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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Apple-FBI encryption dispute intensifies with Facebook, Twitter extending support


Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc, two of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies, on Thursday backed Apple Inc’s refusal to help the FBI break into an iPhone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino attack, saying that complying would set a dangerous precedent for privacy.

It took two days, but the companies’ entry solidifies a small but powerful band of tech giants supporting Apple in its quest to buck government demands that it says would irreparably damage security and erode consumer trust.

Among the first to come to Apple’s defense was its chief rival. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc’s Google tweeted in support of Apple on Wednesday.

Apple’s Tim Cook opposes courts order to help FBI unlock California shooter’s iPhone
1/5 Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy

— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
3/5 We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders

San Bernandino Shooting: Judge asks Apple to help FBI break into shooters’ phones — sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
Microsoft too on Thursday said regulations need to keep pace with rapidly changing technology to secure and protect privacy of individuals.

“Governments have a fundamentally important role in striking a balance between privacy and security. We want to live in a world where the public is safe and where privacy rights are secure. Governments need to strike a balance especially in democratic societies,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith told reporters.

However, some companies are staying mum. For instance, Yahoo Inc has yet to weigh in on the case.

In characteristic fashion, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey used the service itself to lend support to Apple CEO Tim Cook, tweeting “We stand with Tim Cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership).”

We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)! https://t.co/XrnGC9seZ4

— Jack (@jack) February 18, 2016
In a statement, Facebook said, “We will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems.”

The case has intensified the rift between tech companies and law enforcement over the limits of encryption. And law enforcement groups have been vocal about their support for the Justice Department.

The Court has given Apple 3 extra days to file a response to the order to unlock the iPhone belonging to San Bernandino shootings suspect, according to a CNBC report.

Although some firms have remained silent, the industry is firmly on Apple’s side, said Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud-based storage provider Box Inc.

“Companies choose to use their political capital when it is really important or relevant to them,” Levie said. “If individually pressed you would see the same message from essentially any Internet or hardware or enterprise software CEO or company, and that’s because the fundamental security model of our technology would break if you were to comply with this kind of order.”

Levie said he unequivocally supports Cook’s stance.

“The whole grounds on which Apple is standing on are just super important,” he said.

At the center of the case is an iPhone used by Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded 22 in a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California.

The young married couple sympathised with Islamic State militants, and government investigators want the data on the phone to learn more about their activities the day of the shooting and their contacts with either accomplices or Islamic State.

Apple’s Cook had said the court’s demand threatened the security of Apple’s customers and had “implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

Violent crash between Earth and young planet formed Moon


The Moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a “planetary embryo” called Theia about 100 million years after our planet formed, a new study has found.

Scientists had already known about this high-speed crash, which occurred almost 4.5 billion years ago, but many thought the Earth collided with Theia at an angle of 45 degrees or more – a powerful side-swipe.

The study substantially strengthens the case for a head-on assault, researchers said.
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Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) analysed seven rocks brought to the Earth from the Moon by the Apollo 12, 15 and 17 missions, as well as six volcanic rocks from the Earth’s mantle – five from Hawaii and one from Arizona.

The key to reconstructing the giant impact was a chemical signature unveiled in the rocks’ oxygen atoms. Oxygen makes up 90 per cent of rocks’ volume and 50 per cent of their weight.
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More than 99.9 per cent of Earth’s oxygen is O-16, so called because each atom contains eight protons and eight neutrons.

However, there also are small quantities of heavier oxygen isotopes: O-17, which have one extra neutron, and O-18, which have two extra neutrons.
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Earth, Mars and other planetary bodies in our solar system each has a unique ratio of O-17 to O-16 – each one a distinctive “fingerprint.”

“We don’t see any difference between the Earth’s and the Moon’s oxygen isotopes; they’re indistinguishable,” said lead author Edward Young, a UCLA professor.

The fact that oxygen in rocks on the Earth and our Moon share chemical signatures was very telling, Young said.

Had Earth and Theia collided in a glancing side blow, the vast majority of the Moon would have been made mainly of Theia, and the Earth and Moon should have different oxygen isotopes, he said.

A head-on collision, however, likely would have resulted in similar chemical composition of both Earth and the Moon.

