Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Australia Passes World’s First Encryption-Busting Law

Security agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages under new laws in Australia. The legislation will force technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections to allow investigators to track the communications of terrorists and other criminals. It is, however, a controversial measure.

Australian law enforcement officials say the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage hamper their efforts to track the activities of criminals and extremists.

End-to-end encryption is a code that allows a message to stay secret between the person who wrote it and the recipient. 

PM: Law urgently needed

But a new law passed Thursday in Australia compels technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers to build in features needed for police to crack those hitherto secret codes. However, businesses will not have to introduce these features if they are considered “systemic weaknesses,” which means they are likely to result in compromised security for other users.

The Australian legislation is the first of its kind anywhere.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law was urgently needed because encoded messaging apps allowed “terrorists and organized criminals and … pedophile rings to do their evil work.”

Critics: Law goes too far

However, critics, including technology companies, human rights groups, and lawyers, believe the measure goes too far and gives investigators “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.”

Francis Galbally, the chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, says the law will send Australia’s tech sector into reverse.

“We will lose some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists this country has produced, and I can tell you because I employ a lot of them, they are fabulous, they are well regarded, but the world will now regard them if they stay in this country as subject to the government making changes to what they are doing in order to spy on everybody,” he said.

Galbally also claims that his company could lose clients to competitors overseas because it cannot guarantee its products have not been compromised by Australian authorities.

Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”

The new law includes penalties for noncompliance.

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Australia Passes World’s First Encryption-Busting Law

Security agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages under new laws in Australia. The legislation will force technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections to allow investigators to track the communications of terrorists and other criminals. It is, however, a controversial measure.

Australian law enforcement officials say the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage hamper their efforts to track the activities of criminals and extremists.

End-to-end encryption is a code that allows a message to stay secret between the person who wrote it and the recipient. 

PM: Law urgently needed

But a new law passed Thursday in Australia compels technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers to build in features needed for police to crack those hitherto secret codes. However, businesses will not have to introduce these features if they are considered “systemic weaknesses,” which means they are likely to result in compromised security for other users.

The Australian legislation is the first of its kind anywhere.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law was urgently needed because encoded messaging apps allowed “terrorists and organized criminals and … pedophile rings to do their evil work.”

Critics: Law goes too far

However, critics, including technology companies, human rights groups, and lawyers, believe the measure goes too far and gives investigators “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.”

Francis Galbally, the chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, says the law will send Australia’s tech sector into reverse.

“We will lose some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists this country has produced, and I can tell you because I employ a lot of them, they are fabulous, they are well regarded, but the world will now regard them if they stay in this country as subject to the government making changes to what they are doing in order to spy on everybody,” he said.

Galbally also claims that his company could lose clients to competitors overseas because it cannot guarantee its products have not been compromised by Australian authorities.

Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”

The new law includes penalties for noncompliance.

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Top Democrat: Moscow Has Closed Cyber Gap With US

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warns the United States is being outgunned in cyberspace, already having lost its competitive advantage to Russia while China is rapidly closing in.

“When it comes to cyber, misinformation and disinformation, Russia is already our peer and in the areas of misinformation or disinformation, I believe is ahead of us,” Senator Mark Warner told an audience Friday in Washington.

“This is an effective methodology for Russia and it’s also remarkably cheap,” he added, calling for a realignment of U.S. defense spending.

Warner, calling Russia’s election meddling both an intelligence failure and a “failure of imagination,” strongly criticized the White House, key departments and fellow lawmakers for being too complacent in their responses.

As for China, Warner called Beijing’s cyber and censorship infrastructure “the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world” and warned when it comes to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 5G mobile phone networks, China is “starting to outpace us on these investments by orders of magnitude.”

In contrast, the Democratic senator laid out a more aggressive approach in cyberspace, with the United States leading allies in an effort to establish clear rules and norms for behavior in cyberspace.

He also said it was imperative the U.S. articulate when and where it would respond to cyberattacks.

