of 2018, according to China’s Economic Daily News.



The report claims the tentatively named iPhone SE 2 will be assembled exclusively by Taiwanese manufacturer Wistron at its factory in Bengaluru, India, where some assembly of the current iPhone SE occurs.

The rumored release date window lines up with an earlier report from Focus Taiwan claiming a new iPhone SE will ship in the first quarter of 2018, which encompasses January through March of next year.

Apple introduced the current iPhone SE at a media event on March 21, 2016, and the device launched later that month. Given the rumored launch dates, the iPhone SE 2 could certainly be unveiled in March too.

Indian website Tekz24 previously reported that the next-generation iPhone SE will be powered by Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, with 2GB of RAM, 32GB and 128GB storage capacities, a 12-megapixel rear camera, a five-megapixel front camera, and a slightly larger 1,700 mAh battery.

Tekz24 isn’t a website we’re familiar with, and it doesn’t have an established track record of reporting on Apple rumors, so don’t place too much faith in those tech specs until if and when they are confirmed by other sources.

The current iPhone SE looks much like the iPhone 5s, including its smaller four-inch display preferred by a subset of customers. The device is powered by Apple’s A9 chip, like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and it has 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel rear camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and Touch ID.

Apple hasn’t fully refreshed the iPhone SE since it launched, but it did double the available storage capacities to 64GB and 128GB in March. It also dropped the device’s starting price to $349 a few months ago.

Related Roundup: iPhone SE
Tag: udn.com
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone SE (Caution)

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Apple’s Jony Ive to Speak at Washington, DC’s Hirshorn Museum on November 29

Apple chief designer Jony Ive is scheduled to give a talk on the “future of design” at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, DC, next week.

Beginning at 3 p.m. local time on Wednesday, November 29, the one-hour speaking engagement has been arranged in collaboration with Smithsonian Magazine, with free places being offered on a first-come, first served basis.

[Ive] has been described as one of the most powerful people in the world’s most valuable company and is a 2017 honoree of the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Awards (the “Golden Globes of intellect”), which honor revolutionary breakthroughs in the arts and sciences, education and social progress. Ive will be joined in conversation by Rick Tetzeli, Editor At Large of Fast Company and author of the bestselling biography Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.

All advance tickets for the program have been claimed, but anyone interested in attending can join the waitlist online or walk up on the day for a chance to get a seat. Any open seats may be released to walk-up visitors 10 minutes before the program.



Ive’s last public talk was at October’s TechFest 2017, an event held in New York City. Earlier this month, Ive also sat down for an interview with design, architecture, and fashion magazine Wallpaper* to discuss the Apple Park campus, which he had a hand in designing, as well as the iPhone X. Most recently, TIME interviewed Ive about the smartphone, after the device appeared in its 25 Best Inventions of the Year list.
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Google Allows YouTube to Return to Amazon’s Echo Show Smart Speaker

Google has seen fit to return YouTube to Amazon’s display-based Echo Show smart speaker, two months after the video service was pulled from the device. The original removal angered Amazon and led to conflicting public statements on both sides over the move, but the two companies appear to have resolved the dispute.

The return of YouTube is particularly timely for Amazon, which is expanding its video services on the Echo Show with additional support for Vimeo and Dailymotion. An Amazon spokesperson gave the following statement to The Verge:


“We’re excited to offer customers the capability to watch even more video content from sources such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Dailymotion on Echo Show. More video sources will be added over time.”

According to Google, the reason for the service’s removal on Echo Show devices back in September was because “Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience.”

That issue now looks to have been resolved with a UI change – the new version of YouTube on Echo Show has a completely different interface that is much more in keeping with how the service appears in a desktop web browser, as shown in a video uploaded by VoiceBot.ai, embedded below.



YouTube account holders accessing the device using an Echo Show can now see their subscriptions, video recommendations, and control autoplay – all of which were missing in the Amazon-designed, voice-control optimized interface.

However, The Verge reports that there are now issues with YouTube’s voice-control integration, and the Echo Show still doesn’t automatically play videos fullscreen, with an “Alexa, zoom in” voice command required to display videos in that way.

