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Zombie CISPA Follows Lizard Squad

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Remember CISPA, the draconian law and cousin to SOPA and PIPA, which would give the US government unprecedented control over that champion of intellectual freedom, the Internet? Well, thanks to the recent antics of hacker group Lizard Squad and the government’s insistence that these actions were actually those of “rogue state” North Korea, CISPA is being re-introduced by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

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The SOPA bill was one of the issues Aaron Swartz used his wealth and stature as the founder of Reddit to fight to the death. SOPA, short for Stop Online Piracy Act, was a bill written explicitly for the benefit of major content creators. It would have gone so far as to force Internet service providers to prevent access to websites deemed in violation of the law. While this would have required a court order, we’ve seen with the PATRIOT Act and others how quickly and en masse such orders can be manufactured.

Zombie CISPA Unchanged

Cyber crime sceneRuppersberger has made no changes to the CISPA he has reintroduced, which smacks of opportunism. With all the fervor surrounding the recent attacks on Sony Pictures, it must seem, anything that sounds like it’s going to make the Internet more controlled will probably get a lot of Yeas. Will it get enough? Time will tell if the bill even makes it to vote. However, it would be wise of the congressman and anyone else who favors legislation like these that, in fact, cyber security doesn’t happen through the passing of laws. That code on cotton-infused paper, signed with gold pens, does not have nearly the same power over technology as does the code on the computer terminals of hackers and programmers good and bad alike.

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Microsoft, long the anti-Christ for many in the technology field, favors CISPA, seeing it as a simple way to allow for communication between corporations and the government. But groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation state the obvious: corporations are already allowed to talk to the public and to the government about security-related matters. If the purpose of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is simply to do that, a new law is not necessary.

What CISPA Does

The inference of CISPA is that it will allow intelligence officers to share national security information with entities like Google when it is “consistent with the need to protect the national security of the United States” to do so. Those receiving the data must have a security clearance, and the bill also grants higher-ranking intelligence officials to expedite the process of individuals receiving the clearance. Right off the bat, this opens up the possibility of government preference. Quid pro quos could abound if one company is less reticent with user data than another. Amendments to the bill attempted to address this concern, saying that the government could not share its data on the basis of user information being acquired, but by then the bill had received a crushing blow of disapproval from the Obama administration.

The bill specifically prohibits an organization receiving the threat information from sharing it with any other entity. This is counter-intuitive to the best practices in cyber security, for the more active members of the community aware of a given problem, the faster its solution will be found. It also raises the possibility that a vulnerability detected independently could then be classified by the government and the “uncertified” entities in possession of knowledge of it could then be in breach of CISPA.

It further prevents lawsuits from being taken against those organizations who co-operate with the government when their decisions may adversely affect their users or otherwise. “Acting in good faith” not withstanding, this could easily lead to situations where companies took new, privacy-destructive actions against their users in response to “national security threat information” but the users are stripped of their legal recourse. Providing immunity to its chosen few is a scary proposition which, if passed, could set a precedent for future technology bills which might enable companies to act unethically and get away with it. That which is legal is not always ethical, but so it goes.

Ambiguously, the bill seems to authorize companies to be on the lookout for certain kinds of content. While it specifically refers to violence and child pornography (2C1A), later changes could be made on the fly after the bill is passed which expand to all kinds of content. When speaking of national security, the radical movement is often a target, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine them adding some sort of “seditious language” clause to the same section covering kiddie porn. Further, there are already so many laws on the books dealing with the problem of digital child pornography that this seems very specifically a means of garnering support rather than a feature of the legislation.

What CISPA Doesn’t Do

CISPA does not make the Internet safer for this journalist, for the reader, or for anyone else. It does not make the nation safer. It does not expand government powers in the right direction (if any expansion is truly necessary).

Most importantly, CISPA would not have prevented the Sony Pictures attack, which the best informed of security researchers feel was definitely a domestic act. Going back a few years, we see that the FBI orchestrated much of the activities of LulzSec in 2011, and it was around this time that the government wanted CISPA the first time. Now we’ve all witnessed the actions of Lizard Squad, brash and extremely defiant, and CISPA comes back from the dead, a zombie that should be resting in the same crypt as the Corwin Amendment.

Is it still the realm of conspiracy theorists, after history has given us the Gulf of Tonkin and incidents like it, to think that perhaps the federal government was behind this one too? That would explain why the FBI is insisting North Korea was behind the attack in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. We have all the makings of a new encroachment on digital liberties. It’s getting tiresome.

Images from Shutterstock.

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Breaches

Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet

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Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.

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Massive Data Breach

According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.

The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.

At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.

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“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”

Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.

Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp

The Fall of Uber?

Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.

The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.

Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”

Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Cybersecurity

The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency

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For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.

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The Pirates Are At It Again

The Pirate Bay has been caught using software called Coinhive, a JavaScript library that essentially serves as a cryptocurrency miner. It basically connects to visitors’ computers to mine Monero, one of the world’s most profitable cryptocurrencies.

The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”

Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.

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Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.

CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors  know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.

“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.

The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.

Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally

The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.

Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.

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Breaches

Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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