“Theia was thoroughly mixed into both the Earth and the Moon, and evenly dispersed between them. This explains why we don’t see a different signature of Theia in the Moon versus the Earth,” Young said.

Theia, which did not survive the collision was growing and probably would have become a planet if the crash had not occurred, Young said.

Another interesting question is whether the collision with Theia removed any water that the early Earth may have contained.

After the collision – perhaps tens of millions of year later – small asteroids likely hit the Earth, including ones that may have been rich in water, Young said.

Collisions of growing bodies occurred very frequently back then, he said, although Mars avoided large collisions.

The research was published in the journal Science.

Twitter may help monitor disaster damage in real time


Social networks such as Twitter may be used for monitoring, assessing and even predicting damage caused by natural disasters in just a few hours, a new study has found.
“Twitter, the social network which we have analysed, is useful for the management, real-time monitoring and even prediction of the economic impact that disasters like Hurricane Sandy can have,” said Esteban Moro Egido, from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in Spain.

The researchers, including those from from National Information Communications Technology Australia and the University of California in San Diego, analysed Twitter activity before, during and after Hurricane Sandy which, in 2012, caused more damage than any other storm in US history, with an economic impact in the region of USD 50,000 million.
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Hundreds of millions of geo-located tweets making reference to this topic were collected from fifty metropolitan areas in the USA.
“Given that citizens were turning to these platforms for communication and information related to the disaster, we established a strong correlation between the route of the hurricane and activity on social networks,” said Esteban Moro.
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The data relating to social network activity was examined alongside data relating to both the levels of aid granted by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims.
Researchers found a correlation between the mean per capita of social network activity and economic damage per capita caused by these disasters in the areas where such activity occurs.
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In other words, both real and perceived threats, along with the economic effects of physical disasters, are directly observable through the strength and composition of the flow of messages from Twitter.
Researchers verified the results obtained from Hurricane Sandy and have been able to demonstrate that the same dynamic also occurs in the case of floods, storms and tornadoes; for example, whenever there is sufficient activity on social media to extract such data.
In this way, communication on Twitter allows the economic impact of a natural disaster in the affected areas to be monitored in real time, making it possible to provide information in addition to that currently used to assess damage resulting from these disasters.
Moreover, the distribution space of the event-related messages can also help the authorities in the monitoring and evaluation of emergencies, in order to improve responses to natural disasters.
The study was published in the journal Science Advances

Google Search embraces the feed, but don’t call it social


San Francisco: Years ago, Google built a social network separate from its prized asset, web search. The effort failed. Now, it is trying again—only this time, it’s turning its search engine into something that looks a lot like the news feed of a social network.

The Alphabet Inc. unit is introducing a tailored feed of news, entertainment and myriad web content based on users’ searches, YouTube video views and other personal information. It’s an expansion of an older mobile service called Google Now. Yet some new bells and whistles—information from local trends and an ability to “follow” public figures, for instance—give Google’s search feed a similar feel to the algorithmic stream of Facebook Inc.’s ‘News Feed’.

That feature has helped Facebook capture online attention like few other companies.

“We want people to understand they’re consuming information from Google,” Sashi Thakur, a Google engineering vice-president, told reporters. “It will just be without a query.”

Google has long been interested in making its search more personal and proactive. When users are logged into to their Google accounts, search results are already heavily personalized.

Google Now attempted to provide similar relevant information like sports scores and driving directions before people typed queries, but it hasn’t been as popular as other services from the company, such as traditional search, Maps and the Chrome browser

The company is looking to bring it to mobile web browsers, although it didn’t say when.

That means the web’s most valuable real estate, Google.com, could one day look like a personalized news feed, rather than just an empty white box waiting to be filled with a question or keyword.

Still, Google’s new search feed won’t behave exactly like social networks, according to company executives. That includes Google Plus, the costly and now skeletal effort to create a direct Facebook competitor.

“This feed is really about your interests and what you are doing,” said Ben Gomes, a veteran Google search executive. “It’s not really about what your friends are interested in.”

The lack of a popular, rolling stream of online content, has been considered one of the few weak points in Google’s business, fuelling frequent takeover speculation of tinier social network Twitter Inc.

Gomes said the new feed will not include paid content at the onset, but did not rule that out in the future.

With a feed, Google could command more user time inside search.

