Secret Patriot Act…It’s Worse Than You Know!

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By Spencer Ackerman

You think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know.

Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence committee, he laments that he can’t precisely explain without disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives him immense pause: the so-called “business-records provision,” which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.

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Posted on May 27th 2011 in Government, Legal, Politics

Malware for Smartphones

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By Troy Gill

Cyber crooks are infecting popular mobile platforms through malicious applications and, unfortunately, no mobile platform is immune from the destruction it can cause. According to McAfee’s report, Symbian remains the most targeted mobile platform, though vulnerabilities in both the Android and Apple IOS should not be overlooked.

Android’s open source software is something that gives the platform great appeal, but it is also the basis of its vulnerability. Users may enjoy the freedom to acquire apps both inside and outside the Android Market, but it doesn’t come without risk. The Android Market allows developers to upload apps without first running through an established screening process like one that you might find at Apple’s App Store or when using RIM’s application for BlackBerry. As a result, Google detected more than 50 malicious apps within the Android Market, downloaded to approximately 260,000 Android mobile devices. (Google later remedied the infections remotely via an auto installed software update.)

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Posted on May 26th 2011 in Cell Phones, Internet, Security

Apple Issues Advisory For Mac OS X platform

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By Stefanie Hoffman

In what has been up until now unchartered territory, Apple admitted that the recent onslaught of MacDefender malware is a threat to its Mac OS X platform and offered a temporary workaround to mitigate the problem.

Apple issued an advisory Tuesday, warning users about a new strain of Mac Defender malware , also known as Mac Defender scareware, a phishing scam that targets users by redirecting them to fake antivirus Web sites that download malicious code onto users’ Macs. The admission and subsequent advisory represented a stark about-face from the Cupertino-based company’s previous directive that prohibited support staff from offering help to users calling for assistance after becoming infected with the MacDefender malware.

During the phishing attack, Mac users are subjected to a link or pop-up directing them to a fake antivirus site. The site then purports to conduct a scan, and then falsely determines that their machine is infected with a virus. The scammers then offer the Mac Defender fake antivirus software in order to resolve the issue.

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Posted on May 26th 2011 in Internet, New to the Internet

The GOP Promised Jobs, So Where Are They?

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By George Zornick

It’s been over three months since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and strengthened their caucus in the Senate. The central premise of the GOP midterm campaign was that it could create badly needed jobs—the Republican National Committee drove a bus through the lower 48 states emblazoned with the slogan: “Need a Job? Fire Pelosi!”

Now, after focusing its initial legislative efforts on repealing “ObamaCare,” pushing Tea Party-backed dreams like a balanced budget amendment, and fighting to strip regulatory agencies of their authority, the GOP has finally released a job plan…that consists of a balanced budget amendment, the repeal of Obamacare, and several assaults on regulatory authority.

Freshman Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who headed the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, released the official Senate GOP jobs plan yesterday. The unveiling received a surprisingly scant amount of media attention. Surely the ongoing bin Laden saga helped overshadow the announcement, but the complete lack of any new ideas might also have been a factor. Beyond the aforementioned goals, the GOP job plan advocates expanded off-shore drilling, steep tax reductions, medical malpractice reform, and other well-worn conservative policy tropes.

Aside from being unoriginal, few of these measures could be said to have even an ostensible effect on jobs. “It is very hard to see this as much of a jobs bill,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The first part of the plan attempts to attack the federal deficit. It outlines three provisions: a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a statutory spending limit that “provides a budget strait-jacket so that Congress is forced to make difficult decisions each year to live within its means,” and immediate spending cuts.

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Posted on May 6th 2011 in Career

Feds Demand Firefox Remove Add-On

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By David Kravets

The Department of Homeland Security has requested that Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, remove an add-on that allows web surfers to access websites whose domain names were seized by the government for copyright infringement, Mozilla’s lawyer said Thursday.

But Mozilla did not remove the MafiaaFire add-on, and instead has demanded the government explain why it should. Two weeks have passed, and the government has not responded to Mozilla’s questions, including whether the government considers the add-on unlawful and whether Mozilla is “legally obligated” to remove it. The DHS has also not provided the organization with a court order requiring its removal, the lawyer said.

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Posted on May 5th 2011 in Internet, Technologies, Technology