Tag: senate

US senators investigate Russian hacking

russian-villagersWhile Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump is denying his chum Tsar Vladimir Putin unleashed his team of hackers to help him win the election, senior U.S. intelligence officials will testify in Congress on Thursday on Russia’s alleged cyber-attacks during the 2016 election campaign.

Trump has not been briefed on the hacks yet, but that has not stopped him denying they took place.  He is apparently going to receive details on the DMC hack today.

He is already heading for a spat with Democrats and fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom don’t like Putin and distrust Trump’s praise of the chap.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Putin.

Their testimony on cyber threats facing the United States will come a week after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 election.

US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election, a conclusion supported by several private cybersecurity firms. Moscow denies it.

US intelligence officials have also said the Russian cyber-attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Several Republicans acknowledge Russian hacking during the election but have not linked it to an effort to help Trump win.

Documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, were leaked to the media in advance of the election, embarrassing the Clinton campaign.

Trump and top advisers believe Democrats are trying to delegitimize his election victory by accusing Russian authorities of helping him.

However, he has not helped his case by nominating Moscow-friendly types to senior administration posts, including secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, who while Exxon Mobil chief executive, was awarded the Order of Friendship, a Russian state honour, by Putin in 2013.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also hold a closed-door hearing today to look at Russia’s alleged hacking and harassment of US diplomats.


US Senate staffers can’t use Blackberries

BlackberryAfter ten years ruling the US capital, Blackberry will no longer be the tool of choice for Senate staffers.

The Senate had no choice after BlackBerry decided to discontinue devices running its own BlackBerry 10 software and the Sergeant at Arms says that once he has run out of the current in-house stock, new device procurements will be limited.

The Senate has a little more than 600 BlackBerry phones stockpiled, reads the note, and it will continue to support those phones for the “foreseeable future.”

The news follows this month’s disappointing earnings report from the Canadian phone company, who only sold 500,000 phones in the first fiscal quarter, down from 600,000 in the prior quarter and from 700,000 in the quarter before that. Basically the outfit is going down the loo and is having to find its money from flogging its network services rather than its hardware.  However, losing its traditional customers, such as the US government will not look good for the company in the short and medium term, and will cause many to wonder if it will have a long-term future.

Creepy Cruz wants to keep US control of the web

carly-ted-marriage-cheat-575x351A failed presidential candidate, who stood on an anti-masturbation platform, thinks that it would be better for the world if he and his US Senate chronies keep control of the internet.

Ted Cruz has proposed a law in the Senate which would prohibit the US government from relinquishing its role overseeing the web’s domain name system, or DNS, unless explicitly authorised by Congress.

The puritanical Cruz wants to make sure that all those foreigners are forced to look to him and his chums for moral guidance.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the Commerce Department, currently oversees control of the DNS, a virtual phonebook of sorts that allows internet users to easily browse the web by allocating domain names to websites the world over.

The NITA has long been expected to give up its oversight role to a global multi-stakeholder community, however, prompting lawmakers to unleashed a proposal this week that would assure the US government maintains control unless Congress votes otherwise.

Cruz calls his bill, the Protecting Internet Freedom Act. He claims it would prevent the Obama administration from “giving the Internet away” to “a global organisation that will allow over 160 foreign governments to have increased influence over the management and operation of the Internet”.

He appears to be saying, “heaven forbid” that other countries have a democratic say over one of the few worldwide uniting systems in the world. After all the US was appointed by god to rule the world and to force it to adopt its corporate oligarchic system, bizarre gay hating Victorian Protestantism, white privilege and rape culture.

What he actually said was that the Obama administration was months away from deciding whether the United States Government will continue to provide oversight over core functions of the internet and protect it from authoritarian regimes that view it as a way to increase their influence and suppress freedom of speech.

Cruz’s answer is to suppress freedom of speech in the rest of the world by making it subservient to a bunch of conservative duffers who believe global warming is a myth and that evolution really is a thing.

ISPs will be US spooks’ eyes and ears

big-brother-1984The Senate Intelligence Committee secretly voted on June 24 in favour of legislation requiring ISPs and social media sites to report suspected terrorist activities.

The legislation was approved in a closed-door hearing, and is “classified” but will be made public when the law heads to the Senate.

The FBI is apparently worried about American teens being susceptible to the Islamic State’s online recruitment tactics. Twitter has removed tens of thousands of these terror propaganda accounts, which violate its terms of service.

Ironically the legislation is modelled after a 2008 law, the Protect Our Children Act. That measure requires Internet companies to report images of child porn, and information identifying who trades it, to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

That quasi-government agency then alerts either the FBI or local law enforcement about the identities of online child pornographers.

This confirms the fear that laws that start out “protecting children” end up being used for something nastier. What it means is that ISPs and social networks will have to scan ordinary people’s mail and messages looking for evidence of IS or similar activities. It will be similar to what the US government was doing before, but was ruled illegal.

