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Data Sheet—Saturday, November 21, 2015

Let’s talk about Anonymous versus the self-identified Islamic State.

Last week the former—a dispersed and mercurial hacker outfit—declared “cyberwar” on the latter, seeking retribution for the terror organization’s recent massacre in the French capital. Since then, the gang of digital vigilantes has been collating what it deems to be ISIS-affiliated websites, pummeling them with salvos of Internet traffic in order to take them offline. The mission: silence Islamist propaganda.

I have watched with fascination as these combatants clash. The social media prowess of the two groups astounds. Both are insidious masterminds of marketing; their propensity to propagate their ideas is unparalleled, like a tweaked viral strain setting off a pandemic. Odd as it may sound, outreach offices within the U.S. government could probably learn a thing or two from them.

During the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, Russian websites like the social media network, VKontakte and the blogging platform LiveJournal have served as effective megaphones for regime propaganda. As an aside, it has been interesting to witness VKontakte creator Pavel Durov—the so-called Mark Zuckerberg of Russia—clamp down on pro-ISIS public channels on Telegram, the encrypted messaging app he founded after his exile from the country as well as his former company. (He had been booted from the CEO role after refusing to obey the requests of Vladimir Putin and his cronies.)

These new fora for public opinion and debate not only disseminate our words, they shape the way we think. Anonymous spawned in the hive mind of 4chan, an online image board frequented by the hacker set. ISIS has proliferated its views and violence through Twitter and other digital means—using armies of bots and trolls to spread messages of hate and fear. The Internet—while presenting an incredible opportunity to unite the world, bringing cultures closer together than ever before—also presents a subversive threat in letting the vitriol run wild.

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.


Paris attacks orchestrator killed in raid. Parisian police stormed the apartment of the suspected coordinator of last week’s massacre on Wednesday morning. The unit allegedly killed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the 28-year-old jihadist, in a firefight. (Fortune)

Encryption debate rears its ugly head again. In wake of attacks on the French capital, U.S. lawmakers have renewed the conversation about whether tech companies should be allowed to use strong encryption in their products. The Obama administration had shelved its plans to push for backdoor access to users’ encrypted data as recently as October. (Fortune)

Mali capital has hotel hostage crisis. Islamist gunmen took 170 people hostage at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Bamako. The standoff has since ended, leaving more than 20 dead. (BBC)

Telegram blocks ISIS channels. The encrypted messaging app created by Pavel Durov, the “Mark Zuckerberg of Russia,” shut down 78 public channels promoting ISIS content. He said he was “disturbed” to learn that the organization used his app to spread its propaganda. (Fortune)

NSA found a bulk collection program work-around. The U.S. National Security Agency apparently figured out a way to get a hold of Americans’ email records through foreign intelligence collection, which may help explain why it shuttered its “Stellarwind” email collection program at the end of 2011, a document obtained by the New York Times reveals. A similar program that collects Americans’ phone records is slated to expire at the end of the month. (New York Times)

China to build its own mobile software. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has called upon state-owned companies to develop their own “in-house” mobile operating system, for security reasons. Most Chinese phone-makers, such as Xiaomi, Huawei, and ZTE, currently rely on Google’s Android, which is made and maintained in the U.S.

Microsoft prioritizes cybersecurity. Satya Nadella, CEO of the tech giant, delivered an hour-long presentation about the company’s cybersecurity mission. Recent changes—including startup acquisitions and product launches—indicate a stunning turn-around for the firm, which had been pilloried for its lack of digital protections in decades past. (Fortune)

Mimecast goes public. While everyone was distracted by the hotly anticipated Square and Match Group initial public offerings, a London-based email security company entered the public market arena. The firm priced its shares at $10 a piece, and that value has mostly held steady. (Fortune)

Tech companies seize on Safe Harbor ruling. When the European Union’s high court swatted down a data-exchanging agreement between the U.S. and E.U. over privacy concerns last month, a number of companies pounced on the opportunity to launch new Euro-centric services and products. Count cloud companies such Syncplicity, Amazon, and Microsoft among them. (Fortune)

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Fortune contributor Kirsten Korosec explains how to build an unhackable car.

Hacking into a car these days is a little like breaking into a home where half of the doors and windows don’t have locks. There are a multiple entry points for hackers to gain remote access to a connected car—which was demonstrated earlier this year when white hat hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valesek (now security lead at Uber Advanced Technologies Center) took control of a Jeep Cherokee from miles away.

The Jeep Cherokee hacking not only showed the weakness of this particular SUV’s digital defenses, it also raised questions about what, if anything, other connected car manufacturers are doing to protect their vehicles.

So, is it possible to build an unhackable car? And has any automaker achieved a truly secure car?

Fortune and TheDrive, a newly launched Time Inc. automotive web site, kicked off the LA Auto Show and the Connected Car Expo with a panel aimed at answering that very question. The private dinner, hosted at the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles, brought together executives from the automotive and tech industries, including many from the Connected Car Expo’s top 10 automotive startupsRead the rest on


Red mercury. A doomsday dream. (New York Times Magazine)

Internet cafes. An origin story. (Gizmodo)

Security freeze. Protect your identity. (Fortune)

“Metadata spewing fountains.” A.K.A. your mobile phone. (Medium)

Exploit menu. See the price list. (Wired)


Volvo Wants to Use Microsoft’s Sci-Fi Glasses to Sell Cars by Kirsten Korosec

Why CNN Was Wrong to Suspend a Reporter for a Tweet by Mathew Ingram

What Happens When Your Obamacare Plan Shuts Down by Jen Wieczner

IBM’s Watson Health Gets a Prestigious New Leader by Laura Lorenzetti

China’s Response to ISIS is Drawing Ire Online by Scott Cendrowski


What the terrorists want. Everyone seems to proclaim themselves experts about this. Blame it on “correspondent inference theory.” (Harvard Business Review)


« On est parti on commence »

One of the Paris assailants, allegedly sending a text message to a co-conspirator on Friday at 9:42 P.M. ahead of the night’s planned massacres. Investigators reportedly discovered the phone in a trash bin outside the Bataclan concert hall, the evening’s bloodiest venue. The SMS message translates roughly to: “We have left, we begin.” (Le Monde)