Keeping Sources Secure


Birgit Püve for The New York Times

How do you keep communications with sources secure?

❝ Before moving to Europe this summer, I spent about a decade covering national security and intelligence in cities like Washington, so I’m pretty security conscious. Before I left, a friend who works in intelligence offered a gentle reminder that most countries would probably consider me fair game for intelligence collection.

So I use a cheap Chromebook when traveling to places where curious eyes might be tempted to sneak a peek. I set it up with a burner account, and I never connect it to any personal or business accounts.

And all those note-taking apps? If I’m working on something particularly sensitive or talking to someone who is sticking his neck out by meeting with me, those notes often don’t get saved digitally. When the story is done, the notebook gets tossed and that’s the end of it.

RTFA and check out what Matt uses/does when he’s not in Total Invasive Security Fear Mode.

Photos from the retail apocalypse


Visits to malls declined by 50% from 2010 to 2013Click to enlarge

The retail apocalypse has descended on America.

❝ More than 3,800 store s are expected to close across the country this year. Department stores like Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney, and retailers including Toys R Us, BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Bebe have decided to close dozens of stores.

A new survey by commercial real estate company Reis found that malls are emptier than they have been since 2012…The vacancy rate in regional and super-regional malls hit 8.6% in the second quarter, up from 8.4% in the prior quarter.

❝ With vacancy rates continuing to rise, walking through a mall in 2018 is like walking through a graveyard.

Not a big fan of Business Insider. They’re often guilty of letting demented editors title articles as if they were written by click-bait pimps. I’m likely to skip a noteworthy article because of obvious overblown presentation. This piece is an exception.

Feds Drop a Child Porn Case Rather Than Give Up a Hack


FBI Headquarters

❝ The Department of Justice filed a motion in Washington State federal court…to dismiss its indictment against a child porn site. It wasn’t for lack of evidence; it was because the FBI didn’t want to disclose details of a hacking tool to the defense as part of discovery. Evidence in United States v. Jay Michaud hinged at least in part on information federal investigators had gathered by exploiting a vulnerability in the Tor anonymity network.

In other words, the feds are letting an alleged child pornographer free so that officials can potentially catch other dark-web using criminals in the future…

❝ For years now, federal investigators have used hacking tools to undermine the Tor anonymity network and identify suspects attempting to conceal their identities and actions. These Tor exploits help federal law enforcement agencies investigate serious crimes, particularly child porn rings on the dark web, that would otherwise be difficult to prosecute. But the DOJ will apparently go to extreme lengths to protect the disclosure of those exploits, raising new questions about the boundaries of investigative hacking…

❝ All that’s certain is that the feds have dropped a case against an alleged child pornographer, with some unknowable trade-off down the road.

Actually a tough question for law enforcement. Beyond the boundaries of the usual prosecutor. Interesting to see where this leads. If anywhere.

Younger adults more likely than seniors to prefer reading news

guardian-online

❝ When it comes to technology’s influence on America’s young adults, reading is not dead – at least not the news. When asked whether one prefers to read, watch or listen to their news, younger adults are far more likely than older ones to opt for text, and most of that reading takes place on the web.

❝ Overall, more Americans prefer to watch their news (46%) than to read it (35%) or listen to it (17%), a Pew Research Center survey found earlier this year. But that varies dramatically by age. Those ages 50 and older are far more likely to prefer watching news over any other method: About half (52%) of 50- to 64-year-olds and 58% of those 65 and older would rather watch the news, while roughly three-in-ten (29% and 27%, respectively) prefer to read it. Among those under 50, on the other hand, roughly equal portions – about four-in-ten of those ages 18-29 and ages 30-49 – opt to read their news as opt to watch it.

Most of that reading among younger adults is through digital text rather than print. About eight-in-ten (81%) of 18- to 29-year-olds who prefer to read their news also prefer to get their news online; just 10% choose a print newspaper. The breakdown among 30- to 49-year-olds is similar. News readers who are ages 50-64, on the other hand, are more evenly split between a preference for the web (41%) and print paper (40%), while those 65 and older mostly still turn to the print paper (63%).