“Our adversaries continue to believe that there won’t be consequences for their actions,” Warner said. “For Russia and China, it’s pretty much been open season.”

Warner also delivered a stern message to social media companies.

“Major platform companies — like Twitter and Facebook, but also Reddit, YouTube and Tumblr — aren’t doing nearly enough to prevent their platforms from becoming petri dishes for Russian disinformation and propaganda,” he said. “If they don’t work with us, Congress will have to work on its own.”

The Trump administration unveiled a new National Cyber Strategy in September, calling for a more aggressive response to the growing online threat posed by other countries, terrorist groups and criminal organizations.

“We’re not just on defense,” National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the time. “We’re going to do a lot of things offensively, and I think our adversaries need to know that.”

Top U.S. military officials have also said their cyber teams are engaging against other countries, terrorist groups and even criminal organizations on a daily basis.

Warner on Friday praised elements of the new strategy, particularly measures that have allowed the military to respond to attacks more quickly. But, he said, on the whole it is not enough, pointing to Trump’s willingness to “kowtow” to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Helsinki Summit over Moscow’s election interference efforts.

“No one in the Trump administration in the intel [intelligence] or defense world doesn’t acknowledge what happened in 2016,” he said. “But the fact that the head of our government still [finds] it’s hard to get those words out of his mouth, is a real problem.”

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Top Democrat: Moscow Has Closed Cyber Gap With US

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warns the United States is being outgunned in cyberspace, already having lost its competitive advantage to Russia while China is rapidly closing in.

“When it comes to cyber, misinformation and disinformation, Russia is already our peer and in the areas of misinformation or disinformation, I believe is ahead of us,” Senator Mark Warner told an audience Friday in Washington.

“This is an effective methodology for Russia and it’s also remarkably cheap,” he added, calling for a realignment of U.S. defense spending.

Warner, calling Russia’s election meddling both an intelligence failure and a “failure of imagination,” strongly criticized the White House, key departments and fellow lawmakers for being too complacent in their responses.

As for China, Warner called Beijing’s cyber and censorship infrastructure “the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world” and warned when it comes to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 5G mobile phone networks, China is “starting to outpace us on these investments by orders of magnitude.”

In contrast, the Democratic senator laid out a more aggressive approach in cyberspace, with the United States leading allies in an effort to establish clear rules and norms for behavior in cyberspace.

He also said it was imperative the U.S. articulate when and where it would respond to cyberattacks.

“Our adversaries continue to believe that there won’t be consequences for their actions,” Warner said. “For Russia and China, it’s pretty much been open season.”

Warner also delivered a stern message to social media companies.

“Major platform companies — like Twitter and Facebook, but also Reddit, YouTube and Tumblr — aren’t doing nearly enough to prevent their platforms from becoming petri dishes for Russian disinformation and propaganda,” he said. “If they don’t work with us, Congress will have to work on its own.”

The Trump administration unveiled a new National Cyber Strategy in September, calling for a more aggressive response to the growing online threat posed by other countries, terrorist groups and criminal organizations.

“We’re not just on defense,” National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the time. “We’re going to do a lot of things offensively, and I think our adversaries need to know that.”

Top U.S. military officials have also said their cyber teams are engaging against other countries, terrorist groups and even criminal organizations on a daily basis.

Warner on Friday praised elements of the new strategy, particularly measures that have allowed the military to respond to attacks more quickly. But, he said, on the whole it is not enough, pointing to Trump’s willingness to “kowtow” to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Helsinki Summit over Moscow’s election interference efforts.

“No one in the Trump administration in the intel [intelligence] or defense world doesn’t acknowledge what happened in 2016,” he said. “But the fact that the head of our government still [finds] it’s hard to get those words out of his mouth, is a real problem.”

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Australia Anti-Encryption Law Rushed to Passage 

A newly enacted law rushed through Australia’s parliament will compel technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections so police can better pursue terrorists and other criminals.  

  

Cybersecurity experts say the law, the first of its kind globally, will instead be a boon to the criminal underworld by undermining the technical integrity of the internet, hurting digital security and user privacy.  