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Vivaldi Web Browser 1.13 for Power Users Gains New Multi-Tab Management Features

Vivaldi web browser, the spiritual successor to Opera 12, released version 1.13 on Wednesday, introducing an easier way of managing multiple tabs, as well as new file download features and other improvements.



In line with the Norwegian team’s aim to make Vivaldi the most feature-rich and customizable browser available to power users, the developers have created the new Window Panel. This opens a tree-style view of tabs to the side of the browser window, offering an easy overview of all open tabs as a list.

From there, users can conveniently manage tabs by dragging them to change their order, grouping tabs by topic to save space, tiling Tab Stacks to compare several web pages side by side, and hibernating unused tabs or Tab Stacks for better performance.

Within the new Panel, it’s also possible to mute sound in specific tabs and pin tabs to ensure they always stay open. The Vivaldi team says it is planning to bring even more functionality to this feature in the near future.



The latest release of the Vivaldi browser also brings a number of improvements to file downloading, based on community feedback. Users now get a warning dialog when closing the browser before a download is complete. It’s also now possible to pause and resume downloads, while a download speed indicator has been added to the progress bar.

Elsewhere, Vivaldi’s window handling code has been rewritten, providing performance benefits that are especially noticeable on older, slower hardware.

Vivaldi browser is a free download for Mac available directly from the Vivaldi website.

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Apple Shares Research into Self-Driving Car Software That Improves Obstacle Detection

Apple computer scientists working on autonomous vehicle technology have posted a research paper online describing how self-driving cars can spot cyclists and pedestrians using fewer sensors (via Reuters).

The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel was submitted to the moderated scientific pre-print repository arXiv on November 17, in what appears to be Apple’s first publicly disclosed research on autonomous vehicle technology.



The paper is titled “End-to-End Learning for Point Cloud Based 3D Object Detection“, and describes how new software developed by Apple scientists improves the ability of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems to recognize objects including pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.

Self-driving cars typically use a combination of standard cameras and depth-sensing LiDAR units to receive information about the world around them.

Apple’s research team said they were able to get “highly encouraging results” using LiDAR data alone to spot cyclists and pedestrians, and wrote that they were also able to beat other approaches for detecting 3D objects that rely solely on LiDAR tech. The experiments were limited to computer simulations and did not advance to road tests.

Apple famously has a secretive research policy and has kept its work under wraps for many years, but over the last 12 months, the company has shared some of its research advancements with other researchers and the wider public, particularly in the area of machine learning.

In December 2016, Apple said that it would start allowing its AI and machine learning researchers to publish and share their work in papers, with the first paper appearing just a few weeks following the announcement.

Additionally, in July of this year, Apple researchers initiated the “Apple Machine Learning Journal“, a blog detailing their work on machine learning, AI, and other related topics.

This new policy of openness could help Apple retain employees who do not want to keep their progress a secret, but the latest research into autonomous vehicle technology also lets regulators see that the company is making progress in this area. Last December, Apple told federal regulators it was excited about the technology and asked them not to restrict testing. In April, the company also filed a self-driving car testing plan with California regulators.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called autonomy “the mother of all AI projects“. During an August 2017 earnings call, Cook re-emphasized Apple’s deep interest in the technology, and even hinted Apple’s work on autonomy could be used for more than vehicles.

Apple has presumably been working on an autonomous driving system since 2014, when rumors of its efforts to create an electric vehicle first surfaced. Apple has now moved away from creating a full vehicle and is said to be focusing on self-driving technology instead.

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Shares Research into Self-Driving Car Software That Improves Obstacle Detection

Apple computer scientists working on autonomous vehicle technology have posted a research paper online describing how self-driving cars can spot cyclists and pedestrians using fewer sensors (via Reuters).

The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel was submitted to the moderated scientific pre-print repository arXiv on November 17, in what appears to be Apple’s first publicly disclosed research on autonomous vehicle technology.



The paper is titled “End-to-End Learning for Point Cloud Based 3D Object Detection“, and describes how new software developed by Apple scientists improves the ability of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems to recognize objects including pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.

Self-driving cars typically use a combination of standard cameras and depth-sensing LiDAR units to receive information about the world around them.