❝ There is also evidence that younger adults who prefer to watch their news are beginning to make the transition to doing so on a computer rather than a television. While 57% of 18- to 29-year-old news watchers prefer to get their news via TV, 37% cite the web as their platform of choice. That is far more than any other age group, including double the percentage of 30- to 49-year-old news watchers.

Just a little bit of info; but – interesting. I wonder what the average education levels are in the comparison populations? More cultural factors – effects as much as causes – should be worth noting in Pew’s inevitable follow-on studies.

Why visit your boyfriend in the slammer when you can chat online?

Arizona mother Cathy Seymour’s 16-year-old son was arrested in August 2013 for allegedly shooting a detention officer to death and was charged with first-degree murder as an adult and held in a jail.

Now she uses her laptop and a video link to spring him from maximum security detention in the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix, take him on a virtual tour of some of his favorite places and visit with family and friends.

“If there’s Wi-Fi and you have a laptop, you don’t have to stay in your home,” she says of the recently installed pay-per-view system that links a video terminal in the jail to her laptop at a cost of $5 for 20 minutes.

“His favorite spot is McDonald’s, so we went to McDonald’s … I’ll show him, like, the street … He gets to see other people … He gets to see my mom and dad and church,” said Seymour, who spoke to Al Jazeera America on the condition that her son not be named.

She is among thousands of family members nationwide using pay-per-view video chats to connect with loved ones who are incarcerated. The technology is gaining traction in jail systems across the U.S. in a push by the for-profit prison industry to monetize inmate contact.

At the end of 2014, 388 U.S. jails — about 1 in 8 — offered pay-per-view video visits, and the service was also available in 123 prisons, according to a study by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative (PPI).

Since the report was published in January, the PPI has become aware of at least 25 additional jails that have implemented the technology. Once video visitation systems are in place, most jails eliminate in-person family visits, securing a captive market for private firms. Seven companies dominate the market, and for 20 minutes, they charge from $5 in Maricopa County, Arizona, to $29.95 in Racine County, Wisconsin…

For Seymour, the pay-per-view video visits help her maintain a relationship with her teenage son, with whom she shares as many as four video chats a day. “He’s in an ugly place now … I don’t agree with the sheriff on much, but there is benefit to it,” she said of the system…

The boom in for-profit video visitation is also transforming the way lawyers work with their clients. Some criminal defense attorneys, like Marci Kratter in Phoenix, find much to like.

Before the system went live in November, Kratter had to drive to a jail, park, sign in and go to a visitation area to wait for her client in what she described as an “at least a two-hour ordeal.” Now with video visitation, “it’s 20 minutes. You do it from your desk … As far as rapport building goes and trust, when you can check in with [your clients] every week, they know you’re thinking about them.”

RTFA. Many variations on the theme – as you would expect. A predictable number of jailers are more interested in vacuuming every last greenback from the wallets of relatives, friends, lawyers. Some are more interested in security. You ain’t smuggling in smack or a cell phone over an internet connection.

There is a lawsuit started by defense attorneys in Travis County against Securus, the sheriff’s office and other county officials. It charges that video visits were used to illegally record attorneys’ confidential calls with their clients…using the info gained against clients and other prisoners. I’d be shocked, shocked I tell you – if something like that actually happened.

Y’all know how deeply we trust law enforcement in America. Right?

Who can sort out your online world after you shuffle off this mortal coil?

image

Facebook…has finally decided how to handle the photos and friend requests of its deceased users. In Facebook’s settings, people can now appoint a friend or family member to be in charge of their legacy. The person gets to make one last public post, download all their loved one’s Facebook photos, and respond to friend requests.

The decision was applauded by estate planners—especially because it gets around the issue of needing a password to get into people’s accounts. Yet it doesn’t solve all the problems around online information after death.

For example, what happens if a user dies, and family members want to see private messages to get clues about whether it was a suicide? Using their password to get into the account, which is banned by Facebook’s terms of service, would violate federal privacy laws, says James Lamm, a principal at a Minnesota firm in charge of estate planning. Appointing a legacy account handler on Facebook also isn’t legally binding and doesn’t transfer any of the intellectual property on videos or poetry the person may have posted, he said.

For attorneys such as Lamm…the infrastructure of the digital world has created countless barriers for clients seeking to access bank accounts, find answers surrounding a death, or simply collect all the memories they can about the person they lost. Passwords, terms of service, encryption, and cloud storage all complicate the search for information required after a death.

