Tagged: Microsoft

Microsoft confronts the DOJ and Congress over global privacy


Some folks think this is up-to-date

American law enforcement officials cannot get evidence located in other countries without the help of foreign governments. But can an American company be ordered by a court to turn over information stored on computer servers located in another country? The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York will consider that question this week in a narcotics case in which federal prosecutors want access to a Microsoft email account stored in Ireland.

The case raises difficult questions about the reach of domestic law and the Internet’s global nature. It also points to significant gaps in American laws, which do not address how data stored abroad should be treated. Congress passed the Stored Communications Act, the law at issue in this case, in 1986, when few people could have foreseen cloud computing or imagined that businesses would operate data centers around the world that store messages and documents of Americans and foreigners alike.

I certainly hope you don’t think the lazy bastards we elected would keep up-to-date with changing technology and legal responsibility. Some of these clowns still haven’t figured out civil rights or having a commitment to the whole electorate.

Microsoft is asking the court to quash a warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in December, contending that it cannot be compelled to turn over information located in its Irish data center because American law does not apply there. It argues that to obtain information stored in Ireland, the Justice Department needs to go through the legal-assistance treaty between that country and the United States. Other companies, including Verizon, AT&T and Apple, and public-interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s position.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is fighting Microsoft, argues that going through foreign governments would be far too cumbersome and would allow criminals to evade American law by storing information about illegal activities on foreign servers.

Not much more detail needed. The crux of the case is privacy protection which can affect all of us.

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Microsoft trying to patch security flaw encompassing Internet Explorer 6 through Internet Explorer 11 — WTF? — UPDATED

IESucks

Microsoft is rushing to fix a bug in its widely used Internet Explorer web browser after a computer security firm disclosed the flaw over the weekend, saying hackers have already exploited it in attacks on some U.S. companies.

PCs running Windows XP will not receive any updates fixing that bug when they are released, however, because Microsoft stopped supporting the 13-year-old operating system earlier this month. Security firms estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of the world’s PCs still run Windows XP.

Microsoft disclosed on Saturday its plans to fix the bug in an advisory to its customers posted on its security website, which it said is present in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11. Those versions dominate desktop browsing, accounting for 55 percent of the PC browser market…

Cybersecurity software maker FireEye Inc said that a sophisticated group of hackers have been exploiting the bug in a campaign dubbed “Operation Clandestine Fox…”

“It’s a campaign of targeted attacks seemingly against U.S.-based firms, currently tied to defense and financial sectors,” FireEye spokesman Vitor De Souza said via email…

He declined to elaborate, though he said one way to protect against them would be to switch to another browser.

Microsoft said in the advisory that the vulnerability could allow a hacker to take complete control of an affected system, then do things such as viewing changing, or deleting data, installing malicious programs, or creating accounts that would give hackers full user rights.

Gee, is that all? Is there anything left to steal or compromise?

When Apple introduced the Mini, I took that as the occasion to experiment for the first time with Apple’s operating system OS X. After 22 years in the IBM and Microsoft environments.

Never looked back.

UPDATE: Homeland Insecurity now advises all Americans to stop using Internet Explorer till a Microsoft fix!

Facebook and Microsoft funding rightwing lobbyists

Some of America’s largest technology and telecoms companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and AT&T, are backing a network of self-styled “free-market thinktanks” promoting a radical rightwing agenda in states across the nation, according to a new report by a lobbying watchdog.

The Center for Media and Democracy asserts that the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella group of 64 thinktanks based in each of the 50 states, is acting as a largely beneath-the-radar lobbying machine for major corporations and rightwing donors.

Its policies include cutting taxes, opposing climate change regulations, advocating reductions in labour protections and the minimum wage, privatising education, restricting voter rights and lobbying for the tobacco industry.

The network’s $83.2m annual warchest comes from major donors. These include the Koch brothers, the energy tycoons who are a mainstay of Tea Party groups and climate change sceptics; the tobacco company Philip Morris and its parent company Altria Group; the food giant Kraft; and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.