Apple’s research team said they were able to get “highly encouraging results” using LiDAR data alone to spot cyclists and pedestrians, and wrote that they were also able to beat other approaches for detecting 3D objects that rely solely on LiDAR tech. The experiments were limited to computer simulations and did not advance to road tests.

Apple famously has a secretive research policy and has kept its work under wraps for many years, but over the last 12 months, the company has shared some of its research advancements with other researchers and the wider public, particularly in the area of machine learning.

In December 2016, Apple said that it would start allowing its AI and machine learning researchers to publish and share their work in papers, with the first paper appearing just a few weeks following the announcement.

Additionally, in July of this year, Apple researchers initiated the “Apple Machine Learning Journal“, a blog detailing their work on machine learning, AI, and other related topics.

This new policy of openness could help Apple retain employees who do not want to keep their progress a secret, but the latest research into autonomous vehicle technology also lets regulators see that the company is making progress in this area. Last December, Apple told federal regulators it was excited about the technology and asked them not to restrict testing. In April, the company also filed a self-driving car testing plan with California regulators.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called autonomy “the mother of all AI projects“. During an August 2017 earnings call, Cook re-emphasized Apple’s deep interest in the technology, and even hinted Apple’s work on autonomy could be used for more than vehicles.

Apple has presumably been working on an autonomous driving system since 2014, when rumors of its efforts to create an electric vehicle first surfaced. Apple has now moved away from creating a full vehicle and is said to be focusing on self-driving technology instead.

Discuss this article in our forums

Game of Thrones Leaks “Carried Out By Former Iranian Military Hacker”

Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO.

The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

“Hi to all mankind,” an email sent to reporters read. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!”

In follow-up correspondence, the hackers claimed to have penetrated HBO’s internal network, gaining access to emails, technical platforms, and other confidential information.

Image released by the hackers

Soon after, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler confirmed a breach at his company, telling employees that there had been a “cyber incident” in which information and programming had been taken.

“Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests,” he said.

During mid-August, problems persisted, with unreleased shows hitting the Internet. HBO appeared rattled by the ongoing incident, refusing to comment to the media on every new development. Now, however, it appears the tide is turning on HBO’s foe.

In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the FBI, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

“Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins,” Kim said.

“Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice. American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”

According to the Department of Justice, Mesri honed his computer skills working for the Iranian military, conducting cyber attacks against enemy military systems, nuclear software, and Israeli infrastructure. He was also a member of the Turk Black Hat hacking team which defaced hundreds of websites with the online pseudonym “Skote Vahshat”.

The indictment states that Mesri began his campaign against HBO during May 2017, when he conducted “online reconnaissance” of HBO’s networks and employees. Between May and July, he then compromised a number of HBO employee user accounts and used them to access the company’s data and TV shows, copying them to his own machines.

After allegedly obtaining around 1.5 terabytes of HBO’s data, Mesri then began to extort HBO, warning that unless a ransom of $5.5 million wasn’t paid in Bitcoin, the leaking would begin. When the amount wasn’t paid, three days later Mesri told HBO that the amount had now risen to $6m and as an additional punishment, data could be wiped from HBO’s servers.

Subsequently, on or around July 30 and continuing through August 2017, Mesri allegedly carried through with his threats, leaking information and TV shows online and promoting them via emails to members of the press.

As a result of the above, Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of computer hacking (five years), three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information (five years each), and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication (two years). No copyright infringement offenses are mentioned in the indictment.

The big question now is whether the US will ever get their hands on Mesri. The answer to that, at least through any official channels, seems to be a resounding no. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Iran meaning that if Mesri stays put, he’s likely to remain a free man.

Wanted

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The Senate’s Liberty Act Helps Close the “Backdoor”

Take the language of one NSA surveillance reauthorization bill and add a few strong reform proposals from another, and what do you get? A bill that helps protect Americans from the warrantless search of the content of their emails, text messages, and digital communications.

On November 17, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the USA Liberty Act (S. 2158) into the Senate. It is based on legislation of the same name introduced in October by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI).                                                   

EFF supports this legislation and welcomes the additional protections included.

