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Friday Cyber News, December 11 2015

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 12/5 - 12/11:

1. One response to the recent terror attacks in France is a proposal to block Tor and free wifi. China already does so, which provides a model. A US proposal to require tech companies to report terrorist activity on their platforms is drawing concerns from privacy groups, who worry about pushing policing duties onto tech companies. FBI Director Comey counters that it's not a technological issue, or a privacy issue, but a business model issue. [Vice; CS Monitor; FCW]

2. A Michigan study of how people learn about information security and form patterns of secure--or insufficiently secure--behavior can inform educational methods and UI design to improve security outcomes. For example, links between information about protective measures and generalized threat terms like "hacking" seem to be missing. [Oxford Journal of Cybersecurity]

3. The last time a reporter claimed to have unmasked Satoshi Nakamoto, the Deep Throat--or Nicolas Bourbaki--of the Bitcoin world, it was just a man who happened to have been born with that name, and who had to call the police after photos of his home were posted online and his car was followed. This time, the evidence is more persuasive, but the Australian identified as Satoshi has already had his home raided by the police. (Satoshi holds a lot of Bitcoin, and of course hasn't been paying taxes on it, which he may or may not be required to do, depending on the definition of currency in his jurisdiction). [Wired; Gizmodo]

4. Criminals are using Uber, Tinder, and AirBnB to set up car thefts, robberies, burglaries, and worse. If the app doesn't do background checks on its users, or provide adequate insurance if a sharing economy asset is stolen, use caution. On the other hand, your smart car can snitch on hit-and-run drivers, and in the future might report an Uber kidnapping in which it was involved. [Fusion; ZDnet]

5. Mobile health data from Fitbits, heart monitors, and smartphones can provide more detailed and accurate data than surveys, such as those underlying the Framingham Heart study. They can also use monitoring data for your benefit, when paired with new apps to help users stop smoking or combat other cravings. Integrated apps can guess when you're stressed by pulse signals from your smartwatch, and use your GPS to determine when you're in a location, like a bar, where you might be tempted to smoke. The app then sends a reassuring message or reminder about your goals, and how far you've come. [Science]

6. Teaching AI to learn in the same way a baby does combines observation, imitation, and a probabilistic model for innovation. [The Atlantic]

7. An app from the MIT Media Lab with the wonderful name "Reality Editor" allows you to connect smart devices just by tracing circuits between them. The insight of its developers, that a truly smart home would turn up the thermostat at the same time as it puts the kettle on, is simple but conceals a great deal of futuristic functionality. If you have some smart devices at home, you can actually download the functioning app now. []

8. One in five Americans reports being online "almost constantly", the better to read this newsletter. Eric Schmidt argues we can use that time online to do more--to combat censorship, help those in need, and build a better community that protects itself against violence. [The Atlantic; NYTimes]

9. The latest challenger to Yik Yak is called After School, which requires users verify they are high school students by linking a Facebook profile and has been plagued by the cyber bullying, misguided comments, and anonymous threats of every other online platform for anonymous teen speech. [Washington Post]

10. Google revealed this week that quantum annealing on the D-Wave quantum computer is ~10^8 times faster than simulated annealing on a non-quantum computer. The long game here is factoring; if quantum computers like the D-Wave can factor large numbers much faster than traditional computers, they can disrupt some of the encryption algorithms commonly in use. These results don't show that--the D-Wave is not faster than the best "classical" algorithm--but improvements to the qubit arrangements used could lead to a strong advantage. [ArXiv; h/t George]


Stanford Cyber Initiative