Skip to content Skip to navigation

Friday Cyber News, July 22 2016

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 7/16 - 7/22:

1. As self-driving cars--or any automation technology--become more effective, at what point do we trust them, and hand over control? Studies of driver behavior indicate we do it too soon, at a point when the machines still need a human to react quickly in unexpected edge cases. [New Yorker]

2. How coups use cyber technologies, case in point: Turkey. Organized on WhatsApp, announced on FaceTime, the attempted Turkish coup recognized the power of the internet, even trying to throttle bandwidth to prevent Erdogan and his supporters from communicating. [Medium]

3. "Sewbots" are predicted to replace 90% of the South Asian garment industry, which should be great--no more sweatshops, and better trade deals. But who is making sure current sweatshop workers will be able to find new jobs that aren't exploitative, after they're replaced by tech? [Boingboing;]

4. Suppose researchers are one day able to simulate the brain on a computer. They can simulate arms pretty well now, after all. Suppose further that your brain can be scanned and then simulated indefinitely into the future, granting you a digital afterlife. What becomes of the flesh-and-blood you? Would interacting with your simulated avatar be different--or even better--than interacting with the physical being? [Atlantic]

5. China's great firewall isn't impeding its startup scene, which rivals Silicon Valley. Tech companies know the government can put regulations in place at any time, but their aims are on-demand delivery apps and combined chat-social-payment platforms, which are doing just fine behind the wall. [Washington Post, h/t Herb]

6. What are teens doing online these days? Sending their twitter and instagram passwords to celebrities in the hope they'll receive a personalized message posted directly to their account. It's not about online security, mom and dad. You wouldn't understand. They're giving more than passwords, too: the ice bucket challenge and philanthropy through social media tripled the research budget of a major ALS charity, and increased millennial giving, a typically hard-to-reach population segment. [NYTimes; New Yorker]

7. Is technology an appropriate venue for solving social justice problems? Tech's response to police violence ranged from one minute of peace-sign icons in Uber to an app in development that would allow police to videoconference with a driver during a traffic stop to avoid guns at a driver's window. It's not enough. In another social justice-motivated act of tech development, Edward Snowden and hardware hacker "Bunnie" Huang are working on an interface that would allow you to know when your smartphone is betraying you--when it broadcasts your location, or is recording what you type or ask. [NY Times Magazine;; Intercept]

8. A San Francisco judge ordered Yahoo to describe how it was able to provide old, deleted emails in a drug trafficking case, something it shouldn't have been able to do under its current data storage policies. You know who else had an old, deleted Yahoo account and would benefit from this type of forensic email excavation? Serial Season One subject Adnan Syed. [Motherboard]

9. With the help of a scanning-tunneling microscope, liquid-nitrogen chilled arrays of chlorine atoms can provide data storage so compact the entire Library of Congress could fit into the volume of a grain of salt. Highly impractical to use, currently--read/write time is on the order of hours--but a step forward for atomic-storage research. (Speaking of the Library of Congress, its migration to the internet is stagnating, providing a useful viewpoint on how we want digital information collected and organized). [Nature; nplus1]

10. I sense a disturbance in the Tors--the founder of KickassTorrents, one of the largest torrent sharing sites, was arrested and charged with distributing more than $1B in proprietary content. The ease of breaking copyright law might be contributing to an interesting trend: cyber crime has overtaken traditional crime in the UK. And if you scoffed at the Cybersecurity of Pizza report from last week's newsletter, well, hackers stole info on 600,000 payment cards from Cicis Pizzeria. [Ars Technica; Krebs; SecurityWeek]

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