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Google says attackers worked with ISPs to deploy Hermit spyware on Android and iOS

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A sophisticated spyware campaign is getting the help of internet service providers (ISPs) to trick users into downloading malicious apps, according to research published by Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) (via TechCrunch). This corroborates earlier findings from security research group Lookout, which has linked the spyware, dubbed Hermit, to Italian spyware vendor RCS Labs.

Lookout says RCS Labs is in the same line of work as NSO Group — the infamous surveillance-for-hire company behind the Pegasus spyware — and peddles commercial spyware to various government agencies. Researchers at Lookout believe Hermit has already been deployed by the government of Kazakhstan and Italian authorities. In line with these findings, Google has...

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freeAgent
1 day ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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Mega says it can’t decrypt your files. New POC exploit shows otherwise

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Mega says it can’t decrypt your files. New POC exploit shows otherwise

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

In the decade since larger-than-life character Kim Dotcom founded Mega, the cloud storage service has amassed 250 million registered users and stores a whopping 120 billion files that take up more than 1,000 petabytes of storage. A key selling point that has helped fuel the growth is an extraordinary promise that no top-tier Mega competitors make: Not even Mega can decrypt the data it stores.

On the company's homepage, for instance, Mega displays an image that compares its offerings to Dropbox and Google Drive. In addition to noting Mega's lower prices, the comparison emphasizes that Mega offers end-to-end encryption, whereas the other two do not.

Over the years, the company has repeatedly reminded the world of this supposed distinction, which is perhaps best summarized in this blog post. In it, the company claims, "As long as you ensure that your password is sufficiently strong and unique, no one will ever be able to access your data on MEGA. Even in the exceptionally improbable event MEGA's entire infrastructure is seized!" (emphasis added).

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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For the next few weeks, you can see five planets in the sky at once

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The rest of June is looking great for stargazers. On the morning of June 23, the gathering of four planets, visible with the naked eye, will be joined by the crescent moon. The four planets, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, are becoming a bit more spread out but should stay visible for most observers until September.

If you observe closer to sunrise, you will even be able to see a fifth planet, Mercury, join in on the celestial fun. According to Sky & Telescope, 'All five bright planets fan out in order of their distance from the Sun across the dawn sky now through early July. One of the prettiest mornings to view them will be June 24th, when a striking crescent Moon joins the crew. You can start earlier — 60 to 90 minutes before sunrise — to spot Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. To add Venus and Mercury, which nestle low in the solar glow, you'll need to observe closer to sunrise. Use this sunrise calculator to plan your outing. As the Moon passes through, we'll see successive conjunctions or appulses. The Moon appears near Jupiter on June 21st; Mars on June 22nd, Venus on June 26th, and Mercury on June 27th.'

Even more amazing than being able to see all five of these bright planets in the sky simultaneously, they'll be in the correct order outward from the Sun, starting with Mercury and ending with Saturn. The event last occurred in December 2004, but it was only visible in certain tropical areas. For US sky watchers, you must go back to July 1957 to find a similar event. If you miss it this time, you'll be waiting until March 2041.

Allyson Bieryla, manager of Science Center Astronomy Lab and Telescope at Harvard University, told the Boston Globe that Venus will appear the brightest, but all the planets will be visible to the naked eye. 'These objects are much brighter than stars, so it should be fairly obvious even to a novice observer,' Bieryla said.

'If you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, point them at the planets and moon,' Bieryla wrote. 'With even a small telescope, or binoculars on a tripod, you can see Jupiter's largest 4 moons (called the Galilean moons) and Saturn's rings. If you are in a dark enough location with a small telescope, you might also be able to see the atmospheric bands in Jupiter's atmosphere!'

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The display will be visible until early July, so unless you experience an unbelievable string of bad weather, you should be able to view the amazing display. Light pollution is a potential, although likely minor issue, so if you need help finding a dark sky, visit Dark Site Finder. However, Bieryla adds, 'As with all observing, the best conditions are clear, dark skies but luckily these are all bright, naked-eye objects so you should be able to see the lineup even from the city!'

If you're looking for optimal photo conditions, you want to photograph just before dawn. 'You should be able to spot Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and even Venus for several more weeks in a similar lineup,' Bieryla added. 'Mercury is only visible for brief periods of time and only fairly low in the horizon because of its orbit, but if you miss all 5 planets, I encourage you to look up in the early morning anytime over the next several weeks to see how many planets you can spot. The moon will only appear in this lineup for the next few days, and then not again until next month.' For more photo tips, visit Sky & Telescope.

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freeAgent
4 days ago
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Neat.
Los Angeles, CA
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Texas State Police Chief: Uvalde Was 'Abject Failure,' Police Could Have Stopped Gunman in 3 Minutes

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Police officers guarding the location of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified before state legislators today that the police response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was an "abject failure" and said he strongly believed that the door to the classroom, which police officers waited outside of for more than an hour, was unlocked.