Both the House-side and Senate-side USA Liberty Act seek to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, an NSA surveillance tool scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Section 702 permits the NSA to target electronic surveillance at non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. But when the NSA sweeps up emails and text messages of foreign targets, it predictably also collects messages written by U.S. persons. These communications are stored in NSA databases as well as those of other intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA. When FBI agents search through Section 702-collected data in FBI systems—even when data belongs to U.S. persons—they do not obtain a warrant.

These unconstitutional searches of Americans’ communications, which skirt the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant, are called “backdoor” searches.

The Senate-side USA Liberty Act restricts these searches by borrowing an approach from a separate amendment made for the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a second Section 702 reauthorization bill before the Senate. Though not identical in language, both the Senate-side USA Liberty Act and the amendment to the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act place certain warrant requirements on backdoor searches.

According to the Senate-side USA Liberty Act, if government agents want to read Section 702-collected communications belonging to U.S. persons, they first need to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which provides judicial oversight on Section 702 surveillance. The bill requires the FISC to approve warrants based on whether there is probable cause to believe that the requested Section 702-collected communications contain evidence of a crime, or concerns an “agent of a foreign power.”

Importantly, this backdoor search warrant requirement applies even if agents are searching for foreign intelligence information—a requirement not available in the House-side bill. That bill’s exception for foreign intelligence searches seriously undercuts the value of its warrant requirement.                            

Unfortunately, the Senate-side USA Liberty Act’s warrant requirement applies only to the content of communications, and does not also apply to metadata. According to the bill, government agents who want to access Section 702-collected data related to “dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information” only need to obtain approval from the Attorney General and show the information is relevant to an investigation. While a warrant requirement is preferred, a relevance test and high-level review are significant improvements over current practice.

The Senate-side USA Liberty Act, like its House sibling, also codifies the end of “about” collection, a highly intrusive type of surveillance that the NSA voluntarily ended this year after receiving criticism from the FISC.  But where the House-side bill only ends this practice through 2023, the Senate-side bill ends it permanently.

The Senate-side bill has another improvement: it explicitly grants backdoor search protections to “persons reasonably believed to be located in the United States.” This means that foreign individuals inside the United States will have the same backdoor search protections on their communications and metadata as those offered to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The Senate-side bill is rare in codifying these protections.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the author of a separate, strong surveillance reform bill called the USA Rights Act—which also extends protections to foreigners inside the United States—praised Sens. Leahy and Lee, and their work.

“I applaud Senators Lee and Leahy for their proposal, which will create meaningful new protections for Americans’ rights, in particular by seriously addressing the problem of warrantless backdoor searches of Americans’ communications,” Wyden said. “While I believe the USA Rights Act represents the best solution to reforming Section 702 of FISA, the Lee-Leahy bill deserves full consideration by the U.S. Senate.”

We agree. 

Today—and Every Day—We Fight to Defend the Open Internet

Today, we heard from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about its plans to devastate Network Neutrality.  Instead of responding to the millions of Americans who want to protect the free and open Internet, the FCC instead is ceding to the demands of a handful of massive ISPs, like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.

EFF will be analyzing the full plan when it is released.  But based on what we know so far, it’s clear that Chairman Pai is seeking to reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order that established clear but light touch protections for Internet users and Internet innovation. The FCC’s new approach invites a future where only the largest Internet, cable, and telephone companies survive, while every start-up, small business, and new innovator is crowded out—and the voices of nonprofits and ordinary individuals are suppressed. Costs will go up, as ISPs take advantage of monopoly power to raise rates on edge providers and consumers alike. And the FCC’s proposed plan adds salt to the wound by interfering with state efforts to protect consumer privacy and competition.

The FCC today abdicates a fundamental responsibility—but Internet users won’t. Today, and every day, we will fight to defend net neutrality. Tell Congress that lawmakers must act to defend our open Internet.

Add your voice

Contact Congress now.

Treasury Department Concludes Fraud Investigation into ComputerCOP “Internet Safety” Software

Three years ago, EFF exposed how hundreds of law enforcement agencies were putting families at risk by distributing free ComputerCOP “Internet safety” software that actually transmitted keystrokes unencrypted to a third-party server. Our report also raised serious questions about whether the company was deceiving government agencies by circulating a bogus letter of endorsement from a top official in the U.S. Treasury Department.

