Obama sticks with BlackBerry due to security risks
President Barack Obama's administration is likely the most tech savvy the United States has seen, but the Commander in Chief can't rely on the best selling smartphone in the world for personal use. In a summit at the White House today, Obama revealed that he cannot use an iPhone for official business due to "security reasons." The President still uses a BlackBerry in the course of his daily duties, but even that device is quite limited in what it can be used for.
Skype traffic in China flows directly through Microsoft servers
Microsoft has moved to a new partner for providing Skype in China, one that could help improve privacy in the region. The messaging service will now be operated by Guangming Founder instead of TOM Online, with some reports suggesting that the move could potentially offer greater protections to users in China from monitoring by the country's government.
Requests up by more than 100 percent since 2010
Google has released its latest Transparency Report, detailing government requests for user data during the first half of the year. Such requests have more than doubled since Google released its first report in July 2009, totaling 25,879 for the six-month period, though the company notes that "these numbers only include the requests we're allowed to publish."
Apple claims to have never received a Patriot Act request for user data
Apple has published a report on US government and law enforcement information requests that have been submitted to it. The report provides statistics on requests related to customer accounts, as well as those related to specific devices, limited by legal restrictions applied to it regarding disclosure.
Spying scandal forces UK government to take caution with mobile devices
The British government is combating the overreaching electronic surveillance by intelligence agencies by banning tablets from closed door meetings, according to reports. A number of iPads used during a presentation to the Cabinet were allegedly seized shortly after it had concluded, for fear that they may be used to listen in on private and secret governmental conversations.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter memo over spying concerns
A group of technology companies has asked members of the UK government that there needs to be a debate about Internet surveillance. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter have jointly written a memo to Members of Parliament (MPs) calling for more transparency in requests for information by government-controlled organizations, such as GCHQ.
Request to monitor e-mail escalated to threats of fines, jail time
Encrypted e-mail service Lavabit was pressured by the FBI to provide private SSL keys for all of its traffic, according to unsealed court documents that provide more details about the service's shutdown. The Texas e-mail provider's refusal to provide details about one specific account, believed to be that of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, forced the courts to threaten daily fines and possible imprisonment if it continued to disobey the FBI's order.
Companies claim violation of First Amendment
The federal government has promised to issue a response to legal challenges from Google and Microsoft by September 30, following multiple delays and a renewed push by the companies. The ongoing dispute centers around Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) rules that prohibit the companies from disclosing how many national-security data requests they have been asked to fulfill.
Company highlights its FISA challenge
Yahoo has published its first global transparency report, outlining raw statistics surrounding government requests for user data in the first half of the year. In an accompanying blog post, Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell criticized the US government and highlighted the company's two-year legal challenge against the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Legal blog shuts down due to lack of privacy in e-mail
Legal blog Groklaw has shut down, citing the potential monitoring of e-mail by the NSA and other government organizations. The closure by founder Pamela Jones makes Groklaw the latest site to close its doors in the wake of the ongoing domestic surveillance scandal, following behind encrypted e-mail service provider Silent Circle and Lavabit.
Edward Snowden's use of the service attracted federal and NSA attention
Encrypted email service Lavabit has shut down, reportedly due to pressure from the US Federal government. Citing legal fallout from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's use of the service during his confinement in the Moscow airport, founder Ladar Levison closed the service -- saying that a Congressional gag order prevents him from disclosing more details about what specifically led to his decision to close.
Chinese firm under more espionage-related scrutiny in UK government proposal
One of the adult content filtering systems being used at a large Internet service provider (ISP) in the UK has come under fire in reports, due to close ties with the Chinese government. Homesafe, the filtering system used by TalkTalk and praised by Prime Minister David Cameron in his online child protection proposal speech earlier this week, is being managed by Huawei, a company that has been accused of being a security risk by authorities in both the United Kingdom and the United states.
Content filters in UK to be set on by default, search engines given filtering orders
New Internet connections in the United Kingdom will have adult content filters applied to them before the end of the year, unless account holders opt out, according to Prime Minister David Cameron. The move is accompanied by a number of other similar measures, including requests for search engines to take more responsibility for filtering content, and proposed changes to existing laws.