  

“I think it’s detrimental to Australian and world security,” said Bruce Schneier, a tech security expert affiliated with Harvard University and IBM.  

  

The law is also technically vague and seems contradictory because it doesn’t require systematic weaknesses — so-called “back doors” — to be built in by tech providers. Such back doors are unlikely to remain secret, meaning that hackers and criminals could easily exploit them. 

 

Back doors were central to a 1990s U.S. effort to require manufacturers to install a so-called “Clipper chip” into communications equipment so the government could listen in on voice and data transmissions. U.S. law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are again pushing for legislation that would somehow give authorities access to secure communications. 

 

The Australian bill is seen by many as a beachhead for those efforts because the nation belongs to the “Five Eyes” security alliance with the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand.  

  

“There is a lot here that doesn’t make any sense,” Schneier said of the Australian bill. “This is a technological law written by non-technologists and it’s not just bad policy. In many ways, I think it’s unworkable.” 

 

A leading figure in cryptography, Martin Hellman of Stanford University, said it appears the bill would “facilitate crime by weakening the security of the affected devices.” 

Blow against ‘evil work’

 

The law won final legislative approval late Thursday, parliament’s final session of the year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was urgently needed. 

 

“This was very important legislation to give police and security agencies the ability to get into encrypted communications,” he told Nine Network television. “Things like WhatsApp, things like that which are used by terrorists and organized criminals and indeed pedophile rings to do their evil work.” 

 

He noted that the opposition Labor Party “had to be dragged to the table” and backed the legislation as an emergency measure out of concern extremists could target Christmas-New Year crowds. 

 

Labor lawmakers said they want amendments passed when parliament resumes in February. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he supported the current bill only because he could not “expose Australians to increased [national security] risk.” 

 

Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, noted during hearings that extremists share encrypted messages that Australia’s main secret service cannot intercept or read. 

 

President Morry Bailles of the Law Council of Australia, a leading lawyers group, criticized the bill’s swift parliamentary journey though lawmakers knew “serious problems exist” with giving law enforcement “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.” 

 

Australian law enforcement officials have complained that the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger and Apple’s iMessage could be the worst blow to intelligence and law enforcement capability in decades. Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said it hampers criminal investigations at all levels. 

Apple argument

 

But Apple, in comments filed with parliament in October, argued that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.” 

 

The company’s iPhones, because of their strong encryption, are bulwarks of national security around the globe and help protect journalists, human rights workers and people living under repressive regimes. 

 

“The iPhone is national security infrastructure right now,” said Schneier. “Every Australian legislator uses the systems and devices that that law will target, and making them insecure seems like a really bad idea.” 

 

Apple also complained in October that the bill was “dangerously ambiguous.” 

 

One apparent contradiction confounds technologists. The legislation says the government “must not require providers to implement or build systemic weaknesses in forms of electronic protection (‘back doors’)” but also says it can “require the selective deployment of a weakness or vulnerability in a particular service, device or item of software on a case-by-case basis.” 

 

Technologists say that the mathematics underlying encryption and the way it’s encoded into software make it impossible to decrypt a single user’s communications without affecting all users. 

 

Eric Wenger, director of cybersecurity and privacy policy for the U.S. technology giant Cisco Systems, warned during debate on the bill that Australia could be at a competitive disadvantage if its data were not regarded as secure. 

 

Australia was a major driver of a statement agreed to at the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Germany last year that called on the technology industry to provide “lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information” needed to protect against terrorist threats. 

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Australia Anti-Encryption Law Rushed to Passage 

A newly enacted law rushed through Australia’s parliament will compel technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections so police can better pursue terrorists and other criminals.  

  

Cybersecurity experts say the law, the first of its kind globally, will instead be a boon to the criminal underworld by undermining the technical integrity of the internet, hurting digital security and user privacy.  

  

“I think it’s detrimental to Australian and world security,” said Bruce Schneier, a tech security expert affiliated with Harvard University and IBM.  