That’s been a concern as Facebook and other mobile apps have grabbed more of the time people spend online.

Cyber Security In India – To Breach Or Not To Breach !


India suffered its largest data breach last month that was exposed to public only on October 19th when State Bank of India (SBI) blocked 0.6 million debit cards. Later, the news broke that about 3.2 million debit cards across major banks that include ICICI, HDFC, AXIS and YES bank had been potentially breached by hackers.

The breach had occurred at the ATM machines serviced by the Hitachi Payment Services. As per media sources the breach happened because the respective ATM machines were infected by a malware. Who did this? Nobody knows as of now! But there are many who have reported unauthorized transactions from their accounts that have been traced to foreign countries.

A forensic investigation of the breach is underway and the details will be known only when the report is issued. Whether we (public) will come to know of the details of the breach will depend on the magnanimity of the government and the banks. This is because there is no breach disclosure law in India that mandates the banks to wilfully disclose information concerning all breaches, although the day is not far when such legislation will be enacted as it has become a norm in most cyber aware countries.

However, one learning that we need to take from this breach that neither government nor banks would share is that India would continue to be targeted by the hackers and the attacks are only going to increase and become more sophisticated in future. This is because the rise of digital economy is not serendipitous but rather an anticipated outcome of human advancement in science and technology.

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A particular aspect of this change is the increasing number of cashless transactions that are taking place in Indian payment eco-system. People now like to purchase things from e-commerce websites, like to pay their bills online, carry debit/credit cards instead of cash; and as the dependency on technology advances, the cyber crime will also advance; become more frequent, complex and sophisticated.

There is little doubt that the life of an average consumer has become easy owing to the cashless services but what’s ignored by the banks and the consumers themselves is the negative fallout of a cashless economy. The financial institutions invest less on security of their assets and information than they spend getting more business to achieve the annual targets.

Similarly, the average consumer is hardly aware of the number of ways he/she can be scammed or robbed of his/her sensitive financial data, which in turn is used for stealing his/her identity or making fraudulent transactions. Even the banking staff is mostly unaware of the basic security threats and risk mitigation strategies they need to follow.

The primary reason behind such a state of security infrastructure of Indian financial system is the lack of cyber awareness and information sharing. The private sector is nowhere close to where it should be in cybersecurity because except by a very small number of banks, no information sharing is being done among the public and private sectors.

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At the same time, the threat landscape is continuing to evolve with recent DDoS attacks on western networks, and spear phishing campaigns weaponized to deliver credential stealing malware, destructive malware and ransomware. Although Indian companies have not experienced it closely, in the past decade or so, the damage caused by cyber attacks has grown from brand reputations and account takeovers to brining down critical infrastructure to its knees.

As India marches on the path of development, it will face new challenges related to securing its infrastructure. The ask is simple – in such a high-risk environment, security teams need to be proactive.

It can be done by investing in information sharing and joining networks like Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) to share threat and vulnerability information with peer banks, conduct contingency planning exercises, and enhance collaboration among other banks and with other critical sectors, like telecommunication, power, and transportation, who financial sector depends on to run its operations.

Finally, situational awareness is the factor that is indispensable to resilience of the banking and payment eco-system. There is a growing consensus on making “cyber situational awareness” a sine qua non force for combating cybercrime.

In simple words it means empowering bank employees with events in cyberspace so that they can identify and detect the signs of cybercrime in real time and take effective steps to prevent, respond and contain it. Unless, these loose ends are fixed, the adversaries would continue to have a field day in breaching banks and stealing sensitive information.

(Disclaimer: This is a guest post submitted on Techstory by the mentioned authors. All the contents and images in the article have been provided to Techstory by the authors of the article. Techstory is not responsible or liable for any content in this article.)

About The Author:

Anuj Goelanuj-goel is the co-founder of Cyware; a cybersecurity awareness platform with a mission of enhancing security culture by strengthening situational awareness and building a common, shared knowledge of cyber threats. Previously, Anuj worked at Citigroup in New York as the head of global strategy and planning covering information security and anti-money laundering. Anuj has several awards and accolades to his credit including Citi Dazzle Award in 2012 & 2014. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and the Sigma Xi. He also served as an executive committee member of the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council and has been cited in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.

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