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Friday Cyber News, November 20 2015

Cyber technology-related news and links from around the web, for the week of 11/14 - 11/20:

1. After horrific attacks in Paris, some governmental officials blamed encryption for stymieing the efforts of law enforcement to track terrorists' communications. Early reports erroneously indicated that Paris terrorists were communicating via Playstation 4, but the latest reports indicate the terrorists communicated over unencrypted SMS, and used a more low-tech form of security: a dialect of Arabic that wiretappers found difficult to understand. Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum explain there are better ways to cover your tracks online. [NYTimes; Politico; Intercept; TechDirt; CS Monitor]

2. A second conspiracy theory this week was that Carnegie Mellon researchers who pulled a talk on de-anonymizing Tor users from Black Hat actually sold their findings to the FBI, allowing the Bureau to unmask Tor users of Silk Road 2 later on. Tor says it happened; other academics are upset if it did; Carnegie Mellon denies the accusation. [Vice; BoingBoing; Vice; Wired; Vice; CMU]

3. A NYU study underscores the tensions workers feel when they are treated as contractors but aren't in control of the data they generate or could use to provide service, taking Uber as an example. Drivers are shown misleading graphs corresponding to rate increases or decreases, asked to provide data that would reduce surge pricing, and required to perform unpaid customer-service tasks like driving to return lost items in person. These requirements, driven by the tracking technology and software platform of Uber, change the employer-employee dynamic through information asymmetry. A second study compares this data with taxi data to show how metadata can provide a comparison of the two services. [Social Science Research Network; toddwschneider]

4. The latest in personalized medicine is an algorithm that uses data from blood sugar sensors and a mobile app to design a diet to control not just diabetes, but your personal diabetes--in the study, users' responses varied significantly, with some responding as strongly to bananas as others responded to cookies, for example. [The Atlantic]

5. Cyber analysts are turning their attention to the manipulation of data, not just its exfiltration: presenting inaccurate data to game decision-makers could be more valuable than just reading their strategy documents. [Foreign Policy]

6. Time for a periodic check of the data: is mass surveillance catching terrorist plots? Does it outperform traditional police work? [The Intercept]

7. Anonymous is finding that fighting ISIS online is as difficult as fighting them on the ground; their efforts have only managed to keep the relative online presence of ISIS stable (rather than increasing). [Vice; Vocativ]

8. Even scientific publications are being hacked: journals' domains left vulnerable can turn into money-makers when users pay publication or subscription fees. [Science]

9. Legal theorist Bernard Harcourt's new book explains why we trade our privacy for digital pleasures: “all the formerly coercive surveillance technology is now woven into the very fabric of our pleasure and fantasies.” The metaphors we use, like "surveillance state" or "Big Brother", Harcourt explains, come from a dialectic of punishment, while our experience is more that of guilty pleasures. Pair the book with this lecture text from the London School of Economics on how information technologies are ushering in postcapitalism. [New Republic; Medium]

10. Advertisers can embed a unique audio beacon in their ads, an audio tone so high-pitched that humans can't hear it, but your phone or computer can, allowing it to sync information on the ads you've seen across platforms. This just seems wrong. Think of the dogs' ears. [Silverpush]

P.S. In the Bay Area on Dec. 7th? Join us for our last Cyber Seminar of the quarter, 4-5 pm at the Huang Engineering Center's Mackenzie Room (3rd floor), to hear Cyber Initiative co-Director Professor Dan Boneh and author, researcher, and philosopher Jaron Lanier discuss the science, economics, and ethics of personal, corporate, and government data ownership. Jaron's most recent book, "Who Owns the Future?" addresses these issues, which are complicated by end-to-end encryption, tracking technologies, and differing international laws on data ownership. RSVP here:


Stanford Cyber Initiative

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