  

The law is also technically vague and seems contradictory because it doesn’t require systematic weaknesses — so-called “back doors” — to be built in by tech providers. Such back doors are unlikely to remain secret, meaning that hackers and criminals could easily exploit them. 

 

Back doors were central to a 1990s U.S. effort to require manufacturers to install a so-called “Clipper chip” into communications equipment so the government could listen in on voice and data transmissions. U.S. law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are again pushing for legislation that would somehow give authorities access to secure communications. 

 

The Australian bill is seen by many as a beachhead for those efforts because the nation belongs to the “Five Eyes” security alliance with the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand.  

  

“There is a lot here that doesn’t make any sense,” Schneier said of the Australian bill. “This is a technological law written by non-technologists and it’s not just bad policy. In many ways, I think it’s unworkable.” 

 

A leading figure in cryptography, Martin Hellman of Stanford University, said it appears the bill would “facilitate crime by weakening the security of the affected devices.” 

Blow against ‘evil work’

 

The law won final legislative approval late Thursday, parliament’s final session of the year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was urgently needed. 

 

“This was very important legislation to give police and security agencies the ability to get into encrypted communications,” he told Nine Network television. “Things like WhatsApp, things like that which are used by terrorists and organized criminals and indeed pedophile rings to do their evil work.” 

 

He noted that the opposition Labor Party “had to be dragged to the table” and backed the legislation as an emergency measure out of concern extremists could target Christmas-New Year crowds. 

 

Labor lawmakers said they want amendments passed when parliament resumes in February. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he supported the current bill only because he could not “expose Australians to increased [national security] risk.” 

 

Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, noted during hearings that extremists share encrypted messages that Australia’s main secret service cannot intercept or read. 

 

President Morry Bailles of the Law Council of Australia, a leading lawyers group, criticized the bill’s swift parliamentary journey though lawmakers knew “serious problems exist” with giving law enforcement “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.” 

 

Australian law enforcement officials have complained that the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger and Apple’s iMessage could be the worst blow to intelligence and law enforcement capability in decades. Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said it hampers criminal investigations at all levels. 

Apple argument

 

But Apple, in comments filed with parliament in October, argued that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.” 

 

The company’s iPhones, because of their strong encryption, are bulwarks of national security around the globe and help protect journalists, human rights workers and people living under repressive regimes. 

 

“The iPhone is national security infrastructure right now,” said Schneier. “Every Australian legislator uses the systems and devices that that law will target, and making them insecure seems like a really bad idea.” 

 

Apple also complained in October that the bill was “dangerously ambiguous.” 

 

One apparent contradiction confounds technologists. The legislation says the government “must not require providers to implement or build systemic weaknesses in forms of electronic protection (‘back doors’)” but also says it can “require the selective deployment of a weakness or vulnerability in a particular service, device or item of software on a case-by-case basis.” 

 

Technologists say that the mathematics underlying encryption and the way it’s encoded into software make it impossible to decrypt a single user’s communications without affecting all users. 

 

Eric Wenger, director of cybersecurity and privacy policy for the U.S. technology giant Cisco Systems, warned during debate on the bill that Australia could be at a competitive disadvantage if its data were not regarded as secure. 

 

Australia was a major driver of a statement agreed to at the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Germany last year that called on the technology industry to provide “lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information” needed to protect against terrorist threats. 

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Virginia Tech Students Unveil the House of the Future

Joseph Wheeler and his team of students and faculty from Virginia Tech University are convinced they are building the house of the future.

Judges at the recent Solar Decathlon Middle East agreed, awarding their future house first place in the December competition held in Dubai.

“We set it up in two days,” Wheeler told VOA. “All the other teams took the full two weeks of construction. Ours was set up in two days, generating power on the third day by the sun.”

The quick assembly time is just one thing that makes this home special. All of, literally all of it, comes in modules that are put together on-site into a fully functioning plug-and-play house.