 This month, our suspicions were confirmed. A document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows that, in response to EFF’s research, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General launched an investigation into ComputerCOP. The final report concluded that the company had, in fact, doctored a government letter to improperly convince law enforcement agencies to spend asset forfeiture funds to buy the product.

Read the Treasury Department’s investigative report and exhibits

Unfortunately, the report shows that ComputerCOP dodged criminal prosecution because the statute of limitations expired. Nevertheless, the records should serve as the final nail in the coffin for this software. It was bad enough that the software was proven dangerous; it is even worse for law enforcement agencies to do business with a company that federal investigators caught forging documents. 

ComputerCOP is a CD-ROM (now also available on a USB storage stick) that promises to help parents protect their children from Internet predators. More than 240 agencies signed contracts with ComputerCOP, often worth tens of thousands of dollars. But the software was less about safety than it was about self-promotion. Elected law enforcement officials—including sheriffs, mayors and district attorneys—placed their images on the cover and recorded promotional videos about how the software was the “first step” to protecting children online. By and large, the “free” software giveaway was used to generate positive media coverage. In Arizona, for example, the software project was spearheaded by the Maricopa County District Attorney’s press officer, rather than a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children team. Marketing materials proclaimed that the software was a “Perfect Election and Fundraising Tool!”

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EFF technologists dissected the software and discovered that it contained a keylogging feature that monitored everything a computer user typed. Whenever a keyword was entered, the software transmitted the text to a third-party commercial email server, which then sent alerts to the master user (often a parent) in real time. Not only was this feature invasive and easily abused, it also had a major technical vulnerability: the software transmitted communications openly and unencrypted, so that it could be easily intercepted and read by malicious actors. The San Diego County District Attorney, which had distributed the software, issued a warning to families about the keylogging feature after EFF published its findings.

Law enforcement agencies often paid for ComputerCOP with asset forfeiture funds, that is, money seized from suspected criminals during investigations. When agencies assist in federal investigations, they sometimes receive a portion of the money through a process called “equitable sharing.” As part of its marketing materials, ComputerCOP circulated a letter from the director of the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture, which oversees equitable sharing spending, that seemed to endorse the product. 

EFF obtained this letter through a state-level public records request, and it immediately struck us as odd. The letterhead seemed off-kilter, some of the text was misaligned, and the letter was undated, unsigned, and did not even include the full name of the person it was addressed to. (EFF separately discovered ComputerCOP had falsely claimed endorsements by the ACLU and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.)

So, we filed a FOIA request with the Treasury Department to obtain the original letter, if one existed.  Not long after, the Treasury Department issued a fraud alert for the letter, and the Treasury Department Inspector General launched a formal inquest. 

New FOIA documents show that, after a multi-year investigation, the Inspector General concluded that ComputerCOP had indeed “altered the 2001 letter from TEOAF and made it appear to be blanket permission for all law enforcement agencies to use equitable sharing funds to purchase the software.” Indeed, ComputerCOP made this claim on the rate card it provided to agencies. 

As part of its investigation into the letter, Treasury investigators sent questionnaires to 240 agencies that had purchased ComputerCOP. Of the few dozen that responded, three law enforcement agencies—the Peabody Police Department in Massachusetts, the Alaska Department of Public Safety, and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office in Missouri—told Treasury that the fraudulent letter had directly influenced their decision to purchase the product. 

The closed investigative report indicates the Treasury Inspector General was unable to send the case for prosecution “due to the fact that the three year statute of limitations on the offense had lapsed.” Instead, after discussions with the Justice Department and the U.S. Marshal Service, Treasury concluded it was enough for ComputerCOP to cease using the altered letter and to post a disclaimer on their website.

Unfortunately, it may be time for the Treasury Department to re-open the case. While ComputerCOP did once advertise the disclaimer, EFF could no longer find that language anywhere on its website.  