Statement from executive follows claims from ex CIA boss, UK government
Huawei has fought back against security risk accusations by authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom. Huawei vice president of external affairs William Plummer has said in a statement that it is time for those accusing the company of helping state-sponsored hackers in China to provide proof of their claims.
Government database taken offline after sensitive data found
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has leaked tens of thousands of Social Security Numbers (SSNs). The security failure stems from the government agency failing to adequately redact sensitive details held in a new online database, listing the filings of Section 527 political organizations in what is called a $1.5 trillion non-profit industry.
Messaging tools could be in violation of Saudi laws
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has issued orders to its regulatory bodies to ensure that communication tools like Skype and Whatsapp comply with the government's stringent requirements governing Internet communications. The kingdom's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) announced last week that it had "become evident that some communication applications through (the) Internet don't meet regulatory requirements." The regulatory body did not, though, specify which laws certain apps might be violating.
Part of strange campaign against foreign-owned companies
China's government may be nervous that the population's growing dependence on foreign-made products could undermine its control, and has recently embarked on a state-run media campaign against large western corporations that dominate the commercial landscape in urban China, including recent attacks on Apple. Though a recent social networking "whisper campaign" against the iPhone maker backfired badly, the smear campaign continues in the Communist Party-run People's Daily newspaper.
President and officials consulted on issue last week, plan to allow unlocking
The White House has issued a response to the successful We The People petition. A statement issued earlier today confirmed that the petition response brought together experts from the entire governmental spectrum who "work on telecommunications, technology, and copyright policy," and the White house agrees with the expert and petitioners that consumers should be able to unlock cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties, calling it "common sense" and "crucial for protecting consumer choice."
Discussions could see console ban lifted in near future.
The Chinese government may reverse its ban on video game consoles in the future. Ministerial figures are reportedly discussing lifting the ban, put in place in the year 2000 in order to protect the physical and mental development of younger members of the population, which could open up the Chinese market for gaming products from Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, and others.
Community events to use released government data to help nation
The White House has announced an event that will encourage US residents to make use of government data. The National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1-2 will see 27 cities play host to community events where publicly-released data will be used to create "solutions for problems that affect Americans."
Team of 20 officials raid factory, operations continue unhindered
A factory in India that makes Nokia phones has been raided by tax authorities, according to reports. The Finnish mobile phone manufacturer's factory in Chennai was raided by 20 officials, with authorities claiming that taxes amounting to 3000 Crore INR ($542 million) have not been paid by the company to the Indian government.
Internet governance pressure point forced withdrawl from talks
Representatives of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom are refusing to sign a treaty relating to Internet governance. The three countries all objected to the International Telecommunications Union treaty, refusing to sign anything that would allow "all states to have equal rights to the governance of the Internet."
High Tech Spectrum Coalition formed to spotlight issues
The High Tech Spectrum Coalition, a 'supergroup' of technology companies led by Apple and Samsung, petitioned Congress on Tuesday to provide more broadcast bandwidth for smartphones and tablet computers. The sent letter encourages the House and Senate technology committees to evaluate auctioning some of the spectrum currently in use by the federal government.
NASA, FBI, Interpol, others attacked by hacking group
Hacking collective GhostShell has released 1.6 million accounts and records claimed to be from various company and governmental agency systems. A total of 37 different organizations are said to have been attacked by the group, with the resulting data being released as raw data dumps on paste sites such as Pastebin and PasteSite.
Unanimous vote to protect current Internet regulations
The US House or Representatives has voted unanimously to keep the Internet "free from government control." The passing of a Senate resolution to oppose United Nation control of the Internet comes while the International Telecommunications Union conference, to decide the Internet's future regulation, is in progress in Dubai.
Cyber Emergency Response Team, Cyber Reserve to start in 2013
The UK government is updating its Cyber Security Strategy by creating two computer-related bodies of people. A Cyber Reserve of computer technicians will work with the military to fight online threats is being set up, as well as a task force geared towards helping defend businesses and public sector organizations from similar attacks.