More surprisingly, backers also include Facebook and Microsoft, as well as the telecoms giants AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon…

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Fox News’ new giant screens are lower resolution than an iPad

News anchor Shepard Smith proudly demonstrated a remodeled “Fox News Deck” featuring massive, expensive new 55 inch touchscreens sold by Microsoft. However, the giant new screens have much lower resolution than even a 9.7″ iPad.

Smith beamed in showing off how Fox had, at considerable expense, revamped its news anchor sound stage to include actors manipulating at least ten of the massive new displays, each of which sells for around $7,100.

The displays are sold by Microsoft, which last year acquired Perceptive Pixel, the manufacturer of the giant touchscreens. The screen is essentially a very high quality HDTV equipped with a “projected capacitative” multitouch sensor. The screens are powered by Windows 8 and can also be navigated using an “Active Stylus,” which works like a wireless remote control.

Fox News said the month-long remodeling of its “revolutionary new studio” was performed in response to viewership changes, particularly the shifts occurring among users armed with mobile phones and iPads, many of which have ubiquitous data service…

Smith added, “we had to completely overhaul the way our news gathering works.” However, the “brand new tools to track developing stories,” that Smith said Fox was installing on stage for viewers to observe actually convey far less information that a typical pair of 17 inch computer screens.

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Our government opposes request to reveal spying demands

The U.S. Justice Department has told a secret surveillance court that it opposes a request from technology companies to reveal more about the demands they receive for user information, according to court papers released on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the federal government and companies such as Google have gone on for months, and while U.S. spy agencies said they plan to be more transparent, they have opposed company requests to disclose more detailed data…

Microsoft, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Facebook are among the companies seeking permission to publish statistics about the extent of the demands placed on them.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, using former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a source, reported beginning in June the companies’ deep involvement with U.S. surveillance efforts.

The companies said some of the reporting was erroneous, so they want to reveal, for example, how many of their users are encompassed in surveillance demands and the total number of compulsory requests under specific laws.

The Justice Department said in its response: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

The surveillance court has not yet ruled publicly on the companies’ request.

RTFA if you honestly feel you need to read the crap the DOJ released as an answer to the questions raised in this confrontation.

Frankly, I think the average 6th grader has heard sufficient phony-baloney press releases read on the evening news by TV talking heads to be capable of coming pretty close to reproducing the excuses offered by any group of American politicians.

Microsoft and Google sue US government over NSA gag order

Microsoft and Google may sue US government to allow them to publish user data request from the government after talks with the Justice Department stalled.

The tech giants filed suits in a US federal court in June, arguing a right to make public more information about user data requests made under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The technology giants agreed six times to extend the deadline for the government to respond to the lawsuits, the Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, wrote in a blog post.

“With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely,” he posted on the blog.

“To followers of technology issues, there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart,” Smith said. “But today our two companies stand together… We believe we have a clear right under the US Constitution to share more information with the public.”

“…we believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email,” Smith said.

He argued that, along with providing numbers of requests, disclosures should provide context regarding what is being sought.

“We believe it’s possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk,” Smith said.

A government that says it needs to keep secret the activities supposedly protecting us is a government that fears democracy, fears an informed public, fears the spirit of the United States Constitution.

Our government has a gag order on banks, on corporations, on service providers – our government has threatened to jail librarians for refusing to cooperate with spying on library patrons. The stink is spreading. Every attempt by the Obama administration to justify their “legalizing” of criminal practices started by Bush and Cheney deserves nothing less than contempt.

The fightback must continue.

From Goldman Sachs to Microsoft – corporate support for gay civil rights puts pressure on backwards politicians

Support for gay marriage by companies as varied as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and Starbucks is gathering steam to change policies in states that bar same-sex couples from tying the knot.