Inconsistency – therefore uncertaincy – remains through the breadth of online providers. The article goes on to note a few and makes suggestions. My own unqualified advice is to sort out reponsibility, administrative rights, by assigning someone the rights to your intellectual property just as you would with real property.

It’s a new world; so, a new set of questions has to be answered. As usual in our society, the questions become pointed when dealing with something of value.

Michigan city to remove law against willfully annoying people

On our way!

A law forbidding willfully annoying another person is about to be removed from the Grand Rapids, Mich., city code, the city attorney said…”It’s unconstitutional in terms of being vague. It’s simply unenforceable,” Catherine Mish, city attorney, said of the 38-year-old law.

The City Commission is expected to strike the wording from the code, the Grand Rapids Press said Tuesday, noting assault, battery, molestation and endangerment of life remains illegal.

Mish has been scouring the city code for archaic rules worthy of removal.

She said the law against disobeying a police officer does not apply to motor vehicles, apparently making it legal to keep driving if pulled over by a police officer.

The law against leaving a restaurant without paying is also muddy, Mish says, noting such cases are currently prosecuted under existing language that prohibits people from taking or removing property not their own.

She has not, however, proposed a change in a 1960s-era law prohibiting the carrying of guns in the city, an ordinance that has prompted demonstrations by gun advocates, the newspaper noted.

I am sometimes accused of willfully annoying people – online – though never accused of being a troll. My habit of pointing out ignorance of history, law, philosophy and science certainly pisses off the expected sector of political animals often in possession of a sixth-grade education at best. The rest of those I tend to offend often have a second-rate ideology they’re stuck into defending for what reason I can’t guess.

I’ll have to peer into New Mexico’s often out-of-date legal code and see if I should be worrying about one more political arrest on my rap sheet. This time for annoying some True Believer, True Local or other.

Meanwhile, the core answer I seek with my questions is significant. Are reactionaries generally stupid or ignorant.

Liberty Reserve + cyber-criminals = largest international money-laundering prosecution in history

The Liberty Reserve digital money service that was shut down laundered more than $6 billion in criminal cash, US authorities have said…Weekend police raids in 17 countries scooped up Liberty Reserve’s owners, operators and its computer hardware. The Department of Justice said it was the “largest international money-laundering prosecution in history”.

Liberty had about a million users and processed more than 55 million illegal transactions, said DoJ court papers.

The documents allege that seven people involved in running Liberty Reserve set up the digital cash service as a “criminal business venture” designed specifically to “help criminals conduct illegal transactions and launder the proceeds of their crimes”.

The raids in the US, Spain, Costa Rica and other countries led to the arrests of five of Liberty Reserve’s principals, including its founder Arthur Budovsky.

The service’s operators will face charges of money laundering and operation of an unlicensed money transmission system. Also arrested were many of the principal operators of exchanges that fed cash to Liberty for distribution to members of criminal gangs or as the start of the laundering process…

In addition, it said, 45 bank accounts used by the service have been seized and action has been taken to take over the assets of 35 other sites that fed funds to Liberty Reserve for laundering…

Liberty Reserve was so successful that it became a “financial hub of the cyber crime world“, whose users were involved in credit card theft, investment fraud, hacking, child pornography and drug trafficking.

The shutdown has caused problems for legitimate users of Liberty Reserve, said Mitchell Rossetti, head of the EPay Tarjeta service that piggy-backed on LR.

“Thousands upon thousands of LR users are not nor have been involved in illegal activities,” he said, “but now have become victims through the closure and seizure of LR.”

I continue to be amazed how thoroughly greed outweighs self-preservation in criminal enterprise. There were many warning signs the Feds were closing in on Budovsky – who had already been through the same process with a previous money-laundering operation last decade. He set-up shop in Costa Rica presuming that distance and a change in citizenship was sufficient to protect his criminal bank.

I understand the legitimate concerns about honest users worried over getting their money back. But, folks, if you did half the homework you would have done in picking out someone to repair your car – you should have realized this crowd was crooked.

VW switches on largest solar park at a US auto factory

vw-chattanooga-solar-farm-2-960x480

This mostly is a VW press release; so, forgive the first person language. It’s still an achievement.