The statements were the strongest condemnations yet by Texas state law enforcement of the police response at Uvalde and further indication that an inexcusable cascade of poor decisions left two classrooms of children and their teachers at the mercy of the gunman.

McCraw called the decision to treat the shooter as a barricaded suspect an "abject failure and antithetical to everything we have learned over the past two decades."

McCraw singled out Uvalde school district police Chief Pete Arredondo, whom he identified as the on-scene commander at the incident: "The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children."

"The officers had weapons. The children had none," McCraw said. "The officers had body armor. The children had none. The officers had training. The subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes, and 8 seconds. That's how long children waited and the teachers waited in Room 111 to be rescued."

McCraw's testimony comes on the heels of reporting by multiple Texas news outlets that contradict Arredondo's narrative of the May 24 mass shooting that left 19 elementary school students and two teachers dead. Arredondo said in a recent interview with The Texas Tribune that he didn't consider himself to be the on-scene commander and that officers waited outside the door because they were outgunned and lacked breaching tools or keys to open the doors.

However, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reviewed hallway footage of the incident and reported that officers arrived with a ballistic shield and rifles 19 minutes after the gunman entered the school. They also had a breaching tool, called a Halligan bar. The Texas Tribune reported that none of the security footage it reviewed shows officers checking the door or attempting to unlock it.

"I have great reasons to believe it was never secured," McCraw testified about the door. "How about trying the door and seeing if it's locked?"

McCraw testified today that police could have stopped the shooter within three minutes.

The reality of the massacre, coming out in dribs and drabs, has moved so far away from the original police narrative that public officials' older comments now read as farcical. Take Texas Gov. Gregg Abbot's comments from May 25, a day after the mass shooting.

"The reality is, as horrible as what happened, it could have been worse," Abbot said. "The reason it was not worse is that law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire for the singular purpose of trying to save lives. And it is a fact that because of their quick response, getting on the scene of being able to respond to the gunman and eliminating the gunman, they were able to save lives."

Abbot later said he was misled about the events.

As Reason reported Monday, state and local agencies in Texas, ranging from the governor's office to the City of Uvalde, have geared up to fight the scores of public records requests filed by media outlets seeking more information on the police response to the shooting.

McCraw testified that the police response at Uvalde "set our profession back a decade." If agencies keep trying to shift blame and bury the truth about that failure, they won't have a reputation left to salvage.

The post Texas State Police Chief: Uvalde Was 'Abject Failure,' Police Could Have Stopped Gunman in 3 Minutes appeared first on Reason.com.



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freeAgent
4 days ago
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Every time we hear new information about this, it gets worse.
Los Angeles, CA
DuskStar
3 days ago
Honestly, having someone in power ADMIT it was an abject failure is IMO an improvement.
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Julian Assange's Case Is a Frightening Omen for Press Freedom

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Julian Assange in a suit looking to the left of the camera with a gray sky behind him.

While the ordeal of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange elicits grudging reactions from many American journalists who find him distasteful, his pending extradition to the United States, just approved by the British government, spurs protests around the world. In countries not blessed with a First Amendment, advocates of free speech rightly see Assange's years-long persecution for exposing U.S. government secrets as an attack on transparency and a threat to anybody who embarrasses powerful officials. Comfortable seat-warmers who are cozy with the powers-that-be may hesitate, but real journalists battling censorious politicians recognize Assange as one of them.

"UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed an order to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where he faces up to 175 years in prison on charges linked to Wikileaks' publication of information in the public interest," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) noted on June 17. The organization described the decision as "a failure by the UK government to protect press freedom and will have dangerous implications for journalism around the world."

On a similar note, London-based PEN International, which represents writers around the world, protested that "Julian Assange's prosecution raises profound concerns about freedom of the press. Invoking the Espionage Act for practices that include receiving and publishing classified information sends a dangerous signal to journalists and publishers worldwide." 

"There is some historical irony in the fact that this extradition announcement falls during the anniversary of the Pentagon Papers trial, which began with the Times publication of stories based on the legendary leak on June 13, 1971, and continued through the seminal Supreme Court opinion rejecting prior restraint on June 30, 1971," Trevor Timm, executive director of the New York-based Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) wrote. "In the months and years following that debacle, whistleblower (and FPF co-founder) Daniel Ellsberg became the first journalistic source to be charged under the Espionage Act."

Ellsberg himself emphasized just months ago that applying the Espionage Act to Assange further extends the abuse of the law to muzzle not just whistleblowers, but the reporters who tell their stories. It's an overt effort to punish the press for acquiring and publishing information that embarrasses officials.

The U.S. government makes no bones about going after Assange for working with Chelsea Manning "in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States," as the Justice Department put it in 2020. The resulting revelations, mostly about U.S. military operations, contradicted official stories and drew the enmity of politicians from both parties, keeping Assange holed up for years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London until a change in that country's government ended his welcome. U.S. enmity even extended to extralegal action.

