Washington Post

Why BitTorrent is selling itself like potato chips

BitTorrent -- perhaps best known in the tech world for providing the Internet plumbing for Pirate Bay, a notorious site frequently used to illegally share copyrighted material -- is now making a play for the mainstream.

Travelers on both coasts are being greeted by BitTorrent ads that are in line with traditional Madison Avenue marketing: "Your Data Belongs to You," reads one such billboard on New York City's TriBeCa neighborhood. Reads another, in San Francisco's SoMa, "People > Servers," using the mathematical symbol for "greater than."

More than a dozen years after getting its start as a grad school project, BitTorrent is making a push to sell itself to a mainstream audience, in light of the growing interest in law enforcement cellphone tracking, the recent Supreme Court case over who owns user data, even Anonymous's hacking efforts.

Even wired tribal libraries are lagging behind on tech

As much as some places in the United States have struggled to get good, affordable, accessible Internet connectivity, one type of spot on the map has struggled even more than most: tribal lands. One somewhat bright sign in all this, as is the case in so many challenged communities, is libraries.

Where solid Internet connections are difficult to come by, public libraries often are a lifesaver.

A new report from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums finds that some 89 percent of tribal libraries are providing some kind of public Internet access, which compares moderately well with the 100 percent of all public libraries in the United States that do so.

Still, dig a bit into the data, and problems re-emerge. Even if tribal libraries are providing Internet connectivity, they are lagging behind their non-tribal counterparts in providing the tools to make use of it and the services that ride on top of it.

Facebook’s security chief on the Snowden effect, the Messenger app backlash and staying optimistic

A Q&A with Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan.

While is hard to comment on the relationship between government agencies and the information security community, Sullivan said he is optimistic about the future of security, because the Snowden revelations and world events have made users more aware of data security issues.

In respect to the user outcry against Facebook’s messenger app, Sullivan stressed that over the years Facebook has tried to educate people on security and data protection, “whether it is not sharing your password, or being thoughtful about which applications you connect to through our platform, or using two-factor authentication.”

How Congress could actually wind up saving Aereo

[Commentary] A sliver of light may have just appeared at the end of Aereo's long legal tunnel. A Senate proposal is aiming to rewrite the economics of TV. If the idea moves forward, Aereo might be spared its demise -- and the company might even be able to keep the business model that got it into trouble with the Supreme Court.

The Senate proposal, known as "Local Choice," would ease the pressure on cable companies who currently pay rising fees to broadcasters to get their content. This idea could work in Aereo's favor; if the courts accept its new argument that Aereo is a cable company, Aereo might find itself lumped in with the other firms that would be affected by Local Choice, too.

Local Choice would benefit Aereo by letting it avoid paying those expensive content fees itself, landing it back where it began before it was laid low by litigation. Voila -- Aereo emerges more or less intact, though the details are a little more complicated.

FBI, DEA and Secret Service argue that next ‘number portability’ administrator must be ready to handle investigations

Lawmakers, including the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who have pressed the Federal Communications Commission to keep national security in mind when choosing a new management of the National Portability Administration Center, have now gotten support from the law enforcement community.

The FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service have weighed in, telling the FCC that they believe that the agency should take into consideration how well any vendor might "satisfy the important law enforcement, public safety, and national security equities" of local and federal authorities.

The FBI, DEA and Secret Service maintain that they take no position on Telcordia's potential selection as the next contractor in particular. But they highlight some of the sensitivities of using the system in the course of their work.

Feds to study illegal use of spy gear

The Federal Communications Commission has established a task force to study reported misuse of surveillance technology that can intercept cellular signals to locate people, monitor their calls and send malicious software to their phones.

The powerful technology -- called an IMSI catcher, though also referred to by the trade name “Stingray” -- is produced by several major surveillance companies and widely used by police and intelligence services around the world.

The FCC, in response to questions from Rep Alan Grayson (D-FL), plans to study the extent to which criminal gangs and foreign intelligence services are using the devices against Americans.

Why surveillance companies hate the iPhone

Android phones, some Blackberries and phones running older Microsoft operating systems all are vulnerable to Gamma’s spyware, called FinSpy, which can turn your smart phone into a potent surveillance device.

For FinSpy to hack into an iPhone, its owner must have already stripped away much of its built-in security through a process called “jailbreaking.” No jailbreak, no FinSpy on your iPhone, at least according to a leaked Gamma document dated April 2014.

This is good news for people with iPhones, and perhaps for Apple as well. But at a time of rising concern about government surveillance powers, it’s ironic that a different mobile operating system – Google’s Android – has emerged as the global standard, with a dominant share of the world market.

The result is what might be called a growing “Surveillance Gap.” The consequences can be serious if a government anywhere in the world decides to target you with FinSpy, or if a police officer or border patrol agent attempts to browse through your smartphone -- or worse still, copy its entire contents for later examination.

Why one of cybersecurity’s thought leaders uses a pager instead of a smart phone

A Q&A with Dan Geer, a long-time researcher who is thought of as one of the computer and network security industry's thought leaders.

Geer is currently the Chief Information Security Officer at In-Q-Tel -- a non-profit venture capital firm that invests in technology to support the Central Intelligence Agency.

Geer spoke about his distrust of increasing data collection and how he tries to stay off the digital grid in his own life. “I don't carry a cellphone. Honestly, it's a nuisance -- it would be very helpful because as you know things aren't about planning these days, they're about coordination,” he said.

What if you could pick and choose which broadcast TV channels you get?

Two of the most powerful senators in Washington have an idea that could change the economics of TV for good.

The plan, proposed by Sens Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD), would let TV viewers individually decide which broadcast channels they want to receive in their cable subscriptions. You could, for example, opt to receive ABC and NBC but not CBS. Consumers would then be billed directly for those individual channels, essentially establishing an a la carte system for broadcast TV.

First, ending the cable companies' role as a middleman between viewer and broadcaster would eliminate the contracting disputes behind programming blackouts like the CBS-Time Warner Cable outage in 2013. Second, by paying for broadcast content themselves, consumers would have a better idea of how much that programming is actually worth. Third, consumers could more easily compare broadcast fees against the cost of cable programming.

Neustar, Telcordia battle over FCC contract to play traffic cop for phone calls, texts

Influential lawmakers are urging the Federal Communications Commission not to ignore national security as it prepares to choose a company to play the critical role of traffic cop for virtually every phone call and text message in North America. At issue is the security of the most significant cog in the telecommunications network that most Americans have never heard of.

The Number Portability Administration Center, or NPAC, handles the routing of all calls and texts for more than 650 million US and Canadian phone numbers for more than 2,000 carriers. If numbers are scrambled or erased, havoc could ensue.

In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Rep Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Rep CA Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the FCC to consult the FBI and other security agencies before picking a firm.