In December 2011, the Volkswagen plant near Chattanooga, TN was certified LEED Platinum. That’s a difficult level to reach – as we described at the time – but the one billion dollars the company spent there fit snugly into the VW corporate storyline: we’re going to make cleaner cars at cleaner plants. We’re going to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 percent (between 2006 and 2015). We’re going to make sure our production facilities are 25 percent more “environmentally compatible.” We’re going to Think Blue.

No other factory, so far, has achieved the Platinum award.”

Today, VW made good on one important piece of its LEED Platinum promise: generating its own clean energy. The huge new solar park that was turned on today was always part of the Chattanooga plan, but its official start marks one more way that VW is at the forefront when it comes to building cars cleanly…

Located just a short bus ride away from the factory, the 65-acre solar park (33 of which are the solar panels themselves) is the largest single array in Tennessee. It is also the largest solar park at a US auto factory. It is made up of 33,600 individual solar panels that together generate 9.58 megawatts of DC power (that’s at the panels, it’s 7.6 MW of AC power going into the plant) and 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity a year. That’s 12.5 percent of the plant’s power needs. In CO2 terms, this means emissions are reduced by 6,675 tons a year, or the amount that 360 average US homes would generate.

VW currently builds the Passat in Tennessee, and last year – the first year of full operation – the company built 152,546 vehicles there, beating the target of 145,000. While most of these are sold in the US, some are exported to our North American neighbors as well as South Korea and the Middle East. The solar park is international as well, since VW partnered with Phoenix Solar, a German solar company with operations around the world, and Silicon Ranch…

Wolfram Thomas, Group Chief Officer for the Environment, Energy and New Business Areas, said today that, “All our 100 plants are to be environmentally optimized. All our plants must become 25 percent more environmentally compatible.” We look forward to seeing how this all plays out, wherever the sun shines.

Good for you, VW. Corporate monsters round the world talk a lot about environmental goals. Nice to see one put their money where their mouth is.

Dr. Google is as popular as ever — can real doctors adapt?

It’s easy to dismiss the Internet as a risky place to look for health information. As HealthTap founder Ron Gutman joked the first time we met, ”On the Internet, every headache becomes a brain tumor in four clicks or less.”

If you’ve ever done an online search for an unfamiliar ache, you can probably relate: That weird pain in your side could mean appendicitis, food poisoning or pregnancy. That nasty rash on your arm could be poison ivy, a spider bite or cancer.

But despite “Dr. Google’s” shortcomings and concerns about so-called cyberchondria, the Web – and search engines in particular – remains a top destination for people seeking out health information. The Pew Internet & American Life Project this week reported that about a third of U.S. adults have gone online to look for health information. And, eight in 10 Internet users say their last health-related search began with a search engine – a figure that has not changed since Pew last asked that question in 2000, despite the rise of social media, health-specific content sites and startups.

The report also found that those health searchers are reaching diagnoses that their doctors disagree with about one-fifth of the time…

A few studies have attempted to evaluate the reliability of search engines but with mixed conclusions…On one hand, the Web can help direct people to valuable information and studies that even their doctors may not be aware of. But search engines alone don’t give people enough ways of gauging a source’s reliability or providing the context they may need to make the most of sources that are actually good…

Tools that connect doctors with patients in HIPAA-compliant digital environments are growing – HealthTap, for example, helps patients directly ask doctors questions online, and Ringadoc lets people consult physicians via video conference. But they’re just beginning to appeal to doctors who are willing to define their roles and organize their time differently.

As mobile adoption grows and digital natives age, a doctor willing to email you and curate online information isn’t just going to be a nice to have — for many, it will be a need to have.

That’s Heussner’s conclusion. The majority of doctors I’ve run into in recent years have been skeptical of absolutely anything I might learn online. With two exceptions. One is a dentist I’ve been seeing as needed for over a couple of decades. He knows me pretty well, knows my interest in science and medicine and the sources I read. The other is more recent – my dermatologist. But, he’s as much of a geek as I am and we share discussions on new findings in medicine in general. Along with geek topics, politics and the future of humankind. A delight.

The rest of the time? The response usually runs 110% negative.