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Data Sheet—Saturday, March 5, 2016

This week the 25th annual RSA Conference—the world’s biggest cybersecurity confab—took place in San Francisco. My colleague Jonathan Vanian was on the ground hobnobbing with cybersecurity folks (which apparently includes actor Sean Penn), while I remained in snowy New York. He told me the big topic of conversation was—surprise, surprise—Apple versus FBI. (Ironically, “crypto”—or encryption, the technology at the heart of the company’s present dispute with law enforcement—has become a much less popular topic of conversation at the confab in recent years, eclipsed by that catch-all “cyber.” Go figure.)

In order to stave off pangs of FOMO, I participated in the conference from afar, previewing the keynote addresses of a few top cybersecurity execs. Here are some words of wisdom, culled from their remarks:

Martin Fink, tech chief at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPQ), said that security command centers are presently drowning in data, and they need help analyzing it all: “The security problem is now an analytics problem.”

Mark McLaughlin, CEO at Palo Alto Networks, said that people need to savvy up about cybersecurity: “The government needs to teach its citizens, parents need to teach their children, and employers need to teach their employees about hygiene in the digital age.”

Chris Young, Intel Security lead, said that rival computer security firms have little choice but to team up to stem the tide of data breaches. “Competition is holding [the cybersecurity industry] back.”

Amit Yoran, RSA president, said no fancy, expensive product can guarantee an organization’s safety: “There are no silver bullets in security.” (By the way, Yoran’s role in the impending Dell-EMC mega-beast has been announced, and he’ll report to David Goulden, newly named head of the merged company’s enterprise systems group and former CEO of EMC’s information infrastructure unit.)

Prior to the confab I also caught up briefly with IBM Security (IBM) lead Marc van Zadelhoff and Resilient Systems CEO John Bruce as they announced an acquisition. (Terms of the deal have not been released, although one report suggested that IBM is spending “more than $100 million” on the firm.) Bruce Schneier, Resilient’s tech chief and outspoken voice in the crypto community, told me he’s very excited about the new gig’s prospects—though “big blue” will have to be okay with his frequent and forceful soapboxing, he said. Nodding in that direction, van Zadelhoff told me the decision to purchase Resilient was part acquihire.

More conference and cybersecurity news below. But first, test your knowledge of the Apple versus FBI case by taking this quick quiz, designed by my colleague Kia Kokalitcheva and yours truly. Show us what you’ve got.

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, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


Apple’s backers are legion. Ahead of Thursday’s deadline to file amicus briefs supporting either Apple or the FBI in a dispute over accessing data on a terrorist’s iPhone, just about every big tech company sided with Apple. Outliers: Samsung remained mostly silent on the matter, as did most of the telecom giants, excluding AT&T. (FortuneFortune, Fortune)

Pentagon gets a cyber makeover. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made a number of announcements during his visit to this year’s RSA Conference. First he said that Eric Schmidt, exec chairman of Alphabet, will join the Defense Department to lead its defense innovation advisory board; second that the Pentagon has invited vetted hackers to find computer bugs in its public websites; and thirdly that he is pro-encryption and anti-“backdoors.” (Fortune, Fortune, Fortune)

Today in hacks. Denial of service attacks, which flood Internet servers with traffic, were up 40% in the fourth quarter over the previous quarter, according to Akamai’s annual state of the Internet report. Data breaches, on the other hand, are down 39% last year over the year prior, according to Dutch cybersecurity firm Gemalto. (Fortune, Fortune)

Inside Ukraine’s power grid hack. New details on last year’s cyberattack affecting the Ukrainian utility Prykarpattyaoblenergo (a mouthful, yes) have come out. A worker had noticed the attack when the cursor on his computer screen had gone haywire, locking him out of accounts and knocking the substation offline. (Wired)

Other ways to hack the terrorist’s iPhone. Has the FBI tried every conceivable method to attempt to break into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone? Cybersecurity experts say no, though they note that other options would be expensive and might liekly fail. (Wall Street Journal)

Amazon puts encryption on hiatus. The online retail giant removed full disk encryption as a feature in its Fire OS operating system in a recent software update. Responding to Fortune in an email, a spokesperson said that the company plans to put the option back in place this spring. (Fortune)

More Fortune coverage of Apple versus FBI, a selection of stories in reverse chronological order:



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Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts explains the trouble that’s happened to Bitcoin.

Remember the hype over bitcoin? The crypto-currency that so tantalized techies and excited investors is today in a sorry state: Its core supporters are at war with each other and ordinary consumers still don’t care about this supposedly revolutionary form of money.

But that’s only half of the story. The other half is about the remarkable rise of blockchain, the core technology underlying bitcoin that is enjoying unprecedented adoption by banks and big business.

This development—the fall of bitcoin and the rise of blockchain—has accelerated in recent months, and it has big implications for those who have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into these technologies. Here’s the latest on the story of bitcoin, which has turned out far differently than many imagined…. Read the rest on


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Toyota’s Latest Concept Car Is Made of Wood by Kirsten Korosec

Scientists Just Made a Major Breakthrough in Personalized Cancer Treatment by Sy Mukherjee


Here’s how to engineer an interplanetary Internet. These are the networking challenges humans would face in bringing cyberspace into deep space. (Popular Mechanics)