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Iran Learned From NSA Cyber Attacks

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Iran suffered from one of the most sophisticated cyber attacks in 2010, when the National Security Agency and other U.S. and Israeli operatives implemented a virus worm on Iranian nuclear power plants—named Stuxnet—destroying one fifth of its main nuclear centrifuges.

Even though the Stuxnet attack has been documented as one of the most sophisticated and hard to spot attacks, the Iranian intelligence force managed to notice it before all of the work on nuclear material had been corrupted.

Following the attack, Iran started investing more time into cyber warfare, learning from the Stuxnet attack and utilizing the same code on Saudi Aramco in 2012. Iranian cyber forces have also been responsible for attacking hundreds of companies worldwide, in the U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea and other countries with DDoS (denial of service) attacks.

These attacks are normally used to steal private information about infrastructure or anything relating to the government, and the Tehran unit normally uses evasive measures to block any traces back to Iran.

In a recently leaked NSA document from whistleblower Edward Snowden, a report says the NSA are worried about Iran’s continued investment in cyber attacks, claiming it is learning from earlier attacks on Iran.

Iran is noted as one of the most dangerous countries for cyber attacks in the world, on the same level as China, Russia and the U.S. for potential damage. It is also the most active out of the four, using several tactics to steal information and damage infrastructure in several countries.

Continued attacks might lead to more NSA intervention, but in the past five years Iran has gained a lot of information on cyber security, making it harder for anyone to attack Tehran without being noticed by the defensive unit.

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Twitter’s Big Harassment Problem — How To Fix It

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Twitter has a major abuse problem, allowing hate groups and angry trolls to torment individuals on the microblogging site for mere opinions they hold. This readily available platform has become populated by users who think hateful comments can stay online without any sort of punishment, and for the most part Twitter has stayed on the sidelines.

In a leaked memo Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo showed the first signs of big change coming to reduce the amount of a abuse on the site. Costolo failed to disclose how the team will handle the problem however, meaning whatever is coming might not be enough to stop the overall abuse on the social network.

It is harder to tackle abuse that one would think, especially considering the low barriers to entry Twitter has compared to a service like Facebook or Google+. Google and Facebook could have your phone number, place of residence, work and friends, Twitter is much more flexible and doesn’t even need your real first name.

The lack of authenticity is already an issue, but sites like Reddit and YouTube have the same anonymous identities, the difference is Twitter is primarily a social connection while Reddit is news aggregation and YouTube is video content watching.

One of the most obvious ways for Twitter to fix it is to fight its users, openly blocking abusive user’s IP. This will make sure no further accounts are made (without the user owning a VPN client) and lowers the risk of repeat attacks from the same user.

Twitter can also work with social authorities in the U.S. and Europe, considering the average age of a “troll” is quite young. Having this connection could allow Twitter to make sure children are educated on respect and normality on the internet.

Either of these would help, although the former would be much more effective. The problem is Twitter might go overboard with bans, blocking user’s IP for small things. Hopefully, if Twitter hires an actual support team, they will be able to deal out warnings to different users, to make sure they understand the severity of the situation before blocking them from the service.

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Google Developing Taxi Service To Rival Uber

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Google is reportedly developing a taxi service to rival Uber, following failed negotiations to strike a partnership with the main taxi service, Bloomberg reports.

The taxi service would work mostly in the same way as Uber, Google would hire drivers; give them a cut of the income and offer a payments and review service on the mobile application. The difference is this would connect to Google Maps and other Google services, unlike Uber which sits in its own ecosystem.

It wouldn’t be the first time Google has decided to go against one of its previous investments, after spending $258 million on Uber in early 2013. Since then, Uber has went on to push into Europe, and now claims more revenue than the entire San Francisco taxi market combined.

Even if Google enters the taxi market, it is not an instant win for Google, in fact the search giant will need to pull its weight if it ever wants to reach the heights of Uber. Many customers are fine with Uber as a service—despite the negative PR—and will not easily let go of the service.

Google is also competing against well funded rivals Lyft and other potential upstarts. Regulations could also hurt Google, where Uber has fought them off with large capital from two $1.2 billion funding rounds.

The end goal for Google is to offer a full autonomous taxi service, utilizing its own self-driving vehicles for taxis. This is a worry for Uber, who spend millions on taxi drivers every day, which bump the prices of taxi rides up.

Once Google gets its self-driving cars on the road in 2020 and offer much lower taxi rates, it might be lights out for Uber, however the startup service is apparently already investing in robotics and engineering.

Uber will also work on self-driving taxis, but it is not confirmed if they will hit the 2020 launch date for autonomous cars.

Google has $50 billion in the bank, and if it sees the taxi market as worth more than a simple application it might spend billions to win over Uber customers.

Source: Bloomberg 

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syrian-electronic

The Syrian Electronic Army is just one of Assad’s electronic armies, and while the SEA works on shutting down reports criticizing the Assad regime, another group is working on finding rebel movements and plans through cat-fishing techniques.

A report from security firm FireEye—the security team that worked on the Sony Pictures hack—claims the Syrian hackers are using an age-old malware attack to lure Syrian rebels into chatting and disclosing information.

Originally popping up on Skype and other networks as a mysterious girl, the hackers will keep conversation going for a few hours before sending photos to the target, filled with malware to compromise the computer and steal information.

This cat-fishing technique has allowed the Assad regime to learn about rebel plans, also intercepting rebels communications and potentially outing rebels in the capital. The malware has been implanted in 13,000 computers, but there is no solid number on how many of those people were Syrian rebels.