Quick to assemble

“Our typical cartridge is 3-feet wide and about 12-feet long and no higher than 10-feet tall,” Wheeler said. “That cartridge contains the structure of the house. It’s got the structural walls, the insulation in it. But it’s got all the plumbing and the electrical system pre-installed — even the cabinetry, even the finishes. It is an incredibly high-tech home. In this case, well over a $1 million home but highly sophisticated.”

The home is fully wired, a test bed for everything digital. The home is also energy positive, which means — thanks to solar cells — it produces more energy than it consumes. This while being fully functional in the Dubai desert.

“You had to maintain a certain temperature range in the home. You had to keep all your appliances working and run them nonstop for an entire two weeks,” Wheeler said. “You had to charge an electric car from the excess power you generated in the house. You had to do laundry. You had to do dishes. I mean, you had to do all these things.”

They did it, and won.

​What’s next?

Far from being a one-of-a-kind home, Wheeler and his team say they fully expect this kind of home construction to quickly become the way homes are built in the future.

“We already have our phones, our cars, all of these pieces of technology that we bring with us that come with the expectation that they are smart,” Bobby Vance, a professor of architecture on the Virginia Tech team, told VOA. “But we go home and we kind of shut that all away.”

The team says this home is proof that [shutting it away] doesn’t need to be the case anymore.

“We envision one day in the very near future, you’re going to be able to go onto Amazon, and you’re going to be able to pick out your features — your appliances, the finishes you want in your kitchen and in your bathroom and in your bedroom, and you’ll place those in your shopping cart,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler and Vance said they are in talks with a number of homebuilding companies and are about to begin building a home that will be for sale sometime in the spring. They are also hoping to ramp up their production on a much larger scale to make their dream home a reality in the near future.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Virginia Tech Students Unveil the House of the Future

Joseph Wheeler and his team of students and faculty from Virginia Tech University are convinced they are building the house of the future.

Judges at the recent Solar Decathlon Middle East agreed, awarding their future house first place in the December competition held in Dubai.

“We set it up in two days,” Wheeler told VOA. “All the other teams took the full two weeks of construction. Ours was set up in two days, generating power on the third day by the sun.”

The quick assembly time is just one thing that makes this home special. All of, literally all of it, comes in modules that are put together on-site into a fully functioning plug-and-play house.

Quick to assemble

“Our typical cartridge is 3-feet wide and about 12-feet long and no higher than 10-feet tall,” Wheeler said. “That cartridge contains the structure of the house. It’s got the structural walls, the insulation in it. But it’s got all the plumbing and the electrical system pre-installed — even the cabinetry, even the finishes. It is an incredibly high-tech home. In this case, well over a $1 million home but highly sophisticated.”

The home is fully wired, a test bed for everything digital. The home is also energy positive, which means — thanks to solar cells — it produces more energy than it consumes. This while being fully functional in the Dubai desert.

“You had to maintain a certain temperature range in the home. You had to keep all your appliances working and run them nonstop for an entire two weeks,” Wheeler said. “You had to charge an electric car from the excess power you generated in the house. You had to do laundry. You had to do dishes. I mean, you had to do all these things.”

They did it, and won.

​What’s next?

Far from being a one-of-a-kind home, Wheeler and his team say they fully expect this kind of home construction to quickly become the way homes are built in the future.

“We already have our phones, our cars, all of these pieces of technology that we bring with us that come with the expectation that they are smart,” Bobby Vance, a professor of architecture on the Virginia Tech team, told VOA. “But we go home and we kind of shut that all away.”

The team says this home is proof that [shutting it away] doesn’t need to be the case anymore.

“We envision one day in the very near future, you’re going to be able to go onto Amazon, and you’re going to be able to pick out your features — your appliances, the finishes you want in your kitchen and in your bathroom and in your bedroom, and you’ll place those in your shopping cart,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler and Vance said they are in talks with a number of homebuilding companies and are about to begin building a home that will be for sale sometime in the spring. They are also hoping to ramp up their production on a much larger scale to make their dream home a reality in the near future.

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