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Threat Sheet—Saturday, September 19, 2015

Buried in the great debate over ad-blocking technology, which could spell the demise of independent publishing as we know it, is one incredibly compelling reason to take up these tools. Using them is a great defensive measure against hacking campaigns known as malvertising—as in “malicious advertising”—in which hackers disseminate malware through online ad networks. As a browser of the web, you could unwittingly compromise your machine just by visiting a site that has accidentally green-lit an attacker’s code.

This isn’t just a theoretical concern. Sites like Yahoo, Huffington Post, and eBay have all been struck by malvertising campaigns this year. If you frequent digital destinations that rely on ad platforms for their life-blood, you could be at risk of infection.

Although they’re not new by any means, ad-blocking tools are capturing peoples’ attention like never before thanks to Apple’s latest operating system update, which accommodates the tech. (It helps too that members of the media are working themselves into a frenzy over the possible extermination of their livelihood.) So proceeds the uncheckable advances of the technology adoption curve.

Whether you’re on the fence or have a strong opinion on the matter, I highly recommend reading the work of my colleagues, Dan Primack and Mathew Ingram, who present both sides of the issue. Primack has suggested that robbing an Apple Store is a reasonable response to the implicit encouragement Apple has granted people who seek to read his work without paying for it, whereas Ingram has argued that no one should feel bad about blocking ads. The pair could not be more opposed.

This is a big issue, to be sure, with grave implications for everyone involved—from top Internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple, down to regular Internet users like you and me. (Okay, as a writer, I may have a bit more skin in the game.) So please drop me a line. I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Where do you stand?

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber, PGP encrypted email, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


Obama threatens China for cybertheft. President Obama minced no words when he spoke to a group of top CEOs this week about China’s habit of stealing American trade secrets. “We are prepared to take some countervailing actions in order to get their attention,” he said. (Fortune)

But sanctions against Chinese hackers will likely be delayed. After a bit of back and forth, it appears as though a set of proposed sanctions against Chinese businesses and individuals for corporate cyberespionage will not arrive ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit. The postponement is the result of meeting between top officials last week. (Fortune)

Cisco routers vulnerable to hackers. The “SYNful Knock” malware, discovered by researchers at the cybersecurity firm FireEye, can infect routers made by the networking equipment company Cisco. Spies can use it to siphon data from the devices. (Reuters)

Kardashian-Jenner websites leak data. A 19-year-old developer found flaws in the celebrities’ newly launched websites that leaked user sing-up data. Kylie Jenner is apparently way more popular than Kim Kardashian. (Fortune)

Russian hacker pleads guilty. A cybercriminal admitted to his role in a hacking campaign that compromised the data of 160 million payment cards. One of his accomplices also pleaded guilty. (Fortune, Bank Info Security)

Target face class-action lawsuit. Five financial institutions have won their fight for class action status over the retailer’s 2013 data breach. Nearly 25,000 of their payment cards were compromised in the hack. (Credit Union Times)


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Fortune senior editor Dan Primack explains why the FBI’s top techie is headed to the private sector.

“Jerry Pender has spent the past three years as chief information officer and executive assistant director of the FBI, where he managed a $1.2 billion budget and oversaw ‘all aspects’ of the Bureau’s global information technology operations. Before that, the former U.S. Army captain was CIO of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division. But Pender is now leaving public service.” Read the rest on


RTs = endorsements. So says the FBI. (Gizmodo)

“Ashley Madison” tickets. In 10-game packs. (Sports Illustrated)

Green party (unofficial). Weed-toking presidential candidates. (Fortune)

Let fly the Super Tucano. A low-tech turboprop airplane. (Vice Motherboard)

Cops <3 doughnuts. Whence the love affair? (Atlas Obscura)


Here are the crazy stocks Lehman Brothers is still trading by Jen Wieczner

The Fed knows what it’s doing by teasing rate hikes by Thomas More Smith

These are the world’s most expensive cities by Benjamin Snyder


There are unicorns in the Bible, really. See Numbers 23:22, “…he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn”—not the Fortune kind, though. (Beliefnet, Fortune)


“John is more than willing to answer any substantial questions you may have about policy positions or plans. As far as the butt dial, it was a simple mistake.”

A spokesperson for presidential candidate and anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee, responding to Fortune’s request for comment about a butt-dialing incident he reportedly had with a Yahoo news reporter. During that interview, McAfee had warned about the eye-popping extent of electronic surveillance. Indeed, no one is safe. (Fortune, Yahoo)