The bill does not demand that online companies remove content, requires Internet firms that obtain actual knowledge of any terrorist activity to provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity.

The terrorist activity could be a tweet, a YouTube video, an account, or a communication.

Twitter, Google, and Facebook haven’t publicly taken a position on the new legislation, probably because they have not read it yet and only heard about it through the Washington Post.

US Senate backs patent trolls

The corrupt US senate has decided that patent trolls have more money than ordinary people have and has dumped a law to legislate the crippling trade out of existence.

While patent trolls destroy industries like technology, the big players have huge investments in patents and are not in favour of reform. Lawyers make a killing out of the frivolous patent cases and the powerful drugs companies depend on them.

Therefore, a proposal to club patent trolls over the head is now on hold indefinitely after the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, a democrat shelved the idea.

The law had backing across the house but Leahy suddenly took it off the table after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – another democrat – intervened at the last minute.

The bill would have made it more difficult for patent holders to file frivolous lawsuits, adding new requirements that would force lawsuit losers to cover litigation costs for both sides and patent holders to state their accusations more explicitly.

According to the republicans, Reid was got at by the lobbyists who paid to have the law shelved.

This is the third time in three weeks the majority leader has blocked legislation with bipartisan support in the Senate, the laws backer Republican John Cornyn said.

“It’s disappointing the majority leader has allowed the demands of one special interest group to trump a bipartisan will in Congress and the overwhelming support of innovators and job creators.”

It looks like the lobby groups came from groups who make a killing from being patent trolls namely trial lawyers, universities, pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies.

The University of Vermont and a biotech coalition each sent letters to Leahy opposing the legislation.

“We believe the measures in the legislation … go far beyond what is necessary or desirable to combat abusive patent litigation, and would do serious damage to the patent system,” reads one of the letters. “Many of the provisions would have the effect of treating every patent holder as a patent troll.”

Leahy acknowledged there had been a sudden amount of pressure from the lobby groups in the hours before the deadline.

But Washington thinks it is more likely that passing the legislation out of committee would put greater pressure on Reid to bring it up for a floor vote, which would put the democratic leader at even more uncomfortable odds with the groups that wanted him to sink the bill.

In other words, the US will have to suffer from patent trolls because its senators are corporate lapdogs for those who want to use the system to cripple industry to make a quick buck.

Makes you really regret that revolution now doesn’t it?

CISPA is a dead duck

A US cyber security bill which gave all sorts of power for private companies to share data with the government seems set to die in the senate.

The US Senate will  almost certainly kill a controversial cybersecurity bill, recently passed by the House, according to a US Senate Committee member.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation warned that CISPA’s privacy protections were “insufficient” and the Senate will not take up the law. The White House has also said the President won’t sign the House bill.

It is not surprising as the law was truly daft. Not only was it unlikely to stop cyber threats it did all sorts of strange things.

Firstly it let the government spy on internet connections without a warrant, and prevented those spied on ever finding out about it. It also protected corporates from legal action if they had done anything stupid with your data. It had a provision which meant that corporates could attack another company or hacker in self defence.

Staff and senators are understood to be “drafting separate bills” that will maintain the cybersecurity information sharing while preserving civil liberties and privacy rights.

According to ZDNet, Rockefeller’s comments were significant as he takes up the lead on the Commerce Committee, which will be the first branch of the Senate that will debate its own cybersecurity legislation.

Michelle Richardson, legislative council with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was fairly clear that CISPA is “dead for now,” and said the Senate will “probably pick up where it left off last year”.

Civil liberties groups dubbed CISPA a “privacy killer” and “dangerously vague,” and warned that it may be in breach of the Fourth Amendment. 

CISPA resurrected, heading back to Congress

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, also known as CISPA, is back from the dead thanks to a couple of US lawmakers.

The bill was drafted to give US companies a bit more protection against lawsuits, by allowing them to collect and share more user data. The idea is that CISPA will help curb security threats, with the added benefit of undermining privacy.

Last year, the bill passed a House of Representatives vote, with a few guarantees that it would not grossly violate privacy rights, but violating them just a bit seems fine. However, the Senate refused to pass the bill, which has been stuck in legislative limbo ever since.

Now though, the unpopular bill is scheduled for a new vote. Venture Beat reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) will reintroduce CISPA this Wednesday. What’s more, the revamped bill is not the amended version which was not passed by the Senate, which means it is even worse than the first time around.

However, CISPA is facing strong opposition from privacy groups and activists. Non-profit group Fight for the Future has created a website listing contact information for each lawmaker who cosigned the last version of the bill, a list of companies that support the new bill and a few fun facts about the bill itself.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders and a host of other organisations and individuals have voiced concerns over CISPA so far and the list is set to expand. However, it does not seem very likely that the bill will have much luck on the Senate floor. Republicans, who control the House and tend to support CISPA, failed to seize control of the Senate in the 2012 election, so the outcome should be the same this time around, unless lobbyists did a very good job in the meantime.

