Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bill legalizing cell phone unlocking, which will allow consumers to switch carriers and keep the same phones when their contracts expire.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Monday made yet another request to the federal government for details about a crashed hard drive that may have contained information allowing criminal charges to be brought against a federal official.
Issa’s newest letter concerns the hard drive of April Sands, a former employee at the Federal Election Commission who resigned in the spring after admitting to violations of the Hatch Act. That law puts restrictions on the ability of government officials to conduct political activities while on the job, or from government offices.
Issa noted that while Sands admitted to violating the law, the FEC just recently told Congress that it could not recover her hard drive, which made it impossible to seek criminal charges against her.
“Recent information obtained by the committee suggests that the FEC OIG could not pursue criminal prosecution for the misconduct because the attorney’s hard drive had been recycled by the FEC,” Issa’s letter said.
As a result, Issa asked the FEC to provide information to his committee by July 28. That includes all documents related to the hard drive loss, and documents detailing the FEC’s practices for retaining information on computers.
The FEC is an independent agency, but Sands’ emails clearly indicated she favored Obama’s re-election in 2012. Before the election, she tweeted things like:
“Our #POTUS’s birthday is August 4. He’ll be 51. I’m donating at least $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term.” In another tweet, she said anyone supporting Republicans is her “enemy.”
“The bias exhibited in these messages is striking, especially for an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately,” Issa wrote.
At the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security today, Stuart Schechter and Joseph Bonneau plan to reveal an experiment they designed to teach people to remember very strong, random passwords. With their process, which took a total of 12 minutes of users’ time on average, about nine out of 10 test subjects were able to remember a 56-bit password or passphrase–one for which a hacker would have to try quadrillions of guesses to successfully crack the secret.
“Our goal was to show that there’s a big dimension of human memory that hasn’t been explored with passwords,” says Bonneau, a fellow at Princeton’s Center For Information Technology Policy. “They may seem hard to remember up front. But if you’re given the right training and reminders, you can memorize almost anything.”
Schechter and Bonneau recruited hundreds of test subjects from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform and paid them to take a phony series of attention tests. What they were really studying was how users logged in to those tests. Every time the login screen appeared, the user would be prompted to type in a series of words or letters on the screen. Over time that string of characters took increasingly long to appear, prompting the user to enter it from memory. More letters and words were added to it over time: After 10 days of testing, the user was required to enter a series of 12 random letters or six random words–for example, “rlhczwpsnffp” or “hem trial one by sky group” to start the test.
James Varney of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, stayed at the Hyatt Place hotel in Riverhead, NY. He tried to look at the Drudge Report, but was blocked from doing so by his hotel’s internet connection.
In fact, he tried looking at a number of conservative websites, including Powerline and Instapundit. They too were blocked. He then tried a number of liberal websites from Talking Points Memo to DailyKos. None of them had access problems.
His hotel, Hyatt Place, uses Uniguest to connect its guests to the internet.
Digging deeper, I contacted the good people of Uniguest. A cheery online chatter at their corporate website praised my question as a very good one, asked for my e-mail so he could run it up the corporate flagpole and I await that response.
I also spent some time on the phone with Hyatt representatives. Well, most of that time was on hold, actually, but I did eventually get two bright, human voices. Both of them assured me no political line was being enforced.
Neither of them knew for sure but they were quite certain it was all a matter of security – it was virus and malware that prompted the warnings and kickoffs, not a point of view.
Steve should be happy.
Tech pundit Farhad Manjoo gives us this reason, among others, to rejoice.
Facebook’s latest study proved it can influence people’s emotional states; aren’t you glad you know that? Critics who have long argued that Facebook is too powerful and that it needs to be regulated or monitored can now point to Facebook’s own study as evidence.
This is like telling a woman who was startled by a Peeping Tom while she disrobed, “Aren’t you glad you know that men can see you naked through those venetian blinds? After all, there are some creepy men out there who would love to get a peek at your birthday suit.”
The voyeur could tell the judge, “I was just peering into her bedroom to confirm that she’s at risk of being seen in the buff. I was going to call her the next day to inform her of the threat, which is now much more than conjecture.”
