Skip to content Skip to navigation

Friday Cyber News, August 26 2016

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 8/20 - 8/26:

1. Baltimore is the first large-scale US testing ground for persistent surveillance systems--cameras in the sky--that can be rewound to track the progress of crimes, and perhaps also monitor civilians and protestors. Related: an Israeli security startup provided exploits for Apple devices, some of which were used to allow governments to spy on activists, and forensic investigations revealed that a Turkish journalist jailed on terrorism charges based on digital evidence was framed: the evidence was planted on his computer. [Bloomberg; WSJ; Motherboard]

2. A deep dive into how Apple uses machine learning and AI, to improve Siri and to coordinate between Maps, the Watch, Health apps, and more. How far has AI come? Winning a Go game was a big achievement, particularly considering the history of human pain that has gone into mastering the game. And a future application, maybe for Dr. Siri: how AI could detect mental disorders. [Backchannel; LRB; Atlantic]

3. Singapore is first-to-market with self-driving cabs, through nuTonomy. The cars, a Renault and an electric vehicle, will still have backup human drivers and an engineer on board. [WSJ]

4. GCHQ provides examples of when it would use bulk hacking: cases involving national security with a foreign focus, where foreign governments cannot be relied on to cooperate in an investigation. Scenarios given include using information about the mobile devices of Syrian terrorists known to be targeting UK citizens to intercept communications from those devices. Bulk hacking might still run into problems with encrypted communications, a contributing factor to recent legislative proposals by Germany and France that would require companies to decrypt information when requested by law enforcement, and a similar proposal was made by the Canadian police. [Motherboard; CS Monitor; Naked Security]

5. The Cuban internet is updated weekly, brought to you on a USB stick, and known as El Paquete. The Singaporean internet is inaccessible to civil servants, in an effort to protect the government from cyber attacks. [Cloudflare; Guardian]

6. Putting business processes on a blockchain may provide Coasean value, but it outsources trust to the author of a smart contract rather than an employee. [Bloomberg]

7. Inside Facebook's political media machine. Whether political posts are having an effect at the polling booth or just functioning as clickbait, both content creators and Facebook are making money off of relatively unregulated political advertising. Pair with the 98 pieces of information that Facebook uses to target ads to you. [NY Times; Washington Post]

8. US cyber insurance premiums reach $1B, and the number doesn't include all policies where cyber is part of general liability coverage. The biggest issuers of policies are AIG, Chubb, and XL Group. [Business Wire]

9. All the ways your wifi router can spy on you: seeing through walls, identifying body shapes and arm gestures, and providing a Marauders' Map of frequent locations. [Atlantic; CSAIL]

10. We return now to the demesne of the online teenager--what is she doing on social media? Which apps is he using to read the news? How does she--paramount goal, Sisyphean pursuit--stay connected? For up there, up there in the vastness of the internet, in the void that is cyberspace, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the cloud waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting, in the Twilight Zone. [Wired]

P.S. Interested in how to evaluate cyber threats, and want to learn more at SXSW? Vote for a panel with the Cyber Initiative, R Street, the Mercatus Center, and TechDirt: More interested in how to identify psychopaths in Silicon Valley? Vote for our colleague Jeff Hancock's panel: Jeff is a professor of Communication here at Stanford, and will be joined by a social scientist, a venture capitalist, and a clinician.

Thanks for reading,

Stanford Cyber Initiative

(To suggest an item for this list, please email This email contains links that may not work if HTML is not supported in your mailbox. You can view news from past weeks, subscribe, and unsubscribe at