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Friday Cyber News: April 12 2019

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 4/6 - 4/12:

1. Newly evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy, Julian Assange was arrested in London this week on charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010. The charge is "based on [Assange's] alleged agreement to try to help Ms. Manning break an encoded portion of a passcode that would have permitted her to log on to a classified military network under another user’s identity," while the eviction was prompted both by Wikileaks releases that targeted national elections and by Assange's failure to clean the bathroom and look after his cat. [NY Times]

2. Your Senators and Congresspeople are in charge of legislating complicated technology that they may not understand, or even use; part of solving the problem involves resurrecting organizations like the Office of Technology Assessment, to provide unbiased advice and briefings, while another part involves providing incentives for more STEM experts to join the congressional workforce. [Washington Monthly]

3. Plans made by state, local, and tribal governments to improve cybersecurity through hiring more personnel and purchasing equipment could receive funding from DHS if a new bill introduced by Senators Warner and Gardner passes, unlike a similar bill from 2017 that never received a hearing. [StateScoop]

4. Examples of security mistakes in the implementation of large-scale government-run programs aren't difficult to find, but the story of the California DMV's automated voter registration system includes some interesting missteps, including Croatian hacking attempts, touchscreen malfunctions, employees accidentally deleting voters' data, and help hired in the eleventh hour in the form of consultants who helped fix [LA Times] 

5. No free access to the great salt data lake: "The State of Utah has become the first state in the nation to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to obtain electronic data held by third parties such as wireless providers, email providers, search engines, or social media companies." [Epic]

6. Extending the trend of bills with tortured acronyms, Senators Fischer and Warner introduced the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, to prevent websites from using dark patterns to trick users into providing personal information. The bill would create a standards body that would promote best practices for user design. The bill also prohibits "[subdividing or segmenting] consumers of online services into groups for the purposes of behavioral or psychological experiments or studies" without prior consent, which seems written to directly reference Facebook's manipulations of timelines to affect mood and behavior.[The Hill; Journal of Research Ethics]

7. Looking to prevent the spread of fake news and hate speech, Facebook announced this week that it will: "Adjust the News Feed algorithm to reduce the rank of sites that link out much more widely than they are linked to; reduce the reach of Facebook Groups whose members repeatedly share misinformation; and expand its partnership with the Associated Press to "debunk false and misleading video misinformation and Spanish-language content appearing on Facebook in the U.S." [Axios]

8. On a list of industrial activities that China's National Development and Reform Commission is looking to restrict or eliminate from the country: cryptocurrency mining, due to its environmental effects. [CNBC] 

9. Protections against browser fingerprinting and cryptomining malware are now available in Firefox. [Mozilla]

10. Exams prompted two New Jersey high school students to crash their school's wifi in an attempt to get the tests postponed. Closer to home, a Berkeley high school student committed online vote fraud in a school election by using a default password to log into his classmates' accounts to cast votes. [NJ; Berkeleyside]

Thanks for reading,


Stanford Cyber Initiative

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