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Friday Cyber News, February 12 2016

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 2/6 - 2/12:

1. The White House announced its Cybersecurity National Action Plan on Tuesday, including a $19B budget request for FY 2017 (with $900K going to a cybersecurity awareness ad campaign), and the creation of a Federal Privacy Council and a government-wide CISO position. Hopefully that position would take some of the heat away from OPM head Beth Cobert. [CSM Passcode; The Hill]

2. The NHTSA, in a letter to Google, has decided that self-driving cars will be treated the same as human-driven cars--that is, that a computer will have the same responsibilities as a human driver. This goes against CA DMV regulations proposed earlier, that would require human drivers at all times. There is no consensus on how to certify that a self-driving system meets the same standards as a licensed human driver, but Google's cars are doing well so far; DMV regulations could require re-engineering, as some prototypes lack gas pedals. [NYTimes; Ars Technica; Sacbee]

3. We need more privacy measures for health and genomic data, say a consortium of researchers in a recent Genetics in Medicine article. Backing up their argument is a recent report on the privacy lapses of fitness trackers and other connected health monitors. But then how will we implement Coinami, a new cryptocurrency that uses DNA sequence alignment (which produces results that are more helpful for scientists than Bitcoin's verification steps) as proof-of-work? [Nature; OpenEffect;]

4. Facebook is trying to speed up its process to identify and remove speech promoting violence, including terrorism, after Twitter announced the removal of 125,000 ISIS-related accounts. Facebook may be too old-school for ISIS anyway; they've set up a tech help desk on the Telegram app to help supporters avoid internet surveillance. [WSJ, which is looking for a cybersecurity reporter in SF; Newsweek]

5. On Wednesday, Stanford's Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law is putting on a conference on alliances between cybersecurity, internet governance, and human rights; relatedly, this week the Human Rights Foundation launched a program called Flash Drives for Freedom, which encourages people to send in their old flash drives to be filled with media currently banned in North Korea. The drives will then be smuggled across the border--and sometimes airdropped by balloon--in an attempt to reach the average North Korean citizen. [CDDRL; Wired]

6. The way teens use social apps--in this case, Snapchat--reveals a number of friends, around 200, that corresponds very well with Dunbar's number, and the median number of Facebook friends. Excessive usage patterns, like two-second responses to snaps and 700 texts per day, may be a good economic indicator for an otherwise bubble-wary Silicon Valley. [Buzzfeed]

7. Immediately prior to releasing "typical" data about the number of its users who list multiple entire-home listings, a practice that runs afoul of NYC housing and hotel regulations, AirBnB removed more than 1,000 of those listings, to obtain a better statistic. Many listings are now coming back, and the company's fight against housing laws continues. One lesson from this story is the importance of external auditing of data, which is often difficult when data sets are proprietary. [The Awl]

8. A hacker published the email addresses and phone numbers of 20,000 FBI agents, by compromising an email account and obtaining remote access to the computer of the email's owner. While the information released was not particularly sensitive, the government continues to struggle with achieving good information security across its systems. [Vice]

9. A report from Bruce Schneier and colleagues shows that the market for encryption technology isn't solely based in the US, and that a US encryption ban would only bolster the overseas market. For what it's worth, Gmail now warns you--via a little red open lock at the top of your emails--when you're sending or receiving unencrypted communications. [Schneier; Intercept; Gmailblog]

10. Campaign advertisers use targeted analytic tools that scrape a lot of diverse data about voters--yet somehow still predict that I'm most likely to watch The Price is Right. [NYTimes]

Interested in data breaches? Join us Feb. 16th at 2pm for a seminar with the CA Attorney General's office on the 2015 CA Data Breach Report, and how AG Harris's office addresses cybersecurity and identity theft. In the Mackenzie Room (third floor of the Huang Engineering building). RSVP here:


Stanford Cyber Initiative

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