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions on June 26 heartened supporters of the cause while showing an increased willingness of business to back the effort. In one case, more than 200 companies signed a brief against a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples. Five years ago, only a handful had lobbied against California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages, the target of the high court’s other decision…

State legislators stand to feel the heat as more businesses speak out against laws in states including Texas, Florida and Michigan that recognize only heterosexual marriage. While fewer than half the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 are based in states that allow gays to wed, most already have policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Companies do have the choice where they locate, where they set up shop,” said Kellie McElhaney, founding faculty director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California Berkeley. Local policies on sexual orientation “will eventually become part of the choice process…”

Goldman Sachs and Expedia are among businesses gearing up to support a federal bill to prevent workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation. Of Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent include orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and more than 60 percent offer domestic partner health benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Companies moved ahead on providing health benefits for same-sex couples and adopting nondiscrimination rules since the 1990s just as Congress went in the opposite direction to approve the federal government’s rejection of gay marriage in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Now, corporate America is pushing for uniform laws that protect against workplace discrimination, said Edith Hunt, Goldman Sachs’s chief diversity officer…

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Ex-Microsoft manager plans first public U.S. marijuana brands

MicropotXP

A former Microsoft executive plans to create the first U.S. national marijuana brand, with cannabis he hopes to eventually import legally from Mexico, and said he was kicking off his business by acquiring medical pot dispensaries in three U.S. states.

Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft corporate strategy manager, said he envisions his Seattle-based enterprise becoming the leader in both recreational and medical cannabis – much like Starbucks is the dominant name in coffee, he said…

Shively laid out his plans, along with his vision for a future in which marijuana will be imported from Mexico, at a Thursday news conference in downtown Seattle.

Joining him was former Mexican President Vicente Fox, a longtime Shively acquaintance who has been an advocate of decriminalizing marijuana. Fox said he was there to show his support for Shively’s company but has no financial stake in it…

Shively told Reuters he hoped Fox would serve an advisory role in his enterprise, dubbed Diego Pellicer after Shively’s hemp-producing great grandfather…

Shively said he ultimately plans to create separate medical and recreational-use marijuana brands. Shively said he also plans to launch a study of the effectiveness of concentrated cannabis oil in the treatment of cancer and other illnesses.

Worth a modicum of discussion. I see this only as a symptom of “early days” in the removal of marijuana from the Prohibition ideology of American politicians, priests and pundits.

For me, it’s just a chuckle that a former MSoft exec who made his mark hustling a crap OS to corporate IT plans to make this his new frontier. Har.

And, BTW, all the major tobacco brands already have their portfolio of trademarked brand names sorted – along with growing fields, etc.. You’re only kidding yourself if you think they won’t jump in when the heavy lifting is over.

Microsoft and Symantec disrupt another cyber crime ring

Software makers Microsoft and Symantec said they disrupted a global cyber crime operation by shutting down servers that controlled hundreds of thousands of PCs without the knowledge of their users.

The move made it temporarily impossible for infected PCs around the world to search the web, though the companies offered free tools to clean machines through messages that were automatically pushed out to infected computers.

Technicians working on behalf of both companies raided data centers in Weehawken, New Jersey, and Manassas, Virginia, on Wednesday, accompanied by U.S. federal marshals, under an order issued by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

They seized control of one server at the New Jersey facility and persuaded the operators of the Virginia data center to take down a server at their parent company in the Netherlands, according to Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel with Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit.

Boscovich told Reuters that he had “a high degree of confidence” that the operation had succeeded in bringing down the cyber crime operation, known as the Bamital botnet

The servers that were pulled off line on Wednesday had been used to communicate with what Microsoft and Symantec estimate are between 300,000 and 1 million PCs currently infected with malicious software that enslaved them into the botnet.

The companies said that the Bamital operation hijacked search results and engaged in other schemes that the companies said fraudulently charge businesses for online advertisement clicks…

Now that the servers have been shut down, users of infected PCs will be directed to a site informing them that their machines are infected with malicious software when they attempt to search the web.

Microsoft and Symantec are offering them free tools to fix their PCs and restore access to web searches via messages automatically pushed out to victims.

Bravo!