To any seasoned user of the internet, this might seem like a dull way for a rebel operative to be caught in the action, but a lot Syrians only recently managed to get internet communications—the internet is still quite young in the country.

Coupled with the fact the rebel force is heavily backed by the youth of Syria, unhappy with the current state of the nation, it shows why these online hacks are so potent against the rebels. The rebels have used the same tactics to a lesser effect against the Assad regime.

The Syrian civil war might have died down a bit in the West, but over in Syria it is still blazing both offline and online.

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Bill Gates Claims Artificial Intelligence Is A Threat

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Bill Gates has confirmed in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) that artificial intelligence is a threat, claiming he is in the same camp as other chief executives like Elon Musk and scientist Stephen Hawking.

The comment comes a few weeks after a petition for more AI research was signed by executives at DeepMind, Google, Facebook and the two aforementioned people. Musk also paid $10 million to fund the research, clearly convinced AI could harm humanity.

Gates does not seem as worried as Musk, but nevertheless he said on Reddit:

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well,” Gates wrote. “A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Artificial intelligence is currently used on virtual assistants like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, and Microsoft is reportedly working on a ‘Personal Agent’ that can help sort and remind the user on all types of things.

Robots are a questionable area for artificial intelligence, considering the amount of work fields robots could take over. If the AI becomes self-thinking, it could also change the way the world works.

There is still over 20 years until any major issues in AI crop up, but adding regulation, security and encryption onto AI services could be useful, to stop the future generation of companies abusing the different functionality of AI.

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iphone-6

Apple has announced its quarterly earnings report for Q1 2015 and the results are even better than expected.

The iPhone is the king of the earnings, Apple sold 74 million units worldwide, beating its previous record. Even though Apple did not disclose the individual sales, it is highly likely the iPhone 6 sold more units than any other smartphone over the quarter.

In Asia, Apple noticed huge gains in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sales, alongside continued growth in the United States, Western Europe and Latin America. More iPhones were sold in China than the United States across all of 2014, for the first time.

Raw numbers show Apple had the best quarter of any company ever, with $74 billion in revenue and $18.4 billion in net profit. Both announcements beat the various oil and gas companies holding the records, showing Apple’s complete dominance.

To put this into perspective, Apple’s iPhone business alone generates more revenue than Google and Microsoft combined, noted as the second and third place technology firms.

Apple is in a better situation since it sells all of the hardware, while Microsoft and Google leave that to OEM partners. It is also reaping in the rewards of a popular marketplace for iOS, although iTunes sales are still declining and Apple Pay isn’t even 0.01 percent of the total revenue.

Even though Apple’s portfolio looks excellent, there is always “next year” when Apple needs to once again win over customers, or face drops in stock price and consumer interest. While Google and Microsoft have been able to create markets through various software and service, most of Apple’s revenue is tied to its hardware business, and the continued success of said hardware business.

Still, Apple is the most popular and relevant brand in the world, so it doesn’t seem like the hardware business will disappear any time soon.

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waze-police

Google owned traffic service Waze has been under fire by the National Sheriffs Association, due to a feature allowing people to scope out police patrols in the area and potentially avoid or stalk the police.

Waze offers various traffic warnings, including weather, congestion, real-time traffic, roadblocks, crashes and police vehicles. Most of the content is user generated, allowing the community to update users on real-time events on the road.

Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff for Southern California, claims Waze’s police tracking feature may allow criminals to avoid patrols and can potentially be used to hunt down police. Kopelev claims this has already happened, when a man managed to track down a police officer through the Waze app, before dumping the phone to hide evidence.

Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County supports Kopelev’s demands for Google’s Waze team to remove the feature, due to the threat to police officers. The National Sheriffs Association will ask Google to follow procedure, but it is not clear if Google wants to make this change.

Since Waze is still based primarily in Israel, it might be void of U.S. laws, but Google’s ownership ties it into U.S. laws, however there is currently not a law against notifying people about police cars in the area.

Some privacy advocates claim the feature should stay installed, but question how much information Waze already provides to the U.S. government, especially since it is now owned by Google.

This information on real-time traffic and updates may be valuable to U.S. authorities, and Google has a rather poor track record when it comes to privacy and security—most recently getting put in hot water over WikiLeaks employee emails.

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uk-surveillance

The UK government has tried to slyly add more surveillance laws into the House of Lords, pushing 18-pages of the Communications Data Bill, a law rejected in 2012 due to its aggressive and broad surveillance implementations.

The Communications Data Bill looks to add way more surveillance and warrantless access to information than currently available, allowing the government and police authorities to tap into a nationwide network of messages, game chats and other private communications.

Currently in the UK, authorities must provide a warrant to the ISP (internet service provider) before gaining access to basic IP address, date and time online. The authority must show the warrant to different companies (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to gain information on the specific user.

This is the right way to work around, even though reports say the GCHQ would simply find the information through illegal surveillance if a warrant could not be attained. The GCHQ used this surveillance and hacking to even attack journalists, putting investigative journalism on the same level as terrorism in threats to the UK.

Lord Blair pushed the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (CTSB) with the Communications Data Bill inside, Lord Carlisle, Lord King and Lord West all supported the notion, even with the additional surveillance entries.

It is rather disheartening to see neither Labour or the Conservatives argue with surveillance, because both of these parties seem fine with radical surveillance on all sorts of communications, removing security and privacy barriers set up to protect citizens.

Liberal Democrats have been a voice for good, but ever since the coalition between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, the Lib Dems have lost a lot of power in Parliament and in the public eye. The Greens seem to be against mass surveillance, although the party has not given a mass oversight on the issue.

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