"In 2017, as Julian Assange began his fifth year holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London, the CIA plotted to kidnap the WikiLeaks founder," Yahoo News reported in 2021. Trump administration officials are said to have even discussed assassination.

The current president isn't much better disposed to the Wikileaks founder, calling him a "high-tech terrorist" in 2010. Now living in the White House, Biden pushed the extradition of Assange from the U.K.

But, while Assange enjoys the support of international media organizations, American journalists have been slower to warm to him.

"I can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange," Michael Grunwald, then of Time, tweeted and then deleted in 2019.

"Mr. Assange is not a free-press hero," editorialized The Washington Post in 2019. "Yes, WikiLeaks acquired and published secret government documents, many of them newsworthy, as shown by their subsequent use in newspaper articles (including in The Post). Contrary to the norms of journalism, however, Mr. Assange sometimes obtained such records unethically."

"The administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime," The New York Times editorial board chimed in before apparently having second thoughts. "Invoking the Espionage Act in this case threatens to blur the distinction between a journalist exposing government malfeasance — something that news organizations do with regularity — and foreign spies seeking to undermine the nation's security," The Times editorialized just weeks later.

There's no doubt that Assange rubs some journalists the wrong way with his abrasive personality and seeming skepticism of all authority, not just the faction that most American journalists oppose. Wikileaks' publication of Hillary Clinton's emails certainly alienated media types who favored her candidacy. But the charges he faces have nothing to do with that and focus on basic journalism, so hesitancy in supporting Assange's cause is entirely misplaced.

"In our polarized and fragmented digital age, the costs and harms of free speech have become much more visible," warned Jacob Mchangama, founder of Denmark's Justitia think tank. "Elitist free speech thus seems appealing to many Americans who are having second thoughts about the wisdom of the First Amendment since—as the claim goes—'unfettered free speech is a threat to democracy.'" He rejected that position and, this week, tweeted: "Assange case: A Trojan horse prosecution endangering #pressfreedom."

The dangerous implications of Assange's extradition to the United States and looming prosecution are more obvious to journalists who operate in increasingly hostile environments around the world. The loss of the U.S as a bastion for press freedom would leave them more alone than ever.

"Threats against independent media are increasing globally," the International Journalists' Networks' Inaara Gangji noted in May. "From a lack of support for journalists in hostile environments to growing government censorship and oppression of reporters, there are many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of press freedom."

Assange's ultimate fate may be sealed when British officials bundle him off to face what many observers anticipate will be a show trial in the United States. And following him into whatever dungeon Justice Department officials have prepared will be some hope for freedom of the press everywhere.

The post Julian Assange's Case Is a Frightening Omen for Press Freedom appeared first on Reason.com.



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freeAgent
4 days ago
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Amazon has a plan to make Alexa mimic anyone's voice | Reuters

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LAS VEGAS, June 22 (Reuters) - <a href="http://Amazon.com" rel="nofollow">Amazon.com</a> Inc (AMZN.O) wants to give customers the chance to make Alexa, the company's voice assistant, sound just like their grandmother -- or anyone else.

The online retailer is developing a system to let Alexa mimic any voice after hearing less than a minute of audio, said Rohit Prasad, an Amazon senior vice president, at a conference the company held in Las Vegas Wednesday. The goal is to "make the memories last" after "so many of us have lost someone we love" during the pandemic, Prasad said.

Amazon declined to share when it would roll out such a feature.

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The work wades into an area of technology that has garnered close scrutiny for potential benefits and abuses. For instance, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) recently restricted which businesses could use its software to parrot voices. The goal is to help people with speech impairments or other problems but some worry it could also be used to propagate political deepfakes. read more

Amazon hopes the project will help Alexa become ubiquitous in shoppers' lives. But public attention has already shifted elsewhere. At Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google, an engineer made the highly contested claim that a company chat bot had advanced to sentience. Another Amazon executive said Tuesday that Alexa had 100 million customers globally, in line with figures the company has provided for device sales since January 2019.

Prasad said Amazon's aim for Alexa is "generalizable intelligence," or the ability to adapt to user environments and learn new concepts with little external input. He said that goal is "not to be confused with the all-knowing, all-capable, uber artificial general intelligence," or AGI, which Alphabet's DeepMind unit and Elon Musk-co-founded OpenAI are seeking.

Amazon shared its vision for companionship with Alexa at the conference. In a video segment, it portrayed a child who asked, "Alexa, can grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?"

A moment later, Alexa affirmed the command and changed her voice. She spoke soothingly, less robotically, ostensibly sounding like the individual's grandmother in real life.

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Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in Las Vegas; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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freeAgent
4 days ago
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This is incredibly creepy.
Los Angeles, CA
acdha
4 days ago
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Everyone involved in this needs not to be working in tech
Washington, DC
deezil
4 days ago
Right in the heart of the uncanny valley.
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