After reading Steve’s piece, and then Farhad’s, I’d plunk down $59.99 on a pay-per-view bout to see Green v. Manjoo in a no-holds-barred debate on this topic…and then I’d put all the rest of my nickels on Green in 3.
Federal officials can’t resolve 85 percent of 2.9 million “inconsistencies” on applications for ObamaCare even after nine months of trying, according to new data provided by the administration.
Most of the problems involve certifying citizenship and income, key components of the national health plan.
But some of the problems are downright nutty.
One unidentified state-run marketplace cited situations in which infants and young children were “erroneously identified as incarcerated, according to federal data,” the inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department revealed Tuesday.
Just 425,000 problematic applications have been resolved out of 2.9 million that states and the federal exchange reported, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told The Post.
Only citizens are eligible for ObamaCare, and only people at certain income levels are eligible for tax credits and subsidies.
But in 77 percent of the applications under scrutiny, federal records differed from what applicants submitted on those two key qualifications.
The CMS responded that the agency is “committed to verifying the eligibility of consumers who apply for enrollment in qualified plans.”
Brought to you by CGI – the one-hit-wonder of “HealthCare.gov”…
A $58 million overhaul to Colorado’s computer accounting system, performed by the same company blamed for the meltdown of HealthCare.gov, is poised to be an “epic failure,” according to an anonymous whistle-blower who spoke to Denver’s Fox 31.
The system, which is supposed to go online on July 1, isn’t ready and won’t perform as promised, the insider told the station.
Known as the Colorado Operations and Resource Engine (CORE), the system is meant to handle everything from benefits payments to taxes to vendor services, but Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler called it a “disaster in the making.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered the overhaul because the current version of the software is badly outdated.
Century Link and CGI designed the system; CGI also created the Obamacare website which performed dismally when the new health care law rolled out in October.
Snarky Lawmaker Reminds Former NSA Chief That Selling State Secrets Is Illegal
Gen. Keith Alexander, the former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, has launched the consulting firm IronNet Cybersecurity. It also may explain why a congressman has reminded the former spy that selling top secret info is a crime.
To capitalize on his recent departure from military intelligence—Alexander resigned in March following months of revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—the general is offering his security expertise to the banking industry for the fire sale price of $600,000 per month after first asking for $1 million. There are threats everywhere, Alexander warns, and “It would be devastating if one of our major banks was hit, because they’re so interconnected.”
That may be, but Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) is suspicious that Alexander has anything useful to offer at that price—unless, that is, he’s peddling national security secrets.
In letters sent Wednesday (.pdf) to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Clearing House—all of which Alexander reportedly has approached about his services—Grayson made it clear to Alexander and those who might retain him that selling classified information is illegal.
Lois Lerner: Lerner was the Washington-based head of the IRS Exempt Organizations division until her recent resignation. Lerner and her attorney husband Michael Miles live on a $2.4 million property in Bethesda, Maryland.
Nikole Flax, former chief of staff to IRS commissioner Steven Miller: Flax was a busy bureaucrat during her tenure at the IRS, where she worked for Lerner in the exempt organizations division among other roles. Flax made 31 visits to the White House between July 12, 2010 and May 8, 2013, according to White House visitor logs
Michelle Eldridge, IRS national media relations chief: This 23-year IRS veteran was tasked with defending the IRS when it came under scrutiny in 2012 for whistleblower reprisal from its inspector general.
Representatives Bill Flores and Louie Gohmert, both Texas Republicans, have proposed a million dollar bounty for the recovery of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s e-mails.
They’ve filed the Identify and Recover Sent Emails Act, which, if passed, would award $500,000 to anyone with “pertinent information sufficient for prosecution” of anyone involved in the destruction of Lerner’s e-mails or a cool $1 million to anyone who can recover the e-mails outright.
How is the sizeable bounty to be funded? From the IRS budget.
In addition, the bill would mandate that all IRS employees receive not more than 80 percent of their 2014 salaries until the e-mails are recovered.