American political dick says violent video games caused Sandy Hook massacre

As you might have expected, it did not take long for law makers to blame the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut last Friday on violent video games.

No sooner had they buried some of  the victims than reports started to come out that Adam Lanza may have played video games like Call of Duty and Starcraft.

It was a fairly good bet. He was a kid, and he owned a computer, so it was likely that he played computer games at some point in his life.

Now reports are coming in that Senator Jay Rockefeller has introduced one of Congress’ first pieces of legislation related to the tragedy in Newtown, which is a bill to study the impact of violent video games on children. Not guns.

Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said that since last week, everyone was focused on protecting children and the US needed to take a comprehensive look at all the ways it could keep kids safe.

He said that he has long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content kids see and interact with every day and now it is time to have the National Academy of Sciences to lead the investigation on video games’ impact, and submit a report on its findings within 18 months.

Other Democrat senators such as Richard Blumenthal and Joe Lieberman have also called for scrutinising the content of video games.

Rockefeller said that people believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons.

However, he claims, citing no evidence, that parents, pediatricians, and psychologists knew better.

Of course Rockefeller’s gut feeling that computer games were responsible for Sandy Hook has to compete with solid statistics from the FBI which show that youth violence has declined in recent years as computer and video game popularity soared.

Analysis of the 10 largest video game markets in the world has found no statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related killings.

Dusting off old chestnuts is something that Congress does after tragedies like this. In the 1930s it was dance halls, 1950s they were insisting that “crime and horror” comic books were impacting juvenile delinquency. In the 1960s it was rock and roll, in the 1970s it was violence on TV, and in the 1990s it was computer games.

It is far easier to find whatever teens are doing as a convenient scapegoat than to admit that your country is a shallow, violent place, where people with mental illness have easy access to firearms.

Ironically, Rockefeller’s bill comes before any legislation in the Senate to look at the role guns play in violent incidents. Dealing with imaginary guns is a lot less scary than taking on the NRA and the gun lobby. 

FBI warns about hackers

The Untouchables have warned that it is only a matter of time before hackers bring down the servers of the government in the Land of the Free.

Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the FBI warned Congress of terrorist hacking when he was asking them for more cash in the “FBI Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2013.”

Mueller said that so far terrorists have not used the Internet to launch a full-scale cyber attack, but that does not mean that anyone should underestimate their intent.

He said that terrorists have shown interest in pursuing hacking skills and are training their own recruits or hiring outsiders.

Mueller said these adaptations of the terrorist threat make the FBI’s counterterrorism mission that much more difficult.

According to ZDNet  he told Congress how on February 28, 2012, the hacktivist group Anonymous hacked into a telephone conversation taking place between FBI authorities in New York and law enforcement in London.

It is not that clear if Congress is buying a cyber terrorist hacking attack on the US but there are indications that the FBI will get the extra cash.

Over the past year, the FBI has had some success against Anonymous and arrested 16 individuals in 10 states. Despite all this Anonymous continues to be rather busy.


Big Content says "learn from France"

Big Content is celebrating after a study into France’s draconian anti-piracy laws shows that the laws appear to be working.

Although the agency that monitors for copyright violations, HADOPI, sent its first cases to the courts last week, studies show that the appeal of piracy has waned in France since the law was passed

According to AP, digital sales, which were slow to start in France, are growing and music industry revenue is starting to stabilise.

Pascal Negre, the president of Universal Music France, said that French people were starting to understand that Big Content expecutives, er artists, should get paid for their work.

Everyone has a friend who has received an email which warns them they could be cut off. This creates a buzz. There is an educational effect, he claimed.

HADOPI, had sent 822,000 warnings by email to suspected offenders as of the end of December. Those were followed up by 68,000 second warnings, issued through registered mail. Of those, 165 cases have gone on to the third stage, under which the courts are authorised to impose fines of $1840, and to suspend internet connections for a month.

Eric Walter, the secretary-general of HADOPI, claimed that the relatively low number of third-stage offenders showed that the system had succeeded.

HADOPI was given a budget of 11 million euro and employs 70 people, and claims it has seen  a sharp decline in file-sharing in France.

Separate research by Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh suggests that HADOPI gave a boost to the Apple iTunes music store.

The study pointed out that while there was no proof that HADOPI was responsible,  the case for a link was shown by the fact that sales of musical genres that suffer from high levels of piracy, like hip-hop, rose much more than sales of low-piracy genres, like christian and classical music.

HADOPI apparently gave Apple more than 13.8 million euro a year worth of iTunes music sales in France.

The law was bought in by President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is finding that post-Sopa supporting such rules is creating opposition.

His rivals are saying that the law infringes on civil liberties and they are finding that they are getting a lot of support. The thinking appears to be, well the US stood up to Big Content why did we hand over our legal system to them?