Smuggled equipment used to bypass phone lines, cell networks
It has been revealed that Syrian rebels have resorted to using Skype to communicate with each other during the recent country-wide Internet outage. The messaging and voice-calling service was used alongside stockpiled equipment and a satellite connection so as to communicate with others around the country as well as overseas, despite government efforts to stop this from happening.
Internet, telecommunications disrupted as fighting escalates
Syria is cut off from the Internet, according to an access monitoring firm, in what is being seen as a bid for censorship by the local government. All 84 of Syria's IP address blocks are currently unreachable, "effectively removing the country from the Internet," and appears to be linked to the current battle between the country's armed forces and Syrian rebels.
Continued requests to keep details confidential ignored by government
More details about Amazon's UK tax affairs have been released to the public by the British government, despite requests for secrecy. The ongoing Parliament's Public Accounts Select Committee released details supplied by the retailer relating to taxes, with the provided evidence showing that a total of £1.8 million ($2.9 million) in corporation tax was paid in 2011.
Supplied sales information requested to remain confidential
Amazon has released details on its Black Friday and Cyber Monday Kindle sales, calling the two days the "best ever for the Kindle family." The figures are released at the same time as confidential sales figures for the company's UK operations were published by a parliamentary committee investigating its British tax affairs.
Failed registrations face 20-percent loss of application fee
Objections have been made to a number of generic top-level domain (gTLD) applications. The ICANN Government Advisory Committee, consisting of 50 countries, has posted an initial list of 250 objections where member countries claim there to be an issue with the gTLDs being registered. Rejected applications will receive 80-percent of their $185,000 application fee.
Remarks given at business meeting in Norfolk, VA
Just a week after a major policy speech on Internet security in front of a New York business group, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that cyberspace is the battlefield of the future, with organized groups of attackers assaulting financial institutions and developing the power to assail US power grids and government systems.
Gmail block had led to parliamentary complaints
Authorities in Iran have unblocked access to Google's email service, it was announced today. Access to Gmail had been blocked last week in protest over a YouTube video that had been deemed blasphemous by religious leaders. Reuters reports that the reversal came partly as a result of complaints from officials within Iran's own government, and Iranian officials now claim that the blocking of Gmail was unintentional.
Evaluating plans for purchase, consolidation, future sale of spectrum
In February, Congress passed legislation allowing the FCC to re-allocate wireless spectrum by acquiring it from television broadcasters. The three-phase plan to re-acquire bandwidth has entered the rule-making process on Friday. The reverse auction process will allow the FCC to rearrange the remaining broadcasters to make larger blocks of spectrum available for other uses, such as existing wireless internet technology, or other future technologies. Unallocated spectrum will be placed up for auction, with the government expecting to make more money on the auction that it did buying the bandwidth freed by the shift to digital broadcasting. The FCC is seeking public comment on the details of the plan.
Insulin pumps, defibrillators capable of killing patients
According to a Government Accountability Office report, wireless medical devices vulnerable to remote control by hackers are proliferating, and should come under greater government oversight. Devices with wireless connections potentially vulnerable to attack include insulin pumps, pacemakers, defibrillators, and neurosurgical implants.
President of Brazil Operations arrested over political YouTube videos
Fabio Coelho, president of Google's Brazilian operations, was arrested today in São Paulo after the search giant failed to comply with a court order to take down a YouTube video. As the BBC reported, a Judge ordered Coelho's arrest yesterday, and Brazilian site G1 confirms that Federal Police took Coelho into custody today. Coelho will not remain under arrest, according to the police, but will be released upon signing a document in which he commits to obey a subpoena.
App to provide constantly updated economic statistics
The US Census Bureau has released its first ever mobile application. Dubbed America's Economy (Mobile, Tablet, Google Play), the app will provide constantly updated statistics on the US economy, including economic indicators, trends, and a schedule of upcoming announcements The new service forms part of the Census Bureau's efforts for data openness, following the government's Digital Strategy project.
Some agencies remain leery of cloud migration, holding off
Microsofthas announced Office 365 for Government, its version of cloud productivity software. The specific government version of the suite released in July 2011 uses specific government-only encryption and storage to help soothe concerns about privacy and data security. Other than the government-level encrypted storage, Office 365 for Government is the same as regular Office 365, keeping Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and the other Office web apps in the cloud, but giving the option of installing a desktop version of the Office 2010 suite as well.