Making matters worse, the company’s website now claims that the keylogging feature “is not intrusive in any way.” This is an outrageous claim considering that this type of technology is more commonly deployed by stalkers and malicious hackers, and, in certain circumstances, its use could violate wiretapping laws.

For the most part, law enforcement purchases of ComputerCOP have significantly declined since we issued our first report. However, the company does continue to find buyers. For example, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Florida purchased 1,000 copies for $5,975 in 2017, according to SmartProcure. Meanwhile McGruff the Crime Dog was handing out copies as recently as this summer at a community screening of the film “Elf.”

To law enforcement agencies, here’s some rock-solid advice: before you purchase so-called Internet safety software, spend a few moments on the Internet researching whether the software is actually safe and above board. 

ComputerCOP is neither.

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Best apps for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving feast

Get the best recipes for the perfect Thanksgiving feast with these cooking apps!

Every year, I cook a Thanksgiving feast for 12-14 people, some of them vegetarian. So, I’m always scanning the App Store (and the web) for great recipe ideas. Whether you are cooking dinner for the whole family or were just assigned a side dish, check out my favorite cooking apps for making Thanksgiving perfect.

Yummly

With Yummly, you can get a personalized recipe discovery experience. Log in to add your personal data, like your favorite foods and any allergies or dietary restrictions. Then, get suggestions based on your profile to find the perfect recipes for you. In the seasonal section, get fantastic recipes for Thanksgiving. When you find a recipe you like, you can quickly add its ingredients to your shopping list. Items will be combined so you don’t double up when you’re at the store.

Kitchen Stories

Whether you are a beginner in the kitchen or are just looking for some tips on how to be a better cook, Kitchen Stories has a fantastic array of recipes and how-to videos. You can learn how to test a cake for doneness or how to make steam bun casings. There are currently dozens of great Thanksgiving recipes with tips on how to make the event perfect, including a fantastic guide to “The Quintessential Thanksgiving Menu,” complete with step-by-step pictures on how to roast a turkey.

BigOven

BigOven boasts having more than 350,000 recipes. It won’t be difficult to find something to make that the whole family can enjoy. You can casually browse the recipe feed and add interesting ones to your personal recipe book, labeled by favorites and recipes you want to try. If you find a chef that suits your style, you can follow him or her and keep a close watch on new recipes. The holiday selection includes such topics as Thanksgiving main dishes, fall favorites, and lots more.

SideChef

For the truly adventurous cook, SideChef is stuffed with unique and interesting recipes. Don’t be intimidated by its content, though. SideChef is known for helping beginners turn into experts in the kitchen. They even have meal kits for those who really don’t know where to start. There is even a hands-free mode, which takes you through the visual aids without needing to tap the screen. You can browse through the Last minute Thanksgiving dishes collection to find just the right side to bring to the party.

Green Kitchen

Don’t let the vegetarians in your family feel unwanted. You can make a fantastic feast without the bird. One great way to make the non-meat-eaters in your life feel like they are part of the festivities is to make sure that all of the side-dishes are vegetarian or vegan. That way both carnivores and herbivores alike can enjoy the noms. Green Kitchen is packed full with dozens of amazing vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free recipes to make your meal sparkle. Whether you go totally vegetarian or just want to bring a killer side dish to dinner, Green Kitchen has great recipes for you.

Epicurious

Foodies around the world have raved about Epicurious’ large amount of content and wide variety of foods. You can find great recipes for all types of food lovers, and even plan your week’s meals. There are dozens of recipes for your Thanksgiving feast, including fun alternatives for millennials, like “Friendsgiving” menus and three-ingredient recipes. No matter what type of food you like, chances are you’ll find a Thanksgiving recipe you love with Epicurious.

Pinterest

Pinterest is my go-to app for my Thanksgiving menu. Throughout the year, I’ll keep an eye out for interesting recipes that I could make alongside the turkey main and add them to my “Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas.” Then, when I’m ready for the big day, I simply check my board for all of those great recipes.

Your favorites?

What recipe apps to you go to for your favorite holiday dishes? What is your best Thanksgiving dish? Let us know in the comments.

Updated November 2017: These are still the best apps to help you cook the perfect Thanksgiving feast!

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