Obama order forces agencies to make two public apps each
President Barack Obama has ordered all major federal agencies to make more services available on mobile devices in the next year. The administration wants to increase governmental technology use, with agencies ordered to make services available for public access within 12 months. The news comes at the same time as reports that the US Navy will add LTE capabilities to three of its ships, allowing Android smartphones to be used out at sea.
Apple 11th place among tech firms
Politico reports that Apple has spent only $500,000 on federal lobbying and associated governmental programs thus far in 2012. By contrast, political action committees (PAC) formed by Google have dropped $5 million, and a separate Microsoft PAC has doled out $1.8 million in the same time period. Sources within Washington suggest that Apple will have a rocky road with DC lawmakers unless they start building a "Washington brand."
Joint Cellcrypt and Verizon service by Fall
Verizon and Cellcrypt are collaborating to supply the US government with secure mobile calling capabilities. The government-grade encrypted voice calling service is aimed to be marketed to military, intelligence, and civilian agencies in the fall as a currently unnamed co-branded service.
Waits until after formal announcement
The government's regulatory body on telecommunications and computer equipment, the FCC, has officially approved the new products announced today at Apple's event in San Francisco. The updated, 1080p-capable Apple TV, and three versions of the new iPad (Wi-Fi only, AT&T LTE and Verizon LTE) have been cleared for sale in the US. The reports included teardown pictures of the Apple TV but not the new iPad models.
Move believed to be due to security concerns
The Air Force Special Operations Command has reportedly canceled its immediate plans to acquire several thousand iPads. The command is said to have removed its request from the Federal Business Opportunities website just days after Nextgov raised concerns over the government's inclusion of Russian-developed GoodReader software as part of the purchase.
Company still faces opponents
Just one week after a leaked draft of a government report pointed to ongoing interference problems with LightSquared's network, the US Department of Defense and Department of Transportation have issued a joint statement echoing the concerns. The agencies claim the network will not interfere with cellphones, however it has demonstrated "harmful interference to the majority of other tested general purpose GPS receivers."
Firm up to $1.8M in reported spending
Apple has spent around $1.8 million on lobbying the federal government through the third quarter of 2011, figures filed with the U.S. House of Representatives' clerk's office show. While third-quarter spending, at $460,000, was down significantly (42 percent) from the $790,000 it spent in the second quarter, it is up 35 percent from the year-ago third quarter of 2010.
Legislators to limit spyware distribution
Legislators are currently drafting a bill that aims to impose export restrictions on software that can be used by foreign governments to monitor citizens or censor Internet content. Republican Representative Chris Smith, the bill's sponsor, suggests such legislation is necessary to help prevent certain governments from using American-produced software to quash political dissent.
Brief order points to the Fourth Amendment
United States District Judge Lynn Hughes has issued an order that bars law enforcement agencies from obtaining cellphone tracking data without first obtaining a warrant. The judge argues that the government cannot use the Stored Communications Act as a legal justification to force cellular carriers to relinquish cellphone location data without probable cause.
Switching to tablets may save money
Two more US federal agencies -- the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service -- are evaluating iPads as replacements for notebook computers and other computer tasks, according to PDFs obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. While no final decision has been reached yet, the Forest Service appears to be planning to deploy iPads beyond the test program beginning in the middle of next year, while the BLM is currently at an earlier stage of evaluation.
Company discloses thousands of user accounts
Google claims to have refused government requests to remove videos showing police brutality, however the search giant complied with the vast majority of inquiries regarding user data. Law enforcement agencies in the US made a total of 5,950 requests for user data between January and June, involving more than 11,000 separate accounts, marking a significant year-over-year increase.
4G upgrades said to start with pilot groups
Motoroola and Verizon are reportedly set to begin LTE upgrades for the Xoom tablet, however the initial rollout is said to be limited to business and government accounts. Unnamed sources have told Droid-Life the companies will be providing LTE upgrades to the pilot groups over the next two weeks, ahead of availability for the general public.